I heard a beautiful lecture through the Yale MSA yesterday that was filled with wonderful reminders about leadership, being a positive contributor to the world, recognizing one’s attachment to the world, having good manners and so much more. Thanks to the Yale MSA for uploading the video of this beautiful talk and making it accessible to a wider audience. My notes are brief as the stories can only be done justice by hearing the lecture on one’s own.
- When we talk about spiritual leadership, need to revisit and understand your role as khalifa, as steward of God and the earth.
- It’s about understanding I’m not here just for the heck of it, and I’m also not here to consume, also not here just to make money, also not here just to procreate, but I’m here for a reason, for a purpose, and I’m here on behalf of somebody, and the One that I’m here on behalf of determines the greatness of my vicegerency, the greatness of my stewardship. And that is on behalf of All Mighty God.
- Each of us is a leader in some regard, at least as it relates to our own soul. And this is scary but this is also really exciting.
- The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said there are seven people shaded on the Day of Judgement. The first one is a just leader, or a just ruler, depending on how you look at the word. The commentators say this applies to everybody who is an imam in any regard. Doesn’t mean have to be in role of religious authority, but leaders.
- When you get married and have kids, need to think about the fact that spiritual leadership is not just exported to the masjid.
- Be careful of the life you lead, you may be the only book some people read.
- What is spirituality? The people of our tradition say someone who has increased you in good manners has increased you in spirituality.
- The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him was sent to perfect noble character.
- Spirituality can be having really good manners.
- Imam Zaid – if he’s by himself, he’s reading Qur’an and doing dhikr. Story of Imam Zaid spending three times as much time as it took to make wudu, wiping the floor so that there isn’t a mess for the workers at convention centre. That’s spirituality.
- Some of us have never seen a scholar make wudu. If you have a chance you should, because you might look and realize haven’t been doing it right my whole life.
- How many of us have read Islam and the Black American? How many of us have read Roots? The Autobiography of Malcolm X? Need to realize that where we are is because of the sacrifices of other people.
- The only way to make it is to be in good company, with people who are more advanced than you. Have to be around elders and mentors. It’s the same way we make strides in other parts of our life as well.
- Be mirrors of his beautiful light.
Today I heard a wonderful lecture by Ustadh Usama Canon filled with real reminders and practical advice on how to understand the events of your life. My notes are brief (it’s a lecture that should be experienced on its own) and I’m posting it here as a reminder to myself first and foremost. To support Taleef Collective, where Ustadh Usama teaches, please see here)
- Like all of you I’m on a journey. I’m on a journey to try and know myself, understand the world around me and through that to understand reality and my Creator. And everybody’s journey is different.
- Before the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him prays for anything, he affirms Allah’s reality. See this in the dua of Taif. When you say to someone who is generous that they are generous, you are asking them for something. When you mention to someone that the gift they gave you is really nice, you’re asking them for another gift.
Alhamdullilah for Jum’ah! Whenever I’m able to attend, it’s lovely to benefit from the lessons of teachers, and to fuel up with their reminders for the week ahead. Below are a few reminders I took away from today’s Khutbah by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at the University of Toronto. Duas that your Ramadan is going well! All mistakes in recall are my own.
1) This is a month of connection and reconnection. Reconnecting with God, reconnecting with family, reconnecting with community. Do not be of those who break family ties. And invite people. There are people in our community who may be international students far from home, or converts fasting on their own, or people who cannot afford iftar. Invite them over and feed them, and benefit from the tremendous reward.
2) Gratitude leads to increase. Make gratitude your banner.
3) The scholars say that Ramadan is a school. Take time to assess yourself honestly and ask yourself, what grade would I give myself? If you haven’t felt the sweetness of Ramadan yet, it’s not too late.
4) Security and safety are blessings. And it’s a blessing we cannot take for granted. We may all know people who do not enjoy this blessing, or are suffering from hardship or illness. But duas work. Take time every night, whether it’s one minute, or 5 minutes, or whatever you can do, to remember those who are suffering in other parts of the world.
5) The last ten nights are coming, and in them a night is hidden that is better than 80 years of worship. Better than a thousand months. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was more active in these days than he was the rest of the month.
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.
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.
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.