Ismail Kamdar

Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help and Izzah Academy, author of over a dozen books, and the operations manager of Yaqeen Institute.
Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help and Izzah Academy, author of over a dozen books, and the operations manager of Yaqeen Institute.
Golden Ages and Theories of History

Golden Ages and Theories of History

Whenever an excited young Muslim discovers history for the first time, it often sparks a debate. The young person may be impressed by the accomplishments of the Muslim Empires of past and talk proudly about the Muslim Golden Ages. At some point, he may encounter Muslims who take offense to the term Golden Age for referring to any period past the first generation. They insist that the first generation of Muslims were the only Golden Age and it was all downhill from there. This can often leave the youngster confused, not understanding why someone would take offense to the existence of Golden Ages.

I believe these two groups are speaking past each other, because they are both looking at history from different, yet equally valid, angles. History is a touchy subject as there are so many ways to analyse history that people can often look at the same events in radically different lights. It may be, and I believe this to be the case, that both groups are right in their own way. The peak of the Abbasid and Ottoman Empires was on one hand a Golden Age for that empire, but also spiritually weak compared to the first generation. To understand this, let us look at some perspectives from which people analyse history. We will analyse three perspectives; the common Theory of Progress model pushed by schools today, the Theory of Spiritual Regress model, and the Cycles of Power model.

The Theory of Progress

Schools around the world today are based on the Western School System that emerged during Colonization. This model is designed to push forward a colonial model of history that is radically different from the Islamic model. I only raise it here because many readers may have grown up on this model and never questioned it. We need to unlearn this myth about history before studying Muslim History. The theory of progress suggest that the world is moving forward for the better. Past civilizations and systems are deemed to be backwards or barbaric, while new ideas are considered progressive and logical.

This theory paints a distorted view of Muslim History. It categorizes the Shariah as a barbaric outdated system of governance. Anyone who is clinging onto the Shariah is viewed as backwards and uncivilized. The idea is that all nations must let go of their past models and adapt new (Western) models in all aspects of life. Sadly, many Muslims hold on to this theory. This can be noticed in their speech patterns when they make statements like “get with the times” and “we know better now than they did then” indicating that they view the Muslims of the past as less enlightened and civilized than them.

Not only is this theory false, but it is also unislamic and borderline blasphemous. Believing that we know better than the Muslims of the past or are more morally upright than them is an insult to the Prophet and his companions. It also distorts the way Muslims view their own history. Instead of looking to the past for role models, such Muslims look at the past as something to be avoided. To counter this mindset, I propose we study history utilizing two distinct theories. For our spiritual history, I propose we analyse it from a Theory of Regress perspective, and politically, I suggest we understand it as cycles of power.

The Theory of Spiritual Regress

The theory of regress simply means that spiritually, this nation peaked with its first generation. The most pious human beings, as a collective, were the Prophet ﷺ and his companions. After that, with each passing generation, Muslims as a whole grow spiritually weaker and distant from the ideal. This does not mean that individuals cannot reach high levels of piety, or that they may be bubbles of pious communities. It simpler means that there is no comparison spiritually between the first generation and those that come after them, and they will always remain our role models of piety.

This theory is based on the hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ said, “The best people are those of my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them…” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6429, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2533). It is also supported by the verses in the Quran that indicated that the pious will be many in the early generations but few in the latter generations. (Qur’an 56:13-14) When some Muslims claim that the first generation was the only Golden Age of Islam, they are referring to spiritual greatness, and this is true.

Spiritually, our Golden Age was the first four decades of Islam. It was during this time that piety was the norm, and the righteous led the nation. Spiritually, no empire that came after them could ever match them. No king, sultan of Caliph could ever match the spiritual greatness of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, or Ali (RA). It was the best of times, and the most important period of history for any Muslim to study. This does not mean that later empires could not have their own Golden Age. To understand how that is possible, let us look at the theory of cycles of power.

Cycles of Power

The cycles of power theory was made popular by Ibn Khaldun, who proposed that every nation goes through a similar cycle. First it rises to power, it eventually hits a peak, then the decline begins, and eventually it collapses. This theory can also be deduced from the Quran in which it is stated “Such days We alternate between the people.” (Quran 3:140) This verse was revealed after the first military setback faced by the companions in the Battle of Uhud. It created realistic expectations regarding war and power, Muslims would not always emerge victorious, and victory was not guaranteed. Based on this concept, it is also possible for Muslim nations to fall and lose their power as has happened many times in our history. Because of this verse, military defeat and loss of political power does not affect our faith in Allah or the truth of this religion.

As every nation has its rise and peak, it makes sense to describe the peak as a Golden Age. The Golden Age of the Abbasids does not mean that they were more pious than the companions. I do not think any historian would suggest that. It simply means that in the cycle of power of the Abbasid Empire, it peaked during that period. It was the time when the Abbasid Empire produced its best leaders, scholars, inventions, and contributions to society. Likewise, stating that the Ottoman Empire experienced a Golden Age during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent does not mean that people at the time were more pious than the companions. It simply means that the Ottoman Empire peaked during this period.

This is what I mean by both groups are speaking past each other. Those who claim that the only Golden Age was the first generation are looking at history from a spiritual perspective, and that is a valid reading of history. Those who are discussing the Golden Ages of the Abbasids or Ottomans are looking at it through a cycles of power perspective and are amazed at the heights of political and civilizational greatness that Muslims reached during the peak of these might empires. Both perspectives are valid.

In terms of practical application, the theory of regress gives us realistic expectations of Muslims today. While we strive to revive Islam and educate our communities, we are realistic about the levels of piety we could attain as a collective. But the cycles of power theory gives us hope politically. It gives us hope that a new Muslim Empire could emerge during our lifetime and that another Golden Age for a Muslim civilization is still possible. This hope inspires us to work hard, dream big, and remain optimistic about the future of the ummah.

Learn more with the History of Islam online course, our bestselling product, on sale here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
New eBook: A Caller’s Code of Conduct

New eBook: A Caller’s Code of Conduct

We are excited to announce our final product launch for 2023, a brand-new ebook: A Caller’s Code of Conduct: 12 Principles from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

This brand-new exclusive ebook will focus on 12 crucial principles that every da’ee (caller to Islam) must live by, with a critical focus on contemporary problems in the Dawah scene, and how they can be resolved by living by this code of conduct.

The book is currently available for early access along with a 14 video series explaining the book. (The first three videos are already up on our YouTube channel)

Paperback Edition available here:

Every caller must live by a code!

As a caller to Islam (da’ee), you have a sacred duty to invite people to Islam in the best of manners. To do this, you must learn and live by the caller’s code of conduct. In this important new book, Shaykh Ismail Kamdar extracts from the Qur’an and Sunnah 12 crucial principles that every caller should live by.

Dawah Drama

There are many problems with the way dawah is conducted today. Many young men who lack both wisdom and knowledge take a harsh arrogant approach to preaching Islam that pushes people away and serves only to boost their own egos.

Others go to the opposite extreme, being too soft and lenient, not wanting to upset anyone, and as a result being ineffective in proving why Islam is superior to other ways of life. In both cases, the problem is simply a lack of balance. A preacher should understand that there is a time for softness and a time for harshness, and wisdom dictates when we should utilize each method.

Living By a Code

There are many teachings of Islam that preachers need to live by, we have limited the discourse to twelve principles for the sake of ease of learning, and so that this book does not become too long. A preacher must have ikhlāṣ (sincerity) which means doing whatever he does for the sake of Allah, never for ego or fame. He must be a student of knowledge, continuously seeking to increase his own knowledge of Islam for life. Preachers must make time to focus on their own spiritual development through purifying their souls regularly. They should seek sincere counsel, keep good company, have righteous mentors, and work towards a vision.

Learn more here:

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books
The Importance of Courage in Islam

The Importance of Courage in Islam

Khutbah on Courage in light of Palestinian Struggle

O you who believe! Whoever of you goes back on his religion, God will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, kind towards the believers, stern with the disbelievers. They strive in the way of God, and do not fear the blame of the critic. That is the grace of God; He bestows it upon whomever He wills. God is Embracing and Knowing.

Quran 5:54

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Let not fear of the people stop one of you from speaking the truth, if he knows it.”

Musnad Aḥmad 11869

Courage is Necessary

Courage is necessary for Muslims. When calling people towards the truth, you will definitely find yourself at odds with many people and their ideas. The truth is often bitter and very difficult for people to swallow. Because they are unable to criticize the message, many people turn to criticizing the messenger instead. When you choose the path of Dawah, be conscious of the fact that you are choosing a path in which you will face great criticism, and perhaps even violence. The caller must be ready to defend the truth and propagate it in all circumstances.

When the Prophet ﷺ received the first revelation, Waraqah Ibn Naufal told him, “I wish I would live to assist you when your people exile you from this land.” The Prophet ﷺ was beloved to his people and could not understand why they would do that. Waraqah explained, “No messenger brought a message like this before you, except that his people turned against him.”

If the prophets could not convey their message without facing rejection, ridicule, and violence from their people, what makes us think that our Dawah will be easy and accepted without any pushback?

The Prophet ﷺ faced every kind of trial in the path of Dawah, yet he remained the model of courage and integrity throughout. He was mocked, slandered, ridiculed, boycotted, physically attacked, exiled, and eventually had to fight his own tribe in multiple battles. Yet he remained courageous in every circumstances.

The companions were all great models of courage in Dawah too. Abdullah Ibn Masud was the first to recite Quran openly by the Kabah, even though it led to him receiving a beating from the pagans. When Umar accepted Islam, he announced it in public, knowing that people would attack him for it. Sumayyah and her husband Yasir were killed by Abu Jahl for openly accepting Islam, and Bilal endured the stones and scorching sands of the desert for the sake of Allah.

During this period, one of the companion who endured the greatest torture narrates the following. Khabbab ibn al-Arat reported: We complained to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ while he was leaning upon his rolled up cloak in the shade of the Ka’bah. We said, “Will you ask Allah to help us? Will you supplicate to Allah for us?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Among those before you, a believer would be seized, a ditch would be dug for him, and he would be thrown into it. Then, they would bring a saw that would be put on top of his head to split him into two halves, and his flesh would be torn from the bone with iron combs. Yet, all of this did not cause them to abandon their religion. By Allah, this religion will prevail until a rider travels from Yemen to Hadhramaut, fearing no one but Allah and the wolf, lest it trouble his sheep. Rather, you are being impatient.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6943

In every generation, the people of dawah and truth had to face opposition with great courage. The likes of Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad were unjustly imprisoned for their opinions, yet we know today that they were in the right. Imam al-Bukhari was slandered and boycotted through a dedicated smear campaign, yet today his book is the most important hadith collection on earth. Ibn Taymiyyah was courageous in both the battlefield against the Mongols, and in the court when facing tyrannical rulers. Every great scholar in history had decisive moments in which they proved their courage by standing firm for what they believed in, regardless of the consequences.

A man asked the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, while he had his leg in the stirrup, “Which jihad is best?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth before a tyrannical ruler.”

Sunan al-Nasā’ī 4209

Be very clear about this, when you choose the path of Dawah, you will face opposition, obstacles, and trials, and you will have enemies that will try to bring you down and destroy your reputation. It is part of the job as an heir of the prophets that you face these obstacles with courage and trust in Allah.

This is why those who are beloved to Allah are described as, “They strive in the way of God, and do not fear the blame of the critic.”

Quran 5:54

Do Not Be Cowardly

Sadly, many Muslims today were raised without any sense of courage, resiliency or mental toughness. Too many people choose the path of Dawah with a naïve mindset that people will love them, praise them, and support them. They are shocked at the first sign of resistance and lose heart at the first criticism. Such people are not cut out for this work. It is not a job for the weak of heart, this is tough role that requires firm courage, resiliency, and firmness in faith. Without these qualities, we will fail easily.

I remember joining a new dawah organization that was facing criticism for the first time. Many people quit their jobs with the organization saying that they did not expect any harsh criticism. Others cried in meetings, saying that they are trying to do something good, so why are people being mean. Nobody was looking in the mirror, analysing the criticism for any merits, or displaying the mental toughness necessary to power through. It was as if they were expecting dawah to be an easy job which brings with it only praise and fame. Because of these unrealistic expectations, many of these people quit the dawah and chose easier paths in life instead.

Dawah require courage because dawah means challenging people’s worldviews, opinions, and core beliefs. It means upsetting the status quo. Dawah is about countering falsehood with truth. Like Moses in the court of Pharaoh, you have to stand firm and brave as you convey the message with conviction. You cannot be naïve and expect people to like you or even accept you. For many people, dawah is a lonely path they thread alone or with a small companionship of righteous friends. But they have Allah, and Allah is enough for them.

Without courage, multiple problems occur. Either you give up, distort the message, hide the truth or becoming a pawn for someone else. Spineless people sell out the Muslims every day because they lack the courage to speak the truth and bear the consequences of it. In our times, some preachers purposely hide some aspects of the message out of fear of upsetting specific demographics, resulting in a distorted message.

Be brave and be ready to handle the trials that come with a life dedicated to spreading the message of truth. Falsehood will fight back, we must be ready for this, and courageous in the intellectual battle between truth and falsehood.

Learn more about the courage of the early Muslims with our in-depth history, which has over 100 five-star reviews, available here:

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership
Resource List: Palestine/Israel Conflict

Resource List: Palestine/Israel Conflict

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

As the genocide in Gaza continues, many of us feel helpless due to our inability to assist the Palestinians against their oppressors. The mass propaganda from the Zionist media outlets makes it even harder to sit back and do nothing. One way in which we can contribute productively to this is to fight propaganda with truth. To assist you in this, we have put together a resource list including some of the best courses, books, podcasts, and videos on the topic.

Utilize and promote any of the resources below to help spread the truth about the plight of the Palestinians:

  1. FREE ONLINE COURSE: Virtues & History of Al-Aqsa by Sh. Ismail Kamdar
  2. PODCAST SERIES: History of Zionism and Palestine – Toledo Society
  3. BOOK: Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid – A South African Perspective by Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman
  4. PODCAST EPISODE: The Thinking Muslim – Gaza: Resistance and Betrayal with Sami Hamdi
  5. DEBATE: Piers Morgan vs Mohammed Hijab On Palestine and Israel-Hamas War
  6. PODCAST EPISODE: The Lies About Palestine with Imam Tom, Dr. Omar Suleiman and Dr. Ovamir Anjum
  7. BOOK: The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory by Nur Masalha
  8. VIDEO: How to become an indomitable ummah with Imam Tom, Shaykh Mikaeel Smith and Sami Hamdi
  9. DOCUMENTARY: Palestine 1920: The Other Side of the Palestinian Story by al-Jazeerah
  10. VIDEO: How Israel STOLE Palestine by OnePath Network

I hope the above resources help you to educate yourself and others about this topic. Please message me if you know of more resources to add to this list. Let us make this as comprehensive as possible.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, Leadership

Podcast: Auditing a Podcaster’s Week

In this new podcast interview, I audit a week in the life of Mahin the Podcaster. We go through his weekly routine and challenges, and work through the deeper problems that may be causing lack of motivation or procrastination. This interview may help you understand your own life better, as many of us share the same problems and obstacles. It is a long interview, two and half hours almost, but worth taking the time to listen to, especially if you want to see Islamic Self Help in action.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Life Hacks, Productivity