Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Istikharah prayer does not require any dream or feeling afterwards

Question: I have a big decision to make, and I have been offering the istikhârah prayer before going to bed every night now for a week, but my istikhârah prayer is not being answered. My question is: After a person prays istikhârah how, are we supposed to know if the thing is good for us or not? Aren't we supposed to see a dream or get a feeling about the situation?

Answered by: the Fatwa Department Research Committee - chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî (islamtoday.net)

It is Sunnah to offer the istikhârah prayer whenever we have a major decision in life. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "If one of you thinks to embark upon something, he should pray two units of prayer aside from the obligatory prayer..." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]

It is not necessary for the person who offers the istikhârah prayer to get any indication afterwards. Istikhârah is about asking Allah to intervene directly in our affair. This is clear from what we say in the supplication for istikhârah:

((...O Allah! If you know this affair to be best for me in my religion, my livelihood, and in the final outcome (or: in my immediate life and my future one), then decree it for me and facilitate it for me and then bless me in it. And if You know this affair to be worse for me in my religion, my livelihood, and in the final outcome (or: in my immediate life and my future one), then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and decree for me what is good, wherever it may be, and then cause me to be contented with it.))

If we look carefully at the supplication we are offering to Allah, we are asking Him to make what we are asking happen for us if it is good for us and to prevent it from happening if it is bad for us. This does not necessitate that we will have a dream, feeling, or other inward indication. However, if we develop a strong feeling for or against something after praying istikhârah, we may choose to act upon that feeling.

Also, contrary to popular belief, sleeping after the istikhârah prayer is neither required nor recommended. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the prayer.

And Allah knows best.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Gratitude: A Way of Life

Problems are part and parcel of our everyday life and usually, what we'd expect to hear from an advice when facing a problem is to have patience. This verse, however, teaches us to show gratitude even in times of difficulty or even calamity. There is so much emphasis in the conditional phrase to show that demonstrating gratitude even once, in the smallest of forms when we face such challenges in life is so rewarded. (refer to video for a better context in sha Allah)

{And make mention when Musa said to his nation, “Make mention of Allah’s favor upon you when He rescued you from the lineage of Fir’awn, they were blackening your faces (e.g. they were humiliating you), and they were slaughtering your sons and allowing your women to live. In that there was a HUGE test that was especially from your Master. And remember when your Master proclaimed, “Even if you are a little grateful at one time, I will certainly increase for you over and over again..."} [Ibrahim 14:(6-7)]


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem

After calling Himself the Master, He gives Himself two descriptions, in the next ayah:الرحمن الرحيم The most common translation of this ayah is, “The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.”

In contemporary context, such a translation almost fails its purpose as those English words are seldom used in normal speech and literature, let alone being properly understood. Fundamentally, the translation is accurate as the Arabic refers to Mercy, however both ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem are derivatives of Mercy. This is why one needs to understand properly why they are different.

Generally speaking, when synonyms are used in the same sentence in Arabic, they are intended to join their unique qualities. Similarly, it's the case here. Both those words have Rahmah in their roots. Rahmah means mercy in Arabic, and has also been used as ‘womb’ of the mother. This is from the Arab idea of mercy in the womb of the mother, where the foetus has no worries and all its needs are taken care of by the mother; hence the child is under the mercy of the mother, from every angle. However, since they are used together, they bring their own qualities to this ayah.

Ar-Rahman has three features in its linguistic structure and meaning: 

1. By definition, it is something extreme. The addition of the ‘aan’ at the end is a hyperbole, as it turns the mercy into something unimaginable, extreme; Allah is extremely, unfathomably merciful. 

2. This structure also implies that this is something happening in the present. For example, you see someone donating money to someone who is needy, and you call this person a generous person. This is happening in the present and the person’s generosity is manifesting itself right now, so the implication of your description is different than when you describe that person to your friend. In the latter case, you may still call that person generous, but it doesn’t guarantee that the person is being generous right now. This linguistic feature is not common in the English language, but in Arabic, it is indicated by the structure, as is the case with ar-Rahman; Allah is being merciful right now.

3. The third unique feature of this structure is transience, which means something that is not permanent. This is also shared by other Arabic words that sound the same, such as hungry (جوعان), thirsty (عطشان), angry, and what is common in these words is that they are all temporary, they are present and then something takes them away; food takes away hunger, drink takes away thirst. And this feature implies that this mercy of Allah is temporary and something will take it away.

Based on that, we understand that Allah is ar-Rahman and that means that He is extremely merciful to us right now, but He could stop being merciful to us (if we disobey Him).

As for ar-Raheem, it brings two other unique linguistic features to the ayah:

1. It implies permanence. So Allah is ar-Raheem and perpetually merciful, always merciful, constantly merciful, endlessly merciful, and His mercy is always going to be there. 

2. Secondly, it is not necessarily happening right now. That is, Allah is always merciful and His mercy is perpetual, but He may not be merciful to us at this moment.

This in reality complements the meaning of ar-Rahman. This is because in this ayah, Allah is describing His mercy completely, and while in other places of the Quran, we may find that a certain type of mercy is referred to e.g. in surah ar-Rahman, Allah mentions blessings that are extremely useful, present right now, but temporary, and so He refers to His mercy by calling Himself ar-Rahman.

So in this surah Allah gives us a complete definition of His mercy, “He is unfathomably, extremely merciful right now, and is perpetually merciful, but while His mercy is always going to be available, it may not necessarily be bestowed upon us in the present and may be taken away from us if He wills.”

 As a side-note, we are recommended to begin our activities with the basmalah, and in it we seek Allah’s mercy, keeping in mind the meanings of the two descriptions.  

Another benefit of this verse is in the order that the two words are mentioned, the present is mentioned first and then the future. To understand that, imagine if you needed money to pay your rent, and someone came to you to discuss about an interesting investment opportunity with future returns. You wouldn’t pay attention to this discussion as you are concerned with the present state, and need help in the present. Once your present worries are settled, you start worrying about the future. 

Since, ar-Rahman deals with the present, it is what we would need first, what we would need right now, and so it is mentioned first. Once our present worries are taken care of, we start to worry about the future, and then ar-Raheem takes care of our future worries. Allah created us and knows best what we need and how and when we need it. This verse is a clear indication of that. In light of this, we learn how elaborate the description of Allah is, even though it is only manifested in two words.

Az-Zamakhshari once said, “that of ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem, the former is like the huge towering waves of the ocean, and the latter is like the calm sea. And one cannot imagine both together, and they cannot imagine those two names at the same time, they are beyond our imagination.” This is the mistake made by people who try to define Allah’s mercy without accounting for all those meanings, and that leads them to fallacious conclusions and doubts: ‘Why is there violence in the world if Allah is Merciful?’ or ‘Allah is extremely Merciful and will excuse us all for all our mistakes.’ To claim to fully understand Allah’s mercy is to err, that is beyond our capacity. We can only praise Allah at just the limited amount of knowledge that He has given us about His mercy through those two words and their linguistic miracle.

Ibn Abbas, radi Allahu anhuma, described ar-Rahman as being for all the creatures in the universe, but ar-Raheem is only for the believers. Which means that perpetual mercy and reward in the afterlife is only for the believers, even though everyone and everything is able to make use of Allah’s blessings in this world. Also note, that if Allah left out either one of ar-Rahman or ar-Raheem, there would be chaos in the world with either the lack of the common blessings or that or accountability.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Once upon a Friday (Jumu'ah)

It was a typical sunny Friday morning in the tropical city of Singapore. Ramlee was already up by 9 a.m. getting ready for Friday prayers. He’s a little more eager to go for prayers on that particular day as it would be the first time he would be going with his close elder cousin from Malaysia who came over a few days before and stayed at his house as they were both having their term break from tertiary studies.

 “Hey, wake up Afdlin, it’s already 9!” nudged Ramlee.

 “Yeah yeah, I’m already up. Just let me finish this last part of this nice dream I’m having..” with his eyes barely opened.

 “Oh, c’mon!” said Ramlee, and pushed Afdlin off his mattress.

 “Woii!” cried out Afdlin finally awake.

 After Afdlin got ready, they had a sumptuous brunch prepared by Ramlee’s mom and soon after they both set off to the nearby mosque. It was about half an hour before the call for prayer, when they reached the main hall of the mosque and it was already half-filled.

 Ramlee went about his usual manner as he reached the main hall. He saw two empty spots in the middle of an already filled area and suggested to Afdlin to go there. However, Afdlin declined saying,

 “Nah, we’ll just take one of the empty spaces behind this filled row of congregation.”

 Ramlee was a little hesitant but decided to agree with Afdlin’s suggestion after seeing two other people who had hurriedly stepped over some people in order to get to the two available spots. He then immediately sat down. He noticed his cousin, Afdlin starting to pray two units of prayer. He remained seated wondering what type of prayer his cousin was performing. He had noticed before, people performing at least two units of prayers similarly but never had the chance to ask about it.

 Up till that day, Ramlee had mostly performed Friday prayers without much knowledge and had merely followed as how he had observed the common actions of the congregation. He had only started going for Friday prayers when he was in Sec. 3 as most of his close Muslim friends would, leaving school a little earlier than usual with the permission of the school. He does have basic knowledge on how to perform solat though but that’s about it.

 The call for prayer finally came, and the Friday sermon started. In the middle of the sermon, Ramlee’s phone vibrated. There was a text message from his mom and it read,

 “Ibu: Lee, Ayah said he’s taking a half day off today and we’ll all go shopping at Orchard Rd. later after Friday prayers. So make sure the both of you come back ASAP.”

 Excited, Ramlee nudged Afdlin showing him the message. Afdlin only took a glance and went back to focus on the khutbah. Ramlee thought that Afdlin’s standoffish actions were a little weird.

The sermon finally reached its end where the Imam would start reading the general supplications. As the congragation started to raise their hands for the supplications, to Ramlee’s surprise, Afdlin didn’t raise his hands but only said “Aameen” instead.

 Ramlee’s curiousity grew and he decided to ask Afdlin about all that he had observed after the Friday prayers.

 As they headed back home, Ramlee began to ask,

 “Eh, can I ask you something?”

 “Yeah shoot!” Afdlin replied.

 “I observed some things as we went about our Friday prayers. Firstly, why didn’t you want to get to the empty spots as I suggested? Secondly, what type of prayers did you perform before sitting down? Thirdly, why didn’t you seem to bother when I showed you the SMS during the sermon? And the most weird of all, why didn’t you raise your hands while everyone else were raising theirs while supplicating?!”

 “Ma sha Allah.. good observation skills my dear cousin! Haha..” said Afdlin.

 “Haha..Nah, I’ve actually noticed these things from time to time but haven’t had the chance to ask anyone about it..”

 “I see, ok, as you may have already known, whatever we do in our Ibaadah, we must do it according to how our dear Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wassalam had taught us. He is the practical reference for all Muslims. The Qur’an is the theory and the Prophet (peace & blessings of Allah be upon him) is our guide in all the practical matters in religion.

 About your first question, the reason is that the Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wasallam had prohibited people from stepping over others who have sat in the mosque.[1] True, there were two empty spots but seeing that there was no way to get there other than to step over some people or separate between two, I suggested for us to seat at the empty spaces readily available instead.

 Secondly, the Messenger sallaallaahu’alayhi wassalam had recommended us to pray at least two units of prayer before sitting down in the mosque.[2]

 Thirdly, the Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wassallam had prohibited us to engage in idle speech during the khutbah and to pay full attention to the contents of the sermon.[3]

 And lastly, I understand that most people raise their hands while supplicating, in fact, almost everyone, but I’m merely following one of the sunnahs of our dear Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wassalam.[4] I’ll show you the references to the things I’ve said later ok!?"

 "Hmm, okay, I see I see.. but why do so many people or probably most do it differently than some of the things you have said?" Ramlee continued to ask.

 "I'm not really sure, they probably have their own reasons or their references. Why don't you ask them instead? Now let’s get back home.. Pak Long is on his way to fetch us!” was Afdlins' reply.

 "Yeah, can't wait to show you around Orchard Rd. Thanks for explaining!” Ramlee smiled as they both rushed back to Ramlee’s home.



 [1] – Abu Dawood (1118) and Ibn Maajah (1115) narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Busr (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: A man came and started stepping over the people one Friday when the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was delivering the khutbah, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him: “Sit down, for you have annoyed (people).” [Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.]

 Al-Bukhaari (883) and Muslim (657) narrated that Salmaan al-Faarisi said: The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does ghusl on Friday, purifies himself as much as he can, uses (hair) oil or perfumes himself with the perfume of his house, then goes out (for the Jumu‘ah prayer) and does not separate between two (persons sitting together in the mosque), then prays as much as is decreed for him, then remains silent whilst the imam is speaking, his sins between the present and the last Friday will be forgiven for him.”

 [2] - Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullaah said: "Sulayk Al-Ghatafaani came on Friday when the Messenger of Allaah was delivering the Khutbah. When he (Sulayk) sat down, the Prophet said to him: "O Sulayk, stand up and observe two Rak’ahs and make them short." [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

 Abu Qataadah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “When one of you enters the mosque, let him not sit down until he has prayed two rak‘ahs.” [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1167; Muslim, 714]

 An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

The scholars are unanimously agreed that it is mustahabb to greet the mosque, and it is makrooh to sit down without greeting it with no excuse, because of the hadeeth of Abu Qataadah which clearly states that that is not allowed. [End quote from al-Majmoo‘, 3/544]

 [3] - It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If you say to your companion when the imam is preaching on Friday, ‘Be quiet and listen,’ you have engaged in idle talk.” [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 892; Muslim, 851]

 This prohibition also applies to responding to a question about Islam, let alone any other kind of speech that has to do with worldly matters.

 It was narrated that Abu’l-Darda’ said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sat on the minbar and addressed the people, and he recited a verse. Ubayy ibn Ka’b was next to me, so I said to him: “O Ubayy, when was this verse revealed?” But he refused to speak to me, so I asked him again and he refused to speak to me, until the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came down (from the minbar). Then Ubayy said to me: “You have gained nothing from your Jumu’ah except idle talk.” When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had finished (the prayer), I went to him and told him (what had happened). He said: “Ubayy was right. When you hear your imam speaking, then keep quiet and listen attentively until he has finished.” [Narrated by Ahmad, 20780; Ibn Maajah, 1111; classed as saheeh by al-Busayri and al-Albaani in Tamaam al-Mannah, p. 338.]

 This indicates that it is obligatory to remain silent and listen attentively, and that it is forbidden to speak while the imam is delivering the khutbah on Friday.

 Ibn ‘Abd al-Baarr said:

 There is no dispute among the fuqaha’ of all regions that it is obligatory to remain silent and listen attentively to the khutbah, for those who hear it. [Al-Istidhkaar, 5/43.]

 [4] - Muslim (874) and Abu Dawood (1104) narrated that ‘Umaarah ibn Ru’aybah saw Bishr ibn Marwaan on the minbar raising his hands (Abu Dawood added: when he was making du’aa’ on Friday), and he said: “May Allaah make these two hands ugly. I saw the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) doing no more than this with his hand,” and he gestured with his forefinger.

 Al-Nawawi said:

 This indicates that the Sunnah is not to raise the hands during the khutbah, This is the view of Maalik and our companions and others.

 In Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi it says:

 This hadeeth indicates that it is makrooh to raise the hands on the minbar when making du’aa’. As it is not prescribed for the khateeb to raise his hands, the members of the congregation are like him because they follow his lead.

 Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked:

 What is the ruling on raising one's hands when the imam is delivering the khutbah on Friday? He replied:

 Raising the hands when the imam is delivering the khutbah on Friday is not prescribed in sharee’ah. The Sahaabah denounced Bishr ibn Marwaan when he raised his hands during the Friday khutbah. But an exception is made in the case of prayers for rain (istisqaa’), because it is proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) raised his hands when praying to Allaah for rain during the Friday khutbah, and the people raised their hands with him. But apart from that one should not raise one's hands when making du’aa’ during the Friday khutbah. [Fataawa Arkaan al-Islam, p. 392.]

 And Allaah Almighty knows best.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Responsibility in Knowledge and Da’wa

‘Alî b. Abî Tâlib – Allah be pleased with him – said: Narrate to people what they can understand; do you want Allah and His Messenger to be disbelieved? Quoted by Al-Bukhârî, Al-Sahîh, Chapter about a person preferring some people with certain knowledge to the exclusion of others.

Ibn Hajr said in Fath Al-Bârî, “[In this narration] there is evidence that ambiguous knowledge should not be mentioned amongst the general public.”

Shaykh Muhammad b. Sâlih Al-‘Uthaymîn – Allah have mercy on him – explained this very important and often misunderstood point beautifully. After mentioning the narration of ‘Alî, he states: It is therefore an aspect of wisdom in da’wah (calling others to Allah) that you should not surprise people with things they are not able to comprehend. Rather, you should call them in stages, bit by bit until their minds settle…”

He goes on to say: “[The statement of ‘Alî] ‘Do you want Allah and His Messenger to be disbelieved?’ is a rhetorical question, posed as a criticism of such behavior. It means: by narrating to people things they cannot understand do you want Allah and His Messenger to be disbelieved? This is because in such cases when you say, “Allah said, and His Messenger said” they will say you have lied if their minds cannot comprehend what you are saying. Here, they are not disbelieving Allah and His Messenger, but they are disbelieving you because of this speech that you have attributed to Allah and His Messenger. Thus they will end up disbelieving Allah and His Messenger – not directly – but by way of the one who transmits this knowledge (i.e. you).

Now if it is said: Should we stop telling people things they cannot understand even if they need to know?

The answer is: No, we do not leave this knowledge altogether, but we should tell them in a way that they will be able to understand. This is done by telling them stage by stage, bit by bit until they can accept the speech we want them to know and they can feel comfortable with it. We do not abandon knowledge that people cannot understand and just say ‘this is something they will reject or dislike so we will not speak about it.’

The same is the case with acting upon a Sunnah that people are not used to and which they might find objectionable. We should act by this Sunnah, but only after informing people about it, such that they will be able to accept it and feel comfortable about it.

We learn from this narration (of ‘Alî) that it is important to employ wisdom in calling to Allah, and that it is incumbent upon anyone who calls to Allah to consider the level of understanding of those he is inviting, and that he should put everyone in their proper place. [Majmû’ Fatâwâ Ibn ‘Uthaymîn Vol.10 p140.]