What To Do On Laylat’l-Qadr

Many folks aren’t sure what is the best strategy for Laylat’l-Qadr. Here’s my quick ten-point plan:

1. Prepare a list before the evening starts listing all of the specific du‘ās you want to make. This is not Sunnah – this is only because the Muslims of our generation are not good at ritual worship and long du‘ās by themselves and need help, direction and structure.

2. Pray ‘Ishā in Jamā‘ah – that’s half the night in prayer as stated by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Muslim, and that’s a portion of Laylat’l-Qadr achieved as stated by some of the Salaf like Ibn al-Musayyib and al-Shāfi‘ī.

3. Pray with the Imām, don’t leave him after 4 rak‘ah or 8 rak‘ah or whatever. Finish the Tarāwīḥ prayer with him and the Witr prayer as well, even if he prays it early in the night. You have now achieved the reward of praying the *full* night, which if it is Laylat’l-Qadr, then you’ve achieved the full reward of standing the night of Laylat’l-Qadr as stated by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

4. Avoid setting up two night prayers, calling them Tarāwīḥ and Tahajjud. Either elongate one of them to last longer in the night, or just pray one of them completely with the Imam with Witr. This is the Sunnah of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Ramaḍān. A single congregational prayer, not two of them, is the action of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

5. Make a HUGE amount of du‘ā during ALL the rest of the time available before Fajr starts.

6. If you feel the need to take little breaks in the night, only do the following in them:

a) Give plenty of Ṣadaqah, carefully and judiciously, to the highest-returning projects as possible, across as many fields and initiatives as possible, as varied as possible, as much as possible. Take advantage of the hugely multiplied rewards on offer.

b) Read or reflect on something beneficial about Allah or the Qur’ān. Focus on His Mercy. And then call upon that Mercy later in your du‘ā.

c) Keep your tongue busy with dhikr. Don’t waste a single second talking, watching or listening to anything from the dunya if possible. It’s just not worth it. It can wait one night, believe me.

7. Reduce the amount of food and time you will spend on eating Suḥūr so that you can spend more time making du‘ā. This night is about standing in prayer, yes, but if you’ve done the above, then that standing is sufficient inshā Allāh. Now make the night *all* about du‘ā.

8. If you want to bank on just *one* du‘ā to really focus on during this night then choose the best Prophetic one of:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي

Allāhumma innaka ‘affuwun tuḥibbul ‘afwa, fa‘fu ‘annī

(O Allah, indeed you are the One who pardons, indeed you *love* to pardon. So please pardon me.)

9. Pray the Fajr in Jamā‘ah with the Imām. You have just achieved standing the entire night in prayer as stated by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in al-Bukhāri. So that’s *all* of Laylat’l-Qadr in standing achieved if it was indeed that night.

10. Finally, get to sleep quickly after Fajr so as to not to sleep too much during the day because there’s more ‘ibādah to be done on the 27th *day* too, to complete a successful *night* of al-Qadr as per the actions of the Salaf.

Remember this is the night of calling upon Allah and crying to Him. But that crying should be focused not in fear of Him tonight, but rather this is the night we cry in hope of His infinite Mercy. Make it count folks.

AE ART – Chapter Thirteen

AE ART – The Thirteenth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘alā says:

“Did you [O Disbelievers] not swear in the past that your power would have no end? You lived in the same places as others who wronged themselves before, and you were clearly shown how We dealt with them – We gave you many examples!” (14:44-45)

There are some Sūrahs in the Qur’ān that end in incredibly dramatic and emotional fashion. Sūrat’l-Mā’idah comes to mind, Sūrah Maryam and quite a few more.

Of course this is all rather subjective (as well as the fact that it can be well argued that all the Qur’ān is emotional and dramatic, but we’re being relative here), but to go further it’s quite rare to find both the juz’ (the chapter) and the Sūrah end in an emotionally intense way at the same time.

The thirteenth chapter and Sūrah Ibrāhīm would be one of those rare examples.

I reckon that in general there are two ways in which people would find certain verses very powerful, emotional and straight to the heart:

(a) because they are intrinsically incredible verses that make your heart shudder, or make your flutter.

The end of Sūrah Ibrāhīm is an excellent example. We have such a powerful statement going out, to such a hurting people: Allah jalla wa ‘alā from verse 42 until the end of verse 52 addresses the Prophet and all the Believers telling them that despite all the setbacks they are facing, despite the struggle, despite the fact that the enemy seems so strong, rich and powerful, just don’t give up. Don’t despair. Allah’s plan will play out. Let these fools enjoy themselves for a while. You have warned them. We have warned them. We’ve given them every chance, we’ve showed them what happens to arrogant nations like themselves, we’ve destroyed them before and we’ll destroy these new pretenders as well again. And after even that, they’ll have to come back to Me to be judged. And then we’ll see who’s laughing. So don’t worry O Prophet and O Believers.

That’s the message in a nutshell. But the language is powerful. And it hits me every time. I struggle to control myself each time I hear these verses recited just because of its intensity.

But there’s a second reason why certain verses hit the mark:

(b) because of some personal connection or experience which make those verses super-relevant or even more impactive.

Most of us can probably think of many examples that we have of these, perhaps related to a certain event in your life, or a death, or something you’ve seen, or you were in a certain place when you heard some verses and so they act like an emotional anchor. I have loads of these myself but this is not the time.

Instead, just imagine you’re listening to these above ten verses, and especially verses 44-45 which I’ve chosen above. You’re a Tunisian. You’re a Libyan. We can even say despite the current turmoil and two steps backwards situation in Egypt, you’re an Egyptian. You’ve lived your entire life with yourself, your friends and family being tortured and oppressed by Pharaonic tyrants who treat their citizens worse than what comes out of their backsides. They become dizzy and super-arrogant with their power and their oppression, despite sitting in the thrones of those whom Allah previously destroyed for that exact reason – such as the Pharaoh himself, perhaps not even a stone’s throw away from where you are at the moment, with his body preserved just as Allah had promised it: “You lived in the same places as others who wronged themselves before, and you were clearly shown how We dealt with them – We gave you many examples.” 

Imagine then that a day comes that you never ever thought would come, never ever thought it possible: the day that the Pharaoh himself is overthrown and instead, you are rewarded for your patience and struggle and you see the promise of Allah come true before your very eyes. Mubarak never thought his rule would end. Allah instead said: “Did you [O Disbelievers] not swear in the past that your power would have no end?”

Tunisia and Libya are in the early stages of trying to find their feet in this new found freedom to worship Allah properly as they’ve always wanted. Syria will join them soon, for any state other than the current state created by al-Assad will be an incredible result. And it will happen have no doubt about it.

As for Egypt then after you’ve just read all of the above, you’re probably thinking: well, what just happened there then?

The answer has already been given in my explanation in ART Chapter 4 – basically, we obviously weren’t deserving enough to hold on to power in Egypt and serve Allah and the people like we should have. And our reaction post the military coup, dividing into sectarian lines, and not being unified behind the Believers and Ikhwan’l-Muslimeen in the face of their enemies, is a proof that we weren’t deserving of the honour of carrying of Egypt out of darkness into light.

But does that mean that Allah jalla wa ‘alā will not raise other Muslims to be blessed with that honour? Do you think even we should stop working hard and trying to be those Muslims who will be given that honour? And whatever happens, and however bleak the situation may look when we see our key Muslim countries like Syria and Egypt struggling so hard at the moment to hold on to their Islam, you must know that it will not last. Darkness can never last. Oppression can never last. The Sunan of Allah will ensure this, whether we understand it or not, whether we witness or not, whether our hearts are soothed by it or not.

“Do not think [O Prophet] that Allah is unaware of what the Disbelievers do: He only gives them respite until a Day when their eyes will stare in terror. They will rush forward, craning their necks, unable to divert their eyes, a gaping void in their hearts. So warn people of the Day when punishment will come to them, and when the Disbelievers will say, ‘Our Lord, give us a little more time: we shall answer Your call and follow the Messengers.’

Did you [O Disbelievers] not swear in the past that your power would have no end? You lived in the same places as others who wronged themselves before, and you were clearly shown how We dealt with them– We gave you many examples! They made their plots, but, even if their plots had been able to move mountains, Allah had the answer.

So do not think [O Prophet] that Allah will break His promise to His Messengers: He is mighty, and capable of retribution. One Day– when the earth is turned into another earth, the heavens into another heaven, and people all appear before Allah, the One, the Overpowering – you [O Prophet] will see the guilty on that Day, bound together in fetters, in garments of pitch, faces covered in fire. [All will be judged] so that Allah may reward each soul as it deserves: Allah is swift in His reckoning.

This is a message to all people, so that they may be warned by it, and know that He is the only Allah, and so that those who have minds may take heed.” (14:42-52)

Sometimes, no tafsīr is required. Just let your heart do the listening as opposed to the ears, and live the Qur’ān. Live!

AE ART – Chapter Twelve

AE ART – The Twelfth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘alā says:

“Keep up the prayer at both ends of the day, and during parts of the night, for the good things drive the bad away – this is a reminder for those who remember Allah often.” (11:114)

The temptation to not choose a verse from Sūrah Yūsuf was actually easier than you might have thought, despite my brain juices exploding on virtually every word recited. There is such magic in every sentence in this Sūrah, that it’s quite insane. Seriously. But so many scholars have given wonderful access to this Sūrah with courses and lectures in English, that there’s no point me adding my own different thoughts in 6500 pages is there? No, thought not.

The twelfth juz’ of the Qur’ān is interesting due to the theme of “stories” being so prominent even though it probably wasn’t meant to be like that. Remember, it’s not 100% accurate to say (the subtly different) “the twelfth juz’ focuses on stories” because:

(a) the division of the Qur’ān into thirty chapters/juz’ was done after the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) so anything that happens therein is not “intended” as such, rather the division is for ease of reading and memorising and so we can’t claim amazing things about each juz’ when there’s no evidence from Allah and His Messenger (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and

(b) there are actually other chapters that have more stories in them than the twelfth chapter

But anyway, this chapter has Sūrah Yūsuf in it which Allah jalla wa ‘alā calls “the best of stories” and He azza wa jall also says, “We are going to narrate (this excellent story) to you” and He jalla sha’nuhu also says at the end of the Sūrah, “There is a lesson in the stories of such people for those who understand.”

So if I was being logical I’d reflect on this story. But me being random, I’m going to tell you a story from Sūrah Hūd instead lol.

What was on my mind throughout the entire twelfth chapter is just how we find mighty people – from them Prophets and Sahābah – who live on another plane of piety and action compared to us masakeen, are so often afflicted by trials, and from these trails are sexual temptations from sometimes evil and devious women and other times more naive women who have just made a mistake, and indeed other times women who have been tempted by the man himself. Often, as in the case of Sayyidina Yūsuf (‘alayhis-salām) the temptation was dealt with one-time, smashed right out of the park. Other times, no such success.

Now, because it’s the twelfth night just gone, and me being a Shakespearean romantic, I wanted to incorporate some of that comedy romance of his famous “Twelfth Night” into my reflection today with my own funny and “romantic” story, told in anything but Shakespearean fashion, rather AE ghetto style so be warned.

To be honest the story is only funny from where we’re sitting, even if it wasn’t for the storyteller. And actually it’s not romantic either, because it’s haram. It’s only romantic when it happens within a marriage and not outside it, but anyway if you want the full tafsir of this verse then you’re going to have come to my Fiqh of Salāh class and I’ll even act it out for you as an added bonus.

So there’s this Sahābi, and his name is Abu’l-Yusr Ka‘b b. Aslami (and some ‘Ulemā said Abu’l-Yasar), may Allah jalla wa alā be pleased with him. Now just before you think this is some random minor bit-part player, you should know that he was from the early Ansār in Madīnah, that he was there at the second pledge of al-‘Aqabah, that he was there by the side of the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) at the battle of Badr, and then at the side of ‘Ali (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu) in the battle of Siffīn – just in case you thought he was some random minor bit-part player. Just in case ya’ni.

So one day, he’s chilling in one of the orchards of Madīnah and he comes across this girl – and this girl be mighty fine by all standards bismillahi ma sha Allah – who is selling dates. Dates as in the food, not back-row of the cinema kinda dates.

Now, man-sees-mighty-fine-girl-whilst-alone-in-a-romantic-setting is a sure-fire formula for trouble. And a dodgy chat-up line. So here goes:

“Hey, I’ve got dates in my house that are way better than these. Let me show you!” he said to the naive young girl. And yes, that really is what he said.

Anyway, she entered his house nearby with him and one thing led to another. And he kissed her. No more. No less. It was “just” a kiss, but one kiss far too harām. Or many. Whatever.

He immediately came to his senses and as the woman legged it, he was now grief-stricken – how could he possibly come back from such a slip-up? This was a disaster. And for someone of his status?! In desperate need of help, he thought of the one man who was soft, gentle and merciful enough to possibly understand his predicament: Sayyidina Abu Bakr (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu). Once he found him and explained what had happened, he got a wonderful response from Abu Bakr (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu) who said, “Keep this mistake to yourself, make repentance to Allah, and don’t tell anyone about it!”

Now normally any one of us on our fatwa-shopping trips having heard all the “extreme” answers previously to such a problem and then suddenly coming across such a great fatwa and solution that we feel better about it (sigh), would have just bitten the hands off that Mufti and taken it there and then and khalas. Job done.

It’s a good thing though that the Sahābah don’t believe in fatwa-shopping for their own desires. They fatwa-shop for their Akhirah instead, fatwa-shop for the most correct and authentic position, especially if it’s against their own desires and interests. And Abu’l-Yusr just didn’t feel content that he could get away with his sin so easily and lightly. So he thought to himself, I need to go hardcore this time. I need to go to that guy who’s gonna slap me down in a way Abu Bakr might not. Yep, so that’d be ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb then.

So he goes to Sayyidina ‘Umar (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu) and tells him the story to which he also replies, “Keep this mistake to yourself, make repentance to Allah, and don’t tell anyone about it!” So the same advice as Abu Bakr then. And we’ve done Sayyidina ‘Umar an injustice again by just writing him off as some hard-man without a heart or without knowledge. Allahu Akbar.

But Abu’l-Yusr still wasn’t satisfied with what he was hearing. He couldn’t handle the guilt. He couldn’t just “get away with it” like this. So he went for ultimate justice i.e. to the ruler that is Sayyidina Muhammad (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). And so he approached the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who was sitting with some of the Sahābah and told him the full story. And to his utter dismay, the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went silent. And remained silent.

Abu’l-Yusr tells us as the story teller that he then realised he was going to be from the People of the Fire, and not just that but that he would never be forgiven again. He trudged off heart-broken. Suddenly, one of the Companions called him back to the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who looked at him and recited:

“Keep up the prayer at both ends of the day, and during parts of the night, for the good things drive the bad away – this is a reminder for those who remember Allah often.” (11:114)

Abu’l-Yusr didn’t quite get it. One moment he’s in the throes of despair. The next moment he’s being given the chance of a lifetime. “You mean to say that for my level of sin because I didn’t take it any further, I’m still able to wipe my slate clean by praying the next prayer and khalas, it erases my mistakes before it?!”

The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Yes.”

My man was delighted. And off he goes. On another planet. But all those who remained with the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) were amazed. Stunned. Bamboozled. All of them were thinking the same thing but only one of them – Muādh b. Jabal – decided to ask the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam):

“Ya Rasulullah, was this concession for him alone?”

And in perhaps one of the greatest responses of all time that history will bear witness to, the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied:

“No. Rather, this will be for my entire Ummah.”

=)

Amazing amazing amazing. That’s the only way you can sum up this āyah and this story. Allah jalla wa alā has told us to establish the prayer during the day and the night, and that by it, between each and every prayer, you’ll erase all the minor sins in-between.

And then He ends the verse with a very important statement: that such a reminder is really only for those who benefit from reminders. See, there are many folks who are reminded all the time, but then they continue sinning. They think it’s all a big joke and a big game. But then there are others who are always living in the remembrance of Allah but sometimes they might lapse. For these folks, a reminder is exactly what it should be: a jolt to put you back on the straight path immediately. And it is these people who benefit most, like Abu’l-Yusr benefitted so much from this reminder of Allah jalla wa alā.

Abu’l-Yusr (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu) is very interesting in that he was of the last Badari Companions to pass away meaning that he lived quite a long time after the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and should have been teaching many of the Tābiīn and narrating hundreds of hadīth. But the fact is that he narrated very few hadīth, so few that perhaps you can count them on one hand. But one of his most eye-opening and telling hadīth that might be him showing gratitude for someone who lightened his burden on a day that he thought it was all lost, was when he narrated on the authority of the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he said, “Whoever would love to be shaded by Allah in His blessed shade, then let him make it easy upon the going through difficulty, or just cancel the debt that he owes to you.” (Ibn Mājah, sahīh)

Reflect.

And Subhanallah, Abu’l-Yusr took to the prayer in such a way after this story above that you might even say he became an expert in its inner secrets and realities. And you can imagine just how immersed he must have become in his prayer, which led him to narrate on the authority of the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he said, “There are some of you who pray the prayer completely, and others from you who only achieve half of it, and some a third, and some a quarter and so on until some only get a tenth out of it.” (Nasā’i, hasan)

Reflect.

This last narration is about as hardcore raw as they come. How good is your prayer? How present of heart and mind are you when you stand before Allah in these Tarāwīh prayers? Are you taking all the measures we advised before to ensure that you’re benefitting as you should be? And what of your obligatory prayers?! Are you doing all you can to get your prayer to that level where all the minor sins and mistakes you’ve done since the previous prayer have now just been erased?

So why did I even mention this story as my reflection? Well, because I think that there are many Muslims out there who have a “holier than thou” attitude to their fellow brothers and sisters when they slip up, and they think to be harsh and strict is the only option all the time, when in reality we have to be realistic and understand the situations of different people at different times, whilst of course not condoning any sin at any time even the minor ones (which, surprisingly perhaps to many of you, kissing a stranger and not going further than that, is classified as).

Please note that the story of Abu’l-Yusr in the reason for the revelation of this ayah in Sūrah Hūd is taken from a number of sahīh and hasan hadīth that have been narrated in varying detail by Imam Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasā’i, Abu Dāwūd, Ibn Mājah, al-Tayālisi, al-Tabari in his tafsīr and Ibn Abi Hātim in his tafsīr.

Anyway, I wrote on this same subject or idea in Islam whilst covering a completely different hadīth and incident which you might enjoy perusing. It was from a while back and you can read it below if you wish:

http://alternativeentertainment.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/was-there-not-amongst-you-even-a-single-merciful-man/

AE ART – Chapter Eleven

AE ART – The Eleventh Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘alā says:

“[The Believers are] those who turn to Allah in repentance; who worship Him and commit themselves in their journey to Him; who praise Him; who bow down and prostrate themselves; who order what is good and forbid what is wrong and who observe Allah’s limits. So give glad news to the Believers.” (9:112)

If there was ever a chapter (and here I mean “sūrah” as opposed to in the title to each post where I use the word “Chapter” to refer to each one of the thirty parts, each one known to you folks as a juz’ or a “sipaara”) in the Qur’an that had a reputation for war, blood, guts and thunder then the Sūrah I’m quoting from today i.e. Sūrat’l-Tawbah would be a main contender. Now that might seem a bit strange especially considering that its name has nothing to do with war and fighting even though of course it has many verses that deal with the rulings of war and Jihād, whereas the other main contender for the belt would be Sūrah Muhammad, which is also known as Sūrat’l-Qitāl – The Sūrah of Fighting (!) no less.

And that’s what came to mind when I was teaching Rizq Factory recently – a class on the Fiqh of Zakāh, Fasting and Hajj – and I told the folks around me that you could quite easily name Sūrat’l-Tawbah the Sūrah of Zakāh instead because it is rammed full of so many of the rulings and fiqh of Zakāh and even issues of wealth and charity. But you’d never have thought that right?

But what came to mind last night was that I’ve been missing the most obvious thing about this Sūrah: it’s title.

Tawbah. Repentance. Or, “Turning Back to Allah” as is the literal translation of “Tawbah”.

Actually when you go back and reflect upon this chapter (and by the way, these posts are not just meant to be read and khalas, but you should go back to each verse and check for the Arabic and English yourself to see whether you’re satisfied with the explanation you’re reading!), you’ll see that there is an intense focus on:

- the importance of repentance: “If they repent back to Allah, keep up the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, then they are your brothers in faith” (9:11) meaning that one becomes a Muslim by starting with the act of repentance

- the need for repentance: “They would be better off turning back (to Allah)” (9:74)

- the excellence of repentance: “And there are others who have confessed their wrongdoing, who have done some righteous deeds and some bad ones: Allah may well accept their repentance, for Allah is most forgiving and merciful” (9:102)

- the hope for repentance: “Do they not know that it is God Himself who accepts repentance from His servants and receives what is given freely for His sake? He is always ready to accept repentance, most merciful” (9:104)

- the Qur’an’s most famous story about repentance: “And to the three men who stayed behind: when the earth, for all its spaciousness, closed in around them, when their very souls closed in around them, when they realised that the only refuge from Allah was *with* Him. He turned to them in mercy in order for them to return (to Him). Allah is the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful” (9:118) i.e. the heart-wrenching yet joyous story of Ka‘b ibn Malik (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu)

So that’s all great, but the ajeeb thing is that my ear wasn’t caught by any of these verses so as to bring my mind around to the concept of “Tawbah” in this chapter. No, that was done by what seems a completely unrelated verse – one of those wonderful verses which occurs a number of times and we all love because of their rhyming nature in Arabic. Here is the above verse which is the focus of our reflection today (9:112) so you can enjoy it in its full original glory:

التَّائِبُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْحَامِدُونَ السَّائِحُونَ الرَّاكِعُونَ السَّاجِدونَ الآمِرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَالنَّاهُونَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَالْحَافِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ اللّهِ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

Now how many times have you read these such verses all over the Qur’an, enjoyed the tune, and then moved on? I’ll admit that I’ve done that before. But today I thought to myself, “Hold on, there’s got to be some wisdom behind the rhyme and tune – what’s the secret behind this *order* of characteristics and attributes??”

Had a little reflection. Had a little chat. And then I could see it – can you?

This is a verse which is calling out to all of us to truly become quality Believers – true next level Muslims that rise above the dross which so often plagues our hearts and surroundings. This verse shows that if you want to get the job done, then this is how it’s done:

It starts with Tawbah – al-Tā’ibūn – those who return back to Allah. They’ve been wandering around lost in this Dunya, wasting their time, not realising their ultimate objective, weighed down by the misery of sin and misguidance, trapped by materialism and their mistakes. No worries though buddy – fortunately you have a Lord who’s always ready to welcome you back and let you in to the party. In this Deen, your name is always on the list. =)

And what is the best way of keeping your name on that list? By how the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught us, and indeed it was he (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who informs us in the Hadith Qudsi that Allah jalla wa ‘alā says, “My servant does not get closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him.” So we leave the worship of everything and everyone else around us and we become al-‘Aabidūn – those who truly worship Him.

Once you realise that you now need to lead a life according to what Allah wants for you, you realise the immense good fortune you’ve been blessed with. How often when we start practising Islam do we feel that sweetness of Imān pulsating through our hearts and limbs, enjoying that serenity and calm, amazed at how lucky we truly are that we’ve been guided by our Creator? So that leads us to want to praise Him as He should be. And so we become al-Hāmidūn – those who praise Him.

This worship requires sacrifice and effort, sometimes taking us out of our comfort zone, and sometimes even taking us out of our homes in a commitment to Him either by way of seeking knowledge, or to move into a community that will help you achieve your aim etc. So we become from al-Sā’ihūn – those who commit and go out for the sake of Allah.

And once committed, what is the best act of worship, the most excellent form and the greatest way to show our thanks and praise of Allah? Through al-Salāh i.e. the prayer. And when you think of the prayer, what are its most intense and emotional and sincere moments that characterise and epitomise the entire act of Salāh? Well of course when we become al-Rāki‘ūn and al-Sājidūn – those who bow and prostrate to Him.

We are now really getting somewhere with respect to self-reformation. But this religion is not a secular one, unlike Christianity and whatever whatnot. This religion is not restricted to the prayer mat and the Mosques and the charity boxes. After self-rectification occurs, the next best act of worship is to help rectify those people around you and the circumstances they are living in. After living it and breathing it, it’s time to talk the talk and walk the walk. This is advising others, teaching others, educating others and even if necessary warning others. So we become al-Aamirūn bil-Ma‘rūf and al-Nāhūn ‘anil-Munkar – those who order to what is good and forbid what is wrong.

But this is a general principle. Those who use taqwa as their criterion as they get closer and closer to Allah through their worship of Him, will realise that it’s all about recognising the boundaries that Allah has set for all human behaviour and then ensuring that we all, as individuals and collectively, remain within those boundaries at all times. So we become al-Hāfidhūn li-Hudūdillāh – those who observe Allah’s limits.

That’s the way things should work if you are true and sincere in your wish to return back to Allah. And that’s how Tawbah starts off a process like this author took, one that could quite change your life, turning you from the biggest waste of space, to hopefully one who shines like a Star for Allah’s sake in all that *is*… Space.

And if so, then end your lesson today with what Allah ends His lesson in the āyah above: “And so give good news to the Believers.”

AE ART – Chapter Ten

AE ART – The Tenth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘alā says:

“Remember (O Prophet) when Allah made you see them in your sleep as few: if He had shown them to you all as many, you would certainly have lost heart and argued about it, but Allah saved you.” (8:45)

If you come across a glass that is half-full with water, what do you do? Do you start to ruminate whether the glass is half-EMPTY and get depressed on what you’ve missed out on? Or do you reflect on whether it’s actually half-FULL and feel glad that there’s a good drink still to come? Or do you just say to yourself, “Sack all this philosophical bakwas and just pick up the glass and knock out what’s there and khalas”? =)

These phrases are commonly used by teachers to compare pessimistic and optimistic outlooks on life, or the difference between negativity (glass half-empty) and positivity (glass half-full). And you should know that Allah tells us in the Qur’an above that He wants us to be very much “glass half-full” kind of folks.

Forget the actual specific reason of revelation of the āyah for a second (which is about the Battle of Badr as the two sides limbered up against one another, with the Muslims well out-numbered by the Mushrikeen), instead read behind the words and see the message which is being given to you: they might be a huge army but so what? They’re nothing compared to what you guys can bring upon them. Go for it and don’t look back!

See, the fact of the matter as Allah explains in the verse, is that if He had shown all the Believers the true numbers and strength of the enemy, they would have started to doubt themselves and get anxious, nervous, and be divided. If you look at half a glass of water and think of nothing but what you’ve missed out on, you’ll achieve nothing but misery and be wasting your time. But if you see opportunity, hope and happiness in whatever is in front of you, be it a half a glass of water or just a difficult, what seems irretrievable situation, then your positivity will bring you results that you can never have imagined.

I think Muslims have a real positivity problem. Man, even I am embarrassed at myself for being so miserable and grumpy all the time despite the fact that I rarely feel pessimistic and certainly have very few confidence issues and I try my best to be positive; because surely happiness, a smile and giving positive vibes is something which is seen and expressed and transmitted to those around you in your manner and character and speech.

We just seem to be so negative all the time, although in fairness it’s not difficult to see why – we’re are surrounded by a 24hr ticker of negative stuff about things involving Muslims: war, famine, war, famine, terror scare, OMG please don’t let this killer be a Muslim, terror scare kinda over, war, famine, war, famine, Ramadhan moon sighting fitnah, war, famine, war, famine, Eed moon sighting fitnah, war, famine, war, famine…

The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was an incredibly positive man, something which he stated in authentic hadith (“I love an optimistic word”) as well as by his actions and decisions. He saw opportunity when others saw disaster.

In the cave during the Hijrah to Madinah, Sayyidina Abu Bakr (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu) saw the situation to be bleak. The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told him to chill. We know what happened thereafter: Madinah was the legacy left behind. You and me being here are part of that legacy.

At Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saw the glass half-full. Many of the Sahabah, with Sayyidina ‘Umar (radhyAllāhu ‘anhu) at the head of them saw instead a very half-empty glass. History bears witness how the Prophet’s positivity in this case changed the world for ever. Makkah was the legacy left behind. You and me being here are part of that legacy.

So back to the āyah: if you are in a community position, or a leader, or an Imam, or you work with youth or you are responsible for the well-being, guidance or just care for any kind of group of people then just remember to always be positive. Leaders are created in such difficult scenarios when the odds seem insanely stacked up against you all – remember that YOU are the one who your people will look to. If you make the challenge small in their eyes, if you make the mountain ahead just a series of small paths and slopes, if you make your people feel bigger and better than they are, then the chances are that your people will surprise you and surprise themselves as well.

Allah made the enemy look few. The Believers went on from there and smashed it. So you too make your problems look few to yourself and to others, and I’m sure you’ll smash it as well in shā Allāh. Create that legacy.

AE ART – Chapter Nine

AE ART – The Ninth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘alā says:

“Pay attention and listen quietly when the Qur’ān is recited, so that you may be given mercy.” (7:204)

Let’s be honest here for a second – a lot of people really talk up Ramaḍān and Tarāwīh before the month starts and show great excitement for the nights ahead, but this blag sadly unravels as their hearts really feel something quite different. And start to show it very quickly as well. Just look at the people around you (if there are any still left in the Mosque after we’re a quarter of the way in now, not to be seen again until the last few nights of possible Laylat’l-Qadr) – how many look like they’re actually enjoying or even benefitting from the Tarāwīh? That huge, audible sigh of relief as everyone hears that final takbīr which leads to the final rukū‘ in the twentieth rak‘ah (we made it!)? That big smile on the faces of everyone when they stand up to pray Witr? It doesn’t fit all the “enthusiasm” we heard before does it?

Sure, the Mosques could do a lot more and help us with better planning with ACs, fans, sound systems, kid-control, parking etc, but just have a look at those glazed eyes and bored-to-death expressions on those faces. Depressing isn’t it?

Can we reduce this to simply a “the masses don’t understand Arabic, that’s why” argument? Naah, I don’t think so. I’ve seen those same glazed eyes all around the world, in Egypt, in Saudi, in all countries where people fully understand Arabic.

So the reason then? It’s because those folks around you have just entered that special (disaster?) zone where they become “listeners” only as opposed to those mentioned in the āyah i.e. “intentionally listening attentively in reflection.” And that’s me being polite. If I wasn’t such a positive guy, I might have just called them out for what they have truly become: zombies. There, I said it.

See here’s why the Qur’ān translation is a disaster in English, because you miss all the secrets and magic of the variations of the Arabic language. Allah chose the word “listen” very carefully in this verse, but you’d never know that from a basic English translation. I’ve obviously butchered the English literal translation (as I have throughout this random tafsir series so be warned!) in order to bring you as close as possible to the original Arabic vibe and meaning. Allah chose “Fastami‘ū” and not “Fasma‘ū” which would be “listen” and, erm, “listen” if translated literally in English.

But the difference in Arabic between the two verbs is an example of Qur’anic rhetoric and beauty. This is about the difference between the Sāmi‘ and the Mustami‘ or we could say the “casual listener” and the “present listener who is listening attentively and reflecting with intent”. Allah commands you to be the second type when you listen to the Qur’ān.

Think of it like this: when someone hears something and doesn’t think twice about it, then he’s different to someone who hears something and then his ears perk up because he recognises the language. So he now listens to it and then recognises that it’s the language he thought it was. And then he switches off and then it just becomes background music/sound again. That’s the difference between hearing and listening. But the difference between listening and listening attentively is like when you listen to the language and recognise it and then mentally switch off again, or in the second case where you then really focus on the words and the message and then reflect over it. We need to be at this final stage every time we have the Book recited.

Therefore you can see that sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you understand Arabic or not – if you’re not listening and reflecting slowly, silently, and attentively then you’re not fulfilling the required adab of internalising the Qur’ān. And that’s a huge problem for us.

Sure, all this twenty rak‘ah behaviour doesn’t exactly help – actually, let me be more accurate and rephrase that: the way the majority of people expect their twenty rak‘ahs and then pressurise their Imams to deliver the same, doesn’t exactly help. I’ll be straight up with you guys: I can’t do it. Wallah, I just can’t. They way you Paks pray your twenty units in 60-90 minutes or whatever it is just a MISSION. My knees can’t handle all that “up-down, up-down, in-out, in-out, you-shake-it-all-about, you do the hokey cokey and you turn around…that’s what it’s all about” behaviour. That flex is for gymnasts and the youth out there – I’m getting too old for that.

Either give me eight rak‘ahs over one to two hours, or give me twenty rak‘ahs over two to three hours. That’s me right there. I like to think, reflect, relax, breathe, enjoy. It’s quite incredible (or perhaps not so?) that the Muslims turned a prayer called Tarāwīh (literally translated as “The Prayer of Rest Periods” because it was so long, and so drawn out, and needed significant rest periods every two units and especially every four units as narrated from the Sahabah), into some manic PX90 exercise where you spend the entire prayer playing catch up with everyone else around you. Kasmeh, it’s insane.

So you tell me, in such an environment, despite even the best intentions and the best of scholarly minds, how on Earth is one meant to listen intently and reflect deeply on the Qur’ān? It’s not happening. And that’s why we need a complete paradigm shift in our approach to reading and listening to the Qur’ān in general and then especially our Tarāwīh.

Perhaps we should adopt the Prophetic practice of less units such as eight rak‘ah to allow us all to slow down all our rukū‘ and sajdah actions to give us a more quality prayer especially if the Mosques don’t want the prayer to last longer than 90 minutes because of the late Summer starts – which is perfectly understandable. We can always go back to the practice of the Sahabah and Imams i.e. twenty rak‘ah spread over a few hours when we get back to Winter. Don’t hate on me if I stick to the eight though. =)

Also, we should rethink our Imam’s Qur’ān recitation strategy – is it better to “listen” as a Sāmi‘ to one entire speedy juz’ or “intentionally listen attentively” as a Mustami‘ to half a juz’ in the same time period? There’s NO doubt that the second is better even if we miss out on the blessing of hearing a complete chapter, or not being able to finish the whole Qur’ān with the Imām in Tarāwīh. Quality is always taken over Quantity.

Likewise we have to emphasise the zameen asmaan faraq (the heaven and earth difference for all you non-Paks!) between someone who just crawls into the Mosque each night after stuffing himself, and between the one who does even a 20-30 minute bit of preparation before every night’s recital, by checking over a translation of the next chapter to be recited that night, learning a few key words, consulting a tafsīr maybe, and therefore being able to enter in upon that night’s Tarāwīh prayer with a headstart on what the Imam is reciting and effectively gives you that opportunity to reflect deeply and follow what Allah is telling you – effectively putting into practice the adab of deeply listening and reflecting in silence to the Word of Allah when it is recited.

May Allah jalla wa ‘alā help us all and bless us with a deep love, appreciation and understanding of His Magnificent Qur’ān. Ameen.

AE ART – Chapter Eight

AE ART – The Eighth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘ala says:

“And then Iblis said, ‘Because You have put me in the wrong, I will lie in wait for them on Your straight path: I will come at them – from their front and their back, from their right and their left – and You will find that most of them are ungrateful.’” (7:16-17)

I want you to cast your minds back over this last year and indeed right now too, when we started to get those horrific pictures and videos from Syria where Bashar al-Assad’s killers go around massacring the wives and children of the Mujahideen to break their spirits. They video their beheadings and torture. We witnessed. And we felt the pure evil. And we were repulsed by it. And devastated.

But in addition to that grief, all of us – especially those directly affected – even if we might be the most softest of pacifists, felt sheer rage towards these criminals. And I am confident that every single person reading this would not find it difficult to exact revenge on these criminals, even capital punishment. Or let me make it even more graphic and please note that I don’t apologise for this: imagine you come home to find a man stabbing your toddler to death – I can guarantee you that you will kill that man in a manner that you never ever thought it possible from yourself. The rage you will develop, the anger that will come forth, the focus you will show in trying to save your child and to extinguish the threat will all be quite extraordinary. And I guess, perhaps appropriate.

So here’s the thing: every single moment of every single day, there is a criminal out there who is infinitely more evil than all of the psychopaths above, who is focused on doing nothing else but torturing you, your children, and all your loved ones for ever. And ever. And ever. And his name is Iblis. His name is Shaytan. His name is the Devil. Actually it doesn’t matter what his name is, he knows yours.

He’s not interested in killing your mother. Or stabbing your child. Pointless. Waste of time. Small fry stuff that. Let some freak in a Joker haircut and a Bane costume do that bakwas. In fact, I personally wish, and I mean this folks, I wish that this was all Iblis could do in our lives. But he’s far too big-time for that nonsense.

Why stab your child to death and cause it pain for only a few minutes, or traumatise you as the parents for a few decades, when he can make that child grow up to adulthood in a certain way and then ensure that he boils and roasts him alive for ETERNITY in the Fire and for you to witness that for the same eternity but also whilst suffering the most incredible torture and punishment that is possible for your limited mind to imagine.

And you know what? He LOVES that. It gives Iblis a buzz to think that he can take all of us out like that, get us off the Straight Path.

I don’t swear in public, well, not properly anyway. I don’t curse peoples’ mothers (because “Your Mum” isn’t a curse as you’ve seen me prove a number of occasions but anyway), but I must admit that I spend significant parts of my day cussing the life out of Iblis’s mother. Man, I don’t know even know if he had a mother, has a mother, or even the fiqhi issues behind it and neither do I care – but what I do know is that I cuss the **** out of Iblis every single day. I picture him in my dreams and enjoy torturing him, stabbing him in his eye and all sick things like that. I fantasise over burning him. I motivate myself every morning with the simple fact that I will NOT let that scum cursed pig have a good day at my expense. No sir.

We have to change the rules of the game. At the moment he’s having a BALL at our expense. We’ve got to implement the words of Allah: “He is your enemy, so TAKE him as your ENEMY!” The ayah above shows his absolute commitment to his job, that he won’t spare any expense or any effort. He’s going to come at you from every angle, from the top, from the bottom, from the left, from the right, from the front, from the back, open to your face, hidden from your eyes, directly, indirectly. He’s all OVER you. Man, he’s owning you.

I mean, are you kidding me? We took the world’s greatest and most evil force, and we painted him a nice dark red, gave him a pointy little fork, a cute little tail, shiny eyes and a cheeky smile. And then we made him the international symbol for foods and sins or anything which is “naughty…but nice”.

Subhanallah.

We made him into a logo for one of the world’s biggest sports team. We made him the representative of everything which is daring and exciting. We made him into a ruddy cartoon character for God’s sake, where our children watch him and giggle at his antics and feel sorry for him when he gets hurt.

Subhanallah.

Oh you think that’s me going too far? You think that having the devil in cartoons for your kids, or Muslim organisations using cute giggling little (big?) devils in Arab promo videos to try and get people to pray or wear hijab isn’t like the most naive thing in the world ever in this eternal war? See? THAT’S why I said you guys have been owned.

How on earth are you ever going to take seriously the threat of Allah that the Devil is your open, clear, deadly and dedicated enemy – something which He warns us about at *least* seventeen times in the Qur’an, yes SEVENTEEN – when all you want to do is giggle at him?

One thing known from the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is that even the Devil speaks the truth. And when I heard our Imam recite the last part of this verse where Iblis says, “…and You will find that most of them are ungrateful,”  I thought to myself Subhanallah how true is that. How much care and warning does our Lord give us, how much help, how much of a heads-up, but we’re so so stupid. So so stupid. So so ungrateful for that warning and advice. We just think it’s all one big Disney cartoon. “Oh, I’ve forgotten which rak’ah I’m praying. Silly Shaytan! Bad boy! Let me just do another extra one giggle giggle.”

Imagine if we could picture Iblis like we picture that murderer of our child – imagine if you could create in yourself that same anger and focus against this true real enemy of yours. I swear by Allah that Iblis is infinitely more times evil than even the biggest mass murderer of children. So start to show that and up your game against him and his tricks and his whisperings and his domination. The more you can actualise him, like the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was blessedly able to do, even once grabbing Shaytan mid-attack on him during his Salah, by the THROAT no less Allahu Akbar, the more you can immunise yourself against his dying mission: to send you and your loved ones to Hell forever.

In sha Allah, the fightback starts here.

AE ART – Chapter Seven

AE ART – The Seventh Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘ala says:

“Do not revile those they call on beside Allah in case they, in their hostility and ignorance, revile Allah too.” (6:108)

Now look, I’m not a very politically correct kinda guy – in fact as many of you know by now from our classes together, “The name’s AE, not PC.”

And in the same vein, I can admit that there are few more difficult verses to implement in my life than the one above. Which is why every time I hear it, I smile and enjoy the ego-crushing that is happening inside me – there’s nothing like being humbled by the Almighty, the Wise.

Only He knows how much I can’t stand the kind of bakwas people get up to in their shirk, and indeed the bakwas that they worship as well. It’s absolutely sickening. And, unfortunately, often absolutely hilarious.

Coming from the Asian subcontinent that many of us do, we’re exposed to the most ajeeb kind of idols and figures of worship and ‘gods’ that you can possibly imagine. I often reflect that when, say a gorah new Muslim before he’s converted, is reading the Qur’an and the Seerah and comes across all these stories of idols being made of dates, being bowed and prostrated to, and then people eating them when they’re hungry, or other crazy figures that are given sacrifices and people beg from them etc, then this new guy must be thinking to himself, “Raah! What’s wrong with these freaks?!” That’s because he can’t even imagine such a reality – it’s just not the done thing. Sure, polytheism in the West exists in other more subtle forms such as the worship of fame and entertainment figures, but when it’s so stark and hardcore in your face by kneeling in front of a statue, they’re bamboozled with that.

As for us? We’re like, “Yeah, whatever. Standard.”

And then of course the Shaytan in us likes to cause a bit of fitnah with say the Hindus or whatever, and we might start to make fun – ok, we *do* make fun – of some of their idols and we somehow think that this is brave and correct and that we’re some kind of mini-Prophet Ibrahims. But this verse gives the slap-down. Yes we find that fun and entertaining or whatever reason you may have, but it’s not so funny when they turn round in retaliation and start dissing you and your Deen, or cussing your Prophet and your Lord is it?

Whatever you say, no man can handle being dissed, or having that what he loves or holds dear to be dissed, regardless of how illogical or silly that thing/object might be. They will retaliate. And here, you will be held responsible because you were warned not to bring this upon yourself and Allah. Sure the temptation can sometimes be huge, and I know that personally very well, but I feel embarrassed when I hear this statement of Allah. And worse, I feel guilty and rightly so, should anything be said in revenge against those whom I hold more dearer to me than anyone else in existence. I’m not saying it’s impermissible to discuss especially academically, or to block your natural human reactions to shirk and idolatry when amongst your own, or on your own networks/pages etc, but doing so directly to the face of someone of another religion, to insult them shamelessly, well, just be prepared for the consequences.

So next time you feel like giving da’wah, or want to write things etc or make comment publicly or whatever, just be wary of who might be reading or watching or listening so that you don’t insult their feelings and cause a bigger evil to occur. There is always a time for this, and a time for that – and slating the objects of worship for non-Muslims although very tempting in the name of da’wah, is anything but.

Reflect.

AE ART – Chapter Six

AE ART – The Sixth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘ala says:

“The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; other Messengers had come and gone before him; his mother was a virtuous woman; both ate food…” (5:75)
Fasting’s difficult in the hot weather isn’t it? Pretty much everyone around the world today will have felt thirsty and possibly a tad hungry too. So perhaps it’s understandable that many people don’t get it when we praise fasting and say it’s the gateway to the Divine, etc. For most people, fasting is a mission and therefore, sadly, few fast outside of Ramadhan. It’s a struggle.

But that’s the rules of the game – the very special amongst us such as the Prophets and Companions of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the Awliya’ struggle all throughout the year, nearly always fasting whenever possible. Those who took my Rizq Factory class will remember how many of the pious I gave examples of with their incredible love for fasting, many of them every other day throughout their whole lives, many of them dying in a state of fasting in fact.

Why? Actually you can find the answer in loads of verses and ahadith, but tonight it came to me when I was listening to our Imam reciting that portion of Surat’l-Ma’idah which really goes in hardcore against those who commit shirk – and in particular those who worship others besides Allah. He ‘azza wa jall warns them again and again, not to take humans and turn them into divine figures worthy of worship. And after all the warnings, you know what Allah chose as the number one key evidence to show the weakness, limitedness, dependency, finite nature and indeed miskeen human-ness of those they were worshipping?

The fact that they have to eat food.

Did you see that? Out of the thousands of things that could have been chosen, Allah focused on our need…for food.

Our desire to eat food is overwhelming, and that’s not helped by the human body’s physical dependency on the stuff. What a disaster food is! Wouldn’t it be just *amazing* if we didn’t have to eat food? Can you imagine the level of happiness in society, the destruction of all diet-misery and self-image issues in one swift blow, just what a life-changing impact that would have upon everyone? But it won’t happen.

It doesn’t matter how many billions are spent on R & D to find that pill which completely suppresses our appetite, it’ll never happen. We will always need to eat food and drink, however well we control it. And that also means we’ll always have to go to the toilet. Now what a mission *that* is! Man, I cannot think of one single thing that I hate more in this life than having to keep going to the toilet. Everything about the toilet is just a stress. You can pimp your toilet seat and carpet your floor and only have to go once every three days, but no-one will ever praise the fact that we have to go to the toilet!

And this is all linked to our dependency upon food and the eating mechanism created for that purpose. Food is a weakness. Having to eat is a weakness. Everything associated with food and the after-effects is a weakness. What a stress. Which is why in Jannah as narrated by Bukhari, we don’t need to go to the toilet. If that’s not my favourite hadith about Jannah, I don’t know what is! =)

So back to food – Allah describes the weakness and dependent nature of humans by their need for food, hence rubbishing the stupidity of those who would want to actually worship *any* human even the Prophets.

But at the same time, let’s take away a benefit for ourselves, that therefore when we try to give up our need for food for the sake of Allah, we really do reach out to the Divine. We become “godly” – this is a phrase which although doesn’t have an *exact* Arabic translation, actually fits the Islamic ethos really well. Whenever Allah jalla wa ‘ala describes Himself with His beautiful Divine Names and Attributes, there is actually a lesson being taught to us: that WE need to aspire to all of those attributes in the best human way possible.

We read that He ‘azza wa jall is THE Most Merciful, THE Most Knowledgeable, THE Most Generous, THE Most Mighty, THE Most Independent etc. We have to try and be the same. We’ll never be able to perfect and become absolute in those names and attributes but Allah has commanded that we do our best if we want to become from the Righteous, the Saints, the Friends of Allah, those beloved to Him, those who tread the Divine Path to come closer to the Divine.

It is little wonder then that our Salaf would love to fast despite its difficulty. It is the way to the Divine and perhaps that is why Allah jalla wa ‘ala says in the Hadith Qudsi, “Fasting is for Me alone, and I alone will reward it.”

Allahu Akbar.

AE ART – Chapter Five

AE ART – The Fifth Chapter

Allah jalla wa ‘ala says,

“We shall send those who reject Our revelations to the Fire. When their skins have been burned away, We shall replace them with new ones so that they may continue to feel the pain.” (4:56)

Horrible, horrible, horrible.

You know, I feel there are three types of people who go to Jannah.

The first are those who love Allah SO much and wish to be with Him for ever, in His Garden, that they don’t need threats or anything like that. To sin, for them, or go against the Will and Command of Allah, would be simply unthinkable. Unimaginable. For them, even if the Fire never existed, they would be ultra-motivated and focused to get to Jannah because of their extreme love of Allah and all that which *HE* loves. These folks are extremely rare and are the true Awliya’ of Allah.

The second type are those that the majority of us are from – we yearn desperately for Jannah but our weak iman means that we’re not ultra-focused on it at from time to time. We fall into sin, struggle, need reminders, need to be taught lessons, need to be punished even – but we love Allah and care about our responsibilities and our future and so ultimately we sacrifice our lives for Him as best we can. We will go to Jannah without tasting the Fire in sha Allah.

The third type have completely lost the plot – they are either extremely misguided and off their heads, or extremely evil and stubborn people, or just outright disbelieve full-stop. All kind of reasoning and kindness and chances have failed with these lot. It is these ones that such terrifying threats are really aimed at, even though of course every verse of the Qur’an should be read as if it is being applied to you, because they are, as a reminder to everyone, even if you are the most pious of all people. These verses aren’t some imaginary joke, but rather the true, deserved last resort (even though we may not understand it due to our lack of knowledge of the reality of people) for those who commit the most heinous crimes and ingratitude against the One who gives them everything, and more.

And there are few verses in the Qur’an that are as devastating and expressive in describing the horror of the Fire as the one above in the fifth chapter. Your skins being burnt, and then remaining there to feel the pain, and then being prised off but instead of that giving you relief, you get a new skin to feel the pain all over again, and this continuing for ever and ever and ever?! Are you KIDDING me?!

Subhanallah. This makes me shudder hardcore, may Allah jalla wa ‘ala protect us all from even getting *close* to this zone, forget about entering it!

When I heard this verse again tonight, it reminded me of a scene in some old American war film. US soldiers were fighting in Vietnam but had been bombed and sprayed with white phosphorus. This one solider got it on his face and it starts to burn and cook his skin – literally – exactly as in the ayah. I remember his screaming voice like I heard it yesterday. He desperately tries everything but can’t do anything about it, and continues to scream and scream and scream. Then his comrade comes over and realising there’s no other option, takes out his hunting knife and starts to dig the burning section out of his face, the size of a handprint. You can imagine that horrific scene. And he’s screaming even more and more. Subhanallah. It was horrible. And to think that the ayah mentions this exact scene but this time for the entire body, and for the entirety of Time, and no chance of cutting anything out or reducing the pain but just continuous agony with replacement burning skins. Wallah it’s insane. Just, insane.

Instead of ignoring the terror of this verse and others like it, and getting all liberal hippified with all that “love and mercy is the only key ethos of Islam” flex (which of course it is), instead take the lesson from such verses, forget the morality issues and theology debates that you may fall into and just spend you life focusing on avoiding this horrible reality with every ounce of iman that you have.