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  • Writer's pictureAiman

Close enough to the fire to feel the heat . . .

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

I listened to a khutbah advising not to burn bridges between people, rather, to mend them. The speaker mentioned when Abu Bakr, Allah be pleased with him, ceased giving allowance to Mistah bin Uthatha. But, then, Allah revealed Surah al-Noor 24:22:

And let not those among you who are blessed with graces and wealth swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kinsmen, the poor, and those who left their homes for Allah's Cause. Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Abu Bakr, then, resumed giving the allowance, and in even more abundance. This inspired other companions to forgive those involved in the great crime that let to Abu Bakr's initial choice to withhold his charity from certain people.

There was a slander against his daughter, the mother of the believers, Aisha, Allah be pleased with her. Someone shamed his daughter, so he ceased his generosity, basically. But, no, Allah advised otherwise.

When Abu Bakr heard the ayah, he said, "By Allah! We do want that Allah should forgive us." His change of heart then inspired other companions to also forgive those involved. It got the community beyond the issue.

Hearing about that incident reminded me I'd written recently on forgiveness. Since then, I've I have a sense of the approaching end in a way I've not felt before as a Muslim. That's only added to or maybe helps explain what brought forgiveness to mind to start with.

The Prophet and his companions used to be on the lookout for Allah's punishment. They took guidance from their lives. Ali, specifically, is quoted as having said, "Every breath you take is a step closer towards death." To contemplate our personal end, is from as-Sunnah, and there is no absolute security we can obtain during this life that secures our destination.

Ibn Taymiyyah said that the believer is like a bird whose head is faith and whose two wings are fear and hope.

But there's something hidden from us. The big end, timing of the Last Day. We can't know until it happens. However, Allah provided signs and these are showing up. So, that should heightened our attention to the impending inevitabilities, but in good, good ways, like forgiving each other even when someone did something pretty lousy.

There are hypocrites and narcissists in this world and letting them run us over wouldn't even be kind to them. But, if there's some way to see past something, probably there's a benefit to doing so. We need that for ourselves as we seek Allah's forgiveness. But, sometimes, a line is crossed where I'm reminded of when the munaafiqeen had built a separate masjid for their conspiring. Prophet Muhammad said, don't go to that masjid. I'm not debating here where the line is, though. I'm calling to unity, when at all possible.

Right now, it's like the world is walking through a forest. And everything seems fine, though a terrible fire looms beyond the horizon. Or maybe it's already in clear sight, but some people choose not to raise their eyes.

Or, rather, to recognize that we are already feeling the heat from that fire and that the smoke is starting to billow.

There's no time left to hassle ourselves or others unless it's truly necessary. Suratul-'Asr has been telling the Muslims that since it was revealed. Amidst disarray, if there's a move toward workable unity, that has to be on our minds. Allah warns us in Surah al-Anfal 8:73 what will happen if the Muslims don't support each other:

And those who disbelieve are allies to one another, (and) if you (Muslims of the whole world collectively) do not do so (i.e. become allies, as one united block), there will be Fitnah (wars, battles, polytheism, etc.) and oppression on earth, and a great mischief and corruption (appearance of polytheism).

Allah gave us a formula for success and informed us very clearly what will happen if we don't help each other, if we don't care about each other as we care for our own selves. We all know what the Prophet said in al-Bukhari & Muslim:

None of you believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.

A mu'min, a believer, is a person who isn't often tricked by ash-Shaytan the same way more than once. Yet, perhaps there are exceptions, of sort. I'm thinking about when Abu Huraira gave zakat money to ash-Shaytan in al-Bukhari 4723:

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah entrusted me to protect the charity of Ramadan. Someone came to me and began taking from the food. I took hold of him and I said, “I will certainly take you to the Messenger of Allah!” Abu Huraira told the story to the Prophet and he said, “The man told me that when I go to bed, I should recite ayatul-Kursi. Allah would appoint a protector with me and no devil would come near to me until morning.” The Prophet said, “He told you the truth, although he is a liar. That was Satan.”

But in another saheeh narration, Satan interacted with Abu Hurairah several times, not just that once. In al-Bukhari 39, 510, the Prophet says:

He really spoke the truth, although he is an absolute liar. Do you know whom you were talking to, these three nights, O Abu Huraira?

And, then, like in the first hadith, the Prophet informs about the identity of who Abu Hurairah had been talking with: Satan. But, it was three nights, not one, that Satan had deceived this illustrious companion, Allah be pleased with him.

If the people of one level of The Paradise look upward, they will see the people of the above level as stars in the sky. That's a bit how I look at sahabah sometimes. There are ahadith praising those who believe in the the Prophet without seeing him. That's us. But their being, what their minds and hearts encompassed, and the manner of their conduct as a whole isn't something we can fully relate with, probably.

Yet, they, like us . . . they were not privy to the unseen. And, like us, they made mistakes and they changed their minds. But they stayed unified to an extent unimaginable now. That required they look past each others faults or misjudgments.

The influences around us in a media driven world are so abundant now. And, meanwhile, we're so much more vulnerable than any sahabah. I mean via the internet, mostly, phones, computing, and TV. The volume, rapidity, pervasiveness, etc. of influence is tremendous.

It's like the difference between someone who ash-Shaytan tricks into doing lesser good deeds versus someone ash-Shaytan tricks into undermining the entire community by getting in a snit about something trivial. Or getting someone to be overly strict with the religion. Or getting someone to be overly loose . . ..

So long as we're giving so much access to ourselves to ash-Shaytan as a culture, we shouldn't expect too terribly much from each other.

But as the world ends, which it will, though that's whenever Allah wills, and no one knows when that is. But going back to my forest fire analogy, doesn't it at least feel like we're catching a whiff of the smoke these days? But even so, perhaps the caricatures of Islam will melt. And as for the presumption we know what we're talking about when we don't, hopefully, humility pervades over it.

Where it gets tricky . . .

Let me begin this section with something relatively innocuous; and I'm not even sure who may have been wrong, if anyone was. Yet, I think, not insignificant. A brother comes into a particular masjid for the first time. He's wearing pants, and they were rolled up. I do know that pants rolled up is makooh because of folding but, it's not haraam. Unrolling them would be haraam if they extended below the ankle. The ideal, then, is both unfolded and above the ankle. But it may have merely been the pants that were the tipoff to a usual attendee of that masjid that action needed to be taken.

Someone the new brother has never met comes up to him and offers him a lower garment that's basically a skirt, suggesting that he put it on over his pants.

Some scholars suggest it's preferable to dress in a manner that's ordinary in the place you live (with emphasis on not drawing attention, as opposed to imitation).

Could that be premature focus on details to the detriment of human relationships? When a man ignorantly (not insolently) urinated in the masjid, the Prophet did intervene, though he ordered that the man be left in peace to finish urinating. He explained to the man the purpose of the masjid. Then, one narration says, "Once the Bedouin who had urinated in the masjid realized he had done something wrong, he said, 'The Prophet stood before me – may my mother and father be ransom for him – and he neither cursed nor scolded nor hit'” (related by Ahmad 2/503; Ahmad Shaakir 10540 said, its chain is authentic). This hadith is out of proportion with the fiqh of male lower garments.

Releasing najasah on the masjid floor must, clearly, be worse than what either of the new brother or the usual attendee may have thought of each other. But, the Prophet made no uproar over that more significant offense. And to the credit of the two brothers, neither of them made a fuss either. The new brother declined and the usual brother said, "Okay."

But, sometimes interactions between Muslims can get testy or pushy or somehow off track. I'm among those who regret. In particular, I fumbled questions many times or admonished poorly, to say the least. May Allah forgive us. We should say what we know, and, to keep this point brief, Allah says, "There is no compulsion in religion." The focus with non-Muslims, specifically, should be at-Tawheed and what it means or implicates in terms of relating with Allah. Allah orders the Muslims to deal justly with those who do not fight them. We should be able to see past just about anything a non-Muslim does, and when it comes to Muslims, we actually owe them even greater forbearance.

During trials and confusion, both enforcement and admonishment, etc., should be toned back and done more carefully. It's understanding fragility, not just of individual people, but the environments we live in. And, meanwhile, ikhtilaaf (disagreement) is a feature of the most central, authentic Islamic scholarship: the four Imams, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Baaz, Uthaymeen, or al-Bani, Allah's Mercy on them all.

Where it gets extreme, but still only part of the big picture . . .

Through patience and thankfulness, things are always good for the believer in their final outcome. So, whatever circumstances there are, ways of doing and being good, or Allah has excused you. And we put our Trust in Allah. Yet, there are plenty of problems to discuss. First this synopsis, and then the last section looks in as-Sunnah for how might respond.

We're a nation (collective Muslims) upon whose neck are a lot of destroyed countries. Don't get that twisted, though. Non-Muslim colonialism and imperialism, armchair-anthropology, and all, all, all that baloney. Orientalism. But the reason all that stood up so high and has come crashing down on Muslim populations is because Muslims left Islam. To believe otherwise is to also believe Allah would leave the Muslims in disarray without there being a cause among them. In Surah al-Ra’d 13:11 Ar-Razaaq says,

Verily, Allah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves.

We all know that there is suffering all over. This should indicate to us that we need to move on from any delusions about what's really important. The companions thought much about their impending deaths. So . . .

First and foremost, we don't want to go into the hellfire. We're all agreed on that, I believe, as far as our hopes go. But we have to align that hope with our actions if we'd like to feel sakeenah. Despite that, we disperse ourselves to a degree that there's little chance to accomplish anything really good, not just for Muslims, but people in general, in any organized way. That is no denigration to the great programs that do exist. Not at all. But the frailty and distrust among many Muslims is an erosive force, or a deflationary fog that doesn't allow some visions to fruition, half formed fruit cut off the vine by inter-community discord.

My point here will be that we all exercise prudence, but we also have to be honest and aware about what is in ourselves and each other. Sometimes some Muslims do insidious things. Sometimes, even there are Muslim folk around who don't just respect and offer kindness toward non-Muslims. No, they love them in an abnormal way, a potentially worshipful way. For example, they might answer questions about Islam with a bias toward what they imagine will be palatable. And not merely in a rhetorically tactful way, or even by way of legitimate apologetics. Beyond that. And, probably to the point that the speaker believes his own lies.

Hypocrisy is a real thing that we have to have knowledge about so we can respond to it with some level of wisdom available in the guidance of Allah and His Messenger, and with help from the inheritors of that knowledge.

In Liqa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh (32/21), Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, may Allah have mercy on him, said,

Hypocrisy is of two types: hypocrisy in belief and hypocrisy in action. The site of hypocrisy in belief is the heart, and no one knows it except Allah.

Therefore, when one of the Sahaabah committed some error and ‘Umar said: He is a hypocrite, the Messenger disagreed with him.

The site of hypocrisy in belief is the heart, and it is not permissible for one to accuse any of the Muslims, those who show loyalty to Allah and His Messenger, of this except on the basis of clear evidence.

With regard to hypocrisy in terms of deeds, if a person demonstrates one of the characteristics of the hypocrites, there is nothing wrong with saying that he is a hypocrite because of this action. So if we see a man speaking and lying, we may say that he is a hypocrite in the sense of hypocrisy in action with regard to this matter. And if we see him standing to pray in a lazy manner, we may say that he has one of the characteristics of the hypocrites, because he resembles the hypocrites by standing to pray in a lazy manner.

Hypocrisy in action is a matter that is broad in scope, so whoever acts like the hypocrites in one of their characteristics, is a hypocrite in terms of this action in particular. As the Messenger said, “The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks he lies, when he makes a promise he breaks it, and when he is entrusted with something he breaks that trust.”

These are the signs of the hypocrite, but these signs may be present in any Muslim people. Therefore we say that he is a hypocrite in terms of this matter only.

What's interesting to me is that as much as some people shy away from the authentic explanation or tafseer, the most straightforward answers are often more beautiful, not just among Muslims, but it's also often more beautiful to non-Muslims if they'd just give them a chance to hear it. That's why modernism in Islam is hypocrisy, one of many sorts and levels, with bits of power dotted across the globe. And maybe Allah will forgive some of them, while others may be in grave danger in the hereafter.

And, so, finally, I'll offer an example again. A Muslim organization leader, on a small local scale, gave a revert the impression that he thought it would be a nice idea for the revert to revert again, back to Christianity. Why?! Because his parents are Christian, so it's to make his parents happy.

That goes beyond the pale, and I would think there are Christians who would be much more affirming of my religion than that "Muslim leader" was toward me. It was the very voice of Satan. The Prophet said in Muslim 1855a; 33:101:

The best of your rulers are those whom you love and who love you, who invoke God's blessings upon you and you invoke His blessings upon them. And the worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you and whom you curse and who curse you. It was asked (by those present): Shouldn't we overthrow them with the help of the sword? He said: No, as long as they establish prayer among you. If you then find anything detestable in them. You should hate their administration, but do not withdraw yourselves from their obedience.

It's apparent from this hadith that we can assess leaders among the Muslims, within some limits. And, it's permissible to beware and warn of hypocritical actions when we have clear evidence. On the contrary, though, this does not mean we can spout off and cause even greater evil. Remember, when Umar called someone a hypocrite, the Messenger disagreed with him. And there are other ahadith, besides the one the Shaykh is referring to, stating that if someone calls a believing Muslim a disbeliever, then the caller is a disbeliever. It's dangerous. Both Bukhari 10/427 and Muslim 60, Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah said,

If a man addresses his brother as, ‘O’ Disbeliever,’ it returns to one of them; either it is as he said or it returns to him.

And, yet, there is hypocrisy. , even if it were traded around. We can's judge each other in any ultimate sense. People change, too.

But there comes a point, where a Muslim might witness enough to come to an internal understanding that a fellow Muslim is dangerous or an obstacle to the most important elements to community progress, Islamically speaking.

The distrustful or misguided deeds done among Muslims would never have been entirely ignored by the companions, would they? Though there was both tolerance and apprehension, I believe, just having read The Sealed Nectar.

Interestingly, though, it would seem to me the very first reason the Prophet told us the signs of hypocrisy is so that we can avoid practicing it ourselves. Maybe I'm a hypocrite. No wahi has come down to stamp me as destined for The Paradise. How about you? And, even if that is where I'm bound, none of us should feel above committing a hypocritical action. Umar spoke of concern over himself, when he wanted to know if he were on the list that Allah had revealed to Muhammad and which only one sahabah knew.

So, being honest in our assessment of our own selves, really, seems fundamental, so primary I want to leave it for last so it's the part that lingers. Thus, first, there's another tricky part. Being honest about our own selves also means being honest about others, at least internally. Give excuses to others, absolutely. Assume the best about people, yes! But, hey, there's a limit at least to how we internally regard other people and what we decide to share with them or keep private, offering or withholding recommendations, etc.

I had a story book when I was a child called The King with No Clothes. There were throngs of people cheering about the beautiful clothes two cheeky tailors had made for the king. The tailors had tricked the king into thinking he was wearing the most beautiful clothes in history, and the king believed them even though he, himself, saw only his naked body. The king was illustrated as like a panther or cat, I think.

The king them wears them in a parade, and the throngs of people cheer and remark about the beautiful clothes, though, as well, they only see the naked king.

Sure, the king was foolish, in a blaring way, but so are the throngs in a more subtle way, in great part because they are throngs, or because they have their buddies cheering and lying with them. But what you thought was invisible may add up.

Imagine the hadith says about gathering wood (Musnad Aḥmad 22808), in which Sahl ibn Sa’d reported, the Messenger of Allah said,

Beware of minor offenses, like people who descend into the bottom of a valley. One comes with a log and another log until they can bake their bread. Verily, when the one who persistently committed minor sins is taken to account for them, they ruin him.

I wonder if there isn't a slippery slope where a community becomes largely passive toward hypocritical actions. I would venture to say discussion of even what hypocrisy is, may sometimes be suppressed, as it should, and then to some degree of excess. That is part of the nature of when it emerges among leaders. Ash-Shatyan wants to undermine the Muslims at large. So, there arises propaganda and gaslighting, and we find ourselves unsure, sometimes praising or hearing other praise leaders who are de facto toxic personalities, whether it's deliberate or if they really believe their own misguidance.

Oops, it's me . . .

The Prophet warned us of the confusion ahead. Some hadith say that the worst of us becoming leaders is one of the minor signs of the Day of Judgement. Regardless, we don't just have the problem of hypocrisy, whether it's within ourselves or others. In Ḥilyat al-Awliyā’ 5/50 and as tafseer of al-Qur'an 6:129, Mansur ibn Abi al-Aswad reported:

I asked Al-A’mash, may Allah have mercy on him, about the saying of the Exalted, “Thus, We appoint some oppressors as allies of one another because of what they have earned," What have you heard being said about it?” Al-A’mash said, “ I heard them say: If the people become corrupt, the worst of them will be appointed rulers over them.”

This helps us interpret our situation. It says something about all of us, not just the "crooks" and mistaken mean-wellers. I can't guarantee that there's no hypocrisy in me. We have to examine ourselves. I can be sure, though, I am not a wicked leader, owing to the the simple fact that I'm not at the forefront, wielding power. Rather, I'm among those hurt by the prolific brands of hypocrisy among some of the prominent members of our communities, and the unworthy support given to such actions.

And, yet, meanwhile we split with each other even further. Yes, there are systemic or community level problems and solutions, but, for many of us, the place we have the greatest access to and ability to rectify right now is probably our own hearts and how we regard each other.

Meanwhile, there are economic, military, and social complexities; ash-Shaytaan, who prefers ignorance, discord, and disunity; our own desires and pride . . ..

So how do we make do?

1) Forgive, when possible, and strategize when not: I started this whole reflection after hearing a khatib mention the asbaab regarding ayah 24:22, wherein Abu Bakr decides to forgive as a way to seek Allah's forgiveness. The khatib provided an analogy for the whole mentality. He said we put people's deeds around their necks like medals. In our eyes, they're stamped, permanently.

But, know what? People change. Generally, speaking, we have to give people a chance rather than ripping the fabric of the ummah in order to avoid or condemn someone.

And let not those among you who are blessed with graces and wealth swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kinsmen, the poor, and those who left their homes for Allah's Cause. Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

But that doesn't mean we have to open ourselves or our institutions to attack or harm from within. We have to be smart and balanced.

2) Take shelter: There are ahadith, collectively, which scholars say confirm that it is sunnah to read Surah al-Khaf on Friday. The Surah is named after the story of the People of the Cave. Allah let them rest for 300 years to avoid the fitnah around them. Allah made their bodies roll, etc. every detail of their survival and sustenance while they slept for three centuries. So, why do we read that on Fridays? There are various virtues mentioned, among these ahadith, one of which is that Allah grants protection from ad-Dajjaal to the one who reads it on Fridays.

The arrival of such major signs could be thousands of years away. I don't know. But it's not entirely bad to imagine we're feeling the heat. And, definitely, some of the signs have occurred. So, not only do we have our future deaths breathing down our necks, there is the Major Death and Resurrection, which sounds so fantastical to some.

Many, all I hope, have physical homes, but a believer would have to take shelter from lots of kinds of things. Of course, that first means to me praying five times, spending time in masaajid, and other prescribed worship. But there's also the task of managing how things like work, internet, money, others personal opinions, etc. affect our behavior. It's not that any of those things can be totally ignored, but just managing our usage.

I'm attempting to consider this big picture when I'm making decisions on the status of relationships with other Muslims. The Prophet carried on the saying of the Rabbis that if we have a sapling tree in our hand to plant and we see the messiah, go ahead and plant the tree. The end of the world may come before the sapling grows up and bears fruit, but, even then, the message is to do whatever good is in your hand to do.

I know I can't likely go in a cave for 300 years, but we can make the best with what we've got by not distracting ourselves too much with what's not going to help us in the end. Holding on to grudges, staring at screens and flipping through content and contexts with little regard for how all this information interrelates . . .either can be mind numbing or heart narrowing. On my other blog I reflect on the book Stolen Focus, which goes more deeply into reclaiming our thought-life with sustained focus.

That was my favorite favorite memory from hajj, when Surat-ul-'Asr dawned on me more brightly than I'd allowed before. There's a time between Salat-ul-'Asr and al-Maghrib when du'aa' is prescribed this way in Sunan al-Tirmidhi 3585, graded hasan by al-Albani: ‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb reported, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

The best supplication is that which is made on the day of Arafat. The best of it is what was said by myself and the prophets before me: There is no God but Allah alone, without any partners, unto Him belong the dominion and all praise and He has power over all things.

It seems like that should be a long time to make du'aa'. But it goes by so fast it feels like I actually saw the sun as if it were moving downward toward the horizon. There were moments I'd wasted, too, but as al-Mghrib neared, I felt I was racing to say everything I wanted to say to Allah before the sun set.

And, yes, we can beseech Allah any time, but Allah grants us opportunities of various types. One of those is to let go of things that are too much trouble to hold onto. One Sahabah entered paradise by this method according to Musnad Ahmad 12286, graded authentic by Ibn Kathir:

Anas ibn Malik reported: We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said, “Coming upon you now is a man from the people of Paradise.” A man from the Ansar came whose beard was disheveled by the water of ablution and he was carrying both of his shoes with his left hand. The next day the Prophet repeated the same words, and the man came in the same condition. The third day the Prophet repeated the same again, and the man came in the same condition. When the Prophet stood up to leave, Abdullah ibn Amr followed the man and he said, “I am in a dispute with my father and I have sworn not to enter my home for three days. May I stay with you?” The man said yes.

Abdullah stayed three nights with the man but he never saw him praying at night. Whenever he went to bed, he would remember Allah and rest until he woke up for morning prayer. Abdullah said that he never heard anything but good words from his mouth. When three nights had passed and he did not see anything special about his actions, Abdullah asked him, “O servant of Allah, I have not been in dispute with my father

nor have I cut relations with him. I heard the Prophet say three times that a man from the people of Paradise was coming to us and then you came. I th

ought I should stay with you to see what you are doing that I should follow, but I did not see you do anything special. Why did the Prophet speak highly of you?” The man said, “I am as you have seen.” When Abdullah was about to leave, the man

said, “I am as you have seen, except that I do not find dishonesty in my soul towards the Muslims and I do not envy anyone because of the good that Allah has given them.” Abdullah said, “This is what you have achieved and it is something we have not accomplished.”

That, right there, is peace. I'm only working on myself, with these examples in mind, but forgiving is a value to our own selves in that it is freedom from responsibility to a weigh in exchange for the Mercy of Allah. Ameen.

Abdullaah, may he obtain Allah's pleasure

Bonus: This YouTube video "How to Test Your Emotional Maturity" claims to outline the markers of either immaturity or maturity. The video also offers rationalizations that seem to, to me, to have merit in understanding ourselves. I don't add it here as I would ayah or ahadith, but merely as food for thought.

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