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Sūrah al-Fajr: Redefining Success

Sūrah al-Fajr: Redefining Success

Sūrah al-Fajr is a Makkan Sūrah. It contains thirty short and powerful verses, and its theme relates to the rise and fall of nations and their accountability on the Last Day. The primary audience of this Sūrah was the pagan leaders of Makkah. They had grown arrogant in their power and this caused them to reject the message.

The Sūrah begins with a series of oath on various aspects of creation that indicate the passage of time. Allah takes an oath on the dawn, the blessed ten nights (first ten nights of Dhul Hijjah), the concept of odd and even numbers, and the passage of night. All of these concepts relate to time. In this way, the reader is drawn to reflect on the passage of time and the reality of death.

The Fate of Tyrants

 The leaders of Makkah were arrogant and did not take the message seriously. So Allah draws their attention to the arrogant leaders before them. In the next few verses, Allah lists various nations that were destroyed due to their arrogance. These include ʿĀd, Thamūd, Iram and the Pharaoh. The stories of ʿĀd, Thamūd and the Pharaoh are repeated throughout the Quran and are well known.

The reference to Iram, however, is a matter of controversy and a lot of differences of opinion. Some commentators say that Iram is simply an adjective describing the buildings of Ad. While others say it refers to another lost city that was also destroyed for its arrogance. Allah knows best. The identity of Iram is not relevant to the message of these verses. The message is clear; nations before you were destroyed because of their arrogance, so do not think that you will get away with it.

The Alternating Tests of Life

The next two verses remind us that life is a series of tests. These tests alternate between good times and bad times. In these verses, Allah refers to both times as tests.

As for man, whenever his Lord tests him, and honors him, and prospers him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.” But whenever He tests him and restricts his livelihood for him, he says, “My Lord has insulted me.”

Sūrah al-Fajr 89:15-16

These two verses show us how most of humanity views good and bad times, and contrasts this with the Islamic view. The majority of people view wealth and success as honor and gifts from God. They see it as validation that what they are doing with their lives must be right. It doesn’t even cross the mind of the average person that wealth and success are tests from God.

But when times are tough, and when people face poverty and hardship. They see it as God being angry with them. They see it as disgrace, humiliation and being abandoned by God. These two reaction reflect a materialistic outlook of life. Relying on worldly success as an indicator of one’s spiritual status is folly.

Rather, Allah draws our attention subtly to the reality. He refers to both wealth and poverty as tests. This is the reality of life. A pious person could be either wealthy or poor, neither affect his piety in any way. A rebellious sinner could also be rich or poor, neither wealth nor poverty reflect his position in the sight of Allah.

Wealth and poverty are not indicators of piety or acceptance. They are simply tests from the tests of life. Allah tests some people with wealth and He will hold them accountable for what they do with that wealth. He tests other people with poverty and will hold them accountable for how they react to that poverty. And He tests some people with both at alternating stages of their lives.

How to pass the test of wealth

The verses that follow teach us how the pagans of Makkah were failing the test of wealth. Passing the test, therefore, lies in doing the opposite of what they did.

Not at all. But you do not honor the orphan. And you do not urge the feeding of the poor. And you devour inheritance with all greed. And you love wealth with immense love.

Sūrah al-Fajr 89:17-20

In these verses, Allah draws our attentions to five ways in which people fail the test of wealth; abandoning orphans, disregarding the poor, stealing inheritance, greed, and loving wealth in an unhealthy manner. The last point is really the core of the matter. An unhealthy obsession with wealth leads to greed, miserliness and oppression in the name of amassing wealth.

Each of these on their own, however, are signs of failing the test of wealth. Allah tests some people with wealth to show how they will use it. Passing the test lies in remain spiritually detached from the wealth (Zuhd), avoiding greed, and being generous to those less fortunate. Failing it lies in the opposite.

The love of wealth is natural, and it cannot be removed completely from the hearts of people. What is condemned is an unnatural love of wealth, an obsession with it. Obsessing over wealth is unhealthy and opens the doors to various evils. This makes the test of wealth more difficult for many people than the test of poverty.

Spiritual Success

If wealth and fame are not signs of success, how then do we define success? The Sūrah ends with a reminder about the Day of Judgment, the day when we will receive the results of the test of life. It is the Day when Allah will hold people to account and people will wish they spent their lives preparing for that day.

The final verses of this Sūrah redefine success for us. Success is not wealth, fame or power. Success lies in purifying our souls, earning the pleasure of Allah and entering Paradise. These closing verses are extremely powerful and touch the soul on a deep level. It is the custom in many parts of this Muslim world to recite these verses when a believer passes away.

These final four verses are a summarized formula for real success; a pure soul, contentment, the pleasure of Allah and entrance into Paradise. What more could any believer ask for? Wealth and poverty are part of the test of life, success lies in having a good ending. The best ending is for your soul to be greeted with these beautiful words;

O Soul that is in a state of inner peace. Return to your Lord, happy and accepted (by Allah). So enter among my worshippers, and enter my Paradise.

Sūrah al-Fajr 89:27-30
Posted by Ismail Kamdar, 3 comments
How Social Media is ruining Dawah

How Social Media is ruining Dawah

Exhibit A:

Shaykh posts on social media a list of rights of wives. He gets thousands of likes, comments praising him, and shares.

He then posts an equally valid and similar sized list of rights of husband. He received hundreds of angry comments, accusations of being a misogynist and calls for him to be fired. Quietly, he deleted the posts and never discusses the topic again.

Exhibit B:

A Muslim activist discusses how racism is prohibited in Islam. She posts various verses of the Quran, hadiths, and quotes from scholars to prove her point. She is praised for serving the Deen and advocating human rights.

She then posts a similarly valid discussion about how homosexual practices are prohibited in Islam.
She posts various verses of the Quran, hadiths, and quotes from scholars to prove her point. She is accused of being an extremist and homophobe, with threats to get her fired from her job. She deletes the post. A few weeks later, she is seen at a rally supporting LGBT rights.

Exhibit C:

An elderly scholar has spent his entire life studying and teaching Islam. He is boycotted on social media for being too old fashioned, out of touch and conservative. He is unable to reach the youth because people keep sharing lies and slanders about him. Quietly, he fades away and nobody notices.

A hip young guy starts making funny YouTube videos and snarky tweets. He gains a large following on social media. After a while, he starts posting his own opinions on various Fiqh issues. He has no Islamic qualifications, but his fans don’t care. They take his views as Gospel and follow it as if it is the Quran itself. He becomes the next big thing in social media.

So what’s going on?

Simply put, Muslims have embraced several unIslamic practices as the norm on social media. These include cyber-bullying, backbiting, slander, threatening to get people fired from their jobs, and a mob mentality.

The result is a very hostile environment to do Dawah in. Slowly, over the past few years I have seen more and more scholars quietly move away from social media, while many Non-scholars gain thousands of followers who take their religion from them. We need to figure out a way forward for the ummah as soon as possible.

Advice to Islamic teachers

Being bullied by those who disagree with you is part of the job. In the past, it may be one or two people in a crowd that you have to deal with. Now it is thousands of people online threatening you, your family and your livelihood. We have to be brave, yet careful.

We need to gain a thick skin when dealing with cyber-bullying. It is simply part of the job and we need to learn to live with it. It is not possible to go through life teaching Islam without facing harassment from the public.

However, I also recommend two other things. The first is to secure such sources of income that nobody can threaten to get you fired. This can be done either by working for organizations that share your opinions, or being financially independent. Either way, try to get into a position where these threats can’t be carried out.

The second is to keep most of your Dawah off social media. I honestly no longer consider social media (with the exception of YouTube) as a good avenue for Dawah. People on social media tend to be too emotional. They tend to misunderstand posts easily. And they have a mob mentality.

Instead consider doing Dawah in person, teaching classes (both online and offline), having your own website and being active in your communities. Leave social media as simply a means to draw people towards all of these. Keep the more controversial discussions for more controlled environments where you can discuss things maturely, and with as much details as possible. This is far more fruitful than trying to explain things through a Facebook post (or worse, a tweet).

For Everybody Else

There is no place for bullying in Islam, especially bullying people of knowledge. This modern day ‘call out culture’ is unIslamic in most cases. (The exception being when someone is genuinely harming society)

And threatening to get someone fired from their job because you disagree with them is never justifiable. Will you deprive an entire family of income and subject them to potential poverty because you disagreed with a tweet? Don’t be so selfish! People’s income should never be threatened. It doesn’t just affect them, but their families too. (Again the exception being if a person is abusing that job/position to harm people)

We must maintain Islamic manners, both online and offline. We must learn to discuss things politely, maturely and with a willingness to learn. And we must be willing to follow the truth even when it goes against popular opinion.

If we don’t do this, then we risk changing the religion and being accountable for that on the Last Day.

Summary

Cyber-bullying is ruining Dawah on social media. Scholars need to be braver, but also need to secure better sources of income and focus more on their Dawah outside social media. Leave social media to be a means of drawing people towards your other resources.

Muslims, in general, must let go off cyber-bullying, mob mentality and threatening people’s livelihood. We must start being more emphatic towards each other, and deal with each other maturely. These steps are necessary if we want Islam to thrive.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar, 2 comments

A List of Good Deeds That Erase Sins

This is an extract from The Book Of Hope For Sinners. Access the full eBook here.

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.”(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.” (Bukhari & 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.” (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?” (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)

And many others

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.

The Most Important One

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.

To learn more, purchase the full eBook by clicking here.

Good deeds that erase sins
Also available in Kindle and Paperback.
Posted by Ismail Kamdar, 1 comment

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6 Crucial Self Confidence Tips

6 Crucial Self Confidence Tips

Here are six crucial self confidence tips. These tips are extracted from my eBook: Best Of Creation: An Islamic Guide To Self-Confidence. To read the full eBook, grab a copy here.

Thinking Straight

The human mind is such that if we are not monitoring our thoughts, we tend to think negatively. Perhaps it is Shaytaan trying to cause us to despair, but the idle mind is a dangerous thing and is often susceptible to negative thought patterns.

The key to overcoming this is to monitor your thoughts and be in charge. Keep a diary for a day of the kind of thoughts that pass through your mind. Mark them down as positive or negative, compare the amount of positive and negative thoughts and identify causes.

Once you are away of your thought patterns and the triggers, the next step is to replace a negative thought with a positive one. If your mind is telling you that Allah will never forgive you, remind yourself that Allah forgives all those who sincerely seek forgiveness. If you are thinking that you will never be successful in life, remind yourself that Allah is in control of destiny and He can help you succeed in miraculous ways.

Make a list of positive thoughts and remind yourself of them daily. For common negative thoughts, write down a positive response and remind yourself of it whenever the negative thought comes to mind. It also helps to look in a mirror and talk confidence into yourself.

It is Allah’s mercy that He does not hold us accountable for the thoughts that stray into our mind, but we are accountable for the thoughts we choose to entertain and act upon. Be an active thinker and don’t leave room for the whisperings of the devil.

Avoid the Blame Game

When developing the habit of positive thinking, it is important to weed out and remove negative thought patterns. A common negative thought pattern that causes low self-confidence is the blame game.

Many of us do not want to accept responsibility for our actions, so we look for something or someone to blame for our failures. This is also known as the victim mentality, were one feels one’s entire life is just being a victim of circumstance. It is a very fatalistic attitude and this unislamic.

Here are some common examples of the blame game in action:

“Society will never accept me if I do, so why bother trying,”

“The world we live in works with a certain system, I can’t try something outside that system,”

“My parents expect me to do this kind of job for the rest of my life, I can’t disappoint them by doing what I want,”

“The world is a bad place and there is nothing we can do about it,”

“I was raised like that, I can’t change who I am or what habits I developed”

“This is the local culture, and there is nothing we can do to change it,”

As you can see from these examples, the blame game creates an attitude of defeatism. Having something or someone to blame for one’s failure to act is easy, and eases some of the guilt one feels for not doing what you needed to do.

As Muslims, we cannot blame others for our shortcomings. Allah has created each of us with the ability to do well, and to be our best. Nobody is to blame for our failure to act except our own selves. We must accept responsibility for our lives and decisions, only then will we feel empowered enough to move forward.

Be Yourself as long as being yourself is Halal

This is my personal motto. I spent my teenage years in a Darul Uloom whose culture was such that everybody was bullied into dressing alike, speaking alike and pretending that we are all the same, stripped of any individuality. This environment made me grow rebellious and I would upset the status quo with small attempts at being different.

As I studied Islam more deeply, I was amazed at how Islam has room for so many different personality types. The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were diverse in their personalities. They included scholars, warriors, leaders, businessmen, farmers, strict people, funny people, thinkers and followers.

This led to me formulating my motto: Be yourself as long as being yourself is halal. Allah does not ask us to be robots: looking alike, dressing alike and behaving like we don’t have any unique attributes. At the same time, we all have evil within us that needs to be suppressed, and that part of us should be controlled.

Be yourself. Do not worry about what people say, just be yourself whether that means being strict or humorous. Don’t pretend to be strict because others are, and don’t pretend to be funny because other people want you to.

Let your natural personality flow and you will feel confident and happy. If you need to change anything, change it for the sake of Allah to grow closer to Him. Base your life changes on pleasing Allah, not on pleasing people.

Be your genuine and best self and not only will you grow in confidence but people will appreciate your honesty and courage and will eventually follow in your footsteps.

Write Your Thoughts

Thoughts are very powerful, but often confusing. The human mind is not completely logical. Most of our thoughts and decisions are based more on emotion than logic, and it often isn’t clear whether we are thinking straight.

This can be very dangerous when it comes to negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are often exaggerated, emotional and unrealistic. But because we don’t really analyse them, we tend to believe our own minds too easily. One of the ways to counter this is to write down your thoughts.

This is the reason why many people keep diaries. Writing down your thoughts can be very powerful. It gives you an outlet to get all those thoughts and emotions out of your mind without hurting anyone else. It also gives you a chance to look at your thoughts from an outside perspective and analyse them in an unbiased manner.

The next time you have negative thoughts, try writing them down. Write whatever comes to mind, and read it later when you are in a better mood. You will then be able to discover what went wrong in your thought process and how untrue most negative thoughts really are.

Be in charge of your emotions

Humans are emotional creatures, and our emotions affect our confidence and productivity a lot. This is why it is important to constantly stay in control and feed yourself positive emotions.

Sometimes we allow others to control our emotions. We allow people to make us angry, to upset us, to depress us, to irritate us and as a result we head down an emotional roller coaster because of what someone else said.

Reality is that nobody can make you do anything, because you control your emotions. People can do what they want, but you choose how you react. You don’t have to become angry when someone insults you, you can choose to feel sorry for him instead. He must be having a hard day and took it out on you. You don’t have to be depressed if someone is not happy with how you live your life. You answer to Allah, not that person, so why worry?

Emotions affect our confidence is a major way. From today onward, tell yourself that you will not allow other people to dictate how you think, feel or behave. You live to serve Allah and if He is happy with your lifestyle, it doesn’t matter what people say. Don’t let them affect you, focus on what is important and don’t give people the keys to your emotions.

Be comfortable with who you are

Stop worrying about the shape of your nose, the way you walk, the tone of your skin or the sound of your voice. Allah made you exactly as He wanted you to be. Embrace that and be happy with it. Life is after all about pleasing Him and He doesn’t look at all that, He looks at our hearts and actions.

Become comfortable with your human flaws. Yes, you may have a stutter or a weak immune system. It’s all fine in the long run, stop worrying about that and focus on all the good Allah has blessed you with.

The day you stop worrying about all this and embrace your natural self is the day you stop killing your own confidence with negative self-talk. Replace it positive talk. You are as Allah wanted you to be, you can improve your thoughts, deeds and character so you will focus on that and not on the things that don’t matter.

To continue reading, purchase the full eBook here.

Crucial Self Confidence Tips

Learn more crucial self confidence tips by reading the full eBook.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar, 1 comment