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Aug 29, 2014

Dhikr in Social Gatherings: Part One – Initiating Dhikr

By Anum Ali

Bismillah

Halaqas, khutbahs, and lectures are purposeful gatherings dedicated to religious learning and the remembrance (dhikr) of Allah subhana wa ta’aala and the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam. While there are great merits for arranging such purposeful gatherings of knowledge, it is also essential to incorporate dhikr in family and friends’ routine and special gatherings as well. Gatherings are mostly arranged for the purpose of leisure or to commemorate a special event such as a wedding, birthday, or graduation. Friends and family also come together at funerals, the passing away of a loved one or an acquaintance. A large majority of events pertain to pursuits of the material world. And amidst celebrations or remorse, the remembrance of the Creator and His Prophet are cast into oblivion.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam said:

“No group gather in a sitting in which they do not remember Allah, nor sent Salat upon their Prophet, except it will be a source of remorse for them. If He wills, He will punish them, and if He wills, He will forgive them” (Jami at-Tirmidhi 3380). 

Dhikr helps spread knowledge to others and to discipline the moral conduct of gatherings. 


Dhikr for Mercy and Tranquility

The obvious benefit of dhikr cannot be disregarded that it helps the attendees to gain countless blessings from Allah subhana wa ta’aala. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah and Abu Sa’eed bore witness that the Prophet salAllahu alaihi wasallam said: 

“No people sit in a gathering remembering Allah subhana wa ta’aala, but the angels surround them, mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them and Allah subhana wa ta’aala remembers them before those who are with Him.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 3791).

Our daily lives are full of trials and clamor of routine obligations and challenges. Dhikr even at a personal or family level can help provide calmness and tranquility because these are a promise from Allah subhana wa ta’aala. A gathering in which Allah subhana wa ta’aala is remembered and salaam and blessing are sent upon the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam brings a gift of peace and tranquility for the attendees. 

Knowledge - The Blessed Benefit of Dhikr

In addition to the promised peace and tranquility, knowledge is another significant gift that can be acquired through dhikr.

Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam said, 

“From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): (1) Religious knowledge will be taken away (by death of religious learned men), (2) (Religious) ignorance will prevail, (3) Drinking alcoholic drinks (will be very common), (4) There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 80].

One does not have to think too hard to spot the most basic signs of religious ignorance. They are right there in our families and in our peer circles. Dhikr is the most simple, but the most powerful mechanism that can help to counter this deterioration. By choosing the most common of topics, some very powerful changes can be made in people’s lives. When dhikr is part of a social gathering, its topics should be selected such that the social context becomes its practical example. For instance, revisiting the Qur’an and Sunnah teachings pertaining to marital relations at someone’s wedding.

The best source of knowledge is that which comes from a learned person such as a Shaikh, an Imam, or a scholar. But since dhikr can be arranged at smaller social levels as well, a student of knowledge in the family or a volunteer who can research Islamic discussion topics can also address the gathering.

Dhikr often becomes a form of inspiration; in addition to a source of knowledge for the listeners. The speaker can aim to set an example for the people he or she is addressing in the gathering because he or she enjoys the opportunity to carry forward the legacy of Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam and the Word of Allah subhana wa ta’aala. 

Initiating Dhikr

The Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam is known to be the best conductor of dhikr, and he took special care of selecting the best time and the best manner of speaking. Anas bin Malik has narrated that the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam said: 

“Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam)” [Sahih al-Bukhari 69]. 

So, the idea is to make dhikr interesting.

It takes a strong, well-planned initiative to incorporate dhikr in family and social gatherings. We live in morally distressed times when friends and family folk may be disconnected from Allah subhana wa ta’aala and our Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wasallam. At the same time, they may not be willing to lend their interest to religious discussions. It is essential to find the right opportunity to initiate dhikr.

The head of the family, an elder family member, or even a younger one can take the initiative. It is not necessary that the initiator of dhikr should be a student of knowledge; however, he or she already is if they are willing to trigger it. Considering the timing of dhikr and during which activity in the gathering dhikr can begin.

For example, guests can be given a welcoming address and a few words can be spoken on a topic of interest. If, for instance, it is someone’s graduation party, the host can say a few words on the importance of education in Islam and the effective use of the Prophet Muhammad’s salAllahu alaihi wasallam teachings. Of course, this implies some research on part of the speaker. In western countries, speeches and toasts are common at parties. We can initiate the same but we raise a Halal Toast!


I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Aug 27, 2014

Environmental Issues Series: Animal Rights in Islam - Part 1

By Tara Alomari

Why should Muslims care Part 1 | Why should Muslims care Part 2 | Water Conservation Part 1 | Water Conservation Part 2 | Animal Rights Part 2

Bismillah

For centuries, it has been well known in Islamic scholarship that animals have their own complex lives, their own “languages”, and a variety of social structures and communities that is perfectly suited to the nature of each species. The Qur'an itself states that:

And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered. (6:38)

This is a fact has only recently been discovered by modern science, which has typically studied and documented animals as purely instinctual creatures. However, that view is starting to change. From the Humpback Whale, whose songs carry all the intricate sound patterns of a symphony and the clever crows who trick their fellows by pretending to hide food in the wrong place, to the many examples of animals “adopting” or befriending others outside their species, the animal kingdom is bursting with examples of intelligent, deliberate, even what could only be called compassionate action. 

Recently, it was even observed that the bacteria in our guts (the beneficial varieties) gang up and attack harmful bacteria in ways which resemble intentional, directed, concerted actions. They’re not just floating around there randomly going this way and that. All of this demonstrates the fact that animals are not just biological machines eating and defecating and mating their way towards oblivion: they have lives, they praise Allah, and they fear death. Allah says in the Quran:

The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [ Allah ] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. (17:44)

Animal Rights:

Based upon the above mentioned verses, which established that animals have their own communities and also worship Allah through their very nature or in ways which are imperceptible to us, what is the correct way that we, being the khalifas of creation, should deal with them? 

Domesticated Animals:

First, we must distinguish between the rights of domesticated animals and wild animals. Many ahadith point to the supreme importance of caring and providing for the animals which live under one’s care. Here are some of the basic rights Islam gives to domesticated animals:

1: They must be given adequate food, water, and space to move.

"A woman was once punished after death because of a cat which she had kept confined until it died, and because of this she entered the Fire. She had neither given it food or drink while confining it, nor had she let it free to eat the creatures of the earth." (Muslim)

2: They must not be abused (ie: unjustly beaten, threatened or deprived of their needs)

the Messenger of Allah, sal Allahu aleyhi wa sallam, once saw a donkey which had been branded on its face and he said, "May Allah curse the one who branded it." (Muslim)

3: Beasts of burden must not be overburdened.

"Do not use the backs of your animals as chairs. Allah has made them subject to you, so that by them you can reach places that you would not otherwise be able to reach except with great fatigue." (Abu Dawud)

4: They must not be incited to fight one another (for example, chickens and dogs). (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).

This is a particularly disgusting act as it is often done purely for human entertainment and usually involves gambling, and results in creating whole breeds of dogs and chickens which are trained and bred purely for their strength, aggressiveness, and bloodlust. 

5: Animals that are permissible to be eaten as food have the right to be slaughtered in the halal way.

While it may be surprising to some to say that halal slaughter is an animal’s right, it is in fact the most merciful way in which to carry out the act, and as such has been specifically made obligatory for us by Islam. What is our obligation is their right. We must also keep in mind that, when slaughtering, we are taking the life of another being only by the permission of Allah and in order to meet the need for food.

Furthermore, since all animals in our care have the right to be kept in decent conditions, as stated above, with adequate food, water, and space to move, then much of our modern industrial farming would be considered severely un-Islamic. To truly follow Islam and uphold the rights of domesticated animals, we should be careful to buy meat, eggs, milk, etc. that is free-range and organic as much as possible.

Here we have examined the rights of animals and domestic animals in particular. This discussion will be continued in part 4 where we will look at wild animals and their rights upon us inshaAllah.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Aug 25, 2014

With legs heavier than Uhud

by Afsha Ibrahim

Bismillah

He was the keeper of secrets of the Messenger of Allah salAllaahu alaihi wasallam. He was the carrier of the Prophet’s salAllaahu alaihi wasallam pillow, chewing stick, shoes and water for purification during journey.

He wore the best of clothes and had the best of smell. He was slim and had thin legs. He was a pious Imaam, one of the most learned of the Ummah. He resembled the Prophet most with regard to his guidance and manner.

He was one of the first few people to accept Islam and one of the most outstanding of men. He was Abu AbdurRahman Al-Hadhali, Al-Makki Al Muhajiri, Al-Badri aka Abdullah bin Mas’ud.


His Knowledge and Virtue

Abu Mas’ud Al Badri said: “I do not know whether Allah’s Messenger has left after him having better knowledge (of the Book of Allah) than the man who is standing (i.e. Ibn Mas’ud).”(Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim)

Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud radiAllahu anhu possessed deep insight into the meaning of the Qur'an, its method of recitation, and the causes of revelation of its verses. He himself stated: 
"By the One besides Whom there is no Lord, there is no chapter revealed in the Book of Allah, except that I am the most knowledgeable one regarding where it was revealed. There is no verse from the Book of Allah that has been revealed, except that I am the most knowledgeable one regarding the circumstances of its revelations. If I were to learn of anyone possessing more knowledge than me of the Book of Allah who was within reach of a camel's journey, I would mount it (to visit him)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim) 

On the authority of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, who reported: When the Verse: “Those who believe and do righteous deeds, there is no sin on them…: (Madinah: 93) was revealed, the Messenger of Allah said to me: “You are amongst them.”(Sahih Muslim, Sahih Tirmidi)

It is reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) also said: "Learn from four people: 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud, Salim the slave of Abu Hudhayfa, Ubay ibn Ka'b, and Mu'adh ibn Jabal radiAllahu anhum." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Sunan al-Tirmidhi) 

His Sermon

Insight into his person can be gained not only by his character but also the wisdom that he leaves behind. Ibn Mas’ud’s sermons were not merely words but showcased an imminent reality of life. Below is a fine example of one of his many ingenuous and meek sermons.

Amr ibn Thabit narrated that `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud said in one of his sermons:

“Surely the most truthful speech is the Book of Allah; 
the firmest handhold is the statement of Taqwa, the best religion is the religion of Ibrahim, 
the best traditions is the tradition of Muhammad, the best of guidance is the guidance of Prophet, the most honorable speech is the remembrance of Allah, the best of stories are in the Quran, 
the best of manner is one with good consequence, the worst of affairs are the innovated ones. 

Wealth that is small but sufficient is better than the one that is plenty but makes one heedless. 
The worst excuse is the one given when death arrives. 
The worst of regrets is that of the Day of Judgment. 
The worse of misguidance is that of being misguided having been previously guided. 
Temptation about women is the rope of Satan; teenage heralds the growing up of arrogance and folly. In fact, to lie is the greatest sin; to insult a believer is an act of insolence; 
and to fight a believer is apostasy. 

The sanctity of the property of a believer is as sacred as his life; one who pardons the sins of others, Allah will forgive him his sins, and one who swallows his anger, Allah will reward him, one who forgives others, Allah will forgive him, and one who bears his adversity, Allah will reward him aplenty. 

The most evil of earnings is money made of usury (Riba) and accumulation of interest; 
the worst of food is to eat up the inheritance of orphan. 
The luckiest of people is one who takes heed of the reason behind others’ misfortunes; 
and the unlucky is thus conceived in the womb of his mother. 

The results of one’s actions will expose his initial intention; the worst story is a lie; 
the best death is that of a martyr; one who knows the value of adversities will bear them, 
and one who does not understand that will question the reason behind them. 
Allah the Most High will surely bring an arrogant person to humiliation. 
Whosoever vies to capture the world will reach a dead end, and whosoever obeys Satan would have disobeyed Allah the Most High, and finally, whosoever disobeys Allah the Most High will be punished in hell-fire.”

He was appointed as the judge of Kufah and was in charge of the treasury during the time of Umar and the beginning of the rule of Uthman. Soon after in the year 32 AH, close to the age of 70, his soul went back to the creator of souls to abide therewith. 

“Verily, the Muttaqun (pious), will be in the midst of gardens and rivers; in the seat of truth, near the Omnipotent King.” (Al Qamar: 54-55)

His virtues are copious and he reports treasures of knowledge. Farewell, our great Imaam and Leader. 

Narrated by Ali bin Abi Talib: 
“One day Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud climbed a tree and his legs became visible. His legs were very skinny, so the Sahaba started laughing. The Prophet asked:"What are you laughing at?" We said: "We laugh at his skinny legs, O messenger of Allah". The Prophet said: "By the One in Whose Hand is my soul! His legs will be heavier on the Meezaan (on the Day of Judgment) than Mount Uhud.” 
(Ahmad in Al-Musnad)

And it is only his legs that are being spoken of here. Subhan Allah.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Reference
Sa’d Yusuf A.A. (2009). Men and Women around the Prophet. Riyad: Darussalam.