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Top Ten Things Every Student of Knowledge Should Know

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Many times young Muslims decide they want to become scholars and embark on the path of knowledge with little knowledge of what to expect. I was such a youngster who signed up for an “‘alim” course with no idea what an ‘alim is or where it would lead me.

In order to help my fellow Muslims prepare themselves psychologically and not repeat the mistakes I made, I present to you ten things I feel every student of knowledge must know (in no particular order):

1. A few years of study does not make one a scholar:

Too often, young Muslims study a few books or for a few years and then develop a “scholar” complex. They begin to force their opinions on others as if they can’t be wrong. They become intolerant to other views, and they write anybody off who disagrees with them as deviant.

We need to realize, before we even begin our journey of knowledge, that the sciences of Islam are many and deep; the variety of opinions in fiqh are multiple, and the chances of always being right are slim. I advise all of my fellow young Muslims to tread carefully, keep egos in check, approach differences with the possibility of being wrong, and never forget to say “Allah knows best”.

2. Manners come first:

In the past, most scholars would train their students in good manners before teaching them Islamic knowledge. Parents, too, would encourage their children to learn manners before the Islamic sciences.

Sadly, today many institutes do not teach good manners to their students, expecting them to automatically gain them through their study of Islam. This leads to Islamic teachers with bad manners, which in turn chases people away from Islam.

In this regard, anybody who is studying or teaching Islam must learn the proper manners of dealing with people, mercy, tolerance, and being non-judgmental and must possess a personality that attracts people; otherwise, we might do more harm than good.

3. Studying Islam does not make one immune to sin:

Some people have the misconception that if they study Islam, they will reach a level of piety from which they can’t slip. The reality is that Shaytan tries even harder to lead people of knowledge astray as it has a more detrimental effect on the community as a whole.

So instead of temptations growing less, they are more likely to increase and intensify as Shaytan tries to use every means at his disposal to lead us astray. We need to realize this, prepare for it, and never let our guard down as the Shayateen try very hard to make a knowledgeable Muslim fall astray.

4. People will judge you:

While we should not be judgmental to people as Islamic teachers, the reality is that people will still judge you. Many people are intimidated by practicing Muslims. When they see a practicing Muslim, they see their own flaws and deficiencies and so they search for fault in that individual. We should not be surprised if people judge our clothing, mannerisms or weaknesses; it is their way to try and console themselves or justify their sins. We need to always keep this in mind and be able to respond appropriately.

5. You represent your Faith:

When a person chooses to study Islam, especially once they earn a title, they automatically become a representation of the deen. When people see an Imam or a Shaykh, they expect to see a living example of Islam. If people see such a person sinning, they will either lose respect for him and become disillusioned about Islam, or they will take it as proof that it can’t be that big a sin. Either way, for an Islamic teacher, our lives represent our deen, so we should always be careful not to give a wrong impression of Islam.

6. You will be tested:

Undoubtedly, life is a test and every human is being tested all the time in different ways. However, one should not think that because one is studying Islam and teaching it, Allah will grant a life of ease and comfort. Rather, history proves that those closest to Allah are the most severely tested. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The most severely tested people are the prophets, then those closest to them in piety then those closest to them.”

Be prepared to be tested and take it as a sign that Allah loves you and wants to test your love for Him. Remember that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever embarks on a path to study Islam has embarked on the path towards Paradise.” It is not the information alone that takes a person to Paradise; it is his fulfillment of its rights by understanding, practicing and preaching it to others and dealing with all the problems that go along with this that ultimately leads to Paradise.

7. Studying should not be an end; rather it should be a step to a higher goal:

I have met many Moulanas, Imams and Shaykhs with no goals or aspirations. Despite the ummah having so many issues that need dealing with, these men don’t seem to care. Upon further analysis, I realized that they set out to study with one of the following goals: to please their parents, to get a title, or to get the knowledge. Once they obtained the knowledge, they did not know or care about what to do next, so they carried along with their lives like donkeys carrying books.

Any person who studies Islam should be introspective and find a good motivation to study. Perhaps you would like to become a da’ee and a means of guidance for non-Muslims. Perhaps you would like to establish an Islamic centre in an area that needs one. Perhaps you would like become a mujtahid in a field that is lacking many quality scholars. Whatever you decide, it should be something noble that you wish to do for the sake of Allah after completing your studies. In short, studying should not be a goal but a means to help accomplish higher goals.

8. You can’t change everyone:

In life, we do not always get what we want. Similarly, in Islamic work things don’t always go our way. Remember that not everybody you meet will agree with you, listen to you or accept your message. Rather, there will always be people who will disagree with you or flat out reject you. This is reality and we have to be prepared for this by realizing guidance is only in Allah’s Hands, and we are only responsible for conveying the message.

9. You will make mistakes:

Many of us study Islam to make up for the sins of our past. Yet, being humans, we are never free from sins and mistakes and so some people become depressed and give up Islamic work when they realize that they are now knowledgeable but still occasionally fall into sin.

The truth is that the Shaytan wants us to quit and by doing so we are just playing into his hands, but Allah is Most Forgiving to those who repent. Every time you fall down and make a mistake, pick yourself back up, turn to Allah in repentance and try again to be a good Muslim, and never EVER allow your sins or mistakes stop you from doing Islamic work. Rather, it should motivate us to do more Islamic work so that our good deeds outweigh our sins on the Last Day.

10. The reward for studying and teaching Islam is worth it:

While most of the above make it seem like Islamic Work is a difficult field, that is not the purpose of this article. The purpose was solely to prepare for the many challenges and responsibilities we face while trying to serve Allah.

The reality is that the reward of dealing with all of the above is truly worth it, whether it is the rewards in this world or in the akhirah. As far as the akhirah goes, we know that the path of knowledge leads to Paradise but additional to that is the fact that insha’Allah you will get the rewards for the good deeds of those you teach or inspire to do good.

In this sense, it is one of the only good deeds we can do where the reward keeps multiplying. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When a person dies, all their deeds end except three: charity which continues to benefit, knowledge he left behind which people benefit from, and righteous children who pray for him.”

As far as this world goes, the greatest reward an Islamic worker can receive in this world is seeing the fruits of his efforts. When a person tells you they changed and became a better Muslim because of your influence or when a person takes their shahadah at your hands, there is no feeling equal to it, and any sacrifice you have being through for the deen feels worth it.

So, my beloved brothers and sisters, let us study Islam, seeking its rewards yet knowing the responsibilities and trials that go along with it. I wrote this firstly as a reminder to myself as well as to anybody else involved in the field of Islamic Studies. May Allah keep us all steadfast on His deen. Ameen.

Ismail Kamdar, a.k.a Abu Muawiyah, is the Head Tutorial Assistant of the Islamic Online University, and the host of Living Islam on Radio Al-Ansaar. He began his study of Islam at the age of thirteen, and has completed both the Alim course and a BA in Islamic Studies. He is the author of multiple books including Having Fun the Halal Way: Entertainment in Islam, Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management and Best of Creation: An Islamic Guide to Self-Confidence.

68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muhammad

    March 16, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    Jazakallahu Khairan for this advice. I really appreciate this. May Allah accept this and give you more good deeds as a result of it.

  2. Avatar

    Iman

    March 16, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    This is quite possibly the shallowest writing I’ve ever seen on this website. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder about your past and make generalizations based on it.

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      Yahya Ibrahim

      March 16, 2011 at 5:34 AM

      Bismillah,

      I re-read the article after reading your comment. I can not reconcile your coment with the article.

      Please re read it again with less emphasis on who the author is and more on what the overall message is calling to.

      yahya
      http://www.facebook.com/yahya.adel.ibrahim

      • Avatar

        Ismail Kamdar

        March 16, 2011 at 8:47 AM

        Barakallah Feek Shaykh

        • Avatar

          Cartoon M.

          March 16, 2011 at 9:53 AM

          4. People will judge you hehe

          JazakAllah for sharing what your learned from your experience brotha! I thought #7 was especially important, even when we’re talking about other fields.

    • Avatar

      Umm Aman

      March 16, 2011 at 10:07 AM

      bismillairRahmanirRaheem
      assalamu alaikkum warahmathullahi wabarakathuhu,

      On the contrary to what u have said above, i thought that this is one of the best articles as each pointer the author has given is absolutely true and what most of the students of knowledge go through.
      May Allah,subhanata’ala reward all those who work in His cause immensely and keep all of us in the straight path.

      -umm aman

    • Avatar

      MR

      March 16, 2011 at 2:29 PM

      This comment just proved the necessity of articles like these.

    • Avatar

      Jamshed

      March 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      I just wanted to echo what the others have mentioned… your comment seems to bear no relation to the article. I found it to be quite accurate myself, and I’ve seen people fall into the traps that it highlights many times.

    • Avatar

      Nur

      June 13, 2011 at 12:41 AM

      I would love to read your article iman. You seem to know what would be the best advice to give students of knowledge. Alhamdulillah

    • Avatar

      Huda Abdi

      April 26, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      Jazak allah Khayr, this is exactly what I needed to read…..May Allah SWT multiply your efforts

  3. Avatar

    Fahd Abdal Wahhab

    March 16, 2011 at 1:45 AM

    As Salaam Alaykum,

    Greatly appreciate this article. I’m a new Muslim and though, not yet a full fledged student of knowledge, I’m putting up an effort to learn, Alhamdulillah. Therefore, I can totally relate to your points here. May Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you and may Allah make it easy for you. May Allah bless us all with beneficial knowledge.

  4. Avatar

    salih

    March 16, 2011 at 1:47 AM

    MashaAllah! I like this article very much because the author speaks the truth. Many times, muslims can’t differentiate between literacy and scholarship. When this happened, ignorance take over.

  5. Avatar

    Aisha

    March 16, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    Very good one !! Masha Allah. We should read this article EVERY day to remind ourselves.

  6. Avatar

    Sister

    March 16, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    Jazakallahu khairaan kaseera brother ..Mashaallah .One of the best article. One of the biggest blessing from Allah subahanawtala is understanding of the deen . If you are a student of ilm ,never ever take this naima [blessing ] lightly..

  7. Avatar

    Khader Ali Khan

    March 16, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    Salam Alaikum Br. Ismail,

    Good article… may Allah reward you. How do you manage to do so many things?

    • Avatar

      Ismail Kamdar

      March 16, 2011 at 8:50 AM

      Wa Alaikum Salaam Akhi Khader

      I can give a few pointers:

      1. Make time to fulfill the rights of everyone
      2. Plan yourself and make a schedule
      3. Make dua for barakah in time
      4. Make time for fun and relaxing but stick to your times

      Allah knows best

  8. Avatar

    forever a student of Islam

    March 16, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    subhanaAllah such a truthful and beautiful article. jazakaAllah kul khair for taking the time and effort in opening the eyes of those who are studying the Deen, those who will study the Deen and those who are not studying at all but try to be good Muslims.

  9. Avatar

    Aly B - DiscoMaulvi

    March 16, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Assalamu’Alaikum:

    Jazak’Allah Khairin for this. I can relate to this article and it serves as a reminder to monitor oneself from falling into these “traps”.

    -Aly

    ____________________________________________________________
    The DiscoMaulvi Page : http://www.facebook.com/DiscoMaulvi
    DiscoMaulvi on Twitter : http://www.twitter.com/DiscoMaulvi
    DiscoMaulvi’s Blog : http://discomaulvi.wordpress.com/

  10. Avatar

    Syed J.

    March 16, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Assalam alaikum,

    I guess we can add these two also:

    1. The knowledge you have gained is not something you own but it was something that was GIVEN to you.

    2. Humble one’s self, as that is a KEY for true people of knowledge.

    And Allah SWT Knows Best.

    • Avatar

      Ismail Kamdar

      March 17, 2011 at 4:28 AM

      Wa Alaikum Salaam

      Jazakallah Khair for these. They are also very important.

  11. Avatar

    ghabe

    March 16, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    – a very good reminder

  12. Avatar

    Mehdi Sheikh

    March 16, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Alhamdulillah very nice article.

    and No. 1 is indeed the most important. I see many people who have studied overseas and gotten a few degrees who love to show themselves off as “scholars” even though they are just “students of knowledge”. Even Shaykh Abdul Muhsin Abbaad said regarding those who graduate from Madeenah that they are to be considered only beginners on the path to knowledge. Yet I see people satisfied when others call them “Shaykh” and scholars which only increases their arrogance and riyaa.

    The primary objective of these “tullabul ilm” and “daees” apart from teaching people the basics of the deen is to be mere signposts to the real scholars of Islaam. There are no scholars in the West and we should not delude ourselves into thinking so.

  13. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    March 16, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Awesome, I really enjoyed & benefited from this article.

  14. Avatar

    nayma

    March 16, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    An article full of wisdom. Jazak Allahu Khairan. I will definitely share it.

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  16. Avatar

    A Muslimah

    March 16, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Jazak Allah khair. Excellent reminders.

  17. Avatar

    Tariq Ahmed

    March 16, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Point 8 cannot be overstated:

    None of us actually guides anyone. If we, or even our arguments, were what guides people then repeating the best arguments should always work. But Allah reminds us (eg surah al layl) “inna alayna lalhuda.”

    The most a student of knowledge can be is a good reminder: well mannered, strong of character, mind, and body — and thus a good conveyor of dawah and naseeha.

    If there is a good reciprocal for point 8, for the person who has cultivated patience: “only Allah decides when someone has had enough reminders or opportunities to repent.” If you truly wish good for the person to whom you give dawah or naseeha, then realize that today’s denier of the deen may be tomorrow’s reviver of Islam. it helps to remember and be grateful to Allah for His patience with you during your own weakness(es).

    • Avatar

      someone

      March 17, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      great comment…mashallah fantastic insight

  18. Avatar

    Abdur Rahman100

    March 16, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    i think it would have been beneficial if there was a reminder for the dangers of Riya (showing off).
    Otherwise good article

    • Avatar

      Ismail Kamdar

      March 17, 2011 at 4:31 AM

      You are right, I should have mentioned Riya specifically.

      Although the first point does deal with Riya, it would have been better to mention it by name as it is one of the major diseases that students of knowledge can easily fall into.

  19. Avatar

    Ahmad

    March 16, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    As Salaamu Alaikum Sheikh,

    This is by far one of the best articles in recent times published at muslimmatters. Your lessons hit me right in the heart, and I felt some parts of my life being reflected in these words. I am by no means a scholar, not even that good of a student of knowledge. I try, but have the capacity to do more…and May Allah guide us all and unlock for us the strength and endurance to learn and strive for the truth as he unlocked these abilities for the nabi’s, and the saliheen of the past.

    I have one question regarding this article. On number4 you said that we would be judged. Subhanallah, your explanation popped right out of the paper, and I felt it in my life. When I started to practice Islam (as before religion was not a concern of mine) my family first of all started to judge me. My family saw me keeping a beard, and they saw me reading qur’an late into the night – and all of a sudden I became sort of an outcast. More ofen than not my parents would tell me to shut of the lectures, as they were effecting my studies (which they were not as my grades were fine) and they told me to stop going to the masjid so often as it was effecting my studies (again, my grades were fine)…and it was okay until I once, just once, never after that – I told my sister who is in her mid twenties, “aapi (as we call sisters in our language) allah commands the believing muslim women to cover themselves, (i.e. Hijaab).” The words were not even completely out of my mouth that I heard a barrage of judgement. “You’re not perfect. Look at all your mistakes. You are this and you are that. You don’t at once always listen to your parents (which is for a small part a true statement yet I am trying.) She goes on…” How many verses does Allah balance, and you aren’t you becoming extreme? You think you’re a know it all now? How much of that do you follow? Don’t talk about religion to me! If I want to learn more about it, I will go research it myself.” I promise by Allah that this is a lot of my recollection of what she said. My parents whom may Allah bless with al Firdaus, were also a little judgmental. He, my father told me, Son – you speak a lot about what you don’t know. I used to be part of tabligh, and I have seen those maulanas to whom you listen to in all those lectures. On one hand they speak nice – but they are lying, mean people. They will tell you to do good, but do evil themselves. My father, may Allah bless him, is in his 60’s and comes from a gangster part of the world where he has nearly been killed many times – in part because of some corrupt maulanas, and people he used to hang with. Now he paints all those “sheikhs, and maulanas” with the same “gangster” picture.

    Anyways, I know that this is a long post, and I am sorry for that, but for number 4 you mentioned we should deal appropriately with this judgement. That is really bugging me, because I would love to know what and how a student of knowledge should deal with judgement – especially from those closest to us. This is especially important since many of our parents are immigrants to this country who fled the in essence corrupt muslim rule of other countries. Now they stray from their deen after coming to this country, and judge those reverting to their deen as extremist – or hypocrites. How should we deal with them, sheikh? Please if you find the time – reply, as this would greatly benefit me, and some other people. Once again, may Allah bless you for this article – it is a wonderful reminder, and may Allah bless me, you, and the believing men and women with Jannatul Firdaus, the best of the best of Jannah.

    • Avatar

      Hira

      March 17, 2011 at 5:06 AM

      Salaam

      Excellent article- and subhan Allah all the points were great but number 4 especially hit me too. I think this is a similar case across the board when one family member becomes practicing the other members start to judge. In my opinion being judged by outsiders is soo much easier to deal with but when it is your family it really hurts. Recently a member of my family told me to be “take my hijab off and lead a normal life!”

      I have found that the best dawa with family is to be an example rather than verbal preaching.

      I think it would be great to have more detailed articles based around these points insha Allah.

      ws

      • Avatar

        Ismail Kamdar

        March 18, 2011 at 4:20 AM

        Wa Alaikum Salaam

        I agree with Hira.

        When it comes to family, it is best to first lead by example. Many of us make the mistake that when we first start practicing, we become harsh towards family members who do not, this just makes things worse, chases them away and makes them think that Islam makes peopel harsh and rude.

        Rather our practice of the Deen should increase our good manners and kindness towards them.

        Be a role model, and find wise and friendly ways to get your message across to them without coming across as judgemental. The book “Enjoy Your Life” by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Arifi is a good guide on how to do so, you can find it online by clicking here.

  20. Avatar

    Chocolate Addict

    March 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Jazakum Allahu khayran…a very thoughful,educational and enjoyable read :)
    @Iman plz reread the “Manners come first” bit then try again

  21. Avatar

    Javed

    March 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair Ustad Ismail,

    Excellent article. A must read for all students of ilm. May Allah make us all humble in the path of ilm and sincierly work for His sake while being patient with the tests along the way. Ameen.

  22. Avatar

    Rafia

    March 17, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Masha Allah! Sheer words of wisdom! May Allah reward you.

  23. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    March 18, 2011 at 4:21 AM

    Jazakallah Khair to everyone for your kind comments. :)

  24. Avatar

    F.

    March 18, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    A Really Good Article, masha Allah. may Allah accept it from u. I found the first three points the most beneficial.

    Just one thing though: Didn’t really like the point 7. Referring to moulanas, shaikhs as “donkeys” carrying books. If not only being disrespectful, that’s kind of being judgmental about them. And as far as I know the purpose/intention behind seeking knowledge should be the worship of Allah…

    baarak Allahu feekum. please remember me in ur du’a. may Allah guide me and all muslims. ameen.

    • Avatar

      Ismail Kamdar

      March 22, 2011 at 4:40 AM

      The comment about donkeys carrying books was referring to Surah Jumuah (62:5) in which Allah describes those who know the Torah but do not practice or preach it to be like donkeys carrying books, the same applies for anyone with religious knowledge who does not benefit from it. So this was not meant to offend anyone, rather it was meant to be a warning to myself and other students not to go against this Qur’anic warning.

  25. Avatar

    Noor

    March 18, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    بسم الله رحمن رحيم
    أسلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

    We must remember that علم belongs to الله alone & what ever man acquires is بي إذن الله
    In that case what right has man to be haughty!!
    If Khidr AS said that his knowledge is not even as much as the drop of water held in the beak of a bird & remembering that الله S W T sent His Prophet Musa A S to seek knowledge from him
    How humble should we be!!!

  26. Avatar

    Noor

    March 18, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    Isn’t حكمة wisdom?
    علم is knowledge

  27. Avatar

    Lemon

    March 18, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Barak Allahu Feek, great article.

  28. Avatar

    Hussain

    March 18, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for sharing the article.
    Insha Allah, it will be beneficial for all brothers and sisters

  29. Avatar

    ahsan ali

    March 18, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    Important Points particularly point no. 1, may Allah keep students of knowledge on correct islamic intentions. Also, since students of knowledge are more susceptible to satanic traps, one has to elevate themselves more than before (when they were not a student of knowledge) and keep on guard

  30. Avatar

    shiney

    March 25, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Jazakallah Khair for this wonderful article! i was really in need of it. May Allah Bless you for sharing your expreiences and advice. May Allah make us all learn from our past mistakes and may He make us sincere seekers and protectors of authentic knowledge. Ameen.

  31. Avatar

    Amina

    March 28, 2011 at 6:02 AM

    JazaakAllahu khairan. A timely reminder indeed!

  32. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    March 29, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    I have written in details about point number two last year.

    Here is the link:

    http://caller2islam.blogspot.com/2010/08/students-of-knowledge-we-need-to-watch.html

  33. Avatar

    omar

    March 29, 2011 at 3:26 AM

    great article mashallah barakallah feekum all
    good points to ponder about as students of knowledge

  34. Avatar

    BintMohammad

    April 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Jazakallah Kheyran & Allah Barik Fyka for such an informative article. May the Almighty Allah grant us Goodness & in this Life & Hear after & May he Grant you more knowledge to guide us . Amin

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  36. Avatar

    Abdur Rahman Ridwan

    June 6, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Salam Alaikum. Brother ismail kamdar. Really love your articles. They are so informative and inspiring. May Allah Azza Wajjal enrich you with more authentic knowledge and make it of benefit to yourself first for this world and the hereafter and make it of benefit to Muslims.

  37. Avatar

    zainab Ho

    March 13, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Jazakallah khair wa ameen!
    ‘Allāh loves you and wants to test your love for Him’ – really love this!

  38. Avatar

    Ashaazi

    March 15, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    Assalamulaikum Sheikh Ismail,A very thoughtful article that resonates with many of us. May Allah grant us all guidance. Aameen.

  39. Avatar

    Taha fatima

    April 8, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    JAZAK ALLAHU KHAIR shaikh very nice article..thanx for your advice

  40. Avatar

    Afreen

    April 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    jazakallah khair very nice n informative alhamdullilah…..

  41. Avatar

    Nazakat

    May 5, 2012 at 4:56 AM

    its really nice site to help not only students but to all Muslims in general. MASHALLAH, JAZAKOMULLAH, …but is there any way to propagate and project this side to as many Muslim as we can …so that every body could be benefited of it…..i think it should be advertised on all major websites which are visited the most on daily bases.

  42. Avatar

    Naz khan(pakistan)

    May 5, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    gr8 work done! MASHALLAH ..The Mukharij topic really helped me to good extent but..i think the way English phonetics worked out …we need to work more on ARABIC mukharij…the pronunciation of arabic alphabets in sounds and with different words is not available. one can understand the it may take time…never the less its good initiative. i want udru mukharij …or udu pronunciation….can any one help me out???

  43. Avatar

    Naz_khan(pakistan)

    May 5, 2012 at 5:04 AM

    urdu mukharij …urdu pronunciation…..yes

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  45. Avatar

    Muna Bushra

    November 24, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Interesting article with many good tips to remember.

  46. Avatar

    Your akh

    December 21, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Assalaamu ‘alaykum. Jazaakallaahu khair for the informative article and may Allaah make it an evidence for you on the Day of Judgement.

    I just wanted to add and ask – financial stability is pretty hard to maintain when seeking knowledge and teaching and this is a big put off for many people I know. How do the students of knowledge and daa’ees provide for themselves and their families given that they’ve only studied Islaam? We know that Allaah provides from where we do not expect if we fear him and keep our duty to him but how do these daa’ees provide for themselves if Islaam is all they have studied?

    Baarakallaahu feekum.

  47. Avatar

    ADAM SHAABAN

    December 15, 2013 at 2:43 AM

    Dawud :: Book 41 : Hadith 4862
    Narrated AbuBarzah al-Aslami:

    The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: O community of people, who believed by their tongue, and belief did not enter their hearts, do not back-bite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house.

  48. Avatar

    reem

    January 24, 2014 at 4:09 AM

    Ma sha Allah..Jazakalllah khair for such an informative article..May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge..Ameen

  49. Avatar

    Musleh Khan

    September 20, 2015 at 10:22 PM

    Fantastic article. Allah swt reward you. Please keep writing more. Very beneficial.

  50. Avatar

    Kahan.

    May 11, 2016 at 3:21 AM

    I have seen many shuyuk, imams etc comment so i am hoping to get a response from them. I study at a western university in Australia and am studying a BA. of Islamic studies. One day, someone told me that “you are not going to become a scholar, your just an academic, your input to the deen is not one that is weighted”. this got me kind of confused. and i was wondering, where is the dichotomy in what i study with the traditional student in the madrassa? Isn’t it enough for me to study all of the Usuls, advanced usuls, advanced arabic grammar, reading, writing, Fiqh, Sirah, Mantiq, Family law, etc? how does one test the veracity of my knowledge in comparison to the one who studies abroad in the lands were islam is prominent? I mean, i have one day in my weak called “Arabic day”, tuesday, because in the mornings i will have my arabic classes at university, and at night i would have my arabic classes at the local madrasa. please keep in mind all of my lecturers are Muslim.
    i’d really like your thoughts (O respected shuyuk and imams) on studying Islam in the west.

    • Avatar

      Kahan.

      May 11, 2016 at 3:25 AM

      i would also like to add that i most definitely plan on doing a masters of islamic studies and then seeing where i take it from there. i will never consider myself even a up-and-coming scholar or a academic until a minimum of 6 consecutive years has passed with me studying the deen. may allah reward the composer of this article, it really hit home.

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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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Do You Know These Heroes of Eid?

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

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Rohingya children

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

Between one million and three million Muslims are being detained in concentration camps in China, while masjids are being demolished and imams executed.

The Rohingya Muslims of Burma continue to suffer from terrible persecution. In one Rohingya refugee camp on the Burma / Bangladesh border there are half a million children. These children are banned by the Burmese authorities from attending school and are at risk of early marriage, child labor or being trafficked.

In the Central African Republic, the Muslim minority lives in daily fear of being killed, especially in the south.

The Palestinians continue to suffer after seventy years of occupation, with no end in sight.

Russian and Assad regime attacks on civilians continue in Syria, with the real possibility of an upcoming genocide in Idlib province.

Heroes Abound

In the midst of this all suffering, heroes abound. There’s Serikzhan Bilash of Kazakhstan, who has labored feverishly to document China’s internment of Muslims across the border. He urges those in his organization to continue their work, even as he himself has been arrested.

Those Rohingya children I mentioned in the refugee camp, banned from attending school? One 14-year-old Rohingya girl mentioned in the article has managed to enroll in school in Bangladesh. Her mother sold her food rations and borrowed money to create a fake Bangladeshi birth certificate, then paid a smuggler to take her daughter out of the camp. The girl herself says, “People hate the Rohingya here. I don’t tell people I am one… I have to lie about my identity to survive. Even though it’s a big struggle… I am able to study. There are hundreds of thousands of kids like me inside of the camps who are forced to marry off early…They have no opportunities.”

Also in that camp is 13-year-old Halim, who runs his own tutoring service, where he teaches more than 20 children. He says, “I am teaching them so they can do something for our nation. If they don’t learn anything, they can’t prosper in their life, as well as they can’t fight for the nation.”

Razan al-Najjar

Razan al-Najjar

In Palestine, let us not forget Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic from Gaza who was shot by an Israeli sniper on June 1, 2018, while tending to a tear gas victim. In her last Facebook post, the day before she was killed, she wrote, “Your conscience will be comforted as much as possible since God always knows your intention. #sleep_well Be good.”

In Syria, we have Dr. Omar Ibrahim, an Egyptian neurosurgeon who could probably be earning a hefty salary anywhere in the world, but instead labors under constant bombardment in the war-torn and half crushed city of Idlib. He’s been in Syria for five years and says, “I have no regrets about doing this work. Because I have passion for my work, and this work inspires me.”

A Religion of Heroes

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Such stories are amazing, but they are not unique. There are countless heroes, and should that surprise us? Islam is a religion of heroes, and has always been so, going all the way back to its inception in Makkah, when the Prophet Muhammad (sws) drew around himself the weak and powerless, the slaves and foreigners. They were tortured, but did not surrender their new faith. Heroes.

Or, several years later, when the disbelievers of Arabia came in great numbers to wipe the Muslims off the face of the earth. The Muslims dug a great trench around Madinah, and held off the attackers under conditions of hunger and terrible cold, until – with Allah’s help – the siege was broken. Heroes.

So if you thought such heroes were a thing of the past, remember Serikzhan Bilash, the Rohingya girl, Halim, Razan al-Najjar, Dr. Omar Ibrahim and the untold, uncounted heroes like them. You may even know a few heroes personally. I do.

There’s my friend Karim, who works for an organization that sponsors Muslim orphans. He’s overworked and underpaid, and struggles to support his family and two children. He’s highly experienced and could earn more somewhere else. But he sticks with it because he believes in Islamic work.

I think also of my daughter’s homeroom teacher, sister Sharmeen. She’s an enthusiastic teacher who pushes the children to read, write and understand the roots of language. She does more than is required and is not appreciated as she should be. But once again, her passion drives her.

Persistence of Dua’

Our local Imam recently gave a khutbah about the importance of dua’. He said that Allah loves the dua’ that is persistent. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawa’: “One of the most beneficial of remedies is persisting in dua’.”

So be persistent. Pray for our suffering Ummah, and pray for our heroes. And donate whatever you can spare to the organizations that work on their behalf.

My Ordinary Life

As for me, my life is ordinary. On the morning of Eid, I, my mother and my daughter Salma – who is twelve years old now – wake up early and put on our best clothes, inshaAllah. We get in the car and stop at Krispy Kreme donuts.  I buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a long line and elbow people to snatch a cruller.

I pick up my cousin’s son, who does not have a car. We go downtown to the Fresno convention center and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. The Eid salat begins, then I strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. Especially, the sisters. Sorry ladies, but it’s true :-)

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone is wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of sharing a connection with every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, my mother makes cookies, and we put some decorations on the walls. Salma opens her presents, which this year are a new Switch game, a dartboard and a pearl necklace. It’s the first piece of real jewelry I’ve ever bought her. Buying it left me with $18 in my bank account, which means I predict a lot of Uber driving (my side job) in my near future. So I hope she likes it.

On such days, I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim and a better human being.

The Spirit of the Prophets

I also talk to Salma, as I do every year, about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world, fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid or pearl necklaces. Some are starving. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet they are resolute. They have a deep strength that, like the well of Zamzam, never runs dry, SubhanAllah. They will not give up their hopes, their dreams or their faith, Allah willing.

These are the real heroes of Eid. I feel small next to them. They are the ones living the spirit of the Prophets and the Sahabah. They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

May Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, and tyranny with freedom. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

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