Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haj 'Gifts'-Lessons to Remember after Haj

Allah the Almighty legislated the acts of worship and obedience for great wisdom and sublime objectives. No wonder, as they strengthen the faith, purify the soul, correct the attitude and refine the morals.

 If acts of worship did not achieve these objectives, then the Muslim would not benefit from them properly. In such a case, acts of worship might turn into lifeless rituals that one performs without any actual influence on his reality and attitude.

 This rule applies to Haj. When the believer performs Haj properly realizing its objectives and feeling its meanings, it will be of great influence upon him in this life and in the Hereafter.

 Thus, dear pilgrim, Allah the Almighty honored you with the blessing of visiting His Holy House and enabled you to perform His obligation. Therefore, you have to stop and contemplate your conditions, review the state of your heart and correct the course of your life.

 The first thing you have to realize is the greatness of the blessings that Allah the Almighty bestowed upon you when He facilitated your affairs and enabled you to perform this great duty. Certainly, this necessitates you to praise Allah the Exalted for this blessing, of which many people are deprived, despite their longing for it. Praising Allah the Almighty for this blessing entails preserving it, adherence to obedience to Allah the Almighty and compliance with His religion and Shariah.

The most important thing that you should maintain after your Haj is the issue of steadfastness and guarding this great deed (your performance of Haj) against things that could nullify it. You should ask Allah the Almighty ceaselessly to help you adhere firmly to His religion and guide you to obey Him, and make you avoid His disobedience so that you will be "with those to whom Allah has shown favor, of the prophets, and the truthful and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they! Such is the bounty of God, and God suffices as Knower." (Qur'an, 4:69-70)

Allah the Almighty gave people examples illustrating this issue to warn His slaves of invalidating their deeds and losing them when they need them urgently. Allah the Almighty says: "Would any of you like to have a garden of palm trees and vines, with rivers flowing underneath it, with all kinds of fruit for him therein; and old age has stricken him and he has feeble offspring; and a fiery whirlwind strikes it and it is (all) consumed by fire. Thus Allah makes plain His revelations to you, in order that you may give thought." (Qur'an, 2:266)

 This example speaks about those who did good deeds and then regressed replacing good deeds with evil ones. We seek refuge with Allah the Exalted from this. In his commentary on this verse, Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "This is an example of a rich man who does good acts out of obedience of Allah and then Allah sends him the devil whereupon he commits sins till all his good deeds are lost.” (Al-Bukhari)

Dear pilgrim, remember that the accepted Haj has signs. The most prominent of these signs is the continuity of uprightness and obedience to Allah the Exalted. Furthermore, your relationship with Allah the Almighty should be better than before. Al-Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy upon him) was told that the accepted Haj is rewarded by Paradise. He said, “The sign of this is to return (from Haj) renouncing this world and aspiring to the Hereafter.”

 I wish that you, dear pilgrim, while finishing Haj, you realize that its most important objective is to train the Muslim in worshipping Allah the Almighty alone, to comply with His commandments, avoid His prohibitions and follow the Sunnah of His Prophet (pece be upon him). These objectives are not confined to a certain time; rather, the Muslim should adhere to them as long as he is alive. Allah the Almighty says: "And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (death)." (Qur'an, 15:99)

 Your condition after doing good deeds should be like those about whom Allah Almighty says: "And they who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord." (Qur'an, 23:60)

Although they try to get closer to Allah Almighty through various acts of worship, they fear that their deeds may be rejected. That is why Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say, “Be more concerned about the acceptance of your deeds than about the deeds themselves. Have not you read the Qur'anic verse in which Allah Almighty says: "Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him]." (Qur'an, 5:27)

Hence, Allah the Almighty commanded the pilgrims to seek His forgiveness after departing from Arafah and Al-Muzdalifah saying: "Then depart from the place from where [all] the people depart and ask Forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." (Qur'an, 2:199)

 Finally, dear pilgrim, you stood at Arafah, you shed tears and you showed remorse over your previous misdeeds. Allah the Almighty emancipated you from Hell, so beware of regressing to sins after being forgiven by Allah or drawing near Hell after being saved from it.

 Be determined to make your Haj a turning point in your life, reckon yourself and determine what influence your Haj had upon your heart, attitude, words and deeds.

 Keep doing good deeds even if they are little, because regular small deeds are better than interrupted greater ones. You should know that deeds, which Allah the Almighty loves most, are the most regular and constant ones even though they were little.

We ask Allah the Almighty by His names and most beautiful attributes to accept your Haj, Forgive your sins and reward you for your efforts. We also ask Him to accept our good deeds and provide us with steadfastness and uprightness until death.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Two thoughts motivating the soul- Imam Hasan Basri

Imam of the Taba'een, Hasan al-Basri R.A. said:

"Two thoughts roam over the soul, one from Allah, one from the enemy (Satan). Allah shows mercy on a servant who settles at the thought that comes from Him. He embraces the thought that comes from Allah, while he fights against the one from his enemy. 

To illustrate the heart's mutual attraction between these two powers the Prophet SAWS said: 'The heart of a believer lies between two fingers of the Merciful' (Narrated by Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah). 

The fingers stand for upheaval and hesitation in the heart.

If man follows the dictates of anger and appetite, the dominion of shaytan appears in him through idle passions [hawa] and his heart becomes the nesting-place and container of shaytan, who feeds on hawa. 

If he does battle with his passions and does not let them dominate his nafs, imitating in this the character of the angels, at that time his heart becomes the resting-place of angels and they alight upon it."

 -Imam Ghazali relates these words on Jihad al-nafs in the section of his Ihya' entitled Kitab riyadat al-nafs wa tahdhib al- akhlaq wa mu`alajat amrad al-qalb (Book of the training of the ego and the disciplining of manners and the healing of the heart's diseases) .

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The reality of Eids (Festivals) in Islam:

Muslims’ Eids (Festivals) are acts of obedience and sources of lawful rejoice:

 Dear brothers, our Eids are considered as occasions of rejoice for the obedient whose acts of worship were accepted by Allah, and Eid will be a source of happiness for them after a long time of striving (in performing the acts of worship) and following Allah’s orders.

  The days of Eid are considered as one of Allah’s great graces, as they are actually celebrations of acts of obedience; not occasions of celebrating sins.

 Our Eids come after great acts of worship- the Eid Al Fitr, which comes after the month of Ramadan, and Eid Al Adha, which comes after Hajj.  Even on the days of Eid, we are required to pray extra Eid salaah in congregation followed by Sermons (Khutba), so that we don't fall in to Ghaflah and Sins while celebrating.

 Dear brothers, the Eids are for those who obeyed Allah, and sorrow will be upon those who disobeyed Him.

 When a servant turns back to Allah, a caller calls those in the heavens and earth to congratulate him as he has reconciled with Allah.

The reality of Eid in Islam:

 The real Eid lies in turning back to Allah, Eid is for him who perfects his work during the day, and spends the night in obeying Allah, and Eid is for him who stays all night long reciting Quran and not listening to songs and music.

  Imam Al Hasan Al Basri said: “Every day in which Allah is not disobeyed will be considered a Eid, and every day that is spent, by the believer, in obeying his Lord, remembering Him and thanking him is a Eid as well.”

 Eid means to draw close to Allah rather than wearing new clothes, Eid is for the one who feared Allah and the day of menacing (Day of Judgment) rather than for the one who is adorned with cloths and vehicles, and Eid is for the one whose sins are forgiven. 

 O you who rejoice Eid by putting on best clothes, O you who believe beyond doubt in death yet never get ready for its gravity, O you who enjoy befriending brethren, companions and comrades, feeling secured from being taken by death, Where will you be on the day when hearts and eyes will be overturned (from the horror of the torment of the Day of Resurrection)?

 Dear brothers, we should be able to bring together the permissible joy and the real meaning of it as Allah meant it for us to be, that is, to rejoice Tawbah (repentance), to rejoice turning back to Allah, to rejoice reconciliation with Him, and to rejoice strengthening our connection with Him by remembering, worshiping and obeying Him.

We have to realize and remember that  the Eid is for celebrating lawfully, while praising and thanking Allah who gave us this joyous occasion and not an excuse for being in Ghaflah (heedlessness) and indulging in sinful and Haram ways of enjoyment and entertainment. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hajj- The Journey of Love- Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmed

The Blessed House of Allah!

Hajj is a blessed pillar from among the noble pillars of Islam. Allah honored a specific place on Earth by choosing it for His special blessings and ordered His House to be built there. To the naked eye this place in Makkah in Arabia is just a cube of rock and stone, but is the focal point for Allah’s special tajalliyat (blessings and mercy). The important concentration and descent of Allah’s blessings on this place is what earn it the name Bait Ullah, the House of Allah.

All mankind is commanded to face this location in prayer to Allah. Every believer is attracted to this place because it is an absorption point for Allah’s love and blessings. People from all walks of life come here for homage out of love because Bait Ullah is a magnet for people’s hearts. The poorest of the poor who do not have enough to eat or to clothe themselves will surely have a desire to see the House of Allah.

This is a fascinating attraction that is not limited to the rich but applies to all people, regardless of whether they have the means or not. This attraction does not fade when someone just reaches the Haram (the Grand Mosque) but gets stronger until it pulls people to the Kaaba itself so that they hug its draped cloth just like iron hugs its magnet.

Muslims ready themselves and are pulled to this House from all corners of the globe in their intense love for Allah, and this is why Hajj is a journey not of obligation but of love. These are fortunate people who have been allowed to come to Bait Ullah after countless days and nights of prayer and supplication. All the lovers of Allah converge upon His House for the blessed pilgrimage in the first days of Zulhijja.

A Journey of Trial-Hajj is not a luxury tour or vacation!

Hajj is not a luxury tour or vacation, and Allah has made hardship a necessary factor in Hajj. Those who depart with the mindset that Hajj is supposed to be easy get impatient and start complaining at the slightest inconvenience. Hence pilgrims need to begin their journey with the knowledge and intention that Hajj is a journey of trials and not one of luxury. We are lovers and not the beloved but yet we expect our every need to be catered to just like we were the beloved. This is a journey only for lovers, and whoever wants to travel as if he is the beloved will find that he will never get the opportunity for this grand journey.

Remember the difficulties of Hajj journey before a few decades:

Hadrat Ghulam Habib R.A. used to say that (a few decades back) he and the pilgrims would depart for Hajj by ship and reach Arabia after a grueling month’s journey. Once reaching Jeddah the ship would remain at port for three days while immigration and immunization status would be verified. Today this same process does not even take a full three hours let alone three days.

Advances in technology such as the aircraft have nullified the trials and tribulations that existed in those times and made travel easy for us but people still complain. Today the luxury exists for us to complete the entire Hajj trip in twenty days or less. The pilgrim should not be desirous of hardship but nevertheless be steadfast and prepared for it.

Correcting our Outlook

The lifestyle that we have become accustomed to has spoiled us and we except a limousine to be waiting at the airport to whisk us away and drop us right outside the Haram. There is a system to everything that we must realize and we must be prepared to allow it to run its own course. We need to realize that we are servants whom the Master is allowing to come visit His House and not the other way around.

Presidents and kings of this worthless and temporary world make their visitors wait for hours without explanation and we expect the Master of the universe to cater to our every need. To be allowed to come to Hajj is indeed a blessing for which we should be ready to bear double if not triple the usual burden.

Hajj is a journey and act of worship and there is always trial in worship no matter what form. If people desire luxury and comfort they are welcome to stay in their beds because no one is forcing them to go to Hajj. However, people must be prepared for hardship if they have already taken the first steps toward anything.

Pilgrims must make sure that they are never verbally critical of anything on this sacred journey and keep our complaining tongue in check for the few days that we are at Hajj. Wherever there is great benefit there will undoubtedly be shortcomings of many kinds because Hajj demands a monumental task of preparation in every field from transportation to sleeping arrangements for the pilgrims.

Keep the focus on the main purpose of Hajj:

We need to keep focused on the purpose of this sacred journey and consider every shortcoming and trial as a blessing for us. Allah is allowing filthy sinners like us to come to His House and so there is no need to make any comments about anything. There have been countless people much more pious than us who have not been fortunate enough to see Bait Ullah. This is a journey of trials and not the luxury that we have unfortunately become accustomed to.

For a sincere and pious worshipper these complaints are only for not seeing the House of Allah and disappear immediately once he or she looks upon the Kaaba. The House of Allah has such a brilliant magnetism and awe that one does not consider a hardship as a hardship anymore because a believer realizes true peace and security in the House of Allah just as a child finds security and love in its mother’s arms. Furthermore, Hadrat Ashraf Ali Thanvi R.A. writes that the righteous find peace upon seeing Bait Ullah just as the believers will find peace when they enter Paradise. Here they forget all past worries and trials.

Sincerity (Ikhlas) and Sacrifice

The next important thing that pilgrims need to evaluate is sincerity of intention. Undoubtedly sincerity is an essential requirement of every act of worship, but this requirement is given more emphasis here for the auspicious worship of Hajj.

The simple reasoning for this is that Hajj is an act that is required only once a lifetime. A worship such as prayer is observed five times a day so if one prayer was offered without sincerity the person can try harder for the next prayer, but Hajj is a special occasion that only comes once a lifetime for most. Hence people need to be extra careful about what might seem to be the smallest issues.

Disputes and arguments are a very normal part of life, which may intensify because Hajj is a long journey that people have to undertake together. Arguments may increase between friends or between family and relatives because unfortunately people do not want to listen but want to lead. We need to keep in mind that this journey is sacred and cannot easily be repeated and so there is no need for any kind of argument or dispute whatsoever.

We are Muslims and only temporary travelers in this life, so it is not always necessary that we absolutely have to have the best seat on the bus or the best room in the hotel. We should try and make sure that others in our party are more comfortable than we are rather than inconveniencing them so that we are more at ease. This is a journey of trials and we need to learn to compromise.

Purity of Means

The most important thing that pilgrims need to be absolutely sure of is the purity of the finances that are spent for Hajj. There should be no doubt whatsoever that the money for every aspect of the journey from travel to lodging arrangements is legally permissible (halal), with not the slightest hint of being prohibited (haram). Hajj will only be accepted if the means used for it are halal.

A hadith in relation to this states that a man was crying to Allah as he clutched the draperies of the Kaaba but his supplication was not accepted. This was because his earning was haram, which made his food and clothing haram. Supplication (dua) will never be accepted here because the very means used to come there are haram, and hence the finances used for Hajj need to be absolutely pure. Someone in doubt about the lawfulness of his earnings should discuss the issue with the local ulama in his city.

Points to Ponder

The Messenger of Allah said that among the signs of the Endtime would be that the wealthy among the Muslims will go to Hajj for vacation; the poor will go to beg; and the ulama will go to boast of their superiority over the other Muslims.
In light of this hadith the hujjaj (pilgrims) must make it a point to never boast of their Hajj to others. They not only risk having it invalidated but Allah may never give them another chance because of their arrogance.

The Lover’s Destination

Every journey has a destination and the destination of Hajj is the pleasure of Allah. There are two kinds of hujjaj: those who are fortunate to see (ziyarah) Bait Ullah and those still more fortunate who are able to see the Creator of Bait Ullah.

This is why the tawaf (circumambulation) that is performed after the gathering of Arafat is called Tawaf-e-Ziyarah. Those who have worked hard against their evil desires and lower self (nafs) are able to see the bounties of Allah in all their glory, and those who have not obviously cannot partake in this experience. Thus it is essential to have a righteous alim or shaykh in one’s company so that he may guide at every point.

Hajj is a journey of love and desire, and upon close examination love is found to be the paramount force in every action within Hajj. As a general rule lovers whose purpose is a specific beloved pursue their quest single mindedly and ignore all else. They make no attempt to beautify themselves like a wife might do for a husband because the one purpose of getting to the beloved overpowers all other desires or concerns.

The rites and rituals of Hajj personify this intense desire of the lover. From the beginning of the journey the lover is told to shed all outer décor and don the ihram, two simple and unstitched sheets of white cloth. For the duration of the journey and Hajj itself this lover is not allowed to apply any sort of scent, nor is the lover allowed to trim the hair or nails.

Lovers maddened with love and desire usually not only speak of their love but publicize it loudly in chants or poetry. Hence when the lover of Allah starts on this quest he is also commanded to raise his voice and shout that he is coming to his beloved: Labbaik Allahumma labbaik!

Our elders who have gone before us understood and practiced the meaning of this cry, and hundreds would receive guidance because of their efforts. Today we go physically but fail to effect any change within ourselves and return exactly as we were and return to our same heedless lives.

A lovesick boy stands outside the window or door of his beloved hoping for a sign of recognition. The lover of Allah circles the House of Allah with the same maddened desire like a moth circles a flame.

Moths to A Flame

Tawaf is the only ritual within Islam that men and women are commanded to perform in the same vicinity, whereas there is separation in all other situations. Men and women are separated in prayer with a partition to cite just one example.

This may seem strange because Islam is very strict in terms of male and female interaction but the ulama have written a fascinating explanation for this:
The lovers of Allah journey tirelessly for the chance of worshipping at Bait Ullah, and once they reach this magnificent shrine men lose all sense of their masculinity and women likewise lose heed of their femininity, and in maddened desire they focus only on Bait Ullah. Allah wanted to establish for all mankind that His lovers lose all sense of themselves and relinquish all other loves when coming to worship Him.

Allah wanted to further establish the reality that His love is paramount and superior to all other loves that may exist. This is truly the case because even husbands and wives focus only on Allah instead of themselves. It is the only occasion when men and women worship and cry in the same vicinity with no thought to one another.

Recognizing the Enemy

The lover would hate anyone who tried to keep him away from his beloved or hindered his quest to attain nearness to the same. Satan tries to create a rift between mankind and Allah and so the hujjaj stone the devil at the stone throwing ritual at the Jumurat.

Lovers always shower their beloved with gifts as an outpouring of their love and labor hard to be noticed. Likewise the pilgrims also present a sacrifice to Allah at the conclusion of Hajj.

Most Generous of Hosts

The hujjaj are guests of Allah at Hajj, as He commanded Hadrat Ibrahim A.S. to announce an open invitation to all to come worship at His House. Allah is the Supreme Host, and takes great care of His guests even more than we honor someone who may come to our house.

The Messenger of Allah said that even the person who sits and looks upon Bait Ullah is a recipient of Allah’s countless blessings. We are unfortunate in that we do not recognize His supreme hospitality, otherwise we would be in Paradise on Earth.

Acceptance of Dua

We may not know the exact times at which duas are accepted, but hadith has told us that there are seventeen key locations at Hajj where duas are accepted. Hujjaj should make a point of learning these key locations so they may be able to offer prayers here and beg from Allah.

No one knows the blessed moment when Allah may accept a particular dua or prostration from his servant.

The difference between the Hajj of the righteous beings of Allah and that of common people is that of night and day. 

Signs of the Acceptance of Hajj

The mashaikh have written that there are many signs that Allah has accepted the pilgrim’s Hajj. Hadrat Ashraf Ali Thanvi R.A. writes that the first of these signs is that upon leaving this sacred land the pilgrim has an intense desire in his heart to return for another Hajj. Such people are fortunate because Allah accepts their deed and ignites a flame of desire in their hearts that will keep them yearning for Makkah.

In contrast there are those unfortunate wretches who leave with nothing but complaints and vow not to return because they had such a bad experience. Such people return empty handed because their Hajj is not accepted.

Some people return from Hajj cleansed of their sins and rectified with a complete positive change in their lives whereas others return with out any improvement or,sometimes, even worse than they were before. The difference is that the Hajj of the former party is accepted whilst the Hajj of the others is not, and so the latter continue down the path of wretchedness.

Acceptance of our Hajj is the biggest reason why we must cry and beg to Allah on this sacred journey. We must cry so much that Allah accepts us if only out of pity. Our righteous elders would weep and beg for years so Allah would accept their Hajj and turn their lives around.

-Abridged from 'Sermons' of Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmed D.B. on Hajj.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Inner Dimensions of Sacrifice (Qurbani) of Eid Al-Adha (Bakrid) and it's lessons for life:

 Say: My Prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying belong to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds (al-An'am 6:162).

The annual ritual of animal sacrifice in Islam has important and far reaching lessons and implications for our life. It's not just limited to slaughtering an animal.

Rather, it is meant to inculcate in us a never ending spirit of sacrifice for the sake of Allah who gave us all that we possess in the first place.

Sacrifice, Islam and Iman:

Islam simply means surrender to God of your whole being, not of just some possession. Put in the language of our present discourse Islamic life is a life of sacrifice par excellence. It entails a struggle that must be ceaselessly waged, to actualize Islam, inwardly and outwardly, to make it a living reality.

Sacrifice is the nourishment without which the tiny seeds of Iman will not grow into mighty, leafy trees, providing shade and fruit to the countless caravans of mankind (Ibrahim 14:24-5). 

It is one of those keys without which the closed doors do not unlock (al-Baqarah 2:214). It is true whether the path taken is personal - to reach spiritual and moral heights, or social - to cast life and society in the mould of Islam (surrender to One God). And it is true, when these two paths most desirably merge together. For the loftier the goal and more arduous the way, the greater the need to sacrifice, and sacrifice more and more.

Every act of sacrifice nourishes and increases your Iman; for it transforms a verbal confession and a mental conviction into a living reality. 

It confirms, and thus increases, your love for Allah; for at every step you give up something for the sake of this love (al-Imran 3:172-3). 

It reinforces your loyalty and fidelity to Allah; for all other loyalties become secondary as they are sacrificed for the sake of this loyalty. 

In short, sacrifices bring you nearer to Allah. The process is mutually interactive: the stronger the faith, the greater the will and capacity to sacrifice; the greater the sacrifices, the more internalized and deeper the faith.

Sacrifice and Tazkiya:

Sacrifices are essential for the development of all moral and spiritual qualities, but especially for the development of patience, endurance, perseverance, fortitude, resolve and determina tion. These can be summed up in just one word: Sabr. 

Every sacrifice reinforces the quality of sabr, making it grow in quality and strength. Sabr, in turn, sustains and increases the capacity to sacrifice. 

Again, the process is dialectic. All promises of help from Allah, all assurances of success in this-world and rewards in the Hereafter, have been made conditional upon the attainment of Iman and Sabr (al-Imran 3:139,125 ; al-Anfal 8:46 ; al-A'raf 7:137 ; al-Zumar 39:10).

Sacrifice primarily means slaughter of an animal. To remember the examples of Ibrahim and Muhammad you sacrifice an animal each year on the day after Hajj; Hajj itself being a worship rite which incorporates the most intense and sustained sacrifices.

Here we must remember two important lessons of sacrificing animals:

One: What finds acceptance with God is not the sacrificial animal, but our willingness and preparedness to sacrifice, His love in our hearts, our obedience to Him. Never lose sight of this root principle; never be content with 'form' without spirit; nor,though, ever give up forms.
The flesh of them shall not reach God, neither their blood, but godliness from you shall reach Him (al-Hajj 22:37).

Two: The supreme sacrifice is the sacrifice of life. By giving away your physical life in the way of Allah, you die once. And that is the ultimate sacrifice. But you are required to die every day and every moment as you overcome your deeply-rooted loves, as you offer yourself totally to God, as you obey Him against all opposition from within and without. Thus you lay down your life, not just once, but again and again. That is the supreme sacrifice.
Say: My Prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying belong to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds (al-An'am 6:162).

Sacrifices of Hadhrat Ibrahim A.S:

By sacrificing animals for Allah's pleasure on Eid al-Adha, Muslims are commanded to follow Ibrahim (AS), that paragon of sacrifice in the way of Allah: 
First, he had to repudiate his father and even forgo his desire to seek Allah's forgiveness for him. Later, he had to demonstrate his willingness to sacrifice his son literally.

The sacrifices we are to make:

In a way we are required to make small, very small, sacrifices every moment in life. For at every step and every moment we are faced with a choice - however small - to go one way or to go the other way. Every choice made to please Allah means taking a decision to sacrifice something. Even, as you choose to offer Fajr (morning) Prayer, you sacrifice your sleep and the warmth of your bed.

There are sacrifices to be made in regular day to day living - in home, in work place, in market, in social contact, at home, even in privacy - which are likely to be missed. They are more difficult to make simply because they are not even recognized as suitable stuff for sacrifice.

What to sacrifice:

Sacrifice, as we have seen, simply means to give up things which we love and hold dear, which in our eyes have some value for us. We may possess them now or hope and aspire to have them in future. The things may be tangible and concrete or intangible and abstract. 

Important among concrete things are time, money, worldly possessions, physical abilities, life. 
Important abstract things may include our ties of love and affection, especially familial, likes and dislikes, preferences and prejudices, views and opinions, desires and aspirations, pleasures and comforts, status and roles, or merely our ego.

The Three basic principles of sacrifice:

There are three basic principles which, in my view, are important to understand if we want to have a full understanding of sacrifice.

Firstly, giving up something deserves to be called a sacrifice only when we love and value it. Hence, it is difficult to draw a clear line of demarcation between the concrete and the abstract. In the final analysis, every sacrifice is a sacrifice of our love or value. When we give away money, or life, or a familial tie for the sake of Allah, what we realty give up, and that makes it a sacrifice, is our love for money, life or a relative, not the object itself.

Secondly, it is more difficult and more necessary to sacrifice abstract things rather than the concrete.

Thirdly, we can give up something we love and to which we attach value only for something we love more and to which we attach greater value.


How to draw from within yourselves the inner resources which would generate, nourish and sustain your spirit and capacity to sacrifice? How can you become, and remain, willing and prepared to offer sacrifices required of you?

There are certain fundamental inner resources which need to be emphasized and remembered, which you must try to generate within yourselves.

1. Love for Allah

Love lies at the root of every sacrifice. You can therefore realize what you need most to help you gain the inner strength necessary for offering sacrifices. It is your love for Allah. How much do you love him? Do you love Him more than everything else?
That is why the Qur'an says: 'The [true] believers love God more than all else' (al-Baqarah 2:165). That is why it confronts every Muslim with one simple but profound question: Whom do you love more? Allah, His Messenger and Jihad in His way, or fathers, sons, wives, brothers, wealth, houses, commerce, careers? (al-Tawbah 9: 24).

Only with such love for Allah will sacrifice turn into an inner urge, rather than remaining a motion of compliance with an external exhortation. Then you will derive the true delight and pleasure in fulfilling the demands of Iman. 

The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, said: 'There are three things, only the one who has them will taste the sweetness of Iman: [first of them is] that Allah and His Messenger he loves more than any other thing beside them . . .' (Bukhari, Muslim).
How to attain love for Allah which exceeds every other love? There are not, and cannot be, any precise formula for this purpose. But a few things will help. And each in turn will become a rich inner resource you will need to fulfill the demands of sacrificing.

2. Remembering Allah (Dhikrullah)

Remembering Him as often as you can is essential and fundamental. It will help you not only to attain love, but all other resources you need to develop your spirit and capacity of sacrifice: mindful of living in His presence, attaching real value to meeting Him and receiving His rewards, understanding the worth and place of this-worldly life, grateful and humble before Him, fearful of never having done enough, prepared and willing to obey His commands.

3. Living in His Presence (Ma'e at)

Live as if you are in His presence. Remember that 'He is with you wherever you may be' (al-Hadid 57:4). When you are called upon to make a sacrifice, or you prepare to make it of your own accord, remember that you are before His eyes. That is what He asks us to be mindful of: 'Surely you are before Our eyes' (al-Tur 52:48).
Coupled with your conviction that whatever you are sacrificing belongs to the One who is seeing you, and His reward would be manifold and eternal, this should give you some measure of that inner urge and strength essential to you.
This consciousness of being in His presence, of His Eyes being upon us, of Him listening to us, of doing our duty as our Master is with us, praising us generously, rewarding us kindly, is a prime source for creating the spirit of sacrifice. This also creates trust in Him, because once you know that you are with Him, you can entrust all your affairs to Him.

4. Thinking of the day of Meeting with Allah

 If you understand the nature and reality of this-worldly life, if you know that you can receive your fair wages only upon meeting Allah, then you will develop two feelings.
One, a desire to meet Him, however you may fear Him on account of your own misdeeds.
Two, the preparedness to sacrifice everything that belongs to this-world for what you will earn in reward in the Hereafter.

One of the du'as the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to make says:
Allah! Grant me the delight of looking at Thy noble face and a longing to meet Thee (Nasa'i, Ahmad, Hakim).

5. Gratefulness and Humility

Whatever the nature of sacrifice, and whether big or small tangible or intangible, offer it in gratitude and humility. It so often happens that one begins to get weary and tired of giving in the way of Allah. One, then, begins to say, 'We have already spent so much time; we have already given so much money; how much more shall we give?; we have already made so many sacrifices; what else is required of us?' This will happen only if you are making sacrifices not to please Allah alone; but then you are motivated by something else. Or, when you do not realize that you should indeed be grateful to Him for every opportunity you get to offer some sacrifice. Also offer every sacrifice in all humility.

Let us be very clear that whatever things you sacrifice, you do not give it to some person, nor to some organization. Nor do you give it to Allah, though He is Merciful and Generous enough to say that whatever you give is a loan to Him, which shall be repaid manifold. You give everything to yourselves. Does one ever get tired of giving more and more to himself?

Now this is not selfishness. It only means that we believe that our ultimate prosperity lies in submission to the will of Allah. Through sacrifice we seek our betterment in this life and we desire a successful, eternal life in the Hereafter. At the same time, every sacrifice we make, everything we give in the way of Allah, makes our community stronger.

Therefore be grateful to Allah for having given you the opportunity to sacrifice, for having called upon you to serve Him, for having blessed you with the ability to offer something in His way. Things might have been otherwise. We might have been left wandering astray: we might not have been given the opportunity to sacrifice wealth and thus reap eternal reward. You should therefore give every sacrifice in the spirit of gratitude. To Him you should look for acceptance.

And also humility. You should never have the feeling of having done enough. Once the disease creeps into your heart that you have done enough, then all is lost. You should always think that whatever sacrifice you may offer, it is still nothing compared to the obligations you have to discharge towards Allah.

Being fearful of never having given away enough is very fundamental to your sacrifice. The Qur'an says: 'They give what they give, but their hearts tremble' (al-Mu'minun 23:60).

6. Inner Urge and Ikhlaas

The primary motivating force that drives you to make sacrifices must lie inside your own self. The urge should come from within. 
The roots must lie deep in your heart and soul. Neither group approval, nor conformity, nor organizational discipline, nor any other external pressure, should provide the compulsion to come forward with your sacrifice. Each one of them is important and has an important role to play in shaping our conduct. But if sacrifices are offered for any reason other than Allah's pleasure, it would be extremely difficult to offer large sacrifices, or offer them continually, under all circumstances. The will and spirit to sacrifice must be internalized.

7. Willing Choice and Ridha

Choice to sacrifice should be made willingly. This means that you should, by your own choice, come forward to offer whatever you can to secure Allah's pleasure. Your will should harmonize with His will.
This does not mean that one should not feel any pain or discomfort while making a sacrifice. Once you give up your love or your desire or your value, to feel pain is only human. Indeed, if you feel no pain in giving up something, that giving up may not be worth being called a sacrifice. You are throwing away something which is of no value to you. Rather, the greater the pain, the greater the worth of the sacrifice. But pain ought to be followed by contentment; contentment for having given up something you considered valuable for Allah's pleasure which is really the most valuable, for having willingly borne pain for the sake of your love for Allah which supersedes every other love.

Two Basic Aids in acquiring these qualities- SALAT AND SABR:

We have been given two basic aids to help us develop all those inner resources which I have put before you. I can only mention them in passing, for each deserves to be treated in detail in its own right.
O Believers! Seek help with Sabr and Salat (al-Baqarah 2:153).

What is Salat? 
Salat of course is a ritual worship. It consists of certain physical postures. It also consists of certain words which we utter from beginning to end. But the whole purpose of Salat is to remember and to be conscious of Allah. This is what the Qur'an very clearly states: 'Establish Prayer to remember Me' (Ta Ha 20:14).

What is sabr? 
It is very comprehensive in meaning. Literally sabr means to bind and restrain. In the Qur'an it encompasses qualities as wide as restraint and resolve, patience and the will to sacrifice, discipline and steadfastness. It binds you to your pledge to Allah, to your brothers, to your good in the Hereafter.

Hold on to Salat and sabr and you will gain the strength you need to offer sacrifices.

(-Excerpted from a speech by Khurram Murad.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Spiritual traps and defects in Salaah (Prayer)

Shariah commands that each and every Muslim should pray Salaah five times daily on appropriate time, with the method according to Sunnah.

Now, Sunnah does not only mean outward sunnahs of prayer such as proper positions, movements and duas in it. There are also inward Sunnah states and conditions of the heart and mind to be followed and in some ways they are more important than outward movements for acceptance of Salaah.
The Spiritual deficiencies and diseases manifest themselves not only in his behaviour and actions but they destroy even the person's worship and prayers (salaah).
A Muslim, who is unaware of the importance of Tazkiya and Ihsaan (rectifying the internal moral states) and has not worked to develop and refine them in his every day life, may fall into the following traps or spiritual deficiencies regarding his Salaah:
  1. Some times he may skip the prayer all together, maybe out of laziness or being busy in worldly affairs. This reflects that he does not have the love of Allah and instead has love of this world (hubb e dunya).
  2. Sometimes he prays to show his fellow Muslims that he is regular in his prayer or a pious person. At other times he thinks that his praying will make him outstand in his community. These are showing off (riya) and mark the absence of sincerity(ikhlas).
  3. Even if he prays, he does so hastily, without the proper demeanor. This is reflective of absence of love of Allah and occupation in worldly affairs.
  4. Sometimes the demeanor of his prayer changes if he notices that someone is watching him. This is show off (riya).
  5. And when he prays on time and in proper manner, his inner self is absent from that prayer. He is busy thinking about some worldly affair. This is reflective of absence of khushoo (awe/internal quietness).
  6. At other times he demeanor does not reflect humility before his Lord. This is arrogance (kibr).
  7. Sometimes when he prays he feels he is superior to the other fellow mussalis. This is self praise (ujub).
  8. At other times he is thinking of his own superiority plus the inferiority of others which is arrogance (kibr).
  9. At times when he see someone better than himself, he thinks that he himself was more deserving of this better trait and whishes that this may go away from that person. This is envy (hasad).
  10. During his prayer he can not contemplate that he is standing before his Lord and He is watching him. This is absence of slave hood (ihsan & uboodiyah).
  11. After praying he may boast to others that he prayed or feel superior to them. This is a arrogance (kibr).
  12. Or he may feel dejected by the poor concenteration he had during salah and become disappointed. This is disappointment (yaas).
This is just a quick list of deficiencies.
We should take a moment and think, where do we stand?
If we do not have these qualities, then is our worship and salaah up to the mark of being accepted by Shariah’s standards?
Indeed, these internal moral states are the very soul of bodily or physical form of worship making it capable of being accepted and rewarded.
Two Rakahs of salaah of an A’rif (a Muslim who has realized and mastered these internal moral states through Tazkiya) is better than 100,000 units of an ordinary Muslim.
wa ma taufiqi ilabillah
-Adapted from