If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze–
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself–
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale
Last poem of Refaat Alareer, academic, writer, poet, and the voice of Gaza for the English-speaking world. He died with his family yesterday.
We live in troubled times, a huge sign of which is the very sharp increase in mental illness of different kinds. Ranging from anxiety to much more serious ailments, resulting at the extreme in despair and suicide. In 2021, 48,183Americans died by suicide and there were 1.7 million suicide attempts. An estimated 49,449 people died by suicide in 2022. The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men, the most privileged section of the population who accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths in 2021. The strange thing is that this is happening in the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world. While in Palestine there are no suicides. Not one. People are being massacred but they have set such an example of Ridha bil Qadha and Shukr that it has become the reason for a lot of people converting to Islam. We don’t know what Allahﷻ has decreed for Palestine and Palestinians, but if we look beyond the material visible world, we will be able to see the gates of Jannah open above Gaza and the angels escorting the souls of the Shuhada into everlasting grace and beauty. We will be able to smell the perfume of the most beautiful musk as the curtains between the A’alam ush Shahada and A’alam ul Ghayb are parted for those who Allahﷻ chose to honor. Like it happened with the Mongols, who destroyed Baghdad and the Abbasi Khilafa and then became Muslim and became the defenders of Islam, the West which is blindly supporting genocide will wake up as it sees the true strength and power of the human being, which is not in weapons or money but in heart and spirit. As someone said, ‘Courage is made in Palestine.’
Our Palestinian brothers and sisters are demonstrating a level of this, which I am not sure, has ever been seen in the history of humankind. To mention just one clip I saw, a journalist asks a Palestinian man, ‘You have no bread, no water, no electricity. How will you live?’ The man smiles, looks up at the heavens, raises his index finger and says, ‘But we have Allahﷻ.’ You can see the wonder on the face of the journalist. The reality is that you can’t kill someone who refuses to die. Because death is not the death of the body but the death of the heart and spirit. The body will perish, no matter where we live. But the heart and spirit live and die by different rules. They live when they are connected to Allahﷻ and a weakness in that connection makes them sick and a break, kills them. The response of the Palestinian brother points to the meaning of real wealth. Truly Rasoolullahﷺ would have been proud of these people. I remember the Hadith of Rasoolullahﷺ in Musnad Ahmed.
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَدِدْتُ أَنِّي لَقِيتُ إِخْوَانِي قَالَ فَقَالَ أَصْحَابُ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَوَلَيْسَ نَحْنُ إِخْوَانَكَ قَالَ أَنْتُمْ أَصْحَابِي وَلَكِنْ إِخْوَانِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِي وَلَمْ يَرَوْنِي
Anas ibn Malik (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “I wish I could meet my brothers.” The Sahaba said, “Are we not your brothers?” Rasoolullahﷺ said, “You are my Sahaba, but my brothers are those who have faith in me, yet they never saw me.” Wallahi, this Hadith belongs to the Palestinians in Gaza In-sha-Allah.
Allahﷻ mentioned those who know Him and love Him and said:
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ ٱلْقُلُوبُ
Ra’ad 13: 28 those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort.
Let us see what Dhikr of Allahﷻ does and how it produces peace of mind. The word Dhikr means to remember. This implies that we know the one we are remembering. You can’t remember anything or anyone the first time you encounter them. So, do we know Allahﷻ? I don’t mean, know about. I mean, know. Knowing about deals with the intellect. Knowing deals with emotion. The difference between knowing about and knowing is the difference between sterile, academic knowledge and a personal connection which guarantees a response. When you think of someone who you may know a lot about, nothing happens to you. But when you think about someone you know, you can feel the emotions in your heart. Your body temperature and breathing changes. It may bring a smile to your lips or a frown on your brow. This is what Allahﷻ described as a sign of the Believer. A responsive heart.
إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ ٱللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَـٰتُهُۥ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَـٰنًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ
Anfaal 8: 2 The ˹true˺ believers are only those whose hearts tremble at the remembrance of Allah, whose faith increases when His revelations are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Rabb.
My question therefore is, ‘Do we know Allahﷻ?’ To know Allahﷻ let us see how He introduced Himself. I will recite His introduction of Himself and let us focus on our hearts and see if anything is happening there. If it helps you, you may shut your eyes while you listen. Focus on your heart. Not on my recitation. Ayat al Kursi, Al-Hashr, Al-Ikhlaas. Reflect on what you felt. Ask why or why not? We know these Ayaat and so I won’t translate them. This is one way to remember Allahﷻ by reminding ourselves about His Majesty and Glory. And of reminding ourselves that this is the One we worship. This produces the awe of Allahﷻ in our hearts, His Khashiyya. Khashiyatullah is the root and foundation of Taqwa – a concern about the pleasure of Allahﷻ in all that we say and do.
Then there is another way to remember Allahﷻ and that is by recalling His Mercy and His Blessings on us. His Blessings are beyond counting because everything that Allahﷻ gave us and everything He didn’t give us, is a blessing. When Revelation stopped for a while and Rasoolullahﷺ was very stressed about it and his aunt, the wife of Abu Lahb taunted him, Allahﷻ revealed Sura Ad-Duha, to comfort him and said:
Duha 93: 1-11 By the morning sunlight, and the night when it falls still! Your Rabb ˹O Prophet˺ has not abandoned you, nor does He hate you˺. And the next life is certainly far better for you than this one. And ˹surely˺ your Rabb will give so much to you that you will be pleased. Did He not find you as an orphan then shelter you? Did He not find you seeking guidance and guide you? And did He not find you needy and enrich you? So do not oppress the orphan. Nor repulse the supplicant (beggar, seeker, questioner). And proclaim the blessings of your Rabb.
I am not doing a Tafsir of the Sura here but if you see what Allahﷻ advised Rasoolullahﷺ to do, you will see that He reminded him to think of the blessings that Allahﷻ bestowed upon him. The ways in which Allahﷻ helped him in his past. And that is what we must do. Reflect on all the ways in which Allahﷻ helped and blessed us. In my life this happened in the most important places, without even my dua. I didn’t even ask Allahﷻ. I didn’t know what to ask Him, but He gave it. There are two Ayaat in this Sura which I want to draw to your attention which we must thank Allahﷻ for especially and which are a source of great happiness for us.
First is when Allahﷻ said: And ˹surely˺ your Rabb will give so much to you that you will be pleased. Sayyidina Ali bin Abi Talib (R) said, ‘People say that the Ayah of greatest hope in the Qur’an is when Allahﷻ said:
قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
Zumar 39: 53 Say, (O Prophet, that Allah says) “O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves! Do not lose hope in Allah’s mercy, for Allah certainly forgives all sins. He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
But we, the family of Rasoolullahﷺ say that the Ayah of greatest hope is when Allahﷻ said to him (Rasoolullahﷺ), (Wala sawfa yu’teeka Rabbuka fatarda) ‘And ˹surely˺ your Rabb will give so much to you that you will be pleased. ‘because he will never be pleased until every one of his Ummah is in Jannah.
The second Ayah is when Allahﷻ said: (Wa ammas saaila fala tanhar) ‘Nor repulse the supplicant (beggar, seeker, questioner). Think about this. This is Allahﷻ teaching his Nabi and saying to him, ‘Don’t turn away empty handed anyone who comes to you. Give him what you can. Help him as much as you are able.’ Now ask yourself, if this is Rabbul A’alameen advising Rahmatullil A’alameen about how he should treat the supplicant, how do you think Heﷻ Himself, Who has no limits on His Generosity or His Treasures, will treat those who ask Him? How do you think Allahﷻ will treat us when we go to Him? So, ask Allahﷻ with total certainty (yaqeen) that He listens to us and will give us what we ask with Khair and Aafiya.
Dhikr (Remembrance) of Allahﷻ therefore does two things. When we reflect on the Glory and Majesty of Allahﷻ, it produces Khashiyatullah in our hearts which is the foundation of Taqwa which opens the doors of Allahﷻ’s blessings and help. When we reflect on His Mercy and Blessings, it enhances our gratitude towards Him and our love for Him. Finally, Allahﷻ reminded us about the greatest reward of remembering Him.
فَٱذْكُرُونِىٓ أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَٱشْكُرُوا۟ لِى وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱسْتَعِينُوا۟ بِٱلصَّبْرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ
Baqara 2: 152-3 Remember Me; I will remember you. And thank Me, and never be ungrateful. O believers! Seek help in patience and prayer. Allah is truly with those who are patient.
Let us just reflect on the meaning of this Ayah. What does it mean to be remembered by Allahﷻ? What is more honorable and magnificent than to be remembered by Allahﷻ? And not only that but Allahﷻ says that for the one who remembers Him and is patient, Allahﷻ is with him. There is no treasure in this life or the next which is greater than the Ma’3eyath (being with) of Allahﷻ. That is the reward of Dhikr. Khashiyatullah keeps us protected from sin and disobedience of Allahﷻ and therefore in His Protection. Shukr (gratitude) adds sweetness to life, increases the blessing, and enhances our love for Allahﷻ. One is a shield. The other is a light. One protects, the other illuminates the way forward. I ask Allahﷻ for His Protection for us all and for the illumination of our path by His Noor, leading us to His Pleasure, Mercy, and Forgiveness.