Being Part of the Ummah

[These are rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on March 12, 2017]


وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا 
In the same way, We made you a moderate Ummah (community), so that you should be witnesses over the people, and the Messenger a witness to you… [2:143]

The concept of ummah in our deen is vast; it is not enough just to be a believer. Allah (swt) has mentioned many different attributes and features of this ummah – if we don’t have these features in us, we are not really members of the ‘ummah’. Same is the case with the organisations of the world; merely joining a company doesn’t mean you will have the company’s ethos, spirit etc. Just like that, many of us are believers, we are muminin , but we don’t have the spirit of ummah within us!

What does the word wasata mean? Many think it means moderate, in the sense of being somewhere between Abu Bakr and Abu Jahl. This is wrong. Moderate isn’t that we are mediocre. Jannah is an extreme place; it has extreme happiness, bliss, joy, purity; and so is Jahannam- they will both last forever. What wasata means is that we are an ummah of balance; it means our approach to dunya should be balanced. We should take from this world a reasonable amount of comfort. One female sahabiyah complained to Nabi (sws) about her husband, that he fasts all day and prays all night, and Nabi (sws) said your body has rights over you, your spouse has rights over you – meaning don’t fast all the time, and don’t pray all night long.

In the ayah mentioned at the beginning, Allah (swt) also said ‘you will be a witness’ – why? Because we are the last and final ummah, and we have the last and final book! Nabi (sws) was the last and final Messenger, hence we are witnesses to the previous generations.

This is an ummah for all of humanity – part of being from this ummah means we have a feeling of companionship with fellow believers. Previously we have discussed how to be a true believer in seclusion, in suhbah etc. Tonight, we will discuss how to be a true mu’min as part of the ummah.

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah [3:110]

You are the very best ummah- you enjoin towards that which is known to be virtuous and pure, and you call away from those things that are rejected by Allah (swt). This is ihtiyat; to stay away from those things Allah dislikes, and to do things which Allah likes.

Whenever I come to England, I’m always amazed at how little capacity we have to do da’wah on the non-Muslims. There is so much capacity in our colleagues, neighbours, friends etc, but so few of them do we bring to deen of Islam. Sahabah (ra) always had fikr. The original meaning of da’wah is to engage with people who don’t have iman, and then to bring them to iman. We don’t even try; we say we are too scared, and embarrassed. We find it awkward. You’ve known someone for 1 year, 5 years etc, and you can never talk to them about Allah (swt)? What if they grabbed you on the Day of Judgment, and said my colleague and friend never ever told to me to prepare for this Day. We should at the least do our duty, we should care. We shouldn’t feel awkward. Even if its awkward for a couple of weeks, at least we can say on the Day of Judgment that we tried.

Allah (swt) puts barakah in da’wah when we are truly sincere – we don’t appreciate and value our own iman. If you valued it, you would want to share it. For most of us, we didn’t actively accept Islam, since we were born in families of deen, and hence we don’t appreciate this iman, and we don’t share it.

The core of iman is tawhid and ubudiyyah. Our whole focus should be this. Once there was a Shaykh who asked his students, ‘What is tawhid?’ The students replied it is to believe Allah (swt) is one. The Shaykh then explained that it is not solely to believe in the oneness of Allah, but also to live your entire life for the sake of that one Allah (swt). This is called ubudiyyah.

Allah (swt) has many names. One particular one is Malik, which goes with our identity of slave. We have one name, we are one thing – we are ‘abd (slave). Allah can be Rahman with us, He can be Wakeel, He can be Malik, but we will always be ‘abd. We only have this one identity. We are ‘abd ur-Rahman, ‘abd ul’Halim, ‘abd ul-Malik etc. We always remain ‘abd!

At the conquest of Makkah, Nabi (sws) said Alhamdulillahil-lazi sadaqa wa’dahu, wa nasar ‘abdahu – Praise is to Allah (swt)  who has fulfilled His promise, granted victory to His slave – he (sws) didn’t enter as  a leader, as a conqueror; he entered as a slave. Even in tashahhud in salah, we attest he (sws) was ‘abd before rasul. Nabi (sws) was Rasulullah, but he acknowledged that he was ‘abd first. We also need to understand this; ‘abd first, engineer second; ‘abd first, doctor second!

True tawhid and ‘ubudiyyah will make us live a life of yaqin (certainty in faith) and tawakkul (reliance on Allah). You cannot invite others to the deen without tawhid and ubudiyyah.  Whatever difficult circumstance might happen, our faith should not decrease if we have true yaqin and tawakkul. In the battle of Ahzab, the disbelievers gathered as a coalition against the believers. This was when they should be fearing the enemy, but how did Allah (swt) mention this in Qur’an:

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُواْ لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَاناً وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ 
those to whom people said, ‘the people have gathered against you; so, fear them’ – it increased them in faith and they said, ‘Allah is fully sufficient for us, and the best One in whom to trust.’ [3:173]

Whenever we face some opposition, maybe from our own nafs, maybe from some creation, maybe from some enemies – do we have the same yaqin and tawakkul? Most people suffer and fall into laziness, apathy, inaction, anxiety, and depression. They don’t even feel like making du’a. Do we only fear Allah (swt)?

فَلاَ تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي
…so fear them not, but fear Me [2:150]

‘Ulama go through difficulties, people doing relief work go through difficulties; individuals go through difficulties; people of da’wah go through difficulties. This world is a world of test – Allah (swt) wants to see who is the most virtuous in behaviour. This is the world of test and the world of effort. There is the world with no test – that is called akhirah (afterlife).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 
O’ you who believe, seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere [2:153]

You must persevere in your good deeds, and you must patiently bear whatever difficulties Allah (swt) sends your way. Allah is with such people. Many times, we aren’t able to do this? Why?

وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلاَّ عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ 
Seek help through patience and prayer. It is indeed exacting, but not for those who are humble in their hearts. [2.45]

Many people have ujub and value themselves as something, and when a difficulty comes to them, they find it extremely difficult to have sabr (patience). One core attribute is to develop this humility in us. If we are humble, we will be able to survive the tests and trials that come our way, otherwise we’ll just panic. These are things we can’t learn in difficulty.

Another attribute we need is taqwa – if we don’t leave sins, we don’t have this feature of ‘ummah’

إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Surely, Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves [13:11]

So we need iman, khushu (humility) and taqwa, and this will all enable us to have sabr and salah – and it is then that we will have this balance and equilibrium.

What is a sign of a person truly being a part of the ‘ummah’

Nabi (sws) has said; A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he does not oppress him, nor does he fail him, nor does he lie to him, nor does he hold him in contempt. Taqwa is right here, and he pointed to his chest three times. [Muslim Sharif]

1. Don’t oppress anyone.

Taqwa is something internal. It is in the batin – and if we have this, we will never oppress or belittle anyone.

Don’t ever be a zalim (oppressor) – this means husband shouldn’t oppress the wife, and the wife shouldn’t oppress the husband. Children should not oppress their parents and parents should not oppress their children. There should be no zulm! Don’t be an oppressor, and don’t let anyone be oppressed – do something about it if you see someone else being oppressed. As a believer, we should rescue anyone else who is being oppressed.

2. Don’t view anyone with contempt.

Another thing is to not view anyone with contempt. Why don’t people care about the Rohingyas so much; because they are not some sacred ethnic group like Palestinians? Many haven’t even heard of the Rohingyas. Many didn’t even know there were muslims in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand etc. They are abandoned, they have no rescuers, illa masha-Allah. We viewed them as below our notice/time. Why does this happen? It happens when a person has worldly blessing, or they have some religious blessing maybe  – then we start viewing others as haqir (inferior) and faqir (destitute)!

Notice in this hadith of taqwa, there was no mention of anything about leaving sins. It was all about our relationship with others.

We know Allah (swt) has said in Qur’an:

إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
Surely the noblest of you, in Allah‘s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. [49:13]

إِنْ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُ إِلاَّ الْمُتَّقُونَ
The friends of Allah are none, but the God-fearing. [8:34]

It becomes a fashion for people, that they want to become a wali of Allah, but many think becoming a wali has nothing to do with taqwa. They might think it has to do with wearing certain clothing, listening to a certain amount of nashid, doing certain dhikr. The friends of Allah are none, but the ones with taqwa!

Our pious predecessors would serve the needy, they would help the poor. Yes, they also did a lot of worship and dhikr, and they stayed away from sin – but this was also one of their attributes. They had feelings for ummah. How did islam spread in the subcontinent? Shaykh Moinuddeen Chishti (rh) sat with the poor people, and there were masses of such people who were known to be downtrodden, subdued, powerless etc in society. They were the lowest in terms of caste. He showed them so much compassion, and they accepted Islam. At least we should have a special feeling to do the same, because many of us owe our iman to such people. Half of the ummah is in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh! 600 million Muslims are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It’s a joke in our communities, that when someone gets some money, they upgrade their neighbourhood. We leave the people. Someone in the family might get a degree, and then they don’t come back to help their neighbourhood, they hang out with the elite university crowd. Being a believer doesn’t mean default, we are a member of the ummah. It involves a lot of features. How many from the 1.2 billion muslims are actually the ‘ummah’.

Abu Dharr reported Rasulullah (sws) as saying that he reported it from his Lord, the Exalted and Glorious:

‘Verily I have made oppression unlawful for Me and for My servants too, so do not commit oppression.’

Allah (swt) also this in Quran;

لَا ظُلْمَ الْيَوْمَ 
No injustice will there be that Day… [40:17]

This is the way Nabi (sws) made society; a zulm-free society! You support the truth, you help the needy, you serve the needy, you help the oppressed, you serve the oppressed.

Once Nabi (sws) was sitting with some of the sahaba and he tested them. He (sws) said, Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. So the sahaba (ra) asked, O Rasulullah (sws), It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor? Rasulullah (sws) said, By preventing him from oppressing others.

Nabi (sws) liked that Sahaba (ra) asked questions. So there are three aspects here. Firstly, don’t yourself oppress others; secondly, help the oppressed; and thirdly, try to roll back the zulm in the zalim! We have to help the oppressor also!

Nabi karim (sws) had a very different way of thinking; we just brush things under the carpet. Nabi (sws) said you must go to them, and help them!

To show the importance of this, there is another hadith:

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr said: I saw the Rasulullah (sws) circumambulating the Ka’bah and saying: How good you are and how good your fragrance; how great you are and how great your sanctity! By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of the believer is greater before Allah than your sanctity, his blood and his wealth, and to think anything but good of him.

One dent in one brick of ka’bah! We would drop everything to save even one brick of ka’bah from one dent. That is our passion, emotion and jazbah! One scratch on one believer should be even more offensive to us than even one dent on one brick of ka’bah. K’abah is baytUllah, but ummah is ‘Abd-Allah! Forget scratch, slaughter, mass murder is happening. Burma is the lowest we can go. Burma is a backwards third world country; they are not even a superpower- even the Burmese army are slaughtering Muslims. This is how low we have become; we are not an ummah anymore.

It comes in another hadith:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Rasulullah (sws) said, Verily, Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘O’ son of Adam, I was ill but you did not visit Me.’ He would say: ‘O my Rabb, how could I visit you and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ Thereupon He would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine was ill but you did not visit him? Did you not realize that if you had visited him (you would have known that I was aware of your visit to him, for which I would reward you) you would have found Me with him?’

Look at how strongly Allah (swt) expresses. Sickness is a natural thing. Imagine oppression.

‘O’ son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me.’ He would submit: ‘My Rabb, how could I feed You and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ He would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him? Did you not realize that if you had fed him, you would certainly have found (its reward) with Me?’ 

Hunger is still less than oppression…

O’ son of Adam, I asked water from you but you did not give it to Me.’ He would say: ‘My Rabb, how could I give You (water) and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ Thereupon He would say: ‘Such and such a slave of Mine asked you for water to drink but you did not give it to him. Did you not realize that if you had given him to drink you would have found (its reward) with Me?’

It shows us how much compassion we should have; we fall into israf (extravagance). How much we waste is amazing. Even when we go for umrah, we waste there. Many are blessed to fast Monday and Thursdays, but even there, many roll up so much good food after iftar. There is some extreme poverty in Muslim parts of the world. In another hadith, Nabi (sws) has mentioned;

Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah (swt) is engaged in helping the worshiper as long as the worshiper is engaged in helping his brother.

This also could mean, as long as he doesn’t help his brother, then he is in danger Allah will stop helping him. Sometimes, we have to look at the simple things. Normally we discuss spiritual topics, but sometimes it is important to remember that it is not only about our own ibadah etc, it is also about our own ummah.

Practical steps

Begin with those who are closest to you – spouse, siblings, children, neighbours, friends. We fail right here. We fail with our spouses. Your wife is also part of ‘ummah’. Children and parents is also ummah. If you aren’t good at home, how can you be good to the global ummah. Begin close, and Allah swt will accept us for far.

May Allah (swt) accept this from us.


وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ


Marriage Workshop – Session II

[These are brief notes from the second session of Marriage Workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed] [Session I]


Importance of love between Husband and Wife

Allah (swt) has put love of women in every man’s heart, it can be either lawful or unlawful. If you want your heart to have pure love for a woman, it should already have love for Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sws). Such a heart will find it very easy to love his wife. The heart lacking in the Allah’s love and Prophet’s (sws) love will find it difficult to have love for that which is pure.

First example of love illa mashaAllah that a child sees is between husband and wife (parents). Children learn about love from the love they see in the family. The family without love is raising a child without love. We are doing injustice to them if we don’t show them love. What kind of people will they become when they grow up? Science tells us what happens to children who come from broken homes; they don’t trust love because they have never seen it.

Once a child was asked what is love? The child said, there was an elderly couple that lived across from my street. When I stopped seeing the old lady around, I asked the old man about her. He began to cry because she had passed away. Child said that maybe this is what they call love. Children can recognize true love. Allah (swt) has given them that ability so they can be raised recognizing that love.

Imam Rabbani (rh) has mentioned a strange thing. He said that a woman is the ultimate manifestation of Al-Dahir (apparent). Al Dahir refers to his creation. And Al Batin (hidden) refers to that which He knows Himself the best. A woman is the manifestation because most beauty in Dahir is in a woman. There’s no beauty like the beauty of a woman. Allah (swt) decreed that the greatest beauty He has created should at times be revealed and at times be concealed, like revealed in front of mahram and concealed in front of na mehram. A woman should understand it this way that I am the manifestation of ism-e-dahir of Allah (swt), how can I show my beauty to just anyone?

So Allah (swt) has placed love for women inside the hearts of the men. Khyr there are so many stories of love, were we to mention, of so much love that the husband and wife can have for one another. We will give you one example.

Story of Umm Sulaim (ra)

There was a Sahabiya her name was Umm Sulaim (ra). Her husband was a tradesman. When she was expecting and was near to delivery, her husband had to leave due to urgent work. When she gave birth, her baby boy passed away a few hours before the return of the father. Umm Sulaim (ra) thought that I don’t want to hurt him just now, instead of being happy about coming back home he will be devastated. So she wrapped the child in a blanket to make it seem like he was sleeping. She adorned her beauty and said Alhamdulillah Allah (swt) blessed us with a baby boy and he is resting. Imagine that woman being intimate with the husband when her dead baby boy is lying a few feet away and she is still being loving and kind to her husband.

This is also a mujahida. It’s not always about your mood and feelings. Mujahida is to go against your nafs. It’s a tremendous tragedy. In the morning the woman asked the husband if Allah (swt) entrusts a person with something, and a time comes to return it, should the person return it with grief or joy? AllahuAkbar these are called Sahabiyaat. What a woman, what a mother, what a person! (Ra).. only Allah (swt) can give her reward for this. The husband (ra) was sad when he got to know, so he went to Sydna Rasool Allah (sws) and told him (sws) everything. He (sws) gave so many duas to Umm Sulaim (ra). She got the greatest of duas, the couple had so much barakah after that, they conceived 9 sons, and each one of them became Aaima.

Spiritual aspect of Marriage

Then Allah (swt) in Quran al Kareem has taught us that this love between husband and wife is not just in this world, but eternal.

Enter into Paradise, you and your wives, with delight. [43:70]

Scholars have written some people will also go to jannah because of the barakah of their pious spouse. Marriage is a very delicate topic. I’m myself a husband in progress. We try to do amal. We don’t just want to listen, we have to come and leave with the intention of amal. We have to live with all the hidaya.

Reflecting on the Khutbah of Nikkah

Why did Prophet (sws) pick out these three verses for the khutbah of nikkah?

You would have noticed that the tilawah that is recited in khutbah of nikkah has the word taqwah: taqwah means to abstain from sin because you fear Allah the way He should be feared, and also out of love for Him. These three ayats for the khutbah means that one of the things we need for a successful marriage is taqwah.

O humanity! You should have fear for Your Rabb who created you from a single cell and from it created its mate (Amma Hawwa) and from them propagated all of the human race. You should fear Allah (swt), that Allah (swt) by whom you ask (your rights) from one another. [4:1]

In nikkah, we invoke Allah (swt) to make man and a woman husband and wife. So we ask in the name of Allah (swt) when we ask our spouse for anything.

You who believe, you should fear Allah. [4:1]

Fear Allah (swt) as He deserves to be feared. Ya Allah! Having taqwah was hard enough. Doing haqq of taqwah, you can imagine, is so difficult. Imagine how delicate and precious this relationship is.

And die not except in the state of Imaan. [3:102]

It means if you don’t fear Allah (swt) in regards of your spouse then your very imaan and deen is in danger. Your deen is dependent on it. Allah (swt) wants these verses to be recited every time there is a nikkah.

O you who believe! You should have  imaan in Allah (swt) and you should always speak the truth. [33:70]

Husband and wife should always be truthful, they must always have the correct speech. If you fear Allah and out of fear speak truthfully to your spouse, then:

He will make your aimaal saleh, and will forgive you for all of your sins. [33:70]

Being happily married isn’t just on this earth. Allah (swt) says it’s going to be a means of your maghfira (salvation), sakoon (tranquility), muwwada (tender love), all of that.

And whoever obeys Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sws), he has gained a signal victory. [33:71]

If a person does this, Allah al Azeem is saying in Quran al Azeem, you will get magnificent success and joy. They will get jannatul firdous. Scholars say it cannot be anything less than jannatul firdous.

Taqwah: How to get that fear?

Has not the time come for the believers that their (spiritual) hearts should have fear for Allah (swt) whenever they do dhikr of Allah (swt), and for what has been revealed as truth? [57:16]

So one lesson here is that when you do dhikr of Allah (swt) or His dhikr is done in front of you, you should have fear of Allah (swt) in your heart.

Second thing you should know is that the fear of Allah (swt) can save a person from sin. Love cannot save a person from sin. Proof from Quran:

But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination [79:40]

Many people think that Allah swt is Rehman so we should not fear Him. Allah swt says:

The one who feared the Rahman (The All-Merciful Allah), without seeing Him, and came up with a heart oriented towards Him. [50:33]

That the person who fears Al Rehman when no one else is around: that wife will be loyal, that husband will be loyal who fears Allah swt even in seclusion.

This fear of Allah (swt) should also be inside our salah. We think that okay inside salah we should not sin. But inside salah we should also fear Allah swt. Can you imagine that Allah swt who tells us to fear Him in salah, can you imagine how much He would want us to fear Him when we are outside our salah?

Fearing husband and a fearing wife they are a true couple.

This fear doesn’t mean we are afraid in the same way we are afraid of a snake or something dangerous. It’s a fear borne out of love. Fearing that I will not be loved back by my Beloved if I do this thing.

6 types of crying accepted and valued by Allah (swt)

  • A person who sheds tears in hard times. Due to the museebat, they are moved to tears. These are real tears of mazloomeen; of people of Sham, of Palestine, etc.
  • When someone is separated from someone they love for the sake of Allah swt. Greatest example of this is when Syedna Yousaf (as) was separated from his father.
  • When someone is moved to tears by recitation.
  • The tears that are shed in the yearning and love for Allah (swt). Like when someone wish someone could go for hajj.
  • Tears of shukr (gratefulness). When a person is given something and they are so happy that tears of shukr comes out of their eyes.
  • Tears of khauf and khashiya. Tears out of fear of Allah (swt). It comes in a hadith (mafhoom) that a person will come to Allah (swt) and his deeds will be weighed and the scale of his good deeds will start going up and the scale of bad deeds will be so heavy that he will lose all hope. At this point a small piece of paper will be thrown in the scale of good deeds such that the scale will outweigh all of the bad deeds. That paper will have just one deed written on it: a time when that person had cried out of fear of Allah (swt) such that the tear had only wet one of his eyelashes.

Different levels of khashiya

Hope first that hadith is: O Allah, allocate to us a share of fear of You that will serve as a barrier between us and disobedience towards You. [at Tirmidhi]

  1. Fear of the awwamun naas (average people): Fear of punishment of Allah swt. That is the punishment of the fear of fire of Jahannam. All believers have that but some only have that and nothing more.
  2. Fear of saliheen (the pious): In addition to fear of punishment, they fear that we haven’t done enough. They are saliheen that what if I haven’t done enough for Allah swt? What if I fall short on the Day of judgement?
  3. Fear of siddiqeen (the truthful):In addition to the first two fears, they also fear that what if the aimaal that I have done are not worthy of being accepted by Allah (swt)? What if they are not maqbool?
  4. Fear of the nabiyyeen (the prophets (as)): All anbiya were afraid of Allah (swt). The were afraid of the beniyazi of Allah swt. The istighna of Allah swt. What if Allah (swt) simply says I don’t want you. I don’t need you. I accepted your aimaal e saleh. But I don’t want you. Nabiyyeen knew, they had the knowledge, that it won’t happen, but love exceeds knowledge. Imagine a newly-wed bride with everyone praising her, but she starts crying. She says all of you think I have these qualities but what if my husband doesn’t love me? What if he doesn’t accept me or want me?

The first step to launch on the journey of taqwah is through taubah. Make true taubah. We cannot land on taqwah directly. Those who are married, make taubah for all sins you did to your spouse. Those who are not yet married, make taubah for being such a daughter/son. Make taubah collectively. After your first step, then you have to keep moving. This is called tazkiya. So the person must keep taking steps and try to fit in some extra ibaadah in your daily regimen:

  • Daily recitation of Quran. If a passage is too much for you, recite less, but make sure you recite everyday even if it’s just one ayah.
  • Make istighfar everyday 100 times (sunnah)
  • Recite durood and salawat on syedna Rasool Allah (sws) 100 times.
  • Remember Allah swt. You can only fear Him if you remember Him.

How to get dhikr e katheer [remembrance of Allah (swt)]? Two steps:

  1. Try to remember Allah swt in your daily mundane tasks. Keep thinking thoughts, and keep reminding yourself to think thoughts, and remind the heart to have feelings for Allah swt and keep doing it for thousands of times a day.
  2. Do dhikr of Allah swt inside yourself. Take some time out to remember Allah swt with full concentration such that you forget everything else.And remember the name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him with exclusive devotion.  [73:8]So we make dhikr of Allah’s name in such a way that you forget everything else.

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ


Marriage Workshop – Session I

[These are brief notes from the first session of Marriage Workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed]


What does a woman want

Attention
If you divert your attention and only listen to her half-heartedly, she would know. That’s not respect. That’s disrespectful. The wife feels like I’m his life companion, here I’m sharing my thoughts with him and he’s not even listening to me. So she gets upset and frustrated. And she’s right in doing so. That’s her taqwah that she keeps talking to you. If you don’t listen to her there will be someone else out there willing to lend her the ear. You can fill in the rest of the blanks yourself.

Respect
Just like a man feels that the wife is not fulfilling me, the woman can feel the same way. The husband should be a means of bringing her to good. Scolding your wife in front of the children is disrespectful. One thing is to reprimand her, and one is to do it disrespectfully. You can make her understand. But if you do it disrespectfully she will only feel hurt. Sometimes the husband does it in a bragging way. It means he is flattering himself by hurting his wife’s heart. He is showing that he is the man and can talk to her in front of others like that.

Devotion
The woman’s emotional need is devotion. She wants his devotion. How do you express your devotion? Expressing devotion means you give her priority. If you pick up her phone on 1st ring, she would acknowledge it as a sign of devotion. If there’s a problem, instead of beating about the bush, you can just tell her clearly that I’m busy at such and such time etc. But she needs to feel she is not at the bottom of the priority list.

Husband should never say: I’ll find someone better than you.

What does a man want

Support
A husband wants support from his wife. He needs emotional support. When he makes a decision, he doesn’t want her to second guess him. He needs her to support him even if the decision is wrong. He doesn’t need you to tell him that you can’t do anything right. He already has too many people against him. He needs support in how to get out of that blunder. Saying you don’t do anything right is like kicking the man when he’s down. You don’t know what that support means to him. That’s when you should bring your co-operative side. When he’s down bring in your support.

Wife should never ever say: You don’t do anything right. If you criticize your husband like that he will automatically turn away from you.

Acceptance
The husband wants that his wife should accept him. The job of husband is to change for the better, the job of the woman is to accept him as he is. We are not talking about haram stuff. But generally the certain way he does things, maybe he’s not the most handsome, refined person to walk the face of this earth. The same way wife feels he should accept her, the same way the wife should accept him. Many good wives are exactly precisely like this with their husbands.

Praise
A husband wants the wife to emotionally praise him. Especially in front of her own parents. You are mistaken if you think he doesn’t have emotional needs. He will never ask you for it. But he needs it. If a woman communicates to me for help and all she does is complain then I turn my ears off – there’s something wrong there. Wife should never be all complaining and never praising. Once I even asked is there anything good? And she said no! Never be all complaining.

This is also a kind of gheebah. You should not say my husband did this. If you sincerely want advice say what if a man does this or this? That woman who doesn’t complain behind her husband’s back, won’t do it in front of him either. If you do it in front of them then he knows you will do it behind his back also. Men know this.

Never to be Second Guessed
When it comes to children, sometimes the men will enter into the realm of the wife. The wife should never second guess the husband. If he tries to get involved with the kids, don’t stop him, don’t laugh at him. You can observe silently and wait and talk to him later. That will also give you a more relaxed tone. It would not become an unwelcomed comment.

Sometimes a man wants to embark on something good but he’s a little bit unsure. The role of the wife is if she feels this is best for his akhira, she needs to encourage him to that deed, she needs to play the famous role of the woman behind him.

DON’T treat one another the way you want to be treated

The wife makes the mistake that she treats the husband the way she wants to be treated. He is not a woman! This golden rule does not apply when there is a gender difference! Fulfill his male emotional needs, not female emotional needs! Same for men: don’t treat your wife the way you want to be treated. If there’s a car that runs on gas, and you put diesel in it, it won’t work.

Mistake a man makes

Husband does not spend enough exclusive time with his wife. You have to make time out to sit with your wife, alone, separate from the joint family. Sunnah: take her out for a walk. Because a woman needs her own dedicated time when the husband sits, eats, talks to her.

Mistake a woman makes

If the husband makes a decision she doesn’t agree with, she doesn’t follow it. If you live in a country and there is a law you don’t agree with, you still have to follow it. You have to follow it even if you don’t agree. This has a lot of barakah in it.

Suspicion 
Sometimes women get overly suspicious of the husband. She doesn’t believe anything he says. She starts denying and spying. Can you imagine the effect it can have on a person? How will the investigation affect him if he is innocent? How will he feel about those who make those charges against him?

Husband makes the mistake that he becomes overly possessive of his wife. Not talking about cases when someone is guilty, there the spouse has to be cautious. Once there was a case of a fellow married man in UK. He imprisoned his wife at home. She was literally locked in the house. He made sure the home was stocked with food and other requirements but the woman could not leave the house for a long period of time. The result was that the marriage fell apart. That was the husband being overly possessive. This is if the wife is innocent. She couldn’t even call her own mother. Even the husband attested to this that she was completely innocent.

Example of Misunderstanding
Once some children were talking with mother and had a disagreement. They were asking whether to do something this way or that way. Husband walks in and he doesn’t know the wife had already told the kids to do A. Husband says do it B way. Wife gets upset. This is completely unreasonable! This shows a lack of respect.

Example of Respecting One’s Wife
Once Syedna Rasool Allah sws was travelling with Safiya ra, in a wedding procession she couldn’t climb on the camel. Prophet sws went there and asked her to step on his sws thigh and then step on the camel. This is a way of respect. If Syedna Rasool Allah sws can offer his body then why can’t we do something like this for our wife?

Example of Devotion to the Wife
Syedna Rasool Allah sws married ummul momineen Syedna Khadija ra when he was 25. For so many years of his life, he was a one-woman man. This is also a sunnah that you have to do. Women need to be deprogrammed. They need to stop accepting this! What would you love for your own daughter? Love for your wife what you would love for your own daughter. The women are young they don’t understand this. This is a big problem in UK.

So after marriage, Syedna Rasool Allah sws married Syedna Aisha ra and loved her so much. Then Khadija’s ra sister came and he (sws) heard her voice and said Aisha Aisha its Khadija’s voice! She asked him (sws) later why were you so happy when you thought it was her voice? He (sws) replied Aisha she was with me when everyone was against me. Allah has put so much love for her in my heart there is nothing you can do to take it away from me. This is the sunnah devotion. Syedna Rasool Allah sws gave so much devotion to his (sws) wife.

Example of Accepting Husband the Way He is
Prophet’s (sws) daughter Zainab ra was married to a non-believer before the manifestation of naboowat. During migration, Zainab ra did not migrate to Madina and lived with her husband. She wanted to go to Madina, wanted him to accept imaan but she showed him that I accept you the way you are. She offered her mother’s necklace to free her kafir husband who had gone out on badr to kill prophet (sws)! (He (ra) later accepted Islam after Zainab (ra) passed away).

Example of Praising the Husband
Syedna Aisha ra once told Prophet (sws) that you (sws) are more dear to me than butter and dates.

Example of Support
When Syedna Fatima ra and Syedna Ali ra were really poor, one day they made some simple basic food for iftar. Syedna Ali ra gave all the food to a beggar but wife didn’t say anything.

Easy and simple way is to make your life the sunnah way. That’s easy. Making point by point notes is difficult and is the long way. The more and more husband and wife follow sunnah, the more their marriage will become successful.

Investment and communication
Example of investment is like a gardener. When a gardener puts seed in the ground he is always putting water and fertilizer to nurture it. No one else knows. People trample the seed with their food. But he keeps caring for the seed because he has faith in it. Then when the seed sprouts, he puts a stick and trims the leaves. The more and more he invests time in it, the more and more he can bear fruit and flowers from it. The couple is the co-care-takers and gardeners of the seed of marriage.

Husband and wife also have to learn the body language of the marriage. The gardener can look at the color of leaves and shape can tell that something is going wrong. Sometimes husband and wife are not able to read one another’s body language. Sometimes they can’t say too many words. Ideally, be so much tuned into the needs of your spouse that you understand what they want even before they talk about it. This can also happen. But that’s up to us if we want to give that level attention. Husband also sometimes doesn’t understand the signals or expressions of the wife.

Hadith: Story of 11 women 

Once 11 women got together for a gathering and a meal. Each one of them said today we will talk about our husbands openly and clearly! This is the gist of it:

  1. My husband is like the camel on top of the mountain. There is no easy path (to climb up to him) and he is heavy and fat (doesn’t come down). [They are talking in symbols.]
  2. I’m not going to spread the news, what if he leaves me? [She didn’t say anything but said a lot with this statement. Shows her insecurity.]
  3. If I speak, he will give me a divorce, if I keep quiet then he will keep me [he is short-tempered and my only solution is to not say anything].
  4. He is like the cool spring night but I’m still afraid of him [She felt comfortable with him but at the same time he still had his jalal]
  5. He is like a lion on the outside, but he is generous on the inside. [Very strong personality, but very soft and generous in house].
  6. My husband eats all the food and drinks all the water, he drools when he sleeps and doesn’t even inquire about his partner.
  7. Either astray, and wounds people easily [he argues a lot and hurts others].
  8. Soft like a rabbit and fragrant like summer grass [very handsome and fragrant]
  9. Very tall and very generous [well-known and people would come to him for advice].
  10. My husband is maalik and he is beyond any praise.
  11. My husband’s name is Abu Zara and he has pleased me and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. My children are also very nice. [End of story is that Abu Zara ends up leaving his wife. She gets married for the second time, she says he still gave me more than the 2nd husband has ever given me].

Lessons from the hadith

a. Women speak in symbols. They have a symbolic language and men sometimes need to read between the lines.

b. A woman needs the assurance that you will never divorce her. It’s a sunnah way of saying, I will keep you like a queen and I will never ever divorce you.

What Women Say and What They Mean

We never ever go out: Husband will say we just went out a month ago! Actually she means symbolically. She never speaks literally. She means I need some time to go out of the house. Don’t treat her words on face value. She means take me out. You need a translator for this.

Everyone ignores me: Husband says I don’t ignore you! That is not the answer. It means I need your attention now. She means you have gotten so involved in everything I don’t know when you are coming and when you are going. She means don’t spend too much time on work.

This house is always a mess: Husband says not always. She means I want you to make it tidy NOW.

Nobody ever listens to me: Husband says I listen to you… sometimes! It means listen to me NOW. This is called melodramatic behavior, no offence to women. This is a tendency in women. That’s the way they are. She is not giving factual historical statements. She means I like spending time with you. I miss spending time with you. If the husband could translate that he would be happy to know this.

There’s no point in me saying anything anymore: Different husbands will give different reactions to this (laughs). What she means is that it’s not your words that will help me, it’s your actions that will help me. I don’t want your words I want your love.

What Men Say and What They Mean

Give me some space I don’t want to talk: That’s what they mean. In some sense this is a sunnah of Syedna Rasool Allah sws. We want to escape and go into khalwa (solitude) during stressful situations. Example, Prophet sws used to go to Mount Hira. Men are like turtles, they retreat into their shells.

Men have their own way of dealing with this. Women have their own way, she says don’t go away, be here with me, I need to talk about it. Man needs time and she doesn’t understand his need for space. She starts probing and she starts thinking what’s going on. Then shaytan tries to answer for her. Whenever you ask the question that what’s going on? Shaytaan will answer for you, maybe he is having an affair etc. Then she insists even more forcefully. Maybe he just genuinely needed that time. Instead of drawing him into conversation, turn to Allah swt and make dua for him and make ruju to Allah swt.

When woman is upset she starts global broadcasting. She broadcasts it to anyone tuned into her channel. This is the complete opposite way of dealing with stress. A man consoles himself by dealing with grief individually.

Similarly, men should not say to women deal with your grief on your own, stop telling anyone, stop complaining, stop whining. She is going to share her grief. The man should give the wife the ear she needs. He should say, broadcast it to me! Share it with me. I should be the first one you should share it with.

Responsibilities of men

Allah swt has put certain responsibilities on both men and women. Spouse should understand this that these responsibilities need to be fulfilled!

Earning rizq-e-halal. The wife needs to understand and give him space for these responsibilities. Sometimes he may not pick up the phone. Deal with it.

Caring of parents. This is the Haq of mother over him. It’s a responsibility he has to fulfill. He simply must DO it. Sometimes these rights will make him spend time out of the home longer. Sometimes it will be out of his control.

Huqooq Allah. There are some things that he MUST do. He must go to masjid to offer salah. Yes you could say that I know you were chatting with friends after maghrib, come home early . But you cannot say don’t go to the masjid at all.

There are also some types of worship that are not a must do. But some men need to do them. They need it for their own salvation. Like sometimes he has to be in good company, getting ilm of deen and spending time in dhikr. All nafal ibaadah I’m calling it dhikr here. A person does dhikr in two sense.

One is for spiritual purification to stay away for sin that is fard.

Then there is another dhikr that is to get closer to Allah swt it’s strongly recommended, but it is not fard. But if husband feels its keeping him away from sin then it becomes wajib for him.

Men should remember to have a balance in these activities with the family. Give and take. Sometimes you have to be away to be with dawah or to be with the shaykh. Sometimes you have to take away time and give it to family. But it has to be give and take on both on both sides. Wife should realize that he needs it. And especially if it makes him better at deen. The more he will be better at deen, the better husband he will become.

Responsibilities of women

Haqooq Allah. Let her fulfill all of her faraid and wajibat. Sometimes it happens that the woman has not yet prayed her isha, let her pray isha. Have sabr, don’t put her in that situation that it becomes difficult for her to pray it.

Haqooq ul ibaad. Children have rights over her too. If the child wants to sleep with her, the man should let the child sleep with her. It’s her duty and she must fulfill it. Her parents also have rights over her. Going to her parents’ home and spending time with siblings etc. within a reason and certain level is also haqooq ul ibaad.

Managing the house.  I’m saying this openly that this is the woman’s job. Woman’s responsibility is managing that. If she needs to do something for the house you need to give her space for that.

A woman needs taqwah as much as men. But she can take less time out for that. If she can do it online then husband should be more lenient with her that you are not going anywhere and the children are also with you. The husband should be more accommodating in these things. If she feels she doesn’t feel anything in prayer, my tongue gets into backbiting then, it’s also wajib for her to engage in religious pursuits that will curtail these sins.

Cont’d in Session II 

Science, Rationality and the New Atheism

[These are rough notes from the second session of the workshop on Historical, Intellectual and Spiritual Approaches to Islam conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Karachi, on Jan 05, 2016]


Disclaimer: This is a purely educational course held to spread the teachings of Islam, with no intention of offending any sect or School of Thought.

Does Islamic Scholarship have a perspective and a vantage point on science? Is that perspective and vantage point academically robust, is it significant, is it able to address those issues where outwardly, initially and apparently science seems to contradict areas of Islamic belief and faith?

Basic Terminologies

First we will begin with some basic terminologies. I am going to read these things out to you and then we are going to look at them one by one; truth, reality, objectivity, subjectivity, relativity, true and false, and verification and falsification. These are some of the words that are used in the discussion of science and rationality, especially when people are discussing the concept of religion.

1. Truth and Reality. There are many philosophical ways in which a person can describe truth. One way to describe it is that truth is that which corresponds to reality. Interestingly, this philosophical formulation is there in ilmul kalam. Ilmul kalam is a science of theology which you are completely unaware of. Because people are more interested in ilmul aqaaid – Sunni sect, Shi’a sect, this sect, that sect. But ilmul kalam is almost virtually unknown still in the majority of educated Muslims today. In ilmul kalam, there is a huge discussion on what is sidq and what is kizb, or sometimes it is called kazib in Arabic; what is truth and what is falsehood. You will find volumes on this.

I am going to start with this, because science operates on the principles of rationality and empiricism and demonstrable proofs. So truth is that which is demonstrated, through some scientific method, to be that which corresponds to the reality. In Arabic we call this mutabiq al waqai; or mutabiq nafs e amar; in correspondence to what exists in reality.

So what is reality then? Reality is that which exists separately and independently from us. That’s what is called real. Now if you want to go into the ilmul kalam discussion on this, a very interesting discussion is when they talk about Allah swt’s attributes of Asma ul Husna, and one of His attributes is that He is al-Haqq, to the extent that He is Real, and relative to that everything else is unreal.

However, from a scientific and empirical perspective, that reality should be separately observable and known. But if you move into the area of Neuroscience and Psychology, it is a big question that are my hopes real? Are my dreams real? What empirical basis do my dreams have? If I tell you that I had a dream last night, is that real? Is it true? Am I speaking the truth? Is there any way you can empirically test that? Is that empirical? Is it falsifiable? It is a claim I will make.

If you insist on taking this way of life, that every single thing has to be understood by science; this is a perfect example that your dreams to what extent are they real, and to what extent did you truly see them, this is not fully able to be captured by science. No doubt, cognitive science will try to deconstruct the brain to different neurochemical reactions in different parts of the brain. But still, no true cognitive scientist will tell you that we have a complete exclusively scientific understanding of how, and exactly why, do people dream.

In layman’s terms, if I asked you if dreams were a reality, you would say yes. I would ask you why. You would probably say because I had a dream myself. I say, but that is not empirical. It is not falsifiable. It does not pass the scientific method. What you are actually saying is something called knowledge by experience. That is something different from knowledge by demonstration. We will come back to this later.

2. Objectivity, Subjectivity and Relativity. Is there any such real thing as objectivity? Is there one single perception, understanding of reality that can be called “objective”? A lot of philosophers will say no. On the other hand, if every single thing is subjective, and you have complete subjectivity, then you end up in this notion of complete relativity.

Let’s say if I try to put forth a proposition to you, like in philosophy and logic they put forth a proposition, that there is no objective reality. There is no way that I can have an objective way to prove that statement. If I take the opposite extreme, that there is no subjectivity, there is no objective proof that I can use to prove that statement.

So logic was the tool that we used, and this is a very important thing that we should know that in the Aristotelian world, logic was the litmus test for any “scientific” type of a statement.  And this is one of the great things that Imam al-Ghazali rah incorporated, and he took all of Aristotelian Logic in its entirety.

When you take that logic, you will realize that a lot of statements that you make, they are claims, but you cannot logically prove them. If I say there are both; there is both objectivity and subjectivity, I cannot prove that. Although that may resonate with us. But that is something else. That is not called science. That is called intuition.

Intuition means that statement that resonates with you to be true based on your own experience and understanding of the world. When I say “your own experience” then again we are back to subjectivity. But shouldn’t truth be something that is objective?

Then if you ask the question of religion, is Allah swt actually suggesting that in Qur’an when He says:

أَفَلَا تَعۡقِلُونَ
Have you then no sense?

That Allah swt has given you an aqal (intellect), and if you use it you will arrive at the single objective truth, which is the belief in the existence of Allah swt. Believe me, in ilmul kalam they talk about this a lot. It is a mistake that you think Philosophy and Science are the only ones to talk about these things. But you are not conversant and versed in the Classical Arabic Scholarly Tradition of your own deen.

3. True and False, Verification and Falsification. By this I mean to declare something decisively to be true, or to declare something decisively to be false. If you can definitively declare something to be true, that means you will invalidate everything else. There is no multiplicity left. If you definitely declare something to be false, you will end up in a process of invalidation and elimination.

In Science, at one level, they put forth a hypothesis. When they are fairly sure that something is true, they call it a theory. But as you know that there have been time, and up till right now cutting edge of science, they are constantly revisiting and reconsidering their theories. Sometimes they disprove their own theory.

The most famous example of this was the Theory of the Universe by Ptolemy. He felt that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. When you look at demonstration, his model that puts Earth at the centre of the Universe and the Sun rotating around the Earth, that did perfectly, and still today can perfectly predict the stars and constellations that appear in the sky.

If you say that science is about demonstration and empiricism, actually that method of astronomy passes the test of empiricism and demonstration. All of the astrologers, and all astronomers, may use these models – putting the Earth at the centre, knowing and thinking the Earth to be the centre, and that the Sun is rotating around us – and they could actually perfectly predict the stars and their constellations in the sky.

Today me and you know that is not true; Earth is not the centre. Sun is the centre, and because the Sun is the centre, it is called the Solar System, and Earth has been revolving around the Sun. I 100% accept that. But interestingly that additional scientific truth did not in any way help the humanity in being able to observe the stars.

The prediction of the constellations of the stars, the navigation from stars, was perfect in the Ptolemaic System, which was scientifically untrue. So what is untrue and what is false? We have used the untrue system to perfectly navigate through the oceans for centuries. So it is a relative thing; you are talking about frames of reference here.

Let’s suppose that I say that all truths are relative, even for that there is no scientific, decisive, empiric proof. So basically, all of these things cannot be determined and decided by science. These are the fundamental things; what is true, what is false. It does not mean that science can never do this. When science realized that in some things it can make the determination, so it is called verification and falsification.

How do you test the hypothesis? The first thing is that the hypothesis should be constructed in such a way that its premises are falsifiable. As in, what you do is that you keep trying to falsify them. You run these experiments, and you keep doing it, and you keep getting these sets of data, and you constantly try to falsify. But even then, strictly speaking in terms of pure Philosophy of Science, you are making the highest approximation of the certainty that you can, but you still cannot say that you have achieved certainty.

For example, if I tell you that science says that xyz is the speed of light. What if I say that did you factor the particles of dust in that light? Did you calculate the speed of light in a vacuum? You are talking about the light from the stars that do not exist anymore, and you calculate the distance of those stars also using the speed of light, but how much particles were in the way? Along the way, maybe there was some asteroid belt; there maybe so many things.  Did you factor these things in your speed of light? They will say no.

It is like Calculus; the limit of X is that it approaches 5. I say, it isn’t X=5, it’s X is approaching 5. They will say that no but if X is approaching 5, then you will just take that approximation as a certainty that it becomes 5. All of the Maths is based on this principle. X isn’t 5 though. The limit of X as it approaches 5, reaches 5.

That is what they are saying in the first example. Basically, at the very higher level of approximation, this is the speed of light. We have no idea that what type of asteroid, or space matter, or star burst and that light travelled from the reminiscence of that star matter to us, and how that star matter may have effected the speed of light. We have no idea about these things. It is an approximation. It is an approximation based on human ability. It means that to whatever extent the human is able to falsify these premises, he must try all of his ways to falsify it, and if it passes the falsification test then we will verify it.

You may ask a philosophical question that is the human ability to falsify that hypothesis, is it complete? I say no it is approximate. You ask is it absolute? I say no it is approximate. If I ask science this question that could science itself in another 10 years possibly find a way to falsify this hypothesis, they will say yes. In fact we are trying, that is what we love to do. This is the area of scientific invention and progress that they try to discover new ways to test “tried and true” theories. So it’s all relative. It’s a frame of reference.

In terms of present, they will declare a theory of a hypothesis today, because to whatever ability the scientific method is able to falsify that hypothesis, it has attempted to falsify it and has not been able to falsify it, therefore they will view the theory to be true and they will verify it. But they don’t say that it is definitive or decisive for all of eternity.

Actually the realm of religion and revelation is totally different. There is no encroachment here. Encroachment would be that science is also trying to capture eternal truths. No, science does not make that claim. Science can change any day.

In ilmul kalam, and also in Philosophy and Science, people have written tons of books on these; what is subjectivity, what is objectivity, what does it mean to falsify. There are huge workshops on this.

Now, when you are building this workshop, it does not mean that the workshop only needs to have Qur’an and Hadith. If you want to play this game, and understand this, you are perfectly allowed in Shari’ah, and in certain cases you may very well need to, put the writing of the scientists and the philosophers in the workshop. The only difference is that the Qur’an takes a higher level of precedence on that workshop, but it does not mean that these things are not allowed.

Imam al-Ghazali has mentioned that his own personal view about Science and Maths was that there was nothing in it that was against religion. But he did observe that there were some individuals who got misled by some myths and realities and misunderstandings about Science and Maths. In themselves, science and maths have nothing in them that is against religion. I will come to this later that there are certain things that science has put forth today, such as the human evolution, that are clearly, directly against the scriptural revelation.

That is also a very interesting thing; this may also be the issue why the vast and overwhelming majority of humanity were not atheists, because the scientific discovering and understandings and theories up till that time do not actually have anything in it that would necessitate Atheism.

But obviously if a person comes to believe in the human evolution – a belief that Syedna Adam (as) had parents – it is not even a question of man being a descendant of Apes. Islam says Syedna Adam (as) did not even have human parents. It is a totally different thing. It is not even about evolution, if you think about it that way. It is about miracles. We believe that Syedna Adam (as) did not even have human parents. It might happen 23 years from now, that science deny evolution. Maybe they would do it. But they will still say Adam (as) had parents. They will not accept that he was created from nowhere. That itself is the difference.

That is the same case here; that most of the scientists were comfortable with their Jewish or Christian faith, because the science of their time and day did not really have anything that necessitated them to abandon their faith. That is why we have mentioned this term of New Atheism because it is not like there were no Atheists before, but there were atheists before for philosophical reasons, not for scientific reasons.

The Question of Whether Science Necessitate Atheism

The New Atheism, and this is a term used in Academia, is that Atheism which is purportedly, supposedly, born out of science. That confuses a person because we all agree with science. The earlier Atheism, which was born out of a particular philosophy, it was not a problem for Muslims, they would say I do not believe in that. I believe in Qur’an and Sunnah. But the New Atheism becomes an issue because a person may think that if the New Atheism is really born out of science, and I believe in science, then what does that mean? This is the question that does science necessitate Atheism?

Three Criticisms of Atheists to the Claim of Existence of God

Let’s go step-by-step. So if you ask this question that does God exist, or for us does Allah swt exists? If you answer yes, you are going to face three criticisms from the Atheists:

  1. Your claim is not scientific and therefore false, for only that which is contained in science is true.
  2. Your claim is not logical. You cannot give me a logical proof for the existence of God. Therefore, your claim is false.
  3. Your claim is not rational. There is no rational basis for the existence of Allah swt, so therefore it is false.

You have your science, logic and rationality. These are basically the first principles. We are going to look at all of these three things.

Brief Introduction to Scientism 

There is a word that has been coined; it is called Scientism. It is a worldview, it is something different than science. That is why its has the suffix ‘ism’. Scientism is a view which holds that whatever you will view to be true, or false, will be on the basis of science. Scientism means that science is the way in which you understand everything.

Science normally meant that this is the way you understand the material world. And normally the scientists did not try to investigate the immaterial world, or have questions about that. They did not try to investigate the ruh, or the qalb, or even mind and thought and consciousness.

Classically, scientists did not have the realm of neuroscience. It was created as a part of Scientism. Otherwise earlier, ideas were understood through Philosophy. But now Scientism is a belief that every single thing can be understood on the basis of science. So instead of Psychology, it is Psychiatry. And instead of Philosophy, it is Neuroscience, or Cognitive Behaviour.

Genetics is also a very important aspect of Scientism, because the cutting edge of genetics is trying to discover behavioural genes; the notion that a human being is genetically programmed to certain kinds of behaviour. Allahu Alam, if they ever discover the taqwah gene, or the haya gene, they might take it out!

They will not say that this is a theory. It is a hypothesis; it is research. They are not saying it is a fact. But like I told you in the ideology-based approach to knowledge, some of them are doing this as an ideology. Another way I can explain it to you is that when you choose to deny Allah swt, you have to come up with an alternate understanding of the world. And when you take that denial so far – like in scientism that science alone can understand everything – then you end up denying a lot of philosophy, a lot of psychology, a lot of other things.

Scientism is not just denial of religion. It is a denial of any way of understanding, explaining and engaging in the world. It is inherently against aesthetics, arts and creativity. Or it tries to explain all aesthetics and arts and creativity in terms of neuroscience and cognitive on the left side of the brain.

But the artist will tell you, no, it is because of my creative spirit. It is not because I have a different set of neurons in the left side of my brain than that one does. They will say I have a more creative spirit than that person does. I have a greater imagination than that person does.

Scientists will say, no this is all bunk; all of your creative imagination is fluff. It is all due to difference in your cognitive behaviour; your cognitive thinking power on the left side of your brain. That is called Scientism. It is not just the denial of religion. It is an entire world view.

Most Atheists are not following science. It is Scientism that they are following. And there are definitely many scientists who are following it. There are Atheist scientists who follow this. And those of you who are aware of it would know that they have a huge literature on it in English language; Dawkins, Hitchens – there are so many of them. Some of them were pure physicists, some of them were pure Mathematicians, some of them were pure Philosophers, and they are on both sides.

Mostly this is taking place in the Christian world; you have completely believing Christian evolutionary biologists, completely believing Christian pure particle Physicists, completely believing Christian Philosophers. I have studied under one of each at Oxford. And you have completely Atheists for all of the above. You have several, or dozens of them. And there is massive literature that they are writing, engaging and discussing each other.

On the fringes, there are certain extremists. It would seem like terrorism to you; the way they talk to you with the fatwas of kufr. Some of them have extreme hatred, and there are extremely horrific tones that they use. But on a very large scale, there are many discussions and debates taking place in a considerate and thoughtful manner. And volumes have been written on this.

The point of telling you all of this is that do not fall into an assumption that every Mathematician, every Physicist, every Philosopher is an Atheist. This is nowhere near the case in UK, US or Canada right now. Those people do not deny science. It is about scientism; it is all about this thing. That is why they coined this word.

They say it is not about science, I am also a Scientist, or I am also a Physicist, or I am also a Biologist. It has nothing to do with science. It is about Scienitsm; the question is that how will you choose to understand things that are outside the realm of science? Scientism says that nothing falls outside the realm of science. Therefore, everything would fall in the realm of science.

These believing scientists are saying that there are some things that fall out of the realm of science, and we are happy and comfortable understanding those things on the basis of revelation, scripture, and prophethood, in whatever faith system they may personally believe in.

So, Scienitism is a world view that only science and knowledge derived from science contains truth. Everything else is merely belief, superstition and myth. These are the three buzzwords that they use.

The Scientistic approach has trickled down to Liberal Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. So then you will find Scientistic Anthropologists. So the Anthropology of Religion would be that all religion is just superstition and myth and a product of culture.

You will find Scientistic Sociology which says that all religion that exists at the societal level, like Karl Marx said, is the opium for the people. The words that are used in Scientistic outlook enters the Humanities, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts; that everything else is just belief, superstition and myth. By belief they do not mean imaan, by belief they mean anything that is not knowledge; it is fluff.

Scientism Explored

Let’s examine this notion of Scientism. Like I told you, there are believing scientists who have tried to refute Scientism. Nobody is trying to refute science. I will come to the history of evolution at the end. Understand this very clearly, I am not talking about science now. I am talking about Scientism.

Applying the Self-Refuting Test on Scientism

The first thing is called the self-refuting test. How will Scientism be refuted? It is not going to be refuted from Qur’an and Sunnah. Scientism is going to be refuted by logic and philosophy. So you have logic and philosophy taking on Scientism in this discussion, that can everything be understood through science, or are there some things that cannot be understood through science?

Self-refuting test means that if you accept the proposition, like I told you about the box; that if you accept the position and flush out its consequences, the consequences itself negate the position in the box. It is self-refuting. And the self-refuting test means you take the proposition, you flush out its necessary logical implications and consequences. And if it turns out that its logical consequences actually would necessitate refutation of the proposition in the first place, then it is a self-refuting proposition. I did not even need to refute it.

The proposition that claims to be true actually refutes itself. If it just claims to be a hypothesis, then it is not going to work. But it will work if it claims to be the truth; this is what Scientism is. This is why the self-refuting test is applied to Scientism. Because they are not giving another hypothesis that maybe it is Philosophy, maybe it is Psychology. They are saying this is it. This is the ultimate demonstrable, rational truth; the only way to understand the world is the Sceintistic method.

Let’s take some claims of Scientism.

  1. It is their statement that true knowledge is only that which is contained in science and found through scientific methods. This sentence itself is not a part of science. This sentence itself cannot be proven through the scientific method. This sentence itself cannot prove itself. Therefore, if this sentence is true, then this sentence is false. Do you understand? This is called a logical fallacy. It is pure philosophical logic and syllogism that is used in the self-refuting of the sentence. It has nothing to do with religion vs. science. Do not count this debate in religion vs. science domain. The way you frame a debate, often that itself decides the victor and the loser in the debate. If you talk about religion vs. science, all the Muslims who are studying Engineering and Chemistry and Physics would be like I have been accused! It is not religion vs. science. It is religion vs. scientism. It is science vs. scientism. It is logic and philosophy vs. scientism.
  2. Second claim is that true knowledge is only that which is observable. Can you observe that statement? Is there any empirical observation to prove the statement that true knowledge must be observable? Can you observe the truth of that? You can accept that as a first basis. So actually Scientism is another religion. It requires imaan in these things. It requires you to accept something as your first principles, and then understand everything on the basis of those principles. Actually the choice is whether you want to accept Allah swt’s first principles in Qur’an, or you want to accept the scientism’s first principles.
  3. True knowledge is only that which is testable. Can you test this sentence? Is this sentence in itself testable? No, so then it is not true knowledge. Because if true knowledge is only that which is testable, this sentence itself is not testable, therefore it is not true knowledge.
  4. True knowledge is only that which is empirically verifiable. It is slightly different. Because scientific knowledge may have some things that are beyond empirical senses. Like saying that if you see it, you will believe it. Only that which I see will I believe. This sentence itself, did you see that somewhere? We could say that we saw it in Qur’an, but what would a scientist say if they were asked, where did you see it? This is self-refuting.
  5. True knowledge must be refutable. Is this sentence itself refutable? How will you refute that sentence? This is a bit tricky one. Let me keep it easier for you – true knowledge must be falsifiable. Can you falsify this proposition?

For example, if we take the example for true knowledge must be observable; can you touch, smell, or hear that concept? Not if you take empiricism at its basics. Empiricism can be more than that. But if you take it from that level, you will say no. This is a very small thing, but its going back to what I showed you – these things are not easy to figure out; truth, falsehood, relativity, subjectivity, objectivity.

Basically these are claims, but as I have shown you, they do not pass the self-refuting test. They are not objective truths. These are the subjective truths adopted by the Scientistic worldview and approach. And they are free to do that. But they pick the claim of objectivity for that, and then to take an exclusive claim of truth for that, and then to falsify and invalidate every other thing, there is no basis within their own system to do that. And it is not based on logic either.

Science Explored

Next is the question of what exactly is science? How do you separate science from non-science? For example, you will find this question in the Western academies that why were some of the Liberal Arts called Social Sciences, and why were the other ones called Humanities? Is Psychology a Social Science? Some Psychology departments are unhappy. They say we want to be in the School of Science and Engineering, we are science. Scientists say, no you are not a science, go to the Social Sciences school.

So what is science and what is non-science? Is there any objective, falsifiable, verifiable, absolute way to determine this question? Or is it relative? There was a writer, his name is Larry Laudan. He has written an article Science at the Bar. What he talks about is very interesting, or let me put it this way, it is a very enjoyable piece to read about this notion of what is science and what is non-science.

Now let’s suppose someone says a statement like true knowledge is falsifiable, let’s suppose I were to say this proposition to you that Martians will land on Earth in 2050. Or for that matter, humans will land on Mars in 2050. You cannot refute that. Maybe it will happen, maybe it will not – we do not know. So what does that mean, is it science now?

For any falsifiable test to be applied, you have to be open to the possibility; science is when you keep falsifying till you get an approximation of certainty, because to the best of your knowledge you have eliminated any possibility of truth or falsehood. How can you falsify that statement?

Let’s suppose I say in year 2500 humans will be living on Mars. You cannot falsify that. Does that make it science – because you cannot falsify it? Can I call it a scientific statement? You would say no, you cannot call it a scientific statement. But I say no science is what you cannot falsify, and you cannot falsify this statement.

These are internal contradictions on these issues. I am not talking about what you read in your Chemistry textbooks. We fully accept the Periodic Table – that’s science. I am talking about Scientism. What is in the Physics and Chemistry textbooks that is science. This is Scientism; trying to negate any understanding of truth and claiming pure objectivity only for themselves. That is Scientism.

Intuition and the Fallacy of Falsification

Let’s look at some other things that we may accept as knowledge. One issue is that of intuition. Your intuition is going to guide you on how many factors, or causalities, you have to look at in a scientific experiment.

For example, somebody told us that science says there was an earthquake in China, and it measured 8.2 on the rector scale. And if I tell them, did you take into account the weight of coal mines in China? And maybe because the weight of the coal in the coal mines of China was heavier, it was a 8.4 scale earthquake, but it came out at a reading of 8.2 because of this reason. They would say, no that is a negligible factor. These things are negligible.

Then I could come up with something nonsensical. I could say, did you write any scientific test to see that did the prices of tea in China effected the level of the earthquake? They would say that is nonsensical. I say, but it is a hypothesis, I want you to falsify it. If I talk like that then there are a billion factors that will have to be examined. This is intuition.

This is also a fallacy of falsification that we did eliminate everything humanly possible. First, you used your intuition to eliminate the nonsensical and the absurd. Then you used your intuition to eliminate the things that had a negligible effect. And only those things that your intuition told you possibly could have a tangible effect, you ran your falsifiability test on those things that you thought had a tangible effect. How did you decide that what was tangible and what was negligible and what was nonsensical? That was done on the basis of intuition.

In our tradition, we call it zauq. This is why in the Hadith Studies, you cannot just copy somebody in 20th Century that this hadith is weak. The Muhaditheen had zauq; they had an acumen, they had a flare for this. They were hafidh of Hadith; they had memorized 100,000 chains of narrations. They had seen that narration being narrated from so many people. If they did not tag it as zaeef, you cannot do your database researches saying I have discovered today that so-and-so scholar in the 20th Century decided that so-and-so is zaeef. He does not have that zauq. He is using a laptop. He is using a library. He needs to have it up here – zauq is the intuition.

If you ask any scientist who has won a noble prize, or any great inventor, how did you do that – was it just an empirical method? He would say it was my intuition. I had a hunch. I had intuition that this would work. All the way from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison; whoever it is, whatever they have invented, it is through intuition. Intuition is the creative force behind science.

This is what I was telling you about this empirical adequacy – or if you want to call it, the empirical inadequacy. If you insist that they should factor the negligible and the nonsensical, then we will say it is empirical inadequacy. But they say, no it is empirical adequacy. Why is it adequacy? If the factor was tangible, how did you define what is tangible? That was through intuition. That’s not science.

Scientists are fine with that. Scientism is not fine with that. Scientism is shattered by this. Scientists have no problem with this – they would say yes 100% we use intuition. We did not make any claim that every single way of knowing is going to be captured by science. They believe in inspiration. And many of the greatest scientists in history were believers, and they would write in their autobiographies that I was inspired by God.

Now the scientist today will say this is all fluff. He explains it as a cognitive moment – a surge of neurons and electrons activity in his brain, which he thought was an inspiration by God, in an attempt to falsify another person’s understanding of an event that actually lies outside the realm of science. I mean, are you a greater scientist or is Einstein a greater scientist? If science necessitates Atheism, then why in the world were these great scientists not Atheists themselves?

Arguments for God’s Existence

Theory of Uniformity & the Role of Intuition and Approximation

There is this thing called the Theory of Uniformity. For example, you take the law of gravity, to make it a law, the theory of uniformity means that these things will have to be uniform. It means that gravity must be universally the same in any corner of the Earth, baring some other external circumstances and conditions. But empirical method would mean you have to test it in all of these conditions. You cannot just make a claim like that. Then if you have a latitude inadequacy; let’s say how many points on GPS of Earth has the gravity been measured, it is probably not even on 10% of the places on Earth. So what is that? It is their intuition.

Very interestingly, in the ilmul kalam tradition, this intuitive element – that you have tested something at a level which is sufficient to give you certainty – that concept is called tawatir in our deen. And the tawatir concept is actually used in our deen, as well, to bring certain knowledge.

I will give you the example which Imam al-Ghazali (ra) gave that if one person walked in this room right now and said it is raining outside. Lets just pretend there is no window, lets pretend there are just four walls. Now when one person says it to you, you may not have certain belief. But if two people come in, three people come in, or five people come in, at some point it will be the ‘tipping point’; at some point you will reach a number of reports and narrations – it is not science – your intuitive heart will feel the feeling of certainty. You will look into your heart and say yes, now my heart feels certain that indeed it is raining. That will also have to do with how well you know those report givers; how true you know them to be; how upright you know them to be.

This is what the muhadith was doing when he was tagging. Yes, the Hadith scholars made a few comments, that so-and-so is this, and so-and-so is that, but those comments are just a drop in the ocean of the knowledge about that narrator and their feel about the narrator. Modern day researcher goes to the books of ilm al-rijal and looks up the narrator and sees the muhadith’s comment, and says I have discovered this hadith is dha’if which all these fuqaha had been using for the past 1,200 years.

No, you did not discover anything, you just discovered that the muhaditheen all accepted this hadith, even though for all of these centuries they knew that one narrator, critic, did make that one comment. They disregarded that comment on the basis of their intuition. And you think you are a hero because you discovered that comment, and you want to change the gradings of the hadith of the great hadith scholars?

So tawatir; they are saying that when we reach a certain level of tawatir, we will view that these things behave at a uniform manner, but actually it was just the individual thing that you saw behave in that way. You dropped a ball, you saw that it behaved in a particular way in the gravity. But you would extrapolate; it’s an extrapolation. Science is doing it right. A reasonable level of approximation, a reasonable amount of falsification based on the intuition, until they reach the level of certainty, but when they have reached that level of certainty, they take a leap and then they make a claim of uniformity, and we are fine with that, and up till now it bears out.

But strictly speaking in terms of Scientism, that leap is not warranted, that leap is unfounded, that leap is not acceptable. But for us, and for science, it is acceptable.

The Raven Paradox

This is something called the Raven Paradox. Raven is a particular type of a bird, and the notion is that all ravens are black. If you make a statement like that, how would you do that? Science will tell you that we used observation; we kept looking at the ravens and we kept seeing them to be black. We travelled around and we looked at raven populations; we went to raven’s nests, we tried to discover where they lived. And we kept seeing that they are black. At some point they made this statement that all ravens are black.

How many did you see? You saw a hundred, a thousand, the point is, you did not see all of them and yet you said that all ravens are black. You saw some of them, even many of them, you may have even seen a great many of them. Remember we are talking about Objective Absolutism now. I did not put the relativity in the absolutism. This is an absolute statement; all ravens are black.

It is possible that today somebody takes out the gene matter of a raven, and tries to analyze its genes, and maybe suggest that the pigment in the genes is only programmed to be black. Still, the question would be, that could there be any alternate sub-species of raven out there that have a slightly different genetic make-up? So, there is a certain intuition – a certain tawatir principle – with which you will end up saying all ravens are black.

All of science is based on these things; the Theory of Uniformity, The Raven Paradox, they all have this notion of approximation with certainty. The way science regulates itself is with certain standards, it is not arbitrary, there will be peer reviews, there will be articles written in the journals, the scientific community will have to accept the research of that scientist, and that may take a few years, and then they may say yes, we accept that theory and now uniformly we will also use it in our own research and our experiments. It is a process, it takes time. It is not arbitrary. It is a structured, governed, regulated process. So this covers a few more concepts in the philosophy of science.

This was to suggest to you that the existence of Allah swt is beyond science. The question was ‘Does God Exist?’ The Atheist’s response to this was that your claim (that God exists) is not scientific and therefore false, for only that which is contained in science is true.This is how you will face this question:

Your reply is that no, not only what is contained in science is true. The question of the existence of Allah swt is beyond science.

Next was that your claim is not logical and your claim is not rational or logical. Lets take this. There is a whole range here. I will give you a couple of things from a whole range.

Fine-Tuning Argument

Like I mentioned to you, I attended a whole bunch of series of lectures at Oxford; probably 40-50 of them, one by a Professor of Pure Math Theory, and one by a Christian Professor who taught courses on Philosophy of Religion. Now, this is one notion of creation. Some of you, who are aware of these debates in America, you may know of the Intelligent Design, Creationism vs. The Blind Watch Maker vs. No Watch Maker. There are certain buzz words that are used in this literature.

One such term is called the Fine-Tuning Argument which was put forth by Fred Hoyle. It means that the Earth’s conditions are so finely tuned to create the possibility for the existence of life, and although science, certainly, and it is not that I have to negate this, but science is open to the possibility that life may exist elsewhere, what we call the extra terrestrial life. But up till now science says that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to prove the existence of terrestrial life. So even from today’s state of the art science, the current knowledge, although open to the possibility that there maybe life in other planets in the world, but the current knowledge says that there is only life on earth.

Fine-Tuning means that if the Earth was a bit closer to the Sun, or even a bit further away from the Sun, life would not be possible on Earth, because the temperature and climate would not be suitable to Earth. Fine-Tuning means that if the speed on which the Earth rotates around its axis, if it were somewhat slower, or somewhat greater, it would be more difficult to have life on Earth. There are so many factors, which even science will admit that we have only identified  some, there are also going to be some factors that science yet has to identify.

No scientist claims that we know all the laws of the universe. No scientist who does anatomy in physiology can claim that we understand everything about the human body. There are so many diseases – still – of which we have not identified a cure for, nor do we know the cause. What does that mean? I accept also, that the disease is happening through a scientific process. But science itself is saying that we do not have the full understanding of this process. This is one disease, what causes the disease? We don’t know. How are you going to cure the disease? We don’t know.

I am not saying that the disease is some paranormal, psychal, spiritual thing. I am hundred percent saying the disease is physical, material, it is within the realm of science, it is the subject matter of science, but science does not know about it yet. This is a fact for so many things. So if it is true about the human body, then you can imagine the extent to which it is true about the universe. But they say that from what we know right now, there is no life anywhere else.

Multiverse Argument and the Law of Probability 

The counter to the fine-tuning argument, which some Atheist scientist put forth, is the Multiverse Argument. And literally, one of them actually has this idea that imagine that there is some machine that just creates universes. Sooner or later, the law of probability would demand that a universe will eventually be created in trillions, and trillions, and trillions of years, eventually a universe will be created where life could be obtained. Or they say you take any universe, that eventually over a period of trillions and trillions of years of galaxy formations, star formation and star death, and star collapse, it is a matter of probability, that sooner or later a solar system would be formed in which there was one planetary body – the planet Earth – which would be so fine tuned that life would exist.

I accept that, but what is the probability? If you ask the Mathematician, he would say the probability is 1 over, you know, like in Maths, 1 over infinity equals zero. Now strictly speaking, why are you negating that one? Strictly speaking, in Maths, 1 over infinity should not equal zero. Zero is zero, and 1 over infinity, no matter how small it is, it is still something. But it is so negligible when you keep dividing it, it is infinitely divisible by infinity, so when you keep infinitely dividing it, it becomes so insignificant that it is treated as zero.

So we do the same thing. We take the 1 over infinity argument on the Multiverse; that probability is so infinitesimal, so extremely small, we will treat it as zero using this principle of Maths that 1 over infinity equals zero. The chance for such a finely tuned condition for life to have happened on its own is 1 over infinity, we will treat it as zero according to Maths, that means there is zero chance that this world came into existence on its own, that means that it is logically necessary that there was a Creator who brought it into existence.

You would be amazed if you ever research this Fine-Tuning argument. Even if you take a human being, any doctor will tell you that how incredibly fine-tuned the human being is, and as soon as the tuning goes out, that is the process of death beginning. We are just a speck; human being is a speck on Karachi, Karachi is a speck on Pakistan, Pakistan is a speck; we are a speck, on a speck, on a speck, on a speck – this is our reality in the universe.

I took three courses in Astrophysics as an undergrad in Chicago, way back in 1992, and my TA was an Atheist. Me and him used to sit back in the lab and have discussions. These are jokes sometimes, this is not a serious argument. But I am sharing to lighten this a little bit for you.

Some of the things that I used to talk to him about, and other such people, was the creation of Big Bang, and all of that stuff. I have no problem with the Big Bang. I believe that when Allah swt said kun fayakun; so He just said kun and the Big Bang happened, and fayakun – the universe came into existence. I said, you have a problem with the small bang. He said what is that? I said that you accept that the universe just came into existence, and I am telling you Adam (as) – one small speck (compared to the universe) – came into existence, and you say that is not possible, he must have evolved from apes. So, you accept the Big Bang, and you do not accept the small bang.

When we came to this issue of probability, I said lets suppose I accept the Multiverse argument that eventually the laws of probability, over trillions of years, would be that the universe is created, and the finely-tuned system is created – all of that stuff. I am telling you it is 1 over infinity, but I accept that. I say, in recorded human history, roughly from 2,000 or 3,000 B.C. up till now, lets just take it at 500 B.C., everyone would be happy with that, it was the time of Socrates, 2500 B.C. Shouldn’t one paper clip could have come into existence? I mean, if the whole Big Bang happened, and the universe came out of nowhere, couldn’t a small paperclip have just come into existence?

This is a quote by Fred Hoyle himself who came up with this Fine-Tuning argument:

The probability of the universe emerging out of random forces or by chance is less than the probability of a hurricane sweeping through a junk yard and assembling a 747 Jumbo aircraft.

If an infinite number of hurricanes pass through a junk yard, forget even the junk yard, lets say the Boeing factory, I will go a step further than him, a Boeing factory where all the parts are laid out perfectly, what is the probability that if a hurricane sweeps through, it would manage to assemble and screw every nut and bolt into place? If the universe could happen through such random forces, then it should at least be able to make a perfectly formed paperclip. Has anyone ever recorded in human history that a pencil came out of nowhere, or a paperclip came out of nowhere?

The reason I’m giving you these names is because you should know. Everybody just knows about Richard Dawkins, you should know there is a whole other world out there. We have a big problem in our university campuses here in Pakistan, that there are Dawkins-toting, I myself have seen it on a campus, like they sometimes have Bible-toting, so Dawkins-toting professors who carry Dawkins around and put it around their desks and they are totally preaching Dawkins in their classes, in the class that has nothing to do even with this topic.

They are completely abusing their position as a professor and a lecturer at a university, to preach atheism to the Muslim students. And there is no one who can even speak about this, you are not even allowed to raise your voice about this. This is the situation in the, very few, but the more ultra-elite class, high-academic universities in this country, only about 2-3 of which basically would fill all that description, there is some serious atheism going on.

Kalam Cosmological Argument for God

When you go back, they have other theories (to refute the fine-tune argument). There is a theory that the world was always here, there was no bang, it was always here. If you take that, I will show you another argument of the Kalam Cosmological argument. This is now for the theory that the world was always here. The previous one was if we all agreed that the world wasn’t always here; so there you say that Allah swt created it, or you say the Big Bang happened, that just out of sheer probability the fine-tuning happened.

Second, they will say forget the Big Bang, forget Multiverse, forget the probability; this world was always here. Now the light-hearted response: I believe in an Allah swt who has always been around, you believe in a physically created universe that has always been around. Both of us are believing in something that has no origin; that itself is a non-scientific concept – to have anything in existence that does not have an origin. In the classical texts of ilm al-Kalam they used to talk about this; that Allah swt is the only being that is ghayr masboot bil adam; that He has never been preceded by non-existence. He has always been.

They take the same concept and use it for the world. The second argument that is given by the people that the world has always been there. You want us to give you the proof that who created Allah, yet you’ve created the universe yourself (through this argument)? This is the light-hearted response.

Coming to the Kalam Cosmological argument, very interestingly, one of these Western Christian Philosophers, his name is William Lane Craig, he was trying to discover a philosophical way to refute, one is the logical way, one is the scientific way, and one is the philosophical way to refute a theory. His research led him to our own ilm al-kalam. Our own Muslim youth don’t even know ilm al-kalam, and Western philosophers who are non-Muslims they are going to ilm al-kalam. He calls it ilm al-kalam, he writes it in his honesty, he does not try to hijack it or plagiarise it, and it is taught, I was taught this at Oxford – it is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Our heart was so pleased to hear the word “kalam” from the professor.

Now understand what is the Kalam Cosmological argument. So we have necessity, contingency and logical fallacy. Necessity is what in Arabic we call wajib al-wujub; that what must necessarily exist. Contingency is just a fancy word that means dependant on something else. Let me first show you the Islamic understanding, second I will show how the Kalam argument can respond to that concept that the universe was always here.

Islamic understanding is that, within our tradition we understand that Allah swt alone is wajib al-wujud; He is the only Being who necessarily exists. We are all mumkin al-wujud; we possibly exist, we could also not have existed, our non-existence was also possible. Allah swt not existing, is not possible. Me and you non-existing, that is possible. This is also what so many of the great people, now I’m bringing in the spiritual approach, they used to make du’a to Allah swt just in shukr for this; that Allah swt you brought me into existence. If You didn’t create me, I wouldn’t even exist. I wouldn’t even “be” if I weren’t in your irada of kun fayakun. And then there is another thing called mumtani’ al-wujud; something that cannot exist, and what is that? That is a shareek to Allah swt, that is another god, another divinity, so that means it is mumtani’ al-wujud – it is not possible to exist.

That which is mumkin al-wujud, that which possibly exists, its existence is dependant or contingent on that Being who necessarily exists. Why is it necessary? Because Allahu al-Khaliq; that zaat which is wajib al-wujud, He created us, otherwise me and you couldn’t have existed. There is only one thing, only one factor that determines realizing the possibility or not, and that is Allah’s creative power, there is no other factor, no random forces, nothing else, there is one and only causal mechanism that brought us into existence, while it was completely possibly that we didn’t exist, and that was the will and wish, might and power, and creation of Allah swt.

When we will continue to exist in akhirah, that is because Allah swt is al-Hayyu al-Qayyum; He will live forever, the Pre-Eternal and the Ever-Eternal. Now we will also be eternal, but that is not because of our own ability. It is because of Allah’s irada, Allah’s wish and will and desire that we live forever.

Everything will either necessarily exist, necessarily also means istighna; to be independent, it is not dependant on anything for its existence and its creation. Me and you are dependant on Allah swt; He is our Rabb, He is al-Razzaq. We are something that is contingent, dependant on something else for existence.

Now look at how the Kalam Cosmological Argument works.

Step #1: Setting up separate categories. Everything that exists in our world, everything that exists in this universe, will have to either exist independently on its own, or its existence is contingent and dependant on some other existence

Step #2: Mutually existing categories. Anything that falls in the first category of contingent existence, cannot fall in the first category of necessary existence. You cannot be independent and dependant simultaneously. Your existence is either dependant or it is independent, if it is dependant then it cannot be independent. If your existence is contingent, there is no way it can be necessary.

Step #3: Every single thing cannot fall in the first category. Because, if it did, then everything would be pre-eternal, and that goes against both our empirical and experiential knowledge of the world. Even science wouldn’t think, nobody thinks that every single thing has always been here, that you have always been here, this watch has always been here, the black cup has always existed.

Because not every single thing is in the category 1, then all these things that are in category 2 must have something that brought them into existence. That upon which it is dependant and contingent must precede its existence. Because the existence of B (contingent) is dependant on A (independent), so existence of A must precede B.

When we reach that conclusion, that there are things that exist due to their contingency on other things that must have necessarily existed before them, and those things necessitated bringing them into existence, the question is that which it is dependant on that is itself going to be either necessary or contingent.

For example, your existence is contingent upon your parents. Now we will take a step back, are your parents contingent in their creation? You will say they are contingent, they also depended on something. We go back to their parents i.e. your grandparents. We keep asking this question, we keep going back, until we reach something that must necessarily exist.

Let me now put it for you in another way, if you say that something’s existence is contingent, that means it must be dependant on something else. If it is dependant on something else, you will ask the question about this ‘something else’ – is that something else’s existence contingent or necessary? You say it is contingent. Then I will keep taking it back. You cannot take it back till infinity, that is a logical fallacy. They must be traced back to something that is necessarily existing. You cannot have an infinite regression of infinity. That is a logical fallacy.

In Arabic they call it daur, you can’t have a daur, or what happens is that you are going round and round forever, it’s not possible. In logic we will not accept this, it is a logical fallacy. If you have an endless stream of contingent beings, everything brought into existence by something that itself was dependant on something with contingent existence, you cannot do that, you cannot have infinite regression. It means that it must necessarily be traced back to some being that has necessary existence. You cannot have an infinite regression.

Still a person may object that if all events need causes, like you said every contingent being has a cause, and that cause arises from a being that is necessary, and you cannot have infinite regression, so ultimately you will have to reach a cause that is necessary existence, but your first proposition was that everything needs a cause, so doesn’t that thing that is necessary existent also need a cause? Like some people will ask this question that who created God then? If you say everything is created then who created God then?

This is a logical fallacy called a category fallacy, because Allah swt is in the category of necessary existence. Necessary existence, by definition, doesn’t need a cause. Not only does it not need a cause, it is without a cause. Necessary mean non-dependant, non-causal existence. It’s a category fallacy. It’s like asking, what colour is sound? Sound doesn’t have colour; it’s a question that does not apply to this category. You can say what volume is the sound. To ask the question that what is the cause of that being who is necessary, that is a category fallacy. By definition of being necessary, it means there was no cause. Just like if you say, who made God? It’s like saying who made the unmakeable?

Necessary means unmakeable, non-created, uncreated. It’s like saying who created the uncreated? What caused the necessary existence? If something caused the necessary to come into existence, then it’s not necessary existence; it’s contingent. You put it back in the other category. If you keep putting everything back in that category, you cannot have everything in the category of contingent, because it’s an infinite regression, that’s a logical fallacy.

This is the Kalam Cosmological argument. This basically revolves around these three concepts; necessity, contingency, and the logical fallacy which is what we call an infinite regression i.e. it cannot go back forever, you will ultimately have to have something that is necessary existence.

Imam Ghazali (rah) explains this logical fallacy in the following way. If you look at how many times the earth revolves around the sun, it is once in a year, however if you look at how many times the moon rotates around the earth, that’s twelve times in a year. Lets go back to the lunar calendar, there are twelve lunar months. Now if you say that the sun and the moon have both existed forever, then you will be bringing their number of revolutions in the past to infinity. At the same time, you are saying that the moon has twelve times more revolutions than the sun, i.e. A = 12B, but Maths will tell you

if A=∞ and B=∞
then A=12B
A=B
because 12 x ∞ = ∞

When for the sun and the moon you take infinite regression, they both reach infinity, then ∞=∞ so the number of revolutions of the moon around the earth and the number of revolutions of the earth around the sun are equal, but how can they be equal when we just said that the moon revolves around the earth 12 times the number of revolutions earth revolves around the sun every year? So there are different ways to use this system of the Kalam Argument. This was just a little bit about science, the point was to show you that there is a conceptual understanding in deen that can engage in this discussion. While on the other side, the conceptual science should not be called science, it should be called scientism.

Rationality in terms of Nabuwwah [Revelation and Prophethood]

Imam Ghazali (rah) has explained this concept in a beautiful way. He uses the epistemological approach, which is a fancy term that means studying knowledge and the way we know things. So there is a way of knowing, and then there are things that are knowable by that way of knowing.

  1. First way of knowing, he says, is through our five senses. That begins, even according to the modern human embryology, in the womb where the baby develops different levels of skills. There are certain things knowable that you will know through these five senses. This is what babies are doing all the time. They throw things if they want to check something is loud or not. They take things and put them in their mouths to see if it’s hard or soft, bitter or sweet. This a way in which they are constantly knowing, they are learning through their five senses. We accept the five senses. We accept that certain knowable things are known through that way of knowing.
  2. Second way of knowing, he says, progresses with human development i.e. your aqal (intellect)It is that stage when the child can begin to fathom concepts, and understand and intellectualize them. In our tradition this ability matures at the age of seven. That’s why Blessed Prophet (sws) taught us to really begin the child’s tarbiyyah at seven. This doesn’t mean there should be no tarbiyyah before seven, but you begin it in the earnest at that age. The ability to grasp concepts as right and wrong, moral and immoral, pleasing or displeasing to Allah swt really reaches its maturity at the age of seven. It’s not the peak, it keeps on increasing, but maturity means it has developed — it’s there now. It’s an ability now that the child has. So then through your aqal, i.e. your mind, you are able to know many things. For example, there may be many of you who have never been to New York. Your five senses have never experienced it. You have not smelt it live, heard it, touched it etc. But your mind tells you it exists. You know with as much certainty that New York exists as a person who was born and raised there. We acknowledge aqal as a tool of knowledge and we acknowledge the knowable that are known by that way of knowing.
  3. In the third level, Imam Ghazali (rah) takes it in reverse. He said there are certain things known by the five senses, and there are certain things known by the intellect. Now he is saying that there are some knowables the knowledge of which cannot be traced back to the five senses, and cannot be traced back to the aqal. What makes claim to that knowledge is revelation and Prophethood, Nabuwwah, Qur’an and Sunnah. The Qur’an is not something that came from our five senses, or our intellect. The Sunnah, the teachings of Blessed Prophet (sws) is also making a claim that this is knowledge, but the source of that knowledge is not the five senses, nor is it the aqal.

Now what he does is interesting, because this is well before the concept of modern science has even developed, but he very much adopts, what we call today, a scientific method. He goes for the falsifiability approach. He says that there are some things that claim to be knowledge and you didn’t know them through your five senses, and you didn’t know them through your aqal. So what you should do is you should test them out.

He takes one hadith that Blessed Prophet (sws) said: If you make pleasing Allah swt your first and foremost concern and worry in your heart, Allah swt will remove all the concerns and worries you have in the world. This is the proposition. It’s not the proper adab to say it, but lets just say it for the sake of understanding that this is a claim to knowledge made to somebody who, at this moment, thinks their only tools to knowledge are their five senses and their intellect. The five senses could never come up with this. They cannot establish this to be true that if you make the sole concern of your heart pleasing Allah swt, Allah swt will remove all your worldly worries and concerns. The intellect cannot establish this position. This is beyond its ken, beyond its ability and rationality.

Imam Ghazali (rah) then says that to find out, you have to adopt this position and see what happens i.e. you run a test. You do it. You make the only concern in your heart pleasing Allah swt and you see if Allah swt removes your worries and concerns in the world. And if you find that Allah swt does remove the worries and concerns in the world, you will realize that this statement is true. He says that you should do this with every single verse and hadith.

Remember when we covered correlation and intuition — that’s the scientific method that you keep running the experiment, and there’s a certain number of times you run it after which you will feel that yes now I know there’s fair uniformity, I will say this is uniform [and I will accept it]. Imam Ghazali (rah) is even more precise, he doesn’t say approximately try 10% of hadith or 40% of verses. He says try it on all – take every hadith and every verse of Qur’an and practice it. So it’s the perfection of the scientific method.

He says if you find that all of the hadith and verses are true through your experience, then you will know from yaqeen (certainty) the source of that knowledge. Now you know the knowables to be true. If the knowable is true, whatever was the source of that knowable is also true. The source of that knowable is Hadith and Qur’an. When you know the knowables to be true, you will know their source to be true, you will know Allah swt and Blessed Prophet (sws) to be true with certainty. That challenge is also there for anyone. Before non-Muslims, the Muslims have to take it up. Allah swt said in Qur’an:

Lower your gaze

Try it. See what happens. You say no I don’t want to lower my gaze, can you give me a cure, shaykh? That’s not how it works. We are also scientific. Deen of Islam makes no claim that you can disobey and still succeed. You say I want haya so I don’t commit these lewd crude sins on the screen but I don’t want to lower my gaze. Deen doesn’t make that claim. There is no hidayah like that, that you disobey Allah swt and you still get obedience. This is also a logical fallacy.

Deen says you try it. Do what Allah swt has told you to do and then see if you get haya. Build a spiritual workshop, don’t just build a workshop for your academic intellectual understandings. You should think I will build a workshop on every single thing in Qur’an and every single thing in hadith that Blessed Prophet (sws) taught me on how I can get haya, then I will, following Imam Ghazali’s (rah) approach, practice each and every one of those things. Then you will see, when you get that haya, you will have a certainty in your deen. You will say look at this deen — it’s kamil hidayah (perfect guidance). It changed my heart, it changed my life and it transformed my being. This is called deen.

You have to get real. This whole notion of not practicing Qur’an and Sunnah, and basically philosophizing and intellectualizing [Islamic teachings] — this is not the asal (real purpose). I’m telling you very openly, we just keep these type of lectures to take people out of the jails of their intellect. It’s like jailbreak. I’m breaking you out of the jail of your aqal so you can enter the life of your qalb (heart).

My dream is not that you go home and start building a workshop on Iman and you write me up all types of interesting intellectual questions. Go build a workshop on haya, build a workshop on sabr, build a workshop on taqwah. Then use Imam Ghazali’s (rah) method. Then see what happens. You will come to such a certainty. You will say I was a rock, I thought nothing could change me. I was full of anger, and lust and envy and I did what Allah swt said in the Qur’an and whatever Blessed Prophet (sws) taught me, and I changed. Then you will have true certainty.

This is what Imam Ghazali (rah) is showing through epistemology that knowledge through demonstration is knowledge, but knowledge through experience is a higher form of knowledge, which scientism can never aspire to, because scientism believes in knowledge through demonstration, we believe in knowledge through experience. You will experience the qurb of Allah swt. Anyone who has experienced this qurb does not need to be demonstrated that Allah swt exists. Allah swt says:

فَٱذۡكُرُونِىٓ أَذۡكُرۡكُمۡ
Remember Me and I will remember you. [2:152]

You will feel it. You will feel Allah swt making dhikr of you. You will know He is true, you will know He is real. You will not need any logical proof then, you won’t even need this Kalam Cosmological Argument. That was just a key to unlock the jail. You don’t need these things. This is what Imam Ghazali (rah) is teaching us that Qur’an and Sunnah have to be lived. They are not just to be translated and commented upon and analyzed and discussed — they are supposed to be lived by the heart. They were lived by the heart of the Blessed Prophet (sws). He (sws) brought sahaba karam’s (ra) hearts alive. This is called tazkiya in deen.

وَيُزَكِّيہِمۡ‌ۚ
and cleanse them of all impurities. [2:129]

It means to bring the hearts alive. This is something which is supra rational. Deen is not irrational. It transcends rationality. Rationality and intellect is a weak scale. When you go to the jeweler, he has a small little scale that can weigh up to maybe 10 pounds, because he is weighing in .003 grams and ounces of gold. If I put my suitcase on that scale, it will burst. His scale does not have that ability. Intellect is like the scale of the jeweler. Allah swt says:

عَلَّمَ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمۡ يَعۡلَمۡ
He taught man what he did not know. [96:5]

Allah swt will teach humanity the knowledge which they never could have known, nor did they ever know. Allah swt gave them a scale. They are running around with their small little jeweler’s intellect scales, trying to figure out what is true and what is real, what is false and what is untrue. Can you imagine? That scale of intellect is big enough, but it is like a small jeweler’s scale relative to Allah’s swt knowledge. So if:

1 = your ability to know
∞ = Allah’s swt knowledge
1/∞ = 0

That 1 is something, because that 1 little, pure, innate intellect was enough:

أَفَلَا يَعۡقِلُونَ
Then, do they not use their reason? [36:68]

…it was enough to understand the existence of Allah swt. If this inherent little small jeweler’s scale that Allah swt gave us is enough to understand and realize the existence of Allah swt, then can you imagine the transformative effect of the human being when he moves beyond the small scale of intellect and gets into the ocean of Qur’an and Sunnah? Imagine what type of ma’arafat (deep understanding) of Allah swt will he have. When he understands Allah swt, as Allah swt has revealed Himself to be:

وَلِلَّهِ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءُ ٱلۡحُسۡنَىٰ فَٱدۡعُوهُ بِہَا‌ۖ
For Allah there are the most beautiful names. So, call Him by them [7:180]

When he understands Allah swt the way He wishes Himself to be known:

وَهُوَ مَعَكُمۡ أَيۡنَ مَا كُنتُمۡ‌ۚ
He is with you wherever you are [57:4]

فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ
I am near [2:186]

What will happen to that person then? This transcends intellect. This is something else when Allah swt grants a person sharah sadr (lit.: opening up of the chest; enlightenment). Allah swt says to Blessed Prophet (sws):

أَلَمۡ نَشۡرَحۡ لَكَ صَدۡرَكَ
Have We not caused your bosom to be wide open for you? [94:01]

It’s your sadr, these understandings come in your chest, your qalb, your spiritual heart. The understanding of the sadr and qalb is way beyond any understanding that the aqal could have. And you want to leave the understanding of the sadr and qalb in deen and just be reading Dawkins and talking about Atheism, which is a matter of the aqal? I’m just trying to unlock you from this solitary confinement, small prison cell of the aqal. When you come out of that you will come into the unlimited expanse in the pastures of the true deen and the knowledge of Qur’an and Sunnah, and in the pastures of your heart. You have to understand and keep all of these things in context.

This was a very small drop. In the end what I’m trying to do, I will tell you very openly, my personal view is that this drop is enough. I could sit down and give you a whole course on Atheism and Religion; existence of evil and this or the other, there are so many topics. For me, because I’m addressing you people, if I were talking to Atheists that would have been a very different engagement, but for the person who has Iman in their heart, this drop is enough to know that our deen has an academic and intellectual tradition, and also for you to realize that an ocean lies in the knowledge of spiritual tradition of my deen. My deen has engaged my aqal, but the real engagement is the way my deen has engaged my qalb. Allah swt says about Qur’an:

إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَذِڪۡرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ ۥ قَلۡبٌ
Indeed, there is a lesson in all this for him who has a heart [50:37]

Indeed in this Qur’an there is admonishment and advice, but for who? For that person who has a heart. A person who has a heart will be guided by Qur’an. They will be transformed and uplifted by it. But had I put that topic up only five of you would have shown up. I put this topic up that Science, Rationality and the New Atheism, then you flock to it. This is the problem. If I put Heart, Spirituality and Qur’an — I get only 10% of the attendance.

I didn’t do this just to get you to come. I did it because clearly this is an issue that’s disturbing you so I want to talk to you about it. I don’t want you to think that Islam has nothing to say about these things. I want you to understand it from the vantage point and perspective of deen. This is a speck for us. It’s a tiny dot on the map. This is an incidental discussion. Why something that the deen views as an incidental discussion, people are making it into the be-all and end-all of their decision to stay on Iman, or leave their Iman? This is a big problem and possibly because you hadn’t had these type of sessions, Allah swt knows best. We don’t know. We are desperately trying to figure out how to help these people who are getting distanced from their Allah swt.

May Allah swt accept our sitting here, may He grant us the khayr in it, may He save us from any confusion and error, may He just accept our intention that our intention in any and every Islamic gathering, in every learning and discussion, is only and only to become closer to Him, only and only to become more pleasing to Him, may He let us live on this intention and die on this intention, may He raise us up with this intention, and may He honor this intention by granting us the abode in Dar as-Salam in Akhira where we actually get what we want, and that’s not objectivity, subjectivity or rationality, we get what we want and that is closeness to Allah swt, belovedness to Allah swt and nearness to Allah swt.


وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ


Committing to our Deen and Becoming Steadfast

[These are rough notes of talks delivered by Shaykh kamaluddin Ahmed in December, 2016]


وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا
Those people who strive in our cause, We will surely guide them to our ways [29:69]

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا
He has succeeded who purifies it, And indeed he fails, who corrupts it [91:9-10]

Allah swt says that, ‘successful is that person who does their tazkiyah’, who purifies their heart, who disciplines their nafs – this is a process, and this is a lifestyle, and this is a way of life, an outlook of life – nothing else will cut it in this day and age.

Now, all of you, at some point of your life made that iradah, you had that desire and intention that you wanted to adopt this way of life, this path of life, that you wanted to really look deep into your heart and into every single thing you say and do, and you wanted to find out what is pleasing to Allah swt, and what is not pleasing to Allah swt; what would be of benefit to the nafs on the Day of Judgment, and what will be against the nafs on the Day of Judgment (mā lahā, wa mā ‘alayhā) – you wanted to understand, and you were willing to change your life accordingly.

When a person begins their journey on deen, often in the beginning it is just about learning, and many people may come from a background who weren’t raised on deen, or they didn’t understand deen on their own, or they didn’t have their own passion and discovery of deen, then sometimes, just that initial learning is enough to keep them going. So they hear a talk and they discover something, they learn something about Quran ul-Karim, they learn some hadith of Sayyidina Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم ,they learn something about the sirah, the blessed life, model and example of Nabi Karim صلى الله عليه وسلم ,and it impacts them, it motivates them, it inspires them, it enlightens them.

A lot of the beginning part of the journey is about the learning; the learning continues all throughout the journey, the learning must continue all the way up until the grave.

Now what happens is, when we make that initial iradah, and no doubt we had sidq, we were true in the iradah, we had ikhlas, we were sincere in that iradah- we were truly, sincerely only embarking on this journey to please Allah swt, but Allah swt tests us along the way. Every relationship is tested in this world. That is why you will find that when people have marital problems, they cannot simply fall back on this that well, when we initially married each other, we truly, sincerely wanted to be happily married. Yes, you did when you initially wanted to marry each other, but now you are going through a test, you are going through a phase, and your original intention may ultimately be your saving grace, but now you have to do something more, so just like that, when a person embarks on this path of tazkiyah, Allah swt will put different tests in their way.

After this initial flux of learning, a person has to implement that learning, and has to put it into practice. Otherwise, what happens is – and a lot of us have this problem -because in this day and age of surfing and information, it has almost become our nature to acquire a lot of learning which we don’t put into practice – for example, if any of the men or boys are fans of formula one race cars or sports cars or any other such thing, then you will get a lot of information about these cars, but illa masha’Allah (except those who Allah wishes for), you will never ever practically ever drive a Porsche or Ferrari in your life.

Similarly, there are a lot of other things that we learn about; so much learning that we don’t practice in the secular worldly sense, such that it becomes our nature, such that we become people who acquire information, without actually processing it and practicing it; and there is a big danger then, that we become the same way about our deen. So we might even get a book and read it, but we don’t practice it. We might even learn a hadith about Nabi Karīm صلى الله عليه وسلم ,but we don’t live it. We might understand something about Qur’an, but we don’t even have the desire to memorize the few verses and even recite them in our own salah. This is a big danger; this media, infotainment, information overload, surfing, internet, and news are all types of learning that is irrelevant and unpracticed, so make sure your learning of deen is totally different.

There are so many things that so many people know so much about – I would tease some of you at times that I’m amazed at so many things you know. You can give me answers with so much explanation. So make sure your learning of deen goes beyond just knowledge and inspiration, it goes into practice, it goes into ‘amal; otherwise, that learning may even – maybe not yet at your age and stage in life – to whatever extent we don’t practice it may actually count against us on the Day of Judgment. There comes a time when it counts for you, but then if you actually don’t practice it, live it, and abide by it, it might be neutral, but later will come a time where it will testify against you on the Day of Judgment.

Look, don’t you say that when it comes to the world, that ‘oh, he is such an educated person, so at least he shouldn’t have done such a thing.’ People say this regarding secular education – that he shouldn’t have done such and such since he’s educated in the secular sense. So when it comes to a person who has studied the religion, and understands some of this deen, then all the more, they should stay away from unrefined acts.

Let me tell you a strange thing. First, when someone had greed for the world, they would sweat to attain it; they would take on slavehood. Then a person came who had no greed, so he became a corporate professional, and he used to strive day and night, just like that person who had greed for this world. That is what happens to the men who are more talented – if you do your job well, they promote you, then they want more from you, and before you know it, you are chasing the world in exactly the same way, with so much time, effort, and sweat, that you become just like the one who had greed. This is the nature of the dunya; it makes you run after it. They become a corporate slave. I’m not inventing this term – try searching it, you will find many results.

I’m not saying this just about corporate professionals, look at anyone that works for the world. It’s not haram, but you see, the same thing happens with for example, business. The person who starts the business wasn’t greedy for the dunya, but once he is successful, he can’t resist the success. He could resist the world, but he cannot resist the accomplishment, the attainment. He then moves onto more products, buys another factory etc. It’s like that with many of us. We want to move up to be the head of departments, because we want more. We are good, so we want more. Same thing was supposed to happen in deen; we should think why am I not a high achiever in deen.

Sometimes, we don’t do a’mal for no reason whatsoever; literally, for no reason. We would never tell our boss that today I came late for no reason whatsoever. You will find people doing ‘amal for all types of crazy things, with steadfastness.

You have to do ‘amal for your deen, and a beautiful thing about this path is that it gave you that vision, that intention – to have iradah, to have a dream – that dream, that you dare to become a wali of Allah swt. But that makes a person work harder. So your learning has to move into practice.

Practice is a completely a different field. You can learn whilst you are relaxed, in your home, lying in your bed, surfing the net on a tablet, reading a book, reading a magazine, listening to bayans – there are so many ways you can learn. But to become a person of action, of ‘amal, then you will need some ragra (lit. meaning scrubbing; figuratively, pushed/shaken). You will need to attain some tarbiyah, and it is a completely different thing.

There are some pious muttaqi people who can walk this path themselves to become people of ‘amal, but these people are few and far in between. Otherwise, most of us need to be snapped, or even maybe slapped, figuratively – i.e. we need to be shaken and pushed like what we call boot camp. In the army, they use all this marketing to recruit a person, and a person comes in wanting to serve and die for the country, but first, they have to go through boot camp; they have to leave and forget all the slogans, ‘live to serve, serve to die and protect’ etc. They have to leave all this and go through boot camp. That is something a lot of us need desperately.

Ask yourself; although I will answer for each and every single one of you without exception. But ask yourself; have I ever been lazy, ever? Have I ever been lazy in my studies? Have I ever been lazy in my work? Have I ever been lazy in something my mum and dad asked me to do? If the answer is yes, yes, yes a thousand times over – it means you need ragra. You need something to put yourself in some kind of mode to make you sahib-e-‘amal (person of ‘amal) in your deen.

This mode is in the nature of a believer; it’s a very delicate nature. It has its own attitude – one small sin, or some heedlessness and it can be removed from you – if Allah wants, we can totally go back to step one, and you would need to start all over again.

But no problem, to continue trying to strengthen this relationship and connection with Allah is called ‘ishq. ‘Ishq is not to establish the connection just once, but it is to establish the connection again and again. It is the same in marriage – the initial marriage vow is not enough, you have to constantly, continuously renew that bond. You have to keep stitching your heart to Allah swt, and it might snap, it might break, something might come loose, and you have to stitch it again. It’s very delicate. You have to get yourself into the mode and stay in the mode.

You have to be honest with yourself about this second thing. Ask yourself, that have I ever started something in deen, and after a little while, I slipped, and stopped? If the answer is yes, yes, yes a thousand times over – then understand, this is what has happened. That mode is very delicate. It’s like a small little candle flame, that if you light it, you have to be very careful. The slightest breath, slightest draft, open window, open door can extinguish it. How many times are you going to relight it?

Your life is like the wax – you only have so much time left on this Earth. You have to protect it. The student who knows this about himself, that I am lazy and I have short-attention span, which almost everybody has today because of internet, with the phone vibrating and ringing all the time. There are very few students, who if I asked that when was the last time for three hours solid (and three hours is nothing in the world of education), three hours non-stop without interruption, without distraction, did you study really hard, we would say figuratively ‘hit the books’ – the answer probably would be that they had only done this when there were three hours left for the board exam; it would be for that exam where you were meant to study all semester, and the exam was at 9am, so you woke up at 6am and studied like this.

That is a mode! I’m asking here as a norm, when there is no exam, no deadline, but just for the sake of learning. Whatever you did to get yourself in that mode for the sake of an exam; it was supposed to be done normally. You must’ve realized that I am lazy, I cannot have any distractions, I have a short-attention span, so you turned your phone off, and you went into the library. A studious person probably said to you, what are you doing here, brother; since when did you come here? You would say, it is your final, and it is my final too, so I have also come here. Our situation would be such that we would have to roam around, quietly, at least once to figure out where the library is, and where the seating area is – this is our state, we don’t even know, whereas the studious person would know the best place in the library to sit, the quietest place, the places which are best to study.

We had to do something to get ourselves into this mode. What did you do to put yourself in that mode? It’s the same thing you have to have to do for deen. You have to sacrifice, put some limits, you have to contain other things to create a space for yourself to become sahib-e ‘amal – to become a person of ‘amal. If we know a person is definitely a person of ‘ilm (sāhib-e ‘ilm), and they have knowledge of tafsir, hadith etc, then we respect and value them. Higher in degree to them are those who are people of ‘amal.

This is a strange Arabic word, sahib. Sahib-e‘amal, in Arabic, would have meant, that person who has done so much ‘amal, that him and righteous virtuous practices are companions to one another. ‘Amal is a part of him now, it is attached to him, and he is attached to ‘amal. That is called tarbiyah and tazkiyah – it is a process in which a person becomes sahib-e ‘amal.

Yes, a person can come for these occasional talks and join a bi-weekly class on Qur’an or Arabic, but the real name of the game, the real purpose of deen, sirat ul-mustaqim is to become a sahib-e ‘amal. There are many type of a’mal, and definitely ibadah is a major part, and good akhlaq is a major part, and the way you practically interact and interrelate with other people is a big part of a’māl. Broadly speaking, these are the three big things – ‘ibadat (worship), akhlaq and sifat (your character and qualities) and your mu’amalat (dealings with others).

Deficiency in ‘amal cannot be made up by anything else. Deficiency in ‘ilm can be made up when you stay in the shadow of someone else who has ‘ilm e.g. if you don’t know whether something is halal or haram, you can go ask a scholar – you can take advantage of his knowledge and be guided by him. However, when you don’t have ‘amal, you can’t rely on someone who has that ‘amal – you have to do it yourself. This is the critical importance of ‘amal, that a person has to do it himself.

Sayyidina Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم told Hadrat Fatimah that she needs her own ‘amal. You need to have ‘amal. It’s easy to add books in your library, but it’s not easy to add a’mal to your book of Deeds. If you want to take it to the next level, from occasional ‘amal to making it the mizaj, mode, mindset and framework, then you need to make an effort and have worry for it. It is a worry you need to have. You need to light a flame for it in your heart. You have to keep feeding and giving fuel to the fire, otherwise it will go cold. I told you before that it is very delicate; the fire is easily extinguished by sin and ghaflah – and then, you will need to relight it. You will need to restart all the effort. It is a constant effort. This is what tarbiyah and tazkiyah is; tawbah, taqwa, tawbah, taqwa – intention for taqwa, effort for taqwa, and then intention for tawbah, effort for tawbah. Tawbah also requires effort. Don’ think it doesn’t.

You need to make a lot of effort for tawbat un-nasuh, for sincere repentance – it is very easy for Allah swt to forgive us, but for us to make a sincere real tawbah, it can be difficult. We have to try hard; we have to try several times. You have to enter the mode, and until you enter the mode, you’ll just be like fluff in the air, and at any time shaytan and nafs can just snatch you away – at anytime – and it does happen; you will have experienced this yourself.

Just like that, you commit sin; just like that, your salah got qada – just like that, for no real reason at all. It’s not that there is any major reason or a major crisis or incident that happened. It will be just like that. It won’t be because you were super lonely, or super depressed, super in love, super wanting to get married and parents were super against it – it won’t be like that. It will happen just like that – just like that you unlawfully gazed at someone; just like that, you ended up missing your prayer; just like that, you ended up telling a lie – it won’t be because you were in a big dilemma, it will just be random. Random occasional arbitrary lies, unlawful gazes, qadas, all just like that, just for no reason.

The simple reason is because we weren’t in the mode – when you have the fikr, it doesn’t happen. When you are in the zone, it doesn’t happen. When a student is in the mode, he will never skip class or come late. Yes, when he’s not in the mode, then he forgets to attend. There is no way he will come even late when he’s in the mode; in fact, he’ll come early. He will come to class early having done the reading, but when he’s not in the mode, forget the reading and forget the attending.

A person needs to put himself or herself in the mode – that is what your intention really has to be. It is not enough to show up some times, listen to some talks and bayans – it might be enough to do right now, but it’s not enough to want. Your aspirations, your hopes, your desires, your intention, your iradah, your wish and your plan of action needs to go all the way in deen- it is not enough to just have a wish, you need a proper plan of action. Then, there will be a difference.

The kid who takes a freshman Physics class, a first-year Physics class with the intention and wish that he wants to become a physicist, his mode of learning will be different from that person who is just trialing the class. The former student had a high goal and aspiration, whereas the latter didn’t – his intention was just for that one class. Your iradah in deen is that you have to want to go all the way. Everything and anything in deen, you have to want it – all of it. You have faraidh, nawafil ibadah, akhlaq, sifat – you should want all of it.

We have to have the desire that we want to go all the way, and that we want all of it, that we want to do ‘amal on every single verse of Qur’an, and every single sunnah. I’m not saying you’ll be able to, practically speaking, do that right now, but we have to want it! That freshman isn’t a scientist in the first lesson, but he has that want and intention from that first class. It won’t happen in one class, but it’s a vision of his. We have to have this vision, like that Nobel prize – you want to be a wali of Allah, a friend of Allah.

From all of creation, insan has the highest rank; from amongst them, the Prophets (a.s.), but prophethood has ended. After the Prophets, the greatest of ranks belong to the sahabah karam (r.a.), and after that, the highest rank is the awliya. Awliya means that friend of Allah who leaves sins, and puts themselves in the path of deen, and makes deen their purpose. They are those who colour themselves in the colour of deen; they annihilate themselves in deen, fana fid-deen, fana fillah.

Make this the intention of your life, and as long as you have this intention, even if your ‘amal is slow, partial and gradual, but as long as you have that want and desire, then it will be accepted, and that small practice will change you. But the ‘amal we do with a half-baked partial intention, then it won’t change you; imagine you are doing the ‘amal, but you aren’t taking much from it. It’s all about the intention. This is one of the meanings Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم meant when he said that, ‘Innamal a’malu bin-niyyat’, that actions are according to intentions – that the quality and impact and effect of your ‘amal will be based on how much your intention is, and how far you want to go with this ‘amal.

Why are you praying Fajr? Just to be present? Just so you’ve performed the obligatory? So you become the obedient slave of Allah? For the pleasure of Allah? The niyyah you have is important. How far you want to go will colour every ‘amal that you do. If a person who goes to work and joins the job, with the intention that he wants to become a partner (in that business), he will have a different mode compared to that person who’s going to help around. Totally different attitudes; their ‘amal will be the same, but the effect will be different. The person will change, or not change, depending on how much irādah they bring to that ‘amal.

It is very important to become people of iradah – vision and mission are just baby words to capture iradah. Iradah is a firm resolve and determination. Pray salah with iradah, and see how much it changes you. If you just pray out of obligation, or habit, see how small of an impact it has. So also, one of the big aspects of tarbiyah and tazkiyah is to have this iradah, to constantly have this.

The world, and everything in it is trying to make itself your murad (goal) that all your iradah should be about working, earning, living – your iradah should be about the next model of car, the next model phone, your next watch, next stage in your worldly life. And when you have that as your iradah, you will see the person will pursue that with a passion, and will pursue that with an effort and a drive.

You will be amazed at the drive some people have. I’m not saying it is haram, but in terms of raw human emotion, the amount of drive they have to earn the world is amazing. The amount of effort, desire, drive some people have, and the amount of sacrifice some people make to attain the world, if we have same intentions for our deen, not even more, but just equal amount, imagine how religious and deeni we would become.

People say we should have a balance. Fine, bring a balance. Pursue your deen as passionately as you pursue your world, see what happens. Then what happens is, it doesn’t matter in reality, in terms of time, that you are full time dunya, and part time deen, you are a full-time student, you are a full-time professional, you are a full-time worker – so if you are full time in dunya and part-time in deen, but your mizaj is that you are full-time in deen, then this is enough. This is a secret – you don’t need to leave the world, but you need to have an intention for full-time deen. In terms of time, it might be the other way around – few hours on deen, and majority in dunya – no problem. You have to make yourself like this; it takes effort.

Otherwise, as I told you, the world is there to suck you in, to drag you in. Even news and sports; and I’m going to talk about news and sports, so imagine what I have to say about music and movies. Even news and sports are distractions trying to suck you in. There is no single athlete in the world alive who is worth even one drop of your emotion; there is no single team, no single tournament, no single sport that is worth your heart, that you become a fan. You know, fan is an abbreviation for fanatic. Sports fan means sports fanatic.

If you are going to do something for the Syrians, then read the news, but if you aren’t going to do anything, and night and day, you listen to and read the news, then there is no benefit. You won’t tell them on the Day of Judgment that everyday I spent an hour reading about you. They’ll just look at you. But that is our situation; I cannot tell you how insipid we have become when it comes to the state of the ummah. Leaving Syria on one side, lets take Burma. What’s Burma? What is the Burmese military capability compared to the Muslim ummah? Burma is nothing – you are talking about one of the most backward countries in the world, but even they are taking the blood of the Muslims. That is a sign of how low we’ve gone. What can we do? These are strange states – it’s not going to get much lower than that. Following the news, being aware of the news etcetera, is also there to suck you in.

We have to become a person of ‘amal. If we have the foundational ‘a’mal (ibadat, akhlaq, muamalat), then Allah will accept us for many a’mal – khidmat of the ummah, to face oppression etc. Allah doesn’t accept this from normal slaves, and whosoever tries to fight oppression without having the foundational a’mal, they will end up making mistakes, or becoming extreme. Allah swt will allow the sahibe ‘amal to fight the oppression.

Our own deen is being orphaned because of us, because we, being ahl-e-deen, are not able to serve the deen, serve the ummah, serve the people of deen, because we have lost the deen in our own hearts. How are we going to serve the deen? Khidmat of deen, da’wah of deen, khidmah of the oppressed, facing the oppressors – it won’t happen through us, illa mashaAllah.

You have to figure out a way to get yourselves into the mode, and the mizaj and iradah of ‘amal. Whatever you can do to bring yourself into that mode, you have to do it. If you don’t know how to bring yourself into that mode, you have to look for it; you have to seek guidance for it. Whatever brings you to that mode, you have to keep doing it more. What seems to keep you away from that mode, you have to keep staying away from that.

So the first step is awareness: You have to analyse in yourself what keeps you in the mode (keeps your heart warm), and what cools down the fire in terms of your deen. People have such awareness in terms of their stomach – but they don’t have this same awareness for their soul. They know what food is bad for their stomach, and what is hot for them (in taseer). Once, there was a Pakistani, and I got him a cold banana milkshake, and he said it’s warm and I said no, it’s cold. I didn’t realize what he was trying to say. He said it’s ‘garam (hot)’ and I was telling him it isn’t, and that he should touch it. He said it has milk in it, so it’s garam. I said it has ice cream! This was a long time ago, and he had such awareness.

There is no hope if we don’t learn these things about ourselves, if we don’t become aware and learn what is it that inspires and motivates our own heart. You are the driver of your own car. Alim and Shaykh can stand outside the car and give you directions, but you are the pilot of your own life. And you don’t even have the interest to know what it is that can guide you further and stronger in your deen? You need to have a worry and concern for yourself.

So now I want to explain to you what exactly I want you to do. [The first goal is different for the men and different for the women; goals two to five are the same]

For the men:

1a) To have a connection with worship in the Masjid

Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم did say to the sahābah that they should pray their sunnahs etc at home, but their houses were very simple. They had an environment of worship. For most of us, it is not like that. For most of us, the situation is that if we don’t pray our sunnahs in the Masjid, then we will end up getting involved in something else when we get home, and we will not pray properly. It is not hypocrisy, it is a natural thing for e.g. if you say that if I stay in the Masjid, and I pray the two sunnah after Zuhr there, I can pray in a calmer manner, and if I go home and pray, then I will pray more fast, so am I a hypocrite? No, actually, this isn’t your nifaq – it is the natural effect of the Masjid on your heart.

If your heart isn’t that strong to beat fast on its own, when it is hooked up to the machine, it starts beating fast. Hence, your spiritual heart, when it is hooked up in the Masjid, then generally (and not for show), you generally will pray in a tranquil manner. When you leave the Masjid, and go to your office or home, then that tranquility may not be felt, hence you pray fast. It wasn’t for show, it was your ruh, your iman. Yes, if you say when I pray at home, I can pray in a calm and peaceful manner, then yes, you should definitely pray your sunnahs at home. But for most of us, that isn’t the case illa ma’shaAllah. So the first point was to increase your connection to the Masjid, and to increase your worship in the Masjid.

Pray salah in congregation, in the Masjid; the day you pray all 5 salahs in the Masjid, then know it was a very big thing for you right now. Let me give you an example; imagine if you prayed all night Tahajjud, what would be the effect? You would think it would definitely have an effect. For you right now, praying 5 times salah in congregation, in the Masjid, is even more powerful than praying all night Tahajjud. Understand this – this is also within your reach. That’s the beautiful part. Praying Tahajjud all night isn’t in your reach, because you can’t remain awake all night. But for you right now, in Pakistan, to pray all your salahs in congregation is pretty much in your reach – you have to do ‘amal on that.

You need to sit sometimes in the Masjid. The three best times to stay in the Masjid is between:

  • Fajr till Ishraq
  • ‘Asr till Maghrib
  • Some time after Maghrib (maybe not all the way to ‘Isha.)

Try and do it maybe once a week, maybe Saturday or Sunday. That day you don’t have to go to work, or you don’t have to go to class, then there is no reason why you cannot sit in the Masjid till Ishraq salah. These are the a’mal that will put you in that mode. We wrongly think that these a’mal will only give us the nafl virtue that is mentioned in hadith, but we will also get this mizaj that I am a seeker of Allah, and a seeker of ‘ibadah, so to speak.

Just like, if you start spending more time in library, more time with your books, then you will start developing an identity of being a proper student of knowledge. When you spend more time in the Masjid, more ‘ibadah in the Masjid, more connection with the Masjid, then you will actually start feeling that you are a seeker on the path to Allah swt. It won’t happen just by the customary feeling of being a student etc. When you actually start doing it, then you will feel like a seeker.

All these acts are for those who are seeking Allah – to sit until ‘Isha, to pray awwabin at times, to spend time in the Masjid between ‘Asr and Maghrib at times – when you start doing these actions, then you will definitely feel that I am a person seeking my Rabb. So when you get a chance – and those of you are who students, and you have a final exam, may Allah swt help you with that, but then you will get your semester break.

Much more than the du’as we make for your worldly success and your finals week, is the du’a we make for your success pertaining to the hereafter in your semester break. The worldly success you attain from one semester, from 1/8th progression towards your undergraduate degree, the success you can attain in that one finals week, you can attain even more success pertaining to your hereafter in your two-week semester break, which you don’t even realise. We don’t even have a concern for it. For two weeks when you are totally free, then you have a chance of:

فَإِذَا فَرَغۡتَ فَٱنصَبۡ. وَإِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ فَٱرۡغَب
So when you have finished [your duties], then stand up [for worship]. And to your Lord direct [your] longing [94:7-8]

You don’t think like this, you don’t have that mizaj and iradah; you aren’t looking for that opportunity, that is why you aren’t seeing the opportunity. It’s there, right in front of your eyes; any student who is going to go on semester break, the opportunity is right in front of you, but you are blinded to it, because you aren’t looking for it. There is a chance for ‘amal, an opportunity, a chance to seek ‘ilm, so you should connect with the Masjid, and the worship in the Masjid.

Worship in the Masjid via the five-time salah in congregation, and connection with the Masjid by extra sitting. This is your raghrah for now – to sit in the Masjid and pray Qur’an after Fajr. Sit in the Masjid, and view and treat it like the powerhouse that Allah made it. View and treat the Masjid like the power plant, and get yourself some jolts, and bolts and volts from the Masjid. Plug yourself into that Masjid. Keep doing this regularly, or at the very least, periodically.

You also have to make a plan of action for yourself, for example, every Saturday, from Fajr till Ishraq I will sit in the Masjid, and Sunday, after ‘Isha, I will sit in the Masjid. I’m just giving an example, but each and every single one of you must sit down and make a plan for yourself. You have to stick to it no matter what; make a firm intention. Like some people play golf on Sundays, no matter what. Their grandma comes from Karachi Saturday night, but they can’t leave the golf on the Sunday – no way. They will say, ‘O’ Grandma, this is my time for golf, so I will go and return in two hours’ I guarantee you – go on a Sunday, and you will see what I’m talking about.They play golf on Sundays no matter what. That is what you call iradah; that is what you call being your mizaj. That is called ta’aluq.That’s called being in the mode. We need to become like this with ibadah.

So then, what are you going to do in the Masjid whilst you are there? [See point two]

For the women:

1b) You have to really work on your ‘ibadah

I want to start off with your salah, but in a particular way now. You should try to pray earlier, and you should try to pray longer, and you should use brute force and willpower to do this. Allah swt told us in Qur’ān;

وَٱسۡتَعِينُواْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ‌ۚ
Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer [2:45]

…that whenever you have any difficulty, any setback, any fitna, any worry, any uneasiness, any tension, any struggle, any trouble, any test, then firstly, seek help from Allah swt. First and foremost, acknowledge your weakness, that you are in a state of helplessness, and you must seek help from Allah swt. It is not going to come first from your own effort, it’s going to come from Allah swt.

And again, sometimes, Allah swt puts us through such processes because maybe we became too self-reliant, maybe we became too self-confident, so you have to seek help from Allah swt. That is through crying, through supplication, through praying – we have to turn to Allah swt with sabr. Sabr meant that whatever good you were doing, you shouldn’t stop doing it. Sabr meant you keep your rada’, being pleased with Allah swt. Sabr meant you had radā’ bil-qadā’, that whatever Allāh swt makes happen, you must submit to it, you must be pleased with it, you must be happy with it – and that you keep your deen, mustaqim, that you have steadfastness on deen.

So what does it mean to seek help with salah; this person is a believer, they are already praying salah. It meant more salah, deeper salah, more intense salah. The deeper you go into your salah, the more you will feel connected to Allah swt; and that deeper connection with Allah swt inside salah, on the musalla will help you with whatever in the world is going in your life, outside the musalla. So that is the first thing you have to do if you haven’t done so already.

We even taught you, 6/7/8/9 months ago that start with salat ut-tawbah etc, then move on to salat ul-hajat, then move to salat ul-istikhara, then pray two rakah, not for any need, or for tawbah, not to seek goodness or guidance for any decision, but simply just for the sake of ‘ibadah, to show my servitude, just for shukr, just for love, just due to talab – a general two rakah salāh!

And I told you to pray earlier, especially ‘Isha salah – that hadith is especially for women because men are supposed to pray salah in congregation at the Masjid, so that hadīth where Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم said that to delay ‘Isha after half the night has passed (which can be even earlier than midnight actually) is makruh, is for women. You have to pray it earlier; you have to want to pray it. You have to make longer ruku’, longer sujud. You have to dig and find the tranquility (sukun) in your salah. I used to tell you to dig for the remembrance of Allah in your dhikr; you have to dig for that remembrance in salah.

Allah swt has told me in Qur’ān that I can seek His help and guidance in the salah; I can keep going deeper in salah. Maybe we will have to make salat ut-tasbih, or wake up for salat ut-Tahajjud, add ishraq, awwabin – you have to increase the quality of your ‘ibadah, and the length, and linger in your ‘ibadah. And you have to do it properly, with a proper plan of action. Keep a journal, and that journal is between you and Allah swt. Keep track. Make it a project; keep working on it. You have to work on your salah and ‘ibadah.

2) Make a nafl ‘ibadah regimen that you pick and select for yourself.

You need to know what you are going to do; you need to do this with a proper mission, proper sahib e iradah! We have taught these sorts of schedules many times – tilawah, salawat, istighfar, silent dhikr of the heart, du’a, nawafil salah – you must learn and chart out for yourself a regimen. View it as your tarbiyah. When someone is working out, they know exactly when they are going to go, and what they will do. It is not enough just to say I’m going to hit the gym, thrice a week, for an hour – he’s going to say I’m going to hit the gym and I’m going to do these these these sets, and these these these weights etc. He will take a full plan – that’s what you call iradah.

So you need to make a schedule for your dhikr, and this is where the guidance of the masha’ikh come in. Whether you want to follow the path of dhikr that you were already taught, or you want to follow the path that Shaykh ‘Ashraf Ali Thanwi gave as open permission, or even for masha’ikh to teach for that matter. We taught that to you in Ramadan, from Qasd us-Sabil – you must make a plan of dhikr, tilawah, some tasbihat, istighfar, salawat, masnun du’as dhikr e qalbi etcetera. You have to work on it, and stick to it.

Mashayikh are just like your personal fitness coach where they can help with the regimen and schedule, but we have to do the work. The benefit is in doing, not learning. A lot of us have this in this day and age, where we plan, but we have procrastination, dreaming, planning, and not doing, so they will download all sorts of diets, but they wont do it; they will download all sorts of exercises, but they won’t don’t it. It’s like a plague and syndrome that has affected people – you have to get out of this when it comes to the deen. You just have to do it.

So when you have a nafl regimen, you need to stick to it, and follow it – and it will make you happy when you do it. You will feel an accomplishment when you become a doer. When a studious person finishes the first three chapters, they get happy. When you get the first small success under your belt, you are willing to do more. Then, you are inspired and motivated, not by something, but by your own ‘amal. Your own practise will help you, inspire you and motivate you to take it to the next level. We need to start by doing it. Pick something small, pick something short, pick something easy – do it once a week, but take some plan and execute it. When you execute it, and implement it completely, you will feel become stronger, your iradah will become stronger, and you will dare to dream more, you will aspire and want more for the next level.

You have all the inspiration, motivation, teaching, and instruction from before – and it is very important. For those of you who were practicing wuquf e qalbi, you can’t always remember Allah swt in your heart; that is a higher level, and a lot of people aren’t able to attain that. So you should still aspire for that, but if you cant remember Allah swt in your heart, then you can remember him on your tongue. There are a few basic ways for that:

  • Tasbih: subhānAllāh/subhānAllāhi wa bi hamdih/subhānAllāhi wa bihamdihi, subhānAllāh-il-‘Azīm
  • To recite Salawāt
  • To recite lā ilāha il-la-llāh

So you need to make a regimen of dhikr, that you adhere to, follow and track yourself and work on – and its between you and Allah swt. And its important you do ‘amal, because until you do ‘amal, you will not appreciate what this path is about; you have to get the pleasure of Allāh swt. ‘Amal has this lutf (pleasure). By completing ‘amal, you will attain this pleasure and passion to supplicate to Allah swt, because the secret is that when a person does ‘amal, at that time Allāh swt accepts his supplications. You will feel it; you will feel like making du’a because you will feel that this is a moment my supplication will be accepted. You will feel the acceptance of that moment when you complete and finish an ‘amal.

It is just like when you fast in Ramadān, you may have heard the hadith that supplications are answered at iftar time, but even your heart would tell you at the time, you will even feel at that time that this is a time for the acceptance of du’as. In the same way, today (Jum’uah) the final moments before this day ends, then this is a time of acceptance of supplications according to one narration, but you can even feel this.

3) There should be some learning of deen

It might even be that you just take one book, and read a chapter a week. I’m starting with you very slow. It could be just once concept, one topic, one subject you want to understand. Some thing, some topic, some surah – you can link these things for e.g. one of the things you might have in your regimen is to recite Surah al-Kahf every Friday, so what you can do is to aim to understand the tafsir of Surah al-Kahf. Make some project, some ‘ilmi syllabus; again, execute it and learn it. Set some small discreet tasks that you can actually do, and you will feel like you’re learning, that you are a learner. Take a chapter. And obviously, a person can do much more. Many of you come twice a week here according to our schedule that we’ve made, but you need to make something for yourself. There has to be some progression in your understanding and knowledge of deen

Examples:

What kind of muhaddith was he – compiling ahādīth that will melt your heart! Such a great compilation, but not many read it. Yes, if you had irādah, and you wanted your heart to be melted, you would have reached it by now. You’re not looking for the opportunities, hence why you don’t see them. It’s right there. All the opportunities to learn your deen, and become closer to Allāh swt are all right there. You won’t see it, unless you look for it. You won’t look for it, unless you want it – iradah Even if you’ve got graduated from the 4 year course, and even those in a 6 year course, you have to constantly and continually retain a relationship with your ‘ilm. It can be formal ‘ilm; those of you who have already graduated, then take the classes online which weren’t in your nisāb. Those of you, who have yet to start your learning, then read a book. Set some small target for e.g. I want to study the Makkan period of the life of my Nabī صلى الله عليه وسلم ;I want to learn the tafsir of Surah Ya-Sin;. Anything. I want to study the beautiful names of Allah; I want to study a text of Imam al-Ghazali. You should set some syllabus of ‘ilm. There should be some systematic effort to study more, not the random page hopping, and website surfing – no, no, no; you need to have a proper plan of action. You have to keep learning, keep learning, keep learning.

4) Purification of the heart

It has two aspects so we will split it into two parts:

First aspect is to purge and cleanse yourself from some negative attribute, negative feeling:

Observe and analyse yourself – do I have lust, anger, jealousy, pride, laziness, ghaflah – is there any negative attribute inside me; anything! Do I have isrāf (extravagance)? Do I oversleep? Do I overeat? Do I over talk? Start with one. Don’t try to take them all on. It won’t work like that. Start with one negative attribute, and try to reduce/eliminate that negative attribute/feeling from your heart. If you need training, then you need to seek that training, you have to find it. We will find everything in deen. This is the ultimate area of deen – how to make a person a better person. It’s a topic of deen, not a topic of science. One thing you will never learn in SS is how to better a human being. I’m not even saying better Muslim, I’m saying better human!

Science has nothing to do with that. This is the ultimate topic of deen. You have to strive for this, proper with iradah. When you pick that thing, it has to be your huge iradah to get rid of it. It is not enough just to know the negative attributes, and to think I need to get rid of it. Your intention should be that you will make sincere effort to get rid of that attribute/feeling. Once you’ve recognized what you need to get rid of, you should not stop putting effort until you’ve got rid of it. Constant, sustained effort to rid of your heart of whatever that negative attribute is. There will be a lot, but you start with one – and maybe you won’t even succeed in getting rid of it entirely, but even if you just reduce it, you will become happy that Allah is definitely helping me. The help and guidance of Allah is with me.

Don’t just confine it to the big five i.e. lust, anger, greed, envy and arrogance. Think deeper. What is another negative attribute? Laziness. What is another negative attribute? To think bad of others. What is another negative attribute? Oversleeping, over eating, wasting time and over talking. Laghw (futile things) – negative attribute. Don’t just think over the five all the time; there are also other poisonous illnesses. Maybe for some of you, you aren’t even suffering with the big five, your problem are these other things I have mentioned to you – they are your new big five. Laziness, apathy, disinterest, thinking bad and having doubts about others, extravagance, wastefulness, lack of shukr – you should work on this and get rid of it.

5) Adorn yourself with a good attribute

You can observe, study, listen to talks on the great character our Nabī صلى الله عليه وسلم and check how many things are missing. Start with one again. As soon as you pick one, then stick to it. It will not come naturally in you – you need to put effort and stick to it. None of these qualities will come into you; you need to acquire and develop good character. You have to work hard to improve your character. Purification of the heart is a very important aspect of our deen.

I would rather you focus on the positive attributes first, that are opposite to the negative ones mentioned. You have to be tough with yourself – it’s not enough for me to be tough with you. You have to be harsh and tough with yourself – you have to be more sensitive to any laziness, any apathy, any sloth, any disinterest, any heartache– you have to pick yourself up, and make yourself strong again.

You have already received, and have access on the website of so many teachings to tackle these things head on. It is all about the intention. Tazkiyah is a mizaj; if laziness has become your nature, you need to change your mizaj to yearning and desiring for Allah. I’m not here referring to all of you, but many of us need to get back in that mindset, in that mode, in that passion. You have to tackle the negative attributes

Concluding:

Whatever teachings, suhbah, tarbiyah you need for these things mentioned above, you need to search for them and cling to them. You need to acquire the tools to go about your reformation project. You will need some suhbah, ta’lim and tarbiyah! Later on, comes da’wah (propagation) and khidmah (service). Yes, sometimes it is possible that a person can use da’wah and khidmah itself to do this, but the reason I haven’t mentioned it today is because some people are then deceived by it, meaning, they get involved in da’wah and khidmah and will leave the rest. This is a misunderstanding.

But no doubt, some people will start with da’wah and khidmah, but they will also have to come to what was mentioned. There is no escape from this. Maybe for some of you da’wah and khidmah will guide you to these five things. So these are five projects/ tasks and five tools/methods. So five goals, and five helpers. (A person who doesn’t do the five things, then da’wah and khidmah is a helper; it is not the ‘asal, but for a person who does do the five, then da’wah and khidmah is the next level). If you ask me, this nasihah/project is enough to last you a year.

The main thing is your own connection with Allah swt, and certainly, Allah swt will take away the helpers, or will lessen our ability to benefit from the helpers to see how much we are really able to stand on our own; how much we individually want Allah swt, because ultimately this path of iradah and tazkiyah, this path of dhikr and remembrance of Allah swt is based on a person’s own talab; your own individual talab; your own individual yearning, longing for Allah swt. This is the ‘asal.

Yes, to have this yearning, to increase in this longing and desire, you may need suhbah, a certain environment, teachings, majalis, tarbiyah. Sometimes, you get involved in some khidmah, some da’wah, some university bayans, teaching some ‘ilm, some lesson on Qur’an, but all these things are not the main purpose. The purpose of them was to increase your own talab and yearning. Make effort on this; I thought it was more important to give you a practical talk. Now really think about your practice. ‘Amal is the beautiful part of your deen. I tell you, that as much enjoyment there is to studying ‘ilm, and then the enjoyment in understanding, after which comes the enjoyment in going deeper into the ‘ilm – more than all of this, is the enjoyment in ‘amal! We are just not aware of the pleasure and enjoyment in this. As much enjoyment you get when listening to a great bayan, there is a greater enjoyment in doing great a’māl, by many folds. But we aren’t aware of that pleasure.

Take all of this as your intention, and become a seeker; a seeker, searcher, that is the real meaning to the word murid – it means a person who has an iradah – that’s it. It doesn’t refer to some cult or identity; it is just a person who has a lot of iradah and talab (yearning). Talab, Iradah; Talab, Iradah; Talab, Iradah – that is it! Sometimes – not due to your own ‘amal, but by the grace of Allah – and I tell you this with certainty (but it doesn’t happen all the time, nor does it happen to everyone, but it does happen), that if a person with a lot of sidq and sincerity has this talab and iradah, Allah makes him his murad without his ‘amal. Allah swt can do that also – if he sees that you really want Him that badly, and sometimes, I’ve seen that it happens with people who are too weak to follow up on their iradah, and Allah sees this, that he has so much yearning, but doesn’t have the strength to execute it or follow through on his good intentions, then Allah swt gives it to him.

ذَٲلِكَ فَضۡلُ ٱللَّهِ يُؤۡتِيهِ مَن يَشَآءُ‌ۚ
That is the grace of Allāh, which He will bestow on whom He wishes [62:4]

This is the ‘asal bounty and grace – that Allah makes us people of ‘ibadah, of dhikr, of good character and qualities, of those who have understanding of deen etc. This is the fadhl of Allah, without ‘amal. The second reality is that, even if people are hardworking and disciplined, and they execute the plan they have made, and work accordingly to their iradah, even then, it isn’t their a’mal that gives them success, it is still the fadhl of Allah. Even that is through the fadhl of Allah.

وَٱللَّهُ ذُو ٱلۡفَضۡلِ ٱلۡعَظِيمِ
And Allah is the possessor of great bounty [3:74]

His grace and generosity, His ‘inayah (gift), His wahb (bestowal), and hidayah (guidance) is tremendous and great. Our job is to have a great iradah; to make a great project, a great transformation and change in our life that we want to become closer to Allah swt, and please Allah swt. We should make this iradah again and again; we should refresh our goal again and again; we should make effort again and again. We need to chase after this, stick to it, continue sticking to it. This is called tarbiyah and tazkiyah. Besides this, there is nothing, which is tarbiyah or tazkiyah.

May Allah swt accept this intention from us, accept this iradah from us; may He make us firm, strong and steadfast on our deen; may He open our hearts, our minds and our understanding to these vasts horizons of our deen. When the field opens up to us, as to how much we can please Allah, and how much we can desire Allah, as to how much we can obey Allah, and worship Him, and how much we can be present in our worship, as to what extent we can improve our character on the model of Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم ,as to how much we can improve our dealings with people, then we will become surprised to that extent, that there is so much we can do, and so much to do, and how much I don’t have in my life yet.

So it is better to have this regret now, before we have regret on the Day of Judgment. To protect ourselves from the regret, shame and embarrassment on that Day, we need to realize now. May Allah swt accept us all for this path, and make us people of effort. We should have a want, resolution, desire, yearning; I am doing this for my tazkiyah; I am doing it to attain closeness to Allah swt, to attain His pleasure. I want to develop a friendship with Him. Through my remembrance, through understanding Qur’an, through da’wah, through khidmah, my aim is only Allāh. My Rabb is my aim. When you do it like that that’s when you’ll get something.

وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسۡبُهُ
And if any one puts his trust in Allah, then sufficient is He for him (65:3)

You have to trust Allah swt. You have to have complete faith, confidence and reliance on Allah swt. Then you will regain and reclaim your spirit. And your passion because you know Allah swt is guiding you. He is the true murshid; He is the true Hadi. He is al-Muzakki all reality.

Wa lākinnAllāha yuzakkī may-yashā’
But it is Allāh who purifies whomsoever He wills [23:21]

That it is indeed Allah swt who will purify whomsoever that He wills, and he has expressed His will to purify you, each and every one of you many a time in the past. Why have you forgotten that? In a human relationship, we say the same thing – when we try to make someone understand, we remind that that what has happened to you? Don’t you remember when I did such and such thing for you? Have you forgotten how much I love you? How much have I done for you? So we make other people aware of this, so just imagine how Allah swt might address you. Have you forgotten how I allowed you to sit in front of sarf and Nahw, how we made you sit in front of Bukhari Sharif. Have you forgotten all of this?

We made you do that tawaf, we called you for ‘umrah, we gave tawfiq for you to do sa’i. So we do say that the calling is from Allah, so now is the time to feel it. Now is the time to feel it. This is something you’ve known for a long time. You can never become distant from Allah swt. That’s the golden rule in tazkiyah. That’s the golden rule of deen. Never fall back. Never turn back. Never fall back; never turn back. If you fall, then get right back up again. Turning back is completely another level. Allah uses this expression may-yatawalla- that person who turns back, who turns away, man a’rada – that person who turns back, who turns away – this is the way Allah swt talks. And fine, no doubt, in the Qur’an, it’s mostly talking about the disbelievers, but we don’t want to have any similarity with them, that we also turned away, and we also turned back – what’s the matter with us? Any ‘ilm, dhikr, dawah, khidmat, anything that Allah granted us tawfiq to do – we don’t want to turn away from it. We don’t want to turn back on anything. This would be a lack of gratitude.

It’s all about ‘amal. The only way out is ‘amal. And that’s something Allah swt teaches us also; He puts us in a ditch, in a trench, in a pit, and the only way out is through ‘amal.

وَأَن لَّيۡسَ لِلۡإِنسَـٰنِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَىٰ
And man can have nothing, but what he strives for [53:39]

Allah doesn’t always so strictly hold us to this, in the sense that, many times, many of us can say about ourselves that we got things even without trying for it. This is due to Allah’s fadhl, or someone’s supplication, or someone’s gaze or suhbah. Them things we got for free; many things, we got like that, without any effort. But this ayah teaches us a lesson that there will come a time where we will not attain without striving. We can get many things without trying, but Allah swt is teaching us this lesson, that to attain, and to continue achieving, we need to do make effort on our dhikr, ‘ilm, akhlaq, adab. Like we say used to tell you in Ramadan; in Ramadan, Allah gives you a free taste. And then what happens in Shawwal, is that you have to work for it. Now, you have to work for it. Now you have to work for it. You have to get back to work and work for it. This should be a mizaj. This is what you should feel in your heart that Allah, whatever you have given me from Your fadhl without me doing anything, now I will make the effort and I have hope that you will grant me the tawfiq to do ‘amal. I’m ready; I’ll do it. Hard work, discipline, regimen, practice, drive, passion deliberate resolve, iradah – you will have to do it like this. And yes, sometimes Allah swt also puts a person into a position that nothing less will cut it. Nothing less will cut it. And you have to spend you know solid blocks – 1 to 2 hours – solid blocks in ‘ibadah. Solid’ilm. Solid. Not 5, 5 minutes, and then get distracted, and then do 5, 5 minutes – it needs to be solid. Solid, strong effort, then you will see that Allah swt will bestow His fadhl. Allah will grant his rahmah, maghfirah and hidayah. And isn’t this what we wanted, anyway? What did we really want? What was our iradah for? What was our niyyah? What did we want? We wanted to be strong believers. What did you want? Your niyyah should have been that we want to be salih dhakir. It’s not always that easy, but for now; you have to work for it. But that is what you wanted. That’s what you wanted.

Just like that person, who was the first-year student of the Physics class, they might get the inspirational professor in Physics one-on-one, but ultimately to become a scientist, sooner or later, they’re going to have to work for it – hard! They’re going to have to work for it really hard. It’s not going to just be about an inspirational lecture that maybe changed my major – that’s not going to take you all the way. That will get your foot in the door; that can get you started.

Makes your homes, make your homes places of ‘amal. Always make your home an environment of ‘amal. This is a very important matter for the women, a very important matter. You will see that some women make such a setting in their home, that it becomes a places of da’wah. I’m not talking about dawah of deen; I’m talking about invitation. They have a seating arrangement, such arrangement for food, such an arrangement in their lounge, so much so that people enjoy the function. We need to make our home an environment of ‘ilm, an environment of dhikr, an environment of deen. That’s your real mastery; number one test case will be you yourself. How much ‘ibadah do you do in your own room? How much are you able to remember Allah?

The effect needs to come into you first before the effect can be seen in others. If the effect isn’t in you, then how can one expect their husband and children to be affected? Who will cause the effect? Someone who wants to do something, they don’t look at the obstacles. That kid who wants to be a scientist, he may not have any money, or can’t buy any books, but if he really wants it, he works for it. He doesn’t look at it like that my in-laws are like this, and my parents are like that, and my brother is this, or my sister is that. These things mean nothing to a person, who is a person of iradah, who is a person of firm resolve. He doesn’t look at anything else.

We used to push people that no matter how weak you are at studying, keep studying, just keep studying. Don’t worry about it. Keep working; just keep trying. We need to be the in the same way with our tazkiyah and about our ‘ibadah. The love of Allah swt will enter our hearts, Depending on how much we pray, make du’a etc. We get one form of love for Allah swt when we listen to bayan, and there’s a love we attain when we pray Tahajjud, and when we make du’a, and when we pray Quran. You have got the first love many times; now you should chase the latter. Same thing with love for the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم .So yes, there is one that you get from bayan.

Then there is another one for those of you who are studying hadith – there’s another experience that you get from teaching hadith, and there’s another one that you get from living and practicing the hadith; living and practicing the Sunnah of Nabī صلى الله عليه وسلم ya’ni ‘amal. Through ‘amal you get ‘ishq; we thought that through ‘ishq we can get ‘amal, but by doing ‘amal, one can get ‘ishq. By doing ‘amal, ‘ishq increases. When ‘ishq increases, ‘amal will increase. The love won’t increase via more bayans; it will increase through more ‘amal.

We should be happy; we should say that Allah, You have confidence in me, that you are putting me in the second stage now. Ya Allah, I trust your confidence in me that I have now received enough ‘ishq and jazb, enough feelings and passion from all these years of listening to talks and majalis, that I am now ready for this field of ‘amal. I will enter this field, and stay in this field. This is how we should make our iradah. Make effort. Whatever I am telling you, by the will of Allah, you will also understand it through your experience. You will say yourself that the ‘ishq you get from ‘amal is different, and is also superior. It is different, and superior.

So now you have to work for it to get it. And this is something we need to do so much shukr for, that Allah swt, You have finally brought us to this. The Physics student, when he gets a PhD, he gets happy; he doesn’t miss first-year and think about when he was a freshman – he is happy when he reaches his goal! He thinks alhamdulillah, I have now got my PhD; now the door to real research has been opened. He will be happy.His goal has come even closer.

So just like that, when we realize we have got to the field of ‘amal, we should be happy. There is no despondency, no apathy, no sloth – you must be happy, firm and steadfast.

So these were the messages, I wanted to give you today. We hope that you take it to heart. We hope that you will work hard. We want to hear it from you, that you’re taking it to heart and that you are working hard. We make du’a to Allah that He swt guides all of us as individuals, guides all of us together, and that He guides us always and ever towards Him, in a way that pleases him and befits His Majesty, in a way that befits his ghayrat, in a way that befits his sha’n, in a way that’s according to His shari’ah and the Sunnah of Nabi Karim صلى الله عليه وسلم . May Allah accept this niyyah from us. May He accept our niyyah for you. May he accept any and every niyyah or iradah you have in your heart.


وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ


Surah Fatihah & Spiritual Feelings of Salah

[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on Jun 05, 2016]


قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ فِى صَلَاتِہِمۡ خَـٰشِعُونَ
Success is really attained by the believers. Who concentrate their attention in humbleness when offering Salah (prayers) [23:1-2]

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in many places in the Qur’an tells us to establish prayer! Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala didn’t say ‘sallu – pray salah’ or read salah, or recite salah, but He subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us over and over again to ‘establish salah’. Let your salah establish your relationship with Him. Make yourself qa’im and daim (firm and steadfast) on salah. That is the purpose of salah.

Our problem is that although a lot of us pray salah, we are not fulfilling its purpose, we are not firm and steadfast. We offer it haphazardly or lazily or half-heartedly. Maybe some of us are better than that, we are regular, but it is not fully established. If I was to ask you, write down the ten best things you do in your life – most of us won’t write salah. We might write we are good at studying, good as a speaker, good as a doctor – but we will not say we are good at salah.

Many of us take a minimalistic approach to deen – we say ‘we pray and that’s it – don’t ask me to do so much more in my deen’. If someone has reduced their deen to just five daily prayers, then that person should be excellent in their salah all the more. We believe in the pursuit of excellence in everything else – we sit down and lament how we lack excellence in so many acts of society, but nobody ever mentions in prayer.

If I was to ask you to write a list with the top ten problems in Pakistani society, nobody will even think an issue is that people don’t pray salah with quality. People like conferences talking about the ills and issues facing the ummah, but one big problem in the ummah is our core ‘ibadah. Our salah has become weak. We used to tell our students that sometimes when we see non-Muslims write about Islam, they always talk about the five pillars. It’s not possible they don’t mention the five pillars. They always mention salah – you think they would write that the vast majority of Muslims do not pray their salah, but they have never written that. What does it mean? It means Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is as-Sattar.

Fasting is one fardh, and salah is another fardh this Ramadan. In 30 days, you are going to do two things – one is that you are going to have 30 fasts, and another thing you will do is 150 prayers. This is part of the mission. We may have been praying before – but now we are going to pray with proper feeling and concentration. This is a target of ourselves – 30 fasts and 150 salahs.

We keep a track of our fasts; we know exactly when the second, twentieth, twenty-ninth fast is, but like that, we should also keep a track on our salahs. So first, we will start with how we should feel when we recite Surah Fatihah:

Ta’awuz: I seek refuge in Allah from shaytan, the accursed one:

What does this mean? Shaytan just doesn’t attack and make us do sin – he also distracts us when we try to worship Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Whether it’s tilawah or salah, shaytan will distract us, hence, we start off with ta’awuz. Even my listening to adhan, responding to adhan, making wudu, standing inside masjid, my praying salah – no matter how good my intention or ‘amal, it is not enough to save me from shaytan. Only Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala can protect us from shaytan. There is no amount of any sadaqah or anything that can protect us from shaytan; only the protection and mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Here, shaytan is described as ar-Rajim as opposed to Allah swt, who us ar-Rahim. Ar-Rajim means is an outcast, revolted, repulsive – in an absolute sense. He is irredeemable. There is no maghfirah, salvation or mercy for him. We should also be scared, as there will also be people from insan who will be sent to Hell forever. No emancipation, no liberation – we should be scared that we become amongst the people who are rajim. Yes, shaytan is in that category – and we are at risk, threat and danger until we pass away. If we don’t earn Allah’s mercy, we will be ashabush-shaytan. We don’t want to be rajim either. Generally, it also seeking refuge from doing anything that will join us with him or associate us with him.

Tasmiyah: In the name of Allah, the entirely Compassionate, the Dispenser of Mercy:

This comes at the start of every surah, except Surah Tawbah. Is it part of the Qur’an or not? We will not be going into that. First letter ba – one meaning it comes for is ilsaq (to join and connect us to things). The purpose of Qur’an is to join us and connect us to His mercy, guidance etc. Some other meanings are isti’anah (to seek help), barakah, ma’iyyat (to become with something). Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala didn’t teach us billah, He subhanahu wa ta’ala taught us bismillah! We need to connect to His name. One way is by reciting Qur’an (His names are mentioned), but it also shows something interesting – simply being connected to His name means you will be connected to Him.

Which name? Ism a’zam – Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. This name is a unique special gift to this ummah! The mufassirin have written that although this name wasn’t known to any previous ummah, it was known to the prophets. The name and the Being here is the same – sometimes, you can learn something about the Being by the name. Here, it didn’t help. Here, the name doesn’t tell us anything about Allah. Some mufassirin think Allah is derived from ilah with an alif lam added to make it the ilah – the God.

Ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim:

This is the first introduction of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to us. This is like the by-line. The real true introduction and definition is that He subhanahu wa ta’ala is Ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. This is the first and foremost attribute and introduction.

What is the difference between these two names? There are many opinions to this, but I will just give one. Ar-Rahman means he has all mercy and ar-Rahim means Dispenser of the mercy). For example, someone has all the money in the world – that is one thing, but to also give that money to others, that is another. Only one part of Allah’s mercy is distributed on Earth – and the rest of it will be manifested on the Day of Judgement when

He subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive His sinning believers and grant them paradise. Imagine how immense our sins are – all health, knowledge, provision to animals and humans, everything we see and witness from the beginning of time is ALL His mercy, and that is only one part. Our sins are so corrupt; it is so absolutely inappropriate for us to enter Jannah with such sins, that it will take so much of Allah’s mercy for us to be forgiven. It will take so much of Him targeting us with His mercy to have our sins forgiven.

Through the barakah of following and living the Qur’an, we will become ‘abdur-Rahman and ‘abd ur-Rahim! Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala wants that we begin with these attributes every time we start praying Qur’an.

Alhamdullilahi Rabbil ‘alamin – All praise belongs to Allah swt, the Rabb of the Worlds:

Now that we know Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim, how should we feel? We say it out of habit, without feeling it. Sometimes people say thank you to us, but we know they don’t mean it. Sometimes, someone says “I love you’, but they don’t have the actual feelings, so we take offence.

We should say it with a heart that is feeling the hamd (praise) of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala at that moment. The meaning in itself doesn’t mean anything; there are non-Muslim professors who can teach the whole Qur’an, but they don’t have hidayah. They don’t have the feelings of Qur’an.

Praise itself befits Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim, and He subhanahu wa ta’ala allows us to receive that mercy – that one thing is enough to make all praise belong to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Rabbil ‘alamin – he is Our Rabb. Rabb is that Being who is the Nourisher, the Upbringer and Caretaker. We learn that all our life, He subhanahu wa ta’ala will be taking care of us! There are realms, aspects and dimensions that teach us that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Creator.

Ar-Rahman ir-Rahim: The entirely Compassionate, the Dispenser or Mercy:

Now our hearts again feel the need to state these two names of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala after declaring the hamd of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Here the feeling is different – first it was an introduction, and now here we are reminding ourselves of these names after declaring His hamd. In simple English, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is everything and I am nothing. If I am something, if I am anything, it is because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave it to me.

Maliki yawmid-deen – Master of the Day of Judgment:

Up until now Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala was being soft with us, now it is intense. Malik (Master) – now, this is intense. There will come a day when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Malik.

لِّمَنِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ ٱلۡيَوۡمَۖ لِلَّهِ ٱلۡوَٲحِدِ ٱلۡقَهَّارِ
To whom belongs the kingdom today? To Allah alone, the One, the All-Dominant. [40:16]

– Whose will be the dominion that Day?” That of Allah, the One, the Irresistible Subduer! We have to be ‘Abdul Aziz, Abdullah, ‘Abdul ‘Azim. That means our life has a certain purpose and a goal towards which we are leading our life.

Yawmud-deen – Deen means religion, but we never see it translated as day of Religion. It is translated as Day of Judgment. Why? Because it is the day of deen. The day when the only thing that will matter is our religion. We will be assessed, judged and examined on the basis of din. Now, when you realise this, you will realise it is better to understand this Qur’an because it is the Book where deen is taught.

Just like when you have a final exam, you realise it is better you read the course material to pass the exam. It also teaches us that we might be malik of our dunya, but not our deen. Secular understanding of God is that you can come to him on your terms, but no, no. We have to come to Him on His terms! When you realise He subhanahu wa ta’ala is Malik, we realise we are ‘abd. Then the next ayah we say, is

Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in – It is You we worship and You we ask for help:

First we had feelings of humbleness and love of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Then we had feelings of shukr when we declared His hamd. Then the feelings of love by repeating ar-Rahmanir-Rahim. Now we should tremble a lit bit. The reason why Surah Fatiha is the opening to the Qur’an is because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala teaches us all the feelings of Qur’an. If you get the feelings of Surah Fatihah, you will get the feelings of the entire Qur’an.

We should have fear when we read Malik. Fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala isn’t meant to be crippling; it is meant push to a person, to motivate a person to do ‘ibadah, to do ‘iyyaka na’budu – You alone do we worship’, do we submit to, do we take as Malik. We are ‘abd ur-Rahman, ‘abd ur-Rahim, ‘abd ul-Malik. We need to keep praying this to remind us. You have to feel this feeling 40-50 times a day! You don’t just translate it 40-50 times a day, you need to feel it this many times a day.

If we take just the amount of fardh and wajib rakahs, it equals to 20 – so at least 20 times, we should feel like this daily! This feeling should be scattered day and night! We should just not learn the translation, but we should feel the feelings. When we recite iyyaka na’budu, it is a big claim to make. We need His help to do this hence, ‘wa iyyaka nasta’in.’ You should feel, I will need you help every single second of my life to be Your ‘abd. This is a feeling. Iltifat – here, we are moving from third person, declarative statements to addressing Him directly here. Know that you will get help when we make du’a!

Ihdinas-sirat al-mustaqim – Guide us to the straight path:

Now that I’ve connected to Your rububiyyah, to ‘ubudiyyah, I need Your help. Everyone needs help – Sahaba Kiram recited this verse, Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم recited this verse. There are certain aspects in deen where Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made levels and interpretations, but when it comes to the pillars of Islam,  Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala levels us.

‘Ihdina’ – O’ Allah, grant us hidayah! We need hidayah. Another thing we learn shouldn’t just supplicate for ourselves, but the na teaches us to supplicate for everyone. There is a unity in Fatihah. The unity of the ummah is going to be through the unity in Fatihah. We might be different in other aspects of life and religion to other believers, but here we ask hidayah for everyone.

If the person felt the feeling of ‘we’ twenty times a day, you will not feel much division with other believers. But we are seeking guidance towards what? As-sirat al-mustaqim! Some secularists make a pun from this and use this to say Islam is a straight and narrow path. Yes, Islam is narrow for their nafs!

There is no concept of narrow in Qur’an. Yes, straight is there, but they give this awful, cynical twist on Qur’an. Mustaqim means so straight – there are no curves; it is direct, there is no obscurity or lack of clarity. Al-mustaqim – it means the firmly established and well-trodden path. It is a path that people have had istiqamah on. It is so well established that it is straight. It is so well established that it is clear. It is so well established that it has no curves, or crookedness.

Islam is a path. It means you constantly have to be moving along. It is dynamic. When someone is praying salah, they are on guidance – but here we are asking for more and more and more and more. We want to go further along the path. We need this feeling twenty times a day. Who is going to give more and more hidayah? Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala!

Just like today, we have the GPS navigation that can guide us from one place to another. We should feel that ya Allah, until we reach this yawmud-deen, I want more and more guidance. So what established this path; who populated this path?

Siratallathina an’amta ‘alayhim – those people who You have sent Your blessings on!

Their establishing on this path made it mustaqim. This is a feeling – this isn’t an abstract deen that you travel on yourself and figure on your own; this is a deen that has been understood, felt and established. The greatest blessing Allah swt has favoured them is hidayah. In another place Allah mentions who exactly the ‘an’amta ‘alayhim’ are:

أَنۡعَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡہِم مِّنَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَٱلصِّدِّيقِينَ وَٱلشُّہَدَآءِ وَٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ‌ۚ
those whom Allah has blessed, namely, the prophets, the Siddiqin, the Shuhada’ and the righteous. [4:69]

What excellent companions they will be! Nabiyyina – Sayyidina Adam alayhis-salam established this path. Sayyidina Nuh alayhis-salam established this path, Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhis-salam established this path, Sayyidina Musa alayhis-salam established this path, Sayyidina ‘Isa alayhis-salam established this path, Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلمestablished this path. Over 100,000 anbiya’, they established this deen.

And along with the prophets, there are the siddiqin. Siddiqin are the true followers of Allah, Qur’an, sunnah and shari’ah. The truest of the siddiqin is sahabah. Every single sahabi was a siddiq. There are also the great muhaddithin, the great masha’ikh, the great mufassirin, the great awliya’ and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows who else! The prophets are no more, but there will be siddiqin in every generation who will establish this deen.

Wash-shuhada’i, was-salihin: Sahaba became shahid in Badr and Uhud to establish this deen. The blood of martyrs established this deen. It is their sacrifice! The act of following deen uprightly – they become salih and being salih establishes deen.

All feelings of din are inside Surah Fatihah. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is teaching us that hidayah lies in people who He subhanahu wa ta’ala has blessed. However, misguidance can come from angering Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and from people too.

Ghayril maghdub ‘alayhim – not of those who have evoked [Your] anger:

Guide me to sirat of those who you have blessed, and not of those who magdhub (those who have incurred Your wrath and anger). They have a separate culture, separate understanding of legal and illegal, separate lifestyle – they have their own path! Who are these people? The ones who go against the hidayah, commandments and sunnah of Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم..

Wa la-dhallin – and nor of those who are astray:

They are lost and astray. They may not have a clear and defined path, but they are unguided. They have chosen to be unguided. There are people in this life like this. They choose not be guided. They deliberately choose to be unguided. They are astray. Because they are unguided, they cannot be beacons of guidance for us. We have the danger of becoming from these people.

We don’t want to be from those who are openly disobey Him, nor from those who are so careless and lax in din that we just wander around being unguided. That person who 20 times a day they are overweight, they will diet. But the person who only felt it once, they will indulge. The fear of becoming from the above two categories 20 times a day will ensure we do not have a lazy and lax attitude towards deen.

People use Surah Fatihah for their worldly illnesses – it can actually save us from all misguidance and wrath of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. If you feel its feelings twenty times a day, it has the power to make you a true ‘abd of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

We need to fix our salah in this month of Ramadan. If you want to fix your salah, fix your Surah Fatihah. Feel the feelings of Surah Fatihah every day! We need to also feel the feelings beyond this called ihsan! The feelings of Surah Fatihah opens up feelings beyond this which is ihsan.

What is ihsan? Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم described it for us in a hadith;

An ta’budullaha ka’anaka tarahu, fa-il-lam takun tarahu fainnahu yarak …That you worship Allah swt as if you were seeing Allah swr, And if you can’t then He is seeing you.

This is another feeling to get. The feelings of Surah Fatihah is a gateway to that.

Another thing we need to have for salah is purity. There are many levels of taharah – of action, of speech, and there is also a purity of the batin – purity of our thoughts and heart. We will briefly talk about the purity of the batin. Many of you try to feel these feelings, but we get stuck in other thoughts. Sometimes, when we have too many impure thoughts, it continues in our salah, and it’s too difficult to get out of the impure thoughts to feel the pure thoughts of salah.

These impure thoughts can be sinful thoughts (haram), but it can be impure thoughts in the sense they are ghaflah – remembering the next class etc. If you find that this is a problem, then fix this outside salah. You have to work on this; you have to go through exercises and training to get rid of this problem. You need to increase dhikr of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala outside salah. The more dhikr you do outside salah, the more remembrance you will get inside salah. Purity of mind is very important.

Purity of the heart – instead of having love for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, some people have romantic lustful love for creation. This won’t go away in salah. If you are going to bring a heart with unlawful feelings, then it will be near impossible to feel the feelings of Surah Fatihah. These feelings need to be worked on through dhikr, salawat etc.

Wudu has a nur in it, which we fail to get as we treat it as a mundane exercise. The inner reality of wudu is that it is a training exercise to get the dhikr of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. There are some du’as mentioned in books which we cannot trace back to Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم ,but they are from some siddiqin. The ‘amal of salihin and siddiqin can provide additional colour on the path if they resonate with you. They used to make du’as in their heart and feel that they are washing the sins away from their limbs – your wudu will be different if you do it like this. The more feelings you have in wudu, it will open an awareness of feelings for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in salah.

Adhan is also a blessing – you need to ‘listen’ to adhan. Highest adab is that you leave what you are doing, but if this isn’t possible, still lend an ear to the adhan, lend a portion of your awareness and consciousness. When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala told shaytan to make sajdah, he refused the command of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala once. Now imagine the person who doesn’t pray, they refuse 40 sajdahs every single day! The very first thing that will be accounted for on the Day of Judgment is salah!

First things first – did you pray salah? Do you think anyone can say, O’ Allah, I want to skip this question! La hawla wa la quwwata illa Billah. Have you seen the face of the student when they take an exam? It is not easy when you mess up the first question in an exam; it is not easy to go to the next one. The first question will be salah.

Adhan is when you make the choice to pray; you should be thinking these feelings! There will always be an adhan for salah! You should reply to the adhan in the sunnah manner. Imam Ghazali rahimahUllah has mentioned 6 ways on how you can improve your salah, which was mentioned in a previous talk.

There was a great muhaddith whose name was Mawlana Manzur Ahmed Nu’mani (rah) – he wrote the famous compilation of hadith ‘ma’ariful hadith’. He has written a beautiful book in Urdu called ‘haqiqatus-salah – namaz ki haqiqat’ which means the reality of salah. Read this book if you understand Urdu – the book will take you all the way; it will explain the feelings you should have when hearing every line from the adhan, when washing every limb of your body in wudu, when entering the masjid, when saying takbir tahrima, when reciting Surah Fatiha, when reciting a surah, when physically moving in ruku, when saying ‘subhana Rabbiy-al’Azim’.

Then what you should feel when physically rising up from that, how you should feel when you say rabbana lakal hamd, what should you feel in the physical act of going down into sujud, how you should feel when you say ‘subhana Rabbiy-alA’la’, how you should feel when you raise your heard from sujud, how you should feel when you say tashahhud, when you say durud, when you make du’a and how you should feel when you make salam!

He says a person should listen to the adhan with adab and feel as though Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is giving me an invitation to express my need and love for Him, and He is inviting me to express His love for me. When you enter salah, you become the beloved of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. When you think of like that, it is hard to say no!

For the men going to the Masjid, you should feel the greatness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and should pray the sunnah du’as. Feel that He subhanahu wa ta’ala has opened up the gates of mercy for you when you enter the Masjid.

When you stand for salah, you should feel how you would feel on the Day of Judgment. All three physical postures are done in salah. You should feel the qiyam; it is a different standing to normal standing. This is qiyam in front of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

وَلِمَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِۦ جَنَّتَانِ
And for the one who is fearful of having to stand before his Lord, there are two gardens [55:46]

وَأَمَّا مَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِۦ وَنَهَى ٱلنَّفۡسَ عَنِ ٱلۡهَوَىٰ فَإِنَّ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ هِىَ ٱلۡمَأۡوَىٰ
Whereas for the one who feared to stand before his Lord, and restrained his self from the (evil) desire, (40) The Paradise will be the abode. [69:40-41]

It begins with the standing. Sajdah is more love (physical submission), and when we are standing, we should feel fear. Just like I’ve orientated my body to ka’bah, ya Allah, orient my heart to You. When we make takbir tahrima, we have made other things haram. You should now feeling you are entering the zone! All other feelings, all other thoughts besides Allah should now stop. Allahu akbar – Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Greatest! The raising of the hands shows our helplessness, and shows we are casting everything else besides Allah behind.

SubhanakAllahumma, wa-tabarakasmuka (full of barakah is your name), wa ta’ala jadduk (and High is your Rank) wa la ilahu ghayruk (and there is no other God besides You!)

Ruku’ – subhana Rabbiy-al’Azim’ The Allahu akbar before this – you should feel Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is greater than what I just recited. What can Ido next? Let me bow down to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Mawlana Manzur Ahmed Nu’mani writes al-‘Azim is greater than ‘Akbar; hence we don’t need to say Allahu Akbar after ruku’.

Sami’Allahu liman hamidah – Rise up from your humility and bowing, rise from your glorifying of Your Rabb and know that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala hears your praise of Him! So now we realise Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is listening, so we praise Him – Rabbana lakal-hamd.

Now we do an Allahu Akbar in celebration and happiness. Then we go into sajdah – subhana Rabbiy al-A’la! This is where we get the qurb. Don’t get up from a sajdah, until you feel it. Change the objective – we get up after we’ve recited it three times at the fastest speed we can. Now change it – don’t get up until you’ve felt the qurb. Sajdah comes twice. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes us come back again! And we repeat all this again. This is the feeling.

Tashahhud: At-tahiyatu lillahi was-salawatu wat-tayyibatu – everything of mine, my blessings, salutations, all good things are for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. As-salamu ‘alayka – say it with so much happiness. Without Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم ,we wouldn’t have salah. The salawat inside salah that is also taken to Madinah by the Angels. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala accepts this this so much, that we also say ‘as-salamu ‘alayna!’

You would think we should should start salah with kalima, but we are ending with it. We are reaffirming the truth of the deen of Islam because of this experience of salah. Salah increases our faith! All deen came to us via Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم .Allah taught us durud ibrahim! We say our deen came from him, and he out of humility attributes it to Ibrahim ‘alayhis-salam.

Then after that we make du’a – there are many du’as we can make. Many make istighfar! Then we end with salam. When a believer prays, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sends angels to line up next to you. Imagine that human being who feels he prayed with the angels 20 times a day, their day will be different!

After salah, again we should say Allahu Akbar and Istighfar three times (seeking forgiveness for the shortcomings in our salah). We should KEEP doing this; we should keep trying in this month of Ramadan. When we fix the foundations, our deen will open up for us. Sometimes it is really about going back to basics. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us tawfiq this Ramadan to fix our basics.


Focusing in Our Prayer

[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on Jul 26 in Lenasia, SA]


Certainly will the believers have succeeded; they are those who are humbly submissive during their prayer

Allah swt blessed us all to offer this month of Ramadan and fast the full 30 days – imagine those people who have been blessed to pray every single salah in their life without making a qadha!

There are people who can say this about their fasts, but how many people can say this about their salah? Some people can even say I did more than just fast the fardh fasts in Ramadan – I prayed my tarawih every single night of every Ramadan; I even made extra du’a and prayed extra Qur’an every single day of Ramadan – but how many of us can say that they haven’t made a single salah qadha?

And not only this, I even did more! I also felt closer to Allah swt in every salah, I felt the dhikr, I prayed sunnahs, I prayed nafl, I prayed Tahajjud- how many can say this that I put effort in beautifying my salah just like I put effort to beautify my Ramadan?

Why not spend this month of Shawwal to work on our prayer? There are many things that have been explained about salah by Allah swt, by our Nabi sws and by our pious predecessors. The first thing is this ayah (mentioned in the beginning).

This is different to just know the masa’il in regards to salah, to performing our salah – this is an attribute of salah; it is a feeling.

The first meaning our mashaikh give for this word khushu’ is from the word khashiyah, which means fear, or a better term would be ‘reverence’ – to have awe and reverence for a Being who is greater than you. We constantly repeat ‘allahu akbar’ in our salah before every movement – this is meant to put more and more khushu’ in our salah, so much so, that after we say salam, we should  say Allahu Akbar again! So look at how much kushu Allah swt wants us to have in our salah .

The second meaning is to turn our attention away from everything and completely turn to Allah swt – what does it mean to have awe of someone? It means at that point, everything else should be inconsequential! This is another feature we are supposed to have. Dunya means anything in the dunya – even the halal and hasanat of the dunya. All attention of the entire mind and heart should be for Allah swt.

The third meaning is to have inner peace and calm.

The fourth meaning is to have an outer stillness – it means you stop rubbing yourself. You would be amazed at how much someone can fidget in his or her salah. The outward restlessness is an indication of their inner restlessness, and the outward calm is an indication of the inner calm the person is feeling.

One of the ‘ulama of the hanafi madhab presented the fact that we don’t do rafa’ yadayn after ruku because of this reason – he said that Imam Bayhaqi (rah), a staunch shafi’i faqih and muhaddith who wrote many books to support the shafi’i rulings – in his As-Sunan al-Kubra, he made a chapter on kushu in salah and he put the hadith where Nabi sws didn’t do rafa’ yadayn. This is an aspect of calmness and kushu in salah because you have less movement.

Allah swt said in Qur’an –

wa qumu lillahi qanitin – and stand before Allah with complete devotion.

Qad aflahal-mu’minun; allathina hum fi salatihim khashiun

Qanitin here can mean as pious, righteous and virtuous as you can. Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) says regarding this that qanitin means a certain particular khushu’ – to stand still in front of Allah swt, like in school when a student is summoned to stand in front of his principal – their eyes are supposed to look at the place where they make sajdah – they shouldn’t have the boldness to look up, or event straight. It is to stand out of respect, in awe of the person you are standing in front of with complete devotion.

In another place, Allah swt has mentioned in Qur’an

‘wa aqimis-salati lidhikri – and establish the prayer for MY remembrance.

So it means we should be from those who have feelings of dhikr for Allah swt inside our salah. Why don’t we have this dhikr? It’s because we are not from the khashi’in, nor the qanitin – we don’t even have the outward or inner calm. Our minds are processing so many thoughts – what do I have to do after salah? We can’t turn it off.

When we say Allahu Akbar, we still think about the things we did before salah, and what we have to do after salah. Imagine the person who makes so much effort, he leaves his workplace to come to the masjid, and he prays his sunnahs before and after, he prays with jama’at – he takes 20/30 minutes out, yet he still doesn’t feel the dhikr of Allah! They couldn’t still feel feelings.

Okay, on a rare occasion, they might not be able to concentrate – but we all know this isn’t a rarity. Those who pray regularly in the masjid will say they cannot feel anything – day after day, week after week, month after month. You should have done something the first time it happened.

One of the major, major, major things taught in suluk is how to fix this salah – so many ‘ulama gave bay’ah for this reason, so many from our Deoband akabir – when they were asked why they gave bay’ah, they will say they gave bay’ah to fix their salah. Very few people have such a level of taqwa where it may come to them naturally without being taught. Some people don’t feel this because they neglected this tarbiyyah of being taught how to get these feelings.

Allah swt has described these people in the Qur’an who don’t get these feelings. Allah swt has said

fawaylul lil-musallin, allathin hum ‘an salatihim sahun – so woe to those who pray; those who are heedless of their prayer’!

For Allah swt to call someone musallin means they must have really established the prayer. Just like dhakirin is someone who does dhikr abundantly, just like mukhlisin is someone who is very sincere, mussalin must mean they pray regularly. Allah swt is saying may calamity befall the one who are negligent inside salah! One reason is:

‘allathina hum yura’un – those who make a show of their deeds’, so they pray salah to show people, for display and ostentation.

Allah swt has also said in Qur’an,

wa itha qamu ilas-salati, qamu kusala, yura’unan-nasa wa la yadhkurunallaha illa qalila – when they stand up to prayer, they stand without earnestness (they stand lazily), to be seen by people, and little do they hold Allah swt in remembrance’.

This ayah was revealed originally for the hypocrites, but the ‘ulama of tafsir mention it can still apply to anyone who fits this description. Those who stand lazily, lackadaisically – their heart and mind are somewhere else – do we fit this description? They want to show themselves off to people and they don’t remember except a little.

This is amazing – Allah swt is describing hypocrites who prayed for show lazily, even they got some remembrance, they got ‘dhikr qalil’ – and there are those of us who pray, yet we don’t remember Allah swt at all! This means the conditions of our hearts are worse than the hypocrites.

The ‘arifin mention that a reason for this is that the hypocrites were praying behind Nabi Karim sws,and because of that nisbat (connection), they were able to achieve this remembrance. Even though their hearts were empty and they were lazy, they were praying behind Nabi sws – even that had an effect!

So, a sign of a hypocrite is that they remember Allah swt a little – we are supposed to remember Allah swt a whole lot in our salah.

There are some ahadith where Nabi sws has mention similar topics –to the nearest meaning, it is mentioned in Tirmidhi that salah is this concept of being still and humble, to penitently present yourself to Allah swt. In Bukhari, the word tadharru’ is added which is also a word used for humility. Abu Dawud has a mention a hadith to the nearest meaning that Allah swt remains attentive to the person praying salah as long as that person remains attentive towards their salah.

This shows how much we have lost. People may think if I can’t concentrate, if I can’t focus – so what? Look at what you’re missing! Is this a small thing to miss out, the gaze of love, karam and mercy from Allah swt? Some people think for me to pray in itself is a big deal, why are you asking me for so much. One glance from Allah swt would be worth to sacrifice every single thing we have in this world.

But this isn’t just a glance, He swt will gaze at us will love as long as we remain attentive to Him! Salah is an act of love, an expression of love – and salah is also something where we receive this love from Allah swt. So it is very important we get these feelings back. As salikin, we want Allah swt to love us – the main dhikr is salah. If we don’t convert our salah into dhikr, then all the adhkar wont even have an effect.

Once Nabi sws saw a sahabi playing with his beard in salah, and he said to Abu Hurayra (ra) that if there had been calmness in his body (in his heart), it would have manifested on the outside; there would have been stillness in his body.

Nabi sws mentions more things we can attain by having kushu in salah. It is mention in Muslim and Bukhari that if a person prays two rakahs in such a way where they don’t get occupied with anything from this world, then Allah swt will forgive all their previous sins. This is why our masha’ikh would go to learn these things. Allah swt values this focus and concentration.

Yes, we all know that if we travel for Hajj, and our Hajj is accepted then our sins will be forgiven – but this is right here; it requires no travel, sacrifice or expense. We can do this from our own homes! It just requires effort. This is why we learn dhikr of the heart – it helps train a person’s heart to get these feelings. In salah, our tongue is making dhikr – that’s not the problem; that’s a common denominator.

We recite everything, yes – the tongue is making dhikr, but our heart isn’t! In the narration in Muslim, Nabi sws added an extra line that all sins are forgiven, except the major sins.

Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi, Imam Rabbani, Mujaddid Alif Thani rah mentions that in salah, every single aspect of physical khushu will lead to internal khushu. Even the imitation of Nabi sws of keeping the fingers together in sujud, and separate in ruku’ can bring us this dhikr in salah.

Then he mentioned the sunnah places we should look at; when we are in qiyam, we should look at the place of sajdah; when we are in ruku’ we should gaze at our feet; when in sajdah, we should gaze at our nose and when in tashahhud, we should gaze at the level of our hands/lap. Even the way we gaze can increase our dhikr of Allah swt as this is all from the sunnah! The greatest way to get the dhikr is via the sunnah!

Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi mentions that outside of salah, the heart should not seek the pleasure of any ghayrullah! The pleasure of our heart should lie in pleasing Allah swt only.

Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (rah) wrote a book called ‘Hujjat Allah al-Baligha’, and inside there he mentions says the spirit of salah is that a person stands with hudhur (presence of mind), and in their salah, they should be thinking and reflecting about both the jalal (awe and majesty) and jamal (beauty – love and hope) of Allah swt. If they do this, then they will get this presence of mind – they are unaware of everything else, and they are exclusively aware of their salah.

Imam Ghazali (rah) said the same thing prior to Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (rah) and he used the particular term ‘hudhur al-qalb – presence of the heart’. One great mufassir by the name of Allama Alusi (rah) who wrote the tafsir book ‘ruh al ma’ani’ – he wrote that kushu isn’t a prerequisite for your salah being valid; however, it is a prerequisite for your salah being beloved to Allah swt.

We also get help from Allah swt via salah – ‘ista’inu bis-sabri was-salah – seek help with perseverance and prayer!

’‘Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in – only You do we worship, and from only You, we seek help’

Usually, when we are stuck in situation, we use Allah swt as a resort to seek help – the first thing we do is seek the help of Allah swt via salah. Pray two rakah Salatul Hajah! There was a wali of Allah swt who wrote a poem in Arabic regarding those who are heedless of Allah swt in our prayer (the English translation is as follows):

There are many people who pray salah,
who get nothing out of their salah,
other than staring at the carpet of their masjid!
O you heedless person, you pray such a heartless salah,
that your salah might even make you worthy of punishment
Woe be upon you; you knew who you were so distracted with
and with whom you prostrated to with such heartlessness,
and then you dare address him by saying ‘iyyaka na’budu’
and in the very state of ‘ibadah, your heart is elsewhere.
O person, have shame – are you not ashamed by the fact that rabbul ‘alamin
is gazing upon your heedless and distraction,
when He himself wished to gaze at you with love and devotion!

Because this word ‘iyyaka’ in Arabic, it means ‘only You’ – you dare tell him only you, and at the same time, you are thinking of so many things other than him.The reality is if someone talked to you, and they even looked somewhere else, you would get angry! This is exactly our condition.

How to get this khushu’

Imam Ghazali (rah) has mention 6 ways on how to attain this khushu’ in his ‘ihya ‘ulum-uddin’.

  1. Have presence of heart – the person should be fully focused and aware of what they are doing. Their heart should be empty of everything else. How to get it? Simply use your own willpower, and approach the salah with this concern that ya Rabb, all I want in this salah is to only remember You. You must actively and dynamically to steer their focus and keep their concentration on Allah swt. Ye karni ki cheez he, bas karne ke der he – all you have to do is simply do it! We can do everything else – why do we stop at that final step to make our heart focused? No person would be inattentive in front of the Kings of this World, how is that we are so inattentive in front of the King of all Kings?
  1. Understand and comprehend the meaning. This is something different because a person might not be distracted, but they cannot go to the next level, as they don’t understand what they pray. It is an incredible blessing to understand the meanings – this is not restricted to ‘ulama. It should be accessible to all, yet many of us, we haven’t tried! The truth is that to understand all the qur’an would be required if you recite all of qur’an, if you are a hafidh/hafidha – for those of us who aren’t, at the very least, we should know the meanings of the parts we have memorized. Many people haven’t even memorized one juz, but even if you have, then you only need to understand 3.3% of the Qur’an! When you recite those passages you understand, you can get this second level of khushu. The meanings of Qur’an are deep so they will not fail to move you. On the flipside, there are people who understand the meanings, yet they don’t have the focus – they will recite the words, but they wont even reflect on the meanings. They are not aware and conscious of the meanings.
  1. Pray with awe and reverence – you can do this when you know the jalal of Allah swt – His splendor, His greatness, His might. Many verses in the Qur’an mention this. Another way is to know our own humble nature. We need to realise our lowly nature.
  1. Have haybah – this is another type of fear. There are so many words used to describe this fear – khauf, khashiyah and haybah etc. Haybah is the fear of the punishment, the might of Allah swt – He swt wants us to feel this when we pray ‘ghayril magdhoobi ‘alayhim’ – that ya Allah, don’t make me from those people You are angry with! I am terrified of ever being from such a person upon whom your anger falls – yet we just roll over these words, we don’t even feel a thing. Most of us even know the translation – feeling is different to just knowing the meaning. Feeling whilst reciting is khushu.
  1. To have hope in the mercy, forgiveness and love of Allah swt – one way to attain this is to think of the blessings Allah swt has bestowed upon you – even the blessing of this standing in front of Allah swt in salah – ya Rabb, I did so many sins at night, I did so many sins between Zuhr and Asr, and you still let me stand in front of you. Think like this – ya Rabb, I made my Fajr qadha, yet you still let me stand in front of You for Zuhr! Allahu Akbar Kabira – Allah swt should have said that even though the muaddhin told you that Fajr is better than sleep (as-salatu khayrum minan-nawm), you thought sleep was better, so now it is finished. Allah swt could have stripped all the tawfiq away from us. We chose not to pray; we chose not to enter the door to pray, Allah swt could have closed it forever for us. It could have been like that! It would be just and fair for Allah swt to do that considering His Might and Grandeur. But we know, this doesn’t happen. This should give us great hope in the Mercy of Allah swt.
  1. Have haya – this means to have modesty in front of Allah swt. This is the reason why many of us don’t get this khushu in this day and age. When it is used in regards to Allah swt, it means to feel shame, remorse, and feel embarrassed regarding our sins. However, haya also has a different meaning, which as we all know is chastity and purity. When a person loses their haya with creation, they will lose their haya with their Creator. This is a major flaw we have. We can’t feel this sense of shame over our sins in salah. We don’t pray like the sinners we are. A prayer of a sinner should be even more – they should be more penitent, more remorseful! We are those sinners, but we cannot pray the prayer of the sinners. WE cannot feel this haya, because we have lost it with creation.

What’s the maximum a person can get if they follow these six steps? What’s the highest level we can reach? What is ihsan? Nabi sws described it for us in a hadith;

An ta’budullaha ka’anaka tarahu, fa-il-lam takun tarahu fainnahu yarak

That you worship Allah swt as if you were seeing Allah swr, And if you can’t then He is seeing you. Many people misunderstand this – they think it means you should see what Allah swt looks like! This isn’t possible. There is no concept of imagining what Allah swt looks like, or you looking at Allah swt.

The concept is that were you to be gazing at Allah swt like the people of Jannah will, how would your heart feel? How would that make you feel? How would you be feeling? Imagine the feeling! Don’t imagine the looking! Imagine the feeling, and pray the prayer with that same feeling.

This is the nisbat with mi’raj, because what happened then? Nabi sws saw Allah swt during mi’raj and he fell into sajdah. The second thing is that if you can’t do that, then worship in such a way where Allah swt is looking at you. Become aware that Allah swt is gazing at you – if you are gazing at Allah swt, that is something else, but this is a reality. Realise that! Be aware of that. Pray with that same feeling.

A major thing is to make du’a to pray such a salah – not just du’a once, but constant du’a. When we make du’a in the night, when we make du’a in the day, when we make du’a after salah, after dhikr – we should constantly always ask for this. The thing is that we don’t even make those steps we have discussed, but we don’t even make du’a.

If you tell someone Allah swt accepts du’a at a particular time, then this is the first du’a we should be making – we should be asking Allah swt, that ya Allah, I want to feel the feelings in salah’ I want to pray salah as though I’m looking at You. But no, we immediately think of our worldly needs. Our priority should be for the greatest deeni thing – one of the greatest dini things we need to ask for is this khushu.

We should be scared – really scared! How can it be that prayer after prayer, week after week, day after day – even when I’m in masjid, even if I am in Makkah Mukarramah or Madinah Munawwarah, even in i’tikaf or in Ramadan, even with all these extra features, people still say I couldn’t feel anything in salah. A person should be worried about this.

If we couldn’t feel anything with any part of our body for e.g. say someone’s finger was paralysed, they would race to a doctor. If the doctor told them that don’t worry, your other nine fingers are fine, your lungs are fine, your liver is fine, your heart are fine, so you should do shukr.

You would say to the doctor, I do shukr, but this one finger is paralysed – I’ve lost feeling; I’ve lost sensation. You would insist that it must be cured! It would be intolerable for you! So one paralysed finger would be so intolerable to you, imagine your qalb, your spiritual heart is paralysed; it is unable to feel feelings, so why is it tolerable to you? How have you been tolerating that for so long? You should be more worried. Like that person rushes to the doctor, you should be racing to the mashaikh.

This is another amazing thing – the mashaikh travel to visit you so you can ask these questions, you can seek help for this, yet we don’t ask these things. When the mashaikh come, you want to talk about marriage, you want to talk about your family problems, you want to talk about business – you want to talk about oh, so many things.

Mashaikh think, okay lets clear the air then they will ask the real questions that they need to ask, but no – you say ‘jazakallahu khayr, wassalam, I’m so happy you gave me time!’ Where was the question about fixing your salah? Where was the question about fixing your du’a? Where was the question about lowering your gaze? Where was the question about controlling your anger? You can’t ask these questions! So strange, so strange!

Can you imagine someone going to a medical doctor for this reason? They would kick you out of their office! If someone went to them and talked to them about family problems, the doctor would be surprised. He may entertain them for five minutes, but the doctor will be wondering that when will this person ask the real question. Imagine the person then says ‘thank you doctor for your time’ and then he leaves – The doctor will think he didn’t ask regarding the sickness, or the cure, or the medicine!

People have spiritual cancer and instead of representing their cancer, they come and show their pimple! Can you imagine? For 20 years, I’ve been on this path and I cannot tell you how few people come to me and ask me this question – how can I improve my salah? So strange! We don’t even worry about our salah. The problem is occurring five times a day, so how can they not take this seriously? We have to take this very seriously.

There was a great muhaddith whose name was Mawlana Manzur Ahmed Nu’mani (rah) – he wrote the famous compilation of hadith ‘ma’ariful hadith’. He has written a beautiful book in Urdu called ‘haqiqatus-salah – namaz ki haqiqat’ which means the reality of salah. Read this book if you understand Urdu.

The book will take you all the way; it will explain the feelings you should have when hearing every line from the adhan, when washing every limb of your body in wudu, when entering the masjid, when saying takbir tahrima, when reciting Surah Fatiha, when reciting a surah, when physically moving in ruku, when saying ‘subhana Rabbiy-al’Azim’ then what you should feel when physically rising up from that, how you should feel when you say rabbana lakal hamd, what should you feel in the physical act of going down into sujud, how you should feel when you say ‘subhana Rabbiy-alA’la’, how you should feel when you raise your heard from sujud, how you should feel when you say tashahhud, when you say durud, when you make du’a and how you should feel when you make salam!

Mashaikh teach these things, but few people are interested in this. Few people are searching for books like this. We search and surf for so many other things on our screen; we have so many other books on our bookshelves and coffee tables!

So where to begin? What is the bare minimum beginning; what is the entry point? The best way to begin is to fix your sajdah because Allah swt said in Qur’an make sajdah and you will get qurb (wasjud waqtarib). Sajdah is that place where you feel closest to Allah swt. It is the greatest chance to get the closeness. So begin with this. Firstly, understand the meaning.

Subhana Rabbiy-alA’la’

Subhan means Allah swt is above and beyond. He is exalted; He is amazing. In fancy terms, it means He is free of every single flaw and imperfection, even the hypothetical possible defects. He is adorned with every wonder and every perfection – you can simply say He swt is amazing!

The second word is Rabbi – so that amazing Allah swt is mine. He is my Rabb! We began in Surah Fatiha saying He is ‘Rabbul ‘alamin – the Rabb of all theWorlds’, and now we are saying He is mine. Now we are supposed to have a different feeling. It is supposed to give you pleasure and joy.

When you have a nice car, you get happy because you think it is mine. When women get a nice new kitchen and appliances, they get happy and they think it is mine. They get this feeling of joy. They get this feeling that this wonderful, amazing thing is mine.

So the feeling we are supposed to get in sajdah is that this amazing Allah swt is mine. You should lower your head and try not to raise it until you get this feeling that Allah swt is My Rabb! If you can just say the word Rabbi with it’s proper feeling, then this will be a great way to unlock the feelings of salah.

Then al-A’la – in ruku we say ‘al-‘Azim’, and in sajdah ‘al-A’la’- why? al-‘Azim’ is referring to the ‘azmat of Allah swt. We were bowing to physically lower ourselves in front of the greatness of Allah swt, but we could have said the same thing in sujud! In sujud, we are at the lowest physical position, and we press our foreheads to the ground – so we go as low as we can. We cannot physically go any lower, so the way to feel lower is to proclaim Allah swt is al-A’la – He is exalted! So we lower ourselves as much as we can and then we raise the praise of Allah swt as much as we can.

The awliya’ullah, they get a different flavour every time they pray. Like Allah swt has said Every single day, Allah swt manifests Himself in a new splendour, in a new beauty.

They felt this beauty. This is why they used to pray all night. You can’t just make yourself do that. Tahajjud is a prayer of love – you can force yourself to wake up for Fajr, but you can’t force yourself to wake up for Tahajjud. You might once or twice, but you cannot do it regularly. These people felt feelings, hence they were able to pray so much.

So we should make constant effort five times a day, every time we pray. We need to make an effort, and we need to keep making this effort, keep making this effort. We need to let ourselves linger in sujud, and a little bit in ruku; we need to recite slower so we can feel and relish the meaning so they can move our hearts. We shouldn’t let the prayer finish whilst our hearts remain unmoved. This is a major mission.

Our mashaikh naqshband teach dhikr qalbi – this will help you get the presence of heart in salah. It is our heart which is missing in salah. How do you make this dhikr qalbi? All you have to do is sit down in your free time.

Kulla yawmin huwa fi sha’n.

Fa itha faragta fansab, wa ila rabbika fargab

So when you are free, be firm, and turn to your Rabb in yearning and longing. Sit down and remember Allah swt from your heart. Not the heart that pumps blood, but the heart of your ruh = your spiritual heart! How do you remember Allah swt from your heart? Simply make an intention that your qalb is making dhikr. Still a person might say that I need to focus.

The way we focus is by focusing on the name of Allah swt because it has barakah – tabarukasmu Rabbik (full of barakah is the name of your Rabb), and the name of your Rabb is Allah swt. The greatest barakah is that when you remember His name, you end up remembering Him. We don’t need to imagine or conceptualize anything because Allah swt has gifted us this ism dhat, Allah! All you have to do is make dhikr of His name, and you will be making dhikr of Him.

Sit in stillness – no action, no movement. Your breathing should be normal. This will help you practise khushu. You sit in stillness and you simply make an intention. You should practise this at least five minutes a day, ten minutes a day, once a day, twice a day…as much as you can. It is a good warm up exercise for salah. If you do it before salah, it will help you unclutter your mind. If you do it after salah, it will help you retain the nur for longer. It is a good after taste if you linger after salah and practise this. Some people do it before and after every salah!

We have seen so many people who practised this regularly, those who kept sitting and kept trying, and they say Alhamdullilah, we are able to remember Allah swt more in salah. Our mashaikh don’t just give the teachings, but they give the practical medicine too.

May Allah swt allow us all to feel the feelings in salah, and other acts of ‘ibadah.