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Lesson 5 From Surah Al-Kahf

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Alhamdulillah, last session,  we were able to complete the story of the people of the cave as it’s mentioned in the Qur’ān. InshAllah, today we’ll discuss some of the many lessons and morals that we can take from it along with verses 27-31.

Lessons from the story of the people of the cave:

There are several lessons, morals, and guidance that can be derived from the story of the people of the cave. I know that we talked about some of them briefly in the last session and I just want to highlight and stress some of the most important ones.

1) This story serves as a consolation, comfort, and support for the Prophet ﷺ, his companions and us as believers. Trials, tests and difficulties and specifically those related to faith and religion. We will be tested in our faith.

2) The story also serves as a proof of Prophethood and the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān – the only way possible for the Prophet ﷺ to know these details regarding their story was through revelation. This is part of the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān.

3) Proof of the infinite might, power, glory, and magnificence of Allah ﷻ and proof of resurrection. It’s amongst the “signs” of Allah ﷻ that indicate towards His Existence, Oneness, and power (strengthens our faith/relationship with Allah)— symbolic parallels between their story, death, and resurrection.

4) Concern for faith and religion.

5) Being dedicated to faith and religion in one’s youth – The famous hadīth of the Prophet ﷺ about seven groups of people who will be shaded on the Day of Judgment (شاب نشأ في عبادة الله). There’s a unique relationship between youth, faith and bringing about change in society.

6) Importance of righteous companionship.

7) Faith, tawakkul (reliance), patience and their relationship with Allah’s mercy, care, and protection.

8) The concepts of Hidāyah and dalalah

9) Parallels between their seeking refuge in the cave and the Prophet ﷺ and Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) seeking refuge in the cave during migration.

10) Speaking truth to power.

11) Avoiding useless discussions that have no relevance or importance to one’s life, salvation, faith or relationship with Allah ﷻ.

12) Not discussing topics without knowledge!

13) The importance of saying InshAllah and recognizing the will of Allah.

According to Syed Qutb: “Every action a human being does or omits to do, indeed every breath a human being takes, is subject to God’s will. The curtains hiding the future are stretched in full so as to hide everything beyond the present moment. Our eyes cannot discern what is behind that curtain, and our minds are finite, no matter how advanced our knowledge may be. Hence a human being must never say that he is definitely doing something tomorrow unless he attaches his intention to God’s will. This is because tomorrow belongs to the realm that lies beyond the reach of human perception. As such, it is known only to God. Hence, we do not make any assertion about it.

This does not mean that man should be fatalistic, giving no thought to the future and making no plans for it. He should not live for the present moment, cutting himself off from his past and future. No, this is not what the directive implies. Rather, what is implied is that every human being must make an allowance for what God may will in his case. He may intend to do whatever he wants, always seeking God’s help, feeling that His will is in full control of everything. It may well be however that God may decide something different to what he intends. Should God help him to put into effect what he intends, then all well and good. But if God’s will moves in a different direction, he should not despair or be sad. All matters belong to God at the beginning and at the end.

What this means in practice is that every person should think and plan as they wish, but they must always remember to rely on God’s help and guidance. They should realize that they only have the faculties of thinking and deliberation God has given them. This should not lead to laziness or disinterestedness. On the contrary, it should give us more strength, confidence, reassurance and resolve. Should events reveal that God’s will has moved in a direction different to what we planned, we should accept this with contentedness and reassurance. We submit to God’s will, because it is beyond our knowledge until God makes it known.”

Now the next set of verses deal with issues of general guidance in a very beautiful way. Allah ﷻ says,

  • Verse 27: Recite what has been revealed to you from the book of your Lord. There is nothing that can alter His words. And you will never find refuge other than with Him.

In this verse, Allah ﷻ is speaking directly to the Prophet ﷺ. He’s instructing His messenger to continue to recite the noble Qur’ān and remain steadfast in conveying its message to his community. To recite what has been revealed to him and follow what is in it in terms of its commands and prohibitions. This was one of the responsibilities of the Prophet ﷺ as a prophet and Messenger; to recite the actual words of revelation to his community. To convey the word of God to his family, friends, neighbors and all of society. And when the Prophet ﷺ would do so he would face all sorts of challenges. Some people would turn away and others would mock and ridicule him. They would even ask him to bring a different Qur’ān or to alter it according to their wishes.

As a response, Allah reminds them, “There is nothing that can alter His words.” The Qur’ān is divinely protected. No one can change, alter or distort its meanings and no one can add or delete anything from the Quran. If someone were to try to do so then they would find no one to help them or protect them. “And you will never find refuge other than with Him.” This is the first instruction found in this passage; to recite the Qur’ān and act upon it.

Next Allah ﷻ reminds the Prophet ﷺ to stay in the company of those who are sincere and have faith despite their economic status.

Verse 28: Make your soul patient with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, desiring His Face. Don’t turn your eyes away from them, desiring the adornment of the life of this world, nor obeying one whose heart We have made heedless of the remembrance of Us and who follows his caprice and whose affair exceeds the bounds.

This verse has a specific background or context in which it was revealed. One day ‘Uyaynah, one of the chiefs of Makkah, came to the Prophet ﷺ while he was sitting with some of the less well to do Muslims. One of them was Salman Al-Farsi who was wearing clothes made of wool and a turban filled with sweat. Others amongst the poorer companions were luminaries like Bilal, Suhaib, ‘Ammār, Khabbāb and ibn Mas’ūd. So ‘Uyaynah being arrogant and prideful asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Aren’t you bothered by their smell? We are the leaders of Makkah. If we accept Islam then people will follow and accept as well. The only thing preventing us from following you is your closeness to these people. Leave them so we can follow you, or at least make separate gatherings for us.”

In response Allah ﷻ revealed this verse, telling the Prophet ﷺ not to follow the advice of the rich leaders of Makkah. Don’t pay attention to what they’re saying and don’t be influenced by their idea or suggestion. Meaning, keep the company of those who remember Allah ﷻ, praise Him, glorify Him and ask only Him day and night regardless of whether they are rich or poor. Their only intention is to seek and earn the pleasure of Allah ﷻ. Allah then further emphasizes this point by telling the Prophet ﷺ, “and let not your eyes overlook them, seeking the splendor of the worldly life.” Meaning, don’t look towards others for help and support besides them. Don’t seek to replace them with people who have wealth and status. The Prophet ﷺ wanted ‘Uyaynah and the leaders of Quraysh to accept Islam so that the others would follow them. But Allah is reminding him that their acceptance or rejection won’t affect the cause. Although outwardly it seems like the rich and wealthy accepting Islam would strengthen the cause, in reality there’s no need for them. True strength comes from the strength of the faith of your followers; not from material means.

Allah then further emphasizes this point by saying, “And do not obey the one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, and who has followed his desire and whose behavior has exceeded the limits.” Don’t pay attention to those people who are heedless and lost, who have preferred this world over religion. Those people who follow their desires and exceed all the limits set by Allah ﷻ. This is a very comprehensive description of those people who exceed the limits of Allah. Meaning, exceeding the limits set by Allah is the end result. It starts with heedlessness, which turns into following desires, which then results in disobeying Allah.

Lesson: Islam is the religion of equality. It doesn’t differentiate between rich and poor, powerful and weak in any aspect. Everybody is equally held accountable and responsible in the sight of Allah. Islam places all human beings on the same level, in front of God. They do not claim a position on the basis of their wealth, lineage or social standing. All these are transient. The real criterion to distinguish people is their standing with their Lord, which is determined by their sincerity in seeking His pleasure and their dedication to His cause. As the Prophet ﷺ told us, “Truly Allah doesn’t look at your appearances or your wealth. Rather He looks at your hearts and your actions.” Another narration mentions that as soon as this verse was revealed, the Prophet ﷺ stood up looking for these people, the poor Muslims. He found them at the back of the Masjid busy in the remembrance of Allah ﷻ. When he found them he said, “All praise is for Allah, who has not taken my life until he commanded me to remain content with men from my nation. With them is life and with them is death.”

Throughout the Prophetic tradition, we find narrations that encourage us to honor and respect the weak and poor; to treat them with kindness, compassion, sympathy, generosity. But most importantly to spend time with them and interact with them. As a matter of fact Imām Al-Nawawi in his famous collection of hadīth has almost two entire chapters dedicated to this subject. For example, Abu al-Darda raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, ‘Seek me among the poor and weak. Truly, you are given victory and provided for on account of the poor and weak among you.” [Abu Dawud] The Prophet ﷺ didn’t just honor the weak and poor, he loved them and wanted to be among them. He used to supplicate: “O Allah! I ask You for the means to do good, to avoid evil, and to love the poor, and I beseech You to forgive me and have mercy on me.” (Tirmidhi)

Our beloved Prophet ﷺ lived by his values. He was given the choice to live a life of ease and comfort or the life of hardship and difficulty. And the Prophet ﷺ chose a life of hardship and difficulty; a life of extreme simplicity. His simplicity is awe-inspiring. Whoever reads about the lifestyle of the Prophet ﷺ can’t help but be moved and have their hearts softened. His wife, Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that after he made this choice, the Prophet ﷺ never ate while reclining, saying: “I eat like a servant eats and I sit like a servant sits.” We know that he could have lived the life of a millionaire, but rather he was more generous than the free blowing wind.

Next, Allah ﷻ directs the Prophet ﷺ to declare that the truth has come from Allah and that it is absolutely clear.

Verse 29: And say, “The truth is from your Lord. Now, whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny.” Verily We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire whose canopies will encompass them. And if they will beg for help, they shall be helped with water like molten lead that will scald the faces. Vile is the drink, and how a resting place.”

In the first part of this verse Allah ﷻ tells His messenger ﷺ to announce that the truth has come from Him and that it is absolutely clear and straightforward. Meaning, O Muhammad! Tell the people that what you are preaching is the truth from your Lord; there is no doubt about it whatsoever. This truth, Islam, is the best way of life. So you can choose to believe in it or choose not to believe in it. Everybody will be held accountable for their own decisions on the Day of Judgment. Some of the commentators mention that this verse was also revealed in connection to the previous incident.

The statement, “Now, whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny,” is meant as a severe warning. The Prophet’s ﷺ responsibility is simply to convey the message. Once the message has been conveyed he’s no longer responsible. The individual who receives the message must make the conscious decision to either accept or reject the truth. And whatever they choose to do they will bear the responsibility of their choice.

The last part of the verse that describes some of the unimaginable torments of hell shows that the first part is meant to be a warning. “Surely, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire…” The fire of hell is described as taking the form of canopies that will surround them. They will be surrounded on all sides above and below. “And if they will beg for help, they shall be helped with water like molten lead that will scald the faces. Vile is the drink, and how evil a resting place.”

Then Allah ﷻ describes His promise of reward to those who believe.

Verse 30-31: “As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, -of course, We do not waste the reward of those who are good in deeds. Those are the ones for whom there are eternal gardens, rivers flowing beneath them. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will be dressed in green garments, made of fine silk and thick silk, reclining therein on couches. Excellent is the reward and beautiful is Paradise as a resting-place.”

Faith and action are always mentioned together; they are inseparable… Our faith, our iman, has to be something that’s real; something that translates into action. And it’s this faith coupled with action that will earn us the mercy of Allah ﷻ. “Gold jewelry, fine silk garments, and raised couches would all have signified immense luxury, particularly in the context of Arabian desert life, where rough woolen garments and sitting on the ground were the norm.”

 

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Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Director of Religious Education at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He regularly delivers khutbahs and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in southern California.

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#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

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I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

1. My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

3. Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

dardir

4. People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

5. Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

6. It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

7. Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

8. It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

9. Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

10. Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Tawakkul- a leaf falling
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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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