Righteousness in public and in private – Imam Zaid Shakir

Pull over - time to pray.

Pull over – time to pray.

By Imam Zaid Shakir

One of the signs of true faith is that it leads its possessor to manifest piety wherever he or she may be, because of the awareness that God has the ability to see, hear and witness us at all times.

Hence, for the righteous there is no difference in their public and private behavior. One of the great tribulations befalling many people in our time is that they appear as saints in public, but in the privacy of their homes they are tyrants and oppressors.

Such behavior is totally unacceptable and one behaving thus will be taken to task by God. The Prophet, peace upon him, has admonished us to be mindful of God, both publicly and privately.

One of his prayers was the following:

“O God! I ask you to grant me reverence of You, privately and publicly.”

Imam al-Shafi’i mentioned, “The three most precious things are giving charity during times of need; being impeccably mindful of God in private; and speaking the truth in the face of one you hope to benefit from, or one you fear.”

Quick Quotes: Compassion, Taqwa, Allah, Nature, the Heart

Drop of water on a vine

Compassion

“Hatred and bigotry are NOT the permanent conditions of man. Dictators fall and pass. War, oppression and hunger remain, but the power to change those terrible things is in our hands. Allah made us khulafaa over the earth. We have the ability to forgive, to understand, and to comfort one another. I believe that compassion is the essence of who we are. Is the best part of us, the quality that makes us worthy of the mercy of Ar-Rahman. Our love is an elemental force, a vast untapped potential. We only have to be who Allah created us to be. If we can aspire to that, and hew to it, it will suffice us and the earth itself.”

– Wael Abdelgawad

***

“Do not become proud of your position. Do not become harsh toward those weaker than yourself. And always speak of Allah’s kindness to you.” – Ibn Isaq, “The Life of Muhammad”

Taqwa

“If we let Taqwa – Allah-consciousness – become our guide then it leads us to self-awareness and sincerity. A person who cultivates Taqwa can never become a terrorist, an oppressor, a hypocrite. A person with true Taqwa must shed compassion as the sun sheds light.” – Wael Abdelgawad

Changing the World

“Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it; but I”m afraid He might ask me the same question.” – Anonymous

Allah

“People will love you for a short time but Allah will love you forever. People will listen to you sometimes, but Allah will listen to you all the time. People will forgive you sometimes, but Allah forgives every time.” – Anonymous

***

“You don’t need a Plan B if Plan A is for Allah.” – Bilal Int’l

Nature

I gave my Salam to the mountain
And I drank from the mountain stream
And I walked upon its surface
And it all felt like a dream
And this mountain it is a Muslim
And I feel like he’s my friend
And as I climbed on to his peak
I wished it would never end

– Hamza Robertson

The Heart

“Your heart is a mirror that reflects the world. If it’s clean, it will see the world as it really is. If it’s dirty and warped, it will see a warped vision of the world.” – Yasmin Mogahed

***

“When you get close to giving up take a step back, pray and come right back to it. You just never know who you could be inspiring out there. May Allah keep our faith strong and grant us the ability to turn back to Him and to be grateful for that ability and many more…ameen ya Rabb. This goes out to all those who inspire me.” – Fauzia Mohamed

Living for the Glory of God

sunrays through the trees in AlaskaThe following excerpt is from Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Inner Voice of Love”. He is not Muslim, but what he has to say here is very consistent with the Islamic idea of life as ‘ibadah (worship), and having taqwa (Allah-consciousness) in everything we do:

Whatever you are doing–watching a movie, writing a book, giving a presentation, eating, or sleeping–you have to stay in God’s presence. If you feel a great loneliness and a deep longing for human contact, you have to be extremely discerning. Ask yourself whether this situation is truly God-given. Because where God wants you to be, God holds you safe and gives you peace, even when there is pain.

To live a disciplined life is to live in such a way that you want only to be where God is with you. The more deeply you live your spiritual life, the easier it will be to discern the difference between living with God and living without God, and the easier it will be to move away from the places where God is no longer with you.

The great challenge here is faithfulness, which must be lived in the choices of every moment. When your eating, drinking, working, playing, speaking, or writing is no longer for the glory of God, you should stop it immediately, because when you no longer live for the glory of God, you begin living your own glory. Then you separate yourself from God and do yourself harm.

Your main question should always be whether something is lived with or without God. You have your own inner knowledge to answer that question. Every time you do something that comes from your needs for acceptance, affirmation, or affection, and every time you do something that makes these needs grow, you know that you are not with God. These needs will never be satisfied; they will only increase when you yield to them. But every time you do something for the glory of God, you will know God’s peace in your heart and find rest there.

What is Taqwa?

Sun rays shining from behind the cloudsBy Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

People often translate “Taqwa” as “fear of Allah.” Not so. Linguistically it means “to protect” or “to shield”, as in to protect oneself from wrongdoing. The root word is Waqa (spelled with the Arabic letters wow qaf ya) which means to preserve something, to take good of something, to be cautious, to protect, prevent, obviate a danger, or to preserve a thing against any harm or injury.

The meaning of the root wow-qaf-ya ? ? ? is demonstrated in Quran 16:81, where garments are mentioned as a means for protection from heat, and coats of armour for protection in fighting.

In the Shari’ah, Taqwa refers to consciousness of Allah. It describes a state of awareness of Allah in everything you do, and letting that awareness guide your actions and shield you from harm.
Allah often tells us in the Quran to “Ittaqoo-(A)llah”, which is generally translated as, “Fear Allah.” By understanding the linguistic meaning of the root word, we can grasp that the phrase more accurately means, “Take Allah as your Protector.” Or it could mean, “Guard yourself against the consequences of violating Allah’s commands (by obeying Him).”

Fear of Allah is a component, but it is balanced with love of Allah, gratitude to Allah, hope for Allah’s mercy, and remembering Allah’s infinite blessings on us. It also includes patience, forgiveness, acceptance (reda), generosity and treating people with love.

Taqwa is also not just a matter of ritual. As Allah says in the Quran:

“It is not taqwa that you turn your faces toward East or West, but it is taqwa to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book and the Messengers, to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts you have made; to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity. Those are the truthful and those are the muttaqun.” [Qur’an 2:177]

Taqwa is achieved by following Allah’s guidance, staying on the Sirat al-Mustaqeem (the Straight Path), worshiping Allah, and cultivating an awareness of Allah as our Creator, Sustainer and Lord.

One who has Taqwa is a muttaqi. The plural is muttaqeen or muttaqoon. Some of the characteristics of Muttaqeen/muttaqoon mentioned in the Quran are:

  • Those who believe in Al-ghaib (the unseen), establish salat, and keep open for the welfare for others what Allah has bestowed upon them [2:3]. Those who believe in Allah’s Revelations and Al-Akhira [2:4]
  • Those who keep their wealth open for mankind in favorable as well as in adverse circumstances. They divert and sublimate their anger and potentially virulent emotions to creative energy, and become a source of tranquility and comfort to people. They pardon people gracefully. Those who quickly correct any wrong or indecency that has occurred from them, they remember Allah, and protect themselves from trailing behind in dignity. They refrain from willfully persisting in error. [3:133-135]
  • Those who stand in awe of their Lord even in privacy, and fear the approaching Hour of accountability [21:48-49]
  • Those who are the doers of the good; who rarely fall asleep at night (without reflection); who heartily seek to be guarded against their imperfections. Those in whose wealth is the Divine Right of the requester and the deprived [51:15-19]
  • Those who keep on guard and when a visitation from Shaitan comes, they become mindful [7:201]
  • Those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and struggle in the way of Allah with their lives and their wealth [9:44]
  • Those who give away their wealth [92:17-18]

Sometimes it seems to me that Islam is vast, and incorportes so many beautiful spiritual concepts. It seems that achieving a single Islamic “concept” such as Taqwa could be a lifelong journey. I think this is a good thing. Men and women should always have something to strive for.

In Quranic verses 2:2, 3:138 and 5:46, it has been stated that the Quran is huda(n)-lil-muttaqeen (a guidance for those who have Taqwa). The Quran teaches us how to protect ourselves against the perils of this life, and how to preserve ourselves against the punishments of the aakhirah (the Hereafter). Ayah 39:28 also explains that the purpose of the Quran is Taqwa (of those who would follow it). So the Quran is a guide to becoming muttaqeen.

A basic practice that helps to build taqwa is reciting the Quran with contemplation of its meaning and message. Let us make time to implement that today, even if only for ten minutes, and see how it strengthens our spirits and shines a light on the path ahead.

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