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July 3, 2012

How to make a fresh start – Part 4

by Umm Muawiyah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[Here are Parts 1, 2 and 3.]

[Yes, I know. You’re struggling to remember what this series is all about. It’s about the man who murdered 99 people.]

In the last part, I mentioned the importance of having good friends. Here’s one more hadeeth on the importance of being around righteous people:

إن لله ملائكة يطوفون في الطرق يلتمسون أهل الذكر ، فإذا وجدوا قوما يذكرون الله تنادوا : هلموا إلى حاجتكم . قال : فيحفونهم بأجنحتهم إلى السماء الدنيا ، قال : فيسألهم ربهم ، وهو أعلم منهم ، ما يقول عبادي ؟ قال : تقول : يسبحونك ويكبرونك ويحمدونك ويمجدونك ، قال : فيقول : هل رأوني ؟ قال : فيقولون : لا والله ما رأوك ، قال : فيقول : وكيف لو رأوني ؟ قال : يقولون : لو رأوك كانوا أشد لك عبادة ، وأشد لك تمجيدا وأكثر لك تسبيحا ، قال : يقول : فما يسألونني ؟ قال : يسألونك الجنة ، قال : يقول : وهل رأوها ؟ قال : يقولون : لا والله يا رب ما رأوها ، قال : يقول : فكيف لو أنهم رأوها ؟ قال : يقولون : لو أنهم رأوها كانوا أشد عليها حرصا ، وأشد لها طلبا ، وأعظم فيها رغبة ، قال : فمم يتعوذون ؟ قال : يقولون : من النار ، قال : يقول : وهل رأوها ؟ قال : يقولون : لا والله يا رب ما رأوها ، قال : يقول : فكيف لو رأوها ؟ قال : يقولون : لو رأوها كانوا أشد منها فرارا ، وأشد لها مخافة ، قال : فيقول : فأشهدكم أني قد غفرت لهم . قال : يقول ملك من الملائكة : فيهم فلان ليس منهم ، إنما جاء لحاجة . قال : هم الجلساء لا يشقى بهم جليسهم

Narrated by Abu Hurairah (radiallahu anhu): Allah ‘s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “Allah has some angels who look for those who celebrate the Praises of Allah on the roads and paths. And when they find some people celebrating the Praises of Allah, they call each other, saying, “Come to the object of your pursuit.’ ” He added, “Then the angels encircle them with their wings up to the sky of the world.” He added. “(after those people celebrated the Praises of Allah, and the angels go back), their Lord, asks them (those angels)… though He knows better than them… ‘What do My slaves say?’ The angels reply, ‘They say: Subhan Allah, Allahu Akbar, and Alhamdulillah.

Allah then says ‘Did they see Me?’ The angels reply, ‘No! By Allah, they didn’t see You.’ Allah says, How it would have been if they saw Me?’ The angels reply, ‘If they saw You, they would worship You more devoutly and celebrate Your Glory more deeply, and declare Your freedom from any resemblance to anything more often.’ Allah says (to the angels), ‘What do they ask Me for?’ The angels reply, ‘They ask You for Paradise.’ Allah says (to the angels), ‘Did they see it?’ The angels say, ‘No! By Allah, O Lord! They did not see it.’ Allah says, How it would have been if they saw it?’ The angels say, ‘If they saw it, they would have greater covetousness for it and would seek It with greater zeal and would have greater desire for it.’

Allah says, ‘From what do they seek refuge?’ The angels reply, ‘They seek refuge from the (Hell) Fire.’ Allah says, ‘Did they see it?’ The angels say, ‘No By Allah, O Lord! They did not see it.’ Allah says, How it would have been if they saw it?’ The angels say, ‘If they saw it they would flee from it with the extreme fleeing and would have extreme fear from it.’ Then Allah says, ‘I make you witnesses that I have forgiven them.”‘

Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) added, “One of the angels would say, ‘There was so-and-so amongst them, and he was not one of them, but he had just come for some need.’ Allah would say, ‘These are those people whose companions will not be reduced to misery.’ [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 8, Hadeeth No. 417]

There are a few important points that one should keep in mind with regards to this topic:

a) We shouldn’t want to just have righteous friends. We should BE righteous friends as well.

Too often, we spend our time complaining about how others mistreated us, whilst conveniently ignoring how we mistreated others.

Remember: what goes around, comes around. [The scholars derived a principle from the Quran that was similar to this: Al-Jazaa min jins al-amal (The “reward” (good or bad) is equivalent to the deed)].

b) In life, there are three types of people that you’ll find: 1) Abu Lahab 2) Abu Taalib and 3) Abbas/Hamza (radiallahu anhuma)

Well okay, so that’s the way I categorise them.

All four of these men were uncles of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) i.e. they were his father’s brothers.

a) Abu Lahab, may Allah curse him, was one of the biggest enemies of Islam and an entire surah (chapter) of the Quran was revealed against him (i.e. Surah Al-Masad).

He didn’t just reject the truth – he did whatever he could to fight it.

b) Abu Taalib was also a disbeliever and also a person of the Hellfire. However, unlike his brother Abu Lahab, he did not fight his newphew, sallallahu alaihi wasallam, rather he supported him in every possible way.

c) Abbas and Hamza (radiallahu anhuma) both accepted the truth and fought alongside the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). In fact, Hamza (radiallahu anhu) was martyred in one of the battles. Abbas (radiallahu anhu) outlived the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).

4 brothers. 3 different personality types.

We need to make sure of two things: 1) That we are similar to the third group and 2) that we befriend people similar to the third group.

If you cannot find anyone similar to the third group (i.e. practicing Muslims) then at least try to be around people like Abu Taalib who will make it easy for you to practice your religion, even though they don’t accept the truth.

And make sure that you avoid the Abu Lahabs…

11) If your iman (faith) is weak, try to find the root cause of that and work on rectifying the issue.

This man had murdered 99 people and then added one more to the list. What was the scholar’s analysis?

“You better go to such and such land; there are people devoted to prayer and worship and you also worship along with them and do not come to the land of yours since it was an evil land (for you).”

He pointed out that the man’s environment was having a bad effect on him.

So, if you’re struggling to practice Islam, ask yourself what the main cause of that is. Is it your home environment, your work environment, your friends, or something else? Remember the main cause could just be you.

Here’s an exercise:

– Write down the top three things that you are having difficulty applying (from an Islamic perspective).

– Write down the possible causes of each problem.

– Write down possible solutions. If nothing comes to mind, then at least write “dua” (supplication).

– Start working on the easiest ones or most important ones (your choice) IMMEDIATELY. Now is an excellent time as we’re close to Ramadan.

12) If you are unable to practice in your current environment, change it or move to a better place.

The man wasn’t able to be good in his land so he went to a better place. As we all know, a change in environment can work wonders.

And that’s how many people make fresh starts: by moving to a different place.

I should point out that one is obliged to do hijrah (migration) if one is unable to practice Islam where he lives (assuming that he has the means to migrate).

Allah says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْ‌ضُ اللَّـهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُ‌وا فِيهَا ۚ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرً‌ا

إِلَّا الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّ‌جَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ حِيلَةً وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ سَبِيلًا

فَأُولَـٰئِكَ عَسَى اللَّـهُ أَن يَعْفُوَ عَنْهُمْ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَفُوًّا غَفُورً‌ا

وَمَن يُهَاجِرْ‌ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ يَجِدْ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ مُرَ‌اغَمًا كَثِيرً‌ا وَسَعَةً ۚ وَمَن يَخْرُ‌جْ مِن بَيْتِهِ مُهَاجِرً‌ا إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَرَ‌سُولِهِ ثُمَّ يُدْرِ‌كْهُ الْمَوْتُ فَقَدْ وَقَعَ أَجْرُ‌هُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ غَفُورً‌ا رَّ‌حِيمًا

“Verily! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they are wronging themselves (as they stayed among the disbelievers even though emigration was obligatory for them), they (angels) say (to them): “In what (condition) were you?” They reply: “We were weak and oppressed on earth.” They (angels) say: “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?” Such men will find their abode in Hell – What an evil destination!

Except the weak ones among men, women and children who cannot devise a plan, nor are they able to direct their way.

For these there is hope that Allah will forgive them, and Allah is Ever Oft Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.

He who emigrates (from his home) in the Cause of Allah, will find on earth many dwelling places and plenty to live by. And whosoever leaves his home as an emigrant unto Allah and His Messenger, and death overtakes him, his reward is then surely incumbent upon Allah. And Allah is Ever Oft­-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah An-Nisaa (4) : 97-100]

[Here is an article on the types of Hijrah and here are a bunch of fatwas on this topic.]

So, if people have difficulty practicing in a non-Muslim country, they should move to a Muslim country where they can easily practice their religion.

If they can’t do that, then they should try to move to a non-Muslim land that is lesser in disbelief as some of the Companions (radiallahu anhum) did when they migrated from Makkah to Abyssinia.

If they can’t even do that, then they should at least try to move to another part of the country where it might be easier to practice the religion (e.g. from a non-Muslim area to a Muslim area).

If one has trouble practicing in a Muslim country, then he should try to move to a better Muslim country or at least move to a different part of the country.

[By the way, the above is just an overview. Each case differs so a person should call a shaikh and ask him for a fatwa for his unique situation.]

One could even move within a city. Perhaps the part of the city that one is in is not very Islamic so he could move to another neighbourhood which might have more Islamic centres and masjids, for example.

What if a person cannot move?

Well, that would depend on the person’s issue. If he has a bad work environment, at least he could try to change jobs.

Or if he is studying in a bad place, at least he could try to transfer to another university (in the same city) for instance.

If one cannot even do that, then perhaps he could change the places that he goes to. Rather than going to places that could lead him to evil, he could spend time in masjids, Islamic centres, charity organisations, at the home of practicing Muslims, etc.

Okay, now what if he cannot even do that?

Erm, well then I would suggest a “hijrah of the mind” i.e. he needs to change his attitude and look at things from a different perspective.

I think one of the best ways to change one’s attitude is to attend Islamic classes – that’s how my attitude changed. Constantly being exposed to the Quran and Sunnah is enough to calm anyone down and give them a positive attitude.

Another way would be to do itikaaf (retreat to the masjid) in Ramadan. One can stay at the masjid for all the last ten nights (and that would be excellent). I would advise everybody to at least get one day in – believe me, you’ll feel SO refreshed.

13) Allah guides a person due to his sincerity and taqwa (piety).

This man got the idea to repent more than once. Then he was directed to a more knowledgeable person the second time round. Then Allah caused the good land to come closer to him so that he could go to Paradise.

Why? The man must have sincerely wanted to repent and change, otherwise he wouldn’t have been guided.

In fact, Shaytan (the devil) knows this. Look at what he said to Allah:

قَالَ رَ‌بِّ بِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأُزَيِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ وَلَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

إِلَّا عِبَادَكَ مِنْهُمُ الْمُخْلَصِينَ

[Iblis (Satan)] said: “O my Lord! Because you misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all. Except Your chosen, (guided) slaves among them.” [Surah Al-Hijr (15) : 39-40]

[The word in this ayah (verse) is “mukhlas” which is supposed to be a higher level than “mukhlis” (sincere).]

Allah informs about Yusuf (alaihissalam) when the wife of Al-Azeez was trying to seduce him:

وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ ۖ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَن رَّ‌أَىٰ بُرْ‌هَانَ رَ‌بِّهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِ‌فَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ

“And indeed she did desire him and he would have inclined to her desire, had he not seen the evidence of his Lord. Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our chosen, guided slaves.” [Surah Yusuf (12) : 24]

Another way to recite this ayah (not in the mode that most of us use i.e. Hafs) is “Al-Mukhliseen” (sincere ones) instead of “Al-Mukhlaseen”.

So what saved Yusuf (alaihissalam)? It was his sincerity to Allah.

Allah makes a way out for those who fear Him:

وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّـهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مَخْرَ‌جًا

وَيَرْ‌زُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِ‌هِ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّـهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرً‌ا

“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.” [Surah At-Talaq (65) :2-3]

And He makes it easy for them to be on the path of goodness:

فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَىٰ وَاتَّقَىٰ

وَصَدَّقَ بِالْحُسْنَىٰ

فَسَنُيَسِّرُ‌هُ لِلْيُسْرَ‌ىٰ

وَأَمَّا مَن بَخِلَ وَاسْتَغْنَىٰ

وَكَذَّبَ بِالْحُسْنَىٰ

فَسَنُيَسِّرُ‌هُ لِلْعُسْرَ‌ىٰ

“As for him who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allâh and fears Him, and believes in Al-Husna (the best), We will make smooth for him the path of ease (goodness).

But he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient, and gives the lie to Al-Husna (the best), We will make smooth for him the path for evil.” [Surah Al-Layl (92) : 5-10]

So those who strive to remain on the right path are aided by Allah:

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

“As for those who strive hard in Us (Our Cause), We will surely guide them to Our Paths (i.e. Allah’s Religion – Islamic Monotheism). And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinoon (good doers).” [Surah Al-Ankabut (29) : 69]

[Here’s a beautiful explanation of how being truthful with Allah can save a person. The story being referred to is that of Ibn Jurayj which you can read here.]

14) We night need to make multiple fresh starts.

This man wanted to repent and then he messed up again. He then started all over again.

So too is the case with many of us. We might not get it right the first time so if we fall, we need to get right back up.

Remember the ayah above that spoke of Shaytan’s (the devil) promise to mislead us all? Well, there’s a bit more to that story:

إن الشيطان قال : و عزتك يا رب لا أبرح أغوي عبادك ما دامت أرواحهم في أجسادهم ، فقال الرب : وعزتي و جلالي لا أزال أغفر لهم ما استغفروني

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Shaytan said to His Lord: “By Your Glory and Majesty! As long as the souls of Your slaves are in their bodies, I will continue to misguide them. So Allah said: “By My Glory and Majesty, I will not stop forgiving them as long as they seek My forgiveness.” [Sahih Al-Jaami, Hadeeth No. 1650. Note: This hadeeth does have some weakness in its chain.]

إن عبدا أصاب ذنبا ، وربما قال : أذنب ذنبا ، فقال : رب أذنبت ، وربما قال : أصبت ، فاغفر لي ، فقال ربه : أعلم عبدي أن له ربا يغفر الذنب ويأخذ به ؟ غفرت لعبدي ، ثم مكث ما شاء الله ثم أصاب ذنبا ، أو أذنب ذنبا ، فقال : رب أذنبت – أو أصبت – آخر فاغفره ؟ فقال : أعلم عبدي أن له ربا يغفر الذنب ويأخذ به ؟ غفرت لعبدي ، ثم مكث ما شاء الله ، ثم أذنب ذنبا ، وربما قال : أصاب ذنبا ، قال : قال : رب أصبت – أو قال : أذنبت – آخر فاغفره لي ، فقال : أعلم عبدي أن له ربا يغفر الذنب ويأخذ به ؟ غفرت لعبدي ، ثلاثا ، فليعمل ما شاء

Narrated Abu Hurairah (radiallahu anhu): I heard the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) saying, “If somebody commits a sin and then says, ‘O my Lord! I have sinned, please forgive me!’ and his Lord says, ‘My slave has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for it, I therefore have forgiven my slave (his sins).’ Then he remains without committing any sin for a while and then again commits another sin and says, ‘O my Lord, I have committed another sin, please forgive me,’ and Allah says, ‘My slave has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for it, I therefore have forgiven my slave (his sin). Then he remains without committing any another sin for a while and then commits another sin (for the third time) and says, ‘O my Lord, I have committed another sin, please forgive me,’ and Allah says, ‘My slave has known that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes for it I therefore have forgiven My slave (his sin), he can do whatever he likes.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 9,  Hadeeth No. 598]

Important note: This does not mean that we can sin as we please. It refers to those people who sincerely want to repent but then end up sinning without intending to. So, this is an encouragement to repent whenever we make mistakes. It is not a license to sin!

15) We should never delay repenting as we never know when death will come.

“Insha-Allah, I will start praying after I graduate from university”.

Huh? How do you know that you’ll live that long?

These kind of thoughts are tricks of Shaytan. He tries to get people to delay their repentance so that one of two things happens: 1) they don’t repent after all or 2) they end up dying without having repented.

He pulled this trick with the brothers of Yusuf (alaihissalam) when they plotted to kill him:

لَّقَدْ كَانَ فِي يُوسُفَ وَإِخْوَتِهِ آيَاتٌ لِّلسَّائِلِينَ

إِذْ قَالُوا لَيُوسُفُ وَأَخُوهُ أَحَبُّ إِلَىٰ أَبِينَا مِنَّا وَنَحْنُ عُصْبَةٌ إِنَّ أَبَانَا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ

اقْتُلُوا يُوسُفَ أَوِ اطْرَ‌حُوهُ أَرْ‌ضًا يَخْلُ لَكُمْ وَجْهُ أَبِيكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا مِن بَعْدِهِ قَوْمًا صَالِحِينَ

“Verily, in Yusuf  and his brethren, there were Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) for those who ask.

When they said: “Truly, Yusuf and his brother (Benjamin) are loved more by our father than we, but we are a strong group. Really, our father is in a plain error.

Kill Yusuf or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favour of your father may be given to you alone, and after that you will be righteous folk (by intending repentance before committing the sin).”” [Surah Yusuf (12) : 7-9]

Eventually, they decided not to kill him but just throw him into a well. And after that?

Well, they took decades to repent!

So, we shouldn’t wait. The Angel of Death will come to us at the time that His Lord has assigned for him to come – regardless of whether we have repented or not.

16) We need to try until our last breath.

This man tried to move towards the good land until his last breath. That is true sincerity.

Allah has ordered us to worship Him until we die:

وَاعْبُدْ رَ‌بَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ

“And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death).” [Surah Al-Hijr (15) : 99]

We need to be steadfast on this religion throughout our lives until we die:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَ‌بُّنَا اللَّـهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

“Verily, those who say: “Our Lord is (only) Allah,” and thereafter Istaqaamoo (i.e. stood firm and straight on the Islamic Faith of Monotheism by abstaining from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden and by performing all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained), on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. Such shall be the dwellers of Paradise, abiding therein (forever), a reward for what they used to do.” [Surah Al-Ahqaf (46) : 13-14]

Remember: We need to ask Allah to keep us steadfast.

17) Leaving sins is a good deed in itself

Someone might say: “Hey, this guy didn’t do anything right, why is he going to Paradise?”

Well, he did do something right: he left off doing bad deeds. That is a good deed too, you know.

The proof for this can be found in the hadeeth of the three men who were stuck in the cave. You can read their story here.

18) It doesn’t matter what people think of us, what matters is what we are worth in the sight of Allah

So this man probably wasn’t very popular in his lifetime.

If the people of his land would have known that he was a person of Paradise, I’m sure that they would have been stunned. The fact of the matter is that Allah accepted his repentance and that was that.

It doesn’t matter what people think of us. If they like us, it doesn’t mean that we get Paradise. And if they hate us, it doesn’t mean that we get Hell.

What matters is what Allah has to say so we need to work on improving ourselves in His Sight and try to become a wali (close friend) of His.

Here’s an article on some of the characteristics of a Wali of Allah.

So, that’s the end of this series, alhamdulillah

Ramadan is on the horizon so if we need to make a fresh start, this is as good a time as any.

And Allah knows Better.

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