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Tazkiyyah

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The call to prayer sounds out as the believer sits on their prayer mat, repeating after the melodious and tear-jerking words. He looks towards the ground and recalls the sins he committed in the day. His heart is filled with a sudden fear as he begins to make Istighfaar and seek forgiveness. The words ‘Allahu Akbar’ – God is Great – cause his skin to tremble as he contemplates over the greatness of the One he sinned against. O God Almighty, purify my heart of all the evil I have done and guide me to do good, are the hearts plea and call…

Tazkiyyah in Arabic alludes to the ‘purification of the soul’ or its growth and development in reaching a state of excellence. The root word of Tazkiyyah comes from Zakaah, which means ‘to cleanse, or to purify.’ The subject of Tazkiyyah is one of great importance as Muslims should always be constantly cleansing their hearts and souls through means of Istighfaar – seeking forgiveness, reflection and worship. The Tazkiyyah of ones innerself involves the correction of the innerself and the eradication of false assumptions.

God Almighty tells us in the Qur’an:

“And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it. And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” (91:7-10)

This verse clearly tells us that those who purify their heart and soul will be the ones who are successful. It is noteworthy to know that as human beings, our hearts are constantly changing, and thus it is important for us to constantly re-check our intentions and renew them, so that our actions remain pure for the sake of God Almighty alone.

Tazkiyyah is a very broad subject that requires much discussion, however in a nutshell, Tazkiyyah signifies nourishing ones soul through doing good deeds and refraining from evil and sin. It is an act of cleansing the heart from all ill feelings towards the Creator and creation, and working towards being a better person each minute of every day. Tazkiyyah means constantly evaluating our lives and filling the gaps where it is needed.

A person who performs Tazkiyyah pushes himself or herself in performing all obligations, fighting temptations and desires and practicing self-restraint and Taqwa (awareness of God Almighty) at all times. They work hard to improve themselves, aim high and supersede obligatory acts by performing sunnah and optional acts too to reach a state of excellence. The main weapon in this daily battle is patience and perseverance. A believer understands that Paradise is expensive and must be earned through striving and struggling against evil desires and in doing good, which will cause our hearts to also be upon good, so that one can attain the pleasure of God Almighty.

Hence, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would always supplicate to God Almighty, saying: “O turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm upon your religion.”

So dear brothers and sisters, this Ramadan, aim to purify your hearts and souls through remembrance and worship of God Almighty, through seeking forgiveness and repentance, and by going above and beyond in your acts of worship and charitable acts. So that you will not only be purifying your hearts, but also clearing them of the evil and sins you have earned. Take time out during this blessed month to reflect over your actions over the past year and find out what changes you need to make within yourself in order to become a better, more sincere Muslim.

We ask God Almighty to grant us a true understanding and purify our hearts from all the evil we have earned.

 

Making Resolutions For The Year

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Ramadan is not only a month of increase in prayer, charity and fasting, but it is also a month of reflection and introspection. It is the perfect time to get out those journals and write down your resolutions, your new ideas and your future goals.

As Muslims, we need to be people of vision, people of purpose. Our ultimate goal should be to please God Almighty and enter His Paradise, and so we should keep this in mind every minute of every day. However, in order to reach that end goal, we need to have small stepping stones and aspirations in this world that will lead us to that goal in the Hereafter.

A wise person once said, “Use what God Almighty has given you in this world, to build your Hereafer.”

We are all blessed with talents and abilities. Each and every one of us. We were born to do something great. And each of us is unique, different from every other human being that was ever brought into existence, and simple proof of this is in our fingerprints. We were all created with different strengths and weaknesses, but together we form one nation of people that has the power to do GREAT things.

And being Muslim, we are not just ‘anybody’ – we are ‘SOMEBODY’. We have been granted the greatest gift in this world, and we should never ever take this lightly. We need to take this gift of Islam and DO something with it. It is incumbent upon us to strive to excel and to not let the talents that God Almighty has gifted us with go to waste, except that we allow them to be opportunities for us to gain closeness to God Almighty and to offer everything within our abilities to the world and the Muslim community at large.

So, I want to share with you some practical tips on how you can set your vision and goals this Ramadan.

Firstly, write down your goals. Buy yourself a notebook or a journal. Try to get one that looks eye-catching, bright and funky – something that appeals to you. The reason for this is because in this book you’re going to write down your dreams and your life ambitions, so you want it to be something that when you look at, fills you with excitement and reminds you of where you are heading. Be as ambitious as you want when setting these goals for nothing is impossible for God Almighty.

Secondly, make a plan. Now that you know exactly what you want in life in order to please God. Make a plan. Set milestones. And then work to achieve them. Consider these questions, When do I want to achieve this goal by? What do I want to achieve by the end of this year? Where do I see myself in three years time? Don’t miss anything out. Whether after Ramadan you want to work on becoming an author or entrepreneur or you want to begin learning the Arabic language or embark on a journey towards understanding Islam better, or perhaps you want to set up a Halaal and beneficial business or even launch a dawah project. Whatever your dreams are, write them down and give yourself a deadline. Then take small baby steps each day to get to that goal. And you will God willing, slowly but surely.

Lastly, and in my opinion one of the most important things, is to make Du’aa and supplications to God, and rely completely on God. Indeed God Almighty will respond to your call. Want to learn Arabic in 2 years? Want to launch a dawah project next year? Just write it down and then beg God in the darkness of the nights and in the serene mornings to grant you what you want and most importantly, to make it good for you in this life and the next. And work towards that goal with willpower and determination.

So, brothers and sisters, what are you waiting for? Set yourself some goals this Ramadan and strive to reach them. Remember, no dream is too big because nothing is impossible for God!

May God Almighty give us the life and ability to reach our goals and aspirations for His sake alone, and grant us all that we wish for that is good for us.

 

Emphaty Towards The Poor

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God Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“Look how We have favoured [in provision] some of them over others. But the Hereafter is greater in degrees [of difference] and greater in distinction.”

In Islam, we believe that God Almighty has favoured in provision some people over others, by giving them more wealth, blessings and gifts. This is in fact a mercy and blessing in disguise from God, for those who do not have the material pleasures of this world will be recompensed with better in the Hereafter if they stood by the truth of the statement La Ilaha Illa Allah – There is no one worthy of worship except for God.

It also stands as a test for those with material provision, to see whether they will spend from their money and time for the sake of God Almighty and if they will show empathy and compassion towards the poor and destitute.

The month of Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to help the poor, as it is in this month that rewards are multiplied by great amounts. It is in this month that God Almighty’s mercy extends far and wide and is at hands reach. Therefore, the blessed month of Ramadan should be one where we empty our pockets by spending in the way of God. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) himself increased in his generosity in this month. He was known to be the most generous of people and he was the most generous in the month of Ramadan. He showed mercy to the poor and treated them with utmost kindness, and there was no barrier between them and him.

And through his many examples, we learn that generosity and compassion towards those who are less fortunate than us can be displayed in several different ways. From donating money so that they can provide for themselves and their families, to going out of one’s way to purchase goods, food and clothing which can be donated to those less fortunate in the neighbourhood areas. Perhaps even cooking a meal for them or sharing one’s futoor with them. Whatever it may be, God Almighty is Ever Seeing and will not let any of these deeds go unnoticed. Your acts of generosity will be rewarded in manifold and multiplied in this noble month.

Empathy towards the poor is limitless, it also includes raising your hands in the depth of the night, just before the break of dawn, and asking God Almighty to shower His mercy and aid upon these people, to remove their poverty, bless their wealth and grant them ease in all their difficulties. This is also a responsibility that we owe our fellow brothers and sisters suffering around the world. And indeed, supplication to God for another individual is from amongst the best gifts that one can give! God Almighty will respond to you and grant you in return the same or more, for the angels say Amen to every supplication you make for your brother or sister in Islam.

So, brothers and sisters, let this month be a month where you give, give and give more. Let it be a time where you reflect upon the plight of the suffering Muslims in all corners of the world. Raise your hands and make du’aa and supplicate for those who have not been blessed with the luxuries and wealth that you live with every day. Spend in the path of God Almighty sincerely seeking His Face, and He will grant you much more in return.

Repentance

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When Adam () mistakenly ate from the tree in Jannah, he immediately turned to God Almighty in repentance. When Yunus (pbuh) was swallowed by the whale, he too turned to God in repentance. When Musa (pbuh) accidently killed a man, guilt caused him to turn back to God in penitence. In fact, all the Prophets of God and the pious predecessors that came after them would remind the people of the ample mercy and generosity of God Almighty. They would constantly be in a state of repentance, sincerely and humbly, for even the smallest of sins. They understood that their Lord was a Merciful one, who accepted their repentance over and over and over again.

So how does one repent in Islam? The word for repentance in Arabic is ‘’Tawbah” and linguistically means to turn. Repentance in Islam has several conditions attached to it and is not to be taken lightly. Firstly, one must feel remorse for the sin that they have committed, secondly they must make the firm intention not to return to the sin again, and should have an immediate renunciation of that sin, and finally if the sin took away the right of an individual, then the right must be given back to that individual, or they must compensate for it.

Repentance is a beloved act to God as it shows the humility and sincerity of those worshipping Him and their acknowledgement of their own mistakes and God’s infinite mercy. As Muslims, we should never feel that our sins are too big, or that we will never be forgiven or shown mercy. This is contrary to our belief, as God has many names such as Al-Ghaffaar – the perpetual forgiver, and Al-‘Afuww – the Pardoner, both of which describe His forgiving nature.

God Almighty speaks to us eloquently in the Qur’an when He says:

قُلۡ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسۡرَفُواْ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمۡ لَا تَقۡنَطُواْ مِن رَّحۡمَةِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغۡفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا‌ۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ هُوَ ٱلۡغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

“Say: “O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of God, verily God Almighty forgives all sins. Truly, He is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

[(39): 53]

God Almighty created His slaves and knows them well, knows their every thought and every action, knows that they will sin and loves when they turn back to Him. And so He provided them with the act of Tawbah, something so beautiful, which if they practice, will not only wipe away their sins, but will increase them in blessings and bring them closer to God! Such is the mercy of God.

So Muslims are advised to repent all the time, but in Ramadan this is emphasized because it is a great opportunity to reflect upon ones deeds, actions and speech and ask for sincere, heartfelt forgiveness. For it is in Ramadan that the rewards of deeds are multiplied and God’s Mercy extends far and wide over His worshipping slaves. The door of repentance is always open and is never closed. Not until the soul reaches the collarbone, for then there is no going back.

In fact the Arch Angel Gabriel once appeared before Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), saying:

“Woe to him who found the blessed month of Ramadan and let it pass by without gaining forgiveness. “ Prophet Muhammad replied: Amen.

So dear brothers and sisters, let Ramadan be a month where you turn back to God Almighty, in a humble state, and cry and beg Him to forgive you your sins, for your Lord is awaiting your repentance. He loves when His slave turns to Him for a need. So turn to God, with a heart full of remorse, for His door of forgiveness is always wide open.

May God Almighty give us the ability to recognize when we err and allow us to immediately turn to Him in sincere forgiveness. May He forgive us and have mercy upon us and allow us to be amongst those that have our Tawbah accepted, ameen.

Shukr

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Shukr is a quality and characteristic that mankind as a whole have yet to master. It is often overlooked in the lives of many and is rarely given its due importance. This lack of having Shukr is recurrent in history and will continue till the end of time, and has brought many nations to their dreaded end. You are probably wondering by now what exactly Shukr is.

Shukr is an Arabic term that is often translated as ‘thankfulness’ and ‘gratitude’. Shukr has been defined by scholars of Islam as the mentioning of God’s blessings upon the slave’s tongue, the slave’s recognition of these blessings in his heart, and obedience of the limbs due to these blessings. Therefore, Shukr stems from acknowledgement of God’s blessings upon you, and this is then shown in the form of gratitude and appreciation through actions of the heart, tongue, and body, and sincere worship to God.

Shukr helps us to focus our minds on God, something that has unfortunately become so difficult in today’s day and age, with the hustle and bustle of life and the various distractions and attractions in this world. It helps to correct our perceptions and serves as a reminder to us that everything we have in life comes from God and will inevitably return to God. Our health, our wealth, our youth, our time, and our lives are all gifts granted to us by God Almighty and we must constantly remember Him and thank Him for the uncountable blessings showered upon us, and doing this will only increase us in more blessings as God Almighty tells us in the following verse:

وَإِذۡ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمۡ لَٮِٕن شَڪَرۡتُمۡ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمۡ‌ۖ وَلَٮِٕن ڪَفَرۡتُمۡ إِنَّ عَذَابِى لَشَدِيدٌ۬

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but God Almighty), I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are thankless, verily, My punishment is indeed severe.” [Ibraheem 14:7]

How Merciful is God Almighty! From this verse, we learn that showing Shukr will increase us in even more blessings, and so even when we thank and praise God for His many blessings, He continues to increase us in them, and this is from the vast bounty of our Lord.

Amazingly, Ramadan is connected to Shukr as well. In fact, one of the main purposes for the fasting in Ramadan is so that we may learn to be grateful, and so that we may do Shukr.

In Islam, we are taught to not only show gratitude and appreciation to God, but also to the people, for their favours upon us as well. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would often stress on practicing Shukr and say: “He who does not thank people, does not thank God.”

Looking back into Islamic history, we see the examples and stories of the legends that came before us, our Prophets and pious predecessors, and can derive numerous lessons from their lives – including those of Shukr and Sabr.

Shukr and Sabr, the Arabic terms for gratitude and perseverance, often come hand in hand with one another. As Muslims, we are advised to show Shukr in times of good and Sabr in times of bad.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ explained this lesson to us eloquently in his saying:

“How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this characteristic is exclusively for him alone. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across some diversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.”

So, dear brothers and sisters, we must take care to be grateful and exert patience at all times, as we will continuously be put through tests in this world by God, and only through beautiful Shukr and Sabr will we be able to achieve the status of true believers.

We ask God Almighty to grant us a beautiful Shukr in this blessed month and the months to follow, to make us from those who show Shukr at all times, and to gift us with a beautiful reward in this world and the Hereafter.