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Shall I not be a Thankful Servant? A Brief Guide to Understanding Shukr

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Let’s go back in time. Back to Madinah, through the masjid and to the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) home. We see him there, in the darkness of the night, praying to his Lord. He is crying as he reads the ayat of the Qur’an. He has been standing for so long  you see that his blessed feet have swelled and the skin is cracking.

Many of us would think what A’ishah, his beloved wife, raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) asked him afterward. She said, “O Prophet of Allah, why do you undergo so much hardship despite the fact that Allah has pardoned for you your earlier and later sins?” He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) responded, “Afala akuna abdan shakura? Should I not prove myself to be a thankful servant?”

We learn from this hadith that gratitude is shown through deeds. Shukr is by action. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not commanded to worship to this degree but rather it was a complete act of devotion and thankfulness to Allah (azza wa jall).

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When we want to thank someone, we go the extra mile to make them happy, especially when they are beloved to us. We go to great lengths to show our parents, spouse or friend that we appreciate them. We offer our help without their asking. We plan time to spend together. We give them gifts without expecting one in return. We do whatever will make them happy. We show our love and appreciate through our actions.

Yet, how can we claim that we love Allah when we do not even act this way with Him? We do not abide by His Rulings. We hardly go past the bare minimum of worship. We do not honor His Book. We swear by His Name in vain. We are not shy to sin in front of Him while we are shy when others are watching. We delay our daily conversations with Him, and when we finally do go to pray, we do it as fast as we can – rushing back to what we think is more important than Him.

Would we ever claim to love our mother, spouse, or friend if we treated them this way? Would they feel that we love them and appreciate them if we treated them this way?

Aren’t we ashamed that we treat our family and friends better than we do our own Creator? Surely for Allah is the Highest Example.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not need us or our worship at all. We are not harming Him or benefiting Him in any way by worshiping Him or disobeying Him. He does not need anyone or anything, rather He is Self-Sufficient and always deserving of praise. This parable is to show how we contradict ourselves – we say that we love Allah, that we are thankful to Him, yet our actions show the complete opposite. Our actions show that we are careless, ungrateful and that we are very good at saying what we don’t mean.

What is Shukr

As a creation, we are wired to love those who give to us. In an authentic hadith, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us, “Give gifts and you will love one another.” Linguistically, shukr is used to describe a healthy cow – a cow that has visible signs of nourishment. Islamically, the scholars define shukr as the mentioning of Allah’s Blessings upon the slave’s tongue, the slave’s recognition of these blessings in his heart, and obedience of the limbs due to these blessings.

Being thankful to Allah does not mean to only say “alhamdulillah” or doing a quick sajdah when we feel blessed. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught A’ishah that night that you must show your thankfulness to Allah. You have to strive to prove it.

We also learn from the Qur’an that shukr is by action. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)says to the family of Dawud 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him):

34_13

“Work, O family of David, in gratitude.” (34:13)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) did not say, “Be grateful!” rather He said to work in gratitude. We learn from the Prophet [saw] that the most beloved fasting and prayer to Allah is the fasting and prayer of Dawud 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

Thabit al-Binani (rahimahullah) says regarding this ayah, Dawud 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) would divide the hours of the night and day between his family so that there wouldn’t be an hour of the night or day except that a person from the family of Dawud would be praying, so Allah addressed them all by saying, ‘Work, O family of David, in gratitude. [Uddat al-Saabireen]

From this ayah, Imam ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) states that there are three branches of shukr:

1. Knowledge: Knowledge is the foundation of shukr. We must be aware and knowing of the fact that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is the One who is bestowing us with these blessings. We attribute all of our blessings to Him ta’ala. Some people attribute good to themselves, and when they are faced with difficulty or hardship, they attribute it to Allah. This is not gratitude rather it is kufr, a defiant denial of Allah’s favors.

2. Recognition and Awareness: The slave remembers Allah and His favors with his tongue – by praising Allah, and remembering Him through supplication and words of remembrance, and acknowledges it in his heart. It is reported in Tafsir al-Qurtubi that Dawud (alayhi salaam) said, “O my Lord! How can I be grateful to You when gratitude is a blessing from You?!” Allah (azza wa jall) responded to him, “Now you have shown true gratitude (because you’ve recognized that all blessings are from Me).”

3. Deeds: The slave works in gratitude by being an obedient slave to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  It is reported in Tafsir al-Tabari that Abu Abdur-Rahman al-Hubaly (rahimahullah) said, “Prayer is shukr, fasting is shukr and any deed done for the sake of Allah is shukr.”

Imam ibn al-Qayyim states that the pillars of being grateful to Allah are:

  1. Submission of the believer to Allah
  2. Love of Allah
  3. Acknowledging His favors
  4. Praising Him for His favors
  5. Refraining from utilizing the favors in a way displeasing to Allah

Benefits of Shukr

Allah calls mankind ‘ungrateful’ in many ayat in the Qur’an, and He says that only few of His slaves are grateful. It is easier for us to be heedless of His blessings because being a thankful slave is not easy. When we do show gratefulness to Allah, He blesses us in many ways:

1. Allah will increase you in blessings. He ta’ala says, “And (recall) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you thank, I shall certainly increase (My blessings on) you, and if you are ungrateful, then My torment is surely severe.'” (14:7)

2. Allah will reward you for being thankful. He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Allah will give reward to the thankful.” (3:144)

3. Shukr saves you from punishment. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us in the Qur’an, “The people of Lot denied the warning. Indeed, We sent upon them a storm of stones, except the family of Lot – We saved them before dawn. As a favor from Us. Thus do We reward he who is grateful.” (54:33-35)

4. Allah will be pleased with you. “And if you are grateful, He is pleased with you.” (39:7)

5. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will love you.

Practical Ways to Show Shukr

Now that we know what shukr really means, how can we be among al-shaakireen?

1- Take the first step. For many of us, extra deeds seem difficult because we are so used to the little we do. Don’t think that you cannot do more, rather remember the hadith qudsi: “When my slave walks to Me, I run to him.” If you take that first step, which is the most difficult, Allah will make everything else easy for you. It’s time we push ourselves to do more for Allah (azza wa jall). It’s time that we don’t accept the bare minimum from ourselves. It’s time that we have great goals for our Deen just as we do for our education, career and families. And for this to happen, we go to step #2:

2- Seek the help of Allah by means of du’a. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to say: “Allahumma a’inni ‘alaa dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni ebadatika. O Allah, help me to remember You, to be thankful to You and to worship You in the best way.” Say it like you mean it. Beg Allah from your heart with this duaa. Ask Him to make you from among His few slaves that are grateful.

3- Work, work and more work. Nothing comes without work. If we want to worship Allah more, we must work for it. If we want to enjoy our worship, we must put in the effort. For some, praying and fasting is easy. For others, it is extremely difficult. If it is difficult for you, don’t interpret it to mean that you do not love Allah. Rather, it means that you have to strive more and work more to see the fruits of your labor. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says,

29_69

And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good. (29:69)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) used the word “jaahadu” here, meaning they strive and work hard for the sake of Allah (azza wa jall).

We can all do something extra in one way or another. Start slow and it will become easier, inshaAllah. You know yourself the best, so get out of your comfort zone to train yourself.

  • If you cannot fast three days every month, fast at least one day.
  • If you want to pray qiyam but already struggle with fajr, stay awake after fajr to remember Allah and read Qur’an before heading back to sleep, even for 15-30 minutes.
  • Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah by learning the du’as from the Sunnah for various actions we perform throughout the day.
  • Always do your adkhar – a collection of supplications and remembrances to make after fajr and asr prayers.
  • Keep a portion of day, even 30 mins, just to remember Allah – reading Qur’an, making du’a and reflecting.
  • Thank those around you. It is stated in a hadith, “Whoever does not thank the people has not thanked Allah.”
  • Help others in your community. You can help at a soup kitchen, or prepare a meal for a needy Muslim in your community.

Make it your habit to not belittle any good deed. If you have a chance to do a good deed, then do it. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said in the hadith about the man who gave a drink to the thirsty dog that, “Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him.” (Bukhari) We learn from this that a small deed sincerely for Allah can earn Allah’s forgiveness and appreciation.

Al-Shakur: The Most Appreciative

Remember that this work of yours is not in vain. It may be difficult for you to fast those extra days. It may be hard for you to get to sleep early so you can wake up at night, but do not forget the One you are worshiping! You are worshiping Al-Shakur, The Most Appreciative. He ta’ala does not only look at your deeds, but He looks at the effort behind it. Imam al-Qurtubi (rahimahullah) explains this Name by saying, “He accepts the little from their good deeds, and repays them with a great reward.”

He is Al-Shakur, He does not waste your efforts. He does ihsan to you – utmost good by accepting your few deeds and giving you greater in return. He blesses you with something better when you leave something for His sake.

Allah, Al-Shakur, not only rewards you for your deeds but He increases them for you because He appreciates your obedience to Him. He is Al-Shakur of your shukr! While you are struggling to show your thankfulness to Him, Al-Shakur is keeping account of all that you do, of all the effort you are putting in, of how much you sincerely want to worship Him in the best way. He will reward you with what you do not even deserve. Our deeds can never earn Paradise, but this is how Al-Shakur shows His Appreciation to His righteous servants.

Always remind yourself of this Name of Allah (azza wa jall), it is the key to coming closer to Him. Remind yourself of the Day that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) shows His Gratitude by saying:

76_22

“Indeed, this is for you a reward, and your effort has been appreciated.” (76:22)

We ask Allah (azza wa jall) to make us of those who hear these words. May He make us among His truly grateful servants and we ask that He blesses us to worship Him, remember Him and thank Him in the best and most beautiful way. Ameen.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abu Abdullah

    July 15, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    barak Allahu feeki..

    • Avatar

      abu Abdullah

      July 16, 2011 at 7:43 PM

      Remembrance said in the morning and evening

      ‘O Allaah, what blessing I or any of Your creation have risen upon, is from You alone, without partner, so for You is all praise and unto You all thanks.’

      …whoever says this in the morning has indeed offered his day’s thanks and whoever says this in the evening has indeed offered his night’s thanks.

      Above could be a nice add for ways to Thank Allah daily.

      Does shukr include being content with Allah about what one does not has ? Isn’t it sub set of Sabr? may Allah make us content with His decree, in all situations. Ameen.

  2. Avatar

    MuslimNoise

    July 15, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Nice advice, brilliant piece. It’s important for us to understand what it means to be thankful and how we should go about doing this properly to gain maximum reward and a boosted iman.

  3. Avatar

    MuslimAmerican

    July 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    When i hear or read the verse 76:22, it brings tears to my eyes.

    Rabbana taqabbal minna innaka antas sameeul aleem. Ameen.

    Jazak Allah Khair

  4. Avatar

    Fear Allah

    July 15, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Ameen! Beautiful article ukhti, Jazakillahu khairaa!

    a very comprehensive analysis of shukr… should be its own brochure/booklet.

  5. Avatar

    The Shardul of Allah

    July 15, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Jazakhallah Khair for this beautiful reminder.

  6. Avatar

    FloussOnline

    July 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    salam aleykum,

    masha’Allah, beautiful !

    “5- Refraining from utilizing the favors in a way displeasing to Allah” …this struck me, because we don’t really think of it in when thinking about Shukr…

  7. Avatar

    sara

    July 15, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    jazakillahu khairan ukhti al-kareema, Amatullah. <3

  8. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    July 15, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    now THIS, is an article mashaAllah. BarakAllahu feeki.

    If only we got the same amount of comments on these articles as political ones, wAllahu musta’aan.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 18, 2011 at 3:40 AM

      So true – we should have a LOVE button-
      Share, digg, retweet
      It really encourages our writers when people leave generous comments :)
      Please do start a blogversation here on how you (our readers) exhibit shukr to Allah Subhanwa Ta’ala

  9. Avatar

    farhen ahmad

    July 15, 2011 at 9:45 PM

    feeling closer to Allah by reading this
    jazakAllah for printing such a wonderful article

  10. Avatar

    shiney

    July 16, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    May Allah Reward you and Bless you for writing this sister! I had almost forgotten that hadith where the Prophet (SAW) said, “Shall I Not Be a Thankful Servant?”
    JZK for the beautiful reminder=)

    May Allah (SWT) make us all among those who Thank Him the He way He deserves to be thanked. AMEEN

  11. Avatar

    birkah

    July 16, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    JKhair for the comprehensive article. I gained a basic understanding of shukur last summer, and it changed my relationship with Allah SWT. I briefly wrote about the ayah that was the catalyst:
    http://birkah.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/give-thanks-get-more/

  12. Avatar

    Jamilah Iman

    July 16, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Ameen!!

  13. Avatar

    ummmanar

    July 16, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    jazakallahu kirn sister this is good reminder may allah guid us all to the right path and make us of the shakirun,

  14. Avatar

    Amal

    July 17, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    jazaki Allahu khairan

  15. Avatar

    Abu Ubayday

    July 17, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    Jazakhallah Khair!

  16. Avatar

    Nasteha

    July 17, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    May the Almighty God bless you tremendously for this amazing article.jazakallahu kheiran kathiran

  17. Avatar

    birkah

    July 18, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Can you please explain why a health cow is called Shukur? Im guessing due to the sign of nourishment, which will bring the indidivudal profit, hence they should be thankful. JKhair.

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      July 21, 2011 at 6:20 PM

      That can be one explanation. From what I’ve learned and heard, it means that the blessings are apparent..Just like you are able to see the healthiness of the cow, you can see the blessings of Allah in your life as well. Allah knows best.

  18. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    July 19, 2011 at 6:02 AM

    Asalamu alikum warahmatu Allah

    mashaAllah, beautiful! May Allah reward you and increase you in good.

  19. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    July 19, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    Beautiful article. It brought tears to my eyes, especially this part:

    “While you are struggling to show your thankfulness to Him, Al-Shakur is keeping account of all that you do, of all the effort you are putting in, of how much you sincerely want to worship Him in the best way. He will reward you with what you do not even deserve.”

    Barak Allahu feeki, Amatullah.

  20. Avatar

    Amatullah

    July 21, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Jazakum Allahu khayran for the comments everyone :) may Allah accept our deeds.

  21. Avatar

    Reehab

    July 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Beautiful :) Tabarak Allah.

  22. Avatar

    Tariq Nisar Ahmed

    July 24, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    Allah make it a cause of Jannat al Firdaus for you.

  23. Avatar

    Sanusie

    January 8, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    We thank you a lot for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

  24. Avatar

    Musodiq Bello

    August 23, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    Very beneficial article!!

  25. Pingback: Gratitude challenge: day 3 | Aysha la Rosa

  26. Pingback: Gratitude | Stories for Muslim Kids

  27. Avatar

    Muhammad Majeed

    November 25, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    Please explain who used the meaning of Shukr a healthy cow, when and where it was used, Thanks

  28. Avatar

    Mohammed Bilal

    June 26, 2016 at 12:38 AM

    Subhanallah, very nice article indeed..

  29. Avatar

    AYEINA

    March 27, 2017 at 2:34 AM

    gratitude was the reason we started #AlhamdulillahForSeries and then the #gratitudeCAPTIONcontest to spread positivity <3

  30. Avatar

    Amna

    October 31, 2020 at 2:45 AM

    Jazakallah. Very beneficial to read. May God reward you greatly.
    Thank you

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Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World: The Halima Aden Edition

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

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Panel discussion with Zainab b. Younus, Hena Zuberi, her daughter, and Fousia from the Naptime is Sacred podcast to talk about Halima Aden’s Instagram posts about hijab and her modeling career.

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Podcast: Prayer is a Work in Progress | Shaykh Abdullah Ayaaz Mullanee

Zeba Khan

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Many of us have been Muslim for our entire lives, and despite praying regularly for years, can still never feel like we’re never doing it right. Why is it so hard to focus in salah? And what should someone do if they feel like they are AWFUL at it?

Join Zeba Khan as she asks Shaykh Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee, who not only struggles with his prayers too, but is also the dean of Mishkah Institute, and author of the books “A Ramadan With the Prophet ” and “The Poetic Words of Sayyiduna Ali رضي الله عنه.” To take a free short course on the meaning of Salah, visit this link.

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Undisputed And Undefeated: 13 Ways Khabib Nurmagomedov Inspired Us To Win With Faith

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Many fans anxiously watched UFC 254 with bated breath as Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov went head-to-head with Justin “The human highlight reel” Gaethje. The latter had just come off a spectacular TKO win against a formidable and feared fighter in the form of Tony Ferguson, beating him over 5 nerve-wracking rounds by outstriking him with a combination damaging head shots and crippling low kicks.

We all knew what both would do – Khabib would go for the takedown, and Gaethje would try to keep the fight on the feet and opt for stand-up striking – which fighter’s strategy would prevail? Alhamdulillah, it was Khabib, in a mere 2 rounds.  We weren’t in the fight, but we are all nervous and supplicating, making du’a to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give him another victory.

And so it was that after the win, he collapsed in the middle of the ring to cry, as this was his first fight after the loss of his father due to complications with Covid-19. He cried, and many a man cried with him, feeling his pain. Gaethje revived from his triangle choked slumber and consoled his former foe, telling Khabib his father was proud of him.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

We were all sure when “The Eagle” got on the mic, he would say he wanted to fight GSP, George St Pierre, and then retire 30-0, as he had said in previous press conferences leading up to the fight.  Instead, he surprised us all by announcing his retirement at 29-0, and I couldn’t help but marvel that not only was he turning away from a lucrative final fight, but the way in which he announced his retirement reminded us of our faith, our deen, our religion, Islam.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an

“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”

Throughout his MMA career, Khabib has proudly worn his faith on his sleeve. As he has risen to become the current pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world and arguably the GOAT, the greatest of all time, his unwavering example as a practicing Muslim transformed him into a global phenomenon and role model for many of us by reminding us to be better worshippers, to be closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Let’s look at a few of the ways he did this:

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

The announcer at UFC 254 began by congratulating Khabib on a job well-done yet again by praising him, stating, “The world is in awe of your greatness once again…your thoughts on an epic championship performance, congratulations.” Khabib didn’t immediately begin talking about himself. Instead, he said:

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

After stating this, he went on to announce his retirement, his reasons for retiring, and thanked everyone who supported his professional MMA journey.

The Reminder

Alhamdulillah is literally translated into “All Praise Belongs to God”. Khabib begins by thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), pointing out that his talents and abilities are a gift, a blessing from the Most High. When we have any blessing from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we must remember that whatever our own effort, our abilities, our support, and our achieved outcomes ultimately tie back to support from our Rabb, our Lord, who controls all.

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

If you’ve ever seen Khabib point at himself, shake his finger back and forth as if to say, “No” and then point up to the sky, this is a nonverbal way of him saying, don’t think all these great things you see are from me – they’re from Allah above.

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

You may have noticed at the end of Khabib’s victory, when the announcer states that he’s the winner of the bout, he falls into a prostration known as Sajdat al-Shukr – the Prostration of Thankfulness (to Allah).

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

Performing this is recommended when someone receives something beneficial (eg good news, wealth, etc) or if they avoided something potentially harmful (e.g. job loss, healing from a disease, etc). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would do this when he received good news. The believer should remember to be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as much as they can.

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

Years ago (early 2018), Khabib visited my local masjid in Santa Clara, California (not far from where he was training in San Jose at the AKA gym). Many at the masjid didn’t know who he was, but we heard he was the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight championship belt, at that time held by Tony Ferguson.

He did a Q & A with the community, and someone asked him a general question about what he would recommend for the youth.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing:

Take care of your prayers, if you come to Day of Judgment not take care of your prayers, on that day you will be smashed.

The Reminder

The second pillar of Islam that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded us to follow is to pray to Him 5 times daily. Khabib was no doubt referencing the following statement of the Prophet (saw):

“The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost…”

 

 

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda notes that when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) first began his mission of da’wah and faced devastating rejection from family and community, Allah told the Prophet to stand and pray. The reason for this is because when we are weak and suffering, the place to turn to for strength is back to Allah in prayer. There is no doubt Khabib’s strength came from his connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which in turn came from his 5 daily prayers.

Praying multiple times daily, consistently, can be challenging; when it was legislated by Allah to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) kept telling him to go back and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a reduction, saying, “Your people will not be able to handle it.”

Khabib is a great reminder that no matter how high you climb in life and career, no matter how busy you think you are, worshipping Allah is the most important deed one can do, and this discipline is the most important habit to build.

4. Strong Wrestling Game

Some say Khabib is already 30-0 for wrestling a bear

In a sport that sees far more striking and kicking than it does wrestling, Khabib came to dominate the lightweight division of the UFC with a strong grappling style that is a combination of sambo (a Soviet martial art), judo, and wrestling. Famously, he outwrestled a bear when he was much younger.

During his fights, he doesn’t close out his bouts by pummeling his opponents and causing them damage as most strikers would. Most of his hits open up his opponents to being forced to tap out via submission. Even his last opponent, Justin Gaethje, noted that he was much happier to be choked out in a submission, as all he would get is a pleasant nap, as opposed to striking, which could have long-term health consequences.

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not only able to wrestle, he took down the strongest wrestler in Makkah. Rukanah, the famed Makkan wrestler, challenged RasulAllah because of his hatred for the da’wah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted his challenge and took him down multiple times, body slamming him again and again. It was said that after the conquest of Makkah, Rukanah accepted Islam.

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

During the post-fight press conference with UFC President Dana White, it was revealed that Khabib had broken one of his toes 3 weeks before the fight. Prior to that, he had taken two weeks off upon arriving at Fight Island having contracted mumps, according to AKA trainer and coach Javier Mendez. Khabib is quoted as having told Mendez, “My toe may be broken, but my mind is not.” In addition to this, his father had just passed away months earlier, and this would be his first fight without his father present.

Mumps, broken toes, and the emotional turmoil of family tragedy

The Reminder

In addition, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has told us, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone…” This strength includes strength of body, mind, and spirit; not just when conditions are perfect, but when trials surround you from every conceivable direction.

6. Relationship With His Father

After defeating Justin Gaethje, Khabib went to the center of the ring and cried, and everyone cried with him. We all knew his father’s death weighed heavily on his mind and his heart, and this was his first fight without him. His father was his mentor and trainer, whom everyone could obviously see he both loved and greatly respected.

In the post-fight question and answer with Dustin Poirier, Khabib was asked, “What’s your message for your young fans out there who look up to you so much?” he responded:

“Respect your parents, be close with your parents, this is very important. Parents everything, you know, your mother, your father, and that’s it, and everything in your life is going to be good, if you’re going to listen to your parents, mother, father, be very close with them, and other things come because your parents gonna teach what to do.”

The Reminder

There isn’t enough space in this article to go over how much emphasis our faith places on respecting our parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully. [17:23]

7. Relationship With His Mother

Our parents ultimately want us to succeed, but also want us to maintain our well-being. Without his father’s presence, it was clear that Khabib’s mother didn’t want him continuing in the Octagon (the UFC ring). After 3 days of discussion, Khabib gave his word to her that this would be his final fight. After beating Justin Gaethje in UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring because he promised his mother that he would retire and that he’s a man of his word.

The Reminder

This hearkens back to a statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about how much respect mothers deserve. A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He (saw) said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet finally said, “Your father.”

Khabib easily had millions more to make on a journey to hit 30-0 in his professional fighting career and decided to hang it all up to make his mother happy. This is true respect and obedience, and for that matter, the love of a mother for her son and his well-being over monetary gains.

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

When asked about the comparisons between himself and Muhammad Ali, Khabib stated that it was an inappropriate comparison. He noted that Muhammad Ali didn’t just face challenges in the ring, but challenges outside of it due to racism, and that he was an agent of change with respect to bringing about greater civil rights for African Americans.

The Reminder

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

From the 7th century until today, our faith recognizes that people are not judged by their race, but by their actions and the intentions behind those actions. In the video above, Khabib recognized both the wrongness of racism, and the challenge it posed along the way of Muhammad Ali’s own journey, and that his contributions to social justice transcended his involvement in sport.

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

With the exception of the fight with Conor McGregor, Khabib always dealt with his opponents with respect. He hugs them, shakes their hand, and says good things about their accomplishments and strengths both before and after fights. In a sport known for heavy trash talking and showboating to build hype, Khabib kept his cool and his manners.

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

Maintaining good character and conduct during press-conferences was Khabib’s calling card; even when trash talkers like Tony Ferguson tried to go after him, he would still recount Ferguson’s formidable stature as a fighter.

When reporters tried throwing him a softball opening to insult Ferguson’s mental health, Khabib responded that he didn’t want to talk about Tony Ferguson’s problems if he they were real; if Ferguson truly has a problem, then we should help him, as we all have problems.

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

As mentioned above, Khabib is known for being very respectful of his opponents during press conferences. He speaks well of their strengths, shakes their hands, hugs them; he even runs up to his opponent after a fight and hugs them, consoling them and wishing them well. After his win against Poirier, he traded shirts with him and donated $100k to Poirier’s charity.

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

The exception was the infamous UFC 229 which Muslim fans watched holding years, maybe decades of pent up anger at the type of crass secular arrogance represented by Conor. We desperately wanted Khabib to maul the mouthy McGregor. The latter had gone after his family, his faith, his nationality, anything and everything to hype up the fight and try to get under the champ’s skin. Some people lose their calm, and others, well, they eat you alive.

Khabib made it clear he wasn’t having any of that. He took the fight to Conor and choked him out with a neck crank. We then learned why he was called “The Eagle” as he hopped the cage and jumped into the audience to go after other members of Conor’s team who had spoken ill of him, giving birth to “Air Khabib”.

The Reminder

When our faith and family is spoken of in an ill fashion, it’s not appropriate that we sit there and take it. Khabib never cared when it was criticism against him, but once it went to others around him, he took flight. We as Muslims should never give anybody who tries to attack and dehumanize us a chance to rest on their laurels. We should strive ourselves to take the fight back to them by whatever legal means necessary, as Khabib did, whether it is cartoons of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or political pundits and satirists who monetize hatred against Muslims.

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

In numerous public instances, Khabib reminded us that our faith demands we don’t shake with the opposite gender. As one of my teachers taught us, the Qur’an instructs us to “lower our gaze” when dealing with women. If we shouldn’t even look at them out of respect for Allah’s command, how can we take it to the next level and touch them?

Extended to this is even more serious physical contact like training at the gym. Cynthia Calvillo, one of Khabib’s teammates at AKA gym, said the following about Khabib and his unit:

“It’s a little bit weird because of their religion and stuff…They don’t talk to women you know. I mean we say ‘hi’ to each other but we can’t train with them. They won’t train with women…I don’t think any other woman does.

The Reminder

Our faith places stricter physical and social interaction boundaries between men and women. Keeping matters professional and respectful with the opposite gender need not include physical contact. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was said to have never touched non-mahram women. It was narrated that he said,

“It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is impermissible to you.”

For this reason, the majority of scholars prohibited physical contact between men and women with some exceptions (e.g. old age). Watching Khabib maintain this practice, even in public where it could potentially embarrass him and cause undue negative attention, gives us all inspiration to deal with this issue in the workplace better. He encourages us to strive for better tolerance and awareness of our faith rather than forcing us to conform.

12. Not Making a Display of The “Trophy” Wife

If you follow Khabib’s Instagram, you won’t find lewd pics of him and a significant other. In fact, you won’t find any pictures at all of him and his wife. Who she is is a mystery to all. In an age and a sport where many post photos with their romantic partners, Khabib again is a standout with his gheerah, his honorable protectiveness for his significant other.

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

We are again reminded that a part of manhood is to have protective ghayrah, jealousy over one’s spouse. Ibn al-Qayyim also said, bringing in the concept of chivalry,

“The dayyuth / cuckold is the vilest of Allah’s creation, and Paradise is forbidden for him [because of his lack of ghayrah]. A man should be ‘jealous’ with regards to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general, but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in not allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.”

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

Finally, it should be noted there is no real scholarly disagreement on prohibiting striking the face. Recognizing this, Khabib stated when asked if “he thinks the AlMighty will be satisfied with him for taking part in haram fights for money,” he replied, “I don’t think so.”

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

“You go to mosque because nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and we have to ask Allah to forgive us. This is very important mentally, to be clear with Allah. This is not about the UFC. There is nothing else more important to me than being clear with Allah. And being clear with Allah is the No. 1 most hard thing in life.”

The Reminder

We as human beings aren’t perfect – perfection is only for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We all make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes large, but in the end, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is ready to forgive us if we’re willing to recognize our failings and ask to be forgiven.  Allah says in the Qur’an in 2:222:

“Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”

There are no sins so great that redemption is beyond any of us. Whatever Khabib’s flaws, his value as a positive change maker and faith-based role model globally outweighs his negatives.

Part of seeking forgiveness is the process, and the first part of that process is acknowledging the mistake. This means not being in denial about it or not justifying it, just owning it. As Khabib has owned his mistake publicly, there is no need for us to try and justify it either.

We can own that there are problems with MMA and the industry, in participating as well as watching and supporting. At the same time, we can do as Dr Hatem al-Hajj said about Muhammad Ali:

Concluding Thoughts

While UFC pundits will forever debate over the greatest of all time, there is in doubt that Khabib Nurmogomedov, the first Muslim UFC champion, will always be our GOAT.

I ask that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepts the good from what Khabib has done, rewards him tremendously for the inspiration he’s given us all to better focused on the akhirah, the next life, and continues to make him a powerful sports icon who uses his platform as Muhammad Ali did to teach Islam and exemplify it in the best way for all of us to benefit and follow.

Ameen.

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