Who are the Aṣḥāb yamīn (people of the right side) and is complete sincerity in actions necessary?

Who are the Aṣḥāb yamīn (people of the right side) and is complete sincerity in actions necessary?

Aṣḥāb yamīn (people of the right side)

The next group is called the Aṣḥāb yamīn (people of the right side). They will be placed on the right of the Divine throne and their deeds will be placed in their right hand. They are of various types:

  1. They are close to the sābiqūn (the one’s who excel) but have not acquired complete perfection; they suffice with the bodily form without completely realising the spiritual aspect.
  2. They are the ones of contention; of two sides where one is weakly angelic and the other is strongly animalistic. Or it is the case that it is weakly animalistic and apathetic when it comes to remembering God.
  3. They are the one’s of inner integration; they have a very weakly angelic side and engage in difficult spiritual exercises or reciting litanies when their animalistic side is strong.

Complete sincerity

Iḳhlās (sincerity) requires that an action is performed solely for the pleasure of God. However, our faith simultaneously recognises human frailty. Hence,  one’s worship is accepted even though it may not acquire complete sincerity. For example, on feeling a sense of remorse after seeing a person in poverty, ones gives charity whilst mixing this with the intention of receiving the reward for this act. Or someone, due to social pressure, performs their prayer combined with the intention of receiving the reward for this action. While others may be prevented from fornication or drinking alcohol both by fear of God and fear of people. In all such cases, their worship is still accepted.

فَيُقبل منهم ذالك بشرط أن تَضْعُف قلوبُهم عن الإخلاص الصّرف، وأن تمسك نفوُسهم بالأعمال أنفسِها

This action is accepted from them on the condition that their hearts are too weak for absolute sincerity and that their souls can only cling to the act themselves.

Therefore, while perfect sincerity is always the ideal, persisting with actions performed in this way will ensure that they are accepted.

We find support for this in the statement of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ:

الْحَيَاءُ خَيْرٌ كُلُّهُ

‘all modesty is good.’[1]

This is because due to the wisdom of earlier times, in modesty there was considered both weakness and a goodness; goodness if the display of modesty was done voluntarily, and weakness if it happened involuntarily. The Messenger of Allah ﷺremoved such distinctions. Therefore, a good action done out of weakness is also accepted.

Occasions of angelic light

Though the ‘people of the right side’ may not experience permanent angelic light, there are moments when it does twinkle for short times. For example:

  1. When they ask for forgiveness (from God) and blame themselves
  2. When they remember God in seclusion and their eyes flow with tears
  3. When their souls cannot control evil due to weakness in their innate disposition
  4. When they recollect a sin and are pained by it

In summary, the ‘people of the right side’ lack one of the two virtues of the sābiqūn (one’s who excel) whilst achieving the other. [2]

[1] Abū Dāwūd.

[2] They are mentioned previously: concentration on God and; strong fiṭrah (innate constitution).

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Who are the ​Sābiqūn (the one’s who excel) mentioned in the Qur’ān? and why is it important for us?

Who are the ​Sābiqūn (the one’s who excel) mentioned in the Qur’ān? and why is it important for us?

In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

طبقات الأمة باعتبار الخروج إلى الكمال المطلوب أو ضدِّه

The Levels of the Ummah with Regard to Achieving the Desired Perfection or its Opposite

The entire humankind is the community of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Those who have responded and accepted his message are considered Muslims – the ummah ijābah (the ummah that has accepted his call) while the one’s that are yet to accept his message are called the ummah da’wah (the ummah to whom the call has been extended). In acquiring human perfection (kamāli maṭlūb) people are at various levels.

It is hoped by reading the descriptions outlined below we can at the very least attempt to bring out such qualities in our own lives.

The Qur’ān explains:

And you shall be of three kinds: the companions of the right; what of the companions of the right? And the companions of the left; what of the companions of the left? And the foremost shall be the foremost. They are the one’s who will be brought nigh. [1]

This first verse refers to believers and non-believers whilst the following refers solely to the believers:

Then We bequeathed the Book to those of Our servants who We had chosen. Among them are those who wrong themselves, those who take the middle course, and those who are foremost in good deeds, by God’s leave. That is the greatest bounty. [2]

Sābiqūn (the one’s who excel)

The highest level is for the mufahhamūn (the instructed ones) about whom we have already mentioned.[3] Thereafter, the next group is the sābiqūn (the one’s who excel). They are of two types: al-rāshiḳhīn fī al-‘ilm (firm in knowledge) and the rāghibīn fī al-‘amal (striving in action). The first group is the one who is sleeping when their latent potential is awakened by the prophetic message that reaches them. In their inner state, there is no contradiction between the angelic and animalistic traits; it is harmonious and integrated. They are like the mujtahidīn fī al-madhab (independent scholars in a school of law) i.e. those who use their own interpretations within the scope of possibilities offered by previous rulings within their own legal school. [4]

 The second group is the one’s who engage in spiritual exercises and turn towards God in order to gain control over their animalistic side. Thus they acquire intellectual and practical perfection which bring forth divine visions, guidance, and illumination. They are the Sufi orders.

Both these groups combine two things:

  1. They devote their strength to concentrating on God and seeking to be near Him.
  2. Their fiṭrah (innate constitution) is so strong that the desired acquired habits are presented to them as they are, without the need to consider their embodiments, and they only need the bodily forms to express these traits and as a means to attain the traits through them.

From among them are the following:

  1. mufarridūn (the one’s who retire to lead a solitary religious life): by turning their attention to God and excessive remembrance of Him they acquire a lofty status.
  2. ṣiddīqūn (the truthful ones): distinguished by their strictness in obeying God and pure devotion to Him. In addition, they possess perfect reason and the strength of character.
  3. Ṣhuhadā’: (the martyrs): they command good and forbid evil, and they have strength, energy and complete self-control in their nature, becoming a habit for them. On the day of resurrection, they will be resurrected arguing with the unbelievers and giving evident against them. [5]
  4. Al-rāshikūn fī-l-‘ilm (firmly rooted in knowledge): they possess wisdom, intelligence, and strong self-control. When they heard from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) knowledge and wisdom, this impressed them to show obedience and devotion to perfect themselves by knowledge. The possession of thorough knowledge became a habit with them.
  5. ‘Ubād (the worshippers): they perceive the benefits of worship with their own eyes such that they become enveloped with light and they worship God with great insight.
  6. zuhhād (the ascetics): they turn away from the world which carries no meaning to them. They are certain of the Resurrection and the pleasure reserved there.
  7. Those prepared for the deputyship (Caliphate) of the Prophets: they worship God through the virtue of justice, and by removing away wrongs and corruption.
  8. Aṣhāb al-khulq al-ḥassan (possessors of good character): they are people of magnanimity in generosity, modesty, and forgiveness of the one who wrongs them. They remain patient over calamities. Generosity is natural to them and an inseparable habit.
  9. Muṣhabbihūn bi al-Malā’ika (those resembling the angels): they are people who persevered in the observance of purity, prayer in seclusion, limited speech and sleep. It is mentioned that certain Companions used to be greeted by the angels. [6]

Each of the aforementioned groups possesses an innate capacity which requires awakening from prophetic knowledge and an acquired capacity[7] to be made ready to take up the divine law. Through both of these capacities, perfection is achieved. [8]

[1] Qur’ān 56:7-11.

[2] Qur’ān 35:32.

[3] They are of many types and varying capacities: the perfect one (kāmil); the wise one (ḥākim); the Caliph; the one aided by the holy spirit; a pure guide (hādi muzakkī); the leader (imām); a warner (mundhir) and a prophet.

[4] There is the ḥadīth, ‘the learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion.’ (Abū Dāwūd, Ibn Mājah, at-Tirmidhī).

[5] This description challenges the prevailing notion that this definition is restricted and reserved solely for those who die in the cause of God.

[6] ‘Imrān bin Ḥusayn narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ forbade to cauterize; we cauterized but they (cauterization) did not benefit us, nor proved useful for us. Abū Dāwūd said: He (‘Imrān bin Ḥusayn) used to hear the salutation of the angels: When he cauterized, it stopped. When he abandoned, it returned to him. (Abū Dāwūd).

[7] There are many others, briefly, they include: the trustworthy, the martyrs, perfect person, firmly established in knowledge, unique persons, the Godly persons, persons of fine behaviour, worshipping devotees, ascetics, persons who bear resemblance to the angels, persons who are moderate in deeds of virtue and vice.

[8] Those among the ‘instructed ones’ who are not sent on a mission to people, are counted as the ‘ones who excel.’

Imām Ghazālī’s Strategy in Kitāb al-Maḥabba

Imām Ghazālī’s Strategy in Kitāb al-Maḥabba

Over the coming months we will be attempting to provide a series of summaries on various discussions from the thirty sixth book of the Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, titled,  ‘love, longing intimacy and contentment’ (kitāb al-maḥabba wa’l-ṣhawq wa’al-uns wa’l-riḍā). This is the second part of the introduction (you can find the first part here: The Love of God as a Paradox)

It is worth exploring very briefly Imām Ghazālī’s strategy in the book. He begins with the Qur’an and Sunnah, then statements by Sufi masters; followed by “rational proof-texts” (ṣhawāhid ‘aqlīya) and highly structured argumentation. This is then followed by a methodical analysis of the nature and causes of love; the central theme being that God alone merits love. For him, the highest of all pleasures is in the knowledge of God, insofar as he is knowable to us. However, and fundamentally, God is unknowable to the human intellect. It is this unknowability that sustains the longing for God.

Ghazālī states that love as we know it begins by self-love; our love is always self-interested and combined with our greed to go on living. He then moves his argument forward by stating that we do not love other people or things for themselves. When we display love towards others it is not because we love them, rather it is for the kindness they bestow. This is still an illusion. The beggar who loves the one who gives him something, the benefactor, and the benefactor who takes pride in giving something to him are both deluded. This is because the benefactor is merely and instrument of benevolence since the promoting of benevolence has been willed by God himself. The beggar should thank God and the benefactor ought to realise that the beggar was an instrument by which God’s compassion is made manifest. Hence, we are shadows through whom the true actor plays out His part.

‘The Ghazālīan love of God is an eternal courtship in which the Beloved constantly responds to the lover’s suit with inexhaustible favours of insight’ (Eric Ormsby)

​The Love of God as a Paradox

​The Love of God as a Paradox

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be attempting to provide a series of summaries on various discussions from the thirty-sixth book of the Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, titled,  ‘love, longing intimacy and contentment’ (kitāb al-maḥabba wa’l-ṣhawq wa’al-uns wa’l-riḍā). This book deals with a difficult and sometimes problematic subject: the love of God for man and of man for God. This is because one finds many early Sufis as well as dogmatic theologians who objected to the notion that there might be between God and man any sort of relation of love, as love is commonly understood.

In the early centuries of Islam, love was strictly defined as “obedience.” Any suggestion of a reciprocal relationship of love between God and man was seen to be unseemly – if not blasphemous – as well as illogical. Where God is described as “loving” (wadūd), it was generally presented as a form of compassion or mercy (raḥma). Al-wadūd was understood as the one who wishes all creatures well and accordingly favors and praises them. Mercy, however, when it comes to God’s love was sovereign and disinterested; it does not presuppose a recipient in need of mercy nor is it the result of any ‘empathy’ on God’s part. There was also a question of religious decorum where piety had its protocols; unseemly outpourings of affection were not merely examples of lèse-majestè on a cosmic scale but breaches of pious tact.

Still, the key question remains, how to reconcile a God who is transcendent with the human creature? Are there any grounds for claiming a relationship between God and humankind? Moreover, is it not true, as Ghazālī would agree, that divine existence is “real” (ḥaqīqī), while human existence is at best “figurative” (majāzī)? Nevertheless, the argument, as we shall see in a later discussion, was that human love of God cannot be relegated to being merely figurative.

Love was not the only concept that was problematic, in early Islam, “friendship” with God was unthinkable, and some, like Ja’d ibn Dirham (d. 25/743) paid the ultimate price for denying the Abraham could be “the friend of God” (khalīl Allāh).

Before Ghazālī, writings were scattered and pithy, he was, it is argued, the first to give it a compelling shape which culminated in this book, where he argues, confidently, that not only is the love of God conceivable, but there exists a reciprocal loving relationship between God and man. It was one aspect of Ghazālī’s achievement to have answered such objections; he was the first Muslim theologian and mystic to elaborate a doctrine of divine love rigorously and systematically, employing carefully structured arguments and proof based on both on tradition and reason.

Why do we need Prophets? And what can we learn from them?

Why do we need Prophets? And what can we learn from them?

In the Name of God, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

الحاجة الى هُداة السُّبُل ومُقِيمِي المِلَل

The divine Manager does not leave the affairs of mankind to take their own course. On the contrary, He is full of eternal grace to men and wants to establish a good order. For that reason, He has sent prophets.

Humankind, the Qur’an teaches, was created as a homo religiosis. A dahrī, a materialist, so Ṣhāh Walī Allāh infers, is someone who rejects the knowledge of God granted him by birth. In other words, Islam has, in principle, no need of a founder of religion or of a religious guide. However, history shows that from time to time people deviate from their true humanity. Therefore, they are in need of guidance to bring them back. This can be rationalised if we accept that in many cases we cannot come to know what is truly in our benefit and what is harmful. Secondly, there are those who seek to sow corruption, are misled and misguide others. Finally, there are others who are simply suffering from ignorance. Hence, what is required is a person who is protected from all of these errors.

So what should their qualities be?

This person should publicly prove that he is: fully aware of the rightly-guided practice (al-sunna al-rāṣhida); completely preserved from error and misguidance; he has complete knowledge of how to undertake the rectification (iṣlāḥ) of society. Therefore, he must be infallible and one upon whom there is a consensus about him being a guide.

The guide realises the path to guidance via intuitive perception (wijdān)

This knowledge (of guidance) does not come through rational proofs, thinking or sense perception. They are disclosed by what is known as the intuitive perception (wijdān); via sound spiritual experience. Such people disclose matters according to the exigencies of the time while also expounding on new matters. The intuitive perception of a prophet cannot accept error while that of a religious scholar can. For the latter, it should be viewed in light of what other scholars have stated and must be viewed through the prism of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

How can we know that the intuitive perception is correct?

He is bestowed with intuitive or essential knowledge which originates without thought, reflection or proof; known as immediate knowledge (‘ilm ḍarūrī) such that it is ontologically correct i.e. what he comprehends and discerns is truly identical with reality. This knowledge is acquired via a natural disposition and is confirmed by the fact that they (the prophets) are continuously correct.

How is the society to be convinced of the one who possesses this knowledge?

This is confirmed in four ways:

  1. Rationally demonstrated and rhetorical proofs
  2. Their path is of righteousness
  3. It is observed in them the signs of proximity to God by way of miracles and their prayers being accepted
  4. People love them due to them observing their excellent qualities such mercy, generosity, gentleness, justice, chastity, honesty, integrity and so forth.

Though prophets are no longer to come, their exemplary conduct and teachings are the inheritance that can enable us to return back to our humanity; something we are in desperate need of once again.

And only God knows best.

The Inner Meanings of Encouragement (targhīb) and Deterrence (tarhīb)

The Inner Meanings of Encouragement (targhīb) and Deterrence (tarhīb)

In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

أسرار الترغيب والترهيب

When encouraging people to good and deterring them from evil, five broad principles should be borne in mind. A summary is provided before looking at them in detail:

  1. Rectification: explain the effect of the action on the soul
  2. Protection and benefit: explain that it protects from the devil while one is blessed with sustenance
  3. Remind: relate the act to the life of the next world
  4. Recall: adopt a method where the act becomes inscribed on the mind
  5. Relate: explain how the act relates to the pleasure of Allah, the Exalted, and the angels.

Some additional reflections when encouraging and deterring:

  1. Always use nuance; avoid making blanket statements
  2. Read well and prepare in advance if delivering a speech etc.
  3. Use gentleness and softness
  4. Inspire people with hope, not fear. Fear is for Allāh, the Exalted. (fear here is not the type we are generally accustomed to. For an in depth discussion, see the chapter on fear and hope from Imām al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn)
  5. Humility when advising; we are infinitely in need than the audience
  6. Articulate a message of bringing the ummah together

The need for principles

Let us begin by explaining why principles are required for encouragement and deterrence. It has been narrated from Abu Dhar (may Allah be pleased with him) that:

أَنَّ نَاسًا، مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالُوا لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ذَهَبَ أَهْلُ الدُّثُورِ بِالأُجُورِ يُصَلُّونَ كَمَا نُصَلِّي وَيَصُومُونَ كَمَا نَصُومُ وَيَتَصَدَّقُونَ بِفُضُولِ أَمْوَالِهِمْ . قَالَ ” أَوَلَيْسَ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ مَا تَصَّدَّقُونَ إِنَّ بِكُلِّ تَسْبِيحَةٍ صَدَقَةً وَكُلِّ تَكْبِيرَةٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَكُلِّ تَحْمِيدَةٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَكُلِّ تَهْلِيلَةٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَأَمْرٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ صَدَقَةٌ وَنَهْىٌ عَنْ مُنْكَرٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَفِي بُضْعِ أَحَدِكُمْ صَدَقَةٌ ” . قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيَأْتِي أَحَدُنَا شَهْوَتَهُ وَيَكُونُ لَهُ فِيهَا أَجْرٌ قَالَ ” أَرَأَيْتُمْ لَوْ وَضَعَهَا فِي حَرَامٍ أَكَانَ عَلَيْهِ فِيهَا وِزْرٌ فَكَذَلِكَ إِذَا وَضَعَهَا فِي الْحَلاَلِ كَانَ لَهُ أَجْرٌ

Some of the people from among the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to him: Messenger of Allah, the rich have taken away (all the) reward. They observe prayer as we do; they keep the fasts as we keep, and they give ṣadaqa out of their surplus riches. Upon this he (the Messenger of Allah) said: Has Allah not prescribed for you (a course) by following which you can (also) do ṣadaqa? In every declaration of the glorification of Allah (i. e. saying Ṣubḥan Allāh) there is a ṣadaqa, and every takbīr (i. e. saying Allah-O-Akbar) is a sadaqa, and every praise of His (saying al-Ḥamdu Lillah) is a ṣadaqa and every declaration that He is One (La illāha ill-Allāh) is a sadaqa, and enjoining of good is a ṣadaqa, and forbidding of that which is evil is a ṣadaqa, and in man’s sexual Intercourse [with his wife] there is a ṣadaqa. They (the Companions) said: Messenger of Allah, is there reward for him who satisfies his sexual passion among us? He said: Tell me, if he were to devote it to something forbidden, would it not be a sin on his part? Similarly, if he were to devote it to something lawful, he should have a reward. (Muslim)

From this ḥadīth we learn two important principles regarding encouragement and deterrence. Firstly, the questioning by the companions of receiving reward for sexual intercourse with one’s wife shows that to them, there existed a relationship between an action and its reward; that it can be arrived at by reason. They understood that good deeds assist in refining the soul and is in the best of interests of society; bad deeds result in the opposite. Yet the nature of their question reveals something more: where is the good deed  to be found in satisfying one’s needs (via sexual intercourse)? Is this not following the animalistic impulse (i.e. one’s desires)? where is the benefit in this act? How is this benefiting the individual? How is society benefitting?

Therefore, in this particular case, the rationale was somewhat ambiguous: while it is clear that it is a major sin to fornicate, how is one to understand being rewarded for having sexual relation with one’s wife? The answer lies in the fact that there is a (second type of) deeper relationship, which the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) set as a principle: there is also a reward for not committing a sin (though this reward is dependent on one striving against ones desires). In this case, there is a relationship  of sorts between the sin of fornication and having sexual relations with one’s wife, with the latter being rewarded; it keeps ones sexual organs pure whiles one’s desires are fulfilled in the right way. The individual and society benefit.

و للترغيب والترهيب طرق، ولكل طريقة سرٌّ

There are various methods to encourage good and to deter from sin, and there is an inner dimension to each method

Principle one: to explain the effect of an action which refines the soul

The benefit (or harm) of an action should explained by its effect on the soul: it will either result in the animalistic impulse being drive down or the angelic force being made stronger. This is understood from the idea of ‘recording of good deeds and the erasing of the evil ones.’ In other words, when one intends to encourage, explain that this will refine their soul by reigning in their animalistic impulse or, that their angelic trait will be made manifest; good deeds places light in ones heart while evil deeds blacken it. For example, the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said:

مَنْ قَالَ فِي دُبُرِ صَلاَةِ الْفَجْرِ وَهُوَ ثَانِي رِجْلَيْهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَتَكَلَّمَ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ عَشْرَ مَرَّاتٍ كُتِبَ لَهُ عَشْرُ حَسَنَاتٍ وَمُحِيَ عَنْهُ عَشْرُ سَيِّئَاتٍ وَرُفِعَ لَهُ عَشْرُ دَرَجَاتٍ وَكَانَ يَوْمَهُ ذَلِكَ فِي حِرْزٍ مِنْ كُلِّ مَكْرُوهٍ وَحَرْسٍ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ وَلَمْ يَنْبَغِ لِذَنْبٍ أَنْ يُدْرِكَهُ فِي ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ إِلاَّ الشِّرْكَ بِاللَّهِ

“Whoever says at the end of every Fajr prayer, while his feet are still folded, before speaking: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, Alone without partner, to Him belongs all that exists, and to Him is the praise, He gives life and causes death, and He is powerful over all things, (Lā ilāha illallāh, waḥdahu lā ṣharīka lah, lahul-mulku wa lahul-ḥamdu, yuḥyī wa yumītu, wa huwa ‘alā kulli ṣhay’in qadīr)’ ten times, then ten good deeds shall be written for him, ten evil deeds shall be wiped away from him, ten degrees shall be raised up for him, and he shall be in security all that day from every disliked thing, and he shall be in protection from ṣhaitān, and no sin will meet him or destroy him that day, except for associating partners with Allah.” (At-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah, Abū Dāwūd)

Principle two: to explain the effect of an action by stating that one is protected from devil and that there will be blessings in one’s sustenance

As for the protection from the devil, the ḥadīth mentioned above provides an example. As for increase and blessings in one’s sustenance, the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said:

اقْرَءُوا سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ فَإِنَّ أَخْذَهَا بَرَكَةٌ وَتَرْكَهَا حَسْرَةٌ وَلاَ تَسْتَطِيعُهَا الْبَطَلَةُ 

“Recite Ṣūrah al-Baqarah, for to take recourse to it is a blessing and to give it up is a cause of grief, and the magicians cannot confront it.” (Muslim)

This (protection from the devil and increase in one’s sustenance) is achieved due to three things:

  1. By supplicating to Allah, the Exalted, in seeking well-being, and it being accepted from Him.
  2. Being immersed in the remembrance of Allah, the Exalted. Such that the devil and those share in his evil attributes find no way to influence them.
  3. The angels pray for that person so that sometimes something of benefit transpires or some harm is warded away.

Principle three: to explain the effect of an action in terms of the life to come

To explain the consequences of an action in terms of the grave and resurrection. How was it possible for the  Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) to know of the consequences of actions in the next world? This is because there is a relationship (munāsabah) between an act and its consequence. This relationship is either through acquiring (or lack of) four virtues: purity, humility, magnanimity and justice, or, to giving strength to the divine law. Every action will be related to these relationships. For example, to perform the units of prayer with devotion relates to humility, being in awe of Allah, the Exalted, and to suppress the animalistic traits. To perform ablution leads to purity, which affects the soul. To spend wealth, especially when one is miserly, or forgiving a debt shows signs of magnanimity in ones soul. To feed the poor or to resolve disputes shows that one is interested in spreading justice in the world, something which the divine law seeks to achieve. It may be that the act is either difficult, obscure or disagreeable by nature. Hence, the act becomes a proof of one’s sincerity. For example, striving against one’s desires so that the act testifies to the truth of one’s commitment to Allah, the Exalted.

Secondly, to explain that one’s treatment in the life to come will be based on their actions in this world, and that there is a subtle relationship between them. For example, the one who conceals knowledge when asked will be punished with a bridle of fire since the questioner was pained by not being provided with a response; the bridle is an embodiment and image of restraint (i.e. the punishment for not furnishing a response is restraint). The one who loves and hoards wealth will have their neck encircled by a bald snake since their sole concern was with the acquisition of wealth. On the other hand, the one who clothed the poor will be dressed in a silk brocade of Paradise.  The one who frees a slave or someone under hardship will be given salvation for every limb in exchange for every limb that they freed in this world.

Principle four: to adopt a method by which the good or the bad of the act becomes inscribed on the mind

There are three ways:

  1. Using symbolism where there is a shared element between the two. For example, the one who remains seated and engaged in devotion until the sun rises received the reward of the Ḥajj and ‘Umrah. The one who takes back a gift was compared to the dog that returns to their vomit.
  2. Ascribing that act to someone good evil or evil. For example, to perform the ‘asr prayer at the makrūh time is like the prayer of a hypocrite or that a certain act is  that of the devil or the angels.
  3. Using invocation by saying for example, “may Allah, the Exalted, have mercy on the man who does such and such an act.”

Principle five: Show people how the act is connected to the pleasure (or anger) of Allah, The exalted and prayer of the angels.

When explaining an act, always relate it to Allah’s pleasure or anger, and the prayers of the angels. For example, by saying, “Allah loves so and so and hates so and so.”

And only Allah, the Exalted, knows best.

Ḥāroon Ebrāhīm Sīdāt.

For further reading see Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bāligha (The conclusive argument from God) by Ṣhāh Walī Allāh and Imām al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn

Facilitating of Ease in Religious Duties

Facilitating of Ease in Religious Duties

In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

بابُ التَيسير

Given the array of commitments people have, one of the key roles of religion is to make life easy for them. Allah, the exalted, is most merciful and gentle towards His creation. Hence, His religion does not place undue burden on anyone. Allah, the exalted, says:

Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you.

This follows that the Prophet upon whom the revelation was revealed would follow this way. Allah, the exalted, says:

It was by the mercy of Allah that you were lenient with them (O Muḥammad), for if you had been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from around you.”

And the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ said to Abū Mūsa al-Aṣh’arī and Mu’ādh bin Jabal (May Allah be pleased with both of them), when he sent them to Yemen:

يَسِّرَا وَلاَ تُعَسِّرَا، وَبَشِّرَا وَلاَ تُنَفِّرَا، وَتَطَاوَعَا لاَ تَخْتَلِفَا

Be easy (with the people) and don’t make things difficult, bring good news and don’t estrange (them), accede and don’t oppose.”

And the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ also said:

فَإِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُمْ مُيَسِّرِينَ، وَلَمْ تُبْعَثُوا مُعَسِّرِينَ

you have been sent to make things easy (for the people) and not to make things difficult.

It is clear that great emphasis is placed in Islam on facilitating ease. Something that is all the more pertinent given our demanding lifestyles. The facilitation of ease in religion can achieved in a number of ways:

1. One ought not to make something which is difficult for people a pillar (rukn) or condition (ṣharṭ). For example, the reverence for prayer requires that one should purify their mouth before coming to the mosque, therefore making it compulsory to use the miswāk before the prayer. However, the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ said:

لَوْلاَ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَى أُمَّتِي لأَمَرْتُهُمْ بِالسِّوَاكِ عِنْدَ كُلِّ صَلاَةٍ

Were it not that I would have been hard on my community, I would have ordered them to clean their teeth with a siwāk before every prayer.”

2. One should make those things which are a part of worship into such conventions which people can take pride in. For example, when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ came to Medina and was informed that playing games in those two days was a pre-Islamic practice, he said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَبْدَلَكُمْ بِهِمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمَا يَوْمَ الأَضْحَى وَيَوْمَ الْفِطْرِ

Allah has substituted for them something better than them, the day of sacrifice and the day of the breaking of the fast.”

In a similar way, a smaller Eid was made once a week that took into consideration human needs. We all need to take rest and take refresh.  Islam recognised this desire and set the Friday congregational prayer. Hence, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

لِيَعْلَمَ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَى أَنْ فِي دِينِنَا فُسْحَةً

So the Jews will know that in our religion there is room for pleasure

3. To make those acts of worship into customary practices which people desire due to their physical nature. So that both nature and reason will combine to motivate them. That is why keeping the mosque clean and fragrant and washing and scenting oneself on Friday was made a customary practice.  In a similar way, to recite the Qur’ān in a melodious way was recommended, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

مَنْ لَمْ يَتَغَنَّ بِالْقُرْآنِ فلَيْسَ مِنَّا

Whoever does not recite the Qur’ān in a melodious voice is not from us.”

The same applies for having a beautiful voice for the call to prayer. Humans love beauty, Islam continued with this tradition of maintaining beauty in our actions and the environment.

4. What people find burdensome should be relieved as well as that which is detested by their nature. That is why the leading of prayers by a slave, bedouin, or someone with an unknown lineage was detested because this would be found to be repugnant to people. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ forbade it and said:

ثَلاَثَةٌ لاَ تُجَاوِزُ صَلاَتُهُمْ آذَانَهُمُ الْعَبْدُ الآبِقُ حَتَّى يَرْجِعَ وَامْرَأَةٌ بَاتَتْ وَزَوْجُهَا عَلَيْهَا سَاخِطٌ وَإِمَامُ قَوْمٍ وَهُمْ لَهُ كَارِهُونَ

There are three whose ṣalāh would not rise up beyond their ears: The runaway slave until he returns, a woman who spends a night while her husband is angry with her, and a people’s Imām whom they dislike.”

5. Things should be retained which suit the nature of people and the removal of it would cause them discomfort. For example, the Sultan is most deserving to be the imām, or the owner of the house. And in the case of the one who marries a new wife he should spend seven nights with her, or three if she was previously married and then he should divide time equally among them.

6. A practice should be made of imparting knowledge among people, giving sermons, and ordering good and forbidding evil so that their hearts become filled with it and are willing to follow the divine law without any discomfort. That is why we find Ibn Mas’ūd (may Allah be pleased with him) saying that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would:

كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَتَخَوَّلُنَا بِالْمَوْعِظَةِ فِي الأَيَّامِ، كَرَاهَةَ السَّآمَةِ عَلَيْنَا

take care of us in preaching by selecting a suitable time, so that we might not get bored” (He abstained from pestering us with sermons and knowledge all the time).

Wisdom dictates that an appropriate time and place should be chosen for imparting knowledge and furnishing good counsel.

7. Though he did not need to, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would act upon religious dispensations (ruḳhsa) so that people could follow his way; piety and leadership does not always require one to follow the heights of servitude. Show people ease. For example, when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ went out to Mecca in Ramadhān in the year of Victory, he and the people fasted till they came to a place called Kura’ al-Ghamīm and the people also fasted. He then called for a cup of water which he raised till the people saw it, and then he drank from it.

8. The fountain of blessings lies with Allah, the exalted. It was for this reason that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would pray for his Ummah to become refined and perfected. Those in position of leadership and authority should constantly prayer for their flock.

9. Through the blessings of pious people, spiritual tranquility descends (sakīnah) by which people accept and act upon the divine laws. This is why the companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) would become absolutely motionless in the presence of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Sitting with the true friends of Allah, the exalted, creates a desire to serve Him.

10. Ease in religion is facilitated by deterring the one who seeks to acquire something unjustly by being deprived of it. This is done to protect civil society from trials and tribulations. As in the case of a murderer who does not in inherit or the one who forces a divorce will find it not legally valid.

11. Something that is difficult should be legislated gradually so that it becomes easier for it to be accepted. It is for this reason, ‘Ā’iṣha (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

إِنَّمَا نَزَلَ أَوَّلَ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهُ سُورَةٌ مِنَ الْمُفَصَّلِ فِيهَا ذِكْرُ الْجَنَّةِ وَالنَّارِ حَتَّى إِذَا ثَابَ النَّاسُ إِلَى الإِسْلاَمِ نَزَلَ الْحَلاَلُ وَالْحَرَامُ، وَلَوْ نَزَلَ أَوَّلَ شَىْءٍ لاَ تَشْرَبُوا الْخَمْرَ. لَقَالُوا لاَ نَدَعُ الْخَمْرَ أَبَدًا

The first thing that was revealed thereof was a chapter from al-Mufaṣṣal in which Paradise and Hell were mentioned. Once the people had rallied to Islam the permitted and forbidden were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed had been, ‘Do not drink wine,’ and if ‘Do not fornicate,’ has been revealed, they would have said, ‘We will never give up fornication.’

When advising and assisting people, consideration should be taken of their personal circumstances. Wisdom dictates that compassion and empathy be applied at all times.

12. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not perform any action that may cause peoples hearts to become disunited or entertain doubts such that he even left out some recommended (mustaḥab) things. We have his saying to ‘Ā’iṣha (may Allah be pleased with her):

لَوْلاَ حِدْثَانُ قَوْمِكِ بِالْكُفْرِ لَنَقَضْتُ الْبَيْتَ حَتَّى أَزِيدَ فِيهِ مِنَ الْحِجْرِ فَإِنَّ قَوْمَكِ قَصَّرُوا فِي الْبِنَاءِ

If your people had not been new converts to Islam, I would have demolished the House and would have added (in it area) from the ḥijr for your people have reduced the area from its foundations.”

 One should avoid anything that may lead to doubts entering peoples hearts or leading to disunity. Unity is of paramount importance.

13. To facilitate ease the Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not describe the finer details of acts of worship precisely. He informed us of pious actions such as the ablution, bath, prayer, alms-giving, fasting and so forth along with their pillars (arkān), conditions (ṣhurūṭ) and proper behaviours (ādāb) but did not go into the finer details. He allowed them to reason and to understand from these words (regarding worship) and what they were accustomed to. For example, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ stated that prayer is not valid without reciting the fātiḥah but he did not go into the pronunciation of its letters. He explained that facing the Qibla is a condition of prayer but did not delve into how we can work out the direction of prayer. He explained the minimum amount for the alms-giving (zakāh) it to be two hundred dirhams but did not explain its weight. He continued explaining things to them in ways that can be comprehended and they were familiar with. Thus, he replied when he was asked about the first crescent moon of Ramaḍhạn, he said:

فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْدِرُوا ثَلاَثِينَ

Then if it is obscured from you, completed the number (of days) of thirty (of Sha’bān)

The reason for not describing the finer details of acts of worship can be understood by the following:

  • Explaining would require another explanation and this would continue ad infinitum.
  • It would become the source of undue difficulty.
  • The divine law was imposed so as to apply to everyone; too much detail would become difficult on everyone.
  • Giving too much detail comes at the cost of losing the spiritual aspects of these acts.

14. To speak to people according to the measure of their intelligence which was placed at the basis of their nature so that understanding the religion is easy. This was before people became interested in theosophy (ḥikma) theology and foundations of jurisprudence. This explains that when Allah, the exalted, said, ‘the Merciful sits upon the throne’ the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to the black woman, ‘Where is Allah?’ and she pointed to the sky; then he said, ‘she is a believer.’ This is because this is how they understood things. Similar to this is the case of facing the Qibla, prayer times and so forth. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not require people to memorise formulae of astronomy or geometry and he indicated by saying, ‘that the Qibla is everywhere between the East and West.’ And only Allah knows best.

For a PDF copy with references see below:

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