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Fasting New Muslims

Qur’anic Gems: Juz’ 13

Welcome to a new interesting episode of Qur’anic Gems series with Nouman Khan.

In this episode, Nouman reflects on the verse number 7 of Surat Ibrahim (the fourteenth chapter of the Qur’an).

He begins his talk by shedding some light on the attitude of being grateful. Allah the Almighty does not restrict gratefulness to Himself only. One should be grateful to his parents, teachers, friends, even your health, and to anyone who has done a favor for you.

Follow us on this interesting talk to know more about this beautiful attitude which is not just an attribute but a life style and a way of thinking.

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Fasting New Muslims

Instagramadan 26: How Exactly Does Ramadan Make Us Grateful?

How Exactly Does Ramadan Make Us Grateful?

Any other day during the year, some dates and a glass of water would be seen as such a basic offering. But during Ramadan when the clock strikes Maghrib? It’s exactly what we want.

How does this example show us the heart-transformation towards gratitude that Ramadan provides us with?

Today’s episode explains..

Be Grateful

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Islam & Life’s Struggles: What Is Missing in Your life?

nature seat

What is standing between you and God?

What do you struggle with in life? Do you ever wonder what is really missing in your life?

What is standing between you and true peace; between you and God?

In what do you believe? Do you really believe the things you believe in? Are you a true believer? And how do you know you are one? What should we do to enhance our faith?

Do you feel God’s love? Are you struggling with perfecting your faith and getting really close to Allah?

Have you asked yourself these questions before?

Some fellow American Muslims were asked these and other similar questions and here are their responses…

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Source: ibn.net

 

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

When Hardship Afflicts A Believer…

When in any difficulty or hardship, what should the believer do, and how should he/she deal with it?

Prophet Ayyub (Job, may Allah have mercy on him) had fourteen children, and he had great health and wealth. Everybody loved him.

And one day, after eighty years, Allah took away all of his 14 children, one by one, then he took away his wealth, then his health until his skin started to fall off his body that you could see his muscles and bones. And he is still alive, breathing.

Not only that, the people began to say if this man had been a good person, Allah wouldn’t have done this to him.

In the midst of his severe affliction, what did he say? What did he ask God for, and how did he address Him (Exalted be He)?

And Ayyub (Job), when he cried to his Lord, (saying): Harm has afflicted me, and You art the most Merciful of the merciful. Therefore, We responded to him and took off what harm he had, and We gave him his family and the like of them with them: a mercy from Us and a reminder to the worshippers. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:82-83)

In the video below Ustadh Bilal Assad reflects on Prophet Ayyub’s affliction as an example and lesson on what may a believer face in life and how to face it …

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Source:  LoveAllah328 Youtube Channel

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New Muslims Society

The Muslim in the Face of Life’s Trials

What do you do when you come to the end of a period of great effort and find only an insurmountable wall? What do you do when you feel broken? How do you face the trials of life?

Resilience and pride in the face of oppression is an oft-noted response throughout history. The tyranny breeds a strength of purpose in the oppressed, which astounds, and seems almost superhuman. But for most of us, our battles are more mundane, but they can be overwhelming.

The daily grind, the exhaustion of small children, a job you hate, domestic chores, bills to pay, teenagers being difficult, moving house, burst water pipe,  loss of a loved one, angst at work, a spate of ill-health, a boss on the war path, a miscarriage, loss of a job, spouse being difficult, elderly parents trying your patience…Some—perhaps even most of these things—will happen to all of us at some point in our lives.

Perhaps a few of them will hit us at once. And there may come a point when the culmination of many little things may break you, or a small thing may end up being the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. What do you do in such circumstance?

The sentiments needed are the same—resilience in the face of struggle.

Strive… Surrender

What do you do when you come to the end of a period of great effort and find only an insurmountable wall?

There may not be a tyrannical regime building the barricade, but it seems like an impossible barrier anyway.

What do you do when you have strived and struggled to do what is right on a daily basis, but at the end of it you simply feel “broken”?

There may not be an dictatorial government to crush your spirit, but you feel in pieces nevertheless. Such are the emotions for so many in the trying times and stresses of the modern age. For me, the only answer I can offer lies with God, and to surrender utterly to His Divine Will.

I know for many this concept of surrender and service to God is hard. Islam has sometimes been accused of being a religion that creates servile zombies, slaves to a nasty, vengeful god called Allah. Yet for me, this could not be further from my understanding of the role of surrender to the Divine.

The Creator of the Cosmos brought us into being out of love. He sustains and nurtures us out of Love, and in loving Him we find the very essence of Being. To surrender ourselves utterly out of love is not a lowly or slavish thing. To love the Divine, the Merciful, the Beautiful, with all our heart, and to desire to serve Him out of that love is not servitude, but beauty. To love; love is life itself. And in loving Love, and recognizing the limitless blessings He bestows on us, one finds huge strength, and the Grace to deal with life’s trials.

Trials & God’s Mercy

Surrender has become a negative word, as has servant. Who wants to be a servant?

It is one of those sad modern ironies that “community service”—far from being something that every child is taught, and every citizen aspires towards—is actually a form of punishment. Service to one’s family seems equally derided in the modern age.

But I know of no other answer to the trials and tribulations of life other than surrender, and a life of service. Surrender—like patience—is not passive, it is not servile, but it is—I believe—a transformative action.

Utter surrender is the complete emptying of the self in order to be filled by the One; it is the breaking in order to be built anew by the One, and ultimately it is the dying to be raised again through God’s Mercy. Surrender is accepting Grace into your life, and recognizing Him at work.

To Find God…

To find God’s abundant Grace through every trial is no easy task, but it is His Grace which will give us peace, in this world, and ultimately the next, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone. They said: Allah’s Messenger, not even you? He said “not even I, but that God should wrap me in his Grace and Mercy.”  (Muslim)

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Source: http://www.emel.com/

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Enjoying God’s Company and Praying to Him: Seventeenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

If He takes you away from people, then know that He is opening to you the doors of His Company. And if He allows you to ask, then know that He wants to give you something.

Enjoying-God’s Company

God allows us to ask because He wants to give us something.

This word of wisdom is another example related to understanding God’s giving and deprivation. The Sheikh says: “If He takes you away from people, then know that He is opening to you the doors of His Company.”

Test

Sometimes God may test you by the death of a friend, a spouse, a brother, etc. You might travel to a remote country for one reason or another. You may be put in jail or taken to hospital. In all these cases, you feel loneliness and isolation.

The Sheikh makes it clear that all such trials may be a giving from God in the form of deprivation. This word of wisdom is supported by the hadith in which the Prophet says: “If God wishes to benefit someone, He will take him away from people.”

By the loss of your beloved ones and feeling loneliness, God is opening for you the door of remembrance, meditation and being in His Company which you cannot feel if you are mixing with people day and night. You may think that such trials are a form of deprivation which in reality is the actual giving.

One of my teachers always remembers some stages of his life which he spent in jail or in exile and says: “If it were not for the imprisonment, I would not have written my books or developed my ideas.” Therefore, imprisonment and loneliness were a reason for being in God’s Company and benefiting the people with his knowledge.

Then the Sheikh says: “And if He allows you to ask, then know that He wants to give you something.” This means that God may put you to a test for which there is no solution except praying to God. It is likely that before the trial you did not pray to God. You must have thought that you were not in need of praying to God or that you prayed to God without feeling distressed.

Getting Closer to God

Sometimes one faces a serious crisis and the only way out of this crisis is seeking God’s help. So, one earnestly prays to God and seeks His help and immediately comes God’s answer. God says: “Nay – who is it that responds to the distressed when he calls out to Him…”  (An-Naml 27:62)

Praying to God may continue for days or weeks, and this is considered a giving from God not a deprivation because you are in a continuous worship. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Supplication is an act of worship.” (At-Tirmidhi)

But the Sheikh says: “And if He allows you to ask, then know that He wants to give you something.” God gives abundant rewards just for praying to Him. Not only that but He answers those who pray to Him either in the world or in the next or both in this world and the next.

Therefore, God allows us to ask because He wants to give us something. If you ask a generous person for help, surely he will answer you. What about if you ask God Himself!

In other cases, God may give you very little providence just to offer a sincere repentance to Him.

Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves (of God). (At-Tawbah 9:126)

And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves. (Al-Mu’minun 23:76)

God tests you by afflictions and hardships so that you repent to Him, humble yourself before Him, and pray to Him. Such difficulties are forms of deprivation which is an actual giving if understood well.

Deprivation and giving should be measured by human standards which are based on material gains. The true standard is your relation with God.

Sometimes God puts you to a test and after God removes the affliction your relation with Him improves. This is in itself the actual giving from God.

At times gifts from God come only through hardships. For example, if I do not thank God for His blessings or do not perform the acts of worship properly, God may test me by depriving me from one or two blessings. I may show some concern for what happened to me, but soon I repent to God.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Thanking God for His Blessings: The Fifteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

“You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for them, and you tie them to you firmly when you do. And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”

Thanking God for His Blessings

The one who thanks God for His blessings, he is tying them to him firmly.

One of the universal laws of God which govern the issue of providence with all its kinds is that if we thank God, He will multiply the blessings or replace them with something better. God says: “If you are grateful (to Me), I shall most certainly give you more and more.” (Ibrahim 14:7)

God declared that we will not be able to count all God’s blessings. God says: “… and should you try to count God’s blessings, you could never compute them.” (Ibrahim 14:34) Every Muslim should do his best to thank God for whatever He gives him.

Then God says: “… but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!” (Ibrahim 14:7) The Arabic word “kufr”, in this verse, means being unthankful to God for His blessings. It does not mean disbelief in God. Unthankfulness is another flaw that Ibn `Ata’illah is telling us about in this word of wisdom.

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for them, and you tie them to you firmly when you do.”

The one who thanks God for His blessings, he is tying them to him firmly. God’s promise of rewarding those who thank Him is a true promise. It is like a guarantee, but this guarantee requires that you have to thank God.

Actions

Thankfulness is not only limited to saying Alhamdulillah (praise to God). However, thankfulness can be offered through actions. God says: “Labour, O David’s people, in gratitude (towards Me).” (Saba’ 34:13)

Thankfulness through actions requires that everyone should ask himself the following: What am I going to do with this blessing? Am I going to use it in doing a lawful thing? Am I going to contribute with it or part of it in doing a good deed? Or am I going to use it in doing an unlawful thing? If it is last case, the action itself is a form of denying the blessing.

Therefore, if you do not thank God for His blessings with sayings and actions, you will risk losing them. But if you thank God, you are tying His blessings to you firmly.

Then the Sheikh says: “And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”

To the Test

Thus, if you do not thank God for His blessings and advance to Him until you reach the level of excellence, God will put you to tests. By putting you to tests, God is giving you a last chance so that you can reach the level of excellence.

By tests God is elevating you and purifying your heart. If you are afflicted with tests, you will draw closer to God and He will forgive your sins. God says:

And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves. (Al-Mu’minun 23:76)

When God puts you to tests, you have to humble yourself, and pray to God. God says about the hypocrites: “Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves (of God).” (At-Tawbah 9:126)

Uncountable Blessings

God does want to punish you by testing you. But He wants to draw you closer to Him and to count His blessings which He bestowed on you. He wants you to thank Him by your tongue and actions.

When God puts you to a test by losing some blessings, He is testing you by a touch of chastisement. Every one of us has billions of uncountable blessings. When God puts one of us to a test by losing one, two or even five blessings, he feels that he is faced with a severe crisis. While in reality he has billions of blessings which God is bestowing on him every moment.

In every cell in your body, there is a blessing. In every second you live, there is a blessing. In every breath you breathe, there is a blessing. In every glance, there is a blessing. God is the one who is worthy of thankfulness. When God tests you by losing one or two blessings, He, according to Ibn `Ata’illah, is pulling you towards Him.

By losing a blessing, God wants you to return and repent to Him. He also wants you to remember His blessings and reflect on them. If you sincerely repent to God, He will never put you to any test for ever. God says: “And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!”  (Al-Inshirah 95:5-6) We notice that God repeated the verse twice.

In another verse we read: “(and it may well be that) God will grant, after hardship, ease.” (At-Talaq 65:7) Sometimes matters get worse, but God makes a way out and with difficulty comes ease.

Get Closer

When you are faced with a problem or afflicted with a calamity, God brings ease in the middle of the crisis. If this state of ease draws you closer to God, this is in itself a blessing from God.

By testing you, God wants to draw you closer to Him. In such a case, the test is nothing when compared to the benefit you gained from this test, i.e. drawing closer to God. When one loses a blessing, he should remember the other countless blessings bestowed on him by God. In this case, God will elevate his status by testing him. Then, He will relieve the test from you.

Repent

If we want to avoid all of this, we have to advance towards God by doing excellent deeds and thanking Him. But this will never happen because we are humans. We cannot maintain thanking God all the time.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every son of Adam is a sinner.”  (At-Tirmidhi)

Therefore, God is purifying us and mending our behavior by putting us to tests which are always accompanied or followed by ease.

I ask God to make us among those who always remember His blessings and repent to Him. I also pray to God to help us maintain mentioning Him, thanking Him, and worshipping Him in the best way.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Understanding God’s Giving and Deprivation: Sixteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

You might think that He is giving you, while in reality He is depriving you. And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality He is giving you. If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift. You feel bad about your deprivation because you do not understand. He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him. A sin that produces humbleness and need is better than an act of worship that produces pride and prejudice.

Understanding God’s Giving and Deprivation

God might test you through bad and good things, through misfortune and hardship.

At times, God gives you and at other times He deprives you. God might test you through bad and good things, through misfortune and hardship, or through bestowing blessings on you or depriving you. The matter is apparently different from what we assume.

At this stage in our journey to God, we have to understand the wisdom behind God’s giving and deprivation. God says:

But as for man, whenever his Sustainer tries him by His generosity and by letting him enjoy a life of ease, he says, “My Sustainer has been (justly) generous towards me”; whereas, whenever He tries him by straitening his means of livelihood, he says, “My Sustainer has disgraced me!” But nay, nay… (Al-Fajr 89:15-17)

It is as if God is saying that this is not the correct understanding of the issue of providence.

When God tries you by straitening your means of livelihood, this does not mean that He is disgracing you. And when He tries you by letting you enjoy a life of ease, this does not mean that He is generous towards you. The question is: how should we judge this issue?

Wisdom behind Deprivation

The Sheikh, Ibn `Ata’illah, is drawing our attention to a very important meaning is this word of wisdom which is that of ‘understanding’: “If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift.” If God deprives by losing your money, job, health, or family, but at the same time He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this is not a deprivation but it is a gift from Him. In this case, the trial turns into a gift.

By understanding, you come to know that the trials you are afflicted with are the actual giving. This is because before understanding you were looking at the material, at the five senses and at numbers. You say, for example, I lost ten thousands or I lost my family, my health, etc. This is the material calculation.

God might take the ten thousands but gives you the understanding or makes you content, or makes you do a good deed, or gives you a strong will or gives you a good friend or gives you humbleness and closeness to Him.

Therefore, the loss of the ten thousands is the actual giving and gift. It is possible that God gives you 100 thousands later when you review your calculations and improve your behavior.

Therefore, we have to understand the actual meaning of giving and deprivation. Sometimes, we think that a specific thing is a deprivation while it is the actual giving and vice versa.

Behind Giving

The above-mentioned example may be given the other way around. One might suffer ten thousands of trials, but he does not thank God either by sayings or actions. He might be deceived by money or might spend it in something unlawful and the result will be undesirable. God may give this person more than a chance so that he can return to Him. God says:

… for, behold, though I may give them rein for a while, My subtle scheme is exceedingly firm! (Al-Qalam 68:45)

God sometimes throws open to them the gates of all [good] things as a kind of punishment.

… Until -even as they were rejoicing in what they had been granted – We suddenly took them to task: and lo! they were broken in spirit. (Al-An`am 6:45)

If God opens the doors of providence for you or answers your request for something, you have to understand. First, you have to thank God so that the blessing is tied to you. Second, you have to understand the wisdom and the meaning behind this giving and to be cautious about the trial it might involve.

The Sheikh gives another example which has the same meaning. He says: “He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him.”

Missing the Reward

God might guide you to do good deeds such as praying qiyam al-layl (late-night supererogatory prayer) memorizing the Qur’an, giving out in charity, observing fasting, or performing Hajj. But you have to be cautious. Sometime you imagine that the worship is in itself a giving from God, but in reality it is not. The question is: why?

The answer is that the servant may miss the reward after doing a specific good deed. God says:

They who spend their possessions for the sake of God and do not thereafter mar their spending by stressing their own benevolence and hurting (the feelings of the needy) shall have their reward with ‘their Sustainer. (Al-Baqarah 2:262)

Stressing benevolence and hurting the feelings of the needy nullify the charity and block the door of acceptance and receiving God’s rewards.

The servant might do a good deed only to show off and to be praised by people. Thus, the good deed devoid of sincerity leads to punishment.

Behold, the hypocrites seek to deceive God – while it is He who causes them to be deceived (by themselves.) And when they rise to pray, they rise reluctantly, only to be seen and praised by men, remembering God but seldom. (An-Nisaa’ 4:142)

The main purpose of worship is sincerity and gaining moral and spiritual benefits from it. A ritual devoid of sincerity and moral, spiritual benefit is worthless. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari) This means that God will not accept his fasting.

Then the Sheikh gives us another example related to the issue of acts of worship and sinning which requires an accurate understanding. The Sheikh says: “And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him.” Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah says in this regard: “A sin may produce humbleness and need so that it takes one to Paradise. An act of worship may produce pride and prejudice so that it takes one to Hell.”

The Criterion

Of course, sinning itself does not lead one to entering Paradise, but the sin already happened and the one who committed it repented sincerely to God. A sinner always remembers his sin and tries his best to do good deeds in order to go to Paradise. Therefore, sinning produces humbleness and need and thus it becomes a giving and a gift from God.

But this does not mean that one commits sins and says that I am sinning in order to repent to God. This is a wrong and deviated understanding adopted by some ignorant people. Here I am talking about past sins which produce humbleness and need. This is much better than an act of worship that produces pride. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” (Muslim)

Therefore, we have to consider the degree of being close or far from God and make it the criterion of deprivation or giving. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

Your Deeds

The hadith indicates that you are the one who brings good or bad to yourself. It is all up to you. If you are thankful for God for the good things that happen to you, this is good for you. If you are patient when bad things happen to you, this is also good for you.

However, if you feel pride when good things happen to you, this is bad for you. If you are impatient when bad things happen to you, this is also bad for you. Thus, based on your reaction you are the one who determines whether what happens to you is a deprivation or giving.

You might think that God is giving you, while in reality, He is depriving you. And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality, He is giving you. So, you have to understand God’s wisdom when He gives or deprives you.

This understanding is very important for those journeying to God with excellent good deeds. God always gives you what is good for you. He always chooses the best for you. Then it is up to us to determine whether what happens to us is deprivation or a giving. This is in itself a blessing and a favor from God. “In Your hand is all good. Verily, You have the power to will anything.” (Aal `Imran 3:26)

We pray to God to make use understand well His deprivation and giving.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Ascending in the Levels of Worship: Eighteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

He diversified the acts of worship for you because He knows how quickly you get bored. And He did not permit you certain acts of worship at certain times so you do not go to extremes. The objective is to perfect your prayers not to merely perform them. Not every performer of prayer perfects them.

Ascending in the Levels of Worship- Eighteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

Allah diversified the acts of worship. So you can worship God in different ways.

The word of wisdom under discussion is related to a very important topic in our journey to God which is that of the level of worship. A servant may lose all the levels of worship and feel bored. God, out of His mercy, knows that, as humans, it is natural to feel bored.

Different Forms of Worship

Therefore, He diversified the acts of worship. So you can worship God in different ways. For example, prayer is a fixed act of worship that should be performed five times a day. But God recommended other forms of supererogatory prayers such as late-night prayer, prayer of thankfulness, and prayer at times of need, etc.

If a servant feels bored, he may perform the obligatory acts of worship such as prayer and fasting only. He may not want to perform the recommended prayers and fasting, but at the same time he shows much interest in other rituals such as charity, performing `Umrah, education, being kind to neighbors and relatives, helping people with his time and efforts, etc. All these are forms of worship that draw one closer to God.

People are different. Diversity is a universal law of God. Diversity is not limited to capabilities only, but there is a diversity in one’s ability to continue the performance of recommended prayers. If you pray day and night without a pause, you will feel bored. The Sheikh refers here to God’s knowledge about our desire to continue the worship without a pause.

Therefore, He, in His infinite knowledge, prohibited some acts of worship at certain times. The Prophet said: “Surely this religion (Islam) is firm. So apply it with tenderness. The one who is too harsh on his riding animal, he will not reach his destination and the riding animal will die.”

It is undesirable to pray after the sunset or before the time when the sun moves away from its central meridian, or after the `Asr Prayer. The recommended prayer is not to be performed at all times so that we are eager for performing them again. So, we leave the prayer after `Asr so that we wait for the recommended prayer after Maghrib in eagerness. The same applies to fasting. We are not permitted to fast at certain times, for example, immediately before the beginning of Ramadan and on the first day of `Eid.

When God opens for you the door of reading the Qur’an, you may wish to read it all the time. But it is not allowed to read the Qur’an while we are kneeling down or prostrating in prayer, or in the toilet, or while we are in a state of impurity. Because God knows our nature, He diversified the acts of worship and made some of them prohibited at certain times.

If God guides you to perform a specific act of worship, you have to perfect it and ascend in the levels of performing the worship. The Sheikh gives the example of prayer as he says: “The objective is to perfect your prayers not to merely perform them. Not every performer of prayer perfects them.”

When God talks about prayer, he asked us to “… and be constant in prayer.”  (Al-Baqarah 2:43) Perfecting the prayer is different from performing it. Perfecting the prayer is about concentration and humbleness. God says: “Truly, to a happy state shall attain the believers those who humble themselves in their prayer.” (Al-Mu’minun 23:1,2)

Humbleness is the objective of avoiding the performance of prayer at certain times in case one feels bored or when one goes to extremes. Humbleness cannot be achieved in these two cases.

According to Sufis, humbleness is a science and being a science is supported by the Prophetic tradition in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) talked about the signs of the Day of Judgment, as reported by Abu Ad-Darda’, and said: “We were with the Prophet and looked at the sky then said: This is a time when science is abandoned by people so that they cannot do anything.’ Then he said: ‘If you want I can tell you about the first science that will be abandoned by people; it is humbleness. You may enter a mosque but you do not see a man in a state of humbleness.’” (At-Tirmidhi)

Levels of Humbleness

Scholars divide humbleness into three levels:

Humiliation

The first level is humiliation which means that you pray to God and feel humiliated before Him. This is reflected in the movements of the prayer. We kneel down and prostrate only to God. These movements are a manifestation of humiliation which should be shown only to God.

Humiliation requires that you feel that you are weak and that God is the powerful, the rich, and the mighty. Humiliation is the result of neediness as the Sheikh explained in his word of wisdom in which he says: “The tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness.” When you feel you are in need of God, a state of humbleness is produced.

Feeling Awe of God

The second level is feeling awe of God. The higher level is to elevate you from the stage of humiliation to the stage of feeling awe of God, His mighty and punishment. God says:

.. (and) whenever the messages of the Most Gracious were conveyed unto them, they would fall down (before Him), prostrating themselves and weeping. (Maryam 19:85)

This is the level of feeling awe of God which might lead to crying.

God bestows from on high the best of all teachings in the shape of a divine writ fully consistent within itself, repeating each statement (of the truth) in manifold forms [a divine writ) whereat shiver the skins of all who of their Sustainer stand in awe: (but) in the end their skins and their hearts do soften at the remembrance of (the grace of) God. Such is God’s guidance: He guides therewith him that wills (to be guided) whereas he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide. (Az-Zumar 39:23)

`Abdullah ibn Al-Shakheer informed his some, Mutrif, that he met the Prophet as he was praying. He said that he heard a whistling sound from the chest of the Prophet resembling the sound of a boiling kettle as he was weeping. (Abu Dawud)

Happiness

The third level is happiness. The best state of humbleness in prayer is to find yourself happy and pleased because of being in the presence of God. So you feel happy when you read the Qur’an, mention God or praise Him. This is a high level of the humbleness levels in which angels descend from heavens to listen to you and a state of tranquility prevails in the place.

Al-Bara’ reported that a person was reciting Surat Al-Kahf and there was a horse tied with two ropes at his side, a cloud overshadowed him, and as it began to come nearer and nearer his horse began to take fright from it. He went and mentioned that to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the morning, and he (the Prophet) said: “That was tranquility which came down at the recitation of the Qur’an.” (Muslim)

When God takes you to the level of happiness, this will be out of His favor not because of your deeds. However, there are reasons that help one ascend to this level. Among these reasons is reflecting on the meaning of the Quran and feeling humble by calling to mind the concepts related to humiliation, feeling awe of God and happiness. A Muslim poet says:

In the twinkling of an eye                          God may change one from a state to another

Therefore, by God grace you are elevated from the level of humiliation to the level of feeling awe of God, from the level of feeling awe of God to the level of happiness, i.e. from submission to belief and from belief to excellence.

The three levels mentioned above may be expressed in various forms of worship not only in prayer. Submission to God is the outward work, i.e. performing the prayer by kneeling down and prostration. You give out in charity by your money. You observe fasting by abstaining from eating and drinking. And you perform pilgrimage by circumnutating around the Kab`ah, going between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah and offering the sacrifice.

However, belief is what is planted in the heart. Once it is planted in the heart, you believe in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Day of Judgment, and destiny whether good or bad. All this leads to a wider meaning of the rituals.

So prayer is not only about kneeling down and prostration, but it is about humbleness, feeling awe of God, and happiness. Zakat is not only giving money, but it is about having mercy on the poor and indifference about the world. Fasting is not abstaining from food drink, but it is about mentioning God, thankfulness, and meditation.

Pilgrimage is not only circumnutating around the Ka`bah, going between the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwah and offering the sacrifice, but it is about remembering the Hereafter and following the steps of the prophets and messengers. Then comes the level of excellence, i.e. to worship God as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.

The three levels of humbleness, i.e. humiliation, feelings awe of God and happiness are best demonstrated in the prayer. The level of humiliation is reflected in the physical movements of the body. The level of feeling awe of God is felt in the heart. Finally the level of happiness is reflected in perfecting the prayer.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

 

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New Muslims Reflections

Distress and Need of Him: Nineteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

The best way to ask Him is through your distress, and the fastest way to acquire good traits is through expressing your humility and need.

Distress and Need of God

When you are in distress and sincerely ask God for help, He will answer them.

The word of wisdom under discussion is about du`aa’ (supplication). It is not about the etiquette of supplication, but it is about the condition of supplication, i.e. the condition of the Muslim’s heart when he asks God in order that the supplication will be answered.

God asks the unbelievers saying: “Is He (not best) who responds to the distressed when he calls out to Him, and who removes the ill (that caused the distress), and has made you inherit the earth? Could there be any divine power besides God?” (An-Naml 27:62)

In this verse God makes it clear to the unbelievers that when they are in distress and sincerely ask God for help, He will answer them. So, what about if a believer is in distress and asks Him for help!

Therefore, distress gets the supplication answered quickly. The Sheikh says: “The best way to ask Him is through your distress.” If you are in distress and ask God feeling the need for His help after the causes have fallen you, then rest assured that God will answer you supplication.

This applies also to the acts of worship. Therefore, the best way to ask Him is through distress, need, humility, and hope in His mercy. This is best illustrated in the Prophet’s supplication is different situations. In the Battle of Badr the Prophet (peace be upon him) turned (his face) towards the qiblah then he stretched his hands and began his supplication to his Lord:

”O God, accomplish for me what You have promised to me. O God, bring about what You have promised to me. O God, if this small band of Muslims is destroyed. You will not be worshipped on this earth. He continued his supplication to God, stretching his hands, facing the qiblah, until his mantle slipped down from his shoulders.” (Muslim)

This is the supplication of one who was in distress, so his supplication was answered swiftly.

Humility

Then the Sheikh explains other useful conditions of supplication. He says: “And the fastest way to acquire good traits is through expressing your humility and need.” This means that one has to be humiliated before God and feel that he is in need of Him Some scholars comments on the verse “The offerings given for the sake of God are (meant) only for the poor…” (At-Tawbah 9:60) saying that the verse is applicable on anyone who feels the need for God and asks for His help.

This interpretation is a bit odd, but the meaning is correct. In normal cases you give in charity the poor person, so what about if you show your need for God! Surely He will give you what you ask for and better than what you ask for.

The Sheikh’s saying: “And the fastest way to acquire good traits is through expressing your humility and need” implies that God is the one who grants good traits, worldly or religious. But here the Sheikh refers to religious traits such as the condition of the heart and the acts of worship.

Conditions for Answered Supplication

In order for a supplication to be answered, it has to meet some conditions such as facing the qiblah (prayer direction), and not asking God for committing a sin or cutting off family ties.

It is recommended to stretch the hand while praying to God and to start the supplication with praising God and invoking peace and blessing on the Prophet. It is also recommended to invoke peace and blessing on the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the middle and at the end of the supplication. This is the fiqh aspect of supplication.

However, what is of more importance is the condition of the heart when praying to God which is the basis of the supplication and not one of the recommended acts associated with it.

In the Islamic rulings there are apparent and hidden conditions related to each rule. Therefore, facing the qiblah, stretching the hand, and invoking peace and blessings on the Prophet are the apparent aspects of supplication. On the other hand, feeling the supplication and feeling the need, humility, and distress are the hidden aspects of supplication which are shown in the Prophet’s supplication in different situations.

The Prophet used to recite certain du`aa’s at certain situation such as getting up, going to bed, wearing clothes, taking off clothes, looking at the mirror, washing himself, sleeping with his wives, seeing the new moon of the month, in the evening, in the morning, going out, and coming back home. If we utter these supplications, we are connected with God all the time.

The Prophet’s Supplication

If we trace the history of du`aa’, we will not find any person, even previous prophets, who had this strong relation with God like the Prophet Muhammad. We study the Psalms, the Torah, and the Injeel (Gospel) well, we not come across such supplications which show the depth of this relation between the Prophet and His Lord. The Prophet used to praise God with humbleness, surrender and awareness of God’s mighty.

From different traditions we learn that the Prophet’s supplication was accompanied by distress. `A’ishah reported that the Prophet used to spend the night with one of his wives. At the dawn time, Bilal (may God be pleased with him) used to wake him up for the prayer.

So the Prophet used to takes a shower, then goes out to prayer and I used to hear him crying. Therefore, the Prophet’s supplication is not merely words uttered by the tongue, but it was deeply felt in the heart.

Unanswered!

The du`aa’ may be answered on the spot and the answer may be may take some time. The Prophet is reported to have said: “A servant will be rewarded on the Day of Judgment for a supplication for God which has not been answered to the extent that he wishes that his du`aa’ was not answered.”

This means that on the Day of Judgment one will wish that none of his du`aa’ had not been answered by God. This is because the du`aa’, which had not been answered, had been postponed by God till the day of Judgment and now it is rewarded in the best from.

When God does not answer your du`aa’, make sure that God is choosing the best for you. God has always been choosing the best for you. God says about Himself, “In Your Hand is all good.” (Aal `Imran 3:26) If you pray to God but He does not answer your prayer, you should know that God is choosing what is good for you and He is not choosing what is bad for you. God allowed you to pray to Him because He wants to give you as the Sheikh says in this word of wisdom.

God’s giving may be in this world or in the world to come. So, we have to leave the choice for God. “And (thus it is) Your Sustainer creates whatever He wills; and He chooses (for mankind) whatever is best for them.” (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26:68) God always chooses better that what we choose.

We pray to God to grant us the etiquette of du`aa’ and grant us the gift of praying to Him at times of distress so that we pray to Him in humility and need. We pray to God to reward us for our prayer both in this world and the world to come. God is the hearer and answerer of du`aa’.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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