Islam

The Legacy of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA)

The Legacy of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA)

Q: Why did you choose ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) as the topic of your book?

I have always been fascinated by the story of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA). He has been a role model of mine since I was a teenager. There is just something extraordinary about his story that makes him stand out among other historical figures. He stands out from among the Tābiʿīn (second generation of Muslims) as the best Caliph of that generation, as well as one of the most pious and knowledgeable men of that era. He played a crucial role in shaping Islamic government policies, preserving hadith, and spreading Islam to new lands. Yet despite all this, most Muslims that I meet have never heard about him. His amazing story remains unknown to the average Muslim and I wanted to change that with this book.

I had the idea to write a book about his life over a decade ago, but did not get down to doing so. A few years ago, I delivered a Jumah Khutbah on lessons from the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) and it was very well received. This motivated me to go back to the topic, and I realized it was time to finally sit down and write this book. Thus, I dedicated the bulk of 2019 to writing, researching, editing and publishing this book.

Q: Can you give us a brief glimpse into who ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) was and why his story is important?

Sure, ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) was the eight Umayyad Caliph. On his father’s side, he was the grandson of Marwan Ibn Hakam (RA), and on his mother’s side, he was the great-grandson of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (R.A). He grew up in Madinah under the tutelage of his grand-uncle ʿAbdullah Ibn ʿUmar (RA), and the great scholars of Madinah. He served as the governor of Madinah during the reign of his cousin/brother-in-law Walīd Ibn Abd al-Malik(RA), and as Grand Vizier during the reign of his Walīd’s brother Suleiman (RA).

After the death of Suleiman (RA), ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) became the eight Umayyad Caliph. Historians often refer to his as ʿUmar II (ʿUmar The Second) as he was the second ʿUmar to serve as Caliph, thus the title of the book, Productivity Principles of ʿUmar II. During his reign, he reformed many of unjust policies of early Umayyads, and attempted to bring the Caliphate back in line with that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. He played a crucial role in reforming various policies, and setting new standards for the Islamic Empire, earning him titles like the Fifth Rightly Guided Caliph and the First Reviver of Islam. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) served as Caliph for only two and half years before he was poisoned by his cousins, and murdered. May Allah grant him the best of the Afterlife.

Q: As a follow up to that, why do you think many Muslims are unaware of the story of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA), when he played such an important role in early Islamic History?

I think it boils down to a common problem in our Islamic History curriculum. Too many Muslim schools focus only on the history of the first generation of Muslims. We study intensively the lives of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs which is great and crucial. But we make the mistake of stopping there. Too often, the rest of history is summarized in a few short lines (Umayyads, then Abbasids, then Ottomans) without going into any details. As a result, the stories of many great people from our history remain unknown or forgotten to all except those who are truly passionate about history and seek the knowledge out themselves.

When I first published this book, many people asked me who ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) was and why they never heard about him before. Many of these were people who are generally knowledgeable about Islam, yet have a gap when it comes to Islamic History. These conversations made me realize how crucial it is to write about these figures, and share their stories with new generations. From all major Islamic subjects, history is often the most overlooked today and I try to fill that gap with my lectures and writings.

A wrong understanding of history can cause many doubts and unrealistic expectations. This is why my book is prefaced with an extended introduction focused on how to approach and study history, as well as a summarized history of the first century of the Muslim Empire. I hope that this book will contribute towards making ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) a household name and a role model for Muslims everywhere once again.

Q: What is your favorite story from the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA)?

There are honestly too many to list, but I will mention briefly the one story that always blows me away, it is actually the story of the events that led to his birth. This story actually takes place in the Caliphate of ʿUmar I (RA).

When ʿUmar I was caliph, he had a habit of going around at night in disguise to see if anybody needed help. One night, he overheard a conversation between a young lady and her mother. The mother was telling her daughter to mix milk with water and sell it in the market. Her daughter reminded her that Caliph ʿUmar had prohibited such practices. The mother said, “ʿUmar cannot see you.” To which the daughter replied, “But the Lord of ʿUmar can.” ʿUmar was so impressed by this reply that he asked his servant to find out who that young lady was.

When he learned more about her, he approached her with an offer to marry his son ʿĀṣim. She accepted the offer, and they married. It is narrated that later ʿUmar had a dream, after which he used to say, “I wish I knew the man from my descendants, with a scar on his face, who will fill the earth with justice, just as it was full of injustice and oppression.” Many Muslim historians claim that the just ruler ʿUmar saw in his dream was actually ʿUmar II.

It really blows my mind every time I think about how destiny worked through this story, a great Caliph finds a righteous wife for his son, hoping that from their progeny would arise a just ruler. That couple has a daughter who married the prince ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Ibn Marwan (RA), and their son ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) grows into one of the most just rulers in the history of this world.

Q: That is amazing. I actually never heard that story before. What were some of the policies of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) that stand out?

Once again, there are too many to count, and I discuss these in various sections of the book. I will list my three favorite policies of his. The first is that he removed various taxes from the early Umayyads had unjustly levied on converts. These unjust taxes were discouraging people from converting to Islam, and by removing them, he opened the door for hundreds of thousands of converts to enter Islam. He famously told his governors “Allah did not send his messenger as a tax collector, He sent him as a Mercy to his universe.” His entire mindset towards taxes can be summarized in this one statement.

Another important policy of his was increasing the salaries for Islamic scholars. His cousin Walid (RA) was the first to establish a policy of a state salary for Islamic scholars, so they could focus on their Islamic work without needing to worry about finances. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) took it one step further and increased the salary to a comfortable amount, which in turn encouraged many youngsters to choose Islamic Studies for their careers. This led to a new generation of financially strong intelligent and capable Islamic scholars.

A third policy of his that is very important, so important that I dedicated an entire chapter to it is his emphasis on Shura (seeking expert advice). ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) revived the Sunnah of a ruler surrounding himself with experts and pious scholars. He sought their opinions on all major policies, and would humbly listen to their perspectives. This incredible policy led to many of the important reforms that took place during his reign. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) famously said, “The heart of Islamic Law is adherence to what you find in the Book of God, the issuing of rulings based on the example set by the Messenger of God as well as the judgments handed down by the Rightly-Guided leaders, and consultation with the learned whose points of view can be trusted.”

Q: What can readers expect from the book in terms of format, themes, and core lessons?

The book is divided into four broad sections: introduction, history, productivity principles, and appendices. The introduction is a bit lengthy yet many readers say it is their favorite part of the book. In this introduction, I clarify the correct approach to studying history, as well as some of the reasons readers often experience a disconnect with history. This is very crucial information that not only sets the tone for the book, but will also assist the reader in studying other history books and courses effectively.

The second section consists of two chapters focused on the history of the first century of Islam. The first chapter covers the history of Islam from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until the reign of Suleiman (RA). This is crucial for understanding the context and significance of the reign of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA). The second chapter is a detailed history of the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) from birth until death. The rest of the book builds upon these two chapters by deriving and explaining various lessons from his life.

The next fifteen chapters cover fifteen lessons that I learned from studying his life. I called these the Productivity Principles of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA), and the book is named after these chapters that form the core of the book. Each chapter takes some stories and quotations from his life and discusses with practical details some lessons we can derive from the stories and apply to our own lives. These principles are crucial for living a productive life that is beneficial for us in this world and the Hereafter. The book ends with two short a appendices covering various issues and quotes that did not fit into the three main sections.

Q: Why focus on productivity in a history book? How did you link the two topics together?

The focus on productivity perplexed many early readers, and some were skeptical about how these lessons could be derived from a history book. However, once they read the book, they understood well and were blown away by how relevant this story really is. ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA) lived for only 37 years, and was a Caliph for only 2 and half years, yet he accomplished far more during this short period than seems humanly possible. Part of this is a miracle of barakah (blessings) that Allah gifts to the righteous, but a lot of it has to do with how he lived his life.

I decided to spend some time analyzing his life for clues on what made him so productive. Initially, I had a list of eight principles and started writing the book accordingly. But as I wrote, researched further, and reflected deeper, I discovered more and more lessons, resulting in a book covering fifteen productivity principles that I extracted from his life.

A mistake we often make is that we study history only for the facts. We fail to engage with history and draw lessons from it. I hope this book serves as an example of how to engage with history, draw lessons from it, and apply those lessons to one’s life. The six months I spent writing this book were the best months of my life, and one of my favorite memories. I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with history, reflecting on it, and writing my observations. I hope the reader finds reading this book as enjoyable as I found writing it.

Q: Where can people find your book, and why should they read it.

The book is available to purchase as a PDF via Gumroad and Payhip. The paperback and Kindle editions are available via Amazon. There are also several bookstores around the world (South Africa, Australia, India, UAE, Malaysia) that currently stock the book, and hopefully many more will stock it in the future. I am optimistic that this book will benefit everyone who reads it, and will serve as a model on how to study and draw lessons from the biographies of historical figures.

The benefits for the readers are many. On one hand, it is a beautiful summary of the first century of Muslim history, drawing many lessons from it. On the other, it is a deep dive into fifteen productivity principles that are very practical and life-changing. This book serves as both a history book and a guide to productive living. I cannot recommend it enough, and hope you enjoy it and benefit from it.

You can purchase the ebook here, or the paperback here. The book is also available at several bookstores around the world. For best value, check out our Barakah Bundle which includes this book and FOUR other bestsellers.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, 0 comments
7 Keys to Contentment

7 Keys to Contentment

True wealth is not in having many possessions, but rather (true) wealth is feeling content in the soul.

Sahih al-Bukhari 6446

In a world too caught up in chasing its own tail, humanity desperately craves something deeper. Amassing wealth is no longer a satisfying goal in life. To some extent, it is necessary for comfort and success, but it does not fulfill every need of the human soul. The need for a greater purpose, and spiritual connection with the Creator, cannot be gained through a life spent in the pursuit of wealth and status. True wealth lies in contentment, a feeling of inner peace with everything God has blessed you with.

True contentment is the sweet spot between apathy and greed. A sincere believer is not lazy in earning an income or providing for the family, but neither is he greedy for everything this world has to offer. He works hard to earn that which is pure, to gain blessed sustenance, and then he is content at the end of each day with what God has blessed him with for that day.

But how do we experience contentment?
What can we do to unlock this powerful and satisfying feeling?

The following steps bring contentment into one’s life, and in the process upgrade the quality of one’s life and mental health in amazing ways.

1. Living for a greater purpose

We were not created to waste life on lustful pursuits. The human soul was designed for a much deeper experience. Allah created us to worship Him i.e. to live a life that is pleasing to Him. It is in the pleasure of Allah that the greatest of joy is experienced.

Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of God. Indeed, it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find comfort.

Surah al-Rad 13:28

True comfort of the soul can only be experienced when one’s lifestyle is aligned with the Divine Purpose. It is only when our focus is on pleasing the Creator, and living an Islamic lifestyle that we can begin to taste the sweet fruit of faith. Contentment is a gift to those who live with purpose.

2. Practicing Daily Gratitude

And when your Lord proclaimed: “If you are grateful, I will grant you more; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe.”

Surah Ibrahim 14:7

Allah’s promise is clear and true. The secrets of success are unlocked through a lifestyle of gratitude. It is only when we begin to appreciate the little things in life, the small bounties that we take for granted, that we begin to experience contentment. There is so much that we take for granted in our pursuit of more. But if we were to stop and take time to thank Allah saying Alhamdulillah (All Praise is for Allah) at every little gift, we will attract a higher level of blessings and inner peace into our lives. I discuss this concept in more detail in my latest ebook; Earning Barakah.

3. Keeping one’s earnings pure

It is tempting to take shortcuts, to chase the get-rich-quick scheme, to harm others in the pursuit of more. But any wealth earned in such a manner is devoid of blessings. It is a cursed wealth ruined by bad intentions, ill means, and harmful greed. Even if someone was to amass millions in unlawful gains, they will never taste the sweetness of contentment. Every mountain of gold will only make them desire another.

Blessings come from purity, and purity comes from halal earnings. It is only when we make a firm effort to earn halal, even if it is less, that we unlock blessed sustenance. Blessed sustenance is not necessarily a lot of wealth, or a thriving business. It is any sustenance that suffices the family, and brings one closer to the Creator. The most blessed sustenance of all is contentment.

4. Serving the community

The soul longs for more than just material wealth. Our souls are social in nature, and need to be part of a community. That feeling is not just to belong, but to serve as well. Modern psychology studies have shown that community service cures many forms of depression and loneliness. This is because we tap into the part of our soul that needs to serve.

If the pursuit of this world has left you cold and lonely, then maybe it is time to shift one’s paradigm from consumption to service. When we give back to society, we attract blessings and inner peace into our lives. Taking care of the creation pleases the Creator and opens new doors of blessings. A simple step of taking out time once a week to help others can have a profound impact on one’s mental health, and help build an atmosphere of contentment.

5. Living within one’s means

The need to live large is a lie. We do not need fancy homes, cars, or luxury furniture to be happy. If they are within one’s budget, then there is no sin in indulging, but then too precaution is needed. One of the biggest problems of modern life is that too many of us live off credit cards and loans, convinced that we need that fancy new gadget now, and will figure out a way to pay for it later.

It is very difficult to sleep peacefully at night, when your brain keeps reminding you that you still owe thousands of dollars to others. The guilt and anxiety that a debt-based lifestyle brings wipes away any hope in experiencing contentment and inner peace. The solution then is simply; reduce debt to only that which is necessary. Some debt is unavoidable, but too often we choose to indulge in that which we cannot afford. Yet if we choose to live within our means, we will build a far more relaxed and happy home.

6. Being Afterlife-focused

This world is an illusion, and one day we all will leave it. The pandemic has shown us how short life truly is, and many who used to read this blog a year ago are not gone. Every one of us will one day experience death and return to our Creator. On that day, the wealth we amassed will hold no value. Allah will ask us two things about it, how it was earned and how it was spent. Our focus must be on earning and spending in ways that will reflect positively on the Last Day.

Instead of focusing entirely on wealth-building for this world, we should also put aside some time, money or effort for building the next world. These should be invested in sources of continuous reward (al-thawab al-jariyah) that will pile up good deeds for us long after we have passed away. Contentment comes from knowing you have invested more in one’s Afterlife than in one’s worldly life. My latest book contains an entire chapter on how to build sources of continious reward, get it here.

When the human being dies, his deeds end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1631

7. Trusting God’s Plan

The final step is simply to trust the Creator and His Plan for you. The concept of Tawakul (trusting God) is central to Islamic Spirituality. I have written many articles about this concept in the past. It is crucial for maintaining contentment and inner peace in this world.

A life of tawakul means a life of working hard, while trusting God’s Plan, and accepting the results of one’s efforts as what is best for you. It means living life with a strong wroth ethic, combined with inner peace and contentment. When you trust Allah, you will never be disappointed. Allah’s plan is best and that is enough for us.

Whoever is conscious of Allah, He will make a way out for him. And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose.

Surah al-Talaq 65:2-3

To gain a deeper spiritual connection with blessed sustenance, check out our latest ebook “Earning Barakah” available here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments
How to analyze self-help advice the Islamic way

How to analyze self-help advice the Islamic way

The Self-Help industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon. Every day new books, articles, and videos flood the market offering a variety of tips, hacks, and advice on how to meet your goals and excel in life. But not all of it is Islamic or even halal. Often, Muslim readers are left confused regarding which advice to follow and which to cast aside as unislamic.

At Islamic Self Help, we strive to offer Islamized self-help resources that weed out the bad and keep only that which does not contradict our tradition. Utilizing a variety of techniques, we are able to separate good advice from bad advice utilizing sound Islamic principles. In this article, I will share some of these principles so that you too can read more critically, and can identify what is acceptable and what is not.

The Theological Lense

The first thing you need to do is analyze the advice for any problematic beliefs. Islam is founded upon theology (Aqidah). Our beliefs are the core of our faith, and we cannot accept any teachings that contradict our core theology. In the self-help industry, there are a lot of ideas floating around that contradict Islamic theology. Most of it is very subtle and may fly over the heads of the average reader. The only way to avoid this is to critically read such advice in light of Islamic theology.

Some of these ideas that contradict Islam are the following. The idea that you control your own destiny is false in Islam. Qadar (destiny) is one of the six pillars of faith, and Muslims firmly believe that Qadar is in the hands of Allah. The idea that you can attract money into your life by thinking positive thoughts contradicts Islamic theology. In Islam, we believe that our sustenance is already predetermined by Allah, we only decide how we earn it. Thoughts are not magical things that can override Qadar. Most importantly, the idea that you decide your own purpose in life contradicts the very fundamentals of Islam. The Quran clearly states that our purpose in life is to worship/serve Allah, we cannot accept any ideology that contradicts this.

The Legal Aspect

After theology, the next important aspect of our faith is the legal side i.e. Fiqh. When analyzing self-help advice, we must weed out any advice that is Haram (prohibited) in our religion. This requires at least a basic understanding of Islamic Law, and if one is in doubt, ask a scholar for clarification. Regarding legal issues, sometimes it is obvious when a self-help tip is haram, and sometimes it requires some deep thinking.

An obvious example is the idea promoted by some circles that one-night-stands boost self-confidence. In Islam, fornication and adultery are prohibited major sins, so a believer can never even consider following such an idea. Likewise, if a self-help author recommends any drugs to boost creativity. As recreational drugs are prohibited in Islam, a Muslim cannot even consider following such a tip. There may be other tips in these books that contradict the laws of Islam like accumulating interest in one’s bank account, upsetting one’s parents, and breaking family ties in pursuit of personal goals. As Muslims, we must be vigilant and analyze every piece of advice in light of Islamic law.

The Spiritual Impact

The third angle from which any advice needs to be analyzed is its spiritual impact. Islam is a deeply spiritual religion and our spirituality cannot be compromised for worldly goals or desires. One of the fundamental teachings of Islam is that we sometimes need to sacrifice our worldly desires for the sake of Allah. The modern self-help industry sometimes teaches the opposite. Rooted in individualism, many of these books and videos preach the pursuit of one’s own desires, even at the expense of one’s relationship with God.

Before we embrace any self-help idea or follow any self-help tip, we must do an analysis of whether it will cost us some of our spirituality or not. Any self-help tips that fuel greed, lust, selfishness, or arrogance needs to be shunned as these are viewed as spiritual diseases in Islam. A self-help guru may advice you to live life to the fullest and accomplish everything your heart desires before you die. As a Muslim, you cannot accept this advice because you know that obedience to Allah and preparation for the Afterlife takes precedence over fulfilling one’s desires. It may be difficult to analyze the impact a tip will have on one’s spirituality without a strong foundation. As with legal and theological issues, the rule remains the same; when in doubt, consult an Islamic scholar.

A Matter of Character

The fourth and final criterion to utilize when analyzing self-help tips is character. Akhlaq (good character) is a core component of Islam. We cannot compromise our integrity for anything. When a self-help tip comes from a purely materialistic and capitalistic perspective, it may encourage dishonesty and treachery in pursuit of one’s worldly goals. The believer can never embrace such ideas, as a believer’s character is his honor.

There are many great self-help books out there that focus on good character and that are rooted in good character. The authors may have extracted their principles from Christianity, Buddhism, or other sources. As long as these principles do not contradict Islamic character, it is acceptable to follow their advice. But not all self-help authors have such principles and backgrounds. Some are purely materialistic, some may be greedy capitalists, many are con-artists trying to earn a quick buck, and some are narcissistic self-promoters. It is the works of these kinds of self-help gurus that may encourage bad character. In any case, all self-help advice must be analyzed according to the principles of Akhlaq.

Conclusion

Over the years, I have compiled many Islamic self-help resources on topics ranging from time management to self-confidence. For each of these topics, I utilized these four core methods to separate the permissible from the impermissible. By analyzing any self-help tip or principle in light of Islamic beliefs, laws, spirituality, and character, we are able to extract what is good and Islamize is, while rejecting that which contradicts the fundamentals of our religion. Armed with these four principles, you should be able to read or study any self-help resource critically and separate the good from the bad yourself with the help of Allah.

Looking to start your Islamic self-help journey? Grab our bundle of 10 ebooks for only $22 here. This bundle includes everything you need to get started on the road to Islamic Self Help.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 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.

To learn more, check out our self-help bundle which includes ten unique ebooks, available here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
The Spiritual Reality of Islamic Productivity

The Spiritual Reality of Islamic Productivity

What really differentiates Islamic Productivity from other theories of productivity? Definitions are something I always found fascinating. A word could mean three different things to three different people. The definition of productivity is a good example of this.

The materialist would see a day spent in theological discussions as wasted time and unproductive. Yet to the theologian, this is the most productive usage of his time. A businessman may fail to see the value of spending one’s time memorizing an ancient text in a foreign language. But for the Hafez, any time spent memorizing and revising the Quran is the most beautiful and productive usage of his time.

A clash of world views

Islamic ideas operate in a different paradigm from materialistic ideas. This paradigm of obedience to God and preparing for the Afterlife makes the Islamic definition of things very different from modern ideas. Words like success, productivity, time management, and destiny mean very different things to the believer.

Recently, I read some comments from people influenced by modern theories that got me thinking about this topic. One person commented that Muslims are unproductive in Ramadan because fasting causes them to perform poorly at work. Another commented that Muslim women who take care of their families are being unproductive because they are not out there working for money. It is very interesting that both these comments focused on the concept of productivity. This made me realize that our perspective on productivity is very different from other people.

Productivity: An Economic Concept

The standard definition of productivity in most dictionaries indicates the current worldview. Productivity is defined as “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input” (Google) or “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.” (Dictionary.com)

These definitions limit productivity to the economic impact of a person’s actions. By such definitions, it is easy to understand why some people view taking care of one’s family or spending a week in a Masjid worshiping the Creator as unproductive. These tasks do not produce goods or services, or lead to the economic advancement of a community. Hence, they are viewed as unproductive by some segments of society.

As Muslims, however, we must be careful not to allow materialistic ideas to influence our understanding of things. A Muslim’s life does not revolve primarily around economic input and output. Work and wealth are simply tools to enhance the quality of life, and not the purpose of life itself. For the believer, there are things that are much deeper than one’s material status; things like piety, spirituality, family, and the Afterlife.

Productivity: A Spiritual Concept

Islam teaches us that this world is a testing ground for humanity. We are constantly being tested in a variety of ways. The primary test is to find the true religion of God, accept it and try one’s best to follow it. Obedience and worship of the Creator is the purpose of life for humanity and that takes precedence over everything else, including work and accumulating wealth.

In light of this, Muslims should not cling to materialistic definitions of productivity. Our goals are different and so our definitions should differ accordingly. For the believer, a life spent in pursuit of wealth and status, at the expense of the Afterlife, is a life wasted, an unproductive waste of existence. The deeds that contribute to our Afterlife, and especially the ones that keep on producing more rewards, these are the truly productive acts.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When the human being dies, his deeds end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.”

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1631

This narration gives us some insight into the Islamic paradigm of productivity. A believer should strive to build up his or her streams of continuous good deeds i.e. deeds that continue to benefit long after one’s death. Based on this narration, a life spent in raising a righteous child, seeking beneficial knowledge then spreading it, and a life spent in charity, are all truly productive lives.

“Wealth and children are the adornments of the present life. But the things that last, the virtuous deeds, are better with your Lord for reward, and better for hope.”

Quran 18:46

This verse of the Quran conveys the same message. While wealth and children enhance the quality of life, true productivity lies in producing virtuous deeds that last, like raising righteous children or spending a large portion of one’s wealth in charity. The Quran and Sunnah are both full of reminders that the believer should prioritize the Afterlife. This prioritization affects our definition of productivity.

Conclusion: A Spiritual Definition

The life of a Muslim revolves primarily around the worship of God, and investing in the Afterlife. This does not mean that a Muslim does not work for this world. Rather our religion encourages hard work, and frowns upon laziness. But everything has its place, and the Afterlife is a greater priority over this world.

A Muslim works hard in every aspect of his or her life but does so in proportion. More time and energy is spent in serving the Creator and building one’s Afterlife. Yet enough time is spent in earning income to provide a blessed Halal life for one’s family. The believer will work hard at his job but will take a break when it is time to pray. A Muslim will try his best to earn well, but will not compromise on Halal earnings, and will dedicate a portion of his earnings to charity. The believer will make time daily to worship the Creator, spend time with the family, contribute to society, and earn some income while prioritizing the Afterlife over this world.

A life spent investing the Afterlife is not unproductive. It is a blessed spiritual existence full of Barakah (Blessing) and Sakina (Inner Peace). The Muslim who chose seclusion in the Mosque while fasting during the last ten days of Ramadan is truly productive in the sight of God. The Muslim woman who invested her youth in raising her children to be righteous beautiful people is truly productive in the sight of God. The Muslim teenager who spends her evenings memorizing the Quran is truly productive in the sight of God. Never allow a materialistic person to convince you otherwise.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 3 comments