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Bu nu nu nu…Ikhlaas! Lessons from the Life of Batman

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By Nadya Aweinat

Oh Ikhlaas…The Islamic concept of sincerity we hear repeated like a broken record at each and every Islamic function. Whether it be a political endeavor, community service project, or religious class, the one topic that seems to keep recurring is that of sincerity. As one of my teachers so eloquently puts it: “What we find repeated the most is that which we need to be reminded of the most.”

This seemingly unattainable quality is one that I often found difficult to grasp in utter totality…that is until I watched Batman: the Dark Knight.

Two years ago, the release of the film Batman: The Dark Knight had Hollywood and Batman fans all over in a wild frenzy. Over the years, the character has evolved from a comic cartoon to a hope inspired savior that not only young boys admire, but to whom humanity can look to for their hopes and ideals.

But who is the Batman? What can we learn from this characterised vigilante? For those who have yet to see the film, let us examine the situations in which we find ourselves extracting Islamic ideals from his endeavors.

Bruce Wayne is his name by day while living among the common citizens of Gotham. In order to maintain a low profile and keep suspicions absent from even the wildest imaginations of his comrades and co-workers, he must outwardly display a certain mindset and lifestyle. Save a few trusted individuals, those around him know Bruce as the spoiled, rich, and nonchalant owner of Wayne Enterprises.

By night, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. He rides in his BatMobile fighting crime, saving civilians, assisting police, trapping mobsters, and fighting a sick serial killer, the Joker.

Fast forwarding to the end of the film, Batman and the Chief of Police find themselves in a predicament. Throughout the film, the city’s District Attorney had served as a ray of light in Gotham. He had  taken a last stand as the lone soldier against organized crime within the city. Sadly, the Joker was able to deliver him to the dark side,  and he soon embarked on a killing rampage, murdering even some of the closest people to him. To reveal this news to the people would mean the end of hope. It would mean that contrary to children’s book conclusions, evil would have conquered good, and all efforts to return hope into the hearts of the people would have vanished.

But this could not be so…

And so Batman agreed to take the blame. He agreed to make it known that he murdered the innocent, that he betrayed his community, that he indeed was not the hero everyone had known him to be…but that he was the Dark Knight.

These simple incidents blew my mind in a way that I had never before understood the ideal Islamic concept of sincerity like I did in these moments. If all Muslims had these ideals within us, we would all be a lot closer to the gates of Paradise.

Despite the fact that Batman toiled for the duration of the night securing society and serving as the main means of protection in the city, he lived in the eyes of the people as a common dimwit. He lived hearing snide comments and gossip regarding his lack of care and scarcity of intelligence. He lived and continued working despite what everyone said…Why?

Because it was the right thing to do.

Sincerity is the key to ultimate success. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) taught us: “Whoever leaves this world with sincerity to Allah alone, performs the prayers, and pays the Zakah will die in the pleasure of Allah.” (Bukhari and Muslim) We find that sincerity is achieved when a Muslim performs an action purely for the sake of Allah without thought of personal interest or worldly esteem.

When Batman took the blame for another villain’s mischief and murder, it didn’t matter to him that the reputation of his alter-ego would be smeared. Originally, although his Bruce Wayne identity was one of which he was not fond, at least his praiseworthy Batman identity prevailed. Yet, he was even willing to give that up.

At the end of the day, it did not matter to him that he was praised or that his efforts were recognized. When it came down to it, what mattered was that the deed was done. In the above lessons, we find the exact definition of the Islamic concept of Ikhlaas. Because sincerity is to perform an action purely for the sake of Allah; not for reputation, nor for recognition, but because it is the right thing to do.

“Because he’s the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now… And so we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero, he’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector…A Dark Knight.”

Nadya Aweinat is a Batman loving tajweed geek who spends her days hiking, learning and teaching Qur'an, and enjoying the year round superb weather of Southern California. By the mercy of Allah, she recently completed her memorization of the Qur'an and is working on completing a degree in Speech Pathology.

97 Comments

97 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ibn Insaan

    September 23, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Nice article mA.

    But I erm, have one problem that I wanted to bring to your attention. It can’t really be called ikhlas [in any certain terms] if he wasn’t doing it for god. and not any god – but God, that is to say Allah. Hence in a dunya perspective of a Mu’min – he would still be benefitted in en extremely limited way if at all.

    And in the hereafter…?

    That cannot, or should not be a hero, for anyone.

    And that – quite predictably, shouldl be our no.1 message to the fans

    And alla Tawfeeq lies with Allah

    :)

    • Avatar

      Nezro

      September 23, 2010 at 11:40 AM

      You’re assuming that Batman’s good actions wouldn’t lead him to be guided to the right path and thus align his intentions with his actions. Also the point of the article is to ask why we as Muslims can’t espouse such traits (which we are instructed to) but a nonbeliever can.

      Allah guides those who he wills.

      • Avatar

        Nadya

        September 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

        @Nezro:

        Thank you for your comment.

        Not necessarily why we as Muslims cannot espouse such traits and a nonbeliever can, but merely to recognize this trait that we find in a nonbeliever, and realize that this is a praiseworthy trait we can strive to reach on our own religious context.

    • Avatar

      Nadya

      September 23, 2010 at 2:16 PM

      @ Ibn Insaan:

      Thank you kindly.

      Indeed, not to judge Br. Batman’s intentions, but it does seem that he did not do what he did for the sake of Allah. That being the case you are right, he probably should not expect reward for it in the Akhirah. (This is really weird because I am speaking as if Batman is a reality and not a fictitious character) But anyways…

      In the sense that he is not doing it for Allah, indeed that is not something to take example from.

      In the sense that he did the right thing (for a Muslum this means doing something for the sake of Allah alone) with no regard to what people thought of him etc etc, this for me was the lesson extracted.

      Wa Allahu Ta’ala A’alam

  2. Avatar

    suzanne khazaal

    September 23, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    nice article, mA. very interesting way to make the movie relevant in our lives, islamically.
    good reminder. jazaki allah khair

  3. Avatar

    Hassan

    September 23, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Hmm, so we could not find any example from 1400+ years of islamic history on ikhlaas/sincerity?

    BTW, Rush Limbaugh compared Batman to George Bush (after the movie came out), as both fight crime outside the realm of legal boundaries.

    • Avatar

      Nadya

      September 23, 2010 at 2:24 PM

      @ Hassan:

      JazakAllahu khair for your comment.

      Of course we can!

      You see when I thought to write this article, the thought initiated after identifying this trait in Batman specifically. Had I thought “Hmm I would like to write something about Ikhlaas”, you are right my article probably would have been largely different and used other examples such as those from our Islamic history.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah Ibn Adam

      September 28, 2010 at 6:20 PM

      Hasan jiddan – as they say in ‘Arabic : )

  4. Avatar

    T

    September 23, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    i think the article was good. in response to comment 1, the article doesn’t say batman is performing ikhlas, his actions are only being used as an example to show people how to improve themselves. duh. secondly, i don’t think the article is saying muslims aren’t as good as non-muslims, i think it’s using a popular movie that many youth today like, to teach something other than foolishness, & to show us that we CAN do better than we do. Finally, why not use something of popular culture to teach something beneficial to muslims & muslim youth, rather than what was intended by hollywood? & just because someone we all hate compared batman to someone else we all hate, no one else is allowed to draw a different conclusion? come on guys!

  5. Avatar

    MR

    September 23, 2010 at 2:20 PM

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      Nadya

      September 24, 2010 at 1:44 AM

      MashaAllah I enjoyed reading it…Also a very interesting analogy!

    • Avatar

      Ismail Kamdar

      September 24, 2010 at 3:39 AM

      Love this lesson you extracted, bro! If you don’t mind, I’d love to use this analogy in my lectures in future.

      Shaykh Navaid Aziz and Muhammad AlShareef both also extracted interesting lessons from Batman: the Dark Knight.

      • Avatar

        Amir (MR)

        September 27, 2010 at 1:37 PM

        Yeah you can definitely use it.

        My blog is a museum now, haha. It’s just sitting there on the web.

      • Avatar

        Abdullah Ibn Adam

        September 28, 2010 at 6:53 PM

        Shaykhs (shuyukh, ulama , aaimmah) using movies i.e haram movies, as a source, to use analogies in order to explain concepts or to use ‘real-life’ or ‘modern’ examples in order for Muslims can relate to ? Is this for real??? Do I believe my ears?
        Do I believe what I am reading here from my brother Isma’eel Kamdar?

        Does that not make the shaitaan open the door ajar for Muslims to go and watch the movie to see what the Shaykhs are on about first-hand???

        I know Christians are doing everything and use every means poss. in their da’wah’ . For e.g. , The Professor of Philosophy and Theologian, Dr. William Lane Craig, used AVATAR as analogy to explain THE TRINITY by mentioning the human guy being inside the alien – somehow he equated this to the trinity!!
        Please do not go and watch the movie but go here to see the debate where he made this absurd analogy…
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7FoD4MTkdw&feature=player_embedded

        Subhanallah – what is the world coming to when our Ulama , The Scholars, The Inheritors of The Prophets (pbu them all) resort to movie for analogies, examples, morals and lessons etc. etc.

        SERIOUSLY, think about this my brother, my sister – by referencing movies ( those with haram elements) – do you think this can lead to “qutuwattus-shaitan” (small steps of shaitan) to open the door ajar for Muslims to go and watch such movies ,because this Shaykh and that Shaykh has extracted x.y,x from it??

  6. Avatar

    Emma Apple

    September 23, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    I was a little girl who loved Batman for his realistic qualities, he COULD be some person who by night is a crime fighting hero, I never had any interest in other heros with superpowers, they weren’t believable. I still love Batman, and for that (and the fact this was written by a sister mahsaAllah), your article wins.

    I also disagree with the comments about Batman being a Non Muslim and so his actions being irrelevant to Muslims. I think we’re forgetting that at the end of the day, Batman is fictional, he is actually a character built around certain morals and values and experiences. He may well be a Muslim if a little Muslim girl or boy imagines him so (after all, he was real to me as a little girl).

    Not only that, this is an analogy, an example of what sincerity looks like in a fictional character (sort of like “the moral of the story is…”), this is not about Batmans actions as an individual, nor is it even an example of how to embody sincerity (unless, of course, someone wanted to train with Ninja’s and then fight urban crime for the same of Allah) it’s about the message of sincerity that is, as pointed out at the beginning of the article, not quite getting through to everyone.

    If Batman can teach us a lesson, then a lesson we should take from it, because let’s face it, we’re going to watch the movie anyway!

  7. Avatar

    abez

    September 23, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    I love this about MM- News, Fiqh, Politics, and Batman.

    Bu nu nu nu nu!

  8. Avatar

    ~T

    September 23, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    I don’t doubt your intention or this article nor the point of Ikhlaas. Nor do I disagree with using analogy or things that a modern audience could relate to.

    However given that there is many in the Ulema who would take to various contents in the film, such as violence, promiscuity, music etc, is it such a good example to use in a public arena? Granted many watch movies and privately discuss them but that is different to bringing into such a public light.

    I understand the point, but at the same time feel there must be better ways of making it with more depth and meaning, even with things the modern person could relate to…

    Allah knows best

  9. Avatar

    Sabour Al-Kandari (Sayf)

    September 23, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    Next article:
    Actions are shaped by intentions – why Vegeta will never be stronger than Goku

    • Avatar

      Zulander

      September 23, 2010 at 5:57 PM

      I chuckled at this :)

      Entertaining article though :)

    • Avatar

      SaqibSaab

      September 24, 2010 at 5:46 AM

      Vegeta’s struggles can be shaped by one of the first sins ever: arrogance! Yes, he’s the elite Saiyan class, but face it, “Kararotto” is just better than you!

      Also, his sense of competition is incredible. Even though he always gets one upped by Goku, he still will give it his all to shine as the best. As Allah says about the true believers:

      “The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of Allah . It is those who are the truthful.” – Surah Hujurat, 49:15

      Like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with them.

      • Avatar

        Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

        September 24, 2010 at 9:20 AM

        Vegeta’s struggles can be shaped by one of the first sins ever: arrogance! Yes, he’s the elite Saiyan class, but face it, “Kararotto” is just better than you!

        Why are you backbiting, brother? Vegeta made tawbah from that sin.

  10. Avatar

    Hassen

    September 23, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    This is the quality that made Batman my favorite ‘action-hero’ :)

  11. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    September 23, 2010 at 11:39 PM

    Great article, Mashaa Allah!

    I learned the same lessons and more from this movie but decided against writing about it because I knew it would lead to me being attacked in the comments. :P

    • Avatar

      Ibn Mikdad

      September 24, 2010 at 11:37 AM

      Wow. If our ulama and students of knowledge have no qualms about watching movies, no wonder laypeople succumb to that temptation so easily. And it’s not just that they watch them, hey think it somehow gives them advantage over others. That’s really sad, but it’s good to know.

      As for the article itself, I think it completely misses the point. Ikhlas is sincerity in pursuing Allah’s s.w.t. pleasure. I’m quite sure that this wasn’t Batman’s goal.

      • Avatar

        Nadya

        September 24, 2010 at 12:09 PM

        @Ibn Mikdad:

        May Allah reward you for your comment.

        AlhamduLIllah for people who have reached a level where they never watch an occasional movie, surely that may be better, wa Allahu A’alam. For those of us human beings who do (or did) this article is for us :)

        I am not sure where the idea came that watching movies gives you advantage over others?

        Your definition of ikhlaas is a good one mashaAllah. Seeking only the pleasure of Allah (and no one else’s) AlhamduLillah the MM bloggers and readers seem to have come to a consensus that Batman indeed was not acting in the cause of Allah, so mashaAllah you got that point right.

      • Avatar

        Ismail Kamdar

        September 25, 2010 at 12:03 AM

        See, I just wrote a comment and already get chastized. I think I’ll keep my ‘Top Ten Moral Lessons learned from Pixar animated movies’ list to myself then.

        • Avatar

          ~T

          September 25, 2010 at 2:13 AM

          Every child of Adam sins.
          The point is if they declare it without there being some valid lesson that can be gained by others from, worthy of exposure when Allah had hidden it.

        • Avatar

          MW_M

          September 25, 2010 at 8:39 AM

          What?! I want to see this. Make it a protected post, password is “What is the name of Woody’s space friend from Toy Story?” The only people who’ll crack that are people who’d want to read it..

  12. Avatar

    Abu Ibrahim

    September 24, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    I love the idea! MashaAllah! Makes it easier for some ppl to understand!

    The only thing that’s buggin’ me is this: the comments… People are arguing Batman’s intentions and if he would become Muslim?! I mean really?! REALLY?! Come on now! GET THE POINT AND MOVE ON! man ppl these days…

    P.S.
    As a true life long Batman fan, I would say if ever given the chance Batman would soo become Muslim. Now Robin, idk… lol had to add it! :P

  13. Avatar

    Bintwadee3

    September 24, 2010 at 2:00 AM

    In Br. Batman’s defense, I can say with full certainty that he is indeed Muslim, as I personally witnessed his shahada in a class down in Houston. If needed, I’m certain I can provide you with the names of 3 other sisters (for a proper testimony) and many brothers who bore witness to such an ecstatic moment of our lives.

    :D

    Great article wa jazaakiAllaahu khayran :). Looking forward to more varied pieces as this.

    -Maymuna

    • Avatar

      Hassan

      September 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM

      Yes, I remember witnessing it as well. Forgot the class name, but it was Sh Abdul Bary Yahya class.

      • Avatar

        Nadya

        September 24, 2010 at 5:08 PM

        Wait I thought this was a joke…Enlighten us?

  14. Avatar

    Nayma

    September 24, 2010 at 5:09 AM

    As a mother of five, I agree totally that: Take every possible means to explain Islamic characteristics to our children. Especially with things that capture their thoughts and minds. Take advantage of the situation :-) even if it be from Batman!

  15. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    September 24, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    Nadya, I used to watch the Batman cartoon when I was kid and loved it, he was so honorable. Haven’t seen The Dark Knight but am glad you were able to extract benefits from it and share them with us.

  16. Avatar

    Umm Yousuf

    September 24, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    I have to say that the article and comments have been very entertaining for me to read this morning. I had no idea just how cool Batman was! Honestly, my son loves to dress up like batman and I was getting kinda sick of it but now I think I will smile! :) May Allah (swt) give him this wonderful trait of batman’s along with the correct knowledge and guidance of Islam!

    Btw, arguing about batman’s belief? I think it depends on who is the one under the mask. :)

    Too cute, MM!

    • Avatar

      Umm Yousuf

      September 24, 2010 at 9:30 AM

      Btw, what is ba nu nu nu?

      • Avatar

        Ify Okoye

        September 24, 2010 at 10:00 AM

        I asked Nadya the same question, because I wasn’t hip to it, either and she gave me the 411, hope she doesn’t mind me sharing:

        bu nu nu nu nu is not even in the film…its the ooooold time batman theme song…BU NU NU NU NU NU NU NU BATMAAAAAAAAAAAAAN

        I can actually imagine her singing this.

        • Avatar

          Nadya

          September 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM

          Thanks Ify :)

        • Avatar

          elham

          September 24, 2010 at 12:17 PM

          Oh no! Don’t tell me THATS how its supposed to be written? I thought Du du du etc, not bu bu. lol

          • Avatar

            elham

            September 24, 2010 at 12:26 PM

            Actually, this part of the theme song reminds me of an incident I was told about a Niqabi sister who was standing next to a non-muslim guy at a traffic light.

            And he literally sang that line :) .I think she laughed it off.

          • Avatar

            MW_M

            September 24, 2010 at 10:31 PM

            yeah, I thought it was du du du as well

          • Avatar

            Emma Apple

            September 25, 2010 at 1:20 PM

            Actually it’s technically Du nu nu …

    • Avatar

      Nadya

      September 24, 2010 at 12:15 PM

      @Umm Yousuf:

      :) JazakiAllahu khair

  17. Avatar

    Yafa

    September 24, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Excellent job mashaa-Allah! I especially appreciated the term “dimwit”. Although there are indeed many more profound instances by which we could teach ikhlas from our own Islamic heros and history, i find great importance in finding connections between the real life we live as american muslims and our deen, especially for our youth. As it says in the quran: “allatheena yastami3oon al qawla fayatabi’3oona ahsanah”; for those of us who do/did/ever will watch batman I think it’s cool for us to try to learn something from it!

  18. Avatar

    Abdulrahman Yamout

    September 24, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    Are you guys crazy! First of all you cannot compare a non-muslims with a muslims. Second of all, Batman had more faults than he did rights. Beating a prisoner, lying, spying, being religiously addicted to human named laws, just to mention a few. Yes it all seems heroic when you look at it from a distance, nice fireworks trying to save a city full of criminals and hypocrites. I think the joker was living to his principals more than him.

    Lets not fall into the faults of utopia thinking.

  19. Avatar

    Nadya

    September 24, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    LOL this is seriously, seriously hilarious…I had no idea readers take things so seriously.

    May Allah guide me.

    • Avatar

      Ify Okoye

      September 24, 2010 at 2:09 PM

      lol, indeed, there’s a lot of false bluster and bravado online, many of those most critical are just kittens in real life or simply seeking to cover their own faults by loudly pointing out the perceived faults in others hoping no one notices the real issue i.e. their own sincerity or lack there of.

      I love this saying from one of the salaf: Whoever sees sincerity in his sincerity, his sincerity is itself in need of sincerity. The destruction of every sincere person lies in his sincerity, (he is destroyed) to the extent that he sees sincerity in himself. When he abandons seeing sincerity in himself he will be sincere and purified.

      • Avatar

        A.S.

        September 24, 2010 at 2:21 PM

        So Batman is so sincere that he should be our role – model for ikhlaas, and people who should be considered your brothers and sisters in Islam are just faking it and wearing masks to hide their lack of sincerity and concern for other Muslims and their condition?

        By the way, I don’t consider not watching movies as achieving a great level in imaan, it’s just one of those things that you stop doing because some sins are easier to avoid than others and because we cannot afford not to give up on those sins which are easier to give up, considering how sinful we all are.

        • Avatar

          Ify Okoye

          September 24, 2010 at 2:46 PM

          Not my words or views but rather yours, so enjoy them.

          It has been my experience and that of many others who have blogged regularly over the years that there is much falsity in the words said by anonymous internet personalities. At the very least, I admire people like Nadya who have the courage to not hide behind fake names and initials and give their views openly and respond to the haterade brigade that comes with the territory. My name is Ify Okoye, what’s yours?

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        September 24, 2010 at 4:43 PM

        My name is Hassan, and I like to keep my sins private (whether I watched the movie or not). Also I feel even it would become public it would not be much harm, as I am no body, but if a known religious public figure (or leading muslim website) takes it casually, a lot would be misguided.

        Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (RA) was being tortured to say Quran is Allah’s creation, people asked him, why can not you lie to save your life, and he said its not about me anymore, if I give up today, lots of people would be misguided.

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        September 24, 2010 at 4:47 PM

        lol, indeed, there’s a lot of false bluster and bravado online, many of those most critical are just kittens in real life or simply seeking to cover their own faults by loudly pointing out the perceived faults in others hoping no one notices the real issue i.e. their own sincerity or lack there of.

        So you are saying anyone disagrees with your views must be lacking sincerity? (this is question) Disagreeing or criticizing a specific action is different than doubting someone’s intention or sincerity.

        I hope no one is doubting sincerity or goodness the sister who wrote article. She must be very nice, perhaps even better person than I am, and there is nothing wrong if I want her to be more good.

        • Avatar

          Ify Okoye

          September 25, 2010 at 7:19 AM

          Nope, that’s not what I’m saying Hassan. Just pointing out something that I and many others have noticed. It’s an observation, take it or leave it.

  20. Avatar

    Umm Yousuf

    September 24, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    This is just my opinion….I think highly of a person who can watch something other than something Islamic and still find a way to remember Allah(swt) and be able to benefit from it and others more than a person who can read something with the purpose of remembering Allah(swt) and still manage to think bad about others.

    I’m not sure but I understood this article to be in addition to all the other great works written in more depth and with authentic Islamic sources NOT to replace or hold itself equal to.

    • Avatar

      Umm Yousuf

      September 24, 2010 at 12:39 PM

      Not to mention I just did the same exact thing with Star Wars :) My son also loves Star Wars and since I watched it as a kid I finally gave in and agreed to watch one of the movies. Anakin/Darth Vader reminded me of how, in Islam, when a person can do good their whole life than die upon doing a bad deed this person will lose. Also, how intention is not enough….we also need to seek knowledge to ensure we are doing the right thing and not just think we are. Anyway, I think we can derive positive lessons from anything if we want to.

    • Avatar

      Ibn Mikdad

      September 24, 2010 at 1:32 PM

      It’s not about extracting benefits from the lives of non – Muslims, it’s about watching movies. It’s haram. That’ all there is. And as for thinking bad about others… It’s one thing when a person sins, it’s a completely different thing when he / she tries to justify their sinning. Both can justify thinking bad about a person, but the second scenario is much much worse. They used to call it bid’a in the old days.

      • Amad

        Amad

        September 24, 2010 at 3:08 PM

        wow, that’s a straight up “haram” fatwa. I’d be careful before throwing those out.

        • Avatar

          Ibn Mikdad

          September 24, 2010 at 4:14 PM

          “Being careful” seems to have lead many people to feel ambiguous about things which are manifestly evil. So I think I’ll stick to the “fatwa”.

          • Avatar

            Nadya

            September 24, 2010 at 5:11 PM

            H-Bombs are dangerous things to drop brother…

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            Ibn Mikdad

            September 25, 2010 at 6:54 AM

            Wallahi, I can’t believe this… This type of thinking pushes many of our youth over to the the kharijites, because they become disillusioned and disappointed with the liberal “minhaj” that is removing any trace of authenticity and uniqueness from the face of our in the religion, and killing its life force, rendering it bleak, insignificant, irrelevant and less distinguishable from any other way of thinking / behaving available in the world…

        • Amad

          Amad

          September 25, 2010 at 1:08 PM

          What is actually harder to believe is that watching movies is your standard which separates “authentic Muslims” from tipping over to the kharijites!

          You are free to follow whatever fatwa you feel is the truth. But don’t expect others to line up behind you, as others may feel truth is not so black and white.

          This post isn’t about whether watching movies is halal or haram. And h-bombs won’t stop the 99% of Muslims that watch movies. We have to prioritize dawah and naseeha. IF you have an issue with the topic of the post, it will be better to stick to that.

          • Avatar

            Ibn Mikdad

            September 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM

            Distorting my words won’t help you get your point across. I was saying that the increasingly liberal and an almost “anything goes” mentality present among those who are supposed to represent and intellectually underpin Islamic orthodoxy disillusions many Muslims and makes them think that extremists are actually doing it right. And yes, watching movies is a part of that liberal trend. Ho much authority will an up – and – coming scholar like Ismail have among Muslims seeking an authentic interpretation of their religion if he watches movies? How seriously will he be taken? And who will seem more orthodox and consistent to them, people like him or some terrorist denouncing the corrupt Western civilization, whose mouth is also full of defending Muslims honor and liberating their countries? Your understanding of integration has a great potential of making you irrelevant to both Muslims and non – Muslims who seek an alternative to the failed but still dominant secular liberal worldview because it can make you almost indistinguishable from those who adhere to it. And this is just an analysis of the practical aspects; the fact that movies, in general, are haram, is still most important.

          • Avatar

            Nadya

            September 25, 2010 at 3:20 PM

            @Ibn Mikdad:

            I honestly do appreciate your concern. From the previous comments posted, I am skeptical that any response will most likely not make a difference to you, but in any case…

            Firstly, I thought it was blatantly clear, but if not let me clarify that this article is not a fatwa or even an opinion on the permissibility of watching movies. I apologize if it seemed so.

            Secondly, I think it is a bit extreme to take your point to the level where this is now an extreme “liberal manhaj that is removing any trace of authenticity and uniqueness from the face of our religion” Making your point is fine but let’s not take things too far…

            I am not arguing that movies are halal or even justifying watching them. In my experience, like Br. Amad mentioned, 99% of Muslims seem to watch movies, and I have found in working and relating to youth that when you are able to take things from society which are a normal part of their life and relate them to Islam, it is far more effective than dropping H-bombs left and right on them. In my opinion this is part of what actually pushes people to exactly what you are talking about: Extreme liberal.

            Wa Allahu Ta’ala A’alam

            From now on I am only going to respond to comments relating to the article, such as arguing whether it is “Bu nu nu nu” or “Du nu nu nu” :)

  21. Avatar

    Farhan

    September 24, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Batman: The Dark Knight, narrated by Warner Brothers. Hadith Dha’eef

    • Avatar

      elham

      September 24, 2010 at 7:21 PM

      Actually it should be Mawdu’ .i.e. fabricated as its fiction. Also narrators are Non-Muslim. You need to be brush-up on your Ijtihad.

  22. Avatar

    Mahmoud Sabha

    September 24, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    I remember once the brothers had a halaqa session with the youth about the movie when it first came out! its good to discuss this with some youth to help connect with them on their level.

  23. Avatar

    Alferdaws

    September 24, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    “As a Qur’an teacher and a halaqa leader for youth for many years, i can say confidently that i do see a lot of benefit in being able to connect everyday life and experiences to deen. I think you did an excellent job…even if we can learn something from batman.

  24. Avatar

    Verbage

    September 24, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    jazaki Allahu khayran, masha’Allah amazing article! :)

  25. Avatar

    Safaa

    September 24, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Good work! I enjoyed reading this article, I just have one issue with it, or rather a small correction.

    The actual old school theme song was not “bu nu nu nu nu BATMAN!” But rather: “Na na na na na BATMAN!”

    JazakiAllahu khairn, good work

    • Avatar

      Nadya

      September 24, 2010 at 5:13 PM

      In all actuality, I believe it was “Du nu nu nu nu nu nu nu”

      Wa Allahu Ghafoorun Raheem.

  26. Avatar

    Adam

    September 24, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    JazakiAllahukhair for the nice analogy and reminder. …we need to give dawah to batman….once he accepts, he’d be good to go.

  27. Avatar

    vimaljacob

    September 24, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    im one of the biggest fans of batman ..
    (oh n for people who loved “the dark knight” … please watch the animated film “batman : under the red hood” to see an emotional touching movie about all tht batman stands for … n fair warning.. its a movie for adults .. not kids)
    n i really hate to spoil this for you …
    batman may go to church coz thers where his parents are buried but deep down he doesnt believe in god (well .. he doesnt want to believe) ….. he doesnt believe coz he cant understand why god would let a person like the joker be still alive …. batman’s own “rules” (no killing .. or other morally wrong activities) disable him from taking the joker’s life … BUT …
    deep down he also knows tht its a never ending war he is battling and tht thr must be a reason (or a being tht looks after him) why he still is alive given the fact he is only human and he manges to win battles against meta humans ..

    in the current batman series .. a couple of months ago batman was killed by the omega sanction (actually he goes back in time.. n is now suffering from amnesia .. as he travels through different era’s of time .. regaining his memory… a really exciting tale .. give it a looksie people) .. but considering his casebooks just before his death .. he writes about undergoing a procedure tht mimics death … so tht he could see the face of true evil … behind all the evil in the world .. n he would find it .. n beat it

  28. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    September 24, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    This is the most hilarious commen tread I ever read. People taking Batman so seriously and personally. Argueing ovr his level of Ikhlaas.

    I want to burst out laughing.Take the lesson and move on! Too funny! :P

  29. Avatar

    Mohammad

    September 25, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    Assalamualaykum. SubhanAllah, we are belittling sins nowadays. By publishing articles like this, it seems we are justifying the watching of movies to get the good from them. We are exposing our sins! Fear Allah!

    As for those of you who are saying lighten up etc, fear Allah. This religion is not something to be taken lightly. Can we imagine the sahabaa or the salaf doing or saying things like this>?

    If you want to see what the scholars say about this, please refer to the link below. BarakaAllahufeekum.

    http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/85232/movies

    • Amad

      Amad

      September 25, 2010 at 1:04 PM

      Islam-qa is not the one-stop authority center for all Muslims in the world. It’s one of many sites for fiqh.

  30. Avatar

    Mohammad

    September 25, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    I didn’t claim it was. But if you have scholars who are more knowledgeable who say that movies are fine and talking about sins is fine, please feel free to enlighten us. jazakaAllahkhayr. Wassalam.

    • Avatar

      Amatul Wadood

      September 26, 2010 at 1:00 AM

      Salam wart wabrt…

      subhanAllah! seriously, i dont want to judge anyone’s intentions but what on earth???!!! to see people tellin that we can extract benefit from haram (even if itz LITTLE) is depressing!

      And whosoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger , fears Allaah, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful” (al-Noor 24:51-52)

      Moreover, the Muslim should not look at how small or great the sin is, rather he should look at the greatness and might of the One Whom he is disobeying, for He is the Most Great, the Most High; He is Mighty in strength and Severe in punishment, and His punishment is severe and painful and humiliating. If He exacts vengeance on those who disobey Him, then utter destruction will be their fate. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

      A sin may appear insignificant in the eyes of a person when before Allaah it is serious, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
      “you counted it a little thing, while with Allaah it was very great” (al-Noor 24:15)

      This matter is as some of the scholars said: “Do not look at the smallness of the sin, rather look at the One Whom you are disobeying.” We have to obey Allaah and do as He commands. We must remember that He is watching in secret and in public, and avoid that which He has forbidden. (source: islam-qa.com)

      • Avatar

        Anonymous

        October 6, 2010 at 9:00 AM

        Asalamalaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatahu

        Thats right , even Allah Subhana wa tallah says that there is benefit from Wine but very little
        and it’s adverse effects are greater.

        So how can we talk about benefiting from something which is haram and talk about it so openly and casually and in doing so , encourage other people to see the movie , to not feel bad about seeing the movie, remove guilt and be so casual about a sin, Yeah 99% people do it , is that the excuse to justify it being ok. Is that what we are going to tell Allah Subhana wa tallah on the Day of Judgement, everyone did it so I did it.

        Then lets start talking casually about the benefits of drinking wine , many muslims do that too but they seem to hide that atleast. Or lets talk about the benefits of doing Zina. Would this not sound ridiculous or atleast shocking to us if one did talk so casually about these things and deriving benefits from it.

        May Allah Guide all of us

  31. Avatar

    movies_unkosher

    September 25, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    I haven’t seen Batman, but I’m leaning towards the side that the movie is not very halal(I cannot say for cetrain). But most importantly, most hollywood movies are littered with muharamat(forbidden things). I really think this issue is handled in a lax manner. At the very least, these movies are a complete waste of time.

    Someone should write a post on MM condemning the use of music, sex, drugs, violence……. in movies.

  32. Avatar

    Abdullah ibn Adam

    September 25, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    Salaams,

    I haven’t watched “Batman: the Dark Knight.”
    Is this a movie with all halal elements that I can hire out and watch with my family?
    Please let me know if this movie is halal – I am struggling to find such movies my brothers and sisters!
    Jzk

    • Avatar

      Hassan

      September 25, 2010 at 8:00 PM

      Watch 12 angry men, available on youtube. I watched it recently.

      • Avatar

        Abdullah Ibn Adam

        September 28, 2010 at 5:22 PM

        “12 Angry Men” you suggest – really great movie that would be indeed. I will see them either sitting down or lying down on the floor all through movie : ) …

        “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “If any of you becomes angry and he is standing, let him sit down, so that his anger will go away. If it does not go away, let him lie down.” [Reported in the ‘Musnad’ of Ahmad (5/152) and ‘Sahih al-Jami’ (694)]

  33. Avatar

    Idrees Ally

    September 25, 2010 at 10:48 PM

    Wow, this thread is absolutely hilarious :D

    There’s one quote I remembered from Batman which had a good/Islamic lesson as well … went smthing like this:

    “It’s not who you are, but what you do that defines you”

    • Avatar

      Nadya

      September 26, 2010 at 1:20 AM

      Indeed, indeed it is!

      That was definitely an awesome line as well!

  34. Avatar

    SuperHereos in Salah

    September 25, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    For anyone doubting the aqeedah of batman or any of the other super-hereos, check out this picture mashAllah:

    http://files.tmp.muxlim.com/photo/91025_4815_157403_0_0_800.jpg

  35. Avatar

    M.R.

    September 26, 2010 at 4:16 AM

    This is definitely one of the most hilarious comment threads I’ve read… ever… ON ANY WEBSITE… ppl are arguing about the Ikhlaas of Batman… BATMAN!! He is FICTIONAL people… A character devised in somebody’s mind based around some ideals, some morals, some sense of good and evil… and then evolved through story-lines over the years… Don’t over-analyse it… If there is good in anything, just take that and leave the rest…

    Also, Its really frustrating to read a flamewar on the “halal/haram”-ness of movies when article is about a certain trait of a fictional hero. Just get the point and move on…

    • Avatar

      @

      September 26, 2010 at 9:45 PM

      Ya like who cares if they are halal or haram, just move on right.

      • Avatar

        M.R.

        September 29, 2010 at 3:19 PM

        No, I didn’t say that. Read my comment again. THIS article is NOT discussing whether movies are halal/haram… it is just an observation of a good trait in a FICTIONAL hero.

    • Avatar

      Amir (MR)

      September 27, 2010 at 1:40 PM

      Salaam.

      Above commentator is not me.

  36. Avatar

    ali

    September 26, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    I agree with a point mentioned before:

    “I don’t doubt your intention or this article nor the point of Ikhlaas. Nor do I disagree with using analogy or things that a modern audience could relate to.

    However given that there is many in the Ulema who would take to various contents in the film, such as violence, promiscuity, music etc, is it such a good example to use in a public arena? Granted many watch movies and privately discuss them but that is different to bringing into such a public light.

    I understand the point, but at the same time feel there must be better ways of making it with more depth and meaning, even with things the modern person could relate to…

    Allah knows best”

    • Avatar

      Abdullah Ibn Adam

      September 28, 2010 at 6:17 PM

      Nadya said : “And so Batman agreed to take the blame. He agreed to make it known that he murdered the innocent, that he betrayed his community, that he indeed was not the hero everyone had known him to be…but that he was the Dark Knight.

      These simple incidents blew my mind in a way that I had never before understood the ideal Islamic concept of sincerity like I did in these moments. If all Muslims had these ideals within us, we would all be a lot closer to the gates of Paradise.”

      I think you have you used the wrong word here, sister. It is not Ikhlaas that this fable figure epiomised, but it was self-sacrifice. Not only that he also lied to people, what we may call a white lie – righly or wrongly – it definitely is not ikhlaas at all!

      Also the right thing to do would be the honest thing to do and justice must be served. Would you agree?

      I think you are reading into this too much. Let’s look at this philosophically. What Batman did will open up a can of worms and there are repurcussions and impact. If a so-called hero was the saviour and he was turned to the dark side by evil. Why can’t it happen again? people will not trust these heroes again let’s say Spiderman did the same. What happened if we imagine Batman was banged up in jail and the Dark Knight AJ guy still carried with his crimes and killing spree ? How did it benefit Batman or anyone? What will the people (i.e. those inside the Batman fable) would think? Why not tell the truth and say the AJ was the Dark Knight and he will get punished to the a maximum extent poss. according to the law i.e. shariah law obviously : ) ?

      Sincerity is to tell the truth even if it is against yourself!
      Sincerity is to serve justice against someone no matter what their status, nor ideals nor morals they seemed to have embodied before their turned to misdemeanors or crimes. Why not follow what our Prophet (pbuh) would have done and advised us to do….
      “….The Prophet said, ‘If a reputable man amongst the children of Bani Israel committed a theft, they used to forgive him, but if a poor man committed a theft, they would cut his hand. But I would cut even the hand of Fatima (i.e. the daughter of the Prophet) if she committed a theft.” [Bukhari :: Book 5 :: Volume 57 :: Hadith 79]

      And does not the action of the Dark Knight epitomise this…
      When the Prophet (pbuh) described to us those people who perform the deeds of Paradise until they are only a handspan away from Paradise and then they do the deeds of the Hellfire and they end up one of the inhabitants of Hell.
      …No wonder we have to read Suraj al-Fatihah every day with Ikhlaas!
      PLEASE CAN WE CLOSE THIS THREAD? I SAY THIS WITH NO THREATS : )
      WHY NOT USE REAL LIFE OR HISTORY EXAMPLES INSTEAD OF FANTASY FABLES?
      COME ON WE CAN DO IT!

  37. Avatar

    qazi

    September 29, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    asak, all biradran-e-islam……i just want to say that consider ur ideal none other than prophet muhammad(peace be upon him) :)

  38. Avatar

    Imran

    November 2, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    I think we should extract lessons from all block buster movies to become relevant to the youth. After all, they don’t know anything about Muslim heroes; so to teach them about them would be fruitless, since they won’t be able to relate to them.

  39. Avatar

    Zahin

    November 6, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    THIS IS EPIC!!!!!!

  40. Avatar

    The Muslim Voice

    March 4, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    Aselamulaikum!

    Very nice article indeed! Alhumdoililah its great to see articles like these that the youth can actually relate too. And to those Brothers that are continuously dropping the H-Bomb really need to stop and realize the point of this article already! :)
    Since I’m not a Scholar I won’t say movies are halal or not but I do want to say, just keep everything halal and keep the haraam away, don’t do things that get your closer shaitan and youll be fine…ask your self, will this movie keep me away from Allah or closer to shaitan.

  41. Avatar

    Mahmoud Sabha

    March 4, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    Man i need to see this movie already!!!

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#Islam

The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

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Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad. At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata

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Gratitude

The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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When Faith Hurts: Do Good Deeds = Good Life?

Loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way- even if it hurts. It is a time to learn.

Zeba Khan

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hurts, hardship. Allah, test, why Allah is testing me

The Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the faith in our hearts wears out the way our clothes wear out. Deterioration, maintenance, and renewal are part of the cycle.  That’s life with all that hurts. That’s normal.

But what happens when that’s life, but life is not your normal? What happens when it feels like life isn’t normal, hasn’t been normal, and won’t be normal for a foreseeably long time?  For some of us, refreshing faith becomes secondary to just keeping it.

It’s easier to say Alhamdulillah when you are happy. It’s harder when you’re not. That’s human nature though. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with what we teach about faith that can leave us unprepared for when Allah tests it. I believe that our discussions about faith tend to be overly simplistic. They revolve around a few basic concepts, and are more or less summed up with:

Faith = Happiness

Righteousness = Ease

Prayer = Problem Solved

Good Deeds Equals Good Life?

Basically, the TLDR is Good Deeds = The Good Life. None of these statements are technically untrue. The sweetness of faith is a joy that is beyond any other gratitude, for any other thing in this world. Righteousness in the sight of Allah will put you on the path to the good life in the afterlife. Making dua can be the solution to your problems. But when we say these things to people who have true faith but not happiness, or righteous behavior yet distressing hardship, we’re kind of implying that that either Islam is broken (because their prayers seem unanswered), or they are broken (because their prayers are undeserving of answers.) And neither of those is true either.

Allow me to elaborate. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a single parent who has not begged Allah to make their sick or disabled child well again. Yet, our Ummah still has sick and disabled children. Through history, people have begged Allah for a loved one’s life, and then buried them – so is prayer not equal to problem solved?

Many righteous people stand up, and are then ostracized for their faith. Many people speak truth in the face of a tyrant only to be punished for it. Many of us live with complete conviction, with unshakeable belief in the existence and wisdom and mercy of Allah, and still find ourselves unhappy and afraid of what He has willed for us.

Are We Broken?

No, but our spiritual education is. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to anyone else?

No one ever told me. It was hard for me to learn that lesson on my own, when I pleaded with Allah to make my son’s autism go away, and it didn’t. Everyone told me –Make dua! The prayer of a mother for her child is special! Allah will never turn you down!

It was hard trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting messages- that Allah knows best, but a mother’s prayer is always answered. It was even harder facing people who tried to reassure me of that, even when it obviously wasn’t working.

“Just make dua! Allah will respond!”

I’m sure people mean well. But it’s hard not to be offended. Either they assume I have never bothered to pray for my son, or they imply that there must be good reason why Allah’s not granting to my prayers. What they don’t consider is that allowing my test to persist – even if I don’t want it to- is also a valid response from Allah.

I have been told to think back in my life, and try to determine what sin caused my child’s disability, as if the only reason why Allah wouldn’t give me what I asked for was because I was so bad I didn’t deserve it. As if good deeds equaled the good life, and if my life wasn’t good, it’s because I hadn’t been good either.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

You can assume whatever you like about my character, but bad things do happen to good people, even when they pray. You can try your hardest and still fall short. You can pray your whole life for something that will never come to you. And strength of faith in that circumstance doesn’t mean living in a state of unfulfilled hope, it means accepting the wisdom in the test that Allah has decreed for you.

That’s a bit uncomfortable, isn’t it.  When we talk about prayer and hope, we prefer to talk about Zakariyyah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – who begged Allah for a child and was gifted with one long after anyone thought it even possible. But we also need to talk about Abu Talib.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, and in his mission to preach Islam he was protected by Abu Talib.  But Abu Talib died without accepting Islam, was there something wrong with the Prophet, that Allah did not give him what he asked for? Was he not good enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Astaghfirullah, no. So if Prophets of God can ask for things and still not get them, why are we assuming otherwise for ourselves?

Making a Bargain with Allah

If we can understand that faith is not a contract for which we trade prayers for services, then maybe we can cope better when fate cannot be bargained with. Maybe it won’t have to hurt so bad – on spiritual level – when Allah withholds what we ask for, even when we asked for the “right” things in the right way and at all the right times.

Life is not simple. Faith is not simple. The will of Allah is not simple, no matter how much we want it to be, and when oversimplify it, we create a Muslim version of Prosperity Gospel without meaning to.

If you’ve never heard of it, prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that health and wealth and success are the will of God, and therefore faith, good deeds and charity increase one’s wellbeing. Have faith, and God will reward you in this life and the next. That’s nice. But it’s too simple. Because the belief that Good Deeds = The Good Life doesn’t explain how Ibraheem 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s father tried to have him burnt alive.

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s brothers left him for dead in the bottom of a well. He grew up a slave and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aasiya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – the wife of the Pharoah – one of the four best women in the history of womankind – died from her husband’s torture.

Good people are not guaranteed good lives. Islam is what we need, not a system of practices that we use to fulfill our needs.

When we limit our understanding of faith to a simplistic, almost contractual relationship with Allah, then we can’t even explain the things that Allah Tested His own prophets with.

Nor can we understand, or even begin to cope with- what He Tests the rest of us with either. We have to be real in our talk about faith, because otherwise we set each other up for unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation for when we face hardship. Faith is not protection from hardship. Faith is part of hardship. And hardship is part of faith.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks us in the opening of Surah ‘Ankabut,

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And ˹in this way˺ Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.

Allah says in Surah Baqarah, ayah 155: “And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who are patient in adversity.

tests, hurts, faith , hardship

Allah Tests Everyone Differently

Allah tests each of us differently, but in every single case – every single time – a test is an invitation to success. Hardship is the process through which we prove ourselves. Experiencing it– and then drawing closer to Allah through it –is how faith is tested as well as strengthened.

If we can change how we perceive hardship, then we can also change how we perceive each other. On our cultural subconscious, we still see worldly failure as being equivalent to spiritual failure. So when we see people who are homeless, we assume fault. When we see people facing depression or divorce, we assume fault. We even look at refugees and victims and special needs children and we look for fault. Because if it’s that bad then it’s has to be someone’s fault, right?

Fault is how we place blame. Blame is how we know whose mistake it is. But the will of Allah is never a mistake, it’s a test.  Instead of faulting each other for what Allah tests us with, we could respect each other for the struggles we all endure. We could see each other with more compassion for our challenges, and less aversion when Allah tests us with dealing each other.

So when you’ve done things the right way, but the right things aren’t happening. Or you’ve been charitable to others, and they’re being evil towards you. Or you’ve earned only halal, but haram- it’s been taken away from you, remember this- your faith is being tested. Allah tests those that He loves. When He raises the difficulty level, Allah is extending a direct invitation for you to climb higher.

So How Do We Succeed When Faced With Failure?

The first thing to do is redefine failure. There is only one true failure in this life, and that is dying on the wrong side of Siraat ul Mustaqeem, because if close your eyes and wake up in Jahannam, no success in this life can compensate for that.

I find that helpful to remember, when I fail to stay fit because I can’t exercise without hurting myself, when I fail to fast in Ramadan because it’s dangerous for me to do so- when I fail to discover a cure for my family’s personal assortment of medical issues through rigorous internet “research,” none of that is my failure either. And I can feel a lot of different ways about these situations, but I do not feel guilty- because it’s not my fault. And I do not feel bitter, because my test is my honor. Even when I do feel scared.

Being scared in not a failure either. Neither is being unemployed. Being unmarried is not a failure. Being childless is not a failure. Being divorced is not a failure. Nothing unpleasant or miserable or unexpected is a failure. It’s all just a test, and seeing it as a test means you have the state of mind to look for the correct answers.

Not even sin is failure, because as long as you are alive, your sin stands as an invitation to forgiveness. The bigger the sin, the greater the blessings of repenting from it.  Everything that goes bad is the opening of the door for good. A major sin can be the first step on a journey that starts with repentance and moves you closer to Allah every day thereafter. Sin only becomes failure when it takes you farther away from Allah, rather than closer to him.

Jahannam is the Only Failure

Addiction is not a failure. Depression is not a failure. Poverty is not a failure. Jahannam is the only failure. Everything else is a gap in expectations.

You assumed you would have something, but it’s not written for you. You assumed you’d ask Allah for something and He’d give it to you, but what is that assumption based on again? That good deeds are the guarantee to the good life, and that prayer equals problem solved?

Allah has all the knowledge, Allah has the wisdom, Allah is the best of Planners – how are you assuming that your wishes supersede His will? Even when you put your wishes in the form of a prayer?

They don’t. It is absolutely true that Allah may choose to rewrite Qadr itself based on your prayers – but that’s still His choice. Allah has always, and will always be in control of this world. And that means your world too. If you still think you’re in control, you will find it really, really hard to cope the first time you realize you’re not.

When we understand that we don’t get to control what happens and what doesn’t, we can then release ourselves from the misplaced guilt of things going wrong.  Lots of special needs parents struggle with guilt. I meet them often – and every single parent has asked the question- directly or indirectly-

What did I do for my child to deserve this?

Can you hear the presumption in there? That the parents were good, so why did something bad happen? They were expecting for good deeds to equal the good life.

There’s a second presumption in there too, that their life choices were a determining factor of what happened to their child. That is a presumption of control. And as long as you try to hold on to that presumption of control, there is the constant feeling of failure when it just doesn’t work the way you think it will.

I am not proposing that we lose hope in Allah and despair of His Mercy. I am in no way insinuating that Allah doesn’t hear every prayer, hasn’t counted every tear, and isn’t intimately aware of your pain and your challenges. Allah hears your prayers, and in His wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we want. In His Wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we need.

Even if we don’t see it.

Even if it scares us.

Even if it hurts us – because Allah has promised that He will never, ever break us.

hurts, hardship, special needs

Allah Tests Us in His Mercy

I am proposing that we put trust in the wisdom of Allah, and understand that when He tests us, that is part of his mercy, not a deviation from it. When He grants something to us, that is part of His mercy, and when he withholds something from us, that too is part of His Mercy, even if we don’t like it. Even when we ask Him to take it away.

The third thing I would like to propose, is that we correct our understanding of – Fa Inna Ma’Al usri yusraa, Inna Ma’al usri yusra.

So verily, definitely, for sure- with hardship there is ease. Again, Inna – for sure, with hardship there is ease.

I’m sure lots of you have said this to people you loved, or to yourself when you’re struggling with something and you’re just trying to get through it. But did you mean that this hardship will end, and then things will be good again? Like as soon as things have been hard for a while, Allah will make them easy again?

Would you believe that’s not really what that means? Ma’a means with, not after. With this hardship, there is ease. And maybe you’re like aww man, but I wanted the ease! I want the hardship to go away and Allah I’m ready for my ease now!

But that hardship, will bring you ease. Allah does not tell us what the ease will be, or when it will be- but He says it’s there, so trust Him. Even if you can’t see it right away, or in this life –it will become apparent.

I can tell you some of the ease I found with mine.

Learning When It Hurts

When my son was diagnosed with autism, my husband and I had to drop everything. We dropped our plans to save, to travel, and to live the charmed life of neurotypical parents whose only fears are that their children may grow up and NOT become Muslim doctors. We spent our earnings and our savings and our time and our nights and our tears and Alhamdulillah, we learned patience. We learned perspective. We learned compassion.

We really learned what we thought we already knew – about unconditional love and acceptance. We learned to be bigger than our fears, and smaller than our own egos. We learned to give and take help. We learn to accept what wisdom our cultures could offer us, and respectfully decline what did not. We learn to set boundaries and make rules that did justice by our children and our family, regardless of whether they were popular. With hardship comes ease.

When we couldn’t afford therapy for my son, my husband and I founded a not for profit organization in the UAE that provided it for my son and dozens of other people’s sons and daughters. Three and a half years ago I left that organization to seek better educational opportunities for my son here in the US, but it’s still running. The seed that our challenges planted has grown into something beyond us. With our hardship came ease for ourselves and others as well.

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my health issues were upgraded from challenging to permanent. I had to rethink how I lived, how I planned, how I dressed, and even – my relationship with Allah. But if I had never been sick, I would never have started writing. When it hurt, I wrote. When I was scared, I wrote. When I was lonely, I wrote. And by and by the grindstone of fear and sickness and frustration sharpened my skills. Where I am today both spiritually and professionally – is actually a direct result of both autism and chronic illness. With hardship comes ease.

I don’t like my hardships, but I don’t have to. You don’t have to either. Being a good Muslim doesn’t always mean being a happy Muslim. It just means being Muslim, no matter the circumstances.

That means loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way – even if not loving everything He throws your way. You may hate your circumstances, and you may not be able to do anything about them, but as long as you trust Allah and use your hardships to come closer to him, you cannot fail, even if this life, you feel as if you never really succeeded.

hurts, depression, faith , hardship

Faith Wears Out In Our hearts, The Way Our Cothes Wear Out on Our Bodies

The hardship that damages and stains us is Allah’s invitation to repair, renew, and refresh ourselves. Our test are an invitation, an opportunity, an obstacle – but not a punishment or divine cruelty. And when we know that those tests will come, and some may even stay, then we can be better prepared for it.

Trust Allah when He says that He does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. He told us so in Surah Baqarah Ayah 286. Remember that when you are afraid, and Allah will never cause your fear to destroy you. Take your fear to Allah, and He will strengthen you, and reward you for your bravery.

Remember that when you are in pain. Allah will never cause your pain to destroy you. Take your pain to Him, and He will soothe you and reward you for your patience. Take it all to Allah – the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion. Do not assume that the only emotions a “good Muslim” takes to Allah are gratitude and happiness and awe. Take them all to Allah, uncertainty, disappointment, anger — and He will bless you in all of those states, and guide you to what is better for you in this life, and the next, even if it’s not what you expected.

The struggles in your life are a test, and whether you pass or fail is not determined on whether you conquer them, only on whether you endure them. Expect that they will come, because having faith is not protection from struggle. Faith is protection from being broken by the struggle.

I ask Allah to protect us all from hardship, but protect us in our hardships as well. I ask Allah to grant us peace from His peace, and strength from His strength, to patiently endure and grow through our endurance.

Ameen.

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