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Asking the Right Questions

سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاءً ظَاهِرًا وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا

They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.”  [18:22]


“No, but…” she said hand on hip, pointing a finger at us all.

Her face lit up. “What if he saw the Angel of death before he crashed into the tree? Because if he did, then I think maybe the fright he got when he saw the Angel caused him to swerve and then crash! I think that happened.” She said nodding her head agreeing with her own predictions.

I recently heard a sister say something close to this at my college regarding a famous celebrity who passed away in a car accident. The sister, to make things sound interesting I suppose, was speculating about when this man actually saw the Angel of death… was it before the car swerved or as it hit the tree?

This was something that shocked me. This is just one example, but there are so many other instances when things like this happen. When people begin to question and guess at the unseen when knowing the answer to their question has no benefit whatsoever either in this world or the next. People do this for amusement, debate, argument etc.

There is a type of questioning which will lead to beneficial answers and will increase one in knowledge, but on the other hand there is also another type of questioning, questioning of matters the knowledge of which only lies with Allah and will not bring us any benefit. With such things, the best thing to do is stay quiet, because as human beings, we’ve got to accept that we won’t always know everything.

“They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen…”

In this verse in Surah Kahf, Allah talks about a group of people, similar to the group we discussed earlier, who sit in gatherings, debating and guessing, in this situation, of the number of the companions of the cave. Yet, what does Allah command the Prophet (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam) to tell them?

He says: “Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala could have easily revealed to us the answer to this question. But He chose not to. In doing so he teaches us a lesson. In matters like these we should accept what we are told, not speculate about what we don’t know and leave it to Allah. Allah clearly informs them to not argue without evidence, for such things lead to speculation. We waste so much time arguing over matters we have no control over, that are unseen to us, that we forget the more important questions that will benefit us in this world and the next. Questions such as, How can I attain Khushu’ in my Salaah? How can I strengthen my relationship with Allah? Rather than other non-beneficial, guess-game type questions.

Or in this instance, rather than worrying about how many people there were in the cave perhaps we should concern ourselves with their characteristics, what did they do to deserve the honour of their story being preserved for eternity? How can we follow their footsteps towards pleasing Allah and attaining righteousness? What can we learn from them?

Excessive questioning was one of the traits of the Bani Israel. When Allah swt commanded them to slaughter a cow, they questioned Allah over and over again, to the point that in the end, they could almost not find the cow, because of their constant questioning of its description.

They said, “Call upon your Lord for us that He may make plain to us what it is!” He said, “He says, ‘Verily, it is a cow neither too old nor too young, but (it is) between the two conditions’, so do what you are commanded.” [ 2:68]

However, a point to remember, Islam is simple, realistic and easy. Even though there may be some questions that we shouldn’t ask, there are those that we should ask, and those are the questions that will bring benefit in this life and the next, inshaAllah.

The point here is not that questions are bad but rather that asking a question should be done with a purpose. Islam is the only religion which emphasizes and encourages thinking and questioning and reflecting as part of the learning process. How many times in the Qur’an does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ask us: “Do you not ponder?”, “Do you not reflect?”, “Do you not think?” May Allah swt guide us to ask the right questions, ameen.

Lessons from the Cave: Finding Success Through Conviction

There are many lessons we can derive from the story of the companions of the cave. The emphasis on steadfastness and holding tight to the truth is evident in this beautiful story. The companions of the cave fled from their palaces to retreat to a dark cave. Why? What was it that led them to leave the luxuries they were surrounded with, to leave their lofty positions, their palaces, and their superfluities, and instead migrate to a cave in the middle of an unfamiliar place?

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

Allah says: [Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.” [18:10]

These were youth, young men, and sons of prestigious Kings, whose hearts Allah were guided and filled with Imaan. Their love for Allah, and their fear of associating partners with Allah and disobeying him caused them to leave their homes which were filled with polytheism and disbelief. For them, living in a cave with pure monotheism was better than living in a land of polytheism. Their Du’aa to Allah as they left their lavish dwellings was one which was deeply heart-felt, their soft hearts were filled with fear – fear of going astray, and their only call to Allah was, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.”

Their hearts weren’t harboring any doubts about what might happen to them as they journeyed to the cave. They weren’t worried about how they would eat, where they would live but rather they placed their trust in Allah. Hoping that their Lord would guide them to the right place, that He would take care of them and shower His mercy upon them for fleeing from falsehood. For these particular youth, Tawheed was their most prized possession: their most valuable gift, and they wouldn’t trade it for any of the luxuries they ever had. They knew that their words and actions could not change their fathers and the people around them, who were drowning in Shirk, and so isolation was their only option. They would never compromise on their religion.

Oh youth, listen with a heart full of conviction, and listen in heed. These men were youth who valued their religion more than they valued the gold and the palaces they were brought up in. Mud and soil as a pillow was more beloved to them than soft-to-touch cushions lined with diamonds and gems. Allah doesn’t narrate to us stories without purpose; rather they are there to reminder us. Their sincere conviction became the reason their story has been preserved.

وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَىٰ تَنفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

Allah says: “And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers” [51:55]

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ بِمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ وَإِن كُنتَ مِن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ

He also says: “We relate to you, [O Muhammad], the best of stories in what We have revealed to you of this Qur’an although you were, before it, among the unaware.” [12:3]

Oh youth of Islam, serve your religion from a young age, you have all the energy of youth on your side, right now. It is you who will carry Islam forward, and who will be the leaders of the future generation. Just like the companions of the cave, don’t compromise your religion for anything or anyone. You may not be the sons of Kings as they were, but for you it is lot easier than it was for them, to detach your hearts from falsehood, from the glitter of this world. Lastly, remember Allah grants believers steadfastness at the time of need, so flee to Him and He will bestow His mercy on you.

Just as the companions of the cave found eternal success through their conviction in Allah, you too can harness the power of conviction. Just put your faith and trust in Allah and constantly seek His guidance and keep moving forward towards your goals. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us all to the best of success, ameen.

 

Hajj Diary Day 3: First Day in Makkah Ready for Hajj!

Day 3: Tuesday, 30/9/14, 6th Dhul-Hijjah 1435; 4:35am

Done with Umrah, Alhamdulillah!

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

“…Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” (2:127)

I really should make a habit of reciting this more. It’s so amazing that Ibraheem (as) recited it as he was building the Ka’bah with Isma’il (as) – what a greatly rewarding act in itself!  and still asked for acceptance of his deeds. How much more so do we need it then?

I’m waiting for the Fajr adhan as I write. We all split up to do our umrah – tawaf and sa’ee are easier, I believe, if you’re not trying to hold onto someone. Yet with those very beliefs, Allah placed an old Chinese woman in my care, to hold onto and take care of in the crowds of tawaf. SubhanAllah! I was a bit confused at first as to whether she recognized me or not – maybe she mistook me for someone? But then I realized that she just wanted someone to hold onto. It’s a great feeling to be blessed with such a responsibility, and to show affection for our ummah who are our sisters, even if we don’t know them.

Alhamdulillah!

A part of me can’t believe I’m here. The place looks the same yet different, what with all the construction. It’s not as much a hindrance as we feared it would be, Alhamdulillah! It’s so amazing to see all the different groups of people from different countries, all here for one purpose. Makes me wonder what Jannah will be like!

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ

“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed, in that are signs for those of knowledge.” (30:22)

I’m falling asleep. It’s been a long tiring day. Alhamdulillah I got a women’s area as soon as I got out of sa’ee but the problem is that I don’t know where exactly I am or how long it will take me to get out of the masjid right after.

4:39pm

It is technically only Day 1 in Makkah and so far we’ve prayed only Fajr and Asr at the haram and rested for all the time in between. We have two days back in Makkah before Madinah so hopefully we’ll have energy for nafl tawaf then. We’ve been told to save it all now for the actual days of hajj, although we’ve been getting quite the workout by climbing up to the 7th floor every time..! It’s easier than waiting for the lift! All part of hajj prep!

We saw trucks full of goats yesterday, on the way to Makkah! Felt sorry for them, but it all adds to the spirit! It really is a bakra Eid!

The crowd is not as bad as I expected but I’m guessing the three days of hajj are going to be crazy. It’s so interesting to think that so much preparation goes into literally just three days – for that is the crux of it.

SubhanAllah.

In the midst of all the should-be ‘ibadah, you can’t deny the pull of all the shops – some of them screaming “Everything for only 3 riyals”! Alhamdulillah that is allowed too!

… لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِّن رَّبِّكُم

“There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord [during Hajj]…” [2:19]

A shopping list is definitely required though, so that one does not get carried away!

…فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُم مَّنَاسِكَكُمْ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّـهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ آبَاءَكُمْ أَوْ أَشَدَّ ذِكْرًا ۗ

“And when you have completed your rites, remember Allah like your [previous] remembrance of your fathers or with [much] greater remembrance…” [2:200]

We leave to Mina tomorrow night!

Over & Out

How is it possible that a taxi driver can be reciting the Qur’an with good tajweed one minute and then cheating their customer the next?

This is what I experienced enroute to Cairo Airport. Being a Friday, the taxi driver was reciting Surah Kahf on the way to the airport. He refused to put the meter on and then as I expected proceeded to demand an exorbitant amount for the ride when he dropped me off. Alhumdullilah.

Reflecting on this experience, this is exactly why we need to keep up the struggle of making comprehensive Quranic education the norm, rather the exception. The Qur’an needs to go beyond being merely an exercise of the vocal chords.

It was also a reminder for me that I have unfinished business in Egypt. If Allah wills, I will be back. But for now, I can’t wait to get back to the family.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the travel blog and I request your duas for the work that we are doing.

May Allah accept it from the team, forgive us for our shortcoming and grant us positive outcomes from this trip.

This work needs more than what those who accompanied me to Egypt can give. If you’d like to get involved and support this work in any way, please do get in touch.

Until next time.

BarakAllahu Feekum

The Story of Ahmed & Umar

Sometimes Allah sends you gifts from where you least expect it.

Ahmed & Umar have been our hosts during this trip. They are also an integral part of our team in Egypt. The story of how they came to be is in and of itself a sign from Allah Subhanahuwatala.

On our previous trip to Egypt, we knew we wanted to give our teachers some English training and we put a few feelers out there. We thought the most likely solution would be for us to send our teachers to a private English teaching institute in a big regional city. However, when we fronted up to speak to their management and the receptionist could not speak English, you can imagine our confidence levels. We were then told about two English language students from Munefiyyah university and we arranged to meet them.

Honestly speaking, I wasn’t expecting very much to come from that meeting given that we hadn’t met anyone in the village at the time that could speak with any sort of fluency. When we did meet, to say it was a breath of fresh air was an understatement. These guys were masters level English literature students and were in tune with our world. I was excited!

After we returned to our homes we worked with them to establish a pilot teacher training program – which they executed very professionally and overcame many challenges without giving up.

Today, Ahmed is our centre manager at Shibin & Umar is our curriculum implementation manager, where he works with our teachers to continually improve the standard of the classes being delivered.

I thank Allah for uniting our hearts on this mission and ask Him to preserve them and their families and grant them all goodness in this life and the next. Ameen.

Last night we were having a chat about our future plans and Ahmed gave us an insight into his reason for being associated with Tanzeel. He mentioned that as a teacher, his satisfaction comes from seeing their students go on to do things with the knowledge they’ve been given & through working with Tanzeel what he is able to do is work with teachers of Allah’s Book to make them effective communicators of Allah’s message. What could be more satisfying than this?

In my opening blog I mentioned that I was maintaining a travel blog as a means of giving you an insight into the work that we are doing so that you may see how you might be able to contribute to the mission of spreading the Qur’an with understanding.

I am a firm believer that everybody has a role to play and Ahmed & Umar are perfect examples of this. They are using the knowledge that Allah Subhanahuwatala has blessed them with to add immense value to the world of Qur’anic education. This career path is clearly not conventional – but it is absolutely necessary!

So the question we all need to ask ourselves is, what is it that we’ve been blessed with which we can use to further the Deen of Allah and invest in our own hear-after?