Quran Journal #1: Surah Kahf 18:28

KAHF_28

Okay,  I’m attempting to start a new series (inner me: haha here we go again), which I hope to write at least once per week. This will be about any ayah(s) I come across which deeply influences me, or makes me feel that it needs to be written about. Bismillah!

Why this ayah hit me like a truck:

Since the start of university (which was about 6 months ago), I have had a massive downfall in terms of good company. Most of the friends (lol friends?) I made are not particularly religious. Or even believers. At first I thought – well that’s always been the case and what could really go wrong? I’m a strong independent minded human who is NOT affected by other people’s thoughts or views. Hah, guess what Shaytan, you were (as usual) wrong. I did start to get influenced by everyone else’s astaghfirullah mindsets. As if my iman wasn’t low enough, I now have newer, stronger, shinier issues deep down inside my heart. Did NOT see that coming. Hey, fitnah, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE BRO?

So this week I read this ayah – which I usually skim over, cause it makes me feel guilty (meta conscience in action, damn) – and I realized i REALLY need to make some changes. Okay, I think that exact thought twice per typical day and then keep going without making any changes (ermm..) but THIS time it’s different. Because I’m writing about it. On my blog. Nuff said. (Yess that’s the secret to success, my boiz. Writing public posts stating your vague personal issues.)

Actions to be taken in shaa Allah:

  • Cut down talking too much to people who don’t have meaningful contribution in my life
  • The world sucks. Do not crave it. I repeat DO NOT CRAVE THE WORLD, IT SHALL BREAK YOU.
  • Stop wanting material things that others have. It’s never as good as it looks wallah.
  • Try to get more practicing friends.
  • Stay off social media as much as possible.
  • m o r e    i b a d a h

Now let me go back to reading the novel about jinn and hackers. Salaam.

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The Paradox of Everchanging Truths – Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Beliefs

I was reading a Harry Potter fan fiction where Harry is a “rationalist” – in all implications of the word’s present day definition – and tries to justify every new thing he learns in the magic world from the point of his existing knowledge and beliefs. When something doesn’t fit, he upgrades/modifies his beliefs and theories (note to wannabe rationalists who “blindly” follow certain schools of thought). This one quote suddenly hit me hard, and i just had to write *something* about it. I haven’t written in a while so excuse my jumbled thoughts.

Professor McGonagall’s eyes were alight. “After you graduate, or possibly even before, you really must teach some of these Muggle theories at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter. They sound quite fascinating, even if they’re all wrong.”

So here McGonagall casually says that Harry’s muggle theories (i.e years of human acquired knowledge) are obviously wrong. He had been talking about some good stuff, like causality and temporal order (a cause having to occur *before* its effect, in the observable timeline), and Turing Computations (going back into a defined moment of the past and computing a different future from there) and things like that. He couldn’t explain the Time Turner based on his existing knowledge of how cause and effect works. So he accepted that it could work backwards too – something that happens *later* in time might control something that happened *before* it.

See, whenever we read or hear about something that doesn’t make sense according to our established scientific theories, we immediately dismiss the phenomenon as “impossible” or just fantasies made up by humans or superstitions. Or religion. While that is true in many cases, it doesn’t always have to be. There could be – and quite definitely are – laws that are beyond our understanding yet. For all we know, all the basic scientific theories we know now could be false in some way, or at least *incomplete* – which is why they fail to explain many things.

The mind projection fallacy, as described by physicist and Bayesian philosopher E. T. Jaynes, says that that if you are ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about your own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself; your uncertainty is a fact about you, not a fact about whatever you are uncertain about; gnorance exists in the mind, not in reality; a blank map does not correspond to a blank territory.

In this particular book the people of the magic world know for a fact that most muggle theories are wrong, and hence they have no problem accepting the reality of magic. Meanwhile Harry Potter, a sort of child prodigy back in the muggle world, just CANNOT come to terms with the apparent unbelievable-ness of magic world laws – which allow things like time turning, mind control, trapping a “large space” inside a “small space”, etc.

The lesson to take from this is, just because we don’t find something believable, doesn’t always mean it is false. We are a species that’s SO arrogant that we are never ready to believe anything that the currently most-credible institution in human society hasn’t declared believable. In the present world this institution is Western rationalist science. For a long time this institution was the Church (which followed different interpretations at different times, based on what suited the current emperor). During Moses’s time (ancient Egypt) it was the Pharaoh. Sometimes it was aristocrats, sometimes philosophers. Keeps changing, is the point.

The only constant throughout history is that we were always too arrogant to think outside the box. Pre-Copernicus scientists were too arrogant to believe that the earth wasn’t at the center of everything. 18th century biologists were too arrogant to believe that plants have life. Descartes was too arrogant to believe that atoms couldn’t be broken down. Hume was too arrogant to believe in the existence of anything we can not see. Non-Darwinians are too arrogant to believe in evolution. Darwinians are too arrogant to disbelieve in evolution. Present day rationalists are too arrogant to believe in the existence of a soul, or an intelligent designer of everything in the universe. Present day scientists are too arrogant to believe in anything that doesn’t show up in existing man-made measurement devices. And on and on and on.

The point is, we think we know. At every point in history, we thought we knew. And this, the present, is also a point in our history. That’s the part we always forgot.

And that is why when someone asks me how I believe in such “backdated, flawed” theories i.e Islamic beliefs (and that too, as a conscious decision) – I can’t expect them to understand what they’re too arrogant to understand. Yes, I believe in divine entities, higher dimensions, eternal consequences, an intelligent designer, and much more. I believe in a bigger reality. And I’m not ashamed of it.

.

.

[Reference: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky]

A Three-fold Strategy To Survive Loneliness And Other Youth Issues

Originally posted on ibana.

Of the many struggles that the practicing Muslim youth face on a personal level, one of the most common yet untalked of is the battle against loneliness and frustration without falling into any of the fitnah and Haram that surround them. This is not just about fighting desires and urges, that’s a whole different discussion; this is more about the emotional turmoil and emptiness that too many young people have to face, silently wanting the luxury of someone to talk to and lighten the burden upon, when life seems to be moving a bit too fast. The most common advice everyone loves to throw at them is the getting-married-early scheme. While that is probably the best solution for most of these problems, in most cases it is not a feasible option and in many families and societies getting married at 18 (that too to someone with a matching level of “practicing the religion”) is but a utopian dream.

Hence comes in the idea of alternative strategies, which would not only help one go through the apparent “emptiness” or sidetrack one away from frustration, depression etc. but at the same time will also help them make the best use of the blessed time that youth is. Most people find their own way of doing this, or chalk out their own fitna-proof strategy to make it through, while for many, it is more difficult to figure out a way, and more hopelessness entails. Here is a three-fold strategy etched out from my personal experience, which I found extremely useful, and hope will help others too.

1. Taking Short and Long term challenges

Setting up practical, feasible goals and working towards them is one of the best ways to keep your mind off things that make you hopeless or frustrated. Take out some time to chart out some good actions you’ve always wished to do but never got started on. These could be small things like “Send gifts to 10 friends/relatives” to larger plans like “Memorize 3 Juz/Para of the Quran in the next 12 months” or “Finish reading a book of Seerah in the next 6 months”. If you haven’t already started learning Arabic, now would be the perfect time to take on that challenge! Try to put constraining time limits on the challenges so that there is always a motive to not slack off midway.

The Benefits:

  •  Always having an objective to work upon and look forward to
  •  Constant engagement in productive work
  •  Planned utilization of time
  •  Rewards for every good deed!


2. Increasing Nafl ‘Ibadah

On a daily basis, engaging in more frequent acts of ‘Ibadah can do wonders to our heart, mind and body. Observing the Sunnah fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, praying the nawafil prayers, Duha prayer in the morning, reciting more Quran in the day and during night, memorizing Ayahs everyday – simple steps like these can lead to a blissful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Trying to pray regular Tahajjud prayer also falls under this category and should serve as a life (and afterlife) changing practice.

The Benefits:

  •  The happiness of trying to please Allah SWT
  •  A sense of fulfillment
  •  Constant engagement in productive work
  •  Barakah in time and activities
  •  Increase of Iman
  •  Rewards for every good deed


3. Righteous friends, righteous friends, righteous friends

This is one of the basic needs of any striving Muslim, especially one struggling to practice the Deen. In fact, even if you think you are in a somewhat well off condition spiritually, and are doing a good job at being a Muslim but don’t have righteous friends around you, you have no idea what you are missing out on. Pious friends are like the rear wheels that constantly keep you in check, consciously or unconsciously, and without even saying anything can encourage you towards better deeds and a more controlled life. Most importantly, these are the people you can trust your problems with and can always rely on for sincere advice based on Allah’s commands, because these relationships are built to please Allah SWT.

While too many young people turn to opposite-gender friendships or boyfriends/girlfriends to fill the void of loneliness and to feel lighter amidst depression and anxiety, righteous friends are the perfect alternative for practicing Muslims. Sisters or brothers in faith are the rare breed you can find to open up to and expect sincere, meaningful and unconditional support from.

When you feel like giving up because it’s too hard and the fitna around you is too hard to resist, there can be no bigger blessing than having people who can relate to your situation and keep pushing you forward. Do everything you can to get friends like this, if you don’t already have them. Make as much du’a as you can, because a blessing like this just cannot be missed.

The Benefits:

  •  Source of encouragement in hard times
  •  Competitors towards good
  •  Source of sincere, halal advice
  •  Alternative for harmful or haram friendships
  •  Potential cause of earning the Shade of Allah on the Day of Judgement [1]

These are some basic strategies to start with. Youth is one of the biggest blessings in the lifetime of a human being, and a time when no scope of earning virtues and accomplishing big things for the sake of Allah should be missed out at any cost. When we are questioned what we did with our youth [2], our petty problems will not be able to stand as excuses. So instead of being a generation that constantly whines about not being able to get married early, let’s be the generation that uses that very opportunity to become awesome Muslims.

Footnotes:

[1] Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven persons whom Allah will shade on a Day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a young person who grew up in the worship of Allah, a person whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other who meet and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man whom a beautiful woman of high status seduces but he rejects her by saying I fear Allah, a person who spends in charity and conceals it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and a person who remembered Allah in private and he wept.”
[Sahih Bukhari 629, Sahih Muslim 1031]

[2] It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam will not be dismissed from before his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he has been questioned about five things: his life and how he spent it, his youth and how he used it, his wealth and how he earned it and how he disposed of it, and how he acted upon what he acquired of knowledge.”
[Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2422; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1969]

Retaining Enthusiasm In Du’a

It’s very easy to lose eagerness and enthusiasm in making du’a. It’s probably one of the most common spiritual problems for us. Once we lose the connection, we forget how it feels, and how much it helps, to pour out all of our problems to Allah. I may spend all morning whining to everyone about how many lemons life is throwing at me, but when I stand for dhuhr salah, I may not spend even a few seconds to ask Allah to help me through those problems. I may nag a friend at 3 AM about my depressions, but maybe I won’t even think about getting up and praying 2 rakats of tahajjud salah and crying in sajdah to Allah. I may clutter up my friends’ inboxes with a hundred issues, but when it comes to dua – I’ll go blank. “There’s nothing to make dua about.” “Make du’a about studies and work? Isn’t that kinda inappropriate?” “Everything will be fine by itself soon.” 

We go through 17 rakats of just fard salah in a day – that’s 34 sajdahs. And in how many of these sajdahs do we make sincere dua to Allah? Some days the answer is ‘zero’. Those are the days we’re failing at life.

Yes Allah takes the best care of us whether we ask Him or not, but being able to ask Him is in and of itself a HUGE blessing, a means of mercy. When we think we don’t need that blessing, we have fallen way too low.

Anyhow, I listed down a few points for myself to maintain the vigor in making du’a:

1) Make dua for others – for everyone that crosses your mind. The cousin you lost contact with; the childhood bestie you miss; the puller of the ricksha you rode today… make dua for their guidance, health etc. When you ask Allah to bestow some good upon someone, the angels pray “Ameen, and for you as well.”
So even if you can’t make dua for yourself, make the angels do it. 😀

2) Mentally mark down every single problem you mentioned to any human being throughout the day. Then make sure that you spill out that complain/query to Allah as well.

3) MAKE DUA IN SAJDAH. The Prophet (sm.) said we’re the closest to Allah when we are in sajdah, hence should make lots of dua at that time. (Yes you can say your duas in your own language, after you’ve said “Subhana rabbial a’la”. Google it/check islamqa if you’re not convinced.)

4) Whenever you’re alone, whatever you’re doing/not doing – on the road, in a boring class, while waiting for a video to load, before sleeping – make it a point to make du’a. About anything and everything. Voila! No more wasted time!

More later in sha Allah.
Just du’a it!

When Your Hands Are Tied Up

Imagine earning money, but not being able to give away a single penny.
Imagine memorising breathtakingly long and amazing surahs of the Quran, but not being able to recite them in your Salah.
Imagine learning things, gaining ilm, but not being able to teach them to a single soul.
Imagine knowing about the immense virtues of a good deed but not being able to get yourself to do it.
Imagine having a pen, but not being able to write.

Imagine your hands being tied up. Tied up in the strongest of loops. By the Lord of the Worlds Himself.

Maybe you sinned too much.
Maybe you sinned too much AND didn’t repent.
Maybe you wasted away your blessings.
Maybe you ignored the light inside of you and outside of you and all around you and thus, passively chose a path of darkness.
And by giving so much leeway to your Nafs, you sealed off your own door to good deeds.
You shut your eyes, only to open them and find your heart shut as well.

“Whomever Allah guides,  none can misguide him. And whomever Allah misguides, none can guide him.”  None.

My Favorite Dua #1

image

The world has this crazy habit of trying to pull you back towards it the moment you try to make it beyond its force field. Gravity against spirituality, I like to call it.

You might think you’ve made it; freed yourself from the shackles of pure materialism and internalized a larger reality. But maybe the earth hates it when you think that way.

There is no escape velocity from the realm of materialism.

I have seen people rise and then fall.

I have seen people committing themselves to the worship of Allah SWT; praying 5 times a day; fasting Sunnah fasts; taking up modesty; worrying less about money and fame; and then, all of a sudden, losing that connection.

Like a rope that snaps from too much pressure.

And that is what I fear.

I fear losing pupose. Losing hope. Losing myself.

“Whomever Allah guides, no one can misguide, and whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide.”

The Best Gift Of The Year – A Friend For The Sake Of Allah

The Prophet (saw) said: “Among Allah’s servants are people who are neither prophets nor martyrs, but whom the prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.” The companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Inform us of who they are.” The Prophet (saw) told them that “they are people who loved each other for Allah’s sake, even without being related to one another or being tied to one another by the exchange of wealth.”

Sometimes in life you meet people who make you rethink your boundaries. Then they dare you to cross them. And then you find yourself standing somewhere you had only vaguely imagined yourself in. You find yourself striving towards the incredible future you once feared would never come. But now you don’t doubt the coming of that future anymore. Because Allah blessed you enough to meet people like that. People who give you hope, when all you see is darkness.

This year, Allah blessed me with one of those people. One of those people I have been praying for, for as long as I can remember. One of those people I have been looking for everywhere I went. For days. For months. Maybe even years. Just like any other striving Muslim, I too craved friends-for-the-sake-of-Allah. Yes there were already people in my life who encouraged me to be more practicing, who instilled a sense of Taqwa in me, who I loved for the sake of Allah too. Alhamdulillah for them. But as is human nature, I wanted more. I wanted beyond blood relations; I wanted friendships *just* for the sake of Allah SWT. Who would want to miss out on being under the shade of the Throne of Allah on the most scorching of days?

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven persons whom Allah will shade on a Day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a young person who grew up in the worship of Allah, a person whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other who meet and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man whom a beautiful woman of high status seduces but he rejects her by saying I fear Allah, a person who spends in charity and conceals it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and a person who remembered Allah in private and he wept.”

[Sahih Bukhari 629, Sahih Muslim 1031]

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, when the much yearned-for friend(s) did not pop up in my life, I began to despair. Without realizing the simple fact that some things are too precious and aren’t given to one instantly, I despaired. And just when I was prepared to give up, Allah answered my prayer. Surely Allah is the best Listener.

And indeed, when Allah gives, He gives us the best, and He gives without limits.

Most importantly, He chooses the best time. I wouldn’t have realized this if not for this experience. Just when I thought wearing the niqab was too much for me, Allah sent someone who showed me otherwise. Just when I was about to give up on memorizing the Quran, Allah sent someone to push me forward and make me continue. Just when I lowered my priority on learning Arabic and earning more ‘ilm (Islamic knowledge), Allah sent someone who made me reprioritize. I can’t think of a more perfect example of “perfect timing” in my life!

Looking back at the year, there were hundreds of things and thousands of moments that made me happy. There were moments when I literally rolled off for laughing. There were words of appreciation from peers and grades that pleased my parents. But nothing measured to the happiness of finding a friend who takes me closer to Allah. No good results, no gifts, no gadgets. Nothing compares to the blessing of having a new competitor-in-good.

One of my favorite parts of the Quran is the following;

83:22
Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure.

83:23

On adorned couches, observing.

83:24

You will recognize in their faces the radiance of pleasure.

83:25

They will be given to drink [pure] wine [which was] sealed.
83:26

The last of it is Musk. So for this let the competitors compete.

[Surah Mutaffifin, 83 : 22-26]

It is quite hard to bring out the best in you when you don’t have anyone to compete with. And what better competition is there than the competition for Jannah?

If you lack righteous company in life, I urge you to look for it. Hunt for friendships like this. Go as far as you need to, but make sure you have righteous company. Whatever your condition is, even if you are doing incredible amounts of good deeds and serving the Deen to your best level and what not, do remember that it is VERY difficult to make it far alone. There are just too many blessings (barakah) in good company. The Prophet (SAW) himself was not alone when he left his homeland for the sake of Allah. When the Muhajirs of Makkah reached Madinah after emigrating, one of the first things Rasulullah (SAW) did was to create a bond of brotherhood between each Muhajir and an Ansar (Muslim of Madinah). The implications of this was beyond just economic help or societal bondage. There were spiritual implications too.

Let each of us try to get such spiritual implications in our lives too, by means of good company and love for the sake of Allah. After all, Shaytan attacks a lonely person more easily. The more righteous people you have around you, the stronger your defense is. How can we afford to miss out on all the barakah righteous company can bring to our life?

 If you can’t find anyone, make dua to Allah. Cry out your heart to Allah. I, for one, have experienced how incredible the implications of dua can be. It is bound to bring something good. Even when it seems impossible.

 

Only For Allah

Only For Allah

“Say: Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” – Sura An’am : 162

The ultimate source of Peace

The ultimate source of Peace

“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.” (13:28)

Never underestimate the power of Du’a

I keep getting seemingly impossible wishes coming true – from tiny things to huge ones – and that gets me wondering how life could be this amazing. Then I remember those little du’as I made.

SubhanAllah, truly He is the All-Listener.

Sins and Depression

Sins and Depression

A Depressed Post

Things that hurt me beyond words:

1) When people whom I love do things that might greatly displease Allah SWT and I can’t stop them

2) When my mother shows annoyance at my learning Arabic or wearing Abayas

3) When I watch my friends wasting their life on boys, music etc and I can’t do anything about it

4) When I myself waste my time doing nothing and feel all hopeless about this life and the next because I know I’m being a terrible Muslim

And then I spend the rest of the day/week feeling depressed and doing nothing because I’m just like any other teenager at the end of the day. *Sigh*

May Allah guide us all.

Reflecting on the sky

Reflecting on the sky

In Different Shoes

Have you ever walked through a street while imagining yourself to be someone else? Looking at everything, the posters and the billboards and the cars and the people, from someone else’s eyes – a random foreigner, or maybe a superstar that you like? I do it sometimes. I pretend I’m this guy from a complete different country who doesn’t know the language and is trying to make sense out of all the strangeness going on in the streets of this new weird city. And trust me, a lot of strangeness goes on in the streets of my city.

Sometimes I’m a sports person, sometimes I’m a famous sheikh, sometimes I’m Mark Zuckerberg and sometimes I’m Bill gates. And sometimes, I jump straight back in time and land in the shoes of some famous philosopher, warrior or – more often than not – a Sahabi (companion of our Prophet (SAW)). And that’s when it gets really weird. Weird as in impossible to take in. And I have to instantly switch back to my 21st century self.

I’m pretty sure that if any of the super-awesome people we remember to this day as Sahabis, may Allah be pleased with them all, had the chance to live for a while in this time and moment, they would have been, to the n-th degree and mostly in a negative sense, mind blown. And not just because of climate change.

There are so many things that they would disapprove of that trying to make a list out of those is sheer stupidity. Let’s assume they would ignore the streets or the outwardly conditions of our life and have a glance at us as persons. What would they think of the way we live? From the way we talk to our parents to the things we look at, our lives are hardly worthy of the approval of the Prophets (AS) or the Salaf. Would our beloved Prophet (SAW) approve of the way we talk to each other, or most of the things we watch on tv, the videos we watch on Youtube, the facebook statuses and photos we ‘like’, even the ones we consider “not so bad”? It’s not really a matter of Halal and Haram, it’s more of just an average sense of conscience. We are so used to taking indecency for granted that we hardly stop and consider if it might cost us our afterlife.

I heard someone say just the other day that if a person living at the time of the Prophet (SAW) were to enter the house of a well-to-do person in today’s world, they might easily mistake it for Jannah. A wide range of food on the table. Several flavors of juices and soft drinks in the fridge. Paid people serving those foods and drinks (in many countries and cultures). High, comfortable sofas. Carpets. Cushions. Does that sound familiar?

And then if they turned and looked at the conditions of our hearts – our spirituality I mean – let’s just say that it would be a huge shame for us. I won’t talk about how ungrateful attitudes most of us have despite living in such “heavenly” conditions. But the stone-like conditions our hearts have turned to is a tragedy. Stone-hearted people on feather-soft sofas, sipping at cold drinks and wasting hours and hours of their lives watching utter useless stuff on tv and listening to pointless music. How can we be so stupid that we deliberately try to escape the things that take us closer to Allah but don’t give a second thought when doing something that has no benefit in this life or the next? Maybe the reason our hearts have turned so hard is that we give more attention on increasing the reading on our “I’m Cooler” meter than to increase the score on the actual scoreboard that matters. Or maybe it’s the other way round. It is more of a cycle I guess: hardened heart – less effort to please Allah – even harder heart and so on. Allah says in the Quran:

Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         __ Surah Hadid, Ayah 16

This gives us the entire reason, which also happens to be the remedy, of the problem: our connection to Allah’s book. Maybe if we took more time to read and appreciate the Quran, we would realize how futile most of our activities are and pay more attention to doing more meaningful stuff. Maybe we’d jump out of our comfort zone and try to make our lives worthful by working more for our Akhirah. But wait, isn’t that exactly what we try to avoid? What? Get serious about life? No, thank you. I’ve got more important stuff to do.

Trust me I used to be like that (in fact still am to some extent). But once I connected myself a little to the Quran and tried cutting off my hours on tv, music and other random stuff, I actually felt better. I realized that it wasn’t a myth after all. The Quran does more than just to add to your scales. It actually, seriously makes you feel better. And believe it or not, cutting off/reducing time spent on entertainment also does something. It makes you feel a different kind of good, ironical as it is.

Back to where I started, I think it actually is a cool thing to pretend to be in the shoes of a Sahabi. I really should try it more often. And instead of running away, I should try to stay in those shoes until it turns me to a better person. After all, if any of them really had to be in our place, would they think of transporting to a different time because the world was too messed up? Or would they be their own awesome selves despite the surroundings and rather try to transport everyone around them to a better condition?

Since I was talking about hard hearts, here’s a talk I really enjoyed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2ScGh-__No

 

Of Sleeping Heroes And Strange Marvels

A few years ago, one Friday, someone (probably my sister) told me that it was a highly reward-eous act to recite Surah Kahf, the 18th Surah of the Quran, on Fridays. Around the same time I saw a picture posted on Facebook saying something like “Have you read Sura Kahf today?” I’ll be honest and say that it was actually the latter that made me pay some heed to the matter. (One can’t deny the power of those nicely photoshopped images on Facebook. Those are way more powerful than your sister telling you something, even if it be the exact same quote coming out of her mouth). Driven by the notion of getting some rewards (or Sawaab as we call it), I went and opened a copy of the Quran and turned over to Surah no. 18, where the title read: Kahf -The Cave.

It should be said here that reading the Quran wasn’t a regular part of my daily activity then, it was more of an only-in-Ramadan thing for me. Anyhow, I started reading the Surah and by the time I finished the first story narrated therein, I was – to put it as simply as possible – awestruck. A story about some young guys falling asleep in a cave and waking up hundreds of years later? The Quran has these types of things? Isn’t it supposed to be a what-to-do-what-not-to-do Book? Yeah I’ve read stories of some prophets here and there, but such a cool story in the Quran, that too told in such an awesome manner? Wow.

Gradually I came to read all four of the stories put together in this Surah (and each of them are epic I tell you, although it took me years to realize their beauty) and the first one still remains my favorite. Every Friday I would read this part of the Quran and feel the wonders that it did to my heart. I’d listen to lectures on these stories (there are loads of them on Youtube) and even check out the Tafseer once in a while. In fact, Surah Kahf has become one of the reasons I look forward to Fridays (not that I can’t read it any other day of the week, but I love to feel the anticipation).

Here I’m only going to write away some of my thoughts on the first story, the one the Surah is named after. So here I go, let’s start talking about the *drumrolls* Miraculous Story Of The Youths Who Took Refuge In The Cave (I know, that’s a long title and yes, all this was just the introduction).

Although the idea of some young boys remaining asleep for more than 300 years, undiscovered by anyone, sounds like the most wondrous of miracles to us, Allah SWT began their story by asking us,

أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا

Or do you deem that the People of the Cave and the Inscription are a wonder among Our signs?   [18:9]

Thus the first lesson I grasped from this story lies in the very introduction. Allah reminds us that keeping a few people asleep for more than is usual is nothing in comparison to all the amazing things Allah has done, and will do, to the earth and the surrounding universe throughout the history of time (as mentioned in the previous verses). It just happens so that we are so used to all the constant signs and miracles, that we hardly consider them significant anymore.

Now let us delve into the story. There is this nation where everyone is, what we call in colloquial terms, messed up. Everyone is far off track from, and unflinchingly against, Allah’s Deen. So much so that they’re ready to persecute anyone who even tries to worship Allah. And yet from this very nation, Allah brings forth a group of young boys who not only want to follow Allah’s religion, but are risking their lives for it, abandoning everything for it, renouncing all comfort for it. Such people from the same nation where worshipping Allah falls under the category of national offence. This in itself is an Ayah – a miraculous sign – that should humble us before Allah.   Let us reflect on what kind of boys they were.

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُم بِالْحَقِّ إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى

We narrate to you their story with truth. Verily they were young men who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.                                                                                                                                                                                                      [18:13]

The word فَتًى, which is the singular of فِتْيَةُ, is defined as: “a youth or young man in the prime of life“. So they were the same age in which people are generally inclined to “enjoy life”. But amusingly, it also happens to be the age when the heart is most open to truth and ready to pursue it despite the circumstances. And by the grace of Allah, that was their case.

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

When the young people turned to the cave they said, “Our Lord! Grant us especially from yourself a mercy and provide for us from our decision a straight way.”  [18:10]

This is the first of their speech quoted in the Quran, which strongly reflects their dauntless trust, dependence and faith in Allah, and gives us a strong lesson to muse upon.  Allah’s response to this desperate prayer of the youths is mentioned in the following ayah.

فَضَرَبْنَا عَلَى آذَانِهِمْ فِي الْكَهْفِ سِنِينَ عَدَدًا

Then We sealed up [their hearing] in the Cave for a number of years. [18:11]

Here starts the miracle. They are made to fall asleep inside the cave, with their hearings sealed. Each morning the sun rises to their right and each evening it sets to their left. Dawn after dawn. Dusk after dusk. Years pass and generations change, oblivious to these boys. A tiny, petite miracle among all the immense miracles of the Almighty. As if all of this wasn’t a sign big enough, Allah furthermore ensures that anyone who goes near them would be forced to flee, as the sleeping ones and their dog appear to be moving, thus terrifying anyone sighting them. It is yet another example of the endlessness of Allah’s Grace, as stated in Surah Nur:

لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَيَزِيدَهُم مِّن فَضْلِهِ وَاللَّهُ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاء بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

God will reward such people according to the best of their actions, and He will increase for them His bounty: God provides limitlessly for anyone He will.  [24:38]

After the time decreed by Allah has passed and the young men (well they are three hundred and something now, I probably should not call them young anymore) are brought to light, the dominating faith around them is Allah’s Deen, which is Christianity in this case. They are no more considered national traitors for believing in Allah. In fact, people essentially decide to build a mosque over them. I wonder how they felt to be waking up to such a different world, At this point of the narration, Allah points to us the ultimate admonition of the whole occurrence:

وَكَذٰلِكَ أَعثَرنا عَلَيهِم لِيَعلَموا أَنَّ وَعدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَأَنَّ السّاعَةَ لا رَيبَ فيها

And that is how We disclosed them (to the people of the city) that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that, as for the Hour, there is no doubt concerning it. [18:21]

Through this story, Allah SWT admonishes not only the generation which these believers woke up into, but all generations to come – about one of the most vital truths that reverberate again and again throughout the Quran: that the promise of Allah is most definitely true, and the last hour, beyond any doubt whatsoever, will transpire, whether you like thinking about it or not; whether you are preparing for it or not.   In the last of the recorded words of these intrepid young men, we uncover a very subtle yet strong lesson. We find through their words a reverse definition of success, that is, a characterization of true failure. While sending one from amongst themselves to buy food, after they had woken up (oblivious to the fact that 300 years have passed), they advice him to stay very cautious and say:

إِنَّهُم إِن يَظهَروا عَلَيكُم يَرجُموكُم أَو يُعيدوكُم فى مِلَّتِهِم وَلَن تُفلِحوا إِذًا أَبَدًا

 “For they, if they should come to know of you, will stone you to death or assimilate you back to their religion; then you will never succeed in that case.” [18:20]

This connotes their belief that whichever way their lives go and whatever they may have to face, they would still have some form of accomplishment; if not in this life, at least they would be victors in the Akhirah. Even if they are stoned to death, they will have pleased Allah and achieved Jannah. But there is one particular probability, which would, without doubt, lead them to utter failure; a case wherein they would “never succeed”. And what is this possibility, which they deem even worse than being stoned? It is the prospect of being convinced back into their old ways, being converted back to their old religion of Shirk and Kufr. And in reality, the likelihood of that happening was not low (considering that times had not changed). Just a little glimpse of that old life, a little reminder of how supposedly awesome life would be if they stopped caring about the frightening notion of an afterlife and just followed their ‘hawa’: their lusts and wishes, are all it would take. And as simple as the process is, it is also the biggest failure – or rather defeat – a believer can ever encounter. This is explained awesomely in this lecture:

This verse also demonstrates that a believer’s primary worry is always his faith. These youths held their faith dearer even to their own lives, just how every believer should do.

The most basic lesson in the story of the young boys, to me, is the value of being steadfast upon one’s faith even in the face of the strongest of oppressions and the cruelest of tyranny, which, perhaps, is most possible at a young age. And the strongest message that this instance of bravery of the boys sends us – a message exceedingly important to the people of our generation – is that one should never, ever compromise the practice of the Deen in fear of what people might think or anticipating social ridicule. In a world full of belligerently secular governments, culture-based societies, immensely assertive media and judgmental friends, a message like that is something every Muslim should hold very dear. Because when the line between faith and disbelief is as thin as it could ever get, it’s easy to get “assimilated” into their thoughts, ideals, beliefs and even practices (their being everyone and everything not Muslim), without even noticing it. And that is exactly what is happening to us – the Muslims – especially the youth. It is happening when we watch their TV shows and try to become like that; when we listen to their music and take pride in that; when we celebrate Halloween at the end of Octobers; when we replace our headscarves with exotic fashion statements, our beards with intentional attractiveness.

And the worst part? We don’t even want to admit that we are moving away from our religion, rather, we try to assimilate whatever is acceptable in the culture or social media to the religion itself. Only if we cared to take admonition and say the same words these youths uttered, from our heart, Allah would surely answer us:

Our Lord! Give us mercy from Your presence and shape for us right conduct in our plight.” [18:10]

After all, He is Al-Wahhab, Al-Hadi – the ultimate Bestower, the ultimate Guide.

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