Ismail Kamdar

Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

Ikhlāṣ (sincerity) refers to the Islamic concept of doing good deeds for the pleasure of Allah. Ikhlāṣ is one of two conditions for the validity of any deed. For any deed to be acceptable to Allah, it must be in conformity with Islamic Law and it needs to be done with ikhlāṣ. This makes ikhlāṣ a very crucial and central theme in Islam. There are many evidences regarding the importance of ikhlāṣ and many warnings about not having ikhlāṣ.

From the evidences of the importance of ikhlāṣ is the opening narration of Sahih al-Bukhari;

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, deeds are only with intentions and every person will have only what they intended. Whoever emigrated to Allah and His Messenger, his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. Whoever emigrated to get something in the world or to marry a woman, his emigration is for that to which he emigrated.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1907

From this narration, we learn that we are rewarded or punished based on the sincerity of our actions. The following narration drives home the importance of ikhlāṣ.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, my greater fear for you is the lesser idolatry.” They said, “What is the lesser idolatry, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “It is ostentation. Allah Almighty will say to them on the Day of Resurrection, when people are being recompensed for their deeds: Go to those for whom you made a show in the world and look, do you find any reward with them?”

Musnad Aḥmad 23119

Despite these clear evidences, ikhlāṣ remains something everybody struggles with due to the whisperings of the devil and the cravings of the ego. It is extremely difficult to dedicate one’s life to Islamic work without occasional lapses in one’s intention. Our religion prescribes several methods to help up recognize and fix wrong intentions, and maintain ikhlāṣ.

1. Daily Muḥāsaba

Muḥāsaba (self-accountability) refers to the classical Islamic practice of holding oneself accountable for one’s deeds and intentions. It is important to regularly check one’s deeds and intentions to ensure spiritual growth and sincerity. This can be done by taking the time to sit and think about one’s day. Reflect on how many good deeds were done in the day, as well as why they were done. After doing so, work on a plan to improve. Muḥāsaba is an important and crucial step towards maintaining sincerity and catching oneself when slipping.

2. Secret Good Deeds

It is very easy to fall into wrong intentions when doing good deeds in public. Yet it is the nature of many good deeds that they require public effort. Dawah, Salah in congregation, and many other types of good deeds take place in public. This is a challenge for one’s sincerity. One of the ways to improve sincerity is to have a regular habit of secret good deeds. This can be extra Salah, Quranic recitation, remembrance of Allah, charity, or any other good deed. Regular good deeds that are done in secret ensure that at least such deeds are done solely for the pleasure of Allah. the sincerity of such deeds can also rub off on one’s public deeds, saving a person from going astray in this matter.

3. Remembering one’s secret sins

Another way to fight the ego is to remind oneself of one’s secret sins. Every human has their secret sins and mistakes that nobody knows besides Allah. These sins are often forgotten about as the ego takes over. If anyone feels religious arrogance creeping in, and notices that it is modifying their intentions, a simple solution is to remind oneself of one’s sins and weaknesses. This brings a person back down to earth, humbling them with the crushing reality of their own weaknesses and shameful mistakes.

4. Seeking forgiveness

As humans, we strive to do our best but remain weak. Our efforts are also full of mistakes and deficiencies. Whether in form or intention, mistakes are often unavoidable. one way to make up for this is to seek forgiveness daily. We should seek forgiveness multiple times a day, not just for our sins but for our lapses in intentions as well as the deficiencies in our efforts. This practice of seeking forgiveness not only humbles the soul but also makes up for momentary lapses in intention.

5. Asking Allah for sincerity

Everything we need can only come from Allah. He is our provider and so we ask of Him for everything we want. This applies to sincerity as well. Our hearts belong to Allah and only He can bless us with true deep sincerity. Therefore, we must ask Allah every day, especially before doing a public good deed, to rectify our intentions and keep our deeds purely for his sake. This supplication serves as both a reminder to ourselves and a means to gain deeper sincerity through an accepted supplication.

6. Supplementary good deeds to make up for lapses in intention

The final step to overcoming wrong intentions is to follow up our good deeds with more good deeds. These supplementary good deeds make up for any mistakes in the primary good deeds. For example, after praying Dhuhr in the Masjid, we should pray two units of extra prayer at home to make up for any lapses in intention or deficiency in attention. Likewise, after giving charity publicly, we should give a bit more secretly in case the intention of the original deed is compromised. These extra deeds help make up for mistakes and keep us grounded in the obedience of Allah.

Summary

Ikhlāṣ is necessary for any deed to be acceptable to Allah. To us maintain sincerity, we need to reflect daily on our inner state, do extra good deeds in private, remind ourselves of our secret sins, seek forgiveness for our mistakes, ask Allah for sincerity, and follow up our good deeds with more good deeds. These steps will help us stay sincere and keep us on the straight path. We ask Allah for ikhlāṣ throughout our lives, firm faith, and a blessed ending in a state that is pleasing to Him. Ameen.

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Protection Duas #1: A Comprehensive Supplication

Protection Duas #1: A Comprehensive Supplication

This is the first in a series of articles reflecting on the wisdom behind the various morning and evening supplications. Islam recommends a variety of morning and evening supplications for protection from every kind of evil and difficulty. It is highly encouraged for every believer to memorize these supplications, and recite them every morning after Fajr, and every evening after Maghrib.

There exist many books and articles listing these supplications. So I will not list all of them here. I recommend Hisn al-Muslim for an authentic collection of supplications. In this series, I want to attempt something different. This will be a series of reflections on some of these daily duas. The purpose of this series is to help us understand these supplications, appreciate them, and use them more purposefully. The result of understanding a dua on a deeper level is that it is more meaningful and impactful.

I would like to begin with a supplication that is very close to my heart. This is a comprehensive supplication that covers a variety of worldly and spiritual issues, demonstrating the Islamic vision of aiming for the best of both worlds.

The Comprehensive Dua

 اللَّهُمَّ عَافِنِي فِي بَدَنِي، اللَّهُمَّ عَافِنِي فِي سَمْعِي، اللَّهُمَّ عَافِنِي فِي بَصَرِي، لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْكُفْرِ وَالْفَقْرِ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ، لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ

Translation: O Allah, grant me health in my body. O Allah, grant me good hearing. O Allah, grant me good eyesight. There is no god besides you. O Allah, I seek protection with you from disbelief and poverty. O Allah, I seek protection with you from the punishment of the grave, There is no god besides you. (Three times every morning and evening)

The evidence for this supplication is the following narration:

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin Abī Bakra reported that he said to his father, “I heard you making this supplication every morning; ‘O Allah, grant me health in my body. O Allah, grant me good hearing. O Allah, grant me good eyesight. There is no god besides you.’ and you repeat it three times in the evening and three times in the morning. You (also) say, ‘O Allah, I seek protection with you from disbelief and poverty. O Allah, I seek protection with you from the punishment of the grave, There is no god besides you.’ and you repeat it three times in the evening and three times in the morning.” He replied, “Yes, my son. I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say them and I like to follow his way.”

Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 701, Sunan Abi Dawud 5090

Protection from many major trials

This is a comprehensive supplication that covers many crucial trials, and through which we seek protection from both worldly and spiritual trials. The biggest spiritual calamity in this world is disbelief. For a believer to lose their faith and apostate is the biggest calamity that can befall them. Yet a true believer is never complacent about faith and knows that life is a test. As a precaution, the believer will ask Allah every day for protection from disbelief in every form.

In terms of worldly calamities, the two most difficult calamities that people fear are sickness and poverty. A major illness can prevent a person from doing good deeds, and even prevent them from living a functional happy life. Illness is a very difficult trial, and those who bear it with patience and faith will have a great reward in the Afterlife. Every moment spent being patient with difficulty causes the forgiveness of one’s sin. But for those of us who do not have such illnesses, we should seek protection from it daily with this supplication.

Misconceptions about Poverty

Poverty is a calamity that some segments of the Muslim world have glamorized in recent times. Some Muslims associate poverty with piety, and wealth with sin. Yet the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Allah for protection from poverty daily, and encouraged his companions to do the same.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Seek refuge with Allah from poverty, insufficiency, and humiliation, and from abusing (others) and being abused.'”

Sunan Ibn Majah 3842

Notice how the Prophet (peace be upon him) listed poverty first before not having enough, being humiliated, or being put into a situation that is either abusive or in which one can be abused. Poverty is listed first because extreme poverty can lead to all these other trials, so we seek protection from the root of these evils. Poverty opens the door to insufficiency, humiliation, and various forms of abuse. May Allah protect us all.

Islam does not glamorize poverty or wealth. Rather, Islam teaches us to be independent of others so that they cannot take advantage of us. The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us to ask Allah for independence from His Creation through permissible wealth. (al-Tirmidhi 3563) This shows us the importance of earning wealth and having enough to live a dignified life.

Poverty is not piety, neither is wealth. Piety is not indicated by the amount of money in one’s bank account. It is a matter of the heart. If a person loves Allah and worships Allah, then that individual is fulfilling the purpose of life regardless of whether he/she is rich or poor. Money is not an indication of religious status and we need to move away from assuming that it is.

Poverty opens the doors to many sins like stealing, prostitution, and deceit. It makes life difficult and stressful. A person who is drowning in debt finds it very difficult to live a happy life or worship Allah properly. Many people cannot handle the trials of poverty and there are many cases in which it has even led to apostasy. It is a severe trial, one that we should seek protection from daily. Poverty is not a joke and should not be glamorized.

Random Reflections

Every word of every recommended supplication can teach us a lesson. Studying Arabic makes it easier to see the beauty in the choice of words in each of these supplications. The repetition of various phrases and statements in a supplication is not random, it usually emphasizes a point. In this supplication, we testify twelve times a day that there is no god except Allah. We do this after asking for protection from disbelief, poverty, and illness. This reinforces in our hearts that guidance, sustenance, and health are all from Allah alone.

This supplication is also one of the evidences for the punishment of the grave. There exist a group of rationalist Muslims who reject the concept of punishment of the grave on the basis that it is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran, and is (to them) irrational. A simple reply is that if the punishment of the grave was not real, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would not have taught us a daily supplication for protection from it.

A final point of reflection. This supplication singles out hearing and sight for protection from illness. Losing one’s sight or hearing is a major trial, one that many people cannot handle. We need our hearing and sight to fulfill many acts of worship. This supplication teaches us that these are two of the greatest gifts from Allah that we forget to show appreciation for. We can show appreciation for these gifts by using them in ways that are pleasing to Allah, and reciting this supplication every morning and evening.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 5 comments
September Discount Offer: Homeschooling Course

September Discount Offer: Homeschooling Course

YOUR CHANCE TO HOMESCHOOL LIKE A PRO

COVID-19 has caused a lot of problems. For parents and children, it has made schooling rather difficult. As a response, thousands of parents around the world are exploring the idea of homeschooling. Homeschooling is a viable solution to the problems of our time.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling, 0 comments
Good Deeds That Erase Sins

Good Deeds That Erase Sins

This article is an extract from the Book of Hope, available at the links below the article.

Part of Allah’s Infinite Mercy is that He legislated many good deeds that wipe away our minor sins. The beauty of this is that even people who don’t actively seek forgiveness may still have their minor sins forgiven if they commit to these good deeds.

These specific deeds are mentioned in the hadiths below and include the following:

1. Establishing the five daily prayers

Jabir Ibn Abdullah (radiallahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alahi wasalam) said, “The similitude of five prayers is like an overflowing river passing by the gate of one of you in which he washes five times daily.” Hasan said, “No filthiness can remain on him.”

Sahih Muslim

2. Prostrating to Allah in the salah:

Ubadah ibn al-Samit (radiallahu anhu) narrated: The Prophet (salallahu alahi wasalam) said, “No servant prostrates for the sake of Allah except that Allah will record for him one good deed, erase one sin, and raise his status by one degree. So, perform many prostrations.”

Ibn Majah

3. Performing ablution and praying two rakat with khushu:

Uthman (radiallahu anhu) narrated: The Prophet (salallahu alahi wasalam) said, “He who performed ablution like this ablution of mine and offered two bowings of prayer without allowing his thoughts to be distracted, then his previous sins will be forgiven.”

Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim

4. An accepted umrah or hajj:

Abu Huraira (radiallahu anhu) narrated: The Prophet (salallahu alahi wasalam) said, “The umrah pilgrimage to the following umrah will expiate whatever sins were committed between them, and the accepted hajj pilgrimage has no reward other than Paradise.”

Sahih al-Bukhari

5. Converting to Islam, emigrating for the sake of Allah, or an accepted hajj:

‘Amr ibn al-‘As (radiallahu anhu) narrated: The Prophet (salallahu alahi wasalam) said, “Do you not know that embracing Islam wipes away all sins committed before it, that emigration wipes away what came before it, and the hajj pilgrimage wipes away what came before it?”

Sahih Muslim

6. Fasting the days and praying during the nights of Ramadan for the sake of Allah:

Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (radiallahu anhu) narrated: The Prophet (salallahu alahi wasalam) said, “Verily, Ramadan is a month in which Allah Almighty has obligated its fasting. And verily, I have instituted for Muslims the (recommended) practice of its prayer at night. Thus, whoever fasts it with faith and expecting reward will be rid of sins like the day he was born from his mother.”

Musnad Ahmad

Conclusion

There are many other good deeds that also wipe away our sins. This is just a glimpse of how merciful Allah is to us and how many opportunities He gives us to be free from our sins.

If Allah wanted, He could have made forgiveness dependent only upon repentance. Instead He created so many ways for us to be forgiven that it would be our fault alone if we missed every one of these paths to forgiveness.

It may be impossible to avoid committing sins for the rest of our life, but it is possible to do so many good deeds that Allah may forgive all our minor sins on account of our good deeds.

In order to earn this forgiveness, we must commit to these good deeds. Begin with praying five times a day. Establishing the five daily prayers is the most important good deed in the life of the believer.

Prayer is the second pillar of Islam, the first thing we will be asked about on the Last Day, and a means through which all minor sins can be forgiven.

The Prophet (salallahu alahi wasalam) compared it to bathing in a river five times a day. Just as bathing five times a day would wash away all physical dirt, praying five times a day washes away all sins.

So let us start with this. Let’s commit to praying five times a day for the sake of Allah. And let us make this a priority and habit in our lives. This one habit alone could save us on the Last Day and be the means through which our sins are forgiven.

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Reflections on Surah al-Wāqiʿah

Reflections on Surah al-Wāqiʿah

Surah al-Wāqiʿah is one of my favorite Surahs in the Quran. It is a beautiful poetic description of the Last Day and the final destinations of the various groups of humanity. This Surah is full of amazing lessons in theology and spirituality. I try to recite this Surah at least once a week and reflect on its meanings. I am always fascinated at how the Surah balances between creating a fear of Hellfire in our hearts while increasing our optimism that we can enter Paradise.

Background Information

Surah al-Wāqiʿah is a Makkan Surah, and this is clear from both its style and content. Its verses are short, powerful, and poetic. These are all indicative of the Makkan revelation. The content is purely focused on aspects of theology, namely the Last Day and the Afterlife. This is usually the theme of a Makkan Surah.

There are several narrations regarding the virtues of Surah al-Wāqiʿah. However, each of these narrations is of disputed authenticity, so scholars differ over its virtues. Nonetheless, it remains a powerful Surah that should be recited and reflected on often, regardless of whether we consider these narrations authentic or weak. The first narration is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) listed five Surahs that turned his hair gray, and included Surah al-Wāqiʿah in that list. (Ash-Shama’il Al-Muhammadiyah 41) The second narration is as follows.

“Whoever recites Surah al-Wāqiʿah every night, poverty will never affect him.”

Al-Tahrīr and al-Tanwīr, vol. 11, p. 279

Both of these narrations have disputed authenticity. Even among my own teachers, some regard them as weak while others regard them as authentic. I am inclined towards the opinion that they are Hasan, and Allah knows best.

A summary of its themes

Surah al-Wāqiʿah covers six core themes, all related to each other, in the following order:

  1. A description of the end of the world and commencement of the Last Day
  2. A description of the two types of people that will enter Paradise and the rewards that await them in Paradise
  3. A description of the punishment of Hellfire and what awaits the disbelievers in Hell.
  4. An explanation of the Power of Allah through various examples.
  5. An explanation of the status of the Quran.
  6. A description of death and how the soul leaves the body. (Al-Tahrīr and al-Tanwīr, vol. 11, p. 280)

The central theme of this Surah is theology, with a strong focus on eschatology. All six of these topics are fundamental aspects of Islamic theology, while four out of six are eschatological topics. Almost every core belief of Islam is described in detail in this Surah, making it a fundamental Surah for every believer to study and reflect on.

The Ones Who are Close to Allah

Surah al-Wāqiʿah, like Surah al-Rahmān, divides people into three groups; those who are close to God, the people of the right hand, and the people of the left hand. Two of these groups eventually enter Paradise, while the third is destined for eternal damnation. This division gives us hope of entering Paradise while making us wary of the paths to Hell.

The people of Paradise are divided into two types because not all believers are the same in their levels of piety. Yet Allah’s Infinite Mercy encompasses all believers, so even the biggest of sinners eventually enter Paradise, as long they truly believed. The divisions listed in this Surah are the close ones and the people of the right hand.

The close ones refer to the prophets, righteous, martyrs, and truthful people. (Al-Tahrīr and al-Tanwīr, vol. 11, p. 290) It includes the pious of the previous nations i.e. the true followers of Jesus, Moses, and all previous prophets, as well as the pious of this nation. In this Surah, the righteous are described as, “many from the previous generations, but a few from later generations.” (Quran 56:14) One interpretation of this is that as we get closer to the end of time, there will be less pious people on earth.

The fact that the pious will be fewer in the end times should give us something to think about. Are we trying to be among those few? It is true that it is a lot more difficult to be righteous today than it was during the time of the early Muslims, but the rewards are also proportional to the level of difficulty. These verses should inspire us to try our best to make it into those few of the later generations.

Many of the Later Generations

The good news that follows in the next set of verses is that the people of the right hand will be “Many of the early generations and many of the later generations.’ (Quran 56:39-40) The people of the right hand refer to those people who receive their book of deeds in their right hands on the Last Day. This means that their good deeds outweigh their sins by enough to get them into Paradise.

This is a level below the righteous. The righteous most likely will not have any reckoning on the Last Day at all, and will likely enter Paradise without accounting. The average believer, however, will have their good deeds and sins weighed. Whichever is heavier will decide whether they go directly to Paradise or require purification through Hellfire first.

This Surah does not discuss the fate of believers who receive their book of deeds in their left hand. The people of the left hand mentioned in this Surah are the disbelievers. Due to it being a Makkan Surah, the focus is primarily on the different destinations of those who believe in this message and those who reject it.

The fact that the people of the right hand are described as many of the later generations should fill our hearts with hope. It means that many Muslims will enter Paradise without going to Hellfire first, despite their sins. This gives hope to the average Muslim, as we commit sins every single day. Knowing that if we keep trying to be righteous, working on our good deeds, and repenting for our sins, then maybe we too could be among the people of the right hand.

The Reality of Death

Death is a reality that we too often choose to ignore. Death is scary, permanent, and a transition into the unknown. When we die, our souls leave this universe and move into the Barzakh, the dimension of souls. Thinking about this can be a very sobering experience.

In Islam, reflecting over death is a necessary part of spiritual development. We are advised to frequently remember death and to prepare for it. Our wills should always be updated, our family prepared, and our deeds in order. This world is just a temporary resting place for our souls on its journey to the Afterlife. Knowing this, the believer lives a life of purpose, focused on making it into Paradise, and to perhaps one day become one of the ‘close ones’.

When it (the soul) reaches the throat, while you are present and watching. But we are closer to him than you, even though you cannot perceive that. If you believe that you will not be taken into account, then return it (the soul to the body) if you are truthful.

Quran 56:83-87

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments