Living Fiqh: Do No Harm

Living Fiqh: Do No Harm

Fiqh refers to the understood and applied laws of Islam, as understood by any of the recognized schools of thought. Although Islamic Law was initially designed to assist Muslims in living an Islamic lifestyle. In later times, it devolved into a strict list of dos and don’ts without any understanding of the rationale and wisdom of these laws. In this series, we aim to revive an understanding of the law that focuses on the wisdom behind the law, so that Muslims can live their lives in an Islamic manner, understanding why the laws are the way they are.

Fiqh Principle #1: Do No Harm

Among the fundamental principles of Fiqh is the removal of harm. This has been worded in a variety of ways across a variety of books and fields of study. Some scholars word it as ‘al-arar Yuzāl‘ (harm must be eliminated),(Shahrul Hussain, p. 48) others prefer the hadith wording ‘Lā Ḍarar wa lā Ḍirār‘ (there should be no harm or return of harm), and while other scholars word it as ‘Dar’ al-Mafsadah‘ (the rejection of harm). (Ibn Ashur, p. 91) All three wordings indicate the same core principle; Muslims must live their lives in a way that is beneficial for humanity, and avoiding harming any creation without a legitimate reason.

The removal of harm is central to Islamic law. It is so important that Ibn Ashur listed it among the two main goals of the Shariah, along with the attainment of benefit. He stated that the laws of Islam as a whole revolve around either assisting us in gaining that which is beneficial for us, or protecting us from that which is harmful to us. In this way, half of our religion revolves around the removal of harm.

The principle is derived from various verses of the Quran, hadiths, as well as a deep understanding of the purpose behind various laws of Islam. The primary hadith upon which this principle is based is mentioned by al-Nawawi (RA) in his Forty Hadith collection. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Lā Ḍarar wa lā Ḍirār (There should be no harm or return of harm.)” (Nawawi, no. 32)

The core message of this hadith that Muslims should neither initiate harm to others, nor respond to others in a harmful manner that goes beyond the limits of justice. Retaliation within the limits of justice is allowed but not encouraged. For example, if someone is attacked, it is permitted to fight back or seek justice in court, but to forgive and overlook is better. However, it would not be permissible to go beyond the scope of justice by attacking the attacker’s family, harming the individual in a way worse than how they harmed you, or harming them more times than they harmed you. The Shariah seeks to limit harms, but also to balance this with a strong emphasis on justice.

How this manifests itself in the law

The primary way in which the removal of harm manifests itself in the law is through the prohibitions. By default, anything that Allah has prohibited is harmful to society. In most cases, the harm is clear and evident like in the case of alcohol and gambling. Sometimes the harm may be unknown but we still trust Allah’s perfect wisdom and follow the law without question. Many times the harms are only revealed later when it is too late to undo the harm.

A sad example of this is the rise in fornication and adultery rates in our era. the sexual revolution brought in a huge change in the way people approached sexual relations. The prohibition of fornication was not only shunned but ridiculed. People saw it as irrational, restricting fun, and an obstacle in the way of personal freedom. Blinded by their passions, a large segment of humanity began engaging in these major sins without fear or guilt. Unaware of the harms caused by this sin, the sins eventually became norms, habits, and lifestyles, and opened the doors to worse forms of immorality.

The harms of this revolution are clearer today after entire generations have grown up in such a culture. The spiraling divorce rate, rising rates of depression, suicide, broken families, spread of STDs, and rise in new forms of immorality are all directly linked to this new immorality-based lifestyle. The harms of these major sins is more evident today then it was twenty years ago, but still the march towards destruction continues as people ignore all these warning signs and remain focused on their base desires. The prohibition of fornication in Islam is rooted firmly in the prevention of harm to oneself and others, as fornication harms all of society, especially the individual who makes it a lifestyle.

How to live by this principle

The removal of harm is not just a Fiqh principle that guides our understanding of the prohibitions. It is really a way of life. A Muslim should consciously live his/her life in a way that minimizes harm and maximizes benefit to others. We must remain extra conscious about the effects and impact of our actions on others. This consciousness must guide all of our decisions.

Whether it is in our business dealings, family relationships, friendships, or online interactions, the avoidance of harm should play a central role in shaping the way we deal with other people. Living by this principle means living a lifestyle that is free from slander, backbiting, abuse, mockery, violence, betrayal, and every type of injustice. Any action that causes unjust harm to another has no place in the lifestyle of the believer.

The principles of Fiqh are more than just a list of dos and don’ts. They are essential guidelines for how we live our lives. By choosing to live consciously and to be aware of the impact of our actions on others, we can minimize our harm, maximize our productivity, and build a better case for ourselves for the day of judgment.

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Important changes at Islamic Self Help

Important changes at Islamic Self Help

Alhamdulillah, I recently started a new job. This will affect the amount of time that I will be able to dedicate to Islamic Self Help. Despite my busy new schedule, Islamic Self Help will remain an important resource through which I will share my personal opinions, articles, books, and courses. The website will continue to grow but I will spend less time per week on it than I previously used to.

Leaving IOU

Alhamdulillah, I began studying at IOU in 2007, started volunteer work at IOU in 2008, and became a full-time employee of IOU in 2010. I even completed my BAIS at IOU in 2014. Over the past 13 years, IOU has played a central role in shaping my young adult life. But all good things come to an end, and I have reached a point in my life in which I wish to move on and pursue a different career path.

Over the past five years, my goals have pushed me more towards writing and research on contemporary issues. Alhamdulillah, an opportunity has presented itself for me to do this full-time and I cannot let this opportunity go. For this reason, I decided to leave IOU so that I can focus on my career in research and writing. I wanted to make this public so that people know that the reason I am leaving IOU is nothing negative. So please do not read anything into my leaving the organization.

Alhamdulillah, I have been treated exceptionally well at IOU over the past decade and it was not easy to make the decision to leave. I will continue to support IOU’s great work, and represent them as a graduate of their BAIS program. I also still encourage people to sign up for their courses if you are looking for a good online campus for Islamic Studies. I really want to spend the next decade (and probably the rest of my life) writing, and that will be my primary focus moving forward.

Joining Yaqeen Institute

Alhamdulillah, in November 2020 I started my new job as a research manager at Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. This new role will facilitate my goal of spending my life writing and researching contemporary Islamic topics. I am really excited to start this new job and to contribute to this amazing website. I ask Allah to put barakah in this new role and make it a means of benefit for the entire ummah, and a source of continuous reward for all those involved.

As I get accustomed to my new job, I will not blog as much as I used to for the first few weeks. Once I get accustomed to my new work schedule, I will continue to make time daily to contribute to Islamic Self Help via videos, articles, books and courses. In the meanwhile, the Aqeedah al-Tahawiyah course will continue as usual with four more videos releasing over the next four weeks.

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Protection Duas #2: Reviving a Sunnah

Protection Duas #2: Reviving a Sunnah

This is the second article in the series on protection duas. You can read the first article here.

We are in need, every single second, of the assistance and protection of Allah. We sometimes forget this as we get caught up in this worldly life. As we go about our days enjoying the good things of this world, we take our safety and protection for granted. A simple habit that can assist us in preventing this neglect is to recite the recommended supplication duas every morning and evening.

As we grow in spirituality, it is important to increase our good deeds and add more beneficial habits to our daily routine. The daily protection duas are an excellent habit to build, and there are many benefits to reciting these duas every single day. By making dua daily, we remember Allah more, increase our Tawakul, and experience the inner peace of being under Divine Protection.

FAQ about protection duas

What are the daily protection duas?

The daily protection duas are a series of duas found in various authentic hadiths that we are encouraged to recite every morning and evening. The best collection of these duas is Hisn al-Muslim (Fortress of the believer) which is available on various websites and even as an app for the phone. I highly recommend downloading this book so that you have access to the full list of duas whenever you need to recite them.

What is the Fiqh ruling on these duas?

These duas are mustahab/sunnah (recommended). This means that there is a lot of reward, virtues, and benefits for reciting them daily, but there is no sin for not reciting them. If you live in a community in which people have forgotten about this practice, then by starting this habit and encouraging others to do so as well, you can also gain the reward of reviving a Sunnah practice.

When should I recite these duas?

The best time to recite morning duas is immediately after Salah al-Fajr. This can form part of one’s morning ritual to increase the amount of time spent in the remembrance of Allah at the start of the day. It also helps turn one’s day into a day filled with barakah (blessings). There is a difference of opinion on whether the evening duas should be recited after Asr or Maghrib. My opinion is that it should be recited after Maghrib as that is when the evening begins, and Allah knows best.

What are these duas for protection from?

These are comprehensive duas that serve for protection from every known evil. If you read through the translations of these duas, you will realize that there isn’t anything that has been left out. These include duas for protection from disbelief, misguidance, jealousy, magic, poverty, debt, helplessness, and evil eye. I highly recommend taking time to read through the translations of these duas and reflecting on their meanings.

What are the benefits of reciting these duas every day?

These duas provide several daily benefits. They form part of our daily good deeds, adding to our scale on the Last Day. May Allah accept our deeds. They increase our daily remembrance of Allah, which increases our Taqwa (God Consciousness). These duas provide a sense of inner peace as one feels safe in the protection of Allah. Through this, they form part of having Tawakul in Allah, as we ask Allah daily to protect us and that is an important aspect of Tawakul. Another benefit of these duas is that help us appreciate the good things in our lives, as they include words of praise for Allah and gratitude. Finally, the most obvious benefit is that they protect us from all forms of evil including crime, violence, poverty, and most importantly misguidance.

Some of the most important protection duas

Every dua in this list is important, but some have a greater significance than others. From among the most important protection duas is Ayat al-Kursi. Every believer should try to memorize this dua and recite it after Fajr and Maghrib. Even better than this, we should try to build the habit of reciting it after every Salah.

“Whoever recites Ayat al-Kursi after every Salah, the only barrier between him and paradise is death.”

Sunan Nasa’i, Hadith: 9848

Next in importance are the three Quls i.e. the last three Surahs of the Quran. These should be recited three times each, before blowing on oneself. Surah al-Ikhlas serves as protection from disbelief. Surah al-Falaq causes protection from worldly afflictions like jealousy and crime. And Surah al-Nas serves as protection from misguidance and the devil. We should memorize and recite these Surahs every morning and evening, as well as before going to sleep at night.

Another important dua is the following;

اللّهُـمَّ ما أَصْبَـَحَ بي مِـنْ نِعْـمَةٍ أَو بِأَحَـدٍ مِـنْ خَلْـقِك ، فَمِـنْكَ وَحْـدَكَ لا شريكَ لَـك ، فَلَـكَ الْحَمْـدُ وَلَـكَ الشُّكْـر

O Allah, what blessing I or any of Your creation have risen upon, is from You alone, without any partner, so for You is all praise and unto You all thanks.’

The above dua serves as an expression of gratitude to Allah for all of His favors upon us, those that we know and those that we do not realize. It is just as important to thank Allah for His blessings, as it is to seek His protection. We sometimes forget to show our gratitude, and this dua can serve as a daily reminder to do so.

These are just a few examples of some of the important duas that every believer should strive to make part of their daily routine. Our lives are for Allah, and so we should fill it with the remembrance of Allah. The Sunnah protection duas are one of many ways to make the daily remembrance of Allah a constant in our lives.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 2 comments
6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

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

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

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

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1907

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

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

Musnad Aḥmad 23119

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

1. Daily Muḥāsaba

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

2. Secret Good Deeds

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

3. Remembering one’s secret sins

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

4. Seeking forgiveness

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

5. Asking Allah for sincerity

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

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

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

Summary

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

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Protection Duas #1: A Comprehensive Supplication

Protection Duas #1: A Comprehensive Supplication

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

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

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

The Comprehensive Dua

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

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

The evidence for this supplication is the following narration:

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

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

Protection from many major trials

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

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

Misconceptions about Poverty

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

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

Sunan Ibn Majah 3842

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

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

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

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

Random Reflections

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

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

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

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 6 comments