The Trap of Being Wealthy and Disbelieved: Overconfident with Akhirah

Recently I stumbled upon few verses when reading the Qur’an. The verses mention there are some people who are wealthy and disbelieved in God, yet are very confident that they will also be rewarded well by God in the hereafter. I am wondering, where does this overconfidence come from? Should not these people be nervous about life in the hereafter after living this world with disbelief in God? These are some of the verses:

  • QS: 18: 35-36: “And he entered his garden, wronging himself, and said, “I think not that this will ever perish. Nor do I think that the Hour is imminent. And if I am brought back to my Lord, I shall surely find something better that thisin the Hereafter.”
  • QS 41: 50: ”And if we make him taste some mercy from Us after hardship has befallen him, surely he will say, “This is mine; I think not that the Hour will come. If I am returned unto my Lord, surely with Him shall I have that which is most beautiful”. So We shall inform those who disbelieved of that which they have done, and We shall cause them to taste of a grave punishment.”

As evident in the verses, there seems two traps here. First, when human beings receive a blessing or mercy from God, they say, This is mine; meaning something they feel they deserve because God is pleased with them; or that they feel there is no end to what they will be given. Second, by believing that they deserve what they receive from God, such individuals also believe that IF there is in fact a return to God, they will be among those who are rewarded, just as they were rewarded in this life.

Hence, there are two major sins that we can learn from these verses: First is pride and refusal to acknowledge God’s mercy. Second is doubt with the hereafter. The wealthy people are disbelieving and sinning through pride and their refusal to acknowledge that his provision comes from God. This delusion points to the moral error of “excessive hope in worldly things”, which entails being heedless of the impermanence of all created things and of one’s own morality. These people, with their great wealth, think that their wealth makes them immortal. Furthermore, the word “If I am brought back”, stress his overall doubt in the Hereafter or resurrection.

As an example, during Prophet era, a Makkan leader and idolater, Al-Ash bin Wa’il (father of Amr bin Ash), owed money to one of the Companion of the Prophet. When resurrection was mentioned to him in conjunction with a request that he repay his debt to the companion, Al-Ash mockingly replied that if he were indeed to be resurrected, he would be resurrected possessing wealth and children so would be able to repay his debt then.

The cause

So what could be the cause of this ironic behavior? I think the overconfident might stem from their belief that their wealth and good fortune belong to them on the basis of his own personal merit, rather than bestowed by God. Furthermore, since they assume that this merit transcends death, they also expect to enjoy wealth and children in the hereafter as well. In the QS 19:77, Allah SWT mentions, “Has you not considered the one who disbelieves in our signs, and says, “I shall be given wealth and children”. Also in QS 104:3: “Who amasses wealth and tallies it; supposing that his wealth makes him immortal

The irony

The verses also show that when these people have wealth, they will be ungrateful to Allah and disbelieving the akhirah, yet ironically, when bad things happen, they will call upon God sincerely. In QS 70:19-21: “Truly man was created anxious. When evil befalls him, impatient. And when good befalls him, withholding (it). So there seems to be pattern that the people were initially tested by Allah hence humbling themselves, yet when Allah gives them fortune, they become ungrateful. Despite this disbelief, what actually will happen in the hereafter is that God will inform them about their disbelief and will call them into account.

Finally, this theme reminds me of the concept of istidraj. Allah SWT mentioned: QS 6:44: “So then they forgot that whereof they had been reminded, We opened unto them the gates of all things, till, as they exulted in what they were given, We seize them suddenly, whereupon they came to despair.”

So here, we find the same pattern: they forgot that whereof they had been reminded; they forgot the lesson they should have learned from their misfortune and hardship, i.e. their utter dependency on God. Furthermore, they thought that they had been blessed and that their actions were therefore fair/good. In a hadits, Rasulullah SAW said, “When you see that God has given much to one of His servant in this world, despite his disobedience, it is only as a temptation”.

 Lessons learned

I think there are several lessons we can learn. First, let’s be aware of pride and overconfident in oneself. It is Allah who has power overall things. All of our achievements are due to him. Second, hereafter is real; we should not have doubt in it like the disbeliever. Third, we should realize that the circumstances that arise are from God and be content with them. We should be content with all that comes from God. Hence, when health and wealth are present, they should be expanded for the sake of seeking gain in the hereafter rather than gain in this life. Fourth, the alteration between hardship and ease should serve to deep our spirituality.

  • Let’s be at the center of the wheel of fortune, i.e. whatever happens in life should not change our belief in Allah. When we are at the top, we should not be too complacent and arrogant. Similarly, when we are at the bottom, we should not be in despair.
  • We need to be detached from adversity and prosperity in this world, avoiding both bitterness and self-satisfaction, and to engender an awareness that the variations of worldly life are merely a Divine test and do not necessarily reflect either Divine pleasure or dissatisfaction.

Finally, the fifth, let’s beware of istidraj/good fortune despite our many sinful actions.


Bryant advice

Many people are shocked by the sudden passing of great basketball player, Kobe Bryant. Even though I am not following any particular sport game, including basket ball, the outpouring reaction from Bryant’s fans to his death, I think, showed how far he has inspired many people. The following is a transcript from Bryant’s narration in a video posted by LA Lakers during tribute to him. I think Bryant’s advices here are relevant for all of us. I particularly moved by his advice to continue work hard and be the best at our chosen field, or box, as Bryant put it. Here’s the transcript, hope it’s beneficial.

Once upon a time there was a young basketball player who had dreams of becoming one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. He had the opportunity to go to the NBA and play against the greatest players in the world. If that doesn’t get you going, I don’t think anything will.

It’s like a dream come true. I couldn’t even dream of this when I was a kid. You know. Just no way possible. It’s just, you know, just a blessing from above.

The joy of the game comes from just being out there and just playing. The competitive side of me thinks we can win every game that we play.

What I’ve learned is to … always keep going.

Do you love the process? That gets you to that. Those boring, agonizing moments. If you love that, then you know you found something that’s really true to you.

You know, if you do the work, you work hard enough, dreams come true. Those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times when you stay up late and you work hard. Those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself , but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.

If you’re a fan of mine, you’re a fan of winning. You’re fan of the Lakers. That’s never going to change.

Man, I gave my soul to this game. There was nothing more I could give.

I wanted to be one of the best basketball players to ever play and anything else that was outside of that lane, I didn’t have time for. It’s not about my jerseys that are hanging up there for me. It’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before.

Growing up and watching all these great players play and learning so much from them. To now be a part of that wall, you know, means everything to me.

When you get older you start to understand that really it’s about the next generation. That these championships do come and go. But the most important thing you can do is to pay everything that you’ve learned forward to the next generation to come. And that’s truly how you create something that lasts forever.

I love storytelling. Can you imagine, like, winning an Oscar, how ridiculous that would be? Unfortunately for us athletes, we’ve been pigeonholed into thinking that we can only be one thing. I’m here to show people that we can do much more than that. Winning an Oscar, winning an Emmy and an Annie, those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, no, no, there’s more to this thing.

The discipline, the commitment, the team, the community. How do I take those lessons and move those here? Having that sharp focus is something that I got from the game of basketball

You have to dance beautifully in the box that you’re comfortable dancing in. My box was to be extremely ambitious within the sport of basketball. Your box is different than mine. Everybody has their own. It’s your job to try to perfect it and make it as beautiful of a canvas as you can make it. And if you have done that, then you have lived a successful life. You have lived with Mamba Mentality.

And being married to my wife, Vanessa, is, it’s fun. We have a good time together. I love her tremendously. But we’re best friends too. It’s a blessing. And when we’re raising our daughters one of the things we choose to do is you just got to try your best and you just got to give it your all. Give it everything you have.

As parents you’ve have to lead by example. If you want your kids to do whatever it is you want to accomplish in life, you have to show them. I have four girls, so my mission is to make sure women have opportunities. Our daughters will grow up understanding that they can be strong, they can be independent. They can be fierce.

I just love spending time with my family and just being a husband, being a father, being a goofball, just having a good time with my kids.

I grew up a diehard, I mean, a diehard Laker fan. And to spend 20 years here, I mean you can’t, you can’t write something better than this. Appreciating all this, you know the journey we’ve been on. We’ve been through our ups and we’ve been though our downs. I think the most important part is that we all stayed together throughout. You guys will always be in my heart. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. God, I love you guys. What can I say? Mamba out.

The Miraculous Gifts for the People of Patience-Part 2 (Lesson 9)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 9: The Miraculous Gifts for the People of Patience, by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

We have looked at four blessings of patience: (i) they will gain Allah’s love; (ii) they have the nusr of Allah/ma’iya with Allah (victory, help); (iii) they’re rewarded with high places in paradise; (iv) they’re given the blessings of all the rewards of patience without any accounting/reckoning. The next four are in the verse that Allah SWT, when He says, “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 153). It’s a reminder to really seek help from patience, to seek out patience and prayer; surely God is with the shabirin. And then He says, “And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 154). Don’t say about those who have died in the path of God that they’re dead. But you’re unaware of the type of life that they have. And then immediately after that Allah SWT says, “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 155). Our scholars said that in this verse we are being warned by Allah SWT that we are going to be tested, tried. Life is a tribulation. Allah SWT will try us in our life. So there will be tribulation in our life. This is a warning from Allah, that life is a trial and tribulation.

The trial will be in something in khouf (fear), ju’ (hunger), and naqsin (diminishment) in wealth, food, and lives themselves. All of these things will experience tribulation and diminishment. Then Allah SWT says after that, wa bassyir asshobirin. Give glad tidings to the people of patience. This is the fifth karamat (miraculous gift) of patience. That is you have busyra, i.e. glad tidings, from Allah SWT.

Then in the next ayat, “Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 156). Those who are when they’re afflicted in calamity, what do they say? When the calamity comes, they say, innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un. We belong to God and to God we return. So the lam there in Arabic, when we say ha dza laka (this is for you or this belongs to you). That lam is a lam of possession or dominion. So whenever anything happens, the first thing you have to remember, ma ashoba min mushibatin illa biidznillah, i.e. no calamity afflicts except that it was by the permission of Allah SWT. Remember that. Wa man yu’min billahi, yahdi qolbahu, whoever believes in Allah, He will guide his heart. So inna lillahi wa inna ilahi raji’un: we belong to God and to God we return. Upon those people are sholawat from God. So the solace from God; divine solace of the forgiveness, the divine solace of rahmah. So sholawatun minallahi wa rahmah. These are the sixth and seventh gift.

Finally, ulaika humul muhtadun. That you get guidance. This is huda. These are the blessings in these ayat: (i) busyra, (ii) the sholawat or the gift of divine solace that descent upon your heart from God; (iii) the mercy from Allah; and (iv) the fact that God is saying you have my guidance so you’ve been given the huda of Allah. Overall, these are the eight Karamat of patience and they’re great blessings all from the Qur’an. May Allah SWT makes us people of patience. May Allah SWT makes us people that adhere to this truth to the best of our ability. Ramadhan is the month of patience. Fasting is partly to teach us patience. To be patient with our appetite, to be patient with others. This is the time that Rasul said that you have to be particularly careful of not getting upset. So this is time to be patient with obedience to Allah (in devotional practice) and for not falling into sinful activities, e.g. backbiting, slander, bad opinion of others, etc. These are gifts of patient. May Allah SWT make us patient. Next, I hope to look at gratitude and hopefully end with washiyat about the book of Allah that we’ve been intimate with during the month of Ramadhan.

The Miraculous Gifts for the People of Patience-Part 1 (Lesson 8)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 8: The Miraculous Gifts for the People of Patience, by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

Alhamdulillah, welcome back. We are going to look at eight karamat (miraculous gift) that Ibnu Juzayy Al-Kalbi has identified in the Qur’an for the people of patience. The first one is mahabbah. Wallahu yuhibbu asshabirin (QS Ali-Imran: 146): Allah loves the patience ones. So this is a great gift from Allah SWT that you get His mahabbah. One of the things, and this is I think really important point, there are a lot of Muslim that don’t understand the nature of divine love. Some Christians have always argued that Islam is not a religion of love. That to me is a completely false argument. At the source of Islam is our Prophet SAW whose called habiballah, the beloved of God. Yuhibbunallaha wa yuhibbuhum (QS Al-Maidah: 54): they love God and God loves them. Mahabbah is the root of the Islamic tradition. In fact, there are many different types of love in Arabic tradition. The Qur’an uses the term like al-mawaddah. For instance, Allah puts between the servant of the merciful (the feeling of) wudd. Wudd is a type of affectionate love and it’s an unconditional type of love. So al-wadud for instance is a loving spouse.

One of the names of God is al-wadud, i.e. the loving God. The God that loves His creation. This is why we see in the Qur’an, innallaha la yuhibbu zholimin. God does not love the oppressor. That is what is called mahabbah khossoh, because all of us as oppress (zhalim). No body is free of oppression. So if that was a mutlaq, that means God does not love any body except maybe the Prophet and a handful of auliya and sholihin, that doesn’t have zulm because even in the Qur’an, it says, “Then we caused to inherit the Book those We have chosen of Our servants; and among them is he who wrongs himself, and among them is he who is moderate, and among them is he who is foremost in good deeds by permission of Allah . That [inheritance] is what is the great bounty.” (QS Fathir: 32). Allah caused them mustafa, i.e. Allah chosen them, yet here He says they’re oppressing themselves. And previously Allah says, innallaha la yuhibbu zholimin, Allah does not love the oppressors. So, if this person is a zholim, yet he is mustafa (chosen) and given wiratsa (inherited the book), how does that square? We have to understand different degrees of divine love. Allah SWT says rahmati wasi’a kulla syai (QS Al-A’raf: 156): My mercy has encompassed all thing. That includes everyone; that includes the disbelievers, the believers, the atheists, the jinn, the gentile, everybody goes under that. So where it differs is in that mahabbah khossoh. This is the specific love that Allah gives to the people of taqwa. Again, getting back to the centrality and the importance of taqwa. This is extremely important so the people of taqwa are also, wa man yasbiru wa yattaqi, whoever is patient and also has taqwa. Allah SWT talks about the people of patience and taqwa, so they get, wallahu yuhibb, Allah loves ash-shabirin. That’s the first qualities of the eight.

The second quality is that Allah SWT is with you in syakur. Allah SWT actually gives you His ma’iyyah. So Allah SWT says, “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 153). Take solace, take help, seek refuge, in patience and prayer, verily, indeed, surely, Allah is with the people of shabr. This is amazing; that when you’re patient, Allah’s with you. Now one of the interesting things, and as human beings, one of our difficultly because we have what we called risibility, risible nature, for those of us who have the trial and tribulation of having choleric temperament, dealing with learning how to control that risible nature takes a lot of nature of time and effort. For other people it’s very easy to control that. In the case of risibility, the person who has that type of temperament, it’s very important that they learn to control that. Now one of the extraordinary things about walking is that it has been showed in many articles which shows that people that walk consistently, that it actually reduces their stress and the threshold for anger become higher and higher. So people that walk as a practice, they actually become calmer and less prone to losing their temper. I find it very interesting because in the Qur’an Allah SWT says, “And the slaves of the Most Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.” (QS Al-Furqon: 63). The servant of the merciful, the attribute here was used, not servant of Allah, but servant of the merciful. It is Allah, that is using the attribute of mercy, they walk upon the earth lightly, humbly. When ignorant people provoke them, they say peace. So there’s direct relationship between just the practice of walking. Our Prophet SAW walk and he said to give glad tidings to the masyain, the people that walk in dark to the mosque. Muslims traditionally walk a great deal. One the tribulation of modern people is they don’t walk enough. So that having the nasr of Allah will come from patience. If you get angry, Iblis comes in the room. If you are able to continue shabr. Allah’s with you, innallah ma’a shobirin.

The third quality is the guraf in Jannah. Allah SWT says, “Those will be rewarded with the highest place (in Paradise) because of their patience. Therein they shall be met with greetings and the word of peace and respect.” (QS Al-Furqon: 75). They’re given a reward of high places in paradise because of their patience, bima shobaru. So because of their patience they’re granted this high station in paradise.

The fourth one is that Allah SWT gives you a reckoning without any hisab. Allah SWT says, “… Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” (QS Az-Zumar: 10). Allah SWT said the patience one, have their rewards given to them, fulfilled without any reckoning. That’s the fourth. These are extraordinary blessings given to the patient. The first one being the mahhabah (gaining mahabbah of Allah/love of Allah through patience); second, that you have syakur from Allah (his ma’iyah/God’s with you when you’re patient); third you’re given high rank in paradise; and finally you’re rewarded without any reckoning. It’s a huge vast reward for being patience. So it’s extraordinary to have this gift.

The Types of Patience (Lesson 7)

Bismillah. The following is the continuation of Syaikh Hamza Yusuf’s reminder regarding patience.

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 7: The Types of Patience

Alhamdulillah, we have been looking at patience. Today insyallah we will look at the different types of patience that have been defined by our scholars. Ibnu Jauzi said essentially shabr at the first is shabr ‘alan ni’mah, which is to be patience with the blessings of Allah SWT given us. This means that we use them for the sake of Allah SWT. So it is very important to recognize that our health is for reasons. Some people spend their health in disobedience to Allah SWT. That’s squandering of the gift you’ve been given by your Lord. Other people for instance have a lot of wealth, but end up wasting their money. Some collect cars. This is the sign of deep material sickness. Some people collect cars and some constantly are buying things (consumerism). These are real diseases in the hearts. If we look at the prophet SAW, when he returned to his Lord, Aisyah RA brought out his possession. And this is something that’s famous about Gandhi when they show you what the possession that he died with. Our prophet SAW actually have fewer possession. He is literately uninterested in worldly possession. He had what he needed it. We certainly don’t have to do that; there is nothing wrong with having worldly possession. However, if you have wealth, it is a blessing from Allah as long as you pay your zakat and helping others. But at certain point, enough is enough. Being patient with blessings, means using those blessings for good things, for purposeful things, for meaningful things. That’s very important.

Second is being patient with tribulations that come to our life. One of the Arab poets said, there are eight things that will happen to every human being; and every human being will eventually see these eight things: surur (joy); huzn (depression); ijtima’un (coming together/gathering), furqotun (dispersing/separation), yusrun (ease); ‘usrn (hardship); sukmun (sickness) and ‘afiyah (health). These are the natures of the world. There is constant turning of events. In fact, one of the great roman philosophers said always remember fortune does what it pleases. What he meant is that never trust prosperity. Never trust prosperity. When we are in prosperous situation, be grateful, but recognize it could all go very quickly. We see people commit suicide because stock market crashes or because their company goes bankrupt. These are people that are so attached to material world. When they lose their material things, they completely collapse or fall apart. So being patient in tribulation is extremely important to have that qualities. It’s not having hala’. Allah SWT said, that human beings are created in the state of anxiety (QS Al-Ma’arij: 19). If you look at the child that goes in to the world. It goes to total anxiety. It needs to be soothed by the mother. That embrace by the mother, as you transition into the adulthood, is the divine embrace. That is recognizing that Allah SWT is there, always. To give you solace, even in the worst of tribulation. So it’s very important that we transition out of that state of hala’, i.e. the mother removed that anxiety state from the infant, now Allah SWT will always remove that state for the individual who believes sincerely. One of the extraordinary verses in the Qur’an about this is there is no calamity that afflict you except by the permission of God; and whoever believes in Allah SWT, Allah will guide his heart (QS At-Taghabun: 11). So whoever believes in Allah SWT, Allah will guide his heart. In common commentary, what they say is that every affliction that comes to you is by the permission of God. It’s from the qadr of Allah SWT. And whoever believe in Allah, Allah will guides his heart. In another word, if you believe, if you have certainty in your heart, Allah will guide his heart to tranquility and accepting the decree. This is actually moving to higher maqam now. We are moving into much stronger maqam of faith. That’s really really important to remember.

Third is shabr ‘ala tho’ah, which is maintaining patience with your devotion. There are people that slack off. Some people come back to Islam during Ramadhan and then when Ramadhan’s over, the syaithan has been released back to dunya, they fall back to bad pattern before Ramadhan. We see this in many many people. There has to be continuity in your practice. And so this is shabr ‘ala tha’ah, you have to be continuous in your practice. So the first is patience with blessings; then patience with tribulation; and then patience with devotional practice. Being consistent in your prayer. Inna sholata kaanats ‘alal mukminina kitaaban mauquta, the prayers for the believers are on defined times (QS An-Nisa’: 103). Some people outside of the faith find this difficult to understand about Islam. This idea of specificity, that we have this regimented time to pray, even though the prayer time has some space, but actually this recognizing that I have to pray five times a day, to go back and reset myself. This disciplines our time because time dissipates. Wal ‘asr, by time, verily human being in loss (Al-‘Asr: 1-2). We lose time passing. Every inch of it, we never gain it back, illalladzina amanu, except those who invest their time with believe and good actions; and they enjoin truth. And because those who enjoined truth will always be opposed, they have to be patient. So they also have to enjoin patience (Al-‘Asr: 3).

Patience in blessings means using those blessings for the sake of Allah. Patience in tribulation means recognizing that everything comes from God. Tribulations are either comes from sins that we accrue or raising of our degree. However, Ibnu Taimiyah said, the one who really follows the narrative of the Qur’an by a type of reasoning, he will conclude by inductive reasoning that the vast majority of calamities actually happen because of what human beings have done. So bring in ourselves. Unfortunately, one of the calamities involve that the innocents are also affected by the sins when they’re public. So it affects the whole group, despite the fact that only some of the people are wrongdoers. So this is one of the trials of life on earth.

Insyaallah, on the next session, I’ll go through the eight Karamat that comes from patience.

How to Respond to the Condition You’re In (Lesson 6)

The following is transcript of short reminder by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf on how we should respond to various conditions in our life. The video is at the end of the transcript. Hope you find benefit in it as I do.

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 6: How to Respond to the Condition You’re In

We have looked at the concept of taqwa, which I think is the most foundational and important concept in our tradition. It is a beautiful word and comprehensive word. With that word also come another really important concept and sometimes they are paired together in the qur’an, and that is shabr; shabr (patience) and syukr (gratitude) which I hope to talk about later. These are the two qualities that human beings absolutely necessary to embodies in their lives. Life is essentially tragedy and comedy. These are two great words in literature because these define the very nature of life in earth. Tragic element and comedic. Comedic does not mean funny, but rather happy situation. Comedy in classical theater is something that has happy ending. So, there is either tragedy or there is joy and happiness. When you are in joy and happiness, it is very important to be very grateful. In fact, the word of gratitude in old English is rooted in the idea of joy. The act of joyfulness is to express gratitude.

Patience is however is what we need more than anything because life is tribulation. And life, if we look at our life overtime, you will see that there is an immense amount of tribulation in human life. It is very important such that the highest stage of human quality is gratitude; and the stage immediately after that that is necessary for us to maintain in our life is patience.

Allah SWT actually uses the word shabr in the Qur’an in various forms, over 70 times. This is how central the idea of patience is. For instance, “ishbiru wa shabiru or be patience and enjoin to patience”, as in QS Ali-Imran: 200. One of the great bounties of patience is that there are certain Karamat or blessings that come from patience. I hope to look at that later.

Today I would like to look at the stage that we find ourselves in. One of the great scholars of Egypt, Ibnu ‘Ata’allah al-Sakandary, which is more known for his tasawuf but also a master of Maliki scholar. He went through spiritual crisis at certain times and he went to his teacher Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi, someone who really knew God in a very profound way. And he let his syaikh know that he was having these difficulties. He said that his syaikh told him that you will always find yourselves in one of four circumstances. And you need to understand these circumstances and its proper responses. Life is essentially about response. In fact, the very definition of life biologically is that it responses to stimuli. If something does not respond to stimuli, it is not considered living. Life is responses, this is how we determine somebody alive.

There are four conditions that you will find yourselves in and there are four responses.

The first condition is blessings. To be alive is a great blessing; to have consciousness; to be healthy is a great blessing. If you begin enumerating your blessings, you will not come to the end of it. Allah SWT said, “And if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (QS An-Nahl:18). So the response to blessings is gratitude, syukr. And that’s why it’s so central and Allah tells us and warns us really, that “qolilun min ibadiyassyaukur, very few are my servants are continuously grateful” (QS Saba:13) because this is the highest station of the people closest to God, even in tribulations. Ibnu Abbas RA said in every tribulations, there are three blessings that you should be grateful for. One is it could have been worse. If you lost one child you could have lost all of your children. If you lost one arms you could have lost both. If you blind, you could have been deaf. So there is always that blessings that it could have been worse. Second, it is in your dunya, your worldly matters, not in your religion matters, your deen. If you lose a million dollars and all you have was a 800,000 and now 200,000 in debt, you still have your health. There are people that have a million dollar that are sick that would give that million if they can purchase your health. So there are always something to be grateful for and to recognize that this worldly is that something that we can lose but if we do not lose our deen that it is a blessings. Finally, that it is in this world but not in the next. That in itself is an immense blessing. The real calamities are the calamities that determine peoples’ afterlife. So, patience and gratitude is very important.

The second stage is that you are in tribulation. And the response to tribulation is patience. So gratitude with blessings and patience in tribulation.

The third stage he said is that you are in obedience in Allah SWT. And the response to that is to witness the taufiq of Allah, i.e. the success that Allah has granted to be in obedience to Allah SWT. This means seeing that had it not been for God then I would have not been able to do this. This will prevent arrogant from coming to the hearts, to think that this is me doing it. C.S. Lewis has good insight in his wonderful work The Screwtape Letters, which is about series of letters from one senior devil (Screwtape) teaching his (younger) nephew devils how to seduce people. The nephew said he has a situation. He says, “I’m in big trouble, the man started to become pious. He is now going to the church.” Then the older devil comes, and said, nothing to worry about. Just tell how much better he is compared to other people. Just tell how a pious person he is, i.e. instill pride. Once you instill pride in the heart of believer, he is finished because arrogance is one thing that Allah SWT will abase/disgrace. That’s something to keep in mind, that if you’re blessed with being able to be able to read a lot of Qur’an in Ramadhan, to pray, and to do all these things. See that as blessings from Allah, so that also demands gratitude by witnessing the gift of Allah in that. Allah SWT said, “Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful” (QS Al-hujurat: 17). Do not remind me that it is a blessings that you become Muslim. So God reminds us that it is His blessing that He gives us Islam. So that’s very important for us to keep in mind.

Finally, is disobedience. The response to disobediences is taubah. Turning back to Allah SWT. These are the four stages that Abu al-Abbas mentioned to his student. Ibnu ‘Ata’allah said that he felt like a mountain of weight was lifted from him in receiving that guidance. It is a really extraordinary great blessings to know the four conditions that we are going to find ourselves in and how to respond to them. Insyaallah next session, we will look at shabr, the four types of shabr and also the eight karamats that come from shabr.



Goodness and Purity (Lesson 5)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 5: Goodness and Purity, by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

Insyaallah, we’ve been looking at taqwa, and the idea that the people of taqwa. Another qa’idah or principle in the Qur’an is the idea of tibb or goodness (thoyyib). The opposite of what is thoyyib is called khubts or khobits. So we have at-thoyyibun and al-khobatsat. The thoyyibun are the people of taqwa. These are the people that have trained their soul, disciplined their soul to be good. In a hadits, “Innallaha thoyyibun la yuqbalu illa thoyyiba”, verily Allah is good and only accept the good or the pure.

This is a very important quality in the Qur’an. Allah SWT said, “Say (O Muhammad SAW): “Not equal are Al-Khabith and At-Taiyib, even though the abundance of Al-Khabith (evil) may please you.” So fear Allah much [(abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)], O men of understanding in order that you may be successful.” (QS Al-Maidah: 100). So they are not equal, the khobits and the thoyyib; the foul and the pure; the polluted to the pure. This is a very important principle in the Qur’an that the thoyyibun lit thoyyibat, pure people, pure men for pure women. Pureness is a quality that can be found in anything. You can have pure water; you can have polluted water. You can have pure money, which is earned through halal means; you can have impure money, which is earned through haram means. Understanding what purity is very important and this is one of the things that Muslims are working on themselves: to get closer to Allah SWT through getting pure.

Allah SWT says, “So that Allah may distinguish the wicked from the good and place the wicked some of them upon others and heap them all together and put them into Hell. It is those who are the losers.” (QS Al-Anfal: 37). Allah will have the khabits some of it on others; so piles up all together and then He puts it into hell. Thus khabits heads into hell and thoyyib heads to paradise. This is something very important to remember: that we want to be thoyyib. Allah SWT says in the previous QS Al-Maidah:100, even if you’re impressed with much of the foulness, fattaquallah, have taqwa of Allah o people of innermost understanding, in order that you successful. This ayat reminds us that khobits is not the same with thoyyib. Taqwa is not the same with its opposite, which is state of disobedience to Allah. Then it says wa law a’jabaka, even if you’re impressed with so much of the khabits. Because when you look out to the world, you’ll see khabits and it seems to be flourishing. Don’t be impressed by it. You see, if you want to be a successful television program today, it has to be foul. You can’t have a pure television program. That’s how you can have success in the dunya, but not in the akhirat. If you look at people now, its foulness is what seems to charm other people. Pure people, thoyyib people now are looked on as what’s wrong with you, get with the program!; why aren’t you drinking? Why are you dressing modestly? Because to dress immodestly is hubb, and to dress modestly is thoibubah, it’s something that reflects a purity. So that’s what the Qur’an is saying. Then the ayat says, fattaqullaha, have taqwa of Allah. This is like the airplane crash that happens several years ago. There was a Syrian family that when they were getting on the plane, they were demanded that the women take off her hijab. She refused and said I did it for God. She wouldn’t do it and then she ended up not getting on the plane with her family. The plane went down. This was a woman who adhering to principle. Allah SWT rewards her with that adherence. It doesn’t mean good people do not die in airplane crashes. They do. It can happen. It’s an example of somebody that adhere to something; and Allah SWT showed her that reality. We’ll find that very often in our life: when we adhere to this principle, Allah SWT will show us, will reveal to us the blessings of adhering to those principles. So we shouldn’t be fooled by this.

Another verse in the Qur’an, Allah SWT reminds us, “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” (QS An-Nahl: 97). So whoever does good deed, whether a male or female; whoever acts righteously whether they’re male or female and they have belief. In another word, they’re doing it because they know that Allah SWT is watching them and aware of them. Allah SWT says, we will cause them to live a thoyyib life, a pure life. In another word, when you act according to taqwa, when you act according to this principle, Allah SWT is going to give you a good life. These are axiomatic truth that Allah SWT has promised to His people.

Another thing, in QS An-Nahl: 32, “Those whose lives the angels take while they are in a pious state (i.e. pure from all evil, and worshiping none but Allah Alone) saying (to them): Salamun ‘Alaikum (peace be on you) enter you Paradise, because of (the good) which you used to do (in the world).” So there are people that the angel when they cause them to die, these are the people that are thoyyibin. These are the people that Allah SWT will protect.

Another important aspect of this concept in the Qur’an of thoyyib is food. We often don’t think about this but Allah SWT tells us, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 168). Eat of the good things, halalan thoyyiba. Eat halal things and pure things; and do not follow the progress of syaithan. If we want to understand Iblis, Iblis is progressor. Iblis is not a conservative. Iblis is always changing the post, it always moves them a little bit further. Now he’s telling us, for instance, marriage: what’s wrong with intimacy outside of the marriage if it’s two people that love each other and they agree on it? and then move it to the next stage, move it to the next stage. What’s coming next are things like in Germany: incest, making a permitted incest. This is what syaithan does: he takes people progressively. What we are trying to do is to conserve the best of the past. We don’t want to conserve the negative aspect of the past. Racism is something that in many places of the past. It still exists today; it’s not something that we want to conserve. But family, we want to conserve family; yet syaithan wants to destroy family. Marriage will conserve family; while syaithan wants to destroy family. So syathan takes people by progression.

Allah SWT reminds us to eat these pure things: halalan thoyyiba. And this is very important to understand that food can be halal but not thoyyib. For instance, there are a lot of foods now that are actually harmful for you. Much of the chicken-people eat a lot chicken-, if you look at how chickens were raised, you look how they’re fed, look at hormones that given to them. This affects people. Another thing, if you eat good thing, then you’ll do good. If you eat thoyyib, your action will be thoyyib. If you eat khobits, your action will be khobits. So there’s direct relationship between the caloric energy that you derive from foods and how that caloric energy is used in your action. If that caloric energy is derived from halalan thoyyiban sources, pure and permitted sources, then what you will do will be pure or permitted. If it’s derived from khobits and haram sources, in another word prohibited and foul sources, then what’s you’re doing to do is foul. This is axiomatic. It is very important to do this. This is why Allah SWT says to the messenger: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the Taiyibat and do righteous deeds. Verily! I am Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (QS Al-Mu’minun: 51). Eat from the pure thing and do righteous action. Inni bima ta’maluna ‘alim: I am completely aware of what you’re doing. This is a good example of the direct correlation between what you eat and what you do. In another word, it is axiomatic: if you eat pure, you’ll do pure; if you eat foul, you’ll do foul. So food is extremely important to watch, what you’re eating. Jazakumullahu khoiran.


Seeing Reality as It Is (Lesson 4)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 4: Seeing Reality as It is, by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

Continuing on this exploration of the word taqwa from the Qur’an because Ramadhan is really a school of taqwa. In fact, the qur’an says that fasting was prescribed in order that you might acquire taqwa. So again, the prayer (sholah) is really a practice of taqwa; fasting is a practice of taqwa; zakat comes out of taqwa; and certainly hajj is a great personification of taqwa because we enter into the ihram and then we are very limited in what we can actually do when we are in ihram state. So taqwa is really about disciplining the soul, about aligning oneself vertically with our Lord. Most of the people are living on this horizontal plain and forgetting that there is actually another plain. There is another plain that penetrates this plain, and that is the vertical plain of reality. So trying to get to the point of where we have the sun of reality is directly above our head and the shadow disappears, that’s the essence of what taqwa is.

One of the things that qur’an says: take isti’anah (help) with God or through God (i.e. get your help through God) and patience (QS Al-A’raf: 128). Qur’an is also telling us that the earth is God’s and He gives it to whomever He pleases. Allah SWT is the possessor of all dominion and he gives it to whomever He pleases. So Pharaoh can rule Egypt and Moses can be the one who is oppressed in Egypt, but that dominion is from Allah SWT. This is the reminder of the Qur’an. Not to be deluded by the outward; not to fallen to this false perception of reality, where you think that the people in power are in power independent from God. No. They are only there because Allah SWT has enabled them to be there. When He removes their power, their power goes and can go in one night. It can go in one heartbeat. All of their power’s gone. It can go with a stroke. Allah SWT can reduce the most powerful human being to a murdering idiot. This is the reality of life on earth. So the people of taqwa are the people who do not seek their help in the outward illusion of the world. They seek their help from the source of the world. From what’s behind of the world, which is Allah SWT. For this reason, their heart can’t never be conquered. Their body can be conquered; they can be enslaved; they can be in worst condition; but their hearts are for God. This is the reality of the people of taqwa. So we are reminded that the earth is God’s but then that He gives it to whom He pleases (yuritsuha man yasya min ibadihi, QS Al-A’raf: 128). Again, min ibadihi. So it does not matter who they are. They are still in servitude of Allah SWT. But wal ‘aqibatu lil muttaqin, despite all of that, the ‘aqibah (end affair) is for the people of taqwa.

There is another verse in QS Al-Hajj: 41, “those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” Those who have been established in the earth, what do they do once they get into power? This is the difference between the people of pharaoh and the people of Moses. Once they are in power, the people of Moses: they establish the prayer, they take care the poor people. Pharaoh does the opposite. Pharaoh makes people worship him and then he exploits the poor people. The people of taqwa are the people whom when they are established in the world, they establish the prayer, they do taqwa, do amr bil ma’ruf and nahi ‘anin munkar. They command others to virtue because they are practicing it. They are not hypocrite that just commanding people to do virtuos thing without them practicing it. They also prohibit the munkar, something that are vow, vulgarity. One of the hallmarks of our current civilization is its vulgarity. Rasulullah SAW despised vulgarity. He despised vulgar language. He said the believers are not fahas. He said one of the signs of the latter days are you’ll see obscenity manifests and you’ll see people being obscene for fact (not because they’re sad, in frustration, but just for the sake of saying bad words). They’re purposefully using obscenity. This is a very bad sign. One of the interesting words in Greek language is the word for vulgarity: apeirokalia, which means inexperienced in things beautiful. So the Greek understood what vulgarity was, i.e. those who do not understand what beauty is; because beautiful language never uses vulgarity. Words do have reality. People said what’s the big deal about that bad/swear word. No there is a big deal about that word. It has a reality. It has an impact. It has avowedness. People of virtue are people that are behaving beautifully and commanding others to behave beautifully. They are avoiding munkar, the vow things. Things that are not supposed to be seen or heard. Those are the people that Allah SWT said the end affairs is for them.

Allah also reminded us, to be patient and that the end affair is for the people of taqwa (QS Hud: 49). This reminder is constant in qur’an. The reason for that is because “truth is for scaffold, wrong is for the throne”. This is the nature of dunya. Difficult for people to understand that. This place is place for tribulation. If truth is on the throne in the dunya, where’s the tribulation? Tribulation is in difficulty. The religious teaching that empower people on this thing is the most powerful teaching on this planet . That’s why they’re so dangerous. These are extremely dangerous doctrine because people that understand them never be fooled by illusory power of Pharaoh and his minion. Pharaoh has power in this world, but does not have power in the next world. His power is completely obliterated in the next world. In fact, Rasul said, the tyrant will be raised up as ants. They are going to be stepped on by vast majority of humanity because they’re nothing. This is the difference between people of taqwa with the people who are deluded by power. It’s an empty power, does not exist. Only God exists. This is what the people of Allah SWT knows. They know that Allah SWT in the end will rectify every wrong, will straighten every crookedness, will elevate every abased, will abase every elevated in this dunya. That’s the nature. This is what we believe and what we accept. This is what we will be raised up on. May Allah SWT give all of us taqwa in our heart to see the reality as reality. Rasul said in a beautiful du’aAllohumma airini haqqa haqqa warzunqni ittiba’ah wa airini bathilan bathila warzuqni ijtinabah: O Allah shows me truth as it is and give me the ability to follow it and show me falsehood as it is falsehood and give me the ability to avoid it.

The Way of Moses or the Way of Pharaoh (Lesson 3)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 3: The Way of Moses or the Way of Pharoh, by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

Alhamdulillah, we have been looking at the concept of taqwa which is again one of the most reiterated ideas in the Qur’an. The Qur’an actually begins with, after al-fatihah, “Alif-Lam-Mim. This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.” (QS Al-Baqoroh: 1-2). This is a guidance for the people of taqwa. So taqwa is absolutely the core of the Qur’anic message. As I reiterated before, the very first commandment in the Qur’an is the commandment to taqwa.

Now in QS Thoha: 132, Rasul SAW was being addressed by Allah SWT. Allah SWT tells him, “And enjoin prayer upon your family [and people] and be steadfast therein. We ask you not for provision; We provide for you, and the [best] outcome is for [those of] righteousness.” Command your family to prayer and be deeply patient in this. Wasthabir ‘alaiha. One of the things about the Arabic language, Allah SWT could have said, washbir ‘alaiha: be patient with it. When you add something, it intensifies the meaning. Here the letter that was added to the verb shabara was tho, it’s an emphatic letter. It’s one the emphatic letters in Arabic. So it’s a very strong. Wasthabir ‘alaiha means to really be deeply patient with it. Seek help from patience and prayer. And then Allah reminds us, la nas aluka rizqa. We do not ask for provision. We are not asking you for provision. What we are asking you for is devotion. We will provide for you. We have to do those things that get the provisions, but the provision is there. We will provide for you. Nahnu narzuquka. We will provide for you. Wal ‘aqibatu littaqwa. The phrase comes in this verse is about prayer. That is, with prayer you are preparing yourself for the inevitability of victory. The victory of the soul over the ego; the victory of the mosaic reality over the pharonic reality; the victory of truth over falsehood; the victory of justice over oppression. This is the essence of prayer, it’s in order for you to constantly go back to God, no matter how difficult things get, that you go back to Allah SWT with prayer. Take isti’anah from God. Take your solace, your help from Allah SWT. This is what Allah is telling us.

Now in another verse in QS Al-Qasas: 83, Allah SWT said, “That home of the Hereafter We assign to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth or corruption. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.”. This abode of afterlife that we have made, is for people that don’t want to be exalted in the earth nor they want corruption in the earth, and the end affair is for the people of taqwa. Again, it’s a reminder that these are people, the akhirah has been set aside for them, i.e. they get great victory. There are times when the Muslims have seen victory in this world, i.e. when they become the people of truth. When it was Bani Israil time, when the Israelite were on the truth, God gave them victory over Pharaoh. Pharaoh was drown; he was drown in the ocean. And God gives them entrance in to the promised land because they were the people of truth. They were adhering to the principle and being guided by them. Rasul SAW said, the victory was also given to the people of Jesus over his enemies at that time. So in that case, it was the opposite. Now the people of Israel oppose Jesus at the time. This is part of the problem with human being, i.e. we oscillate. There are times when we are powerless and there are times when we are in power, depending on how we respond to that power; depending on who we are with. Are we with God or are we with Pharaoh. These are the two choices: you are either with God or with Pharaoh. There is really no in between in this.

So this idea that the darul akhirah being in place for those who don’t want to be exalted in the earth like Pharaoh. Pharaoh elevated himself in the earth. Whereas the people of the mosaic people, the Jesuit people, the Mohammedan people, peace be upon all of our prophets, these are the people that humble themselves. “And the slaves of the Most Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.” (QS Al-Furqon: 63). Insyaallah we are going to look at 12 attributes that define the servant of merciful. The servant of the merciful who thread lightly on the earth. They walk lightly on the earth. It’s interesting that now we talk about carbon footprint. People that have heavy carbon footprint, that pollute a lot. The people of Allah SWT are the people that thread lightly in earth. They don’t want to be exalted in the earth. So this idea that the akhirah is made of those that do not want either to be exalted or sow corruption. These two tend to go together. This is a really important thing to remember. When people become arrogant, they tend then to be oppressive, they tend to sow corruption in the earth. This is the nature of Pharaoh as opposed to the nature of the prophetic tradition which is the way of Moses, the way of Jesus, the way of our Prophet Muhammad SAW. All of them are our Prophets, but we are from the ummah of sayyidina Muhammad SAW. Alhamdulillah, jazakumullahu khoiran.

The Good End is for the God-conscious (Lesson 2)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 2: The Good End is for the God-conscious by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

In the last short reflection, I’ve talked about taqwa and the idea of taqwa being one of the fundamental principles that Qur’an is constantly reminding us. What I’d like to do is to define taqwa first and foremost, and then look at the idea that al-‘aqibatu lil muttaqin or wal ‘aqibatu lit taqwa, i.e. the end affairs is always for taqwa or for the people of taqwa.

Taqwa itself, said Ibnu Asyur one of the great Moroccan scholar, is imtisal, i.e. to obey the commandment of God and ijtinab, to avoid the prohibition. So there are awamar and nahi in the Qur’an, i.e. things that Prophet SAW was commanded to tell us or prohibited or disliked or discouraged; and there are things that he was commanded to tell us that something is obligatory or recommended. So the idea of taqwa essentially is that the people of taqwa is the people that do what they were commanded and avoid what they were prohibited. They do it through disciplining of the soul. So there is act of disciplining the soul that occurs through your life, through practices. One of the things about practice is that practice is what enable us to incrementally get better at something. For instance, people who learn a new skill, initially it is very difficult for them. But over time, as they continue to practice, it gets easier and easier. This is the process of habituation. There is saying that everything is habit, even devotion (ibadah). In fact, the great Greek philosopher Aristoteles said, virtue is basically the habituation of the soul to a virtuous practice. In another word, you have to habituate overtime through constant practice and discipline of the soul yourself to a virtuous practice until it becomes a second nature.

Thus basically what taqwa is practicing these things (commandment and prohibition); and because of the glory of God, because people will always fall short in their practices, it becomes very difficult as times to be consistent in it, we have what is called taubah, which is in Greek, they call metanoia, which is a very nice term, which means to change your mind. Taubah is literally means to turn or repent so that it’s going back to God. Thus the people of taqwa when they fall short of the expectation upon them, they repent, they turn. If you’re driving down the road, going the wrong way, you have to make a U-turn. So you might see a sign that says something so that you realize I am going the wrong way. You have to do U-turn. In the road of life, you are going to sometimes make the wrong turn. Then you’re going to get signs that tell you that you’re on the wrong path. Now unfortunately, what a lot of people do, they just ignore the signs. In the end, those are basically road to hell. There will be hell in this life, because the nature of sins is just it creates a lot of misery. So when the Qur’an tells us, wal ‘aqibatu lit taqwa, it’s telling us that in the end, the victory is for the taqwa. Victory is for piety, for consciousness. An example of that, there is a great poet who said, “Truth forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne. Yet, the scaffold sways the future and beyond the dim unknown, stand the God among the shadow keeping watch above his own.” What he meant by that, for instance, the scaffold in Arab is what they build to hang people. So truth has always been a strung up. For instance, if you look at the Qur’an, many of the prophet are actually not successful. They are actually completely attacked by their own people. But there is a success in their conveying of the message despite the fact that they’re killed, despite the fact that they’re turned upon. Ibrahim AS with Namrud with his people, he was not successful in turning them back to God. He was successful in conveying the message. This is the meaning of truth forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne. So Pharaoh chases Moses out of Egypt. Moses has to flee for his life. But the point is that the scaffold squeezes the future, that the moral art of the universe is bend towards justice. This is what we have to be consistently be reminded of that, i.e. al-aqibatu lil muttaqin and wal ‘aqibatu lit taqwa We have to consistently remind ourselves, no matter how dark it gets, we believe that the end is for taqwa; the end is for piety; the end is for people of consciousness. This is an extremely important thing to keep in mind.

Taqwa (God-consciousness) (Lesson 1)

Ramadhan Ruminations Lesson 1: Taqwa (God-consciousness) by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf

(Transcript begins)

Insyaallah, I hope to do a series of reflection on very short verses or statements from the Qur’an that will help us better understand some of the fundamental or foundational principles (qawa’id) of the Qur’an. One of the extraordinary aspects of the Qur’an is that because it is a non-linear book when you read it, unlike, for instance the bible or previous dispensation that have come to people, it is constantly pulling you back into the core virtues. So, there are verses that will come in different ways, again and again.

One of the most important concepts in the Qur’an is the idea of taqwa. This is why it is foundational. In fact, the very first verses that gives a command in the Qur’an is that we are told in surah Al-Baqarah, “O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious)” (QS Al-Baqarah: 21). So worship your Lord, humanity, and know that He created you and those before you, so that you don’t think that you are in infinite regress or circular type of reasoning. There was a beginning to all this. There was the first parent, Adam and Hawa. So, it reminds you that you have a beginning; your species have a beginning. You come from your parents, that have parents, that have parents, all the way back to Adam. Thus no infinite regress or circular feedback. There is ultimate cause, as Allah SWT reminds us. Once you’re determined; once you understand that you have a Lord, you have to worship that Lord. And the purpose of that worship is to achieve what the Qur’an called, la’allakum tattaqun, that’s perhaps you may gain piety.

Taqwa is a difficult word to pin down because it has semantic view that gives nuances of meaning. But primarily it has to do with prevention. Its root word wiqaya is prevention. When you ward off something, you ward off something harmful. The word in Arabic for a believer, i.e. mu’min, means the one who secures. Al-Mu’min is also one of the names of God because God secures us. Aamana means to secure something, from amina-ya’manu, which means to be secure. How do you secure something is amantu billahi, i.e. I’ve secured myself through God. In another word, through God I found security. This is the essence of taqwa, that is a way protecting yourself from harm through your devotion to your Lord. Thus no matter what comes to you, you will be in a good situation. For instance, when we read the Qur’an, in a very interesting hadits about the latter day in which Sayyidina Ali heard the Prophet SAW said that the calamities, civil strives, sedition, and fitnah would continue and become so constant that eventually it would become a portion of black dark night. This is certainly the case in some places in the world right now. There are Muslims in some part of the world whose life has become a portion of dark night. When Prophet said that, Sayyidina Ali said to the Prophet SAW, “what’s the way out of that? How do we get out of that situation?”. This is one of interesting things about companions (sahaba). They always ask the right question. If you see hadits where they ask question, they always asked the right question. In this hadits, he (Sayyidina Ali) didn’t say, o how terrible that day is. In fact, he wants to know what’s the right way out. The reason that he asked that question in my estimation is because he knew a Qur’anic principle: wa man yattaqillaha, yaj’al lahu makhraja (QS At-Talaq: 2), i.e. whoever has taqwa of God, God will always gives him an exit strategy. God will always gives him a way out from the situation. Always. This is a promise. This sentence is known in Arabic as jumlah syarqiyah, or a conditional sentences. If you fulfil this condition, then this is the result. And so if you have taqwa, you will have a way out. The Prophet said the way out is the book of Allah. The Qur’an tells you what happened in the past and gives you insights about what’s going to happen in the future. What that means is there are many stories in the Qur’an, that are sacred history. While we can’t prove them in some historical account that are archaeologist go through, we believe them to be true because they have been revealed. But the historical nature of them is not what’s important. It’s the lessons that are important. And that’s why it is a sacred history. So we could never prove the garden of Aden or what happened to the garden of Aden, but we know that it is a sacred history in order for us to understand the lesson of the beginning of our species. The most constant story that we find in the Qur’an coming in different ways with different nuances is the story of Pharoh and Moses. This conflict between good and between evil; between humility and between arrogant; between the divine revelation and the between one’s own independent thought, free of revelation; the difference between those who exalt themselves and those who exalt their Lord; difference between those who serve others and those who have others served them. This is the fundamental problem on this planet. And the people of Prophetic tradition, the Mosaic people, the Jesuit, the Mohammedan people SAW, and peace be upon all of the Prophets, these are the people of service. And that’s why when you look at the religious iterations that exist today, the people that take their religion seriously, are the people of service, whether they are Christian, Jews or Muslim. This is fundamental hallmark of religious people, i.e. they serve others, they don’t themselves. The reason they are serving others is because they’re serving their Lord. But the reminder of the Qur’an is al-aqibatu lit taqwa, that the end affairs is for taqwa.

Insyaallah in the next session I will talk about taqwa and its meaning.

The Beauty of Islam

I just attended a weekly Qur’an reflection circle organized by GWU Muslim Student Association (MSA). We were reading Al-Qur’an Surah Rum (The Roman, 30) ayat 33-42. There are endless interesting points in these ayat, as usually are with Qur’an ayat. I would like to highlight one part related with (conventional) economics theory. The respective ayat are as follows.

“Do they not see that Allah extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it]? Indeed, in that are signs for a people who believe.

So give to the kindred his due, and to Al-Miskin (the poor) and to the wayfarer. That is best for those who seek Allah’s Countenance, and it is they who will be successful.

And that which you give in gift (to others), in order that it may increase (your wealth by expecting to get a better one in return) from other people’s property, has no increase with Allah, but that which you give in Zakat seeking Allah’s Countenance then those, they shall have manifold increase.” (Q.S. Rum: 37-39).

In economics theory, there are strands of literature related with human behavior regarding the life/business cycle (i.e. the ups and downs of economic/financial condition). Among of the theories are the permanent income hypothesis and certainty equivalence. The theories say human or an economic agent will try to smooth out its consumption path in order to maximize its utility. The consumption allocation will be based on that of permanent income, i.e. the part of income that is expected to be stable, rather than the actual income. Central to these theories is that there will be savings and borrowings, i.e. people will save during good time and borrow during bad time. This savings and borrowings take place in a market called asset market, which will be cleared/settled with an equilibrium interest rate. Interest rate is key in this economy because it incentivizes people to save and penalizes people for borrowing. The model also predicts, at the end of the day, there will be large asset accumulation on individuals with the highest savings rate (i.e. the most patience individual).

Smoothing out the impact of business cycle fluctuation is part of Islam teaching (e.g. in Surah Yusuf). However some part of the theory above is not what Allah SWT teaches. In these ayat 37-39, Allah SWT sets a system for us in living this life: for sure there will be ups and downs; but there is a system set up for this: we should help our kindred, the miskin (people who are stuck in difficult situation and cannot get out), and the wayfarer. In addition, Allah SWT in ayah 39 forbids the use of interest rate (usury) among us, something very central in the conventional economics theory. Allah SWT forbids us to take advantage of people who are in needy situation. Listening to this, many economists would argue there will be incentive problem: if there is no interest rate, then people will be less likely to save (due to no rewards) and people would expect to get ‘free’ loan during bad time. In short, people will game/free ride on the system which in the end will lead to an equilibrium where there will be no body saves. However, as Allah SWT is great, His system will not fail. He mentions in verse 38 that helping the kindred, miskin, and wayfarer is a very good act. Helping people is an act of those who seek Allah’s countenance and will lead them to be successful in akhirah (hereafter). This is something insightful and in contrast with standard economic theory. In standard economic theory, human being is assumed to maximize their utility function which usually contains their consumption/wealth. However Allah SWT mentions that the reward in akhirah should be in our utility function, i.e. our utility should not only depends on how much stuffs we consume and how much money we have, but it should be about our state in akhirah. Thus by having this akhirah rewards in mind, actually the removal of interest rate will not make people save less, but rather people will save more because they want to help other people in need in order to seek Allah’s pleasure. This is a great way of life that Allah SWT teaches us.

On another point, it is very interesting in ayah 37, Allah SWT mentions, the fact that there are heterogeneity in terms of wealth/endowment/provision level across human being is actually a sign of Allah’s existence. This is a stark contrast to many atheist argument who says how can there is God if there are many poor people suffering. In this ayah, Allah SWT says actually these heterogeneity is a sign of His existence. This sign will be understood by the faithful (“…in that are signs for a people who believe.”). We always ask Allah SWT to grant us clear mind so we can understand and see through His revelation. Probably one of the wisdom why we human being have different level of wealth is because the heterogeneity is crucial for our life. How so? Maybe if all people are endowed with equal amount of wealth (no heterogeneity), e.g. all people are equally wealthy, there will be less interaction among human being, less empathy, less entrepreneurial efforts, less innovation, and many other things which will render our society worse off compared to the setting with heterogeneity among us. Only Allah knows the true wisdom (hikmah) behind this. May Allah SWT grants us wisdom to understand His teaching.

Finally, to conclude, how lucky and elevated we are to be given and blessed with Al-Qur’an. It is a book full of wisdom and beautiful way of life. From Qur’an we know who our creator is, what He wants us to do, where we are going to go, and how we can live this life in the best way. May we are among people who take Qur’an as its guidance and not among those who disregard and abandon it.

When the eventual test arrives

Tests from Allah SWT is life reality. It is then very important to have a proper mindset when dealing with it. I found the lecture below by Syaikh Hamza Yusuf is a good one. (Update 5/20/2020: it seems the video was removed from YouTube. luckily I wrote the transcript.) The lecture’s transcript is below. Salam,

(Transcript begins)

You have to realize everything that is happening is from Allah. You don’t get depressed. People, if you forget about Allah, you end up getting depressed. You think that things are black and gloomy and doom… No! We don’t believe this. We believe in happy ending. The root of western civilization is tragedy. If you look at the major masterpieces of western literature, they’re all tragic. They have horrible endings; everybody dies. That’s not the Muslim-view. Our stories in the Qur’an, they are all good endings. If you look in the Qur’an, they are good endings. The good guy, the good people win. No matter how bleak it looks out there, it’s dunya (worldly life). Dunya means the lowest place. Ad-dunya. We are on the bottom, there is only up from here. Really, there is only up. This place, Wallahi (by Allah).

All of you, I give you sincere advice and myself. This place is designed to break your heart. It was designed that way. If you’re looking to be happy in the dunya, you’re in the wrong place. If Allah gave you a horrible spouse, you can get out of it; and He might give you another horrible spouse. Of you don’t find a spouse and then you’re lonely and you wish you were with your horrible spouse because at least being with him or her there was somebody to talk to. And then he might make you happy. But you look, how many wealthy people do you know that have a lot of wealth who have children that are in tribulation, who have sons that are completely wayward? Really, look out there. People are in tribulation. You think you are looking at him because he has a big house, he a nice Mercedes. If you were in his shoes you might say, “I want to be back in my old shoes, even though they have holes in them. Because at least I can sleep at night. In his shoes I have to take all these pills to go to sleep.”

Everybody has their tribulations and it’s very rare that people have a happy and wonderful life. Those people are rare and they are an ayat min ayatillah (sign from God signs). Ibnu Abbas RA said, the foundation of dunya is tribulation. So if you are in ni’mah (blessings), it’s easier in some ways and in some ways it is not. Because it’s easier to forget Allah when things go well. It’s much more difficult to forget Allah when things are difficult. That’s why the Sahaba (companions) said “when things are easy, they are always followed by hard times; whereas when things are hard they are always followed by easy times.” So they prefer to be waiting for the ease than to be waiting for the hardship. Because there’s a hadits (saying of Prophet) and it’s hasan (sound): “The best worship is waiting for the ease from Allah to come when you are in hardship”. So if Muslims would just have that perspective, they would realize that if I’m patient here with all these tribulations, I’m in ‘ibadah (worship). You could just be sitting in your house and if you’re muhtasib with Allah, you’re in ‘ibadah. But if you’re there complaining and ask why always me; and everything’s horrible and it’s doom and gloom and it’s all black and it’s all dark, Allah will give you more things to complain about. And He’ll give you some real things to complain about, because there’s hadits, if you complain about small calamities, Allah gives you great calamities. And that’s why Ibn Abbas RA said that in every ni’mah, there are three ni’mah. In every tribulation there are three blessings.

The first one is that it could be worse than it is. Second, that it’s in your worldly matters and not in your deen (religion). Like if you lose money; it’s money. But if you lose deen, you lost everything. So that’s a ni’mah. There is a prayer that Prophet teaches us: “O Allah, please don’t make our calamities be in our deen”. If you think about it; he didn’t say “O Allah, please don’t give us calamities”. Do you see the du’a (supplication)? He didn’t say, don’t give us any calamities. He said, don’t give us calamities in our deen. We’re going to get tribulation and we know that. Because that’s the nature of dunya (so that Allah can test you, QS 2:155). So we’re going to get tribulation, but we ask don’t make it in deen; make it in dunya. So it’s a ni’mah. If you lost your job, say Alhamdulillah (all praise to Allah) that I didn’t miss my prayers. Alhamdulillah, I didn’t lose my imaan (faith). Alhamdulillah there’s wudhu (ablution) and a place to pray. Because jobs come and go. But deen once it’s gone; Allahu’alam (Allah knows best) if you’ll ever get it back. And then the final one it’s in this world, in dunya and not in akhirah. As long as the musibah (difficulty) is in this world, it’s a ni’mah. Because the real musibah is the musibah in the next world. So if you look at that and realize; we’re in blessing. Wallahi (by Allah), the whole lot of us. Some may be more than others outwardly, more observable, but the whole ummah is in blessing, Wallahi. The whole thing: Palestine, Kashmir, Shihan, everywhere. We’re in ni’mah and you have to see it; you have to see it. Because we have Allah. The people of kuffar (non-believers), they have no Lord. We have Allah SWT and as long as you have Allah, they can’t take anything away from you. Everything you desire exist with Allah SWT. So if you have Allah, you have everything you desire. If you don’t have Allah, nothing can make you happy. Nothing! It will all bring you misery. Wallahi, and that’s the truth. It’s not a lie.

Rasulullah SAW

A beautiful nasyid by Malaysia’ inteam nasyid group below. It reminds me how far below I have fallen on the standard and expectation set the beloved Rasulullah SAW. When death approaches, his main concern was still his ummah. May Allah SWT helps to get better and closer to expectation Rasulullah has set.

“Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”. (QS Ali-Imran:31)

Life lesson

Delapan tafakkur Hatim a-Asham, seorang ulama ukhrawi, berikut insyaallah sangat bermanfaat bagi kehidupan kita.

Pertama, aku melihat ke sekeliling dan memperhatikan bahwa setiap orang mempunyai obyek cinta dan kekasih masing-masing dan ingin terus hidup bersama dengan yang dicintainya itu hingga ke liang lahat. Ketika masuk kuburan ia berpisah dengan yang dicintainya itu. Aku lalu merenungkan firman Allah berikut, “Kita semua milik Allah dan kepada-Nya kita akan kembali”. Karena itu, aku menjadikan amal baikku sebagai obyek cinta. Ketika meninggal, amal baikku akan menyertaiku masuk kubur.

Kedua, aku memperhatikan firman Allah, “Dan adapun orang yang takut kepada kebesaran Tuhannya dan menahan diri dari keinginan hawa nafsunya, maka sesungguhnya surgalah tempat tinggalnya” (QS An-Nazi’at: 40). Aku sadar bahwa firman Allah Swt benar. Kemudian aku berjuang keras untuk menahan nafsuku dan aku merasa puas dengan taat kepada Allah.

Ketiga, aku memperhatikan manusia di sekitarku dan mendapati bahwa mereka menghargai apa saja yang dimilikinya. Lalu aku mengkaji ayat Allah berikut, “Apa yang ada di sisimu akan lenyap, dan apa yang ada di sisi Allah adalah kekal” (QS An-Nahl:96). Maka aku pesembahkan kepada Allah apa-apa yang jatuh ke tanganku.

Keempat, aku memperhatikan manusia di sekelilingku dan menyaksikan mereka menggantungkan diri pada harta, nama, kemahsyuran, kehormatan dan kemulyaannya dan mendapati semua itu tidak berarti apa-apa. Lalu aku merenungkan firman Allah berikut, “Sesungguhnya yang termulia di antara kamu pada sisi Allah adalah yang paling takwa” (QS Al-Hujurat:13). Maka aku meningkatkan takwaku kepada Allah dalam hidup ini hingga aku menjadi orang yang dimuliakan Allah.

Kelima, aku memandang manusia di sekitarku dan mendapati bahwa mereka saling menikam dan mengutuk karena rasa dengki dan benci. Kemudian aku memperhatikan ayat Allah berikut, “Kami telah membagi-bagikan penghidupan di antara mereka dalam kehidupan dunia ini” (QS Az-Zukhruf:32). Maka aku tinggalkan rasa dengki dan benci lalu aku menyadari bahwa rezeki berasal dari Allah dan aku agak menjauhkan diri dari manusia.

Keenam, aku memperhatikan manusia di sekitarku dan mendapati bahwa mereka saling berbuat durhaka antara satu dengan yang lain. Bahkan banyak di antara mereka saling membunuh. Lalu aku membaca ayat Allah berikut, “Sesungguhya setan itu musuh kamu, karena itu perlakukan dia sebagai musuh” (QS Fathir:6). Maka aku menjadikan setan sebagai musuh dan tidak lagi memusuhi manusia.

Ketujuh, aku menyaksikan manusia di sekelilingku dan mendapati mereka mencari penghidupannya masing-masing dan untuk itu mereka bersedia menghinakan diri dan melakukan hal-hal yang dilarang agama. Kemudian aku mencermati firman Allah berikut, “Dan tidak ada suatu binatang melata pun di muka bumi melainkan Alah yang memberi rezekinya…” (QS Hud:6). Menyadari bahwa aku merupakan salah satu ‘binatang melata’ yang rezekinya tergantung pada Allah, aku lalu menunaikan apa-apa yang menjadi hak Allah dan menyadarkan penghidupanku kepada-Nya.

Kedelapan, aku memperhatikan manusia dan mendapati bahwa setiap orang bergantung pada makhluk, sebagian pada kekayaan, pekerjaan, perusahaan dan sebagian lainnya pada kesehatan fisiknya. Kemudian aku mencoba menghayati firman Allah berikut. “Dan barangsiapa tawakal kepada Allah niscaya Allah akan mencukupan keperluannya” (QS Ath-Talaq:3). Maka aku bersandar dan bertawakal kepada Allah dan dia sudah cukup bagiku.

(Dikutip dari buku Ihya Ulumiddin, Bab 1 tentang Ilmu).

What’s in the heart

All that matter in this life is our relationship with Allah SWT. All other things are unworthy or of secondary importance. That being said, it implies no matter what happens in life, as long as our relationship with Allah SWT remains intact, then we are good. For me this is important, having endured some unfavorable moments recently. All praise to Allah SWT that strengthens to go through it well.

As human being, we dislike test. Many kids dislike exam. It is something that we are nervous about. On top of that, the difficulty of the exam is increasing once we pass the previous level. Thus, it is not that we are done after passing an exam, but rather, we are just being readied for another exam, with higher difficulty, to arrive. Simple resemblance to daily life: after mid-semester test, there will be final semester test, which of course has higher level of difficulty. After first year test, there will be second year test, with of course higher difficulty, and so on.

So again, as we human being naturally dislike test, I personally was a bit disappointed that actually life itself by definition is a test. Allah SWT said in Qur’an (underline added), “Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He is Able to do all things. Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving” (Q.S. Al-Mulk: 1-2). All of us also dislike sadness. But as life is full of test, the test itself can be in form of sadness. Allah SWT said, “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” (Q.S. Al-Baqoroh: 155-156). Furthermore, I find it very surprising what the people of paradise said when they realized the ni’mah (bounty) that they have in paradise. Allah SWT mentioned in the Qur’an (underline added): “‘Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting Gardens) will they enter, therein will they be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls, and their garments there will be of silk (i.e. in Paradise). And they will say, “Praise to Allah, who has removed from us [all] sorrow. Indeed, our Lord is Forgiving and Appreciative -He who has settled us in the home of duration out of His bounty. There touches us not in it any fatigue, and there touches us not in it weariness [of mind].” (Q.S. Fathir: 33-35). I find it very interesting. The people of paradise could have said many things, but here the first thing they are being grateful to Allah for is that because Allah SWT has removed sorrow from them.

At first, I found the fact we are always going to be tested with an increasing difficulty as a bit depressing, but then I realized that Allah SWT actually gave us the tools or hints to overcome all of these tests, no matter how hard they are. The tools are shabr (patience/perseverance) and du’a (prayer). SujudAllah SWT said, “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Q.S. Al-Baqoroh: 153). Allah SWT also said, “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah], who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him.” (Q.S. Al-Baqoroh: 45-46). From these verses, shabr and prayer are very central for our life to finish all the tests well. It is then very important for all of us to always strengthen our shabr. Indeed, this is what Allah SWT told us to do, “O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.” (Q.S. Ali-Imran: 200).

Finally, I would like to remind myself that that all of these should not make us live this life full with nervousness, sadness and without happiness. In fact, Rasulullah SAW never do that. He is a person with life contentment. And the reason, I believe is because he knows that all that matter in this life is our relationship with Allah SWT. As long as the relationship is strong, then no matter what happened in life, it does not matter. It also means that we should not place in our heart any other things than Allah SWT. If we place this world in our heart, then surely disappointment and sadness with come because this world is not everlasting. The only one everlasting is Allah SWT, thus it should be the only one inside our heart. May Allah SWT strengthens our shabr to pass all of the tests until we finally meet Him in paradise. Wallahu’alam bisshawab. 

It’s okay to make ‘wrong’ choice, as long as …

Hidup adalah pilihan. Setiap hembusan nafas adalah pilihan. Menulis tulisan ini adalah pilihan antara menulis atau melakukan kegiatan lain. Dalam hal yang lebih besar, mungkin bentuk pilihannya adalah apakah sebaiknya kuliah atau bekerja; jika kuliah apakah sebaiknya mengambil jurusan A atau B; jika ikut organisasi, apakah sebaiknya organisasi A atau B; serta pilihan-pilihan lainnya.

Tantangan dalam membuat pilihan tentu saja adalah kita tidak ingin membuat pilihan yang salah dan berujung penyesalan. Namun tentu, kita baru tahu akibat pilihan tersebut di kemudian hari.

Dalam membuat pilihan yang baik kita tentunya berusaha mengumpulkan informasi sebanyak mungkin sehingga kita dapat membayangkan hasil/akibatnya. Namun sering kali setelah berusaha menggali informasi, masih tetap saja ada ketidakpastiaan. Karena pilihan harus segera dibuat, apa yang sebaiknya kita lakukan?

Bagi sebagian orang yang selalu berusaha melakukan sesuatu dengan baik dan terencana, mereka cenderung merasa khawatir/nerveous jika hal yang mereka lakukan berujung tidak baik dan berbuah penyesalan. Dalam konteks pilihan, mereka selalu khawatir bagaimana kalau seandainya pilihan yang saya buat itu salah?

Terkait hal ini, setelah mempelajari pilihan-pilihan dengan baik, saya berpendapat bahwa pilihan apapun yang dibuat hasilnya adalah baik atau tidak akan ‘salah’, selama syaratnya terpenuhi. Apa syaratnya? Syaratnya adalah saat melakukan pilihan, kita memurnikan niat bahwa kita membuat pilihan tersebut dengan maksud untuk memaksimalkan ibadah kita pada Allah atau memaksimalkan ridha Allah. Dengan kata lain, selama kita selalu meniatkan pilihan kita untuk memaksimalkan ridha Allah, maka ketika dihadapkan pada ketidakpastian, padahal sudah berusaha menggali informasi, pilih saja salah satu, apapun hasilnya adalah baik. Ini adalah makna memurnikan niat.

Saya sebelumnya tidak terlalu paham dengan hikmah dari perintah Rasulullah SAW untuk membaca basmallah sebelum melakukan pekerjaan apapun. Dalam Bahasa Indonesia, basmallah diartikan ‘dengan menyebut nama Allah’. Terjemahan ini terasa asing dan janggal, karena dalam Bahasa Indonesia, dalam percakapan sehari-hari kita tidak pernah menggunakan kata dengan menyebut nama A atau nama B dalam sebuah kalimat. Sekarang, saya berfikir, agar lebih tepat, seharusnya basmallah ini dipahami sebagai, ‘saya melakukan ini untuk mencari ridha Allah’. Contohnya ketika akan makan Apel, sebelum makan, kita berfikir bahwa saya memakan ini untuk mencari ridha Allah. Bagaiman bisa makan Apel  bisa mencari ridha Allah? Tentu bisa. Dengan makan Apel (yang lezat itu) kita bisa bersyukur akan ni’mat dari Allah. Dengan makan Apel kita mendapat vitamin/zat gizi lainnya sehingga bisa beribadah lebih baik lagi. Hal yang sederhana ini merupakan perubahan fundamental: dari sekedar makan menjadi makan untuk beribadah. Makan untuk tujuan yang besar; niat yang besar. Ini adalah perubahan mindset menjadi seseorang yang segala kegiatannya dimulai dengan alasan ‘melakukannya karena Allah atau untuk mencapai ridha Allah’.

Berangkat dari hikmah membaca basmallah sebelum melakukan segala sesuatu ini, kita menjadi sadar bahwa sebenarnya memurnikan niat ini tidak hanya terbatas pada mengambil pilihan saja, namun dalam melakukan segala sesuatu.

Sekarang tentu tantangannya adalah bagaimana agar otak kita selalu segar dan hati kita selalu khusyuk, sehingga sebelum melakukan sesuatu, kita selalu ingat untuk meniatkannya untuk mencari ridha Allah (yang dalam bentuk fisik kita ungkapkan dengan membaca basmallah). Ini adalah tantangan besar karena kita manusia zaman modern terbiasa untuk menjadi zombie, yaitu melakukan sesuatu tanpa disadari atau pikirannya sedang berada di tempat lain. Saat sholat misalnya, kita (atau saya khususnya) sering tiba-tiba tersadar, oh ternyata sudah mau salam saja. Tadi saat berdiri dan ruku’ pikiran melayang kemana-mana. Untuk mengatasi hal ini tentu kita perlu berusaha untuk khusyu’ di dalam dan di luar sholat. Berusaha khusyu’ sampai terbiasa. Khusyu’ akan menjadikan kita orang yang fokus. Orang yang fokus akan mencapai kesuksesan. Kita mendengar hadist bahwa saat hisab nanti, orang yang baik sholatnya, yaitu yang khusyu’ sholatnya, maka amal lainnya tidak dihisab karena sudah bisa dipastikan amalan lainnya adalah baik. Analoginya adalah orang yang sentiasa khusyu’ dalam sholatnya, maka ia akan menjadi orang yang fokus, sehingga hal-hal lain yang ia lakukan pasti kualitasnya juga baik (karena ia selalu fokus; selalu fokus bahwa saat melakukan sesuatu ia lakukan untuk mencari ridha Allah SWT).

Sekarang, jika sesuatu yang kita lakukan dalam kehidupan (termasuk membuat pilihan) selalu dimulai dengan fokus/kesadaran bahwa kita melakukannya karena ingin mencari ridha Allah SWT, maka sebenarnya tidak ada yang namanya pilihan yang salah/patut disesalkan. Di kemudian hari mungkin kita menganggap suatu pilihan itu salah; namun sebenarnya, jika sejak dari awal kita sudah berpasrah pada Allah, maka sebenarnya hasil yang kita anggap salah itu adalah sesuatu yang baik menurut Allah. Pasti ada hikmah/kebaikan dari akibat pilihan tersebut yang kita belum ketahui.

Terakhir, setelah panjang lebar membahas membuat pilihan, sebenarnya Rasulullah SAW sudah mengajaarkan bahwa saat membuat pilihan kita harus melakukan sholat istikharah. Jika sholat istikharah dilakukan dengan benar, maka tidak akan ada penyesalan. Kata Rasulullah SAW: “Takkan menyesal orang yang istikharah. Takkan rugi dia yang bermusyawarah.” (HR Ath Thabrani). Do’a yang dicontohkan saat beristikharah pun menunjukkan dengan jelas bahwa kita harus memurnikan niat dan berpasrah/tawakkal pada Allah saat akan membuat pilihan. Do’a yang dicontohkan Rasul tersebut:

“Wahai Allah, sesungguhnya aku mohon pilihan Mu dengan ilmu-Mu, dan mohon kepastian-Mu dengan kekuasaan-Mu, serta mohon kepada-Mu dari anugerah-Mu Yang Maha Agung, karena Engkaulah Dzat yang berkuasa, sedang aku tiada kuasa, dan Engkaulah Dzat Yang Maha Mengetahui, sedang aku tiada mengetahui, dan Engkaulah Dzat yang mengetahui yang ghoib. Wahai Allah, jika urusan ini …….. adalah baik bagiku, untuk duniaku, akhiratku, penghidupanku, dan akibat urusanku untuk masa sekarang maupun besoknya, maka kuasakanlah bagiku dan permudahkanlah untukku, kemudian berkahilah dalam urusan itu bagiku. Namun jika urusan itu ……… menjadi buruk bagiku, untuk duniaku, akhiratku, penghidupanku, dan akibatnya persoalanku pada masa sekarang maupun besoknya, maka hindarkanlah aku dari padanya, lalu tetapkanlah bagiku kepada kebaikan, bagaimanapun adanya kemudian ridhoilah aku dengan kebaikan itu.”

Semoga kita sentiasa dekat dengan Allah SWT dan dibimbing dalam membuat keputusan. Wallahua’lam bisshawab.

The Library of Congress

Just visited the library of congress, world biggest library; and one of the oldest. This is a dream comes true. Library is one of my most favorite place, along with Masjid, park, and airport. As an avid reader, being in this huge library felt so amazing.

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Briefly on the library. Its history can be tracked to year 1800, few years after the United States was established. This probably shows how US founding fathers respect knowledge. The gigantic beautiful building of the library was first open to the public in 1897, after nine years of construction. For more detail on the history, please to refer to this link.

The main reading room of the library is very beautiful. On the ceiling, there is a painting depicting world’s greatest civilization. To my surprises, the painter included Islam as one of the civilization. This is quite rare, as most western historian will usually skip Islam or bashing it when talking about civilization. For example, in the volume 51 of Harvard Classic book, when talking about Islamic civilization, the first sentence read, “Then came, in the seventh century, a new and even more terrible blast of devastation. Mohammed arose, created Islam, and started the great movement of Arab conquest”. Regardless of that, at least the architect of this building was not that biased. The list of civilizations included in the paintings are: Egypt; Judea; Greece; Rome; Islam; Middle Ages; Italy; Germany; Spain; England; France; and America.

The ceiling of main reading room, which includes Islam as one of the civilization

I would highly recommend friends visiting D.C. area to visit this library.

Karena Cinta

We live in this world because we love Allah SWT. He has the power over everything. He created us. He gave us sustenance. Ke mana lagi hati akan berlabuh jika bukan pada Allah? He’s our auliya, the one who always protect us.

This beautiful song from Maher Zain, may Allah swt protects him and his family, is a good description of how kind and loving Allah SWT has been for us. May our eyes remain open to see it.

What du’a is more beautiful than Prophet Yusuf a.s. du’a?

رَبِّ قَدۡ ءَاتَيۡتَنِى مِنَ ٱلۡمُلۡكِ وَعَلَّمۡتَنِى مِن تَأۡوِيلِ ٱلۡأَحَادِيثِ‌ۚ فَاطِرَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ أَنتَ وَلِىِّۦ فِى ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَٱلۡأَخِرَةِ‌ۖ تَوَفَّنِى مُسۡلِمً۬ا وَأَلۡحِقۡنِى بِٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ

“My Lord! You have indeed bestowed on me of the sovereignty, and taught me the interpretation of dreams; The (only) Creator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Wali (Protector, Helper, Supporter, Guardian, etc.) in this world and in the Hereafter, cause me to die as a Muslim (the one submitting to Your Will), and join me with the righteous.” (Q.S. Yusuf: 101)

Sudahkah kita berikan diri kita pada Allah SWT sebagaimana mestinya? I’m worry for the horrible time when my thoughts are far away, deluded away from worshiping Allah SWT. What a miserable state I would be in; yet I won’t realize it. May Allah SWT always gives his mercy and guides. No other option than to make it through.

Come forth with good deeds or evil deeds?

My commuting time in the morning for work has become one of my favorite time of the day. During the time, I can read and reflect upon many verses of the Qur’an. This morning was on Surah An-Naml (The Ant). I have two main observations.

First, on the way to get hidayah (guidance). Please take a look on the ayah below.

إِنَّ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ يَقُصُّ عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَكْثَرَ الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

وَإِنَّهُ لَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَقْضِي بَيْنَهُمْ بِحُكْمِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْعَلِيمُ

فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَى الْحَقِّ الْمُبِي

إِنَّكَ لَا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَلَا تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا وَلَّوْا مُدْبِرِينَ

وَمَا أَنْتَ بِهَادِي الْعُمْيِ عَنْ ضَلَالَتِهِمْ ۖ إِنْ تُسْمِعُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِآيَاتِنَا فَهُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ

“Verily, this Quran narrates to the Children of Israel most of that about which they differ. And truly, it (this Quran) is a guide and a mercy to the believers. Verily, your Lord will decide between them (various sects) by His Judgement. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. So put your trust in Allah; surely, you (O Muhammad SAW) are on manifest truth. Verily, you cannot make the dead to hear (i.e. benefit them and similarly the disbelievers), nor can you make the deaf to hear the call, when they flee, turning their backs. Nor can you lead the blind out of their error, you can only make to hear those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), and who have submitted (themselves to Allah in Islam as Muslims).” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 76-81)

In the ayat, Allah SWT mentioned that Qur’an is a guide and mercy to the believers. However, we can’t make those who disbelieve (in the verse Allah SWT said they are the dead) to receive the truth. In fact, those who will listen to Qur’an are only those who believe and submit themselves to Allah SWT as Muslim.

Then, I ask myself, if people who will be benefited from Qur’an are people who believe in Allah SWT already, then how can the disbelievers will ever get their hidayah and listen to this Qur’an? Then I found the answer in several places in the surah. First, in the last ayat, Allah SWT mentioned, “And say [(O Muhammad SAW) to these polytheists and pagans etc.]: “All the praises and thanks be to Allah. He will show you His Ayat (signs, in yourselves, and in the universe or punishments, etc.), and you shall recognise them. And your Lord is not unaware of what you do.” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 93). From this ayat, I learn that Alah SWT do justice to everybody by showing them ayat (proof) for everybody without exception. The ayat could come from the knowledge/science that they are currently learning, from an event around them, and so on.

The second place for answer of my question I found it in the story of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) and the Queen of Saba’. I found it very interesting how the Queen get her hidayah. Let’s look at the following ayat.

“It was said to her: “Enter As-Sarh” [(a glass surface with water underneath it) or a palace], but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs, Sulaiman (Solomon) said: “Verily, it is Sarh [(a glass surface with water underneath it) or a palace] paved smooth with slab of glass.” She said: “My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit (in Islam, together with Sulaiman (Solomon), to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 44)

In that ayat, I found it magnificent how the Queen received the hidayah. When she stepped on the Sarh by mistakenly thought that it was a pool, she quickly realized how the power and greatness that she has is actually very small compared to what the Lord has. She realized how small she really is. She then (smartly) quickly realized that she has wronged herself and then submit (enter) Islam right away. I am amazed, how the Queen get her hidayah in that way.

Then, as a Muslim, what should we do to help deliver the hidayah, if it could be of any useful? For this, I found the answer in ayat 91-92, “…And I am commanded to be from among the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam). And to recite the Qur’an.” And whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] himself; and whoever strays – say, “I am only [one] of the warners.” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 91-92). Here, we learn that our task as a Muslim is to recite the Qur’an to whoever, that it may become a source of hidayah to them. I have a little story of experience on this, but maybe I’ll save it for someday to tell.

Finally, my second observation from this surah is about what we will bring to Allah SWT in the judgement day. Allah SWT described the Armageddon in ayat 87-88:

“And (remember) the Day on which the Trumpet will be blown and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth, will be terrified except him whom Allah will (exempt). And all shall come to Him humbled. And you will see the mountains and think them solid, but they shall pass away as the passing away of the clouds. The Work of Allah, Who perfected all things, verily! He is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”  (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 87-88)

What a terrible day indeed. Then Allah SWT said, “Whoever brings a good deed (i.e. Belief in the Oneness of Allah along with every deed of righteousness), will have better than its worth, and they will be safe from the terror on that Day.  And whoever brings an evil (deed) (i.e. Shirk polytheism, disbelief in the Oneness of Allah and every evil sinful deed), they will be cast down (prone) on their faces in the Fire. (And it will be said to them) “Are you being recompensed anything except what you used to do?”  (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 89-90)

I think the most fundamental question that we should ask ourselves over and over again is ‘what will we bring in front of Allah?’ Is it ‘good deeds’? or ‘evil deeds’?  I think this is an enough reminder for all of us to purify ourselves and to collect as much as good deeds we can; and stay away from any evil deeds that will strain our records in from of Allah SWT. May Allah SWT always strengthens, guides, and shows us the way.

Youth to get prepared

How Indonesia will be in fifty years time depend on what we do with our youth today. The picture below is the landscape of Jakarta seen from where I live. Certainly we can see some tall buildings; but we also see sprawling low income household houses on the sidelines.


These tall buildings were erected during Indonesia’s new order era (1966-1998). During this time, despite massive progress recorded from the extremely poor Indonesia post-colonial, the economy was pretty much built upon rent-seeking activities. Many of the rich got their riches through monopoly right licenses obtained from the government. For example, the major noodle companies in Indonesia, actually was the sole owner of wheat (key ingredient of noodle flour) import license. In short, the economy during the new order period was not built upon genuine invention or technological progress.

Again, as I reflect on how the economy (and the people, of course) will be in fifty years time, I come into conclusion that the quality of education and the subsequent creativity by the youth is what matters. These young people, who embrace the technology and utilize the opportunity created by globalization, are Indonesia’s best bet for its future. They, unlike their grandparents and parents, will create real progress in the economy through innovation. Just look at some tech and non-tech startups created by some Indonesian youths today. The challenge is then how to expand this trend (beyond just Jakarta and Bandung) to the entire archipelago.

This lead us to questions, how are we doing with the quality of our youth education? Has the education system prepare them best? Has the quality of vocational training schools prepare them for the workplace? Has the universities provide quality training? I’m afraid the answer is still No; yet even more scary, there seems to be no serious effort to rectify this.

Part of the problem maybe the lack of initiatives from the current policy makers whom themselves are the product of new order era. Not that I am saying most of them are corrupt, but it’s more on the lack of drive for reforms and preferring the status quo. To rectify this situation, I think we need more educated youth to be in that policy making level. Just small example: Pak Anies, the relatively young minister of education, finally bans ‘MOS/Ospek’ in schools. These MOS/Ospek, as we all know it, tend to be uneducating activities or even bullying events. After 70 years of independence, finally we seems to get away with it. This is one small example of how young policy makers can bring something fresh to the system.

So, what we, youth, can do now is to prepare ourselves up to the international standard so that we ready to fill the position when the time come. Finally, speaking about international standard, I think we all Indonesian youth should work harder and ‘conquer’ the world. Sometimes I am stunned, realizing how can smaller countries like UK, France, Japan, Germany, etc has more international caliber economist, scientist, etc than Indonesia, given that Indonesia is world fourth most populous country? Again, this can only lead us to conclusion, that we, really need to work harder.


Merapat pada Allah swt

Sedetikpun hati tak boleh lalai dari Allah swt. Tak mungkin ada dua cinta dalam satu hati. Jika hati lebih sering berfikir tentang dunia, mungkin memang dunialah yang lebih ia cintai. Tujuan hidup adalah untuk mendapat cinta Allah swt dan menjalankan tugas risalah yang Ia berikan. Mari perkuat kecintaan pada Allah swt dengan terus mendekatkan diri pada Al-Qur’an dan Al-Hadits. Semoga kita termasuk pada kelompok hamba yang sholeh.

Terkait tugas risalah, ia adalah tugas da’wah yang telah Allah swt takdirkan untuk kita perankan. Saat kita di kampus, maka misi risalah kita adalah berda’wah di kampus. Saat bekerja, misi risalah adalah berda’wah di kantor. Saat menjadi pemimpin, misi risalahnya adalah berda’wah pada masyarakat banyak. Semoga Allah swt menumbuhkan kecintaan pada-Nya di dalam hati kita dan menguatkan kita untuk menjalankan misi risalah kita masing-masing.

Iman and Immune

The state of our iman is like our immune system. Our immune system will stay strong if we keep feeding ourselves with halal and good food; as well as stay away from the source of diseases. Similar with our iman. If we keep doing good deeds, for instance dzikr, reading Qur’an, etc, as well as stay away from ma’siyah, then our iman will continue to be safe and sound. The relationship between ibadah and iman is a reinforcing feedback loop. The more we do the ibadah, the stronger is our iman. Moreover, by doing more ibadah thus having strong iman, Allah swt will loves us more. Let’s ponder upon this hadits:

Al-Bukhaari (6502) narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah says: ‘Whoever takes a close friend of Mine as an enemy, I declare war on him. My slave does not draw closer to Me by anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave continues to draw closer to Me by doing naafil (sunnah) deeds until I love him, and if I love him I will be his hearing with which he hears, his vision with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. If he were to ask of Me, I would surely give to him; if he were to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge. I do not hesitate about anything that I want to do as I hesitate to take the soul of a believer, for he hates death and I hate to hurt him.”

It’s time to feed our iman with ibadah again.

National program on Islamic mentoring

I couldn’t think of any other things that can save this country. It is the aqidah and iman that should be corrected first. In fact, it is the first priority. No use of being a wealthy country without iman. There is also no use of various development policies if the iman isn’t there. Not that I am a lazy economist. But think about it. When the population have good iman in Allah swt, there won’t be corruption in state budget; people will behave well thus less social problems; people will work hard because they understand that working is an act of ibadah, etc etc. I think there should be a national program on Islamic mentoring. In fact, it should be the priority of the government. At least at the current setting, the Ministry of Religious Affairs could carry out this program, for instance by requiring all students to have a one hour mentoring session each week in their school. So no need to have an Islamic-based constitution first to conduct this. Of course this policy won’t be realized until the Minister of Religious Affairs, or the President, or the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Finance is someone that experienced the benefit of mentoring it self. Until that happen, we should start with our own circle.

Life is only for a moment

Syaikh Hamza Yusuf is an amazing Muslim. May Allah swt grants him Jannah. Among thousands of video clips of his speech that I watched, the following is among my favorites. In the speech, Syaikh reminded us that we are in a good hand. We are in Allah swt’s hand. We live in this world is just for a very very short moment. Our true life, the infinity one is in the akhirah. This 70 to 80 years maximum of life in this dunya is incomparable by any measures to the infinite life in the hereafter. I am nervous whether in the final moment of my life I will still have imaan to Allah swt. I don’t even dare to imagine such thing. May Allah swt strengthens our imaan and take our soul in the state of husnul khatimah. Please watch the video.