Tawheed – a liberation from oppression

“Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them – so worship Him and have patience for His worship. Do you know of any similarity to Him?”
Maryam [16:65]

Growing up, the importance of worshiping Allah alone and not committing shirk (associating partners with Allah in worship), was constantly emphasized. My mum especially, would stress the importance of us learning the concept of tawheed in depth. When I went to Quran school and started learning Islam, it seemed, tawheed is all they would talk about. For a while, in my ignorance, I failed to comprehend why so much emphasis was given to something I felt was essentially simple to understand: worship Allah alone. Not complicated. Well, little did I know, for the past year especially, I have slowly began to understand a fraction of how powerful the concept of tawheed is, and how incredibly significant it is in a believers life.

Undeniably, this is a huge topic, one that scholars wrote numerous books on and studied their whole lives about, in comparison to the mountain of knowledge they possess, my knowledge is finite. And yet, understanding this one benefit of tawheed has clarified many things for me, it has shifted my perspective on some wordly affairs and enabled me to see things through a different lense. More importantly, learning about tawheed has helped me to understand my purpose in this life more clearly. By the will of Allah, I wish to pass on this benefit to you, and I hope that you will find this knowledge as liberating as I do.

The world has changed drastically. The believers now feel, as described by our prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasalam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), as though they are imprisoned in this earth: Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever.”
[Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2956]

In many ways, people feel oppressed, which is somewhat paradoxical in a world shifting most of its focus on the importance of being free. Different individuals have their own interpretation as to what being free means, but most of us are deluding ourselves without even noticing it. We think we are liberating ourselves by becoming enslaved to our whims and desires, listening to everything they demand. Society has taught us not to obey limits, but rather to transgress the bounds of nature, to do and experiment everything. We have become indoctrinated into believing that this is happiness; and yet ironically enough, there has been a rise in people being depressed, having anxiety, committing suicide and so forth. If obeying our desires is supposedly beneficial to ones self, why are we so unhappy?

The fact is, that going by what our desires command isn’t freedom, it isn’t liberation. We were not created for this. Our hearts yearn for Allah and Allah alone, not wordly affairs. Many of us have corrupted ourselves by feeding our hearts with everything but the love of Allah, and we wonder why we feel so empty within. And this is where tawheed comes in. The concept of worshiping Allah alone, allowing your love of Him to prevail over everything else is profound. To submit yourself to your Creator only, not money, not fame, not alcohol or drugs, not music, not women, not materialism, not societal expectations and the list goes on, is very powerful.

Just think about how much internal conflict you could solve by ignoring what society dictates what you should do and how you should be. Many of us stress the importance of taking care of our bodies, but we neglect our hearts and souls. While our bodies are in need of physically sustenance, our hearts yearn for spiritual sustenance, and that lies with tawheed. With worshiping Allah alone. And this is one of the many reasons why tawheed is extremely important, to purify and illuminate our hearts. I mean, should not the Creator of your heart know what is best for it? I urge my brothers and sisters to liberatin themselves from the oppression of the self, reclaim your freedom and go back to Allah.

Tahajjud: its excellence and benefits

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “The best month for observing fast after Ramadhan is muharram, and the best salah after the prescribed salah is salah at night”

As servants of Allah, we should be always seeking ways of getting closer our Lord, and Islam teaches us that one of the easiest ways in which we can ignite a connection with Allah and grow closer to Him, is through the night prayer. When is the last time any of us left our beds for the sake of Allah, and stood in the depths of the night to pray? Last Ramadhan? Before an exam? Maybe there hasn’t even been a first time, and yet it is a beautiful act of worship with a huge amount of reward.

Salah, in general, is one of the most important actions a servant must perform in our religion, we know, it is the second pillar of Islam after the shahada (testimony), and this highlights its significance. Tahajjud is one of the supererogatory prayers we are constantly advised to perform, it is one of those actions that, when performed, enables us to become amongst the individuals mentioned in this beautiful qudsi hadith: Narrated on the authority of Abu Dhar: Allah’s Messenger said that Allah said: “He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” [Muslim]

This act is a beautiful deed which Allah swt loves. Just imagine, during the night when the world has settled and people are caught up in their sleep, you arise and begin to pray, you’re one of the very few servants of Allah who do this. Calmness and serenity settles within you because you are alone with Allah, you worship Him, remember Him, make dua to Him. Due to the night’s calm atmosphere and silence, you genuinely feel a sense of comfort. The Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?”. What an incredible hadith subhanAllah! It is sad to think that so many of us miss this amazing opportunity because we choose sleep over prayer, and contrary to what Muslims believe, this act of worship is not tiring or difficult in anyway, in fact once it becomes a habit, it will be something you will find difficult to live without.

Praying tahajud is also one of the most excellent ways of manifesting your gratitude towards Allah swt and the uncountable blessings He has bestowed in your life. One of the best hadith that illustrates this is the one that follows: Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: “Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] This hadith teaches us so much, the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, despite not possessing much, acknowledged the blessings of Allah swt upon Him, and stood in prayer until his skin got affected to show his gratitude to His lord, what excuse do we have? Our blessings are so much that it is impossible to count them,  “If you were to count Allah’s favors, you would not be able to number them; most surely humanity is very unjust, very ungrateful.” [Sūrah Ibrāhīm: 34] this verse should soften our hearts, and make us feel ashamed when we compare our ungrateful attitude towards Allah’s generosity towards us. Even though it would realistically impossible to thank Allah for all His blessings, let us implement the action of the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, and pray tahajud as way of showing some gratitude towards Allah.

Dua: its virtue and importance

Dua (supplication to Allah) is one of the many gifts Allah swt has bestowed upon His slaves. It captures the very essence of eebadah and Tawheed, and it is an act which Our Lord loves. The prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “Nothing is more honourable to Allah the Most High than dua’a” [sahih al jami no.5268], illustrating that it is an action which holds much significance in our religion. To highlight this further, in another hadith, rasul sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “The most excellent worship is dua’a” [sahih al-jami no.1133] and once again, this shows its importance. Like many things in Islam, the topic of dua’a is broad, it can be tackled from different angles and discussed in length. The purpose of this post is to encourage Muslims to remember this act of worship, and to make it something that we consistently perform in our day to day lives. I will discuss some of the benefits of dua’a below.

A believer is always in need of Allah. Whether we are going through hardship, or our lives are running smoothly, it is in our nature to need Allah: “O mankind! It is you who stand in need of Allah, but Allah is Rich (free of wants and needs) Worthy of All Praise”, notice that in this verse Allah is not solely addressing His slaves, but the whole of mankind, illustrating that it is the entire human race is in need of Our Creator. When we need something from Allah, we ask Him by way of dua: “Ask Allah for everything, even the lace of your shoes. If Allah does not provide, it will never be available.” [Ibn al-sunni, no.349- hassan. Supported by at-Tirmidhi and others.] SubhanAllah! The prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam is telling us to ask for everything, even something as small as a shoelace, because Allah swt is the All Provider. At this stage in your life, there may be things which you are desperate to have, have you considered asking Allah for them? Perhaps you consider it impossible to acquire, but it is important for us to think positive about Allah. Recognize that everything is in His hands, and that He can make the impossible possible. “And He will provide for Him from places he never imagined. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient.” [surah at-Talaq]

Dua is one of the ways through which we build our connection with Allah, it is a means by which we can grow closer to Him. A beautiful feeling settles upon a believer when he realises that Allah has responded to his request. A similar feeling should occur when Allah doesn’t respond, it could be that He is saving you from something great that you do know of or realise. Allah swt says: “And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows but you do not know.” This verse brings comfort to a believer, knowing that whatever situation he finds himself in, then it is good for him. It could be, for example, that you want to marry a specific person. You ask Allah for that person but you don’t end up having them, before you become frustrated and upset at your Lord’s decree, take into consideration that He may be saving you from something great. We do not see or know what Allah swt Sees and Knows, from your perspective, this person is your dream spouse. However, Allah knows that he/she will make your life a misery if you end up with them, for example. He/she might not be able to offer you that happiness you want from them. It could be that this spouse was in fact okay, but Allahs swt has someone even better for you. A balance of patience and trust is what it takes, and do not worry because beautiful things await.

This life tires us. Some of us may not even be able to remember the last time we felt peace and tranquillity, everything from money to studies to kids stresses us. Dua’a is a relief from distress, worry and anxiety. When you make dua’a, you are settling your affairs with Allah, acknowledging that He has power over everything, and that He can make a way out of every stressful situation for you. Dua’a is an action, it is something that prophets and messenger always performed, and we see the benefit of this action as we read the Quran. They called upon Allah, He answered and helped them in unimaginable ways subhanAllah.

And so, brothers and sisters, I urge you to always make dua’a to Allah whether your life is running smoothly or you find yourself in a hard situation. Settle your affairs with him, and always remember to make dua’a for yourself, friends and family for the hereafter. When you see the Muslims being oppressed and harmed, do not feel hopeless at the fact that you cannot physically do something to help them, grant them your dua’as. Allah is in control after all, and you would be surprised the change that one dua’a can bring.

Hijab: trends or Islam?

One of the most beautiful things legislated in Islam for Muslim women is hijab. Contrary to what many people believe, the hijab is not merely a piece of cloth that we drape over ourselves as a symbol of oppression. It is not something we wear because we are forced to by male guardians, or because we have no rights. The hijab is worn because Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has commanded us to wear it, it a reflection of our inner faith, and manifestation of our Islamic identity.

For many of us young women, wearing the appropriate hijab is a struggle. Sadly, we are not replicating the attitude of the female companions, who instantly wore it upon having the ayah of Quran revealed to them: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty, and not to display their adornment except that which appears ordinarily thereof, and to draw their veils over their necks and bosoms…”. Rather, the hijab has become a kind of fashion statement for us. Many Muslim women observe it in a way that completely contradicts its intended modest purpose. Scholars (may Allah have mercy upon them) have written at length concerning hijab and how it should be worn, we have no excuses nor are we deprived of the knowledge; rather we are purposely making the choice and jumping into the bandwagon of trends, allowing societal standards to corrupt our Islamic identities. We have become ashamed of being distinguished, modest women.

Knowing Allah, and understanding some of the wisdom behind laws in Islam is essential if we want carry out the actions commanded by Allah. When you learn more about hijab, its revelation and benefits, you will be drawn to wear it always and proudly.

Observing the hijab enables us to become closer to Allah, we are performing a good deed by wearing it for His sake, and Allah loves that His slaves obey Him. Hijab symbolises liberation and freedom, we distinguish ourselves from other women. We don’t abide by fashion trends which other humans have decided, nor do we feel the need to copy or imitate. We are proud to wear that which the Creator has ordained, and not the creation.

By wearing hijab, we are judged by our intelligence and intellect because our beauty is shielded. In a society that is so fixated on ensuring that women look good, and judges you by your appearance, we are an exception to rule. People have no choice but judge us based on our conduct and speech, and not appearance.

Hijab is a type of shield and barrier against evil. We do not put ourselves in a vulnerable position by wearing immodest clothing and displaying too much of our body, thereupon looking appealing to men, being looked at or worse than that. We treat our bodies like jewels concealed in treasure boxes, they are not displayed whatsoever.

Another benefit is that our Islamic identities, which we should be very proud of, are manifested. Anyone can distinguish a doctor or policeman for example, because of the outfit they wear. Likewise, people can distinguish Muslim women based on their hijab. I once read a quote that goes as follows: “So what if their beauty is a topic in magazines? yours is a topic in the Quran!”, subhanAllah! If we understood the Greatness of Allah, and valued Islam as it should be valued, we would strive to expose our Islamic identities as ordained in the Quran and sunnah. We would not be afraid nor embarrassed about wearing other than what fashion commands, knowing that our brand is straight from the sunnah.

And so I remind myself, and my sisters to take care about Hijab and how we treat it, as mentioned above it is not merely a piece of cloth which we drape upon ourselves, it is a command from our lord. An outfit decided by Allah Himself, we should take care to wear it exactly as He wants, and encourage other women in the ummah to do so as well.

Do it for the sake of Allah

We have all been placed on this earth for the same reason: To obey Allah, abide by His rules, and the objective is for us to get to Jannah, in shaa Allah.

Doing things for the sake of Allah is immensely important. When there is something we do not feel like doing, or our mums ask us to do something for her, we must do it for the sake of Allah firstly, and then  because we want to please your parents. We are here to serve them and it is all part of our test. Doing things for the sake of Allah is one of the conditions needed to have our deeds accepted, and grants us many rewards.

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.” (Quran 17:23)

If I’m being completely honest, I myself am guilty of this sometimes, so it is very important to keep reminding yourself that everything you do is for the sake of Allah, and you have to make sure that your niyyah (intention) is correct, otherwise you will be performing actions void of rewards. If we just go about our day to day lives forgetting to remember Allah, and our sole purpose of why we are here and why we have been created, then we will have failed the test of this life and be amogst the losers, and we ask Allah swt to protect us from this.

So try to always remember Allah in everything you do, and always intend to perform actions for His sake, and not to make yourself look good or make other people happy in the process. It can be very easy for us to slip into this sin, to do things for the sake of others, to show off or boast. As humans, it is in our nature to love compliments and people’s approval of us, but this is insignificant. Our Creator is the One whom we should be most concerned about.

(59:19) And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. They are the wicked ones.

This also applies to things that are doubtful or wrong, but you try to justify it or make excuses. – On the authority Abi Ab’dillahi al-Nu’man ibn Basheer (ra) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear and between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters about which not many people are knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor. But he who falls into the doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibition. In the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all the body is diseased. This part of the body is the heart”.

[Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim]

This hadith teaches us that even doubtful matters are to be avoided, we should strive to commit good deeds ordained by the Quran and the sunnah, and abstain from comitting evil ones. If there is a matter upon which we may not be sure about, then we are told to avoid it. And as the saying goes: better be safe than sorry.

Abu Qatadah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah the Exalted except that Allah will replace it with something better.”

Gratitude: The Key to Happiness

Going through life can seem like a blur. Especially at our age where we are overwhelmed with the uncertainty of the future. Most of us don’t know what we want to be or why. Yet we’re being pressured from all sides to decide.

What do you want to be?

Some would say famous, others would say rich. Then you’re asked what career? Lawyer, doctor, soccer player, teacher…the options are unlimited and hard to narrow down. However, no matter what we do or do not decide, at the end of day, we are all aiming for happiness.

Happiness is the mysterious wonder of the world, some could call it the eighth wonder. Everyone is looking for it yet few find it or even know where on earth look. It’s the hidden elephant in the room, there but invisible, seemingly out of our reach. If you were to ask any millionaire if they were happy most of them would say no.

Take Jim Carrey for example, who said: “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they would know that’s not the answer.”

So, what is happiness then? A wise friend once told me to close my eyes and imagine that the only thing that I would be able to bring into today were the things that I was grateful for yesterday. What would I have?

This got me thinking, would I have my home, my mom and dad, my siblings, as annoying as they can get, my car? What about things even more basic than that? Would I have my eyesight, my hearing, the ability to walk, talk and eat even. Would I have my knowledge, the ability to think? I started racking my brain, becoming distressed, what would I have?

When thinking of all the things that I couldn’t imagine living without, the thought of wanting more seemed impossible. How could I want more when I wasn’t even sure if I would have the things I had yesterday?  It was at that moment that an Ayah of the Quran rang through my mind: “And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them.” [Surah Ibrahim: 14:34]

In that instant I truly realized that the key to happiness wasn’t money or fame but rather gratitude and contentment. Being grateful and content with what you have right now in this very moment. When you stop, and take this approach you easily recognize the true favors that Allah, Exalted is He, has bestowed upon us.

However, what’s even more amazing, as if that weren’t enough, is that Allah says in the Quran: “If you are grateful, I shall certainly increase you (in favor) …” Surrah Ibrahim: 14:7

Allah, Exalted is He, in all His Mercy has guaranteed, that’s right guaranteed, to increase the things we are grateful for. So not only will you be blessed with things you couldn’t imagine living without, Allah will increase them.

When you wake up every morning think about the exercise above, bring the things that you are truly grateful for to the surface. You will find that your day will be much brighter. Instead of filling your thoughts with what ‘could be’, you’ll be taking a step back and acknowledging the blessings that are. This will give you the chance to start your day with a clean slate and work on the person that you aim to become with the ‘eighth wonder’ of the world directly in your heart and Allah, Exalted is He, with you every step of the way, bith’nillah.

“… And we will reward the grateful.” (Āl ‘Imrân 3:145)