The other day while listening to a lecture in the mosque near my house, the imam mentioned a hadith I had never heard before. It states: “Whoever offered Salat for forty days in congregation, catching up the first Takbir, he is freed from two things – Hell-fire and hypocrisy” (Al-Tirmidhi). My first inclination was to question the level of authenticity of the hadith, that is whether it was authentic, acceptable or weak. So I searched, found it and and in that process I discovered a really nice article written on the benefits of prayer.
Among the benefits of prayer that were listed along with the above are those commented on by Ibn al-Qayyim (a famous medieval scholar of Islam) in his book Zaad al-Maad:
The daily prayers:
· Improves health.
· Staves off harm.
· Keeps away diseases.
· Strengthens the heart.
· Brightens the face.
· Delights the soul.
· Takes away laziness.
· Invigorates the organs.
· Replenishes energies.
· Refreshes the heart.
· Nurtures the spirit.
· Enlightens the mind.
· Preserves the boon.
· Prevents adversity – Punishment.
· Brings the blessings.
· Drives away Satan.
· Draws closer to the Almighty Allah.
In thinking about these benefits, I am reminded that Allah never gives us a commandment except that there is wisdom and benefit in it for us.
EDIT: My title for this post, as I’m realizing, was not expounded upon in the article. My intention here was to say, I have seen these things come to fruition for many people. Prayer changes lives, straight up and down. So the point is, these are not things that might happen. They are guaranteed for those who pray to Allah sincerely.
The original article from kalamullah.com is quite comprehensive and is worthy of a read. Take a look here.
In the past, while studying Arabic, I made it a point to get as much advice as I could from friends and colleagues. Although there is nothing blameworthy in getting advice for the sake of getting better understanding, in the past I blame myself for trying to find the ‘easy way out’ or the ‘secret’ to gaining proficiency in Arabic. So instead of focusing on just getting the job done and staying the course, I think I wasted some valuable time try to figure what I was doing ‘wrong.’ But there was nothing wrong. Arabic just takes time. A lot of it.
And it’s funny, because in the periods that I was focused, hard working with my eyes locked in on my goal, I realize that I improved the most by leaps and bounds. Subhan’Allah.
Now, as I settle into a new phase of independent study with my Arabic, I see quite clearly that there is also replacement for time and patience.
In a recent post I mentioned that I had found that the key to really gaining deeper understanding of the Qur’an was in the science of Arabic rhetoric. I still think that is true, but I need to also add that there is no replacement for constant reading of Allah’s book and dedication. The Qur’an is something, as a friend once mentioned to me, that if you give your all to it, it will give some of itself to you. But if you don’t dedicate yourself to it, don’t expect any openings from Allah regarding understanding His book.
Allah says in the Qu’ran: “And hold to the Qur’an with a firmness and call to remembrance what is there in, so that you may attain piety.” (Surah al-Baqarah)
So if the power of understanding the Qur’an lies in dedication and firmness, then Arabic rhetoric is the chassis and drive train in directing this power en route to connecting with God and drawing spiritually closer to Him.
The task with balagha, though, as should be held out as a disclaimer, is that of all the science of Arabic, this one is the longest, it has even been mentioned to me that it really doesn’t end. But the rewards that are embedded in studying it to even a rudimentary level are immense.
For example, Allah says in Surat Ibrahim: “And we have not sent a messenger, except by the tongue of his own people, so that he can make things clear for them.”
It needs to be mentioned that when we read Quranic verses translated to English, what we are really reading is an interpretation of the original Arabic. The Qur’an is simply too complex and English too unrelated to its language for there to be a direct English translation. So although we can guess at the meaning of verses as we see them in Englsih, often with success because of the fact that what we are reading is already broken down and interpreted already, when reading this verse in Arabic there is a much more nuanced and systematized approach to understanding it appropriately. Balagha is this highly developed system of zoning in on the stunning, (yet, nevertheless, effort-requiring) meanings that the Qur’an contains.
So in regards to the verse mentioned, Allah is telling us, as is clear from the literal meaning of the verse, that He never sends a messenger except that he speaks the tongue of his people. But in Arabic, if this verse interpreted through the lens of balagha, more meanings blossom in front of our eyes. In Arabic rhetoric there are two significant things going on in this verse. Firstly, the syntax of the sentence is one of restriction or, in Arabic, “al-Qasr,” because Allah uses negation to completely negate all other possibilities besides what comes after the word “except” in the verse. So there is sweeping negation. But then comes (after “except”) what the respective object is restricted to. For an Arabic speaker who has studied rhetoric, when hearing this verse it becomes clear that the verse is designed in a way for more emphasis and stress to be placed on the fact that Allah — out of His Mercy — sends messengers speaking the specific vernacular of his people. So the messenger would therefore know all the small subtitles of his people’s language and he would also know the best way to convey the message to them. There are many lessons that can be taken from this. Among them is that for people who are planning to give a speech or khutbah, it is highly recommended that you have a firm grasp of the language you plan on addressing the audience in. Because if you don’t know the language of the people sufficiently, the effect of your words will be minimal and — in some cases I have seen — embarrassing and laughable.
From another angle, a mechanism called “Majaaz Mursal” can also be found in this verse. This term is the rough equivalent of “metaphor” in English. In the case of this verse, “tongue” is used as a metaphor for what, i.e. a messenger, who Allah sends to a nation. And as is taught in balagha, there are subclasses in the “Majaz Mursal.” These subclasses are designed to really focus in on the point that the speaker (in this case, Allah) (swt) is trying to make. So the sub-classification here is called, “Juz’ia,” or one in which the speaker uses a “part,” (juz’ia means part) when in reality the speaker is referring to the complete body or figure in question. But of course the question still remains, “Why is this used here?” “Why is it stated like this?” The goal of the figurative speech in the verse is to indicate that in the delivery of the Divine message, the tongue (or speech) is the most important part of that messenger that He (swt) sends. So although other factors such as social rank, popularity and appearance are important, at the end of it all, the most decisive factor in the ideal delivery of the Message is lucid, intelligible speech.
So with a little Arabic rhetoric we see just how important it is that – as people who want to present our faith to others — we know the language that we will be speaking well enough, that we know what we are talking about; and when delivering the message we use clear language as to avoid ambiguity.
There have been many gems that I have found in various books commenting on the figurative meanings of the Qur’an. I look forward to sharing them.
There are very few things that stay the same in this life. As living beings we are in a constant state of motion and growth, whether we are active in this process or it is something that we have little to do with, ex. studying to gain a degree vs. aging.
So for those who have visited my blog before, you see the big change in looks. I feel the need to sort of give some insight to my old title, “Adrenal Conscience,” and also explain the more sober change to “dpeat’s repose.” I gave my blog the old title back in college when things in my life were considerably faster. There was less time to think independently and make the best decisions. Thus the term “adrenal” because I felt like I was always moving fast, which at some points, made me feel like I was running on adrenaline. Meanwhile, though, there was always an active attempt on my part to stay true to what I believed and stay conscience of my greater goals in life — those aspirations not so much attached to attaining a degree. Thus the previous title.
Recently, I felt like the title no longer captured who I was. I have now graduated college and my life is considerable different. I can’t say there is set theme to this period of my life, but the thing that has never changed with me is that I have always used my writing as a way of expressing myself, placating those inconsistent muses, and gaining a little relaxation and gratification from getting some my passing thoughts down into writing. So I title my blog my pen name (Derrick Peat: dpeat). That’s one the most firm things in my life, so why not use it as a peg right?
Another thing I plan to change about my blog is that I think it would be more beneficial to write more, shorter posts. There are small, seemingly insignificant things that happen in life, but you still want to remember them, you know? So I’ll put those down into words from now on. We only live once, and often a lot of benefit can be taken from knowing where you are coming from.
There is a quote from one of my favorite novels, “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
“Would you have made the same choice?”
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with
learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a
speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After
extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature
does, is done with
Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot
understand things as other children do.
Where is the natural order of things in my son?’
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued, “I believe that when a child like Shay, who was
mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity
to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way
other people treat that child.’
Then he told the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were
playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I
knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their
team, but as a fatherI also understood that if my son were allowed to
play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some
confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting
much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and
said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning.
I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in
the ninth inning.’
Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put
on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth
in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but
was still behind by three.
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the
right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously
ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to
ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was
on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to
win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat.
Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t
even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing
that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in
Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay
could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground
ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown
the ball to the first baseman.
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s
head, out of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to
first! Run to first!’
Never in his life had Shay run that far but he made it to first base.
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and
struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball.
The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the
hero for his team.
He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but
he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally
threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him
circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him
by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to
Shay, run to third!’
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators,
were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero
who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team
‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face,
‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and
humanity into this world’.
Shay didn’t make it to another summer.
He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making
me so happy, and coming home
and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it’s
least fortunate amongst them.
May your day, be a Shay Day.
Re-post from Mustafa Davis: “Reflections From An American Muslim”
Recently, my Facebook posts about my American Muslim identity have caused a slight uproar from certain people who have taken it upon themselves to inform me who I am and who I am allowed to be…. to inform me that it is either impossible for me to be an American Muslim or worse… that my loyalty to my religion is now somehow in question because of it. I’ve been referred to as an Uncle Tom that doesn’t care about oppressed people and likened to the Right Wing bigots that push policies to harm the disenfranchised. And all of this was decided about me by the mere fact that I said I was an “American Muslim.” I’ve decided to write this note so that there is no ambiguity about who I am and how I got here.
I’m a decendant of Black Africans who came to this country as slaves (enslaved Africans). Who were stripped of everything they knew and everything they were (including names, identity, culture, and religion). They left them without a single trace of dignity or honor. Not only did they take everything away from my ancestors, they erased our entire history. For years I have tried to get people to understand what this means, how this feels and how it is a permanent part of who we are (whether we are conscious of it or not). If one doesn’t know who they were, its nearly impossible to know who you are. I write this with tears in my eyes and with disbelief that the people who I have supposedly united with in GOD can be so crass and insensitive.
I was born in the Bay Area, California. My parents divorced when I was two years old and I moved with my mother to Sacramento and we lived in an impoverished neighborhood called Lincoln Village. I have no memories of my two parents together. I’ve tried many times over the years to try and conjure up at least one memory of my family living happily together, but unfortunately no such memory exists. My mother is German with blond hair and blue eyes. I am the only child she had with my black father and she remarried a white man which means all of my siblings are full white, making me the only black child in my family. I remember being teased by my black friends because I lived with a white family. I was called “Webster” and “Arnold” growing up (in reference to television sitcoms which depicted black children being raised by white families). My mother used to bring my birth certificate with her to sign me up for school and sports because they didn’t believe I was really her son. My white friends used to talk about how the “niggers” acted and make fun of my hair. The trauma of identity struggle is something I’ve always known.
I grew up poor as a latchkey child in a broken home. My mother worked as a waitress and my step-father worked for the local phone company. Arguments were the norm. Fists punching through walls, dishes breaking, yelling, and cursing were routine. My parents thought I was psychologically affected by being the only black child in a white family and so I saw my first psychiatrist at age 5. By the time I was 16 years old, I was on drugs, failing all my classes, and I was eventually kicked out high school and my mother could no longer deal with me and sent me away to live with my biological father. My father was an educated man but had recently lost his job. We spent the next two years living in different apartments and staying on couches at some of his friends houses. We were staying in a cockroach/rat infested halfway house and one day my father asked me to take a walk with him. We walked for about 4 hours (we didn’t have a car) to the Greyhound bus depot in downtown San Jose. He bought me a one way ticket to Sacramento and said very clearly to me; “I’ve been poor all my life and I can handle it. But I can’t watch as you go through it too. I’m sending you back to your mom until I can get on my feet again.” And he put me on the bus back to Sacramento.My mother told me that I could not stay with her (as it wasn’t possible for my step-father and I to be under the same roof). I had gotten so jacked up on drugs and other “less than favorable” activities that none of my friends wanted anything to do with me. I had no where to go. I was exhausted. Tired of my lifestyle, tired of my family, but mostly I was tired of myself. I decided that I was done with the world and that it was time to check out. I took a bottle of muscle relaxants and a bottle of Tylenol, sat down on the kitchen floor and swallowed almost every single pill.
My sister came home from work early that day and and found me lying face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of saliva with a few pills scattered around me. She knew instantly what I had done and called my mother for help. My memories from this point on are blurred. Time was no longer linear. I remember my mother and sister dragging me to the bathroom and putting me in the bathtub filled with cold water and ice cubes to try and prevent me from falling asleep. My mother kept shoving her fingers down my throat to get me to vomit. It wasn’t working and I was fading very quickly. My next memory is arriving at the hospital. I was put on a gurney and rushed into the emergency room. I remember pushing the nurses off of me because I didn’t want them to help me. They eventually brought some nurses in to hold my arms and legs down as the doctor put a 1/2″ tube up my nose and down into my throat. They pumped charcoal into my stomach to counter the effect of the drugs. (The doctors later told me I was about 3 to 5 minutes away from complete cardiac arrest.)
My next memory is waking up in excruciating pain laying on a bed in the ICU (the tube was still in my nose and down in my throat). My mother was in the corner of the room crying and my first thought was “Damn… it didn’t work” (I was upset that I was still alive). By California law I was required to serve 3 months in Sutter Memorial Mental Institution and I hopped the fence and escaped on my first night. I was picked up about 3 hours later by the police, brought back and put in the maximum security unit. It was in this place that I saw people who were truly mentally disturbed… a girl who used to bang her head against the wall until she bled… a boy who would scratch the skin off of his cheeks… another who would pull off her own finger nails and sit with bloody hands… others who walked around screaming at imaginary friends. Within a couple weeks I decided that if I got out of that place that I would dedicate my life to helping people. It was the very first time in my life that I called on God for assistance. There were many things that led up to me wanting to end my life. But now as an adult looking back, I can admit that identity struggle played a major role.
Fast forward to age 24 when I converted to Islam. I thought that converting to Islam would help me with my search for identity but instead it execerbated the problem. I was told that I couldn’t be American because America was the land of disbelievers and Muslims could not emulate disbelievers. In fact, I was told that if I emulated them, I would be one of them and that the place for a “disbeliever” was in the hell-fire. So, I left America and made Hijra to Mauritania. I spent the next 11 years traveling the Muslim world in search of a culture that I could relate to and make my own so I could leave my “Americanness” behind and have a chance at getting to Paradise. It didn’t work.
It took me a long to realize that the very people who were telling (and continue to tell me) that I cannot be American, hail from Muslim majority countries that have very beautiful, rich cultures. They know who they are (regardless if they want to be it). They know who their ancestors were, what they did, how they lived. I’ve never had that luxury. I don’t know who my ancestors are. I don’t know if they were kings and queens or criminals. My history was erased. Other Muslims get to say “I am Afghani, Pakistani, Malaysian, Sudanese, Egyptian, Nigerian, Palestinian, Bosnian, Moroccan, Indian, Algerian, etc.” I will never be able to say that. “American” is not an ethnicity. It is a cultural identity. Black Americans have no cultural ties to our homeland. We cannot go back to Africa. We have no idea where in Africa to go? Are we from Nigeria? Senegal? Niger? Chad? Ivory Coast? Etc. We have no idea.
Black Americans don’t have any home other than America. We have no other place to go. America is the ONLY home we know. We were stripped of everything else. I most certainly do not praise American politics or its treatment of minorities and/or impoverished, disenfranchised communities. That would mean I agree with the enslavement of my own people. But when Muslims tell us that we cannot be American because that means we support ALL things America… it means they are telling us we cannot exist. I will say that again… it means they are telling us that WE CANNOT EXIST. They can always fall back on their rich cultural heritages (that are often mistakenly called Islamic cultures. They are not, they merely cultures where the majority of the inhabitants are Muslims). But I don’t have that luxury or ability. America is the only culture I have to identify with. Telling me its not possible is pushing me into nonexistence. I don’t think people with such rich cultures and heritages fully understand what its like to not have that to fall back on.
My only recourse is either to reject American culture altogether and adopt some other culture (which all have nationalistic nuances just like America) or accept the elements of this society that do speak to my people while rejecting those that don’t. Now put Islam in the picture and the very real cultural imperialism that exists within the Muslim community… and you have a lost people. A people who are already down and doing all they can to pick themselves up… yet continually getting kicked back down by people who claim to be their brothers and sisters.
It’s easier for people who have such rich cultures to shun American culture entirely. In fact, I do not blame them. If I had some other culture that I could adhere to, I most probably would. I travelled the world for 12 years looking for that culture but instead what I found were different manifestations of the same problems (obviously not as grand) as I found in America. So I was then left with a choice. If all cultures have both positives and negatives then it would make sense to accept the fact that I am American now by design from God and take the good aspects of it and leave the bad.
I’m not an Uncle Tom. I’m a man that believes in fighting for my people. And a major issue plaguing my people is that of having no real cultural identity and the self hate that comes along with that. I tried to commit suicide when I was 18 years old because of identity issues.
We of all people understand the systematic oppression that certain aspects of the government impose on all people (at home and abroad). But all we can do is take what’s good and then work hard to fix the ills that we are also victims of. I want social justice just as much as everyone else. I just don’t want to have to not exist to get it. I don’t want America to disappear, I want to make it a better place. I don’t want my children to go through the same identity issues that I went through. I don’t want them to feel the pain I feel. I want them to be strong, confident, Muslims that fight for social change.
I am an American Muslim and no amount of arguing how that is an impossible dichotomy will change that. I don’t have a choice. I am who I am, regardless if people would prefer that I was something else. My story is not over and its certainly not unique. There are many people from many different backgrounds who are struggling in one way or another. They don’t need to be told who they are or who they can’t be.. especially by people who haven’t cared enough to take the time to find out the slightest thing about them first before passing judgement. My father once told me: “You influence every person you come in contact with. It is up to you whether or not that will be a positive influence or a negative one.” May we all be of benefit to ourselves and others and may we all realize the potential for greatness that lies within each one of us.
Original link with pictures here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/mustafa-davis/who-am-i-and-how-did-i-get-here-reflections-from-an-american-muslim/10150302457083802
During a recent late-night walk, I peered into the sky and realized that I don’t look up there enough. I don’t remember the gravity of this life I’ve been given enough. My flaws and forgetfulness as a human left me heedless to the bigger picture. It is said that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) would get in up in the night for prayer, he praise Allah (swt) and look towards the heavens reflecting upon the creation to further understand the Creator.
But our Lord knows that we are easily forgetful, and that is why he sent us the Reminder, i.e. the Qur’an, to reposition our focus to where it ought to be, i.e. the hereafter. Having recently memorized Surat Saaffaat, and before this having memorized Surat Ibrahim and Baqarah, I took the opportunity to reflect on the some most emotive aspects of the Qur’an. Of course, as my title might suggest, I’ve referring to the du’as of the Qu’ran.
Although I have only memorized about 6 parts of the Qur’an, I have come to the conclusion the most touching, heart-felt and memorable du’as come from Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). When I think about these — like I did on my walk — I always feel a sense of serenity and peace. And this of course does not to take anything away from the supplications of the other Prophets, but my heart always gravitates towards those of Prophet Ibrahim more specifically.
To quote a few of Ibrahim’s (pbuh) supplications to Allah:
From Surah Ibrahim:
38. “O our Lord! truly Thou dost know what we conceal and what we reveal: for nothing whatever is hidden from Allah, whether on earth or in heaven.
39. “Praise be to Allah, Who hath granted unto me in old age Isma’il and Isaac: for truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of Prayer!
40. O my Lord! make me one who establishes regular Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! and accept Thou my Prayer.
41. “O our Lord! cover (us) with Thy Forgiveness – me, my parents, and (all) Believers, on the Day that the Reckoning will be established!
In this du’a of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) we see that he supplicates to Allah (swt) and affirms that fact that Allah (swt) is All-Aware. Then as the the Surah proceeds he makes a prayer that Allah (swt) help him become one who firmly establishes the prayer, thus illustrating his utter reliance upon Allah (swt) even when it comes to having the ability to worship Him (swt). And then he pleads for Allah (swt) forgive not only himself, but also his parents and the believers on the Day of Judgment.
May Allah’s peace and blessing be upon Prophet Ibrahim.
Since converting to Islam seven years ago, it has always been a striking fact to me that although Islam is a religion based heavily in spiritual and conscientiousness of God, many Muslims appear quite materialistic, unrefined regarding Islamic etiquette and in other cases — the worst ones — utterly opposed to any systematic self-reform and spiritual development.
I can only assume this due to a variety of factors, of course varying from person to person. But one reason I have singled out that is largely common to the Muslims as a whole is that we (myself) included don’t read, reflect, and immerse ourselves in the remembrance of God enough. Over the past year, after committing myself to increasing my daily acts of worship and Islamic study in general, I have found out that this issue is not unique to modern-day Muslims. In fact right after the death of our Prophet (pbuh) there was steady spiritual decline amid the collective body of Muslims — a continuum that we, modern-day Muslims, also are obviously a part of. And nowadays we find ourselves faced with more materialistic distractions that any other people had to deal throughout history.
In consequence of this we must take a more regimented and proactive approach in nurturing our taqwa (God-consciousnesses), i.e. spirituality firmly rooted in the Islamic sphere of reference.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” (29:45)
Also, as Allah revealed to the children of Israel: “Hold firmly to what We have given you and bring (ever) to remembrance what is therein: Perchance ye may fear Allah.” (2:63)
This establishes the principle that the prayer and recitation of the Qur’an are powerful weapons in the fight against our base desires, in all of our life struggles and in our endeavor in the way of self-fulfillment and improvement. And these are factors that will work together to lead to higher levels of taqwah.
In the past, our righteous scholars also recognized this trend of declining God-consciousness among Muslims. And in response to this they came up with structured approaches to making dhikr (remembrance of Allah), either through reading Qur’an, praying extra-obligatory prayers or praising Allah through by way of His remembrance. Many of them put together tracts of recommended things that one should say throughout the day — in addition and ONLY as a SUPPLEMENT to the five obligatory . They also recommended that one should persevere in performing/reading these tracts two times a day — one time in the morning and once in the evening. These regimented tracts, or ‘wirds,’ were a major part of the spiritual development of many scholars.
To mention my own experience: While reading “al-Maqasid,” book on fiqh (Islamic legal theory) by Imam Nawawi, I encountered a section dedicated to spiritual development. It contained advice, Qur’an one should read every day, and adhkar that one should say in the morning and evening. To summarize quickly, the book recommends those seeking to get closer to Allah to find the company of righteous people, to avoid sins, pray all the Sunnah prayers (those never left by the Prophet), and to read Surat Yasin once in the morning and once in the evening — among other things that I left out do to lack of ability to include them all here.
All in all, I have found the Imam’s advices and recommendations extremely fruitful. Keeping up with my morning and evening adhkar (devotional remembrances) have given me an extra spiritual boost and provided me with an added energy to engage in other activities beneficial to my life in general.
*** This is only Part. 1 of a series that I am writing to stress and remind myself and Muslims of the importance of the remembrance of Allah, the inevitability of death, and the after life.. Part 2 to come shortly hereafter. Thanks for reading, if you got this far! :-)***