Inner Peace

Unedited Thoughts #4: Being A Muslim is more than you think

Being a Muslim

Being A Muslim is more than you think

One think that really bothers me is the different attitudes Muslims have towards being a Muslim. For some it is just a culture. For others a scary set of rules. And for others a means to feel superior to people and for some it isn’t even something they think about.

Islam is something so beautiful, so pure, and so deep that it really hurts to see how people misunderstand and misapply it in their lives.

Sometimes I wonder: Do Muslims not know what Islam is all about? 

Regarding Aqeedah: Do Muslims not know that Islam is about loving and trusting Allah, and obeying Him out of love and respect? Or do they think Aqeedah is just a means to declare others as deviant and feel superior about themselves?

Regarding Shariah: Do Muslims not know that Allah revealed the Shariah to protect us from harm and open the doors of goodness for us? Or do they just assume it is a harsh set of rules to impose upon others without mercy?

Regarding the Quran: Do Muslims not know that the Quran is guidance from Allah for every aspect of our lives? Or do they just think it was revealed to be recited without understanding?

Regarding the Hadith: Do Muslims not know that the Hadith is a preservation of the best way of life through the words and actions of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him)? Or do they just assume it is “just Sunnah” and not important.

Being a Muslim is so much more

Being a Muslim is so much more than just having a Muslim name. It is so much more than just practicing personal acts of worship or studying ancient texts.

Being a Muslim means to develop a close relationship with your Creator. To Love Allah, His religion, His Prophets, His Laws, and His Will.

Being a Muslim means caring for the ummah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It means caring for their worldly needs, but even more caring for their souls and salvation. It means praying to Allah to guide and forgive the ummah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Being a Muslim means living this life knowing it is going to end. It means living this life knowing that an eternal life awaits us and we must prepare for it. Knowing that this life will end means learning to move through our problems and to stay focused on obeying Allah and preparing for the real life that will come later.

Being a Muslim means hating sin, even our own. It means seeking forgiveness for our sins, not seeking justification for them. It means realizing we are sinners, and then using that realization to become repenters, not repeat offenders.

Being a Muslim means recognizing that Allah alone knows what is truly morally right and wrong, and submitting to His Laws, trusting His Wisdom. A Muslim does not dispute when Allah declares something right or wrong.

So don’t just be a Muslim for cultural or ego-centric reasons. Being a Muslim means being submissive to Allah.

So be, oh servants of Allah, true servants of Allah!

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 3 comments

Deeds Of The Heart: Good and Evil

Deeds Of The Heart

Deeds Of The Heart

There are three fundamental aspects of Islam: Aqeedah (belief), Fiqh (Law), and Tazkiyyah (Internal Purification). The deeds of the heart fall under the third category.

Before we begin, here are a few important definitions:

Qalb: Heart – refers to the metaphysical spiritual heart, the center of emotion and beliefs.

Adab: Manners – refers to physical good behavior.

Akhlaq: Character – refers to internal good qualities that reside in the heart.

Tazkiyyah: Purification – also known as Tasawwuf. Refers to the science of polishing the heart.

What are deeds of the heart?

Most Muslims are aware of physical good deeds. We need to pray, fast, give charity, perform the pilgrimage and learn our religion. These are physical good deeds.

We are also aware of physical sins. These include stealing, lying, backbiting, fornication, drinking alcohol and eating pork.

However, there are also internal sins and internal good deeds. These are called the deeds of the heart. These are often more important that the external. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The heaviest good deeds on the scale on the Last Day are good character” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi) This shows the crucial importance of internal good deeds.

The most important deeds of the heart are listed below.

Sins of the heart

  1. Riyaa – the sin of seeking fame and recognition from people for one’s good deeds. This is also called minor Shirk. It is very dangerous and can turn an external good deed into a sin.
  2. Hasad – the sin of being jealous of a gift that Allah has given someone else. Allah distributes the Rizq (sustenance) of His Creation. Our job is to use what Allah has given us to please Him. Wanting what others have is a form of ingratitude to Allah.
  3. Kibr – the sin of arrogance. It is prohibited for a Muslim to think he is better than others. In fact, this is one of the major sins. Muslims must continuously make efforts to humble themselves.
  4. Greed – Muslims must be focused on pleasing their Creator and building their Afterlife. Our worldly pursuits should be fueled by good intentions, not greed. Greed is never satisfied and can consume one’s life.
  5. Assuming the worst of others – A Muslim must give others the benefit of the doubt. Assuming the worst of others leads to physical sins like spying, invading privacy, accusations, backbiting and slander.
  6. Forgetting Allah – The remembrance of Allah keeps the spiritual heart alive. Forgetting Allah can lead to a dead heart and forsaking the religion.

Good Deeds Of The Heart

  1. Ikhlaas – sincere intentions. The opposite of Riyaa. To do good deeds for Allah alone. There are many levels of Ikhlaas. The minimum being to do good deeds to avoid Hellfire, the Highest being to do good deeds out of Love for Allah
  2. Contentent – The cure for greed and jealousy. To accept one’s destiny and live a happy life with whatever Allah has already blessed you with. A content Muslim still works hard, but does not worry about what is beyond his control.
  3. Tawakul – trusting Allah is an internal good deed. The heart must trust its Creator and trust that Allah knows what is best for it. We wrote a separate article on how to do this.
  4. Forgiveness – saying you forgive someone is a good deed. But the greater good deed is to truly forgive them with your heart. This purifies the heart and removes malice from it.
  5. Humility – The opposite of arrogance. A Muslim heart must be humble. Knowing it is only a sinful servant of Allah, it should never feel like it is someone special or better than others. It should stay grounded and focused on obeying Allah.
  6. Remembering Allah. Allah says, “It is only through the remembrance of Allah that hearts find inner peace,” (Surah Ra’d 13:28) This is the key to inner peace. The heart must remember Allah. Zikr can be physical (Salah), verbal (Tasbeeh) or internal (thinking about Allah). All three are equally important for truly remembering Allah and attaining inner peace.

This completes our short list of some of the deeds of the heart. May Allah assist us in polishing our hearts and removing the evil from it.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments

Unedited Thoughts #2: Spirituality and Modern Movements

Spirituality and Modern Movements

Divorcing Islam From Spirituality

Divorcing Islam from spirituality is a strange new idea. There exist many modern Muslim groups that focus exclusively on other topics. Aqeedah, Fiqh, Politics or social activism  are the only focus without any spirituality.

The result is that members of these groups tend to enter and leave the group very quickly. They join the group looking for a solution to a problem they encountered. (wrong Aqeedah, political instability, social injustice) Yet they do not remain more than a few years because these groups are devoid of heart.

The lack of spirituality leads to many problems including the following:

1. Loss of Imaan

Perhaps the most important consequence. Loss of Iman is a common case in many of these groups. This is because Iman is constantly fluctuating and without spirituality, it is constantly decreasing.

Discussing Fiqh and Aqeedah issues without any spiritual element can even contribute to loss of Imaan. This is because our faith is largely dependent on how close we feel to Allah. So when Allah is reduced to a theory of beliefs, and his Shariah is reduced to rituals and laws only, there is a disconnection from Allah.

Aqeedah and Fiqh are crucial aspects of Islam, but so is Tazkiyyah (purification of the soul). The former without the latter cannot survive turbulent situations. Tazkiyyah is just as crucial as learning Aqeedah and Fiqh.

2. Doubts about the faith

The proofs of Islam are twofold: rational and spiritual. Both are required to maintain high levels of Imaan. We require rational proofs to understand why there is only One Creator. To prove the Quran is a miracle. And to proof the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Beyond that, we require a deep spiritual connection with Allah to trust Allah. as well as to accept His Laws, embrace our destiny, and fight our desires. All this while trying to submit to Allah. Without a spiritual connection, it is very difficult to grasp concepts like eternal Hellfire, Destiny and the existence of the soul.

Think about it. Without a connection to Allah, we are unlikely to experience miracles and accepted duas. Without miracles and accepted duas, life seems random and the Divine seems missing. This in turn leads to doubts and uncertainty.

3. A arrogant harsh form of religion

Spirituality is about softening the heart. Learning humility, embracing people, letting go of jealousy and hatred are all part of Islam. These are all elements of Islam’s spiritual teachings.

When these are separated from Islam, what remains is a religion of laws and beliefs enforced upon others by people who deem themselves better than others. Slogans like ‘we are the saved sect’ and ‘our group is guaranteed Paradise’ are signs of religious arrogance. Arrogance is itself a spiritual sin and is prohibited in Islam.

The result is that these arrogant Muslim movements alienate others from Islam. People look at them as role models of Islam and see only ugliness and harshness. This is extremely oft-putting. Furthermore, because the average person doesn’t understand what causes this harshness, they assume it is Islam and are chased away from Islam.

So the harshness has a double consequence. It distances the harsh individual from Allah through his arrogance, and it distances those who interact with him from Islam due to his bad manners.

A simple solution

Every Muslim must be taught basic Islamic spirituality. Putting aside all the areas that are open to differences of opinion, and all the practices that some groups consider bidah. There remain many agreed upon spiritual elements that should be universally taught.

These include, but are not limited to, praying Salah with Khushu, fasting with purpose, seeking forgiveness daily, remembering Allah throughout the day and consistently purifying one’s intentions.

These concepts must be taught to our children like how we teach them to pray and recite Quran. These concepts must be taught in our Islamic books, conferences, lectures and seminars. Similar to how we teach history and theology.

If every Muslims knows the basic means of protecting their spiritual heart from dying, then whatever group or movement they join, they will remain connected to Allah.

Never forget: spiritual development is a fundamental part of our religion. So do not neglect it for yourself, your family or your students.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 6 comments

7 Practical Steps For Practicing Tawakul

Tawakul

7 Practical Steps For Practicing Tawakul

Tawakul is often discussed as a theoretical concept. Most Muslims know that we need to have Tawakul (trust in Allah) but not many know how to do this. In this short article, I hope to demonstrate a few practical steps that will help make Tawakul a reality in our lives.

Remember that Tawakul is an internal act of worship. It is something we do inside ourselves and we earn the pleasure of Allah for doing it. So it is very important to learn how to do this internal act of worship properly.

The following steps are taken from Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Madaarij As-Salikeen, and reworded for an English audience.

1. Recognizing Allah’s Attributes

The first practical step to actualizing Tawakul is to recognize who Allah is.

He is in control of everything, so only He can grant you success. Allah knows everything, so He knows whether success in your task is good for you or not. Allah sees everything, so He will reward your effort whether you succeed or not. He is Most Merciful, so whatever the result is, it is part of His Mercy to you.

The more deeper you understand Allah’s names and attributes, the easier it gets to have Tawakul in Him. Take time to learn the names and attributes of Allah, and reflect on them. This is the first step towards Tawakul.

2. Making an effort to attain your goals

The second step is to make an effort to attain your goal. The means (Asbaab) to attain goals are of two types: worldly and spiritual. Worldly means refer to the things we have to do in this world to attain our goals. Most of us are aware of these and have no problem doing this.

However, many Muslims forget that there are also spiritual means that we need to use in order to attain our goals. These include establishing the five daily Salah, earning halal, eating halal, having noble intentions, and making dua for success. Establishing these spiritual means are essential for Tawakul.

Someone who is not fulfilling their obligations to Allah will have a hard time having Tawakul, because they have not established the spiritual means to earn the assistance of Allah. (Although Allah may still assist them out of His Divine Mercy)

3. Affirming Tawhid in one’s heart

The third step is to affirm Tawhid in one’s heart. To have no doubt in the existence and power of Allah. This means that you are convinced that Allah controls everything, only He can grant you success and nothing happens without His will.

Through this conviction, your heart will gravitate towards Tawakul, and trusting Allah becomes natural.

4. Being at peace with Allah’s Will

Taking the previous step further, to gain Allah’s assistance we must be at peace with Allah. We must have full trust that Allah, Whose treasures and power are limitless, will take care of us and never abandon us. Inner peace must enter our hearts because of these beliefs.

This inner peace will propel us to have full Tawakul in Allah, because we are at peace with His Will and His Decision.

5. Thinking good thoughts (Husn Dhann) about Allah

Husn Dhann (Good Thoughts) is a forgotten Sunnah in our times. It is even more important when dealing with Allah. A Muslim must always maintain positive thoughts about Allah. He must believe that whatever Allah wills for Him is best for Him.

He must believe that Allah will answer his dua in one way or another. Husn Dhann here means trusting Allah to take care of the end result in the way that is best for your Deen and Dunya.

6. Dispelling doubts from the mind

Shaytaan will try to distract you with fear of failure, fear of poverty, and fear of humiliation. He will try to take you think ill of Allah. He may even sabotage your efforts. You must remove each of these doubts by confronting them. As a doubt enters your mind, repel it with a positive thought.

For example,  if Shaytaan makes you fear poverty, remind yourself that Allah has already decreed your Rizq and promised to provide for you. This thought will repel the doubt from your mind and settle your heart. Dispelling evil thoughts is essential for pure Tawakul.

7. Handing over the matter to Allah

The final step of Tawakul is called ‘Tafweedh‘ which means to hand over the matter entirely to Allah.

After having taking up the worldly and spiritual means, cleared one’s mind of negative thoughts, focused on positive thoughts, and accepting Allah’s will. The next step is to just leave the end result in Allah’s Hand.

There is nothing more you can do here than to leave it to Allah and trust Him. This will bring about hope and inner peace.

The alternative (worrying about the result) brings about fear and anxiety. In this way, Tawakul is the solution to anxiety.

Bonus Step: Being pleased with one’s destiny

This step refers to what to do after having Tawakul, and receiving your result. To complete this act of worship on the highest level, one should practice Ridaa Bil Qadha (Being Pleased With Destiny).

Regardless of whether the end result was in your favor or not, a believer must at the very least, accept Allah’s Will.

But to reach the higher levels of Imaan, one should be pleased with Allah’s will. This step is extremely hard, especially if the result is negative or tragic.

This is why Ridaa Bil Qadha is considered one of the greatest internal acts of worship. The harder an act of worship is, the greater the reward. So we should all strive to not just have Tawakul, but to be pleased with Allah’s will for us too.

A practical example

Here is a practical example to bring it all together:

Goal: A young man named Ahmad wants to open a business to provide for his family.

  1. He knows that Allah is The Provider, and Allah wants him to take up a Halal means to earn that provision.
  2. He makes all the necessary effort to set up his business, and spends his nights in Qiyam Al-Layl praying for success.
  3. He reminds himself that nothing happens without Allah’s Will.
  4. He accepts that Allah controls His destiny and is at peace with that.
  5. He knows that Allah will grant him what is best for him.
  6. He removes all fear of poverty by reminding himself of who Allah is, and the promise of Allah.
  7. He starts the business, doesn’t stress about it, works hard, and trusts Allah to grant him what is best for him.

Result A: The business is successful, and he is pleased with that. He thanks Allah for it, shows gratitude daily and spends from his earnings on the ummah.

Result B: The business fails and closes down. He is happy with Allah’s Qadar, and accepts this as best for him. He uses the lessons learned from this business to start a new business, and repeats steps 1-7 for his new business. Due to his experience in his failed business, he does better and eventually his new business succeeds.

This is Tawakul in practice.

May Allah grant us all the ability to practice Tawakul in every aspect of our lives.
Ameen

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 8 comments
A Thematic Tafseer of Surah Kahf

A Thematic Tafseer of Surah Kahf

A Thematic Tafseer of Surah Kahf

Surah Kahf begins by laying down the fundamental theme of the Surah. The opening verses praises Allah for revealing the Qur’an as a means of guidance for mankind, and a warning to those who persist in disbelief.

The Messenger (peace be upon him) is then told not to grief too much over those who persist in disbelief. As they are responsible for their own choices, and he has done his job to the best of his ability.

The core theme of Surah Kahf is then summarized in verses seven and eight. In which Allah say, “Definitely, I have made whatever on earth beautiful, to test which of them are best in their deeds.

Then I will make whatever is on it dry bare soil.” This is the essence of the message of Surah Kahf. The world was created to test us and everything in it is a test and will eventually come to an end. So do not be fooled by the beauty of this worldly life.

The Seven Sleepers

After mentioning this theme, Allah then goes directly into the first story. Which is told first in summary then in details. The purpose of this could have been to get the attention of the disbelievers of Makkah. So that they listen to the full detailed story and derive lessons from it.

The story is about seven young men who were the only believers in their city. Fearing persecution, they fled to a cave and asked Allah for assistance. Allah answers their dua by putting them to sleep for three centuries, and preserving their youth and health through this time in miraculous ways.

Upon awakening, the youth are discovered by the people of that century. They serve as a reminder of the reality of resurrection for them. The young men pass away in a way not mentioned in the Qur’an. The people dispute over what to do with their graves. Unfortunately, the prevailing opinion was to build a Masjid over their graves. This has been misunderstood by some Muslims as permission in the Qur’an to build Masjids over graves of righteous people.

Reality, however, is that the Qur’an does not justify the actions of these unknown people. There are many Hadiths that prohibit building Masjids over graves. So the actions of these unknown people cannot be taken as evidence in light of clear Hadith.

Lessons from this story

The next set of verses then highlight a few lessons from this story. Like the importance of saying Inshaa Allah when planning for the future. The importance of good company, the dangers of evil company and the importance of focusing only on beneficial knowledge are all lessons from this story.

It is rounded off with a reminder of the theme of the Surah. We will be accountable to Allah for our choices on the Last Day. The believers will be rewarded with Paradise while the disbelievers will face punishment in the Hellfire.

The Parable of the Farmer

The Surah then moves on to the second story about two men. One who was wealthy and the other was less fortunate. I am of the opinion that this story is a parable, and not necessarily a true story, and Allah knows best.

This is the only story in this Surah that begins with the words “Give them the parable of two men, whom We gave one of them two gardens.” This supports the opinion of it being a parable.

The story shows us that Allah blessed one man with abundant wealth and a successful farm. But he grew arrogant, felt entitled and was ungrateful to Allah for His blessings. His poorer friend reminded him to be grateful to Allah. He reminded him to seek His forgiveness before Allah takes his wealth away. But the warning went with recognition.

The man eventually lost all his wealth and property and was regretful for his attitude. He had failed the test of material success, which is a test we face almost on a daily basis in this Capitalistic society. The story ends with a reminder that this world is like water, which I have explained elsewhere. As well as a reminder that our wealth and children are merely a test for us, so they should not distract from the purpose of life.

Adam and Shaytaan

This story is followed by a series of verses reminding us about the Last Day. In between these is a reminder of the story of Adam and Shaytaan. A reminder that it is Shaytaan who wants us to fail the test of life. So never forget who your enemy is.

This set of verses ends with a reminder that every person and every nation has an appointed time, before which they need to repent. Once that appointed time comes, Allah’s punishment descends and it is too late to change.

Prophet Musa’s Adventure

This is followed by the third story. Which begins with Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and his young servant Yusha (peace be upon him) embarking on a long journey to seek knowledge from a righteous stranger. We know from an authentic Hadith that this journey was initiated because Musa learned that there is a man who knows things which he does not know. So with great zeal for knowledge and humility, this leader of his nation set off to meet and learn from this stranger.

Musa treats his servant with utmost respect and serves as a role model for employers. After some setbacks, the two of them eventually encounter Al-Khidr, the mysterious Prophet who they wish to learn from.

Al-Khidr agrees to allow Musa to accompany him on the condition that he does not ask any questions until Al-Khidr is ready to explain his actions. This condition proves too difficult for Musa to fulfill as he witnesses strange and seemingly wrong actions on the part of Al-Khidr.

Al-Khidr damages a boat of some poor sailors who gave them a free ride. Then he kills a random young boy. Finally, he fixes a wall in a town full of impolite people without asking for anything in return.

Khidr’s Explanation

Musa is baffled by the actions of Al-Khidr and had to ask about the reasons behind them. Al-Khidr explained that everything he did was based on direct revelation from Allah. The poor sailors were about to have their boat usurped by a tyrant king. So Allah protected their boat by having it damaged.

The young boy was not random. Rather Allah knew he was going to grow up to be a tyrant and cause great grief to his righteous parents. So to protect them Allah took their child’s life at a young age. The wall hid a treasure which a righteous man left behind for his orphaned children.

Had the wall collapsed, the townsfolk would have usurped the wealth of the orphans so Allah protected their wealth by revealing to Al-Khidr to fix the wall.

This story is very deep and in it, we learn about the mysterious ways in which Allah works. Very often the seeming tragedies in our lives are actually Allah’s way of protecting us from greater harm. So we must trust His Wisdom and be patience during difficult times.

The Great Conqueror

This story is immediately followed by the story of Dhul Qarnayn. Who conquered the East and West and ruled with justice. He did this by letting the good people and the simple people live in peace. While punishing the criminals and imprisoning the evil Gog and Magog tribes. A good leader is merciful to his citizens while strict in dealing with the harmful elements of society. Dhul Qarnayn is an excellent example of this.

This story transients into a warning that Gog and Magog will be unleashed before the Last Day. Then they will be thrown into Hellfire.

Conclusion

The Surah ends as it began. By reminding us that those who fail the test of life will enter the Hellfire. Those who pass will be blessed with Paradise. And reminding us that it is only true faith and righteous deeds that can benefit us on that day.

This in summary is Surah Kahf. A weekly warning about the tests of life, with role models on how to deal with such tests. A reminder of the consequences of failing that test, and the rewards for passing it.

In the next chapter, we will reflect deeper on individual verses and stories from this Surah. We ask Allah to protect us from the trials of life and make us from those who are successful in both worlds.

For more thematic Tafseer, get your copy of Themes of the Quran today.

Themes of Surah Kahf

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 3 comments