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.

Choosing Allah

Repentance and Forgiveness

Many times in life, you come across certain individuals who persistently commit sins and do not seek the forgiveness of Allah, they believe with full certainty that they will not receive His mercy and consequently choose to increase in evil deeds. This is a grave mistake and misunderstanding. Allah assures us in the Quran that no matter what sin we commit, He subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive. For example, most of us grew up knowing that shirk (associating partners in worship with Allah) is an unforgivable sin, we don’t actually know that it is only unforgivable if we die having commited shirk without repenting, if we commit even this sin, Allah can forgive us as long as we repent.

“And those who, when they have committed Fahishah (illegal sexual intercourse) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins; – and none can forgive sins but Allah – and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know.” (3:135)

During this month especially, it is paramount that we constantly repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness. There are numerous ways in which we can do that, feom simply uttering words of forgiveness on our tongues, to praying two.

Shaddad bin Aus (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “The best supplication for seeking forgiveness (Syed-ul-Istighfar) is to say: `Allahumma Anta Rabbi, la ilaha illa Anta, khalaqtani wa ana `abduka, wa ana `ala `ahdika wa wa`dika mastata`tu, a`udhu bika min sharri ma sana`tu, abu’u laka bini`matika `alayya, wa abu’u bidhanbi faghfir li, fa innahu la yaghfirudh-dhunuba illa Anta. (O Allah! You are my Rubb. There is no true god except You. You have created me, and I am Your slave, and I hold to Your Covenant as far as I can. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge the favours that You have bestowed upon me, and I confess my sins. Pardon me, for none but You has the power to pardon).’ He who supplicates in these terms during the day with firm belief in it and dies on the same day (before the evening), he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah; and if anyone supplicates in these terms during the night with firm belief in it and dies before the morning, he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah.” [Al-Bukhari].

Throughout the year we all fall short and drown in sins, constantly disobeying our Creator and transgressing the limits of Islam. If He has blessed you to witness another ramadhan, He is giving you the opportunity to repent, seize it! Know with full certainty that Allah swt is full of Mercy and Compassion towards His servants, life is short and we must use our time wisely to grow towards Him. Allah swt knows that we are a people who sin, so do not feel shy to repent to your Creator. Do not allow shaytan to delude you into thinking that Allah swt will not forgive you as this is simply not true, and remember to always keep this hadith in mind:
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “By the One in Whose Hand my soul is! If you do not commit sins, Allah would replace you with a people who would commit sins and seek forgiveness from Allah; and Allah will certainly forgive them.” [Bukhari]
Now, the same way we love that Allah should forgive us, we must also get into the habbit of forgiving others. Humans are imperfect by nature, we all fall into mistakes, to look past somebody’s mistake and to forgive them is something very noble and important to do. It is a gift only a few possess.

Forgiving someone can be very difficult to do when you are fuming with anger. It can be that this person has hurt you in a profound and unimaginable way through words or actions. Perhaps this invidual has been abusive. Nonetheless, life is too short to not forgive. In our lives, surely we’ve made mistakes, and do we not appreciate it when people accept our apologies? It is also important to take into consideration that by forgiving someone, even if they’re not concerned by your act of forgiveness, you are actually helping yourself. To hold grudges and sustain ressentment hurts nobody else but you, we know this from our religion, but it is also something emphasized by psychologist. To forgive is to heal your wound by yourself, not depending on someone to do it for you. So in shaa Allah (by the will of Allah) let us strive to forgive one another and accept that we are all flawed and can commit mistakes. Let us also strive to repent to our Lord and often as possible, especially before the inevitable comes.

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.

Arrogance: A hated characteristic in Islam

There are several characteristics that are looked down upon and detested in Islam, one of the greatest being arrogance. Undoubtedly, arrogance is a sin that is hated by Allah swt, and has no place in the religion of Islam. Muslims are constantly encouraged to be humbled and modest before their Lord and with other human beings too. In an authentic hadith, the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: The one who has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart will not enter Jannah” [muslim] SubhanAllah! This alarming hadith shows the severity of this sin, contemplate the size of an atom for a minute, it is tiny! And yet the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam is warning us that even if we possess such a tiny amount of arrogance, we will not be amongst the inhabitants of paradise.

The reasons why arrogance is a toxic characteristic and sin are many, I will highlight a few below to enlighten us on this issue, and remind myself primarily, and other servants of Allah swt to beware about being arrogant.

Arrogance as a disease:

It is no secret that many diseases, although present within our bodies, are manifested externally. For example, an individual may have a cold or flu, and although it is a sickness from within the body, its symptoms and effects are visible outside too. One would be able to detect someone who has a cold due to the person sneezing, perhaps looking visibly weak, coughing and so forth. Arrogance is a disease amongst the diseases of the heart. Like soot, arrogance covers the heart in darkness once it penetrates it, and its symptoms and effects begin to manifest themselves. A person with arrogance isn’t appreciated in any community, they are perceived as being haughty and proud, ungenerous and neglectful in many regards. Arrogant people are careless about what they say and how they act, hurting many others in the process. Such a disease doesn’t affect a believer in this life only, but in the hereafter too.

Why is arrogance despised in Islam?

Arrogance is one of the sins that can lead to kufr (disbelief). The one who is too arrogant fails to realise what he or she was created for, and doesn’t fulfil their objective in life. They consider themselves too proud to worship Allah swt as commanded. The one who has arrogance is generally too caught up in his narcissistic self and trapped within his vain desires to adhere to the commands of Islam, arrogant people are constantly disobeying Allah swt, and too proud to seek His forgiveness.

Arrogance corrupted those before us.

As we know, the prophet muhammed sallallahu alayhi wasalam is the final of many messengers and prophets sent by Allah before him. Among them were Ibrahim alayhi salam, Musa alayhi salam, Nuh alayhi salam and so forth. If you read and ponder over their incredible stories, you will find that their primary goal was to make their people worship Allah swt alone without associating partners with Him. Many of the people who denied or rejected the clear claims of these messengers did so out of arrogance, they refused to single out Allah swt in worship, and chose the actions of their forefathers over their intellect. Arrogance is also a characteristic of Iblees, as we know from the Quran, he was too proud to obey the command of Allah swt and prostrate before Adam. So when any of us are behaving arrogantly, we must remind ourselves of where this sin might take us, and Allah’s protection is sought.

I hope that this short reminder has instilled fear within us, and reminded us on the importance of abstaining from being arrogant Muslims. Many of us have and can fall short on this aspect, and the way to cure it is through worship of Allah swt, humbleness, piety and gratitude. We must reflect upon our weaknesses and deficiencies, and realise the Greatness of our creator. We mustn’t look down upon others, keeping in mind that they could be better and more beloved in the sight of Allah than us.

GPS

You slam on your breaks, your car stopping abruptly at an unexpected dead end, throwing you back against your seat from the sudden halt. “You have arrived,” your GPS chimes loudly from the little screen that you paid a good penny to install in your car. You look at it in frustration, jabbing the screen furiously, as it continues to chime that you’ve arrived, unmoved by your now swelling fingers. You huff in frustration and savagely turn off the engine, fighting with the seatbelt for release, as it tries to imprison you. You open the door and manage to slam it behind you, stumbling out not-so-gracefully and catching your fall with the palm of your hand scraping against an angry rock before you. You stand up, wiping off your knees with your throbbing palms. The sun is raging above you, intent on making you it’s victim, as you cover your eyes, tasting the heat, almost as if it were a solid, nearly suffocating you as you look behind you, aghast, as there is more than one route.

You’re not even sure which one you came from.

You’re lost.

The GPS took you to the wrong location.

You sigh heavily, opening the car door, and slump in; the GPS is now silent. You take a deep breath, reminding yourself that it’s just a gadget, as you inspect the coordinates you entered.

They’re correct.

Yet you’re at a dead end.

Suddenly, you remember a map your mother had given you last year “just in case” that you had promptly shoved into the glove box. Your hands shake as you reach for it; there’s hope, or at least you pray so. You pry it open, grabbing the neatly folded map and undo it with the gracefulness of a toddler as you spread it over your steering wheel, trying to pinpoint exactly where you are.

Sweat beads around your temple, trickling down your face. You wail in frustration as you realize that you’ve never really read a map. You lean back bitterly against your seat, tears stinging your eyes. You take a deep breath, determined not to give up as you look at the map again, batting down the desperation that threatens you, as your eyes scan it once more. You groan, banging your head against the back of the seat when you realize that you had been given an outdated map from 1993.

***

When thinking about dunya’a, worldly life, this story illustrates the significance of having accurate guidance in order to get where one needs to go. Likewise, this is additionally imperative when thinking about our journey to Akhirah, afterlife. We were not put on this Earth without direction. Contrary to what some philosophers believe, the pieces of the ‘map’ are not strewn across various religions in every corner of the globe. “…‘Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]…’” Aal-Imran (3):191

Rather, Allah, Exalted is He, in His Mercy and Wisdom, sent us both messengers and a book of guidance as our ‘map’ for the ultimate abode in the Akhirah. “This [Qur’an] is enlightenment for mankind and guidance and mercy for a people who are certain [in faith].” Al-Jaathiya (45):20

Unfortunately, many people go through life aimlessly, unsure or unaware that the accurate map is easily accessible. This leads to getting lost; making most of their efforts go to waste. Outwardly, things may seem to be going good in your life. Perhaps you have a good job, a significant other, but certain questions will never go away.

Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? What happens when I die? Is there life after death and if so, what should I be preparing?

If you don’t have a satisfactory answer for these questions, as you’re unsure where to look, they will continue to gnaw at your heart, no matter what other trappings of success you may achieve. Without this accurate map, the Quran and the Sunnah, a person may make choices that he will only realize were wrong after he dies, at a point where it is too late.

Don’t allow yourself to become lost, in a maze, confused and desperate whilst following an inaccurate source of guidance. There is no guidance except with Allah, Exalted is He. Realize that choosing to follow anything else is a guarantee of failure. Allah, Exalted is He, has sent the perfect GPS with the pages of Qur’an as our Guidance, sayings of the Prophet as our clarification, and Sunnah, the living example of the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, as our example.

“…And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy…” An Nahl (16):89