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

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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

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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

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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

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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.