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.

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.

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.”

My spiritual journey: Rekindling that connection with Allah

 

A believer’s faith fluctuates. This is an undeniable reality. Our faith is not an impenetrable brick wall that remains firm and illuminated throughout our precious time in this life, rather it shifts and changes. At times it is high, mostly when we are worshiping Allah as He should be worshiped and refraining from committing evil deeds, and at other times it takes an inevitable dip, and it is during those phases that we must remind ourselves of the purpose for our creation. We must not allow shaytan to fade that hope we have in Allah, making us believe that we are not worthy of worshiping Him. Allah Exalted is He, in His Knowledge and Mercy, comprehends our struggles, He promises forgiveness and an elimination of the wrongs we commit. With every new dawn that we are blessed to witness, we are offered another opportunity to mend our ways, to commence a journey towards our Creator and indeed rekindle that connection with Him.

Having the motivation to journey towards Allah is often present in a believer’s heart, however, we seldom know how to take the first step. As we begin to search extensively for advice, the amount we have to do may seem overwhelming initially, and this is why it is important to realise that we will not wake up the next day and be perfect Muslims, for indeed only Allah is Perfect. Nor will we wake up and have the ability to fulfill all His commands without occasionally committing mistakes. We must journey slowly and steadily, constantly taking ourselves into account and refusing to burden our souls. We must ensure that we comprehend our purpose, which Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) articulates clearly in His book: “And I have not created jinn and mankind, except that they should worship me alone” [surah a-Dhariyat verse:56].

 Establishing Tawheed, and frequently learning about Tawheed, is essential to this journey. Tawheed is the absolute foundation of our religion, its opposition: shirk, is the worst sin a believer can commit, hence we should take this matter seriously, and allow it to take precedence over everything else in our lives. Salah: this important obligation we are commanded to fulfill only five times a day is frequently neglected, we search day and night attempting to acquire success, and yet our Lord tells us Clearly in His book: “Successful indeed are the believers.”, “Those who offer their prayers with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” [Surah al mu’minoon verses 1 and 2].

We search for hours in vain, attempting to find an answer for that void in our hearts when it sits in the form of a book in our shelves. Believers, we have neglected the Quran too, when it is the ultimate source of guidance, a light in this path we seek to tread on towards Allah. There are many more actions to mention if we want to establish that connection with our Creator, but it is not possible state them entirely in this short post, as I have much to learn myself. And so I advise you to carry a special key with you that will open doors: knowledge. Islamic knowledge is paramount in our lives, it is the way in which we learn about how to worship Allah and grow closer to him. Be sure to acquire authentic knowledge, taught to us by our salaf and scholars, derived from the book of Allah and the Sunnah of His messenger sallallahu alayhi wasalam.

The journey to Allah is a beautiful one, it strengthens and firms you as individual, it enables you to relieve yourself from the desperate demands of society and succumb to the will of your Creator only. It is a path that infuses peace and tranquility in your heart, and a path that fulfills your needs and grants you constant happiness. The journey towards Allah should be our principle objective to achieve, so we can be amongst those whom He grants mercy to, amongst those are chosen to enter Jannah.