Lecture by Mufti Ismail Menk | Transcribed by Hayley B.
[The following is the video and transcript of Mufti Ismail Menk’s lecture entitled ‘Purification Of The Soul.’ The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity].
A`ūthu billāhi min ash-shaytānir rajeem. Bismillāhir Rahmānir Raheem.
[Surat Al-Qasas ; 76-78]
We commence by praising Allāh , sending blessings and salutations upon Muhammad . We ask the Almighty to bless him and his entire household; those who supported him from day one. And we ask Allāh to bless all his companions as well as every single one of us and our offspring to come up to the day of qiyāmah. Not forgetting those who have struggled and strove through the years, in order to preserve this deen in a way that today it has come to us. May Allāh use us to do the same for the future generations.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Islām, this evening we will be talking about the purification of the soul. The believer as you know is only successful if he develops his link with his maker and cleanses his heart. We refer to the heart, we refer to the soul. Allāh speaks about cleansing oneself from the sins that are apparent as well as those that are hidden. So in the Qur’ān he says,
“Watharoo thāhira alithmi wabātinah” [Surah Al An’am ; 120]
“Leave and abandon all sins whether they are outward or inward.”
And I’m sure we all know that the outward sins are quite clear for everyone to see. Those which are inside are sometimes completely invisible to the rest. It is only through interaction that some of them can be picked up and sometimes even with interaction some of these sins can not be picked up. So it is up to us to purify not only the soul but the heart, knowing that some of the scholars refer to the heart and the soul using the same term and some have separated the two.
If the heart is pure and good, the whole body will be pure and good
What we do need to understand is that the heart is described in the hadith of halāl and harām which appears in Sahīh Muslim, narrated by an-Nu’man ibn Bashir “Halāl is quite clear and harām is also quite clear”. And between the two there may be a grey area where people may not know is this halāl or is this harām.” So the hadeeth continues to say “Whoever stays away from that which is doubtful has protected himself and his religion and whoever falls into that which is doubtful has fallen into harām.” If I can stop there for a moment and quickly explain. If a person were to be told that this particular piece of food that you’re about to eat is poisonous and as soon as you put it in your mouth you will die. And twenty people are saying that to him and another twenty say “No don’t worry it’s fine, it’s okay, we’ve checked it out and so on and you can eat it.” That is a very clear example of what we are saying today, meaning in this hadeeth. If you were to put it in your mouth, it’s as though you’ve committed suicide. You’re gone. You’ve killed yourself, because twenty are saying this and twenty are saying that. And if you were to leave it, you would save yourself completely. So there is no risk involved by leaving it and yet by taking it you are definitely risking your life. This is as far as a food stuff goes which may be poisonous. But when it comes to the deen and what Allāh has revealed and sent down, there are things that are clear, things that are not clear for some and the clarity is either this way or that way. You know this is permissible and this is not permissible. That is clear. But sometimes there is a debated issue in the center. If you are to protect yourself from it, perhaps you will be able to safeguard your deen. And in this particular narration some may say that this is speaking more about food stuff and so on, but the wording of Rasoolullāh goes far beyond anything that can be termed halāl or harām is included in this particular narration.
Then the hadith continues to say “Similar to a shepherd who has allowed his flock to graze upon the border of his land not knowing whether it has gone onto the land of the neighbor because the demarcation is not so clear.” So there is a point up to which he knows this is my land. Beyond that he is not so clear. Is this my land or is it not my land? So when he goes to that grey area, he doesn’t know whether it’s his or not. What a big risk. He is now grazing his sheep, as a shepherd, on land that may not be his. And this is why the narration continues to say “Behold every king has limits. Limits beyond which you are not allowed or you will not be allowed to cross. Every king has rules, regulations and indeed the limits of Allāh are those things he has made prohibited.” Don’t go there! Subhān Allāh.
Then it continues making mention of the heart and this is what we are trying to get to “Behold in the body there is a piece of flesh. If it is pure and clean and good, the entire body will be pure and clean and good. And if it is dirty, impure and not good, then the whole body will be dirty, impure and not good. Behold, that organ or that piece of flesh is the heart.” Subhān Allāh. So if your heart is clean, everything else will be okay. If your heart is dirty, everything else will be dirty.
Accepting advice from others
And when we say clean heart, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are just a person who’s non-judgmental. You see sometimes they say “Don’t judge me” when you’re giving them advice. You say “Brother you’re not supposed to be go to the nightclub”, “Hey stop judging me”, “What are you talking about, we’re just advising you.” So don’t use the term “Do not judge me” in order to run away from advice. Sometimes it becomes difficult for the scholars or for those who want to advise others. “Sister your hair is supposed to be covered, sister you’re supposed to be dressing in a proper way”, “My brother you’re not supposed to be bouncing around on the street with your backside half showing”. Allāhu Akbar. “Stop judging me”, “Well your backside’s judging you!” Allāhu Akbar. And this happens and we get these answers on a daily basis. Well to be honest nobody’s judging. But it does not mean that if a person has uttered these type of words that their heart is dirty. No brother, sister! They are advising you for your better.
Wallāhi moments ago I was listening to a clip in the Urdu language of one of the cricketers in Pakistan. I don’t even know exactly who he is but I believe he is one of the top cricketers of the globe. And he was making mention of who his real friends are. You know what he said? He said “The real friends are the `ulamā’. My real friends are those scholars who keep reminding me what is my duty to Allāh, what is halāl and harām and the fact that I am going to go into my grave with nobody, no cricket bat and no ball and no score and nothing from the Guinness Book of Records, but just me and my own records; the deeds I’ve done.” Imagine a cricketer, a man who’s one of the top on the globe confirming that those scholars who continue reminding me, telling me that I am a person who’s going to go into my grave all alone. Those are my true friends. Subhān Allāh.
What about us? What do we have next to our names? Do we hate the people who remind us? If that’s the case, purification of the heart and soul is required. We ask Allāh to help us purify. Wallāhi it is a difficult age that we are moving in because people do not realize that when others are reminding you to purify your soul, your heart, they are not judging you. They are helping you. They are giving you a word of encouragement. Don’t just give that answer. That is an answer that sometimes the globe gives in order to get away with murder, to keep on committing sin. “We will not judge you, we love you my sister but we don’t love your bad habit. We love you my brother, we don’t love your bad habit.” I was about to say we don’t love your backside. Allāhu Akbar. Wallāhi it’s true.
Thinking of people, wallāhi my brother we love you. We really want you, that’s why we are telling you don’t do that. We had an image doing its rounds on the internet, with some of the scholars had to say “Please don’t, you know, send this around.” Because they were showing jumu`ah. I think it was two weeks ago in a masjid. Okay let’s not say where it was in case you might recognize the brother, but they were showing him making his Sunnah as the khutbah is going on. And the people behind him was so harmed and hurt, they had to get up and some of them you know sharp enough to pick up their phones and say lets you know, tell the people what’s happening around here. May Allāh safeguard us. We should not be exposing people but the people should not be exposing themselves. Allāhu Akbar.
Cleansing the heart of hatred
So my brothers and sisters, lets purify our souls for the pleasure of Allāh . How does this happen? We need to do something about it. Don’t think that I just make a du`ā’ “Ya Allāh clean me, purify my soul” and it will. Du`ā’ is a part of it, definitely. “Allāhumma yā muqallibal quloob, thabbit qulubee `alā deenik.” The Prophet used to say “O Allāh in whose hands” or “O Allāh who is the owner of the movement of the hearts, move my heart towards the deen – on the deen. Keep it steadfast.” But that statement will be of no use if you do not have an intention to purify yourself.
Work hard on matters like hatred. Remove that hatred for your fellow brothers in the deen and have hatred for sin rather than the individual whom you are supposed to be looking at saying “This is my brother in Islām.” If you are supposed to be hating people because of a sin they may be committing, remember everybody will hate everybody because none of us can put up our hands and say “We are sinless.” Can anyone now, here, put up their hands and say “I’m spotless, sinless, I have not sinned?” Not one! Subhān Allāh. Not one! Not even myself because we are human beings. So the reality, we will hate the sin, we will hate the shirk, we will hate the bid`ah, but we will work on the brother or the sister in a way that we will try to help them come out of that shirk, come out of that bid`ah, come out of that sin for example. But at the same time remembering that this is a person who has declared the shahādah and I have as well. They may have sinned differently to me, but in the same way I want to be helped, I need them to be helped and I will try my best to do that or at least make du`ā’ for them.
Making du`ā’ and giving naseeha
This is why we say, you see a brother with a bottle in his hand. A bad Muslim would go around Tweeting that and go around Facebook-ing it and WhatsApp-ing it and so on-ing it. Subhān Allāh. Why? Because they want the world to know “I saw that man with a bottle.”
But a good Muslim will do one of two things or both. They will either go to the brother, say “Brother you know what this is something bad and you know you’re a Muslim, come on you know insha’Allāh there’s much goodness expected from you by the will of Allāh. You’re such a great person, you have so much potential, this thing is not going to do you any good.” Engage them. Not swearing. Engage them properly to say look this is something that is unacceptable in the deen. You know, it will cause a lot of damage, a lot of harm. If you quit this I think there are a lot of good habits that you have. Just quit this and so on and Allāh may open the brother’s doors through your effort and you will be granted goodness. “For Allāh to use you to guide a single person is better for you than anything of the highest material value in this world.” May Allāh bless us all. That is point number one. You either go to him or someone who has an effect or impact on him and perhaps tell them to talk to him if you can not talk to him.
And secondly make du`ā’ for that brother. “Ya Allāh, today I witnessed someone with a bottle. It hurt me, Ya Allah. Ya Allah, guide them, help them to remove the bottle. Help them to give up that bad habit and help me to give up whatever bad habits I have.” Allāhu Akbar. This is purity of the heart now. With that du`ā’ and that naseeha, if Allah wills that person’s heart will come onto the right path within a matter of time. We know so many people who had very bad pasts, but now when they’ve come up straight, subhān Allāh, they’ve gone very far in life in terms of the deen and become closer to Allāh . So many of us, perhaps we are much better today than we were yesterday. May Allāh grant us goodness.
Remaining patient when giving naseeha
This is why we say, brother when you have become religious, remember when you are inviting others towards religion, you also came about slowly. So give them a little bit of time. The problem with us, we come on the deen after fifty years and everyone else we give them five minutes. Wallāhi, it’s a problem in the ummah. We are facing it, we are not patient. We are supposed to be patient as Muslimeen. It took you forty years to recognize your Maker. Why do you want to in four minutes create such a situation that remove a man from the whole fold of the deen. Kick him out, curse him to the degree that you’ve buried him alive and you haven’t given him more than four minutes to repent. You took forty years my brother. Thank Allāh he showed you the light. Allāhu Akbar. Work on them, continue working on them. The Prophet’s nubūwwah was not twenty-three minutes, nor was it twenty-three days, nor was it twenty-three months. It was twenty-three solid years. Allāhu Akbar.
So purify your heart when it comes to your relation with others because there is something known has huqooqul`ibād through which a lot of what your heart conceals becomes manifest. We hate for the sake of Allāh the deeds that are done in the displeasure of Allāh. We may hate for the sake of Allāh those who have absolutely no goodness in them and they have damaged the deen or they have caused lots of damage to those who follow the deen.
Giving da`wah – Every non-Muslim is a potential Muslim
But remember even the non-Muslims, every single non-Muslim is a potential Muslim. If you loose focus on that, you have lost the path. For as long as they are breathing there is hope. Who is ready to invite them in the proper way? Allāhu Akbar.
A very big statement that brings tears to the eyes. Every non-Muslim. When the Prophet made a du`ā’ for the enemies of Islām, one of the prayers were “Allāhummah a`izzal Islāma biahadil `Umarain” “O Allāh, grant strength to this deen through the acceptance of Islām of one of the two `Umars.” One was known as `Umar ibn al-Khattāb later to be known as, and the other one `Amr ibn Hishām who was known as Abu Jahl. No sooner was the du`ā’ made, response came from Allāh . This man came marching into this house of al-Arqam ibn Abi’l Arqam as the books of history have made mention.
So Rasoolullāh knew that Allāh is the One who guides. Just like he guided me, he may guide you or anyone on the street. So remember, when we say cleanse your heart and do not be judgmental we need to understand what this statement means. May Allāh make us people who realize that we would like to help one another to become steadfast on the deen. And that help can happen in so many different ways, depending on the authority that Allāh has given you as well.
Cleansing the heart of envy
If we have hatred in our hearts. Now lets talk about general hatred, not necessarily whilst giving da`wah. But at the same time hatred in our hearts for someone, for some reason, normally it stems from jealousy. Not every time but a lot of the times. Because Allāh has blessed someone with more wealth, with more knowledge, with more acceptance, perhaps with greater looks. You know you have a woman who’s extremely beautiful or a girl who’s extremely good-looking and sometimes you have other girls who make her life so difficult and her crime is just that she is gorgeous. I would have told you to say mā shā’Allāh, but it’s abstract. There’s no one in particular we’re talking about. Allāhu Akbar. So al-hamdulillāh, all you can say is “In sha’Allāh.” Allāhu Akbar. My brothers and sisters, wallāhi, do not become jealous of the favors that Allāh has bestowed others, just because you don’t have it. Don’t! It will result in the dirty heart. The heart will become unclean, filthy and it will require cleansing.
Cleansing the heart with Thikrullāh
Cleansing of the heart is also done through what is known as thikrullāh because everything has a detergent and the detergent of the heart is the remembrance of Allāh. But I’d like to interpret the term thikrullāh in its broader context. Thikrullāh starts with understanding the meaning of the Qur’ān. That’s where it starts. That’s the beginning of it. Because the thikr that is mentioned in the Qur’ān so many times, it directly refers to the Qur’ān and at times it refers to the Sunnah of Muhammad . So remember you need to know the message of Allāh, in order to have your heart purified. What did Allāh say to me? I always, always say it is a big insult. Some of us, how old we are, how regular we are with our salāh, yet we have not made an effort to understand the meanings of what we utter in salāh. Wallāhi it is an insult. We don’t even know what is meant by
“Alhamdu lillāhi rabbi al`ālameen, Arrahmāni arraheem, Māliki yawmi addeen” [Surah Fathiha ; 2-4]
Some people do not know the meaning and some people do not think of the meaning when they are uttering these words. So what value do you have? How is your heart going to be impacted? Look at the hearts of those who were the sahābah . When they heard a single verse their lives changed. When they heard one verse, their hearts were purified! `Umar ibn al-Khattāb himself, who was an enemy of Islam, the opening verses of Surah Tāhā were read to him. Not more than a few lines were read to him. He began to tremble. Immediately his heart was cleansed because he had that sincerity in his heart. For a moment it was struck with sincerity and he said “Take me to Muhammad .” Guided from kufr to īmān in a split moment because of the Qur’ān. And this has happened to so many people. It has happened to people around us in our midst, perhaps some who might be seated here. Reverted immediately. Allāhu Akbar. Why? They read the Qur’ān and realized, this is the word of Allāh.
I always tell people, you know I have an MP3 disc in my vehicle, given to me by someone in Malaysia. A brother. Allāh grant him goodness. And on it, there is the entire Qur’ān just in the English language. So the `Arabic has been, you know separated. Now we know the importance of the `Arabic and the English and he says “This is extremely beneficial to those who speak the language.” And I thought to myself, look, to me the `Arabic is powerful, the English is fair enough trying to explain what the `Arabic is, but the word of Allāh is that particular `Arabic. You can not compromise it. So I thought to myself let me put it in and try and listen to what is being said. And I had a non-Muslim sit in my car once. One who had come to do some work and I was taking him back to his place. I saw tears in his eyes. Four of five surahs were read within a short space of time in the English language alone and he told me “What is this?” And I said “What do you think it is?” He said “It’s something powerful!” He said “It has to be the book you guys follow” I said “It is” “Can I come to your place of worship?” “By all means brother.” Subhān Allāh. I think within a short space of time, may Allāh grant him guidance to the deen. Ameen.
That’s when I realized, I said you know what? Sometimes when people are just going through even the meaning of it, because they understand it, it impacts differently. Without reducing the importance of the tilāwah in the `Arabic language. Because indeed that is on a level of its own. But at the same time remember the impact of that, if you understand what you’re reading, is totally different. You need that as well. So your purification will start when you have made an intention to understand the word of Allāh. I said moments ago, they heard four verses of the Qur’ān, they embraced Islām. We have read what we know as khatmah upon khatmah upon khatmah once a month, sometimes once a week, sometimes once every two months. We’ve completed the entire mushaf, but brother you can not give up your pornography. A`oothu billāh.
Abstaining from Pornography
It did not move you. Pornography is the problem of the age, wallāhi. It’s a difficulty. It affects your eyes, your brain, your mind, your organs, your reproductive system, the way you look at the opposite sex, your marriage. Absolutely everything is made rotten through a cancer because of your eyes perceiving some dirty sexual movements of the opposite sex. Totally harām, completely unacceptable but available on your phone.
Today I was speaking to some brothers on our journey back from Birmingham and I made mention of a very interesting point. Your mobile phone that you have my brothers, my sisters can take you to jannah or jahannam. Remember that. The way you use it. You have any scholar on the globe that Allāh has used to affect you and impact you at your fingertips. At the time of your convenience, in your bedroom, subhān Allāh. Perhaps, whilst you’re lying down, you can click every night either on a scholar where you can listen to something regarding your deen and go to bed feeling a good Muslim.
Or you can click onto a pornographic site and perhaps you will be caught in that web which will take you very, very, far away. It’s to do with how clean or dirty your heart is. If you want to purify yourself, you need to force yourself, before you go to bed. Click that phone, listen to a ten minute clip of a scholar of your choice, subhān Allāh, and then go to bed. Everyday that ten minute dose will wake you up but if you have a one minute dose of that which is pornographic or ugly or dirty or unacceptable, wallāhi it is like a seed that grows and when the tree grows big, it’s going to be very hard to uproot it. My brothers, my sisters get rid of it now. Now! Make an intention here and now “Ya Allāh if you take me before I exit this masjid, let me be a pure person. I seek forgiveness for all my sins. I change my life.” Allāhu Akbar. How many more scholars would you like to hear before you change your life? Before you decide to purify that heart of yours. Without an effort from you, the heart is not going to be purified. When you have your own kitchen and you’ve cooked your food and your pans are dirty, you can not just look at the pans and expect them to become clean. Even if you’ve got a dishwasher, you’ve got to pick the thing up, put it in the dishwasher, chose the detergent, turn on the water, press the button. Then things happen. Subhān Allāh. We still don’t have the eye control of the pan. And if you thought you did they’d take you to the hospital, believe me. May Allāh safeguard us.
So these are powerful words of reminder for myself to begin with. My brother, my sister, how do you use your Twitter account? What type of a profile do you have? How do you use your Facebook account? It can take you to paradise or it can drive you to hell, very easily. Believe me, it’s up to you when you press click and when you press like and it’s up to you to go home and dislike or to dislike it here and now whilst we’re talking. Because I know there are brothers, perhaps maybe even sisters busy on their phones whilst we’re talking. To be honest, I actually don’t see a single one, mā shā’Allāh. Allāhu Akbar. So I need to swallow back my word.
But this is what it is. If your heart is dirty, it begins to show your own self. You can see it, your mind can figure it out. Why because you lead a life. What will happen to it? It will be full of bunk. You know it will be so narrow, full of depression, full of stress, full of lack of contentment. Where is my contentment gone? It’s gone with the pornographic site. It’s gone with the adultery that you can not give up. Adultery is a seed. Wallāhi if you sow it and you water it; watering means you return to it, and you water it more, you return to it more, it grows a tree. When the tree becomes big and strong, it becomes more difficult to uproot it. You become hooked onto it, to the degree that it’s just like second nature. No regret thereafter until you die in a condition. May Allāh safeguard us.
We had some brothers who came to me some time back, telling me, you know what do we do, our father was looking like such a religious man and he died in the midst of two prostitutes with beer bottles. Do you want that to be the end of your life? May Allāh protect us all. A`oothu billāh. May Allāh safeguard us. Well if that’s the case do not let that be a probability. Rather let salāh be a probability. If you engage in five salāh, the chances of you dying in salāh are very great. Do you know that? There are so many who have died in sujood and rukoo`. But if you don’t read salāh there’s no chance of that happening to you. Not at all. May Allāh take us away whilst we’re in His obedience and may he protect us really, that we are not disgraced, dying in His disobedience.
MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims
“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide
As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within the Muslim community.
The first in this series, the MuslimARC Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. It is a tool and resource for engaging in conversations about racism and provides guidance in how to truly be a good ally to Muslims of color in this anti-racism work.
The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.
We cannot always be aware when we say or write something that reflects our own white privilege and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of color. In our own experience in developing this Guide, we worked to practice that approach when we received feedback from other MuslimARC members and incorporated their analysis to strengthen this work.
My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of color especially women, when I had to not only check my white privilege, but also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you. As one behavior the Guide suggests we avoid, “Don’t assume what People of Color need and try to swoop in to deliver. Instead, ask what you can do.”
For the white Muslim audience of the Guide, in reading this you will automatically feel defensive either that others may do these things but not me or that none of this behavior is based on racism or white privilege. Our advice is to examine that defensiveness and take the opportunity not to act on it, but instead, consider some of the alternative approaches we recommend in the Guide.
The Guide provides a review of our role in addressing racism in the ummah; description of some of the ways white Muslims perpetuate racism; and specifically, how to be actively anti-racist in our work. A list of educational resources is provided including available training; articles on white Muslims and allyship; and guides to anti-racist parenting. A last and very important part of the Guide is organizations like MuslimARC that you can be involved in to do this anti-racist work.
“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another.” (49:13) One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” the different races and groups Allah has put us in, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire self-knowledge about our white privilege as Muslims and help us to get to know how to be better allies to our brothers and sisters of color.
You can find the #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/
Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?
High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.
Salma and Yousef:
Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.
Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.
This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.
Sarah and Hasan:
Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.
The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.
Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:
The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.
This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:
- The Family Unit In Islam
- Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
- The Nuclear Family
- The Extended Family
Hamza and Tamika
Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad .
The Family Unit in Islam
We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.
The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.
Layla and Ibrahim
Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived. Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.
As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.
Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?
The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.
How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.
Each person in the family has a role which Allah has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.
What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.
Razan and Farhaan
Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.
Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?
Mawaddah and Rahma
The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.
Aliyaah and Irwan
Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.
Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.
There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad reminds us,
“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).
Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.
Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah). Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide. An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.
Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change
Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.
When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.
We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.
Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.
One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.
“اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”
“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? ”
The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.
Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.
A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.
Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.
My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”
Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.
*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind
Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.
 Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.