All of us try to avoid disaster, but sometimes destruction is the pre-requisite of a happiness we could have never imagined within the confines of the status quo.
We think we’re only creative and productive when we're in a good mood, when things are stable and we get to sit down at a neat a tidy desk and get to work. Far from the truth. In those moments we are creative only within the walls and confines of a specific set of variables.
But actual desctruction...it tears down those walls and forces us to etch out a totally new framework. It may sound sadistic and negative, but from a purely rationally perspective, destruction is integral, even awesome. It is one of the greatest gifts we can be given as human beings. Otherwise we rot in the status quo. Consider nations, companies, teams, individuals who get so big, so strong, so powerful that nobody can destroy them. Nobody can send them to their knees crying. What happens to them? They rot from within. Actually, if they had mitigated their growth and recognized that being invincible is a liability, they would have allowed themselves to face the occassional defeats needed to keep growing. If you never cry, you'll never think outside the box. This is why empires rot from within. They don't get defeated from the outside.
Being too big has another problem: too big to see the little things, the signs of things to come. Bad things don't just happen in a snap. There are little signs and symptoms, often times very minute and hidden in the details. Entities that get so big can no longer see those details. It's a major liability. You're operating on less information than everyone else. Have you ever wondered how dictators can be so infuriatingly tone-deaf? They literally can't see the problem until it's too late. What did David use against Goliath? Not a huge stone. A small rock. He was so big, he had trouble seeing something small.
When you recognize those liabilities, you can appreciate the value of desctruction. It clears the brush. Tears down the illusions that past successes erected. Forest fires for example...as bad as they look, they're actually very beneficial to the ecosystem. The ashes of burned trees serve as nutrients to the soil. In the same way, the tears of pain are nutrients to the soul.
But beware of getting side-tracked. Destruction needs tools. Something must be used to tear down those walls. Often times, it's our own sins, mistakes or ignorance. Sometimes--most painful--it's someone you thought was a freind. Other times, it is purely a tragedy of randomness with no evil involved. Whatever it is, it is foolish to get side-tracked and dwell on the tool instead of thinking about the purpose and the lesson: 'This storm blew my roof off. The next house I'll build I'll spend double on roofing.' Or 'I got beat up at the bus stop; I'll take karate lessons.' And that's how advancement happens. Notice that advancement is limited to the species amongst whom evil exists. In contrast, gogs, cats, eagles, dolphins...they are today as they were a thousand years ago. When there is no evil there is no reason to advance. Humans though, we get better after every storm, be it evil or tragedy.
The rebuild begins in the heart and mind. Imagination. The soul, now nourished with tears and no longer burdened by walls (or ego), can start imagining a new reality. If you imagine something with your heart long enough, you attract it. It comes to you. The universe has been likened to water: it will move out of the way to bring you what your heart has constantly imagined long and hard enough upon. There is no way to prove this, but enough people have testified to it, and you yourself may have experienced it on some scale. Some day a physicist will tell us that we have things in our hearts that can bend time and space.
The compass that leads to this new reality lies in the heart in the form of feelings. New beginnings are born by closing your eyes and dreaming about a fantasy scenario that makes you feel better. That's where it starts. Within the confines of Guidance, what makes us feel better is often times exactly what we need. The heart in that respect is like a compass directing us where to go.
What we dream of, fantasize and visualize might be totally untenable, but that doesn't matter. It's not the point. The point is that it fulfills the function of salving the wounds of the heart and expeling anger, hatred, desperation and a variety of negativities that can even block our iman from growing, and cloud our vision. The awliya imagine the akhira, which is permanent. But if that seems to far off, there is no harm in imagining a better situation here on this earth. Say, who has prohibited the good things Allah created" and "By the bounty of Allah and His mercy, they should be happy." The bounty is anything good Allah created for us. And, the hadith, "This world [has in it what] is green and sweet." All of these imaginings can fall under husn al-zann billah: believing Allah will bring us something better.
The chances are, we are so short-sighted that the dreams we visualize--if they came true--would actually be nightmares. "The human being prays for the bad, thinking it is good." But it makes no difference, because the real point of visualization and positive thinking is that is cures the heart from the bruises and injuries of the bad things that happened. Sometimes you just need a distraction, for enough time to pass for all the bad memories to go away. If Allah brings what we imagine, then good. If he does not, then He is bringing something even better. The mu'min is always in a win-win. I recently read something amazing: "Iman is that when something happens, the believer knows it happened FOR him, not TO him."
Q - I work for a public school and one of the conditions of employment is to contribute to the state retirement fund. This fund gives out annual statements that include the amount of interest credited during the previous fiscal year. Do I have to give away the amount of interest now or can I do it once I cash this fund, which is in thirty years?
A - You do not have to give away the interest right now since the funds have not come into your possession. Once the entire amount comes into your possession then give it away. Anytime an illicit amount of money comes into one's possession it should be given to a lowly cause, such as toilet supplies for the mosque or any other such thing and it will not be considered sadaqa either.
There are certain things you always come back to. Just like the body needs water every day -- alot of it and multiple times a day -- so the heart needs constant reminders of Allah's rahma, His mercy. Multiple times a day in fact.
"Why do I keep doing wrong even though I know for sure it's wrong?" a sad young man asked his shaykh. "Because we're human," the shaykh said. We're not robots solely controlled by our brains. We have a complicated and sometimes messy combination of heart, intellect, body, hormones, desire, soul, emotion, weakness, need, ignorance, pride, memory, forgetfulness... and on top of that...we're social creatures, so you can now add distractions, competitions, envies, loves, desires, friendships, rivalries, confusions...and the list goes on. Truly the human being is one complicated mess.
When you ponder upon this disarray, it starts to make sense that it takes a long time for the human being to come around to doing good. And when we fall into the wrong, it takes ages to come out of it. And that Allah is understanding of all of this, "with believers full of empathy and compassion." He knows us better than our own selves. No explanation of our own condition will ever match what Allah has already known about us, from before we were born, about our challenges, weaknesses, hopes and dreams.
God said to David:
"If those who ponder about Me were to know how long I would wait for them to do good and how much compassion I have for them in what befalls them every day, and how much yearning I have for them to leave off sin, they would melt in their desire to meet Me. David, this is My will for those who simply think about Me. What then for those who take action." (1)
They say the corollary of this is the Prophetic hadith:
"Allah is greater in happiness with the repentence of His servant than if a man gets lost in the desert, then loses his horse with all his food and drink, until he despairs. Giving up, he sits down leaning against at a tree awaiting death. Then, while in this state, he suddenly sees his animal. He takes its reigns, and from the intensity of esctasty he shouts, 'Allah! You're my slave and I'm your god!' He mangled the words out of happiness." (2)
Allah says, "If you (humans) held the keys to the warehouse of your Lord's Mercy, you would have clenched [them] tightly out of fear of giving" (17:100 Israa).
We are impatient with people, and with ourselves. We are stingy in giving. And giving isn't just money. It's also chances. We don't want to give people a second chance because we are vulnerable creatures, afraid of getting hurt a second time. That is the difference between the human being and Allah. Nobody can hurt Allah, and therefore He can be patient with them, and grant them chance after chance, decade after decade, century after century.
It might soften our hearts, next time we see something we don't like from someone, to just realize how much time we ourselves take to get out of bad habits and get into good ones. It doesn't alter what right or wrong actually is. It just alters our state when we express it. The last of the famous collection of 99 names is Al-Sabur, the Patient. Going against your own nature of hastiness and trying to be patient is a testimony to your trust in Allah.
May Allah, with His Rahma, re-inspire the hearts of the hopeless, alleveate the pain of the suffering, and increase in strength those taking action.
1. Imam Ghazali's Ihya, likely to be from the remaining sayings of the Israelites.
2. Sahih Muslim, narrated from Anas.
WHAT ABOUT THE RICH?
We're always making dua for the poor, but what about the rich? If we actually pondered about it, the rich are in equal need of guidance as the poor. "I looked into Paradise and found most of its residents were the poor." What does that hadith tell you? What is a harder test? Wealth or poverty? Wealth. Further, our deen is neither a religion of the rich or the poor. The 'bad guys' are not the Have's, while the Have-Nots are not always victims.
It's true, the Prophet ﷺ loved the poor, but for what reason? For the incidentals that come along with not having much wealth. Namely, humility, spare time to go to the masjid and pray, reliance upon Allah, simple living. In many ways, less wealth equals more of a lot of other things, like spirituality, family ties, etc. The poor are often easy to get along with which is a virtue, as the Prophet ﷺ said, "The believer is approachable and easy to get on with."
However...note that poverty itself is nothing to aim for. There's not a single verse or hadith that tell us to go out there and try to be poor. The Prophet ﷺ said, "Leaving your inheritors with wealth is better than leaving them impoverished, relying upon people." And he ﷺ said, "The strong believer is better than the weak believer, and goodness is in both." And, "The honest merchant is with the martyrs on the Day of Judgement" (Darimi, Tirmidhi). Surat al-Jum'a tells us, "When the prayer is over, go seek the bounty of Allah." So all over the texts, we get the opposite message: go out there and make money.
And so we what we come away with is that we have to observe this delicate balance: we are to seek wealth, but beware its pitfalls. We are to avoid poverty, but recognize the beauty of its positive affects. In other words: fill your bank accounts, but be in your humility and reliance upon Allah, like the poor.
There's so much direction out there on how to handle poverty. But no so much on how to handle being rich. The rich need specific guidance. You don't need to tell the poor to make dhikr: they're sent to their knees every time a bill arrives in the mail. There are poor people who are literally triggered by the sight of their mailbox or the thought of going out to get the mail, because of how much bad news comes in those envelopes. But for the rich, they must be encouraged specifically towards dhikr, because never ever having a worldly need leads to the hardness of the heart. "The human being always goes beyond his limits when he has no need." The rich have to be informed of the great importance of the jama'a in our salvation, because it's very tempting, once you become wealthy, to seal yourself off from people. And I know people who are so rich, they seal themselves off because everyone is after their money. They don't know who is a real friend and who is not.
Lastly, the rich have a very importance place in the deen. Imam al-Haddad said, the community stands on the backs of four people: the scholar, the ascetic worshipper, the leader (amir) and the business man who finances it all. (The alignment is Abu Bakr the scholar, Umar the leader, Uthman the merchant, Ali the ascetic.)
We also overlook the hadith I mentioned above: the honest merchant is resurrected with the martyrs. Why? Because as the martyr is the last line of the defense, the honest merchant is the first. There's a famous saying, "When merchants cross borders, soldiers stay home." Internally, when trade is booming, people are happy (assuming fair distribution); there is no need for rebellion. Likewise, when nations are trading and making each other rich, the leaders will never go to war.
May Allah give sabr to the poor and allow them to benefit from their test, and climb out of it into blessed wealth. And may Allah give guidance to the rich and allow their wealth to be a cause by which they attain Paradise.
Life is full of ironies, and is an admixture of good and bad. The age in which you really start appreciating peace and quiet…is also the time you start having kids. Babies: the cutest faces; the most awful odors. Dog: man’s most loyal companion...also the dirtiest creature there is. Cats: the perfect pets…except they have no feelings. Kids are so adorable…when asleep. The most gorgeous animal with it’s orange and black stripes…the tiger is also nature’s most savage killer. The countries with the most beautiful terrains are also the furthest away and least practical to live in. The orchid is one of the most beautiful flowers. It lasts a week. Mint is one of the hardiest plants and offers an amazing flavor. But it invades the entire garden and chokes out all neighboring fruits and vegetables. The more sterile we get, the more allergies we develop. Strength leads to security. Security leads to softness. So the stronger you get, the weaker your offspring become.
You finally wisen up. But by that time you’re too old and tired to do anything anyway. In this life, everyone’s going to get a share of something good, but don’t envy them. Envy is so evil, that Allah out of His mercy, created an out for us: inside of every good thing is something so bad that if you ponder long and hard on it, you would be thankful you don’t have it. "In matters of deen, look to those better than you. In matters of dunya look at those worse than you."
Popular myths and misconceptions about Imam al-Bukhari and his Sahih...
-He only learned Arabic as an adult. False. He grew up in an Arabized city and it was his main language.
-He only started studying at age 30. False. He had written his first book at 20. He was in classes from age 7.
-He was the first person to write a book of hadith. False. There were *hundreds* before him.
-He mission with the Sahih was together all the sound hadiths. False. His book was meant as a *summary* and only utilizes 2,000+ hadiths divided into 7,000+ entries. The word summary is in the full title.
-Sahih Bukhari was not actually written until a century after Imam Bukhari’s death. Completely false. He taught the book to over 1,000 students in his lifetime in over ten cities. The most authoritative narration was Firabri of Bukhara who read it under Bukhari multiple times.
-Ibn Hajar Asqalani filled in gaps of missing hadith. Way off. Ibn Hajar wrote one of the best *commentaries* on the Sahih. Nothing to do with anything inside the text itself. After the Messenger himself peace be upon him, no Muslim has been attacked and maligned as much as Imam al-Bukhari himself, because he is the central pillar of hadith, which is the clearest manifestation of the Sunna and the inheritance of the Prophet peace be upon him. Orientalists, reformers, modernists and munafiqs of various stripes have spent thousands of hours trying to tear down the mountain that is Imam al-Bukhari and his Sahih. That alone is enough of an honor. One time, a scholar was thinking about which book to study. He prayed two rakas istikhara and slept. That night, he saw the Messenger peace be upon him, who said, “Why don’t you study my book?” And he pointed. It was Sahih al-Bukhari. Imam al-Bukhari used to keep a hair of the Prophet peace be upon him with him at all times (Dhahabi). Not all of the madhhabs rule by Sahih Bukhari, but all of them honor it is as “the most authentic book after the Book of Allah.” It has been explained over 300 times, more than any other book in Islamic scholarship, after tafsir. In his final days, he was welcomed into his city of birth with gold and silver coins tossed on him. Fitna broke out and short while later, he was forced to flee. A man asked him, “How do you compare this day with the day gold and silver were tossed on you?” Imam Bukhari replied, “So long as my deen is sound, I have no problem.” May Allah reward Imam al-Bukhari for what he did in guarding this knowledge for the umma, and let us benefit by it and study it well.
Last summer, we went to New York a couple of times. Every time we'd pass 34th Street, the Madison Square Garden billboard would be doing a countdown: "Billy Joel 40 Consecutive Shows!" (Actually, it was a count up; he made it to 43 straight, 65 total.) I thought to myself, Billy Joel? Still?? It was a name I knew well back in the 80's, since my sister had every tape he had ever put out. But by the time I became a teen, he was no longer making songs, and no longer considered cool. I said to myself, "If he's that old and doing two concerts a week, he must have lost all his money in divorces or something." (Turned out to be true.)
Recently, I happened upon a selection from his biography, and he said something that was so sad, and so cautionary, I had to share it. It's also a confirmation for a lot of us.
"Joel now earns more than $2 million dollars on his monthly shows. He has sold more than 150 million albums and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has six Grammy's. A Hicksville native, he has been considered the poet laureate of Long Island for decades."
Yet he’s always felt a failure where it most counts: love.
“None of those people in the arena screaming your name really know you,” Joel tells author Fred Schruers in the new book “Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography.”
“You just need one — one person out of millions — to know and accept and love you for being, well, just the way you are . . . I see old folks walking down the street who look like they’ve been together 50 years, and there’s something very touching about it — that they’ve lasted so long. I used to wonder: How come I don’t have that? I can dream about it, think about it, write music and lyrics and sing about it. But I don't have it."
So often, people in the middle of married life forget what they have, and what they're working towards. When a married couple grows old together, the benefit is not that something amazing is going to happen when they're old; rather, it's what their togetherness helps them *avoid* happening: the dreadful prospects of loneliness and lovelessness. Loneliness is so bad for the elderly that the UK government established a division to tackle it. But how? You can't do it artificially. Realistically, who would want to spend all that time with a senior citizen? Only one person: the one who sees all their past memories together when they look into their eyes.
Memories; that's what really evokes love. This is why divorce is such a sad thing. You put in all those years, and then have nothing to show for it. Even if you find the best person and remarry, you still have to log in a lot of years before you can look back and have fond memories. And even then, any reminder of the divorce sullies the moment. If there were kids, it's worse: how can you turn the page and be happy knowing that your kids are scarred for life; that's what divorce does.
Billy Joel had three divorces, and is now living in New York doing mundane things at a slow pace between concerts. He doesn't sound happy: "You can have all the money in the world," Joel said, "You can have mansions, you can have properties, you can have yachts, you can have limousines, you can have motorcycles,” he told Schruers. But without love, “it doesn’t mean a goddamn thing.”
Hypothetical: you're driving cross country and you get lost somewhere in Nevada, running out of gas in the desert. You're two little children are now really sick, bordering on death. You know for a fact that the nearest hospital is a one day drive north-east.
A straight-laced guy shows up on the scene. Very polite, very educated and easy to get along with. He has a nice car and air-condition. He offers to take you, but he *insists* that the nearest hospital is south, a journey of four days. Your kids will be dead by then. No matter how much you try to convince him, he simply will not believe you that there is a hospital only one day drive north-east.
Another dude shows up. A horrible, uneducated, uncouth guy in a dirty pick up truck with no AC. This guy is sweaty, smelly, cursing every other word, and is an all around source of misery for everyone. *But* he agrees with you: the nearest hospital is north-east, and he can take you there to save your kids' life.
So who do you go with? The guy who is really nice, but whose position on this hospital issue will get your kids killed? Or the guy who you actually can't bear to be around, but at least took the right stance on the directions so that if you pick him, your kids will live?
The right stance on things is more important than all the other good traits a person might have. Beliefs are not just accidentals, like ethnicity or skin color. One thing we have to say
to Liberals, is look, stop trying to pair "race & religion" all the time as if they're equal. They keep repeating this phrase so that people drop their beliefs. It's a bait and switch, because as soon as you let go of your deen, they will force-feed you theirs. Thier religion of liberal, humanist, social justice.
Race and religion are not even near to being equal. Race is an immutable thing outside of everyone's control. Religion is a consious choice people make about the most important thing in human life: what is reality and what is right and wrong. Can there be anything more important than these questions? In our world-view as Muslims, the right belief is the greatest good a human being can have. It is the asset that must be protected first, before anything else. It is more important than anything physical. More important than nationality or ethnicity.
It’s funny with these Liberals. They’ll preach to you, “…whether you’re white or black...Muslim, Jew or atheist…gay or straight.” How many times have you heard this mantra. It's like a prayer to them. But they’ll *never* say, "Democrat or Republican…Trump supporter or Obama supporter…Evangelical Christian or just a spiritual person..." Hmmm I wonder why. Why do they draw the line there? Maybe it's because when it comes to *their* positions, beliefs suddenly matter! Evangelicals are summarily excluded!
For Liberals, who drive the lion's share of media in America (and the world now), heavenly religions don't matter, but the synthetic Humanist ones do. What they consider 'justice' or 'social justice' is worth getting angry over. It's worth breaking ties and boycotting people and companies for. They'll happily ostracize a celebrity who goes against their creed. It's probably worth dying for to them. So who says beliefs don't matter? These people hold beliefs above everything else, just that it's only *their* beliefs that matter. (Actually, some of these Social Justice Warriors are so extreme, if they ever became Muslim, we would have to calm them down. I would say listen, let me give you some Sufi biographies so you can calm down.)
So what's the final point we're getting at? It's that we have to get our confidence back. As a whole community, not just as individuals. And that confidence is not going to come from personal bravado, a natural talent, or because someone is rich or powerful or good-looking. All those things can change, and they're limited to a few accidentals. Rather, the belivers' confidence is based on iman. Our trust in Allah. And that iman is bolstered and fortified by ilm, knowledge. "Verily those who truly have awe of Allah are those who are learned."
I look forward to the day that this type of confidence is reflected in our institutions, not just in individuals. Don't you always feel like it's just a small band of individuals, but that the larger the institution, the more useless it gets. It's because institutions always play it safe. There are alot of innocent people who rely on the institution and can be harmed by any mis-step. So I say, I agree 100%. Play it safe: don't anger Allah. That is the safest position possible. Don't support what goes against the Sacred Law. Like gay-marriage or Perennialism or all-religions-are-equal. Why do we have to whisper these things?? I hate that. It should be out in the open: "This isn't Islam, I can't and won't do this. Period. I'll do a ton things, but not this." That's how simple it is.
May Allah increase us in knowledge, iman and confidence to make Allah boast of us in front of His angels. And it's not one or two people who will change anything. It's all of you, the readers and listeners out there. You might think you have no influence, but you do. If every one of us just voices their opinion in a polite and measured way, with humility and gentleness, and we crowd-source this, then things *will* change. Talk to the people in your family. Use the internet to spread the truth. You never know what will happen. And if the worst possible result occurs, then at least you can sleep with a sound conscience. In the sight of Allah, you did something. May Allah give us strength and tawfiq to live and die upon the Sunna and the Jama'a.
After the Reconquista of Spain was complete, large amounts of Muslims fled to Morocco. The number was likely in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The Reconquista was the 're-capture' of Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, capped off in the take-over of Granada in 1492.
Among those who had shifted to Morocco is the amazing story of a girl named Aisha. She was seven when they had to flee. In Morocco, she married a much older, but well-to-do man, who also happened to be the governor of Tètouan. She was a quick learner, and after her husband's death in 1515, at age thirty, she took his place as the city's leader. Her intelligence and charm soon became so widespread that the King of Morocco himself proposed to her. But the people of Tètouan loved her, and in return, she was loyal to them, so she turned down the offer, as she had no intent to leave her city. So magnetic was Aisha, that the King decided to shift from Fès to Tètouan so that she would accept. And she did.
Atop her agenda as Queen of Morocco was to push back King Ferdinand and retake Andalusia. But how would she start? It would have to be a war of attrition. She would cut off Spanish supply lines by attacking their ships at sea.
In this, she found a great ally. The famed pirate, Barbarossa (Italian for Red Beard). He was Uruj Al-Rayyis, an Albanian who first hit the seas innocently as a pottery salesman, traveling from coast to coast with his father and brothers. In his dealings, he learned Italian, Greek, Spanish, French and Arabic. But on one journey, their ship was captured by the Knights Hospitaller, remnant Crusaders, who were now reduced to being pirates off the coast of Tripoli in Lebanon. Uruj was injured, but his brother was killed, and the experience became his initiation into a life of sea-fighting.
The Ottomans hired him to clear the seas of the remnant Crusader Knights. Driven by the loss of their brother, Uruj and his surviving brother, Ishak, became ship-capturing virtuosos, dominating the Eastern Mediterranean. During the Reconquista, they worked to shift thousands of Muslims and Jews from Spain to Algeria.
In 1516, the Spanish captured Algiers, and it was Uruj and Ishak that repelled the invading force and took the city back, declaring himself Sultan Uruj. It was he who decided that the best defense against the Spaniards was to join the Ottomans. So he wrote to Sultan Selim I, who accepted and made him the Bey (Governor) of Algiers, sending him janissaries, galleys and cannons.
As Bey, Uruj received an official communique from Morocco. The Queen sought an alliance in the fight against the Spanish. He would control the East and she would control the West. He agreed. But she did not just manage from the coast. She actually boarded the ships and took to the seas. Under her leadership, her navy effectively controlled the Western Mediterranean. Whenever the Spanish and Portuguese sought to take back their captives, they had to negotiate the ransom with her, now known by the Muslims as Al-Sayyida al-Hurra.
Alas, Spain was too fortified for a land assault, and her attacks were limited to the seas.
When the King died, she became the sole ruler of Morocco. But it did not end well. Her son-in-law rebelled against her, and exiled her. How and where she died remains unknown. But that is the story of Aisha, Al-Sayyida al-Hurra, the girl who became a queen, the queen that became a pirate.
"They hypocrites are allies of one another, promoting evil and stopping good. THEY FORGOT ALLAH, SO ALLAH FORGOT THEM" (9:76 Tawba). Hold on a second...can Allah forget?
This is a good example in which much misunderstanding and confusion about Islam stems from ignorance of its language, Arabic. Can a person go into the back end of a website without fluency in HTML or CSS? It's funny because whenever I go behind the Safina website, I see this line: "If you do not know code, leave this section alone." The tech folks implore me: "Please Dr. Shadee, don't touch anything; it'll crash the whole site." I am content at that point, to turn to them--since they know better--and make taqlid. I'm a blind follower when it comes to code. It got me thinking to myself: man we need a warning sign like this for Islam! ...For all those bloggers and tweeters out there who keep making a mess due to basic ignorance. "Unless you are educated and trained in Arabic and fiqh, do not offer commentary."
Well the answer about the verse above is that the word NASI (forgetfulness) also means "to intentionally discard or ignore." NASI is a type of word that has two meanings, a dominant one (zahir) and a lesser used one (mu'awwal). When the dominant one is impossible rationally or scripturally, the scholars then look at secondary meanings that also have precedent in the Arabic language. In this case, the word NASI has precedent for being used by the Arabs to mean "intentionally discarding or ignoring." Therefore, that is the meaning used to understand the verse.
Which brings up a second point. The need for fiqh. Fiqh (in its linguistic meaning) is when scholars bring *all* the texts together and extract the meaning that yeilds no inconsistency at all. With respect to this verse, there is the hadith, "Mistakes, forgetfulness and compulsion have been lifted from my umma." So based on this, "forgetting" is not a sin at all, so why should they be punished? For example, you honestly simply forgot to pray Asr. It totally skipped your mind. It's not good, but it's no sin either. So therefore, the correct interpretive translation of the above verse would be: They ignored Allah's commands & prohibitions (as well as belief and piety), so He ignored their pleas on the Day of Judgement, when it is too late for repentence.
The hadith itself requires ta'wil, interpretation, because on its face, its literal meaning is that the umma will never make mistakes, forget or be forced to do anything, which we know by observation is not the case. Therefore, the correct understanding is: Allah will not take to account someone who performs a sinful act as a result of an honest mistakes for which one immediately repents, forgetfulness or compulsion.
Lastly, this verse is a thorn in the throat of Literalism regarding the Divine attributes, since there is no doubt that the dominant meaning of NASI is to forget, which is a weakness. Allah cannot forget because He has no weakness. Therefore, TANZIH is required. Tanzih is, "pushing the meaning away from the literal wording." The scholar is forced to look at the secondary meaning (al-mu'awwal). Once he does that once, then he therefore cannot refute those who do it again for other inappropriate outward meanings, such as the hands: "The heavens We built with hands." The scholars therefore looked at how the Arabs used that word 'hands' and found that they used it to mean 'strength and power,' and so that is how that verse is understood: We built the heavens with strength and power.
The ignorance of the Reformists and the Literalism of some of the pious faithful are both deadly poisons. Literalism looks like piety in the beginning, but in the long-run, it stunts growth, makes the religion look ugly and unintelligent and inspires a generation of Reformists who hate the deen. The umma never flourished when Literalism took hold. Find me one moment in Islamic history when such a group was dominant and the land flowered with victory, wealth and the arts. Never happened. In fact, one of the wisdoms of the rise of the Kharijites during the time of Sayyidna Ali was to show how disruptive they are to the umma. Namely, they are such a force of stagnation, that even if your leaders are the Companions, they will stifle the umma's growth. It's a fact that Sayyidna Ali was not able to do anything on his agenda due to the stubbornness and trouble-making of the Kharijite Literalists.
Literalism is waning in the umma, but that's not all good news. Because it's just being replaced by something worse: straight up jahl, ignorance. Jahl is our enemy. When jahl spreads far and wide, large swaths of people end up swallowing deadly poisons that kill one's iman at once. Beliefs such as 'Hadith is not reliable,' 'beliefs don't really matter as long as you're a good person,' or 'all those scholars were all just male chauvinists and we should discard everything they said.'
May Allah make this umma fall in love with learning beneficial knowledge again, as it was once used to be...utterly obsessed with studying its Book and its Law. Ameen.
How frustrating is it not being able to access knowledge directly from its Arabic sources? It is *very* frustrating. It's like being locked out of a castle. Or not allowed into a country. Well...let me tell you a story.
Having been raised in an Egyptian family, I had a not-bad but not-great vocabulary and could communicate okay in 'amiyya (Egyptian dialect), but I could not read classical Arabic from childhood. It took me hours and hours of struggle in my late teens and early twenties. Like anything you work hard at, you crawl and crawl, and one day, you leap.
It was Islamic art & architecture class at Georgetown with Professor Scott Redford, an elite guy out of Harvard, who came to class in impeccable suits every day. The son of diplomats whose parents took jobs all throughout the Arab world, he developed an obsession for Islamic art at a young age. It was he who directed me to Ibn Khaldun. For my first paper, I decided to do it on Ibn Khaldun's history of Fez. His entire history of the world was 6 or 7 really large volumes, like 500 pages each volume. It was such an ooold publication! Yellow pages. But one major problemo: no table of contents! So I shot Prof Redford an email, telling him of this issue. At the time, there was no such thing as 'get the PDF.'
After the next class, I approched Prof Redford (I never called him Scott, nor went to class in sweat pants, since I was raised with something they had back then called 'respect' for elders, experts and people in positions of authority.) I told him we have a slight problem here because the chapter I need to find is buried somewhere in three-thousand pages of Arabic with no table of contents or index! He said, "Oh yeah, I got your email. You're just going to have to plough through it." I was flabbergasted at this response. Plough? It's Tuesday and the abstract is due Thursday.
I took it on the chin and that night, went down at 8pm to the library and pulled all six or so volumes out on the table with the intention of going chapter heading by chapter heading until I find Fez. You would think that each chapter begins at the top of the page in large bold lettering. But nooo. Those old publications are simply something else! No distinctive chapter headings. Forget chapter headings...no paragraph breaks! No periods!! It was *literally* THOUSANDS of pages of pure running text. Words in dark gray ink on yellow paper. That was it.
I spent about fifteen or twenty minutes doing nothing, just sitting there absorbing the shock of the challenge that lay ahead. And then, as always, in a sudden snap, you make up your mind, quit the non-sense, and start marching. I literally started with volume 1, page 1, searching for keywords like "tarikh al-Maghrib," the history of Morocco, or "tarikh Faas," the history of Fez. Back in those days, there was no texting, no cell phone to check. Just straight reading. I must have went four hours straight, refusing to move until I found my chapter. "Tarikh Faas."
It took me a night to find the chapter. Now I had to actually read it! The next day, I sat with it, and did the same thing, going word for word in the chapter, refusing to budge until it was done. I had to turn to the dictionary every half minute.
Before those two nights, Arabic was a wall. You could see through holes or look around it. But it was still this insurmountable obstacle. All you could do was chip at it. On those two nights, all the pecking and chipping away, like in Shawshank Redemption, finally gave way to a fault line, a crack in the wall. I felt it. You crawl and crawl, then one day, you leap. Over the next few years, that wall was brought down completely.
Reading classical Arabic texts seems like a daunting task. But let me tell you, having to live in ignorance is even more daunting. We are going to slowly start chipping away. I've made these videos. It's the first time I've tried doing it, and already the people who have watched them benefited greatly. It's a small passage from a classical Arabic text (Imam al-Suyuti), and I go over it, explaining the vocab and grammar, but also the content, and how it relates to our overall vision and program. I want modern Muslims to be able to see the evidences from the sources themselves.
Check it out and let me know. It's a slow process, but over the years, that wall comes down. https://safina-online.teachable.com/p/rog
Visionaries vs pragmatists.
Artists vs engineers.
Risk-takers vs rule-followers.
Everything is created in pairs, some mutually exclusive and some corollaries. In this case, one of the most common misconceptions is that the above things are mutually exclusive. They're not; they are corollaries.
Every time some aspect of human life has been revolutionized, it's been when a wild idea took root in the practical. A 'crazy idea' stays on the fringe unless it gets packaged into something beneficial for a mass of people. In the same vein, the conservative no-risk type whose sole goal is to keep everything stable will eventually go extinct if they refuse to move with the ebb and flow of the times.
Someone once questioned the genius of Steve Jobs by showing how everything he produced had actually already existed. Xerox Park already come up with Graphic User Interface in the 80's. A bunch of companies had made clunky MP3 players years before the iPod came out. And likewise, Microsoft already had a tablet idea before iPad. But the genius isn't just in the idea. It's in the practical and artful execution. What were those companies able to do with their idea? Nothing. You don't even know about them. People didn't even like technology: it was ugly. The genius was in the ability to merge idea and reality and make it look good at the same time.
It's the same with the Edison vs Tesla debate. One of the major differences was that Edison would not entertain ideas that had no market viability. What's the point of an idea that would never get any traction with buyers? Who's paying the rent for the lab? This issue of pragmatism is a chief reason why Edison fired Tesla. JP Morgan decided to pick up the Serbian inventor and finance his lab, but when Morgan realized that none of Tesla's ideas could actually produce anything of direct value, he withdrew his funding. Tesla could no longer afford his lab and died destitute. (His alternative current system is used widely today, including at Niagara Falls.) But the point is, his refusal or inability to be practical cost him his ability to peruse his passion.
One thing Jobs was criticized for was caring too much about look and design. Those critics were the biggest fools. The very reason his products latched on was that they were so beautiful to look at. It was a very simple, unified beauty. He merged ideas and realities then cloaked it style and design.
Design is in fact extremely practical because if something looks good people will want to use it. How much revenue does Turkey make just because people want to see those gorgeous mosques in person hundreds of years after they were built.
The point is...that pragmatism and imagination are not mutually exclusive. You can promote both math drills and creativity in the same education system. I have this debate all the time. I believe in hard-work and drills. Then someone tells me "that's all short-term, I would rather they learn to use their imagination." Fool! They can do both! Actually, they *must* do both. The dichotomy of engineer vs artist has to be broken down. The boring-to-death engineer is not any less intolerable than the artist in la la land. I can't stand either. Success is in the merger.
Phil Knight is a great example of this. An accountant by trade, he is very stable but probably one of the more bland personalities out there. But he was driven by a burning passion for running. He was able to bring three amazing people together and they literally sparked the global fitness movement through his company: Nike. His old track coach thought of the waffle sole. His eccentric first employee came up with the name Nike after seeing it in a dream, and a random art student at the college where Knight taught accounting came up with the swoosh, probably a top three most iconic logos of all time (it was 1971; the designer charged $35). But he was only able to bring these together because he was well acquainted with the real world of trade and finance. Without this practicality, all those ideas would have just died. "There is no million dollar idea," Jobs said. "Only a million dollar execution."
In sum, the extremes are the humanities without applicability and STEM without the liberal arts. The real trick is finding the sweet spot in the middle.
In every era, in every society, there's a common phrase people use to praise a person. In our's it's the generic expression, "good person." So...what exactly is a 'good person'? If someone saved four lives, but it was then discovered that he killed his mother and father in cold blood with no regrets, would they be considered good? He saved four and took two, so the net is a positive two. But if you said no, he can't be good for killing his parents, then you've just implied that 'goodness' has some hierarchy. So this "good person" thing is starting to be less generic and more specific.
There's a hierarchy of deeds. Not all deeds are equal. If the categorically superior deed was skipped, then it doesn't matter how many lesser deeds you did. The hierarchy must be observed. Which brings us to our point: who or what determines this hierarchy?
I was a bit surprised---even though I shouldn't have been---when last week, people (Muslims) were saying explicitly that they believed that what people did for humanity was more important than if they believed in Allah or disbelieved in Him. One said, "I don't think God is going to judge people by their religion, but by what they do for people." I thought to myself...'People are more important than Allah? What's going on here? Muslims are saying this? Do we have a religion here or not?' Then I realized, you know what, I think we've just been assuming one of the most important parts of aqida and not explicitly stating it or teaching it (which is why I highly encourage people follow Sh Hamza Maqbul's Tahawiyya lectures and soon-to-be book).
Tawhid is not just that there's only one god, but that nothing in the universe is more important than Allah. That's the line: NOTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ALLAH. People are not more important than Allah. Humanity at large is not either. I think this is the central pillar that's been subtly displaced by the nuances of Humanism, which are embedded in all facets of modern life from literature to governance to Super Bowl commercials.
In the Renaissance, European intellectuals in Florence and Venice had lost faith in the Church, but they needed something to fill the void in place of God: they chose us, humans. (In a sense, it actually confirms our belief that the most noble creation is the human being, so in the absence of belief in the Divine, they went with humans.) Humanism thus became a grand celebration of the human being. In the next generation, a synthesis was developed: Christian Humanisms.
Muslims have a type of Muslim Humanists. It began as 'Islamic Modernism,' in which Islam is viewed as a tool to make our life in this world easier and better. The Muslim went from someone whose purpose is to serve Allah, to someone who uses Islam to serve their own lot in life. The true vision of Islam is lost on these folks. The sign of Islamic Modernism is that if you're around them you get this odd feeling: "Wow we're doing alot of work, but what about Allah in all this??" There seems to be no mention of Him at any turn! Du'a becomes just a ceremonious thing, not a real tool. The modernist agenda is solely filled with issues that affect Muslim worldly life. Discussing what Allah asked us to do---doctrine, law, spirituality---is redundant and mostly ignored. If knowledge is approached at all, it is interrogated and tortured until it divulges the fatwa of our choice. Contentions about the Sunna and orthodoxy---the right way to practice Islam (everything worth doing has a right way to do it and a wrong way)---is viewed as sectarian, and worse, something impossible to know.
Now back to Humanism. As it pervaded all the social sciences, this subtle prioritization of humanity---us---over God takes root little by little, until we reach a cross-roads that shows us how far we've really gone: a person is lauded solely for what they do for humanity, and oh by the way, the fact that he insults God is just an unfortunate wrinkle in the bigger picture. The Muslim who thinks like this has to be woken up, 'Excuse me, your scales are upside down.' If the most important thing in the universe is Allah, then the best deed is belief in him, and the worst deed is rejecting Him.
From what I've been seeing recently, Priority #1 amongst us is to revive and re-cement this very simple but utterly core foundational conviction: NOTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ALLAH. This is what's at the top of the list. After that gets cemented, then we can talk about everything else.
(Now if this idea catches on, we may end up one day with a conference by Muslims about Allah, imagine that!)
I used to hear the phrase 'throw away culture' and lament at how wasteful we've become. But now, I have different ideas about it. Quite literally, we have to be a 'throw away' culture today because, over time, we'll end up with so much stuff in the house there'll be no room for the humans that live in it!
Our deen doesn't tolerate many obsessions, but one which it does is cleanliness and simplicity of life. Cluttered homes breed cluttered minds. The origin of the message---the desert---is an amazing example of simplicity. One of the first things that fascinated me about the deen was the idea of the zaahid: that early Muslim that owned three possessions: thawb, sword and wudu pot. Amazing. When I went on my first purge, it was so liberating. Empty space makes you relaxed. In contrast, "A team of UCLA researchers observed that stress hormones spike during when people spend time dealing with their belongings."
And clutter isn't just physical. Schedules, work projects, social circles,social media accounts, food, even beliefs, and life-goals. In everything, you might think that more is better, but our physical and emotional responses are actually the opposite. We are more at peace with less than with more.
Ironically, simplifying things is a lot harder than piling them up. It's easy to say yes. It takes more guts to say no. In fact, the act of simplifying and decluttering is a spiritual and intellectual exercise. You have to ask: what really is my purpose in this? That's spiritual. And then once you answer that, you ask: what's the best method to achieve it (intellectual). People who do this with their work projects excel. They cut the fat and eliminate time-wasters.
Our world today is so complex in both material and non-material things. So it actually takes a concerted effort on a daily basis to keep things simple. I think that for us, we're always reminded of the most austere form of simplicity given our faith's roots in the desert, a place so harsh, it forces simplicity on its inhabitants. But it's for the better. Life is a lot more relaxing and enjoyable when both our beliefs, goals and physical environments are clean, straightforward and manageable.
There's an amazing hadith found in Musnad Ahmad, Tabarani, Ibn Maja, Tirmidhi and others... It says, "No people have gone astray after having been upon guidance, except that they were given argumentation."
ما ضل قوم بعد هدى كانوا عليه إلا أوتوا الجدل
If you've been around Muslim life long enough, you can sense when a time-wasting black-hole is developing. It's very tempting to go in swinging. Most youth do simply out of lack of experience. But for those who've been around the block, what is the point of experience, if you simply keep falling for the allure of the black hole.
Whenever an issue comes up, our stance is that we just state the position---insist on it no matter what---and move on. One of the signs of misguided groups is that they're always arguing. In contrast, the path our ulama have put us upon---may Allah guard them and protect them---is one in which we're really just too busy for nonsense. We have Quran to review, and still more to memorize. We have to brush up on our Arabic regularly. Fiqh needs to be delved into. Sound aqida needs to be taught. Hours of dhikr need to be logged. And on top of that, there is charity to be given, youth-work to be done, janazas to attend. Before all of that we have families to take care of. And then suddenly, it's Ramadan and all of that goes on hold and we put our souls through the car-wash.
Through masajid, retreats, trips abroad, etc, life as a Muslim makes you meet so many different types of people, that it broadens your experience and polishes your akhlaq. People are always changing. One year they're into something knee deep and another year, they've balanced out. One becomes more forgiving, calm and over-looking. With every year that passes, and every drama that comes around, reaches its high point and then and rolls away like a receding wave, you come to realize what really matters in life and in deen. And that causes a person to side-step jidaal, argumentation. State your point---you may have to state it often---then move on and leave off arguing.
Imam Malik was approached by a man who asked him for a debate. Malik said, "What happens if I win?" The man said I will follow you. Malik said, "And if you win?" The man said, then you follow me. Then Malik said, "What if a third person comes and defeats both of us?" The man said, then we both follow him. Malik concluded: "Constantly changing your beliefs is not a sign of steadfastness. I know what I am upon and I have no doubt. You however, are upon doubt. So leave me alone and go debate someone else filled with doubt." (Tartib al-Madarik)
One of his students said, "Shall I not try to argue with them to prove to them the truth?" Malik replied, "Just state the position and leave it at that. If he wants to follow it, he will." (Tartib al-Madarik)
Those who will last the test of time are those who have something to offer. Something objective, meaty, beneficial, balanced and diverse. May Allah make us from those people, both as students and transmitters. And may Allah keep us away from argumentation, the sign of misguided people and groups. Ameen.
By Jamal Hasan
We often do spiritual planning. Maybe not in the exact sense of the term, but all of us at some level envision ourselves to be better in the future than we are now.
And we should all have this vision, as the believer's chief goal in life is to rise in spiritual rank. But yet, our aspirations run into spiritual quick-sand: procrastination. Sometimes we lack a sense of urgency to act. Other times we're fed up with ourselves, but say: the situation will change soon, so I'll start doing everything once that change happens. But what we don't realize is that our test lies in our current situation: Allah is looking to see how we will respond now.
Yet other times, we imagine that we need something material in order to improve. More money. Less stress about bills. A bigger house so that I can get some quiet to do dhikr. How many times have we made du’aa for something like that and thought, 'As soon as I get this, I'll improve,' only to discover that when we finally got it, we actually got worse?
So many times, we put conditions on what we need to get better. Know that while those conditions may be met, you will never fulfill your end of the bargain with a mindset like that. The excuses of today will only multiply in the years to come.
The successful one is he who exhibits the profound understanding that Allah placed him in the present for a reason, and he must strive to attain peace in the now.
We strive. And the peace is from Allah. This is Islam.
He dictates. We accept and appreciate. This is Iman.
We make our striving beautiful. This is Ihsan.
The result: Allah loves us, raises us, and grants us even more. He is not bound by our conditions; we are bound to His. Affirm His Majesty; He will show you His Generosity.
In our community, there used to be these roving gangs that would aggressively attend masajid and do these stick ups, but instead of demanding money, they'd demand from people their "daleel" for what they were doing or believing at that moment. Everyone was suspected of shirk or bida. It was a witch hunt. It was bad.
For the most part, that fitna is gone. But I feel it's been replaced with another scourge on society. The exact opposite. A type of people that have swallowed and digested the liberal notion that you should respect and honor ideas that go against your beliefs and happily coexist with their proponents. The catch phrase they use for anyone who doesn't abide by these rules always involves the word "adab."
Allah knows best, but to me, the concepts of daleel and adab are grossly misused in both circles.
Let's take a look at the Sahaba. They did ask for evidence. They used to ask, "Did you hear this directly from the mouth of Rasulullah ﷺ?" But it was with respect and desire for confirmation, not suspicion or sniffing like a wolf hungry for blood.
Also, we need to look at how Sahaba dealt with the enemies of Islam. They were strong. They didn't run around loving them and asking to be loved in the name of adab. Go look at the story of Umar and the man who grabbed the Prophet ﷺ's collar demanding his debt payment. Look at what Abu Bakr said to Masud al-Thaqafi when he suggested the Muslims would abandon the Prophet ﷺ. They were as Allah said, soft with the believers, tough on the enemies.
The pendulum swung from too harsh to too soft. We need to get to that middle where we're normal with people and nice and all, but when it comes to deen there are limits. We don't fraternize with those insulting the deen daily nor those peddling what is contrary to the Haqq, compromising our aqida in the name of adab. We need to find that balance.
Wallahu ta'ala alam.
When it comes to eschatology, or the study of the End Times, we often study it by reciting the signs: the verses and hadiths that inform us of what will happen towards the end. However, what we should really contemplate is the *function* of eschatology in the life of a believer.
The vast majority of the Prophet's prophecies regard terrible events, tragedies and trends that will become normal in a time when faith becomes, "like grabbing onto a hot coal." Through these prophecies, it is as if Allah is telling us: 'Do not be sad, We know all that is happening. We have destined it, so let it increase your trust in Us.' As a result, when a Muslim sees meaningless murder, widespread zina, imams who call to misguidance, and people leaving the deen in droves, they know that these exact things have been talked about by the Prophet peace be upon him. The challenge is still there, but in our hearts, we know that Allah is in complete control. All this is part of a plan.
The second major function it serves, is to give hope. Nobody can deny the decrease of iman, the loss of ferver, the absence of awe in connection to the symbols of Islam. So we naturally ask: is this how it ends? After all that history, is this it? It's hard to hold onto something that's about to die off. But Islamic eschatology tells us that the end is not only bright, it's so bright it competes with the first generation. The Prophet peace be upon him said, "Mu umma is like the rain, one doesn't know what is better, it's beginning or its end."
Allah will not leave the umma of His beloved to end with a sad and miserable death. Rather, right before the end, Allah will give a definitive and glorious victory to Islam. Then it will be over. It will end on---not a just a good note---a great one.
When we think about this, it motivates us to get back on our feet and live by the belief, love and law that the Imam Mahdi and the Prophet Isa alayhi salam will revive. They will not bring anything new. That being the case, we might as well start striving for it from now. If that blessed time doesn't come in our lifetime, no worries, we aren't millenarianists whose lives revolve around waiting for some event. Whatever we do benefits us anyway. And at the bare minimum, we set the tone for our kids' to grow up and live the same way.
May Allah constantly keep our hearts revived, and keep the Prophet's dua on our tongue: "We seek refuge from the test of life and death, and from the temptation of the Anti-Christ." Ameen.
"His path was paved by death." A saying that has been said about a few people in history, but none more obvious than the case of Yusuf ibn Ayyub ibn Shadi, also known as Salah al-Din. When Allah wants something to happen, it's going to happen. Yusuf was a qualified lieutenant in the Zenki Army of Syria. In a few short years, paved by deaths, he became the legend the world now knows.
First his uncle Shirku captured Egypt while he was second in command. Two weeks later, Shirku, still young, up and dies from too much festivities. He literally ate to death. Suddenly Yusuf was ruler of Egypt. He never returned to serving his Zenki sultan, Nurideen, who as I will show below, is the real hero.
Nurideen kept writing to him: "We now have the Egyptian forces. You must report to me so that we can turn our attention to the Crusader invaders. The time is now." But Yusuf ignored him so that he would not lose his new kingdom, Egypt. Then suddenly, Nurideen died. Yusuf marched to Syria and claimed authority. In a span of a few years, both Shirku and Nurideen, died while still in their prime. Yusuf became sultan of Egypt and Syria. Head of a massive force, he turned to Jerusalem.
But in Jerusalem was an amazing young king: Baldwin the Leper. The man in the silver mask, he was mere youth in his early 20's, he defied all the odds, galvanized his army and attacked Saladin, routing him at the Battle of Montgisard even though he was out-numbered by 20,000 men. On some days, Baldwin could not even stand. On this day, he fought on the front lines. The year was 1185.
Seeing that Jerusalem was guarded by the Leper King, Saladin agreed to terms with Bladwin and returned to Syria. Then Baldwin died. A third death that opened the path for Saladin. Less than two years later, in 1187, Jerusalem fell. Saladin waited until 27 Rajab (date of the Night Journey) to make his symbolic entry into the city.
But what I look is the opposite. Who had it worse? Who had more challenges? Who is it that moved mountains? That was Nurideen al-Zenki. When the whole world was going one way, Nurideen went the other way, and pulled a nation with him. He was the king-scholar who woke up his people and whipped them into shape, striking fear in the hearts of his rivals, the Fatimids and the Crusaders. Saladin had a peaceful upbringing and a prince's education in both the Quran and the arts of war, only due to the work of Nurideen.
Sometimes you wonder why the one who did all the work, gets none of the credit. It may simply be that Allah is saving his glory until the Akhira.
When it comes to Feminism, my position is that it's futile to argue over a word that has no official definition and can be interpreted in a dozen different ways. There's no Bible of Feminism that we can all go back to and examine. ("Or do you have a book you can study? Rather you have whatever you desire." Surat Nun). So we end up in a tug of war over a word, which we are perceiving differently in the first place.
One person hates Feminists because he things they're arrogant. To him, Feminism is a decisive force that makes women vengeful towards men. Another person is an advocate because she lived her whole life seeing her mother miserably doing chores all day with no respite or appreciation. To her, Feminism is a force that liberates women from dread. Both parties hate arrogance and don't want to see their moms in dread.
In the context of faithful Muslims who accept the Quran and Sunna as their guidance, if you break it down into specific, objectively defined issues and points, there's going to be a lot of agreement. We have tradition, a religion, that is so voluminous in the counsel it offers, and precise in the wording it uses, that there are very few things that don't have an answer. Even as the Prophet peace be upon him said, "...and He (Allah azza wa jall) remained silent on matters out of mercy towards you, so don't chase after them." The silence of the Quran and Hadith on a matter equals permissibility.
If a secular group brings an issue to our attention that our community maybe was not thinking about, then I have no problem admitting that and moving into action on it provided it's congruous with the Prophetic Way. However, I will use the framework given to us in the Quran. The Sharia will define the parameters of the thing as well as a crisp list of rights and responsibilities. So I know exactly what I'm going to do and what I won't do.
I will also know why I'm doing it. The deen gives one a stronger and longer lasting reason to do things. If I'm going to do something because it's a neat idea that everyone seems to be doing, then I'm merely appealing to my whims, which come and go. Human ideas about justice and goodness change over time. But if I base my action on the will of the Creator, the Creator is eternal and never dies, so I will never stop doing it so long as my iman is intact (may Allah protect our faith).
Lastly, the harm and reward factor. The problem with trends is that huge swaths of people latch on simply for the fear of being left out or getting looked at funny. That's not enough of a motivation. You need true conviction from within to get through the hard times, when the idea is no longer popular. There was a time and place when nationalizing all industries was seen as good. All the elites were into it. I'm sure millions were merely following the wave. But as soon as Capitalism started gaining more support and looked nicer, everyone ditched nationalization.
In sum, we need to shift to discussing specific points and issues with facts and objective terms, instead of arguing over a malleable word. And when we agree that something is congruous with the Sunna and loved by Allah, then we should take it on with iman and taqwa as our foundation and ilm (sacred knowledge) as our guide.
The other day, a middle aged woman was approached with some food. She took it. When asked if she had kids, she said yes, so they gave her a couple more containers. Her face lit up with a smile. I’m thinking to myself, how poor do you have to be to feed your kids food from complete strangers?
I’m aware that there are people out there who talk about the root causes of poverty. That’s noble and everything, but in the meantime, there are people *right this minute* who are hungry. Ever so practical, and always giving advice that isn’t limited to a select few, the Prophet peace be upon him repeated over and over: feed food. Two words. It’s something everyone can do. And people can benefit from it right now.
Not to discourage people who are looking at the root causes of poverty, but there are two things that make me just say, we have to just look at the here and now because this thing is a mess. There’s no legislation or movement that’s going to reverse these two things:
The first was the bail out of 2008. What was it? 700 Billion dollars? What does that number even mean? It means that at the highest levels, it’s not just rotten, it’s rancid. So when this is the state of the root of the root of the root of wealth distribution, then we’re in long term trouble. No movement is going to flip that.
That was in the past. The second thing is in the present and near future. AI, artificial intelligence, is going to unemploy so many people it’s scary. New technology used to take a generation to phase out the dinosaurs. Now it’ll take a month.
All these things tell me that the future has a truck load of empty stomachs in store. I stopped looking into legislation and programs. Too abstract, too slow and ultimately no guaranteed results. Most importantly, it does nothing for those hungry right now, this minute. The idea of finding some efficient long term solution is out the window, at least to me. It’s all talk.
If you happen to live near an urban area, the task is simple. Each week, feed people. Hand to hand. Make food, pit it in a container, and deliver it. Cook, package, give. Even easier, go to the downtrodden areas where people are buying their meals and cover the tab. There are parts of town where if someone is simply there, you know they’re poor. The person doesn’t have to be homeless dying to receive food. By virtue of simply being in that area you know they’re poor. Miskeen in the Quran means the person has, but never enough.
For those who don’t live near an inner city, I actually feel bad for you. There’s no outlet for direct sadaqa. You might have to drive a little bit to do it. It’s worth it. In this life, the receiver thanks the giver. In the next life, it is the givers who will thank the receivers when they see the weight of the sadaqa on their scales.
Every situation can be classified into one of the following categories, and based on that classification, there is a way of interacting with the Sharia.
The hierarchy of the five priorities are:
DARURA - literally a life and death issue. It allows the forbidden to become lawful (see conditions post from a few days ago).
HAAJA - a dire need, such that you won't die per se but would lose a limb or o blind. Making it such that life would never be the same. It is like a DARURA in allowing the unlawful to become lawful with the aforementioned conditions.
MASHAQQA - a hardship. You won't lose life or limb, but it makes life difficult and uncomfortable. At most, it allows one to do something frowned upon or forego doing a recommended act. But definitely does not allow the haram to become halal. It is best to fight through these.
MANFA'A - a benefit. We should not forgo any sunna (recommended) acts for the sake of a benefit, no less leaving off obligations or committing prohibitions.
ZEENA - an adornment. It's not necessary nor really beneficial. It's a decoration. An extra feather in your cap. The Prophetic way seeks to keep this at a minimum. Too much of it is a distraction and waste of time and disliked by the Lord. The push against it is something similar to the minimalist movement in modern art.
Everything is categorized based on this immediate moment, not based on a potential, possible chain reaction.
Parenting is a terrain of battle you can never fully prepare for. There is no guaranteed formula. Instead, there are high percentage practices, good examples and bad ones. But no single theory or practice is fool proof.
1 When a young or middle aged parent gives advice, I remind myself, they're still in the middle of their experiment. Let's just wait and see the results.
2 When an older person, whose kids are all grown up and doing ok, gives advice, I think to myself: times changed so quickly, this advice probably expired.
3 The amount of factors in any one family are so many, it would take a super-computer to calculate all the possibilities. A one-child upbringing is far different from a multi-child one. The boy-girl birth order dynamic is totally different than the girl-boy, or boy-boy or girl-girl.
Once you have three kids, you get the middle child problem. A fourth child, in turn, eliminates middle child syndrome, but initiates chaos theory, which is the idea that after three kids, order in the house is actually impossible.
4 Now note that every parent was also a product of an upbringing, so you have to factor what the parent is. A first born will expect rules to be followed. A second born will be more tolerant of independence and risky behavior. And in today's world with all the divorce and remarriage you have a plethora of combos such as being the mom's first born but the dad's third.
5 There are two parents and they have their own dynamics. You have the fiery dad and the sweet mom. Or the rigid mom and the chill dad. Or in some families, the dad who's 60 and the mom is 32. All sorts of combinations.
6 Then you have to factor in ethnicity and culture. Immigrant families come from rich cultures and observe strict parenting. White kids get to enjoy other privileges, like sleep-overs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
7 Enter technology, which throws the whole thing off the rail for good. Even as adults, do we have *any* precedent of any generation or any righteous predecessors who dealt with cell phone use and all the junk that comes with it? We have none. We're the first generation to deal with it. So if we as adults have no precedent and no clue how to handle it, how are we supposed to give any meaningful advice to the next generation? We agree on one thing: the stuff is poison for your brain and your soul. As for what to do about it: nada.
All we can do is trial and error, slip ups and repentance. But here's the zinger, things change so fast now that by the time we figure out what works and what doesn't, new technology will have transformed everything, and all our new-found knowledge will have become irrelevant.
By the time I had finally conquered TV, the internet came along. By the time I dealt with that, YouTube was born (arguably the greatest time waster in the history of mankind). By the time I reigned that in, the iPhone was in every pocket. If I as an adult cannot keep up pace, how in the world should I expect a high schooler to??
All of these different things is why parenting doesn't come with the a handbook. Way too many dynamics.
What we do have is ancient high percentage good habits. If you do these things, there's a higher chance of avoiding disaster.
-Focusing on studies is a great habit. It keeps kids busy. It gives them short and long term goals. Crushing their exams gives kids' high self-esteem, and it makes their future brighter. Also, when you get good at it, it's fun.
-Being home more than not is an ancient idea that has a high percentage of good results. There will be exceptions, but kids who are rooted in a home and have dinner with their family tend to be more stable.
-Memorizing Quran is amazing. Can you go out there and find a hafiz who fell through the cracks? Sure. But in the main, it's the opposite.
-Sports is great. It releases energy, teaches team spirit, and gives harmless experiences on winning, losing and overcoming.
-A good community is priceless, because at a certain age, the parent becomes influence #2, having been displaced by 'friends' at #1. So you better hope they have good friends. And to get good friends, you need to have dinner parties with other families who share the same beliefs and morals as you. And to do that you need to live near a good mosque where those things are taught and reinforced, so it's a cycle.
If you are part of a community, you get more information. You see good examples, and you see bad ones. A bad example is even more important than a good one, because you get to say: "You see the nasty infection on that kid's nostril? That's what happens when you try to pierce your own nose. Want to try it yourself?"
In the end, there are high percentage practices, good examples and cautionary tales. Then when you finally discuss all this with the wisest person you've ever met, they say, "None of that matters. All you really have is dua." But it might be all you need.
May Allah help all parents in the umma and give us sabr and wisdom. Ameen!
The origin of world we exist in has only three possible explanations. No fourth.
1-It had no beginning and always existed.
2-It created itself.
3-Another force brought it into existence.
The first one is a logical absurdity as it requires us to believe in an infinite series of causes and effects that have no origin. Like a series of dominoes knocking down one another with no beginning nor end.
The second one is also a logical absurdity in that it would require a thing to exist and not exist simultaneously at the same moment, which is impossible.
The third one is possible. There is nothing logically impossible with the idea of a force we don't know about that made this universe. And logically, this force must be uncreated, for if it was created, then it would be just another link in the infinite domino effect of causes.
If it is uncreated, then time is not applicable to it, as cause/effect and time are intertwined and inseparable. If there is no cause/effect nor time, then there is no space nor matter either, for space and matter are merely agents of cause and effect, which in turn is an agent of time.
Therefore, by intellect alone, it can be deduced that this world has a maker that is uncreated and exists independently of time, space, cause/effect, matter and energy.
Intellect alone is enough for a person to reject paganism and idolatry. But anything else about this maker can only be known through the phenomenon called prophecy, which can only be trusted by either direct meeting or documented reliable transmission, which we have in the form of Quran and authenticated hadith.
There were some people in the past that rejected idols by merely intellect and fitra, but never met a prophet and did not know anything else except that idols were false. Some refer to them as Sabians, which in Arabic means rejectors, for all they could do was reject falsehood.
QUESTION - Some scholars mention that if someone remembers Allah without being able to hear himself then these adhkar do not count, although he is rewarded for them. Please clarify this. Is it enough for us to move our tongues when reading the adhkar that you have given us even if we cannot hear ourselves?
ANSWER - This relates to adhkar which are either obligatory or recommended, such as the adkhar in the prayer. One must move their tongue if these adhkar are in the prayer. As for adhkar that someone reads outside the prayer and on their own, there is no need for them to hear themselves. In fact the highest state of dhikr is that of the heart in which the tongue is not moving.