The Sunnah of Long-Term Thinking

The Sunnah of Long-Term Thinking

The life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is full of amazing lessons in leadership and growth. One lesson that can be extracted from multiple incidents in his life is the importance of long-term thinking. There are many incidents in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) sacrificed short-term gains for long-term goals. In each of these, history bears witness that he made the right decision.

The Case of Suhail Ibn ʿAmr

An interesting example from the early portion of Madinan history is the case of Suhail Ibn ʿAmr. Suhail was one of the leaders of the Quraysh and among the most outspoken enemies of Islam. When he was captured during the Battle of Badr, ʿUmar (RA) wanted to punish him for his venomous words against Islam by removing his front two teeth.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not allow this, stating that perhaps one day Suhail would use that same mouth to defend Islam. Fast forward ten years, after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the people of Makkah disputed with each other over whether they should apostate or not. Suhail, now a recent convert, stood up by the Kabah and delivered a moving sermon that encouraged the people to remain firm on their faith. In this case, the foresight of the Prophet (peace be upon him) saved a lot of people from potential apostasy.

The People of Ta’if

A few years earlier, before migrating to Madinah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) tried to seek the support of the people of Ta’if instead. However, these people not only turned him away, but they also ridiculed him and threw stones at him, causing him both emotional and physical harm. The Prophet (peace be upon him) describes it as the most difficult day of his life.

In response to their aggression, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was offered a chance to allow Divine Punishment to fall upon them. He declined stating that perhaps someone from among their descendants might embrace Islam. Once again, the long-term thinking of the Prophet (peace be upon him) saved the souls of many people, as Ta’if eventually became a community of believers.

The Treaty of Ḥudaibiya

The best example of sacrificing short-term gains for long-term goals is the treaty of Ḥudaibiya. In this incident, the Prophet (peace be upon him) set out from Madinah for Makkah with the intention of pilgrimage. He was stopped outside Makkah in an area called Ḥudaibiya to negotiate. The result of the negotiation was a ten-year peace treaty between the Muslims and pagans.

However, the terms of the treaty were unfairly against the Muslims. They were not allowed to continue with the pilgrimage and would have to return a full year later to complete it. They were not allowed to accept into Madinah anyone who fled from Makkah, but the opposite was allowed. The terms of the treaty seemed very unjust but the Prophet (peace be upon him) signed it anyway.

Shortly thereafter, a verse of the Quran was revealed declaring the treaty a clear victory. The new peace between the pagans and Muslims allowed the Arabs to interact with the Muslims without seeing them as their wartime enemies. As a result, thousands of Arabs converted to Islam including many of the leaders of Makkah. The terms of the treaty caused Islam to spread rapidly across Arabia, accelerating the completion of the Prophetic mission. The treaty of Ḥudaibiya is a clear example of sacrificing short-term gains for long-term goals.

Conclusion

In each of these cases, we see how long-term thinking benefits society more, and leads to greater results. We can learn from this the importance of thinking ahead and planning long-term. If a sacrifice is needed today to accomplish something great tomorrow, we should be willing to sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term goals, especially when those goals are pleasing to Allah and beneficial for the community.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, 0 comments
Don’t Make Hatred Your Foundation

Don’t Make Hatred Your Foundation

Over the past twenty years, I have studied with a variety of scholars from many different schools of thought. During this period, I have noticed multiple trends that helped me identify good teachers. One of those trends is to look at the basic emotion the teacher inspires. When choosing a teacher, I am careful to avoid teachers whose primary purpose is spreading hatred of others.

Unfortunately, the internet has revived this culture of hate. It is easier for a young student of knowledge to gain a quick following by making hateful videos about other Muslims, than to actually teach the religion. As a result, we are once again flooded with messages of hate, refutations, and an unhealthy obsession with other people’s faults. In the process, we create a culture of hate and suspicion, devoid of spirituality and reflection.

Why People Love To Hate

This trend is nothing new. Every generation of Muslims produces a group or two that make hatred their foundation. The majority of deviant sects begin at a position of hatred; whether it is hatred for the companions, hatred for sinners, or hatred of other groups. Hatred is often the foundation of deviation and the beginning of a new cult. There are many reasons why people are attracted to cultures of hate, but in this modern age of individualism, one reason stands out; self-piety.

The various person is unaware of how much individualism has impacted their understanding of the world. Because of this, they fail to see how individualism impacts their understanding of Islam too. Islam in the eyes of such people is not seen as a system of purification and spiritual development. It is simply a tool through which one can profess one’s own piety by looking down upon others.

Individualism creates within a person a need to justify oneself constantly, a need to feel validated and better than others, and a need to be more famous than others. This leads to an obsession with refuting those who are more popular than oneself. The result is a culture of refutation and constant anger.

A Better Usage of Time

None of us will be on earth forever. We all have limited time on earth. Instead of wasting it in hatred, anger, and fault-finding, let’s use our time instead to worship Allah and purify our souls. Let us focus on doing good positive work that benefits the ummah and improves our own spiritual state in the process. Life is too short to waste on obsessing over other people and their faults.

My words don’t mean much, so I will leave you with a few hadiths to reflect on. These hadiths show us the importance of having a clean heart, and not holding ill-feelings towards other Muslims.

Abdullah ibn Amr reported; I said, “O Messenger of Allah, who are the best people?” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “One with a clean heart and truthful in speech.” We said, “O Messenger of Allah, we know truthful in speech. What is a clean heart?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “One that is mindful of Allah and pure, in which there is no sin, nor aggression, nor envy.” We said, “Who shows a sign of it?” The Prophet said, “One who hates worldliness and loves the Hereafter.” They said, “And who shows a sign of it?” The Prophet said, “A believer with good character.

Shu’ab al-Imān 4457

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said to me, “Young man if you are able every morning and evening to remove any ill-feelings from your heart towards anyone, do so.”

Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2678

Anas ibn Malik reported: We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he said, “Coming upon you now is a man from the people of Paradise.” A man from the Ansar came whose beard was disheveled by the water of ablution and he was carrying both of his shoes with his left hand. The next day the Prophet repeated the same words, and the man came in the same condition. The third day the Prophet repeated the same again, and the man came in the same condition. When the Prophet stood up to leave, Abdullah ibn Amr followed the man and he said, “I am in a dispute with my father and I have sworn not to enter my home for three days. May I stay with you?” The man said yes.

Abdullah stayed three nights with the man but he never saw him praying at night. Whenever he went to bed, he would remember Allah and rest until he woke up for morning prayer. Abdullah said that he never heard anything but good words from his mouth. When three nights had passed and he did not see anything special about his actions, Abdullah asked him, “O servant of Allah, I have not been in dispute with my father nor have I cut relations with him. I heard the Prophet say three times that a man from the people of Paradise was coming to us and then you came. I thought I should stay with you to see what you are doing that I should follow, but I did not see you do anything special. Why did the Prophet speak highly of you?” The man said, “I am as you have seen.” When Abdullah was about to leave, the man said, “I am as you have seen, except that I do not find ill-feeling in my soul towards the Muslims and I do not envy anyone because of the good that Allah has given them.” Abdullah said, “This is what you have achieved and it is something we have not accomplished.”

Musnad Aḥmad 12286

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments
7 Islamic Concepts that make the trials of life bearable

7 Islamic Concepts that make the trials of life bearable

Life is hard. There is no doubt about. God put us on this earth to test us. Sometimes we are tested with ease, to test our gratitude. Sometimes we are tested with temptation to show our resolve. And sometimes we are tested with difficulties to reveal our patience. Life goes through various ups and downs, most of the time being a combination of various tests.

Knowing this, we must thank our Creator for revealing Islam and guiding us to follow. Because it is only Islam that has so many built-in coping mechanisms that make the trials of life bearable. This doesn’t mean that every person can easily handle life by just following Islam. But following Islam definitely makes it easier to cope with the trials of life. Here are some of the ways Islam equips us to handle the ups and downs of life.

Belief in Qadr (Destiny)

Belief in Qadr (destiny) is one of the six primary beliefs in Islam. Every Muslim must believe that God knows everything and that nothing can happen without the will of God. While this belief may pose an ideological dilemma for philosophers who dwell too deep into the hows and whys, it provides comfort and relief to the minds of the average believer.

Knowing that everything that happens to us is part of God’s plan and will provides comfort to those who trust God and His Infinite Wisdom. The Quran is full of stories of people who went through difficult trials ending in great achievements, the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) being the clearest example of this. Stories like this remind us that the trials of life are part of a bigger picture that we may only understand later in life, or maybe even only in the Afterlife.

Tawakul (Trusting God)

Linked to belief in Qadr is the internal act of worship called Tawakul (Trust). Tawakul means to entrust one’s affairs and result to Allah and to be content with His Will. Tawakul is often mistaken for Fatalism; a lazy reliance on God without any effort. This is not the Islamic understanding of Tawakul. Tawakul means to put in one’s best effort, then to be content with the result.

Tawakul helps Muslims cope with many of the ups-and-downs of life, especially regarding finances. When a Muslim experiences a slow period of sales or loses a source of income, Tawakul drives them to be optimistic and to seek out a new, perhaps better, opportunity. The believer is pushed forward by God’s promise, “Whoever puts his trust in God, He will suffice him. Indeed, God will accomplish his goals.” (Quran 65:3)

Sabr (Patience and Resiliency)

We have written many articles about Sabr in the past and included entire sections on it in some of our books. The Quran instructs believers to seek God’s assistance through Sabr and Salah. (Quran 2:153) Sabr is an active state of resiliency, persistence, restraint, and forbearance. It is necessary for accomplishing goals, overcoming temptations and dealing with setbacks of life.

The believer is always in a state of Sabr. He is either persisting in good deeds, restraining himself from sin, or bearing the challenges of life with patience. Sabr makes every stage of life more bearable, and has helped people get through some of the most traumatic events. Without the concept of Sabr, life would be very difficult to bear.

Salah (The Formal Prayer)

Linked with Sabr in multiple verses is Salah. God instructs us to seek His Assistance through Sabr and Salah. Salah connects the heart to the believer, allowing one to find comfort in the company of God, pouring one’s heart out to Him, and seek His assistance in every way. Salah is the ultimate act of submission that shows a person worships God alone, and asks God alone for assistance during difficult times.

Dua (Private Supplication)

Linked to Salah is dua. One of the ways we are supposed to seek assistance through Salah is by pouring our heart out to God in the prostration (Sajdah). Dua is the essence of worship and one of the most important things that a believer can do during times of difficulty. The narrations state that only dua can override destiny. (Ibn Majah 90) So when one’s destiny seems dark, the believer finds comfort in Salah and dua.

The Muslim Community (Ummah)

It is true that the Muslim community is often the source of our trials in life. Sometimes Muslims can be their own worst enemies. Pettiness, jealousy, extremism, and sectarianism all form part of the tests of life. But if so many of the trials of life come from society, why then do I list the concept of an ummah as a source of ease?

Because despite all of its faults, the Muslim community remains a source of blessings for its members. When a believer falls into major calamity, quickly you will find other members of the community rushing to crowdfund and assist them. This level of care for others across the globe is truly a blessing from God. Knowing that we are part of an ummah that has our back in the worst of times makes life more bearable, regardless of our faults as a community.

The Akhirah (Afterlife)

Belief in the Afterlife is also one of the six fundamental beliefs of Islam. Islam teaches us that this life is temporary and that eventually our souls will leave these bodies and return to God. We will then be judged for how we lived our lives, and either earn eternal damnation, eternal bliss, or temporary punishment followed by eternal bliss. So how does this belief make life bearable?

There are two ways that belief in the Afterlife makes life bearable. The first is by knowing that this life is temporary and that a life of eternal bliss potentially awaits us beyond. This brings comfort to the hearts of those whose trials last a lifetime. They know that eventually the trial will end and they will be rewarded eternally for their Sabr.

The second way is through the concept of God’s Perfect Justice. Life in this world can be unfair, and often tyrants get away with great evil. The believer find comfort in knowing that Justice will be served on the Last Day, and that nobody gets away with tyranny. For anyone who has been harmed in this world, and seen the perpetrator walk free, knowing that he will be brought to justice on the Last Day makes the test a bit more bearable.

Conclusion

These seven concepts all play a role in helping us cope with and overcome the challenges of life. It is true that they won’t work one hundred percent of the time for everybody. Some people require counseling, others require justice in this world to move on. There are many dynamics at play.

But there is great benefit in believing in Qadr and the Afterlife while practicing Tawakul, Sabr, Salah, and Dua while sticking the Muslim community. All of this makes life more bearable and helps the believer focus on what matters most; worshiping God and earning one’s place in the eternal garden.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Positive Thinking, 4 comments
Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās

Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās

Known as the two protectors, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās complete the Quran as it began, with supplications that we recite on a daily basis. The Quran beings with the supplication for guidance i.e. Sūrah al-Fātiha, and it ends with two supplications for protections, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās.

Scholars differ on whether these Sūrahs were revealed in Makkah or Madinah. There is evidence both ways, but the style and prose of the Sūrahs are more in line with Makkan revelation. I am inclined towards the opinion that these two Sūrahs were revealed in Makkah, but their usage as daily supplications became common in Madinah. Allah knows best.

The themes of these two Sūrahs is very clear; they were revealed as protection supplications. It is recommended to recite these Sūrahs every morning and evening three times each for protection from all forms of evil. These Sūrahs list some of the names and attributes of Allah, calling on Him for protection, and list some of the things we seek protection from.

Protection from Worldly Calamities

Sūrah al-Falaq focuses on protection from worldly calamities. In this supplication, we ask Allah for protection from every evil thing that He created. We specifically ask Allah for protection from magic, jealousy, and the evil that occurs at night.

In this Sūrah, we learn that there exists in this world many forces of evil. Allah created these as a test for us. We are tested with many types of evil in this world. From tyrants to difficult relatives. From crime to jealous friends. Every human’s test is different. However, none of these things can harm us unless Allah wills it. Therefore, we take our precautions and seek Allah’s protection daily by reciting this Sūrah every morning and evening.

This Sūrah also indicates that a lot of evil happens at night. That is the time when people commit their biggest crimes or their best deeds. While one segment of humanity is involved in fornication, murder, or stealing late at night, there exists another group who spend the late portion of the night worshipping their Creator. We ask Allah to make us from the second group.

The Sūrah ends with a reminder that magic and jealousy are real sources of evil in this world. These days there is a lot of skepticism regarding the nature of magic and the evil eye. Muslims influenced by atheistic ideas deny the reality of these things because they cannot see them. This is a very problematic approach.

One of the fundamental principles of our religion is the belief in the unseen. This unseen world includes the world of the Jinn, which plays a role in dark magic and the evil eye. We don’t have to understand these concepts to believe in them. The fact that many humans throughout history, and even today, have experienced this phenomenon is evidence of their reality. Our job is simply to seek Allah’s protection from them and to never be a source of these evils for others.

Spiritual Protection

While Sūrah al-Falaq focuses on protection from worldly dangers, Sūrah an-Nās focuses on protection from the spiritual threat of misguidance. In this Sūrah, we are taught to ask Allah, the only true Lord, King, and God of humanity, for protection from the whispers of the devils. We are then reminded that these devils exist among both the jinn and humanity.

This Sūrah teaches us that it is important to ask Allah for protection from the devil and misguidance. Our guidance is dependent on Allah, and it is only His protection that keeps us safe from the devil. There is a profound point to be made about the placement of this Sūrah.

The Quran begins with a supplication for guidance and ends with a supplication for protection from misguidance. And everything in between teaches us that guidance and warns against those types of misguidance. In this way, the Quran completes a circle of protection. We are taught to ask Allah for guidance daily, but also to seek his protection from the whispers of the devil daily.

This Sūrah is also a reminder that not all devils are Jinn. There exists among humanity a segment that calls to the gates of Hell. These are people to openly promote evil and call others towards it. Whether it is the callers to sexual deviation or the callers to Atheism and Hedonism. These types of people are classified as devils as they do the work of the devils. With this Sūrah, we ask Allah for protection, not just from the whisperings of the jinn but from the influence of evil humans as well.

These are two of the most important Sūrahs in the Quran. Every Muslim should memorize these Sūrahs very early and establish a habit of reciting them multiple times a day, especially in the morning and evening. Doing so will help to protect us from every type of evil, both physical and spiritual.  

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ: Islamic Monotheism

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ: Islamic Monotheism

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is one of the most powerful short Sūrahs in the Quran. Also known as Sūrah at-Tawḥīd, it is a summary of the core tenets of monotheism. In an authentic narration, it is referred to as one-third of the Quran. The message of the Quran focuses on three primary components of theology; monotheism, revelation, and the Afterlife. One-third of this message is summarized in Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ.

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is a Makkan Sūrah according to the majority of scholars. Its theme is purely Makkan in that it focuses on the essential attributes of Allah and clarification of pure monotheism. The scholars differ on whether it has four or five verses, with some schools of recitation counting “He does not beget” and “Nor was He begotten” as two separate verses. Allah knows best.

Virtues of Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ

It is reported on the authority of Abū Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Get together, for I am going to recite one-third of the Qur’an before you.” And those who could get together gathered there. Then the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came out and recited: “Say: He, Allah, is One.” He then entered (his house). Some of us said to the others, “Perhaps there has been some news from the heaven on account of which he has gone inside (the house).” The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) again came out and said, “I told you that I was going to recite one-third of the Quran; keep in mind, this (Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ) is equivalent to one-third of the Qur’an.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 6:316)

Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī narrated that a man heard another man reciting “Say He is Allah, the One.” repeatedly. The next morning he came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and informed him about it as if he thought that it was not enough to recite. On that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, this Sūrah is equal to one-third of the Qur’an!” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 66: 35)

Pure Monotheism

The core message of this Sūrah is the Islamic understanding of monotheism. Islam is unique in its clear and uncompromising stance on the Oneness of God. Although the majority of religions, and the majority of humans, believe in One Creator, they have several major mistakes in their understanding of that Creator. The beauty of this Sūrah is that it clears up every one of those misconceptions with its four powerful verses.

The Sūrah begins by clarifying that there is only One God, Allah. This clarifies the misconception in many religions that there are one major god and several minor gods. The belief in a pantheon of gods was very common in several ancient religions and still exists in some parts of the world today. This verse makes it very clear that there is only One God.

The second verse clarifies that God is as-Ṣamad. The name as-Ṣamad is difficult to translate into English. An explanation is more suitable here than a translation. The name as-Ṣamad means that Allah does not need anything and everything is in need of Him. It indicates that He is All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Hearing, All-Powerful, and Ever-Living. It is a comprehensive name that covers many of the other names of Allah.

The mention of this name in this verse serves several purposes. It clarifies that Allah has the most beautiful names and attributes. It demonstrates the perfect power and might of Allah. And it clears up the misunderstanding that Allah needs our worship, or that we don’t need Him. The first verse clears up the doubts of those who believe in several gods. The second verse clears up the doubts of those who believe God has any weaknesses or is in need of assistance. Several religions portray images of their gods as weak and in need. Islam teaches us that Allah is As-Ṣamad. He needs nothing while we all need Him.

The third verse clarifies that Allah is unique in the sense that He has no descendants or ascendants. He is eternal, has always existed, and will always exist. Several religions preach the idea of a family of gods. Even today, there are many people who believe in concepts like someone being the son of God or the mother of God. These concepts are false beliefs that have no basis in revelation. The true God is eternal, He is not the descendant of anyone, nor does He have any children.

The final verse covers the fourth and final principles of Islamic monotheism; there is nothing like Him. This is a complete rejection of anthropomorphism. This may be the most unique aspect of the Islamic understanding of God. Almost every other religion worships an image of God. That image is often human, or a mixture of human and animal. Muslims reject all such images.

God is beyond our imagination, and nothing we think about could be God. He is unique in every possible way, and therefore it is prohibited to even try to imagine Him. This unique aspect of Islamic monotheism has, over the centuries, causes millions of people to convert to Islam. It makes far more sense to worship a God that is beyond human imagination than to worship an image that people made up.

Theological Controversies

The message of these verses is very clear. There is only One God. All of Creation depends on Him. He is eternal without ascendants or descendants, and there is nothing like Him. Despite having such a clear and uncompromising declaration of monotheism in the Quran, Muslims across the globe have developed different interpretations of that final principle; there is nothing like Him.

During the first two centuries of Islam, Muslims tended to avoid discussion on this issue and were united in keeping monotheism simple and pure. Once Greek philosophy was introduced into the Muslim world in the third century, Muslims began to overthink these concepts and split up into several schools of thought. Despite these schools of thought all co-existing peacefully throughout most of Islamic history, these differences have become causes of tension and chaos in our times.

Some zealous Muslims have raised these issues again, and in their zealousness they have declared every understanding of this issue deviant, besides their own. Such extremes can be found in every school of thought regarding the names and attributes of Allah. Their arguing and bickering over these interpretations have distracted the Muslim nation from our priorities and caused unnecessary disunity among Muslims.

Furthermore, these different schools of theology have caused doubt to enter the minds of some young Muslims. They wonder why Muslims differ regarding how to interpret the attributes of God, and how such a difference of opinion can exist on such a fundamental issue. This issue requires a much deeper discussion, and cannot be clarified in a few short paragraphs. I hope to discuss it in more detail at a later point if Allah wills it.

For now, I simply want to remind Muslims that our unity is essential. The differences of opinion that exist among Sunnī Muslims on the names and attributes of Allah are a secondary issue. All Sunnī Muslims believe in the four principles laid down in this Sūrah. All Sunnī Muslims agree upon the five pillars of Islam and the six pillars of faith. Our differences in these issues are simply a matter of interpretation. But Allah is infinitely Merciful and Just. So let us trust Allah’s Mercy and not divide the Muslim nation over secondary issues.

The Quran is very clear regarding the concept of monotheism. Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ summarizes this concept perfectly. If Muslims just stick to what is mentioned in this Sūrah, we can keep our monotheism simple and pure. But unnecessary questioning and argumentation over the nature of God’s attributes only lead to problems and disunity. The nature of God’s attributes is a matter that is beyond human comprehension. So it is best that we avoid overthinking this issue, and focus instead on worshipping Allah.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments