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Piles of Stuff: A Reflection on Consumerism

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Bismillah

I went straight to my room after returning from my uncle’s janazah (funeral prayer). He died from Leukemia and had just returned from umrah a few weeks before his death. Upon entering my room, the thought that he was being placed into the ground and the men covering him with dirt was so heavy. I thought of how much he helped others whenever he could, whether financially or psychically. I thought of how he would drive my mom every Saturday for nearly an hour to take her to a Qur’an class in a different city because she was scared to drive for such a long distance at night time. He would drive around in his bright blue hatchback from 1995, even though he was more than able to afford a newer, shinier car, because he thought it was a waste of money. I thought of his small apartment and his belongings and who would sort through his things. I then started to look around my room, books here, clothes there, CDs on that side and packages on the other.

I couldn’t hold back the tears.

I finally understood Surah At-Takathur:

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ
The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you,

حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِر
Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die).

This was nearly four years ago. I didn’t realize how many useless things I had until a loved one moved on to the next life and left behind all of his belongings. I thought of my useless belongings and who would go through them after my death.

We live in a word of consumption. We are consumed with consumerism – constantly buying and buying – to the point where we run out of space in our homes for everything we buy. We are transfixed when we see a store that has “BLOWOUT SALE!” written in its window. We can’t help but line up in the freezing cold for that newer model, telling ourselves that we can’t be seen with last year’s model. We swipe and swipe until our cards are worn out. We compete with friends and family to see who can buy the shinier and fancier product first.

For what? For stuff.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Ruined is the slave of the dinar, dirham, and fancy clothes of velvet and silk! If he is given, he is pleased, and if he is not given, he is displeased.” (Bukhari) Who is a slave? A slave is someone who is bound by his master. He must answer to his master when he calls, and he spends his time in servitude to him. Similarly, the slave of money constantly has money on their mind. They think of ways to get more of it while they spend and spend. The slave of money always wants more, and he cannot bear it when he does not receive it. It runs their life, and it is their first priority. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says this person is ruined because he will never be able to be thankful for what he has. Allah says,

وَكَانَ الْإِنسَانُ كَفُورًا

And man is ever ungrateful. (17:67)

This cycle of consumerism has turned us into slaves of Dollar Bill, while we should only be slaves to Allah (The Most High). Our servitude belongs only to Him. This worldly life is not meant for us to fill our homes with stuff. We should be using this life to come closer to Allah and not to be diverted from Him. Just as a slave is exhausted from his labor, our constant consumerism tires us. We are consumed with consuming. We are tired. Even if we may not spend constantly, we still own too many things, most of which we cannot even remember purchasing. Piles and piles just lying around.

Allah ‘azza wa jal reminds us in the Qur’an,

إِنَّمَا هَذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا مَتَاعٌ وَإِنَّ الْآخِرَةَ هِيَ دَارُ الْقَرَارِ

This worldly life is only [temporary] enjoyment, and indeed, the Hereafter – that is the home of [permanent] settlement. (40:39)

These possessions that we hoard may be our safety net and our “cool” factor in this life, but the reality will come after we die. These things that we worked so hard for, saved up our salaries for, and stood in line for don’t really belong to us. They cannot keep us company in our graves, rather they will be taken by other people. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Three things follow a dead man, two of which will return and one will remain with him. His family, his property and his deeds follow him but his family and property return, while his deeds remain with him.” [Bukhari]

It will be hard for us to break free of the shackles of Dollar Bill because it is the nature of humans to always want and want. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) tells us, “If the son of Adam had money equal to a valley, then he will wish for another similar to it, for nothing can satisfy the eye of Adam’s son except dust.” [Bukhari]

This is how we were created. We will always look to what people have around us and desire it for ourselves. We will slowly walk past that store, and gaze longingly into all that shiny-ness. It is not impossible though to remove ourselves from it. Allah does not burden anyone beyond what they cannot bear. When we taste the sweetness of freedom after slavery, we will see how much it was weighing us down.

We find our best example in the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He was undeniably the ruler of Arabia at the time of his death, yet his home was bare. When Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) asked him why he lived in such a way while the kings of Persia and Rome were living lavishly, he responded, “The example of me and this worldly life is like that of a rider traveling on a hot summer day, so he took shelter in the shadow of a tree for an hour, then left it and went on his way.” [Tirmidhi]

After I realized how much stuff I had that day, I’ve taken measures to keep myself from falling into the cycle again:

1- Avoiding malls unless its necessary. Malls are designed to make us buy things and window displays are meant to lure us in. You can keep yourself from the temptation by not putting yourself in that situation.

2- When you get something, give something. It is so easy to forget how much stuff we have piled in our homes. It is only when you move or travel that this realization comes. When you buy something, find something else to give as sadaqah (charity) or give it to a sibling or a friend.

3- Ask yourself if this item will bring you closer to Allah or if it will benefit you after you die. Do you really need it? Most of the time, the answer is no.

4- Stick with people who don’t remind you of at-takathur, the competition to see who can get the best. Surround yourself with friends who compete with you in good deeds instead.

5- Keep it simple. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to be in this world as a traveler. We’ve all seen those poor souls at the airports  struggling to carry and lugging around way too much luggage. Don’t be one of them.

6- Go to a developing country and see how the vast majority of humanity lives. If you can’t go, then read the World News. I’ve never witnessed poverty like I saw in Egypt. I felt disgusted in myself and in our culture for how wasteful and ungrateful we are, while they were so thankful for the simple piece of bread they were able to have for dinner.

7- Read the biography of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the lives of the Companions and righteous and see how they lived. We may not be able to live how they lived, but we can be as simple as they were in our own way. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Do you not hear? Do you not hear? Simplicity (in life) is part of Faith, simplicity is part of Faith.”[Abu Dawood]

8- Count your blessings. Literally. Reflect on how much you have, and how much Allah has given you…and how much you given to Him.

9- Try not to be wasteful, and teach any young ones around you not to be wasteful. Be it with food or even when taking notes. Why leave a whole page blank when it can be used? Allah says, “and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He likes not those who waste by extravagance.” (7:31)

10- Focus on the hereafter, and Allah will give you the dunya. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “For the ones whose concern is this world Allah will scatter his affair, and place poverty between his two eyes. And he will not get from the world except what is written for him. And for the one whose intention is the hereafter Allah will gather for him his affair and place contentment in his heart, and the world will come to him willingly.‌” [ibn Majah]

11- Ask Allah (Glorified is He) to make you content with what you have, and to make His Pleasure your goal. Ask Him to make you among those who are grateful and patient, and among those who race in good deeds and not of those who race in amassing possessions. You will realize that contentment is the real treasure.

If these tips aren’t enough to help you, then think of the last ayah of Surah At-Takathur:

ثُمَّ لَتُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَنِ النَّعِيمِ
Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delight (you indulged in, in this world)!

Can you imagine standing in front of Allah, Lord of all that exists, and being asked about the stuff we spoiled ourselves with?

Free yourself now from the shackles of Dollar Bill, before your time is up and your belongings will be left for someone else to sort through.

Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kanika Aggarwal

    March 30, 2011 at 1:30 AM

    inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon

    jazzak Allah khair for the reminder and practical advice – these are my thoughts exactly every time we have to pack up for a move, subhanAllah.

    أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ
    The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you,

    حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِر
    Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die).

    ^ another practical tip would be to post this ayah on your credit card or wallet so it can serve as a reminder inshaAllah :)

  2. Avatar

    UmmSarah

    March 30, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    MashaAllah. Our current state of ummah needs serious change of focus to reality which is death.

  3. Avatar

    Amina

    March 30, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Jazaakillahu Khairan! A timely reminder indeed.A much needed one.May Allah enable us to be among His beloved slaves.ameen

  4. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    March 30, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    I have benefited from this. Thank you. I ask Allah to grant your uncle His Divine Mercy.

    Yahya

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

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      March 30, 2011 at 10:17 PM

      Ameen, jazaak Allahu khayran Shaykh.

  5. Avatar

    Chocolate Addict

    March 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    Salaams,
    JazakAllahu khayr for this very beneficial post dear sis…I have too benefitted immensely May Allah azza wa jall grant your uncle the highest of jannah and cure us all from this obsessive love for wealth ameen

  6. Avatar

    Brian

    March 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Jesus said similar things in Luke 12:16-21 ““The land of a rich man was very productive. 17“And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18“Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

  7. Amad

    Amad

    March 30, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Wealth is indeed a great fitnah… just look at some of the world’s richest men, they couldn’t spend what they had in 10 lfetimes, yet they can’t stop wanting more…

    On the other side of this, though, you have miserliness. People who will just not spend at all, even when they should!

    The balance, like all things in life, is critical.

  8. Avatar

    Madeeha

    March 30, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    mashaAllaah excellent reminder, jazakillahu khairan!

  9. Avatar

    Leo

    March 30, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    Assalamu alaikum. Thank you for writing the article- Good reminders and good advice.
    I have a few questions to ask if I may. Is it wrong for me to occasionally treat myself by buying something I don’t need but can give me pleasure? What are your views when it comes to ambition in dunya- is it wrong? How about when it comes to progressing in my career? As I progress I earn more. Is it wrong for me to earn or want to earn more?
    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      March 30, 2011 at 10:17 PM

      wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. No there is nothing wrong with that, and there is nothing wrong with being wealthy. The only thing we have to be careful of is being wasteful and extravagant (and that varies from person to person based on their wealth and ability). Abu Bakr, AbdulRahman ibn Awf, Uthman ibn Affan were very wealthy businessmen but they did not let the dunya take over their focus on the aakhirah. Allah knows best.

  10. Avatar

    Sabeen

    March 30, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for a beautiful reminder :) Br. Nouman has an amazing Tafseer of Sura Takathur on Bayyinah Podcast.
    http://bayyinah.com/podcast/2010/01/19/102-takathur/

  11. Avatar

    Hena Zuberi

    March 30, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    I went on a spending fast Amatullah- it was hard and I wanted to go spend & spend afterwords but Alhmadulillah I controlled myself.

    I thought of my useless belongings and who would go through them after my death.

    and then we will have to carry it on our backs on the day of Qiyamah, May Allah forgive us all.

    My sister and I made a pact that if we would make any fancy clothes esp wedding clothes- we would see if we could spend at least 50% of the amount in charity, if we couldn’t then we wouldn’t buy it.
    Alhamdulillah made us realize how MUCH we spend on clothes- we could pay for someone whole wedding in Pakistan. The worst is when you control one aspect and then go out and spend it somewhere else.

  12. Avatar

    Fear Allah

    March 30, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    the tips were very helpful -esp. the give something away when you get something. this way the resources can get circulated around and won’t be hoarded up in your graveyard of things, half of them unused…

    BarakAllahu feeki

  13. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    March 31, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    Excellent reminder! Many of us, especially in the ‘practicing’ crowd are in denial that we are victims of consumerism. I know that this is one of my biggest weaknesses, I get lured very easily by the false promises that these products give.

    Whenever I meet some one who is very simple and has no love for these things I am fascinated and pray that Allah make me like them for my hereafter’s sake.

    The more you buy the more you hoard and the more time spent cleaning, storing, washing, ironing, finding, disposing, these consumables truly consume you. May Allah save us all from this and keep us busy in His remembrance and focused on the ultimate destination.

  14. Avatar

    Haseeb J

    March 31, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    This may be of benefit….its only 20 mins long

    http://www.storyofstuff.com
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8

  15. Avatar

    Haseeb J

    March 31, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    This may be of benefit….its only 20 mins long

    http://www.storyofstuff.com
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8

  16. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    March 31, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Asalamu Alikum

    MashaAllah, this really is a great reminder. Jazaki Allah khayr Amatullah.

  17. Avatar

    MuslimAmerican

    March 31, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    Right on. Jazak Allah Khair.

    I guess, that’s the reason that people of ILM (Aalims & Scholars) are simple and are not so much obsessed with ‘things’ in this life. I’m humbled when i see them.

    And Allah Knows Best.

  18. Avatar

    life is a test

    March 31, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh!!

    JazakaAllah Khayr!! this is a very beneficial reminder!!

    I would add another thing related to this… lets open our fridge and kitchen cabinets and see the excess stuff in there….many of us are guilty (including me) of not realizing some stuff reaching the expiry date and thus throwing them away :(
    Astagfirullah!

    seriously moderation is the key….only catering to our “needs” instead of our never ending list of “wants” will save us not only in the akhira but also will save us in this world from the burdens associated with these “wants”.

  19. Avatar

    Rafa

    April 3, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Jazak Allah for the article, really needed the reminder.

    Here’s a relevant video that really made me think. Highly recommend it.

    Jesus (PBUH) • Third Loaf of Bread • The Life of This World
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk4nzv_WbB4

  20. Pingback: This Islamic New Year Pay Off Your House - MuslimMatters.org

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Etiquettes of Praying For Your Brother And Sister | Imam Omar Suleiman

Level up your duas by including those who least expect to be in your most private moments and get angels to say Ameen

Imam Omar Suleiman

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It’s very common to find in the stories of the pious predecessors those who kept lists of people they prayed for on a nightly basis. This was a testimony to their sincerity, selflessness, and sacrifice. The basis of the act comes from a famous hadith:

وعنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يقول‏:‏ ‏ “‏دعوة المرء المسلم لأخيه بظهر الغيب مستجابة، عند رأسه ملك موكل كلما دعا لأخيه بخير قال الملك الموكل به‏:‏ آمين، ولك بمثل‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“The supplication of a believer for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says Ameen! May it be for you too’.” [Sahih Muslim].

Since the supplication of the fasting person is accepted, this is the best time to do it. But it’s also important to be intentional about how you pray for someone. Any prayer for your brother or sister is accepted if sincere, but it becomes even more blessed when made personal and customized. Under normal circumstances, It’s also best to keep your personal prayers to yourself and without the knowledge of the person you’re praying for. Sometimes it’s ok to tell someone you’re praying for them for the sake of solidarity. But the general rule is that it’s best to conceal it even from them for the sake of sincerity. Also, make sure to include in your prayers people who would never expect you to pray for them.

Then as you start to make dua for someone, think about how you can diversify the supplications and people you make dua for so that you are 1. Touching numerous lives 2. Covering different issues and ailments 3. Guaranteeing that the return on your prayers is also comprehensive.

So, in particular, think of a person in each of the following categories and make dua for them daily:

  1. A person who has good qualities but hasn’t been guided to good faith. Make dua for guidance for that person so that perhaps Allah grants you further guidance.
  2. A person who is involved in good work, that Allah accepts from them and keeps them sincere so that perhaps Allah uses you for His cause and keeps you sincere.
  3. A person who is committing a public sin. Make dua that Allah forgives that person. Imagine if the dua is accepted for a major public sin, then the angels will say Ameen for you also and perhaps Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will forgive you for both your public and private sins.
  4. A person who is ill, that Allah grants him or her full health so that perhaps Allah will either heal you if you are sick or preserve your health for you if you are healthy.
  5. A person who is struggling financially or suffering a worldly hardship, ask Allah to help that person so that perhaps Allah will help you in that same situation.
  6. A person who has a particular blessing that you wish for, that Allah maintains that blessing upon that person without making it a means of taking him or her away from goodness in the hereafter so that perhaps Allah will grant it for you or maintain your blessings upon you without making them a means of harm for you.

This is how you bring together the Prophetic tradition of praying for your brother/sister, and the other tradition about not truly believing until you love for your sister or brother what you love for yourself.

May Allah accept your Ramadan and Laylatul Qadr, as well as all of your good deeds. And may He forgive you for your sins, and distance you from all that distances you from Him. Ameen

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5 Duas For Ramadan Therapy | Sh Yahya Ibrahim

Use these precious days and night to ask Allah in the best of ways

Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim

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Dua 01 – #RamadanTherapy – The Magnificence of Ayat ul Kursi and its Power with Yahya Ibrahim

 

Allahu laaa ilaaha illaa huwal haiyul qai-yoom; laa taakhuzuhoo sinatunw wa laa nawm; lahoo maa fissamaawaati wa maa fil ard; man zallazee yashfa’u indahooo illaa be iznih; ya’lamu maa baina aideehim wa maa khalfahum; wa laa yuheetoona beshai ‘immin ‘ilmihee illa be maa shaaaa; wasi’a kursiyyuhus samaa waati wal arda wa la ya’ooduho hifzuhumaa; wa huwal aliyyul ‘azeem

“Allah! There is no god but He – the Living, The Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him Nor Sleep. His are all things In the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede In His presence except As he permitted? He knoweth What (appeareth to His creatures As) Before or After or Behind them. Nor shall they compass Aught of his knowledge Except as He willeth. His throne doth extend Over the heavens And on earth, and He feeleth No fatigue in guarding And preserving them, For He is the Most High. The Supreme (in glory).”

Dua 02 A Treasure from Jannah – Last two verses of Al-Baqarah

The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.”

Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. “Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error, our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us (Jews and Christians); our Lord! Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Maulâ (Patron, Supporter, and Protector) and give us victory over the disbelieving people.” (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

Dua 03 Salawat & Durood upon our Nabi ﷺ help us in all hardships & circumstances

Allahumma salli `ala Muhammadin, wa `ala aali Muhammadin, kama sallaita `ala aali Ibrahima, innaka Hamidum Majid. Allahumma barik `ala Muhammadin, wa `ala aali Muhammadin, kama barakta `ala aali Ibrahima, innaka Hamidum Majid
[O Allah, exalt the mention of Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as you exalted the family of Ibrahim. You are Praised and Glorious. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You blessed the family of Ibrahim. You are Praised and Glorious.]”’ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

“Believers! Send your Blessings on him” | Resource for Salawat on the Prophet

Dua 04 The Greatest #Dua of Seeking Forgiveness

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَمَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ 

“The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) used this particular expression – Sayyid al-Istighfar – literally, ‘the master of supplications’ to indicate that this is the best of supplications for those in need, and which will fulfil the need—sincere seeking of forgiveness”>Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta, Anta Khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana ‘ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, A’udhu bika min Sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u Laka bini’matika ‘alaiya, wa Abu Laka bidhanbi faghfirli innahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta

O Allah! You are my Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You.)

Shaddad ibn Aws raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) relates that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that he (Sayyid al-Istighfar) most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah is to say (the above du’a). That “If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise.”
[Sahih al-Bukhari; 8,75,318, at-Tirmidhi; 3393, an-Nasa’i; 5522, Ahmad; 16662]

Dua 05 When the Prophet’s ﷺ daughter felt weak he taught her this Zikr

حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنِ الْحَكَمِ، عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي لَيْلَى، عَنْ عَلِيٍّ، أَنَّ فَاطِمَةَ ـ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلاَمُ ـ شَكَتْ مَا تَلْقَى فِي يَدِهَا مِنَ الرَّحَى، فَأَتَتِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم تَسْأَلُهُ خَادِمًا، فَلَمْ تَجِدْهُ، فَذَكَرَتْ ذَلِكَ لِعَائِشَةَ، فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَخْبَرَتْهُ‏.‏ قَالَ فَجَاءَنَا وَقَدْ أَخَذْنَا مَضَاجِعَنَا، فَذَهَبْتُ أَقُومُ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ مَكَانَكِ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَجَلَسَ بَيْنَنَا حَتَّى وَجَدْتُ بَرْدَ قَدَمَيْهِ عَلَى صَدْرِي فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَلاَ أَدُلُّكُمَا عَلَى مَا هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمَا مِنْ خَادِمٍ، إِذَا أَوَيْتُمَا إِلَى فِرَاشِكُمَا، أَوْ أَخَذْتُمَا مَضَاجِعَكُمَا، فَكَبِّرَا ثَلاَثًا وَثَلاَثِينَ، وَسَبِّحَا ثَلاَثًا وَثَلاَثِينَ، وَاحْمَدَا ثَلاَثًا وَثَلاَثِينَ، فَهَذَا خَيْرٌ لَكُمَا مِنْ خَادِمٍ ‏”‏‏.‏ وَعَنْ شُعْبَةَ عَنْ خَالِدٍ عَنِ ابْنِ سِيرِينَ

Narrated `Ali:

Fatima complained about the blisters on her hand because of using a mill-stone. She went to ask the Prophet for servant, but she did not find him (at home) and had to inform `Aisha of her need. When he came, `Aisha informed him about it. `Ali added: The Prophet (ﷺ) came to us when we had gone to our beds. When I was going to get up, he said, “‘Stay in your places,” and sat between us, till I felt the coolness of the feet on my chest. The Prophet (ﷺ) then said, “Shall I not tell you of a thing which is better for you than a servant? When you (both) go to your beds, say ‘Allahu Akbar’ thirty-four times, and ‘Subhan Allah’ thirty-three times, ‘Al hamdu ‘illah’ thirty-three times, for that is better for you than a servant.” Ibn Seereen said, “Subhan Allah’ (is to be said for) thirty-four times.”

http://sunnah.com/bukhari/80/15

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Optimism in Times of Adversity: How The Prophet Did It

Shaykh Abdullah Waheed

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A man passed by al-Miqdaad ibn al-Aswad raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), one of the most distinguished Companions of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The man said, “How lucky your two eyes that witnessed the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)”. Ibn al-Aswad profoundly responded by saying,

Why should anyone wish to witness a scene that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) did not wish him to see? He does not know what it would have been like if he had witnessed it or which party he would have been among if he went back in time.

By Allah! Allah’s Prophet saw people who were thrown right into Hell, so you should thank Allah that you were spared such a trial and were honored by firm belief in Allah and his Prophet”.

As human beings, we all struggle with adversity especially in societies which are driven by competition and materialistic pleasure. This drive creates difficult expectations, labels, and stigmas that breed unhealthy communities which spur widespread stress and pain. As Muslims, many of us struggle to define our role and place in societies where Muslims are the minority. We are horrified and worried when atrocities seem to occur so often solely because of the faith we believe in, such as in Burma or Central African Republic. Across the world, many countries with Muslims as the majority population are crippled by war such as Syria and Yemen. Our faith is abused by twisted minds to create chaos. In addition, random terrorist attacks in Mali and New Zealand have us wondering whether we will be attacked at our local masjid, or even in public settings such as offices and schools.

Our Ummah has always faced adversity and we will continue to do so as we struggle to be on the path of Islam. However, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given us the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as a guide to this Ummah on how to deal with adversity and keep our optimism. His life is a means for us to be inspired and motivated to strive for excellence. Indeed, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was tested more than any other prophet that preceded him. The rapid spread of Islam and the change it brought to the world was built upon a prophet and his companions who endured an extraordinary amount of adversity, all in order to provide a means of salvation for the generations that would come after them.

Many Muslims know the basics of the Prophet’s life such as his birth in Makkah, the migration to Madina, some of the battles, and the conquest of Makkah. However, if one were to read the Seerah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in-depth, one would be astonished to the sheer amount of trauma, pain, and grief the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) experienced. He was subject to intense verbal/physical abuse, public humiliation, family deaths, and more. Depending on the physical and emotional toll, we know different people are more or less sensitive to adversity. For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the adversity of establishing the Deen was immensely troubling as he had the purest and softest of characters. In addition, the prophets who came before him were comforted in knowing that they had a successor. Some of them were their children in Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Yahya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). But the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had no prophet to follow him, therefore his Message would be the last that mankind could benefit from.

The Quran says in Surah al-Ahzab:

مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِن رّ‌ِجَالِكُمْ وَلَكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيّـِينَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلّ‌ِ شَيْءٍ

عَلِيماً

Muhammad is not the father of (any) of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And God has full knowledge of all things. (Verse 33:40)

To proclaim the Divine Message to a resistant society has shown through the history of the Prophets to yield hardship and extreme difficulty. To be the final messenger was an increased burden. One example was when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was praying in front of the Kaaba and a member of the Quraysh named Uqbah ibn Abu Mu’ayt placed the intestines, dung, and feces on the back of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) while he was in sujood. The weight of the filth was so heavy that the Prophet could not get up until he received the assistance of his daughter Fatima raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), who was a pre-teenager at the time. How hurtful must that scene have been for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? How did he deal with the humiliation the leaders of his city displayed in front of his child? How disheartening must have it been for his resolve to establish the worship of Allah?

This type of treatment was a regular occurrence in the pre-Hijrah era of Islam. Eventually, the treatment spurred into a boycott against the Muslims and the Hashemites who were the Prophet’s clan. According to Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings:

A document was drawn up according to which it was undertaken that no one would marry a woman of Hashim or give his daughter in marriage to a man of Hashim; and no one was to sell anything to them, or buy anything from them. This was to continue until the clan of Hashim themselves outlawed Muhammad, or until he renounced his claim to prophethood.

In those three years of boycott, many of the followers of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) such as Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) lost their statuses in society. Public humiliation, poverty, malnourishment, torture, molestation, and even murder were perpetrated against the small community of Muslims around the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). There are narrations which talk about the fact that they would hear the cries of babies going to sleep at night. They buried so many children and babies at that time who died due to disease, malnourishment, and starvation. They could hear the mothers crying who had buried their babies the day before. It was a time of great suffering and sacrifice.

Shortly after the ban was annulled, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) increased the test of His beloved Messenger at a time called ‘Ām al-Ḥuzn (عام الحزن), the Year of Sadness. In 619 AD, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the wife of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for 25 years passed away. When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was in shock after the first revelation descended, it was Khadijah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who comforted him and consoled him. She was one of the first believer, mother of the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) children, and a caretaker to the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) cousin Ali and adopted son Zayd (RA). She was his main confidante and his closest friend. Her death was considered to be the greatest personal tragedy to the Prophet (SAW). In fact, his later wife ʿĀʾishah bint Abī Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said that she was never jealous of the co-wives of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) except for Khadijah who had passed before she had wed the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), who would usually stay quiet in disputes with Aisha, stated when ʿĀʾishah voiced her upsetness at the Prophet’s lingering love for Khadijah:

Make this clear Aisha, you are not better than Khadijah. She believed in me when no one did and she testified to my truth when people said I was a liar. She gave everything she had to give me support.

Shortly afterward, Abu Talib, the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) uncle and chief tribal protector in Makkah passed away. Abu Talib had been the caretaker of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) after the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) mother and grandfather passed away. But the situation before the passing of both these allies to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was poor and it was now going to become unbearable. Abu Lahab, another one of the Prophet’s uncles and one of his bitter enemies, arose as chieftain of the Hashemites would not give the Muslims adequate protection.

When adversity brought the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to his knees, he put his trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and continued to push forward. It was in this moment of desperation that the Prophet was sent his ultimate test; the Day of Taif. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) described the Day of Taif more testing than the Battle of Uhud. In his desperation, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) traveled to the nearby city of Taif in order to seek the city’s protection. When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) met with the three leaders of the city, they feverishly rejected him and decided to turn the public against him. The representatives of the community gathered the youth, slaves, and others and to stone the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and Zayd ibn Harithah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). The people of Taif purposely targeted the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) feet, severely damaging them. His blessed body was profusely bleeding and the crowd pursued both the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and Zayd ibn Harithah for an excruciating three to six miles until he settled in a private orchard. It was in this moment where all hope had vanished. Now pushed to his extreme limits of endurance, he raised his hands and called out to his Lord:

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي وقلة حيلتي وهواني على الناس

ياأرحم الراحمين أنت أرحم الراحمين

أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي

إلى من تكلني إلى عدو يتجهمني أم الى عدو ملكته امرى

إن لم يكن بك غضب علي فلا أبالي ولكن عافيتك هي أوسع لي

أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أضاءت له السموات و الأرض

وأشرقت له الظلمات وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والأخره

أن ينزل بي غضبك أو يحل علي سخطك

لك العتبى حتى ترضى ولاحول ولاقوة إلابك

To You, my Lord, I complain of my weakness, lack of support and the humiliation I am made to receive.

Most Compassionate and Merciful! You are the Lord of the weak, and you are my Lord.

To whom do You leave me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy You have given power over me?

As long as you are not displeased with me, I do not care what I face. I would, however, be much happier with Your mercy.

I seek refuge in the light of Your face by which all darkness is dispelled and both this life and the life to come are put in their right course against incurring your wrath or being the subject of your anger.

To You, I submit, until I earn Your pleasure. Everything is powerless without your support.

When we struggle with adversity, calling out to our Lord is one of the last things that comes to our mind. Even if it does, we struggle to motivate ourselves to learn how to make dua to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and we struggle to raise our hands. The amount of sincerity and power of this dua to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was so great that Jibril 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) came down to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and reported that the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) appeal shook the heavens. Here, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) seeks only the pleasure of his Lord and he will do whatever he can to fulfill his Lord’s pleasure. However, the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) only comes with Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) own support and we should be seeking it with every trial or tribulation that we face.

There are three lessons that we can take away the way the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) dealt with adversity. First, how can we sincerely put our trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give us guidance when we have little to no relationship with our Lord to begin with. Therefore, the struggling believer must consistently engage in self-reflection. He or she should be asking, “Am I praying my five daily prayers?”, “Am I consistent in my prayers?”, “How much attention and effort do I give my five prayers?”, “Do I engage in the remembrance of Allah in my daily actions?”, “How often do I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for help”, “Am I trying to learn what is halal and haram?”. “Am I trying to inculcate more good deeds in my life?”, “Am I trying to leave sinning?”, “If I am still struggling in my relationship with Allah (SWT), am I reaching out to someone more learned?”, etc. These are the first things we need to be fulfilling in our struggle to be optimistic. If we still need help, we should not have fear in asking a professional such as a counselor or mentor.

Second, we need to be active in making our society a better place. The prophets were not just scholars, but they were changer-makers. They sought to make society a better place. Not only is our duty as Muslims to others who are struggling, but it alleviates a lot of burden on us when we help others. We are reminded of the hadith,

“Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter.”

Lastly, be comforted in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) everlasting control over all the affairs of humanity and beyond. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was there before us, when we die, and for eternity. Everything is in accordance with His Will. When we set our intentions right and make sacrifices in our lives to please Him, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will replenish the believer with something equal or better. After this painful period in the Seerah, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gifted His devout Messenger with two things, the miraculous journey of the Isra wal M’iraj and the story of Prophet Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). The story of Prophet Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was sent down to show the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he was not the first prophet who experienced difficulty. In Surah Yusuf, the Quran reminds us that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is عَلِيۡمٌ and حَكِيۡمٌ, the All-Knowing and All-Wise. In the verses of the Surah, these words were mentioned before the adversities in Yusuf and Yaqub’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) life, during the adversity, and after Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had rewarded Yusuf and Yaqub for their resolve. There is light at the end of every tunnel of adversity and only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can give us the guidance to get there, we only have to turn to him.

We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to grant us the ability to maintain our optimism in our adversities. We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to grant us an understanding of Islam so that we may help others overcome their adversities. We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to relieve the adversity of the Ummah.

 

Shaykh Abdullah Waheed was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, MI. Shaykh Abdullah commenced his studies at the age of 10 in Toronto, Canada where he went to memorize the Quran.  He completed the memorization of the Holy Quran by the tender age of 12 and then went on to study in the 7-year extensive Shariah program in Toronto, Canada. Shaykh Abdullah then continued his research and studies, which took him on global journeys, such as Pakistan, Kuwait, and England.

Shaykh Abdullah specialized in Tafseer of the Quran. Sheikh Abdullah spent years to study the details and beauty of our Holy book since understanding and mastering the language of Holy Quran was always the primary goal.

Shaykh Abdullah is serving as an Instructor at Miftaah institute and is also the Director of Islamic Affairs at Flint Islamic Center. Shaykh Abdullah travels across North America for khutbas, workshops, and seminars. He is known for his motivational and enthusiastic style of speaking which leaves the audience focused and learning.

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