06-22-2005, 06:00 PM
The Ideal Muslim and His Own Self Reply
By Dr. Muhammad ‘Ali Al-Hashimi
(An Excerpt from the Author's Book “The Ideal Muslim: The True Islâmic Personality of the Muslim as Defined in the Qur’ân and Sunnah”)
Islam wants the Muslim to stand out among people, readily distinguished by his appearance, dress, decent behaviour and good deeds, so that he will be a good example and worthy of the great message that he brings to people.
According to a hadith narrated by the great Sahabi Ibn al- Hanzaliyyah, the Prophet (S.A.W.) told his Companions, when they were travelling to meet some brothers in faith:
“You are going to visit your brothers, so repair your saddles and make sure that you are dressed well, so that you will stand out among people like an adornment, for Allah (S.W.T.) does not love ugliness.” 1
The Prophet (S.A.W.) considered an unkempt and careless appearance, and scruffy clothes and furnishings, to be forms of ugliness, which is hated and forbidden by Islam.
The true Muslim does not neglect himself, no matter how busy he is with his Islamic responsibilities, because the outward appearance of a man cannot be separated from his inner nature. A refined and pleasant appearance befits a noble and decent essence: this is how the Muslim who is to call others to Allah (S.W.T.) should be.
The smart Muslim is one who strikes a balance between the needs of his body, mind and soul. He gives each the attention it deserves, and does not exaggerate in one aspect to the detriment of the others. In seeking to strike the right balance, he is following the wise guidance of the Prophet (S.A.W.).
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aî (R.A.A.) reported that the Prophet (S.A.W.) knew about his exaggeration in worship, because he told him (‘Abdullah):
“Have I not heard that you fast all day and stay up all night in prayer?” He said, “That is true, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (S.A.W.) told him: “Do not do that. Fast and break your fast, sleep and get up. For your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you, and your visitors have a right over you.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
How can the Muslim achieve this balance between his body, mind and soul?
1- His Body
Moderation in food and drink
The Muslim takes good care of his body, actively promoting its good health and strength. So he is moderate in his intake of food and drink, avoiding greed and consuming only what he needs to maintain his well-being and energy. This is in accordance with the guidance of Allah (S.W.T.) in the Qur’an:
[. . . Eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.] (Qur’an 7:31)
Similarly, the Prophet (S.A.W.) also advised moderation in food and drink:
“There is no worse vessel for the son of Adam to fill than his own stomach, but if he must fill it, then let him allow one third for food, one third for drink, and one third for air.” 2
‘Umar (R.A.A.) said:
“Beware of filling your stomachs with food and drink, for it is harmful to the body and causes sickness and laziness in performing prayers. Be moderate in both food and drink, for that is healthier for your bodies and furthest removed from extravagance. Allah (S.W.T.) will hate the fat man (one who revels in a life of luxury), and a man will not be condemned until he favours his desires over his religion.” 3
The Muslim avoids drugs and stimulants, especially those which are clearly known to be haram. He sleeps early and wakes early, and does not take medicine except for illness. Besides this, everything in his way of life is aimed at promoting his natural health and energy.
The smart Muslim knows that a strong believer is more loved by Allah (S.W.T.) than a weak one, as the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, so he tries to strengthen his body through a healthy lifestyle.
He exercises regularly
Although the Muslim usually enjoys good physical health, because of his abstention from haram or harmful food and drink, and his avoidance of bad habits such as staying up late or indulging in activities that may be detrimental to his well-being, he must still make a concerted effort to improve his bodily strength.
The healthy eating habits that he practices are supplemented by an organized exercise program, appropriate to his physical condition, age and social status. This gives strength, energy and vitality to his body, and provides immunity to illness.
If he is to reap the benefits of exercise, he plans to exercise regularly and does not give up. All of this is done in an organized and systematic fashion, but in moderation, as this is the hallmark of the true Muslim in every place and age.
His body and clothes are clean
The Muslim whom Islam wants to stand out among people is very clean. He has high standards of personal hygiene, bathing frequently in accordance with the guidance of the Prophet (S.A.W.) who encouraged people to wash themselves completely and wear perfume, especially on Fridays:
“Have a bath on Fridays and wash your heads, even if you are not in a state of janabah (impurity, e.g. following sexual relations), and wear perfume.” (Bukhari).
The Prophet (S.A.W.) placed such a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing that some of the four Imams considered performing ghusl before Friday prayer to be obligatory (wajib).
Abu Hurayrah (R.A.A.) said:
“The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: ‘It is the duty of every Muslim to take a bath (at least) once every seven days, and to wash his head and body.’” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The true Muslim keeps his clothes and socks clean, checking them from time to time, to be sure that they have no unpleasant smell. He also wears perfume 4 to help keep himself clean. It is reported that ‘Umar (R.A.A.) used to say: “Whoever spends a third of his wealth on perfume is not being extravagant.”
The smart Muslim takes care of his mouth, for no one should ever have to smell an unpleasant odour coming from it. He does this by cleaning his teeth every day with a siwak, toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwashes. He also visits the dentist regularly, to check his mouth, at least once a year, and visits other specialists (such as otolaryngologists or “ear, nose and throat” doctors) as necessary, so that his mouth will stay clean and his breath fresh.
‘A’ishah (R.A) narrated that the Prophet (S.A.W.) “never woke from sleeping at any time of day or night without cleaning his teeth with a siwak before performing wudu’.”5
The Prophet’s concern for oral hygiene was so great that he said:
“If it were not for the fact that I did not want to overburden my Ummah, I would have ordered them to use the siwak before every prayer.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
‘A’ishah was asked what the Prophet (S.A.W.) used to do first when he came home. She said: “Use siwak.” (Muslim)
Regrettably, some Muslims neglect these teachings that are at the heart of Islam, and do not pay heed to the cleanliness of their mouths, bodies and clothes. So you may see them going to the mosque or to other religious meetings and study circles, annoying their brothers with their unpleasant smell and offending the angels who surround these blessed gatherings. What is really strange is the fact that they themselves listen to and repeat the saying of the Prophet (S.A.W.) that whoever eats onions, garlic or leeks should not go to the mosque because his breath may disturb the angels and the people:
“Whoever eats onions, garlic or leeks should not approach our mosque, because whatever offends the sons of Adam may offend the angels.” (Muslim)
The Prophet (S.A.W.) banned those who had eaten these pungent vegetables from coming anywhere near the mosque, lest the people and the angels be offended by their bad breath, but these smells pale into insignificance beside the stench of dirty clothes, filthy socks, unwashed bodies and unclean mouths that emanate from some careless and unkempt individuals who offend others in any gathering.
Imam Ahmad and Imam al-Nisa’i narrate that Jabir (R.A.A.) said:
“The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) came to visit us, and saw a man who was wearing dirty clothes. He said, ‘Could this person not find anything with which to wash his clothes?’”
The Prophet (S.A.W.) did not like a Muslim to appear before people wearing dirty clothes, if he had the means to clean them. He encouraged Muslims always to dress in clean clothes and to present a neat and attractive appearance. He used to say:
“There is nothing wrong with keeping two garments for Friday, apart from one’s work clothes.” 6
Islam frequently encourages its followers to be clean always, to perfume their clothes and to ensure that their bodies always smell fresh and clean. This is what the Prophet (S.A.W.) used to do, according to the report that Imam Muslim quotes from Anas ibn Malik, who said: “I have never smelt any ambergris or musk that had a better scent than the scent of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.).”
Many reports describe the cleanliness of the Prophet’s clothes and body, and describe the sweet smell of his sweat. For example, if he shook hands with a man, his beautiful scent would remain on that man’s hand for the rest of the day, and if he laid his hand on the head of a child, that child would stand out from others by virtue of his sweet smell.
Imam Bukhari mentions, in al-Tarikh al-kabir, reporting from Jabir, that the Prophet (S.A.W.) never passed through a place but a person who followed him would know that he had been there, from his lingering scent.
Once, the Prophet (S.A.W.) slept in the house of Anas. He sweated, and Umm Anas came to collect the sweat in a bottle. The Prophet (S.A.W.) asked her about what she was doing, and she told him: “This is your sweat; we add it to our perfume and it is the best of perfumes.” (Muslim)
How urgent is the Muslims’ need to follow the guidance of this great Messenger in his command to take care of one’s hair and keep it neat in accordance with the teachings of Islam. This is reported in the hadith that Abu Dawud quotes from Abu Hurayrah (R.A.A.) who said:
“The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: ‘Whoever has hair, let him look after it properly.’”
Looking after one’s hair, according to Islamic teaching, involves keeping it clean, combing it, perfuming it and styling it nicely.
The Prophet (S.A.W.) did not like people to leave their hair uncombed and unkempt, so that they looked like wild monsters. He described such an ugly appearance as being like the Shaytan. In al-Muwatta, Imam Malik reports a hadith with a mursal isnad from ‘Ata’ ibn Yassar, who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) was in the mosque, when a man with unkempt hair and an untidy beard came in. The Prophet (S.A.W.) pointed to him, as if indicating that to him that he should tidy up his hair and beard. The man went and did so, then returned. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, ‘Is this not better than that any one of you should come with unkempt hair, looking like the Shaytan?”
The Prophet’s likening a man with untidy hair to the Shaytan clearly shows how concerned Islam is with a neat and pleasant appearance, and how opposed it is to scruffiness and ugliness.
The Prophet (S.A.W.) always took note of people’s appearance, and he never saw a scruffily-dressed man with untidy hair but he criticized him for his self-neglect. Imam Ahmad and al-Nisa’i report that Jabir (R.A.A.) said: “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) came to visit us, and he saw an unkempt man whose hair was going in all directions, so he said, ‘Could he not find anything with which to calm his head?’”
The true Muslim takes good care of his clothes, so you will see him presenting a pleasant appearance, without being extravagant. He is pleasant to look at and to meet, and does not annoy people with his careless, dishevelled appearance. He always checks himself before he goes out to meet people, and he makes himself look good, in moderation, for the Prophet (S.A.W.) used to make himself look good in front of his Companions, as well as in front of his family.
In his commentary on the Ayah:
[Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful [gifts] of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, [which He has provided] for sustenance? . . .] (Qur’an 7:32)
Al-Qurðubi said: “Makhul reported from ‘A’ishah: ‘A group of the Companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) was waiting at the door for him, so he prepared to go out to meet them. There was a vessel of water in the house, and he peered into it, smoothing his beard and his hair. (‘A’ishah said:) I asked him, “O Messenger of Allah, even you do this?” He said: “Yes, when a man goes out to meet his brothers, let him prepare himself properly, for Allah (S.W.T.) is beautiful and loves beauty.”’”
The Muslim does all of this in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes of either exaggeration or negligence:
[Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just [balance] between those [extremes].] (Qur’an 25:67)
Islam wants its followers, and especially its advocates (da‘is) to stand out in gatherings in an attractive fashion, not to appear unsightly or unbearable. Neglecting one’s appearance to the extent of being offensive to one’s companions in the name of asceticism and humility is not part of Islam. The Prophet (S.A.W.), who was the epitome of asceticism and humility, used to dress in decent clothes and present a pleasant appearance to his family and his companions. He regarded dressing well and looking good as a demonstration of the blessings of Allah (S.W.T.) :
“Allah (S.W.T.) loves to see the signs of His gifts on His slave.”7
Ibn Sa‘d reports in al-Tabaqat that Jundab ibn Makith (R.A.A.) said:
“Whenever a delegation came to meet the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), he would wear his best clothes and order his leading Companions to do likewise. I saw the Prophet (S.A.W.) on the day that the delegation of Kindah came to meet him; he was wearing a Yemeni garment, and Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were dressed similarly.”
Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Tabarani, al-Hakim, al-Bayhaqi and others report that ‘Umar (R.A.A.) said:
“I saw the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) ask for a new garment. He put it on, and when it reached his knees he said, ‘Praise be to Allah, Who has given me clothes with which to cover myself and make myself look beautiful in this life.’”
‘Abdul-Rahman ibn ‘Awf (R.A.A.) used to dress in a cloak or garment that was worth four or five hundred dirhams (Tabaqat Ibn Sa‘d, 3/131), and Ibn ‘Abbas bought a garment worth one thousand dirhams and wore it (Tabaqat Ibn Sa‘d, 3/131).
So long as this taking care of one’s outward appearance does not go to extremes, then it is part of the beauty that Allah (S.W.T.) has allowed for His slaves and encouraged them to adopt:
[O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. Say, who has forbidden the beautiful [gifts] of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, [which He has provided] for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, [and] purely for them on the Day of Judgement. Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand.] (Qur’an 7:31-32)
Muslim reports from Ibn Mas‘ud (R.A.A.) that the Prophet (S.A.W.) said:
“No one who has even an atom’s-weight of pride in his heart will enter Paradise.” A man asked him, “What if he likes his clothes and shoes to look good?” (Meaning, is this counted as pride?) The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: “Allah (S.W.T.) is beautiful and loves beauty. Pride means denying the truth and looking down on other people.”
This is the understanding adopted by the Sahabah and those who followed them sincerely. Therefore Imam Abu Hanifah (R.A.A.) always took care to dress well and to ensure that he smelled clean and fresh, and urged others to do likewise. One day he met a man who used to attend his circle, who was dressed in scruffy clothes. He took him to one side and offered him one thousand dirhams with which to smarten himself up. The man told him, “I have money, I do not need this.” Abu Hanifah admonished him: “Have you not heard the hadith, ‘Allah (S.W.T.) loves to see the signs of His gifts on His servant’? So you have to change yourself, and not appear offensive to your friend.”
Naturally, those who call people to Allah (S.W.T.) should be better and smarter in appearance than others, so that they will be better able to attract people and make their message reach their hearts. Indeed they, unlike others, are required to be like this even if they do not go out and meet people, because those who proclaim the word of Allah (S.W.T.) should take care of their appearance and pay attention to the cleanliness of their bodies, clothes, nails and hair. They should do this even if they are in a state of isolation or retreat, in response to the call of the natural unaffected inclination of man (fitrah) which the Prophet (S.A.W.) told us about and outlined its requirements:
“Five things are part of the fitrah: circumcision, removing the pubic hair, plucking hair from the armpits, cutting the nails, and trimming the moustache.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Taking care of oneself in accordance with this fiðrah is something encouraged by Islam and supported by every person of common sense and good taste.
Nevertheless, paying attention to one’s appearance should not make a Muslim fall into the trap of over-exaggerating his grooming to the extent that he loses sight of the sense of balance prescribed by Islamic teaching. The Muslim always aims at moderation in all things, and is on the alert to prevent any one aspect of his life from taking over at the expense of another.
The Muslim never forgets that Islam, which encourages him to take care of his appearance and to wear his beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer, is also the religion that warns him against going to extremes in that, and tells him to avoid becoming enslaved by his appearance, as the hadith says:
“Wretched is the slave of the dinar, dirham, and fancy clothes of velvet and silk! If he is given, he is pleased, and if he is not given, he is displeased.” (Bukhari)
No doubt those who call people to Allah (S.W.T.) are saved from this error, because they surround themselves with the protection of Islam and adopt the principles of moderation that it has brought.
2- His Mind
Knowledge is an obligation and an honour for the Muslim
The Muslim believes that exercising his mind and seeking knowledge and discovering the signs of Allah (S.W.T.) in the universe is an obligation, because of the saying of the Prophet (S.A.W.):
“Seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim.” (Bukhari)
Therefore the Muslim must continue to pursue knowledge, as long as the breath of life remains in his body. The fact that Allah (S.W.T.) has raised the status of those who have knowledge, and described them alone as truly fearing Him, should be enough to encourage the Muslim to apply himself to seeking knowledge. For He said:
[. . . Those truly fear Allah, among His Slaves, who have knowledge . . . ] (Qur’an 35:28)
No one truly fears Allah (S.W.T.) except those whose minds are enlightened enough to see the greatness and power of Allah (S.W.T.) manifested in the creation of the universe and all living things, and these are the people of knowledge. So He has preferred them over those who have no knowledge:
[. . . Say: ‘Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition.’] (Qur’an 39:9)
Safwan ibn ‘Assal al-Muradi came to the Prophet (S.A.W.) in the mosque and said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have come seeking knowledge.” The Prophet (S.A.W.) told him: “Welcome, O seeker of knowledge! Truly the angels surround the seeker of knowledge with their wings, gathering around him in ranks one above the other, until they reach the first heaven, out of love for that which he seeks.”8
The texts that extol the virtue of knowledge and exhort its pursuit are many, therefore the true Muslim is either a scholar or a seeker of knowledge, and cannot be anything else.
Continuously seeking knowledge until death
True knowledge does not mean obtaining a degree or diploma that will let one earn an income and guarantee a good standard of living, after which one turns away from learning and does not explore the treasure of knowledge any further; true learning means that one continues to read and study, increasing one’s learning day by day, in accordance with the words of the Qur’an:
[. . . But say, ‘O my Rabb! Advance me in knowledge.’] (Qur’an 20:114)
Our righteous predecessors never stopped seeking to increase their knowledge, no matter how high a level of learning they had achieved, and they would continue their pursuit until the end of their lives. They believed that knowledge was a living thing that would thrive if it were actively pursued, but would wither and perish if it were ignored and abandoned. Many sayings are attributed to them that eloquently express their respect for learning and their keenness to acquire knowledge. Examples of their sayings are given below.
Imam Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr reported that Ibn Abi Ghassan said: “So long as you are seeking knowledge you are knowledgeable, but as soon as you abandon this pursuit you become ignorant.”
Imam Malik (R.A.A.) said: “No one who has knowledge should stop seeking knowledge.”
Imam ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak was asked: “How long will you seek knowledge?” He said, “Until I die, for probably I have not yet learnt the things that will benefit me most.”
Imam Abu ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ala’ was asked: “For how long does it befit a man to seek knowledge?” He said, “For as long as he has life in him.”
Imam Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah gave an excellent answer when he was asked “Who is most in need of seeking knowledge?” He said: “Those who have the most knowledge.” He was asked, “Why?” and he replied, “Because if they make a mistake, it is worse.”
Such was Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606 AH), the great mufassir (Qur’anic exegete) and prominent scholar in philosophy (‘ilm al-kalam) and other disciplines, who authored many works. Allah (S.W.T.) gave him such fame in knowledge that people would come from all over to see him whenever he visited a city. When he came to the city of Merv (in Turkmenistan), flocks of scholars and students came to have the privilege of listening to and learning from him. Among the seekers of knowledge who attended his circle was a young man, less than twenty years old, who was very well versed in literature and genealogy. When Imam Fakhr al-Din realized that this student was an expert in genealogy, a field in which he knew very little, he asked his student to teach him. He did not find it unacceptable to become the student of his student, and he even made him sit in the teacher’s place while he himself sat at his feet. Such an act was characteristic of Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, and it did not detract from his high status, as he was the Imam of his age.
06-22-2005, 06:05 PM
This remarkable story was told by the literary historian Yaqut al-Hamwi in his book Mu‘jam al-udaba’ (Dictionary of literary authors), where he gives a biography of ‘Aziz al-Din Isma‘il ibn al-Hasan al-Marwazi al-Nassabah al-Husayni, whom Yaqut met and spent much time with, so was able to write a comprehensive biography of him. In this biography he says: Reply
“‘Aziz al-Din told me: ‘Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi went to Merv. He had such a great reputation and was held in such awe that nobody dared to argue with him; they would barely breathe in his presence. I went to meet him, and I often went to study with him. One day he said to me: “I would like you to write me a book giving the genealogy of al-Talibiyyin (the descendants of Abu Talib) so that I may study it, for I do not want to remain ignorant of it.” I asked him: “Do you want it presented as a family tree, or written down as a narrative?” He said, “A family tree cannot be learnt by heart. I want something that I can memorize.” So I went away and wrote the book, which I called al-Fakhri. When I brought it to him, he took it, then got up from his mattress, sat on the mat, and told me to sit in the place he had just vacated. I thought this was too much, and told him: “I am your servant.” I reprimanded me severely, saying, “Sit where I tell you!” Allah (S.W.T.) knows, I felt that I had no choice but to sit where he told me. Then he began to read the book to me, while he was sitting at my feet, asking me about anything he did not understand, until he finished the book. When he had finished, he said, “Now sit wherever you wish, for in this field of knowledge you are my teacher and I am your student, and it is not right for the student to sit anywhere but at the feet of his teacher. So I got up, and he sat in his rightful place, and I began to read to him, sitting where he had sat previously.’”
After quoting this incident, Yaqut said, “Indeed this is good manners, especially for a man who enjoys such a high status.”
How great was the love and respect these scholars gave to knowledge! How highly they regarded it, and how great is the need for the later generation to learn from the attitude of their forebears!
What Muslim needs to know
The first thing that the Muslim needs to know is how to read the Qur’an properly (with tajwid) and to understand its meaning. Then he should learn something of the sciences of hadith, the sirah of the Prophet (S.A.W.), and the history of the Sahabah and Tabi‘in, who are prominent figures in Islam. He should acquire as much knowledge of fiqh as he needs to ensure that his worship and daily dealings are correct, and he should ensure that he has a sound grasp of the basic principles of his religion. This is the duty of the Muslim who is not a specialist in the sciences of Shari‘ah. If he is a specialist in a branch of Shari‘ah, then he does what every true Muslim should do, which is to do his best to learn his speciality thoroughly and be successful in it. It goes without saying that every Muslim also needs to learn Arabic properly.
The Muslim should be proficient in his speciality
Besides this, the Muslim turns to his own speciality and gives it all of his energy and pays a great deal of attention to it. He approaches it like a Muslim who believes that it is a religious obligation to work in his field of specialization, whether it is in Shari‘ah or in another area of religious knowledge, or in another field such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, astronomy, medicine, industry, commerce, etc. Therefore he should become proficient in whatever field he has specialized in, and should spare no effort to read whatever has been written about it, both in his own language and in others if he is able to. He should keep abreast of developments in his field through continual reading and study of all its aspects. This is because, in these times, the smart Muslim is the one who achieves great academic success, which will raise his status in the eyes of other people. This in turn will enhance his da‘wah, so long as he presents it sincerely and earnestly, and in accordance with the spirit of Islam and its teachings about knowledge.
Islam has made knowledge a duty, whereby the one who seeks it draws closer to Allah (S.W.T.) and adopts it as a means of earning His pleasure. So we see that the scholars of the early generation used to emphasize these sublime principles in their introductions to their books, because through the knowledge that they spent their lives spreading, they were seeking to earn the pleasure of Allah (S.W.T), and they presented the results of their study purely for His sake.
The Muslim exposes himself to information about other fields
The smart Muslim does not restrict himself to his own field, but is open to learning about other areas too. So he reads books and academic, literary and cultural journals about various useful branches of knowledge, especially those that are related to his own field. In this way, he gains a little knowledge about many things, which enriches his mind and broadens his horizons.
The Muslim is proficient in a foreign language
He does not forget to pay attention to foreign languages, because these days, learning a foreign language is one of the most important tasks required of the active Muslim who understands the demands of contemporary Islamic life.
His religion gives the attentive Muslim a great incentive to learn foreign languages. Fifteen centuries ago, the Prophet (S.A.W.) encouraged the study of foreign languages so that the Muslims would always be able to communicate with various nations and races, and convey to them the message of truth that Allah (S.W.T.) has entrusted to them to proclaim throughout the world. We see evidence of this in the hadith narrated by Zayd ibn Thabit (t) in which he says that the Prophet (S.A.W.) told him:
“‘O Zayd, learn the writing of the Jews, for by Allah (S.W.T.) I do not trust the Jews to write anything down for me.’ (Zayd) said: So I learnt it, and it only took me a month to become proficient in it. Then I used to take down whatever letters the Prophet (S.A.W.) wanted to send to them, and I would read for him the letters that they sent him.”
In another report he said: “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) asked me, ‘Do you know Syriac? I have received a letter in this language.’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then learn it.’ So I learnt it.” 9
Similarly, Ibn al-Zubayr (R.A.A.) was proficient in a number of languages, but learning them did not distract him from his religion or preparing for the Hereafter. He had a hundred (male) slaves, each of whom spoke a different language, and he used to speak to each slave in his own language. If you were to see this man when he was dealing with worldly affairs, you would think that he was a man who did not give a second’s thought to the Hereafter, and if you saw him dealing with religious matters, you would think that he was a man who did not give a second’s thought to this world.10
Nowadays, more than ever before, the Muslim needs to be proficient in foreign languages so that he may know what is going on around him, both positive and negative, and so that he may understand what has been written about his Ummah and its heritage in languages other than his own, and thus be able to defend his Ummah from evil and speak up for its well-being.
3 - The Muslim’s Soul
While he is taking care of his physical and mental needs, the true Muslim does not forget that he is not comprised only of a body and mind, but he also has a passionate, yearning soul whose higher longings motivate him to lift himself up by devoting himself to worship, seeking the blessings of Allah (S.W.T.) and fearing His punishment.
The Muslim polishes his soul through worship
The Muslim is obliged to take care of his soul, so he starts to polish it and refine it through constant worship and awareness of Allah (S.W.T.) , night and day. He is alert to the devious tricks and deceptive whispers of the Shaytan and if, in some moment of human weakness, evil thoughts come to him from that source, he remembers Allah (S.W.T.) and finds his way back to the Straight Path:
[ Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring Allah to remembrance, when lo! They see aright.] (Qur’an 7:201)
Therefore, the Prophet (S.A.W.) used to tell his Companions: “Renew your faith.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how do we renew our faith?” He said, “By frequently repeating la ilaha illa -Allah.”11
The Muslim seeks to strengthen his soul through various kinds of worship which he performs out of obedience to and fear of Allah (S.W.T.) , such as reading Qur’an carefully and with understanding, and remembering Allah (S.W.T.) with humility, and praying correctly and with presence of mind, and other kinds of worship and spiritual exercises, training himself to adhere to different acts of worship until they become second nature and he cannot do without them. Thus he develops and enhances his feelings until, in most cases, he becomes alert and aware, conscious that Allah (S.W.T.) is watching him in public and in private, so that he never mistreats the people he deals with and never deviates from the true path.
He keeps company with righteous people and joins religious gatherings
The Muslim seeks to attain this high status by keeping company with righteous people who will teach one another, and him, about Truth (haqq) and patience and constancy (sabr), and by frequently attending religious gatherings where Allah’s name is mentioned often, where there is discussion of the greatness of Islamic teaching regarding the tarbiyah (education, development) of the individual, the family and the community and where those present ponder the might of Allah (S.W.T), the Subduer, the Omnipotent, from which nothing in heaven or earth can detract, and meditate on the wonder of His creation of the universe and of man. In such gatherings, souls are purified, hearts are cleansed, and a person’s whole being is filled with faith.
So ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah (R.A.A.) whenever he met one of the Companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.), used to say, “Come, let us believe in our Rabb for a while.” When the Prophet (S.A.W.) heard about it, he said, “May Allah have mercy on Ibn Rawahah, for he loves the gatherings that the angels feel proud to attend.”12
The rightly-guided khalifah ‘Umar al-Faruq (R.A.A.) used to make the effort to take a regular break from his many duties and the burden of his position as ruler. He would take the hand of one or two men and say, “Come on, let us go and increase our faith,” then they would remember Allah (S.W.T.) .13
Even ‘Umar (R.A.A.) who was so righteous and performed so many acts of worship, felt the need to purify his soul from time to time. He would remove himself for a while from the cares and worries of life, to refresh his soul and cleanse his heart. Likewise, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal (R.A.A.) would often say to his companions, when they were walking, “Let us sit down and believe for a while.”14
The Muslim is responsible for strengthening his soul and purifying his heart. He must always push himself to attain a higher level, and guard against slipping down:
[By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right - truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it!] (Qur’an 91: 7-10)
So the Muslim is required to choose his friends carefully and to join only those gatherings that will increase his faith, taqwa and insight. He should avoid the bad company of the devils among mankind, and keep away from gatherings of sin and disobedience which will only corrupt his soul:
[And keep your soul content with those who call on their Rabb morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not your eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.] (Qur’an 18:28)
He frequently repeats du‘as and supplications described in Ahadith
Another way in which the Muslim may strengthen his soul and connect his heart to Allah (S.W.T.) is by repeating the supplications which it is reported that the Prophet (S.A.W.) used to say on various occasions.
So there is a du‘a’ which he would say when he left his house, and others for entering the home, saying farewell to a traveller, welcoming a traveller home, wearing new clothes, lying down in bed, waking up from sleep, etc. There is hardly anything that the Prophet (S.A.W.) did that he did not have a du‘a’ for, through which he asked Allah (S.W.T.) to guide him, protect him from error, to take care of him and to decree good for him, as is explained in the books of îahih Ahadith narrated from the Prophet (S.A.W.). See, for example, al-Adhkar by al-Nawawi and al-Ma’thurat by Hasan al-Banna’15. He used to teach these du‘as and adhkar to his Companions, and encouraged them to repeat them at the appropriate times.
The smart Muslim is keen to learn these du‘as and adhkar, following the example of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his distinguished Companions, and he keeps repeating them at the appropriate times, as much as he is able. In this way his heart will remain in contact with Allah (S.W.T.) , and his soul will be cleansed and purified. Through these spiritual exercises the Prophet (S.A.W.) trained the souls of the first generation of the Sahabah, so that they became pure and unsullied. Islam wrought a great miracle in forming a refined, superior generation that was unique in the history of mankind, one which made such wondrous achievements in a few short years.
The true Muslim, today more than ever, needs to train his soul to soar to that high level and to live up to the heavy responsibilities of his da‘wah.
1 Reported by Abu Dawud, al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak. Its isnad is hasan.
2 A hasan hadith, narrated by Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, et al., and authenticated as îaÊÌÊ by al-Hakim.
3 al-Kanz, 8/47.
4 Wearing perfume in public is for men only; women are not permitted to do so. [Translator]
5 A hasan hadith narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawud.
6 Reported by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah. Its isna d is îaÊÌÊ.
7 A Hasan hadith narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim
8 Reported by Ahmad, al-Tabarani, Ibn Hibban, al-Hakim with a îaÊÌÊ isnad.
9 Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said it is a Hasan îaÊÌÊ Hadith.
10 Reported by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak 3/549, and Ibn Na‘eem in al-Hilyah, 1/334.
11 Reported by Ahmad with a jayyid isna d.
12 Reported by Ahmad with a hasan isnad.
13 Hayatt al-Sahabah, 3/329
15 English-speaking Muslims who wish to learn du‘as may consult Selected Prayers by Jamal Badawi, which is based largely on Hasan al-Banna’s al-Ma’thuraat, and includes transliterations and translations of many du‘as. [Translator]
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