In The Name Of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
All Praise is due to Allah, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant, and His Messenger.
“O You who believe, – Fear Allah, as He should be feared, and die not except as Muslims.”
“O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His Prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory.”
My Respected Brothers and Sisters! Our worldwide family of Islam, the Muslim Ummah, is almost two billion strong. How many of us speak Arabic as our mother tongue? Do you know? Can you guess? The answer is less than 20%. To be precise, it’s 18%. That means that the vast majority of Muslims, 82% including you and me, are non-Arabic speakers. We must make a special effort to understand what we read in the Qur’an and what we recite in Salah (Prayer), Du’ah and Zikr.
Brothers and Sisters, I hope no one will take offence, and I mean no disrespect to anyone. But I have to say that too many of us do not appreciate the importance of understanding the meaning of our Salah, our Du’ah and Zikr. We’re quite satisfied to recite without knowing the meaning, without caring to learn the translations. I’m sure Allah the Almighty enjoys listening to us reciting His Noble Words with such tremendous passion, with meticulous pronunciation of every haraf in [tajwid]. But, how much more will Allah the Most High not appreciate our efforts, if we actually knew what we are saying?
Imagine, we are speaking to Allah in the most elegant language of the Qur’an, our lips are moving and creating the most beautiful sounds, but our thoughts and our feelings are disconnected because we don’t really feel the full impact of what we are saying. We don’t really understand. And sadly, many of us make no real effort to understand. We should all make an effort to learn Arabic. And if we find that too difficult, we should at least memorise a few short Suras (Chapters) in our own language.
If only we could think about the meanings when we recite the Arabic, then we could put meaning and feeling into those beautiful and soul-stirring words. If we did this regularly and systematically, then the true power and influence of Allah’s sacred words will touch our hearts. And when this happens, it will change us, it will transform us from what we are to what Allah wants us to become.
Brothers and Sisters! If we can allow Allah’s words to polish our hearts and improve our actions, then I guarantee you, Allah will enable us to put right many of the problems we see around us in our community and in our wider society. It must begin within ourselves, as Allah will not change our condition until we change what is within ourselves. Let us make a start, by learning the meaning and reciting with feeling, passionate feeling, our Salah, Du’ah and Zikr.
I must admit, I was a big man in my first ten years when I first understood the meaning of the words that we say several times a day when we pray: When I realised the meaning of those words, I thought, Wow! That’s heavy stuff! I never knew that I was taking on such a huge responsibility every time I made my Salah! I was actually promising and reaffirming that all my prayers, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah!
These words cannot be taken lightly. It’s a complete, lifelong commitment and it affects everything we say and do. And you know, the more we think of the meaning, the more our Salah our Du’ah and Zikr will change our lives for the better. Imagine if we really understood every Du’ah and every Zikr and we reflected deeply on the meanings. This understanding will generate a complete transformation in the way we think and feel about ourselves and our responsibilities to others.
True faith, true Iman, does not enter someone’s heart without improving it, without beautifying it. So, if we want our lives to be improved, to be beautified, then we can begin by learning the meanings of all that we recite in Arabic with so much skill and elegance.
If you want proof of this power of Allah’s words to transform human beings from half savages to leaders of great civilisations, then look to the history of every people before their contact with Islam, and afterwards. This is what happened to the Sahaba so many years ago, and to all the true and sincere Awliyah-Allah, the Friends of Allah, throughout the ages. They understood every word of their Salah, Du’ah and Zikr, so that they could put meaning and feeling into their worship. They could be absolutely sincere to Allah the Almighty. Unless we know what we’re saying, feeling and doing, our efforts will lack complete sincerity.
So, for those of us who do not speak Arabic, let us make a sincere effort to memorise the meanings of our Salah, Du’ah and Zikr. Let us think and reflect on these meanings so that our hearts can be moved and our behaviour improved. This will bring us closer to Allah the Most High. Thinking, reflecting and contemplating the words of Allah is highly recommended in the Noble Qur’an. Those who do so are referred to as “yatafak-karun” or, people of understanding.
These inspiring and soul-stirring words come from the last verses of Surah Ali Imran as follows:
“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding. Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting and lying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth (with the thought): Our Lord! not in vain have You created (all) this! Glory to You! give us salvation from the penalty of the fire.”
Brothers and Sisters! In Islam people who think and reflect are highly valued above those who simply follow without thinking, without reflection and therefore without insight into the deeper meanings of life. Please read Malik Badri’s book, “Contemplation is worth much more than 30 nights of prayer….”
Brothers and Sisters! let us through a deeper understanding of our faith become those whom Allah calls, yatafak-karun, ‘people who contemplate,’ people who reflect, people who understand.
I ask Allah to give us all some of his divine wisdom, hikma, so that we have a light to illuminate our way through the confusion in the world out there. May Allah help us and all our future generations to know and love the beautiful Way of Islam. May we all hold fast to the rope that Allah extends for us. May we all set a good example for others, a justly balanced community, ummatan wasatan, and a witness to the nations.
Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For You are the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.
O my Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.
My Respected Brothers and Sisters! As Ramadan approaches, we all must take stock of ourselves. It’s a good time to make sure that our body, mind, heart and soul are in good health. Ramadan is a much needed time for training our body, mind, heart and soul. Please allow me to remind myself first, then all of you: Be aware of your inward state. Whatever we do here and now has consequences elsewhere, and perhaps, forever! We perceive the world around us through our five senses, but our senses are limited. Even through a whole lifetime we only experience a very small segment of reality. Even then, that reality, or rather, our perception of reality is coloured by our own prejudices, our limited knowledge and experience. But beyond the threshold of our senses is the realm of the Ghaib or the Unseen. This realm is far more complex than we can possibly imagine.
For example, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that whenever people are studying, seeking knowledge for Allah’s sake, then Allah’s angels are there, surrounding them with their wings. You and I cannot see the angels but they are certainly there, protecting us right now. In the same way, we cannot see the devils, the jinn, the subtle beings that try to mislead us from the Straight Path, the Siratal Mustaqim. But they are there, nonetheless, waiting in ambush to entrap us!
We sometimes act under the influence of these dark forces, without even being aware of it. That’s why an entire chapter (Surah), Al-Nas, is devoted to our seeking Allah’s protection from Shaitan, the Evil Whisperer who whispers evil inclinations into our hearts. That’s why, many times each day, we take refuge in Allah from Shaitan, the Cursed One:
“A’uzu bil-Lahi minash shaitanir rajim!”
We are taught to say this even before we say:
“Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim!” In the Name of Allah, The All Merciful, the All Compassionate.”
Ayatul kursiy, The Verse of the Throne, reminds us that no human being will gain any knowledge except what Allah has allowed. Allah has gifted some of His beloved servants with knowledge of the Unseen. For example, Surah Al-Kahf we read about Sayyidina Khidr who had a deep inner sight, the gift of Divine Wisdom. Allah gave him special knowledge of the Unseen, the realm of the Ghaib.
Prophet Musa (Moses), had much to learn from him. How can we protect ourselves from all these hidden dangers and dark forces that lay in wait for the unwary? How can we ensure a safe journey through this life so that we reach the goal of Allah’s Ridwan, Allah’s good pleasure, in the next life? The answer is quite simple. You and I have to do our regular good housekeeping. We must vacuum, scrub and polish our spiritual heart, the qalb. We must constantly remove the rust and debris that’s built up over the years: all the anger, the hate, jealousy, greed and vanity that pollute the innermost recesses of our spiritual hearts. We must ensure that the Fu’ad, the kernel, the inner core of the spiritual heart, is pure and pristine as it was the day we were born. This job is never done. It’s a lifelong struggle. When we start to wage this jihadun nafs, the war against the Lower Self, then Allah will illuminate our hearts with wisdom, with love, with generosity with inner peace and contentment. This is how we can cultivate the ‘pure, sound heart,’ the Qalb salim that will open the door to Allah’s Garden, Al-Jannah Firdaws. That’s were we all want to be, forever…
As the Noble Qur’an reminds us in Surah 26:89 (Al-Shu’arah, The Poets):
“None shall enter the Garden except those with a sound heart.”
My Dear Brothers and Sisters! I pray that Allah will help you and me, and all our loved ones, to reach the end of our lives with a pure, sound heart. I pray that we will constantly be ready to leave this world and ready to enter the next world with full confidence and trust in Allah. Only when we are ready for our departure, then we qualify for a safe arrival!
No matter how stressful life may be, no matter how messy and confusing the world out there might be, we know that everything is in Allah’s good hands: “Biyadikal khayr.” “In His Hand is all good.” We know that Allah allows people to think they are in control. But that’s a delusion. Allah allows us all a little bit of control over our lives, and over the affairs of other people that Allah has entrusted to our care. But ultimately, Allah alone is always in full control of every part of His entire creation, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the greatest cluster of galaxies and supernovae. “Wa huwa ala kulli shai’in qadir!” says the Quran in so many places… “And Allah has power over all things.”
Sometimes people forget that. But true believers never forget The One Who has ultimate power and control. We can take real comfort from that faith, that reassurance that the ups and downs of life are only tests of patience and gratitude from our generous Life-Giver.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.