Prof. Al-Attas’ view on the polemical usage of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims

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On December 13, 2009, during the Worldview of Islam Seminar organized by the Assembly of Muslim Intellectuals or Himpunan Keilmuan Muda (HAKIM), there was a question being posted to Professor Al-Attas regarding the polemical usage of the word “Allah” by the non-Muslims.

Below is the transcript of his brief-but-yet-concise enlightening remarks. As a word of caution, though, one must not only rely on this brief transcript alone to understand the whole spectrum of Prof. Al-Attas’ view about this theological matter. Further thorough elucidation of his thought can be found in numerous works of this great  Muslim scholar of this age, such as Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, Islam and Secularism, Islam dalam Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu and A Commentary on Hujjat al-Siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri.

bible arab

Picture : Allah in Arabic (circled) from Arabic’s Bible

Question: The using of kalimah “Allah” by other people in this country

Answers by Prof. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas:

Well I have been talking about this long time ago. I remember about this in ISTAC, when we first established ourselves (late 80’s and early 90’s), I think the Arcbishop of Penang was asking this question. And I have answered that.

And then we had a meeting with the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and about all the representatives of Christianity, including the ministers, we had a meeting at ISTAC.

And I said, “Why you want to use the word ‘Allah’ for yourself?”

They said “we going to pray in Bahasa Malaysia”

That’s the way they put it. So my answers to them, “Why you have to change praying into Bahasa Malaysia. You have been praying in English all the time. Why suddenly change into Bahasa Malaysia?”

Ok, so they said they want to change so that it more patriotic. Then in that case I’m saying that “why don’t you use Tuhan while praying in Bahasa Malaysia? Because you are talking about God isn’t it?…God is not just a name…”Allah” is a name of this Being whom you called God… and in fact a Being whom even higher than what you called to be God”

And then I said, “ …and “Allah” is not from Bahasa Malaysia. It is not a national language. It belongs to the language of Muslim all over the world. Therefore your argument using this for the word “Allah” does not fit into your idea of God. Because “Allah” does not have a son,  It is not one of three (Trinity), that is why out of respect to Allah we can’t allow you to use this.“

But when we Muslim, when we write in English we say God, or when we talk to people we say God but we mean “Allah”…but they cannot say when they speak about God it means “Allah” as they don’t mean it.

So in this particular respect, we have to be clear about this, not was-was (hesitate)…whomever responsible in our governing, they have to be clear about this and to explain to others. 

We agree you want to use God, then use Tuhan as we also use that…but we understand in the Malay language that Tuhan is not a translation of Allah..that is why we say “tiada Tuhan melainkan Allah” not “tiada Tuhan melainkan Tuhan”. We don’t say “there is not God but God”..at least the ulama’ among the Muslim Malays, we understand what is the meaning of that (word “Allah”).

So “Allah” cannot be translated as no language has translated Allah. The Arabs themselves they only use that after Islam..although the word existed (before)..the Christians Arab they also did not use Allah (in theological, epistemological and ontological sense in the same manner as the Muslim)..if they say that it is just a language..they talking about language..because they say “Allah” like the Muslim when they (melatah)…

So it appears they want to do that in order to confuse the Muslim into thinking that all the same..that is why I say one of the problems about religion is the nature of God..about who Allah is..that is why in Arkanul Iman (The Pillars of Faith), the first thing is “amana billah”. 

“Who is this Allah?” and that need to be explain at higher institution in a proper way…

So we have answer the question. It is not proper to allow them using this, since they asking us and there is no point bringing this to court since this is not a matter of court to decide it whether they have the freedom to use it or not. It is up to the Muslims.

But then if they used it and said “in Indonesia they have use it, why can’t we?”…but it is because of the Muslims..if Muslims don’t care they will go on and use it..and in Indonesia they are using not only that, other things they even call it “choir” as “selawat”. Choir is not a “selawat”, as “selawat” is for Prophet..it’s not singing hymn..

And they also talk about..in Indonesia they are also confuse..Muslims..that is why this thing happen. Sometimes the language when you come across English words like “Prophet of Doom” in Indonesia they said “Nabi celaka” (doomed prophet). How can there be “Nabi celaka” (doomed prophet)? What is meant by the “Prophet of Doom” is…even the word Prophet in English does not mean “Nabi” only…it means “yang meramalkan malapetaka” (the one who foreseen disaster)..that what it means…so the “Prophet of Doom” means “yang meramalkan malapetaka” (the one who foreseen disaster), not “Nabi celaka” (doomed prophet).

They (the Muslims in Indonesia) seem not to bother about this. What we can say is that ultimately well they say “God is not Allah”…well if you want to use the word God, we are saying we also use the word God, we refer to Allah as we know and we are not saying that your God ultimately will not refer to Allah. You can’t run away from Allah. You can only escape Him and so in the Qur’an (surah An-Naas) says: “Qul aAAoothu birabbi annas, Maliki annas, Ilahi annas”. He (Allah) is saying “ I am the real Ilah (God) of naas (mankind)”, although mankind (non-Muslim) does not interpret it that way.

My comments:

If that is the case, that shows how persistent were the Christians in finding the loopholes be it in legal or cultural dimension to further their cause that might create confusion to the Muslim’s polity if not being mitigated by the governing authority of this land. 

As I iterated before, by having confused so-called Muslim authorities which normally appear in the silhouette of Salafism/Wahabbism as well the Modernist/Reformist (actually they are just the two sides of the same coin), the “public sphere” itself has been flooded with confused views which do no good to the Muslim’s cause in defending their creed from blasphemy. 

It is best to leave this matter to the Muslim scholars who have been trained as Theologians (mutakallimun), that possessed  in depth understanding on Islamic Theology, Islamic and Western Philosophy as well knowledge about the Western Civilization (which Christianity is one of the mosaic part of the whole picture) to deal with this issue succinctly. 

Most of them that I have known are the young protege of Muslim scholars who being trained by Prof. Al-Attas himself during his days in the “original” ISTAC like Prof. Wan Mohd. Nor Wan Daud (ATMA-UKM), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zainiy Uthman (IIUM),Prof. Alparslan Acikgenc (Fatih University), Dr. Mustafa Ceric (Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Hezergovina) , Dr. Zaidi Ismail (IKIM), Dr. Sani Badron (IKIM), Dr. Wan Azhar (IKIM), Dr. Farid Shahran (former VP of ABIM, IIUM) Dr. Wan Suhaimi Wan Abdullah (UM), Dr. Azizan Sabjan (USM), Dr. Adi Setia (IIUM ) Ustaz Asham Ahmad (IKIM), Ustaz Nik Roskiman (IKIM) while Prof. Al-Attas’ students from Indonesia who have fought  closely in this issue the likes of Dr. Syamsuddin Arif, Dr. Hamid Fahmy Zarkasyi, Dr. Adian Husaini, Dr. Khalif Muammar, Ustaz Adnin Armas, Dr. Ugi Suharto and many others. Do google their name for further references.


Developing a Close Relationship with Allah

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Dear beloved jemaah blessed by Allah,

On these last days of the blessed month of Zulhjjah, let us seek from Allah s.w.t. to continue protecting our taqwa to Him throughout the year. Let us persevere, my dear brothers, in our efforts to improve our obedience to Allah s.w.t. as well as to subjugate our hearts to avoid all that He has forbidden. May on these last few days of the year 1434 Hijrah, Allah will accept all our good deeds and reward us with His pleasure, Amin.

My dear brothers blessed by Allah, 

With each passing year, we are in fact getting closer to Allah s.w.t. With the balance of time left for us to live in this world, we should remind ourselves by asking: What have we done to bring ourselves closer to the pleasure of Allah? Have we observed the examples of our beloved Prophet s.a.w. to become as what Allah s.w.t has described in surah al-Anbiya ayat 107:

Meaning: “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”

This is where I wish to share with you, one of the earlier advices of our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., when he first entered the holy land of Madinah Al-Munawwarah. He advised us to take a step closer in becoming a community of Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin (that is, a merciful community to the worlds) and a community that is close to Allah s.w.t.

From Abdullah bin Salam r.a., he said, meaning: “The first words that I heard from Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. were: “O People! Spread the Salam, feed the people, pray in the middle of the night while the people are asleep, for verily you will enter Paradise in peace.” Hadith narrated by Imam at-Tirmidzi.

This hadith reminds us of three main things, which forms the basis for the well being of humankind.

The first point relates to spreading of Salam. My dear brothers, although extending Salam to another Muslim may seem trivial and insignificant, nonetheless, it has a very profound impact. 

The advice to extend Salam to another reminds us to always be a source of peace and tranquillity, as well as the carrier of hope to people around us. The declaration of “may peace be upon you” that we frequently recite, is in fact, a prayer that can soften any angry hearts and be a cure for those who are depressed and in sadness. It conveys to the listener the message that we only wish for them goodness and peace. 

My dear brothers, 

Would we not feel happy if our relative or friend regularly speaks good things to us, or reward us with a cheerful smile every time we meet? That is what was intended by the advice to spread the Salam. It makes a Mukmin a catalyst for a tranquil heart, to pacify others who may be feeling anxious or sad. That is why the Prophet s.a.w. reminded us in a hadith which means: “Do not discount any deed of goodness, even greeting your brother with a smiling face.” Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim.

This is one of the noble characteristics of the Prophet s.a.w. He is known as a generous man with his smiles and encouraging words. He is also known as someone who only speaks when it is beneficial. This is what makes the Prophet s.a.w. approachable and attractive to those around him. This is among the characteristics of a candidate for paradise. 

What about us today? With the presence of new media and modes of communication, such as facebook, we are given a new freedom in expressing our opinions. There is nothing wrong with this, provided what we are responsible and what we express reaps goodness. Let us make use of this new media to be a place for us to plant goodness, and not to promote slander and hatred. This does not mean that we cannot be firm on the issues that we strongly feel for, but let us focus on the issues at hand and not attack other’s personal reputation and dignity in public.

Every time we publish a comment on platforms such as facebook, twitter, email and the rest, do remember that Allah will hold us accountable for them. Remember that in the end, we all want to earn the pleasure of Allah s.w.t., and not to succumb to our own desires.

The second point that the Prophet s.a.w. advised us in this hadith is to feed others. The willingness to share part of our possession whether it is time, wealth, energy or knowledge constitutes an important aspect to the well being of our lives in this world and the hereafter. How is this so? 

Imagine what would happen if every one of us refused to share what Allah has blessed us with? It will destroy the spirit of our humanity. The fates of those in need are neglected. Worse, it will lead to a feeling of jealousy between the rich and the poor and it will result in grave discomfort between them. 

As the ummah of the Prophet who is a mercy to the universe, let us rise and respond to the call of our beloved Rasulullah s.a.w. Let us help those in need, as best as we can. We do not have to go very far to do this. We just need to look around us. Ask the condition of our neighbours, our relatives, and our friends. Are they in need?

If we are not able to help them individually, we should at least refer them to various self-help groups to assist them. We need to understand that matters involving families, health, finance and others, are complicated and requires the help and advice of professionals and experts. Hopefully, by channelling them to the appropriate assistance, we are able to alleviate and lessen their burdens in this world and in the hereafter. Let us be reminded by the sayings of Rasulullah s.a.w. which means: “Whosoever relieves a Mukmin of his difficulties in the world, Allah will relieve him of his difficulties in the Hereafter. Whomsoever, eases the path of a Mukmin in the world, Allah will ease his path in this world and in the hereafter.” Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim.

The third is the advice given by the Prophet which form the basis of a compassionate heart, is to establish a good and strong relationship with Allah s.w.t. This can be achieved through night prayers and supplications to Allah s.w.t.

My dear brothers, when was the last time we submit our hearts and souls in complete humility to Allah s.w.t.? When was the last time we experience the beauty of a peaceful heart as a result of our repentance to Allah s.w.t.? If our answer to these two questions is always, let us recite Alhamdulillah. But if our response is the opposite, then let us resolve to re-establish an intimate relationship with Allah s.w.t. 

A heart that knows his Lord will always remember the mission of his life on earth that is to be the one who spreads mercy to the world. Therefore, let us set aside some time from our daily lives to supplicate to Allah s.w.t. If we can set aside time for vacations, entertainment and other works, we can also set aside time for Allah s.w.t.

Remember my dear brothers, each of these three deeds reinforces each other. The deed of extending Salam makes it easy for us to be closer to Allah s.w.t. and will transform our hearts. When we set aside time to pray to Allah, our hearts will be strengthened to continue performing good deeds consistently. 

It is in this spirit that we discussed today, that all the mosques in Singapore will be holding an event called ‘Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin’ this Sunday. This is to encourage a heightened appreciation of the teachings of Rasulullah s.a.w., so that we will be his successors as carriers of compassion to all. I call upon all of you to support this effort by making this as part of our lives. May Allah facilitate and make it easy for us to receive His Pleasure and His Blessings in this world and the hereafter. Amin Ya Rabbal ‘Alamin.

Source : Khutbah Jumaat 30 Nov 2012, Majlis Ugama Islam Singapore (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore)

Perfecting the Beginnings

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

“A sign of success in the end is to refer to Allah in the beginning. If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.”

A servant journeying to Allah, who is passing through difficult tests and heading to horizons of peace and tranquility, always thinks of new good deeds that advance him/her along his/her journey. This word of wisdom teaches us here another universal law: Perfecting the basis and the start of any new project, almost guarantees the desired outcomes in the end. In Ibn `Ataa’s words, if there is sunrise in the beginning, surely there will be sunrise in the end. But the question is: how can I make the sun rise and shine at the beginning? The answer, according to Ibn `Ataa, is by referring to Allah. But, how could one ‘refer to Allah’ in the beginning of any work?

Prophet Muhammad taught humanity something unique, which is how to start every daily action with a way of mentioning Allah that suits that action. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Every action that does not begin by invoking the praise of Allah is not blessed“. (Al-Bayhaqi) Therefore, we have to start every action in the name of Allah. If you are giving a speech, you have to start it by sending peace and blessings upon the Prophet and praising Allah Almighty. If you are starting an act of worship, you have to start with a remembrance of pure intention. You do not have to start your prayers by ‘mentioning’ that you have an intention to pray, but it is the Prophet’s tradition to start your prayer with this supplication: “I turn my face in complete devotion to The One, The Originator of the heavens and the earth and I am not of the disbelievers“.

And when you embark upon big tasks, you have to perform two rak`at (units of prayer) of istikharah (praying for the best course of action). All these things are forms of referring to Allah in the beginnings. Istikharah is a form of supplication that you recite when you have a choice between two actions. Prophet Muhammad taught us the following supplication:

O Allah, I seek Your help in finding out the best course of action in this matter by invoking Your knowledge; I ask You to empower me, and I beseech Your favor. You alone have the absolute power, while I have no power. You alone know it all, while I do not. You are the One Who knows the hidden mysteries. O Allah, if You know this thing I am embarking on [here mention your case] is good for me in my faith, worldly life, and my ultimate destiny, then facilitate it for me, and then bless me in my action. If, on the other hand, You know this thing is detrimental for me in my faith, worldly life, and ultimate destiny, turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree what is good for me, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.

The purpose of this supplication is to show that you wholeheartedly surrender to Allah and rely on Him alone. Seeking Allah’s help is a kind of ‘referring to Allah in the beginnings’, as Ibn `Ataa asked us to do. Therefore, it is a sign of success in the ends, no matter what these ends are, according to our human and worldly calculations of gain or loss. What matters is that you refer to Allah in the beginnings so that the calculations will be in your favor in the end.

For example, if you are running a business trying to make some profits, there is a possibility that you lose your investment. But if you pray istikharah and lose, think deeply about it, you might find out that you lost some investments now, but then, huge profits follow in a different business in the future, in which you learnt from the lessons of your loss. It is also possible that Allah made you lose so that you reconsider many things, people, and plans in your life, in order to find out why you were losing. You may continue to lose, but win a close friend who helped you during the time of your troubles. Therefore, your real success in the end, is in making profits in another deal, reconsidering your plans, or even winning a friend. {Allah knows, whereas you do not know}.(Al-Baqarah 2:216)

The human standards of success and failure are usually based on financial calculations or figures, or some sort of ‘statistical’ achievements. However, these calculations, in Allah’s sight and in reality, do not mean anything. What really matters is Allah’s pleasure in this life and the afterlife. So, if you refer to Allah in the beginning, the end will shine and Allah will be pleased with you, no matter what the material calculations are.

This rule applies to everything. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said 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 youth who grew up with the worship of Allah”.(Al-Bukhari and Muslim) This young man or woman perfected the beginnings of their life, therefore Allah granted them success in the end and protected them under His Shade.

There will also be sunrise in the beginning when one refrains from committing any sinful acts and seeks to establish justice through all the affairs that he/she handles. On the contrary, if one commits forbidden acts in the beginning, surely the end will be a state of failure. {Allah does not further the works of spreaders of corruption}.(Yunus 10: 81) This is because doing the things that Allah made unlawful results in failure and obliterates the blessings.

I pray to Allah to grant us a happy and good ending of our life. I also pray to Allah to help us refer to Him in every beginning so that we will achieve success in every end.

Understanding God’s Giving and Depriving

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

You might think that He is giving you, while in reality He is depriving you! And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality He is giving you! If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift. You feel bad about your deprivation because you do not understand. He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him. A sin that produces humbleness and need is better than an act of worship that produces arrogance and prejudice.

At times Allah gives me and at other times He deprives me. Allah might test me through ‘good’ and ‘bad’, through ‘fortune’ and ‘hardship’, or through bestowing ‘blessings’ on me or ‘depriving me’ from them. But the reality of each of these could turn out to be different from the way I labeled it and the assumptions I made about it.

At this stage in our journey to Allah, Ibn `Ataa’ teaches us the importance of a deep understanding of the wisdom behind Allah’s ‘giving’ and ‘depriving’. Allah says:

{But as for a human, whenever his Sustainer tries him by His generosity and by letting him enjoy a life of ease, he says, “My Sustainer has been generous towards me”; whereas, whenever He tries him by tightening his means of livelihood, he says, “My Sustainer has disgraced me!” But nay, …} (Al-Fajr 89:15-17)

‘Nay’ here means that this is not a correct understanding of having ‘a life of ease’ or ‘tight means’.

Allah is saying that when He tries us by tightening our means of livelihood, this does not mean that He is disgracing us. And when He tries us by letting us enjoy a life of ease for a while, this does not necessarily mean good news. The question now is: how could we judge?

The sheikh is drawing our attention to a very important meaning in this word of wisdom which is that of ‘understanding’ (al-fahm): “If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift”. And this is how we judge. If Allah deprives me by losing some of my wealth, opportunity, health, or family, yet at the same time, He opens the doors of ‘understanding’ for me, then this is not deprivation. It is a gift. In this case, the trial is a gift.

Before the correct ‘understanding’, I was looking at the material level only, at the five senses level, and the numbers and figures. I say, for example, I lost ten thousand dollars or I lost some of my health, etc. This is the material calculation at the material level.

But Allah might take ten thousands and give me the ability to understand, a feeling of content, a good deed, a strong will, a good friend, and closeness to Him, on top of all that. Therefore, my loss of ten thousands becomes an actual gift. It is even possible that Allah will give me hundred thousands later, if I work hard and try to learn from my lessons.

We have to understand the actual meaning of giving and deprivation. Sometimes, we think that a specific thing is a deprivation while it is the actual giving, and vice versa. A person might earn a large amount of money, for example, but does not thank Allah by sayings or actions. He might go on and waste his money in evil ways. Then, Allah may even give this person more wealth and more chances to return to Him. Allah says:

{for, behold, though I may give them rein for a while, My subtle scheme is exceedingly firm!} (Al-Qalam 68:45), and {Then, when they had forgotten all that they had been told to take to heart, We threw open to them the gates of all good things until -even as they were rejoicing in what they had been granted- We suddenly took them to task: and lo! they were broken in spirit; and in the end, the last remnant of those folk who had been bent on evildoing was wiped out. For all praise is due to Allah, the Sustainer of all the worlds}. (Al-An`am 6:44-45)

If Allah opens the doors of providence for you or grants you a request, He is calling you, as the Sheikh said, to understand. Firstly, you have to thank Allah so that the blessing is tied to you. Secondly, you have to reflect upon the wisdom and the meaning behind this giving and to be cautious about the trial it might involve.

The sheikh gives two specific examples. He says: “He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him.”

Allah might open the doors for you to do some good deeds, such as praying, memorizing the Qur’an, giving out in charity, fasting, performing hajj, attending a course, teaching people, or/and leading them in the way of religion. But you have to be cautious here. Sometime you imagine that worship is in itself a gift from Allah, but in reality it is not. Why? It is because one might perform the action and miss the reward.

Allah says:

{They who spend their possessions for the sake of Allah and do not thereafter mar their spending by stressing their own benevolence and hurting the feelings of the needy shall have their reward with their Sustainer.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 262)

Here is an example of a good deed, charity, which is marred and rendered void by another action, such as hurting the feelings of the needy. This later action nullifies the charity and closes the door of acceptance and heavenly reward.

Some people do good, only to show off and to be praised by people, thus leading themselves to punishment.

{Behold, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah – while it is He who causes them to be deceived by themselves. And when they rise to pray, they rise reluctantly, only to be seen and praised by people, remembering Allah but seldom.} (An-Nisaa’ 4: 142)

The main purpose of an act of worship is sincerity and gaining moral and spiritual benefits from it. A ritual devoid of sincerity and moral and spiritual benefit is worthless. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink in fasting”. This means that Allah will not accept his fasting, which it would look like a good deed while it is not.

The sheikh gives us another example related to the issue of acts of worship and sinning which requires an accurate understanding. The sheikh says: “And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him”. Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah says something similar in this regard: “A sin may produce humbleness and need so that it takes one to Paradise. An act of worship may produce pride and prejudice so that it takes one to Hell”.

Of course, sinning itself does not lead one to entering Paradise. But if the sin already committed and the person repented sincerely to Allah, it might be good, in the big scheme of things. This is the person who repented and changed his ways, who always remembers his sin with grief and tries his best to compensate with doing good deeds. Therefore, sinning that produces humbleness and need becomes a gift from Allah, in the big picture.

But this does not mean that one commits sins and says that I am sinning in order to eventually be humble and repent to Allah. This is a wrong and deviant understanding that is unfortunately adopted by some ignorant people who claim to be Sufis.

On the other hand, an act of worship that produces arrogance in one’s heart is an evil deed, not a good one. The Prophet (peace and blessings  be upon him) said: “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance shall not enter Paradise”.

It all depends on our reaction. The Prophet (peace and blessings  be upon him) said: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him”. This hadith indicates that I am the one who brings good or bad outcomes to me. It is all up to me! If I am thankful for Allah for the good things that happen, this is good for me. If I am patient when bad things happen to me, this is also good for me. However, if I feel arrogant when good things happen, this is an evil outcome. If I am impatient when bad things happen, this is also an evil outcome. Thus, based on my reaction I determine whether what happens to me is a heavenly gift or otherwise.

But Allah always chooses what is best for people, and it is up to them to decide how they receive Allah’s choices.

{In Your hand, Allah, is all good. Verily, You have the power to will anything}. (Aal `Imran 3: 26)

Source : http://www.onislam.net/english/shariah/refine-your-heart/advice/454833-understanding-gods-giving-and-depriving.html

Signs of Heart Disease

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There are numerous signs of a sickness of the heart. The first of them, is finding it difficult to live by the purpose of our creation, which is to know Allaah The Almighty, love Him, yearn to meet Him, turn to Him in repentance and to prefer doing all this to any other desire. Indeed, whoever gives precedence to his or her whims, over the love of, and obedience to, his or her Lord, then his or her heart is certainly diseased. 

Allaah The Almighty Says (what means):

{Have you seen the one who takes as god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him?} [Quran 25: 43].

Some of the righteous predecessors said that this verse refers to the person who is led by his or her base wants and whims; hence, he or she lives like an animal, with no knowledge or worship of Allaah The Almighty, in violation of His orders and prohibitions. Allaah The Almighty Says (what means):

{but those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as grazing livestock eat, and the Fire will be a residence for them.} [Quran 47:12]

Let us not forget that as we sow, so shall we reap. Therefore, if a person not only does not live life according to what pleases Allaah The Almighty, but instead actively pursues a lifestyle of disobedience to Him through His very blessings, he or she will neither find comfort nor be relieved of pain, after death, in the Hereafter. Allaah The Almighty, Says (what means):

{He will gulp it but will hardly [be able to] swallow it. And death will come to him from everywhere, but he is not to die. And before him is a massive punishment.} [Quran 14:17]

Another sign of a diseased heart is that a person is not disturbed by insubordination to Allaah The Almighty. A poet spoke of how a dead person does not feel the pain of any wound; using that analogy, conversely, a sound heart feels great pain when a sin is committed, and, so, is quick to repent to Allaah The Almighty, as He Says (what means):

{Indeed, those who fear Allaah – when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember [Him] and at once they have insight.} [Quran 7:201]

{And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allaah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allaah? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.} [Quran 3:135]

The meaning of “remember [Allaah]” in both verses, refers to the act of bearing in mind His magnificence, His threats and His punishments, and so, they seek His forgiveness. On the other hand, the one who has a diseased heart will keep on committing sin upon sin. 

In another place in the Quran, Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {No! Rather, the stain has covered their hearts of that which they were earning.} Commenting on this verse, Al-Hasan said that this means committing one sin after the other, to the extent that the heart becomes blind. In contrast, a person with a sound heart will follow an evil deed with a good one and make sure to repent after a wrongdoing. 

A diseased heart, moreover, manifests itself when a person does not feel any pain of being unaware of the truth, whereas, someone with an upright mind could not tolerate that when coming across any confusing matters, or having false beliefs. Verily, ignorance is a serious calamity that pains anyone with a sound heart. 

Some scholars would say: “Allaah was never disobeyed with anything worse than ignorance.” Also, Imaam Sahl was asked: “O father of Muhammad! What is worse than ignorance?” He replied: “To be oblivious of one’s obliviousness.” Indeed, such a state entirely hinders the path to knowledge, for a person is unaware of his or her need for it. It was once said that ignorance before one’s death is death itself; the bodies of the ignorant are like graves for the soul and they will have no resurrection until the Day of Resurrection. 

Another sign of having a diseased heart is deviating from what is useful to what is harmful. Many people, for instance, refrain from listening to the Quran, about which Allaah The Almighty Said (what means):

{And We Send down of the Quran that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.} [Quran 17:82].

Instead, they listen to songs that instill hypocrisy, and perhaps disbelief, in their hearts and stir their base desires. Such people sin, by preferring what Allaah and His Prophet, , hate.And that, in itself, is a consequence of having a diseased heart and only increases it in sickness. 

On the other hand, the more the heart is sound, the more it loves what Allaah The Almighty and His Messenger, , do, as He Says (what means):

{but Allaah Has endeared to you the faith and Has Made it pleasing in your hearts and Has Made hateful to you disbelief, defiance and disobedience. Those are the [rightly] guided.} [Quran 49:7]

The Prophet, said:

“He would taste the sweetness of faith, who is content with Allaah as [his] Lord, with Islam as [his] religion and with Muhammad as [his] Prophet.” [Muslim]

He, also said:

“No man from among you will have [perfect] faith, until he loves me more than his own self, children, family and all mankind.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

The last symptom of an ill heart is that a person settles in this worldly life, satisfied with it and is at peace in it, feeling no sense of alienation, such that he or she no longer looks forward to the Hereafter or works for it. Conversely, when a heart becomes sound, it yearns for the Hereafter, to the extent that it perceives the sickness of others, while they do not see its soundness. The state of a person with such a heart, in life, bears the spirit of the Hadeeth in which the Prophet, said:

“Be in this life as if you were a stranger or a traveler.” [Al-Bukhaari]

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).

The Prophet of Mercy: ‘Plant It’

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Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:

“If the Last Hour comes while one of you has a palm seedling in his hand, which he can plant before it falls, let him plant it.” (Musnad Ahmad)

The palm seedling will only bear fruit years later when the Day of Judgment is imminent, but the order of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is: Plant it.

It is not: Repent! Pray! Ask forgiveness! Rather, Plant it.

This is simple, yet teaches the whole law of Islam.


One Connected Path

There are not two different paths, one for this world and another for the hereafter. Nor a path for the hereafter called “Worship” and another for this world called “Work”.

There is only one path leading to both and connecting them together. One path – its beginning in this world and its end in the hereafter. A path on which worship is nothing different from work; where both are one thing in the sight of Islam, moving along side by side.

Once they meet and merge into one, the same thing happens inside the soul and the inner conflict over divergent goals is solved.

With them united, life is no longer divided into worship and work – nor the individual into body and soul, nor one’s aims into practical and abstract, realistic and idealistic – for every deed becomes in itself an act of worship and a means of approaching Allah, exalted is He.

Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Messenger, peace be upon him, said:

“Every utterance of glorification (glory be to Allah) is an act of charity (good deed); every utterance of magnification (Allah is the greatest) is an act of charity; every utterance of praise (All praise be to Allah) is an act of charity; every declaration of the oneness of Allah (there is no god but Allah) is an act of charity; enjoinment of good is an act of charity; forbiddance of evil is an act of charity; and the marital sexual intercourse one of you have is an act of charity.”

The Companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah; is there a reward for one of us when he satisfies his desire?”

He said, “Tell me, if he were to place it in that which is forbidden, would it not be a sin on him? Similarly, when he places it in that which is lawful, he will have a reward.” (Sahih Muslim)

Till The Last Breath

With his sincere push to work and persistence in it, the Prophet teaches that there is no room for despair.

Take action, work, plant, have faith to the last moment.

Working to the last moment of life must not stop because of despair of the results. All obstacles, impossibilities, or fears have no weight and must not prevent action.

Exert the effort, and leave to Allah how and when its fruits will be picked up.

Exert it with complete faith; that is your duty and mission and there they end – at planting the seedling in the land, not picking up the fruits.

This was the way of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

He always planted the seedling, even without knowing what would happen moments later. The Quraysh might conspire against him and kill him.

He, along with the believers, might die of hunger under their merciless siege.

Their evil hands may catch him while trying to reach the cave.

But despite all hardships, he always planted the seedling, giving it all the needed care until Allah willed for it to yield fruit.

This is the way of this New World of Muhammad.

Any hand holding a seedling should plant it. How will it grow amid destructive storms? Or evil besetting it?

Do not ask.

It is not your task.

Plant it, and rest confident in the Hands you entrusted it to.

Source : OnIslam