Allah created us unique and out of His mercy not only blessed us with intellect, feelings and emotions but also taught us how to use these faculties in the right way. Joy and grief are two such emotions decreed by Allah for us – emotions through which we can draw closer to Him if we comply with His commands. Being grateful and praising Allah when happy and patient when sad while accepting whatever He decrees is the characteristic of a true believer. For, everything that Allah decrees for a believer is good for him in both worlds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for all his affairs are good, and that applies to no one except a believer. If something good happens to him, he gives thanks for it and that is good for him, and if something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience, and that is also good for him.” (Muslim-2999)
Remaining calm especially at the loss of a loved one can be devastating and the grief that follows cannot be belittled but a believer who has faith in His Lord’s promises doesn’t let shaitan overpower his senses and continues to be patient for His sake. He knows that everything good and bad is a test from Allah and the real purpose of the test is actually to make him learn to continue doing good deeds with patience despite the burden of the test he is facing. That’s when he is blessed with the mercy, guidance and reward of Allah as explained in the second surah of the Qur’an.
Experiencing negative feelings of sadness and anxiety or crying when grieving a loss is natural. Even the prophets went through such times and felt these emotions of sorrow and hurt but we need to learn and follow their attitudes of controlling their emotions and being steadfast in the obedience of Allah.
Anas bin Malik narrated: “We went with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to the blacksmith Abu Saif. He was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). Allah’s Messenger took Ibrahim, kissed him and smelled him. Later when we entered Abu Saif’s house, Ibrahim was in his last breaths, and the eyes of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) started shedding tears. ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf said, “O Allah’s Messenger, even you are weeping!” He said, “O Ibn ‘Auf, this is mercy.” Then he wept more and said, “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, but we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.” (Bukhari 23:390)
In another narration, Abdullah ibn Umar said: Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubaadah fell sick and the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to visit him with ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqaas and ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with all the companions). When he entered upon him, he found him unconscious with his family around him and he said: “Has he died?” They said: No, O Messenger of Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) wept, and when the people saw the Prophet weeping, they also wept. He said: “Listen, Allah does not punish for the tears of the eye or the grief of the heart, rather He punishes for this” – and he pointed to his tongue – “or shows mercy (because of it).” (Bukhari-1304, Muslim-924)
These touching narrations teach us that being composed when grieving and submitting to the will of Allah does not exclude emotions. And while such emotions are characterized as a sign of human compassion granted by Allah, Prophet (peace be upon him) also placed limits on excessive display of grief. Merely crying when grieved is allowed but it is forbidden when it accompanies wailing or complaining. Furthermore, according to hadeeth, the family of a deceased is allowed to mourn him for three days only, but a widow may mourn her husband for four months and ten days.
Unfortunately we see many people nowadays spoil the image of Islam by grieving over the dead in ways that were forbidden by the Prophet (peace be upon him). They are seen beating their chests, slapping their cheeks, striking their shoulders with chains and cutting their heads with swords while complaining or uttering words of shirk. The Prophet (peace be upon him) never prescribed for his followers to do any of these things or anything similar to them to mark the death of a leader or the loss of a martyr irrespective of his status. During his lifetime, he (peace be upon him) lost his beloved wife Khadijah, almost all his children and a number of companions were martyred such as Hamzah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Zayd ibn Haarithah and Ja’far ibn Abi Taalib. He did mourn their loss, but he did not do any of the things that some people nowadays do. He or his companions did not strike their chests or scratch their faces, or shed blood or take the day of the loss of their beloved spouses, children or companions as a festival or day of mourning. Rather they used to remember their loved ones who had passed away; they used feel sad, silently shed tears and seek relief in prayer. According to a report by Abu Dawood, whenever something distressed him or pleased him, our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) used to say to Bilal: “Relieve us with it (i.e., the prayer).” He (peace be upon him) said: “He is not one of us who strikes his cheeks, tears his garment, or wails with the cry(words) of the Jaahiliyyah.” (Bukhari-1294, Muslim-103)
When one remembers his beloved who has passed away or when he remembers some similar calamity, it is best to say that which Ali ibn al-Husayn narrated from his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who said: “There is no Muslim who is afflicted by a calamity and when he remembers it, even if it was in the dim and distant past, he says “Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon” (Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return), but Allah will give him a reward like that of the day when it befell him.” (Ahmad)
He (peace be upon him) also said, ‘A person will be in the company of those whom he loves’. (Bukhari) So be consoled, oh believers, and patiently endure as the life of this world is temporary and we will soon be reunited with our beloved in Paradise if Allah wills.
Praise and thanks to Allah who has made us reach the blessed month of Ramadan yet again this year. He made it a month of mercy, forgiveness, du’aa and multiplied rewards. Every night of this blessed month, He invites the fortunate ones who witness it, to race and compete with each other in doing righteous deeds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “On the first night of the month of Ramadan, the devils are chained, the jinn are restrained, and the gates of Hellfire are closed and none of its gates are opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and none of its gates are closed. A caller announces: O seeker of good, come near! O seeker of evil, stop short! Allah will save them from the Hellfire and that is during every night of Ramadan.” (At-Tirmidhi-682)
How amazing is that? Could our names be among the ones whom Allah removes from the list of people going to Hell? Insha Allah, Yes! With the devils being chained and the entrance to Paradise made so easy, racing to do all that Allah has commanded and trying our best to avoid all that He has forbidden has been made easy for us in this blessed month. Ramadan is without doubt a golden opportunity for all of us who hope to be saved from the Hell fire and yearn to dwell in Paradise, where we will have all that we desire. This is not a month of socializing and feasting even though it is common to see this around us. This is a month of competing with each other in improving our relationship with our Creator – A month where we ignore all distractions and race to him by doing lots of good deeds. Allah says, “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden [i.e. paradise] as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:133)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There has come to you the month of Ramadan, a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with grace, sending down mercy, forgiving sins and answering supplication. Allah looks at your competition in doing good therein, and boasts of you before His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for truly the wretched person is the one who is deprived of the Mercy of Allah during this month.” (At Tabarani)
The Messenger (peace be upon him) and his companions would pray, fast, spend time with the Qur’an and be obedient to Allah all year round but in Ramadan, they would maximize their efforts to excel in various good deeds. Nothing can be better for us than following their footsteps in this world and then being rewarded by having their company in the Hereafter. The Messenger (peace be upon him) mentioned many actions which, if performed sincerely, grant us great rewards.
The best of such actions in Ramadan is fasting, which has been made obligatory by the Almighty. The exact reward for fasting has not been specified but it is expected to be tremendous because of the way this hadith describes it: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied between ten and seven hundred times. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, said: Except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it. He gives up his desires and his food for My sake.” (Muslim-1151) SubhanAllah! We need to perfect our fast by not just avoiding food and drink but also false and hateful speech and deeds so the rewards can be maximized. According to another hadith, there is a gate to Paradise that is called Ar-Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection it will say: ‘Where are those who fasted?’ When the last [one who fasted] has passed through the gate, it will be locked. [al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The blessed month of Ramadan is a celebration of the Qur’an as the blessed Book was revealed in it. Striving hard to spend the month in reading, reciting and listening to the Qur’an carries huge rewards. Regarding reciting it, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward, and this reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that ‘Alif, Laam, Meem’ is a letter, rather I am saying that ‘Alif’ is a letter, ‘Laam’ is a letter and ‘Meem’ is a letter.” (Tirmidhi-2910)
While for the one who listens to the Qur’an attentively (in prayer at the masjid or elsewhere), it was said that mercy does not come quicker to anyone than the one who listens to the Qur’an according to the words of Allah: “So when the Qur’an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an 7:204] The words “you may” make it mandatory for Allah! (Tafsir Al Qurtubi)
In addition to studying the Qur’an, there is a narration by Ibn Abbas that emphasizes the need to be generous in giving all kinds of charity in Ramadan: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people and he was the most generous in the month of Ramadan, when Jibril would meet him. Jibril used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an.” (Bukhari-1716, Muslim-4268)
Speaking of charity, you can also easily get the reward of fasting not just 30 fasts in the blessed month, but 60, 90 and so on! Surprised? Well, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Whoever gives a fasting person (food or drink to break their fast), they will have similar to the reward of the one who fasted, without any decrease for the one who fasted.” (At-Tirmidhi-Authenticated by Al Albani) Buy some dates and hand them over at some masjid, for the worshippers at the time of breaking the fast or hand over bottles of cold water and small packets of dates on the road sides at the time of Maghrib. If you are unable to do any of that, then just helping out in the kitchen and setting up Iftar with dates and cold water for your family will bring a similar reward insha Allah.
Making extra voluntary prayer along with the 5 obligatory ones is another way to race to Paradise according to the narration of Rabi’a b.Ka’b who said: I was with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) one night and I brought him water and what he required. He said to me: ‘Ask (for anything you like)’. I said: I ask for your company in Paradise. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Or anything else other than it?’ I said: That is all (what I require). He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Then help me to achieve this for you by devoting yourself to frequent sujood [prostrations].’ “(Muslim-990) Let’s rush to the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise by spending the nights of Ramadan in prayer as whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer.” (Hadeeth classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)
According to a hadeeth, performing an Umrah in Ramadan is like accompanying the Prophet (peace be upon him) on Hajj.” (Bukhari-1764) But as for those who live far away from the blessed land of Makkah and feel sad because they cannot perform Umrah in this blessed month, well you can get the ultimate rewards of Hajj and Umrah, from right where you are. According to a hadeeth, whoever prays Fajr Prayer in congregation, and then sits and remembers Allah until the sun rises, and then prays 2 units of voluntary prayer (Al-ishraq), he will gain a reward equal to that of performing a perfect, perfect, perfect Hajj and Umrah. (Al-Albaani, Saheeh Al-Jaami’-6346)
“Race to [all that is] good.” says Allah in the Qur’an (2:148) and one can think of no better time to do this except in the blessed season that we find ourselves in. Restraining our temper and our tongues from evil or idle talk, helping those in need, being patient in upholding ties with relatives even if they are rude to us will make us gain not just tremendous rewards but also the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise in this blessed month. Some short but beautiful and meaningful phrases of praising, glorifying and exalting Allah taught by the Prophet should also be recited in Ramadan to get those extra rewards. He (peace be upon him) said:
- “Whoever says Subhaan Allaah il ‘azeem wa bi hamdihi (Glory and praise be to Allaah the Almighty), a palm tree will be planted for him in Paradise.”(Tirmidhi)
- “There are) two words which are dear to the Most Merciful (Allah) and very light (easy) for the tongue (to say), but very heavy in weight in the balance. They are: Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan-Allahil-Azim (Glory and praise to Allah, and Glory to Allah the Almighty)’. (Bukhari)
- “Glorify Allah a hundred times by just saying Subhanallah (Glorified is Allah) and a thousand good deeds will be written for you, or a thousand sins will be wiped away.” (Muslim)
- “Say ‘Laa Hawla Wa Laa Quwwataa Illaa Billaah’ (There is no might or power except with Allah) in abundance, for indeed it is from the treasures of Jannah.“ (Bukhaari) This means that this phrase is a treasure that will be preserved and rewarded to the servant in Jannah if he utters it.
How Merciful is our Lord, Who enlightened us to countless good deeds that lead to His pleasure and Paradise – Alhamdulillah! Regardless how much we do and how much we offer we will always fall short fulfilling Allah’s rights upon us, therefore we must increase in seeking His forgiveness and always seek His guidance and help in doing good for His sake. He says: “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways (the means to attain the acceptance and pleasure of Allah). And indeed Allah is with the doers of good.” (Qur’an 29:69)
May Allah grant us the strength and tawfiq to make the most of this blessed month and be winners in this race to be among His beloved ones. Ameen.
– Written Mariam Anwer
A condensed version of this article originally published in Arab News
Allah Almighty has made human beings weak; they need to be guided and are prone to making mistakes and committing sins. Some do so out of ignorance of the laws set by Allah while; yet there are some, who even though blessed by knowledge, are led to sins because of their desires, emotions or the conditions around them. When a person sins and realizes that he has done something wrong he is overcome by remorse and an overwhelming feeling of guilt. If not dealt with in the correct manner, these feelings of guilt can greatly affect one’s self-esteem, may weigh him down and make him lose interest in doing good deeds.
Fortunately, one of the many treasures of Islam, is that Allah doesn’t leave His servants to rot in their remorse and guilt, once they realize their sin. Mentioned as Al-Ghafoor (the most forgiving) in more than 90 places in the Glorious Qur’an, He offers every sinner chances of redemption and repentance. He says: “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning), do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful’.” (Qur’an, 39:53)
Al-Ghafoor comes from the root ‘ghafara’, which means to cover, conceal, and shield. Some of us might have committed sins that are too many, and at times too shameful, to even think about. But when Allah forgives a sin, He covers it and conceals it. Al-Ghafoor is the One who does not expose the sins of His servants. He protects His servants from the consequences of their sins, screens them and forgives them even though He is All-Knowing of the wrong they committed.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) clarified this when he narrated in a Hadith Qudsi, “Allah the Exalted said: ‘O son of Adam, if you call upon me and place your hope in me, I will forgive you without any reservation. O son of Adam, if you have sins piling up to the clouds and then ask for my forgiveness, I will forgive you without any reservation. O son of Adam, if you come to me with enough sins to fill the earth and you meet me without associating a partner with me, I will come to you with enough forgiveness to fill the earth’.” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, 3540)
For the one who believes in the mercy of the Almighty, guilt is a powerful means to direct his heart back to the one whose doors of tawbah (repentance) are always open. Allah says: “O you who have believed, repent to Allah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow…” (Qur’an, 66:8)
Even if a person commits sin time after time, his sin is forgiven every time if he follows his sin with repentance – if his repentance each time is sincere. There are three conditions of sincere repentance: Giving up the sin, regretting it and resolving never to go back to it. If one of these three is missing, then one’s repentance is not sincere.
It was said to Al-Hasan: Shouldn’t one of us feel too shy to ask his Lord to forgive his sin, then do it again, then ask for forgiveness, then do it again? He said: ‘The Shaytaan wishes that you would have this attitude so do not tire of asking for forgiveness. I do not think this is anything other than the attitude of the believers, i.e., every time a believer sins, he repents.’
Umar ibn Abd Al-Azeez said: ‘O people, whoever commits sin, let him seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent. If he does it again, let him seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent, and if he does it again, let him seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent. For it is sin, which hangs around a person’s neck, and doom comes from persisting in sin.’
Knowing that Allah forgives should give us much hope. But we should balance fear and hope so that we do not purposefully disobey Him and say that we will repent later. We need to stop doing wrong deliberately and rush to repent from the greatest sins which are disbelief, polytheism and hypocrisy, as well as sins like neglecting religious duties like prayer, charity, obedience to parents, spreading the message of Islam and also for sins like backbiting, slander, envy, suspicion, cheating and wasting time in useless things.
The Prophets and Messengers being so righteous and pure used to acknowledge their mistakes too and turned to Allah in repentance all the time. Prophet Adam and his wife accepted their mistake and said: “Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers..”” (Qur’an, 7:23). Similarly Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) said: “My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me.” (Qur’an, 28:16) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and ask Allah for forgiveness one hundred times a day.” (Muslim, 2702)
If this was the practice of the messengers of Allah (peace be upon them all), then what about the rest of us, whose lives are full of shortcomings and sins? Certainly we have a greater need to accept our mistakes, stop and turn to the One who loves the repentance of his disobedient servants and invites them to seek forgiveness every single night.
Indeed, Allah is the Most Merciful and Most Kind. He gives respite even to the worst of sinners so that they realize their mistakes and turn back to Him. His rights are too great for His servants to be able to fulfill them. And indeed, His favors and blessings are too many for them to be able to enumerate them. The only way to safety and relief then, is for us to wake up from our sinful slumber, and let our guilty hearts lead us to repent to Al-Ghafoor every morning and every night.
Originally posted in Arab News