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ABC's of Islam New Muslims

A Glimpse of Islam

Sheikh Yusuf Estes sheds light on the religion of Islam and its pillars. He also explains the meaning of the testimony of faith. Among other things, this lecture also touches upon the story of Adam and Eve and how Satan caused them to be drived out of Paradise. Watch this video to learn more…

 

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Belief in the Prophets

Belief in certain prophets who God chose to relay His message to humans is a required article of Islamic faith.

“The Prophet (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers.  Each one believes in God, His Angels, His Books, and His prophets.  (They say,) ‘We make no distinction between one another of His prophets…’” (Quran 2:285)

God conveys His message and relates His will through human prophets.  They form a link between the earthly beings and the heavens, in the sense that God has picked them to deliver His message to human beings.  There are no other channels to receive divine communications.  It is the system of communication between the Creator and the created.  God does not send angels to every single individual, nor does He open the skies so people can climb up to receive the message.  His way of communication is through human prophets who receive the message through angels.

To have faith in the prophets (or messengers) is to firmly believe that God chose morally upright men to bear His message and pass it to humanity.  Blessed were those who followed them, and wretched were those who refused to obey.  They faithfully delivered the message, without hiding, altering, or corrupting it.  Rejecting a prophet is rejecting the One who sent him, and disobeying a prophet is disobeying the One who commanded to obey him.

God sent to every nation a prophet, mostly from amongst them, to call them to worship God alone and to shun false gods.

“And ask (O Muhammad) those of Our prophets whom We sent before you: ‘Did We ever appoint gods to be worshipped besides the Most Merciful (God)?’” (Quran 43:45)

Muslims believe in those prophets mentioned by name in Islamic sources, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, to name a few.  A general belief is held in those not mentioned by name, as God says:

“And, indeed We have sent prophets before you (O Muhammad), of some of them We have related to you their story, and of some We have not related to you their story…” (Quran 40:78)

Muslims firmly believe the final prophet was the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and there will be no prophet or messenger after him.

To appreciate this fact, one must understand that the teachings of the last prophet are preserved in original language in their primary sources.  There is no need for another prophet.  In the case of earlier prophets, their scriptures were lost or their message was corrupted to the point that truth was hardly distinguishable from falsehood.  The message of the Prophet Muhammad is clear and preserved and will remain so till the end of time.

The Purpose for Sending Prophets

We can identify the following main reasons for sending prophets:

(1)  Guiding humanity from the worship of created beings to the worship of their Creator, from being in a state of servitude to the creation to the freedom of worshipping their Lord.

(2)  Clarifying to humanity the purpose of creation: worshipping God and obeying His commands, as well as clarifying that this life is a test for each individual, a test of which its results will decide the type of life one will lead after death; a life of eternal misery or eternal bliss.  There is no other definite way to find the true purpose of creation.

(3)  Showing humanity the right path that will lead them to Paradise and to salvation from Hellfire.

(4)  Establishing proof against humanity by sending prophets, so people will not have an excuse when they will be questioned on the Day of Judgment.  They will not be able to claim ignorance to the purpose of their creation and life after death.

(5)  Uncovering the unseen ‘world’ which exists beyond the normal senses and the physical universe, such as the knowledge of God, existence of angels, and the reality of the Day of Judgment.

(6)  Providing human beings practical examples to lead moral, righteous, purpose-driven lives free of doubts and confusion.  Innately, human beings admire fellow human beings, so the best examples of righteousness for humans to imitate are those of God’s prophets.

(7)  Purifying the soul from materialism, sin, and heedlessness.

(8)  Conveying to humanity the teachings of God, which is for their own benefit in this life and in the Hereafter.

Their Message

The single most important message of all prophets to their people was to worship God alone and none else and to follow His teachings.  All of them, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Jesus, Muhammad and others, in addition to those we do not know – invited people to worship God and shun false gods.

Moses declared: “Hear, O Israel The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

This was repeated 1500 years later by Jesus, when he said: “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.’” (Mark 12:29).

Finally, the call of Muhammad some 600 years later reverberated across the hills of Mecca:

“And your God is One God: there is no god but He…” (Quran 2:163)

The Holy Quran states this fact clearly:

“And We did not send any Messenger before you (O Muhammad) but We revealed to him (saying): ‘none has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me.’” (Quran 21:25)

The Message Bearers

God chose the best among humanity to deliver His message.  Prophethood is not earned or acquired like higher education.  God chooses whom He pleases for this purpose.

They were the best in morals and they were mentally and physically fit, protected by God from falling into cardinal, major sins.  They did not err or commit mistakes in delivering the message.  They were over one hundred thousand prophets sent to all mankind, to all nations and races, in all corners of the world.  Some prophets were superior to others.  The best among them were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.

People went to extremes with the prophets.  They were rejected and accused of being sorcerers, madmen, and liars.  Others turned them into gods by giving them divine powers, or declared them to be His children, like what happened to Jesus.

In truth, they were fully human with no divine attributes or power.  They were God’s worshipping slaves.  They ate, drank, slept, and lived normal human lives.  They did not have the power to make anyone accept their message or to forgive sins.  Their knowledge of future was limited to what God revealed to them.  They had no part in running the affairs of the universe.

Out of the Infinite Mercy and Love of God, He sent to humanity prophets, guiding them to that which is the best. He sent them as an example for humanity to follow, and if one does follow their example, they would live a life in accordance to the Will of God, earning His Love and Pleasure

 

 

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Belief in Angels

Reality of Angels

In common folklore, angels are thought of as good forces of nature, hologram images, or illusions.  Western iconography sometimes depicts angels as fat cherubic babies or handsome young men or women with a halo surrounding their head.  In Islamic doctrine, they are real created beings who will eventually suffer death, but are generally hidden from our senses.

They are not divine or semi-divine, and they are not God’s associates running different districts of the universe.  Also, they are not objects to be worshipped or prayed to, as they do not deliver our prayers to God.  They all submit to God and carry out His commands.

In the Islamic worldview, there are no fallen angels: they are not divided into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ angels.  Human beings do not become angels after death.  Satan is not a fallen angel, but is one of the jinn, a creation of God parallel to human beings and angels.

Angels were created from light before human beings were created, and thus their graphic or symbolic representation in Islamic art is rare.  Nevertheless, they are generally beautiful beings with wings as described in Muslim scripture.

Angels form different cosmic hierarchies and orders in the sense that they are of different size, status, and merit.

The greatest of them is Gabriel.  The Prophet of Islam actually saw him in his original form.  Also, the attendants of God’s Throne are among the greatest angels.  They love the believers and beseech God to forgive them their sins.  They carry the Throne of God, about whom the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said:

“I have been given permission to speak about one of the angels of God who carry the Throne.  The distance between his ear-lobes and his shoulders is equivalent to a seven-hundred-year journey.” (Abu Daud)

They do not eat or drink.  The angels do not get bored or tired of worshipping God:

“They celebrate His praises night and day, nor do they ever slacken.” (Quran 21:20)

The Number of Angels

How many angels there are? Only God knows.  The Much-Frequented House is a sacred heavenly sanctuary above the Kaaba, the black cube in the city of Mecca.  Every day seventy thousand angels visit it and leave, never returning to it again, followed by another group.[1]

The Names of Angels

Muslims believe in specific angels mentioned in the Islamic sources likeJibreel (Gabriel), Mika’eel (Michael), IsrafeelMalik – the guard over Hell, and others.  Of these, only Gabriel and Michael are mentioned in the Bible.

Angelic Abilities

The angels possess great powers given to them by God.  They can take on different forms.  The Muslim scripture describes how at the moment of Jesus’ conception, God sent Gabriel to Mary in the form of a man:

“…Then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Quran 19:17)

Angels also visited Abraham in human form.  Similarly, angels came to Lot to deliver him from danger in the form of handsome, young men.  Gabriel used to visit Prophet Muhammad in different forms.  Sometimes, he would appear in the form of one of his handsome disciples, and sometimes in the form of a desert Bedouin.

Angels have the ability to take human forms in some circumstances involving common people.

Gabriel is God’s heavenly messenger to mankind.  He would convey the revelation from God to His human messengers.  God says:

“Say: whoever is an enemy to Gabriel – for he brings down the (revelation) to your heart by God’s will…” (Quran 2:97)

Tasks of the Angels

Some angels are put in charge of executing God’s law in the physical world.  Michael is responsible for rain, directing it wherever God wishes.  He has helpers who assist him by the command of his Lord; they direct the winds and clouds, as God wills.  Another is responsible for blowing the Horn, which will be blown byIsraafeel at the onset of the Day of Judgment.  Others are responsible for taking souls out of the bodies at the time of death: the Angel of Death and his assistants.  God says:

“Say: the Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls, then shall you be brought back to your Lord.” (Quran 32:11)

Then there are guardian angels responsible for protecting the believer throughout his life, at home or traveling, asleep or awake.

Others are responsible for recording the deeds of man, good and bad.  These are known as the “honorable scribes.”

Two angels, Munkar and Nakeer, are responsible for testing people in the grave.

Among them are keepers of Paradise and the nineteen ‘guards’ of Hell whose leader is named ‘Malik.’

There are also angels responsible for breathing the soul into the fetus and writing down its provisions, life-span, actions, and whether it will be wretched or happy.

Some angels are roamers, traveling around the world in search of gatherings where God is remembered.  There are also angels constituting God’s heavenly army, standing in rows, they never get tired or sit down, and others who bow or prostrate, and never raise their heads, always worshipping God.

As we learn from above, the angels are a grandiose creation of God, varying in numbers, roles, and abilities. God is in no need of these creatures, but having knowledge and belief in them adds to the awe that one feels towards God, in that He is able to create as He wishes, for indeed the magnificence of His creation is a proof of the magnificence of the Creator.


Footnotes:

[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari.

 

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Fasting New Muslims

The Faith Revival (13): Guidance After Iman

Every day this Ramadan Sheikh Omar Suleiman is going to us through a saying, a verse, a tip on how we can revive, renew our faith, on how to maintain it and keep it strong.

The Faith Revival (13): Guidance After Iman

We’re always asking God for guidance. But what comes first – guidance or faith?

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Source: Yaqeen Institute of Islamic Research

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On the Path to God

path in nature

When goals are desirable, the process of aspiring to, working towards and achieving them also become desirable.

The path to God is only illuminated when a person recognizes the central place of God in his life and strives to develop his self accordingly. The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said:

“If someone wants to know what position he enjoys in the eyes of God, he has only to look at what place he gives to God (in his heart and life).” (Al-Hakim)

The term nearest in meaning to self-development in the Qur’anic vocabulary is tazkiyah. Tazkiyah means purification and refers to the cleansing of the human self from all that is unwholesome, undesirable and unwelcome.

It also refers to the nurturing and strengthening of all the qualities within the human self that are essential for growth and development, for blossoming and flowering.

The Goal in Life

Success and happiness in this world and the Hereafter depend on tazkiyah, the purification and nurturing of our personality. The Qur’an states that true success is only reserved for those who seek to purify themselves:

Successful indeed is the one who purifies his whole self. (Ash-Shams 91:9)

Our personality comprises not only the physical body but also the mind and the heart, feelings and attitudes, character and behaviour. Proper nurturing and development of these elements of the personality will achieve desirable goals. When goals are desirable, the process of aspiring to, working towards and achieving them also become desirable.

This is part of human nature. It is critical, therefore, that we recognize and understand the true nature of our ultimate goal in life.

For the believer, the most coveted goal in life is to seek the good pleasure of Allah and Janna or Paradise. Our Creator has set this goal for us: “And surely Paradise – it is the goal” (An-Nazi`at 79:41); “Indeed the Next abode – it is truly the life!” (Al-`Ankabut 29:64); “The companions of Paradise – they are the triumphant ones” (Al-Hashr 59:20).

Way to Paradise

Know, however, that attaining the pleasure of Allah takes precedence over seeking Jannah but the two are closely connected. Paradise can only be attained through seeking Allah’s pleasure, and when Allah’s pleasure is gained, we will indeed be granted Paradise. Reflect upon the following two verses in the Qur’an:

And there is a kind of person who would willingly give up personal interests, seeking Allah’s pleasure; and God is Most Compassionate towards His servants. (Al-Baqarah 2:207)

Indeed Allah has purchased from the Believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise, in return. (At-Tawbah 9:111)

The alternative to attaining Paradise in the Hereafter is to be placed in Jahannam or Hellfire and to receive its punishments. The Quran states: “But in the life to come: (it is either) severe suffering, or God’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance.” (Al-Hadid 57:20). What is it that makes a person deserving of such a suffering?

The answer is to be found in the second part of the same verse: “for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion” (Al-Hadid 57:20). Jahannam therefore, is for those who seek as their ultimate goal in life, not the pleasure of Allah or Paradise, but the enjoyment of worldly gains.

The pursuit of worldly gain is but a mirage. All worldly gains are left behind when you die. All that is on earth is bound to perish while Allah and His good favour will remain forever. It is for this reason that the Qur’an advises:

Vie with one another in seeking to attain to your Sustainer’s forgiveness; and to a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been readied for those who have attained to faith in God and His messengers: such is the bounty of Allah which He grants unto whomever He wills -for Allah is limitless in His great bounty. (Al-Hadid 57:21)

All your efforts in this world should therefore be focused only on seeking Paradise. It is the promise of the Almighty that:

You will only be rewarded fully for all your good deeds on the Day of Resurrection, and (on that Day) whoever will be drawn away from Hellfire, and admitted into Paradise, will indeed have triumphed. (Aal `Imran 3:185)

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The article is excepted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Life’s True Joy and Major Assets

In Allah’s Hands

 

beautiful nature

Man should realize that life is temporary and that it is solely at Allah’s command.

The life of this world is one of Allah’s major bounties. Life flourishes at Allah’s command. As rain revives the dead land, filling it with thick foliage and pleasant vegetation, in the same measure Allah makes life full of charms and joys.

Life must, therefore, be led only in the manner that its Master, Allah, asks us to do. Notwithstanding its great attraction, the greenery around us should not blind us to its short life. Allah Who causes life to appear in its innumerable forms does and can reduce it to nothing in no time. The dense vegetation withering and decaying into dry, ugly stubble is a common sight.

From this everyday occurrence man must learn the striking truth that all life is mortal, as brief as seasonal vegetative growth is.

Equally significant is the truth that Allah being All-Powerful causes life to appear in its countless splendid manifestations and again, it is Allah Who ends it suddenly. Man should not therefore be carried away by the outward beauty of life. Rather, he should realise that life is temporary and that it is solely at Allah’s command.

True Joy

To illustrate the point further, the Qur’an cites the concrete examples of wealth and sons who are extremely dear to man in this life. They are, no doubt, precious assets and a source of much joy. Yet they too, are as impermanent as seasonal vegetation is.

Wealth and sons are adorments of the life of this world: But the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of your Lord, as rewards, and best as (the foundation for) hopes. (Al-Kahf 18:46)

Man cannot turn wholly indifferent to worldly objects. He is dependent upon them in leading his life. And precisely for the same reason has Allah blessed man with the basic necessities, especially wealth and children, sources of immense physical and emotional support and comfort. However, man should not be engrossed in these.

Wealth and sons often distract man from strictly and consistently following Allah’s way. Out of his love of wealth and children man is liable to do things which are not desirable in Allah’s sight. The Qur’an therefore, cautions man against this pitfall. Wealth and sons are not evil in themselves. For their outright rejection implies monasticism as the preferred way of life.

Islam does not banish economic pursuits from the sphere of man’s life. The Qur’anic note of caution, nonetheless, is that man should not be given wholly to this world which might misdirect him away from Allah’s path.

Good Deeds

In Islam these are rather the favours which Allah showers on man, and which render his life joyful and meaningful.

Man should, therefore, set his eyes firmly on the performance of good deeds which bring him Allah’s pleasure. Wealth and sons may be deployed for achieving the same end. Significantly enough, Allah promises eternal reward and hope for deliverance for every good deed.

Any particular deed is not specified on this count. It is evident from several hadiths that every good deed, permeated with the belief in the One True God, brings man nearer to Allah.

This is what man’s chief preoccupation in life should be. Although man and life itself are mortal, good deeds have a lasting effect, which may brighten man’s prospects and exalt his rank in the Afterlife.

Man should, therefore, realise this truth notwithstanding all the distractions and temptations in life.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s The Qur’an: Essential Teachings, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Make Your Way to Jannah

nature-green fields

Islam is a state of becoming not a state of being. Each day strive to improve and better yourself, and you will.

The first step in self development is to concentrate single-mindedly on Paradise. Indeed, the one who is unsure of his destiny in life, torn between this world and the Next, like one standing with his feet in two separate boats, will be thrown off balance.

Many of the difficulties that we face are due to this lack of commitment and inability to focus on the real and ultimate goal. If you can keep your focus on Jannah, then everything else will be possible.

Journey to the True Goal

The selection of the ultimate goal of Paradise must be made consciously and may involve an absolute break with the past. To choose this new goal as the ultimate goal in one’s life is in fact to choose a new life, to begin a new journey.

Embark on this new journey by refreshing your wudu’ (ablution) and offering two rak`ahs (units) of salah or prayer reminding yourself of all the punishment of Hellfire you have just resolved to avoid at all costs and all the rewards of Paradise that you will strive to achieve.

Remind yourself also of the important stations and landmarks on the journey; imagine death as near; imagine the moment when the Angel of Death will declare, ’your time is over, now you must follow me’; imagine that moment when you will be made to stand in the presence of Allah, Most High, so that the final judgment of life may be passed on you and imagine the consequences of that judgment.

When you have completed the two rak`ahs then resolve once more that all efforts will be directed towards achieving Paradise, beseech Allah and pray with humility:

‘O Allah, I ask for Your mercy and whatever brings me closer to it, in word and deed.’

‘O Allah, I ask for a faith that will never vanish, a blessing that will never diminish, a pleasure that will never abate, and the most elevated position in Paradise distinguished by the Companionship of Your Messenger, Muhammad.’

While improvement in your habits and actions is a life-long process, the desire to achieve it can thus be sparked in a moment. This desire will provide the momentum for attaining your goal – the good pleasure of Allah and Paradise.

Your Mission

Having taken the fast step and resolved to attain Paradise, you may ask yourself, ‘what does Allah require from me in order for me to succeed?’

What Allah requires of you, in Qur’anic vocabulary, is for you to be a mu’min (believer) and mujahid (striver). A mu’min is one who is true and firm in his faith in God. A mujahid is one who strives his utmost, with all the means at his disposal, to gain God’s pleasure.

If you are a mu’min and a mujahid, Allah (the Most Exalted in Power and yet the Most Compassionate) will assist you to rise to higher stations both in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah has promised this to those who possess the qualities of iman (faith) and the active resolve for jihad or struggle. The Qur’an states:

The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they doubt not and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah; they are the truthful ones.(Al-Hujurat 49:15)

You now have a mission: to become a mu’min and mujahid. As you embark upon this mission you may come to feel that your knowledge of Islam is somewhat limited or perhaps that you are unable to attain those heights of submission and purification that you desire or others expect of you. This is only natural.

You must not, however, allow these feelings of personal shortcomings to undermine your efforts to practice Islam. Remember that Islam is a state of becoming not a state of being. Each day you must strive to improve and better yourself – and you will improve.

Gradually

Tazkiyah (purification) or this new program for self-improvement that you now find yourself in, is a process that unfolds itself step by step. You cannot expect to change all at once. This is against the laws of nature.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was always aware of this when he was dealing with his Companions. Whenever someone embraced Islam, the Prophet would not ask that person to do everything immediately. Instead, he would teach and expect that person to start fulfilling his obligations only as much as he could bear at a time. This gradual process of change is also clearly reflected in the manner in which the Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years.

In all your efforts towards becoming a better Believer, you must bear in mind this principle of gradualism, otherwise you may try to attain the impossible, and when you do not achieve it, you may become frustrated.

At this stage, what matters most is that your bargain with Allah, iman, remains sound and firm. This definition of iman is perhaps a little different from the definition you usually hear. It is, however, a definition that we find in the Qur’an definitely in Surat At-Tawbah 9. Furthermore, attainment of such iman, allows you to be counted among the true and sincere servants in the eyes of your Lord:

Behold, God has bought of the believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise in return, they fight in God’s cause, and slay, and are slain: a promise which in truth He has willed upon Himself in the Tawra, and the Injil, and the Quran. And who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? (At-Tawbah 9:111)

Once you have committed yourself to Allah, all that you have must be spent in His way. This is the ideal. Ideals, however, are always difficult to achieve – and this you must understand and accept.

Ideals are always to be pursued; if they are easily and always achievable, they can hardly remain as ideals. Keeping to your side of the bargain then, is an ideal that you must always seek to maintain.

It is this seeking and this striving to spend all that we have in the way of Allah that is known as jihad and alternatively, in this instance, as tazkiyah.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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True Faith and Personal Responsibility

flower in nature

To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself.

As you proceed on your journey along the new path, in quest of the ultimate goal of Paradise, you will encounter difficulties and hardships. These may often seem insurmountable.

Overcoming them may be made easier by a good early grasp of the prerequisites of tazkiyah (purification). These are as follows:

Tazkiyah: Your Personal Responsibility

You must accept that tazkiyah is a highly personal process and that it demands taking personal responsibility for carrying it forward. You can only see the results of tazkiyah through your own realization, your own personal efforts and your own exertions.

No one else can perform tazkiyah for you. No organization, no leader and no teacher can replace your own responsibility. God says:

And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden; and if one weighed down by his load calls upon (another) to help bear carry it nothing thereof may be carried (by that other), even if it be one’s near of kin. (Fatir 35:18)

This sense of personal responsibility is basic to the whole purpose and approach of Islam. Ultimately, we are judged individually for discharging our own responsibilities. If someone else fulfills your obligations, then it should be he that is rewarded, not you. To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself:

Whoever strives hard in God’s cause does so only for his own good: for, verily, God does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds! And as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did. (Al-`Ankabut 29:6-7)

Some people allow themselves to be dictated by others. The Qur’an states that the weak will say on the Day of Judgment that they were coerced into following the dictates of others, but that Allah will reply that the excuse is not legitimate for the decision to deviate from the Straight Path was their own.

Who set up another god beside Allah: Throw him into a severe penalty. His Companion will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not make him transgress, but he was (himself) far astray.’ He will say: “Dispute not with each other in My Presence: I had already in advance sent you Warning”. (Qaf 50:26-28)

Even Satan will stand up on the Day of Judgment saying: ”I invited you and you responded to me, so don’t blame me, blame yourselves“ (Ibrahim 14:22). Ultimately, then, the blame and the reward will be yours, because the responsibility was yours:

On that Day all people will come forward, cut off from one another, to be shown their deeds. And so, he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it. (Az-Zalzalah 99:6-8)

Taking charge of your own affairs may certainly seem a daunting task, but one which you will accomplish with distinction if you appreciate and take advantage of the tremendous human potential that Allah has blessed you with. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Verily, We created man in the best conformation, and thereafter We reduced him to the lowest of the low – excepting only such as attain to faith and do good works: and theirs shall be a reward unending! (At-Tin 95:4-6)

fiqh books-knowledge

To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam

True Success… True Faith

Tazkiyah does not consist simply of ideas, but of life, behavior and conduct. The key to success, according to the Qur’an, lies in having true faith.

To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam through a dedicated study of the Qur’an and Sunnah. You must then translate your knowledge into practice. For this to occur, you need to have firm resolve and determination. This, in turn, will produce righteous conduct.

To aid you in your task, you must seek the company of those who are also striving to please Allah. They will encourage you towards righteousness and correct you when you deviate from the true Path.

Your company also includes your mental and psychological company- the ideas you entertain, the ambitions you nurture, the sensitivities and sensibilities you develop and the books you read.

All of these represent a form of company because they are your companions in solitude.

Genuine Effort

In order to succeed, you must have a deep desire to make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim:

But as for those who strive hard in Our cause – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold God is indeed with the doers of good. (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)

With desire, of course, come actions. But know that it is not solely the results of your endeavors that count; what matters most is that you made your best effort.

This is a very important point to appreciate because without genuine effort nothing can happen. Those who think that prayer alone can work miracles are not living in a realistic world. Prayers are part of the effort, but prayers are not the whole answer.

If you pray, ”Allah! Guide me and make me good”, it is not going to bring you any benefit unless you are also determined to become good and make an effort towards becoming good.

Once you have done the latter two things, then, of course, prayer will be a source of barakah or divine grace that will further inspire and strengthen your efforts. The initial desire and the ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath:

O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of Allah with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow, death to overtake you until you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. (Aal `Imran 3:102)

There will never be a point when you will be able to say that you are now a perfect person or that you have achieved your full potential. If at any point you feel so, then be sure that is the starting point of your downfall.

On the other hand, you may find that the greater your desire to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim the more you feel beset or plagued by frustration, despondency and despair in your heart and mind.

All of us, whether young or old, have experienced these diseases, and often just give up. What we should try to remember at such times is that it is the intention and effort that matters, not the result. This effort must be a continuing process:

Be not, then, faint of heart, and grieve not: for you are bound to rise high if you are believers. (Aal ‘Imran 3:139)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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Willpower between Reliance on God and Self-Confidence

By Khurram Murad

To achieve the ultimate goal in life requires a sustained determination to do so, a willpower that is forever responsive and strong. In Qur’anic terminology this is called iradah. Iradah is basic to all our efforts. Without willing to do something you cannot do anything.

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Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive in His way

Iradah is very different from desire. You always hear people reflecting upon unfulfilled aspirations. One of the main reasons why aspirations and dreams remain unfulfilled is that they are no more than desires which faded to assume the status of iradah.

The Qur’an explains that one of the basic weaknesses in human nature which impedes self-development is the weakness of will. While narrating the story of Adam, Allah informs:

And, indeed, long ago We made Our covenant with Adam; but he forgot and We found no firmness of purpose in him. (Ta-Ha 20:115)

Iradah requires strength and consistency and is indeed the antithesis of doubt, hesitation or lethargy. Once iradah is firmly in place, then you must have no doubts and you must not hesitate.

Now, what purpose should iradah serve? The Qur’an makes it clear that this will power must be a firm resolve to seek the pleasure of Allah because this is the part of the bargain that you must deliver:

And whoever desires (arada) the Life to Come, and strive for it as it ought to be striven for, and are (true) believers withal-they are the ones whose striving finds favour (with God). (Al-Isra’ 17: 19)

Reliance on Allah

Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive and struggle in His way. Self-confidence comes from depending upon Allah and knowing that He is there to help you, protect you and shower His mercies upon you:

So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah) and (in all sincerity) testifies to the best- We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. (Al-Layl 92:5-7)

Self-confidence also emanates from knowing that Allah in His infinite mercy has equipped you with all that you require to undertake the tasks set before you. It is not characteristic of the One that is Most Just and Most Merciful to prepare you for a duel without equipping you with the necessary tools.

Self-confidence is thus borne of total reliance and trust in Allah. It is knowing that at every step of your journey Allah is there assisting you. If you constantly hold yourself back believing that you are weak and incapable and blame your incompetence on minor inadequacies, then you are bound to fail. You must never allow yourself to believe or feel that Allah has treated you unfairly or that He has placed upon you a burden you cannot shoulder for “on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

Likewise, hope is central to your efforts and your success. You must sincerely hope and believe that everything you do to earn the pleasure of Allah will lead you to fulfillment. A superiority complex negates the task of self-development. An inferiority complex is derived from a lack of confidence in Allah and oneself. You should never allow yourself to believe that you cannot fulfill your obligations nor should you despair of the mercy of Allah.

Confidence, hope and determination are all important ingredients for your success:

Those unto whom men said: Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. But it only increased them in faith and they cried.. Allah is sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust! (Aal `Imran 3:173-174)

You must be wary, however, of the kind of self-confidence that causes a person to proclaim himself self-sufficient. Modern concepts of self-sufficiency are indeed an evil form of shirk or polytheism. To ascribe self-sufficiency to one’s self is to assume for oneself an attribute reserved only for Allah.

For the Muslim, self-confidence is wholly dependent upon the trust one places in Allah; it is not an arrogant proclamation of complete independence from Allah. Allah alone is self-Sufficient. All else is reliant upon Him for existence.

The Best Use of Time

Time is not money or gold; it is life and it is limited. You must begin to appreciate every moment of your life and always strive to make the best use of it. With all the demands of worldly life on your time, you will yet need to find time for self-development and maximize its potential.

The better route towards self-development is, of course, to integrate all your efforts into a structured daily life. Imam Al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, in his great work, Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Deen, gives the following advice:

“You should structure your time, arrange your regular devotions and assign to each function a set period of time during which it is given first priority but which it does not overstep. For if you abandon yourself to neglect and purposelessness, as cattle do, and just do anything that may occur to you at any time it happens to occur to you, most of your time will be wasted. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital; it is the basis of your transactions (with God), and the means to attain to everlasting felicity, in the proximity of God the Exalted. Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, and when it passes away it never returns.”

Remember also that “the deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are few.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

While you must always strive to make the best use of your time, you must always aim for excellence in everything you undertake, whether at school, at home, at work or at play. Indeed, the Prophet has said, “Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (proficiency and excellence) in all things”. (Muslim.)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Self-Purification: How & What For?

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Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part.

The most comprehensive goal for a Muslim is the single-minded desire to attain Paradise. This desire to seek Paradise is a life-long process which can be sparked in a moment- and this desire will provide the means and the momentum to reach the goal.

Your model for self-development is that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In your quest for Paradise, you must personally take charge of your responsibilities, develop the willpower to perform and make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations, ensure that you make the best use of your time and adopt a balanced approach to life.

All-embracing Process

Islam does not subscribe to the type of asceticism where we purify our hearts and yet remain immersed in political, economic or social corruption. Tazkiyah must encompass our entire life – the privacy of our thoughts as well as their social manifestations in our daily life. Everything must be in conformity with Allah’s will.

This will of God also requires you to seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand your attention; between your obligations to Allah, your obligations towards others and your obligations towards yourself The Prophet advised us against extremism of any kind. It is reported that he said to `Abdullah ibn `Amr:

“Have I heard right that you fast every day and stand in prayer all night?” `Abdullah replied, “Yes, O Messenger of God.” The Prophet said, “Do not do that. Fast, as well as eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as sleep. For your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you”. (Bukhari & Muslim)

Unless you approach tazkiyah as an all-embracing process, you will find that your life is compartmentalized, certain parts impeding the development of others. This can only result in a life of disharmony and unhappiness.

Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna, easier and full of grace.

As you struggle to make headway on the path to God, always remember that you have an excellent example before you. This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Often we would like to emulate our sports heroes, our parents, our teachers, our friends or others who attract our attention. For your spiritual development, however, the most beautiful example is that of the Prophet. Allah says in the Qur’an:

You have, indeed, in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar, whoever places his hopes in God and the Final Days and who remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzab 33: 21)

The Ultimate Goal

The decision to purify and develop yourself requires that you clearly define the path and consider the ways and means to achieve Paradise. This whole process will not only purify your heart, but also affect your entire life and the will of Allah will become so much easier for you to follow.

Following the Divine Will is, of course, tazkiyah itself, soon, all your efforts will be directed towards the ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah and Paradise:

Know that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness, and forgiveness is a sure way to Paradise. As you strive to better yourself, then, simultaneously and continuously pray for forgiveness for all your shortcomings. God says: And whoever repents and believes and works righteous deeds, God changes evil deeds into good ones, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Furqan 25:70)

It is a misconception to believe that simply by setting up Paradise as the ultimate goal, one can get there without any further effort. It is also a misconception that Paradise can solely be achieved by concentrating only on certain aspects of life, the ‘religious and the spiritual’.

The very fact that Paradise is the ultimate objective means that tazkiyah must be pursued in all aspects of life, and in life as a whole. Consider, for example, the following:

– Is not honesty a means to enter Paradise?

– Will not a sense of responsibility enable me to enter Paradise?

– Will not striving to fulfill the needs of fellow human beings make me deserve Paradise?

– Will not abstaining from vain talk and aimless actions, bring me closer to Paradise?

– Is not consciousness of the best use of my time a key to Paradise?

– Will not keeping promises and offering salah on time, which are distinguishing traits of the righteous, put me on the highway to Paradise?

– Must not all of the above be sought to attain Paradise?

Every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah.

In sha’ Allah (God-willing), if you take heed of all the prerequisites, blessings and benefits of tazkiya, you will surely find the right environment, the true companionship and brotherhood and the most appropriate training programs to make the task of self-development easier and more rewarding.

So give the good news to My servants who listen to the word [of God], then follow the beauty in it. Such are they whom God has guided And such are they who are endowed with understanding. (Az-Zumar 39: 17-18)

Through the Guidance of God

Remember that every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah and that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness – and that forgiveness is the sure way to Paradise.

And as for the one who fears to stand before his Lord and who restrains himself from base desires, the Garden is surely the abode. (An-Nazi`at 79: 40-41)

May Allah enable us to be among those who purify themselves for it is “God Who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity; and none shall be wronged by as much as the husk of a date stone” (An-Nisaa’ 4: 49).

Were it not for God’s favor upon you and His grace, not one of you would ever have remained pure. For it is God who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity: for God is all-Hearing all-Knowing. (An-Nur 24:21)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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