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Ramadan Reflections - Juz 9

September 16, 2008

Juz 9 - Surat al-Anfaal

Surat al-Anfaal is a tremendous surah, revealed with much guidance regarding the great Battle of Badr which occured approximately on the 17th of Ramadan in the first year after the Hijrah. In it are lofty reminders and elements of guidance for the believers from its outset where it defines the charateristics of the believers. I recently attended a beautiful khutbah in Minnesota wherein our noble Shaikh Waleed, may Allah preseve him for us, commented on a beautiful set of ayaat from this surah that I hope you will find as beneficial as I found them.

He reminded us from the beginning of the khutbah that Ramadan has always been associated as the month of victory for the Muslims - victories of all sorts, internal and external. In this month did the Muslims have the great victory at Badr, the Conquest of Mecca and even the great battle of Hitteen (which opened the Conquest of Jerusalem) under the leadership of Salahudeen all occured in this great month. On a lesser scale, we see Muslims like Hakeem Olajuwon and other athletes actually elevate their performance in this month. He then elucidated a beautiful point that I had never considered before; why does Allah grant so much victory in this month? The reason is easy if you think about it carefully; it is because in this month, we apply all of the factors that bring about victory. This is the month that Allah blesses us by chaining up the devils, a month that has lailatul Qadr and of course a month in which we fast daily and stand for long periods in the night praying. Certainly our increase in such noble and lofty acts of worship has a great impact on our endeavors in this month. He then recited these beautiful and profound ayaat from the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا لَقِيتُمْ فِئَةً فَاثْبُتُواْ وَاذْكُرُواْ اللّهَ كَثِيراً لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلَحُونَ

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ

وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ خَرَجُواْ مِن دِيَارِهِم بَطَرًا وَرِئَاء النَّاسِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطٌ


O you who believe! When you meet (an enemy) force, take a firm stand against them and remember the Name of Allah much, so that you may be successful. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are patient. And be not like those who come out of their homes boastfully and to be seen of men, and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah. And Allah encompasses and thoroughly comprehends all that they do. [8:45-47]

In these three ayaat, Allah provides us with the six ingredients for success in our endeavors whatever they may be, and insha’Allah we will try to understand each one of them below:

1.     The first of these ingredients for success is “ath-thabaat” which means to be firm. The firmness here is in reference to the obedience to Allah in general. Thus, remaining firm is to remain firm in the obedience to Allah in both what He commands us to do and what He forbids us from doing. In Ramadan, we can see how this command is fulfilled as you see a general increase in concern for acts of worship by the Muslims. People who neglected their prayers the remainder of the year seem to make a greater effort to make their prayers on time. They fast and remain firm in starting their fast on time and are keen to break their fast on time. Many Muslims also seem to have chosen Ramadan as the month in which they pay their zakaat every year and again, the payment of the zakaat is an act of worship in obedience to the command of Allah. A careful regard for the prohibited also exists among the members of the Ummah in this month as they leave off much of the prohibitions they used to endulge in so that they have time for the acts of worship. May Allah help us to reflect deeply on this issue the remainder of the year to comprehend how much of our failures stem from a failure to act on this point the remainder of the year.

2.     The second ingredient is one that we have discussed in detail before and will briefly remember now: to remember Allah much (Thikr). It is narrated in an authentic hadith that a man once came to the Prophet (saas) and said, “O’ Prophet of Allah, the laws of Islam have become too much for us. So, is there one thing that we can hold on to that would be inclusive (of many other things?)” He (saas) replied, “Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah, most Exalted, Magnificent.” (Ahmad) Thus the frequent remembrance of Allah is a great matter that is commonly neglected by us especially in our modern world of distractions. Let us also remember that the comprehensive definition of thikr is not just to remember him with the tongue, but it is to obey Him physically as this demonstrates that you are keeping Him in heart and mind. When we do remember Him with our tongues, this remembrance should be accompanied by the presence of the heart and mind, reflecting and pondering the words we are saying and His greatness. So again in Ramadan we find the Muslims giving up many of the distractions of the rest of the year to focus on the best type of thikr - the Qur’an. It is narrated that Khabaab ibnul Arrat once said,”Seek closeness to Allah by any of the (legislated) means that you wish, but know that you shall not get closer to Him by anything more beloved to Him than His speech (the Qur’an).” Hence we see an immediate effect on our lives when we increase our recitation of the Qur’an and remembering Allah, an effect which can only produce success in our lives.

3.     The third ingredient of success is the obedience of Allah and His Messenger, a topic we have focused on much in this Ramadan series due to its importance. It is taqwa, it is thikr, it is thabaat amd it can only lead to success of all types in this life and the Hereafter. In fact, in this very surah, Allah commands the believers with the following instruction (what means): “O you who believe! give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He calls you to that which will give you life.” [8:24] And recently we remembered Allah’s statement in Aali-’Imraan wherein He said what means, “And obey Allah and the Messenger, that you may obtain mercy.” [3:132] This must remind us, as should the condition of our lives during Ramadan, how Allah only commands us with that which is pure and beneficial for us, and forbids us from that which is impure and harmful and that He knows best as he is our Creator and Sustainer. Let us remember Allah’s statement from surat al-Baqarah wherein He said what means, “… 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.” [2:216]

4.     The fourth ingredient mentioned is to remain united and not dispute with one another lest our strength depart. Once again, this is one of the most beautiful elements of Islam is that so many people put down their differences in Ramadan to come together under one roof and in the same lines of prayer beseeching their Lord for His mercy, forgiveness and victory. They remember that they are fasting in the day and avoid arguing or disagreement and they don’t lose time in the evenings because they are keen to use that time for worship. The issue of what is the basis for unity is beyond the scope of this simple reminder, so we shall suffice ourselves with an important point on this issue which is that unity is not the ultimate goal of this deen. Yes, it is an important issue that we should strive for but it is not the reason for which we were created and thus we cannot ignore certain differences simply for the sake of being unified. Allah has said what means, “And if your had so willed, He could surely have made mankind one Ummah [nation or community (following one religion only i.e. Islâm)], but they will not cease to disagree. Except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His Mercy and for that did He create them ….” [11:118-119] Here we see that if Allah had willed He could have united the people as one, but that is not the goal for which we were created. Differences will exist and there will be those who will choose the path of wrong no matter what unfortunately.

o        Ibn Kathir states in regards to the meaning behind this noble and often overlooked verse, “This means that those who have received the mercy of Allah by following the Messengers are excluded from this. They are those who adhere to what they are commanded in the religion by the Messengers of Allah. That has always been their characteristic until the coming of the finality of the Prophets and Messengers (Muhammad ). Those who received Allah’s mercy are those who followed him, believed in him and supported him. Therefore, they succeeded by achieving happiness in this life and the Hereafter. They are the Saved Sect mentioned in the authentic hadith … wherein the Prophet (saas) said, “Verily, the Jews split into seventy-one sects, and the Christians split into seventy-two sects, and this nation (of Muslims) will split into seventy-three sects. All of them will be in the Fire except one sect. They (the Companions) said, “Who are they (the Saved Sect) O Messenger of Allah” He said, “The sect that is upon what my Companions and I are upon“. (Ahmad and others)

o        Notice also how the ayah states, “and for that did He create them “. For what did Allah then create us? For following the guidance that He has sent to us upon the lips of the Messengers and that guidance is to worship Allah alone as has been repeated over and over again throughout the Quran upon the lips of the Messengers one after the other, “O my people! worship Allah alone! You have no other god but Him.” [7:59, 65, 73, etc.] The purpose for which we were created and the reason by which we attain the mercy of Allah is to devote all of our worship to Him alone according to the guidance of the Quran and Sunnah as it was understood and practiced by the Companions. This is the basis of unity and this is the non-negotiable issue that must be agreed upon before we can expect success.

5.     The fifth ingredient of success is patience. Patience too is an extensive topic but it involves patience with the obedience to Allah’s commands (praying on time, fasting, etc.), patience with the avoidance of Allah’s prohibitions (lowering the gaze, guarding your speech, avoiding zina, etc.) and lastly patience with the trials Allah tests us with. Once again, you can see how we increase our patience in this blessed month by doing all of the above. We are patient with the fasting by being sure to do all that it entails and we remain patient with our hunger, thirst and desire for our spouses. He are also more vigilant with the prohibitions especially lowering the gaze and avoiding vain speech and all forms of prohibited speech. And it is for this reason that Ramadan has come to be known as the month of patience, may Allah make us worthy of it!

6.     The sixth and last ingredient of success as mentioned in these powerful ayaat is the avoidance of arrogance and showing off. We had already mentioned the authentic hadith of the Prophet (saas) in regards to arrogance wherein he said, “Whoever has a mustard seed’s weight of arrogance in their heart will not enter Paradise.” A man then asked, “A man loves that his clothes and his shoes to look good (is this arrogance)?” The Prophet (saas) replied to him, “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance is to rejecting the truth and to look down upon people.” (Muslim) It is from this understanding that many of the scholars of this religion have deduced that worship is composed of two essential elements: 1) the love of Allah which is more than the love of anything else, and 2) to look down upon yourself and your deeds, meaning to not see yourself or your actions as anything special and to remember that whatever you accomplish than it is from the mercy of Allah to you and not due to your own goodness or power. This humility before Allah when combined with love for Him is the essence of all worship and leads one to be able to follow the straight path to His pleasure.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah benefit us by these beneficial points and bless and reward Shaikh Waleed for sharing them with us and gather us all among the successful in this life and the Hereafter in His pleasure and in His Jannaat.

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