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Lesson 8 From Surah Al-Kahf

Verse 50-53

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Alhamdulillah, it truly is a great blessing to be back after the last session. May Allah ﷻ accept this small effort of ours, place it on our scale of good deeds on the Day of Judgment and make it a means of us getting closer to the Qur’ān. As all of you know, by the grace of Allah ﷻ, I was given the opportunity to perform Hajj once again this year. I ask Allah ﷻ to accept the Hajj of all those who performed it this year and make them a blessing for the entire Ummah.

Hajj is simply amazing. It’s an experience that really can’t be captured in words. For those of you who haven’t gone yet, may Allah ﷻ give you the opportunity to go as soon as possible. Hajj is a huge source of blessing and virtue in a person’s life and perhaps the greatest act of worship and submission in Islam. As the Prophet ﷺ told us, “There’s no reward for an accepted/righteous hajj except for Paradise.”

In our last session, we covered the meanings of verses 45-49. InshAllah, tonight we’ll explore the meanings and lessons of verses 50-53. As a quick reminder, a quick refresher, the last set of verses gave us a very powerful and profound example of the reality of the life of this world. We’re reminded in a very brief yet powerful way that the life of this world is temporary and fleeting; that it will very quickly come to an end. And that the life to come, the life of the hereafter, is a life of eternity. The Qur’ān wants to change our perspective; it wants to change the way we view the material world. It wants us to recognize that the material is impermanent; whereas, belief and righteous deeds are permanent.

We’re reminded that just like anything else in this world they too will one day cease to exist. So we shouldn’t be fooled, deceived and tricked by them. Rather we should focus on what is everlasting; those things that will benefit us in this world and more importantly in the next. The passage ended with a brief description of some events that will take place on the Day of Judgment.

Now the Surah transitions into the story of Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Shaytan’s refusal to prostrate to him. This particular story is mentioned in the Quran a number of times. For example, it’s mentioned in Surah Al-Baqarah, Surah Al-‘Araf, Surah Al-Hijr, and Surah Sād. However, each time it is mentioned for a different reason; for a different purpose. The story is mentioned very briefly here as an admonition to the wealthy and proud Makkans, reminding them that Satan’s refusal to prostrate before Adam (as) was based similarly on pride and a false sense of superiority. Allah ﷻ is highlighting the parallels between their attitudes towards Islam and the Muslims and the attitude of Satan.

Verse 50: “(Remember) when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before ’Adam.” So, they prostrated themselves, all of them but Iblīs (Satan). He was of the Jinn, so he rebelled against the command of his Lord. Will you then take him and his progeny as protectors apart from Me, though they are an enemy to you? How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is reminding us of the enmity of Shaytan, that just as he was an enemy to Adam he is also our enemy. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is telling His Messenger to remind people of when He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) ordered all of the Angels to prostrate to Adam out of respect and honor. So all of the Angels immediately fell in prostration except for Iblīs, who was amongst the Jinn. He refused to prostrate before Adam because he was fooled by his own arrogance and pride.

Before his fall from grace, Iblīs was a devoted servant of Allah. He was so special that he was granted permission to attend the gatherings of the Angels. The main reason why Shaytan didn’t prostrate is arrogance, pride, and jealousy. He thought he was better than Adam because he was created from fire whereas Adam was created from clay. His pride, arrogance, and jealousy caused him to disobey Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Pride, arrogance, haughtiness, thinking we’re better than others is one of the most dangerous diseases of the heart.

The word for pride in Arabic is Kibr. Linguistically the word الكبر is derived from the root letters ك ب ر , which convey the meaning of growth, either in mass or age. When a person is arrogant or prideful they glorify themselves and think of themselves as someone great or important. An Arabic word that is synonymous to الكبر is التكبر.

As a spiritual disease scholars throughout history have tried to capture its reality through a number of definitions. First and foremost the Prophet ﷺ defined الكبر as, “denial of the truth and dislike for others.”

  • “الكبر بطر الحق، و غمط الناس.”
  • الزبيدي: حالة يتخصص بها الإنسان من إعجابه بنفسه، و أن يرى نفسه أكبر من غيره.

Al-Zubaidi defined it as, “A state or condition where a person thinks good of themselves (admires themselves) and they consider themselves to be better than others.”

  • الغزالي: استعظام النفس، و رؤية قدرها فوق قدر الغير.

Imām Ghazāli defines it as self-aggrandizement and thinking your better than others.

  • استعظام الإنسان نفسه، و استحسان ما فيه من الفضائل، و الإستهانة بالناس، و استصغارهم، و الترفع على من يجب التواضع له.

Al-Jāhidh: “When a person thinks highly of themselves (self-aggrandizement), considers their qualities to be good, belittles others, and behaves arrogantly with one whom they should be humble with.” Imām Al-Ghazāli says, “The reality of arrogance is that you see yourself as being superior to others in possessing attributes of perfection (list some). So there occurs in you haughtiness and a delightful sensation from this view and belief…”

Kibr is basically thinking that we’re better than others because of our knowledge, wealth, lineage, race, color, power, strength or language.

In the Ihyā, Imām Al-Ghazāli writes very beautifully, “Arrogance/Pride is an extremely grave calamity. Through it, distinguished people are destroyed. Rarely are worshippers, ascetics, and scholars free from it, let alone normal people. How can it not be a grave calamity when the Prophet ﷺ said, “No one who has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” It’s a barrier in front of Paradise because it separates between a person and all the characteristics of true believers. Those characteristics are the gates to paradise and arrogance closes all of those gates. Because a person who has arrogance is unable to love for the believer what they love for themselves. An arrogant person is compelled to have all the blameworthy traits to protect his pride. There isn’t a praiseworthy characteristic except that they’re unable to adopt it out of fear of losing their honor…”

He also writes, “Arrogance bars you from the entirety of praiseworthy manners, because the proud person is not capable of loving for people what he loves for himself. Nor is he capable of modesty, or leaving disdain, envy or anger. Likewise, he’s incapable of concealing rage, giving good counsel or leaving ostentation. On the whole, there does not remain any bad trait except that the arrogant person is compelled to perpetrate it, and there does not remain any good trait except that he is compelled to leave it.”

The most villainous and evil individuals throughout history were filled with arrogance and false pride: Satan, Fir’awn, the enemies of the Prophet ﷺ and every single tyrant throughout history. Perhaps that’s why there are so many verses of the Qur’ān and narrations from the Prophet ﷺ that condemn pride and arrogance. For example, the Prophet ﷺ said, “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” A person (amongst his hearers) said: “Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine.” He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: “Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride is to disdain the truth (out of self-conceit) and have contempt for the people.” (Muslim)

  • عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏”‏ لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِنْ كِبْرٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ رَجُلٌ إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ يُحِبُّ أَنْ يَكُونَ ثَوْبُهُ حَسَنًا وَنَعْلُهُ حَسَنَةً ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الْجَمَالَ الْكِبْرُ بَطَرُ الْحَقِّ وَغَمْطُ النَّاسِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

The Prophet ﷺ also said, “Whoever has humility Allah will elevate him, and whoever is arrogant Allah will lower him.” May Allah protect us from pride and arrogance and make us amongst the people of humility.

Again, Shaytān’s pride and arrogance led him to disobey the direct command of Allah ﷻ. “So he rebelled against the command of his Lord.” The verb used for rebelling here is فسق, which literally means to stray from the right course or to behave sinfully. In the context of Islam, it refers to open disobedience; leaving the obedience of Allah. That’s exactly what Iblīs did; he openly disobeyed the command of Allah ﷻ.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then reprimands and scolds those people who choose to follow Shaytan by disbelieving and committing sins even though he is their sworn, open enemy. He reprimands them by asking them a rhetorical question. Oftentimes rhetorical questions are used to scold and reprimand individuals in order to make them realize their mistakes.

Allah ﷻ says,

“Will you then take him and his progeny as protectors apart from Me, though they are an enemy to you? How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!”

This is also an expression of wonder and amazement; how in the world can you take Shaytān and his progeny as protectors apart from me? Meaning, how can you obey and follow Shaytān, while he’s an open and sworn enemy of humanity? His sole purpose and objective in life is to misguide as many people as possible and lead as many people as he can to eternal damnation. That’s the oath he took in front of Allah ﷻ. After refusing to prostrate before Adam (as) Iblīs asked Allah to give him some time; a little bit of a reprieve. Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah Al-‘Arāf, “He said, ‘Grant me respite until the Day they are resurrected.’ He said, ‘Truly you are among those granted respite.’ He said, ‘Because you have caused me to err, I shall surely lie in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from in front of them and from behind them, and from their right and from their left. And you will not find most of them thankful.”

Shaytān is not our friend. Allah ﷻ makes this explicitly clear throughout the Qur’ān. Allah ﷻ tells us, “Truly Satan is your enemy so treat him as an enemy.”

Allah ﷻ ends the verse by highlighting how ridiculous it is for someone to follow Shaytān and his helpers. “How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!”

The exchange is referring to taking Shaytān and his helpers and protectors and guardians beside Allah ﷻ. Meaning, instead of obeying Allah ﷻ they disobey Him by following the path of Shaytān.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then explicitly states that Shaytan and all these false deities that people have associated with Him have no power or authority whatsoever. They’re completely helpless themselves.

Verse 51: I did not make them witness to the creation of the heavens and the earth, nor to their own creation. And I take not those who lead astray as a support.

According to some commentators in this verse, Allah ﷻ is referring to those beings or objects that people associate as partners with Allah ﷻ. Allah ﷻ is making it absolutely clear that these false deities, the Satans, didn’t witness the creation of the heavens and the earth. Meaning they weren’t partners with Allah in creation, so it’s illogical for them to be partners with Allah in being worshipped. Similarly, Allah ﷻ didn’t make them witness their own creation; meaning they are creatures themselves that don’t deserve to be worshipped.

While explaining this verse Ibn Kathīr writes, “Allah says: `These whom you take as helpers instead of Me are creatures just like you. They do not possess anything and did not witness the creation of heaven and earth, because they did not exist at that time.’ Allah says, `I am the One Who independently and exclusively creates and controls all things, and I have no partner, associate or advisor in that.” Essentially this verse is highlighting the concept of tawhīd while at the same time highlighting the absurdity of the belief of the polytheists.

Allah ends the verse by declaring that He wouldn’t take them as helpers.

“Sublime and great is God. He is in no need of anyone in the universe. He is the Almighty who has the power to accomplish whatever He wills.”

The phraseology here is intentional. It brings to the fore the myths of the unbelievers only to shoot them down. Those who seek protection from Satan and make him a partner to God only do so because they imagine that Satan has a great wealth of knowledge and overpowering might, when in fact Satan is a seducer who leads people astray. God does not like deviation or those who lead other people astray. Had He, for argument’s sake, sought helpers, He would not have taken them from among the seducers who lead people into error and deviation. This is the meaning the verse and its ending aim to emphasize.”

The Surah then paints another scene from the Day of Judgment, highlighting the consequence that awaits those who associated partners with Allah.

Verse 52: On the Day when He says, “Call those who you claimed as My partners,” they will call upon them, but they will not respond to them, and We will place a gulf between them.

In this verse, Allah is telling Muhammad ﷺ to tell the non-believers that on the Day of Judgment Allah will scold and reprimand them and tell them to call their deities whom they associated with Allah so that they can save them from the difficulties of that day and the punishment. This is one of several verses in the Quran that highlights that on the Day of Judgment Allah will challenge those who associate partners with Him to call upon them for help and intercession. On that day those partners will abandon them, dissociate from them and will be unable to help them in any way. This will be said to them as a reprimand and rebuke in order to scold them and make them feel a greater sense of regret and remorse. The “gulf” between them may refer to a place of destruction or a valley of Hell into which those who ascribed partners to Allah will be cast.

Allah then tells us of the consequences of their disbelief and shirk.

Verse 53: The Guilty will see the Fire and know they will fall into it, but they will find no means of escape from it.

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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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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. 

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. 

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

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. 

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


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

Continue Reading


He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor



Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. 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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So You Are The Wali, Now What?

Dr Shadee Elmasry



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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The way most Muslims (as well as conservative Christians and Jews) live, a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage from the father.

The father is not just a turnstile who has to say yes. He is a “wali” or protector and guardian of his daughter’s rights. So he will be asking some serious questions that would be awkward if the woman had to ask them.

Furthermore, in the Muslim community today esp. in the West, there are many converts that seek out a wali because they have no male relative who is Muslim. In this post, I share some guidelines aimed at the wali in his new role and stories that are useful.

Being a wali is not an honorary role. You’re not just throwing out the first pitch. You’re actually trying to throw curveballs to see whether the proposal checks out or has issues.

Here are some questions and demands a wali should make:

Background check: Call and meet at least four people that were close to the man who has proposed and interview them. There’s no husn al-zann (good opinion) in marriage. As a potential suitor, you are rejected until you prove yourself, much like an application for employment. These days, most people’s background can be found on their social media, so the wali has to spend time scrolling down. Keep scrolling, read the comments, look at the pictures, click on who’s tagged in those pictures. Get a good idea. You are a private investigator *before* the problem happens, not after. 

Check financials:  You need to see the financials to make sure they are not in some ridiculous debt or have bad credit such that they can’t even rent an apartment or cover basic needs. You want some evidence that he can fulfill the obligation of maintenance.

Check the educational background or skill set: This is a given. If it’s solid, then it can outweigh lack of funds at this moment.

Check medical records: If this is a stranger, the wali needs medical records. There was once a wealthy, handsome young man that was suave and a seemingly amazing prospect who proposed for a girl who was comparatively of average looks and from a family of very modest means. The mother and daughter were head over heels, but the dad had enough common sense to know something was up.

“Why would he come knocking on our door?,” he asked.

So the father demanded medical records. The guy never produced them. When the dad pressed him, the man admitted, he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and that’s why he couldn’t find anyone else to marry him.

Now note, there are legitimate cases where people have a past when they have made mistakes. This happens to the best of us, and the door for tawbah (repentance) is open. In those cases, there are organizations that match-make for Muslims with STDs. People should act in a responsible manner and not damage the lives of other humans beings.

Lifestyle: It is your job to check if the two parties have agreed on life essentials such as religious beliefs, where to live, how to school kids, etc?

In-laws: Have you at least met the family of the suitor and spent some time with them to make sure there’s nothing alarming?

Engagement: Contrary to popular understanding, there is such a thing as engagement in Islam. It’s an announcement of a future commitment to marriage. Nothing changes between the fiancees, but nobody is allowed to propose anymore. The purpose of engagement is to give time for both parties to get ready. For example, the groom may want to save up some money, or the girl may be finishing up college. Also, it’s easy to put on a face during the get-to-know process, but it’s hard to fake it over an eight or nine-month period. I remember a story where a young woman was engaged, and four months into the engagement they discovered the young man was still getting to know other women. He basically reserved the girl and then went to check for better options. Needless to say, he was dumped on the spot. Engagements are commonly a few months. I think more than a year is too much.

Legal/Civil:  The marriage should be legal/civil in the country where you will settle. If you accept a Shariah marriage but not a civil one, know that you’re asking for legal complications, especially if a child enters the picture. (Ed. Note- we realize that some countries do not allow legal registration of more than one marriage- if that is a consideration please look at all options to protect your ward. There are ways to get insurance that can be set up.)

Mahr: Get 50% of the dowry upfront (or some decent amount) and whatever is scheduled to be paid later should be written and signed. I’ve seen too many cases where a really nice dowry is “promised” but never produced.

The dowry should be commensurate to current standards depending on the man’s job. For example in our area in America 5, 7, or 10k is a common range.

In sum, there are very few things in life that are as bad as misery in marriage. The wali’s job is to eliminate the bad things that could have been avoided. If that means he has to be demanding and hated for a few months, it’s worth the cost.

It’s preventative medicine.

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