December 07, 2023 | Jumada I 24, 1445
The Forbidden Tree
Al-Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 35
"And we said: 'O Adam, you and your wife, both dwell in the Garden and eat freely thereof whatever you may wish but do not go near this tree, otherwise you shall become wrong-doers.'"
This tree was a trial of abstinence. Since will and determination cannot be ascertained until one has proved the practise of abstinence, will and determination are the only distinction between human and animals.
When Adam, peace be upon him, made the mistake of approaching the forbidden tree, Allah made the decision to have him and Eve, peace be upon her, thrown out of Paradise and sent down to earth. Actually it was planned that the struggle between right and wrong should be carried out on earth.
As Adam was created for life on earth, why was this scene enacted in Paradise? This experience in heaven was a kind of preparation for Adam so that he knew how to use the faculties bestowed upon him. It was done to make Adam alert to temptation, become acquainted with error, and learn to ask for Allah's forgiveness. Temptation by Satan, the realisation of mistakes, asking for forgiveness and the acceptance of forgiveness by Allah is the cycle that every human being has to face in this world. This story then is a reminder to the whole of mankind.
"Words That Moved the World" - Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, pp. 76-80
From Issue: 617 [Read original issue]
Gates of Goodness
On the Authority of Muaadh Ibn Jamal (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Shall I not inform you of the gates of goodness? [They are] fasting [which] is a shield, charity [which] extenguishes the sins like water extinguishes a fire and the prayer of a man in the depths of the night." [Recorded by al-Tirmidhi]
In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has called fasting a shield, like the shield that one uses in the battlefield. The shield protects a person from the enemy and fasting protects a person from committing sins and from entering the Hell-fire.
Ibn Rajab points out that fasting is a shield only if the act of fasting is not harmed by foul or improper speech. Then Ibn Rajab makes the point that if fasting is not a shield from committing sins in this world, it will not be a shield from the Hell-fire in the next. Al-Baitaar points out that the word for shield is in the indefinite. This implies that it can be every type of shield. It is a shield from the Hell-fire, from Allah's anger, from disease in this world, from straying from the Straight Path, from becoming arrogant and so forth.
The reference here is to voluntary charity not the obligatory zakat. Furthermore, the sins referred to here are the minor sins that are between a human and Allah. The major sins are not included here nor are the acts of wrong done toward others. The major sins are not extinguished by charity but are in need of repentance. Wrong done toward others need their forgiveness.
The word jauf when used along with the word night means the middle of the night. That is the case here. There are many aspects that make the late-night prayer special. First and foremost, it is a prayer. The best action or matter is prayer. Second, the prayer said in the late-night is more virtuous than the voluntary prayers during the day because it is further from ostentation and being done for show. Furthermore, it is easy to have the fear of Allah and concentrate on the prayer in the late-night prayer as there are few disturbances at that time. It increases one's sincerity to Allah.
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo, pp 1093-1101
From Issue: 695 [Read original issue]
Islam has a history of beautiful domestic affections, of sufferings and of spiritual endeavour, second to none in the world. That side of Muslim history, although to me the most precious, is, I am sorry to say, often neglected. It is most important that we should call attention to it, reiterated attention, the attention of our own people as well as the attention of those who are interested in historical and religious truth. If there is anything precious in Islamic history it is not the wars, or the politics, or the brilliant expansion, or the glorious conquests, or even the intellectual spoils which our ancestors gathered. In these matters, our history, like all history, has its lights and shades. What we need especially to emphasise is the spirit of organisation, of brotherhood, of undaunted courage in moral and spiritual life.
There is of course the physical suffering in martyrdom, and all sorrow and suffering claim our sympathy, — the dearest, purest, most outflowing sympathy that we can give. But there is a greater suffering than physical suffering. That is when a valiant soul seems to stand against the world; when the noblest motives are reviled and mocked; when truth seems to suffer an eclipse. It may even seem that the martyr has but to say a word of compliance, do a little deed of non-resistance; and much sorrow and suffering would be saved; and the insidious whisper comes: “Truth after all can never die.” That is perfectly true. Abstract truth can never die. It is independent of man’s cognition. But the whole battle is for man’s keeping hold of truth and righteousness. And that can only be done by the highest examples of man’s conduct – spiritual striving and suffering enduring firmness of faith and purpose, patience and courage where ordinary mortals would give in or be cowed down, the sacrifice of ordinary motives to supreme truth in scorn of consequence. The martyr bears witness, and the witness redeems what would otherwise be called failure. It so happened with Husain. For all were touched by the story of his martyrdom, and it gave the deathblow to the politics of Damascus and all it stood for. And Muharram has still the power to unite the different schools of thought in Islam, and make a powerful appeal to non-Muslims also.
That, to my mind, is the supreme significance of martyrdom. All human history shows that the human spirit strives in many directions, deriving strength and sustenance from many sources. Our bodies, our physical powers, have developed or evolved from earlier forms, after many struggles and defeats. Our intellect has had its martyrs, and our great explorers have often gone forth with the martyrs’ spirit. All honour to them. But the highest honour must still lie with the great explorers of spiritual territory, those who faced fearful odds and refused to surrender to evil. Rather than allow a stigma to attach to sacred things, they paid with their own lives the penalty of resistance. The first kind of resistance offered by the Imam was when he went from city to city, hunted about from place to place, but making no compromise with evil. Then was offered the choice of an effectual but dangerous attempt at clearing the house of God, or living at ease for himself by tacit abandonment of his striving friends. He chose the path of danger with duty and honour, and never swerved from it giving up his life freely and bravely. His story purifies our emotions. We can best honour his memory by allowing it to teach us courage and constancy.
"Imam Husain And His Martyrdom" - Abdullah Yusuf Ali
From Issue: 611 [Read original issue]