If someone asked you to use just one word to describe yourself, what would you choose? From all the words that may cross your mind, which would you select?
Words are important because they can shape our beliefs and ambitions, so before we use a word or a title to describe ourselves we must first understand fully what that word or title means. Many young people like to be described by the word 'gangsta' and consider it a sort of badge of honour. But what does it really mean?
The word 'gangsta' is slang for a member of an urban street gang, but the word it comes from, gangster, shows that it has a much darker meaning to it too. Dreams of a 'gangsta' lifestyle are in reality dreams of a life steeped in criminality and completely opposed to the commands of Allah ta'ālā and to the interests of society.
The 'Gangsta' Way
It's easy to look up to the 'gangsta' way of life, but the truth is that there is no such thing as honour among thieves. Every gang member wants to get to the top and is generally willing to do anything to get there. Whilst being part of a gang may bring a sense of belonging, it's important to realise that in gang culture 'use and abuse' is the order of the day.
Fellow gang members are not truly friends. They see each other living lives of sin and destruction, yet do nothing about it. As a result they are enemies of each other in this world and they will be eternal enemies in the hereafter. The Qur'ān states:
All friends on that day [Qiyamah] will be enemies to one another except the muttaqīn [god-fearing]. (43:67)
When it comes to inter-gang rivalry, the blind loyalty to one's 'crew' is nothing but a return to the tribalism of the dark days of Jāhiliyyah. It was the pagans of Arabia who used to live like that and it was Islām that took them out of that craziness. Islām came to bring people out of the darkness and into the light; a 'gangsta', however, does exactly the reverse because he chooses a path that will take him right back into the darkness.
Easy Come, Easy Go
Maybe it's the money that's so attractive. Money comes easy to a 'gangsta' doesn't it? But it's important to remember that harām income can never bring the blessings and goodness of halāl income. It goes as easily as it comes. Money is meant to help you, but harām money will only hurt you. harām money brings nothing but harm in this world and the hereafter. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
A body that has been nurtured with harām will not enter Jannah. (Al-Bayhaqī)
One way of making quick money is through drugs. Some people may try to justify their activity by arguing that dealing drugs is a job just like, say, selling medicine or selling food. They might say that they only supply drugs because there is a demand and that dealing drugs involves a lot of hard work. Others may say that it's OK to buy and sell drugs as long as you don't take them yourself. Some may argue that they are not causing any harm because the drugs they deal are not hardcore drugs like cocaine or heroin.
All this however is just wishful thinking: Islām teaches that the producing, buying, selling and taking of any intoxicant is harām.
Is it Worth the Trouble?
Drug dealing and criminality may seem like attractive options, but as with anything in life, we need to consider the wider effects and consequences. Imagine if we introduce somebody to drugs; not only will we be responsible for their first experience with drugs, we will also be responsible for all the other drug related sins they commit in the future. As the hadīth says:
…Whoever calls towards evil will bring upon himself sin equal to the sins of those who follow him, without their sins being diminished in the least. (Muslim)
Is this a risk worth taking? Whilst we may not have felt the consequences of our actions so far, we need to understand that what goes around definitely comes around. As the respected Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh warns:
'…Today you deal in drugs and enjoy yourself. You deal to our youngsters and do not think about the harm you are causing. You don't care about the young innocent lives you are destroying forever. You don't hear the pleas of their parents and you don't stop to think about how you are breaking their hearts. But remember, you will also be a parent one day. And remember, Allāh ta'ālā is just. Think and reflect: how will you cope on that day when your child's life is destroyed by the same drugs that you used to sell to others?'
If it's not the money that's important then maybe it's the 'buzz' that comes from being held in respect and fear by others. It may be worth considering a saying of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam though:
The worst of people is he whom people avoid because they fear his mischief. (Al-Bukhārī)
The type of 'respect' earned by 'gangstas' is hollow; it is earned by acts of bullying, violence and criminality and generates hidden resentment and hatred all around. It stays for as long as the balance of power is in your favour. That's why, with all his respect and reputation, the 'gangsta' has to always keep looking over his shoulder.
Self-respect also disappears for a 'gangsta'. Take the example of gangs hanging around in the street. Does a real man stand on street corners with his crew, eyeing up women who are passing by? Such behaviour is not to be expected from a decent human being, especially a Muslim. The next time we feel we have to stand on the road to socialise we should remember that the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
[The right of the road] is lowering the gaze, refraining from harming others, returning greetings, and enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil. (Al-Bukhārī)
How many of us can say that we do all these things when we are chilling outside with our mates?
True respect, like the respect enjoyed by the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and the Sahābah radhiyallāhu 'anhum, is earned through honesty, justice and helping others. A person with true respect, though he may be held in awe, is loved by the people.
'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu once said:
We were a wretched people. And it is through Islām that Allāh honoured us.
Before accepting Islām the status of 'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu was such that the mere mention of his name would strike fear into people's hearts. People respected him out of fear of his strength and power. After accepting Islām he was respected even more, but the respect was genuine because Allah ta'ālā made him beloved to the people. They loved and respected this new 'Umar whose strength was now used to support the weak and needy and no longer threatened them.
Wealth, fame and power were slaves to the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and his Companions y. They were real leaders of men, and everyone around them, whether friend or foe, held them in respect. But they did not let any of this get to their heads because they were not slaves to their image. They lived simple lives for they were slaves only of Allāh ta'ālā.
We need to sit down and think what the 'gangsta' lifestyle really offers. In a nutshell, it offers to make us slaves. In direct opposition to the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and his Companions y, a 'gangsta' becomes a slave to wealth, fame and power. They go to his head and he feels so proud and superior that he doesn't realise that he is a slave. Instead of being in charge of his life though, he lets his desires rule him.
It takes a true man to be a good human being and a good Muslim; it's up to us to choose whether we want to live free or as slaves, chasing fantasies of being a 'gangsta'.
Sawm (fasting) means to refrain from eating, drinking and cohabiting from Subh Sādiq (early dawn) to sunset with a niyyah (intention) of observing fast.
Fasting in the month of Ramadhān is one of the five pillars of Islām and is fardh (compulsory) upon every muslim who is sane and mature. Fasting has many physical, moral, and social benefits. However, Allāh ta'ālā has made fasting compulsory so that we become pious and God-fearing.
Fasting will not be valid without niyyah. It is not necessary to express the niyyah in words. However it is preferable to recite
Allāhumma Asūmu Laka Ghadan (O Allāh, tomorrow I shall be fasting for You only).
In the case of Ramadhān, it is better to make niyyah in the night. However, should a person fail to do so, then it is permitted to make the niyyah during the day before the majority of the day has passed.
Mustahabb (Desirable) Acts in Fasting
To eat suhūr (the meal before Subh Sādiq).
To delay the suhūr up to a little before Subh Sādiq.
To break the fast immediately after sunset.
To break the fast with dates. If dates are not available then with water.
To recite this du'ā at the time of breaking the fast:
Allāhumma laka Sumtu wa bika āmantu wa 'alā rizqika aftartu
O Allāh! I fasted for You and in You do I believe and with Your provision (food) do I break my fast.
Things Makrūh (Detestable) While Fasting
To chew items such as rubber, plastic etc.
To taste food or drink and spit it out.
To collect one's saliva in the mouth and then swallow it.
To clean teeth or mouth with tooth powder or toothpaste.
To complain of hunger or thirst.
To quarrel or argue with filthy words.
Things that Break the Fast
To eat, drink or indulge in cohabitation intentionally.
To burn incense and inhale its smoke.
If water goes down the throat while gargling.
To vomit a mouthful intentionally.
To swallow vomit intentionally.
To swallow something edible, equal to or bigger than a chick pea, which was stuck between the teeth. However, if it is first taken out of the mouth and then swallowed, it will break the fast whether it is smaller or bigger than the size of a chick pea.
To drop oil or medicine into nose.
To swallow the blood from gums with saliva. However, if the blood is less than the saliva and its taste is not felt then the fast will not break.
To eat and drink forgetting one is fasting and thereafter, thinking that the fast is broken, to eat and drink again.
To apply medicine to the rectum.
To swallow intentionally a pebble, piece of paper or any item that is not used as food or medicine.
In all the above circumstances, only a single fast will become qadhā except in the case of number one (1), where qadhā and kaffārah both will become obligatory. (Consult an 'Ālim regarding the rules of kaffārah).
Things that Do Not Break the Fast
To eat, drink or indulge in cohabitation in forgetfulness.
To vomit without intention.
To vomit intentionally, less than mouthful.
To have a wet dream.
To oil the hair.
To use surma (collyrium) in the eyes.
To drop water or medicine in the eyes.
To clean teeth with wet or dry miswāk (a stick used for cleaning teeth).
To apply or smell 'itr (perfume).
To swallow a fly, mosquito, smoke or dust unintentionally.
To swallow one's saliva or phlegm.
Water entering the ears.
To take an injection.
Sunnah Practices in the Month of Ramadhān
To observe tarāwīh.
To increase the recitation of the Glorious Qur'ān.
To observe i'tikāf during the last ten days of Ramadhān.
Ahādīth Regarding the Virtues of Fasting
Sawm is a shield, as long as he (the fasting person) does not tear it up. (An-Nasa'ī)
Note: Fasting is a protection from Shaytān or from Allāh ta'ālā's punishment in the hereafter. One who indulges in sins whilst fasting, such as lying, backbiting etc., they become the cause of the fast becoming wasted.
All good deeds are for the one who renders them, but fasting. Fasting is exclusively for me (Allāh). (Al-Bukhārī)
Fasting is a shield and a powerful fortress. (Ahmad, Al-Bayhaqī)
I swear by that being in whose possession is the life of Muhammad! The odour of the mouth of a fasting person is sweeter to Allāh than the fragrance of musk. (Al-Bukhārī)
Fasting is exclusively for Allāh, the reward of it (being limitless) no one knows besides Allāh. (At-Tabarānī)
Verily, Allāh and His angels send mercy upon those who eat suhūr. (At-Tabarānī)
Eat suhūr because in suhūr lies barakah. (Mishkāt)
Whosoever gives something to a fasting person in order to break the fast, for him there shall be forgiveness for his sins and emancipation from the fire of Jahannam; and for him (the one who gives) shall be the same reward as for him (whom he fed), without that person's (the one who was fed) reward being diminished in the least. (Ibn Khuzaymah, Al-Bayhaqī)
Whoever gave a person, who fasted, water to drink, Allāh shall give him a drink from my fountain where after he shall never again feel thirsty until he enters Jannah. (Ibn Khuzaymah)
The fasting person experiences two (occasions) of delight: at the time of iftār and at the time he will meet his Rabb. (Al-Bukhārī)
Not a single prayer made by a fasting person at the time of breaking fast is rejected. (Ibn Mājah)
When struck by an illness, difficulty or calamity, it is natural for us to try our best to relieve ourselves of it. Allāh ta'ālā, being our Creator, is well aware of this, and consequently He has not only permitted, but also encouraged us to adopt means that help us to remove the difficulty we find ourselves in. However, due to our limited understanding and knowledge we do not adopt the correct means, or if we do, then we do not adopt them suitably.
There are two types of means that we can utilise to help us at a time of difficulty: spiritual and worldly. From these, we should always adopt spiritual resources first. Adopting spiritual resources means turning to Allāh ta'ālā. This in itself further comprises two parts: the first is to assess our lives and see where we are faltering in our obedience to Allāh ta'ālā; having realised this, we should strive towards rectification through tawbah and istighfār. The second part is to make du'ā to Allāh ta'ālā and ask Him to fulfil our needs and remove the difficulty.
After this, we should adopt suitable and permissible worldly resources. Those who are ill should take advice from an experienced and qualified doctor and follow his advice. Those involved in a court case should seek help from an experienced lawyer. However, we must ensure that in adopting worldly resources we do not do anything contrary to the Pleasure of the Creator.
After understanding the correct procedure to follow when trying to remove difficulties, let us now look at some common mistakes made in this regard.
Those Muslims who do not follow the Sharī'ah do not adopt spiritual resources at all. Their attention is entirely on worldly resources. We must remember that these means will only prove beneficial if Allāh ta'ālā wills. Therefore, without turning to Allāh ta'ālā there is no guarantee of success.
Those who, to some degree, do follow the injunctions of the Sharī'ah, adopt spiritual resources, but do so according to their own limited understanding. A common mistake is giving too much importance to wazā'if. (Wazā'if refers to the recitation of certain verse(s), name(s) of Allāh ta'ālā etc. a certain number of times to fulfil a particular need.)
Too much attention on wazā'if can lead people to overlook the importance given to du'ā by our Sharī'ah, and as a result, it is not valued as it should be. Du'ā is considered to be something 'common', 'ordinary' and 'simple'. And because wazā'if have special quantities, prerequisites etc. attached, they appear as something special. As a result, people are more inclined towards wazā'if than they are to du'ā, whereas in reality, du'ā is the key to solving our problems.
Even though wazā'if can be of benefit, there is a very big difference between them and du'ā. Du'ā will be counted as an 'ibādah, even if it be for a worldly item, such as a job, good health or passing a driving test. However, as far as wazā'if are concerned, their recitation will not be rewarded as they are not classed as ibādah.
Another distinction is that while making du'ā we rely solely on Allāh ta'ālā, aware that it is only Allāh ta'ālā who in reality can help us, solve our problems and remove our difficulties. With wazā'if, our attention diverts towards the 'power' of the wazā'if.
The Reality of Wazā'if
In essence, it is only Allāh ta'ālā who removes difficulties, and du'ā is to ask Allāh ta'ālā to do just that. What chance is there of attracting the Help of Allāh ta'ālā through wazā'if if the person reciting them does not have any connection with Him?
Once a person came to Shaykh Ya'qūb Majaddidi rahimahullāh and asked him to explain the reality of wazā'if. The Shaykh did not give him a direct answer, but instead explained through an example, making use of a police officer who was present nearby.
The Shaykh asked, "If you were to say to this policeman, 'You are fired!' What will happen?" The person replied, "Nothing, it will have no impact whatsoever." The Shaykh then asked, "What if you were to repeat the sentence a hundred times?" The reply was the same. The Shaykh further asked, "What if you were to sit with a tasbīh (prayer beads) and repeat it a thousand times?" Again he gave the same reply, that it would make no difference whatsoever. The Shaykh then asked him how he could fire the policeman. The person explained that he would need to join the police force and work hard until he became the policeman's superior. Then just saying 'You are fired' once would be enough to have him removed. The Shaykh then explained that this is the same case with wazā'if.
If a person were to recite a certain verse, name of Allāh ta'ālā etc. a thousand times, it will have no effect until and unless the person acquires a position in Allāh's S eyes and becomes beloved to Him. Once he does so, he will just have to make du'ā once and Allāh ta'ālā will accept it.
Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has said:
"There are many who are dishevelled, covered in dust, turned away from people's doors, who, if they were to take an oath by Allāh, Allāh ta'ālā would surely carry it out." (Muslim)
"(When my servant becomes my beloved) and he asks from me, I will grant him." (Al-Bukhārī)
Turning To Allāh ta'ālā Completely
There are many who do turn to Allāh ta'ālā and engage in du'ā, but do not realise that there are certain obstacles that prevent the du'ā from being accepted. One major obstacle is disobedience to Allāh ta'ālā; therefore, we need to turn to Allāh ta'ālā completely, after making a full assessment of our lives.
For example, someone neglectful of Salāh needs to become punctual with Salāh; someone involved in a particular sin needs to stop that sin immediately and repent. This is because it is very possible that the difficulty afflicting us is due to a sin we are committing, and du'ā will not bear fruit if the cause of the difficulty remains. Therefore, repenting from sin and changing one's life for the better is also a necessity for the acceptance of du'ā.
Allāh ta'ālā's Will
If after adopting all these means, the difficulty is still not removed, then we should remember that Allāh ta'ālā is Al-Hakīm (The Most Wise) and Al-Hākim (The Supreme Ruler). It is very possible that Allāh ta'ālā has something better in mind for us. While wishing for the difficulty to be removed, we may be unaware of the benefits hidden in it. However, Allāh's S knowledge is complete and He knows what is better for us in the long term. Therefore, if a difficulty remains then we should remain content and happy with Allāh's S decision.
From the Ahādīth we learn that the du'ās of a believer are invariably accepted (provided their requisites have been fulfilled), but their acceptance is manifested in either of the following three ways: a) sometimes Allāh immediately answers them and blesses the seeker with what was asked for; b) sometimes He substitutes what was asked for with something that in His Knowledge is better for the seeker; c) alternatively, through the blessings of the du'ā, He removes an impending calamity that was to befall the seeker.
At times, none of the above is the case, and instead the du'ā is saved for the hereafter. Such unanswered du'ās will bear so much reward in the hereafter that the seeker will wish that none of his du'ās had been accepted in the world.
The clouds covered the horizon, as Mr Smith looked out of the window. Grey, everything was grey. The sky, the playground outside, even the classroom he taught in. Mr Smith looked at the clock ticking away on the wall above the white board, 'Five minutes to go before the lesson starts,' he thought. 'Five minutes before history with year eleven!' He had set them a novel assignment; to make their own dream team of eleven of the world's greatest people. Now Mr Smith waited to see their response.
The bell rang and 'Abdullāh was the first to come in. Dressed in his long white robe and black beard, 'Abdullāh was a rarity in a school dominated by the latest designer trends. It always amazed Mr Smith how kids from some of the most deprived backgrounds could afford clothes from the most expensive boutiques in town. 'Abdullāh had intrigued Mr Smith since the first time he had met him. 'Abdullāh's father, Dr Saleem was a consultant at the local hospital, yet he adopted the same dress code as 'Abdullāh. Mrs Saleem was the headmistress of the local Islamic school. What was the long clothing and veil she wore called again...? Ah yes, the hijāb. Mr Smith clearly remembered the last parent's meeting he had with Dr Saleem, when he had said, 'Abdullāh is the most intelligent pupil in the school, I'm sure he's Oxbridge material.' Dr Saleem's answer had shocked Mr Smith at first and still puzzled him to this day. 'I appreciate your judgement Mr Smith, but I think 'Abdullāh wants to study Islām. Whether Oxbridge is his first choice, I don't know.'
The sudden rush and noise interrupted Mr Smith's thoughts as the rest of the class came in, five minutes late! 'Abū Bakr, John, 'Umar, Zubayr, 'Abdur Rahmān, Sā'd, Sa'īd, 'Alī, 'Uthmān, Talhah, Abū 'Ubaydah…' Mr Smith, quickly went through the names of the class as they took their seats. It had taken him six months to learn all their names. Having grown up and trained in a rural area, Mr Smith had not heard, never mind pronounced, the names of some of his class. John, was the only name Mr Smith had picked up straight away.
'Right lads, how many of you have completed the homework from last week?' A flurry of activity took place, as the students took out their books from their bags. 'What I'm going to ask you to do is give the rest of the class a brief summary of your dream team and name the person who you think is the best from your selected group of people. Think of it as selecting a captain, perhaps. Who wants to go first?'
'Umar put his hand up. 'I will sir,' he said. Mr Smith looked at 'Umar as he stood up and came to the front of the class. 'Umar was a large lad for his age. A champion kick boxer and sportsman, 'Umar commanded respect from all. As 'Umar began to speak the rest of the class shuffled a little to listen to what he had to say. Mr Smith sat down at his desk.
'I chose boxing as my criteria for my top eleven. The reason for this is that I think professional boxers have considerable skill which should be admired. They are also adored by a lot of people and in their own way, they are also quite beautiful.'
Sniggers bounded around the classroom at this last comment but 'Umar went on unperturbed. 'My number one boxer is Muhammad 'Ali because... well, to put it simply, he is the best.' Cheers and cries of ''Ali, 'Ali,' erupted in the classroom. Mr Smith stood up from his chair, 'Alright, alright, quieten down! Well done, 'Umar, you made a very good effort. Now...' Mr Smith was cut off midway through his sentence by a noise at the back of the class.
The gold chain was noticeable before the neck that wore it could be seen. Mr Smith was quite used to the sequence now. The class would have started and he would be disturbed midway through the lesson by a shadowy figure entering the class, not through the door but via one of the windows at the back. Mr Smith stood up a little straighter. 'Nice of you to join us, Muhammad. Have you done your homework?'
'Yes, I have,' was the reply. The gold toothed smile that followed the answer was mischievous. 'Would you like to share it with the rest of us then?' Mr Smith braced himself for the reply. 'You know what sir, I made a team but because it was a dream team, I made it in my sleep. I've forgotten the team now.' The class burst into laughter, only 'Abdullāh, who sat next to Muhammad, looked sadly at the floor. 'Alright, alright very funny,' said Mr Smith. Who would like to volunteer next?'
Over the next half an hour, Mr Smith's classroom was graced by some of the world's greatest figures; Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Pelé, Bill Gates, Sigmund Freud, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X... Mr Smith was genuinely pleased with the class' efforts. 'Abdullāh was the last to come to the front. Knowing the intelligence of his star student, Mr Smith keenly waited to hear about the team 'Abdullāh had compiled.
'Before I begin to talk about the team that I put together, I would just like to tell you why I chose the team I did. Is that OK Mr Smith?' Mr Smith nodded, prompting 'Abdullāh to continue. 'Whenever we see someone as great, we generally base our judgement on one of three factors. These three factors are beauty, achievement and the benefit such individuals have provided to society. I am sure all of us considered one or more of these factors when choosing our teams.' The class nodded in response, even Muhammad looked interested.
'So I began thinking about my team, based on these things but I very quickly encountered a problem. As I thought over each of these three things in detail, I began to find that it was hard to think of people who were the best in each one of these categories. For example, someone can be so physically beautiful that we can be lead to loose our senses and some of our lists reflected this...' The class burst into laughter again, as they recalled in their mind's eye, 'Alī's enthusiastic presentation about famous actresses a few minutes earlier. Even Mr Smith could not stifle a smile. 'But beauty in reality, consists of both the external appearance combined with the internal beauty of manners and good character. Likewise, I found problems with achievement and benefit to others; either someone had only achieved something in one specific field or had achieved something that was only applicable or recognised in a specific period. As I continued to think about how to solve this problem, I thought, 'Why don't I think of the people I know and think about what I like about them so much? Maybe that might help me.' And the first person I thought of was you Mr Smith.'
'Abdullāh suddenly turned around to face Mr Smith. Mr Smith stood up from his desk, slightly embarrassed. 'I hope you don't mind me saying this sir, but your first name is David isn't it?' Mr Smith nodded in reply. 'Abdullāh turned back to face the class, who were clearly intrigued to know what 'Abdullāh would say next.
'As most of us probably know, David in Arabic is Dāwūd, and this is the name of one of the greatest and wisest Prophets of God, or as Muslims we say, Allāh. That's probably why Mr Smith is so clever, because he shares a name with such a wise Prophet.' Abdullāh looked at Mr Smith and smiled. The rest of the class laughed and cheered loudly. Mr Smith turned a brighter shade of pink.
'So thinking about names and how they affect and shape our lives made me think of the rest of my class, and I began to think of you guys. I thought of how John's name in Arabic is Yahyā, the name of another great Prophet of Allāh. Then as I went through the names of the rest of the class, I thought, wow, my class is named after a unique set of people. A set of people so unique that their legacy continues to this day, a set of people so famous that the libraries of the world are filled with books describing their achievements, and a set of people so great that people have been named after them for over 1400 years.'
The class was completely silent, their gazes fixed intently on 'Abdullāh. At the back of the class Muhammad sat straight in his chair. 'Who could 'Abdullāh be talking about?' thought Mr Smith.
'Can I carry on Mr Smith?' asked 'Abdullāh. 'Yes, 'Abdullāh, by all means, please carry on,' replied Mr Smith. 'The group of people I am talking about are called the Companions. The Companions were the first generation of Muslims and I am sure many of you have heard of them. Every single one of them was unique and special in their own way and amongst them we find role models for all of us, whether male or female, young or old.' 'Abdullāh continued, 'But among this special group of people, were a group of people who were so special, so unique that they earned the greatest prize of all, a prize so great, so unique that it is even beyond our wildest dreams. Does anybody know who this group of people are?'
No one uttered a word, even Mr Smith was speechless. 'Go on Abdullāh, tell us...,' the serious and interested voice belonged to Muhammad. Mr Smith was amazed, he had never heard Muhammad sound so interested in his history class before. 'Can I write on the board please Mr Smith? Is that okay?' asked 'Abdullāh. 'The pens are on the side 'Abdullāh, go ahead,' replied Mr Smith. 'Abdullāh picked up the black marker and began to write on the white board, talking as he wrote.
'The group of ten superstars I am talking about are called the 'Asharah Mubash-sharah', or the ten Companions who achieved the promise of the greatest prize attainable; they attained the promise of entry into Paradise, or as it is called in Arabic, Jannah, in this very world.' A gasp went around the class as 'Abdullāh turned back to face the class. Mr Smith looked closely at the board and noticed that 'Abdullāh had written ten names on the board. Ten names of ten students in Mr Smith's class!!
'The first of these great people was the Companion Abū Bakr, the first leader of the Muslims, the best friend of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the bearer of the title: the most truthful. Next on my list is the second leader of Islām, the great warrior, commander and defender of Islām, 'Umar Ibn Khattāb.' Mr Smith stole a glance at the 'Umar that was sitting in his class. 'Umar's chest was filled with pride and his face was a beaming smile.
'Then we have the third leader of Islām, the great businessman 'Uthmān Ibn 'Affān.' 'No wonder Uthmān's so good at business studies,' thought Mr Smith. 'Fourth is the great scholar and courageous Companion, the cousin of the Prophet, peace be upon him, 'Alī Ibn Abī Tālib. 'Wow!' shouted out 'Alī, 'I didn't know I was named after the Prophet's cousin. Nuff respec to dat.'
'And then we have the great companions Talhah Ibn 'Ubaydullāh, Zubayr, 'Abdur Rahmān Ibn 'Awf, Sā'd Ibn Abī Waqqās, Sa'īd Ibn Zayd, and Abū 'Ubaydah Ibn Jarrāh.' 'Abdullāh looked at the rest of the boys in the class as he mentioned their names and told them a little about the great achievements of the people whose names the boys shared. Mr Smith had never seen his students so intrigued or so interested. Even little Sā'd, usually sleepy and rather quiet, was a bundle of activity.
'Is it OK for me to carry on, Mr Smith? I'm nearly finished,' asked 'Abdullāh. 'Yes carry on 'Abdullāh; we've still got a few minutes left.'
'Abdullāh turned away from Mr Smith and once again faced the class. 'Now that I've told you about my team, I want to tell you about my captain. As you guys probably found out when selecting your teams, selecting a captain is really hard. I spent a lot of time selecting my captain, because I wanted him to be the best there ever was. And while I was doing my research I came across the following piece of writing by the French writer Lamartine. I'll read it to you and you guys tell me if you can guess who it is. Can I read it out Mr Smith?' Mr Smith nodded enthusiastically and told 'Abdullāh to carry on.
'Lamartine writes: The most famous men, and women for that matter too, created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, people and dynasties, but millions of men in one third of the then inhabited world. And more than that he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls. As regards all standards by which human greatness can be measured, we may well ask, “Is there any man greater than he?”'
'Abdullāh stopped reading and slowly looked up at the class. 'Any idea who my captain is?' he casually asked. No answer. The class willed 'Abdullāh on with their eyes. 'Go on 'Abdullāh, tell us!' thought Mr Smith.
'My captain is the one who is known as the praised one, the one who is renowned throughout the world as a symbol of mercy and the one who is the greatest man ever to have walked this earth. My captain is...' 'Abdullāh suddenly paused and looked directly at the back of the class, directly at Muhammad. The class followed 'Abdullāh's gaze. Muhammad surprisingly looked at the floor, avoiding the attention that he usually basked in. 'Has Muhammad got tears in his eyes?' thought Mr Smith. 'Amazing!' 'Abdullāh continued his unflinching gaze at Muhammad. 'And the name of my captain? The name of my captain is Muhammad, peace be upon him, the last and greatest Prophet of Allāh.'
The sudden ringing of the bell disrupted the spell 'Abdullāh's speech had cast on the class. Chairs were scraped and books hurriedly shoved into bags, as the usual commotion ensued. As he gave the class instructions for next week's homework, Mr Smith noticed that most of the boys had formed a huddle around 'Abdullāh. 'Umar's voice could be heard loud and clear, 'Tell me more about Ibn Khattāb later, don't forget!' In a few minutes the class was empty.
'Abdullāh thanked Mr Smith as he left the class. 'Thanks for giving me so much time sir.' 'No Problem,' replied Mr Smith as he asked 'Abdullāh to bring him some more information about the Companions. Last to leave though was Muhammad and surprisingly he left through the door and not the window. As he walked past Mr Smith he suddenly looked up and said, 'Sir, can I speak to you for a second?' 'Wow', thought Mr Smith, 'Muhammad's never called me sir before, never mind asking to speak to me. 'I'm sorry for giving you so much hassle this year Mr Smith. Things will hopefully be different from now on.'
As Muhammad walked out of the door, Mr Smith sat down at his desk. 'Five minutes before history. This time with year seven. I understand why 'Abdullāh wants to study Islām now. With such a great history of heroes, who wouldn't,' he thought. 'I'll read about these people, these Companions when I get home.' The sun streamed down through the windows lighting up the dull classroom as Mr Smith contemplated about his star student. Once again Mr Smith was disturbed as the bell rang.