Why The West Craves Materialism & Why The East Sticks To Religion


By Imran Khan, Pakistan politician

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My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan.

Despite gaining independence, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.

I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Allama Iqbal -the national poet of Pakistan. The class on Islamic studies was not taken seriously, and when I left school I was considered among the elite of the country because I could speak English and wore Western clothes.

Despite periodically shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in school functions, I considered my own culture backward and religion outdated. Among our group if any one talked about religion, prayed or kept a beard he was immediately branded a Mullah.

Because of the power of the Western media, our heroes were Western movie stars or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang up, things didn’t get any easier. At Oxford, not just Islam, but all religions were considered anachronism.

Science had replaced religion and if something couldn’t be logically proved it did not exist. All supernatural stuff was confined to the movies.

Philosophers like Darwin, who with his half-baked theory of evolution had supposedly disproved the creation of men and hence religion, were read and revered.

Moreover, European history reflected its awful experience with religion. The horrors committed by the Christian clergy during the Inquisition era had left a powerful impact on the Western mind.

To understand why the West is so keen on secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see the torture apparatus used during the Spanish Inquisition. Also the persecution of scientists as heretics by the clergy had convinced the Europeans that all religions are regressive.

However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In short, there was a huge difference between what they practiced and what they preached.Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on rituals. I feel that humans are different to animals. While, the latter can be drilled, humans need to be intellectually convinced. That is why the Qur’an constantly appeals to reason. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for political gains by various individuals or groups.

Hence, it was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.

However, my Islam was selective. I accepted only parts of the religion that suited me. Prayers were restricted to Eid days and occasionally on Fridays, when my father insisted on taking me to the mosque with him.

All in all I was smoothly moving to becoming a Pukka Brown Sahib. After all I had the right credentials in terms of school, university and, above all, acceptability in the English aristocracy, something that our brown sahibs would give their lives for. So what led me to do a ‘lota’ on the Brown Sahib culture and instead become a ‘desi’?

Well it did not just happen overnight. Firstly, the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited gradually went as I developed into a world-class athlete. Secondly, I was in the unique position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and the disadvantages of both societies.

In Western societies, institutions were strong while they were collapsing in our country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and that is our family life. I began to realize that this was the Western society’s biggest loss. In trying to free itself from the oppression of the clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.

While science, no matter how much it progresses, can answer a lot of questions – two questions it will never be able to answer: One, what is the purpose of our existence and two, what happens to us when we die?

It is this vacuum that I felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. If this is the only life then one must make hay while the sun shines – and in order to do so one needs money. Such a culture is bound to cause psychological problems in a human being, as there was going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul.

Consequently, in the US, which has shown the greatest materialistic progress while giving its citizens numerous rights, almost 60 percent of the population consult psychiatrists. Yet, amazingly in modern psychology, there is no study of the human soul. Sweden and Switzerland, who provide the most welfare to their citizens, also have the highest suicide rates.Hence, man is not necessarily content with material well being and needs something more.

Since all morality has it roots in religion, once religion was removed, immorality has progressively grown since the 70s. Its direct impact has been on family life. In the UK the divorce rate is 60 percent, while it is estimated that there are over 35 percent single mothers. The crime rate is rising in almost all Western societies, but the most disturbing fact is the alarming increase in racism. While science always tries to prove the inequality of man (recent survey showing the American Black to be genetically less intelligent than whites) it is only religion that preaches the equality of man.

Between 1991 and 1997, it was estimated that total immigration into Europe was around 520,000 and there were racially motivated attacks all over, especially in Britain, France and Germany. In Pakistan during the Afghan war, we had over four million refugees, and despite the people being so much poorer, there was no racial tension.

There was a sequence of events in the 80s that moved me toward God as the Qur’an says: ‘There are signs for people of understanding. ‘ One of them was cricket. As I was a student of the game, the more I understood the game, the more I began to realize that what I considered to be chance was, in fact, the will of Allah. A pattern which became clearer with time. But it was not until Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ that my understanding of Islam began to develop.

People like me who were living in the Western world bore the brunt of anti-Islam prejudice that followed the Muslim reaction to the book. We were left with two choices: fight or flight. Since I felt strongly that the attacks on Islam were unfair, I decided to fight. It was then I realized that I was not equipped to do so as my knowledge of Islam was inadequate. Hence I started my research and for me a period of my greatest enlightenment. I read scholars like Ali Shariati, Muhammad Asad, Iqbal, Gai Eaton, plus of course, a study of Qur’an.

I will try to explain as concisely as is possible, what ‘discovering the truth’ meant for me. When the believers are addressed in the Qur’an, it always says ‘Those who believe and do good deeds.’ In other words, a Muslim has dual function, one toward God and the other toward fellow human beings.

The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of human beings. The Qur’an liberates man from man when it says that life and death and respect and humiliation are God’s jurisdiction, so we do not have to bow before other human beings.

Moreover, since this is a transitory world where we prepare for the eternal one, I broke out of the self-imposed prisons, such as growing old (such a curse in the Western world, as a result of which, plastic surgeons are having a field day), materialism, ego, what people say and so on. It is important to note that one does not eliminate earthly desires. But instead of being controlled by them, one controls them.

By following the second part of believing in Islam, I have become a better human being. Rather than being self-centered and living for the self, I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use that blessing to help the less privileged. This I did by following the fundamentals of Islam rather than becoming a Kalashnikov wielding fanatic.

I have become a tolerant and a giving human being who feels compassion for the underprivileged. Instead of attributing success to myself, I know it is because of God’s will, hence I learned humility instead of arrogance.

Also, instead of the snobbish Brown Sahib attitude toward our masses, I believe in egalitarianism and strongly feel against the injustice done to the weak in our society. According to the Qur’an, ‘Oppression is worse than killing.’ In fact only now do I understand the true meaning of Islam, if you submit to the will of Allah, you have inner peace. Through my faith, I have discovered strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential in life. I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human being. I feel there are certain Western countries with far more Islamic traits than us in Pakistan, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest individuals I know live there.

What I dislike about them is their double standards in the way they protect the rights of their citizens but consider citizens of other countries as being somehow inferior to them as human being, e.g. dumping toxic waste in the Third World, advertising cigarettes that are not allowed in the West and selling drugs that are banned in the West.

One of the problems facing Pakistan is the polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the Westernized group that looks upon Islam through Western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about the subject. It reacts strongly to anyone trying to impose Islam in society and wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group that reacts to this Westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the faith, takes up such intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant to the spirit of Islam.

What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue between the two extreme. In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly.

Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal choice. As the Qur’an tells us there is ‘no compulsion in religion.’ However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism. Just by turning up their noses at extremism the problem is not going to be solved.

The Qur’an calls Muslims ‘the middle nation’, not of extremes. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was told to simply give the message and not worry whether people converted or not, therefore, there is no question in Islam of forcing your opinions on anyone else.

Moreover, we are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and their prophets. It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the worst advertisements for Islam are the countries with their selective Islam, especially where religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.

If Pakistan’s Westernized class starts to study Islam, not only will it be able to help society fight sectarianism and extremism, but it will also make them realize what a progressive religion Islam is. They will also be able to help the Western world by articulating Islamic concepts. Recently, Prince Charles accepted that the Western world can learn from Islam.But how can this happen if the group that is in the best position to project Islam gets its attitudes from the West and considers Islam backward? Islam is a universal religion and that is why our Prophet (peace be upon him) was called a Mercy for all mankind.

Change of Heart


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The Difficulty of Attaining Sincerity

Having true sincerity is one of the most difficult things to achieve, and it is not only the common people who experience this; many scholars and righteous people struggle with it too. Sufyan Ath-Thawri says: “I have never dealt with anything more difficult than my intention; it keeps changing on me.”

That is why the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) would often supplicate, “O turner of hearts, keep my heart firm upon Your faith.”

He would also often say in his oaths, “Nay, by the turner of hearts.”

The heart changes frequently in its aims and intentions, and you can see this just by how much your heart’s aims and wishes vary within one hour. The Messenger ﷺ says: “There is no heart except that it is suspended between Two Fingers of the Most Merciful; if He wills, He keeps it firm, and if He wills, He deviates it; and the scale is in the Hand of the Most Merciful—He elevates some people and debases others, until the Day of Judgment.”

The Messenger ﷺ says: “Surely, the heart of the son of Adam turns over and over more than a pot of boiling water.”

The reason hearts change and turn so much is because of the amount of factors influencing the heart. As Sahl ibn Abdillah says, the heart is “delicate and easily affected by passing thoughts.”

Al-Harith al-Muhasabi mentions three factors that affect the heart.

The first is the warnings of the Most-Merciful. As the hadith (narration) says, “Whomever Allah wills good for him, He will place for him a warning conscience in his heart.”

In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ says, “Allah, the All-Mighty, sets forth a parable of the straight path: on either side of the path are walls with open doors, and the doors are draped with curtains. On the path, there is a caller saying, ‘O people enter all of you onto the path and do not deviate.’ Another caller also calls at the head of the path. So, when a person attempts to open one of these doors, the caller says, ‘Beware, do not open it. If you open it, then you will go through it (and leave the straight path).’ The path is Islam, and the walls are Allah’s legal boundaries, and the open doors are what Allah has forbidden. The caller at the head of the path is the Book of Allah, and the caller on the straight path is the warning conscience of Allah that is in the heart of every Muslim.”

The second element that influences the heart is Satan’s adornment of evil acts, and all his suggestions and whispers. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has commanded His messenger to flee to Allah, seeking refuge from Satan’s attempts: “And if an evil suggestion comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge in Allah. Surely, He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”

It is out of Allah’s wisdom that He made the hearts of His servants this battlefield, where both an angel and a devil vie for influence; one overtakes it sometimes, and the other at other times. The All-Mighty says, “Satan threatens you with poverty, and commands you to evil, while God promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty.”

The Messenger elucidates this in the hadith: “Surely, an angel puts thoughts in the heart of the son of Adam, and the devil also puts thoughts. The angel’s thoughts promise goodness and affirm the truth, and the devil’s thoughts promise evil and reject the truth.” Then he read, “Satan threatens you with poverty, and commands you to evil, while God promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty.”

As Ibn Al-Qayyim says, “Satan bewitches the mind until it overpowers it, and nobody is safe from his magic except whomever Allah wills. He makes the harmful act seem appealing, until a person imagines that it is the most beneficial of things; and he turns him away from beneficial things, until he imagines that they are harmful to him. La ilaha illa Allah (there is no deity but God). How many people are deceived by this magic, and how many hearts are deprived of Iman (faith), Islam, and Ihsan (excellence in faith/worship) because of it; and how much has falsehood been adorned so it appears positive; and how much has truth been denigrated so it appears negative!”

The third source of influence on the heart is the self, since it commands one to do evil acts, and calls to disobedience: “Surely, the self constantly commands to evil.” The Prophet of Allah, Ya`qub (Jacob), told his sons when they claimed that the wolf ate Yusuf (Joseph): “No, your own selves enticed you to something (evil).” The All-Mighty also said regarding Adam’s son who killed his brother, “Then his own self persuaded him to kill his brother.”

The Muslim cannot be saved from the self that incites evil, and his own whims and desires, except through persistent struggle and self-discipline, and through arming oneself with the weapons Allah (swt) gave him, such as dhikr (remembrance of Allah), recitation of the Qur’an, acts of devotion and worship, etc.

Why God is the Ultimate Aim

The human being will be miserable if his aim is directed toward anything besides His Creator, and he will become even more miserable when he accumulates more worries and aimless endeavors. If a person’s aim is not uniformly devoted to One above all worldly endeavors, this person will find herself not knowing where to go and what direction to take. But a Muslim’s aim is One, and the methodology that guides her toward this aim is one; and thus, she is able to please God and follow His guidance.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ says, “Whoever makes the Hereafter his goal, Allah places abundance in his heart, and organizes his affairs, and the world comes to him despite its unwillingness. And whoever’s aim is worldly gain, Allah puts poverty before his eyes, and disorganizes his affairs, and nothing of this world comes to him, except what has been decreed for him.”

Signs of Sincerity

Imam al-Shafi`i (may Allah have mercy on him) says, “How I wish the creation would learn this knowledge without attributing even one letter of it to me.”

He also says, “I have not spoken to anyone except that I wished that he is supported and aided, and that he is under Allah’s care and protection.”

Imam al-Ghazali says, “There is one sign that shows true sincerity in a person who counsels and advises others for the sake of God and not for people’s acceptance; if he is replaced by someone who is better, more knowledgeable, or more articulate than him, and people’s acceptance of that person surpasses his own, then he will be pleased, and he will thank Allah for relieving him from his obligation with someone more qualified than him.”

The sign of one who aims to impress others is that he will be pleased with words of praise or appreciation, even if they are not true; and he will be upset with words of criticism, even if they are true. The same applies to those who are after money. But that is not the case with the sincere one; she is pleased with the word of truth—whether it be for her or against her, and she is angered by a word of falsehood—whether it be in her favor or against her.

The sincere person finds no problem in everyone’s hearts being void of appreciation for him, if his heart is sound in the Eyes of Allah, the All-Mighty. He also does not wish for any person to see even an atom’s weight of his good deeds. If the sincere person is presented with two matters, one for Allah and one for worldly gain, he will prefer what is for Allah— knowing that this life is fleeting and the Hereafter permanent.

By Dr. `Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar (may Allah have mercy on him) | Translated by Naiyerah Kolkailah

Source : www.suhaibwebb.com

Islam and Development


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By Sheikh ‘Atiyya Saqr

Islam is a religion that calls upon all its adherents to adopt modern ideas and technologies that can improve life, as long as they are within the limits set out by Islam. Development, that is, change into a better form, is an innate inclination toward material and moral perfection.

First of all, it is a mistake to judge a principle according to the behavior of some of those who claim to practice it, for the practice may be wrong while the principle may be quite true. The enemies of Islam can judge Islam by the practice of people especially at the present time. Many of those who belong to Islam neglect its teachings or adhere to some slight matters that are not relevant to the core of the religion. Actually, this takes place at the present time, as there is an aggressive campaign against Islam, thanks to the behavior of the deviants who are involved in grievous mistakes under the name of Islam.

If it is desired to judge a principle according to the behavior of those who claim to practice it,  it should be done according to those who apply it correctly. Islam is the true religion that brings people out from darkness into light. The early Muslims understood and applied it correctly; thus, they had authority and power. Allah Almighty says

[Allah has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practice their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islam). And He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear] (An-Nur 24:55).

Islam is the final of all [revealed] religions and Prophet Muhammad is the final of all prophets. Thus Islam is applicable in all times and places. It is not part of the mercy of the Almighty to leave His servants without a message until the Day of Judgment. Hence within its values and firmly established principles, Islam has all the elements that correspond to development. These values and principles never change by time or surrounding circumstances.

Development is an innate trend to change into a better form. This trend is the secret of inclining towards both material and moral perfection. In general, all religions acknowledge this inevitable and irresistible trend. The mission of religions is, above all, guidance. Moreover, religions carry many characteristics of development that can be easily noticed when we think deeply of the different revelations before Islam and seeing to what extent Islam came as a final revelation to complete them.

How Islam Corresponds to Development

1. Islam calls for adopting the best in all matters. Allah Almighty says

[So announce the good news to My slaves. Those who listen to the speech and follow the best thereof] (Az-Zumar 39:17-18).

Furthermore, Islam encourages its followers to aspire for lofty goals and high aims. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said,

“Indeed, the believer is never satisfied doing gooduntil he reaches Paradise” (At-Tirmidhi).

2. Islam glorifies strength in both material and spiritual matters. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said,

“The strong believer is better and more lovable to Allah than the weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart” (Muslim).

3. Islam warns of adhering to the old principles if they are corrupt. Allah Almighty says

[And similarly, We sent not a warner before you to any town (people) but the luxurious ones among them said, 'We found our fathers following a certain way and religion, and we will indeed follow their footsteps.' (The warner) said, 'Even if I bring you better guidance than that which you found your fathers following?'] (Az-Zukhruf 43:23-24).

4. Islam accepts using modern means within the context of the fixed principles. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said,

“Verily, Allah will send for this nation at the head of every hundred years [could mean every generation] one who would revive for it (i.e. the nation) its religion” (Al-Hakim).

5. Islam encourages Muslims to seek and acquire knowledge, which is the basis of development and which benefits the individual and the society in the framework of the religion. Allah Almighty says

[It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah] (Fatir 35:28).

Knowledge includes many branches such as astronomy, physics, chemistry, botany, geology, medicine, sociology, philosophy.

6. Islam orders Muslims to work and apply knowledge in all fields, such as agriculture, industry, and commerce. There are many texts that assert this fact, and you can refer to the whole subject in my book Dirasat Islamiyyahli Ahamm Al-Qadaya Al-Mu`asirah (Islamic Studies for the Most Important Contemporary Issues).

7. Islam acknowledges material development in the framework of religion. However, Islam calls for eternal spiritual development, for it prevents the material development from deviation and accompanies human beings in this worldly life and in the hereafter. Allah Almighty says

[Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world. But the good righteous deeds, that last, are better with your Lord for rewards and better in respect of hope] (Al-Kahf 18:46) and [beautified for men is the love of things they covet; women, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world's life; but Allah has the excellent return (Paradise with flowing rivers, etc.) with Him. Say: Shall I inform you of things far better than those? For the pious, there are Gardens (Paradise) with their Lord, underneath which rivers flow. Therein (is their) eternal (home) and purified wives). And Allah will be pleased with them. And Allah is All-Seer of the (His) slaves ] (Aal `Imran 3:14-15).

Through this development, Islam formed a great and strong empire. Many scholars witnessed Islamic development and asserted that its principles and the efforts of those who applied it greatly contributed to the development of human civilization in all fields.

Thus, we assert that those who want to judge Islam should judge it according to its principles and correct application. It is a mistake to judge it according to the behavior of deviants who have no knowledge of the teachings of Islam or who apply them incorrectly.

Source : Sheikh ‘Atiyya Saqr is the  former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee.

Success in All Aspects of Life


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In today’s world, it is hard to reach a balance and achieve success in the various aspects of life. For instance, a person who is successful at work is likely to be unsuccessful in social life, and vice versa.

Despite all her responsibilities, Raghda El Ebrashi has managed to achieve success in her social life by maintaining a balance between her career and social work.

Life Success

El Ebrashi, 24 years old, is a graduate of the American University in Cairo with a major in business administration. In spite of her young age, she managed to finish her masters in professional development. Now, she is looking forward to complete her PhD in social entrepreneurship.

A professor at the German University in Cairo, El Ebrashi loves her job and believes she has a significant message for her students. She wants them to be aware of the problems of the needy and to play an active role in the society.

Her role as a professor did not deprive her from practicing social work. In this respect, she has made noticeable achievements in charity work.

Achieving Balance

Actually, El Ebrashi was able to achieve balance in almost all aspects of her life. Although part of her time is dedicated to her family and friends, she devoted herself to her job and to Alashanek Ya Balady Association for Sustainable Development, a charity organization of which she is president (the Arabic name stands for “for you, my country”).

“At first, it was difficult to balance between all these aspects, but, by time, things have become easy,” said El Ebrashi. She added that time management is the best way to achieve balance and success in one’s life.

Renewing the intention toward Almighty Allah by intending to do everything for His sake greatly helps to achieve success. Besides, the support and encouragement of El Ebrashi’s family have helped her to continue with enthusiasm: “My family played a significant role in helping me achieve any success in my life; had it not been for them, I wouldn’t have done anything.”

Spiritual Impact

In fact, charity and social work have positively influenced El Ebrashi’s life. “It teaches me how to be more patient,” said El Ebrashi. She has a feeling of satisfaction because of all the blessings bestowed upon her by Almighty Allah, especially after she started to deal with the needy during her visits to them. “I also learned to be responsible and to face any challenges alone,” she said.

In addition, charity work had its role in changing El Ebrashi’s beliefs toward the needy and toward poverty itself. “Before my work through Alashanek Ya Balady, I thought that poverty is just a social problem, but now I think it’s an opportunity for improvement,” she said.

El Ebrashi believes that the needy have the potential to be productive people, just like the case in China. “Poor people can play a significant role in the society, but they lack the opportunity,” said El Ebrashi.

Source :

By Shiam El-Bassiouni, Staff Writer – IslamOnline.net

Difficulties: True Character of the World


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In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa’illah As-Sakandari says:

“Do not be surprised when difficulties happen in this worldly abode. It is only revealing its true character and identity.”

If the servant of Allah repents to Him, relies on Him, purifies his intention to Him, reflects on Him, and seizes the time, the light of faith will shine in his heart and his journey will draw closer to Allah. In any case, as Ibn `Ataa had said, “there is no real distance between you and Him so that you embark upon a journey. And the connection between you and Him is not cut so that you seek to mend it”.

Prophet Muhammad mentioned that Allah said:

“My servant continues to draw near to Me with additional work until I love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will give him, and if he seeks my refuge, I will grant it to him.”( Al-Bukhari) and  “And if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.).

However, it is one of Allah’s consistent and universal laws that when Allah loves someone, He will test him with trials in this world. Allah says:

{Do people think that on their mere claiming, “We have attained to faith”, they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test?} (Al-`Ankabut 29:2).

A claim of belief has to be put to test. Allah says:

{And most certainly We shall try you all, so that We might mark out those of you who strive hard in Our cause and are patient in adversity: for We shall put to a test the truth of all your assertions.} (Muhammad 47:31)

Trials vary but the expected reaction is the same; patience and piety.

{And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of labor’s fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity} (Al-Baqarah 2:155).

{You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and pious – this, behold, is something to set one’s heart upon} (Aal `Imran 3:186).

Allah announces that this worldly life is worth very little. So, if He deprives a person of this worldly life or part of it and guides him to repentance and bestows on him His mercy and paradise instead, then what a great deal! Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“The most severely tested people are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of commitment to God” (Ibn Hibban).

For this reason, if life is full of difficulties and challenges, one should not be surprised or asks why. It is as if Ibn `Ataa is asking us: What is the name of this world? The answer in Arabic is ‘ad-dunya’, which literally means the lower life. Therefore, it is not surprising if bad conditions, unpleasant manners, and fatal consequences reveal themselves, because these things are derived from the very character and nature of this lower worldly life.

Accepting this nature of worldly life helps the servant acquire a basic virtue and cross a very important stop in his journey to Allah. It is patience with tests. Patience is a characteristic that gets the servant into God’s Presence, as mentioned before: (God is with those who are patient in adversity) (Al-Baqarah 2:153). And if we are in Allah’s Presence, then why would we worry?

Patience is of three types, namely, (1) patience in doing good, (2) patience in avoiding evil, and (3) patience with tests. Patience in doing good deeds (1) means that the believer should always be active, without placing hardship on oneself. Allah says:

{God has laid no hardship on you in anything that pertains to religion} (Al-Hajj 22:78).

The Prophet saw an old man walking, supported by his two sons, and asked about him. The people informed him that he had vowed to travel on foot to the Ka`bah. The Prophet said: “Allah is not in need of this old man’s torturing himself,” and ordered him to get a ride to the Ka`bah.(An-Nasaa’i) It is not ‘patience’ to torture oneself or cause it harm.

As for patience in avoiding evil (2), it means that a believer should stay away from committing what God has forbidden. For one example, we read in the Qur’an about Prophet Yusuf/Joseph and one of the tests he was put to.

{And it so happened that she in whose house he was living conceived a passion for him and sought to make him yield himself unto her; and she bolted the doors and said, “Come you unto me!” Joseph answered: “May God preserve me!”} (Yusuf 12:23).

There is a great reward for this type of patience. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says that one of the seven persons whom Allah would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is

“A man whom a beautiful woman of high rank seduces for adultery, but he rejects by saying: I fear God.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

And patience with Allah’s tests (3) is at different levels, all of which bear the meaning of refraining from something. The most basic level of patience with Allah’s tests is to refrain from committing evil acts. Then, a higher level is to refrain from complaining by your tongue. Finally, the highest level of patience is to refrain even from complaining in your heart.

Refraining from committing sins is a condition for purifying one’s heart. Allah says about the hypocrites:

{Indeed, We tested them through suffer­ing, but they did surrender to their Sustainer; and they will never humble them­selves} (Al-Mu’minun 23:76).

When a person faces some problems, then he/she is at a cross-road; either to repent and surrender to Allah, or to fall into sins, which means failing the test.

At a higher level, patience with Allah’s tests requires one to refrain from even complaining about the test. This is called ‘beautiful patience’, as Allah tells us about the story of Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him), when he said: {I will only show beautiful patience} (Yusuf 12:18), and {it is only to Allah that I complain of my deep grief and my sorrow} (Yusuf 12:86). Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) complained only to his Lord and refused to complain to anyone else.

Being patient with Allah’s Decree on the level of the heart is the best type of patience. The believer attains this degree when he/she not only refrains from speaking about the difficulty, but also refrains from agonizing about it in his heart. The soul is always at peace, even at the peak of crisis. The Prophet said:

“Genuine patience is at the first stroke of a calamity” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

If the believer is patient at the face of tests, he/she will advance in the way of Allah.

{Consider the flight of time! Verily, a human is bound to lose himself, unless he be of those who attain to faith, and do good works, and enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity} (Al-`Asr 103:1-3).

And in any case, adversity does not last forever.

{And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!} (Al-Inshirah 94:4-5).

With the poor


poverty_children_pictures-640x425

Many people today view manners in a commercial light. To them, only rich people’s jokes are worth laughing at, and only their faults are considered small and worthy of overlooking. As for the poor, their jokes are unbearable and only worthy of ridicule, while their faults are magnified and they are shouted down.

As for the Prophet, his kindness extended to both rich and poor alike. Anas – may Allah be pleased with him – said, “There was a man from amongst the Bedouins whose name was Zahir bin Haram. Whenever he came to Madinah for a need, he brought something for the Prophet as a gift, like cottage cheese or butter. Likewise, the Prophet would prepare some -thing to give to him whenever he wanted to leave, such as dates and so on. The Prophet used to love him and say: “Zahir is our Bedouin and we are his city-dwellers.” Zahir was not very good looking. One day, Zahir – may Allah be pleased with him – left the desert and came to Allah’s Messenger but did not find him. He had some merchandise to sell so he went on to the market place.

When the Prophet found out about his arrival, he went to the marketplace looking for him. When he arrived, he saw him selling his merchandise with sweat pouring down from his face, and he wore Bedouin clothes which did not smell good either. The Prophet hugged him tightly from behind, while Zahir was unaware and could not see who it was.

Zahir became scared and said: “Let me go! Who is this?” But the Prophet remained silent. Zahir tried to release himself from his grip and started to look right and left. When he saw the Prophet he relaxed and calmed down, placing his back against the Prophet’s chest. The Prophet began to joke with him, saying to the public: “Who will buy this slave?! Who will buy this slave?!”

Thereupon, Zahir looked at himself and thought of his extreme poverty, for he had neither wealth nor good looks.

He said: “You will find me unmarketable,O Messenger of Allah.”

The Prophet said: “But you are not unmarketable with Allah. You are very precious to Allah.”

It was no surprise then that the hearts of the poor were attached to the Prophet. He would gain their respect and love by such an attitude. Many poor people may not accuse the rich of miserliness in terms of wealth and food, but they can certainly accuse them of miserliness in terms of gracious and kind treatment. How often do you smile at a poor person and make him feel he is worthy and respectable, so that perhaps at night he might supplicate for you and cause Allah’s mercy to descend upon you from the heavens?

There may be a person with dishevelled hair who is rejected and not cared for, but if he ever asks Allah for something he is always responded to. Therefore, always be humane with the weak.

A hint…

Perhaps just a smile at a poor man would raise you in rank in the sight of Allah.

Source : Dr Muhammad Abd’ Al-Rahman Al Arifi, Enjoy Your Life, Chapter 9

Hajj: Renewal of Self


What are the blessings of Hajj? One may describe them in great detail. But, in the Qur’an, where Allah instructs Ibrahim to invite people to come to Hajj, it is said:

{So that they may witness things that are of benefit to them}(Al-Hajj 22: 28).

Hence, the real blessings of Hajj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it. Imam Abu Hanifah, it is narrated, was unsure which act of worship was more excellent among the various ones laid down by Islam. But once he had performed Hajj, he had no hesitation in declaring that Hajj was the most excellent of all.

Still, I shall now try to give you, briefly, some idea of its blessings.

hajj

The Journey

We usually think of journeys as of two kinds: those made for business and those made for pleasure. In both cases, it is to fulfill your worldly desires and benefit yourselves that you leave your homes, separate from families, spend money-all is done for your own sake. No question arises of sacrifice for any higher, sublime purpose.

But the journey that is the Hajj is quite different in nature. This is not meant for any personal end. It is undertaken solely for Allah and the fulfillment of the duty prescribed by Allah. Nobody can be prepared to undertake this journey until and unless he has love of Allah in his heart, as well as fear of Him, and is convinced that Allah wants him to do what he is doing. That you are willing to bear the privations arising from separation from your family, to incur great expenses on a journey that will bring no material rewards, and to suffer any loss of business or job, all are signs of certain inner qualities: that you love and fear Allah more than anything, that you have a strong sense of duty to Him, that you are willing to respond to His summons and ready to sacrifice your material comforts in His cause.

Virtue and Piety

You will find that your love of Allah heightens as you start preparing for your pilgrimage journey with the sole intention of pleasing Allah. With your heart longing to reach your goal, you become purer in thought and deed. You repent for past sins, seek forgiveness from people whom you might have wronged, and try to render your due to others where necessary so as not to go to Allah’s court burdened with injustices that you may have done to your fellow beings. In general, the inclination to do good intensifies and abhorrence of doing evil increases.

After leaving home, the closer you get to the House of Allah, the more intense becomes your desire to do good. You become careful so that you harm nobody while you try to render whatever service or help you can to others. You avoid abuse, indecency, dishonesty, squabbles, and bickering because you are proceeding on the path of Allah. Thus your entire journey constitutes an act of worship. How, then, can you do wrong? This journey, in contrast to every other, is a continuing course through which a Muslim attains a progressive purification of the self. On this journey, then, you are pilgrims to Allah.

The Impact of Hajj

It is now easy to see that for two or three months, from the time of deciding and preparing for Hajj to the time of returning home, a tremendous impact is made on the hearts and minds of pilgrims. This process entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, and sacrifice of many physical desires and pleasures- and all this simply for the sake of Allah, with no worldly or selfish motive.

Together with a life of sustained piety and virtuousness, the constant remembrance of Allah and the longing and love for Him in the pilgrim leave a mark on his heart which lasts for years. The pilgrim witnesses at every step the imprints left by those who sacrificed everything of theirs in submission and obedience to Allah. They fought against the whole world, suffered hardships and tortures, were condemned to banishment, but ultimately did make the word of Allah supreme and did subdue the false powers that wanted man to submit to entities other than Allah.

The lesson in courage and determination, the impetus to strive in the way of Allah, which a devotee of Allah can draw from these clear signs and inspiring examples, can hardly be available from any other source. The attachment developed with the focal point of his religion by walking round the Ka`bah (Tawaf), and the training received to live a mujahid’s life through the rites of Hajj (such as running from place to place and repeated departures and halts) are great blessings indeed.

Combined with the Prayer, fasting and almsgiving (zakah), and looked at as a whole, you will see that Hajj constitutes a preparation for the great task, which Islam wants Muslims to do. This is why it has been made compulsory for all who have the money and the physical fitness for the journey to the Ka`bah. This ensures that, in every age, there are Muslims who have passed through this training.

Hajj: A Collective Worship

The great blessings of spiritual and moral regeneration, which Hajj imparts to each person, are before you. But you cannot fully appreciate the blessings of Hajj unless you keep in view the fact that Muslims do not perform it individually: hundreds of thousands perform it communally during the time fixed for it. At one stroke Islam achieves not one or two but a thousand purposes.

The advantages of performing the Prayer singly are by no means small, but by making it conditional with congregation and by laying down the rule of Imamah (leadership in the Prayer) and by gathering huge congregations for the Friday and `Eid Prayers, its benefits have been increased many times. The observance of the fasting individually is no doubt a major source of moral and spiritual training, but by prescribing that all Muslims must fast in the month of Ramadan those benefits have been greatly increased. The almsgiving, too, has many advantages even if dispensed individually, but with the establishment of a centralized bayt al-mal (Treasury of the Islamic state) for its collection and disbursement, its usefulness is increased beyond measure.

The same is true of Hajj. If everyone were to perform it singly, the effect on individual lives would still be great. But making it a collective act enhances its effectiveness to a point, which gives it a new dimension altogether.

Source : On Islam, by Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi  in Let Us Be Muslims