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A Muslim’s Dignity and Social Media

Danish Qasim

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By mercy from Allah, you were gentle with them. Had you been coarse and harsh-hearted, they would have dispersed from you.

-Quran 3:159

The Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ is to be gentle. He always spoke the truth, was the most forbearing and gentle of people and was also the most courageous.  Being gentle is not cowardly and speaking the truth does not require harshness. Allah tells us to speak to people kindly[1], compares a good word to a fruit-bearing tree[2], and even in debate tells us to  “argue with them in a way that is best” (Quran 16:25). However, in an age of polarization, we frequently fail to apply these Quranic injunctions and the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ to our online conversations, even in conversations with Muslims. Given that this verse is referring to arguing with non-Muslims, it is even more incumbent to engage fellow Muslims with respect and good character. Why then, do we often engage one another online with rudeness, mean-spiritedness, and pointless argumentation?

Online communications pose challenges to conducting ourselves with gentleness and dignity that do not exist in face-to-face conversations, but the need to be mindful and avoid argumentation is urgent, and the reward is great. The Prophet ﷺ said: “I guarantee a house in heaven for a man who avoids argumentation, even if he were in the right” (Abu Dawud, 4800). Some of the additional challenges posed in online communication include: the illusion of solitude, lack of personal context, lack of nonverbal cues, and the public and permanent nature of online discussions.

Like with road rage, in online arguments we experience and respond to actions while distanced from an audience.  This creates the illusion of solitude resulting in us not observing the decorum that the presence of others would naturally impose on us. We have been socialized to not be vile, yell, or threaten others and identify these behaviors as anti-social. Yet it is very common for otherwise polite and level headed individuals to be virulent online in ways they would not be in person. I do not believe, nor does evidence suggest that the internet reveals true character- rather it often brings out the worst in one’s temperament due to this illusion of solitude. Some intentionally take to the internet to vent their frustrations, but there are many more individuals who conduct themselves with dignity, engage well in conversations and debates, but are quickly angered in online exchanges. This has to do with what John Suler has termed The Online Disinhibition Effect, where individuals do not experience the same inhibitions on social media as they would in an actual encounter.

We also don’t process comments in the same way on social media as we would in real interactions. For example, a comment from an elderly person would be met by most with a soft response in an actual encounter. Likewise, a man would try to be kinder in his response to a woman. When all comments are coming from identical bots, we don’t have a chance to adjust our reactions to our audience. It’s like when someone cuts you off on the road or honks for no reason, you may respond emotionally right away, but then if you see it’s an elderly person it’s easy to overlook it or calm down.

Additionally, when debates and discussions lose body language, tone, and physical reactions, it’s easy for the conversation to devolve into name-calling, insults, and harshness. You cannot see if you have hurt someone. The fact that there is no clear end-point of a social media discussion also contributes to anxiety. You may respond to someone, and receive rebuttals throughout the night. Not only is this bad for the individual, but when people are regularly checking their phones for updates, it disrupts accomplishing more meaningful tasks or spending quality time with family. Digital exchanges bring out our impulsive nature and we give our statements less deliberation, but the accountability is equal. As we are reminded in the Quran: “He does not utter any word except that with him is a watcher prepared [to record]” (Quran 50:18)

Another issue of online discussions is that they are public and permanent. Even embarrassing tweets people have deleted resurface via saved screenshots. Most of us would overlook the immature banter of teenagers in person, but what may be intended as inside jokes has no walls once it’s on the internet. We live in an age where employers look up names of applicants online, people look up those they are interested in for marriage, or speakers they want to benefit from. It’s shameful that good candidates may be dismissed due to slanderous posts and open-letters, careless mistakes, or impulsive responses.

Surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of those shall be questioned (Quran 17:36).

You will find people online who will enjoy taking contrarian positions for the sake of it, arguing for enjoyment, and who relish in insulting you. These people are termed trolls, and as the adage goes, ‘don’t feed the trolls.’ As we are reminded in the Quran: “And the servants of the Most-Merciful tread on earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘peace’” (Quran 25:63). We are also told to “turn away from the ignorant” (Quran 17:199). It is best to ignore such people and not give them the attention they are seeking.

Given all of the above challenges, you may find yourself wanting to delete your account altogether. If you find yourself wasting time on social media, getting into pointless conversations and arguments, and looking for faults of other people, then you probably are better off just deleting your account. There are enough impediments for our religious development in the world, we don’t need to invite more opportunities to sin in solitude in ways that were only possible in the company of others. However, there are beneficial uses of social media as well. It is important to apply the correct intentions and manners to your social media use including spreading beneficial knowledge and giving advice, which are not free from dangers online.

Posting beneficial lectures, lighthearted content, life updates, or inspirational quotes can all be positive uses of social media. Often, we begin with such positive intentions, but we must regularly renew these intentions and take a hard look at our own online activity and see if the good is really outweighing the harm.  In a hadith, the Prophet ﷺ described a believer as kind and not harsh, stating that “the believer does not insult, he does not curse, he is not profane, and he is not crude” (Tirmidhi, 1977).  Otherwise, kind level-headed people often degenerate into taking on the above-mentioned qualities online. Even if one is spreading benefit online, in Islam, priority is given to warding off harm over bringing about a benefit. This includes protecting others from harm you may cause, and saving yourself from harm in the Hereafter. The consequences are serious. The Prophet (ﷺ), said: “Indeed a servant will utter a word thoughtlessly, and by it will he will fall into the fire deeper than the distance between the east and the west.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]; and “Are people dragged to hell on their faces on account of other than their tongues?” (Tirmidhi).

Giving advice is one potential beneficial use of social media, but we must follow the Sunnah of giving advice online as we would in person. This Sunnah is to not belittle or embarrass the one being advised. For most people, this requires being indirect and not singling out the individual.  The Prophet (ﷺ) would often use the phrase ما بال أقوام  , meaning what is wrong with the people, and then explicate the mistake while not exposing the one who made the mistake. By being general, we invite others to accept advice and to change rather than feeling attacked and hence defend themselves. There are others with whom you will have more rapport and are open to more blunt advice. The Prophet (ﷺ) was also direct with those he knew would be receptive to direct advice.

Remember that the people you are engaging with online have families who will also see and may be hurt by asinine comments.  Try to imagine you are sitting with the person you are engaging online in a friendly setting and having a discussion, rather than an adversarial debate. While it is easy to get sucked into the whirlpool of negativity and snarky retorts, this ultimately sabotages the point being made. Resist the temptation to mock, bully, or be sarcastic. It’s not ‘commanding to good’ if you are only playing to your crowd- they already agree with you. It’s very pleasing to the nafs to be the person who doesn’t tolerate nonsense, but you have to ask what this approach will accomplish, and how likely people are to change their mind as a result of your attitude. Given that we know such approaches are futile, we cannot label this behavior ‘commanding to good.’ The manner in which the truth is conveyed does not alter the truth, but it impacts receptiveness to it. Observing good manners, decorum, and kindness, is ultimately more about you than the person on the other side. You are accountable for what you type, and all speech is part of action. You are typing a passage in your own book of deeds.

One of the tricks of shaytan is to disguise good actions as bad actions and bad actions as good actions. This is called talbees.  For example, he may lead one to think that being arrogant is just having izzah (a healthy sense of pride), or that debasing oneself, which is haram, is good and just one being humble.  When it comes to debating points of religion, it’s very easy for a person to feel they are defending Islam and exercising healthy pride while in fact they are being haughty and exhibiting self-righteousness. It is equally easy for a person to have cowardice or blameworthy modesty and not speak out against wrong and think they are exercising wisdom or patience.  In a hadith, we are told to not disgrace ourselves by staying silent out of fear of people when something false is said about Allah (Sunan Ibn Majah 4008).

There are scenarios where harshness is good. This includes defending oneself, implementing a penal punishment, or protecting others. Furthermore, when a person is harming people or leading them astray, harshness and being explicit may be justified, as the goal now is not primarily the guidance or repentance of the perpetrator, but the safety and religious well-being of others. However, we need to be careful and have wisdom in deciding when to act harshly or gently. For example, when commanding the good and forbidding the evil, Khaleel Ibn Abdullah Al-Shaybani Al-Nahlawi, writes that being harsh is acceptable, but only if gentleness proves ineffective (Al-Durar al Mubahat Fi Al-Hazr wa al-Ibaha, 207). He goes on to mention some conditions of the one taking up the task of commanding to good and prohibiting the wrong, which I have translated below. All of these are applicable to online conversations.

Conditions in Commanding to Good

There are three conditions for commanding to good:

  1. An intention and that is one want for the word of Allah to reign supreme;
  2. Knowledge of religious proofs, that he know the proofs for what he is commanding to and prohibiting from; and
  3. Patience with what will afflict him from unpleasant repercussions.

After fulfilling these three conditions, it is necessary that he possesses three traits:

  1. Gentleness while commanding and prohibiting;
  2. Clemency, in that he be forbearing internally and not feel constricted nor irritated by what is said to him in response;
  3. Understanding and complete insight regarding the intricacies of evidences so that his commanding to good and prohibiting the wrong don’t itself become sins due to him falling into harshness and ignorance.

There is a major peril that one must be on guard from, and that is for the person of knowledge while commanding to good, to see oneself as elevated due to knowledge, and others as debased due to ignorance. If this is the motivation, then it is an evil itself that is much uglier than the one he is repelling. No one is safe from the plot of the devil except the one who Allah has shown the faults in his own self, and has opened his inner sight by the light of His guidance.

Anyone who takes up this obligation must know the different schools of thought so to command to good and prohibit the wrong be in matters agreed upon by consensus. He must also not breach the legal limits of speech and action, for indeed many of the watchmen[3] make mistakes, such that they are excessive in their admonishments, so the good that they do does not outweigh the evil” (Al-Durar al Mubahat Fi Al-Hazr wa al-Ibaha).

Even someone of deep learning can slip into arrogance and the subtle tricks of shaytan and the nafs.  One must consistently rectify his intention, and separate his ego from his actions. Bemoaning negative feedback or making fun of people who disagree is an indication one does not fit the above conditions.

In the Quran, we see that Luqman the Wise advises his son to command to good and forbid evil. He follows that up with reminders to be patient and humble:

O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and patiently bear what afflicts you. Indeed, that is from the greatest of matters. And do not turn your cheek away from people, and do not walk on the pridefully. Indeed, Allah does not love every arrogant braggart. And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice, verily the most repulsive of sounds is the braying of donkeys

(Quran 31: 17-19).

Exceptional instances of the Prophet’s harsh rebuke or publicly mentioning someone’s faults should not become standard behavior. These are all acts which require serious deliberation. The general sunnah is to be gentle and kind, while upholding courage and truthfulness. This applies equally, and perhaps more so, to online communications. In cyberspace, we communicate very impersonally. It is easy to misunderstand and to be misunderstood. That alone renders digital media a bad medium for giving advice or correcting others. If we do choose to correct behavior online, then it would be best to make it as personal as possible, and privately message. This will minimize the misconstruing of the message. We should not use excuses such as ‘her statement was public, so my response will be public,’ because this is likely to instigate a pointless debate and eradicate the possibility of a fruitful discussion.

Our intention and general outlook ought to be that the person we are talking to is doing their best to find the truth, and if we want to point out inconsistencies in each other’s thought or voice our concerns then we do it while upholding our highest ethics and following our example, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This is for the sake of our own souls. There will be no shortage of disagreements or disagreeable personalities. The last thing we want to do is forsake our standard while correcting others. If we have a true investment in the well-being of others, we won’t have to be harsh and demand that people correct their actions right now. Often times our desire to be harsh comes from our natural zealotry that demands high impact as soon as possible. Being gentle yet consistent with a long-term outlook is not only morally praiseworthy, it is also strategically superior and will help our own mission for good.

Prayer was mentioned in the advice of Luqman the Wise to his son for good reason. We need to first work on our own hearts before we can do the work of correcting others[4]. Among the actions which will help soften our hearts are tahajjud, salawaat, reflecting upon death, speaking less, and eating less. A man complained to the Prophet (ﷺ) about the hardness of his heart. The Prophet ﷺ told him to touch the head of an orphan and to feed the poor (Ahmad).

Never send a message or make a post when you are angry. If you are angry, say ‘أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم’ and make wudu. If you are standing, sit down, and if you are sitting lay down. Drinking cold water also helps. Lastly, we should pray that Allah gives us both gentleness and courage. A prophetic dua for courage is للَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ، وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ، وَالْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ، وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ، وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ

Gentleness is a highly praiseworthy quality in Islam

Below are a few hadith that further attest to this:

“Indeed Allah loves gentleness in all of your affairs” (Bukhari, 6395).

“Whosoever has been his portion of gentleness has been given his portion of goodness. And whosoever has been deprived of his portion of gentleness has been deprived of his portion of goodness” (Tirmidhi, 2013).

“Indeed Allah is gentle and he loves gentleness. He gives with gentleness what he does not give with sternness and that which he does not give with other than it” (Muslim, 2593).

“Truly gentleness won’t be included in a thing except that it beautifies it.  And it won’t be removed from a thing except that it makes it ugly” (Muslim, 2594).

[1] Quran 2:83

[2] Quran 14:24

[3] The Arabic term is muhtasib.

[4] It is not a condition of prohibiting the wrong that one be free of the wrong action. Purifying the heart is a life-long pursuit that should accompany every endeavor.

Danish Qasim is the founding director of www.inshaykhsclothing.com. Danish graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 2010 with a B.A. in Religious Studies. He began a serious study of  the Islamic sciences in 2006 with local teachers and served as an Arabic translator while in college. Upon graduating he dedicated himself to full time traditional Islamic studies. Most of his overseas studies were in Teumerat, Mauritania in the school of Murabit al-Hajj (رحمه الله)  where he studied fiqh (jurisprudence), Arabic, tazkiya (spiritual purification), hadith, and aqidah (theology). He is now working on his doctorate on the topic of spiritual abuse in Islam at the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley, CA.
https://muslimmatters.org/comments-policy/

Danish Qasim graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 2010 with a B.A. in Religious Studies. He began a formal study of the Islamic sciences in 2006 with local teachers and served as an Arabic translator while in college. Upon graduating he dedicated himself to full time traditional Islamic studies. Most of his overseas studies were in Teumerat, Mauritania in the school of Murabit al-Hajj (رحمه الله) where he studied fiqh (jurisprudence), Arabic, tazkiya (spiritual purification), hadith, and aqida (theology). He is now working on his doctorate on the topic of spiritual abuse in Islam at the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley, CA. Danish has been working with victims of spiritual abuse for 9 years as well as adults facing bullying and relationships with narcissists. He teaches Arabic and Islamic studies privately and is a certified assertiveness and performance coach.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mujtaba

    March 4, 2019 at 5:46 PM

    This is a very timely piece. In a perfect world, this “must read” article would a precursor for Muslim social engagement on the internet (especially for young adults). Keep up the great work.

  2. Avatar

    Raza

    March 4, 2019 at 10:31 PM

    This is superbly beneficial. The author also has a high opinion of the readers when he suggests praying tahajjud for softening the heart.

  3. Avatar

    Anam

    March 26, 2019 at 1:42 PM

    Thank you… over the past few days I was actually pondering upon how to improve my behavior and communication with others, as I tend to be very sensitive and reactionary, more so in face to face discussions… I feel better after reading this article and its as if I got a hint from Almighty (through this article) that I need to be patient and adopt more gentleness ! SubhanAllah!

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

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The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir Verses 72-81

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. InshAllah, we’ll try our best to cover the meanings of verse 71-82. As we learned in the last session, this passage of the Surah deals with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). It’s the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. We reached the point in the story where Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) sincerity in seeking knowledge, his lack of pride and his willingness to humble himself in front of Khidr despite his own status as a Prophet.

But Khidr initially declined his request telling him, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?” Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was sent as a Prophet of Divine Law, while Khidr had been entrusted with some unique knowledge and actions that seemed to be contradictory to that law. So he explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was extremely eager to learn. He resolved to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ.

He tells Khidr, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” Khidr finally gave in and both of them set off on their way. This is where we’ll pick up the story again. Allah ﷻ says,

Verse 71: So they both went on till, when they had embarked upon a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.”

They set out walking together along the shore looking for a ship to ride. As they were walking a ship of sailors passed by them and Khidr asked for a ride. The sailors knew Khidr so they let both him and Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) come on board without any charge. After traveling for a while Khidr got up and pulled out one of the planks from the bottom of the ship using an ax making a hole in it. This placed everyone on the ship in danger of drowning. Obviously, this seemingly absurd and cruel behavior surprised Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He was literally in shock. He couldn’t understand why Khidr would do such a thing to someone who helped him out. This went against his moral compass of what’s right and wrong. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) forgot about the conditions of his teacher and objected. These people gave us a free ride and you’re pulling a plank to drown their ship. You’ve done something bad. “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.” Khidr then reminded him gently with patience.

Verse 72: He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to be patient with me and my actions? The way he says this shows that he was willing to overlook and tolerate Musa’s (as) impatience. Musa (as) felt a sense of regret and apologized to Khidr telling him that he completely forgot about his deal.

Verse 73: He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me responsible for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.”

Basically he apologized. He said please don’t hold me responsible for what I forgot and allow me to continue travelling in your company. While telling the story the Prophet ﷺ says, “the first (question) was out of forgetfulness. While this conversation was taking place a bird came and sat on the side of the boat and took a sip of water from the ocean. Khidr said to Musa, ‘my knowledge and yours combined in comparison to the knowledge of Allah is like the sip of water compared to the ocean.’” Khidr accepting his apology and they continued travelling on their way.

Verse 74: So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.”

“So they continued…” They both got off the ship and started walking along the shore until they came across a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr went up to this young boy and killed him by either strangling him to death or striking him on his head. This was too much for Musa (as) to handle. He objected even more vehemently. How can he kill an innocent young boy for no reason whatsoever? To Musa (as) this seemed absolutely absurd, cruel and unjustified. It was too much for him to tolerate patiently despite his promise not to question anything that he saw. So he said, How can you kill a pure innocent child for no reason whatsoever? You have done something unjustified and have committed a heinous act. Once again Khidr reminds him of the condition that he made and the promise that Musa (as) had given.

Verse 75: He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I warn you that you wouldn’t be able to handle what I would do? Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to remain silent when I do certain things? In this reminder, Khidr added the word “laka” to show that this time his reminder is more severe and clearer. The first time someone forgets and makes a mistake it’s overlooked. The second time it’s also overlooked but with a sense of hesitation. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) again feels a sense of regret for breaking his word and not sticking to the conditions of Khidr. He’s now done this twice so he apologizes by saying,

Verse 76: He said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not keep me in your company. You have had enough excuses from me.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)(as) again apologizes but this time gives himself one last chance. He said if he questions Khidr one more time then Khidr can choose to part ways with him. Once again Khidr accepts his apology and they set off on their way. After commenting on this part ibn Kathīr narrates a hadīth from the Prophet ﷺ. He writes, “Ibn Jarir narrated from Ibn `Abbas that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: “Whenever the Prophet ﷺ mentioned anyone, he would pray for himself first. One day he said:

  • «رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى مُوسَى لَوْ لَبِثَ مَعَ صَاحِبِهِ لَأَبْصَرَ الْعَجَبَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ قَالَ:
  • ﴿إِن سَأَلْتُكَ عَن شَىْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلاَ تُصَاحِبْنِى قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذْراً﴾»

May the mercy of Allah be upon us and upon Musa. If he had stayed with his companion he would have seen wonders, but he said, (`If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.’))” That brings us to the third and last adventure they had together.

Verse 77: Then, they moved on until they came to the people of a town and sought food from them. But they refused to show them any hospitality. Then, they found there a wall that was about to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Khidr continued traveling until they came upon the people of a town that most commentators identify as the ancient city of Antioch. Being tired and hungry they asked them for some food but they refused to give them any or show them any hospitality whatsoever. As they were leaving the city they came across a wall that was about to fall down. Khidr stopped by it and repaired it. Now, this situation is also bizarre; Khidr is a complete stranger in a town that refused to give them food or host them yet he still stops and fixes their wall for nothing in return. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finds the situation full of irony. Why should a stranger exert so much effort in rebuilding a wall in a town where they were denied even a little food and all hospitality? He should have at least demanded some money for his labor and then they could have bought some food to eat.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) couldn’t hold himself so he objected, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” And that was the end of their relationship. Khidr responded,

Verse 78: He said, “This is the parting between me and you. I shall inform you of the meaning of that which you were unable to bear with patiently.”

Meaning, this is the end of our relationship and this is where we’ll part ways. But before we go our separate ways I’ll explain to you the wisdom and hidden meaning behind everything I did. Up till this point in the story, we’ve probably been just as impatient as Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); we have no clue why Khidr did the things he did. But he then explains everything is detail; why he pulled a plank out of the bottom the ship, why he killed an innocent child and why he rebuilt the wall without taking anything in return.

Verse 79: As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it, for just beyond them was a king who was seizing every ship by force.

Khidr is explained that his act of damaging the ship was, in reality, a means of saving it. It comes in a narration that these poor people were ten brothers, 5 of them were handicapped while the other five worked. The ship was their only source of income. The king was a cruel, tyrannical oppressor who would take ships by force. The damage done to the ship made it undesirable for the king and ultimately saved it for its owners. Had it been seaworthy, it would certainly have been confiscated by the tyrannical king. Perpetrating some small damage to the boat saved it from the greater harm and ruinous injustice which was certain to take place without it. Hence, causing such damage was a good and kindly action. So damaging the ship actually turned out to be a good thing.

Verses 80-81: And as for the young boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would make them suffer much through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange one who is better than him in purity, and nearer to mercy.

Although the young child seemed to be pure and innocent in reality the seeds of disbelief and wickedness were entrenched in his heart. If he had grown up he would have been a source of grief and sorrow for his parents who were believers. Their love for this child would have led them towards evil and wickedness as well. They would suffer because of the rebellion and disbelief. So Allah told Khidr to kill this boy to spare them that grief and to replace him with a child that would be better and more dutiful. Now obviously the parents weren’t aware of this at this time so to them this was a huge loss and tragedy. They weren’t aware of the future difficulties that they were saved from by his death.

Qatādah said, “His parents rejoiced when he was born and grieved for him when he was killed. If he had stayed alive, he would have been the cause of their doom. So let a man be content with the decree of Allah, for the decree of Allah for the believer, if he dislikes it, is better for him than if He were to decree something that he likes for him.” That’s why in connection to these verses ibn Kathīr رحمهم الله quotes the hadīth, “Allah does not decree anything for a believer, save that it is better for him.”

  • «لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ قَضَاءٍ إِلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»

It is mentioned in a narration that the parents were blessed with a pious daughter who gave birth to a Prophet. So the murder of this child actually turned out to be something good in the long run.

Verse 82: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was righteous, and your Lord desired that they should reach their maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I didn’t do this upon my own command. This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.

Khidr explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that the wall that was about to fall that he rebuilt was covering a treasure that belonged to two orphan boys. If the wall had fallen down the treasure would be exposed and the orphan children would’ve been deprived of their wealth. By rebuilding the wall Khidr made it possible for them to access their treasure when they grew up. This was done partially because their father was a righteous and pious man. Khidr then explains to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he didn’t do any of these things based on his own accord or understanding. Rather he did them according to the Divine command, decree, and will of Allah ﷻ. “And I didn’t do this upon my own command.” He concludes by saying, “This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.” Meaning, this is the explanation of my actions that you didn’t understand and weren’t able to be patient with.

Lessons:

1) One of the most powerful and profound lessons we learn from this entire episode is that oftentimes a tragedy is a blessing in disguise. Everything that happens in this world, whether good or bad, happens according to the Divine will and decree of Allah ﷻ. There’s some deep divine wisdom behind every single thing that happens in this world. When something good happens we recognize it as a blessing. For example, if we get a good job, get a raise at work, purchase a new car or are blessed with the birth of a child. All of recognize this as something positive. On the other hand whenever we face setbacks, difficulties, hardships and tragedies we tend to lose patience.

This incident is teaching us that difficulties, tests, trials, and hardships are oftentimes blessing in disguise. The first thing to understand is that Allah isn’t sending these difficulties our way to break us or destroy us. Rather he’s sending them our way to test our patience and faith, as a source of mercy and a reminder. As a way of nurturing and training us. He’s reminding us to turn back to Him, to hold on to our faith, to be steadfast, patient, strong, and to persevere. When we’re struggling and going through difficult times we shouldn’t assume that somehow Allah is displeased with us. Similarly, when we’re comfortable and enjoying life we shouldn’t assume that Allah is pleased with us. The opposite can be true. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

  • « إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الْخَيْرَ عَجَّلَ لَهُالْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الشَّرَّأَمْسَكَ عَنْهُ بِذَنْبِهِ حَتَّى يُوَفَّى بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

“If Allah wants good for his servant, He hurries on His punishment in this world, and if He wills ill for a servant, he holds back punishing him for his sin so He can give it to him in full on the Day of Resurrection.”

Everything we face in this world is actually a source of blessing for us. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

  • «مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ،وَلاَ وَصَبٍ، وَلاَ هَمِّ، وَلاَ حُزْنٍ، وَلاَ أَذًى، وَلاَ غَمِّ، حَتَّىالشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا؛ إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ الله بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ»

“No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that the main tool, the key to deal with the world and all the problems it contains is through patience and turning towards Him. When we’re dealing with our problems we should turn to Allah. We should make dhikr, read Quran, spend time in prayer and reflection and try to be around good company. We should try to focus our attention, our spiritual and emotional energy on our relationship with Allah instead of our problem. By doing so we’ll find peace and comfort. True contentment. Part of patience is recognizing that whatever we’re going through is something that we can handle. Whatever we’re going through will not last forever. That’s why throughout the Quran whenever Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) consoles and comforts the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) He reminds him to be patient and to turn to him. “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord.” (20:130) “So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.” (30:60) “So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting.” (50:39)

2) Being content with the Divine decree of Allah ﷻ.

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Heart Soothers: Salim Bahanan

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