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Lesson 9 From Surah Al-Kahf

Verses 55-59

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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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, last session we were able to cover the meanings and lessons of verses 50-53. InshAllah, tonight we’ll be exploring the meanings of verses 54-59 and some of the lessons we can learn from them. In the last set of verses, Allah ﷻ very briefly mentioned the story of Adam (as) and Shaytān’s refusal to prostrate before him. We talked about how this story is mentioned in several places throughout the Qur’ān and that each time that it’s mentioned, it’s mentioned for a different purpose. Here it was mentioned to highlight the evil nature of kibr; pride, arrogance, and haughtiness or thinking that we’re better than others because of some quality that we possess. The passage also highlighted the consequences of disbelief in the Hereafter.

Verses 54-59

In this next set of verses, Allah ﷻ covers a number of different topics. He starts off by describing one aspect of the Qur’ān by saying,

Verse 54: And indeed We have employed every kind of parable for mankind in this Qur’ān. And man is the most contentious of beings.

This is a very beautiful verse in which Allah gives us a holistic understanding or a macro understanding of the Qur’ān. “And indeed We have employed every kind of parable for mankind in this Qur’ān.” A parable is an example or a metaphor that is used by Allah in the Qur’ān to provide us with lessons and guidance. They are known as amthāl al-Qur’ān. They provide us with reminders, lessons, encouragement, reprimand, reflection, contemplation, ease understanding, and illustrate difficult concepts with something tangible. Allah ﷻ uses amthāl to help us understand concepts such as faith, patience, gratitude, morality, ethics, values, reliance, life, death and resurrection.

In this verse, Allah ﷻ is telling us that He has clearly explained and clarified every single thing that we as human beings need to know, both worldly and religious affairs, in the Qur’ān so that we can know and recognize the path of truth and guidance. The Qur’ān contains guidance for every single thing we need to know as human beings in order to achieve success in this life and more importantly in the life to come. Allah ﷻ describes the Qur’ān is Surah Yusuf as “an elaboration of all things.” The full verse is, “Certainly in their stories is a lesson for those possessed of intellect. It is not a fabricated account; rather, it is a confirmation of that which came before it, and an elaboration of all things, and a guidance and mercy for a people who believe.”

The Qur’ān is our book of guidance; it’s our roadmap to happiness in this world and salvation in the hereafter. That’s why it’s so important for us to have a real, daily, practical and intimate relationship with the Quran. We have to read it, contemplate over its meanings and internalize its message. That’s why the Quran was revealed. To reflect, ponder and contemplate over its meanings. Ali (ra) said, “Indeed there’s no good in worship without fiqh, there’s no good in knowledge without understanding, and there’s no good in recitation without contemplation.” The more we engage with the book of Allah, the more we learn and the more we understand.

It’s such a book that its wonders are never-ending, it never becomes boring through repetition, whoever speaks from it will speak the truth, whoever rules with it will be just, and whoever holds fast to it will be guided to the straight path. That’s why ibn ‘Abba (ra) said, “If I lost the rope of my camel I would find it in the book of Allah!”

Despite the fact that the Qur’ān is a book of guidance and that it contains everything we need as human beings, Allah tells us why some people still fail to take advantage of it or benefit from it. “And man is the most contentious of beings.” Meaning, despite the clarity of the Qur’ān, despite its guidance, despite its light and details human beings still choose to oppose and argue against the truth. Even though Allah (swt) has explained everything necessary in detail, mankind is still predisposed to argument and dispute. That is why we find a lot of people who choose to reject the truth and disbelieve.

Allah ﷻ then tells us that oftentimes people refuse to believe because of two reasons: 1) they are waiting for punishment or 2) they wanted to see the punishment of the hereafter with their own eyes.

Verse 55: And nothing prevents men from believing when guidance comes to them and from seeking forgiveness from their Lord, except that [they wait] for what befell earlier generations to come to them, or the punishment to come upon them face to face.

This verse is referring specifically to the non-believers of Makkah but is applicable to anyone who rejects and denies the truth after it has been clarified to them. Allah ﷻ is telling us that nothing prevented the non-believers of Makkah from accepting faith after having witnessed clear signs and proofs regarding the existence and oneness of Allah and the messengership of Muhammad ﷺ, and seeking forgiveness from their Lord except for two things:

1) Being afflicted with punishment and destruction like the previous nations or 2) Seeing and experiencing the punishment of the hereafter with their own eyes. Meaning, they’re waiting to see if the same worldly punishment that befell earlier people will come upon them as well or to witness the punishment of the hereafter with their own two eyes. What this means is that they won’t believe or accept faith until they are punished. Everything has already been explained to them; there’s no reason for them to reject or deny the truth. They have received guidance in plenty, which should have been sufficient for them to believe and follow Allah’s orders. But they demanded for themselves the sort of suffering that befell nations of old. They made such a demand thinking that Allah’s punishment would never overtake them, or they did so in mockery. Sometimes they modified their demands, asking for the punishment to be shown directly to them. That, they argued, would prove what the Prophets preached and then they would believe in them. However, punishment comes from Allah, not the Messenger, and that’s why Allah says next,

Verse 56: And We don’t send the messenger except as bearers of glad tidings and as warners. And those who disbelieve dispute falsely in order to refute the truth. They take My signs and that which they have been warned as mockery.

The word mursalīn is translated as messengers and refers to all of the previous prophets and messengers that were sent by Allah ﷻ throughout history. This verse is telling us that their role or function was to convey the message. That included giving glad tidings of forgiveness, reward and paradise for those who believed and warnings of punishment and sin for those who rejected the truth. However, despite receiving the message and recognizing its truth they decided to argue against it. “And those who disbelieve dispute falsely in order to refute the truth.” They argue against it not because they’re right; rather, because they want to refute the truth. And since they’re unable to they resort to mockery and derision. “They take My signs and that which they have been warned as mockery.” They treat the Qur’ān, revelation, miracles, evidence, and proof as a joke; something to be taken lightly and made fun of. This is the worst kind of rejection and denial. It’s an attitude of arrogance and ignorance. Imagine hearing the truth, recognizing it and then rejecting it through mockery and ridicule because of pride, arrogance, and stubbornness.

After explaining the reason for their disbelief and their mockery, Allah describes the non-believers with some characteristics that bring them disgrace and dishonor.

Verse 57: And who does greater wrong than one who has been reminded of the signs of his Lord, then turns away from them and forgets that which his hands have sent forth? Surely We have placed coverings over their hearts, such that they understand it not, and in their ears a deafness. Even if you call them to guidance, they will never be rightly guided.

There is no injustice greater than disbelief, especially after witnessing the signs and evidence of the truth and then turning away from them. On top of that, they are heedless and careless of what they do in this world. Oftentimes we forgot how great of a sin and injustice disbelief truly is; we don’t recognize the gravity of rejecting and refusing to accept the truth. There’s no sin greater than disbelief. The rhetorical question mentioned at the beginning of the verse, “and who does greater wrong than the one who has been reminded of the signs of his Lord, then turns away from them and forgets that which his hands have sent forth”, is repeated throughout the Qur’ān. It’s usually asked in relation to those who deny the signs of Allah ﷻ. So Allah ﷻ is telling us that there’s absolutely no one worse or more disgraceful than a person who turns away from His signs that invite him towards the truth, success, and salvation.

On top of that, they forget about the consequences of their actions or they don’t care about the consequences of their actions. They say what they want and do what they want without any thought or apprehension. This is the absolute most unjust type of person; they’re not just to themselves nor are they just in their relationship with Allah ﷻ. As a consequence of their disbelief, rejection, stubbornness, and disobedience Allah places a seal over the hearts and ears. “Surely We have placed coverings over their hearts, such that they understand it not, and in their ears a deafness. Even if you call them to guidance, they will never be rightly guided.” Their hearts are covered.

The heart within this Islamic tradition has been given a lot of importance. It’s considered to be the center of understanding and enlightenment. It’s the center of faith, belief, reliance, and true comprehension; true recognition of the truth. Modern science attributes this to the mind and the intellect but we understand it to be the heart. The heart is “a subtle tenuous substance of an ethereal spiritual sort, which is connected with the physical heart. This subtle tenuous substance is the real essence of man. The heart is the part of man that perceives and knows and experiences; it is addressed, punished, rebuked, and held responsible…” The heart in the Islamic tradition is the center of being, intellect, and consciousness. So those who turn away from Allah, reject the truth and engage in sin and disobedience, a seal is placed over their hearts. They’re no longer able to perceive and recognize the truth; they can’t tell right from wrong.

Similarly, a “deafness” is placed in their ears. Meaning they hear the truth being spoken but they’re unable to understand and comprehend. That’s why Allah then consoles and comforts the Prophet ﷺ by telling him that if you invite them towards guidance they will never be guided. Again this is a result and consequence of their own actions and choices. Allah ﷻ tells us this elsewhere in the Qur’ān as well. For example, in Surah Al-Mutafifīn Allah says, “Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn.” “Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearings, (i.e. they are closed from accepting Allah’s Guidance), and on their eyes, there is a covering. Theirs will be a great torment.” “These people who treat what Allah has bestowed from on high with mockery and who ridicule His warnings cannot understand the Qur’ān or comprehend its message. Hence, Allah places over their hearts screens which prevent them from understanding it. In their ears, He causes a sort of deafness so that they cannot hear it. He has also willed that, because of their deliberate refusal and willful turning away from His guidance, they will never be guided. For guidance to penetrate people’s hearts, such hearts must be open to receive it in the first place.”

Despite their pride, arrogance, ignorance, stubbornness, and refusal to accept the truth Allah ﷻ in His infinite mercy delays their punishment. He gives them time to reflect, ponder, think, recognize their mistakes and repent.

Verse 58: And your Lord is Forgiving, Possessed of mercy. Were he to take them to task for that which they have earned, He would have hastened the punishment for them. Nay, but theirs is an appointed time, beyond which they shall find no refuge.

Allah ﷻ is Al-Ghafūr, the All-Forgiving, the Possessor of infinite and limitless mercy. He forgives regardless of how much a person has sinned or how major or grave the sin is. And He continues to forgive as a long as a person turns back to Him in forgiveness and repentance. And His mercy is infinite; it encompasses every single thing in this universe. If Allah ﷻ wanted to He could have held people accountable for what they’ve done immediately. If that were the case he would have brought punishment upon them in this world without any delay. As Allah ﷻ tells is in Surah Fātir, “And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving (living) creature on the surface of the earth, but He gives them respite to an appointed term, and when their term comes, then verily, Allah is Ever All-Seer of His slaves.” Instead, Allah ﷻ has set an appointed time for their punishment, which can come in this world or the next. It’s up to Allah.

Verse 59: And those towns, We destroyed them for the wrong they did, and We set an appointed time for their destruction.

Allah is reminding them of the past nations that were destroyed because of their rejection and disobedience such as, ‘Aad, Thamūd and the people of Lūt (as). The Qur’ān repeatedly refers to the destruction of whole towns as a result of their disbelief and wrongdoing. All of these references are found in Makkan revelation because they’re mostly intended as warnings for the Quraysh of Makkah.

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

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charity
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

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. 

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#Islam

He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor

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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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#Life

So You Are The Wali, Now What?

Dr Shadee Elmasry

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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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