Gems from Prohibitions of the Tongue, Class 4 with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

  • In Arabic, the word haruma is a very interesting word because it has the idea of sanctity and it has the idea of something that is not to be touched. The Arabs traditionally called the women’s section the harem, the section that was inviolable. One of the words in Arabic that is used for a women is hurma, which is the one who is inviolable, in other words should not be dishonoured or attacked. In pre-Islamic Arab tradition seen as gross abuse.
  • The idea of hurma was an important concept before Islam. And they had ashur ul hurum. Sacred months where the Arabs would stop fighting. And then they had the haram. Anyone who fled into the sanctuary was inviolable, could not touch them. Even the animals in the haram were inviolable. All pre-Islamic concepts. All Abrahamic remnants.
  • Makkah and Madinah are inviolable places, Sanctuaries. To disobey Allah in those places is much worse than other places. Not because because the thing isn’t sinful in other places, but because these places have their special inviolability.
  • So the tongue has its things that should not be breached. Haram ul lisan are those things should not engage in, should not use your tongue for.
  • This is probably one of the most important aspects of our religion – guarding the tongue.
  • Probably a day doesn’t go by, when don’t regret something i say. I met a man in Mauritania who spoke slower than anyone else I have ever met. Asked his son if he had a speech impediment and his son said as a young man he made a nadr that wouldn’t say anything until that thought about how he would justify it to Allah.
  • If you look at the Illiad, one of the things Achilles says he hates most in a man is what says on his tongue is different than what is in his heart. Speaking the truth, being upright, these were the virtues of the ancients. They hated lying, they really hated those qualities in human beings. That’s why the oath was such a serious thing. The ancients took oaths very seriously. One of the worst things you can do.
  • One of the foundational hadiths of Islam, from Muadh ibn Jabal. He was brilliant and loved the Prophet, and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him loved him.
  • Tell me about an action that will cause me to enter Paradise and will distance me from Hell.”
  • One of the geniuses of the sahaba, if you look at the questions of the sahaba, they asked amazing questions. This is a perfect question. Tell me what will cause me to enter Paradise and prevent me from entering Hell. The positive and the negative. Really asking at the essence.
  • That is why the Prophet said, “You have asked something vast.” This is a vast thing. This is about the human condition. What you’re asking about is your eternal fate. How do you make sure that your life is lived in a way that will be felicitous for eternity and avoid wretchedness. That is what he is asking about.
  • “And this is an easy thing for the one who Allah facilitates”. (yasir for the one who Allah gives taysir) Allah is the Muyasir.
  • “This is the first thing. Worship Allah and don’t associate with Him anything.” Ibadah and no shirk. And that first statement is the foundation of what will get you into Paradise and what will avoid Hell. And the first commandment in the Qur’an in the linear passages of the Qur’an, the first commandment is worship your Lord. Ibadah. The second is a prohibition, “and don’t associate with God anything. Shirk. And that is what he is saying here.
  • “And that you establish prayer.” Maintain your relationship with Allah. “And then you should pay your Zakat, fast Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House.”
  • So he gives him the 5 Pillars. That this is the foundation of your worship of Allah and this is what will enter you into Paradise and keep you from Helflire.
  • And then he says “ Can I not indicate to you, direct you to you, the doors of al-khayr, all good?”
  • Open the doors, show you the doors so you can go in, of all good?
  • “The first thing, the fasting is a protection. And charity will put out sins, or remove sins, or obliterate sins, just as water will obliterate fire.”
  • And this is important because one of the things that Muslims tend to do when they become devotional people, often they will take on personal piety and forget about social responsibilities. And Islam is a religion that demands a commitment to personal rectification but also personal rectification. This is why the Prophet is indicating sawm, rectify your soul, and then go out and rectify society.  And then he says, “And then the prayer of a man in the night.”
  • So look, between the social, are two spiritual.  This is really the Muslim. His spiritual concerns, purification of the heart, getting close to Allah. So the sawm is emptying out, jihad ul nafs, and then the prayer in the night is to adorn oneself spiritually.
  • And then “they are people who get up in night and leave their beds, the enjoyment of their beds.  From Surah Sajda. They call out to their Lord and also give from what we have given them.
  • Then the soul does not know what has been hidden to them. These are rewards of their actions.
  • “Should I tell you, what the head of this matter is? What is its foundation? What is its pillar? What will hold it up?” Muadh says “indeed tell me.”
  • Prophet says “ The peak of the matter is Islam”. State of submission to Allah, can also be understood as comprehensive term as the deen of Islam.” And then he says,  “the foundation is prayer. The convenant between me and you is prayer, if you leave the prayer, you’ve gone into a state of disbelief, i.e. – broken the convenant.
  • The ulama clarify that  to mean leaving the prayer rejecting it. If leave the prayer but doesn’t leave it not believing its obligatory, (ie- out of laziness) still in Islam.
  • Really the acme of this is struggle. Jihad. The greater jihad is the jihad of the soul. If conquer inward enemies, outward enemies are nothing.
  • “Can I tell you how to get all of this?” This is an amazing statement. Do you want to know how you can get all of this?
  • He took hold of his tongue, “ Just control this”. That’s how you’ll be able to possess all those other things if you can do this thing.
  • Muadh is amazed. “Are we going to be taken to account for what we’re talking?” Because the Arabs to them speech was not action. Their understanding was that a man could have words, but he had to have deeds. The words glorified the deeds. Their poetry was a glorification of deeds.
  • “And he says, (and this is a hyperbole to mean, you’re really missing the point here), will people be dragged in the hell, or by their noses, other than by the harvest of their tongues?
  • That hadith should be enough to tell you the importance of the tongue. I don’t think you need anything else. But there are books that have been written. Imam Ghazali has a whole chapter that deals with this.

Hadith in its entirety

“O Messenger of Allah, tell me of a deed which will take me into Paradise and will keep me away from the Hell-fire.” He said: “You have asked me about a great matter, yet it is, indeed, an easy matter for him to whom Allah Almighty makes it easy. (It is ) that you worship Allah without associating anything with Him, that you perform the prayers, that you pay the zakat, that you fast during Ramadan, and that you make the pilgrimage to the House.”

Then he said: “Shall I not guide you to the gates of goodness? Fasting is a shield; charity extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire; and a man’s prayer in the middle of the night.” Then he recited: “Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. No soul knoweth what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do”. [Qu’ran, Surah al-Sajdah (32): Ayah 16-17] 

Then he said: “Shall I not also tell you of the peak of the matter, its pillar, and its topmost part?” I said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “The peak of the matter is Islam (submission to Allah), the pillar is prayer; and its topmost part is jihad.” Then he said: “And shall I not tell you of the controlling of all that ?” I said:” Yes, O Messenger of Allah”. So he took hold of his tongue and said: “Restrain this.” I said: “O Prophet of Allah, will we be held accountable for what we say?” He said: “May your mother be bereft of you! Is there anything that topples people on their faces (or he said, on their noses) into the Hell-fire other than the jests of their tongues?”

[Related by Al-Tirmidhi]

  • Prohibitions of the Tongue is written by a Mauritanian scholar. And Mauritania, is an interesting  place for this time because Mauritania is one of the last places where a pre-modern Islam has been preserved. It has some limitations undeniably. The Mauritanian tradition is a bedouin tradition which is very rare in the history of Islam.
  • One of their great contributions was in summation. They made didactic poems, and memorized them.
  • You can have all the rules, but if you don’t have a sound heart, the rules don’t work. If you don’t have something internally that is telling you that something is wrong, you will do things that are wrong, when you have the opportunity. Opportunity crimes.
  • Anthropologists differentiate between shame and guilt cultures. Shame cultures, is a culture where you’re afraid of what others are going to say, guilt culture, you’re afraid of having a feeling inside of you. So don’t do things because own conscience is telling you don’t do it. Problem with shame culture (and many of Muslims societies have become shame cultures), problem with shame cultures is when you can get away with it, you do it. Because there is no one to shame you. So you can get someone who lives in a country where they are very concerned about morality and then travel to a far away place where no one is around from their country and then they do the worst things and have absolutely no moral compunction about doing them.  None whatsoever, because there is nothing inside to prevent him from doing it. It’s a rule based society.
  • Author also wrote “Purification of the Heart” (which is translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)
  • He begins “I praise my Lord and prayers and peace be upon the Prophet Muhammad and his noble family”
  • The essence of praise is it is basically speaking highly or well, honouring someone through the tongue. It can be either something that they have done for you, which generally goes under shukr, which is a type of hamd. Or its because it simply because they are worthy to be Praised.
  • Allah Hears the One who Praises Him.
  • For the human being to want praise, is unworthy of the human being to desire praise.
  • Allah demands of us praise.
  • To know Allah is to praise Allah, and He called His beloved Muhammad, and that name was given to him by Allah. Muhammad which is a form of the one who is intensely praised. Which is one of the miracles of his name, he is intensely praised. The ones who criticize the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him or say things, they’re not talking about the Prophet, they’re talking about themselves. You cannot criticize the Prophet, because he’s beyond any criticism.
  • Rumi says “the moon hears nothing of the howling dogs as it traverses across the sky
  • Unfortunately as Dr Winters says, Muslims have to ask themselves if they have helped paint this modern portrait that many people see Islam by. The ugliness of what they perceive to be an ugly religion, or things they perceive about the Prophet of this religion.
  • “The one who has silence, he has gained 9 sources of salvation” – the Arabs have a system where they assign every letter a number –
  • There’s a hadith where the Prophet said “Wellbeing is ten parts. 9 of them is in silence and one of them is  avoiding people.” So if you want to be a state of wellbeing, this is how you do it. By not talking and avoiding people. You’re not going to have any problems in life. Just stop talking and avoid people. In other words, this is what the hermits do. They go to the mountains.
  • Read a UTNE reader about a monastery on a mountain where visitors have to go up in a basket.
  • And then he says “There is a saying that you get 7000 blessings just by being silent.” The Arabs say that silence is golden. The Arabs say if speech is from silver, than silence is golden.
  • “This is because of all of the things that have come about the harms of the tongue for the human being. And this is also because the hearing and the sight also will testify and about them we will be asked, including the heart.”
  • And this is from the ayah in the Qur’an “the human being is responsible”. Responsible means you have to be able to give a response. You’re answerable. So you’re answerable for your sight, hearing and  heart. And the ulama say that the sight and the hearing are the inroads into the heart. They’re the inroads into the heart. And that’s why the hearing and the sight you have to guard them, because they will affect the heart. And this is why the ulama say that there’s no kabira related to the eye, in looking at something, just to look at something is not a kabira, but it is the quickest of all of these organs to corrupt the heart. If you want to corrupt the heart, the eye is the way to do it. And this is why, we’re living in a very dangerous time, because there are so many elements, we live in an image based culture, and there are many things that are corrosive for your spiritual heart. The inner eye, what is called the basira. The inner eye, the spiritual eye is more sensitive than the physical eye, and we know how sensitive the physical eye. If you get a tiny grain, a hair in your eye, you can’t do anything until you get it out.
  • Some of the things people do, it’s literally like taking a spike and gouging out the inner eye.
  • The blindness that people have, you can go spiritually blind. Allah says, it’s not the eyes that go blind, its what’s in the breasts that goes blind.”
  • So these are all responsible. And janan are one of the words for heart. Many different words for hearts. Janan is from what’s hidden. Because the heart is hidden from the angels and the shaiteen. The shaiteen do not have access to what is in your heart. Shaytan never knows what you’re thinking, The heart is Allah’s domain.
  • And then he says, “The one who is described with the two truthful,  what he says is truthful and he’s believable. He’s the two truthful.
  • You will be freed for the sharr of two things. “If you will guarantee what is between your jawbones and between thighs, will guarantee for you Paradise.” (Hadith).  Guard your tongue and guard your chastity. One of the things Socrates said is that “your teeth are like the jail bars and your tongue is imprisoned, and you should never open the jail unless it’s on good behaviour. But you have to be able to put it back behind the bars.
  • So Allah has put your tongue in your mouth, and you have to open your mouth to speak and that’s what gets you in trouble.
  • Whoever is protected from his tongue, his stomach and his private problems.
  • Guard this, but in reality Allah is the One who Protects you. Even though Allah is the One who Protects,  you’re still responsible because He has put us in a world of asbab. Will be asked about it.
  • Here you have the knowledge of lisan, not many people know these things. These things occur far more in these lands than things dealing with zakat collection and pawning things. So what he is saying you’re all busy learning all these rulings that you’re not going to apply, and yet you don’t know these things are much more important. Much more oft occurring.
  • One of the things people do with the tongue, is they make things that the shariah has deemed ugly, they make them seem beautiful. Haraam to do. Also haraam to censure something that the shariah has deemed good.
  • “So for that reason, anyone who calls something prohibited by name that would falsely allude to its permissibility is a wrongdoer.”
  • “And also the sinner, is something that makes the permissible, appear prohibited.
  • “Or someone who praises the oppression of unjust tyrants.”
  • A lot of people who do this. Role of the ulama is to give nasiha. People forget the wisdom and the ulama has great wisdom. (Story of advising a ruler out the prohibition of wearing silk)
  • One of the most beautiful books that I’ve ever read is  Sidi Al-Mawaq Abdihi. Qadi of Granada.
  • Muslims surrendered, they surrendered with 80 stipulations. Schools, mosques, scholars to be protected. (They got a papal dispensation to renege on these stipulations)
  • In the book, enjoining good and forbidding evil is specific to the individual, not to the ruling. Entire book to explain that Muslim are in three categories.
  • a) People who Allah loves but are in disobedience b) People in the middle
  • In each category, 3 degrees, depending on the level of their station so altogether 9 degrees. Going down and coming up. The lowest are people in gross disobedience to Allah. If drinking alcohol get them to learn a musical instrument. At least get them in a khilaf position. Help  them get out of drug addiction. This is hikma, and it shows at each stage about how to talk to people.
  • Prophet did not like people to stand for him, did not like protocol in that sense, and did not like that people should like others to stand for them.
  • Fiqh is understanding, not all these rules that are rigid. There are maqasid. There are aims and imports of the shariah. If you don’t understand those, you’ll be one of these puritanical madman who do the worst things in the name of religion. And they abuse people. It’s a great calamity to have these people running around in the name of Islam and do these things in their own stupidity and ignorance. Ignorant people and they don’t know what they are doing. One of the European philosophers said only bad people will do evil, but it takes religion to get good people to do evil. No. It takes bad religion to get good people to do evil. There’s bad religion and good religion. Just like everything. Bad secular philosophy and good secular philosophy.


  • Imam Ghazali says if you want to speak, shouldn’t speak. Obviously there is human conversation, but Sidi Ahmed Zarruq said that the most dangerous thing that you say when you meet someone is “how is so and so”. Opens the door to backbiting.
  • There are 4 temperaments. Similar to Myers Brigg. If you talk too much, important to learn how to curtail.
  • Ancient Greeks called it “idiot winds” that blows from the mouths of people who have nothing to say. Some people don’t. Trivial conversations. Vacuity. Jane Austen wrote books full of characters that have nothing to say. She poked fun. James Thurber, the humorist, when he was going blind, he went in a state of despair, and said to van Doren, blindness is a punishment for making fun of people. And van Doren said no, you are showing us our human follies and doing such a service. So Jane Austen was like that. If you read her books, she is teaching ethics through literature. Don’t be like Sir Walter Elliott, this vacuous person, all he cares about is himself. Much of what we talk about is insignificant. Doesn’t mean anything. But small talk is important, Part of life. Though the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him never said anything that wasn’t significant, he did speak, and asked people how they were, those things are important. That’s part of being human. But the tongue is our great challenge and we all have a lot of work to do.
  • To treat the diseases of the heart is easier than treating the diseases of the body. So that’s bushra. And diseases of the heart can be obliterated through tawba. No matter what you’ve done, can be removed forever.



Gems from Tafseer of Surah Maryam Day 2 Ayahs 1-4 with Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda

Continuing with our Ramadan project of the tafsir of Surah Maryam, here are my notes of Shaykh Abdul Nasir’s tafsir of Ayah 1-4. Today’s session was an amazing, amazing class with wonderful reminders about dua, and I’m so excited about learning more about the Surah insha’Allah this month. To watch the lecture in its totality, please see here.

Surah Maryam – Day 2.

  • The last note I’ll make about the layout of the Surah, is that as Imam Qurtubi mentions in his tafsir, the first 3/4ths of the Surah talks about the need of people for children.
  • In a very subtle way, the Surah tells us it is a human need and desire to want to have a child. Starting with Zakariyya and Maryam and Isa,  it goes on with Ibrahim alayhis salaam and his contentious relationship with his father. It talks about Ismael making strong recommendations to his family members. Idris. It talks about that. It mentions Ishaq and Yaqub. This entire chain of father son, father son.
  • So it emphasizes, it’s a very subtle reminder of the human need, the human desire for a child.
  • And the last 4th of the surah, very harshly denies, refutes, the claim that Allah has a child.
  • The first part talks about the fact that it’s human need to have a child, and this is almost an emotional weakness of the human being, and Allah being above and beyond any kind of weakness, it completely refutes this idea that Allah would have a child.
  • This surah begins as do 29 other Surahs do in the Qur’an, and that is with the disjointed letters.

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Gems from Day 1 of Surah Maryam Tafsir with Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda

Ramadan Mubarak! I hope wherever you are in the world, Ramadan has begun in a joyous beautiful way, and is a month full of gifts, Divine blessings, acceptance of your duas, and multiplication of your works. One of my goals this month is to insha’Allah go through Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda’s Tafsir of Surah Maryam from the Bayyinah Institute’s 2011 Qur’an Intensive. Below are notes from the first session. To watch the lesson (highly recommended!) you can find the video here. As always, all mistakes in notetaking are my own.

Day I – An Introduction to Surah Maryam 

  •  There is a necessary introduction to any surah of the Qur’an. It’s important to discuss When was surah revealed? What were the circumstances of the surah? What is the overview of the surah? What is the primary point/objective of the surah?
  • For Surah Maryam, the most important aspect is the time and circumstances of revelation, but there is also something very interesting about its eventual placement in the mushaf. This is surah 19 in the mushaf, and there are observations we can make about where it is placed and the surahs before it and after it.
  • This surah was revealed  immediately before the 1st migration to Abyssinia. Eastern Africa. To give you a brief synopsis of how that transpired, in the  4th year of Prophethood, Dawah went public. (Before that, dawah was through personal networks, private).  And in the 4th year, instruction came from Allah, and permission came from Allah to take the message public. At soon as it went public, the message was met with opposition, cynicism, rejection and denial. That was the immediate response to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, on the public platform.
  • Muslims did not give up their faith and beliefs so Makkans resorted to violence and oppression in order to force people out of their belief system. Muslims were the lower class in the eyes of society at that time. When oppression happened, these people did not have powerful relatives, money to bargain their way out of trouble. They were fighting for their lives at that point in time.
  •  The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, told people to go to Eastern Africa where there was a king who is very accommodating and generous and kind and noble. There were about 11 people who made the migration, 8 men, 3 women. When the leaders of Quraysh heard these people were leaving, they chased after them. A convoy was designated and they were sent after the Muslims to talk to the ruler and try and get these people back. Muslims had started to live peacefully in Abyssinia and more Muslims were on their way to join them.
  • Quraysh came with lots of gifts for the king and for the ministers. The Quraysh eventually came to the king and said there are people who have run away and come here, these are convicted felons, bad people and now they are here. The king says, “I can’t just hand people over to you, need to investigate.” He calls them forward and questions them. They explain that they are simply in Abyssinia to seek refuge. The king refuses the request of the Quraysh and says cannot hand over these people.
  • The reply of the Quraysh is that these people have left the religion of their forefathers and that they speak negatively about Christianity and Isa ibn Maryam. The king asks them about this, and they start to recite verses about Isa ibn Maryam, and the king stops them crying profusely, and says that these are the most beautiful words about Isa alayhis salaam he has ever heard.  He sends the gifts of Quraysh back and tells the Muslims that they are not simply people in his land, but under his personal protection.
  • This occurred sometime in the 5th or 6th year of Prophethood. Commentators of the Qur’an say Surah Maryam was probably revealed in the 4th year of Prophethood. Consensus about this.
  •  Scholars say that one of the objectives of the revelation of Surah Maryam was that it was revealed as a parting gift and as provision for the Muslims that were migrating to Abyssinia because they were migrating to the land of the Christians.
  • And that tells us that the Qur’an is the ultimate provision for people in all situations and circumstances. SubhanAllah, not only is the Qur’an miraculous, but its revelation is miraculous and its time and situation of revelation is equally as miraculous. The surah, with this exact content and subject matter was revealed at the time when the Muslims were migrating to Christian lands to seek refuge and to be safe, and revealed at the perfect time, most opportune time it was revealed.

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Your Lord is a Generous Lord (Gems from Prohibitions of the Tongue, Class 3 with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)

Last year I started listening to a class from the 2012 Deen Intensive Rihla called Prohibitions of the Tongue. Recently, in preparation for Ramadan, and with the desire to improve my own speech, I’ve restarted my listening. Here are notes from Session 3. These are not complete notes, and all mistakes in notetaking are my own. (You can find my notes from the 1st lesson here, and from the second session here.)

  • Yesterday we were looking at the journey, the Rihla of life, and the central purpose of the human being, which is to know their Lord, to know their Lord in this body that Allah has placed us in for this time. We’ve been placed in this cage, and the soul is in the cage, and we’ve been told to do certain things. And we were reminded by Prophets who came. There were also long periods of time for certain people where they were not sent Prophets.
  •  One of the distinctions of Bani Israel is that they were given Prophet after Prophet
  • Line of the Jewish Prophets is Ishaq (Yaqub alayhis salaam). Prophet’s line is Ismaili line.
  • No people that didn’t have Prophets. Every people has had Prophets. We don’t know their numbers. Weak hadiths that indicate 124,000, we see these numbers mentioned in the books, but in the end the ulama say Allahu Alam.
  • The meaning of Islam is our relationship with our Lord which is submission to Allah. So we believe that islam abrogates what came before it.

3 type of people hear about Islam

  • 1. Those who live among Muslims and see the true Islam. And these people the hujja is against them. If they die in that state of rejecting Islam the hujja is against them.
  •  2. People who live near the lands of Islam. These people are in a precarious situation because they’re exposed to it and they could know, but less so then the people among the Muslims.
  •    3.   And finally the people in far distant lands who have never heard of Islam. Imam Ghazali said if the people near the lands of Islam have a distorted image of Islam, then they are not judged according to their rejection of the distortion, because what they are rejecting is not Islam, but a distorted image of Islam. But he likens them to people among us who hear about false prophets that came and told lies, and people said oh they are just liars. No Muslim is interested in hearing about these people because they are told since they were a child that he is a false prophet.  And he (Imam Ghazali) said that this is also true of other people. Imam Ghazali is recognizing the sociological filters that people have. It’s very hard to penetrate, it’s quite rare for people to have a natural ability to penetrate beyond their historicity. And so he takes a very merciful view of that. Still, we believe that Islam abrogates. And that the true path and the last and final path is Islam.
  • Previous dispensations -Islam recognizes truth in them and recognizes good people among them, which is important. So you don’t make blanket statements about other traditions because good people among them and people of righteousness among them, people that are attempting to live according to their truths. So you’ll find righteous Christians practicing charity and doing other things.
  • So really the Muslim shouldn’t look with contempt at other people outside our faith. Islam is looking at people with the eye of mercy. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him did not look at people with contempt.
  • So whatever reason, there are long periods when Prophets don’t come. One of them is the time between the Prophet Isa and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both. There are no Prophets between these Prophets.
  • Hunafa- people who naturally inclines to the truth.  Abu Dharr al-Ghifari was someone like that. He used to do sajda. Which is why when he heard about the Prophet,peace and blessings be upon him, he went immediately. He had amazing iman. He was a highwayman, but there was decorum, adab with the raiding. They only took so much, they left the women alone, and it rarely led to bloodshed. They knew bloodshed was dangerous because it leads to war.
  • The Quraysh were amazed when they saw his piety because he was a Ghifari. When he came to Makkah, the Quraysh started beating him because he went straight the Kaaba and declared his shahadah. When Abu Bakr came he said “this is a Ghifari”, and they all stopped because they didn’t want to mess with his tribe. Very tough man. Amazing man. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him loved him. He is an example of someone who had a fitra belief.
  • I would argue that if you read Surah Baqarah, from beginning to end, can find the entire message of the Qur’an in Surah Baqarah.  Surah Baqarah is a restoration of this Abrahamic way. This fitra way. Its calling to this milah of Ibrahim that is free of the sectarianism, divisions, of all the deviations of previous traditions that have lost their way. It is time to come back. To get rid of the decorum that has clouded your mind, and get back to a simple prayer. To get back to this simple fitra way. And this is what Islam is calling humanity back to. It’s a stripped down way. It’s what you take on the lifeboat when the lifeboat is sinking.
  • As long as have water and Qibla, have nothing to worry about. I have had the blessing of living with bedouins, and one of the things the bedouin teach you is how little you need, because everything the bedouin needs is in a little box. Everything they own. And they live very well. They smile. Some of them have permanent smiles. Not worried about 401K or stock markets, because all they need is their tent, and don’t even need that, because if they don’t have it, will make it out of tree branches etc.
  •  So the fitra way is this way that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, came to restore. It’s the way of the original people. Fatir is the originator. Fitra is your original nature. And your original nature is to be happy, it’s not to be sad, the baseline of children is actually happy, they get sad when things happen, they get hurt, they get hungry, but there’s always a reason for their sadness. They’re not endogenously sad. Which is what the state of many modern people are. They’re sad but they don’t really know why they are sad. The baseline state for humans is to be happy. The baseline state for humans is to be honest. Which is why when you have a conversation with someone, they’ll believe you. Children are often embarrassingly honest. They haven’t yet learnt there is decorum, comportment in the world.
  • Fitra nature is also to be curious. Curiosity is part of fitra. You want to find out.
  • Fitra nature is to know and understand. All human beings have a desire to know.
  • And so all of these truths that have been restored with Islam, are a restoration of these ancient truths. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, because he knew that his way was for the last people, he gave us many warnings about things.
  • He knew for instance, about diversions and about the nature of lahw.  Like in the past, if you wanted to have lahw, you had to create your own diversions. Like unless you were wealthy, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to make your own music. Couldn’t just play music or turn on a machine. If you wanted to be entertained, had to go to a play outdoors. Could just turn on the TV, or download a film. So the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him warned us about too much diversions, and this is very important. And about the means of lahw – what the Turks call, “white people’s inventions”.
  • So the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, knew that these means of entertainment would come and people would get lost in them, and so he warned his religion. And so that’s why we have a creative tension. You’ll never have something that has a power of diversion in Islam, but you’ll have a creative tension in Islam. Music is a good example. There are ulama who permit music and there are ulama who prohibit music and then there are people who make very clear caveats about what’s permitted and what’s not permitted. But the fact that we have a creative tension means that it prevents Muslims from completely falling into something that is inherently profoundly dangerous.  So Islam is never blanket. It’s always to create a beautiful balance and tension so that Muslims never go completely astray. They can deviate, but the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, put all these checks and balances in his religion. Which is why you can find hadiths which seem completely contradictory, but they’re actually not, they’re to create these dynamic tensions so Muslims will always maintain this balance so they don’t go completely overboard on either side.  Because you can become too strict, and there is no recreation, no relaxation.
  • There is a sahih hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him going to a wedding, and asking Sayyida Aisha, do they have entertainment? Because the Ansar like entertainment. And then he told them to have entertainment. But it’s not something he wanted all the time because he knew the danger of it. You can become so entertained you can forget the purpose of your existence. Of why you’re here.
  • So these are really important aspects of our religion that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, saw because he understood the time he was living in and Allah showed him and revealed many things about the end of time that would become clear as time passed.
  • Prophet said I didn’t see any good except I indicated it to you, and I didn’t see any evil except I warned you about it.
  • In each time and place, it becomes incumbent for group of Muslims to learn the religion, preserve the religion and teach the religion and pass it on.

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On Modesty (Gems by Usama Canon)

The Taleef Collective is a space in Fremont, California that offers the space, content and companionship necessary for a healthy understanding, embrace and realization of Islam.  I’ve been following their Video Reflections for a while now, and each one offers food for thought, reflection, and discussion with others. Earlier this week, I discovered the multimedia section on their website and heard a beautiful lecture on modesty that was both full of important reminders, and made me even more excited for “Taleef Live!” a  project to make Taleef’s weekly, monthly and quarterly programs accessible worldwide through Live-Streaming. To help make this project a reality, please see here, and give generously.

On Modesty – Ustadh Usama Canon

Two things become incumbent on you when you learn something.

1) Incumbent that you implement it. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said. “Whoever acts according to what they know, Allah will give them knowledge of that which they did not know.” And he, peace and blessings be upon him, sought refuge from Allah from knowledge that did not benefit. So if you learn something and do not implement, that is knowledge that will not be of any benefit.

2) Incumbent to teach other people. Disseminate and share with other people.

  • Modesty: that’s a thesis topic, not a seminar.
  • Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said that every religion has a defining quality, and the defining quality of my way is haya (modesty). So if something is the defining quality, what does it deserve in terms of time and what does it deserve in terms of reflection?
  • The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is the pinnacle of altruism. He, peace and blessings be upon him, is the paragon of selflessness.
  • He peace and blessings be upon him, is the imam of the people of mercy.
  • He is the foremost of the people who have modesty.
  • The thing with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is that any one of his attributes is enough for you to annihilate yourself trying to understand.
  • So when you look at all of his attributes put together, and how they complement each other, it’s like any which way you turn, you’re like, Ya Rasullah! Look at this man. Look at his character.  Sallallahu alayhi wasalaam.
  • Main question we should be asking ourselves is when we say that we are following this man, how much work do we have to do?
  • It’s an ongoing process, and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s not that you go to jummah, hear the khutba, and come out as sunna-man, or sunna sister.
  • We don’t just become humble, we don’t just become sensitive, we don’t just become modest. It’s a process. Because any of the attributes of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would take a lifetime to gain the least bit of. So when we’re trying to implement all of them, how much work do we have to do?
  • We have a lot of work to do. Sayyiduna Musa, alayhis salaam, just heard about the virtues of the Prophet’s, peace and blessings be upon him, community and was ready to forego his prophecy to be of his ummah, peace and blessings be upon him. Musa alayhis salaam. He keeps asking Allah, “who is that?”, and finally he said, make me of his community!
  • May Allah make us more grateful. We have no reason to be cynical, Wallahi. We have no reason to be pessimistic except for our own shortcomings, wallahi. Alhamdullilah, Allah sent this light giving lamp amongst us, sallahu alayhi wasalaam.

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Living Within My Means: Contentment Without Consumerism (Gems from Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari at ISNA Canada)

On Saturday, the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari gave a lecture that was the highlight of the convention for me. The lecture was about contentment, and was a reminder that in this abode, we should strive to have good character and behaviour towards everyone out of our love for God and not because we expect recognition from others. It was also a reminder to be grateful for gifts and blessings for the duration we are gifted them instead of resentful or sad when we no longer have them. Throughout our lives, our hearts and hopes should be attached to God and to His Beloved, peace and blessings be upon him. 

Finally, Shaykh Ahmed Saad reminded us to not have overly specific expectations, and to allow ourselves to surrender to God’s Plan. The qadr of Allah is inescapable, and the path to contentment is to understand that as much as we try to bring about the things we want, we need to understand that our lives operate within the walls of Allah’s qadr. The lecture made me think of times when I’ve felt stressed out (when I was new to Toronto as a graduate student for instance), and assumed that everything would be easy, and unfold in a specific way, and how I became a more serene, tranquil person when I accepted the presence of challenges and had high expectations of God, but wasn’t overly prescriptive of what life should look like.  This lecture was a reminder of that same point, and so much more. Notes below.

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On Social Media and Happy Marriages (Day 1 at the ISNA Canada Convention)

This past weekend ISNA Canada held their annual convention at the ISNA Canada Masjid in Mississauga. And despite my full intentions to get there on time, I got lost on the 1st Day of the Convention, and only reached the masjid near the end of Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari’s lecture on Surah Kahf. What I heard was excellent though, and a good reminder to critically evaluate one’s time and energy in virtual spaces, to strive to have consistent behaviour regardless of who you are interacting with, and to have patience with the learning process.

After Shaykh Ahmed Saad spoke, Dr. Altaf Hussain gave a lecture on creating happy marriages and living “happily ever after.” He spoke about the importance of resisting the urge to have an elaborate wedding, and to focus instead on how a couple will live their life together afterwards. Once married he said, we need to focus on stopping “micro-aggressions” before they create major problems in our relationships, and build partnerships where dua and praying together and for each other are at the core of one’s shared life. Finally, he also addressed and you could hear the seriousness, emphasis and frustration in his voice as he spoke, about the importance of remembering that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and Khadijah, may Allah be well pleased with her, had an age difference between them. As communities and families he said, we must stop assuming that women past a certain age/are older are unacceptable spouses. I stayed for that lecture as well before heading back downtown.

I was a bit shaken from getting lost and so my notes from the 1st day are very basic, but I’ve included them below. I’m not normally a conference -goer, but was really impressed by the quality of the ISNA Canada Convention. The volunteers were polite, there were so many families and young people in attendance, the bazaar was lovely, the masjid was beautiful, and throughout the whole event, you could tell that several months of planning and careful thought had gone into this weekend. Every lecture in the main hall had a sign language interpreter on stage to make the event more accessible, and the entire conference had a strong sustainability focus. Every registrant was given a refillable water bottle and there were no plastic water bottles sold at the conference alhamdullilah. May God bless and reward in the best of ways all those involved in this conference, and enable us to implement what we learned insha’Allah. It truly was a beneficial, needed weekend.

Accessible gatherings

Accessible gatherings

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