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.
Du'ā is asking Allāh ta'ālā for help or for the fulfilment of a particular need. It expresses a slave's helplessness and dependence on Allāh ta'ālā, the All-Powerful and Merciful. It is the channel through which one gets directly in touch with one's Creator.
The purpose of man's creation is worship and according to a hadīth, 'Du'ā is the essence of worship'. (At-Tirmidhī) And according to another hadīth, 'Du'ā is the worship'. (At-Tirmidhī)
Just as Salāh, Sawm, Zakāh, Hajj etc. are acts of worship, du'ā too is an act of worship. Therefore just as one takes out time to pray Salāh or to recite the Qur'ān or make dhikr, similarly, according equal importance to du'ā, one should also take out sufficient time for the sake of du'ā.
The objective behind every act of worship is the Recognition of Allāh ta'ālā as the Creator and the All-Powerful, and that one acts according to His Will and not as one likes. A Servant of Allāh ta'ālā accepts his weaknesses and recognises his need for Allāh ta'ālā. Out of all devotions, this humbleness and total submission is best expressed in du'ā. Furthermore, other acts of worship can become a source of pride whilst du'ā is an act which is usually free from any trace of pride.
Nowadays, du'ā has become a mere ritual. It has become a routine practice which one is accustomed to perform at certain times of the day. People raise their hands for a few moments at the time of du'ā, uttering a few words, some consciously, and some without even realising what they are asking for.
Today hardly anybody resorts to du'ā for solutions to their problems. For most people du'ā is a devotion which is the most difficult to practise. Even at the blessed places and in the blessed moments, a short while occupied by du'ās will seem like hours. By and large, we find that the engagement in Salāh or the recitation of the Qur'ān is relatively easier than making du'ā. This only reflects our distance from the Being of Allāh ta'ālā, as du'ā is the only act of worship which provides us with the opportunity to communicate with Allāh ta'ālā in the manner we wish. Lack of concentration in this act of worship shows that the performance of other acts of worship are also customary and superficial, and lacking the true essence. If we truly enjoyed the Proximity of Allāh ta'ālā, we would inevitably have found enjoyment in confiding in Him and beseeching Him. We would have always felt an eagerness to turn to Him, in open and in solitude.
Many of us make du'ā half-heartedly, not convinced whether our demands will be answered or not. We should know that Allāh ta'ālā always answers the du'ās of people. However, it may not always seem so and many people, failing to experience the effects immediately, begin to feel dejected and put off. This, however, should not be the case, as Allāh ta'ālā, the All-Hearing, undoubtedly hears and accepts the supplications of people, only that the du'ās of some are answered immediately, whilst those of others are deferred for their own benefit.
One should keep in mind that the acceptance of du'ās also depends on the expectations of a person. Allāh ta'ālā deals with people in accordance with what they expect of Him. In one Hadīth, the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has related the following Statement of Allāh ta'ālā: 'I treat my servant as he expects of me…' (Al-Bukhārī, Muslim)
The Ahādīth also tell us that du'ās (provided that their requisites have been fulfilled) are accepted invariably, but their acceptance is manifested in either of the three below-mentioned ways: Sometimes, Allāh ta'ālā immediately answers them and blesses the seekers with what they have asked for; sometimes He substitutes what they have asked for with something that in His Knowledge was better for them; or alternatively, through the blessings of the du'ā, He removes an impending calamity that was to befall them. At times, neither of the above may transpire, but on such occasions, the du'ā is treasured for the Hereafter. These unanswered du'ās will bear so much reward that a person, on the Day of Qiyāmah, will wish that none of his du'ās were accepted in the world. (Kanz-ul-'Ummāl)
Abstaining from Harām (clothing, food, income, etc.) is another essential requisite for the acceptance of du'ā. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam once made mention of a person who travels widely, his hair dishevelled and covered with dust. He lifts his hands towards the sky (and thus makes the supplication): "O Lord, O Lord," then the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said, "But his diet is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothes are unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How then can his supplication be accepted?" (Muslim)
By keeping the following few points in mind concerning du'ā, inshā'allāh, one will benefit greatly. Firstly one should remember that du'ā is an act of worship and should be given an independent status of its own. It should not remain a mere ritual.
Secondly, one should make du'ā after performing all good deeds such as Salāh, recitation of Qur'ān, dhikr etc., and also fix a specific time especially for du'ā. In du'ā, one should adopt humility and ensure that one understands what is being asked. The time spent in du'ā should be gradually lengthened. In the initial stages, the same du'ās can be repeated over and over, and in the meantime more and more du'ās should be memorised. An effort should be made to learn those du'ās in particular which encompass the general need of all the Muslims.
Thirdly, when making du'ā, a person should have a firm faith that he is asking from Allāh ta'ālā the All-Powerful, and He is able to fulfil every need of ours. The chances of being cured from a fatal illness, for instance, may seem remote but it should be believed from the depths of the heart that Allāh ta'ālā is able to cure any illness if He so wished. Dr. 'Abdul Hay 'Ārifi rahimahullāh (a renowned saint) used to say, 'Does there exist any problem that cannot be solved through du'ā?', and then he would say 'How can there, when du'ā is a request made to Allāh ta'ālā for the removal of problems and there is no problem on earth whose removal is beyond His ability.'
One should ask Allāh ta'ālā for both worldly needs and those of the Hereafter. Rasūlullah sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has instructed us to ask Allāh ta'ālā for all our needs, however petty they may seem to be. He sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam mentioned that even if a person's shoelaces break, he should ask Allāh ta'ālā before embarking to obtain new ones.
Finally, one should not ask for anything unlawful. Many young people do not realise this and by asking for impermissible things incur the displeasure of Allāh ta'ālā.
May Allāh ta'ālā give us all the tawfīq to turn to Him for all our needs and may He fulfil all our lawful needs of this world and the Hereafter. Āmīn.
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)
Throughout our life we remain students of one discipline or another. Whether we are acquiring religious knowledge by studying the Arabic alphabet or have reached the completion of the final lessons of Sahīh-al-Bukhārī, or we are pursuing secular knowledge by studying at school or completing our PhD, every single one of us is constantly undergoing some form of formal or informal tuition.
With regards to the acquisition of religious knowledge Imām Ghazālī rahimahullāh quotes in his book Kimiyā-e-Sa'ādat: '…if a person learns such an 'ilm, acquires such knowledge which keeps him away from evil and makes him do good deeds, what else can be better than that? Such knowledge is like water from the cooling streams for the thirsty and a treatment for the sick. The more one attains such knowledge the better it is for him.'
With regards to secular knowledge, many of us do not usually realise that even its acquisition can become a means of acquiring reward. All that is required to acquire reward for this learning is to turn our attention in the right direction. There are a few salient points which, if remembered, should enable one to begin to learn in a manner that will gain benefit not only in this world but also in the hereafter.
In a hadīth it is mentioned:
All actions are dependent upon intentions. (Al-Bukhārī)
Therefore before commencing any course of study we must question our intentions. Are we studying only for materialistic gain or are we studying so that we may utilise our knowledge for the benefit of mankind and thereby acquire the Pleasure of Allāh ta'ālā?
Having adopted the correct intention, we must constantly review our intentions throughout our course of study to ensure that they have not changed. Reviewing one's intention is essential because even though in the initial stages our intentions may have been pure and full of sincerity, the influences of one's base desires (nafs) and the influences of the environment around us during our course of study may bring detrimental, albeit, subtle changes in our motives. A useful way to gauge whether any shortcomings have crept into our intentions is to take account of our daily life and try to determine what we give preference to when there is a conflict between the Commands of Allāh ta'ālā and the demands placed upon us in our field of study. If we find that we are inclining away from the Sharī'ah, then this is a good indicator that our motives have changed. We should continually request Allāh ta'ālā to keep our intentions sincere, thus the following masnoon du'ā is extremely beneficial in this regard:
O Allāh, forgive me for those actions which we initiated purely for Your sake and into which other intentions later entered. (Al-Hizb Al-A'zam)
Choose a Good Subject
When deciding upon a course of study, one should not choose a subject merely because it is easy, rather one should endeavour to select a field of study that will be beneficial to us in both worlds and which can be a means of benefit to humanity. We should refrain from undertaking a course of study which may involve any violation of the Sharī'ah. Once again we find suitable guidance in the supplications of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam wherein one prayer states:
O Allāh save me from knowledge which is useless, from a heart that does not fear You and a prayer that is not entertained. (Al-Hizb Al-A'zam)
From this we can gauge hyphen due to the phrases used in the prayer hyphen that beneficial knowledge is only that which will help one develop the Recognition of the Lordship of Allāh ta'ālā.
Aim to be the Best
In the ahādīth, knowledge has been described as the lost property of a believer. We, as Muslim students, should aim and strive to be the experts in our chosen fields. Studying within the limits of the Sharī'ah, we should aim to acquire as much knowledge as we can and ensure that we complete our course of study with the maximum effort and striving. How is it that we, who claim to be the inheritors of the pioneers of astronomy, of mathematics, and of medicine, to name just a few fields in which Muslims have excelled, feel happy to scrape through our studies with the lowest grades.
Even though it is not possible that every person will be an expert in their field each of us should aim to try our best and thus try to provide a model representation of the Muslim student. Once we become professionals, we may be stationed at the meeting place of various cultures regardless of our work place. Our role will be of vital importance as we will become a linking bridge for the non-Muslims whose first contact and acquaintance with Islгm may be through us. Similarly we must sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallamtrive to remain practising Muslims to ultimately serve our Muslim community that is much in need of our expertise. Once again the masnoon du'ās of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam are extremely useful in this regard with two examples being the following:
O Allāh increase me in knowledge. (20:114)
O Allāh save me from inaction and laziness. (Al-Hizb Al-A'zam)
Time is a trust from Allāh ta'ālā and hence it needs to be valued and used appropriately. We should aim to create a timetable to ensure that we maximise the usage of our time. Many of us who do not adopt a timetable and find much to our regret near examination time that we have wasted many valuable hours in superfluous and profitless activities. We should always bear in mind the following principle that one only realises the value of something after it has been lost and experience also clearly demonstrates that to make up for lost time is impossible. We must address any weakness which may become embedded in our study habits in the early stages of our learning career, even though it may seem that there is still a long way to go before we complete our studies. Failure to rectify any shortcomings, whether academic or spiritual, will prove to be extremely detrimental to our knowledge later on. Therefore from the beginning we should aim to make the most of the time that we have at hand and refrain from frivolous and wasteful activities. In a hadeeth it is mentioned:
The sign of a believer is that he refrains from that which does not concern him. (At-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah)
Consequently we should also refrain from all those activities which are not beneficial to either our studies or our religion. Adopting a timetable also allows one to work on a regular basis. Bearing in mind the hadīth, The most beloved action to Allāh ta'ālā is the one done on a regular basis (Bukhārī, Muslim), a timetable will not only allow us to complete our studies but will also enable us to practice upon this hadīth.
Be Grateful & Adopt Respect
The opportunity to study is not given to all. There are many intelligent people throughout the world who due to their circumstances are unable to pursue formal education. Likewise there are many who have the opportunity to study but have not been blessed with the necessary intellectual capacities required to follow their preferred course of study. Consequently, we must constantly remain grateful for having been given not only the opportunity to study but also the relevant faculty of intelligence too. It is a famous saying among the scholars of Islam that Bā adab, bā nasīb, be adab, be nasīb i.e. the one who adopts respect is blessed (with knowledge) and the one who is lax in respect is deprived.
Gratefulness goes hand in hand with respect and thus one should respect one's teachers, within the guidelines of the Sharī'ah, and the mechanisms e.g. books etc. by which one acquires knowledge. The humility, reverence and respect that one should adopt for knowledge and for one's teachers is aptly demonstrated by the blessed Companions radhiyallāhu 'anhum who used to display such rapt attention when learning from the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam that it used to be as if 'birds were perched on their heads.'
Upon commencing a course of study the student agrees to follow certain rules and regulations as specified by the institute/teacher. This agreement, whether written or verbal, needs to be fulfilled to the best of our abilities as this is the Command of Allāh ta'ālā that we fulfil agreements. Many of us turn up late for lectures, not meet deadlines etc. Not only are such actions an infringement of the rights of the agreement that we have undertaken, but they also portray an extremely negative view of Islam. Many of us also fall prey to the habit of making false excuses when not having met deadlines or having missed lessons. We should remember that even though our false excuses and lying may remove what may seem like a major difficulty in this world, but it will create major obstacles in the hereafter. In the ahādīth we find numerous examples of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam exhorting us to keep our agreements and to be punctual. One such famous example can be seen when the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam waited for an acquaintance for three days at a certain location even though the other party had forgotten to attend. (Abū Dāwūd)
Adopt Taqwā & the Company of the Pious
Taqwā means that we try our utmost to shun every sin. In the acquisition of knowledge, sinning is a major obstacle. Beneficial knowledge which allows one to recognise his Creator is a gift from Allāh ta'ālā. We find a reference to this in Āyat-al-Kursī wherein it is mentioned, one can only grasp that amount of beneficial knowledge which Allāh ta'ālā wishes. (2:255) Thus how can we expect our knowledge to increase or be of benefit if we disobey and sever our connection with the Dispenser of knowledge? The company of the pious will help one to acquire taqwā and is a means of learning the value and respect for knowledge. Respect, gratefulness, sincerity and taqwā are all attributes and qualities of the heart which are essential requisites for the acquisition of knowledge which will benefit one in this world and the hereafter. The anti-thesis of these qualities are those attributes and illnesses of the heart such as pride, arrogance, and jealousy which prove to be obstacles in the path of knowledge. Consequently we need to aim to remove our weaknesses in not only those aspects of the Sharī'ah which are related to exoteric (external) acts such as prayer, fasting etc. but also those related to the esoteric (internal) acts such as the removal of pride and the adoption of respect and humility. The adoption of the company of the pious and of those who are experts in the fields of Sharī'ah will help one to attain these objectives inshā'allāh.
By following the above few points it is hoped that inshā'allāh we will begin to acquire the blessings of Allāh ta'ālā in our endeavours. We should aim to commence all our work with the name of Allāh and be grateful to Him upon its completion. One should also aim to learn the sunnah supplications such as 'O Allāh increase me in knowledge' and also study the lives of the Companions radhiyallāhu 'anhum and pious predecessors in order to ascertain the manner in which these noble souls studied and strove in the path of knowledge. We should always bear in mind that Allāh ta'ālā is the ultimate Giver and it is only through Him that we receive beneficial knowledge that will neither lead us astray nor be detrimental for our future. Thus we should always ask Allāh, to keep us on the straight path, of those who have been rightly guided and not of those who have acquired Allāh's anger or gone astray.
May Allāh ta'ālā give us the ability to recognise the value of knowledge, may He increase us in beneficial knowledge and may He enable us to utilise the gift of knowledge to acquire His Pleasure and Mercy. Āmīn.
Significance of the First Ten Days of Dhul Hijjah
Allah has taken oath of ten nights in Sūrah Al-Fajr. According to the majority of the commentators of Qur'ān, the nights are those of the (first) ten days of Dhul Hijjah.
Abū Hurayrah radiyallāhu ‘anhu related that Rasūlullāh sallallāhu alayhi wasallam said, "On no days is the worship of Allāh desired more than in the (first) ten days of Dhul Hijjah. The fast of each of these days is equal to the fast of a whole year, and the worship of each of these nights is equal to the worship of Laylatul Qadr." (At-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah)
The mother of the believers, Hafsah radiyallāhu ‘anhā reports that Rasūlullāh sallalahu alayhi wasallam used to fast the (first) nine days of Dhul Hijjah. (Nasā'ee, Ahmad, Aboo Dāwood)
Recently, I was approached by a concerned brother who had been facing some difficult times with regards his provision and sustenance. This is something that many of us face at some time in our lives. Naturally, when we are in this situation, we begin to panic and look for ways out. Some bear the situation remaining within the laws of Sharī'ah and with patience make it through, whilst others fail in this test from Allāh ta'ālā and take to prohibited means to try to solve their problems.
So, when the brother asked the question, I pondered for a while and the following advices, all based on the Qur'ān and hadīth, came to mind:
1. At such difficult times it is paramount to adopt taqwā, which is to stay away from each and every sin. Remember, what is thought of to be a tough financial situation will differ from person to person, but in these circumstances it is necessary that we stay compliant with the Commands of Allāh ta'ālā. Both the dos and don'ts commanded by Allāh ta'ālā have to be adopted. Salāh, Sawm, Zakāh, Hajj and all farā'id must be performed. Similarly, we must refrain from all sinful activities. In return for this adoption of taqwā, Allāh ta'ālā has promised that He will see to our needs:
"Whoever adopts taqwā, Allāh brings forth a way out for him and provides him (with what he needs) from where he does not even imagine. And whoever places his trust in Allāh, He is sufficient for him. Surely Allāh is to accomplish His purpose." (65:2)
"If the people of the towns believed and adopted taqwā, We would have opened for them blessings from the heavens and the earth, but they disbelieved. So, We seized them because of what they used to earn for themselves." (7:96)
2. A second point to keep in mind is to make istighfār (seek forgiveness) abundantly. A person should look towards his own misdeeds and take them to be the reason for finding himself in the predicament he is in. He should turn to Allāh ta'ālā and repent. Sometimes, such circumstances are caused by Allāh ta'ālā in order to make His servant turn towards Him. Such is the Mercy of Allāh ta'ālā!
"Pray to your Lord for your forgiveness. Indeed, He is Very-Forgiving; and He will cause the heavens to rain upon you in abundance, and will help you with riches and children, and will cause gardens to grow for you, and cause rivers to flow for you." (71:10-12)
"O my people, seek forgiveness from your Lord, then turn to Him in repentance, and He will release the heavens pouring upon you, and will add strength to your strength, and do not turn away like sinners." (11:52)
The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has said:
"He who holds firm to seeking forgiveness, Allāh will make an exit for him from every tight situation, will grant him relief from every trouble and will provide for him from where he does not even imagine." (Abū Dāwūd, Ibn Mājah, Ahmad)
3. Another point is to ensure that we keep our transactions free from sin. For this, we must consult the 'Ulamā, learn from them in regards to what is halāl and what is harām and act accordingly. Any transaction which is contrary to the teachings of Allāh ta'ālā and His Messenger sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam will be devoid of barakah (blessings); therefore, no matter how great the profit or benefit seems, it will soon disappear. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
"The seller and the buyer have the right to keep or return the goods until they part. And if both parties spoke the truth and described the goods accurately, then they would be blessed in their transaction, and if they told lies or hid something, then the blessings of their transaction would be lost." (Al-Bukhārī)
Similarly, the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam also says:
"Taking (false) oaths improve the sales, but it eradicates the blessings." (Al-Bukhārī)
4. Nowadays, many people look for wazā'if (the recitation of certain verse(s), name(s) of Allāh ta'ālā etc. a certain number of times to fulfil a particular need) to solve their problems. Whereas, within the boundaries of Sharī'ah, this is permissible, there can be no better solutions than those shown by the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam regarding whom Allāh ta'ālā says:
"He does not speak out of (his own) desire. It is but revelation revealed (to him)." (53:3-4)
• In a hadīth the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam mentions that whoever recites the following 100 times between subh sādiq and Fajr salāh, wealth shall come to him unwillingly and humbled. (Ihyā)
"Pure is Allāh and for Him is praise. Pure is Allāh, the Great. I seek forgiveness from Allāh."
• In another hadīth, the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam passed by a person who was dishevelled and worried, at which the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam told him to recite the following words through which his worry and poverty would go away. The words were:
"I place my trust in the Ever Living who is not to die, Praise belongs to Allāh who has neither had a son, nor is there any partner to Him in His kingdom, nor is anyone (needed) to protect Him from (any) weakness. And proclaim His greatness, an open proclamation." (Abū Ya'lā, Ibn-as-Sunnī)
5. Read Sūrah Al-Wāqi'ah every night:
'Uthmān radhiyallāhu 'anhu visited 'Abdullāh ibn Mas'ūd radhiyallāhu 'anhu during the last stages of the latter's life. 'Uthmān radhiyallāhu 'anhu asked him, "What is your illness?" 'Abdullāh ibn Mas'ūd radhiyallāhu 'anhu replied, "My sins." He then asked him, "Is there anything you desire?" 'Abdullāh ibn Mas'ūd radhiyallāhu 'anhu replied, "The Mercy of my Rabb." 'Uthmān radhiyallāhu 'anhu then asked if he would like him to re-issue the allowance that was allocated for him during his life that he had refused. When he declined, 'Uthmān radhiyallāhu 'anhu said, "Let it be for your daughters for after your death." Upon this, 'Abdullāh ibn Mas'ūd radhiyallāhu 'anhu asked, "Do you fear poverty upon my daughters after my death? I have instructed them to recite sūrah Al-Wāqi'ah every night; for I have heard the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam say, 'Whoever recites sūrah Al-Wāqi'ah every night shall never be afflicted with poverty.' " (Al-Qurtubi)
6. Imām At-Tabarānī rahimahullāh has quoted a hadīth in which the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has said:
"Washing hands, before and after food, safeguards against poverty."
7. We should constantly make du'ā to Allāh ta'ālā, for in du'ā lies the solution to all our problems. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has said:
"Indeed, du'ā is of benefit for those things that have descended and (also) for those things that have not yet descended. O servants of Allāh, hold fast to du'ā." (At-Tirmidhī)
One important point to ponder upon here is that to be afflicted with financial difficulties is not an everlasting problem, for tomorrow we may be relieved; either our problem may ease or we may not live for long. Why then do we have so much concern for this temporary issue? If a solution is guaranteed, we will be prepared to do anything. On the other hand, the life hereafter is inevitable and definite, but we do not have the same concern. How surprising it is that for something inevitable we have no concern, yet that which is uncertain occupies our hearts and minds all the time. Surely, we have set our priorities incorrectly!
Istikhārah means to turn to Allāh ta'ālā and seek goodness from Him. This is because Allāh ta'ālā knows what we do not know. As Allāh ta'ālā is fully aware of the end result and consequence of every matter and we merely speculate, we should ask Allāh ta'ālā to guide us towards goodness in our endeavours or tasks that we are about to embark on. It should be understood that istikhārah is simply a du'ā like any other du'ā. However, it has more chance of acceptance in the Court of Allāh ta'ālā as it has been specifically taught by Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam to his Ummah. It is a prayer offered to Allāh ta'ālā before embarking on a particular course of action or choosing from a number of options, asking Him to guide us towards goodness and the correct and better choice, and to save us from that course of action or choice if goodness lies elsewhere.
A point of great importance in istikhārah is to free one's mind of all thoughts and inclinations before performing it. What would you expect from a person's istikhārah when he has already resolved to do something!
The method of istikhārah is to perform two raka'āt at any time of the day, other than the times when nafl salāh is forbidden. It is preferable to recite Sūrah Al-Kāfirūn in the first rak'ah and Sūrah Al-Ikhlās in the second. Thereafter one should praise Allāh ta'ālā, send salāh upon the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and then recite the following du'ā:
O Allāh! I seek goodness from You, through Your Knowledge, and I seek strength through Your Power and ask for Your great Bounty, for You are able to do things while I am not, and You know while I do not; and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allāh, if You know that this matter [name your matter] is good for me, in respect to my Dīn, my worldly life and the consequence of my affairs, then decree it for me and make it easy for me, and then grant me barakah in it. And if You know that this matter [name your matter] is bad for me in respect to my Dīn, my worldly life and the consequence of my affairs, then turn it away from me and turn me away from it, and decree for me what is good, wherever it may be, and make me be pleased with it. (Al-Bukhārī)
If after the initial istikhārah you remain unsure about something, then perform istikhārah for 3, 5, or 7 days. Inshā'allāh within seven days the heart will feel at ease.
There is also another method of istikhārah in the form of a short du'ā. If a decision needs to be taken and there is no opportunity to perform two rak'āt and do istikhārah in the aforementioned way, the following du'ā should be recited:
O Allāh, grant me goodness, and choose for me. (At-Tirmidhī)
As mentioned earlier, istikhārah is a du'ā and Allāh ta'ālā will accept it and grant you goodness, as long as there are no factors that prevent its acceptance. Obstacles to Allāh ta'ālā accepting prayers include disobedience to Allāh ta'ālā, harām earnings, and praying without the conviction that Allāh ta'ālā will definitely accept the prayer. If there are such obstacles present in one's life, he should do tawbah in earnest, and then make istikhārah.
Results of Istikhārah
If, as a result of doing istikhārah, a person feels positive, he should proceed accordingly. If his du'ā has been accepted, he will acquire goodness and success. However, many people feel positive after istikhārah and proceed accordingly, but do not see success. This can be explained by the following:
In the du'ā of istikhārah, a person first asks Allāh ta'ālā for goodness in one's Dīn which is the main objective of a believer, and thereafter he asks for the goodness of the world. Therefore, if after istikhārah one finds apparent worldly loss, but his Dīn remains safe, one should believe that through the barakah of istikhārah Allāh ta'ālā has granted him a minute loss of this world and saved him from a greater loss of the Hereafter.
Many times, the du'ā as a result of istikhārah is accepted and Allāh ta'ālā grants him goodness, but that goodness takes two forms: one form is that the choice he has made is one hundred percent good, without an iota of harm in it; the other is that he is guided towards the better of two possible outcomes. To understand this, take the example of a person who purchased a house as a result of a positive feeling after istikhārah. After six months, a new neighbour moved in next door and started harassing him. This person needs to understand in this situation that it is through the barakah of istikhārah that he has been saved from a bigger calamity, i.e. if he had chosen another house, the neighbour there would have harassed him even more.
Sometimes, a person feels positive after istikhārah despite his du'ā not being accepted due to the aforementioned obstacles. In this case the positive feeling he was experiencing in his heart was not from Allāh ta'ālā. It was either a condition that existed before the istikhārah or it was a feeling from Shaytān. Sometimes a young man is deeply in love with a girl and after doing istikhārah he feels very comfortable. What can be expected from such an istikhārah? Are his positive feelings a result of the istikhārah or was that condition present before?
There are a number of common misconceptions about the sunnah practice of istikhārah:
One of the main points of confusion is the assumption that if, as a result of doing istikhārah, a positive feeling about a particular course of action results, then it is a guarantee from Allāh ta'ālā that it will be one hundred percent successful. People incorrectly believe that istikhārah is Divine Revelation. If after istikhārah a person of knowledge and experience was to advise an alternative, their opinion is discarded by saying, 'I have performed istikhārah and now there can be no change.' As a consequence, people proceed according to their feelings (e.g. they choose a marriage partner) and then, if some time later things do not work out, they begin to have doubts and negative thoughts about the sayings of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam regarding istikhārah. May Allāh ta'ālā protect us all from such a condition.
Likewise, people only do istikhārah nowadays when they are unsure about something. They perceive it to be a remedy for confusion; a way to request Allāh ta'ālā to fix something for them. Istikhārah should not be limited to occasions when a person has doubts about doing something, or when a person is indecisive about something! Istikhārah is to be performed for all mubāh actions, even if you are 100 % sure about the course of action. For example, you may want to enrol your child in a particular school and have no doubts about it being the right one; even then you should perform two rak'āt and read the du'ā of istikhārah so that you are granted goodness and saved from a wrong decision.
Nowadays, istikhārah is more or less confined to finding a marriage partner.
Many believe it is necessary to perform istikhārah during the night before going to sleep, and compulsory not to talk to anyone after performing the two rak'āt of istikhārah.
Similarly, some believe it to be totally necessary to sleep on the right hand side facing the qiblah.
Many expect and desire to see a dream in which one is clearly told that this is the path for you. Seeing a dream guiding towards a particular choice is not necessary in istikhārah. One needs to pay attention to the inclination of the heart whether one sees a dream or not. In all circumstances, the decisive factor is the inclination of one's heart.
Another common misconception is to ask others to perform istikhārah on one's behalf. Many feel that we are sinful, so what good will our istikhārah do? Thus they search for a pious god-fearing person and ask him to perform istikhārah for them. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam did not state any condition that a sinful person cannot perform istikhārah, and moreover, leaving sin and repenting is not an act of difficulty. One should leave sin, repent and perform istikhārah himself. This practice of asking others to perform istikhārah is not in accordance to the sunnah. Yes, when making istikhārah for a marriage partner, it is permissible for the parents of the boy/girl to perform istikhārah. This is because this is a need of the parents too, as it is their responsibility to marry their children into suitable families.
Finally, with istikhārah, istishārah (consultation) is very important too. One should, before, during, and after performing istikhārah, seek consultation from those well-wishers who are learned and experienced in the relevant matter. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said,
The one who does istikhārah will not be unsuccessful, and the one who consults will not see regret. (At-Tabrānī)