Juma Khutba (summary & video) 11/10/19 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons (VIDEO HERE)

Part 6: From theory to action. But how? 

Our series has proposed the following principles for maximising our time in sermons:

First, our intention is purely for learning. Second, we must use active forms of learning. Third, we must be ready to ask worthwhile questions. Fourth, we must be willing to accept constructive criticism. Fifth, that we are willing to correct our opinions if proved wrong.

The conclusion to our series focuses on moving from being passive to active; to acting on what we have learnt. But how and what should our action look like?

There is a difference between knowledge, telling other what we know, and acting upon that knowledge. Our lives are spent in consuming information, be it useful or otherwise. In regard to Islamic and moral knowledge, we probably know a plethora and can speak well on Islamic history, our beliefs and practices; we can even tell others how to act and improve. All of these have their importance, however if we do not use our own knowledge or act on what we tell others then indeed it we who are at a loss.

Therefore there is a clear gap between knowledge, telling others something that you know and actually acting on that which you say. The Holy Qur’an establishes this principle asking يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ “O you who believe, why do you say that which you do not do? Indeed hated it is to God that you say that which you do not actually do” (61:2-3)

Acting on knowledge and activism are also two different things. Acting on knowledge may be a private act, whilst activism is the sacred act of attempting to change the social order for the better or bringing others to change their acts, whether they are private, public or institutional. The narrations speak about this with the highest of value. For example, Imam Ali (a) said خيرُ إخْوانِكَ مَن سارَعَ إلى الخيرِ وجَذَبَكَ إلَيهِ ، وأمَرَكَ بالبِرِّ وأعانَكَ علَيهِ “”The best of your brothers is the one who rushes to do good and draws you alongside him, and orders you to do good and helps you with it”.

Note the subtleties about action in the narration. “Rushes to do good” is active; “Draws you alongside” is not just the individual doing good but bringing others to do good. “Orders” means shows you where the good can be applied and “Helps you with it” means that even then, if there is any weakness or shortcoming he assists you in fulfilling it. All of this is action upon action.

One of the leading thinkers of our era is Slovenian, Slavoj Žižek. Commenting about ‘Green Capitalism’, he makes an important point in actions and their consequences or whether they really lead to good or not. He states that we often say, ‘We want to do our bit’. We will recycle or buy organic fruits in the hope that if ‘We all do our little bit, we will make the difference.’ He critiques this attitude saying this had lead to corporations taking advantage of this attitude.

He gives the example of Starbucks. They will say ‘If you buy the $2.95 coffee we will give 5 cents to’ xyz charitable cause. And so we choose to go to Starbucks over, for example, Costa on this basis. And so we buy the $2.95 coffee and the $2.50 donut and so on thinking ‘We have done our bit’. Žižek rightly argues that we think our ‘activism’ is good when in fact, we are doing more harm than good. This is because it is the Neo-Liberal Order and Capitalist corporate greed that has caused that injustice in the first place. To then spend money on them only reinforces the system of oppression in the first place. Moreover, this system then gets further power through your spending with them and their ability to choose what the ‘charitable needs’ are.

Islam and Islamic activism was always there to break the back of oppression, to rattle the social order, to upset the applecart. When we listen to the sermons and the example’s of the great early companions we never imagine they were shy of upsetting people in order to establish justice and nor did they feed into the system that was curating the injustice. As the Qur’an says, “And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression” (8:39).

The Prophet Muhammad (s) was unrelenting and never inclined one iota to injustice to the extent that when the defeated pagan Quraysh were on the verge of yielding, they offered a compromise: For 364 days of the year we will follow Islam but for one day of the year allow us to keep our idols in the Ka’ba! What type of system would this be?

When the Prophet (s) wanted to bring change his action needed two things: 1) To be the opposite of the unjust system and 2) To lead by example.

The Qur’an states وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing” (8:61).

Allah (swt) commanded to incline toward peace. This is in light of a pagan Arab society that celebrated war. But why did Allah (swt) state, “And trust in Allah”? This is because He knew their intentions did not match their words. But peace building was so important that even then, the Muslims should lead on it and put their trust in Allah (swt).

Acting on our knowledge and knowing how to act are the two greatest goals of listening to sermons and are the ultimate measurements of what we have taken away from our time in these lectures.

By: education

Juma Khutba 04/10/2019 summary – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

Friday Khutba
How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons
 
Part 5: The Willingness To Correct Our Opinions 
 
Our series has proposed the following principles for maximising our time in sermons:
First, our intention is purely for learning and not reaffirming what we already believe. Second, we must use active forms of learning. Third, we must be ready to ask pertinent and challenging questions to scholars. Fourth, we must be willing to accept constructive criticism of ourselves and our communities.
Today’s sermon follows on from the willingness to accept criticism to the ability to actually correct one’s views when confronted with evidence known as تصحيح آرائنا Tasheeh Aara’una. This is something truly difficult and requires intellectual and moral honesty.
For many of us, our sources of Islamic knowledge is the pulpit and not necessarily source literature or scholarly books – and often there is a gap between the two. If we have been listening to something from the pulpit for many years and then we hear something new or different, it can appear controversial or strange as it conflicts with our knowledge base; it may be the application of a verse of the Qur’an or narration or particular explanation. As we know, ijtehad – striving to find accurate Islamic opinions – and interpretations are always being updated and so we realise knowledge may be reviewed at anytime or we may not be fully informed on a matter yet.
At times a person rejects when evidence comes to him or due to it being against what they consider to be correct. Imam Ali (a) said مَنْ أسْرَعَ إلَى النّاسِ بِما يَكْرَهُونَ قالُوا فيهِ ما لايَعْلَمُونَ “Whoever hastens to the people with that which they dislike, they will speak about him that which they do not know.”
If a verse or sound narration is introduced to me proving its position, increasing my knowledge base, or even disproving what I thought to be previously correct, I must be willing to change my opinion to be in line with the truth I have come across. As Imam Ali (a) said اَلْحَقُّ أحَقُّ أنْ يُتَّبَعَ “The Truth is worthier of being followed” and بِالعُدُولِ عَنِ الحَقِّ تَـكُونُ الضَّلالَةُ “It is by turning away from the truth that misguidance comes about.”
This may seem obvious, but ask yourself how many have been willing to do this? And ask whether you have ever changed your religious opinion on the basis of new evidence or only ever retained your previous understanding despite evidence to the contrary?
The primary standard of truth is the Qur’an. If we are introduced to a verse of Allah (swt) which has been applied in the correct way, we are obligated to correct our opinions to be in line with the verse no matter how challenging to our pride or previous beliefs this may be. The Qur’an states وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ “And We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, verifying what is before it of the Book and a guardian over it, therefore judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and do not follow their low desires (to turn away) from the truth that has come to you.”
Therefore either when Truth comes to us, we must correct our opinions, or we use the Qur’an to judge the matter. Let us take an example.
In recent days, political speeches have been made about cutting ‘freedom of movement’. To some, freedom of movement is negative, as it violates borders and allows cultures to mix. Many Muslims will hear this political rhetoric and be persuaded. It is the responsibility of the Muslim that if he believes such a thing, but then is presented with what the Qur’an states, he is obliged to correct his opinion or he is required to search out what the Qur’an says and correct his opinion.
In one verse Allah (swt) states, “O humanity! Indeed We created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples and types that you to know one another. Truly, the most generous of you with God is the most God-conscious. Truly, God is all-Knowing, all-Informed” (49:13). Prohibiting or ostracising freedom of movement is then is direct violation of Allah’s (swt) directive of people knowing one another.
In another verse, Allah (swt) states, “Had Allah pleased, He would have made you (all) a single people, but that He tests you in what He gave you. Therefore strive with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds” (5:48). In this verse Allah (swt) states He could have made mankind one people, but he wishes to see how we respond to the different features and resources He provided: language, culture, oil, steel, water, technology etc. And that we are to strive in doing good. If we are blocked from meeting one another, how can this be achieved?
Imam Ali (a) said, “Emigrate from your native country in pursuit of loftier positions, for there are five benefits to be had from travel: Alleviating anxiety, working for a living, acquiring knowledge, attaining moral excellence, the companionship of distinguished people” (Immigration and Jihad, Dar al-Hadi Publications, 2003 pg 43).
In all of these cases, we can see the principles that freedom of movement and immigration are positive. If I believed something different, I am required to correct my opinion no matter my biases. If we can do this then our sitting in sermons will be truly beneficial to us. If not, we will continue to hold onto things that may be in opposition to Islam.
By: education

Juma Khutba 27/09 – Video & Summary (Shaykh Jaffer Ladak)

In: Education, Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons (VIDEO HERE
 
Part 4: Three Principles to benefiting from constructive criticism
To date our series have offered the following principles for maximising our sitting in sermons:
First, our intention has to be purely for learning and growth, not entertainment or reaffirming what we already believe. Second, we must have active forms of learning including making use of technologies and writing notes. Third, we must equip ourselves with useful questions that challenge not only ourselves, but our scholars too.
Today’s sermon focuses on a principle of intellectual and moral honesty that is truly very difficult to achieve: Accepting constructive criticism.
It is common that during a sermon something is said that may touch a nerve due to it speaking directly to our behaviours or sensitivities; or as post-traditional or post-cultural understandings of our religion become the norm, a challenge is raised against the status quo of practises; or even a family member or friend raises some criticism – it can burn and be difficult to accept.
To grow, however, we must welcome these discomforts, which at times may give deep insight into things we may not have considered about ourselves. Sometimes the criticism comes from a place of care, in which case we should be grateful whether it is accurate or not. At others it may come from a place of scorn, in which case if it is true, we should be grateful.
The Qur’an provides us with a starting principle:  فَاصْـبِرْ کَماَ صَبَرَ أُُولُوا الْعَزمِ مِنَ الرُّسُلِ  “Be patient just as were those of determination, the great prophets from among the Messengers” (46:35)
Patience here is not simply inaction, waiting for difficulty to pass, but rather refers to the internal response of dignity, trust in Allah and working hard on one’s soul when confronted by life’s difficulties. We are being called here to respond like the greatest Messengers responded – and no doubt the Prophet (s) faced intense scrutiny and criticism from their communities. Thus let us look at three principles on navigating constructive criticism from the Islamic perspective.
First: we must be willing to accept criticism of us and not close it down.
Many misinformed people think that Islam forbids ‘freedom of speech’ or criticism of the Prophet Muhammad (s) or Islam itself, or that violence is the response to criticism. This is completely against the Qur’an. The Prophet Muhammad (s) faced the most abrasive and vitriolic of criticism. What is interesting is that Allah (swt) not only allowed it, but even recorded it in revelation for it to be known and recounted through the ages!
“They (the disbelievers) say: It is just stories of the ancients! He makes them up! And they are dictated to him morning and afternoon” (25:5) was the claim, because the Prophet Muhammad (s) spent months with Christian Monks in the Sinai. Allah (swt) allowed this criticism, though futile and wrong, responding in the next verse, “Say: It has been revealed by He who knows [every] secret of the heavens and earth. Indeed He is ever Forgiving and Merciful.”
This teaches us that criticism must be allowed and then reviewed for its accuracy. Not accepting it from its inception or thinking you are above it or know better removes the potential of it having a positive effect.
Second: the closer a person it comes from, the better
 
It is often the case that we like to keep friends who match our ideas and positions. Whilst of course having friends of the same beliefs and values are necessary, that should not mean that if they are critical of us, we feel hurt, vengeful or cut off relationships.
The very best person to be critical of you is yourself! Imam Ali (a) stated إيّاكَ أنْ تَـكُونَ علَى النّاسِ طاعِناً، ولِنَفْسِكَ مُداهِناً  “Beware of being critical of the people while going easy on yourself.” داهَنَ means flattery or to dupe, thus the narration is saying do not dupe yourself into thinking you are above reproach the way you might of others!
 
After that, your friends and family who have unguarded, real moments with you are those who may give you feedback. Often we expect our friends to take our side or back us up because they are our friends. The narrations tell us in fact the best friend we may have is the one who can tell us the truth and be critical if they see something, thus do not be offended. Narrations include
 
i. “The friendship of the religious ones does not get severed quickly and is ever firm and lasting” مَوَدَّةُ ذَوِى الدّينِ بَطيئَةُ الاِنْقـطاعِ، دائِمَةُ الثَّباتِ والبَقاءِ
ii. “The one who assists [you] in obeying [Allah] is the best companion” اَلمُعينُ عَلَى الطَّاعَةِ خَيرُ الأصحابِ
iii. “The brother whom you benefit from is better than the brother [for] whom you increase [benefit]” أخٌ تَسْتَفيدُهُ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أخ تَسْتَزيدُهُ.
Third: once I receive criticism how do I review myself?
Now we know to allow criticism to occur and to be pleased with it, we need tools to measure whether the criticism is valid or not. This of course requires honesty, time for introspection and wrangling with the matter.
Imam Mohammed al-Baqir (a) says, “Contemplate and ponder about what is said about you. So if you observe and come to know about a vice that exists in you, know that to lose honour in the eyes of Allah is much greater than losing respect in the
eyes of the people. And if your condition is contrary to what has been said about you, then you have earned a reward short of doing any strain!”
In this vain, once a person was abusing Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain as-Sajjad (a) and his mother. The Imam calmly replied, “If what you have said about me is true, then may Allah forgive me. And if what you have said is false, then may Allah forgive you” and left it that. The man was amazed by the Imam’s (a) godly character.
In conclusion, our sitting in sermons often evokes criticism of our individual and collective behaviours. This should not be a reason to feel unease or discontent; rather we must review ourselves in accordance with the Book of Allah (swt) and proactively patient in overcoming whatever infractions we may have.
As Imam Ali (a) said حَلاَوَةُ الظَّفَرِ تَمْحُوا مَراَرَةَ الصَّـبْرِ “The sweetness of success erases the bitterness of patience.”
By: education

Juma Khutba summary 20/09 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Hujjat, Jum'a
How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons
Part 3: The purpose and tools for sitting in a sermon 
 
In part 1 we stated that the number of sermons we sit in and religious learning engaged in must be equal to the growth we experience; if this is not the case, how can we better our learning experience of very traditional sermons?
 
In part 2 we took our first principle known as حُسن السئال نِصف الجواب ‘A good question is half of the answer’, to not only encourage the asking of questions but what types of questions we must ask.
This edition will look at the purposes of sitting in the sermons and what tools we may use to maximise our learning and application.
In the biographies of the scholars, there is an intriguing story about Imam Syed Muhammad Hussaini as-Shirazi, an author of 1400 books, such that when he died, his fingers were bent from his excessive commitment to his pen. Sitting preparing his class, one of his students bursts through the door seeking urgent counsel. “I have a question, no matter how much I think it over I cannot find an answer” he says. Imam as-Shirazi welcomes him and asks what is this question he has been wrangling with, causing such anxiety. He replies, “If you have one day to live, what would you do with it?!”
We shall return to the answer later InshaAllah.
First, the Holy Qur’an tells us that not only should we seek knowledge, but seek it from Allah swt and with His approval. فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ الْمَلِكُ الْحَقُّ وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُقْضَىٰ إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا “Supremely exalted is therefore Allah, the King, the Truth, and do not make haste with the Quran before its revelation is made complete to you and say: O my Lord! increase me in knowledge” (20:114)
 
The supplications of Ahl al-Bayt (a) then guide us to what else we should be seeking from this knowledge:
 
Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain Zain al-Abideen (a) prays, “[Oh Allah] Complete for us the illuminations of knowing you deeply” و اتمم لنا أنوار معرفتك
 
Elsewhere he begs, “Make it that I fulfil all that is obligated upon me” اللهم اقض عني كل ما الزمتنيه
 
Whilst Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) asks for divine help in navigating those matters that may be muddied between true and false claims asking, “O God! Show me the truth as the truth so I follow it, and falsehood as falsehood so I stay away from it; and let them not seem similar o me, for if this happens then I will follow my own desires without guidance from You.” اللَّهُمَّ أَرِنِي الْحَق حَقًّا فَاَتِّبَعَهُ، وَأَرِنِي الْبَاطِلَ بَاطِلًا وفَاَجْتَنِبَهُ، وَلَا تَجْعَلْهُ عَلَيَّ مَتَشَابِهًا فَأَتَّبِعَ هَوَايَ بِغَيْرِ هُدىً مِنْكَ
 
Collectively then, these supplications for learning tells we ask for an increase, deeper insight, to act on what I learn and fulfil what is necessary for me and to have the success of distinguishing falsities from truth. These are certainly requisites to learning for without these, sitting in the sermons may become repetitive and devoid of the foundational attitudes needed in spiritual and intellectual learning. 
 
Second, the narrations remind us that knowledge must be sought, not through personalities, famous speakers, oratory power or how good the sermon makes us feel. All these are transient and devoid of stability. This asks us wrangle with the question of our biases and whether we attend the sermons of those whom we prefer to those whom challenge us; those who reaffirm my way of thinking or for seeking truth no matter whom it comes from.
 
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) profoundly stated, “The one who enters this religion through men will exit through men just as they caused him to enter it. And whoever enters this religion through the Book of Allah and the Prophetic practise, mountains will move before he does [in his faith]. من دخل في هذا الدين بالرجال اخرجه منه الرجال كما ادخلوه فيه ، و من دخل فيه بالكتاب و السنة زالت الجبال قبل ان يزول
 
The best example of this was in the Battle of Jamal when people saw on one side A’isha the wife of the Prophet and leading companions like Talha and Zubayr, whilst on the other side Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) and companions like Salmaan and Ammar. They asked which side to join?! Imam Ali (a) said, ‘Do not look at personalities. Look for the truth and you will then know its people.’
 
Thirdly, the learning must be active and not passive. We forget so much because the sermon is long and the attention span is short. Sermons tend to be pedagogic and only make use of auditory learning, whilst in school and university we use visual and kinaesthetic tools of learning, where we engage in dialogue and sensory material. We urgently need to evolve our cultures of learning and formats of sermons lest our education system falls way behind.
Ahl al-Bayt (a) emphasised this on numerous occasions:
The Prophet (s) said, “Write down knowledge before the departure of the scholars” whilst Imam as-Sadiq (a) said, “Write! For you will not remember until you write.”
We would never tolerate our children going to school or Madressa without a pen and paper, but our culture in the sermon’s does not encourage the same. Indeed this is a hypocrisy and a requirement to review our values between secular and religious learning.
Returning to the story above! Imam as-Shirazi was desperately asked, ‘What would you do with one day to live?’
He replied, “I would be doing what you found me doing now! Learning the knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt and teaching the knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt (a)!”
By: education

Juma Khutba 30/08/19 – Sh. Jaffer Ladak [summary]

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons
Part 2: A good question is half of the answer
 
In the first part, we reviewed how many sermons and programmes we participate in throughout the year and stated that in this ‘information age’ there is a tremendous amount of Islamic knowledge circulating. We also asked whether we are in line with the goal of reforming ourselves and whether the amount of Islamic knowledge we absorb translates into genuine progress, individually or collectively. If not, we need tools to maximise our time listening to sermons, watching clips or reading; this is what this series focuses on. 
 
Our first principle is a term coined by the scholars, the roots of which are from the statements of the holy Prophet Muhammad (s). The principle is known as حُسن السئال نِصف الجواب ‘A good question is half of the answer’.
This emanates from the narration الاقتصاد في النفقة نصف المعيشة، والتودد إلى الناس نصف العقل، وحسن السؤال نصف العلم “Financial prudence with those whom you spend on is half of living well; love for people is half of good thinking; and a good question is half of knowledge.”
As we know the Prophet’s (s) speech is perfect and purposeful. The fact that he said a “good” question, means that by definition, there are also poor questions. Those are the ones asked for the sake of getting the answer you want, and not genuinely learning, or to show off the knowledge that you have. A common problem today is when scholars travel to speak at different venues, they know there will be that person(s) who will ask them a question but have asked that same question to every visiting scholar in the hope that they get the answer they want! We seek protection with Allah (swt) from being like that!
In short, a good question is an open enquiry to problems worth understanding and it should lead you to a new pedestal of your own growth.
The questions that the companions asked were so powerful it led them to their lofty pedestals. Those who were living as bedouins, worshipping stones, after genuine wrangling and contemplation are praised in the Qur’an (3:110) as “…the best of nations heralded for mankind” while Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) said of his sittings with the Prophet Muhammad (s) that it opened a thousand doors of knowledge, each of which opened another thousand doors of knowledge.
Let us know turn to some principles of good questions from examples in the Ahadith. In this we can demonstrate a growth pattern in the questions where  a process of building off the previous questions is achieved.
The first is that simple questions are not problematic. We are all at different stages of learning or unshackling ourselves from ideas and sciences that may have influenced our understanding of things.
Ayyub ibn Nuh said, “I wrote to Imam Ali al-Hadi (a) asking him about Allah swt: Did He know all things before creating them or did He not know until He willed their creation?” The Imam wrote back, “Allah swt eternally has had full knowledge of all things before as well as after their creation.”
It may be to you or I, that question is basic Aqeedah. Simply knowing Allah swt’s Divine Name of the All-Knowing would suffice. However, for someone who does not know, their enquiry was genuine and needed. It maybe that we need to check or clarify, there is no shame in this and needs encouraging.
The second example builds on the first. In the first the enquirer asks about God’s knowledge and will. The second  will also be about the same subject but the question is far more profound. The answer will also develop the person’s thinking because it was a good question.
Bukayr ibn A’yan said, “I asked Imam as-Sadiq (a), ‘Is the knowledge and the will of Allah different or the same?’” meaning with God’s knowledge, does that mean it is immediately willed into creation. He replied, “His knowledge is not the same as His will. Consider and reflect on when you say, ‘If Allah wills I will do such and such. You do not say If Allah knows I will do such and such. Your own words are proof that Allah has not yet willed it!”
Here we can see that the question is building on the knowledge of the first. But also that had the person himself reflected on his own interaction with God’s divine will, he would have come to know the answer himself.
The third is the need to build our questions off the Qur’an primary. Narrations are not protected like the Qur’an and all other sciences are secondary to it. In this example the companion is reading the verses and cannot find another verse to complete his thought.
Ibn Abi Ya’fur said, “I wrote to Imam ar-Redha (a) about the two verses ‘Ask the people of remembrance (of God) if you do not know’ and ‘Why do not some people from each group seek deep religious knowledge and return to guide their people?’ (9:122) asking, ’the verses make it obligatory for us to ask questions and seek – but it is not made obligatory upon you to answer?!’”
The fact that this companion was studying and reflecting and searching the face of the Qur’an, Imam ar-Redha (a) could but only reply from the Qur’an, writing back, “If they do not do what you ask them, know they are only following their low desires” (28:50) meaning that when it is asked of us, Ahl al-Bayt (a), it is compulsory for us to reply, otherwise we would be following our own desires!
In here have been a number of lessons about asking good questions about the knowledge we gain from lectures:
1) There are bad questions, do not ask them.
2) Questions must open up enquiry to things worth deliberating upon
3) Simple questions are important
4) Build on those questions so they take you further in that area
5) If you reflect, often you will find the answer
6) Use the Qur’an to ask questions from
By: education

Juma Khutba Friday 23/08 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak (video + summary)

In: Education, Jum'a

Video here

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? 
Maximising our sitting in sermon’s and what happens after them: Part 1
How many sermons do you listen to in one year? Thursday nights; Friday Khutbas; birth and death anniversaries of the great Prophet’s and saintly figures; weddings; funerals; Islamic TV shows; WhatsApp clips; social media; email; conferences… the list goes on.
It would not be an underestimation if we said a person has 200 days of the year where lectures, sermons and keynote speeches all furnished with Islamic wisdom are available to us. That’s around two thirds of the year!
But also it needs questioning how much of it do we absorb, act on and make use of, such that it truly impacts the development of our souls. There is no shame in admitting it, there is a great gap between how much we take in and how much we apply. This will always be the case, especially in the ‘Information Age’ we live in.
We can also admit that we wan’t to benefit more from the sermon’s we listen to. Especially in this period over Dhu al-Hijjah, Muharram and Safar when the fragrances of the revolution and sacrifice of Imam al-Hussain (a) are in the air; when the number of lecture’s will increase and the fervour of recommitting ourselves to personal development is at the forefront of our minds, it befits us to think abouthow we maximise these gatherings. Hence this series of Friday Sermon’s will ask ‘How do study Islam?’ 
 
It has always been the case that the Prophet’s of Allah (swt) have had goals. Amongst the primary is Islah – reformation of the community. As Prophet Shu’ayb (a) said in the Qur’an (11:88) “I want to achieve reformation as to the best of what I can” إِنْ أُرِيدُ إِلَّا الْإِصْلَاحَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ
This too was the mission statement of Imam al-Hussain (a) who when leaving Medina for the last time stated, “I am not rising for fame, or adventurism, nor to create mischief, or for oppression. But rather I rise for the sole purpose to create reformation in the Nation of my grandfather, the Messenger of Allah Muhammed (s)” إني لم أخرج أشراً، ولا بطراً ولا مفسداً، ولا ظالماً، وإنما خرجت لطلب الاصلاح في أمة جدي
Hence over this period of Muharram and Safar, ‘the days of al-Hussain’, our goal of attending sermon’s and lectures and conferences should match this lofty goal of reformation otherwise that movement of sacrifice and saving Islam goes in one direction whilst my intention and participation goes in another.
 
The Qur’an mentions two groups of people. Those who benefit from Islamic reminders and the Sign’s of Allah swt and those to whom those same things add aversion and darkness to.
The first are mentioned as “The ones who believe are only those whose hearts took notice when God was remembered. When His signs were recounted to them, their belief increased and they put their trust in the Lord” (8:2)
The second is he “He hears the signs of God recited unto him, then persists arrogantly as if he did not hear it. So give him glad tidings of a painful punishment” (45:8).
It is for this reason that there are three stages to learning and maximising what we come across from our sermons and books and clips. In a phenomenal narration, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) said, “The one who learns for the sake of Allah (swt), and then acts for the sake of Allah, and then teaches for the sake of Allah, he would be invited to the grand kingdoms of the heavens.”  مَنْ تَعَلَّمَ لِلَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ وَ عَمِلَ لِلَّهِ وَ عَلَّمَ لِلَّهِ دُعِيَ فِي مَلَكُوتِ السَّمَاوَاتِ عَظِيماً It is this seamless motion of learning, applying and spreading what we have achieved that is the barometer of success from the sermon’s we attend.
 
The great companions were of this nature. They made do with the little they received – not 200 sermon’s a year! The companion Ibrahim al-Karkhi narrated, “Once I came to visit Ja’far ibn Mohammed as-Sadiq. While I was with him his son Musa al-Kadhim came in. He was a young boy. I got up and kissed him and then I sat down. As-Sadiq began to tell me: Allah will derive from him the best of the people on the earth… He who waits for the Mahdi and fights with him is as if he has fought with the Prophet (s) and defended him.”
 
Then a man of the Umayyads came in and as-Sadiq had to stop talking. I visited him eleven times wishing that he might complete his speech but I failed. In the next year I came to him he said, “O Ibrahim, al-Mahdi (a) will relieve his followers from their grief after a long period of affliction and oppression. Blessed is he who will attend to that time! Oh Ibrahim, this suffices you.”
 
The response from Ibrahim is profound. He takes this little from the gathering and maximises it. He says, “I have never come back with something more pleasant to my heart and more delightful to my eyes than this!”
 
We too want to maximise our gatherings and study of Islam. In this series InshaAllah, we will discuss how to be able to do so.
By: education

Juma Khutba 26/07/19 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful 

 
Friday Sermon 26/07/19, video here – starts at 36.19
 
How to speak to non-Muslims about the Hajj pilgrimage
With the Hajj season upon the Muslim world again, it is normal that broadcast and social media will share images and write ups about the beautiful spectacle that is millions of people flocking to the House of God in order to participate in the rituals. Sharing these images often evokes questions and interest into this journey of a lifetime be it from friends or work colleagues.
 
It is necessary therefore, to review the objectives of the Hajj pilgrimage beyond those who are going for Hajj itself and understand its relationship to the non-Muslim audience and how we might present those benefits to them. This comes from the wider understanding of the purposes of Hajj itself being for all of mankind and though its rituals may be limited to Muslims, its aims are universal. Such a concept is derived from the Qur’an itself when Prophet Ibrahim (a) is commanded to announce Hajj to mankind – not believers or Muslims only – but to all mankind. And those who would flock would witness the benefits – spiritual, material, political and economic. 
 
وَأَذِّن فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَىٰ كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِن كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ “And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path” لِّيَشْهَدُوا مَنَافِعَ لَهُمْ “That they may witness advantages for them” (22:7-8).
 
This sermon focuses on the benefits to those who do not attend and how we might represent those to the wider world.
 
First Allah (swt) introduces Prophet Ibrahim (a) as a unifying individual. In Surat al-Baqarah, the chapter is divided into multiple subtopics: Purpose and creation; The Children of Israel; relationship to other faiths. From around verse 130 the Qur’an brings in the story of Ibrahim (a) and that there being an agreement of the previous peoples to worship that which Abraham worshipped and to follow his path. The Qur’an mentions
 
إِذْ حَضَرَ يَعْقُوبَ الْمَوْتُ إِذْ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن بَعْدِي قَالُوا نَعْبُدُ إِلَٰهَكَ وَإِلَٰهَ آبَائِكَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ “when death visited Yaqoub, when he said to his sons: What will you serve after me? They said: We will serve your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrahim” (2:133)
 
 
This is followed up by telling the believers to announce their belief and following of Ibrahim (a) too and that we do not make distinctions amongst prophets, following some but not others, like some have chosen to do. Moreover, if the other religions were to follow this way they too would be rightly guided.
Say: We believe in Allah and (in) that which had been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Musa and Isa, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit. If then they believe as you believe in Him, they are indeed on the right course, and if they turn back, then they are only in great opposition” (2:136-137).
 
These verse then tell us that from the Islamic perspective, Hajj is not only about following the rituals of Prophet Ibrahim (a) but to use him as a point of return, unity and cohesion amongst faiths. To enliven and share in his story would bring proximity between the faiths and encourage – as Abraham did – the worship of One God, alone, the very essence of Islam. 
 
Second Religion today has often become watered down, extremely secularised or infused with liberal ideas. Spirituality is often conflated with things like meditations or yoga as replacements for prayer and rigorous self-development. Some religions promote running away from the world or self-denial as means of growth. In the Islamic perspective, it is to participate in society where you will engage with people of different maturity levels who will bring out the best and worst in you that would help your growth.
 
In business for example, if a person has the characteristics of a cheater, he will use contracts or negotiations to be a means of cheating; business will be the tool of his conniving self. In marriage, for example, if a person is compassionate and empathetic, he will use these to navigate the challenges of their partner or families. 
 
Hajj has a multitude of rituals, condensed into five days, in the heat and crowding of Mecca, Mina, Muzadalifa and ‘Arafat. It will be a lifetimes worth of challenges in the space of 120 hours with people from all cultures, languages and sects. The purpose of this is to discover your real self; to understand why you are the way you are, how you react and what you are capable of in those circumstances – especially when 25 things are prohibited to you in the state of Ehram.
 
In a famous narration, Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Hussain Zain al-Abideen was performing Tawaaf of the Ka’ba with a blind companion who began to comment on how crowded it seemed to him this year. The Imam prayed to God to return his vision but with spiritual insight and for a moment the man was bewildered by what he saw exclaiming, ‘Oh Son of the Messenger of Allah! Why are there so many animals here performing Tawaaf?! I see snakes and dogs and donkeys!’ He replied, ’These are the inner realities of the people you are seeing!’
 
Third The Muslim Ummah partakes in many events together throughout the year. The month of Ramadaan allows us to engage in one act together, fasting. In Hajj, the Muslim world throws off the shackles of its differences, from sect to creed to colour to wealth to position and demonstrates its capability to unite for a grander purpose. This is awe-inspiring and cannot be easily replicated. This should demonstrate the potential that people have when pettier differences can be put aside and the essential purposes of creation are put at the forefront of human endeavour. It is for this reason Imam ‘Ali (a) said والحَجَّ تَقْوِيَةً لِلّدينِ “The Hajj is a means of strengthening the religion.
 
With these three areas – interfaith unity under the banner of the Father of Monotheism, Prophet Ibrahim (a), the ability to discover one’s true self and the ability to discover the potential of a united Muslim community, can we introduce the Hajj pilgrimage to others. It may be that it illuminates the heart of another and bring them closer to Islam for as the holy verse says
 
إِنَّ في ذلِكَ لَذِكْرى لمَنْ كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أوْ ألْقى السَّمْعَ وهُوَ شَهيدٌ “Most surely, there is a reminder in this for him who has a heart or he gives ear and is a witness. (50:38)”
By: education

Jum’a Khutba summary & video 19/07/19 – Sh. Jaffer Ladak

In: Education, Jum'a
Special Character Building (Akhlaq) Techniques
Part 5: Richness of the Heart: An evidence of having peak moral character 
VIDEO HERE
In our first sermon we took the principle of making ones private practises excel their public behaviour. The second reminded us to learn from the faults of others. Week three discussed how certain acts cause deficiency in the intellect and last week expanded on being blessed wherever we may be. 
 
Our fifth discussion, the conclusion to the series, is from amongst the supreme qualities in an individual. It has been left till the end because although seemingly so simple and obvious, it can be the hardest to manifest in ourselves. It is known as سعة الصدر or to have ‘a rich heart’ or ‘open hearted’ or even ‘soft hearted’. Although they all have nuances, their features are similar and maybe richness of heart is the closest translation to its Arabic term. 
 
One of the golden principles of Islam is that if you wish to know the real religion of a person, do not look at how much they pray or fast, but look at how they treat people. This is the topic of having a rich heart.
 
The Qur’an introduces this in different ways:
 
1) وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ”And lower your wing for any who follow you of the believers” (26:215) meaning be humble, kind, soft and merciful.
 
2) فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْThus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them” (3:159) which tells us that being soft hearted – not hard hearted is something which is from Allah (swt) and therefore needs to be sought from Him as a light in us. There is also a relationship between not being hard hearted and seeking forgiveness for a person, which we will return to shortly.
 
Having a rich heart has many benefits mentioned by the scholars. These include the following:
 
A) Having the ability to bear the mistakes of other people 
B) It helps to trivialise or temper the difficulties you encounter
C) Aids you in being flexible and malleable to situations
D) Helps to reform others through your soft nature
E) Builds empathy for others and the way in which they practise their religion 
 
This last one is important as in sects and between them there are multiple ways to express religion, be it the practises of Milad an-Nabi (s) or the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussain (a) etc.
 
Let us now look at how to gain and build on the richness of the heart. In order to make clear what is meant by ‘richness’ and its positive effects, like point (D) above, we will provide a powerful example of it.
 
In one of his speeches, scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf mentions being in Mecca. Each morning, leaving his hotel for morning prayers, he would enter into the same door and each morning the same guard was sitting outside. On the first morning, as entering he greeted the guard ‘as-Salaamun Alaykum!’ the guard responded gruffly ‘Alaykum Salaam’. The second morning again he greeted the guard cheerfully ‘as-Salaamun Alaykum!’ and received a less gruff ‘Alaykum Salaam.’ The third day greeting the same he received an ‘Alaykum Salaam’ with a small smile. On the fourth day he again greeted ‘as-Salaamun Alaykum!’ and finally received as cheerily ‘Alaykum Salaam!’.
 
It took four days but the guard’s entire demeanour changed! And sometimes we don’t realise that people are icicles that need melting! And the Prophet Muhammad (s) encouraged building love between us so much that he guaranteed it as a means of paradise saying, None of you will enter into paradise until you believe and none of you will believe until you love one another. Shall I tell you something that if you do it, love will grow?” The companions replied, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (s) responded, “Spread peace amongst yourselves.”
 
As mentioned above, there is a relationship between not being hard hearted, forgiving and even seeking forgiveness for them from God. Forgiving and then asking forgiveness is evidence that a person does not retain rancour in his heart for another and is even willing to put them first. The Prophet (s) would say to his companions, “Why can’t you be like Abu DhamDhamm?! When someone speaks ill of him and the person who’s doing the backbiting has his own days good deeds given to Abu DhamDhamm, he returns those deeds back as charity!”SubhanAllah how much of a wide heart this companion had for others!
 
Our richness of heart to others is rooted in respect for ourselves and others. This is important because non-Muslims, countries or governments cannot be expected to respect the Muslim world if Muslim’s cannot respect each other. Having a rich heart will build strong communities and bridge broken ties.
 
May Allah swt help us to practise the lessons from these five Friday Sermon’s.
By: education

Juma Khutba: Sh. Jaffer Ladak (summary & video): 28/06 & 05/07

In: Education, Hujjat, Jum'a
In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful 
Friday Khutba summaries 28 June & 5 July (video here)
 
Special Character Building (Akhlaq) Techniques
Part 3: Why do we perform a sin whilst knowing it is wrong?: The deficiencies of the ‘Aql and how to overcome them
 
In the first sermon we took the principle of making ones private practises excel their public behaviour and in the second, how looking at the faults in others should be a sufficient lesson to working toward ensuring those faults are not in us.
 
This sermon will help us to understand why our decision making often becomes blurred and though we know something may be wrong or forbidden, why we end up performing that act anyway. We will then mention some ways that is manifesting itself in our regular lives and then focus on the remedies to this challenge.
 
The Qur’an introduces that people knowingly distort or consciously do wrong. Examples include: 
 
1) وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
(2:42) And do not mix the truth with falsehood and suppress the truth while you know (are aware of what you are doing)
 
2) الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّ فَرِيقًا مِّنْهُمْ لَيَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
(2:146) Those who were give the Book, they recognise him (the Messenger of Allah) just as they know their own sons. But a group from them cover the truth which they themselves know
 
3) ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِن بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
(2:75) Then they perverted it after having understood it and they know what they are doing
 
Why is this the case? What causes this conflict between knowledge and action? The narration about to be quoted is the central principle of this sermon: Imam Mohammed al-Baqir (a) is narrated to have said, If any amount of arrogance enters the heart of a person it will bring about deficiency to the intellect with the same amount of what entered it, whether it be a little or a lot.” الباقر ع ما دخل قلبَ امرئٍ شيءٌ من الكبر الا نقص من عقله مِثلُ ما دخلهُ من ذلك قلَّ ذلك او كثُرَ
 
This means that if a particular sin carries a weight of distorting or weakening the ‘Aql by 20% it will reduce the power of the ‘Aql to 80%. Worse still if the power of the ‘Aql has been reduced more and more, further acting on these types of sin’s will result in the ‘Aql’s strength being ever reduced until eventually enveloping and puncturing it from all sides rendering it useless. 
 
A famous story at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s) was that a Rabbi and his son were discussing the sign’s of the Prophet’s (s) foretelling in their scriptures. The father told the son to sit with the Prophet (s) and assess whether those signs truly were in the Prophet (s) or not. Having done so the son returns to his father and checks off each off the signs. The Rabbi responded, ‘I still will not accept him because he is a gentile’. 
 
This tells us that so long as personal desires and biases’ are not in check, the volatility of the heart and process of the maturing of the mind will always be subject to these deficiencies; the ‘Aql, which is a pure light, gifted by Allah (swt), used to navigate the world, will be unable to guide the person properly.
 
How does this manifest itself in some of the regular challenges facing the Muslim community?
 
Imams of Mosques are often asked questions like, ‘Can my son/daughter go to Prom?’ despite being aware of the prohibited environment, actions there and putting people in potentially compromising positions. Despite knowing all this – and what the right answer is, what often happens is due to pressure or seeking a justification, the question is asked anyway. Similarly, this week during ‘Pride Month’, parents mention that schools have a ‘dress-down’ day and students are invited to pay £1 to celebrate the LGBTQ+ movement – they ask if their children could participate. How is it that whilst knowing the celebration of the act of homosexuality is a sin in Islam, parents still ask if their children can participate in this? It is because the ‘Aql, the tool for navigating right and wrong, is made deficient through sin blurring our moral compasses.
 
What then is the Qur’anic prescription for this? The answer lies in the deeper meanings of Tazkiyyah or purification of one’s actions. Let us look at the example of Prophet ‘Isa (a). When introducing himself to his mother’s accusers, he says (19:31) “And He has enjoined upon me prayer and zakaat as long as I live”  وَأَوْصَانِي بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ مَا دُمْتُ حَيًّا 
 
Zakaat here, according to commentators, does not mean just religious charitable taxes. Zakaat means to purify; one form of this is to purify one’s wealth by paying a tax on it. In the spiritual sense, there is however, Zakaat or tax on everything we own and do. This is mentioned in the hadith literature where Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) said, “The tax on knowledge is to spread it” زَكَاةُ الْعِلْمِ نَشْرُهُ The more knowledge we gain, the more upon us it is to share it. There is Zakaat on your capacity and physical strength; to help people who are less physically capable and so on.
 
There is also a Zakaat or tax on your A’maal or actions to ensure their freedom from corruption. These Zakaat purify the acts and return the ‘Aql to its full capacity. This is because it protects the ‘Aql from the sins that distort it or help return it to a purer state. Let us look at two types of Zakaat on your actions:
 
The First is Before any act, something akin to being taxed at source.
 
One of the great scholars was addressing his students about their actions on the pulpit. He said, ‘Before you advise people to do a good deed, make sure you are doing that deed yourself, especially that day. If you’re going to advise people to give charity, ensure you have given charity that day, even if it be the little amount. That way no hypocrisy can enter into your heart and reduce the action by that amount.’
 
The Second is After the act, something akin to a tax return.
 
It is often the case that a degree of pride or arrogance enters into an act; it is performed with some hope of recognition or reward or compliment from people or a particular person. This needs to be realised, caught and stopped. Even though it has been caught that amount of arrogance still remains either in the act or generally in the heart and needs purifying from; needs to addressed so that it no longer remains a problem that may grow.
 
The tax on this after the act is to re-perform the act (or similar act) without that degree of pride OR perform a similar act in private in which it is not possible to be contaminated by pride, training the heart toward full service for Allah (swt). For example, the person who serves at the Mosque may practise his service elsewhere knowing that he will not be observed by those he seeks attention from training his heart.
 
These two acts assist in remedying the deficiencies that lie in the ‘Aql created by sins that render the purity of it contaminated. Its restoration toward purity will ensure the ‘Aql remains the strong tool for the person to use when thinking through other matters in life. Ultimately the sin’s we perform knowingly would, InshaAllah be reduced by virtue of a stronger, purer ‘Aql.
 
InshaAllah next week we will continue to look at Akhlaqi principles that will strengthen our characters.
By: education

Juma Khutba Sh Jaffer Ladak (summary and video) – 14/06 and 21/06

In: Education, Hujjat, Jum'a

Friday 14 June [Link here]

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful
 
Special Character Building (Akhlaq) Techniques
Part 1: Make your private behaviour better than your public behaviour 
 
In this series of Friday Sermons, we shall be focused on improving our character and mannerisms. Each week we will pick one Akhlaqi principle and delve into some of its features, the idea being that from one week to the next we make a special and dedicated intention to implement this particular practice. God-willing over the week, this one practice will help us to improve that element of our moral nature, preparing us for the following weeks principle.
This of course is based on the noble character of the holy Prophet Muhammad (s) who the holy Qur’an tells us, “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah, you have an excellent model for the one who seeks God, the Day of Judgement and remembers God unceasingly” (33:21).
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا

Our first Akhlaqi principle is to make our private behaviour surpass our public behaviour. It is often the case that our public behaviour is better than our private behaviour. This is because when we are in public, we want the best version of ourselves to be seen and so we become very aware of how we act; when in our private circles however, we revert to default behaviours or are less concerned with how people see us.

This manifests itself in many ways: In public, I may never swear but in private I may. In private I will watch things I would never watch in public. In public the length of my Salaat is very long but in private it is extremely quick or with the TV still on. In public I will smile and talk nicely to people at the Mosque but when I return home, I am grumpy and would never spend time talking to my family and so on.
This is problematic because of the hypocrisy it builds within us and normalises this dichotomy, entrenching its practises further. The narrations specify that when our inward state is corrupted so too will our outward behaviours be, as we will not always be able to control ourselves and these inward states will manifest themselves. But similarly when our outward behaviours are problematic such as acting differently, it will corrupt our inward realities. For example one narration states, “When the outward gets corrupted, the inward also gets corrupted.”  عِِنْدَ فَسادِ العَلانِيَةِ تَفْسُدُ السَّريرَةُ
Amongst the qualities of Allah (swt) is that He is aware of what transpires in our hearts. This is mentioned in numerous Qur’anic verses, examples of which are:
1) “Say: Whether you conceal what is in your hearts or bring into the open, God knows it, for He knows all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth” (3:29) 
 
قُلْ إِن تُخْفُواْ مَا فِي صُدُورِكُمْ أَوْ تُبْدُوهُ يَعْلَمْهُ اللّهُ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأرْضِ وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
2) “And Allah knows what you conceal and what you reveal” (16:19)
 
وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تُسِرُّونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ
In the Islamic ethical system there are multiple spheres of privacy. In the discussion at hand there are two private spheres:
 
i) The inner circle of family and friends who get to see our private forms of behaviour
 
ii) The heart and mind which no one other than Allah (swt) and I know the truth of (although a third form of the private space is the phone/laptop etc which is often not known by even the spouse but is known by the FBI/MI5!)
 
For this reason, the hadith mentions “Blessed is the one whose inward thoughts are good, whose outward [character] is righteous and who does not harm the people.” طُوبى لِمَنْ صَلُحَتْ سَريرَتُهُ، وحَسُنَتْ عَلانِيَتُهُ، وعَـزَلَ عَنِ النَّاسِ شَرَّهُ.
Let us now look at these two spheres and how we can improve our private actions to be purer than our public ones
The central reason for acting differently in certain spaces is usually due to placing more sanctity in one place or another (e.g. the Mosque is ‘holy’ whilst the house is ‘normal’); or one group of people are worth more effort and respect than another (e.g. those in the Mosque are more deserved than family for mercy). This of course is in contradiction to the Islamic worldview: Allah (swt) is present everywhere for “He is with you wherever you are” (Qur’an 57:4) and that all human beings have equal dignity (17:70).
 
The fact that one acts differently in some spaces or with some people needs to be addressed within himself as to what has led him to think and act this way. Often it is out of ignorance or bad behaviour that has not been checked for so long. Take the example of the man that goes to Mosque and when tea is served to him he will thank the server. When he returns home his wife will make him tea but never say thank you. His public behaviour is better than his private. Why? Because of a false sense of entitlement and imagining his wife to be duty bound to him as opposed to her volunteering herself out of kindness, just like the server at the Mosque is also volunteering out of kindness. The hadith recognise this internalised problem and different treatment for some saying, “Let not your family or those whom you love be the most miserable of people because of you.”  لايَكُنْ أهْلُكَ وذُو وُدِّكَ (ذُوُوكَ)أشْقَى النّاسِ بِكَ.
What then is the Akhlaqi prescription for this? The hadith says, “When the consciouses are being reformed, the hidden rancour becomes evident.” عِنْدَ تَصْحيحِ الضَّمائِرِ يَبْدُو غِلُّ السَّرائِرِ.
This means that the more one observes how the same action manifests itself in two different places or with two different sets of people etc the more conscious one will be of the gap in quality of action between the two. He will note how high a bar he sets for himself in one sphere or what he is capable of in one setting and compare it to how low a bar it is in another setting and therefore aim to implement his highest bar in all other spheres such that his private actions end up surpassing even how he is in the public eye.
 
The second private sphere was that of the heart, which only yourself and Allah (swt) knows of what transpires. It might be the case that when we do a good action, deep down we are hoping someone watched us or will compliment us or we will receive some worldly reward for it. Externally the action is flawless, seen as being done for God; internally it is wretched and filled with attention-seeking, for example. 
 
What then is the Akhlaqi prescription for this? One of the spiritual masters was probed by his student, “Whenever I do a good deed, inside me there is showiness; I secretly hope someone would recognise what I have done. Can you advise me how to stop this?”
 
The reply came, “Increase your showing off! Show off more and more! Just change whom you are showing off to! If you want the attention of someone, seek it from Allah (swt). Talk to him and hope that Allah (swt) noted the length of your prostration or the charity you gave etc. Ask him, ‘Allah! Did you see what I did for your sake?!’ and in this way your attention-seeking will be rewarded and not diminish your act.”
 
 
Conclusion 
 
Many of us ensure our public persona or public interactions are of the highest standard, and this is good. But if we are to compare those same actions with how they are performed in private there would be a large gap in their quality. 
 
In order to develop ourselves, we aim that these private acts, which are often a truer reflection of the self, to be better than what people see of us. With a little reflection, we realize what we are capable of; this is the potential of self-control or good mannerism or worship that exists within me as I conduct myself like this in public already! If I were to uphold or improve on this when alone, it would remove the dual standards and in fact raise both my private and public practices. What Allah (swt) knows about me in public and private would be praiseworthy, not just one.
 
InshaAllah next week we look at another Akhlaqi principle to build on this.
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Friday 21 June

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful
 
Special Character Building (Akhlaq) Techniques
Part 2: Seeing your own fault
 
In part one we looked at the principle of aiming for our private actions to surpass in quality our public ones. This is because often our public image is the best version of ourselves whilst our default in private is not as good. If our default was to be at the level of our public or better even, our Akhlaq would God-willing be supremely improved.
Part two proposes the principle that when you notice a fault in a person, this should be enough of a lesson for yourself to take note and ensure you do not practice that act yourself. This principle is mentioned in the hadith by Imam Mohammed al-Baqir (a) who stated, “Sufficient is a person’s own defect (in himself) that he tries to pick and look for faults in other people when he himself has those same faults in himself (and does not recognize them.”  كَفى بِالْمَرْءِ عَيْـباً أَنْ يُبْصِرَ مِنَ النٌّاسِ مٌا يَعْمى عَنْهُ مِنْ نَفْسِهِ
It is often the case that when a person does a bad act we notice it. It can be anything like how a person reacts to traffic on the road, or whether they keep in touch with their family members, a face they make when asked to do something, how they eat. All of these may be innocuous acts but they do not go unnoticed by ourselves and in fact may often grind or irk us or make us wish they did not act like this. However, it is also the case that more often than not we also have the same or similar trait – but just don’t realise it!
 
The Qur’an tells us not to laugh at others nor fault find: “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not fault find amongst yourselves” (49:11). يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ

Expanding on this verse, narrations warn us about keeping company with fault-finders. For example “I warn you about keeping relations with people who look for faults in others, since surely there is not a single person who will be safe from such people.”   إِيٌّاكَ وَ مَعٌاشِرَةَ مُتَتَبِّعِي عُيُوبِ النٌّاسِ! فَإِنَّهُ لَمْ يَسْلَمْ مُصٌاحِبُهُمْ مِنْهِم

This narration warns us that whilst we are targeting our fault finding at another person, the moment I leave that group, I will be targeted by their ridicule and fault-finding just as I was earlier doing.
Although we are commanded not to fault find, it is natural that when a prohibited or insensitive or inappropriate action is performed we would notice it. This is because Allah (swt) has placed within us a nature that dislikes evil. This innate moral compass is a blessing and divine evidence [Hujjat] for us.
The narrations however emphasise how easy it is to find that we dislike something in others but in fact perform that very same act ourselves! For example, “The person who busies himself looking into the faults of others should start by looking into the faults of his own self (first).” مَنْ بَحَثَ عَنْ عُيُوبِ النٌّاسِ فَلْيَبْدَأْ بِنَفْسِهِ
One of the great scholars was addressing his students telling them, “If you see in me any error I demand that you point it out to me.” He then began to tell a story about how easy it is to dislike in someone an act yet find yourself doing the same. He continued, “One day on pilgrimage I walked toward the door to enter. Yet standing there was a man blocking the crowds entrance causing a nuisance. I was annoyed and in my mind wondered how this person could be so oblivious to the right of others. No sooner had he moved, I found myself doing exactly the same act of standing at the door engaged in my own thoughts but also blocking others from easy entrance and exit! We do not realise how quick we are to do what we dislike in others!”
The scholars of Akhlaq add the following prescriptions to remedy or navigate this sort of heedlessness. When a person sees an act they dislike, either they truly do perform that act themselves or truly they do not.
i) In the case where they do not, they should first thank Allah (swt) for having purified them that they do not commit that act. This is because guidance success is from Allah (swt) in the first place and so He is the prime cause of one’s goodness. In sincerely thanking Allah (swt) he would keep you protected from this and improve you even further, as He states, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you further [in favour]” (Qur’an 14:7).
If one is not humble to this, certainly they will soon fall foul and perform that act themselves.
ii) In the case where they do perform such an act, it is most likely that Allah (swt) has covered that act such that most people will have never seen it performed. Allah (swt) indeed is the concealer of defects. The books of supplication are replete with lines of du’a that should be recited at this moment. For example
يَا إلهِي فَلَكَ الْحَمْدُ، فَكَم مِنْ عَائِبَةٍ سَتَرْتَهَا عَلَيَّ فَلَم تَفْضَحْنِي
My God, so to Thee belongs praise! How many of my flaws Thou hast covered over without exposing me!
وَكَمْ مِنْ ذنْبِ غَطَّيْتَهُ عَلَيَّ فَلَمْ تَشْهَرْنِي
How many of my sins Thou hast cloaked without making me notorious!
وَكَمْ مِنْ شَائِبَة أَلْمَمْتُ بِهَا فَلَمْ تَهْتِكْ عَنِّي سِتْرَهَا
How many faults I have committed, yet Thou didst not tear away from me their covering
iii) And also In the case where they do perform such an act, one may entreat Allah (swt) to remove that practise in themselves for just as you dislike to see it in others, you should dislike it for your own self.
 
Conclusion 
 
It is normal to notice and dislike a bad trait or reaction in someone else; this is a sign of a healthy conscious and an awareness of inappropriate behaviour. However, it is just as normal that though we dislike something in others, we may find that same practice in ourselves. This noticing it in others and our own reaction to it should be sufficient as a means of self-improvement.
 
After noticing it in others and in our own selves, the aware and God-conscious (Muttaqi) person takes himself to account greater than he would take another person to account. He holds himself to a greater responsibility for removing that action before expecting another to stop it. In this way he is more focused on his own development than finding faults with another.
 
InshaAllah next week we will build on this principle with another Akhlaqi formula. 
By: education