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Slavery: A Past and Present Tragedy | Video by Imam Omar Suleiman

Recent headlines about Islam and slavery have shaken many. Bayyinah TV hosted a webinar exploring the past and present manifestations of slavery, and how Islam and other religions viewed it. A brutally honest program that discussed this topic in great depth. Video starts at 29:20.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR50Lw_16zo[/youtube]

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sarah

    October 5, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    I’m surprised at Umer Suleiman for covering up the history of how slavery was used and abused in the Muslim world. The people listening to this seminar are not fools – it’s academically dishonest to imply that Imam Shafi3i was talking about consent in your quote of him. He was specifically talking about if a foreign man forces himself on someone else’s slave woman. The traditional scholars did not conceive of a slave woman’s consent to sex from her owner, since her body was already considered owned by him, and it is arguable that the Sahaba did not do so as well – since I doubt that women whose families had just been killed would be jumping into willing sexual relationships with their captors, and since the Sahaba take for granted the idea that they have access ti women’s bodies. The concept of having to wait a mourning period to have sex with concubines is not what the Sahaba practiced, as can be seen in the various ahadith and incidents where they approached a slave woman immediately after bringing her home from capture. And finally, even the assertion that slavery in the Muslim world was not race based is untrue – there were many instances of deep racism that was justified via citing the Biblical texts (israeeliyat).

    This seminar, whilst reassuring us as to how abolition is Islamic, basically fails to address the real question, which is that of consent. Anyone with half a brain realizes that this is the real issue for any listener, since it leaves no distinction between concubinage and rape. And yet it seems that we would rather comfort ourselves than face the bald facts – which is deeply hypocritical.

    • Avatar

      Zeemar

      October 8, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      Please provide textual quotes with references for everything you’ve claimed above. Currently, it all just smells of BS.

      • Avatar

        Jasha

        October 11, 2015 at 2:07 AM

        Hi Zeemar,

        Koran 4:24: “Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess…”

        Muslim 3433: “Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possessout of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention” when their ‘idda period comes to an end…They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed:” And women already married except those whom you right hands possess” .

        Muslim 4345: “I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) met me in the street and said: “Give me that girl.”

        Much more evidence is being added on the Youtube video comments.

      • Avatar

        Rahin Omar

        July 29, 2016 at 2:46 PM

      • Avatar

        Truth has come

        August 3, 2016 at 2:50 AM

        Alsalamu alaykom.
        Moderators please remove the link comment above me as it is blatant falsehood. As for the refutation of all the comments above me:

        1)
        https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/06/23/what-happened-to-the-captive-women-in-awtas-incident/

        2)
        https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/07/26/surah-949-and-the-blonde-women/

        {And Say: “The truth has come and falsehood has perished. Falsehood is always bound to perish!”} (Quran 17:81)

    • Avatar

      Truth has come

      August 3, 2016 at 8:07 AM

      Assalamu alaykum :)

      It cannot be helped but to notice your post being indicative as to how you approached the webinar, which is too biased to say the least, sister. Moreover you have stated clear falsehood regarding the Sahaba as the Hadith(s) you are referring to have all been famously misinterpreted by Islamophobes to support perverted agendas that holds no water. There are multiple sites that address the hadiths in truth such as: https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/06/23/what-happened-to-the-captive-women-in-awtas-incident/

      Umar Suleiman provided many evidences from various angles that rape is Haram whether to a free person or a slave and you are stuck with his quote of Imam Shafi3i? And in addition jumping immediately to the conclusion of calling him academically dishonest? That is too biased, dear sister. Have a bit of good thann (assumption) of others.

      In any case, he replied to your Shafi3i point and more in the followup QA video he made: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4sVo_-j2THE

      Anyways I took the time to correct you.

      How many hadiths or even possibly 1 hadith (for the clean-minded) closes the entire case yet Islamophobes go to great extents to lie just to try and prove their twisted agendas while ignoring the ocean of authentic proofs that easily refute them. Truly deeply hypocritical, yet they love to “comfort” themselves by self-delusion.

      Here’s a few and I only kindly ask to sit & ponder on each point and not simply read:

      1)
      The Islamic principle in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

      “There should be no harming or reciprocating harm.” 

      2)
      one of his last words and advices:

      “The prayer, the prayer! And fear Allaah with regard to those whom your right hands possess. ”
      emphasising the importance of taking care of slaves.

      3)
      In Islam, a mere slap to the slave equals the slave to be freed.

      Narrated Suwaid bin Muqarrin Al-Muzani:
      “We were seven brothers without a servant except one, and ONE OF US SLAPPED her, so THE PROPHET ORDERED US TO FREE HER.”
      (Jami` at-Tirmidhi volume 3, Book 18, Hadith 1542) 

      If a mere slap was prohibited and the captive was set free, then by default rape which is a much bigger crime is Haram (forbidden in Islam).

      4)
      Let us look at how Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him dealt with the rapists:

      Narrated Wa’il ibn Hujr:

      “When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) for prayer, a man attacked her and overpowered (raped) her.  She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: That (man) did such and such to me. And when a company of the Emigrants came by, she said: That man did such and such to me. They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.

      She said: Yes, this is he. Then they brought him to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him).  When he (the Prophet) was about to pass sentence, the man who (actually) had assaulted her stood up and said: Apostle of Allah, I am the man who did it to her.

      He (the Prophet) said to the woman: Go away, for Allah has forgiven you.  And about the man who had intercourse with her, he said: Stone him to death

      He also said: He has repented to such an extent that if the people of Medina had repented similarly, it would have been accepted from them. 
      (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4366)

      5)
      this would go on forever however I’ll end with this as it’d be an article if I continued posting the endless ocean of proofs.

      This is my favorite to be honest:

      There is a whole chapter in Saheeh Muslim called:

      “(18) Chapter: His Compassion Towards Women And His Command To Treat Them Kindly”

      In this chapter there is only 1 hadith which has different wordings.

      The Hadith is as follows:

      Anas b. Malik reported that Umm Sulaim was with the wives of Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) and a camel-driver had been driving (the camels) oil which they were riding. Thereupon Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) said:

      “Anjasha, drive slowly, for you are carrying (on the camels) vessels of glass.” Saheeh Muslim 2323

      Do you know what the Prophet (peace be upon him) meant by vessels of glass?

      He meant women, as they are delicate and must be taken care of gently. If we were to ponder on this hadith alone, it’s sufficient as evidence.

      And that’s why the chapter is named so beautifully.

      Anyone with a clean and sane mind would already come to the conclusion that rape is unacceptable in Islam to a free or a slave by just reading any one of those hadiths.

      Each and every hadith above is sufficient on its own if given proper insight and pondering.

      Moreover, any person who reads the seerah (biography) of the Prophet ( peace be upon him ) would reject such perverted accusations and see them for what they really are: baseless lies.

      No man can ever be equal in righteousness of the Prophet ( peace be upon him ) as he have reached the epitome of all praised & noble qualities, even unbiased non-Muslim historians and great thinkers affirm this.

      Lastly, Islamic morality by its very nature does not allow any immoral & wicked acts in any way shape or form.

      Hope this helps sister :)

      May Allah guide us all to see what is truth as truth and see what is case hood as falsehood.

      {And Say: “The truth has come and falsehood has perished. Falsehood is always bound to perish!”} (Quran 17:81)

  2. Avatar

    Spirituality

    October 5, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    Is it just Imam Shafii who says consent is required or is there ijmaa (consensus) on this issue?

  3. Avatar

    saqib

    October 6, 2015 at 3:37 AM

    Islam introduced the concept of no slavery in such a manner that that one one was in loss.
    1- freedom of slaves in the form of fine, Quran readers know well that there is fine of freedom of slaves if someone fails to abide by his outh (Qasam), breaking Fast , Zahaar ,
    2- Quran ordered his followers to make a written agreements with their slaves to earn agreed amount and give it to his/her owner .
    3- Slave Deserves first all of the compulsory spending ( Zakat , Khums ) and optional spending.
    History lovers tell the stories of slaves while if you use your common sense you can understand that no slave can exist after the order of written agreement.
    4- Allah closed the door of future slaves by saying that prisoners should be free after receiving some compensation amount and if u like you may show generosity and free the slaves without any reward. ( Allah will reward you on Judgement day )

  4. Avatar

    sara

    October 10, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    Islam condemns slavery. There are rules and regulations, circumstances the matter of Captives and slavery in Islam
    Here look at this video, it briefly covers the whole topic, I was surprised and very content to find this video.
    watch “The Captives and Slaves in Islam” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWUwFUhsFvE&index=21&list=PLuItTHxlUy9lAWoRu_ObTF7WCLVHG4mii

    • Avatar

      Peter

      October 22, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      It does not condemn slavery, it regulates it.

      If it condemned slavery, it would say owning slaves, any slaves is evil. The old testament of the Bible does not condemn slavery either. The lack of true condemnation of something so obviously immoral, are holes in both books.

      In the matters of some basic human rights, there is no shades of grey. Slavery is one of those issues.
      Under modern laws, we do not view slavery in any form legal or moral. The ownership of one human by another is abhorrent. Slavery is one matter that unfortunately, books and values of the past were slaves to the social environments that they emerged from, and have left an immoral legacy.

      • Avatar

        saqib

        February 3, 2016 at 5:02 AM

        Quran ordered his followers to make a written agreements with their slaves to earn agreed amount and give it to his/her owner . After paying the agreed amount slaves were free

        • Avatar

          Peter

          February 3, 2016 at 6:42 AM

          What you posted is true, and it is regulating slavery, not condemning it.

          It is like telling people a nice way to rob someone, or a nice way to murder someone.

          By today’s standards, it does not measure up.

      • Avatar

        saqib

        February 4, 2016 at 3:25 AM

        this order was for the slaves which were already present, for new prisoners Quran ordered ” either release war prisoners by taking some money or free them in the way of God ”
        so Islam was the first religion which condemns slavery. The concept of making new slaves has no room in Islam

  5. Avatar

    Bob

    October 10, 2015 at 3:35 PM

    It is easy to find passages in the Koran which appear to promote or at least accept sexual slavery; see below: (“those whom thy right hand possesses” is an expression for slavery)

    Koran 33.50
    O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; …

    Koran 23.5 – 6
    (The believers) Who abstain from sex,
    Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,

    These references should come as no surprise since slavery was a rather common institution at the time.

  6. Avatar

    Ali ibn Abdullah

    October 22, 2015 at 5:12 PM

    My previous posts supporting Islam are removed and yet anti-Islamic posts remain. It seems this website may be disingenuous; my comments could not be disproven in an academic discussion but were simply deleted; censorship for no good reason is oppressive and differences in opinion and dialogue are healthy. In the hope that some administrators are actually pro-Islam, pro-freedom and have a conscience, I will address the disbeliever’s comments, just in case they are genuinely interested or God forbid they succeed in harming the faith of other Muslims with their posts. If the administrators wish to delete this first paragraph they are welcome but please ask yourselves why my comments were deleted and perhaps re-examine your motivation for working here; it doesn’t seem to be for the sake of Allah (Azza wa Jall) and if my guess is correct, then you are choosing a hapless journey’s end. This will be my last attempt to post here since encouraging liberty and freedom from economic slavery (usury and ribba) is not something that Shaytan, or you guys, can tolerate.

    Allah (swt) did not just free slaves immediately – this would be cruel and heartless because where could they go and how could they live? Slaves had no land or home of their own, no income and no local family because often their homelands were far away and their environment was new to them. It is unlikely they would find employment because of asabiyyah (prejudice, racism). If the slaves were suddenly set free and dumped on the streets they may either starve or resort to crime.

    The wisdom of Islam is sublime genius in every way – no human could have figured out how best to deal with this awful situation. Allah (swt) eradicated slavery by forbidding the collecting of innocent humans to be used as slaves and by forbidding the selling and purchasing of such slaves. For those who were already ‘owned’, He (swt) made the slave-owners responsible for them in every way with numerous conditions; that the master must be fair and just and honour and respect his slave. He cannot beat or rape the slave. The slave has the right to demand a salary and to build up their savings. The slave must eat the same food as his master. The master must provide everything for a comfortable and fulfilling life, including and especially an education (in America 1200 years later, if a slave even knew the letter ‘A’ their master might cut off their fingers).

    It is a little more complicated than this and I suggest further research but Islam made it so much of a burden to keep the slaves that existed prior to Islam, and eventually they could afford to free themselves gently so that they are fully independent and so no harm should come to them during their transition to liberty.

    In Islam, the only legitimate slaves now are prisoners of war; the enemy who aggresses against the Muslims because of their faith, and is then defeated, loses some of their rights (other religions or cultures might kill them or imprison them in harsh conditions). Muslims are not permitted to harm their prisoners and they must be treated with dignity (unlike what happens at Guantanamo). It is necessary to try and prevent the enemy soldiers and their families from later regrouping their army and repeating their attacks so by making them slaves and limiting their ability to gather military equipment or to pay for another army, both sides can avoid further violence and losses. The beauty of this is not only for the safety of the Muslims but also for the souls of the enemy soldiers who will be educated and introduced to the Holy Teachings of Islam and Muslim life. Often the slaves would convert or at least have a better understanding of our faith so that further hostilities would be less likely.

    The enemies who brought their women with them while invading the Muslims, and were defeated in battle, were taken as slaves for reasons I described above and so that they would be cared for properly in the event of them being widowed or destitute. The “…right hand…” translation is likely wrong in many translations and it is more likely to be “whom your oaths possess”, possibly meaning that you must marry them before conceiving children (confirmed by An-Nisaa 4:3 and 24:33). Islam gives slaves more rights than free souls and among these rights is that the female slaves may associate in the presence of their male owners without a chaperone (Islam forbids free association between genders who are not closely related / married). It would not be fair to deny these women intimacy or children so Allah (swt) also permits them to be married if they both wish – that is why they are mentioned right next to the wives in both these verses.

    This is not sexual slavery; rape is always a mortal sin with severe punishments for those who don’t repent and these verses in no way condone such horrible violence. The verse I mentioned above (Al-Noor:33) is perfectly specific;
    “… As for those who seek an emancipation deal from among your slaves, make such a deal with them if you know any good in them, and give them out of the wealth of Allah which He has given you. Do not compel your female slaves to prostitution when they desire to be chaste, seeking the transitory wares of the life of this world.”

    If you are Christians then you are aware that the second wife of the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was a slave called Hagar [Hajar in Arabic] (see Genesis 16:1). She is greatly revered in Islam and was the mother of prophet Ishmael (pbuh).

    The most awesome nail in the coffin of slavery is the system of Islamic penalties; for example, if I break my fast even once during the days of Ramadan, one penalty for this transgression is that I must free a slave. There were many good reasons and rewards for conscientiously freeing slaves and in this way, it wasn’t long before slavery was almost unknown among sincere Muslims, without them ending up on the streets or in jails. If only the west employed this same wisdom, the plight of the freed slaves would not have been so awful. Even now we are still suffering for those transgressions.

    Islam certainly provides the most elegant way of dealing with the abomination of traditional slavery.

    • Avatar

      Peter

      October 22, 2015 at 7:56 PM

      Sorry, you claims have no basis in fact.

      To say that to release slaves is cruel defies belief. The USA released its slaves, they passed laws that slavery is illegal, Europe stopped slavery by saying you cannot own another humans, that stopped slavery in Europe.

      So you claim is illogical.

      Your claim Islam forbade slavery is equally has no basis in fact, as the last countries to outlaw slavery, we all Muslim majority countries. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states all only made slavery Illegal in 1963. That only happened because the USA forced them to make slavery illegal.

      So again your claims are not only completely wrong, but total fabrications.

      Your obvious lies and dishonesty, are a far great threat to the faith of Muslims, than anything I, or any other non Muslim here could post.

      The reason is, you draw attention to the negative actions of the followers of Islam, a side that the followers of all other religions hold too, and try and justify them. That is very wrong.

      • Avatar

        Ali ibn Abdullah

        October 24, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        Dear Peter, It is rather bad form not to include proof when making allegations of dishonesty and lies. In a civilised academic debate, such claims are redundant because the evidence itself supplants any need for disparaging statements.

        Do you expect anyone to believe that you inadvertently failed to understand the rest of the sentence and two further paragraphs where I clearly described why it is cruel to abandon a freed slave to die of starvation? Surely you are making mischief with your straw-man. A goal of Islam is to free slaves but practicality requires some vital preparations so that they survive to enjoy their freedom and live harmoniously with dignity.

        The west eventually began addressing slavery some twelve-hundred years after Islam but unfortunately, their method; that of ‘legislation’ which violently enforced the notion that all slaves must be freed immediately, was proven to be jejune and disastrous. The recent book “Sick From Freedom” by historian Jim Downs is an examination of the tragic reality of emancipation in America. His research reveals that about a quarter of the four million freed slaves either died or suffered from illness between 1862 and 1870. He states that this shameful episode was; “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century”.

        Divine guidance from Allah (swt) is always superior to human impulsiveness; in-spite of the haste to do good immediately, you and the oligarchy of the time did not foresee even the short-term grim results of this sophomoric [non]strategy. Many had to turn to crime or live as scavengers just to survive; this caused wider acceptance of racist lies such as the ‘incivility’ of freed slaves. The shadow of slavery continued with a vengeance because the essence of it still existed, and even increased, in the hearts and minds of their oppressors. The repeal of the Jim Crow laws is well documented but the oppression didn’t end in 1965; it didn’t end at all.

        Modern demographics show a disproportionally high percentage of African-Americans in jail; in 2009, U.S. Department of Justice revealed that they account for approximately 12-13% of the American population but they make up 60% of the male inmates. It is obvious to me that this is a direct result of slavery followed by decades of oppression and racist attitudes that persist until today. When all of humanity voluntarily ensures oppressed minorities have sufficient opportunity to live and thrive as equals, only then will the deep festering wound of slavery have a chance to finally heal.

        Next in your comment you condemn the Holy Teachings of Islam based upon the abysmal standards of a tyrannical self-appointed monarchy (the despotic Saud family). The Quran rejects humans fabricating their own ‘authority’ (no ‘divine right of politicians’); these insane ideas have no basis in religion or logic. Nimrod was the first pompous narcissist to crown himself ‘king’ and Allah (swt) protected Abraham (as) against his tyranny until He (swt) ended the life of Nimrod via a humble mosquito. Following a leader should be a voluntary arrangement; no one has the right to violently raise themselves, as kings, presidents or prime ministers (Al-Hujurat 49:13). This coercive rule that we are conditioned to accept is bogus. Only the prophets (as) and divinely appointed Imams (as) have been given authority and even they never transgress the natural law of Allah (swt) by claiming immunity to morality (as every coercive ‘ruler’ and ‘government’ does). Islam is a way of life that forbids violent domination by parasitic ‘ruling classes’. The allegiance of a Muslim is only to Allah (swt), His Messenger (saawa) and those he appoints. Presently in the dunya, only the Imam Mahdi (as) is qualified to lead because his purity cannot be corrupted by his position of authority.

        Your theory that all Muslims must be infallible or else their shortfalls indicate flaws in the Holy Teachings is bizarre. Christianity is never subjected to this absurd non-sequitur. It is a complement to the Noble Quran that in order to fault Islam, you can only resort to crude fallacies.

        Here is just a brief modicum of the extensive proof that slavery is forbidden in Islam: 2:256; “There shall be no compulsion in religion…” The Arabic word used for religion is ‘Deen’ which means the entire lifestyle described for Muslims. In An-Nisaa (4:29), mutually consenting trade is insisted upon (voluntaryism / mutualism in a free market – no slave-trade). 2:190 and 42:42 forbids any acts of aggression and there are countless teachings regarding standing for justice (4:135) and forbidding oppression (5:2). Islam is a clearly a ‘voluntaryist’ deen; our ‘golden rule’ is “love for your brother what you love for yourself” (Hadith 13 Bukhari & Muslim).

        Allah (swt) addressed the entrenched sin of enslaving innocents by changing hearts and that is key for effective and permanent change; this was absent in the American ’emancipation’. The first ever Muezzin (a great honour) was a freed slave of African ethnicity; all Muslims know the name Bilal and love and respect him deeply. Even a mustard seed of asabiyyah (prejudice or tribalism) will prevent the afflicted from reaching paradise. It was not accidental that the Farewell Sermon emphasised those teachings which outlaw the enslavement of innocents, oppression and inequality and I wish you would at least read this short sermon before commenting again; it beautifully précis Islam in a nutshell. It also obliterates your claims.

    • Avatar

      Halima

      October 23, 2015 at 4:41 AM

      Jazaak Allahu Gayran for your contribution to this discussion! I absolutely agree with your arguments.

      Slavery wasn’t prohibited immediately because of the consequences during that time.

      • Avatar

        Ali ibn Abdullah

        October 24, 2015 at 10:04 AM

        May Allah bless you dear sister. I only repeated what was gifted to us through our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). All thanks and praises belong to Allah (Azza wa Jall).

    • Aly Balagamwala

      Aly Balagamwala

      October 23, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      Dear Brother

      Your comments were removed due to being excessively long. Please comment short and to the point. We can’t have entire articles in the comments section.

      JazakAllahu Khairin for your understanding.

      Comments Team

      • Avatar

        Ali ibn Abdullah

        October 23, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        Dear Brother Aly, thank you for your reply. I withdraw my speculation and apologise to you. I hope Allah (swt) will forgive me for any injustice. Sadly, the other communities I have posted articles and comments upon have often deleted posts or banned my account. This happens when I counter anti-Islamic rhetoric or discuss modern methods of subjugation such as usury, haram fiat currency, the Federal Reserve private banking cartel and the myth of human ‘authority’ (government). The cartel ruling America have legalised propaganda recently and several years prior to that they admitted buying a $2.4 million ‘Sock Puppet’ software package from the corporate arms-dealer Ntrepid. This facilitates the spreading of pro-government opinion all over the internet. So please excuse my scepticism; I guess I got too used to dealing with cowardly collaborators. Freedom from subjugation and exploitation is not a popular topic among the media controlled by the ‘ruling classes’, for obvious reasons.

        I will keep it brief in future insha’Allah. May I suggest limiting the size of the comment box or having some note or written policy limiting the length or frequency of comments? I spent a couple of hours that I couldn’t really spare on this discussion and was disappointed to see the conversation vanish without explanation. Had I not bothered to complain, I would have abandoned this community, while feeling rather forlorn and without ever knowing the reason my comments were rejected.

    • Avatar

      Mohammad

      August 29, 2016 at 11:53 AM

      Brother Ali, I think your comments should be compiled in a separate article. They are very informative. I thank you for standing up.

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 20: Come to Success

Now that we have learnt about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Mercy encompasses all things, let’s now talk about coming to success.

Whenever we hear the adhan (call to prayer), there is a part where the mu’adhin (person calling the athan) calls out: “حي على الصلاة” hay ‘ala as-salaah (come to prayer). Then he says: “حي على الفلاح”- hay ‘ala al-falaah.” 

Question: Does anyone know what hay ‘ala al-falaah means?

It means ‘come to prayer, come to success.’ Is that how we usually think of success?

Question: What is your definition of success?

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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.

Yes, sometimes we think that having a good job, a nice house, and a loving family are the measurements of our success. There may be some truth to that  for this world, but how does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) measure our success?

Do you know that there is a surah in the Qur’an called “The Believers” (Al- Mu’minun), and that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises that the believers will be successful? He says:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ 

“Indeed, the believers have attained success” [23; 1]

Let’s dig a little deeper into the Arabic word for success: فلاح (falaah). Do you know that a derivative of that word فَلَّاح (fallaah) means a farmer? 

Question: What are some of the things that a farmer needs to do everyday?

Farmers need to fertilize their soil, plant seeds, pull out weeds, protect their plants from predators, and water their crops. Do you think that’s a lot of work? Do you think it’s easy to be a farmer? I want you to imagine a time when farmers couldn’t turn on a hose to water their plants. They completely relied on rain to irrigate their crops. So, they could do all of this hard work, but if there was a drought, their crops wouldn’t be able to survive. To be a farmer requires a deep sense of تَوَكُّل, tawakkul (reliance on Allah)

So, part of success is hard work, and a big part is also knowing that nothing happens without the will of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why when the muadhin tells us to come to salaah (prayer) and to come to success, we respond by saying: 

لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّٰهِ‎

“There is no power nor strength except by Allah.”

We can only come to prayer and we can only achieve success if Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wills it. The only thing in our control is the amount of effort we exert in the process. 

So, let’s be farmers; let us try our best to plant good seeds, water them, nourish them, and pray that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), places baraka (blessings) in all of our efforts! 

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The Slave Of Ar-Rahman : A Story Of Illness And Faith

Life is Life.

It is a battle against the sensory and base impulses that are within us all, manifesting at moments of trial, seeking to strip us of the innate serenity of Trust between us and The Almighty.  You hear the call to arms and rebellion in the invocation of our blessed Nabi ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him):

“I beg of You, My Lord, contentment – Ridaa – after fate strikes.”

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On occasion:

“O Allah, My Lord, I ask of You to grant me a tranquil soul that is faithful to the inevitability of meeting You, content with my destiny, and accepting of all that You have provided.”

To know Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is to accept.

To accept that all is from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

To accept that all is for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

To accept that all is to return to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

A life-changing diagnosis

March 2018: I had relocated from NY to California’s Bay Area and was working as the Executive Chef at Google in Silicon Valley. My life had been truly blessed. I was a Muslim woman who had achieved an unparalleled level of success in a male-dominated industry. Worldly success was in the palm of my hand. I thought this was it; this is what life is about. But I was about to learn that I was a misguided soul, and that a meaningful purpose was amiss.

December 3 2018:

My 38th birthday. Another typical day at work, when my phone rang.

It was the doctor. She asked if I ever had ever had an abnormal Pap before. She said: “Ms. Agha, we got the results of your Pap smear, and it shows some atypical cells. I would not worry too much, but we need to do a colposcopy.”

I honestly did not know what she meant by ‘atypical cells’ or a ‘colposcopy.’ I did some research, which gave me numerous possible outcomes; one more scarier than the other. I tried to convince myself not to be a Google doctor and not to worry unless I had to.

January 22, 2019,

I had  the colposcopy. A week following the procedure, the doctor called. She was not too pleased with the result and wanted to schedule me for a more extensive biopsy called a cone biopsy.

February 14, 2019:

I had my my cone biopsy; an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia. All went well, minus some discomfort and pain, which is typical of a procedure like that. The procedure was on a Thursday, which meant I would not have any results until Monday the 18th at the earliest.

I tried not to be very concerned and tried to stay positive. I had read that this happens in many cases, but it turns out to be nothing. Besides, I had just turned 38. You do not expect something terrible may happen to you. I had youth on my side, and I was healthy and fit.

Back at work on a Monday -which is the most demanding and busiest day in my profession- and despite being preoccupied, I was very conscious of my phone. I remember looking at it several times to see if I had missed a call from the doctor. The day went by in complete silence, and that night was restless. The next ninety-six hours were uneasy because fear and anticipation had clouded my head. This urge to know, but all I could do was wait patiently.

February 22, 2019, 9:34 AM:

The phone rings. I was in the kitchen, and immediately I dropped everything and ran to my office to take the call.

Hello?

I could hear the distress in my doctor’s voice.  She said, “Ms. Agha, I am so sorry to tell you, but you have cervical cancer. We do not know what stage it is, but I am going to set you up with an oncologist.”

I got off the phone and slumped into my office chair. I heard what the doctor said clearly, but my brain was unable to process the information. The words were replaying in my head over and over and over again. You could say I was in a state of disbelief or even shock. I did not cry. I did not tell anyone. I took a deep breath, and because I was at work, continued to work.

The forty-eight hours after the call I spent in a daze. I went about my life like a robot, without being able to process anything. I had to work; I was the boss. The doctors had gone into what I like to call “beast mode.” They bombarded me with phone calls, consent forms, appointments for MRIs, CT scans, and insurance issues. Everything sounded like it was in a foreign language. In hindsight, I could have taken time off, but that was something I did not do. I would have to be on my death bed to call time off. I put a brave front and functioned, while the voice in my head kept saying. “I have cancer.” “I have cancer.” “I have cancer.”

By Friday, I had told two very close friends, one of whom is a doctor. Their reaction naturally was one of concern, coupled with a lot of hand-holding, and reassurances that I was courageous and was going to fight it. They understood the magnitude of my diagnosis, but I still did not quite comprehend it. You could say that there was some level of denial there. It felt like an out of body experience.

I had never really been a very emotional person. I had always been tough; the years of being strong had given me this resilience, which was my armor. I could not afford to be weak; I needed to adopt a more practical and logical approach if I was to fight this. Besides, at this point, I had not even told my mother. Who would support her if I was falling apart? Just the thought of her gave me more anxiety than the tumor growing inside me.

I was born and raised in a Muslim family. Unfortunately, like many families, the focus on Islam was limited. I was, however, fortunate that around 2013, I had slowly started to take an interest and was curious to learn about my true faith. At the time of my diagnosis, I was practicing; I prayed five times a day, fasted, had been for Umrah, took part in the necessary obligations that were expected of me—living an honest life striving to do the best. Thus far, this was my understanding of faith. I knew nothing different. What I was about to realize was that this was mere action. I had not been calling out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sincerely because I felt this distance from Him; there was this gap that needed to be bridged.

The Saturday after my diagnosis I was drinking my morning coffee when out of nowhere, my mind started to run a mile a minute. Thoughts of my diagnosis, realities of life, the purpose of life just started pouring in. I became incredibly aware of myself; conscious of this reality that was not on my radar before this moment.

You see, I walked this earth under the illusion that I have control of life, destiny. Until this moment, I had plans laid out, plans for promotions, a house, a car, and travel—an upward trajectory. Then I received that phone call, and in a blink of an eye, I had lost complete control of everything. The power of my youth, health, wealth, was all gone. I was insignificant, just so minuscule when it came to His decree. I came to realize that every moment we are alive, we are gasping for breath on life support machines. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can pull that plug any second. I became conscious of the reality that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was The One providing for me every moment. I did not earn any of this on my own, and none of this was something that I deserved. Humbled -the first crack in my armor-, I cried, ashamed, and remorseful to my Lord for my delusion. I cried, begging Him and praying to Him as I have never prayed before, feeling closer to Him like I have never felt before, pleading with Him to carry me through this battle and the unknown I was about to face.

Cancer was the catalyst, that was the beginning of an arduous journey, one filled with a whirlwind of complications and diagnosis one after the other. Every moment from this point was going be a lesson in life. Every moment was going to be humbling. Every moment was going to be one of gratitude. Every moment was going to enable me to earn the greatest treasure I could even earn, and that is humility and a closeness to my Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Relinquishing Control

March 3, 2019:

The first appointment with the oncologist. I was anxious, eager to know what stage of cancer I had, desperate to know of a treatment plan. I felt like a blind person stumbling in the dark, looking for an answer, but it was not Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Will that I find one that day. Unfortunately, my CT scan was inconclusive, and the sample of my cone biopsy was “too mushy” for the doctor to give me a staging. He said to come back, as he needed to speak to the tech. There was nothing I could do. I had to relinquish control and submit to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Will.

March 22, 2019:

I had my second appointment with the oncologist. By this point, my mother had been told and had flown into California. Having her there, seeing the fear on her face, the pain I felt in my heart to see her was more wearisome than cancer. I will never be blessed enough to know what a mother feels. That was not part of Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) plan for me. I would be wrong in saying that I can understand her pain. I can, however, say this: if I could have taken her pain away, I would have done anything to do that. We went to the doctor hoping for some answers, but again Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had different plans. The doctor wanted to schedule me for another cone biopsy; the previous sample was inconclusive. To add to that, I could not have the second cone biopsy for another three weeks because I was still healing from the previous one.

It had been thirty days since my diagnosis, and I had to wait an additional three weeks for further testing. I did not know what stage it was, nor what my treatment plan was. All I knew was that I had cancer. These chain of events and the lack of control was a new reality. It was challenging, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was also teaching me a valuable lesson. He was teaching me tawakkul by putting me in a position where I had no choice. The circumstances were forcing me into submission. I was facing my mortality, not knowing if I am going to live or die, having to give up my complete autonomy. You see,  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) only wanted what is best for me. My cancer was a mercy to me. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) willed that through this; that I return to Him. That I seek the path that leads to His door. That I understand, and accept the divine decree, and focus my reliance on Him and only Him. All Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wanted me to do was knock on His door and trust Him.

March 25, 2019:

I had an appointment with a surgeon in NY. My doctor in NY became privy of my diagnosis, and she urged me to get a second opinion. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is one of the top cancer institutes on the east coast. NY was my home as I had just recently moved to California. I put my trust in the All-Merciful. He is the only one I could call upon for support, and I gathered all my reports and flew into NY on that Sunday. The next morning was my appointment, and I was catching the evening flight back to California. Twenty-four hours was what I had. I met the doctor, and finally, alhamdulillah, there was light at the end of the tunnel. The doctor examined me, diagnosed me, gave me the staging of 1B2, and presented me with a treatment plan, all in a matter of a few hours.

Surgery and complications

My cancer required a three-pronged treatment plan, surgery, followed by some chemotherapy and radiation as a preventive measure. The doctor in NY had emphasized a sense of urgency.

Here I was back in California, packing up a house again, that I had just finished unpacking, not knowing if I will ever return. My belongings in storage, I was forced to go back to NY to fight this battle. No home of my own, no job, and worried about my finances, it was all overwhelming and lonely. It was terrifying how much of all of this was outside of my control. We do not pay attention to just how one little event can drastically and wholly change our entire life.

April 29, 2019:

Pre- Surgical testing

April 30, 2019:

PET Scan and MRI

May 6, 2019:

Follow up visit with the surgeon, followed by a lab visit, and ECG

Hospital visits were my new life; a life full of uncertainty, and moments where it felt like everything was falling apart. I did not recognize this life. To add to this, I wanted to keep a brave face because I was terrified for my mother. I was living in her home. I could not even cry or grieve. If I cracked who would console her?

May 7, 2019: I was scheduled for a radical hysterectomy (removal of the cervix and uterus). The goal was to try and save my ovaries and tubes because I was still young. It was a 4-hour procedure; another step into the unknown, presented with paperwork, DNR’s, and health care proxies. I was 38, but I needed a health care proxy! I picked my younger brother. My heart broke for him. He put on a brave face, but I could see the sadness in his big brown eyes. They took me in, and there I lay on that cold table, bright lights shining down on me, my lips moist with the Ayatul Kursi. Count back from ten, and I was asleep. As I came too, I remember looking up at the clock. I knew something was wrong. Even in my semi-conscious state, I knew that I had only been in surgery for two hours. The doctor came into the recovery room. He said that they had discovered that I had severe endometriosis, which had caused my organs to fuse into each other. There were no clean margins. If he had tried to cut it out, cancer could have spread to my entire body.

The irony is that the surgeon ended up doing a bi-lateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries and tubes), deciding it was the best option to try and contain cancer from spreading. That night I lay in that hospital bed, nothing but the lights of the monitors connected to me. The voice in my head said: “They could not take it out. Not even a tiny bit of it. It is still inside me.” I began to think about my mother again and what this news meant to her. A sense of hopelessness overwhelmed me. It felt as though everything was spiraling out of control, and I was free-falling with no one to catch me. However, my inner voice called out to The One who put me in this difficulty, and I realized this difficulty as exhausting as it is, was to remind me fundamentally of who I am and who He is and what this world is. A reminder that I need to carry myself in an absolute state of trust and that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)  will see me through. That these events are in my best interest as the purpose is for me to gain a further closeness to Him.

Two types of radiation

May 16, 2019:

I was introduced to my radiation oncologist. The new plan involved eight weeks of chemotherapy and two types of radiation. Forty sessions of external, in which I was to lie on a table, and a machine would direct X-ray beams at the affected part of my body. Two sessions of high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy, internal, in which radioactive materials would be inserted into my body. I was overcome with emotion, not wanting to cause my mother any more grief and cry in front of her; I excused myself and walked away, to try and gather myself. The description of the treatment just broke me. I stood in that hallway outside the room, helpless. I thought Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was sending me hardship after hardship, and that nothing has gone right. I feared this was punishment for my transgressions. I turned back to Him penitent, drawing closer to Him than I had ever been, having moments of vulnerability, alone just Him and me, experiencing some of the sweetest moments of my entire life.

May 19, 2019:

The wound of my surgery had developed some drainage. The drainage started as a trickle in the morning. I put a paper towel there to collect the fluid. As the day progressed, the liquid increased. Paper towels were changed more frequently. I was trying to be secretive about it, and I did not want to stress out my mother. She was not dealing well with all of this. The liquid continued to increase, and eventually, I ended up calling the emergency at Memorial Sloan Kettering. It was a Sunday, which meant the clinics were closed. I had an appointment the next morning with my surgeon, so the doctor on call gave me the option to either come in or wait till the next morning. I opted to wait. The night was uncomfortable, and I could not lie for more than 15 – 20 minutes before I would have to change the paper towels out because they would get wet. I lay there at night contemplating; I was walking on this path of turmoil, surrounded by hardship, uncertainty, enduring difficulties, forced to be patient. I had plenty of people and support around me, but I was alone. No one understood me anymore. How could they? My cancer was my experience, not theirs.

May 20, 2019:

I had two appointments. The first one was with my surgeon, followed by a new doctor, my chemotherapist. By this point, I had an excessive amount of fluid draining from the site of my incision.  My surgeon examined it; he did not say much, but I could tell by his face that he was bothered. Right there, not even a moment to think, his nurses brought in sterile packaged instruments. The gave me some local anesthetic, and with a scalpel, while I was awake, he reopened my entire incision. It is burnt in my memory like it was yesterday, one of my nurses was holding my hand. I could not see what they were doing; I was not in pain, but I was completely conscious. It was a state of sheer terror, not because they were untrained or unprofessional, but the idea of what was happening to me was unnerving. I could feel my heart rate increase; my body, hands, and feet were perspiring profusely. The nurse was trying to converse with me to keep my preoccupied, but the only words on my lips and tongue were the remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ

Hasbunallah wani’mal wakeel

A fair amount of fluid drained, and the diagnosis: I had a seroma (an accumulation of fluid that can occur after surgery). There is no treatment for a seroma other than patience. Here I was two weeks after surgery. I was supposed to get my stitches removed today, go home and take a nice shower today, but again that was not in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) plan. It is astonishing how we take these little blessings for granted. There was an open incision across my stomach 8 inches wide and 4 inches deep. I had to have the wound cleaned with saline and packed with gauze at least twice a day. This wound was debilitating. No more stitches; we were going let nature takes its course to ensure the wound heals from the inside out. I was already helpless, I did not think I could be any more disabled, and now I faced this complication.

I had a level of comfort with my doctors and nurses at the hospital, but now I faced a new challenge. I had to have a home nurse come in twice a day to dress my wound. I tried it for the first week, and it was terrible. I did not want to be at the mercy of a stranger, sitting saturated with fluid through the night, waiting for the nurse to arrive in the morning before I could get any relief. I was having a different nurse come in each time. It might seem trivial, but when you are that broken, tired, and so sick, and your body is falling apart, these little things matter. You do not want some stranger touching you, dressing a wound that causes immense pain. Some of them just want to be in and out, lacking compassion for the patient. However, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) already knew that this is something that I would have difficulty with, so He made a way out for me—blessed me with the help of a true friend. The following week my doctors and nurses trained her in the process. No longer was I at the mercy of a stranger coming over twice a day to change my dressing. Here was ease, relief, mercy in my time of need sent in the form of someone I was comfortable with, someone I trust to care for me, to clean me, to dress my wounds, diligently day in and day out, with love, patience, and compassion. A force by my side day and night through every chemo, every radiation, every hospital visit and stay. Urging me on and dragging me to my appointments when I was just too tired to fight.

There was a two-week delay in starting radiation therapy. Once radiation and chemo begin, it slows down the body’s healing process. The doctors wanted my wound to start to heal before any of the treatments.

June 3, 2019:

The external radiation started; they would last ten minutes each. I requested they schedule me first thing in the morning. I was in and out in fifteen minutes every day. Monday through Friday, this was my routine. The process was physically painless, but emotionally it took a toll on me. I would lie there every day on my chest, this hard table, naked, with a big open wound. Nobody in there but me and Him, my eyes closed in constant remembrance.

June 6, 2019: Right after the radiation was my first chemotherapy, and it would be administered every Thursday following. The nurses had trouble finding a suitable vein. I was not surprised; I have had small veins since I was a young child. Finally, they managed to get an IV in, and I got my infusion, but my chemotherapist set me with an appointment for a PICC line to help with future treatments. It had been a long day. My body was exhausted, but my mind was awake because of the steroids they gave me before chemo. It felt like torture. All I wanted to do was sleep, but the steroids had me so stimulated I could not bring myself to sleep.

June 8, 2019:

As the anti-nausea began to wear off, the effects of the chemotherapy started to kick in. I felt ill, dry heaving and vomiting, loss of appetite, exhaustion, mouth sores, slowly my body was disintegrating. I experienced the same side effects every week, becoming more and more aggressive and tiresome as the weeks progressed. It was like clockwork.

One of the many side effects of this chemotherapy is a loss of hearing. I had to have a regular hearing test; my ears would ring at odd hours. As the weeks progressed, my health started to decline. I could no longer sit in salat, let alone stand in salat. I would start retching in between, hoping I could just push through two rakat without having to start again. Sometimes I could not even make it to the bathroom. I used hospital vomit bags in bed. The radiation was starting to do its damage as well, and it was affecting my bowels, a constant upset stomach. I was unable to eat anything; my mouth would bleed from the sores. I was always fatigued, lost control of my bladder. My body was slowly disintegrating from all the poisonous chemicals. I was ailing, had no strength, queasy all the time,—a large open wound across my stomach, a PICC line in my right arm. I just wanted to close my eyes and sleep, but I could not lie comfortably. Very slowly withering away. All that was left were my tears, my supplication, and repentance, acknowledging Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) magnificence as I remembered Him.

June 26, 2019, and July 3, 2019:

Two of the most debilitating days of my treatment were the days I had the brachytherapy. The procedure done under general anesthesia involved the radiation oncologist placing a cervical stent attached to an applicator (two metal rods), used to deliver internal radiation. Following the procedure, they took me to my room. Here I had to lie still on my back; I could not move my legs; I could not sit or stand. I was only allowed to raise my head of the bed a little bit, about 20 degrees. I had to patiently endure this until they removed the applicator the following day. For the treatments, my bed was moved from my room to the Brachytherapy Suite, Radiation Oncology department. Here the applicator was connected to a machine. This machine then delivered tiny radioactive pellets into my body. We did this twice. I do not think I could have done it a third time. I did not even want to go the second time.

These two sessions were physically exhausting, but the effect that it had on my self-esteem, my sense of security. Each time was dehumanizing, heart-wrenching, and painful. There is no dignity in illness. Health is the greatest blessing from our Creator, and we take it for granted.

I was exhausted physically and mentally—my body ravaged by illness and chemotherapy. I did not have a home of my own; I had no job. There are no words that can do justice to how broken I was. I was not afraid to die anymore; I was afraid that I would die without earning complete forgiveness, which made me supplicate more. I held on to the dua of Ayub 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him):

 أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

Annee massaniya alddurru waanta arhamu alrrahimeen

October 10, 2019:

My Pet scan showed I was cancer-free.

January 2019:

My wound from my surgery had finally closed.

February 6, 2020:

My MRI showed I was cancer-free.

This battle has not left me weak, defeated, or helpless. I learned to trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), never to concede or be defeated. I learned how to call upon Him, knowing that He loves me and loves to hear from me. I learned to put the highest level of trust in my relationship with Him while engaging in patience. I learned to be strong in my faith, in my body, my spirit, resilience to all that is around me. I learned piety, to be God-conscious, to walk a new path where I abandon all that is displeasing to Him, striving to earn His love.

I pray Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) enables me to never compromise my love for Him.

To make me beloved to Him in my repentance and allow me to reach better states of His love.

To make my weakness a reason for strength, being strong in every way possible, and to use this strength and this second chance at life he has given me, justly in the cause and the benefit of others.

Ameen

This article was checked and guided by Sh Yahya Ibrahim

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Principles of Success from Surah Al-Mu’minoon

Success; something which everyone desires. There has not been a person who has walked the face of this Earth, or who will come to this dunya except that they spent their life striving for success. What is success, however? We all have our very own perception of success. If you ask people “what is success to you?”, you will receive varied responses. For some, success is doing well in education, whilst for others, it is about excelling in one’s career. For some, success is driving a nice car, having a beautiful spouse, lovely children, a spacious dwelling etc. People have various perceptions of success. As Muslims, we must know and acknowledge that our religion has provided clarification for everything that we need to know. There is no issue that we will come across within our life, from the time we came out of the wombs of our mothers till we reach that grave, except that the shari’ah has provided some sort of guidelines for it. So, do you think that the religion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will leave out this imperative issue that is at the forefront of every mind?

Without a doubt, the greatest form of success is earning the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)  as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surah Ali ‘Imran:

فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ

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“…so the one who is saved from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has truly succeeded…” [185]

Having relief from the anger of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and achieving His mercy will be the only form of success in the akhirah. But that having been said, our religion is one which is comprehensive, and for that reason, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows that we will still crave success and have various perceptions of it within this dunya. There is nothing wrong with aiming for a top position that will accelerate your career, or working hard to earn a six-figure income; rather we are encouraged to excel and seek success within this dunya, but on the condition that we do not sacrifice the akhirah. From the mercy of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is that he Has never left us abandoned. He has revealed the shari’ah in order for us to know how to achieve success in the akhirah, but is that it? If that is the perception you have of the Qur’an and Sunnah; that it is only a source of guidance for our religious affairs, then know that Islam is more than that. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has not only given us the guidelines for achieving success in the akhirah, but he has also provided us with principles of success pertaining to the dunya. The Book of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is filled with gems and treasurers; it only requires us to analyse His verses carefully in order to extract those principles. The Qur’an will not give you details of a specific issue, but rather the Qur’an will give guidelines and principles, thus making it miraculously pertinent to every single time and era. The Sunnah of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) will then go into detail and provide commentary on those guidelines and principles.

Within this article, I aim to highlight a number of principles contained within Surah Al-Mu’minun (Chapter 23 of the Qur’an) that can aid a person in their striving for success. These golden principles are generic (as mentioned before regarding the principles and guidelines contained within the Qur’an); what I deem success to be will probably be different to what you portray success as, and so from the beauty of these principles is that they can be applied to whatever worldly pursuit you have.

Principle 1: The desire for success

For a person to achieve success, they need to passionately desire it. If you force your child to study something they do not like, they may not do well in it because there is no motivation there. However, when a person puts their mind to something and has that passion, the desire for success kicks in. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives us a beautiful portrayal by describing paradise; but not just any level of paradise, but Al-Firdous: the highest level of paradise that will be inherited by a selected few. This mention of Al-Firdous is given here for us to have that desire to achieve the greatest form success within whatever mission we are open to,  making sure it is a halal path. Yes, even though everyone will not enter Al-Firdous, we should still aim for it, as having it as a goal builds our level of optimism, and our aspirations become robust. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Paradise has one hundred grades, each of which is as big as the distance between heaven and earth. The highest of them is Al-Firdous and the best of them is Al-Firdous. The Throne is above Al-Firdous, and from it springs forth the rivers of paradise. If you ask of Allah, ask Him for Al-Firdous” [Sunan Ibn Majah No. 4331]

Principle 2: Realize how much time you have

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the creation and the demise of the human being within a few verses to show how short this worldly life is:

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن سُلَالَةٍ مِّن طِينٍ

And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay.”

ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُطْفَةً فِي قَرَارٍ مَّكِينٍ

“Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging.”

ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَامًا فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَرَ ۚ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّـهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ

“Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.”

ثُمَّ إِنَّكُم بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ لَمَيِّتُونَ

“Then indeed, after that you are to die.”

ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ تُبْعَثُونَ

“Then indeed you, on the Day of Resurrection, will be resurrected.”

[Surah Al-Mu’minun; 12-16]

The objective here is to encourage us to be productive, efficient, and not lazy. By procrastinating, your motivation weakens, and as a result, your objective for success begins to die out. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions procrastination and laziness only twice in the Qur’an, and both references are pertaining to the hypocrites! The believer is the one who is always weary of their time and strives to make the most of it.

Principle 3: Remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) through the magnificence of his creation

In the next passage of this Surah, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes mention of some of His greatest creations and signs. When treading the path of success, ensure that you remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and take those practical means that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has created and provided for you in your conquest for success. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا

“It is He who created for you all of that which is on the Earth.” [Surah Al-Baqarah; 29]

Principle 4: People will try to put you down

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) within the next passage narrates for us the stories of four of the previous Prophets who came before our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him); Nuh, Hud, Musa and Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Even though their stories are mentioned in other places within the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) links these four stories by mentioning that when all of these four prophets came to their people and gave them da’wah, they mocked them and said “you are only men”.

Regarding prophet Nuh 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

فَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن قَوْمِهِ مَا هَـٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُرِيدُ أَن يَتَفَضَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَأَنزَلَ مَلَائِكَةً مَّا سَمِعْنَا بِهَـٰذَا فِي آبَائِنَا الْأَوَّلِينَ

“But the eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, ‘This is not but a man like yourselves who wishes to take precedence over you; and if Allah had willed [to send a messenger], He would have sent down angels. We have not heard of this among our forefathers.”

إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ بِهِ جِنَّةٌ فَتَرَبَّصُوا بِهِ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ

He is not but a man possessed with madness, so wait concerning him for a time.’” [24-25]

Then regarding prophet Hud 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِهِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِلِقَاءِ الْآخِرَةِ وَأَتْرَفْنَاهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا مَا هَـٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يَأْكُلُ مِمَّا تَأْكُلُونَ مِنْهُ وَيَشْرَبُ مِمَّا تَشْرَبُونَ

“And the eminent among his people who disbelieved and denied the meeting of the Hereafter while We had given them luxury in the worldly life said, This is not but a man like yourselves. He eats of that from which you eat and drinks of what you drink.”

وَلَئِنْ أَطَعْتُم بَشَرًا مِّثْلَكُمْ إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا لَّخَاسِرُونَ

“And if you should obey a man like yourselves, indeed, you would then be losers.” [33-34]

Thereafter, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)says about Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Harun 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him):

ثُمَّ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَأَخَاهُ هَارُونَ بِآيَاتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُّبِينٍ

“Then We sent Moses and his brother Aaron with Our signs and a clear authority”

إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا عَالِينَ

“To Pharaoh and his establishment, but they were arrogant and were a haughty people.”

فَقَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ لِبَشَرَيْنِ مِثْلِنَا وَقَوْمُهُمَا لَنَا عَابِدُونَ

“They said, ‘Should we believe two men like ourselves while their people are for us in servitude?’” [45-47]

There will be people who will work hard to put you down. Know, that even though those who love you will only want the best for you, there will be people who will try to put you down because of the jealousy and hatred they have within themselves. There will be people on your path who will not want you to succeed and thus, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) highlights this here in the Surah. However, through mentioning these stories of these previous prophets, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also wants us to know that even if everyone is against us, if he wants success to come us, it will surely be delivered!

Principle 5: Seek protection from Shaytan

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) warns us time and time again within the Qur’an, of the tricks and traps of Shaytan. Our human bodies have been designed to detect danger; there is a part of the brain known as the amygdala that is programmed by the grace of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to detect danger. For instance, when you smell gas in your home, or when your young child lets go of your hand whilst walking down a busy street, you will automatically detect danger. But as for the Shaytan, the amygdala cannot detect this danger and so Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) warns us time and time again within His speech, because the traps of Shaytan come in steps and are subtle. You may have your noble goal of success, however, Shaytan will come and try to distract you, cause you to procrastinate, or lead you astray. But from the mercy of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is that not only has He warned us from Shaytan and his allies, He has also mentioned a supplication from within Surah Al-Mu’minun that we can use for ourselves and children to supplicate to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for protection:

وَقُل رَّبِّ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشَّيَاطِينِ

“And say, ‘My Lord, I seek refuge in You from the incitements of the devils,”

وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ رَبِّ أَن يَحْضُرُونِ

“And I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they be present with me.’” [97-98]

If Allah, Al-Muhaymin (The Protector) wishes to protect you with his divine protection, who is there that can harm you?

Principle 6: Stay on the Path of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

The final principle highlighted in Surah Al-Mu’minun is knowing the path of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That is why in this last passage of this beautiful Surah, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) distinguishes the believers from the disbelievers and ultimately what their final fate will be:

فَمَن ثَقُلَتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

“And those whose scales are heavy [with good deeds] – it is they who are the successful.”

وَمَنْ خَفَّتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فِي جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدُونَ

“But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally.”

تَلْفَحُ وُجُوهَهُمُ النَّارُ وَهُمْ فِيهَا كَالِحُونَ

“The Fire will sear their faces, and they therein will have taut smiles.”

أَلَمْ تَكُنْ آيَاتِي تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ فَكُنتُم بِهَا تُكَذِّبُونَ

“[It will be said], ‘Were not My verses recited to you and you used to deny them?’”

قَالُوا رَبَّنَا غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْنَا شِقْوَتُنَا وَكُنَّا قَوْمًا ضَالِّينَ

They will say, ‘Our Lord, our wretchedness overcame us, and we were a people astray.”

رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْهَا فَإِنْ عُدْنَا فَإِنَّا ظَالِمُونَ

“Our Lord, remove us from it, and if we were to return [to evil], we would indeed be wrongdoers.’”

قَالَ اخْسَئُوا فِيهَا وَلَا تُكَلِّمُونِ

“He will say, ‘Remain despised therein and do not speak to Me.”

إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْ عِبَادِي يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا آمَنَّا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

“Indeed, there was a party of My servants who said, ‘Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us and have mercy upon us, and You are the best of the merciful.’”

فَاتَّخَذْتُمُوهُمْ سِخْرِيًّا حَتَّىٰ أَنسَوْكُمْ ذِكْرِي وَكُنتُم مِّنْهُمْ تَضْحَكُونَ

“But you took them in mockery to the point that they made you forget My remembrance, and you used to laugh at them.”

إِنِّي جَزَيْتُهُمُ الْيَوْمَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ

“Indeed, I have rewarded them this Day for their patient endurance – that they are the attainers [of success].” [102-111]

What is the point of succeeding in this temporary worldly life and then being from amongst those whom Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not even talk to the on the Day of Judgement? This final principle culminates our whole life and existence: regardless of your worldly pursuit of success, do not forget the greatest goal or objective of this worldly life; to earn the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and attain his salvation.

 

I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) with His mighty names and lofty attributes that He fulfils all of our aspirations, goals and objectives. May He allow us to truly understand the Qur’an and grant us success in the hereafter by giving us salvation from the fire of hell.

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