Sufyan Al-Thawri used to say: “It is rare for a scholar who attracts a large crowd to his lessons not to become conceited.”
Al-Hasan al-Basri passed by Tawus as he was relating Prophetic traditions to a large gathering in the Sacred Mosque. Al-Hasan drew near to him and whispered into his ear: “If you are proud to have attracted such a large audience you should get up and leave.”
Tawus left immediately.
Sufyan Al-Thawri would usually only allow three people to sit in his circle. One day he noticed that the circle had grown quite large. He stood up, shaken, and exclaimed: We have been afflicted with pride! I swear by Allah! If the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Umar, had seen my likes seated in such a gathering he would have made me get up and leave, lamenting: ‘Your likes are not fit to teach.’ “When Sufyan would sit to relate Prophetic traditions, he would sit cross-legged in a fearful state. If a cloud passed overhead he would remain silent until it went by, saying: “I feared that it might be full of stones which it would unleash against me.”
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), used to say: “Were it not for a single verse in the Qur’an I would not have taught you. [That verse is] Surely those who conceal what we have revealed of truth and guidance after We have expounded it to people in the Scripture, they are cursed by Allah and cursed by all entitled to curse.” (Qur’an 2:159)
When Sufyan Al-Thawri ceased teaching Prophetic tradition, Abu Huraira’s saying was related to him. He responded: “If I knew that even one student was seeking knowledge sincerely for the sake of God, I would go to his house to teach him, and not even burden him [to come to me].”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made it clear that when Muslims are engaged in some mission as a group, they should have someone as their head or commander. Whenever the Prophet sent out a group on a mission, or an expedition, or an army, he appointed someone as their commander. The criteria he applied in his selection of commanders were basically the person’s ability and also mutual love and respect between him and the group he is commanding. Every time, the Prophet urged the commander to look after those traveling with him, making clear that he was responsible for their welfare. He also urged the group to obey their commander so that their mission would be successful. Should they have divergent aims and follow different methods, they were bound to fail.
All this becomes natural if people would develop their sense of responsibility. The Prophet was keen to instill this sense among Muslims, regardless of their positions. Everyone is accountable for their deeds and the fulfillment of their responsibilities.
The Prophet says: “Everyone of you is a shepherd and will be accountable for his flock. The ruler is a shepherd and will be accountable for his community; a man is a shepherd of his family and will be accountable for them; a woman is a shepherd of her husband’s household and will be accountable for her charge; a slave is a shepherd looking after his master’s property and will be accountable for it: indeed, everyone of you is a shepherd and will be accountable for what is under their care.”
When everyone in a community develops such a sense of responsibility, the affairs of the community will run smoothly and everyone will have what is due to them. Indeed, this helps develop a feeling of love and unity within the community, ensuring its success and prosperity.
The guiding principle in discharging one’s responsibility is seeking Allah’s pleasure. We know that Allah does not allow injustice. In a sacred Hadith, the Prophet quotes Allah as saying: “My servants, I have forbidden Myself injustice and made it forbidden for you. Therefore, be not unjust to anyone.” This must be the rule that governs all relations in society.
Moreover, a person in a position of responsibility must not require his subordinates to do anything that is not permitted by Islam. If he does, then they must not obey him. The Prophet says: “No one may be obeyed in what constitutes disobedience of Allah.” If a commander orders someone to do what is forbidden, that person must disobey the commander. Once the Prophet appointed someone as the head of a small expedition. When they had stopped to rest, the commander ordered that a fire should be lit. He then asked those with him to go through the fire. They said to him: “We have followed Allah’s messenger so that we do not suffer the fire of hell. Are you now asking us to go through this fire. We certainly will not do that.” When they returned to Madinah, they complained to the Prophet. He questioned the commander who said that he simply intended it as a joke and he was not going to allow anyone to go through the fire. The Prophet accepted this as true, but he commended the people who refused to go through the fire. He said: “Had they gone through it, they would not be out of it.” What he meant was that they would have committed suicide and would be punished for it by being thrown in hell on the Day of Judgment.
On Thursday with the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah (the month of Haj) behind us, we have entered another sacred month that marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar year – Mujharram.
Muharram literally means “that which is honored or sanctified.” Muharram is a month that was held sacred even during the pre-Islamic Jahiliyyah era. Islam maintained its sanctity, as is proved by the following verse in the Qur’an:
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein.” (Qur’an, 9:36)
Some Islamic months, whether sacred or not, have certain days and nights that are exalted or specified for certain kinds of worship. Examples of these are the last five odd-numbered nights of Ramadan, six days of fasting in Shawwal and the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah. Muharram too has its own virtue.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allah, Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.” (Sahih Muslim)
Notice how the Prophet (peace be upon him) described Muharram as “the month of Allah.”
This narration does not mean fasting the entire month of Muharram. Rather, it encourages fasting on some days – the most significant being the 10th of Muharram, called Ashoura.
The fast of Ashoura was obligatory in the early days of Islam, but after the fasting of Ramadan became obligatory, this fast became recommendatory and not obligatory:
Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to Madina, he fasted on the day of Ashoura and directed the people to fast. However, when the fasts of Ramadan were made obligatory, the obligation of fasting was confined to Ramadan and the obligatory nature of the fast of Ashoura was rescided. Whoever so desires should fast on that day and who so likes may not fast on it.” (Abu Dawood)
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked about fasting on the day of Ashoura and he said, “I do not know of any day on which the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) fasted that was better than this day.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fasting the day of Arafah I hope, Allah will expiate thereby the sins for the year before it and of the year after it, and fasting the day of Ashoura I hope Allah will expiate thereby for the year that came before it.” (Sahih Muslim)
Therefore, supererogatory fasts in this “month of Allah” should be observed, with the highest priority given to the fast of the tenth.
In addition, the fast on the ninth or eleventh should also be observed, because the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) expressed his intention to fast a day before the tenth. This was in order to differ from the practice of the Jews, who fasted only on the tenth, to celebrate the drowning of Pharaoh and the emancipation of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and the Children of Israel.
Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him) said, “If I would be still alive next year, I will certainly fast the ninth.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 1134)
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “He meant, along with the tenth.”
Therefore, we Muslims should uphold our Prophet’s intention and fast on two days for Ashoura, either the ninth and tenth, or the tenth and eleventh. There is no harm in observing the fasts of all three either.
Besides fasting, the month of Allah should be spent with specific focus on doing good deeds and abstaining from sins. As the narration above exhorts, the best prayer after the obligatory ones is praying late-night in tahajjud. The winter months make it easier for us to pray at night, as the nights are long, and we will not miss sleep by getting up extra early before Fajr to pray and ask Allah for forgiveness.
In addition, we must remember that any innovation in the Religion causes deviation from following Prophet Muhammad’s sunnah. Mourning during Muharram is totally against the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Let us try and fast the days of Ashoura (9th is on Saturday and 10th is on Sunday), as well as endeavor to fast the remaining Mondays and Thursdays during Muharram.
The fasts of the 13th, 14th and 15th can also be observed, all of which are the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).
Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 4:51, Narrated Abu Huraira
The Prophet said, “A place in Paradise as small as the bow or lash of one of you is better than all the world and whatever is in it”
The Noble Qur’an – Al-Mu’minun 23:8-11
Those who are faithfully true to their trusts and to their covenants; And those who strictly guard their (five compulsory congregational) prayers (at their fixed stated hours). These are indeed the inheritors. Who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise). They shall dwell therein forever.
Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 4:569, Narrated Abu Huraira
Then Allah [swt] will say (to him): ‘I have forbidden Paradise for the disbelievers.’
Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 6:373, Narrated Abu Huraira
The Prophet said, “Paradise and the Fire (Hell) argued, and the Fire (Hell) said, ‘I have been given the privilege of receiving the arrogant and the tyrants.’ Paradise said, ‘What is the matter with me? Why do only the weak and the humble among the people enter me?’ On that, Allah said to Paradise, ‘You are My Mercy which I bestow on whoever I wish of my servants.’ Then Allah said to the (Hell) Fire, ‘You are my (means of) punishment by which I punish whoever I wish of my slaves. And each of you will have its fill.’ As for the Fire (Hell), it will not be filled till Allah puts His Foot over it whereupon it will say, ‘Qati! Qati!’ At that time it will be filled, and its different parts will come closer to each other; and Allah will not wrong any of His created beings. As regards Paradise, Allah will create a new creation to fill it with.”
Descriptions of Paradise
Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 4:474, Narrated Anas bin Malik , see also Bukhari 6:403, Quran 56:30
The Prophet said, “There is a tree in Paradise (which is so big and huge that) if a rider travels in its shade for one hundred years, he would not be able to cross it.”
Hadith – Mishkat, Narrator AbuHurayrah , transmitted by Tirmidhi and Darimi
Allah’s Messenger said, “The inhabitants of Paradise are hairless, beardless and have black eyes, their youth does not pass away and their garments do not wear out.”
Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 4:479, Narrated Sahl bin Sad
The Prophet said, “Paradise has eight gates, and one of them is called Ar-Raiyan through which none will enter but those who observe fasting.” The Prophet also said, “If a person spends two different kinds of something (for Allah’s cause), he will be called from the gates of Paradise.”
THE message of Islam is for the entire human race. According to Islam, Allah is the God of the entire universe and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a Messenger for the whole of mankind. According to Islam, all men are equal, whatever be their color, language, race or nationality. Islam addresses itself to the conscience of humanity and banishes all false barriers of race, status and wealth. There can be no denying the fact that such barriers have always existed, and do exist even today in this so-called enlightened age. Islam, however, removes all these impediments and proclaims the idea of the whole of humanity being one family of God.
Islam is international in its outlook and approach. It does not admit barriers and distinctions based on color, clan, blood or territory such as were prevalent before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). These are rampant in different forms, even in this modern age.
Islam is a way of life that transcends race and ethnicity. The Glorious Qur’an repeatedly reminds us of our common origin : “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (49: 13)
The eradication of race consciousness is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam. In the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue. It is conceivable that the spirit of Islam might be the timely reinforcement which would decide this issue in favor of tolerance and peace.
Islam unites the entire human race under one banner. To a world torn by national rivalries and feuds, it presents a message of life and hope, and of a glorious future.
The desire for the Hereafter is not complete without renouncing this world, and renouncement from this world is not achieved except after:
a) Looking at this world, and how quickly it passes away and reaches its end, its deficiencies, decline, vileness; the distress of competing for it, and the way it spoils and causes misery. Also, its ephemerality and discontinuation comes with misery and regrets.
The one who seeks this world benefits only by having sadness before acquiring it, worries when he is enjoying it, and grief after its passing away.
b) Knowing with surety that the Hereafter is going to come and its arrival is certain. The eternality, endlessness and nobility of the good and pleasing things in it, and the difference between what is there and what is here.
After completely understanding these two aspects the individual is required to make its preference and renounce what it should.
So anyone who is naturally disposed to leave the enjoyment of this world and the present worldly gains for the pleasures that are hidden and yet to come in the Hereafter will not do so unless the excellence of the next life over this one is clear to him, and has a strong desire to achieve the superior instead of the inferior.
When he prefers the transient and the inadequate it is either because he does not understand what is better for him or because he does not have the desire to achieve the best.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions put this world behind their backs, turned their hearts away from it, and abandoned it. They did not befriend it they renounced it. They did not incline towards it.
They considered it to be a prison, not Paradise! They renounced it as it ought to have been renounced. Had they wished, they could have had anything they liked and obtained anything they desired because the key of its treasures were presented to them, but they refused to accept them.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said in authentic narrations:
“What am I in this world except for like a person who is traveling and stops under the shade of the tree to rest for a few moments and then continues with his traveling.”
And “What is this world compared to the Hereafter except like when one of you puts his finger in the sea, so he sees what he takes out (of the sea with his wet finger).”
Our Lord, the Creator of this world, draws a parable from our own lives to illustrate the Real value of this world: “Verily, the likeness of (this) worldly life is as the water (rain) which We send down from the sky; so by it arises the intermingled produce of the earth of which men and cattle eat: until when the earth is clad in its adornments and is beautified, and its people think that they have all the powers of disposal over it, Our Command reaches it by night or by day, and We make it like a clean-mown harvest, as if it had not flourished yesterday. (10: 24)
Muharram – The first month of the Hijra calendar – is one of the four sacred months about which Allah said: “Verily, the number of months with Allah is 12 months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein…” (Qur’an, 9:36)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The year is 12 months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab which comes between Jumada and Sha’ban.” (Al-Bukhari, 2958)
It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that this phrase “so wrong not yourselves therein…” referred to all the months, then these four were singled out and made sacred, so that sin in these months is more serious and good deeds bring a greater reward.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.” (Sahih Muslim)
This Hadith is probably meant to encourage fasting during Muharram, without meaning that one should fast for the entire month.
Fasting on ‘Ashoura
Ibn Abbas said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) came to Madina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashoura. When he asked them about it, they said, ‘This is a blessed day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa (peace be upon him) fasted on this day.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘We have more right to Musa (peace be upon him) than you,’ so he fasted on that day and commanded (the Muslims) to fast on that day.” (Al-Bukhari)
Fasting on the day of ‘Ashoura was earlier obligatory, but when fasting Ramadan was made obligatory, the obligation to fast ‘Ashoura was cancelled, i.e., it was no longer obligatory to fast on this day, but it is still recommended.
Virtues of fasting ‘Ashoura
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “For fasting the day of ‘Ashoura, I hope that Allah will accept it as expiation for the year that went before.” (Sahih Muslim)
This is from the bounty of Allah towards us. By fasting one day, He expiates our sins for the whole year. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty.
Fasting the ninth and tenth
Abdullah Ibn Abbas said: “When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) fasted on ‘Ashoura and commanded the Muslims to fast as well, they said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that is venerated by the Jews and Christians.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘If I live to see the next year, Insha Allah, we will fast on the ninth day too.’ But it so happened that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) passed away before the next year came.” (Sahih Muslim)
Al-Shafi’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaq and others said: “It is Mustahab (recommended) to fast on both days, ninth and tenth, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted on the tenth, and intended to fast on the ninth.”