Connect with us

Inspiration and Spirituality

Tips for Students of Islam: Grasping Terminology




Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

For many a student involved in the first two years of Islamic studies, one of the hardest things to grasp and remember is the variety of terminology that one is taught. For example, in the field of ‘Aqeedah, you need to learn what is Tawheed, Shirk, Kufr, Nifaaq, Bidah, Risaalah, Aakhirah, Rububiyyah, Asma Wa Sifaat, Ibaadah, Ta’weel, Tashbeeh, Riya and many other terms.

At the same time, your Arabic teacher expects you to grasp terms like Mubtada, Khabr, Marfoo, Mansoob, Majroor, Mawsoof, Sifah, Mudaaf, Mudaaf Ilaih, Ism, Faa’il, Harf, Harf Jar among others. Your Hadith teacher introduces you to terms like Saheeh, Da’eef, Mawdoo, Mursal , Shaaz, Ghareeb, Azeez, Mashoor, Mutawaatir, Ahad, Jahr and Tarjeeh, to name a few. In Tafseer, you learned about many things including Asbab An-Nuzool, Sab’ata Ahruf, Usool At-Tafseer, Uloom Al-Qur’an, Wahy, Uthmani Mushaf, Qira’ah, Naasikh, Mansookh, Muhkam, Mutashaabih, Haqeeqee and Majaaz. And of course, you can’t study Fiqh without learning about Taqleed, Madh-hab, Ijtihad, Ijma, Qiyas, Urf, Istihsaan, Aql, Usool, and Furoo among other topics.

This is just a glimpse at some of the terms and concepts students of knowledge need to grasp during their first two years of study. Many students feel overwhelmed by so many new terms and concepts, so insha’Allah, here are some tips which will facilitate learning and grasping Islamic terminology:

1. Know that you can learn it!

For over a thousand years, thousands of Muslims have studied and learned these terms, including your own teachers, and if they could do it, so can you. Allah would not have placed you in the field of Islamic Studies if you lacked the capabilities to learn it. So set your mind to it and study hard, knowing that you can do it!

2. Make dua to Allah to help you:

Never underestimate the power of dua. Always make dua for increase in knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. I have read that some of the Salaf use to drink Zam Zam water and make dua for increase in these three things. I myself do this and know many other students who do so too. So remember to make constant dua and know that with Allah’s Help, you can do it.

3. Stay away from sins:

I am sure most of us are aware of the famous statement of Imam Shafi’ee which goes as follows:

???? ?????? ???????

???? ??? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ??? ??? ??????? ??????? ??? ????? ???

???? ???? ?? ???? ?????



Imaam Shafi’ee said, “I complained to Wakee about my decreasing memory and he advised me to abstain from sins, and he informed me that knowledge is light and the light of Allah is not receptive to the sinner.”

So my advice to my fellow students is to, day by day, gain closeness to Allah by decreasing the amount of sins we commit and increasing our good deeds. This effort will, insha’Allah, make our hearts more receptive to the knowledge of Allah’s Deen.

4. Keep a notebook only for terminology:

Divide the notebook into sections according to the field of knowledge (Hadith, Tafsir, ‘Aqeedah) and in each section record the names and definitions of all the terminology you have studied in that field. How you write it will depend on you, just make sure it is easy to browse through, find what you are looking for, read and understand. Keep it with you whenever you are studying, and remember that terminology is not limited to the field you learned it in. Terms learned in Fiqh or Hadith will be needed in Tafseer and Seerah as well, that is why I recommend keeping one notebook for all the terminology, but divide it into sections so it does not get crammed and is easy to access.

5. Associate each term with an example:

In your notebook, next to the definition of each term, write down one example that will help you understand that term better. When you are studying a concept in class, whichever example you found defined the term best, write that one down. The benefit of this is that if in future you can’t remember what a specific term meant, even after reading the definition, a good example can always bring the whole lesson back to you.

6. Use these terms often in conversation with other students:

I would encourage all students to always use the Arabic terms when studying together or discussing the topic with each other. The more you use these terms, the easier they become to remember. Personally, there are quite a few Hadith terms which I have trouble remembering because I don’t use them often, while Fiqh, Grammar and Tafseer terminology are fresh in mind because I am always teaching these subjects.

7. Always revise and refresh your memory:

Utilize your spare time and holidays to revise terminology. It is also important when studying to study these terms for life, and not just for the lesson or exam, as you will also need them later in research, further studies and insha’Allah one day when you are teaching as well.

These are just a few tips from my side which I hope can facilitate your studies and make things easy for you. If anybody else has any good study tips, please feel free to share them in the comments.

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.



  1. Avatar


    April 20, 2011 at 1:06 AM

    I disagree.

    • Avatar


      April 20, 2011 at 1:10 AM

      Disagree with “Make dua to Allah to help you”? :s

    • Avatar

      Ibn Masood

      April 24, 2011 at 8:08 AM

      I agree with this disagreement (apart from Dua’a and tawakkul of course). From personal experience the best method is to study a particular topic/read on it with either a teacher or from a book multiple times, and to understand it well, so you don’t just memorize terminology word for word, your focusing on actual internalization, comprehension and application of that terminology and its’ corresponding concepts.

      As for Arabic…

      Juhd, Juhd, Juhd lol. Just like memorizing Qur’an.

      • Avatar

        Ismail Kamdar

        April 24, 2011 at 8:14 AM

        I did not say one must not study with a teacher or internalize the terms. It seems you have misunderstood what this post is about.

        This post is directed at students who are studying at universities/Darul ulooms under teachers but having a hard time remembering everything. The tips here are meant to be study aids/revision tools for such students, not a substitute for studying under a teacher.

        • Avatar

          Ibn Masood

          April 24, 2011 at 8:22 AM

          I wasn’t commenting on the teacher bit akhi :) (sorry I may have overstated that), but more on going over concepts multiple times in different methods. It’s a much more efficient and beneficial way to remember things. Even reading the same text/book multiple times is better.

        • Avatar

          abdul azeez

          March 12, 2013 at 5:37 AM

          shukraan barakallahu lak

    • Avatar

      abdul azeez

      March 12, 2013 at 5:29 AM

      as salaamu alaykum theses tips are very useful and act as a meduim to drawing near our goal. which is to gaint he good pleasure of Allah ta ala. any effort toward that should be met with open arms. best contruction and thanks. may Allah inccrease us all in ilm. aameeeeen

    • Avatar

      Hussein umar

      October 10, 2016 at 11:02 AM

      please how can I get the contact of this Arabic school I want to start

  2. Avatar


    April 20, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    I think the biggest thing to emphasize is “Learn Arabic.”

    As someone who spent so many years with people not emphasizing this fact to the point of ‘grilling it’ into students, I felt was the biggest detriment.

    Out of the FEAR of ‘de-motivating’ students – they are not pushed to learn the original language so they can be taught and learn it.

    So I, just like many others, amassed a massive english library only to realize at the end of the day – wait a minute… why am i WAITING for the ‘latest translation’ to come out.

    The phrase “If i don’t Learn Arabic, I’m not even beginning to be a Student of Knowledge” should be written first and foremost on EVERY notebook before we go into it in depth.

    I find the biggest problem to show this is – even if students memorized terminologies… they don’t understand the MASSIVE loss of not understanding arabic that the scholars DISCUSSED the meanings of those same terminologies that so many rulings are based on!

    May Allah help us to learn the language of His deen, to become the memorizers of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and implement in our actions, and children’s actions as well. Ameen.

    WAllahu ‘Alam

    • Avatar

      Ismail Kamdar

      April 20, 2011 at 4:12 AM

      Wa Alaikum Salaam Wa Rahmatullah

      Jazakallah Khair for mentioning this very important point.

      I did not mention it in the article as it is generally addressed towards students who are in the process of learning Arabic Nahw (Grammar) and Sarf (Morphology) as indicated by the first paragraph.

      Of course, this depends on the institute, some institutes teach Arabic first for two years then other sciences while others teach both simultaneously. However, any institute that ignores Arabic is doing their students a great injustice!

    • Avatar

      Ibn Masood

      April 24, 2011 at 8:14 AM

      I agree 90%. Although I’m doing Arabic intensive right now and slowly starting to read books and attend/listen to Arabic lectures, I think what brother Ismail said is important.

      Depending on what intellectual fitnah you possess, Arabic can either be an immediate priority or one that can wait for a while until you learn other things.

      Myself, coming from an secular Muslim/Darwinist background (yeah that’s heavy), I found it beneficial to read up quite a bit on different Usul in our deen. I find it even more beneficial now because when in beginners lectures or reading beginners books, I’m focusing less on understanding concepts and more on understanding the grammar or siyaak/balagha/ta’beer of the text.

      Regardless, there comes a point where you have to stop. There is no point in reading Malik’s Muwatta or Fath Al-Bari in English. However when it comes to unique works in English there can be tremendous benefit because you will understand something that you would not understand until after at least 2-3 years in an Arabic Islamic Studies environment.

      • Avatar

        Ibn Masood

        April 24, 2011 at 8:21 AM

        Hastily I want to add… memorizing Qur’an is KEY. Or AT LEAST, reading, understanding and reflecting on the meaning of at least 1-2 juz a day through English translation/tafsir, so you can at least get a feel for the language.

        The Qur’an is the highest level of literature in the Arabic Language, if you’re working on studying/understanding it while learning Arabic your progress will jump, as well as your proficiency in the language itself.

        It’s like learning English through reading Classical literature (Ernest Hemingway/Lewis Carroll anyone?)… although in this case of course the Qur’an is incomparable in its standard to any literature in any other language.

      • Avatar

        Alhassan Sayyid Madani

        November 23, 2016 at 3:57 AM

        Assalaamu alaikum
        am also a beginner of Arabic studies
        and plss I need Arabic lecturers to enhance my speaking and understanding
        this is my whatsapp line
        anyone willing to help can whatsap me
        jazaakumullahu khairan

  3. Avatar


    April 20, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    Jazak Allah Khairan for the useful tips. I better make that notebook soon, before the terms start flying over my head!

  4. Avatar


    April 20, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    JazakAllahu Khair. As a student of knowledge this post is helpful. Every bit of assistance when learning is appreciated. May Allah reward you and help us all to become students of knowledge. Ameen.

    Asaalamu Alaykum.

  5. Avatar


    April 20, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Very helpful ! Machalla thank you jezakellah jenetul ferdos I forwarded for those learning and all made dua for you . Keep up we need more of this kind of reminder and good advice for someone like us who is learning deen.

  6. Avatar

    Umm Sulaym

    April 20, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    JazakAllahu khayran for the beneficial tips.

    I agree as well with what’s said above (by Student) regarding learning Arabic. A lot of people don’t understand that the proper understanding of Islam cannot be initiated unless one learns the language of the Quraan. This way they won’t be misled by groups who have misinterpreted some of the fundamental concepts of Islam just because of not having the proper understanding of Arabic linguistics.

    I personally no longer would want to depend on a translation anymore. I too have been in the process of waiting for translations to be published only to find out that they were ‘weak’. After learning a bit of Arabic by the extreme Mercy of Allah SWT, I have personally found errors/incomplete translations in popular English translations of the Quraan and some scholarly works. I was really upset when I found that out because it felt as if the ‘true complete message’ hadn’t been conveyed to me all this while. In addition, with translations the Quraan loses its beauty. It’s just that no other language can translate Arabic text of the Quraan properly.How can then students of knowledge lean on an ‘intermediary’ to learn about the Book of Allah SWT or any Islamic Science for that matter?

    I like how the 1st point is ‘knowing that you can do it’. If scholars all around the world for ages have been investing their efforts in understanding the language, inshaa’Allah we can do it as well. We just need purify our intentions and do it sincerely seeking His Face. Everything else becomes easy in the process because Shaytan can’t misguide a sincere slave of Allah SWT [reference-Surah 38, verse 83].

    My advice (in addition to the writer’s) would be:
    (1) master the Arabic language-so that you can grasp the terminology better and not get overwhelmed by it
    (2) memorize the Quraan and hasten in committing it to your memory–> Allah SWT will not only reward you (obviously) but inshaa’Allah He will put barakah in your memory and time + you’ll remember proofs better for whatever concept you study as you seek knowledge because it’s a life-long process.

    Thought I’d add a few words to motivate students of knowledge (or potential students of knowledge) even more to study Arabic and memorize Quraan.

    And Allah SWT knows best.
    Wasalamu alaykum warahmatullah.

  7. Avatar

    Cartoon M

    April 20, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    Nice post mashAllah. A lot of the advice you gave can be used for any subject.

    I remember having a problem with terminology when I took my first al maghrib class. The teacher was talking about mu’tazilites and I was very confused because I never heard of them before. Alhamdulillah, I eventually got a hang of it and benefited immensely from the class.

  8. Avatar


    April 22, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    جزاكم الله خيرا

  9. Avatar

    Umm 'AbdAllah

    April 24, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    As salaamu ‘alaikum,

    This post has been really beneficial mashAllah! The post and the comments make things interesting.

    BarakAllahu feekum for giving us advice and sharing this piece of information with us!

  10. Avatar


    April 25, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    jazakallah khair so much for these great tips! May Allah Reward you and May He Forgive all of our our sins and accept our good deeds and help us be the best students of knowledge that we can be! AMEEN

  11. Avatar

    abu sofiyyah

    September 29, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    great article akhee

  12. Avatar

    Rehana Sher

    March 12, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    JazzakAllah khair for sending an inspiring article/advise.

  13. Avatar


    March 13, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    jazakallahu khair Akhi for the was timely as a first year student i have found these tips encouraging and directional.

  14. Avatar

    aboo khadijah

    March 15, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    jazaakallahu laka khayran. that is very important because without understanding and remembering relevant terminologies it will be very difficult for a student of knowledge to comprehend the subject and perfect its application.

  15. Avatar


    March 17, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    Masha’Allah jazakhallahu khairn, excellent tips

  16. Avatar


    March 20, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    subhanAllah this will work out these are excellent tip and sheikh has understood the point where students are struggling they pass one semester enter the other but forget the past semester this noted book will always help us to quick revision of the terminologies. which is needed in each level.

  17. Avatar

    Aiman Ammarah Khan.

    March 21, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    mashaAllah , very benificial all the tips. i’ll try to follow them inshaAllah, specially the zamzam one .
    I think remembering the arabic terminologies is easier for me having urdu as my first language , in comparison to others. because we almost use many of these words while talking in Urdu. …
    And I remember 1 more example from Imam Ashshafiee (probably) , when his performance was not as good as always, and the reason he told to his teacher was that he saw ankle of a women that day, which affected his memory.
    jazakallahu khairan katheer ustaz.

  18. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 5:13 AM

    In some comments it is mentioned that we should not simply learn the definition by heart as “indicated in the artcle”. However, the Shaykh mentioned also that we should write an example with it to “understand” the term, so I don’t understand how ppl can just write “disagree” without giving proper arguments and alternativs… This is not the way we should behave.

    as for me, I think it is best to do some research on each term about its literal meaning, technical meaning, definition and examples, distinguish it from other things not belonging to this term. (Example for distinguishing: a tea cup is something that you can drink from. However, a glass from which you can drink as well is not a tea cup because…). Take this in a special notebook and revise it regularly.

  19. Avatar

    Alhassan Sayyid Madani

    November 23, 2016 at 3:59 AM

    Assalaamu alaikum
    am also a beginner of Arabic studies
    and plss I need Arabic lecturers to
    enhance my speaking and understanding
    this is my whatsapp line
    anyone willing to help can whatsap me
    jazaakumullahu khairan

  20. Avatar

    Rashida Hussein

    March 2, 2018 at 2:39 AM

    Jazak Allah Khair Brother. Very helpful for me as I’m very new to the journey of Islamic studies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor



Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

Continue Reading


The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman



Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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

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

A wise man once said to me,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading


The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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

Continue Reading