Choose Wisely

Which choice is more important? Where to go on a vacation or what career to enter? Which choice is more important? Who to employ or who to marry? Why? A wrong vacation choice means some money and maybe two weeks gone down the drain. But a wrong career choice means what? You can employ someone and regret that and you can fire them. But if you marry the wrong person then what? Yes, you can divorce them, but what is the price of that? The importance of the choice depends on the consequences of it. What will be the payoff or price of the choice and how long will that last? I remind myself and you to choose wisely because the choice that I am going to talk to you about is forever. Diamonds are not forever, our choices are. So, choose wisely.

Choosing well is so critical that Allahﷻ didn’t leave us to do it on our own. He didn’t force us but He guided us and said:

لَآ إِكْرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَىِّ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّـٰغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Baqara 2: 256    There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

Islam is an active choice that we need to make. You don’t become Muslim because of your race, color, nationality, tribe, or name. We become Muslim when we choose obedience to Allahﷻ over obedience to our desires. It is really as simple as that. Islam teaches us that success is proportional to obedience. Obedience to the orders of Allahﷻ in the way that His Messenger Muhammadﷺ  showed us. The best example of that is Salah. Allahﷻ ordered us to establish Salah. Rasoolullahﷺ showed us how to do that. This is the fundamental connection between the Qur’an and Sunnah and the way in which the Sunnah supports the Qur’an. The Sunnah is the Field Book for the Qur’an. That is why Allahﷻ caused it to be protected and its ways to be practiced in the world generation after generation.

The fundamental principle in Islam is Taqwa. Taqwa is the result of a process which begins with enquiry. We ask, ‘Who is Allahﷻ?’ Then when we learn about Allahﷻ, our hearts fill with His Glory and Magnificence (Khashiyya) and with gratitude (Shukr). This is the meter. If you think you know Allahﷻ see what is in your heart with respect to Allahﷻ. This will be reflected in our actions. Those who have Khashiyyatullah automatically obey Allahﷻ. They don’t make excuses, they don’t try to find loopholes, they don’t go Fatwa shopping. They ask, ‘What did Rasoolullahﷺ do in this case?’ And they do the same. This condition, where we obey Allahﷻ because we are in His awe and we love Him more than anyone and anything else, is Taqwa. For the one who has it, Allahﷻ promised guidance, protection, and support. Taqwa is a condition of Hidaya. Allahﷻ called His Book – Guidance for the Muttaqoon. We are coming to a month that is dedicated to making us Muttaqoon.

We ask Allahﷻ to give us Ramadan Al-Mubarak in good health, Iman and with time to maximize its benefits. It is the framework of the relationship of the believer with Allahﷻ, which is based on knowing His Rabb, feeling the awe of His Majesty and Grace, and so fearing His displeasure and hoping for His forgiveness; being grateful to Him for His blessings (Shukr) and therefore loving Him. This is the relationship between the “head” (information, rules, laws) and the “heart’ (awe, gratitude, love). It is the relationship between Ilm (Knowledge) and Ifraan (Understanding). It is the relationship between knowing about and knowing.

It is the relationship between living in this world as a person of this world and living in this world as a person of the Aakhira, grateful for what Allahﷻ has given in this world, but with the heart not in the world but yearning for the meeting with Him. To reach this position we must make effort, no doubt. And no doubt also that if we don’t make the effort, we will never reach this stage. But after all the effort the one who is connected to Allahﷻ knows that all effort is useless unless Allahﷻ wants to grant the gift of His closeness. For that, the slave begs his Rabb. Effort gets you to the door of the palace. Without effort, you are not even at the door. But after all the effort, you will get in only if the door opens. It is the mercy of Allahﷻ that He declared that He would open the door for the one who is sincere and seeks His pleasure. He said: Wasjud Waqtarib: Make Sajda and come close. When the slave submits himself in Sujood, His Rabb draws him close. That is the beauty of the love of Allahﷻ. The love of Allahﷻ is the foundation of Tawakkul; reliance on Allahﷻ whose power the person knows and whose blessings he feels grateful for. He fears nobody except Allahﷻ and relies on nobody but Him. This is the reason that the more he knows Allahﷻ, the more he loves Him and the more he fears displeasing Him. It is a beautiful, positive, and self-sustaining relationship; the relationship between Taqwa and Hubb (love) which results in Tawakkul (reliance). Allahﷻ said:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ ٱلْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ ٱلْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ وَمَا ٱلْحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنْيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلْغُرُورِ

A’al Imraan 3: 185    Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Jannah, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).

That is why everything the Believer does is for one reason only; to please Allahﷻ because he loves Him more than anything and anyone else. This is why I submit to you and remind myself that the first and foremost responsibility that we have is to know Allahﷻ and to fill our hearts with His Majesty and Grace. If we do that, then everything else will become very easy. His greatness and our connection with Him will become the whetstone, the criterion on which we will test every word and action of ours to see if it meets the only thing that matters; ‘Does it please Allahﷻ?’

I submit to you that the real reason why we have such a struggle in doing the right thing, when we know what it is perfectly clearly, is because we have not settled two questions in our mind and heart:

  1. Who is Allahﷻ?
  2. What is my connection with Him?

I am amused at the fervor with which we organize gatherings for what we like to call, Tahaffuz-ash-Shari’ah. I am amused because the Shari’ah doesn’t need protection, it needs implementation in our own lives. How can someone who breaks every rule of the Shari’ah, talk about protecting the Shari’ah? Who is he or she protecting the Shari’ah for? When we feel free to disregard the Shari’ah in the most important aspects of our lives; Salah, Haram and Halaal, following the Sunnah, birth and death ceremonies, marriages, building homes, earning a living, relating to our own family; who are we fooling by saying that we stand for protecting the Shari’ah? We are destroying the Shari’ah every day. How can we protect something that we are busy destroying?

My brothers and sisters, I want to remind you and myself that one day Allahﷻ will ask us this question. What are we going to answer? I submit to you; how long do we want to live in this self-created struggle between our Nafs (desire) and Allahﷻ’s orders? How do we expect to win a struggle against Allahﷻ? And why struggle against Allahﷻ when we know that one day we will be brought before Him, and we need His forgiveness and mercy? Allahﷻ said about those who disobey Him and obey their own desires:

أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ أَفَأَنتَ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِ وَكِيلًا

Furqan 25:43  Have you (O Muhammad) seen him who has taken as his ilah (god) his own desire? Would you then be a Wakil (a disposer of his affairs or a watcher) over him?

Allahﷻ told Rasoolullahﷺ not to seek forgiveness for such people. How long do we want to live, worshipping our desires, disobeying Allahﷻ and breaking the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ? Forget the world and remember Allahﷻ. Please Allahﷻ and Allahﷻ will make the world please you. Displease Allahﷻ and Allahﷻ will enslave us to the world and we will live a life of hardship and face the anger of Allahﷻ after we die. We know and believe that this is a world of cause and effect. Everything has an effect. Every action, word and choice has an effect. We believe this because we know this from our own life experience. How then do we believe that displeasing Allahﷻ has no effect? The Sahaba made their choice. Allahﷻ  told us about them in the beautiful Ayaat with which Sura Al-Baqara ends. In Imam Al Wahidi’s book, Tafsir Asbaab-un-Nuzool he mentions based on reports from Abu Hurairah (R), Abdullah Ibn Abbas (R) and others, what happened when Allahﷻ revealed:

لِّلَّهِ ما فِي السَّمَاواتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُواْ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Baqara 2: 284    To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and whether you disclose what is in your own selves or conceal it, Allah will call you to account for it. Then He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things.

I quote from Al Wahidi’s book: (Page 29-30)

The commentators of the Qur’an said: “When the Ayah (and whether ye make known what is in your minds or hide, Allah will bring you to account for it) was revealed, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal and a group from the Ansar all went to Rasoolullah. They knelt before him and said: ‘Ya Rasoolullah! By Allah no other Ayah of the Qur’an is harder on us than this one. One of us speaks to himself with things that he does not like to remain in his heart even in exchange for the world and all that it contains. And now we will be taken to task for the things that we speak to our own selves. By Allah  we are doomed’. Rasoolullah  said: ‘This is how it was revealed!’ They said: ‘We are ruined; we have been bound by that which we cannot possibly bear’. Rasoolullah said: ‘Are you going to say as the Bani Israeel said to Musa (We hear, and we rebel!); say rather: We hear, and we obey’. They said: ‘We hear, and we obey’. This was extremely hard on them, and they remained in this situation for a year upon which Allah sent down relief and repose with His saying (Allah doesn’t task a soul beyond its scope…) which abrogated the Ayah before it. Rasoolullah said: ‘Allah has pardoned my community for the things with which they speak to themselves as long as they do not act upon them or speak about them to others’.”

Please try to reflect on two things:

  1. The concern of the Sahaba was not because they wanted to fulfill their desires in opposition to the orders of Allahﷻ. They were concerned about displeasing Allahﷻ by even having desires that He may not like. Desires. Not actions. We are not taking about saying or doing anything. This is about thinking and feeling in our hearts. The Sahaba were concerned and fearful that by their thoughts and feelings, they may offend Allahﷻ and be held accountable. What does that tell us about the strength of their Yaqeen (certainty) about meeting Allahﷻ? And what about us?
  2. How severe this test must have been for the Sahaba that for one year they lived with the knowledge that Allahﷻ would hold them accountable for their thoughts and desires. This was their training.

These were people of Iman, who believed in the Word of Allahﷻ at a level of certainty that Allahﷻ became the witness to their Yaqeen. For such people to have Allahﷻ  say that He would hold them accountable for their thoughts and desires was very difficult. Then, even when they obeyed Rasoolullahﷺ  and said, ‘We hear and we obey’, nothing happened for a year; how difficult a test of faith that must have been? That is why it is necessary to study the Qur’an, not just read it without even understanding the meaning. That is why it is necessary to reflect on the Qur’an, to beg Allahﷻ’s help in understanding it, to read what Rasoolullahﷺ taught and how the Sahaba understood and acted on his teaching. We must do this because they were Muslims, and we are also Muslim. And because they are the Gold Standard against which we will be measured. I ask Allahﷻ for His Mercy and for His Cover over us.

Allahﷻ can keep a test going for as long as He wishes. Allahﷻ doesn’t test to find out. He knows the truth. Allahﷻ tests to establish witness in our favor or against us and for those who stand steadfast, also with His help, the test strengthens them. The Sahaba were tested for one year. And then Allahﷻ honored Rasoolullahﷺ and the Sahaba by bearing witness to their faith and obedience and revealed:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ

Baqara 2: 285.  The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Rabb and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. They say, “We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers” – and they say, “We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your Forgiveness, our Rabb and to You is the return (of all).”

Then Allahﷻ comforted the Sahaba, gave them relief, abrogated His earlier command and taught them what dua to make and how.

لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَآ أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

Baqara 2: 286.  Allah does not burden a person beyond his ability (to bear the burden). He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. “Our Rabb! Do not punish us if we forget or fall into error, our Rabb! Do not lay a burden on us like that which You did lay on those before us, our Rabb! Do not put on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Maula (Protector) and give us victory over the disbelievers.”

The reward of obedience in honor. When the Sahaba obeyed Rasoolullahﷺ without question and said, ‘We hear and we obey’, Allahﷻ honored them by repeating the words of Rasoolullahﷺ which they had accepted and repeated, as His Word, to be recited in Salah until the end of time. Allahﷻ then comforted them, removed their anxiety (which was about displeasing Him) and taught them what dua to make. What can be better than to be taught a dua by the One to whom that dua is made and who is the One to accept it?

Finally, I want to end with mentioning how all this applies to us today and will continue to apply to all those who wish to meet Allahﷻ in a state where He is pleased with them and be counted with the Sahaba in whose honor these Ayaat were revealed. Allahﷻ said:

وَالسَّابِقُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُواْ عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ 

Tawba 9: 100   And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and those who followed them exactly (excellence in Islam). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Jannah), to live therein forever. That is supreme success.

Allahﷻ in His Mercy, honored the Sahaba by stating that He was pleased with them and then left the door open for anyone who wishes to join them in this greatest of states, that Allahﷻ is pleased with him and he is pleased with Allahﷻ.  The choice is ours.

Let us choose wisely because we will live forever with our choice.