Special Days of Special Worship


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It is that time of the year again when we see millions of people from every corner of the world gathering together in Makkah, for Hajj which is the largest annual religious gathering that humanity knows. It is not just the sheer number of people, but also the diversity that is stunning. Indeed, the heart of every believer soars with joy and the eyes well up when they watch the live transmissions being aired from the Holy sites and every single one of them wishes that he/she was one of the blessed ones performing Hajj this year.
 
As the same feelings sweep over me, I can’t help but remember the time when it all started. The time when Allah commanded Prophet Ibraheem to build His House, purify it and then call people to it for pilgrimage. I remember and I wonder how our father Ibraheem must have felt at the honor and how he must have made the call. Allah talks about this, in Surah Al Hajj and says: “And when We designated for Ibraheem the site of the House, [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate. And proclaim to the people the Hajj; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” (Qur’an 22:26-27)
 
Ibn Katheer said in his commentary on these verses: “This means: Allah says, Proclaim (O Ibraheem) the Hajj to the people, calling them to come on pilgrimage to this House which We have commanded you to build. It was mentioned that Ibraheem said, “O Lord, how can I proclaim it to the people when my voice does not reach them?” He said, “Call and We will convey it.” So he stood in his maqaam (Station of Ibraheem) – or it was said, on the rock, or on al-Safa, or on Abu-Qubays (a mountain) – and said: “O people, your Lord has taken a House, so come to it on pilgrimage.” And it was said that the mountains lowered themselves so that his voice could reach all parts of the earth, those who were still in the wombs or in men’s loins also heard. And everything that heard him, cities, nomad encampments and trees, and everyone whom Allah has decreed should perform Hajj until the Day of Resurrection responded, (saying): ‘LABBAYK ALLAHUMMA LABBAYK’ (HERE I AM, O ALLAH, HERE I AM). (Tafsir Ibn Katheer)
 
Praise be to the One Who has made His House “a place of return for the people and [a place of] security.” (2:125).The hearts of those who love Allah are naturally attached to the House of the Beloved. Every time they see its image from afar they long for it and every time they are away from it they want to return. Although this narration amazes us, it also saddens many who are unable to undertake this amazing journey, either due to financial reasons, family obligations, or any other reason that may exist. Allah knows the state of hearts and He is especially Merciful towards His believing slaves when He decrees that whenever one resolves to do an act of worship but he is unable to do it because of some excuse, he will be granted the reward of one who does it. This is proven by the incident when the Messenger (peace be upon him) came back from the campaign of Tabook and when he drew close to Madeenah he said: “In Madeenah there are some people who, whenever you marched or crossed a valley, were with you (gaining similar rewards).” The companions said: “O Messenger of Allah, but they were in Madeenah.” He said, “They were in Madeenah because some excuse kept them back.” (Al-Bukhaari-4423)
We can also get the ultimate rewards of Hajj, from right where we are. According to a hadeeth, whoever prays Fajr Prayer in congregation, then sits and remembers Allah until the sun rises, and then prays 2 rak’ahs 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)
Furthermore, Allah has made the month of Hajj, Dhul-Hijjah blessed, and the first ten days of this month have been made the best ten days of the year so all good deeds done in this season carry extra rewards. The evidence of this has been reported in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Allah says: “By the dawn. And by the ten nights.” (Qur’an 89:1-2) The ten nights refer to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah according to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and others. (Tafsir Ibn Katheer)
The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “There are no days in which righteous actions are more beloved to Allah than these ten days…” (Al-Bukhari, 2/457)
 
Therefore, for those of us who are unable to be in Makkah right now for Hajj, let’s value these special days of the year and maximize our efforts to excel in various good deeds. We can:
• Pray all Fard prayers on time and try to pray extra nafl prayers for extra reward.
• Fast as the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah. (Saheeh Abi Dawood-2/462). And when the he (peace be upon him) was asked about fasting on the 9th – The Day of ‘Arafah, he said: “It expiates (sins) for the past year and the coming year.” (Muslim-1162)
• Keep our tongues moist with Takbeer (Allahu-Akbar), Tahmeed (Alhamdulillaah), Tahleel (La ilaha ill-Allah) and Tasbeeh (SubhanAllah)
• Try to read the Qur’an as much as possible as ‘every letter earns us more than ten rewards’ (Tirmidhi-2910).
• Increase in our worship, repentance and du’a during the day and during the night.
• Give charity and help those who are less fortunate to prepare for Eid.
• Restrain our tempers and our tongues from evil or idle talk, try being patient in upholding ties with relatives even if they are rude to us.
• Share sacrificial meat with the poor and be cheerful with everyone.
 
These ten days are truly special days of great gains and profits. The smart traders are those who make the most of this special season to increase their profits and seek nearness to their Master, whether there are at Makkah or far away. Perhaps Allah will accept from them as He accepts from the Hujjaj, because of their sincere intentions.
 
-Mariam Anwer
Originally published in Arab News
 AN DhulHijjah

Prophet Ibrahim and his Tawakkal in the Almighty


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We offer salutation to our dear Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) in every prayer. He is one of the five strong will Messengers of Allah. He chose him, guided him and blessed him with sound wisdom. Since an early age, Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) stood in the face of evil, debated with his people, called them to worship Allah alone and when they persisted in disbelief, he destroyed the idols that his people were worshiping. As a consequence, when their arguments were refuted and their incapability became clear, when truth was made manifest and falsehood was defeated, they resorted to using their power and strength, and decided to throw him in the raging fire. They were so full of hatred for him that they considered it a religious duty to put him in torment. In Tafsir Ibn Katheer it says that, “If a woman was sick, she would make a vow that if she recovered she would bring wood to burn Ibrahim.” SubhanAllah there was no limit to their hostility but all their aggressiveness could not make Prophet Ibrahim’s faith in Allah flinch even a tiny bit. We can’t even imagine the plight of Ibrahim. He was the only believer among the huge crowd of polytheists and even his own father was on the side of the prosecution. Ibrahim (alayhissalam) heard them when they plotted against him, he saw them when they made a hole in the ground and set it aflame, and it burned with huge sparks and immense flames yet his faith in Allah remained unshakable and his heart in full submission to His plan for him.

Al-Bukhari recorded from Ibn `Abbas that he said: “When Prophet Ibraheem was thrown into the fire, he said: ‘حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ – Allah (Alone) is sufficient for us, and, He is the Best Disposer of affairs.‘ So did Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam), when he was told: ‘A great army of the disbelievers had gathered against him, so fear them’. But this (warning) only increased him and the Muslims in Faith and they said:حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ – Allah (Alone) is sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us)’ (3:173). ” [Al-Bukhari].

Both our awesome prophets (‘alayhimussalam) uttered these beautiful words. Words which mean Allah is sufficient for us, we don’t need anybody else but Him, He is someone we delegate our affairs to and He is the Only One who will take care of us.

A heart devoid of faith will never be able to say these words. It’s only a true believer who will understand and know without a doubt that Allah alone is the One who Bestows help and protection and the One Who Withholds, and He alone is the Remover of Harm and Affliction. When Prophet Ibrahim uttered these words he affirmed the Power of Allah, His Love and His knowledge. He knew that Allah is Aware of his feelings and his condition. He said these powerful words as if they were a shield for him against the raging fire and he didn’t care who was against him because he had the Most powerful and Most Merciful with him. And history is aware how the response of Allah came as a swift command and He said to the raging fire:

ينَارُ كُونِى بَرْداً وَسَلَـمَا عَلَى إِبْرَهِيمَ
“O fire! Be you cool and safety for Ibrahim!”

and there was no fire left on earth that was not extinguished.” Ibn `Abbas and Abu Al-`Aliyah said: “Were it not for the fact that Allah said, وَسَلَـماً “..and safety”, Ibrahim would have been harmed by its coldness.”
Allahu Akbar. Allah responded to the faithful statement of Ibrahim in the best of ways and made him land into a place similar to a garden with no sign of the blazing fire and gave him victory over the ones who thought that they had power over all things. And this is only because of his strong faith and his du’aa filled with certainty, the effect of which made the world sit up and watch in amazement! It was the same faith and certainty in his Lord that made Ibrahim (alayhissalam) disassociate himself from his father and his people and make hijrah to someplace where he could establish the religion of Allah with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lut who had accepted faith. And Allah tells us of another similar and equally beautiful du’aa that he uttered when he left:

رَّبَّنَا عَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ
Our Lord, upon You we have relied, and to You we have returned, and to You is the destination. (Al Mumtahina 60:4)

Know dear believers, submitting to the will of Allah and leaving your affairs to Him provides the healing touch that is much necessary in one’s life. One has to believe in the promise of Allah when He tells us in the Qur’an:

وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ
And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. (At Talaq 65:3)

Relying on Allah Alone, trusting Him for His Decisions for us and patiently waiting for an outcome that will always be best for us even if it is not pleasing to us, is the condition for Allah being sufficient for us! When we don’t have such a belief then Allah leaves us on our own. By putting one’s complete Trust in Allah, by leaving matters unto Him, by seeking only His grace and mercy, by accepting His decree, by submitting to His Will – a Muslim can equip oneself to face all the challenges of life. And this one single statement:
حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ will be enough in itself to be a source of all strength, all comfort and success, Insha Allah!

Published in Arab News in September 2015

Lessons from the attitude of Namrud (The king where Prophet Ibrahim was born)


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Like Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), Ibrahim (alayhissalam) was born at a time when ignorance was at its peak, at Babylon in Iraq during the reign of a tyrant disbeliever Namrud. Namrud was a ruler who was filled with misguidance…he used to term himself as lord of everything. Allah tells us in the third juz of the Qur’an, how Prophet Ibrahim [‘alayhissalam] debated with this ignorant ruler to explain that Allah is the Lord of everything that exists. Allah says: “Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Abraham said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death….” [Al Baqarah 2:258]

SubhanAllah! Notice how Allah says “..the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship..” showing us that Allah had blessed Namrud with kingdom and power and this blessing was what had made him arrogantly deny the favors of Allah instead of being humbly grateful for them. He was deceived by this gift to such an extent that it had made him compete with the One who had given him the gift!

SubhanAllah! This should actually make us fearful, as when Allah gives us and gives us without account we usually tend to take His favors for granted, while the attitude that Allah wants from us is that whenever we are blessed with gifts from Him, it should be a reason for us to contemplate over His Generosity and His Mercy and never let it be a case where we ungratefully engage in sins and turn to disbelief and misguidance. Never let it be a case where we feel safe from the punishment of Allah just because He has kept us blessed, thriving and secure. Allah says about some tyrants and arrogant disbelievers: “So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (Al An’aam 6:44)

We have to know and understand that Allah always tests people with either one of the two conditions:
First, with hardship to see if they humble themselves and turn to Him by increasing in du’aa to Him but when they don’t do that, He tries them with ease, sends them His blessings so that they might turn to Him in gratefulness and submission. But when they still remain arrogant and oblivious to the signs sent by Him, He punishes them in ways they never imagined! Allah says: “And We sent to no city a prophet [who was denied] except that We seized its people with poverty and hardship that they might humble themselves [to Allah]. Then We exchanged in place of the bad [condition], good, until they increased [and prospered] and said, “Our fathers [also] were touched with hardship and ease.” So We seized them suddenly while they did not perceive.” (Al A’raf 7:95)

Allahu Akbar! So let’s always take account of ourselves.., keep a check on our reactions to the numerous gifts and blessings coming from Allah. Let’s ask ourselves: ‘Have we thanked him for the food we enjoy daily, the security of our homes, our loving families, our five senses that work perfectly…? Hasan Al Basri said: “Verily, Allah lets [a person] enjoy a blessing for as long as He wills. But when He is no longer thanked for it, He turns it into a punishment.” 
Let’s not take our blessings for granted. Let’s thank Him and humbly submit to Him so that these blessings do not turn into a means of increased punishment.

Namrud was given a kingdom and he disbelieved but on the other hand we have lessons from Prophet Suleiman (‘alayhissalam) who was given such a kingdom where almost all the creation of Allah was placed under his control. He had men, jinn, animals, birds and the wind submitting to his commands and totally in his power but was his attitude like that of Namrud? No! Allah tells us in the Qur’an, about how he reacted to his Lord’s favors: “He (Suleiman) said: ‘This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.’ ” (Al Naml 27:40)

Allah also says: “And We had certainly given to David and Solomon knowledge, and they said, “Alhamdulillah – Praise [is due] to Allah , who has favored us over many of His believing servants.” (Al Naml 27:15)

This is the attitude of the righteous servants of Allah. This amazing behaviour of Allah’s beloved prophets is what we need to emulate in our daily lives! Plus Allah says: لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ
‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…” (Surah Ibrahim 14:7)

So let’s be grateful for the numerous favors and blessings that keep being showered on us and let’s believe in the promise of Allah that He will increase His blessings on us if we keep thanking Him by submitting to His commands and His decree for us. Let’s be grateful and hope, expect and pray for increase in favors from Him…but let’s make sure we pray for increase in good in Dunya as well as increase in good in the Hereafter. Let’s pray not be of the unfortunate ones who receive the result of their good deeds in dunya and then find nothing but scattered dust in the Hereafter.

Alhamdulillah! We praise You and thank You ya Allah for your infinite blessings! Indeed we can never enumerate your favors on us! Ya Allah! Forgive us for our shortcomings and make us of Your grateful and humble servants! Aameen!

– Compiled after listening to: Lessons from the Life of Ibrahim (AS) – by Shaikh Sajid Umar

Published in Arab News in October 2015 

Blind Following – Not from the Characteristics of Prophets


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As humans we are imitative by nature. We tend to follow copy and emulate the actions from the environment around us or learn from people around us. Notice this in little kids around you, the way they copy their elders in their actions and style.

We know that Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) grew up in a household of shirk (polytheism) where they worshiped idols, and in a community that worshiped idols of stone and wood; a community which had a king who claimed to be God; but he never let this environment of shirk and kufr affect his way of life or his sound faith. Prophet Ibrahim was inclined to his Fitrah, his natural disposition, as was Muhammad (peace be upon him). He boldly stood against his own family, against the entire system of his community, against all kinds of shirk, kufr and sin, alone, with no companion or support except that of Allah. He was endowed with spiritual understanding from an early age. Allah enlightened his heart and mind, gave him wisdom from childhood; and Ibrahim (peace be upon him) never took this gift for granted. Allah Ta’ala says:

“And We had certainly given Abraham his sound judgement before, and We were of him well-Knowing.” [Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:51]

He used his intellect, his power to reflect, and reason to reject the practices of his community and submitted to the Creator of the heavens, earth, moon, stars and sun. Even in his childhood he was not like the people around him who had succumbed to blind following of their ancestors. Allah tells us in more than one ayah of the Qur’an that when Ibrahim (peace be upon him) asked them about the idols they worshiped…they replied: “We found our fathers worshipers of them.” (Al Anbiyaa’ 21:53)

SubhanAllah! When we apply this to today’s world, we see a lot of people taking their fathers, ancestors or other people as the yardstick of right and wrong. There exist in Muslim communities too, many innovated cultural practices and beliefs which have no basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Innovations like specifying words of Dhikr that are not prescribed in the Sunnah, or to say that a particular Du’aa or Dhikr should be recited a specific number of times without any proof from the Hadith, or to specify a day or night for religious celebration that the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his companions never did. Yet, unfortunately, when these misunderstandings are brought to the attention of people, many respond in the exact words of the disbelievers of old, “This is what our forefathers used to do so we will do the same.” People who make such statements should think about whether they are following the guidance of Allah or the way of the disbelievers.

One of the key characteristics of Islam is the importance given to verification of information and to the prohibition of blindly following practices which are proven to be unislamic. So wake up dear Muslims, and stop blind following! Instead, follow the examples of our beloved Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (Peace be upon them), and use the gift that Allah has blessed you with – the built-in recovery drive through which Allah has given man the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, between what is beneficial and what is harmful. For the function of divine revelation conveyed by the prophets is not only to remind you about that to which your soul already testifies (that is, tawheed due to the pre-existent Fitrah), but also to teach you that which you never could have known (that is, the Shariʽah). The prophets came only to remind you; the choice is left to you-alone! Heed the reminder and be of the successful ones, or reject it and be of the doomed!

Allah says: “Indeed, this is a reminder, so he who wills may take to his Lord a way.” (Surah al-Insān, 76:29)

May Allah guide us to the right path, the path leading to Jannah and make us steadfast on it! Aameen.

-Mariam Anwer

Prophet Ibrahim: The Honored one


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Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) is the great patriarch of all Abrahamic religions. All the Prophets who came after him descended from him via Ishaaq and Ya‘qoob, apart from Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), who descended from Ismaa‘eel ibn Ibrahim.
So Ibrahim (alayhissalam) is the father of the Arabs and the forefather of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in terms of descent. Because of this, Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) is the single most respected human being on the face of this earth because every single major religion of this world looks up to him. He was so honorable that the previous nations fought over him and argued that they had more right over him. But Allah says, refuting the Jews and the Christians: “Ibraheem (Abraham) was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah ]. And he was not of the polytheists. [Aal ‘Imraan 3:67].

Ibrahim (alaihissalam) was the father of the Arabs, and the father of the Israelites, and he called people to pure Tawheed, and when the Jews and the Christians claimed to be his followers, Allah (swt) taught our beloved Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and hence the world in its entirety that the only ones who have a right to claim attribution to Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) are the Muslims; the ones who are his true followers. Allah Ta’ala says: “Indeed, the most worthy of Ibrahim among the people are those who followed him [in submission to Allah ] and this prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), and those who believe [in his message]. And Allah is the ally of the believers. ” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:68].

Allah, Master of the worlds, uses the term “Millat – Ibrahim” (the religion/way of Ibrahim) for Islam – the religion of Believers, throughout the Qur’an. He (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) says: “Say, “Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the way of Ibrahim, inclining toward truth. And he was not among those who associated others with Allah .” [Al An’aam 6:161]

He also says: “And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Ibrahim. Allah named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah . He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper.” [Al Hajj 22:78]

Alhamdulillahi Rabbi Al A’alameen for this amazing blessing! He has certainly blessed us by giving us this claim to Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam). Let us not take this gift for granted. Let us stick to Tawheed and stay far away from Shirk and all that leads us to it.

May Allah guide us to be true followers and gather us with our dear Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in the highest levels of Jannah so that we can sit with them and discuss how amazed we were at the lives that they lived! Aameen ya Rabb!

Lessons from the life of Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam)


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Praise be to Allah Who has created time and has made some times better than others, He created months and made some months and days and nights better than others, when rewards are multiplied many times, as a mercy towards His slaves. Likewise He created mankind and preferred some men over others, made them prophets. He then preferred some prophets over others, chose them and granted them honor. Among them, is our dear Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam). Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) is the best of the Prophets and Messengers after our Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Insha Allah, in this blessed season that is drawing close, I plan to discuss a few lessons (one or two daily) from the life of this giant who walked this earth before us! He was a giant in every form and meaning of the word. He was a giant in terms of his Tawheed, a giant in terms of his da’wah, a giant in terms of his actions, his character, his achievements, his submission, his wisdom and he was a man who attained an amazing title by the Lord of the worlds – the title of Khaleelullah! A title that Allah granted no one else except Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Allah says: “And Allah did take Ibrahim (Abraham) as a Khaleel (an intimate friend)” [an-Nisa’ 4:125].

Ibrahim is the only person that the Qur’an commands our prophet to look up to as a role model…and hence the one whom the Prophet instructed his community to follow. Allah says: “Then, We have inspired you (O Muhammad): “Follow the religion of Ibrahim (Abraham) Haneefa (Islamic Monotheism – to worship none but Allah)” [an-Nahl 16:123].

So come dear brothers and sisters in faith, in this special season, come let’s take a look at the life of our beloved Prophet Ibrahim (‘alahissalam) – the Friend of Allah, let’s learn from him and try our best to follow him, insha Allah!