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31 August 2010

Laylat ul-Qadr

In each of the daily prayer we offer, we solemnly declare to Allah, “Iyyaka na’budu” (You alone do we worship). While the intelligent and committed believer realizes that his very lifestyle spells worship, he knows, remembering the words of our Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam that “Du’aa’ (supplication) is worship” [Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud]

Allah, the Most Merciful, has encouraged the believers to take advantage of certain times during the year to make du’aa’. Such an occasion presents itself annually during Ramadan — especially on the Laylat ul-Qadr, the Night of Power. On this night, the single most important event in human history unfolded as, after the Glorious Quran was preserved in the Protected Tablet, Jibril descended with the blessed book to reveal it, upon Allah’s command, to His Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Accentuating its significance, Allah says "and how would you know (the value of the) Night of Qadr" [Surah Al Qadr 97:2]

"Allah's Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to exert more (in worship) on the last ten than on other nights." [Muslim]

So valuable is this Night of Qadr that the Quran devotes a special Surah to it; “Laylat ul-Qadr is better than a thousand months” [Surah Al Qadr 97:3] This one night surpasses the value of 30,000 nights. The most authentic account of the occurrence of the Night indicates that it can occur on any one of the last ten, odd numbered nights of Ramadan. The fact that the exact night is unknown reflects Allah’s will in keeping it hidden. Indeed, the Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam was prevented from telling us its precise time. One day, he came out to tell the companions the exact night. On the way he saw two men arguing with each other. By the will of Allah, he sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam forgot and subsequently remembered it. Afterwards the Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam was instructed not to divulge this information. “Had I been allowed,” he sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam remarked once, “I would have told you (of its exact time).” [Ahmad] The Almighty in His wisdom kept this hidden from us for many reasons (wa Allahu 'Alam). Perhaps He wants us to strive hard in our worship during the last ten days of Ramadan so that we don’t become lazy, worshipping hard on just that one night and denying ourselves the benefit of doing the same on the other nights. “Had people not left their salah except for that (one) night, I would have informed you (of its exact date).” [Al-Tabarani]

The sincere believer who worries day and night about his sins and phases of neglect in his life patiently awaits the onset of Ramadan. During it he hopes to be forgiven by Allah for past sins, knowing that the Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam promised that all who bear down during the last ten days shall have all their sins forgiven. To achieve this, he remembers the Prophet’s sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam advice in different sayings wherein he used words like “seek”, “pursue”, “search”, and “look hard” for Laylat ul-Qadr. Moreover, Allah and His Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam provided us some signs of its occurrence.
Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala describes the night as “..peace until the rise of the morn.” [Surah Al Qadr 97:5] In various sayings, the Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam described the night as serene, tranquil, and peaceful. The sun at sunrise would appear reddish and without its normal blazing and sharp rays. Ubayy radiAllahu 'anhu said : "On the morning of the night of Qadr the sun would rise without any beams; (it is like) a wash basin until it raises." [Muslim]

Abu Hurairah radiAllahu 'anhu said : "We mentioned the night of Qadr to the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and he said: "Which of you remembers when the moon rises and it is like half a bowl." [Muslim]

Ibn Abbaas radiAllahu 'anhu said that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said : "The night of Qadr is a night of generosity and happiness, it is not hot and neither is it cold. The sun comes up in its morning weak, reddish." [Tabaranee, Ibn Khuzaimah and Bazzaar]

The Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam added that “the angel of earth on that night of Qadr will be more numerous than all the pebbles of the earth.”

What should one do during the last ten days in pursuit of Laylat ul-Qadr?

The devoted servant of Allah makes these nights alive with prayer, reading and reflecting on Quran. The long qiyaam prayer has been particularly recommended during the nights on which Laylat ul-Qadr could fall. This is indicated in many hadeeths, such as the following:

Abu Tharr (radhiAllahu `anhu) relates: "We fasted with Allah's Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam in Ramadan. He did not lead us (in qiyaam) at all until there were seven (nights of Ramadan) left. Then he stood with us (that night - in prayer) until one third of the night had passed. He did not pray with us on the sixth. On the fifth night, he prayed with us until half of the night had passed. So we said, 'Allah's Messenger! Wouldn't you pray with us the whole night?' He replied:

'Whoever stands in prayer with the imaam until he (the imaam) concludes the prayer, it is recorded for him that he prayed the whole night.'..." [Recorded by Ibn Abi Shaybah, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmithi (who authenticated it), an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, at-Tahawi (in Sharhu Ma`an il-Athar, Ibn Nasr, al-Faryabi, and al-Bayhaqi. Their isnad is authentic.]

Abu Dawud mentioned: "I heard Ahmad being asked, 'Do you like for a man to pray with the people or by himself during Ramadan?' He replied, 'Pray with the people' I also heard him say, 'I would prefer for one to pray (qiyaam) with the imaam and to pray witr with him as well, for the Prophet (sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam) said: "When a man prays with the imaam until he concludes, it is recorded that he prayed the rest of that night." [Masaa'il]]

Abu Hurayrah (radhiAllahu `anhu) narrated that the Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "Whoever stands (in qiyaam) in Laylat ul-Qadr [and it is facilitated for him] out of faith and expectation (of Allah's reward), will have all of his previous sins forgiven." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim; the addition "and it is facilitated for him" is recorded by Ahmad from the report of `Ubaadah Bin as-Samit; it means that he is permitted to be among the sincere worshippers during that blessed night.]

He makes du’aa’ to Allah, penitently beseeching Him for His forgiveness. He is inspired by the Prophet’s sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam words “Our Lord, most Exalted, Most high comes down to the lowest heaven during the last third of each night and announces (reassuringly): Whoever makes du’aa’, I shall answer it. Whoever asks (for something halal) I shall grant it; and whoever seeks forgiveness, I shall forgive him.” [Bukhari] The believer, conscious of Allah and their sins, will continue to beseech Allah, in and out of prayer, during his prostration.

`A'ishah (radhiAllahu `anha) reported that she asked Allah's Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam, "O Messenger of Allah! If I knew which night is Laylat ul-Qadr, what should I say during it?" And he instructed her to say:

"Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuh, ibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee - O Allah! You are forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me." [Recorded by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmithi]
`A'ishah radiAllahu 'anhu said: "When the (last) ten started, the Prophet sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam would tighten his izaar (i.e. he stayed away from his wives in order to have more time for worship), spend the whole night awake (in prayer), and wake up his family." [Bukhari and Muslim]
For a time, the only concern will be cleansing oneself of the forgetfulness that this life propagates in one’s heart, the sins that accumulate, darkening the heart, making it insensitive to disobeying Allah. He begs Allah to keep him away from misfortunes in this world, the punishment of the grave, and the torment of Hell. He asks Allah to make him patient and steadfast in struggling to maintain his Islam in this world and asks Him to overlook his shortcomings, periods of laziness and neglect. Sincere devotion on that night will render the believer forgetful of the time, until he is surprised by the Adhan of Fajr. After Fajr, as the sun creeps above the horizon, reddish and weak in its appearance, without any rays, the effort at night will have been worthwhile. The believer rejoices, knowing that this was quite possibly Laylat ul-Qadr and “Whoever stays up (in prayer and remembrance of Allah) on the Night of Qadr fully believing (in Allah’s promise of reward for that night) and hoping to seek reward (from Allah alone and not from people), he shall be forgiven for his past sins.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

It is narrated from `A'ishah radiAllahu 'anhu that she said: "I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the Night of Qadr what should I say?." He said: "Say: O Allah you are pardoning and you love to pardon so pardon me. " [Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhee]

It is also the Night when all ordainments for the year are decreed. Allah ta'ala said, which means:
"By the manifest Book (the Quran) that makes thing clear. We sent it (this Quran) down on a Blessed Night (i.e. the Night of Qadr) in the month of Ramadan. Verily We are ever warning [mankind that Our Torments will reach those who disbelieve in Our Oneness of Lordship and in Our Oneness of Worship]. Therein (that night) is decreed every matter (amran) of ordainment." [Surah Al Dukhan 44:2-4]

The virtue of the last ten days of Ramadan and Laylat al-Qadr

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and blessings be upon the Trustworthy Prophet Muhammad and upon all his family and companions.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to strive hard (in worship) during the last ten days of Ramadan in a way that he did not strive at any other times. (Muslim, 1175, from `A'ishah)
Among the things he did were secluding himself in I’tikaaf and seeking Laylat al-Qadr during this time. (Al-Bukhari, 1913; Muslim, 1169). In al-Saheehayn it is reported from the hadeeth of `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that when the last ten days of Ramadan came, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would stay up at night, wake his family and gird his loins. (al-Bukhari, 1920; Muslim, 1174). Muslim added: "he strove hard and girded his loins."

Her phrase “girded his loins” is a metaphor for his preparing himself to worship and strive hard in worship, more than usual. It has the meaning of “rolling up one's sleeves” to worship (i.e. getting ready to make a great deal of effort).

It was also said that it was a metaphor for keeping away from women and abstaining from sexual relations.
The phrase “stay up at night” means that he would stay awake, spending the night in prayer, etc. It was reported in another hadeeth that `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “I never saw the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recite the entire Quran in one night, or spend a whole night in prayer until the morning, or fast an entire month, except in Ramadan.” (Sunan al-Nasaa’i, 1641)
The words “stay up at night” may mean that he spent most of the night in worship, or that he did not stay up for the entire night, but he did that at the times of ‘Ishaa and Suhoor, and other times, in which case it would mean that he stayed up for most of the night.

The phrase “and wake his family” means that he would wake his wives to pray qiyaam. It is known that he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to wake his wives all year round, but he used to wake them to spend part of the night in qiyaam. In Saheeh al-Bukhari it is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) woke up one night and said, “Subhaan Allah! What tribulations have come down tonight! What treasure has come down tonight! Who will wake up the dwellers of the apartments? There may be women who are clothed in this world and naked in the Hereafter.” (al-Bukhari, 1074)

It was also reported (in Saheeh al-Bukhari) that he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to wake `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) when he wanted to pray Witr. (al-Bukhari, 952). But when he woke his wives during the last ten nights of Ramadan, this was more persistent than at other times of the year.
The fact that he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did this indicates the importance he attached to worshipping his Lord and making the most of this special time.

The Muslim should follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), for he is the best example, and he should strive hard in worshipping Allah. He should not waste the hours of these days and nights. For we do not know, perhaps this time will never come again, for the spoiler of pleasures, i.e., death, which must come to all men, may come and snatch him and his life will end; then he will feel regret at the time when regret will be of no avail.

Among the unique virtues of these special nights is that Laylat al-Qadr is among them. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Haa-Meem. [These letters are one of the miracles of the Quran and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings.]
By the manifest Book (this Quran) that makes things clear.
We sent it (this Quran) down on a blessed night [(i.e. the Night of Al-Qadr) in the month of Ramadan]. Verily, We are ever warning [mankind that Our Torment will reach those who disbelieve in Our Oneness of Lordship and in Our Oneness of worship].
Therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments.
As a Command (or this Quran or the Decree of every matter) from Us. Verily, We are ever sending (the Messengers),
(As) a mercy from your Lord. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” [Surah Al Dukhan 44:1-6]
Allah sent down the Quran on this night which the Lord of the Worlds has described as blessed. It was reported from a group of the Salaf – including Ibn ‘Abbaas, Qutaadah, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, ‘Ikrimah, Mujaahid and others – that the night on which the Quran was sent down was Laylat al-Qadr.

The phrase Therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments means, on that night the destiny of all creatures for the coming year is decreed. On that night it is written who will live, who will die, who will be saved, who will be doomed, who will be destined for Paradise, who will be destined for Hell, who will be granted honour, who will be humiliated, where drought and famine will occur, and everything else that Allah wills in that year.

What is meant by the idea that the destiny of all creatures is written on Laylat al-Qadr is – and Allah knows best – that on Laylat al-Qadr they are transferred from al-Lawh al-Mahfooz. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “You may see a man furnishing his home or plowing his field, and he is one of those who are going to die,” i.e., it has been decreed on Laylat al-Qadr that he is one of those who are going to die (in the coming year). And it was said that on this night, the destiny of people is shown to the angels.

The meaning of “Qadr” is veneration or honour, i.e. it is a night that is venerated because of its special characteristics, and because the one who stays up during this night becomes a man of honour. And it was said that Qadr means constriction, in the sense that the knowledge of precisely when this night is, is hidden. Al-Khaleel ibn Ahmad said: "it was called Laylat al-Qadr because the earth is constricted by the great numbers of angels on that night, and Qadr means constriction."

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “But when He tries him, restricting his subsistence for him...” [Surah Al Fajr 89:16], i.e., by constricting or reducing his provision.

And it was said that Qadr means Qadar, i.e., that on this night the decrees for the coming year are ordained, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments” [Surah Al Dukhan 44:4], and because Allah’s decrees are decided and written down on this night.

So Allah has called it Laylat al-Qadr, because of its great value and high status with Allah, and because so many sins are forgiven and so many faults are concealed during this night. For it is the night of forgiveness, as it was reported in al-Saheehayn from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever stays up during Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and in the hope of earning reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [al-Bukhari, 1910; Muslim, 760]

Allah has given this night special characteristics which make it unique:

1. It is the night on which the Quran was sent down, as we have stated above. Ibn ‘Abbaas and others said: “Allah sent down the Quran at one time from al-Lawh al-Mahfooz to Bayt al-‘Izzah in the first heaven, then it was revealed to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in stages according to events over twenty-three years.” [Tafseer Ibn Kathir, 4/529]

Allah described it as being better than a thousand months, as He said (interpretation of the meaning): “The night of al-Qadr is better than a thousand months” [Surah Al Qadr 97:3]

Allah described it as being blessed, as He said (interpretation of the meaning): “We sent it (this Quran) down on a blessed night” [Surah Al Dukhan 44:3]

On this night, the angels and the Spirit [al-Rooh] descend, “i.e., many angels descend of this night because it is so blessed, and the angels come down when Allah’s blessing and mercy come down, just as they come down when Quran is recited, and they surround the circles of dhikr (gatherings where Allah is remembered), and they beat their wings for the one who sincerely seeks knowledge, out of respect for him.” (See Tafseer Ibn Kathir, 4/531)

The Spirit [al-Rooh] is Jibreel (peace be upon him), who is specifically mentioned in this manner as a sign of respect for him.

This night is described as peace, i.e., it is safe, for the Shaytaan cannot do any evil or cause any harm on this night, as Mujaahid said. (See Tafseer Ibn Kathir, 4/531). On this night, many people are saved from punishment because of what they do to worship Allah, may He be glorified.
“Therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments” [Surah Al Dukhan 44:4 – interpretation of the meaning] , i.e., the affairs of that year are dispatched from al-Lawh al-Mahfooz to the angels who record the decrees: who will live, who will die, what provision people will be given, what will happen until the end of that year, every matter of ordainments is decreed, and it cannot be altered or changed. (See Tafseer Ibn Kathir, 4/137, 138). All of this is already known to Allah before it is even written down, but He makes known to the angels what is to happen, and commands them to do whatever they are enjoined to do. (Sharh Saheeh Muslim li’l-Nawawi, 8/57).

Allah forgives the previous sins of the one who stays up and prays during this night out of faith and in hope of earning the reward from Him. It was reported in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of earning reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven, and whoever stays up during Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and in the hope of earning reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Agreed upon). The phrase “out of faith and in the hope of earning reward” means, believing in Allah’s promise of reward for this, and seeking the reward, with no other aim or purpose, such as showing off etc.” [Fath al-Baari, 4/251]

Allah has revealed a surah concerning this night which will be recited until the Day of Resurrection, in which He mentions the honour and great value of this night. This is the surah in which He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, We have sent it (this Quran) down in the Night of Al-Qadr (Decree).
And what will make you know what the Night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is?
The Night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months).
Therein descend the angels and the Rooh [Jibreel] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees,
(All that night), there is peace (and goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.” [Surah Al Qadr 97:1-5]
The phrase And what will make you know what the Night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is? serves to draw attention to the importance and great significance of this night.

The Night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months means, it is better than over eighty three years, as we have already mentioned. This is a great virtue, the value of which no one can fully understand except the Lord of the Worlds, may He be blessed and exalted. This encourages the Muslim to spend this night in prayer and to seek the Face of Allah by doing so. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to seek this night, hoping to gain some good from it, and he is the example for this Ummah.
It is mustahabb to seek it during Ramadan, especially in the last ten nights of the month. It was reported in Saheeh Muslim that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did I’tikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadan, then he did I’tikaaf during the middle ten days in a Turkish tent [the word qubbah, translated here as “tent”, refers to a tent or any circular structure] in which a mat was placed. He said: so he took the mat in his hand and put it at the side of the tent, then he raised his head to speak to the people, so they came closer to him. He said: “I did I’tikaaf during the first ten days, seeking this night, then I did I’tikaaf during the middle ten days. Then someone came to me and told me that it is in the last ten days, so whoever among you wants to do I’tikaaf, let him do so.” So the people did I’tikaaf with him. He said: “I was shown an odd-numbered night, in the morning of which I was prostrating in mud and water”. Then in the morning of the twenty-first, he got up to pray Subh and it was raining; the roof of the mosque leaked, and there was mud and water. He came out when he had finished praying, and there was mud and water on his forehead and nose. That was the morning of the twenty-first, one of the last ten days." [Saheeh Muslim, 1167]

In a report, Abu Sa’eed said: “It rained on the night of the twenty-first, and the roof of the mosque leaked over the place where the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was praying. I looked at him, when he had finished praying Salaat al-Subh, and his face was wet with mud and water.” [Agreed upon].

Muslim narrated a hadeeth from ‘Abd-Allah ibn Unays (may Allah be pleased with him) that was similar to the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed, except that he said, “it rained on the night of the twenty-third.” According to a hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with them both), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Seek it in the last ten days of Ramadan, when there are nine days left, and seven days left, and five days left.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 4/260).

Laylat al-Qadr is in the last ten days of Ramadan, as stated in the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed quoted above, and as stated in the hadeeth of `A'ishah, and in the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Seek Laylat al-Qadr in the last ten days of Ramadan.”
(The hadeeth of `A'ishah was narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4/259; the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar was narrated by Muslim, 2/823. This wording is that of the hadeeth of `A'ishah).

It is more likely to be one of the odd-numbered nights, because of the hadeeth of `A'ishah who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Seek Laylat al-Qadr in the odd-numbered nights of the last ten nights.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 4/259)

We should seek it especially in the odd-numbered nights, i.e., on the twenty-first, the twenty-third, the twenty-fifth, the twenty-seventh and the twenty-ninth. It was reported in al-Saheehayn that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Seek it in the last ten nights, on the odd-numbered nights.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1912, see also, 1913. Also narrated by Muslim, 1167, see also 1165).
According to the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with them both), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Seek it in the last ten nights of Ramadan, when there are nine left, when there are seven left, when there are five left.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1917-1918). So it is more likely to be one of the odd-numbered nights.

In Saheeh al-Bukhari it was narrated that ‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit said: the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came out to tell us when Laylat al-Qadr was, and two of the Muslims were arguing. He said: “I came out to tell you when Laylat al-Qadr was, and So and so and So and so were arguing, so it [the knowledge of when Laylat al-Qadr was] was taken away from me. Perhaps this is better for you. So seek it on the ninth and the seventh and the fifth” (al-Bukhari, 1919), i.e., on the odd-numbered nights.
This hadeeth indicates how bad it is to argue and fight, especially with regard to matters of religion, and that this is a cause of goodness being taken away or concealed.

Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah said: “But odd-numbers have to do with what is past [i.e., when one starts counting from the beginning of the month], so it should be sought on the twenty-first, the twenty-third, the twenty-seventh or the twenty-ninth; or it may be with regard to what is left, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘when there are nine left, or seven left, or five left, or three left.’ On this basis, if the month has thirty days, these will be even-numbered nights, so on the twenty-second there will be nine days left, on the twenty-fourth there will be seven days left. This is how it was explained by Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri in the saheeh hadeeth, and this is how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prayed qiyaam during this month. If this is the case, then the believer should seek it in all of the last ten days.” (al-Fataawaa, 25/284, 285)

Laylat al-Qadr is more likely to be in the last seven days. Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a man among the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was shown Laytal al-Qadr in a dream, and that it was one of the last seven nights. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “It seems that your dreams agreed that it is one of the last seven nights, so whoever wants to seek it, let him seek it in the last seven nights.” (narrated by al-Bukhari, 1911; Muslim, 1165). Muslim reported: “Seek it in the last ten nights, and if any of you are weak or unable to do that, then let him not miss the last seven.”

It is most likely to be on the night of the twenty-seventh. It was reported, in a hadeeth narrated by Ahmad from Ibn ‘Umar, and a hadeeth narrated by Abu Dawood from Mu’aawiyah, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Laylat al-Qadr is the night of the twenty-seventh.” (Musnad Ahmad and Sunan Abu Dawood, 1386). The view that it is the night of the twenty-seventh is the opinion of most of the Sahaabah and the majority of scholars, and Ubayy ibn Ka’b (may Allah be pleased with him) used to assert, without saying “inshaAllah”, that it was the night of the twenty-seventh. Zurr ibn Hubaysh said: "I said: What makes you say that, O Abu’l-Mundhir? He said: by the signs of which the Messengers of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us: that the sun rises that morning with no visible rays." (Narrated by Muslim,2/268)

Many marfoo’ ahaadeeth were narrated which said that it was on this particular night.
bn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with them both) also stated that it is the night of the twenty-seventh. He reached this conclusion by means of an amazing process. It was reported that ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) gathered the Sahaabah together and included Ibn ‘Abbaas even though he was very young. They said, “Ibn ‘Abbaas is like one of our children. Why have you brought him here with us?” ‘Umar said: “He is a youth who has a good mind and who asks lots of questions.” Then he asked the Sahaabah about Laylat al-Qadr, and they agreed that it was one of the last ten nights of Ramadan. He asked Ibn ‘Abbaas about it, and he said: “I think I know when it is: it is the night of the twenty-seventh.” ‘Umar said, “What makes you think that?” He said, “Allah made the heavens seven, and the earths seven, and the days seven, and He created man from seven, and He made Tawaaf seven (circuits), and al-Saa’ee seven, and the stoning of the Jamaar seven.” So Ibn’ Abbaas thought that it was the night of the twenty-seventh because of this analysis. This has been soundly reported from Ibn ‘Abbaas.

Another of the ways in which the conclusion was reached that it is the night of the twenty-seventh is by noting that the word fihaa (therein) in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “Therein descend the angels and the Rooh [Jibreel]” [Surah Al Qadr 97:4] is the twenty-seventh word of Surah al-Qadr [in the original Arabic]
There is no shar’i evidence (daleel) to support this manner of analysis, and there is no need for such calculations, because we have sufficient shar’i evidence available to us.

The fact that it is usually the night of the twenty-seventh – and Allah knows best – does not mean that this is always the case. It could be the night of the twenty-first, as mentioned in the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed quoted above, or it could be the twenty-third, as mentioned in the report of ‘Abd-Allah ibn Unays (may Allah be pleased with him) quoted above. According to a hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with them both), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Seek it in the last ten days of Ramadan, when there are nine days left, and seven days left, and five days left.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 4/260)

Some of the scholars thought that it is more likely that Laylat al-Qadr moves and does not come on a specific night each year. Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “This is the apparent meaning because of the conflict between the saheeh ahaadeeth on this matter, and there is no way to reconcile the ahaadeeth apart from saying that Laylat al-Qadr moves.” (al-Majmoo’, 6/450).

Allah has concealed this night so that His slaves will strive to seek it, and will strive hard in worship, just as He has concealed the hour of jumu’ah, and so on.

So the believer should strive hard during the days and nights of these ten days, seeking Laylat al-Qadr and following the example of our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and he should strive in making du’aa’ and seeking to draw close to Allah.

It was reported that `A'ishah said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what do you think, if I witness Laylat al-Qadr, what should I say?’ He said: ‘Say, O Allah, You are Forgiving and Generous, and you love forgiveness, so forgive me.’” (Narrated by Imaam Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi (3515) and Ibn Maajah (3850). Its isnaad is saheeh).

A greater virtue is attached to I’tikaaf on this night than on any other night of the year. I’tikaaf means staying in the mosque to worship Allah, may He be exalted. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to spend these ten days in I’tikaaf, as stated in the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed quoted above. He spent the first ten days in I’tikaaf, then the middle ten days, then he told them that he had been seeking Laylat al-Qadr, and that he had been shown that it was in the last ten days, and he said: “Whoever was doing I’tikaaf with me, let him do I’tikaaf for the last ten days.” It was reported from `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to do I’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadan until he passed away, then his wives did I’tikaaf after him. (Agreed upon). There is also a similar report narrated from Ibn ‘Umar.

When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wanted to do I’tikaaf, he would pray Fajr, then enter the place where he was to do I’tikaaf, as was stated in al-Saheehayn from the hadeeth of `A'ishah.
The four imaams and others (may Allah have mercy on them) said that he entered it before the sun set, and they interpreted the hadeeth as meaning that he entered his place of I’tikaaf and kept away from people after Salaat al-Subh, not that this was the time when he started his I’tikaaf. (See Sharh Muslim li’l-Nawawi, 8/68, 69; Fath al-Baari, 4/277).

It is Sunnah for the person in I’tikaaf to keep himself busy with worship, and it is forbidden for him to have intercourse or to do anything that leads to it, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I‘tikaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:187]
And he should not go out of the mosque except in the case of a pressing need.

The signs by which Laylat al-Qadr is known

The first sign: it was reported in Saheeh Muslim from the hadeeth of Ubayy ibn Ka’b (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) announced that one of its signs was that when the sun rose on the following morning, it had no (visible) rays. (Muslim, 762)
The second sign: it was reported from the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas narrated by Ibn Khuzaimah, and by al-Tayaalisi in his Musnad, with a saheeh isnaad, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Laylat al-Qadr is a pleasant night, neither hot nor cold, and the following day the sun rises red and weak.” (Saheeh Ibn Khuzaymah, 2912; Musnad al-Tayaalisi)

The third sign: it was reported by al-Tabaraani with a hasan isnaad from the hadeeth of Waathilah ibn al-Asqa’ (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Laylat al-Qadr is a bright night, neither hot nor cold, in which no meteors are seen.” (Narrated by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer. See Majma’ al-Zawaa’id, 3/179; Musnad Ahmad)

These three saheeh ahaadeeth explain the signs which indicate Laylat al-Qadr.

It is not essential for the one who “catches” Laylat al-Qadr to know that he has “caught” it. The point is to strive hard and to be sincere in worship, whether or not one knows that one has “caught” it. It may be that some of those who do not know that may be better with Allah and higher in status than those who did know which night it was, because the former strove hard. We ask Allah to accept our fasting our prayer at night, and to help us to remember Him and to thank Him and to worship Him properly. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad.

Read: The Excellence of the Night of Qadr

23 August 2010

Increasing Our Knowledge in Ramadan

Among the greatest blessings of Ramadan is that it introduces a routine that has direct spiritual, physical, and, yes, intellectual benefits. Think about it. When do you think more clearly? When your stomach is full or when your stomach is somewhat full? I do not say the stomach is “empty” because let's face it, although in Ramadan during the daytime there is no intake of food and drink, you have to admit that we Muslims do our fair share of eating and drinking at sahur and at iftar. You know well that when you have eaten just enough, you feel energized and your mind is alert. When you have overeaten, you feel lethargic, about to fall over, making du'a to Allah that the imam leading Taraweeh Prayers does not prolong the ruku' or the sujud. When you have overeaten, the blood rushes to your stomach and there is little or no intellectual activity you are willing to undertake.

So if you can focus on eating just right during the sahur and the iftar, then, insha'Allah, you will find that Ramadan is the ideal time to focus on learning something every day. We learn from Ibn 'Abbas, whose youth was literally spent in the company of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that, “Allah's Messenger was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Quran. Allah's Messenger was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind (in readiness and haste to do charitable deeds)” (Al-Bukhari, Book 1, Hadith 5).

What an amazing model we have in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Reviewing this hadith brings to light the tremendous love for learning that Islam instills in us. The whole religion is about learning, about striving to improve oneself, about being more, about doing more, and about keeping in focus that we do all this to seek the pleasure of Allah through our daily existence. While the days of every other month blend into one another and are somewhat indistinguishable from one and another, each day of Ramadan is special and deserves to be celebrated! We owe it to ourselves to spend each day of Ramadan increasing our knowledge and practicing what we learn.

The month of Ramadan is divided into three parts, corresponding to approximately 10 days per part. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that Ramadan is a month whose “beginning is mercy, its middle is forgiveness, and its ending is liberation from the Hellfire.” (Ibn Khuzaymah Vol. 3, Hadith 191).

We may further approach the month on at least three levels: individual, family, and community. And so it is that in this particular essay, we will focus on learning something in each of the three 10-day periods and at each of the corresponding levels of individual, family, and community.

Individual Level

Fasting is by far the most intimate of the acts of worship because Allah Most High tells us clearly that the fasting is for Him. We learn from Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that Allah's Messenger said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.' Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relations with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.' By Him in Whose hands my soul is, the unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord' then he will be pleased because of his fasting” (Al-Bukhari, Book 31, Hadith 128).

Precisely because fasting is a shield for us, it becomes imperative that we perfect our self-control. Each day, try to focus on one aspect of yourself. Is reading the Quran not part of your daily routine? Start this Ramadan to read the Quran daily. A little bit at a time. Read a page only per day at the least, but much more if possible. If praying on time is an issue for you, use Ramadan to understand what about your daily life keeps you from praying on time.

Is your problem internal? Do you lie? Backbite? Gossip? This is the best month to work on such issues because without ridding ourselves of negative habits, we risk not having our fasts accepted by Allah. We learn from Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever does not give up lying speech, false statements and acting on those (lies), and evil actions, then Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink” (Al-Bukhari, Book 3, Hadith 127). What more important lesson could we learn in Ramadan than that if we do not engage in a plan to assess ourselves thoroughly and then do go about making changes in our lives to please Allah, then Allah will not accept our fasting!

Family Level

Everyone has a favorite Ramadan-related memory when it comes to the family level. What is yours? Is it being woken up early in the morning by your mother or father so that you could eat sahur? Is it waiting at the dinner table with a date in one hand and a glass of milk in the other, praying for the minute when you can make iftar? Is it going to Taraweeh Prayers? Is it staying up all night on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th night of Ramadan in case that was Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power)? Is it the foods associated with Ramadan that your family makes? What is it? Whatever the memory, remember to be grateful this Ramadan that you have a family with whom you can share such memories.

Even as this essay is being typed out, there are news flashes from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan noting that thousands of people have died as a result of a recent earthquake. The tsunami, the hurricane, the earthquake, the unending wars are all tests from Allah. Sometimes a mother dies. Sometimes a father dies. Sometimes, as in the case of an entire school that collapsed because of the earthquake, hundreds of children die. Within the blink of an eye, we are tested by Allah with the loss of family members, relatives, and friends. Isn't it time we use Ramadan to be grateful to Allah for our families?

Learn to put aside petty differences between you and your brothers and sisters during this month so that you all can get along. If you made a mistake, go and apologize to your brother or sister or mother or father. If you were wronged, even then be the first to apologize for any part you had in the incident. Go one step further this Ramadan and learn to serve your parents better by doing things that they always ask you do—but now do them before they ask you! Surprise them with increased acts of obedience, of sharing, of caring and of love! Volunteer to make the iftar preparations. Clean up the house in preparation for 'Eid. Call or write people close to you with whom you have not had communication throughout the year. Learn to renew ties, to strengthen ties, and if possible, build new ties! Ramadan is a month in which we should come closer together as families and friends, insha'Allah.

Community Level

What is life like in your community during Ramadan? It cannot possibly be business as usual. The whole community seems to be transformed during Ramadan as people see each other consistently for almost 29 or 30 days. Whether the event is the iftar or the Taraweeh Prayers, people find themselves coming to the masjid daily and with each event, the collective bond is strengthened. This Ramadan, learn something new about your community members. Meet new members with whom you have not had contact before. Greet them, introduce yourself, and get to know one another. Many people emerge from Ramadan having made new friends, having strengthened existing friendships, and most of all, having repaired friendships broken because of fights and misunderstandings.

In addition, one can focus on learning more about charity. We recall from the hadith mentioned above, narrated by Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) “was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him.” Go to your masjid and learn about the social service program, about the zakah program, about how the masjid plans to distribute the zakat al-fitr. Do you need to read more and learn about zakat al-fitr? This would be as good a time as any to find out all the beautiful acts of charity possible in Ramadan and indeed throughout the year. Even community service events are acts of charity. Why not gather your friends together and talk to the masjid administration about cleaning the masjid on the weekend?

Final Thoughts

This Ramadan, let us strive to learn. There is so much to be learned and practiced, but if we never start, we will continue with each year of our life to fall farther and farther behind, lamenting how much more we have to learn! Let us not let this Ramadan slip away from us. Let us use this Ramadan as a starting point to take account of our lives at the individual, family, and community levels. The month, as we know, is full of mercy, forgiveness, and an opportunity for us to be liberated from the Hellfire. Learning that alone should make us want to do everything in our power to draw closer to Allah through our fasting, our praying, our reading of the Quran, and our giving of charity! Only Allah knows if we are to live to experience another Ramadan. Let's make the most of this Ramadan!

21 August 2010

Brotherhood in Islam

by Shaykh ‘Abdur-Rahman Al-‘Ajlaan [Teacher in Al Masjid al-Haraam]
Al-hamdulillaah wa As-Salatu wa As-Salamu Ala Rasulillah- we ask Allah to make us from amongst those who cooperate upon albirr (righteousness) and at-taqwa.

I advise you as well as myself to have taqwa as Allah has advised the first and last of creation to have taqwa of Him. He said:
"... And verily, We have recommended to the people of the Scripture before you, and to you (O Muslims) that you (all) fear Allah." [Surah Al Nisa’ 4:131]
Taqwa of Allah means that you act upon, or you obey Him with a light from Him and hoping for His reward. It also means that you stay away from disobeying Allah upon a light from Him, and fearing His punishment. I advise you to take care of the brotherhood between you. It is the brotherhood of emaan, the brotherhood of faith. I advise you to work on it and to strengthen it, for indeed it is the strongest of ties between people. The brotherhood of faith is the strongest of ties between brothers and the strongest of ties between nations, Allah said:
"The believers are indeed brothers (in Islamic religion)..." [Surah Al Hujurat 49:10]
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) encouraged everything that led to brotherhood and he prohibited everything that distorted or contradicted brotherhood and opposed it. Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

"“Do not envy one another and do not hate one another and do not argue with one another and do not detest one another and do not buy over what your brother is buying and be slaves of Allah, brothers having taqwa. The Muslim is the brother of the Muslim, he does not oppress him and he does not deny him and he does not betray him. It is enough of evil for a Muslim to betray his fellow Muslim. Taqwa is here;”
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) pointed to his heart three times saying: “Taqwa is here.”
All things to a Muslim are to another Muslim impermissible: his blood, his wealth and his ‘irdh – his honor (meaning do not speak about him)." [Muslim]

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) affirmed this and he strengthened the ties between the believers. Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

“Whoever relieves a believer of one of the calamities in the dunyaa, Allah will relieve him of a calamity in the dunya (this world), as well as in the next life. And whoever from amongst the Muslims makes an affair easy for a Muslim who is in hardship, then Allah will make that Muslim’s affairs in the dunya easy, as well as his affair easy in the afterlife. And whoever conceals the sins of a believer, then Allah will conceal his sins in the life of this world as well as the next. And Allah will continue aiding his servant as long as his servant continues aiding another servant.” [Muslim]
This tie, the tie of emaan (faith), is the tie that joins between us, even though the distance between us is great, the languages we speak are different, and our nationalities vary. I pray to Allah that we live by emaan and we die upon emaan and that we are joined together under the banner of the Messenger (PBUH) in the afterlife and that we enter Jannah upon emaan.

Preparation of the Winners in Ramadan

The following is a reminder of some matters that help one to be among the winners in Ramadan by using its days and nights properly.  “Remind, for indeed reminding benefits the believers.” (Surah Al Dhariyat 51:55)

1. Mujaahadah: struggling against the nafs.
“As for those who strive hard in Our Cause, We will surely guide them to Our Paths.” (Surah Al 'Ankabut 29:69)
Do you want guidance? Do you want steadfastness? Struggle against your soul, for if we bring ourselves closer to Allah, Allah will come closer to us.

2. Having high aspiration and determination
Ibnul Jawzi said, "The sign of completion of the mind is high aspiration, for he who is satisfied with low aspiration is disgraceful, and I didn't see a severer shortcoming than that of people who are capable of completion yet don't aspire for it."

3. Knowing the virtues of the month and its distinguishing characteristics
He who knows something develops interest in it and preserves it. Even if there was nothing in Ramadan but Laylat ul-Qadr (the Night of Power), which is better than one thousand months, that would suffice.

4. Recognizing Ramadan's few days and its speed of departure
“A fixed number of days...” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:184) [From the verse, “(Observing fast is) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days”].
Yesterday we were congratulating each other for the beginning of Ramadan and today we give each other condolences for its departure. This is how both days and life are, passing quickly. So hurry up to benefit in Ramadan.

5. Competition of the righteous people in doing good deeds
The righteous people compete for good deeds, while the others are captives of their lusts and slaves to their desires.
“Then We gave the Book (the Quran) for inheritance to such of Our slaves whom We chose. Then of them are some who wrong their ownselves, and of them are some who follow a middle course, and of them are some who are, by Allah's Leave, foremost in good deeds. That is indeed a great grace.” (Surah Faqtir 35:32)
6. Remembering death and bewaring its suddenness
You might not reach another Ramadan, so watch for yourself!


Science in Quran

The unique style of the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam) which was revealed 14 centuries ago, and the superior wisdom it represents are definite proof that it is the word of Allah. Additionally, the Qur’an has many miraculous aspects which prove that it is sent by Allah. One of them is that some scientific facts, which we have only been able to discover by the technology of the 20th century, were stated in the Qur’an 1400 years ago. These facts which could not have been known at the time of the Qur’an’s revelation once again show to the man of today that the Qur’an is the word of Allah.

20 August 2010

Before the Boat Drowns

Ashaab As-Sabt - the people of Saturday. They were a townsfolk from Bani Israel who were tested with the Sabbath, the day when they were to leave their worldly affairs and be devout to Allah. All week long they would go fishing with scant return. But on Saturdays, when they were required to put aside their activities, the fish would come in abundance. A test from Allah!
"Ask them (O Muhammad) concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday). For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression." (Surah Al A'raf 7:163)
A group of the townsfolk transgressed, not satisfied with Allah’s commandments devising a scheme to by-pass the commandment. They would put out their fishing nets on Friday, and then on Sunday they would come and pick the nets up. Now all the Saturday fish would be caught.

The townsfolk divided into 2 groups when they saw the grave evil and sin that was befalling. The first group tried to advise the transgressors and warn them of the horrific consequences of their action – commanding the good and forbidding the evil.

Thinking they had no responsibility for what was taking place, the other group just went about minding their own business, holding that Allah would eventually destroy the sinners.

And when a community among them said, "Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment?"

Listen carefully to the reply of the first group.
"When some of them said: "Why do ye preach to a people whom Allah will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment?"- said the preachers: "To discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him."" (Surah Al A'raf 7:164)
So the first group spoke out against the disobedience that was taking place for two reasons: One, so that they would be pardoned before Allah because they tried to hold back the transgressors. And two, so that perhaps the transgressors may hear the reminder and turn back to Allah. It was only this group that survived.
"When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected."" (Surah Al A'raf 7:165-166)
In one sweeping night, the punishment rained down and they were transfigured into pigs and monkeys.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is the nature of a human being to feel the need to do good or feel the drive to indulge in evil. Even if we were to be alone, deserted and secluded, we would still feel a drive to do good or indulge in evil.

But as for our ummah, it should of our characteristic to only do good. And we should not only do good ourselves, but we must encourage others to do good; we must be the driving force. And we should not only distance ourselves from vice, but we must forbid others from doing it also, we must be the obstacle.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we all had Muslim identification badges, and the badge was valid, the description that would go on the badge would read: This man/woman commands the good and forbids evil, for this is how Allah described us.
"Ye (true believers in Islam) are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah..." (Surah Ali 'Imran 3:110)
Good and evil. When it comes to encouraging one or the other, there are two groups of people. The first are those who encourage others to do good and advise them to stop the evil they may be committing. These are the mu’minoon and mu’minaat, the believing men and women, the ones that shall be favored by Allah’s Mercy:
"The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just (al-ma'ruf), and forbid what is evil (al-munkar): they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise." (Surah Al Tawbah 9:71)
The second group of people are those who encourage others towards evil and stop them whenever they see them doing acts of virtue. These are the munaafiqoon and munaafiqaat, the hypocrite men and women who Allah shall shun.
"The Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other : They enjoin evil (al-munkar), and forbid what is just (al-ma'ruf), and are close with their hands. They have forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse." (Surah Al Tawbah 9:67)
The Quran tells us that the winners, those that attain success, are those Muslim men and women who command the good and forbid the evil. And Allah teaches us that He cursed nations before us because they lost this characteristic of encouraging good and forbidding evil:
"Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses. Nor did they (usually) forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did." (Surah Al Ma'idah 5:78-79)
When a nation fails in their duty to command the good and forbid the evil, their invocations will cease to be accepted. Rasul Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:

“(I swear) by He who holds my soul in His Hands, you shall indeed command the good, and you shall indeed forbid the evil, otherwise Allah shall rain down upon you a punishment. Then you shall attempt to invoke Him and your (invocations) shall be unanswered” (An authentic hadith narrated by Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi)

Our Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, lived his entire life commanding the good and forbidding evil. Abdullah ibn Salam narrates the scene of when he, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, first arrived in Madinah and the very first words he said to the Ansar and Muhaajireen as they gathered to see his noble face sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam:

“When Rasul Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam came to Madinah, the people raced to greet him. I went in the crowd to see him and when I saw his face I knew that that face was not the face of a liar. The first thing he said when he spoke was, ‘O people, spread salam, feed the hungry, and pray at night when others are sleeping - you’ll enter Jannah in peace’” (An authentic hadith narrated by Ibn Majah)

Our Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam would command the good and forbid the evil in all categories of the community. We see him with the young Muslims advising them, as in the following hadith where 'Umar bin Abu Salama said,

"I was a boy under the care of Allah's Apostle and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So Allah's Apostle said to me, 'O boy! Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you." Since then I have applied those instructions when eating.'" (Sahih Muslim, Book #65, Hadith #288)

And our Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam would encourage good amongst the Muslim women.

As Zainab, the wife of 'Abdullah (b. Mas'ud) reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: "0 women, give sadaqa even though it be some of your jewellery." (Sahih Bukhari, Book #005, Hadith #2188)

Even if it came to his own wives, our Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam would forbid.

Aisha radi Allahu anha herself narrates that she once said to him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, “Watch out for Safiyyah!” Meaning that she was short.
So Allah’s Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “You said a word that if it were to be mixed with (all) the water of the sea it would overcome (the water)”
Aisha said that after that that she would never have loved to mention someone (in a manner that they would dislike) no matter what anyone would give her.  (Narrated by Abu Dawood)

This is what the deen is all about – encouraging the good and forbidding the evil. This is what the early Muslims pledged allegiance to.

'Ubada bin as-samit radi Allahu anhu narrated: "Allah's Apostle said to us while we were in a gathering, "Give me the oath (Pledge of allegiance for): (1) Not to join anything in worship along with Allah, (2) Not to steal, (3) Not to commit illegal sexual intercourse, (4) Not to kill your children, (5) Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such an accusation among people), (6) Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deeds." The Prophet added: "Whoever amongst you fulfill his pledge, his reward will be with Allah, and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal punishment in this world for that sin, then that punishment will be an expiation for that sin, and whoever commits any of those sins and Allah does not expose him, then it is up to Allah if He wishes He will punish him or if He wishes, He will forgive him." So we gave the Pledge for that." (Sahih Bukhari, Book #89, Hadith #320)

The scholar Kirz Al-Haarithee rahimahullaah used to go out unto the doers of evil and warn them of the sin they were doing. They would rain down upon him with their fists until he would fall unconscious in a pool of blood, but he would never pass them without advising them. (From Siyar Al ‘Alaam by Imam Adh-Dhahabee).

I remember once when I was teaching in Islamic school a young boy came up and told me what he was going to get for his birthday. I was kind of surprised since birthdays are not something we find in our complete way of life in Islam and they are something we should not participate in. The classmates knew the ruling on birthdays so they started chanting loudly, “No more birthdays! No more birthdays!”

I was very pleased at the class reaction and it brought back memories of myself growing up in a non-Muslim school. In that non-Muslim school there was no one to forbid the evil. Rather, it was the evil that everyone, including the teacher, was encouraging. If you didn’t have a birthday you were the dork in the class, and if you didn’t get invited to this classmate’s party or that one, you weren’t one of the ‘cool’ kids.

May Allah ta’ala show His mercy to those parents who are saving their young Muslim children from such an environment.

Allah’s Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam gave us a parable that we should never forget in this issue of commanding the good and forbidding the evil. As An-Nu'man bin Bashir radi Allahu anhu narrates, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said:

"The example of the person abiding by Allah's order and restrictions in comparison to those who violate them is like the example of those persons who drew lots for their seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part, and the others in the lower. When the latter needed water, they had to go up to bring water (and that troubled the others), so they said, 'Let us make a hole in our share of the ship (and get water) saving those who are above us from troubling them.' So, if the people in the upper part left the others do what they had suggested, all the people of the ship would be destroyed, but if they prevented them, both parties would be safe." (Sahih Bukhari, Book #44, Hadith #673)

When someone encourages good and forbids evil he should have certain characteristics:

1. Knowledge
2. Patience, as Luqman taught his son.
3. Hikmah – having widom
4. Kindness to those whom they are advising.
5. They should be just, not forgetting the good that; that person still has.
The point of commanding good and forbidding evil is not to release some anger in our hearts or to revenge an insult to us. In the end we want the person to receive guidance, something which may require us to swallow our personal pride sometimes. Other times – when the situation calls for it – we may have to hurt someone’s feelings if that is the only way they can be guided. But it is only the person of ‘ilm (knowledge) and hikmah (wisdom) who can properly measure the situation.

Hurting the feelings of the lay Muslim is not a first resort, nor is public humiliation of someone who came to the masjid for the first time. These are methods of those who have not schooled themselves well in the characteristics of those who call to Allah.

About those who encourage good and forbid evil. Allah says:
"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity." (Surah Ali 'Imran 3:104)
Let’s begin practicing the encouraging of good and the forbidding of evil today. Let’s begin with that Muslim in the mirror.

18 August 2010

The Best Remembrance

There are many benefits we can extract from the last few verses of Surah Al-Hashr. These are verses known for their sweetness and beauty, and their conciseness, and profound meanings.
Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala says:
"O ye who believe! have taqwa of Allah, and let every soul look to what (provision) He has sent forth for the morrow Yea, fear Allah: for Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do." (Surah Al Hashr 59:18)
This is an address from Allah to those who proclaim to be Muslim. Ibn Mas’oud said, “Whenever you hear the phrase, 'ya ayuhal ladhina amanu', pay attention because it is addressed to you.”

The taqwa of Allah is the most comprehensive and concise legacy that Allah has given us in the Quran. Taqwa literally means to build a barrier, or to protect. It is a barrier you build to save yourself from the punishment of Allah. It is not a wall built of bricks and stones, but it is built by doing what Allah has told you to do and by abstaining from what He has prohibited.

Everyone should have taqwa of Allah and examine what they have prepared for tomorrow. Everyone is prepared materialistically for tomorrow, but Allah is saying to prepare for the real tomorrow – the Akhirah and the Day of Judgement.

We have in this world a few years or decades left in life. Compare that to infinity. This makes it seem as if that will happen tomorrow, even if we might have thirty or forty years of life left. Who amongst us knows when death will happen? A time will come when literally it will be your last day and last night on the face of this earth, and there will be a literal tomorrow.

Allah is reminding us metaphorically and literally to be prepared for tomorrow. Allah is also reminding us in this verse that we do not have any bosses in Islam. In our work we have a boss who oversees us. Similarly, in school professors and teachers will examine us. In our religion though, we have no bosses. No one will check if you prayed today or not. No one will check if you have been a good Muslim today or not. You have to do it for yourself.

‘Umar ibn al Khattab used to say, “Take a count of yourself before you will be taken account of.”

See what you have prepared for tomorrow. Imagine a teacher coming into class on the first day of class and announcing the questions for the final exam. If you pass this exam you pass the class. Is it conceivable that any person of intelligence will fail that class? Is it possible? Of course not.

Then why is it that even though we know the five questions that will be asked on the Day of Judgment, the vast majority of mankind will fail them? We will be asked about:

1.  Our life, and what we did with it.
2.  Our wealth, and how we earned it,
3.  How we spent it,
4.  Our knowledge, and how much we acted upon it, and
5.  Our health, and what we did with it.

Even though we may have forgotten sins we have committed before, Allah has not forgotten about them. Even though we might forget some good we have done, Allah will bring it on the Day of Judgment and reward us for it. Allah is well aware of all that we do.
"And be ye not like those who forgot Allah; and He made them forget their own souls! Such are the rebellious transgressors!" (Surah Al Hashr 59:19)
To “forget” means to not show any concern. If something is important to you, you never forget it. This is more than simple rejection of Allah. There are many who proclaim to believe in Allah, who profess Iman, but do not worship Allah. They have forgotten Allah.

Allah causes those who forget Him to forget themselves. Those who reject Allah are the ones who are most conscious of themselves in terms of their material lives. They have not forgotten themselves. But this is not the meaning of forgetting here. When you forget about Allah, you forget about your purpose of life in the process. You forget why you are here, and what you are doing on the face of this earth. Why are you living when you do not have a God to worship?

That is why Allah describes the believers as having a light. Light tells you where you are, it tells you the obstacles, it tells you your purpose and how to get there.
Allah describes those who do not worship Him as wandering aimlessly in the dark. They do not have a goal. And even if they had one, they would not even know how to get there. So they wander around aimlessly following their desires. They have no purpose for life. They are worshipping themselves, because they have rejected a deity worthy of worship.
"Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to men, that they may reflect." (Surah Al Hashr 59:21)
Allah is reminding us of the effectiveness and the power of this book. If it was revealed to a structure, an icon of stability like a rock or mountain, it would shatter to dust.
Allah describes the believers,
"For, Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts,..." (Surah Al Anfal 8:2)
This means their Iman shoots up. If the mountain can shatter, surely our hearts can tremble. If the mountain can be crushed and destroyed, surely our eyes can shed a tear or two. Allah reminds us about the real power of the Quran and the fact that it is us who have become hard hearted towards it. And Allah then says, and this is the main point:
"He is Allah (la ilaaha illAllah)."
There is no deity, no being, no object worthy of our worship, our veneration, our love, our hope, our sajdah, our fear, our tawakkul, or our sabr, except for Allah. This is the meaning of la ilaaha illAllah.

How will you know who Allah is? Has any human being seen Allah? No human being has seen Allah, yet. The greatest blessing that a believer shall be given is to look at Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala.

The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam did not see Allah. He was asked by A’isha, “Did you see your Lord?”

He said, “Light. How could I see him?”

Light is the hijab of Allah. The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Were this hijab to be removed, then the bright light of His face would destroy all that it sees.” The creation could not bear to look at Allah, so Allah out of mercy to the creation has a hijab.

Have we spoken with Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala? We know Musa spoke with Allah directly, and we know that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam spoke with Allah directly in the journey of ‘Isra wa Miraj. But we have not spoken with Allah, so how do we know about Allah?

Immediately after Allah tells us not be to among those who have forgotten Him, He then mentions His names and attributes so that we will know Him. Our primary source of knowledge about our Creator is His names and attributes. Have you ever wondered why the Quran is full of Allah’s names and attributes? Allah’s names and attributes are much more than the prohibitions and commands in the Quran. They are much more than the descriptions of Jannah and Nar, and the stories of the prophets of old.

His names and attributes are the fundamental building block of our Iman. How can we love Allah when we do not know who He is? How can we fear Allah when we do not know His names and attributes? How can we put our trust in Allah when we do not know His descriptions?

Knowledge of Allah is attained through His names and attributes. That is why, right after the verse where Allah says, "Do not be amongst those who have forgotten Allah," He mentions some of His many names and attributes.
"Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;- Who knows (all things) both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;- the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him.
He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise." (Surah Al Hashr 59:22-24)


He is the one who knows the seen and the hidden. Allah knows everything – the past and the present. Allah says in the Quran:

Not a leaf falls except that He knows it. Not a seed sprouts out, even in the darkness of the soil, except that Allah knows it.

Allah knows the future. Allah describes what will happen on the Day of Judgment. He describes conversations between the people of Jannah and the people of Nar.

And Allah’s knowledge is not limited to this. He also knows that which will not happen. He knows if something were it to happen, how it would happen, and what would happen if it happened. For example, Allah can send the kuffar back to this world and give them another chance. But Allah says:
"... But if they were returned, they would certainly relapse to the things they were forbidden, for they are indeed liars." (Surah Al An'am Quran 6:28)
They would not be better people. So Allah’s knowledge is so perfect that he even knows what will not happen, and if it were to happen, how it would happen and what would happen.
This is the knowledge of Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala. This is how perfect He is. He is The Rahman and The Rahim, two very common names of Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala.

Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim

Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim come from the same root, rahima, which means to show mercy and be compassionate. By deriving two names from the same root, Allah is emphasizing His merciful nature.
Allah’s mercy encompasses everything.

Were it not for Allah’s mercy we would not be here.

What is the difference between Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim? Ar-Rahman characterizes Allah’s mercy as it relates to His divine essence. By nature Allah is always merciful, without exception. That is why no created object can call himself Rahman.

Ar-Rahim characterizes Allah’s mercy in relationship, not to His essence but to His actions. So His actions are merciful. Therefore, He can pick and choose to be extra merciful to certain people, to certain beings, and He has done so.

Allah is Ar-Rahim to the believers.

Because Allah is Ar-Rahman, even the kuffar are given sustenance and life. Even though they curse and reject Allah, Allah is Ar-Rahman and will still provide for them.

But He is not Rahim to everyone. He is Rahim to the believers only. So in the hereafter, the kuffar shall be given nothing. Only the believers shall be shown that extra blessing in the hereafter.


Allah is also Al-Malik, The King. There are many who profess to be kings, but Allah is not like any king. Allah is Malik-ul-mulk, the King of kings and the Owner of kings. No one else can claim complete submission and obedience such that nothing happens except with his knowledge and will and power. That is the true king.
Allah is maliki yow-mid deen, the King and the Master of the Day of Judgment. He is the King before and after the Day of Judgment, but He specified that He is the King on this day alone. This is because the king on that day is the Controller and King of all other days. The One who shall judge the kings and the peasants on the Day of Judgment, He is the real king before and after the Day of Judgment as well.


Al-Quddus. The Blessed and The Holy. He has no partners, no children, no ancestors. He is the Holy, the Pure.


As-Salaam. The One who has no imperfections. The One whom all peace comes from. When we see our Muslim brothers we say, as-salaamu alaykum. It means may no harm come from me to you, may peace always be around you, and no evil you shall see from me. This is the meaning of As-Salaam – no evil, no imperfection.

Allah is As-Salaam because no evil is attributed to Him. All peace and good comes from Him. Allah is As-Salaam because He shall greet the believers with the greeting of salaam.

When they enter Jannah Allah will greet them with salaam.

And when Allah sends salaam to anyone, no harm can touch him.


Al-Mumin. Everybody knows this to mean the believer. Allah has called Himself a believer. He believes in Himself and He believes in the prophets and He believes in the books.

Allah Himself testifies to la ilaaha illAllah.

So when we have faith, and we know that Allah also is Al-Mumin, then we do not care who amongst mankind rejects Islam. We shall never feel inferior or overcome because Allah is on our side. Al-Mumin increases our Iman because we know He believes in what we believe.


Al-Muhaimin is The One who bares witness and records. He is The Overseer of everything. Nothing occurs except that Al-Muhaiman is aware of it. Allah records the good of those who do good, and he records the evil of those who do evil. So the believer increases in his Iman, and he realizes no matter how small of a good deed he does, Al-Muhaiman shall record that deed and reward him for it. And the sinner becomes scared, and he realizes there is not a single thing that he has done except that Al-Muhaimin has recorded it and will bring it out on the Day of Judgment.


The All Powerful, the All Mighty, the Glorious, the Majestic.
Whoever wishes to have honor and glory let him know that all of it belongs to Allah.
This is Al-Aziz. There are many who pretend that they have some honor in this society, but who amongst them has so much ‘izza that they can grant it to others and humiliate others if they want to? Only Al-Aziz.


The Mighty, The Unconquerable. The meaning of Al-Jabaar is The One who fills up any deficiency. When the servant is weak and powerless to do something, Al-Jabaar will give him that capability.


Arrogance. When you call somebody Mutakabbir, you are insulting him. When you go to the actual root of this word, it means someone or some being who refuses to submit to another. In the case of Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala, this insult becomes the height of praise; he who does not submit to any other being. Who is there that can claim submission from Allah? Everything submits itself to Allah, but Allah submits Himself to nothing. This is Al-Mutakabbir.

The Khaliq

The Khaliq is translated as Creator, but in fact the Arabic has a more precise meaning to it. The actual meaning of khalaqa is to create from nothing without there being any model upon which to base your creation.
Those whom you call out to besides Allah could not even create a fly even if they cooperated together.

They may be able to transform things such as modify some genes, or all of this modern talk about scientists creating a sheep by the name of Dolly. But this is not creation, it is a transformation. They have taken one thing and transformed it into another. But they cannot bring life. They cannot blow life into anything.


Al-Bari is The One who nourishes a being in its infancy, and it is a more specific type of Khaliq. Al-Khaliq is used to describe The Creator of life and non-living things. Allah creates animate as well as inanimate objects. He is The One who causes to grow inside and then for it to become independent outside. This is of the connotations of Al-Bari. There is no word that can translate this in English?

Al-Bari means the one who brings out life from another life. The mother has life in her womb. Al-Bari is the one who brings that life and separates it from the first life so it becomes independent life. Who can claim this besides Allah?


The One who gives us shape, The One who gives us our figure. The One who gave each and every one of us a unique look, and yet that image is the same when compared to other beings. Amongst men we are all the same, we look similar. Yet, amongst ourselves we are so different. Ponder over this name, and the fact that man in his limited finite capabilities cannot even think of the shape of another being, much less bring it into existence, much less bring life to it. Even in the mythological and alien creatures humans portray, there is always a combination of some type of man or some type of being that is known.

To Allah belong the Most Beautiful Names.

Allah is characterized by names of majesty, perfection, and splendor. There are no names that can be more beautiful than Allah’s names.

To Him everything in the heavens and earth praise, and He is the Aziz.

How many names does Allah subhaanahu wa ta‘ala have? Ninety-nine? Infinite is the more precise answer. This is a common misconception that many Muslims have. The basis of it is the hadith of the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam that,

“To Allah belong the 99 names. Whoever memorizes them will enter Jannah.”

So the first thing that comes to mind is that Allah has 99 names, but that is not what the hadith says. It says, to Allah belong 99 names, such that when you have memorized these 99 you will enter Jannah. For example, if I say that I have a hundred dollars that I am going to give in charity, does it mean that I only have a hundred dollars? Similarly, to Allah belong the 99 names such that he who memorizes them will enter Jannah. In fact Allah has an infinite number of names, but of those names there are 99 which are extra special. Whoever memorizes them, acts upon them, ponders over them, that is the person who will enter Jannah.

We will conclude with the hadith of a man, an Imam, who used to recite Surah Ikhlaas in each and every raka’ that he would pray. His companions complained and asked, “Why do you always recite Surah Ikhlaas?”

He answered, “This is what I want to do. If you do not like it, go find somebody else.”
He continued to recite Surah Ikhlaas. He would recite Surah Al-Fatiha, then he would recite Surah Ikhlaas, and then he would recite another surah. So he would always recite Surah Ikhlaas before reciting another surah.

The people complained to the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and he told them to ask him again why does he does so. The man said, “This surah describes my Lord and I love to read His descriptions.”
The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Inform him that his love for this surah has caused him to enter Jannah.”

A love of Allah translates as a love of His names and attributes. It is that simple. And to not care about the names and attributes of Allah, translates as not loving Allah.

What is the greatest verse in the Quran? It is Ayat-ul-Kursi. Ayat-ul-Kursi, which is nothing except Allah’s names and attributes. It has over twenty names and attributes of Allah and that is why it is the greatest verse.
The greatest surah of the Quran, Surah Al-Fatiha, is again the names and attributes of Allah.

Your purpose in life is to worship Allah because He is worthy of worship because of who He is. Were Allah not to have created us, none of us, He would still be worthy of worship because of who He is. How much more so when He has created us and given us all that we have? Is He not worthy of worship more because of this?
From a talk by Sk. Yasir Qadhi