Sunday, August 30, 2009

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 45-48

In the last couple of ayahs we had discussed, Allah tells us to seek patience and prayer. One thing to keep in mind is that today's society is designed in such a way that it pulls us away from patience or sabr since everything is supposed to be instant, due to the power of technology. We instantly get information on the click of a button off the internet, we can instantly get money from the ATM machine, we have things known as "instant coffee" and "instant noodles" in our generation. This isn't a bad thing, but we have to realize that we can't attain nearness to Allah instantaneously like we can with so many other things. Getting close to Allah requires time, consistency, sacrifice, effort and a long period of time. It's a journey. Sometimes we go to a religious talk and we feel an "iman rush" for a while, thinking our souls have been elevated instantly, then after a while we go back to our normal lives. We have to seek assistance with patience in order to be regular in our deen.

The next few ayahs are addressed towards the Bani Israel, who were people who deviated from the straight path, and Allah says "Remember the blessings I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over the worlds". This ayah was revealed to the Bani Israel during the time of Muhammad (SAW), although the stories mentioned are from the time of Musa (AS). This comes to show that the later generations also take part in the benefits given to the Bani Israel. It is similar in the case of Muslims - the source of benefit in our religion is Muhammad (SAW), and because of his efforts and his sacrifices, we, 1400 years later, also get to benefit from our religion. If we have concern for our future generations, we should attain closeness to Allah so that we receive His mercy and this will benefit the next generations. Our primary concern is that the deen remain within the upcoming generations. The best way to make sure Islam stays strong is by supplicating and asking for Allah's grace or "fadhl", and He, in turn, will inshaAllah not only bless the person who made dua, but also the community, and therefore, the future generations.

In this ayah, the Bani Israel are being challanged. They are told in a subtle manner that they shouldn't take it for granted that Allah is bestowing His mercy on them again and again. He could easily close the doors of Rahma for them, and so they should be careful. They have to be sincere, and have be careful about this as well. Just being born Muslim doesn't mean we can take going to Heaven for granted - we have to work for it.

There have been great historical narrations in the life of Bani Israel, and Allah (SWT) reminds them about many incidents to awaken them. Then He makes them conscious, "And fear a Day when no soul will suffice for another soul at all, nor will intercession be accepted from it, nor will compensation be taken from it, nor will they be aided". We live for thousands of days, but the one essential day in our life is that one Day - the Day of Judgment. In reality, all these thousands of days we're living one after another, are just days to prepare for that one day. And Allah gives us 4 charactistics of that Day:
i) There will be no compensation
ii) Intercession will not be accepted
iii) Ransom will not be taken
iv) No one will be aided exept by Allah's will.

So basically, we are all alone. It's just us and our deeds. Even a mother will not think about her child that day. Everyone will be on their own. There are a few examples of intercession taking place on that day though...which include the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) making dua that the people with equal amount of thawab and sin go to Heaven, and an infant which died at a young age will seek intercession for its parents, as will a fetus lost in miscarriage. Also, the hufaaz who have memorized the Quran and implemented it's teachings in their lives and intercede...but it all depends on the situation and their level of piety, and only Allah knows what will happen. In these ayahs it just generally says there will be no intercession as will be the case in most situations.

InshaAllah next time we will go through the various blessings bestowed upon the Bani Israel during Pharaoh's time.

May Allah give us the tawfiq to remember the Day of Judgment everyday and prepare for it accordingly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 44-46‏

"Do you bid others to righteousness while you ignore your own selves, although you keep reciting the Book? Have you then no sense?" (Ayah 44)

This verse teaches us about practicing what we preach. It is said that when the Prophet (SAW) went to the Mi'raj (journey of ascent), he witnessed people in Hell with their tongues being cut with scissors of fire. When he asked what their fault is, he was told that these are people who do not practice what they tell others to do themselves. In another hadith it is narrated that some people will be in Heaven because of certain people on Earth who told them to do good. But the preachers themselves will end up in Hell. Because of this, the Jannatis will ask those in Hell how they ended up there, because it was due to their teachings that these people got into Heaven. And the people in Hellfire will say that they used to preach, but they didn't practice it themselves. This elucidates the hypocrisy of the preachers.

Because of this, one should always make an effort to practice what they tell others to do. This doesn't mean that people should just stop preaching out of fear. It is the sincere intentions and efforts which count. It is our duty to encourage others to do good and strive to do good ourselves. It is natural to make mistakes and fall into sin from time to time, but it's the repentance and motivation to improve oneself that is the key.

The next ayah continues, "And seek assistance in sabr (patience) and in salah (prayer)". The scholars proclaim that there are 3 main types of sabr:
i) The patience one has while in a time of difficulty, and not complaining while in such a situation.
ii) The patience one has in obedience. This is when one does a good deed regularly even though it's difficult, such as praying in the masjid for Fajr consistently.
iii) The patience that keeps one away from avoiding bad deeds.

The gist of all three of the sabrs is that they help you restrict the nafs, or inner desire. We each have a soul and a body. The soul is such that it loves to worship Allah, it loves to pray, read Quran, give Zakah etc. It finds peace within these things. The body is more animalistic, because it consists of the nafs or desire. Both of these together create a kind of balance in humans, but our goals, as Muslims, is to crush the nafs and follow the Deen, or our religion. This elevates one's soul, and a feeling of elevation is created in oneself such as how one feels during Ramadan.

Sabr is practiced most while one is doing Salah. When in prayer, one has to completely restrict the body and focus the mind on Allah. This is when the soul elevates and the nafs drops. This is when the nafs realizes true pleasure and tranquility is not actually in worldly pleasures, but in remembering Allah and in prayers. This state is what we call the "nafs-ul-mutma inna".

The next verse continues, "And it is indeed difficult (to have patience and pray properly), but not for the humble in heart who bear in mind that to Him they are to return".

Sabr and salah lead to restfulness of the heart. Salah should have "khushu", where one concentrates fully on the prayer and not other thoughts. In a hadith, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says that the improperly prayed salah rises up as an ugly, dark person, and says "May Allah ruin you the way you ruined me", and the salah is flung back on the person, and he gets no benefit from it. There should be tremendous fear in all of us of this and we should make an effort to attain khushu in our salah. We should remember that we will return to our Lord. This remembrance will give us khushu in our Salah, inshaAllah. Every individual should take some time out and think of their state and our connection with Allah, and spend time in His remembrance and reflection.

May Allah make us from those who reflect on our state, and have khushu in our prayers, and find the utmost pleasure in pleasing Allah alone. Ameen.