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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The Blessing of Work

  • Dawud (David) peace be upon him was a Prophet who was a labourer, a blacksmith who worked with his hands. He earned a honest living.
  •  Often we feel there is a clash between earning an honest living and serving the deen. Need to stop presenting this idea that working is bad. If someone is honest and hardworking and able to turn their skills into a halal income, that is praiseworthy. A businessman who is honest and hardworking will be raised with the righteous. Whoever gives a full refund to a customer Allah will build a palace in paradise.

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Why is it that..

I’m reading an incredible book right now by Habib ali al-Jifri called Wayfarers to God, and so far, it is one of those reads where your heart softens because everything you are reading speaks to you. Below, a passage that made me stop and re-read several times.

No sooner do you attempt to examine your faults than the wickedness of the nafs surges forward to cover those faults. Yes indeed, many in the Community are far worse than you are, but have you been created to transfix your gaze upon those worse off than yourself? How many times have you looked at someone driving a car more expensive than yours and wished you had one like theirs? How many times have you worn a garment only to see a more expensive garment that you wished you could have worn instead? And how many times have you heard that gifts – from the gifts of this world – have been conferred upon so-and-so and wished that they were yours? Why didn’t you say, “alhamidullah. Many are without food and I am eating, alhamidullah”? Why do you not say, “Some people don’t have a mount or clothes, but I do”? Why is it that in the affairs of this world we look to those above us, but in the affairs of the Hereafter we look to those below us? Do you know why? Indeed it is because the nafs has not been purified, developed and cultivated. Indeed, it is your greatest foe on the path to Allah.

~Wayfarers to God, Habib Ali al Jifri, p. 21

Trust in God

…And when someone is conscious of God, God gives him a way out, and will provide for him from where he doesn’t expect. And whoever trusts in God, God suffices him, for God brings about the divine decree. God has given every thing a certain measure.

~Surah 65 (al Talaq) Verses 2-3. (The Quran: A New Translation by Thomas Cleary)

Never Resting on our Laurels

I stumbled upon a deeply moving transcript of a talk by Myriam Francois Cerrah today. It is a piece that I want to post on the bulletin board above my desk.  There is so much to reflect on here: the reminder that Muslim communities should not be concerned simply with building mosques but also strive to create space that are healthy, hopeful and community affirming, the reminder to ‘never rest on your laurels’ but keep seeking knowledge, and the extraordinary female exemplars within Islam that should inspire us to develop as much as we can and be involved in all spheres of society.

My favourite section of the talk is below:

Islam is not about being insular – it is not about staying amongst ourselves – it is about drawing on the values of Islam to try and make the world a better place for everyone. There is no reason why that can’t start in the home – but it certainly can’t end in the home. It starts by nurturing and developing values in yourself, which you then spread to your family, community and then the world more broadly. But you can’t nurture anything without knowledge and I don’t mean learning the Quran by rote in a language which you can’t understand. It is obtaining a deep and profound knowledge of the religion, sharing that to help educate others and helping to use the transformative potential of those values so that they don’t remain under our beautifully decorated domes, but are used to improve our community and society.

The full transcript of the talk can be found here.

This is your struggle

Your mental imprisonment is so great the only thing you can think of is fighting halfway across the world. You can’t conceptualise any positive work here where Allah has placed you. This is escapism, truncated worldview, cowardice. Do something where Allah has placed you. Otherwise all your college education, your writing, your technical skills, everything you have, are all to waste. Allah did not put you here in vain. If Allah wanted you to be halfway across world,  He would have put you there. So this place this is your battle. It is a battle of ideas, ethics, decency, and you can choose to wage that struggle or run away.

~Imam Zaid, Knowledge Retreat 1432 (speaking after several questions about the appropriate response to oppression/occupation in other parts of the world)

A Matter of Perspective

While reading a collection of George Orwell’s essays tonight, this paragraph struck me as something I want to keep handy.

Never, literally in recent years have I met anyone who gave me the impression of believing in the next world as firmly as he believed in the existence of, for instance, Australia. Belief in the next world does not influence conduct as if it would if it were genuine.  With that endless existence beyond death to look forward to, how trivial our lives here would seem!  

~ As I Please, April 1944, George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: Volume 3.