How To Understand Allah's Will And Decree


When Allah says in the Qur’ān that He guides whom He wills and leaves astray whom He wills, it means that He guides those who seek and respond to His guidance: "Those who strive in Our way, We shall guide them to Our paths."1 And He leaves astray those who intentionally and persistently reject His guidance and deny the truth: "And when they deviated, Allah caused their hearts to deviate, and Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people."2

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Which acts of worship are best in Islam?

Which acts of worship are best in Islam

Since worship in Islam is so comprehensive, one might wonder which kinds are best and most pleasing to Allah, which ones have the highest rank and draw one closest to Allah.

The scholar, Ibn al-Qayyim gave a detailed answer to this question, mentioning the practices of those who have embarked upon that path along with their various viewpoints and evidences and then stating his opinion about which of them is nearest to the truth and most correct. He wrote:


"Worshippers have four views regarding the worship which is most beneficial and worthy of preference:

  1. That the best worship is the most difficult: Some hold that the most beneficial and best types of worship are the ones that are hardest and most difficult for the person because they are farthest from his own desire and inclination, and this is the essence of worship. They say that the reward is in proportion to the difficulty, based on a narration which has no basis in the Sunnah, "The best deeds are the most arduous."[1] These are the people who struggle to subjugate their souls, saying, "That is the only way to make the soul upright since its nature is to be lazy, seek ease and become attached to the world. It must be disciplined by fears and hardships."
  2. That the best worship is detachment from the world: Others assert that the most excellent of worship is self-sufficiency and indifference to the world, getting along on the least possible of its provision and being unconcerned about its pleasures. These are of two types:
  • The common people who consider it as an end in itself, working hard at it and calling others to practice it, claiming that it is preferable to scholarship and other worship. In fact, they see it as the object of all worship.
  • The educated, who consider it as a means of devoting oneself to Allah, making Him the only concern, clearing the heart of everything but love of Him, repenting to Him, relying on Him and seeking His pleasure. They see the best worship in assemblies for Allah, in continually remembering Him in the heart and with the tongue, being conscious of His observance and avoiding everything that distracts the heart from that. 
  1. That the best worship is that which benefits others: The advocates of this view declare that a form of worship that benefits another is better than that which benefits the worshipper alone. They consider helping the poor, working for the interests of other people and fulfilling their needs, assisting them through their wealth, influence or other assets is best, so they exert their effort toward that.
    They argue that individual worship is limited to the worshipper while assisting someone for the acceptance of Allah is a form of worship that benefits both the worshipper and his recipient. And that is why the scholar is far superior to one who spends all his time in prayer, fasting and mention of Allah.
    They cite sayings of the Prophet, such as: "That Allah guide because of you one man is better for you than [obtaining] red camels."[2] "Whoever invites to right guidance will have reward equal to the rewards of those who follow it without it lessening anything from their rewards."[3]  "Indeed, Allah and His angels, even the ant in its hole and even the fish in the sea, bless those who teach good to the people."[4]
    Thus, they argue that when a worshipper dies his deeds are ended, but the deeds of one who has benefited others do not end and he will continue to benefit after his death as long as his benefit to them remains. And they argue that the prophets were sent to people in order to guide and benefit them in this life and the next, not to withdraw from society and become ascetics. And that is why the Prophet did not approve of those who wanted to isolate themselves for worship instead of mixing with the people. They see that going one's own way to serve Allah by being kind and beneficial to His servants is better than gathering to remember Allah without doing that.  
  2. That the best worship is the priority of the moment: Still others contend that the best worship is to please the Lord continuously by doing whatever is required at that particular time. For example, the best worship at the time of prayer is prayer, and at the time of jihad it is jihad, provided that the duty is performed seeking the approval of Allah and exerting effort to do it in the best possible way.
    The priority of the moment might be serving a guest or fulfilling the right of the spouse, parents or children. Before dawn it could be prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, supplication or seeking Allah's forgiveness. During the day it could be guiding or teaching someone, assisting or aiding someone, condoling or encouraging someone, visiting a patient or joining a funeral. Such matters should not be postponed and take precedent over one's usual voluntary prayers, fasts and Qur'an recitation.

There are even priorities within an act of worship; for instance, the best when reading or reciting the Qur'an is concentration, exerting effort to understand and determination to apply it to one's own life. Thus, the best worship at every moment is that which would be most pleasing to Allah in a given circumstance and its performance in the way most pleasing to Allah.

Worshippers of the fourth category are absolute worshippers whereas those of the other three are limited worshippers.  Whenever one of them is kept from the type of worship to which he has become attached he considers it a deficiency because he worships Allah in only one way.

The absolute worshipper has no motivation to restrict himself to a particular kind of worship or prefer it over others. His aim is to pursue the acceptance of Allah wherever it might be and he worships accordingly.

So when you see scholars you find him with them and when you see those in prayer you find him with them, and when you see defenders you find him with them, and when you see social workers you find him with them, and when you see assemblies of devotees you find him with them.

He is not subject to limits or restrictions; yet he does not follow his personal wishes when choosing the method of worship but those of his Lord, even though he might find some other kind easier."[5]

[1] On the contrary, an authentic narration by Ahmad states, "Indeed, Allah likes for His concessions to be utilized."

[2] Narrated by al-Bukhari.  Red camels were the most precious and valuable of property at that time.

[3] Related by Ahmad and Muslim.

[4] An authentic hadith narrated by at-Tabarani.

[5] Madaarij as-Saalikeen, vol. 1 pp.85-90.

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Treasures Of Memorizing The Qur'an (Part 2)


...Continued from Treasures Of Memorizing The Qur'an (Part 1)

Strength in memory

Eat almonds! It makes your memory stronger. ” How many times have you heard of this well-known remedy for strengthening memory? Plenty of times.

But has anyone said you “ memorize the Quran! It will make your memory stronger ”? In all these years of my life, not a single person said this to me, nor have I heard anyone giving this remedy to someone else.

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What the story of Habeel and Qabeel says about our creation

tree bench

ABDULLAH bin Masʽūd reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, "No person is killed unjustly but that the elder son of Adam bears the burden of that blood because he was the first to begin the practice of murder."1

That wretched soul was Qābeel (Cain), who was led by arrogance and envy to do away with his younger brother, Hābeel (Abel). The story is related in Sūrah al-Mā’idah2, beginning directly with the incident which provoked the resentful brother to obey his evil inclination:

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Knowledge That Does Not Benefit

Knowledge That Does Not Benefit

“Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

FOR those who are familiar with this hadith, we understand that it talks about religious knowledge. Enough of us make worldly knowledge an obligation – that’s what our education system is there for – but when it comes to learning more about our religion that is our way of life, a surprising number of people don’t even think about how much more there is to know.

But this article is not for them.

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Treasures Of Memorizing The Qur'an (Part 1)

Treasures of Memorisinf the Qur'an
They busied their hearts with this worldly life, and if they had busied themselves with Allah and the Hereafter, they would think about His words and verses and would have found in them the most precious wisdom and benefits.” — Ibn al-Qayyim

EVERY year thousands and thousands of children from different parts of the world memorise the Qur'an.

Although the Qur'an is in Arabic, it is memorised by many, regardless of what country they belong to. And because of Allah’s mercy, the Qur'an is being memorised even by elderly members of the community.

Narrated `Uthman: The Prophet ﷺ said, "The best among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur'an and teach it." [Sahih al-Bukhari, #5027]

We all know about the rewards awaiting huffadh (those who memorise the entire Qur'an) in the Hereafter and in Paradise. Their ranks will be elevated and their good deeds doubled; they will be honored by being asked to recite Qur'an, and their parents will be crowned. Allah is indeed the most generous in reward.

In this world, the bearer of Qur'an will gain the treasures of doing hifdh, which will beautify him or her both inwardly and outwardly. Let’s look at some of these precious jewels:

Patience Is Key 

For those who seek to memorize the Qur'an, patience is key.

Many of us have heard our elders tell us, “You have to learn to be patient!” Well, what better way is there to learn patience than by memorizing the words of Allah?

You will need patience to sit in one place for hours, reciting, learning and revising, until you are fully sure that your portion for each day has been committed to memory.

It takes patience to do what will gain you the pleasure of Allah, instead of spending time according to your desires. It’s patience that makes a hafidh sit late into the night or get up before others, thereby abandoning his or her bed, and give importance to hifdh.

It takes patience not to quit when you are tired, and think you aren’t capable of achieving your goal.

It takes loads of patience.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a just a surah or a juz’ or the whole Qur'an.

“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.”  [Surah Baqarah: 153]

Being patient is one of the characteristics very beloved to Allah, and is also one which brings the most reward.

The Qur'an not only teaches you to be patient, but by memorizing it, this characteristic is instilled in the believer. What more can you ask for?

Barakah In Time 

There’s so little time” or “time is running out” or “the day seems never-ending!” These expressions sound familiar, don’t they?

We feel like we don’t have enough time to complete everything, or even if we do, we feel guilty for not doing the tasks at hand efficiently. And with our hands so full, we hardly have enough time to memorise the verses of the Qur'an.

Allah says,

“And this is a book which we have sent down, bringing blessings, and confirming which came before it…” [Surah An’aam: 92]

However busy you are, whether working outside or just at home, make room in your schedule for memorizing the Qur'an. Even if you can afford to learn just one line per day, do it!

This will bring immense blessing in your life and especially in your time. Just do it and you will know the difference.

Peace In Our Lives 

We seem to be busy round the clock, from the time we get up in the morning till we get to bed. Yet, there always seem to be something “missing” in our lives.

Money, status, family and friends might keep us happy yet there is something that nags us at the back of our minds, and we know that there is still one important piece left in the jigsaw puzzle of our life. That missing piece is “peace”.

Peace that brings calmness to your body, mind and soul. And nothing in this world can bring such tranquility except for the words of Allah, the glorious Qur'an.

“Those who believed and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest”  [Surah Ra’d: 28]

Itmi'naan means to be reassured; it means that the heart is relieved from anxiousness and worries.

When is it that we are not anxious? We are always worrying about one thing or the other, isn't it? Allah says remembering Him brings peace and comfort to the heart.

Ibn Kathir commented on this ayah, saying:

"Allah says for their hearts find comfort on the side of Allah, become tranquil when He is remembered and are pleased to have Him as their protector and supporter."

And what an excellent way to remember Allah by learning His Book! Indeed, memorizing the Qur'an will give you immense tranquility. Listening, reciting, learning and revising the Qur'an will bring peace to your heart, mind and soul. Once you open the Qur'an, you will be lost in it and find your heart connected to Allah.

Your heart and soul will be nourished with verses of the Qur'an, not by the futile worries of this world. You will find your heart at more peace than you have ever known.

Return To Allah 

“And they fall upon their faces weeping, and the Qur'an increases them in humble submission”  [Surah Israa’: 109]

Memorizing the Qur'an brings out this emotion from the heart in the most beautiful way. You may have taken the task of learning a small surah. By its length it looks quite easy, so you start off.

But soon you realise that it’s getting difficult to commit it to memory. You will find yourself making du'aa to Allah to make it easy for you to learn. You will keep returning to Allah, asking for his Help and support, until you have achieved your goal.

Once you reach your target, your heart and tongue will be filled with shukr and praise for Allah, because you know that the task wouldn’t have been possible had not it been for the help of Allah.

You will submit to Allah, not only for hifdh, but in every small and big affair that will come into your life. Once you submit to Allah, it is then that you realise how near Allah is.

“And when My servants ask you, concerning Me- indeed i am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. so let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they might be (rightly) guided.”  [Surah al-Baqarah: 186]

Learn from Mistakes 

Accepting mistakes and correcting them is done by those who are strong willed and ready to improve themselves.

It’s not easy to subdue your ego and accept that you are wrong. Yes, it’s difficult. But just by memorizing the Qur'an, you will learn how to step down from your ego.

No one is perfect. When it comes to committing anything to memory, mistakes are eventually going to happen. You might forget to recite a verse, or recite a different verse instead; you may not stop at the right place, you may not pronounce a word according to its makhraj or you may even have forgotten what you memorized completely due to nervousness.

All these things are bound to occur. But they are just mistakes, which can be overcome easily with the help of correct guidance and teacher.

Memorizing the Qur'an will make you understand that mistakes are part and parcel of life, but it’s to our advantage if we are ready to accept them, learn from them and improve through them.

Change of Heart

“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.”  [Surah Al-Imraan: 8]

Is it even possible that you would start to memorize the Qur'an, and your heart would remain the same? Impossible!

The Qur'an, whether by listening, reciting or memorising, has a direct and prolonged affect on the heart.

It is no wonder that during the time of Jaahiliyah, a polytheist would become a Muslim just by listening to a few verses of the Qur'an. What a tremendous effect it has on our hearts! If this is so, then just imagine the state of your heart if you memorize the Qur'an!

The Qur'an softens the hardest of the hearts, and hifdh melts down the hardness of one’s heart until it is flourishing with emaan. The more pages you memorise, the stronger your emaan will become.

RECITING the Qur'an will no longer be a chore to you or done with the feeling that you are obliged to do it; rather, you will do it out of immense love for the Qur'an.

The love which was hidden away in some corner will now envelop your heart. With love of the Qur'an, your love for Allah too increases, and so does your love for His Prophet and His deen. Subhan Allah!

“The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely”  [Surah Anfaal: 2]

Even though you may or may not understand the words of Allah, you will find that they move you, change you, humble you, and instill khushoo in you; just listening to them brings tears to your eyes, because you realise that they are the words of your Lord The Great.

“Allah has sent down the best statement; a consistent Book wherein is reiteration. The skins shiver therefrom of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts relax at the remembrance of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah by which He guides whom He wills. And one whom Allah leaves astray-for him there is no guide.”  [Surah Az-Zumar: 23]

Make Time To Think And Reflect 

“(This is) a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, (o Muhammad), that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.”  [Surah Saad: 29]

Memorising the Qur'an has such an effect that you will find yourself pondering upon a certain verse with a new perspective which you may have never thought of before. This is one of the best benefits that a person might get from memorising the Qur'an, i.e, being able to reflect on the verses of the Qur'an.

When we sit to recite the Qur'an, we feel as if there is very little time and unfortunately end up rushing through it. But when you start to give time to learn the Qur'an, your curiosity grows, and then you think “What could this verse mean?”

A verse that you previously read so many times without thought may now change your life, increase your emaan, and make you closer to Allah. Just because you pondered and reflected upon it, Subhan Allah!

It’s no wonder that the Companions had such high levels of emaan. Why not? Because they understood and learned the words of Allah.

(To be continued...)

References: 1. Al-Fawaa’id :a collection of wise sayings by Ibn al-Qayyim; pg. 157
2. Tafsir ibn Kathir 5:276

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What Sabr or Patience Really Means

tending sheep

Sabr As A Concept InIslam

THElinguistic meaning of the root verb, sa∙ba∙ra, is to confine, detain, retain, restrain, restrict or withhold something. Usually, when used in the religious sense, it's object is the self or soul.

As a concept in Islam, sabr is often translated as patience, but it also includes aspects of restraint, self-discipline, steadfastness, firmness, perseverance, endurance and determination – depending on the context in which it is used.

Sabr conveys a very active, dynamic, and positive quality in Islam. It is the quality of surging forward, striving, and not slackening in our purpose to purify the soul. It is a strong foundation, the firm lowermost rung of the ladder which holds firm come what may.

A narration says, "The helpless one is he who follows his whims and desires and indulges in wishful thinking."

A scholar said, "To have sabr means that one’s common sense and religious motives are stronger than his whims and desires."

Ibn al-Qayyim wrote:

"When a man’s patience is stronger than his whims and desires, then he is like an angel; but when his whims and desires are stronger than his patience, then he is like a devil.

If his desire for food, drink and physical relations is stronger than his patience, then he is no better than an animal. Lying, cheating and self-admiration are his most common traits and his reason is held prisoner by Shaytan, who directs it to serve evil purposes. The main cause for his sorry fate is that he ran out of patience."

This means that despite what we like and prefer, what Allah wants us to do takes top priority. In obedience to Him is mercy. Our limited minds cannot always comprehend that whatever is given to us is good for us. The trials and difficulties that are destined for us are also good, for they draw us closer to Allah.

Three Aspects Of Sabr

Three aspects of Sabr have been outlined by scholars for us to comprehend and put into practice.

Prophet Luqman’s advice to his son conveys them:

O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed, [all] that is of the matters [requiring] determination.

  1. Sabr meaning endurance and perseverance, which is required to fulfil the commands of Allah. The directing of oneself toward obedience and worship is of benefit to the soul.

    Knowing that the soul likes ease, comfort and the company of others, and dislikes being controlled helps us in managing it with full awareness and resolve; for example, to establish prayer under all circumstances of heat and cold, busy work schedules and health constraints. Similarly for zakāh, saum, jihād, as well as understanding and implementing all the concepts outlined in the Qur’an in our lives, a determined effort is required.

  2. Sabr meaning restraint, which is required for refraining from what Allah has prohibited and from all kinds of disobedience and sin.

    Examples of this are pre-marital relations, stealing, cheating, murder, dealings in riba, eating pork, drinking alcohol, backbiting, gossiping, devouring inheritance, not giving rights and injustice in general.

    Most difficult to overcome among these are the sins that are done secretly and those that others tolerate due to a comfort factor it creates for them.

    Abdur-Rahmān bin Zayd bin Aslam said, "Sabr has two parts: patience for the sake of Allah concerning what He is pleased with (i.e. acts of worship and obedience), even if it is hard on the heart and the body, and patience when avoiding what He dislikes, even if it is desired."

  3. Sabr meaning acceptance of Allah's decree in our lives, such as the death of a loved one, illness, the loss of wealth or of a job.

    Allah reminds us:

    Say, "Never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us."

    Harm or injustice done to us by heedless, selfish people, especially those supposed to be dear ones, is the toughest to bear in a composed manner. Allah said:

    And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss.

Lack of strength and resolve for the deen leads to turning away from Allah by giving up prayer and other duties or complaining about Him instead of complaining to Him, as did Prophet Ya'qub: He said, "I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah." And some even abandon the deen by denial of Him.

However, sabr is not fatalistic resignation to our difficulties. It is not the belief that, since everything is written, one just has to let time go by – to patiently endure through the unfolding of time.

Rather, it is actively tackling life’s problems and difficulties and striving to overcome obstacles. It is making choices purposefully and consciously. These choices will determine the direction of our souls in life and their destination in the Hereafter.

The only way to proceed through life is to strengthen that first step which has been long neglected and misunderstood: sabr.

We can be disorganized and careless, working in a haphazard manner. Or we might be of those who complain, brood, are bitter, reactive and temperamental. Or we might choose to be emotionally wounded and mentally trapped. Or, on the other hand, we can decide to work toward absorbing all those aspects of sabr in our lives as our Rabb meant us to do – to be accepting of our decrees, make the best of them and convey this knowledge to others.

Sabr In The Qur’an 

Allah has informed us that our life is a test, and that sabr will be rewarded:

[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed.

And We will surely test you until We make evident those who strive among you [for the cause of Allah] and the patient, and We will test your affairs.

And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient (as-sābireen).

And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].

And be patient, [O Muhammad], and your patience is not but through Allah.

Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.

And Allah loves the steadfast.

And be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.

Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri reported that the Prophet  said, "No one is given a better and more abundant gift than patience."

Ease and comfort do not give strength as difficulties do. Difficulties make us physically and mentally stronger. Too much comfort only weakens us. When we trust in the inherent good of Allah's decrees, we continually prepare ourselves for the possibility of examination through painful experiences. This helps us to practice sabr.

How does one attain sabr? Through willful training and practice. Early scholars observed that one becomes patient by being patient, i.e., by repeatedly practicing patience and forcing it upon himself in difficult circumstances.

Sabr is not just a support to lean on. It is that strength which makes us stand firm against all odds with mind focused and heart striving with faith and trust in Allah – accepting His decrees, His plan for our lives – fully aware that He is the Owner of the universe and that His knowledge of good for us and His justice are unquestionable, infallible and complete.

Hence, the Prophet  used to say, "O Allah, I ask You for steadfastness in all my affairs and determination in following the right path."

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Book Review: Civilization Of Faith

Book Review: Civilization of Faith

WHATname comes to your mind when you think of civilization that is successful and advanced?

It won’t be a surprise to hear that many would think of Western civilization.

But what about our Muslim civilization? How much do we know about our history and our predecessors? What did they do?

It is sad that very few of us know the glory and legacy of the Islamic civilization that our predecessors built. Some of us want to know but do not know where to look.

Well, Dr Mustafa Al-Sibaee’s book Civilisation of Faith, is your answer.

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What Does Allah Want From Us First?

straight road

ON hearing the word "first" what should immediately spring to mind is the obvious: basic, primary, obligatory.

But why should we think basic when we consider ourselves advanced? The reason is that nothing grows and flowers unless it is planted well and nourished with the right conditions. Right?

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