Friday, December 14, 2007

article: Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

Allah, subhanahu wata'aala (swt), has promised to preserve the Quran. But how?

You probably don't know Muhammad b. Nuh, but that's no surprise. During the great trial of 'the creation of the Quran,' many contemporaries of Imam Ahmed had acquiesced to the khalifah's claim that the Quran was a creation of Allah and not His Word. Opposing this claim were two indomitable figures, Imam Ahmed and his student and contemporary, Muhammad b. Nuh, who were summoned to the khalifah's court to be reprimanded for their persistent defiance .

They were arrested and placed in shackles, which the Imam described as being heavier than his body-weight, and were marched to the capital. Upon seeking respite for salaah only minutes away from Ma'moon's palace, the Imam prayed in qunoot, "oh Allah, your clemency has made this sinner (Ma'moon) very arrogant and he has become so bold as to transgress all bounds. O Allah, if the Quran is Your Speech, uncreated, then free us of this man." As the Imam ended his salaah, shrieks and wailing could be heard from the palace as mourners grieved the instant death of Ma'moon. Who is there (but Allah) to answer the call of the oppressed when he cries out…(Naml:62)

While the next khalifah, Mu'tasim, was being inaugurated, the two shaykhs were taken to a nearby prison. On their way, Muhammad b. Nuh fell sick and passed away.

That day, Allah swt honored one of them with death on siraatal-mustaqeem, and chose the other to carry the standard of Islam

Ali ibn al-Madini commented: "truly, Allah reinforced this Religion with AbuBakr al-Siddiq the day of the Great Apostasy, and He reinforced it with Ahmad ibn Hanbal the day of the Inquisition. " And how wise is Allah in His choosing!

Mu'tasim continued in the footsteps of his predecessor and was even more determined to end his opposition. Imam Ahmed was summoned and momentarily placed in a room before his appointment with the khalifah. As he entered the room, he glanced around and found it completely empty.

A few hours later, engulfed by absolute darkness, the Imam decided to pray tahajjad and began searching for water. As he felt his way around the room, he recollected the image of the empty room when he entered. As the thought crossed his mind, he felt his hand touch a pitcher of water. And whoever fears Allah, He prepares a way out for him and provides for him from sources he did not expect. (Talaq:2-3) The Imam made wudu and stood for qiyamul layl.

We might have come across some people who have seen the Prophet, peace be upon him (pbuh), in their dreams. But how often does that happen? Imam Ahmed would see the Prophet pbuh on most nights, and when he wouldn't see him, upon whom be peace, he would declare himself a hypocrite. The standards for such luminaries are invariably higher.

From simple Arabic grammar to the intricacies of Aqeedah, Imam Ahmed was a master of nearly every discipline of Islam. He is unquestionably a leading authority in the fields of Hadith, Quran –exegesis and recitation– and jurisprudence and its principles. It was perhaps due to this knowledge and influence that he underwent such an arduous trial. After all, the more difficult the struggle, the greater the reward.

Imam Ahmed was brought before the khalifah for an event that would forever etch his name in the tablets of history and raise him to the ranks of heroes.

Many Mu'tazilite scholars were brought to debate with him, each one leaving defeated and speechless. Mu'tasim was flabbergasted.

After a few days of interrogations, Mu'tasim felt embarrassed and decided to relieve his anger by punishing the Imam. He struck Imam Ahmed with his hand, dropping him to the ground, unconscious. When he regained his senses, a group of strong men were ordered to take turns whipping him, each whip eliciting a heartfelt reaction everytime: Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, Allahu Akbar.

Mu'tasim beat the Imam with the handle of his sword until he too became fatigued. But to no avail. He then called another man who was the most skilled at flogging and inquired how many whips it will take to finish him. "Five to ten. Fifteen to twenty, max." As he flogged, Imam Ahmed began bleeding, pieces of his flesh peeling off his body. If matters of life and death were in the hands of men, this day would surely have been the Imam's last!

As the sun set and the activities for the day came to a close, Mu'tasim ordered that a sweet drink of dates be brought for the Imam. When the delicious beverage was presented to Imam Ahmed, he refused to drink, saying: by Allah, I will not take a sip of this drink, fa innee saa'im –for I am fasting.

Say: Indeed, my prayer and my sacrifice, my life and my death, are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. (An'am: 62)
written by Umer Akbar
Durbah Newsletter: Iqra, December 2007

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ramadan Farewell

Ya know, how at the end of the movie, alongside the credits there are these random clips of the movie, (sometimes bloopers and sometimes just comical moments from the film)... Well after the sheikh in my local masjid had finished the Quran on the 27th night, he began reciting random surahs from the Quran. And listening to him recite like that gave me a similar feeling…like a really good movie had just ended.

Obviously a movie and Ramadan are not comparable but a small analogy is warranted.

As I was listening to the recitation, I could see those moments flashing before my eyes when the sheikh had recited those same surahs earlier this month. And listening to him jump from one surah to another so quickly made me realize that it was with the same quickness this month had ended.

After much preparation, such great anticipation and excitement, we had welcomed this month. And here we are at its conclusion, saying our farewell as if a loved-one was parting. When a loved-one gets ready to depart, after a hug, a kiss, and hand-shake, you squeeze their hand tighter as their fingers slip out of your hand, hoping to hold on just a little longer. And as they walk away, your eyes swell with tears and the throat chokes with a loss of words.

Ramadan is leaving, brothers and sisters. What will you do until it returns?

Woe to those that worshipped Ramadan, as Ramadan has ended. Glad tidings to the worshippers of Allah, for He has no end.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

khutbah: got taqwa?

A man had sinned greatly, and when death came to him he charged his sons, saying: "When I have died, burn me, then crush me and scatter (my ashes) into the sea, for, by Allah, if my Lord takes possession of me, He will punish me in a manner in which He has punished no one else." So they did as he wished.

Then He, the Exalted in Might, said to the earth: "Produce what you have taken" -and there he was! And He (swt) said to the man: "What caused you to do what you did?" He said: "Being afraid of You, O my Lord."

Allah (swt) forgave him because of that.

Perhaps we were expecting a different ending to the story (especially if you've never heard it before). This man had committed such a grave sin that after realizing his mistake, he feared the punishment of Allah swt so much that he wished never to meet with Allah swt and answer for his sin. But Allah is the Almighty, All-Powerful.

What is so important about fearing Allah swt? Why did the fear of Allah save this man from the hellfire?

Think about how many khutbahs you’ve heard, and how many of them started with encouraging the listeners to have taqwa and fear Allah. To this day, I have not heard a single khutbah which did not begin by exhorting people to have taqwa!

So what is so important about having taqwa?

We are in the month of fasting, and we know the oft-recited verses of the Quran which explain the purpose of fasting, as Allah swt says: "Oh you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you, in order that you may attain taqwa."

Fasting is one of five pillars of Islam, and the sole purpose of fasting, as Allah swt explains in this verse, is to attain taqwa. It is not to lose weight, or to feel as the hungry/needy feel, or to attain better health. These may be great secondary benefits of fasting, but the ONE reason Allah, 'azza wa jall, has ordained fasting is to attain taqwa.

The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said, " at-taqwa haahunaa, at-taqwa haahunaa " meaning 'Taqwa is here, taqwa is here,' and he pointed to his chest.

Notice, my brothers and sisters, that the Messesnger of Allah (pbuh) did not point to the stomach, which cried for food all day long. He didn't point to the tongue which was deprived the wetness of any kind of liquid. He didn't point to the legs, which stood all night in prayer before the Creator of the worlds. He didn't point to the hands, which were raised in front of his Lord, begging for His mercy. He didn't point to the eyes, which read the Quran or the lips that recited it so beautifully. But he pointed to the heart. THIS is where taqwa is.

But what exactly is taqwa?

Taqwa, as one shaykh explains, is when one is by himself, and his passions begin to overwhelm him, and Shaitan takes him aside and whispers to him, but then the slave remembers the One who knows all secrets, the One who hears the crawling of the black ant on a massive rock in the darkest night, the One who knows the glances of the eyes and what the hearts conceal. The slave remembers the blazing fire, which does not burn except the wretched one, the one who denies and turns away. He prefers the pleasure of His Lord over pleasing himself. The soul returns to its Lord, and remembers the command of its Creator. It wakes up from its heedlessness and takes refuge in its Lord, seeking protection from Shaitan and his whisperings. Within the soul of the Muslim the words of Allah are resounding:

"Those who have taqwa, when a passing notion from the Devil troubles them, they remember, and they immediately see clearly between right and wrong." (6:201-2

When you are alone with a freind and he invites you to go to a party or a club, but you refrain, that is taqwa; when someone offers you some alcohol but you refuse to drink, that is taqwa; when you’re driving in a car alone, and you want to listen to music but you don’t because it's haraam, that is taqwa; when you are alone with someone of the opposite gender, they extend their hand but you reject their offer because you remember the fire of Hell, that is taqwa; when you are in the privacy of your own home, and you want to commit a sin, but you don’t, fearing the punishment of Allah, that is taqwa.

Umar (R) asked Kaab (R), the meaning of Taqwa as he was renowned for his deep understanding of the Quran.

Kaab asked Umar whether he had walked through a thorny bush path with his cloak on. Umar replied that he had done so on numerous occasions. Kaab asked Umar to describe his movements through this thorny path. Umar replied that he moved very cautiously, so as not to tear his clothing. Kaab said that was the description and the meaning of Taqwa," --that we be cautious around the boundaries of Allah, being careful so as not to transgress them.

The definitions of taqwa are many, but none of them independently explains the meaning of taqwa. Some say taqwa is fear of Allah, others call it God-consciousness and love of Allah, and still others define it as obedience, piety, and righteousness.

So again I ask, why is taqwa so important?

It's part of human nature to compete. Some compete for fancy, expensive cars and huge mansions, and some for high status, but in the eyes of Allah swt, the winner is not the one with the material wealth. The one who is closer to Allah, more dearer to Allah is the one who has more taqwa, as He says in the Quran: "The most honourable of you with Allah is the one who is the most fearful." (49:13)

So if someone wants to know the scale by which Allah measures His closeness to His slaves, then know that this measure is taqwa. It isn’t wealth, or how much of it you spent in charity, it isn’t salaah and how many nights you stayed up praying, but it’s a combination of all those things and more.

But taqwa isn’t something optional. It's not an extra topping in the recipe for success in the hereafter. Allah swt says: "there isn’t one of you except that you will pass over it (hellfire)…and then We will save those who feared Allah and were dutiful to Him."

May Allah make us among those who are saved. Ameen.

Part II

Half of the semester is almost over. At this time, students begin to evaluate how they’ve been doing thus far and will make a decision based on their assessment. Should they drop a class, or should they just study harder? Do they need to change their studying techniques, or should they continue what they’ve been doing for the first half of the semester?

Similarly, Ramadan is half over. But are we going to evaluate our accomplishments this Ramadan? Are we going to sit and think about what we’ve done in the first half? How are we going to improve ourselves for the next half?

Some of you may have already thought about this, but many people overlook it. Why should our success in school be more important than our success in the hereafter?

We should think about how we spent our fasts over the past couple of weeks. Were we rude to the students in our classes and to the people on the road while driving home from school? Did we say any bad words to our friends or neighbors? Did we lie or cheat in any of our affairs? Did we draw nearer to Allah (swt), or were we too busy talking on the phone or chatting online with our friends? Was the Quran our companion, or was it the TV?

In conclusion:
Unfortunately Ramadan comes only once a year, therefore, we should host it in the best possible way. However, contrary to what many of us think, Ramadan is not a month of tables full of dishes and useless parties and gatherings but rather it is the month of recital of the Qur'an, the remembrance of Allah, the prayer at night, the Suhour, the du`a at the Iftar, and the charity ...amongst other things. It is only by doing these actions will one attain taqwa of Allah in this world, and Jannatul Firdows in the next.

I end in the words of Umar b. Abd al-Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, when he wrote to a man saying, "I advise you to be fearful (have taqwa) of Allah the Exalted, as nothing will be accepted except that, and no one will be showered with mercy except the people who have it, and no one will be rewarded except because of it; those who remind us of it are many, but those who practice it are few. May Allah make us and you of the people of taqwa." Ameen.

As you walk away from here, ask yourself one question: got taqwa...yet?

Allahumma ja’alnaa minal muttaqeen.
Allahumma ja’alnaa minal muttaqeen.
Allahumma ja’alnaa minal muttaqeen.

written by: Umer Akbar, October 2005

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reaction not surprising

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Learning from the Pope

The pope was probably thinking the same thing that the King thought when he decided to follow the instructions of the little Boy; namely to shoot the arrow in the name of the Lord of the Boy and he shall perish.

I’ve heard the story of the 'Boy and the King' far too many times to find myself praying that the boy be saved at the end. But that same ending sends a shiver down my spine…everytime. I can't seem to help it.

Once, as I was pondering over the cartoon debacle which was too recent for anyone of us to have forgotten, I thought that 'ultimately, victory is for the party of Allah.'

“…they plan and Allah plans, and Allah is the Best of Planners.” (Quran)

If you consider some of the recent global occurrences, such as the accusations that Sept 11th was perpetrated by Muslims, or the American soldiers disrespecting the Quran in Iraq, or the caricaturing of the Prophet, upon whom be many praise and blessings, or this very last attack by the pope, we find that as a result of these events an increasing amount of people turn to Islam, sometimes in the thousands.

After the Boy was executed, the crowds that had witnessed the execution turned to the Oneness of Allah at once. Consequently, the King made a ditch of fire and threatened those believers that stood firm in faith.

In comparison, we find that the people who speak out and defend the insults and accusations against their religion are subject to another hardship/attack just like the People of the Ditch after they had accepted Islam. When a muslim practices his right to speak out, he’s labeled as an extremist or wahhabi, and in rare instances, arrested.

Analyzing these striking similarities between our times and this parable underscores one thing: Truly, the Party of Allah will be successful.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Not-too-Islamic Muslims"

“Not-Too-Islamic” Muslims

By Yasmin Mogahed Freelance Journalist – Wisconsin

March 07, 2005

Answering his first question in a 2004 presidential debate, Senator John Kerry explained that America needed to isolate the “radical Islamic Muslims.”

“I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by … beginning to isolate the radical Islamic Muslims, not have them isolate the United States of America.”

At first, the statement sounded redundant—even uneducated. A Muslim is, by definition, a follower of Islam, and is therefore, by definition, “Islamic.” Saying “Islamic Muslims” was a lot like saying “American Americans.”

So was Kerry just being repetitive? Or was his statement perhaps more telling than even he realized? Are all Muslims “Islamic”? Well, the truth is, no. Not the good ones, at least.

More and more, the underlying assumption seems to be that Islam is the problem. If Islam, as a faith, is in essence radical, the less “Islamic” something is the better. And thus a “moderate Muslim”—the much coveted title—is only moderately Muslim, and therefore only moderately bad. Saying this would be like telling someone to only be “moderately black” so as not to be too violent.

Conversely, a Muslim who is too “Islamic” is then by definition “radical”—a “radical Islamic Muslim”—and must be dealt with (isolated).

In fact, Mona Mayfield understood these rules well when she defended her husband—wrongfully accused of participating in the Spain bombing.

“We have a Bible in the house. He’s not a fundamentalist—he thought it was something different and very unique,” Mayfield told the Associated Press of her husband’s conversion to Islam.

To prove his innocence, Mayfield tried to downplay her husband’s commitment to Islam. She even felt the need to justify his conversion—as if that were his crime.

Mosque administrator Shahriar Ahmed took a similar approach to defend Mayfield. “He was seen as a moderate,” Ahmed told reporters. “Mayfield showed up for the Friday ritual of shedding his shoes, washing his bare feet and sitting on the carpets to hear services. He did not, as some devout Muslims do, pray five times a day at the mosque.”

The implication here is that Brandon Mayfield’s guilt or innocence was in some way related to how many times he prayed at the mosque. Ahmed even went on to assert,“He was on the less religious side if anything.”

These “less religious” icons of what an “acceptable” Muslim should look like can be found all over the media. Irshad Manji, media entrepreneur and author of The Trouble with Islam, is one of the most celebrated of these icons. Manji is widely published and has appeared in all the top media outlets. She even received Oprah’s Chutzpah Award for “gutsiness.”

Although Manji refers to herself as a “Muslim refusenik,” the media refers to her as the model of a “practicing Muslim.” Daniel Pipes, a board member of the United States Institute of Peace, calls her a “courageous, moderate, modern Muslim.” But interestingly, Manji’s ideas have less to do with Islam than Pipes’ ideas have to do with peace. A Washington Post article describes

Manji’s epiphany about prayer—the cornerstone of the Islamic faith:

Instead, she said, she began praying on her own. After washing her feet, arms and face, she would sit on a velvet rug and turn toward Mecca. Eventually, she stopped this as well, because she did not want to fall “into mindless submission and habitual submissiveness.”

Manji is welcome to her opinion about this practice of 1.5 billion people worldwide. She is also welcome to abandon any and all of these practices. But Manji is not simply depicted as an insignificant woman who decided not to pray. Her personal decision to abandon central tenants of her faith—so long as that faith is Islam—is portrayed as a fight for freedom. A fight against tyranny. She is “courageous” and “gutsy,” a model for other not-too-Islamic Muslims to follow.
Making this the model is like asking someone not to be “too black” or “too Jewish,” as if these were in essence bad or violent, and anyone who struggled only to be “moderately black” or “moderately Jewish” was a freedom fighter.
For example, Manji told the Washington Post, “The violence is going to happen, then why not risk it happening for the sake of freedom?”
Yes. Freedom is good. Manji may have said it better. Kerry may have said it subtler. But a business management professor at California’s Imperial Valley College said it truer: “The only way to end Islamic terrorism is to eliminate the Islamic religion.”
But regardless of how you say it, one thing is for sure: when it comes to Islam these days, less is definitely more.

Yasmin Mogahed is an Egyptian-American journalist based in Wisconsin, USA.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Pre-FOL Preperations

"...The attitude of the unknown and unnamed Ansari girl who readily agreed to be the wife of a physically unattractive man was an attitude which reflected a profound understanding of Islam. It reflected on her part the effacement of personal desires and preferences even when she could have counted on the support of her parents. It reflected on her part a total disregard for social pressures. It reflected above all a ready and implicit confidence in the wisdom and authority of the Prophet in submitting herself to whatever he deemed good. This is the attitude of the true believer."

Read about the story of Julaybib, radiAllahu anh.