Podcast

Ramadan – Getting Back To What’s Real

In Surah al-Zumar Allah uses a word: ibādi, referring not only to Muslims to everyone. Allah shows care and concern us all.  However, He also doesn’t say “you’ll never experience unhappiness in life” or that “your mom won’t die”. Rather, He says, if you do what I say you will live forever after death/after Judgment in tranquility and have whatever you want.

In other words, salvation.

قُل يا عِبادِيَ الَّذينَ أَسرَفوا عَلىٰ أَنفُسِهِم لا تَقنَطوا مِن رَحمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغفِرُ الذُّنوبَ جَميعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفورُ الرَّحيمُ

وَأَنيبوا إِلىٰ رَبِّكُم وَأَسلِموا لَهُ مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَكُمُ العَذابُ ثُمَّ لا تُنصَرونَ

وَاتَّبِعوا أَحسَنَ ما أُنزِلَ إِلَيكُم مِن رَبِّكُم مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَكُمُ العَذابُ بَغتَةً وَأَنتُم لا تَشعُرونَ

أَن تَقولَ نَفسٌ يا حَسرَتا عَلىٰ ما فَرَّطتُ في جَنبِ اللَّهِ وَإِن كُنتُ لَمِنَ السّاخِرينَ

“[Muhammad – Tell the people that I, Myself, have said, ‘All My servants who have acted excessively against their own souls! Don’t lose hope of God’s mercy, for God can forgive all sins. He truly is the Forgiving and the Merciful!’

‘Turn towards your Lord and surrender to Him before the punishment overwhelms you, for then you’ll have no one to help you.’

‘Follow the best of what’s being revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment overwhelms you all of a sudden without your even realizing what’s happening.’

‘For then your soul will cry out, “I’m doomed! I neglected my duty to God, and I scoffed!”Qur’an, 39: 53-56

There is no “guess work” in religion:

عن وابصة بن معبد رضي الله عنه قال‏‏ أتيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال ‏جئتَ تسألُ عن البرِّ والإثمِ قلتُ نعم فجمع أصابعَه الثَّلاثَ فجعل ينكُتُ بها في صدري ويقولُ يا وابصةُ استفْتِ قلبَك والبرُّ ما اطمأنَّت إليه النَّفسُ واطمأنَّ إليه القلبُ والإثمُ ما حاك في القلبِ وتردَّدُ في الصَّدرِ وإن أفتاك النَّاسُ وأفتَوْك

Wabisah bin Ma’bad, a Companion of the Prophet ﷺ reported that he went to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and he asked me, “Have you come to inquire about piety and sin?” I replied, “yes”. He ﷺ then gather his three fingers together and poked me in my chest, saying “Wabisah … ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which knots up the heart and causes one’s chest to be hesitant even if people pronounce it permissible and give you verdicts on such matters again and again.” — al-Mundhiri relates this in al-Targhib wa’l Tarhib with a sound chain

What you’re missing out on the other 11 months of the year:

تُفتَحُ أبوابُ الجنَّةِ يومَ الاثنينِ ، ويومَ الخميسِ ، فيُغفَرُ لِكُلِّ عبدٍ لا يشرِكُ باللَّهِ شيئًا ، إلَّا رجلًا كانت بينَهُ وبينَ أخيهِ شحناءُ

“The doors of Paradise are opened every Monday and Thursday. Thus, every worshiper of God is forgiven except for the person where there exists rancor between him or her and his or her brother or sister.”Related by Abu Hurayrah, recorded in Sahih Muslim, #2565

Podcast

A Return To Meaning

In this episode, Imam Marc speaks about how ritual and meaning are increasingly seen as things not only trivial or perhaps juvenile, but also something scornful, a reminder of a not-so-distant past many would like to pretend never existed, when life was not able to be safely and comfortably quantified.

The loss of meaning’s appreciation can also be linked to western educational institutions:

“Its emphasis on specialization meant that most professors considered the question of meaning beyond their purview … The question of how to live, after all, requires a discussion of abstract, personal, and moral values. It does not belong, these professors argued, in colleges and universities devoted to the accumulation of objective knowledge … An increasing consensus in the academy is that faculty members should not help students discern a meaningful philosophy of life or develop character, but should instead help them master the content and methodology of a given discipline and learn critical thinking.”1

This can be seen manifesting in the Muslim community in a number of ways, such as how Muslims (especially western Muslims) approach the month long ritual of fasting in the month of Ramadan. Social media will shortly be a flurry with posts recommending this or that suhur (or pre-dawn) smoothie which promises to reduce or even eliminate fatigue and hunger. How odd that the practitioners of a faith would want to minimize the experience of one of its most important rituals: but that is precisely what we see happening with Islam in the West. Increasingly we seem to be saying, “ritual and religious experience, particularly those that ask us to give up something or daresay, even experience something uncomfortable, we don’t want any part of it. Either it changes to accommodate our desires or it gets jettisoned!”.

For me, this is why I think so many are trying to find way to validate what would otherwise been seen – according to post-religious secular norms – as ridiculous, by legitimizing and substantiating fasting for one month as something healthy. According to this new logic, to the extent that Islamic rituals can be confirmed by empirical/scientific observations, they may be tolerated. But to the extent to which they can’t (wearing hijab or growing a beard, for example), then they condemned as backwards and even potentially subhuman (hijab again).
One of the fundamental on the long differences is the pursuit of emotions versus the crafting with meaning. is the pursuit of emotions versus the crafting of meaning. The pursuit of emotion attempts to extract, for example, happiness, either from objects or activities like superfoods or yoga, alcohol or sex. But those who seek to craft meaning transcend objects and experience and see meaning in them; they see God. This should not be mistaken as a form of shamanism, in the Muslim sense, for Muslims do not believe God is inside their superfood smoothie or tantric sex, but rather see any such objects or activities as the result of God. The former tends to be rooted in an idolatrous materialism which places conditional value on things (things here being objects, activities/experiences). To the extent that an object, activity, or experience makes that individual happy it is deemed to be good regardless of what Revelation may have to say about it. Whereas the latter sees beyond this triumvirate and knows the source from which, for example, blueberry smoothies and alcohol, come from, thus allowing them to apply wisdom.

Notes

1. Smith, Emily Esfahani. The Power of Meaning: Crafting A Life That Matters. Kindle ed., Crown, New York, 2017.

Podcast

Tears of the Yearners For the Meeting with God – A Discussion with Shaykh Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali

“…in contradistinction to materialism, spirituality is, to me, about finding what is essential about everything that Allah created, and seeing the similarities between them and myself.” — Shaykh Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali

This is an interview with Dr. Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali of Zaytuna College on his book, Tears of the Yearners For the Meeting with God, as well as on spirituality.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-10-50-24-amDr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is a faculty member at Zaytuna College who teaches courses in Islamic law and prophetic tradition. He also coordinates Zaytuna’s Islamic Law program and serves as an integral part of its Living Links Honors Program, for which he teaches Jurisprudential Principles and Introduction to Islamic Virtue Ethics. A lifelong student of the Islamic tradition, he was born to Muslim parents and began a serious study of Islam in his early teens. He attended Temple University for two years (1995-1997) prior to pursuing studies that culminated in a four-year collegiate license (ijaza ‘ulya) from the prestigious Al-Qarawiyin University of Fes, Morocco (1997-2001). He holds a BA from the Al-Qarawiyin University’s Faculty of Islamic Law (Shariah) and an MA in Ethics & Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union (2009-2012) in Berkeley, California. He recently completed a PhD in Cultural & Historical Studies at GTU.

Dr. Abdullah’s book, Tears of the Yearners For the Meeting with God, is available here.

Podcast

A Muslim Reads The Hagakure – Part I

Hagakure/葉隱 (lit., Hidden by the Leaves or Hidden Leaves), is a spiritual guide for a warrior, as well as a lament, taken from a collection of commentaries by Yamamoto Tsunetomo—former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of Saga prefecture in Japan—by Tsuramoto Tashiro. While initially compiled in the early 1700’s it was not made publicly available until many years after.

僕は日本語を話す育ちまった。

笑わないでください。

“When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim.” — Hagakure.

إنْ قامَتِ السَّاعةُ وفي يدِ أحدِكُم فَسيلةً فإنِ استَطاعَ أن لا تَقومَ حتَّى يغرِسَها فلْيغرِسْها
الراوي : أنس بن مالك | المحدث : الألباني | المصدر : صحيح الأدب المفرد

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” — al-Albani’s Sahih al-Jami’.

“If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.” — Hagakure.

سمعتُ النبيَّ صلَّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ ، قبل وفاتِه بثلاثٍ ، يقول ” لا يموتنَّ أحدكم إلا وهو يحسنُ باللهِ الظنَّ ” .
الراوي : جابر بن عبدالله | المحدث : مسلم | المصدر : صحيح مسلم
الصفحة أو الرقم: 2877

Jabir reported:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as saying three days before his death: ‘None of you should court death but only hoping good from Allah’.” — Sahih Muslim.

“A man is a good retainer to the extent that he earnestly places importance in his master … But even a person who is good for nothing and exceedingly clumsy will be a reliable retainer if only he has the determination to think earnestly of his master.” — Hagakure.

The beginning of “earnestly [placing] importance on [your] Master” is having a good opinion of Him:

إنَّ حُسنَ الظنِّ باللَّهِ عزَّ وجلَّ مِن حُسنِ عبادةِ اللَّهِ
الراوي : أبو هريرة | المحدث : أحمد شاكر | المصدر : مسند أحمد
الصفحة أو الرقم: 16/289 | خلاصة حكم المحدث : إسناده حسن

Narrated by Abu Hurayrah:

“Having a good opinion of God is from the goodness of worship.” Imam Ahmad’s Musnad.

Yamamoto’s “good for nothing and exceedingly clumsy” is reminiscent of the hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ gives advice to a man who feels overwhelmed with the requirements and obligations of the Dīn:

أنَّ رجلًا قال يا رسولَ اللهِ إنَّ شرائعَ الإسلامِ قد كثُرت عليَّ فأخبِرني بشيءٍ أتشبَّثُ به قال: لا يزالُ لسانُك رطبًا من ذكرِ اللهِ
الراوي : عبدالله بن بسر | المحدث : الألباني | المصدر : صحيح الترمذي
الصفحة أو الرقم: 3375 | خلاصة حكم المحدث: صحيح

`Abdullah bin Busr narrated:

“A man said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, the legislated acts of Islam have become too much for me, so inform me of a thing that I should stick to.’ He ﷺ said, ‘Do not let your tongue cease to be moist with the remembrance of Allah’.” Jami’ al-Tirmidhi.

As for “one is able to live as though his body were already dead”, one is reminded of a passage from al-Ghazzālī’s Ihyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn:

ولن يتسير الاستعداد للشيء إلا عند تجدد ذكره على القلب

“Preparation for a thing will never be easy unless it comes with a renewing of its mention in the heart.” — al-Ghazzālī, Kitāb Dhikr al-Mawt (The Book on Remembering Death)

Podcast

Islamic Spirituality – A Khutbah By Imam Marc Manley

Spirituality is often conveyed as an abstract notion. We don’t know what it is and thus we tend to make it all about ourselves; our feelings. Spirituality in the Islamic context can be thought of as being concerned with what Allah thinks about you on a daily basis.

Spirituality is a daily practice. A discipline. Not something we simply turn to when in the mood. This is why for some, their inability to connect with God isn’t due to them being cursed or not being enlightened; it’s that they have not established and regular relationship with Allah. Such persons tend to shun God when things get tough instead of shunning those things which interfere with one’s relationship with Allah:

تَتَجافىٰ جُنوبُهُم عَنِ المَضاجِعِ يَدعونَ رَبَّهُم خَوفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمّا رَزَقناهُم يُنفِقونَ

“Their sides eschew their beds as they call on their Lord in fear and ardent hope. And they give of what We have provided for them.” Qur’an 32: 16

Being concerned about the one you love.

When you’re young and you desire a pretty girl or a handsome boy, this desire has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you.

Real love is when you are concerned with what the other thinks about you.

Spiritual discipline (Qur’an 70, verses 22-34):

  1. Salah: be consistent. In fact, be consistent in all of your devotions.
  2. Charity: give often or as much as you can, even if it’s little. The poor have a God-given claim to it: those who ask and those who are too shy to ask up front (Zakah). It is also good for your heart.
  3. Accept the reality that there is going to be a day of Judgement: don’t lie to yourself or anyone else, either through words or actions.
  4. Acknowledge who Allah is and that Allah’s promise is true: being fearful of Allah’s punishment in the fire does not preclude one of loving God. Imagine if one just runs around and cheats on his or her lover, all the while still claiming to love them?
  5. No one is safe from Allah’s displeasure/torment.
  6. Protect your private parts, except with your spouse, with whom you may indulge yourself.
  7. Going beyond this makes one a rule-breaker. God’s rules.
  8. Be respectful of the trusts and agreements you are given/participate in.
  9. Those who stand for the truth when they testify.
  10. And who guard their prayer (consistent with it and guard it.

Those who accomplish this will be the companions of the Garden. Respected and loved by God.

Part of the discipline of spirituality, of being concerned with how Allah thinks about you, if Allah loves you, if focusing your attention and your efforts on Him and not being distracted by the nonsense and foolishness of the world.

Podcast

Living and Loving In The Name of God – A Khutbah By Imam Marc

Bismillah is the start of all good things.

How can we go with God, to get through the ups and the downs? The highs and the lows?

Bismillah – saying it can also be to say al-Hamdulillah, in sha’Allah, etc.

وَلا تَقولَنَّ لِشَيءٍ إِنّي فاعِلٌ ذٰلِكَ غَدًا
إِلّا أَن يَشاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَاذكُر رَبَّكَ إِذا نَسيتَ وَقُل عَسىٰ أَن يَهدِيَنِ رَبّي لِأَقرَبَ مِن هٰذا رَشَدًا

“Never say about anything, ‘I will do that tomorrow,’. without adding ‘If Allah wills.’ Remember your Lord when you forget, and say, ‘Hopefully my Lord will guide me to something closer to right guidance than this’.” Qur’an, 18: 23-24

Bismillah – Imagine one needs to travel through the desert. You will need to travel in the name of the Chief, so you may be under his protection and if you are assailed or attacked, you can be recompensed.

Bismillah – two men go on a journey. One invokes Allah’s name, the other not. The first travels in dignity, whether he is attacked or not. For he knows if there is any wrong that is brought down upon him, Allah will recompense him. And that it was merely a test. The second will experience the same calamities but it will crush his soul. He will cry out, “Why me?!”

Bismillah – it’s what allows us to be saved from the indecency of begging from the world and all those in it, and instead, beg from the Creator of the world and the Seven Heavens.

الْيَدُ الْعُلْيَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ الْيَدِ السُّفْلَى وَالْيَدُ الْعُلْيَا الْمُنْفِقَةُ وَالسُّفْلَى السَّائِلَةُ

Abdullah b. Umar reported that as Allah’s Messenger ﷺ was sitting on the pulpit and talking about Sadaqa and abstention from begging, he said, “The upper hand is better than the lower one, the upper being the one which bestows and the lower one which begs.” Sahih Muslim, #1033

Acting in the Name of Allah is empowering. It is in this way that small things, like seeds and grains bear huge trees on their miniscule heads.

Acting in the Name of Allah is how lowly grass, the roots of small things are able to pierce and breakthrough hard rocks and earth. In the same manner, by remembering, praising, thanking, and acting on the Name of Allah that you will achieve victory in your life: now and here-after.

When one lives one’s life in the Name of Allah, you can break through the most difficult barriers (like the tree) and those struggles will simultaneously bear fruit. For even the hardness of stones is under the command of Allah.

وَإِذِ استَسقىٰ موسىٰ لِقَومِهِ فَقُلنَا اضرِب بِعَصاكَ الحَجَرَ ۖ فَانفَجَرَت مِنهُ اثنَتا عَشرَةَ عَينًا

“And when Musa was looking for water for his people, We said, ‘Strike the rock with your staff.’ Then twelve fountains gushed out from it.” Qur’an, 2: 60

Abu Hurayrah reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying:
Miskin is not he who is dismissed with one or two dates, and with one morsel or two morsels. (In fact) miskin is he who abstains (from begging). Read if you so desire (the verse):” They beg not of men importunately)” (ii. 273). Sahih al-Bukhari 1476

لَيْسَ الْمِسْكِينُ بِالَّذِي تَرُدُّهُ التَّمْرَةُ وَالتَّمْرَتَانِ وَلاَ اللُّقْمَةُ وَاللُّقْمَتَانِ إِنَّمَا الْمِسْكِينُ الْمُتَعَفِّفُ اقْرَءُوا إِنْ شِئْتُمْ

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying, “Miskin is not he who is dismissed with one or two dates, and with one morsel or two morsels. But in fact miskin is he who abstains from begging. “They beg not of men importunately” (referring to the verse in Qur’an, 2: 273).

لَيسَ عَلَيكَ هُداهُم وَلٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهدي مَن يَشاءُ ۗ وَما تُنفِقوا مِن خَيرٍ فَلِأَنفُسِكُم ۚ وَما تُنفِقونَ إِلَّا ابتِغاءَ وَجهِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَما تُنفِقوا مِن خَيرٍ يُوَفَّ إِلَيكُم وَأَنتُم لا تُظلَمونَ
لِلفُقَراءِ الَّذينَ أُحصِروا في سَبيلِ اللَّهِ لا يَستَطيعونَ ضَربًا فِي الأَرضِ يَحسَبُهُمُ الجاهِلُ أَغنِياءَ مِنَ التَّعَفُّفِ تَعرِفُهُم بِسيماهُم لا يَسأَلونَ النّاسَ إِلحافًا ۗ وَما تُنفِقوا مِن خَيرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَليمٌ

“You are not responsible for their guidance, but Allah guides whomever He wills. Whatever good you give away is to your own benefit, when you give desiring only the Face of Allah. Whatever good you give away will be repaid to you in full. You will not be wronged. It is for the poor who are held back in the Way of Allah, unable to travel in the land. The ignorant consider them rich because of their reticence. You will know them by their mark. They do not ask from people insistently. Whatever good you give away, Allah knows it.” Qur’an, 2: 272-273

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam: Muslim Spirituality Session 1


[Direct download]

Taj al-’Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus by Ibn ‘Ata Allah al-Sikandari (al-Iskandari)

The Bride-Groom’s Crown Containing Instructions on Refining the Self

“The master of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self-mastery.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

In his work, Sufism For Non-Sufi’s, Dr. Sherman Jackson writes,

“…part of Islam’s essential struggle from the very beginning was to identify good, substantively sound spirituality and distinguish it from and elevate it over bad, misguided spirituality. In sum, not all spirituality was or is good.” – Sherman Jackson

What is the function or purpose of spirituality from a Muslim perspective?

  • Inspire us: to do good, to do self-help, in all things which inspiration is required.
  • Elevate our morals: the world pulls at us asking us to merely adapt, not to transform.
  • Imbue us with “devotional confidence and resolve” to connect with God, worship God and put God front and center of our lives.

Spirituality and antinomianism:

  • “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation”;
  • one who rejects a socially established morality;

Spirituality in the Muslim tradition should also perform two functions:

  1. Affirm the supernatural.
  2. Eschew the superstitious.

Hikam #1

من علامة الاعتماد على العمل نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل

“Amongst the signs of leaning on one’s own handiwork of deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

“Amongst the signs of relying on deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

The Text In Context

Ibn Juzayy’s Fifteen Merits of Piety (Taqwa)

The following audio is from our regular monthly program, The Text In Context. This Friday we discussed Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s Fifteen Merits of Piety (Taqwa) from his work, al-Tas’hil l’Ulum al-Tanzil (Making Easy The Knowledge of Revelation), as was alluded to in the Friday Khutbah. See the khutbah for more extensive notes.


[Direct download]

Ibn Juzayy’s fifteen merits of piety (taqwa):

  1. Guidance.
  2. Assistance.
  3. Guardianship.
  4. Love.
  5. Pardoning.
  6. Relief from anxiety (lit. “an exit from grief”).
  7. Provision supplied from where one does not expect it.
  8. Easing of affairs.
  9. Forgiveness of sins.
  10. Magnification of reward.
  11. Acceptance of good deeds.
  12. Prosperity.
  13. Good news.
  14. Entering Paradise.
  15. Salvation from The Fire.

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