Islam

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 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
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 at-Takāthur: The Test of Wealth

Sūrah at-Takāthur: The Test of Wealth

This is the fourth Sūrah in a row dealing with the theme of the Last Day. Sūrah at-Takāthur is a Makkan Sūrah according to the majority of scholars. Although some scholars view it Madinan, its theme and style indicate that it is Makkan. The Sūrah has eight verses, and revolves around the theme of wealth and its distracting nature.

Sūrah at-Takāthur teaches us that humans are often distracted from their purpose by their pursuit of wealth and pleasure. This distraction lasts until they pass away. It is only then, when it is too late, that they realize that they had wasted their lives. It ends with a severe warning that on the Last Day, we will be asked about every blessing Allah had given us in this world.

The Rat Race

The Sūrah begins with a warning that people are distracted by at-Takāthur. This word can be translated in many ways. There isn’t a single English word that equals it in meaning. If summarized as a sentence, at-Takāthur means a constant competition to pile up the wealth of this world.

Humans, throughout history, have been obsessed with wealth. This is why warnings about this obsession pop up multiple times in the final part of the Quran. Sūrah al-ʿĀdiyāt also warned that mankind is too extreme in their love of wealth. The main problem with this obsession is that it is a distraction from the things that really matter. When a person’s sole focus is piling up wealth, such a person rarely has a thought to spare for things like the purpose of life or the Afterlife. Life becomes one big race to pile up more and more.

This was the case of the pagans of Makkah at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). But it is also the case of the majority of Capitalists today. Capitalistic society pushes the idea of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ and by happiness it means wealth and power. People spend all their time trying to pile up as much wealth as possible, and their greed is never satisfied.

The average person chases millionaire status. The millionaires work all day and night to become multi-millionaires. The Multi-millionaires are obsessed with billionaires. And the billionaires compete for the status of wealthiest person on earth. This deep obsession with more has distracted people from their purpose in life. When money is the only thing on one’s mind, there is no room left in it for God or anything else.

The way back is simple. Take a step back and reevaluate your priorities. There is nothing wrong with wealth in Islam. Allah even refers to it as Khair (good) in Sūrah al-ʿĀdiyāt. It is man’s obsession and love of wealth that is criticized. Pure hard earned wealth that is used to worship Allah and uplift society is a blessing from Allah. Allah does not ask us to give up wealth in this Sūrah. He is warning us instead to prioritize the Afterlife.

The Destroyer of All Pleasures

The Sūrah continues and states that people remain in this state of obsession and neglect until they ‘visit the graves’. The common interpretation of this is ‘until they die’. This interpretation fits in perfectly with the rest of the Sūrah so it is the one we will stick with here. The Prophet (peace be upon him) called death the destroyer of pleasures.

Death is an inescapable reality. Every human has to face the reality of their own mortality at some point in their life or another. Remembering death is considered a good deed in Islam because it humbles the heart and causes people to repent. Death is the one reality that nobody can escape from. Every millionaire and billionaire will find their wealth worth nothing in the grave, except those who spent it in righteous causes.  

Too many people waste their lives in pursuit of wealth and pleasure, thinking it will bring them happiness. But that happiness never arrives. It is only on their death beds that they reflect, look back, and regret at how they wasted their lives. We can avoid these regrets by thinking about death often, reflecting on its reality, and using that to help us prioritize the Afterlife over this life.

The Test of Wealth

The Sūrah continues by describing the Afterlife of the one who died in this state. It states that they will see the Hellfire with their own eyes, then stand in account for what they did with the blessings that they were given. Hellfire is a reality and a day will come when people will see it with their own eyes. This will be on the Last Day when it is dragged forth and displayed before all of humanity. On that day, there will be no skeptic or atheist. Every human will see the reality of the Afterlife.

The Sūrah ends with a warning that people will be asked on that day about the blessings they enjoyed in this world. This ending should hit hard. Too many people view their blessings in this world as a reward or sign of acceptance. They see it as something they earned and something they can do whatever they will with. All of these are mere delusions.

When a person is given any blessing in this world, whether it is wealth, power, intelligence or beauty, it is all a test from Allah. Allah tests some people by depriving them of these blessings and witnesses their reactions. He tests others by blessing them with worldly success after worldly success. But each of these successes are actually a test in disguise. This is the test that more people fail.

It is easy to be pious and humble when a person lacks worldly possessions and wealth. Life keeps a person down, and they have to turn to Allah for help. The majority of humans become more spiritual and religious during times of difficulty and hardship. But the test of wealth is harder.

Wealth blinds the heart and distracts the soul. It consumes time and attention. It creates pride, and opens the doors of unlimited entertainment. Sins that were previously impossible become easy to access for the wealthy. Wealth is one of the biggest tests a person can ever face in this world, and it is the one test the Prophet (peace be upon him) feared most for his nation.

This test can be passed by doing three things; earning our wealth in a permissible way, being grateful for our wealth, and spending it in a way that is pleasing to Allah. If a person does these three things, then wealth becomes a blessing in both worlds. Such a person will not be afraid to answer on the Last Day about what he did with his blessings.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 1 comment
Sūrah al-Burūj: Hope for the Oppressed

Sūrah al-Burūj: Hope for the Oppressed

This is Part One of my new Ramadan Tafsīr Series covering the Tafsīr of the last 30 Surahs of the Quran. A New Tafsīr will be added every day this Ramadan in shaa Allah.

Sūrah al-Burūj is a short Makkan Surah comprised of 22 verses. The theme of this Surah is the reward for the oppressed and martyred in the Afterlife, as well as the punishment for the unrepented tyrant in the Afterlife.

The Sūrah was revealed during the Makkan Era in which Muslims were oppressed and faced daily discrimination and violence. As a message of hope to the oppressed and those who had lost loved ones, this Surah was revealed.

We learn from this Sūrah that many believers in the past were oppressed in much harsher manners. Some of them were even killed for believing in Islam. Despite this, Allah declares that these believers are victorious because they made it to Paradise. While the oppressors were the real losers because they ended up in the Hellfire

The People of the Ditch

Central to this Sūrah is the story of the people of the ditch. There are various opinions regarding whom this story is referring to. Some scholars say it is referring to a Christian community that was oppressed in Yemen by a tyrannical king. Other scholars say it is a generic story that can refer to any time in history when believers were killed were believing in Islam. This is why it is left ambiguous.

The strongest opinion seems to be that it is both referring to a specific story, while remaining general enough, to refer to repeated history as well. The specific story related to this Sūrah is narrated in detail in both Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr. Here is the full narration.

Ṣuhaib (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said;

There lived a king before you and he had a (court) magician. As he (the magician) grew old, he said to the king: I have grown old, send some young boy to me so that I should teach him magic. He (the king) sent to him a young man so that he should train him (in magic).

And on his way (to the magician) he (the young man) found a monk sitting there. He (the young man) listened to his (the monk’s) talk and was impressed by it. It became his habit that on his way to the magician he met the monk and set there and he came to the magician (late). He (the magician) beat him because of delay.

He made a complaint about that to the monk and he said to him: When you feel afraid of the magician, say: Members of my family had detained me. And when you feel afraid of your family you should say: The magician had detained me.

It so happened that there came a huge beast (of prey) and it blocked the way of the people, and he (the young boy) said: I will come to know today whether the magician is superior or the monk is superior. He picked up a stone and said: O Allah if the affair of the monk is dearer to Thee than the affair of the magician, cause death to this animal so that the people should be able to move about freely. He threw that stone towards it and killed it and the people began to move about (on the path freely).

He (the young man) then came to that monk and Informed him and the monk said: Sonny, today you are superior to me. Your affair has come to a stage where I find that you would be soon put to a trial, and in case you are put to a trial don’t give my clue. That young man began to treat the blind and those suffering from leprosy and he in fact began to cure people of (all kinds) of illness.

When a companion of the king who had gone blind heard about him, he came to him with numerous gifts and said: If you cure me all these things collected together here would be yours. Be said: I myself do not cure anyone. It is Allah Who cures and if you affirm faith in Allah, I shall also supplicate Allah to cure you. He affirmed his faith in Allah and Allah cured him and he came to the king and sat by his side as he used to sit before.

The king said to him: Who restored your eyesight? He said: My Lord. Thereupon he said: It means that your Lord is One besides me. He said: My Lord and your Lord is Allah, so he (the king) took hold of him and tormented him till he gave a clue of that boy.

The young man was thus summoned and the king said to him: O boy, it has been conveyed to me that you have become so much proficient in your magic that you cure the blind and those suffering from leprosy and you do such and such things. Thereupon he said: I do not cure anyone; it is Allah Who cures, and he (the king) took hold of him and began to torment him. So he gave a clue of the monk. The monk was thus summoned and it was said to him: You should turn back from your religion. He, however, refused to do so. He (ordered) for a saw to be brought (and when it was done) he (the king) placed it in the middle of his head and tore it into parts till a part fell down.

Then the courtier of the king was brought and it was said to him: Turn back from your religion. Arid he refused to do so, and the saw was placed in the midst of his head and it was torn till a part fell down. Then that young boy was brought and it was said to him: Turn back from your religion. He refused to do so and he was handed over to a group of his courtiers.

And he said to them: Take him to such and such mountain; make him climb up that mountain and when you reach its top (ask him to renounce his faith) but if he refuses to do so, then throw him (down the mountain). So they took him and made him climb up the mountain and he said: O Allah, save me from them (in any way) Thou likest and the mountain began to quake and they all fell down and that person came walking to the king.

The king said to him: What has happened to your companions? He said: Allah has saved me from them. He again handed him to some of his courtiers and said: Take him and carry him in a small boat and when you reach the middle of the ocean (ask him to renounce) his religion, but if he does not renounce his religion throw him (into the water). So they took him and he said: O Allah, save me from them and what they want to do. It was quite soon that the boat turned over and they were drowned and he came walking to the king, and the king said to him: What has happened to your companions?

He said: Allah has saved me from them, and he said to the king: You cannot kill me until you do what I ask you to do. And he said: What is that? He said: You should gather people in a plain and hang me by the trunk (of a tree). Then take hold of an arrow from the quiver and say: In the name of Allah, the Lord of the young boy; then shoot an arrow and if you do that then you would be able to kill me.

So he (the king) called the people in an open plain and tied him (the boy) to the trunk of a tree, then he took hold of an arrow from his quiver and then placed the arrow in the bow and then said: In the name of Allah, the Lord of the young boy; he then shot an arrow and it bit his temple.

He (the boy) placed his hands upon the temple where the arrow had hit him and he died and the people said: We affirm our faith in the Lord of this young man, we affirm our faith in the Lord of this young man, we affirm our faith in the Lord of this young man. The courtiers came to the king and it was said to him: Do you see that Allah has actually done what you aimed at averting.

They (the people) have affirmed their faith in the Lord. He (the king) commanded ditches to be dug at important points in the path. When these ditches were dug, and the fire was lit in them it was said (to the people): He who would not turn back from his religion would be thrown in the fire or it would be said to them to jump in that.

(The people courted death but did not renounce religion) till a woman came with her child and she felt hesitant in jumping into the fire and the child said to her: O Mother, endure (this ordeal) for it is the Truth.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 55:93

The above story fits in perfectly with the narrative of the Sūrah, as well as its theme. This story teaches us that just because a tyrant wins in this world, it doesn’t mean that he is successful. The real success is earning Paradise, and no tyrant can take that away from any believer.

Life is a Test

There is another important narration related to this theme. It is about an event that took place in the same time period and helps put the theme of this Surah into context.

Narrated Khabbāb bin Al-Arat (RA) :

We complained to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) (of the persecution inflicted on us by the infidels) while he was sitting in the shade of the Ka`ba, leaning over his Burd (i.e. covering sheet). We said to him, “Would you seek help for us? Would you pray to Allah for us?” He said, “Among the nations before you a (believing) man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that (torture) would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves, yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion (i.e. Islam) will prevail till a traveler from Sana (in Yemen) to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you (people) are hasty.

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 61:119

In this narration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) refers to similar incidents to teach an important lesson. We tend to get hasty and upset whenever Allah tests us. We want the test to end quickly and we want to be able to enjoy this world again. But there were people before us who were tested in far more severe ways, yet they were patient and victorious. Even if they never experienced that victory in this world.

Allah has spared us from the devastating tests of the early nations, or even the difficult tests that the companions like Khabbāb (RA) faced. We should always keep this in mind when facing the tests and challenges of our time. Life is a test, and each individual will be tested according to what they can handle. Therefore, we should always be ready to face the tests of life and be patient with our eye on the goal; Paradise.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 5 comments