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New Muslims Reflections

Seizing Time: The Seventh Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Postponing good deeds until you have free time is an indication of an immature soul.”

In other words, there is nothing called “I do not have time.” The deeds we are talking about such as prayers, remembering God, reflection, all need time. However, sometimes one postpones them and says “I will do them tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or next Ramadan.”

Ibn `Ata’illah describes this attitude as an indication of an immature soul, i.e. this person is demonstrating a folly of the self because you can do everything you want to do if you have a strong will and time will help you a lot.

Make the Best Use of Time

However, it is a matter of priorities. You leave home in the morning and you have a specific number of hours to do a certain number of tasks. You will do what is important first, then what is less important. Then you decide to postpone the remaining tasks until tomorrow saying that “God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

If you have ten minutes, for example, and you have many things to do including the prayer, then you have to perform the prayer first. Sometimes worldly affairs take priority today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and religious affairs are always postponed. Even the prescribed acts of worship are not done by some people because they claim that they do not have time.

This procrastination has been mentioned in the hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Most of the pain of the people of Hell will be because of procrastination.” Therefore, procrastination is unacceptable. Every Muslim should seize time and make the best use of it.

There is enough time to do everything. God will bless your time and work if you seize time and organize it. Seizing the time is not only important for managing worldly affairs, it is also important for managing religious affairs. If you are in the habit of reciting a portion of the Qur’an or some dhikr (remembrance of God) every day at a specific time and you have to go out for work, seize the time while riding the bus or the train and recite the Qur’an and mention God. I know of a number of brothers and sisters who memorized the Qur’an while riding a bus or a train on their way to work or back home.

Set, Manage Priorities

People in developed countries usually read a book or a story while riding a bus or a train. While revising this paragraph I was in the train in London. The train is crowded but it is very quiet. Everybody around me is either reading or writing even if they are standing in the train. If people are making the best use of their time for worldly affairs, the Muslim should be very keen to seize his time for religious affairs.

One has to set his priorities and start with what is more important. God’s right should be carried out in the best way. According to Shari`ah rules, people’s rights and trusts are more emphasized than God’s abstract right.

This does not mean that we care about people’s rights and neglect God’s right. We should seize the time and strike a balance between the two rights. Procrastination is an indication of my immature soul which has been deceived by Satan. God says:

As for those who will not believe in the life to come, they go on lying to themselves) until, when death approaches any of them, he prays: “O my Sustainer! Let me return, let me return (to life), so that I might act righteously in whatever I have failed (aforetime)!’’ Nay. (Al-Mu’minun 23:99,100)

We ask God the Almighty to help us make the best use of our time in what pleases Him.

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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

Patience with Tests: The Eighth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

A basic virtue and a very important stop in one’s journey to God is patience with tests.

Do not be surprised when difficulties happen in this worldly abode. It is only revealing its true character and identity.

Get Closer to Him

If the servant repents to God, relies on Him, purifies his intention to Him, reflects on Him, and seizes the time, the light of faith will fill his heart and he will start his journey to draw closer to God.

Ibn `Ata’illah says elsewhere: “There is no real distance between you and Him so that you embark upon a journey. And the connection between you and Him is not cut so that you seek to mend it.” But the servant is able to embark upon the journey and to strengthen his connection with God if he changes himself to the better.

At this stage, the following divine hadiths will be applicable to him:

“… And My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks.” (Al-Bukhari)

“And if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

According to God’s universal law, if God loves someone, He will put him to an indispensible trial. God says;

Do men think that on their (mere) saying, “We have attained to faith”, they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test?” (AL-`Ankabut 29:2)

And most certainly We shall try you all, so that We might mark out those of you who strive hard (in Our cause) and are patient in adversity: for We shall put to a test (the truth of) all your assertions. (Muhammad 47:31)

And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of (labour’s) fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity. (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and conscious of Him – this, behold, is something to set one’s heart upon. (Aal `Imran 3:186)

Nature of Worldly Life

God announces that this worldly life is nothing. If He deprives a servant of this worldly life or part of it and guides him to repentance and bestows on him His mercy and paradise instead, then what a great deal and reward! Therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The most severely tested people are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of religious commitment.” (Ibn Hibban)

For this reason, if life is full of difficulties and challenges, one should not be surprised or asks why. It is as if Ibn `Ata’illah is asking us: what is the name of this dar (abode)? The answer is that its name is “al-dunya, worldly abode” and literally it means inferior or low. Therefore, it is not surprising if bad conditions, unpleasant manners, and fatal consequences reveal themselves, because these things are derived from the word dunya, inferior or low.

Accepting this nature of worldly life helps the servant acquire a basic virtue and cross a very important stop in his journey to God which is that of patience with tests.

Patience is a characteristic that gets the servant into God’s Presence: “God is with those who are patient in adversity” (Al-Baqarah 2:153).  The word “with” has a lot of meanings as we explained above. If one is in God’s Presence, then why would he worry?

Types of Patience

Patience is of three types, namely patience in obeying God, patience in avoiding God’s disobedience and patience with God’s tests. Patience in obeying God means that the Muslim should always be obedient to God by doing lots of good deeds without harming himself or torturing it. God says:

… And He has laid no hardship on you in (anything that pertains to religion.  (Al-Hajj 22:78)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw an old man walking, supported by his two sons, and asked about him. The people informed him that he had vowed to go on foot (to the Ka`bah). He said, “Allah is not in need of this old man’s torturing himself, and ordered him to ride.” (An-Nasa’i)

But patience in obeying God is, for example, to do things such as performing the ablution thoroughly despite odds because the Prophet told us that it is one of the things by which God obliterates the sins and elevates the ranks of a man. If one is afflicted with difficulties in these acts of worship, he should not be surprised. However he should have glad tidings of God’s grace and mercy.

As for patience in avoiding God’s disobedience, it means that the Muslim should stay away from committing what God has forbidden. We read in the Qur’an about prophet Yusuf and the test we was put to, “And (it so happened that) she in whose house he was living (conceived a passion for him and) sought to make him yield himself unto her; and she bolted the doors and said, “Come you unto me!” (But Joseph) answered: “May God preserve me!” (Yusuf 12:23)

There is a great reward for this type of patience. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says that one of the seven persons whom God would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is “a man whom a beautiful woman of high rank seduces (for illicit relation), but he (rejects this offer by saying): ”I fear Allah.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Refrainment

Scholars divide patience with God’s tests into some types. All the types bear the meaning of refrainment, i.e. refraining from committing acts of disobedience, refraining from complaining, and refraining from being impatient with God’s Decree.

Refraining from committing sins is a condition for purifying one’s heart. God says about the hypocrites

“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)

If you face some problems, then you are at a cross-road. Either you repent to God and humble yourself to Him so that you will pass the test, or you commit sins so that you will fail the test.

Patience with God’s tests requires one to refrain from complaining about the test. This is called the beautiful patience as God tells us in the story of prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) “Patience in adversity is most goodly (in the sight of God)” (Yusuf 12:18) , “He answered: “It is only to God that I complain of my deep grief and my sorrow.” (Yusuf 12:86) The last verse means I complain about my problems only to God not to anyone else.

As for refraining from being impatient with God’s Decree, it is the best type of patience. The servant attains this degree when he does not complain and his heart is always patient. His soul is always at peace even at the peak of crisis. The Prophet said: “Patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If the servant is patient when afflicted with tests, he will reach his destination easily and win God’s Paradise. God says:

Consider the flight of time! Verily, man is bound to lose himself unless he be of those who attain to faith, and do good works, and enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity. (Al-`Asr 103:1-3)

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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

Perfecting the Beginnings: The Ninth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

A sign of success in the end is to refer to God in the beginning. If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.

A servant journeying to God, who is passing through difficult tests and heading to horizons of peace and tranquility, always thinks of new good deeds that help him along his journey. The word of wisdom under discussion teaches us another universal law. If you master the beginning of any work, there is a guarantee that you get the desired end of that work in the end. This will affect one’s journey to God in that if there is sunrise in the beginning, surely there will be sunrise in the end. But the question is: how should the beginning shine? The answer, according to Ibn `Ata’illah, is by referring to God. And how should one refer to God in the beginning of any work?

Every work should begin with mentioning God according to the remembrance that suits this work. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every work that does not begin invoking the praise of God is not blessed.”

Therefore, you have to start every work in the name of God. You have to start your speech with sending peace and blessings on the Prophet and with praising God the Almighty. You have to start every act of worship with a pure intention to seek God’s pleasure. You have to start the prayer with this supplication: “I turn my face in complete devotion to One Who is the Originator of the heaven and the earth and I am not of the disbelievers.” When you embark upon big tasks, you have to perform two rak`ahs (units of prayer) of Istikharah (seeking the best course of action). All these things are forms of referring to God in the beginnings.

What is Istikharah?

Istikharah is a supplication that you recite when you want to choose between two permissible actions. The supplication is as follows:

O Allah, I seek Your help in finding out the best course of action (in this matter) by invoking Your knowledge; I ask You to empower me, and I beseech Your favor. You alone have the absolute power, while I have no power. You alone know it all, while I do not. You are the One Who knows the hidden mysteries. O Allah, if You know this thing (I am embarking on) (here mention your case) is good for me in my religion, worldly life, and my ultimate destiny, then facilitate it for me, and then bless me in my action. If, on the other hand, You know this thing is detrimental for me in my religion, worldly life, and ultimate destiny, turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree what is good for me, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.”

The meaning of this supplication is that you wholeheartedly surrender to God and rely on Him alone. Seeking God’s help is a kind of referring to God in the beginnings. Therefore, it is one of the signs and guarantees of success in the ends, no matter what these ends are in our human, worldly calculations of gain or loss. What matters is that you refer to God in the beginnings so that the calculations will be in your favor in the end.

For example, if you running a business to gain some profits, there is a possibility that you might lose that business. But if you think deeply about it, you will find that there are many probabilities for this loss. It is possible that there are huge profits awaiting you in another business in the future. It is also possible that God made you lose so that you reconsider many things in your life. You may find out why your calculations were wrong. You may win a friend who helped you in your troubles. Therefore, the real success lies in making profits in another deal, or reconsidering your calculations, or winning a friend. God says; “… and God knows, whereas you do not know. (Al-Baqarah 2:216)

Seeking God’s Pleasure

The human standards of success and failure are usually based on financial calculations, figures or statistical achievements. However, these calculations, in God’s sight, do not mean anything. What really matters is seeking God’s pleasure. So, if we refer to God in the beginning, the end will shine and Go

d will be pleased with you. Ibn `Ata’illah says: “If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.”

This rule applies to everything. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that one of the seven persons whom God would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is “a youth who grew up with the worship of God.”  This youth perfected the beginning, therefore God granted him success in the end and protected him under His Shade.

There will be sunrise in the beginning when one refrains from committing sins, returns the rights to people, and seeks establishing justice in all the affairs that he handles. On the contrary, if one commits forbidden things in the beginning, surely the end will be a state of failure. This is because doing the things that God made unlawful results in failure and obliterates the blessing. Also the person who does the prohibited things will be at war with God and His messenger.

I pray to God to grant us a happy and good ending of our life. I also pray to God to help us refer to Him in the beginning so that we will achieve success in the end.

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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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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

Keeping up with Mentioning God: The Thirteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning God; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. “This is not difficult for God.” (Fatir 35:17)

Keeping up with Mentioning God

Sometimes you mention God but you do not reflect on the meaning of saying subhan Allah.

Resist Forgetfulness

We are still passing though the stage of cleaning up in our journey searching for the flaws and attempting to get rid of them. This word of wisdom tackles a serious flaw of the soul which is that of forgetting mentioning God. We often get plagued with this flaw throughout the day. Remembrance is the opposite meaning of forgetfulness. When you mention God, you are not in a state of forgetfulness.

God says “And bethink yourself of thy Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising your voice, at morn and at evening; and do not allow yourself to be heedless.” (Al-A`raf 7:205); “… and remember Him as the One who guided you…” (Al-Baqarah 2:198); “… bear God in mind – since it is He who taught you what you did not previously know.” (Aal `Imran 3:239); “And when you have finished your prayer, remember God – standing and sitting and lying down.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:103); “O you who have attained to faith! Remember God with unceasing remembrance. And extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.” (Al-Ahzab 33:41-42); “… so remember Me, and I shall remember you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Keep your tongue busy with God’s remembrance.”  (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

These are clear and direct instructions to remember God in all our states. The Prophet used to mention God in all his states, and every state has a special supplication which is in itself a form of mentioning God.

Also, we read in the Qur’an: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God – for, verily, in the remembrance of God (men’s) hearts do find their rest.” (Ar-Ra`d 13:28)

Mentioning God brings about a state of rest in the heart which draws one closer to God. Mentioning God is the ultimate goal of the rituals. God says: “… and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!” (Ta-Ha 20:14)

Therefore, the objective of the prayer is God’s remembrance. God’s remembrance is even greater than prayer in terms of restraining man from committing bad deeds and al that runs counter to reason. God says: “… behold, prayer restrains (man) from loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason; and remembrance of God is indeed the greatest (good).” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

God will Elevate You

However, Ibn `Ata’illah is talking here about not feeling God’s remembrance in our hearts. The question is: should we neglect God’s remembrance when we do not feel it in our hearts? Or should we stop God’s remembrance despite not feeling it?

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. “This is not difficult for God.” (Fatir 35:17)”

This means if your heart is not present when you mention God, do not stop mentioning God. If, for example, you read the Qur’an but you do not reflect on the verses you are reading because you are mind is busy with something else, or that you mention God but you do not reflect on the meaning of saying subhan Allah (Glory be to God), al-hamdullilah (praise be to God), la ilaha illa Allah (there is not god but God), in such cases, do not stop mentioning God.

Therefore, as Ibn `Ata’illah suggests, do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him.

The least degree of mentioning God is that you mention Him while you are attentive, i.e. you are not sleeping. God says: “O you who have attained to faith! do not attempt to pray while you are in a state of drunkenness, (but wait) until you know what you are saying.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:43)

Perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, i.e. God will wake you from the state from drunkenness which makes you neglect the real mentioning of God, and He will elevate you to the state of being attentive, then to a higher state of being fully present with him.

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Perhaps He will elevate you from being attentive to being fully present with Him.” Being fully present with Him is a degree higher than being attentive, i.e. the servant’s heart is present while mentioning God. When you mention Paradise, you call it to your mind. When you mention Hellfire, you call it to your mind. When you mention God, you call to your mind His glory and favors.

This presence of the heart is what `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may God be pleased with him) described in his famous sermon about the characteristics of those who are conscious of God.

Imam `Ali said: “When they come across a verse which contains fear (of Hell) they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. If they come across a verse creating eagerness (for Paradise) they pursue it avidly, and their spirits turn towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is in front of them.”

Therefore, it is not difficult for God to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him. If we are elevated to such a level, we will be like the companions who felt and heard the unseen world of Paradise and Hell.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah says: “God will elevate you from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him.” One may mention God and do not feel anything around him. This is a Godly favor which, if bestowed on any Muslim once a day or once a week, he will be experiencing a lot of good feelings. One will reflect deeply in the meaning of the different forms of mentioning God. Beyond the meaning, one will be absent from anything but God.

This has nothing to do with those who claim that they do not see anything but God and that they are not part of the world, etc. This is a bit of an exaggeration. But we are talking about a state in which we feel we are absent from anything but God. When you mention God’s Divine Attributes, you remember His favors on you, and that you suffer from shortcomings. You also feel God’s bounty and generosity. This meaning makes you forget the blessing and make you reflect on the Giver of this blessing.

It’s All about God’s Mercy and Favour

Finally, Ibn `Ata’illah quotes the verse “This is not difficult for God.”  This means that all this depends on God’s mercy and bounty as we learned from the first word of wisdom that we do not rely on our deeds and put our trust on Him alone.

We pray to God to make us among those who mention Him in a continuous and complete manner. We also ask God to make us thankful to Him and to worship Him in the best way.

We pray to God to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. ‘This is not difficult for 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

Freedom from Humiliation, Neediness, and Illusion: The Fourteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

The tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness. Nothing deceives you as your illusion. You are free from what you gave up on, and you are a slave to what you are in need of.

Freedom from Humiliation

If you are a servant to God, then you are free from others than Him.

Cleaning up before beautification is still passing through the stage of searching for another flaw which affects one’s belief which is that of feeling humiliated by others. Because trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you, Ibn `Ata’illah analyses the reason behind this flaw and shows us how to overcome it.

The direct reason for feeling humiliated by people is neediness. Ibn `Ata’illah eloquently expresses this in the following words: “The tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness.” The small seed of neediness is watered with words and actions through which one tries to reach his goals, and thus, he feels deeply humiliated.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Nothing deceives you as your illusion. You are free from what you gave up on, and you are a slave to what you are in need of.”

A Slave to Others

Neediness makes you a slave to others than God. But what is the reason behind neediness? What is the reason behind being a slave to others than God and feeling humiliated by others? Ibn `Ata’illah tells us that the main reason behind all this is illusion, so he says: “Nothing deceives you as your illusion.” The question is: what is the illusion about which Ibn `Ata’illah is talking?

The one who is need of what people have might think that those people will benefit or harm him. For example, he might think that people who have power or wealth will bring benefit or harm to him, so he becomes greedy and thus feels humiliated by others.

In fact, people never bring benefit or cause harm to others. God is the creator of good and the creator of the harmful. Neediness is the source of humiliation, and illusion is the source of neediness.

Ibn `Ata’illah says that nothing deceives you as the illusion that people benefit or harm you. It is true that you have to interact with people, ask them to help you with something or do you a favor. There is nothing wrong with this as long as seeking peoples’ help does not imply any neediness which produces humiliation. This feeling of humiliation is the result of the illusion that people might benefit or harm others.

With Dignity

The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Ask for your needs with dignity.” It is normal to ask for your needs, but when you ask people to do you a favor or ask them for money, you have to ask them with dignity, i.e. without feeling humiliated or having a greedy attitude. You should not plant the seed of neediness as it leads to humiliation, which grows like the tree. Eventually, humiliation turns into a state of being a slave to others than God.

If you free yourself from the illusion that people have the ability to benefit or harm you, you will be saved. The Prophet (peace be upon him) told Ibn `Abbas (may God be pleased with him) when he was young that:

“If the whole nation were to unite and try to benefit you in something, they would never benefit you except by that which God has written for you. And if the whole nation were to unite and try to harm you in something, they would never be able to harm you except that God had written it upon you.”

Real Freedom

The real freedom is servitude to God. This is the definition of freedom in the Islamic perspective of life. If you are a servant to God, then you are free from others than Him. You are free from human beings. You are free from any social, economic, psychological or financial pressures. You are free from all this because “you are from what you gave up on.”

If you have a sound belief in God and you are trusting God, you feel sure that people cannot benefit or harm you. You will become a real servant to God. No humiliation, no neediness, no illusion.

Ibn `Ata’illah’s saying that the tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness is achieved when one asks God only and feels humiliated before Him alone. This feeling of humiliation supports the concept of servitude to God which is the real meaning of freedom, i.e. you become a servant to God alone through asking from Him and giving up the idea that people can benefit or harm.

The more you ask from God alone and the more you rely on Him, the more you feel humiliated before Him. Eventually this feeling of humiliation leads to the feeling of dignity.

Based on this, the word of wisdom that says: “the tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness” can be understood from two sides: first, the human side in which one shows a greedy attitude to what people have. This attitude is in itself an illusion because the one who causes benefit and harm is God, the Almighty. We should rid ourselves of this attitude which makes one a slave to others than God.

The other side which helps us understand Ibn `Ata’illah’s words is to ask God alone and seek His provision only with a feeling of humiliation which leads to a state of servitude to God. What a beautiful servitude and what a great freedom which you can enjoy only when you serve God alone. If you become a real servant to God, then you are free from others and you are journeying to Him.

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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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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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