Learning Arabic with the right intention

Having the right intention is vital in everything in Islam. So it goes without saying that, we should have the right intention when learning Arabic. Learning Arabic forms the foundation of a good Islamic education so an impure intention threatens to undermine everything we learn based on the study of Arabic if our intention is not purely for Allah alone. Every student of knowledge should correct their intention from the very start of their journey that they are seeking knowledge for the sake of Allah alone. Learning Arabic for the purpose of gaining a worldly benefit will undermine the amazing reward that is in store for the students.

A wrong intention could also be a cause for regret or punishment in the hereafter depending on what was intended. If the intention happened to be to learn Arabic, for example, to be able to talk to people from an Arab country or to find a better job in the Middle East, then the reward for learning Arabic for the sake of understanding the Quran and Islam will not be attained. But if the intention was to show off to people how good a scholar one is and to try to gain a position based on the piety that people associate with knowing Arabic, that in fact could cause the person to be punished in the hereafter.

Therefore we need to purify our intention before we ever start learning Arabic (or learning anything for that matter). And we should check our intention often and correct it if we find it straying away from purely for understanding the Quran and Islam for the pleasure of Allah. And re-evaluate the intention and correct it after the fact as well. This will ensure that our reward is guaranteed and we don’t end up deserving punishment on the Day of Judgement. May Allah protect us all from an evil end.

And Allah knows best.

Remaining Steadfast on the Faith

Finally, we have to strive to remain steadfast on the guidance until the day we die. This is a real challenge. It is a blessing to be born into a Muslim family but it doesn’t guarantee success. A Muslim becomes a true believer after affirming the faith in his or her heart consciously. This can only happen when we really want to seek guidance and break away from ignorance about our purpose in life.

Every human being ponders this deep rooted question: why am I here? Once that person is on a sincere quest for an answer to this profound question, he or she cannot be satisfied until they find Islam. Upon finding Islam (even if they were born into a Muslim family), they must learn it and study it and seek the truth within it and once it is affirmed in their heart after the initial struggle, they have truly found faith. Faith in Allah alone as our Creator, Sustainer and the One and Only True God.

Complete faith includes, complete and unconditional belief in the Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgement (and the resurrection (raising up into our eternal life) after death (in the hereafter)), the divine Destiny that everything (good or evil) happens with the Will of Allah alone. In Arabic, this is represented by the following:

آمَنْتُ بِاللهِ ، وملائكته ، وَكُتُبِه ، وَرَسُوْلِه ، وَالْيَوْمِ الْاخِرِ ، وَالْقَدْرِ خَيْرِه وَشَرِّه مِنَ اللهِ تَعَالى ، وَالْبَعْثِ بَعْدَالْمَوْتِ

To remain on the faith that Allah is our God and to ask only Him for salvation and that the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is His last and final Messenger in our firm belief, our words and our actions is the true challenge. Because belief in our hearts alone or the utterance of the words alone or the actions alone are not sufficient. All three of these must be present in us until the day we die to attain success.

Dying upon the faith is the ultimate achievement because it means that we will have achieved Jannah (Paradise) in the hereafter. Therefore, we have to ask Allah’s help in attaining this great achievement and put all of our efforts into attaining this as much as we possibly can. For no matter where we started, if the end is not upon Islam and Imaan (faith) then the person is lost. Just as the door of repentance from sin is open until our last breath, we are also susceptible to Shaitaan misleading us into misguidance until that last breath.

And Allah knows best.

Hoping for the best

Once the believer has done what he or she can to ensure the success, one has to have complete faith and hope for the reward from Allah. One should not for a moment doubt receiving the reward. We will not lose the reward for our deeds as long as we have done what Allah and His Prophet (ﷺ) have commanded us to do and avoid doing what Allah and His Prophet (ﷺ) have commanded us to avoid. Therefore, it is extremely important to learn what we need to do and what we need to avoid first, then do the best we can and leave the rest to Allah. Allah has promised in the Quran that He will give the reward in full in the hereafter for all of our effort in this world. In fact, He will multiply the reward many folds depending on our intention.

As believers, we are supposed to have the complete faith that Allah will reward us in the hereafter if we obey Him and is capable of rewarding those who deserve the reward. Similarly, we are supposed to have the complete faith that Allah will punish those who disobey Him and is capable of punishing whoever is deserving of the punishment.

As mentioned above, God consciousness or the state of Taqwa is a state between fear (of Allah’s wrath) and hope (for Allah’s mercy). As believers, we need to check ourselves often. Are we relying too much on hope alone so we are relaxed in our efforts? Are we getting too caught up in the fear and getting into a state of depression? Neither extreme is good. First do good and avoid evil then hope for Allah’s mercy. Whenever there is a chance that we could fall into sinning, have fear of Allah’s wrath stop us in our tracks.

Additionally, we need to recognize that Shaitaan (Ibless or the Devil) wants to lead us all to the hellfire. This is a promise that Shaitaan made long ago as he was declared an open enemy of human beings. When Allah created Adam (the first human being) he ordered Iblees to prostrate to Adam. Out of pride and arrogance, Iblees refused to obey Allah and did not prostrate to Adam. This was Shaitaan’s disobedience. He then proceeded to insist that he was right to disobey and did not repent to Allah for his mistake. This was because he considered himself better than Adam (and the rest of human beings) who were created from clay whereas Iblees, being amongst the Jinn, was created from fire. Ever since then, Shaitaan has been accursed and cast out of Paradise. Shaitaan has been a sworn enemy of human beings as described in the Quran and as warned by the Prophet (ﷺ) to be on guard against Shaitaan.

To be on guard against Shaitaan, one has to seek refuge in Allah alone. That is the only way to protect ourselves from Shaitaan. We are supposed to invoke the dua we have been taught:

أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
Approximate translation: I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Shaitaan.

We cannot see Shaitaan, yet he sees us and although he is not able to harm us physically, he can and does whisper our subconscious to prevent human beings from doing good and into doing evil. Shaitaan cannot harm us if we guard ourselves with a firm faith, seek refuge in Allah, and do not act upon anything that he whispers to us. We must learn the tricks and traps of Shaitaan and how he operates to deceive human beings in order to be fully aware of his attacks. May Allah protect us all from being deceived by the clear and open enemy Shaitaan.

And Allah knows best.

Seeking Forgiveness

Everyone sins. The best of those who sin are those who seek forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is a great virtue. Allah loves those who seek forgiveness. And Allah does not love those who are too arrogant to seek forgiveness or are too heedless to know that they need to seek forgiveness for all their sins. Knowing this, we should hasten to seek forgiveness whenever we fall into sin. Forgiveness demands that we are thinking about Allah on a regular basis, in fact constantly. Otherwise, we will forget and go about our lives as if it doesn’t mean anything. Seeking forgiveness sincerely is the equivalent of wiping the sins off our record of deeds to clean them as though they never ever existed. But the condition is that the person is sincerely seeking forgiveness and not just showing off or something. And obviously, forgiveness only has meaning when sought while the person is still alive. Once the person has passed on, the chance to seek forgiveness is not there anymore.

The essence of forgiveness is remorse for doing or saying something that we are not allowed to do or say and begs Allah sincerely for forgiveness. Additionally, seeking forgiveness requires that the person who has fallen into sin make a determination to not to fall into that sin and takes certain actions to prevent falling into that sin (perhaps moving from that location or changing jobs etc.).

Sins can fall into two categories: sinning against Allah and sinning against fellow human beings (or other creatures). Sinning against Allah includes not obeying His commands (or whatever the Prophet (ﷺ) has commanded us) to do something (for instance, the command to pray five times daily or to fast from sun up to sun down during the month of Ramadan every year etc.). Sinning against Allah also includes doing something that Allah (or His Messenger (ﷺ)) has commanded us not to do (for instance to eat pork or drink alcoholic beverages or to not cover our bodies properly etc.). Sinning against fellow human beings includes everything from lying to people, stealing from people, tricking or cheating people while doing business, hurting people in any way shape or form be it through our words or bodily harm etc.

To seek forgiveness from the first kind of sins, one simply has to feel remorse, ask that Allah forgive him or her and stop falling into it immediately and make amends to ensure not falling into it again. To seek forgiveness from the second kind of sins, one has to additionally seek forgiveness from the people whom they sinned against (returning the stolen property for example). Without this additional action, the forgiveness is incomplete. If for instance, it is not possible to ask the person wronged for forgiveness (because they moved or died) or impossible to return the stolen property because the property is destroyed or no longer in possession of it, then they have to make duaa for the one they have wronged.

Seeking forgiveness is serious business in Islam. If one doesn’t seek forgiveness from Allah or from the people wronged, it is possible that they will need to be recompensed for it in the hereafter. They may end up being punished in the hereafter or Allah may forgive them due to the other good deeds that they performed. Wronging someone is particularly serious because as a result of wronging them, we may end up having to give them our good deeds on the Day of Judgment. So don’t delay, seek forgiveness immediately while we are still breathing. We don’t know how much time we have on Earth so we cannot afford to delay it even for a single day. May Allah give us all the ability to recognize the importance of seeking forgiveness and the ability to seek forgiveness before we die.

And Allah knows best.

Developing God Consciousness

One of the primary requirements for being successful in the hereafter is to acquire Taqwa. Taqwa is defined by many scholars as the state of God consciousness, which makes the person aware of the importance of God in his or her life, constantly remembering that Allah is in control. And knows that Allah alone is our goal. The Muttaqi (the one who has or does Taqwa) is hopeful of Allah’s infinite mercy and forgiveness. At the same time, he or she is fearful of Allah’s punishment and wrath. The Muttaqi is hopeful, but doesn’t only rely on hope alone nor is he or she excessively hopeful so much so that he forgets that he should also fear Allah’s wrath. The Muttaqi does not get affected by fear alone, nor is he or she overly fearful of Allah’s punishment thereby falling into a state of despair. Rather, he is balanced in between hope and fear: hopeful of Allah’s mercy and fearful of his punishment at the same time. We are to be balanced between the two states. We should not be leaning so much in either hopefulness or fearfulness that we let one extreme or the other determine our actions and our state of mind.

Anything worthwhile takes time and effort to acquire. Taqwa is a great quality that Allah has praised in the Quran and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) has advised us to try to acquire. Much of the worship is designed to inculcate the quality of Taqwa in Muslims. The benefits of having Taqwa are many, both in this life and in the hereafter.

Naturally, Taqwa is not an easily attained state. Therefore one has to work hard toward attaining that goal. We have to constantly remind ourselves of this goal. Whatever we do or say, should reflect that we take care to do or so what Allah will be pleased with us and take care to avoid doing or saying what will displease Allah. Obviously, it only makes sense for us to learn what pleases Allah and what displeases Him. The Quran is filled with instructions on what to do and what not to do, explicitly explaining everything. The Prophet of Allah (ﷺ) has also explained what Allah loves and what He does not love for us to do or say. Islam does not leave anything important to guesswork. Finally, one has to make duaa to Allah for Taqwa.

And Allah knows best.

Focusing on the biggest good deeds

We have limited time in this life. And we are preparing for a eternal existence in the hereafter. In other words, our time here is of great importance. We must not waste time on actions that do not add value to our hereafter. Worse still are the actions that take value away from our hereafter (sins). We must focus on actions that add positive value to our hereafter. Better still, we should try our best to focus on actions that may have the biggest impact on improving our experience in the hereafter. We need to seek out those big ticket items and put them on our list of things to focus on daily, weekly, monthly, annually and as often as we possibly can. Every good deed counts, and we should never belittle any small deed for we never know which is most valuable to us in the end. But if we have the options to do one or the other, always pick the most rewardable deed, with the most impact.

The currency of the Day of Judgment is made up of our good deeds. The more of them we have, the better. Allah multiplies the rewards of each good deed ten times. A good deeds is written in our accounts for even for intending to do good. A good deed is written when someone stops himself or herself from doing a bad deed that they had intended to do. Furthermore, deeds are multiplied manifold, up to and beyond seven hundred times the reward, depending on the sincerity of the intention of the person, the conditions under which the good deed was performed, the difficulty of the task and so on.

Only sincere good deeds, done exclusively for the sake of Allah (Ikhlaas), in accordance with the teachings of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) (Sunnah) are accepted. So we must take care and learn how to ensure sincerity of actions and what the Prophet’s (ﷺ) sunnah is pertaining to our actions.

And Allah knows best.

Conditions for the acceptance of our good deeds

Associating partners with Allah in our worship is called Shirk. Shirk nullifies all our actions, no matter how good they might be. We must make Allah alone (and no one else) the focus of all of our worship or we will not attain success. In fact, must always maintain Tawheed (the belief in the oneness of Allah in our utterances and in our actions) for us to be considered Muslims.

Additionally, performing our acts of worship following anyone other than the teachings of Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad (ﷺ) is called Bid’ah. Bid’ah not accepted no matter how much or how eagerly we perform it. The way of the Prophet (ﷺ) is called the Sunnah. All our acts of worship must be for Allah and as taught by the Prophet (ﷺ) in his Sunnah.

The first thing to do when investing for the future is to ensure we don’t have holes anywhere where all our investments may be leaking away. It doesn’t make any sense to invest our time, money and effort into something but let it all be lost because we didn’t care to protect our investments from things that might threaten them. Similarly, it doesn’t make much sense to make so much effort into worship (Ibadah) but let it all go to waste by ill treating or cheating people or lie to them or hurt them in one way or another (akhlaaq). Or have really good character but neglect the obligatory acts of worship (for instance salah (prayers), siyam (fasting), zakah (obligatory charity), hajj (going on pilgrimage to Makkah). Before we proceed with trying to achieve Jannah, we must plug any holes that might jeopardize our efforts.

Obviously, sins represent holes that we must plug in or lose our good deeds to sins. Similarly, the quality of our good deeds is also very important. We must not let the lack of sincerity of our intentions take deprive us of the value of our deeds. A tiny good deed done sincerely for the sake of Allah may be way more valuable than a huge good deed done to show off to people or to get recognition or to get some other worldly benefit. A poor man donating a dollar out of a small purse only to feed a hungry soul is valued way more than a billionaire who donates millions to look good to his friends and family is valued nothing at all in the sight of Allah.

And Allah knows best.

Maximizing Our Chances for Success

We all want to attain the ultimate success and avoid the ultimate loss. To reiterate, the ultimate success for us as Muslims is Jannah (the Paradise) in the life after death, in the hereafter. The ultimate loss is Jahannam (the Hellfire). In order to attain Jannah, we have to be very smart about it and use our intellect to find out all we can about how to attain it. The same is true for avoiding Jahannam. The first step is to learn what to do and the next step is to implement what we learn to make it happen.

Islam is a complete package, we cannot afford to neglect any of the various aspects of Islam. Islam consists of several major aspects such as Aqeedah (the correct beliefs), Ibaadah (the correct way of worship), Akhlaaq (the good character with fellow human beings and other creatures), Muamalat (business dealings), Muasharah (the society) etc. We are all judged in each of these areas and to focus on one or two and neglect others is not the way to attain success. We must be conscious of our obligations to Allah, the fellow human beings in interpersonal and business dealings and enjoin good conduct and forbid bad conduct in the society.

There’s nothing worse than blindly putting all our efforts into something only to find out we are only going farther in the wrong direction. Therefore, it is very important to ensure we are on the right path before we start. In order to be sure we are on the right track, we need to do some research and find out what’s what. The easiest way to do this is to get in touch with several well known scholars. Several of them. This is because it is easy to lean one way or the other, be it wrong or right, when getting only one person’s understanding. When we ask several people, we are getting a wholesome picture rather than a biased view. We should also read on our own and ask questions to arrive at the right answers, much like if we are trying to find the best doctor in town to treat us. Validate our answers by asking the scholars so we are not assuming we know when we may have misunderstood. Only when we are sure, should we embark on the journey. Along the journey, keep checking occasionally to ensure we stay on the right track. If we are truly, sincerely seeking guidance, putting all the effort we possibly can, and asking Allah in the depths of nights’ darkness to be with us and lead us to Him, He will surely not let us go astray.

 

And Allah knows best.

Why we remember Allah more when sick

Naturally, human beings tend to remember Allah more when we are sick or distressed somehow. Depending on what’s going on, we may have varying degrees of feelings of sadness, helplessness, loss, despair and the like. These feelings make cause us pain that is in addition to any physical due to sickness. And when these feelings overwhelm us somewhat, we usually can’t help but call unto Allah more. It is a natural response. We know instinctively that we are not in control of anything, but Allah is in control of everything including our lives including our health and sickness.

When we are sick, our prayers are more deep, more sincere and more hopeful. This is the reason why we should regard times of sickness as times of cleansing and getting closer to Allah. We should never ask for times of sickness and always pray to Allah for blessing of good health until the day we die. But when we do get sick, we should not despair. We should instead get busy with prayers and seeking forgiveness for our sins. We should also remember Allah and be busy engaged in doing good deeds when we are healthy. Whatever we are used to doing on a daily basis when we are healthy, we would get reward for even when we are not able to do them when we are sick and unable.

What we should never do if we are sick or feel sad or distressed for whatever reason is to start to despair. We should remind ourselves that life is a test. Allah is in control. As part of our faith, we know that we should put our hope in Allah, do everything that He has commanded and avoid everything that He has forbidden. Do our best and leave the rest to Allah. We should treat the time of sickness as a time to get all of our sins forgiven, accumulate good deeds and pray for ourselves, our families, our relatives and friends and the rest of humanity.

And Allah knows best.

Learning the Arabic basics first

Arabic is a very rich language. In order to really learn the language properly, it is important to build on top of a strong and healthy foundation. The building blocks of Arabic must be very well understood from the start for an easier learning experience.

From the very beginning, the Arabic alphabet needs to be mastered in every aspect i.e. reading, writing, pronouncing. It also means recognizing the letters in its various written forms: connected with other letters or disconnected.

Next the Arabic grammar is usually learned along with simple conversational sentences so the learning makes more sense. Reading, writing and comprehension go hand in hand at this stage. The rules of the Arabic grammar are very systematic in nature for the most part with a very few exceptions. Although there are a lot of rules, they can all be learned relatively easy with the help of Allah.

While learning the Arabic grammar, it is also helpful and even necessary to expand the Arabic vocabulary. Keep an Arabic notebook and learn a few new words everyday. Try to use them in sentences to make it stick. Write them out. Read out loud. If you have a native Arabic speaker teacher or a friend, you can seek assistance in learning the correct pronunciation of the words. Practice. Practice. Practice.

A lot of Arabic texts use the Quran and Hadith to teach examples of really good Arabic. So inshaaAllah you’ll get good exposure to the Quran and Hadith, which is really what we ultimately seek to understand. So it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with reciting the Quran if you are able to recognize letters and read Arabic.

Advanced Arabic classes teach Arabic morphology or Nahw & Sarf. This is the stage when you really begin to appreciate the beauty of Arabic. Arabic is hard, but the journey to learn it is worth it.

May Allah make it easy for all of the Muslims to learn Arabic for the purpose of understanding the Quran and Hadith.