Ten of the Best Manners

From Al-Harmaas ibn Habeeb, who narrarated from his father, who narrarated from his grandfather, that he heard ‘Aaishah (radhiyallahu ‘anhaa) saying:

“The best manners are ten:

  • Truthful speech
  • Sincerity and courage in obedience to Allah
  • Giving the one who asks
  • Recompensing the worker [employee]
  • Keeping the ties of kinship
  • Giving back [being trustworthy] with that which you are entrusted upon
  • Honesty and good treatment of the neighbor
  • Honesty and good treatment of the spouse
  • Honouring the guests

and the top of all, the [best manners] is

– hayaa [shyness & modesty].”

[Taken from The Excellence of Aaishah The Mother of The Believers|pg 47. Reference in Arabic (Makaarim-al-Akhlaaq of Ibn Abee Dunya(35).]

Virtue: A Charity Everyone Can Afford

Giving sadaqah is one of many ways we show our belief in Allah. You give the best of what you have, whether it is money, advice, time, or a kind word. Even if you have less than you did in years past, if you have a home, loving family, and friends, and can meet your basic necessities, thank Allah and continue to share your wealth through actions and deeds with others. Recognizing our responsibility to those who are truly less fortunate are the ties of a living faith that bind our community.

Here are four kinds of sadaqah with a reward that money cannot buy you:

A SIMPLE SMILE : Ever notice how contagious an ordinary smile can be? When you meet a friendly, smiling face, you cannot help but surrender a smile of your own. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said that even a smile to your brother is sadaqah. According to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, having a good attitude is an important characteristic that pleases Allah: “The most beloved to me and the closest to me on the Day of Resurrection will be those of you who have the best attitude (toward others)” (Fath al-Bari, 10/4-56, Kitab al-Adab, bab husn al-Khuluq; Muslim, 15/78).

SINCERE ADVICE: Giving sincere advice to another is also an inexpensive form of sadaqah we can surely spare. Good advice could be anything from helping someone secure employment to providing them ways of becoming more disciplined and organized in daily life. Caring enough about others to make sure they make wise decisions that will truly benefit them is a rare gift.

SPENDING TIME TO HELP OTHERS IN NEED: Feeding the homeless, organizing a clothing drive, visiting the sick and shut-in, inviting neighbors and family members into your home for a meal-all are great ways to give sadaqah.

PRAYING FOR OTHERS: “The quickest prayer to be answered is one’s supplication for his brother in his absence” (Bukhari). So said our Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam- and what a great sadaqah, indeed. Keeping others in our sincere duaa requires selflessness, the very kernel of brotherhood and community.

The Basis for Muhasabah

We recognize “bad-natured-ness” and we recognize good nature when we see it. What is thebasis for creating this good nature in ourselves? Muhasabah.  Muhasabah is assessing your actions and your nature. We should review what we say and what we have done every day. It would be wonderful if we could take a minute out of every hour and do that—it would be doing it at least 16 minutes every day.

Muhasabat is not just to look at what you have done that is bad, wrong, or that you want to change. It is also an opportunity to thank Allah (swt) for the good that you have done, and to try to focus, hopefully, on the good things (not just the wrongs) that you have done, or the things you would have done differently. But when you do come across those things you have done that are not right, you ask Allah to forgive you. Forgiveness is immediate because you have repented sincerely.

What is muhasabah? It is really an assertion of our loyalty to Allah. We are saying, “All the good that I have done has come from You, and the wrongs I have done I repent of. Please assist me.” You are affirming your relationship with Allah. In his Futuwwah al Maqia, Ibn Araby wrote,

The righteous people at the early centers of Islam used to write down or commit to memory everything they did or said every day. Then they criticized themselves for any evil or sin in their words and deeds, in order to protect themselves from the storms of vanity and the whorls of self-pride. They also asked God’s forgiveness for that evil sin. They used to shelter in the quarantine of repentance against the viruses of errors and deviations, and prostrated in thankfulness to God for the meritorious deeds or words that the Almighty created through them.

Muhasabah is a doorway to the bātin. It is a way of discovering your inwardness. It is a way of discovering one’s inner state, the
environment of one’s niyyat, the depth of your spiritual self. We can exert spiritual effort, along with intellectual effort, to take a look at our inner state through our acts and thoughts. It is also a way to actualize the reflection on the Names and Attributes of Allah in our life; to focus on what the real, essential human values are; and to develop attitudes and characteristics in our
character that will encourage the good actions and inward awareness.

Through this kind of effort, we learn how to distinguish between what is constructive and reflective of our fitrah, and what is destructive and a veil between our fitrah and the Attributes of Allah (swt). Most human beings push the boundaries of constructive (opening) and destructive (constricting) [behavior] in their lives. But to really develop good character, a pattern (station) of
constructive behavior depends on our effort and our will to look at ourselves; and to link what happens with what we said, what we thought, what we really found out was true, and what we did to what Allah guides us in Qur’an and what is in the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw).

It is through this process of continuous self-critique and evaluation that we are able to measure our present state, and prepare ourselves for the future. By looking at the past, we are able to walk confidently and humbly into the future. We realize there is a kind of moment-to-moment, hour-to-hour, day-to-day self-rejuvenation or renewal that takes place inwardly and bonds us to and cements our relationship with Allah. This happens because we have the ability, and we have made the choice to live a spiritual life in relationship to Allah and others. That is to say, we have within us what is necessary to look at our inner world. We try to preserve our spiritual nature, the nature of our soul, as we go through our human existence, keeping our inner senses awake and our inner
feelings active in our lives.

Understanding the Goal: Allah SWT

As Muslims, one of our goals should be or for many of us is to learn and teach the Deen. If we are on the path to seek and spread
knowledge, it is critical that we evaluate our intentions regularly about why we want to tread this path.

Many of us who are raised in North America tend to have been raised with an academic background. That is why, if we were offered an opportunity to learn Arabic, we would take it in a heartbeat, while we know that many a times we fall short in even  making the five daily prayers. What is wrong here?

What happens is that, we tend to forget the real purpose of learning and teaching the Deen. Remember, learning Arabic, studying Fiqh or Hadith is not the goal. The goal is the pleasure of Allah SWT. Nobody on the Day of Judgment will ask us about  to
regurgitate ‘fa’alaa,’ ‘fa’alu…’. We will be  judged by what’s in our heart, the sincerity in our intentions and actions, and our  steadfastness in the application of the Shariah and the Sunnah. Learning Arabic, studying Fiqh and Hadith should only
be an excuse to gain the nearness of Allah SWT, and becoming a better servant of Allah SWT.

Realistically speaking, it is not possible for many of us to become a Mufti, or an Aalim since we lead busy lives and at our best tend to study the Deen part-time. If this is the case, we should not be disheartened, since Allah SWT judges us by our niyaahs (intentions). Knowing this,  if we purify our intentions and pursue whatever we can in Islamic studies, insha Allah it could be a means for us to get the same reward of becoming an Aalim or Mufti. So, by regularly taking out time to study the Deen we can hope that the  consistency and sincerity in our deeds will be enough to please Allah SWT on the Day of Judgment to raise us among the Ulaama as our efforts will show that we followed the path of the Ulaama.

Another aspect that we tend to disregard often is that the knowledge we gain should bring out practical change in our lives. Remember knowledge that is not brought into action is useless. So, if we memorized  a whole book on hadith but  find that we still can’t wake up for Fajr, or disrespect our parents or so on, we truly have not gained anything. As our knowledge increases, we should be able to see visible change in our lives suc as increase in our salaah, adherance to the Sunnahs, our daily interaction with
the Quran and so on. This is a way for us to judge if we are making progress spiritually and whether what we learned benefited us in any way.

If you recall the time of the Prophet Muhammad saw, only a handful of Sahabas (RA) knew how to read and write, yet the  level of their Iman was as firm as a mountain.  What we learn from this is that our Deen is not about reading and writing, it’s about submitting. While we should not dismiss the importance of learning and seeking the knowledge of Deen, it is critical that we remember the goal is Allah SWT.

May Allah SWT grant us the reward for learning His Deen and help us be raised among the Ulama, and to help us praise Him and raise us with Prophet Muhammad saw who taught us how to praise Him. (Ameen)

Three types of heart

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah [rahimahullah] has categorized heart of a human into three types.

Think about which category yours may fall into:

  • That which is void of Eeman and all types of good, thus being a dark heart.  Shaytaan no longer needs to confront this heart with whispers because he now dwells in it. He decrees what he wishes in it and has taken complete control of it
  • That which has been illuminated with the light of Eemaan. Faith has kindled its lanterns within it, but at the same time there is still some darkness of desires and winds of disobedience present in it.  Shaytaan approaches and retreats from this category of heart, and at times he takes advantage of opportunities. The WAR [in this heart] is sometimes severe and at other times calm. The affair of the individuals who fall into this category of hearts varies between many and few. Some possessors of this category are usually victorious over their enemy, while others regularly allow their enemy to get the upper hand. Yet another class are of those who have equal moments of defeat and victory.
  • That which is filled with Eemaan. This heart is illuminated with the light of Eeman and the veil of desires and darkness has been lifted from it. The light of Eeman is glowing within the chest and that glow contains flames. If desires challenge to approach this heart they are burned by the flames [of Eeman]. This protection is similar to the protection of the sky by the stars. If Shaytaan attempts to advance towards the sky to steal information he is pelted from every side with a Shihaabun Thaaqib [flaming fire of piercing brightness].

Then Imam ibn Qayyim goes on to brilliantly explain these three categorization of human hearts further with examples in this episode:

  • Void of Eeman and all types of good
  • Illuminated with the light of Eemaan
  • Filled with Eemaan

He [rahimahullah] related the hearts with 3 different types of homes.

  1. The home of a king; in it are his treasures and precious jewels and belongings.
  2. The home of a slave; in it is his wealth and precious jewels and belongings, but indeed his belongings are much less [in value and quantity] than that of the king’s.
  3. The empty home; in it there is nothing to steal.

A thief approaches with the intention of stealing from one of the homes. Which one would you think he would burglarize?
If you say that he would steal from the empty home, this is something impossible because the empty home possess nothing for him to steal.

Based on this reality, it was mentioned to Ibn Abbas – May Allah be pleased with him – Verily, the Jews claim that they do not experience whispers [distractions] in prayer. Ibn Abbas – May Allah be pleased with him – thereupon commented:  What would the Shaytaan do to a heart that is already destroyed  [This is the example of a person whose heart is void of Eemaan]

If you say that he would steal from the home of a king. This would also be impossible due to the strong presence of security for making a thief impossible to penetrate.[This is the example of a person whose heart is filled with Eemaan]

Consequently, there is nothing left for the thief except to approach the third home. [This is the example of a person whose heart is illuminated with Eemaan]

Such is the case with Shaytaan that he approaches the home of a slave, and he snatches any and every opportunity that he gets. Thus, it becomes essential for such an individual to sincerely reflect upon the given examples and guard his home [i.e. heart] from the attacks of Shaytaan.

Waqouf-al-Qalbi (Halting of the Heart)

One of the central themes of Tasawuff (Purifying the Soul) is the idea called “Waqouf al Qalbi,” which means stopping, halting or standing still of the heart. This concept entails  that a person through his ibaadaat, his submission, his daily dhikr comes to a  state where his heart stops on Allah SWT – meaning his central focus  becomes firm on Allah SWT. This  means his desires, dreams, his aspirations, goals, his central focus stops on Allah, for the sake of Allah.

This concept exists in our daily life in many ways, unfortunately not with the focus of Allah SWT. For instance, if someone in your family passes away, for three or four days you will not be able to think about anything else. No matter what you are doing, that person is still lingering in your thoughts; this is Waqouf al Qalbi. In that case, your heart has stopped or stood still on something other than Allah SWT. Similarly, if you have a big exam the next day, no matter what you are doing you are thinking about it.

In Tasawuff, the goal is that your heart stop stills on the focus of Allah SWT. That you get to a state that no matter what you do, who you talk to, where you go, your heart is always focused on Allah SWT. A state that you can’t even change if you want to. For instance, if someone talks to you, you talk with them, but inside your heart is focused on Allah SWT, that is how deep your connection is with Allah SWT. That is the goal for each person who aims to develop their heart; establish Waqouf al Qalbi.

Waqouf al Qalbi is not only a state but also an exercise. This is a state you have to enter, but it comes only through exercising that state. Initially, it means you have to do your extra dhikr, regular voluntary fasting, regular prayers in the masjid, submission to the Sunnah. Once you achieve all this, then this state becomes permanent and then you begin to constantly without much effort begin to enjoy it. The result is that no matter where you go, you will always be focused on Allah. You will notice that your prayers and your actions become deep.

Another important benefit of Waqouf al Qalbi, once you have achieved it, is that you have a new criterion by which to judge your deeds. So if you commit a sin (you see something you should not have seen, you hear something you should not have heard, you have a fight with your parents, etc.) you will experience a decrease in your Waqouf al Qalbi. That is how you will tell if that act is detrimential to  your spirituality. (You can’t tell if an act is detrimental to your spirituality until you have spirituality). This is what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) meant when he said ask your heart when you are deciding to do certain deeds. If your heart says its okay, go ahead and do it. What this means is that now that you have been given this state of Islam, a connection with Allah, do the deed if it does not detriment your relationship with Allah SWT. This is how some of the Ulaima define Taqwa. Taqwa is defined as leaving every single deed which causes even the slighest decrease in your connection with Allah SWT. It implies that you had a connection with Allah previously and then every deed you do that decreases your connection with Allah, leaving that deed is called Taqwa.

Waqouf ul Qalbi should be the goal of every Muslim. We should establish it in our lives, by following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Some important aspects of developing this state include:

1. Praying in Jamaah at the mosque

2. Daily  interaction with the Quran

3. Seeking out good company

4. Doing all the good deeds we know

5. Leaving the sins that cause us to backtrack

May Allah (SWT) give us the taufik to establish Waqouf al Qalbi in our lives, to remember Allah SWT on a 24 hour basis, to constantly turn our focus back to Allah SWT such that it becomes a permanent state within us. (Ameen)

Consistency in Actions

The Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon Him, in a very important hadith stated:

“The most beloved of all deeds to Allah SWT are the ones that are consistent (permanent), even if they are few.”

This hadith highlights for anyone pursuing any aspect of life, especially their Deen (Spiritual aspect), the importance of regularity in whatever we aim to achieve. The secret to succeed in any of our goals lies in being regular in our actions to achieve it. This is true for any aspect of our life, be it exercise, studies, financial savings  and so on and it also holds true for the Deen. If developing your mind, developing your muscle, developing your surroundings, basically every other aspect of your life  comes with consistency than why wouldn’t it apply to the heart as well?

This principle is especially very important for someone who is trying to develop their heart, because there is no other way! You can’t just get excited one day and do 20 -30 minutes of Dhikr and then all of a sudden leave it. Then two weeks later hear a talk and get excited again and do 30 minutes of Dhikr and then leave it. This way you will never get anywhere – It’s like writing in water!

First, lets remind ourselves that any action that we do for the Sake of Allah (SWT) with sincerity, whether it be small or big, consistent or inconsistent, will be rewarded in a way that we cannot even begin to phathom and the full reward of it  will only become apparent on the Day of Judgement.

There are two main principles that can guide us to consistency:

The first principle to succeed is to develop a regular set schedule and to stonchly defend it against the shaitan. Shaitan knows that Allah SWT loves actions that are regular and so his primary goal would be to remove them from your life.

The second principle is to realize that any time you want to progress in the Deen you have to take it one step at a time. You can’t just read a whole book of hadith and now say that you will come to the masjid for the 5 daily prayers and do extra nawafil and dhikr and all of a sudden have the whole Deen established in your life. Perhaps, your first goal could be to come to the masjid for Fajr at 6:00 am every single day, since you have no class or work or any other responsiblities or committments at that time. Make it your goal for the week, the month, 3 months or however long it takes you to achieve it. Once you establish it, you should keep it with permanence. This is the way to proceed and progress in the Eyes of Allah SWT. You build on your Deen, like a building, constantly adding or expanding your horizons, constantly doing more to get closer to Allah SWT.  Similarly, you should at least be reciting one ayah of the Qura’an every single day. Say to yourself, “I have the ability to read only ___ ayah(s) but I’ll do it every single day.” In this way, establish a regular set of deeds for yourself that you can do with regularity every single day. Establish them like brushing your teeth and eating three meals a day.

In constrast,  when you are random then you sometimes achieve things that you are not able to  keep up. This can be very dangerous as it shows that you have the ability to perform those deeds but you are not consistent in your effort. Remember this is how judgement will take place on the Day of Judgement. For example, you came to Fajr for three consecutive days and proved that you had the ability to do it, and then skipped the rest of the days, then those three days will be a proof against you on that Day. Therefore, any act you establish you should try and do it with permanance so it doesn’t turn against you on the Final Day.

We can also learn from the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Once He (PBUH) established an act in His (PBUH) life He (PBUH) never left it. And where He (PBUH) thought that He (PBUH) could establish an act and people might do it for a short period of time and then leave it, He (PBUH) stopped them.

As a final note, lets remind ourselves that if we have time to regularly watch the news, regularly watch our favourite t.v. show, regularly listen to our favourite tune, regularly surf our favourite website , we should have time to regularly pray to Allah SWT and to read His Book.  Remember: Don’t get excited; Plan and Act!

May Allah SWT  make us regular in whatever deeds we establish and to help us use those deeds to progress in our Deen  rather than having them as a proof against us on the Day of Judgement. (Ameen)

Ten Useless Matters

Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah

There are ten useless matters:

1. Knowledge that is not acted on
2. The deed that has neither sincerity nor is based on following the righteous examples of others
3. Money that is hoarded, as the owner neither enjoys it during this life nor obtains any reward for it in the Hereafter
4. The heart that is empty of love and longing for Allah, and of seeking closeness to Him
5. A body that does not obey and serve Allah
6. Loving Allah without following His orders or seeking His pleasure
7. Time that is not spent in expiating sins or seizing opportunities to do good
8. A mind that thinks about useless matters
9. Serving those who do not bring you close to Allah, nor benefit you in your life
10. Hoping and fearing whoever is under the authority of Allah and in His hand; while he cannot bring any benefit or harm to himself, nor death, nor life; nor can he resurrect himself.

However the greater of these matters are wasting the heart and wasting time. Wasting the heart is done by preferring this worldly life over the Hereafter, and wasting time is done by having incessant hope. Destruction occurs by following one’s desires and having incessant hope, while all goodness is found in following the right path and preparing oneself to meet Allah.

How strange it is that when a servant of Allah has a [worldly] problem, he seeks help of Allah, but he never asks Allah to cure his heart before it dies of ignorance, neglect, fulfilling one’s desires and being involved in innovations. Indeed, when the heart dies, he will never feel the significance or impact of his sins.

Perfecting One’s Character – Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah

The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam used to make a number of supplications related to good character.

“O Allah, guide me to good character, none guides to good character but You…” [Muslim]

“O Allah, I seek refuge in you from bad character, deeds and desires.” [at-Tirmidhee]

“O Allah, You perfectly created me, so perfect my character.” [Ahmad]

“O Allah, I seek refuge in you from disability and laziness; from cowardice and avarice; from decrepitude and harshness; from negligence and impoverishment, from lowness and humiliation. And I seek refuge in You from poverty and disbelief; from sinfulness, disunity and hypocrisy; from notability and riyaa’ (show off)…” [Ahmad, Maalik, Bazaar, Haithami and ibn `Abd al-Barr authenticated it.

The following beneficial excerpt is from “The Magnificent Journey” by ibn ul Qayyim [published by QSS]. It explains three conditions needed to acquire good manners, meaning proper nature, controlling one’s nafs and sound knowledge.

Three Conditions to Acquire Excellent Manners

This is one example of the excellent manners with which Allah (ta`aala) has equipped his Messenger (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam). He described him as,

“Verily, You [Muhammad] are on an exalted standard on character.” [68:4]

`Aa’ishah, radhiallaahu `anhu, described him as, “His character was just [a reflection of] the Qur’aan.” [Muslim, Aboo Daawood, Ahmad]

Such excellent character cannot be attained without three conditions:

1. The foundation must be good. Inf one has a rough and dry nature, it will be hard for him to submit to this [excellence of character] through knowledge, will, or practice. On the other hand, a mild and smooth nature will be ready and willing to receive the plowing and the seeds [to prepare it for character excellence].

2. The soul must be strong and capable of conquering calls of laziness, transgression, and desire. Those matters contradict perfection, and souls which cannot defeat them will always be defeated and conquered.

3. [One must possess] a discerning knowledge of the truth of matters, enabling one to put them in the rightful position, and to distinguish between flash and cancer – between glass and jewels.

If these three qualities are present in a man, and Allah’s facilitation helps him, then he will be among those whom the best (husnaa) has been decreed and for whom Allah’s care has been secured.

The Perfect Believer

Imam Ibn ul Jawzee

The believer is not one who performs the ordained religious duties superficially and avoids what is forbidden only, but he is one whose faith is absolute, with no objection whatsoever arising in his heart and no obsession dwelling in his soul. The more hardships he faces, the more his faith grows and the more his submission strengthens.

He could pray and not see a trace of an answer to his prayers, yet he does not change because he knows that he is owned by One who deals with him in whatever way He chooses. For if an objection was to arise in his heart, he then forsakes the role of the slave and takes on the role of a protester such as that of Iblees (the devil).

A strong faith unveils itself in strong hardships.

A believer sees in Yahya, son of Zakariyya, a fine example. He was killed by a tyrant who confronted him, yet He (subhanahu wa ta`ala), who made him a prophet, did not intervene nor defend him.

Similarly all the tyranny that befell the prophets and the believers was not held back from them. If one goes to think that Divinity cannot answer for them then one is an unbeliever. However if one believes that Divinity can answer for them but chooses not to, and that God (subhanahu wa ta`ala) can make the believers go hungry while infidels are full and inflict the believers with sickness and grant the infidels health, then one is only left with submission to the Owner even when tormented or scorched.

Jacob cried for eighty years when Joseph son of Jacob (peace be upon him) was gone, he never gave up; all he said when his other son was gone too is “May God bring all of them back to me”.

Moses (peace be upon him) prayed against Pharaoh, who killed children and crucified magicians and cut their hands, for 40 years before he was answered.

In such submission the intense of one’s strong faith is manifested not in mere rak`at (bowings in prayer).

So many of those who glorify Qadar were afflicted with tribulations and this did not increase them except in submission and pleasure (with their Lord), and there lies an explanation of the meaning of His words, “Allah is pleased with them” (Qur’an, 5:119 and elsewhere).

Al-Hasan Al-Basree said: people are the same in health but when hardship befalls they show distinction.