Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jihad by Night: Yahya Ibrahim


“For twenty years I waged Jihad against myself. I struggled, all throughout to remain standing in prayer at night. For those twenty years I never tasted the sweetness of the night prayer. It was only after that that I found comfort and sweetness.”

These are the words of one of the greatest scholars of the early generation. Al-Imam Sufyaan ath-Thawri (161 H) is known as one of the Eight Ascetics of his age. He was, rahimahullah, ‘aabid – a worshipper.

Twenty years of Jihad by night. No sweetness was experienced by ath-Thawri (rahimahullah) for twenty years?

Nevertheless he kept the course with unwavering inspirational sabr. He struggled in fear, campaigned in love, and toiled in hope of Allah.

He would later comment that a sin he committed kept him from the night prayers for five months.

Tahajjud, from ha-ja-da meaning “vigilant by night” consumed in devotional prayer.

It is a reality that for many the thought of prayer, obligatory not voluntary, results in sluggishness of form and drowsiness in invocation.

We pray, but do we?

We call out, but do we?

We attempt remembrance, but do we?

Twenty years of JihadJaahatu Nafsi the Imam said. Twenty years of difficulty and comfort, prosperity and adversity, happiness and sorrow, wealth and poverty, fear and security, births and deaths, love and animosity. Constancy in worship throughout all the conditions and experiences of life is unique.

Allah describes the animosity that a believer has for the comfort of their soft bedding. In Surat as-Sajdah (32:16-17):

تَتَجَافَى جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَّا أُخْفِيَ لَهُم مِّن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاء بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Usually the verse is translated as

“Their sides Jafaa (forsake) their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend (charity in Allah’s Cause) out of what We have bestowed on them. No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.”

In fact the word Jafaa is much more contemptuous. Allah describes the physical being of a believer as despising their bed and the comfort it invites.

Ash-Shafi’ee (rahimahullah) would touch his bed and say, “May you be destroyed. You are ever so soft and inviting.”

Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) was asked how often he recites the Quran in its entirety. He asks in response, “Do you mean during the day or by night? During the night, the questioner inquired. The Imam asked, “Do you mean while in Tahajjud or out of prayer?”

Subhan Allah!

Our audacity, at times, tempts us to feel content with our current level of devotion and ‘Ibadah. The internet becomes our dawa, the masjid our hangout, the brothers – da brothas. Our ‘Ibadah is weak but our talk is uninhibited. Our dreary lives, jobs, lack of jobs, idle free time and stress cause us to have grandiose self assessments and an over estimation of our true nearness to the Divine. The response within us reflectively is dismissive in its oversimplification.

“That was then, this is now. That is al-Imam Sufyan and I am merely Yahya.”

So we fail to change or improve. We look for quick fix solutions to problems in our life that are spiritual ailments that require a rejuvenation of Faith.

Once upon a time, ten years or more ago, I was as asleep in a hotel room thinking I was alone. Little did I know that my teacher Shaykh Mohammed Safwat Nooredeen (rahimahullah) arrived in the middle of the night to take possession of HIS room wherein I was asleep due to a scarcity of rooms in the hotel which was attached to a conference I was translating for. No one informed me that it wasn’t actually my room, and that they just put me in it knowing that I was his student and we’d make do whenever he finally arrived. There I was, snoring away.

At first I was scared hearing what sounded to me like soft huffs and puffs. I recited Ayatul Kursi. A soft whine and moan ensued. Someone or something was crying.

I sat up and looked around while fumbling for the lamp switch at the same time trying to grab my glasses; All the while reading Ayatul Kursi. Heart beat off the chart and I am ready to swing.

Prostrate in the corner of the room where the door is, out of my view was my Shaykh praying his night prayer. He arrived, ate an apple, made his ablution and did what came natural. He prayed and bowed. He stood and prostrated.

At first I thought that this was because of restlessness and inability to sleep due to the time change. But I knew his ‘Ibadah was solid, outwardly is what I am witness to, and inwardly Allah grants the reward.

I made wudu and joined him. He informed me in the morning of the words of ath-Thawri. He was so polite in his advice. Don’t snore away your night was the accusation. Even if you don’t relish the worship, remember ath-Thawri. Allah have mercy on our scholars and students.

Ath-Thawri also said, “I was barred from praying Tahajjud for 5 months on account of a sin I committed.”

Some said to Ibn Mas`ood, may Allah be pleased with him, “We are unable to perform the night prayer.” He responded simply, “Your sins are prohibiting you (from it).”

Allah orders the Messenger early on in the mission of conveying Islam to humanity:

يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا نِصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا أَوْ زِدْعَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا

“O you who wraps himself [in clothing], arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – half of it – or subtract from it a little or add to it, and recite the Quran with measured recitation.”[Quran 73: 1-4]

Half the night!? For real?

‘Aisha (radi Allahu anha) says, “Do not ever stop standing in prayer at night. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) never ceased praying it. When he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was sick or weak, he prayed sitting.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

My aim is not to dazzle myself and you with verses and hadeeth extolling virtue upon those who stand in prayer at night. It is simply to ask, “Why is it so hard for me?”

So I write to you to remind myself.

I want to pray more than I do, more often than I do, in a more tranquil way than I do, for longer and humbler than I do.

I want us to be from those who sleep little at night but find energy and Baraka in their day. I want to greet the dawn each and every morning having made my Jihad by night. I want to find comfort and ease in that ‘Ibadahthat is the hallmark of righteousness.

إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ آخِذِينَ مَا آتَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَبْلَ ذَلِكَ مُحْسِنِينَ كَانُوا قَلِيلًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ مَا يَهْجَعُونَ وَبِالْأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

“Indeed, the righteous will be among gardens and springs, accepting what their Lord has given them. Indeed, they were before that doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness.” [Quran 51: 15-18]

أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَانِتٌ آنَاء اللَّيْلِ سَاجِدًا وَقَائِمًا يَحْذَرُ الْآخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُو رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُوْلُوا الْأَلْبَابِ

“Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding.”[Quran 39: 9]

I want my wife to hose me down with water, or maybe just a sprinkle as the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said.

Abu Hurayrah also reported that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “May Allah have mercy on a man who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes his wife to pray; and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. And may Allah have mercy on a woman who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes her husband to pray; and if he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.” [Abu Dawood and it is Sahih]

Al-Hasan al Basri (another of the Eight Ascetics) was asked: “We are unable to perform the night prayer so prescribe us a cure.” He said, “Do not disobey Him during the day and He will help you stand before Him during the night.”

Oh Allah! Help me to remember you, thank you, and be better in my worship.

Oh Allah! Help me to wake up in your worship and to be consistent in it.

Oh Allah! Allow us to worship you as you deserve to be worshipped.

Oh Allah! Grant us patience in your worship.

I ask you my brother and sister to ask Allah to help me and my family worship Allah when others are oblivious in slumber.

Tarawih Recitation: A message to all Imams

Tarawih Recitation: A message to all Imams

By: Sheikh Haitham alHadaad

Imāms should respect the Qur’ān when leading the Tarāwīḥ Prayer

The greatest favour bestowed upon humanity is the revelation of the Qur’ān as it is the only way human beings can be in continuous touch with their Creator. People can easily measure their level of attachment to their Lord by measuring their level of attachment to the Qur’ān - recitation, study and contemplation of it. This divine writ was not revealed to be a book of hymns for aural enjoyment, but instead as a book of guidance, for Allāh says in the Qur’ān, “(This is) a Book (the Qur’ān) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its verses, and that men of understanding may remember.”[1] As the Qur’ān is the unique and inimitable speech of Allāh, reciting it is a tremendous act of worship. However, its reward and comprehensive benefit can only be achieved once we put into practice what we understand. In fact, not putting enough attention to understanding the Qur’ān is condemned as Allāh the Most High says, “Do they not then think deeply about the Qur’ān, or are there locks upon their hearts (from understanding it?)”[2] Many early scholars also condemned those who read the Qur’ān without putting enough effort into understanding it, for example, it is narrated from Ibn Masʽūd that he said, “Do not scatter it (i.e., recitation of the Qur’ān) like the scattering of cheap dates, and do not ramble with it like the rambling of poetry. Stop at its marvels and stir your heart with it. None of you should let his concern be to reach the end of the chapter.”[3]
The way many Imāms recite during the Tarāwīḥ prayer is inexcusable and should be condemned in the strongest of ways by the people of knowledge, and in fact, any individual who respects the words of God. These Imāms recite the Qur’ān as if they are competing with the allocated time in order to finish the set amount and be rid of a heavy burden placed on their shoulders. In listening to some of them it is extremely difficult to make out what they are saying, whilst simultaneously, they make constant mistakes. There are reports of some mosques completing both twenty rak‘ah (units) of the Tarāwīḥ prayer and a whole juz’ of the Qur’ān in thirty minutes. This means that each rak‘ah takes ninety seconds in which one page of the Qur’ān is recited! What justification can such Imāms (and consequently the committees of such mosques) possibly give?
I would like to pose the following question to individuals who legitimize such conduct and deem it acceptable: Imagine that you are standing before God and that He is looking at you while you are praying, do you think Allāh is happy seeing and hearing His words read in this manner without giving them their due rights in terms of recitation and contemplation? Furthermore, I wonder if any of these Imāms or committee members are bold enough to allege that the Prophet would endorse this kind of prayer.
This kind of recitation is exactly what has been condemned by many of the scholars of the early generation. In fact, of one the characteristics of the Khawārij, a deviant sect, the Prophet informed us of is that their recitation of the Qur’ān will not go beyond their throats, i.e., they only pay lip-service to it; we should be very concerned not to have this trait within us. It was reported that Abῑ Jamrah, a scholar of the second generation, informed Ibn ʽAbbās that he recited very quickly and read the Qur’ān in three days, Ibn ʽAbbās replied by saying. ‘That I recite al-Baqarah in a night and reflect on it and reciting it slowly is more beloved to me than to recite in the manner you mention.’
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allāh have mercy on him) summarised what the Muslim has to do in order to remedy the hardness of his heart with the Qur’ān. He said, ‘There is nothing more beneficial for the heart than reading the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection. The Qur’ān encompasses all the levels of the travelers, the conditions of the workers, and stations of those possessing knowledge. It is the Qur’ān that generates love, desire, fear, hope, repentance, reliance, pleasure, entrustment, gratitude, patience and the rest of the different states that are life to the heart and perfection of it. Likewise, it repels all the rebuked characteristics and actions that cause the corruption and ruin of the heart. If people were to possess a realization of what the recitation of the Qur’ān with contemplation contains, they would devote themselves to it at the expense of everything else. When the person reads it with reflection and he comes across an āyah (verse) that he is in need of for curing his heart, he repeats it, even if he does so a hundred times or the whole night. Hence, to recite a single āyah of the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection is better than reciting the Qur’ān to completion without any contemplation. It is also more beneficial for the heart and more conducive to attaining īmān (faith) and tasting the sweetness of the Qur’ān.’
The Prophet used to read in a very slow style and stop at verses that mention paradise or the hell fire. Once he repeated the verse where Allāh says ‘If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise’[4] for the whole night.[5] Muhammad Ibn al-Kaʽb al-Quraẓῑ (d. 120H) preferred to read Sūrah al-Zalzalah and al-Qāriʽah and repeat them a number of times over reading the whole Qur’ān in a very hasty way. Imām Abū Ḥanῑfah once kept repeating Sūrah al-Zalzalah for the whole night.
Many of our acts of worship (ʽibādāt) have lost their spirit and have been transformed into meaningless ritual images where the focus is on completing them irrespective of whether they leave an impact on our souls or not and if they were perfected or at least performed in a truly satisfactory manner. That is why our worship does not change us for the better; our commitment to the dīn (religion/way of life) of Allāh is very weak and our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of Allāh is even more so - our morals and manners are not improving. Many of us want to be rid of the Tarāwīḥ prayer, no matter how it is offered. Humility, tranquility and reflection are insignificant elements for such Muslims. This is the opposite of what Allāh wants from us; we have removed the very elements from our acts of worship that have been purposely placed there to better us and focus instead on quantity rather quality - for those of us who have any focus at all.
I believe it is time we should put a stop to this and mend our relationship with the Qur’ān as Allāh has commanded: “O mankind! There has come to you a good advice (i.e. the Qur’ān) from your Lord, and a healing for that (diseases of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc.) in your breasts, - a guidance and a mercy for the believers.”
I call upon committee members and Imāms to seek the pleasure of Allah and not the pleasure of their congregation. I call upon Muslims to advice such Imāms and committee members who do not manifest enough respect to the Qur’ān and to consider appointing other Imāms who recite according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). We should also remember that completing twenty Rak’ah or even the whole Qur’an during Tarāwīḥ is not compulsory, yet listening to it attentively and reciting it with moderate speed is. If the Tarāwīḥ prayer has to be completed in a specific time, then the amount set to be recited should be reduced so that a better quality of worship is achieved.
I ask Allah to guide us all to follow His Book and the Sunnah of his Messenger and to pardon our shortcomings for He is the Oft-Forgiving Oft-Pardoning.

Notes: this article is a repost
[1]Sūrah Ṣād, 38:29
[2]Sūrah Muḥammad, 47:24
[3]Reported in various places such as Akhlāq Ḥamalah al-Qurʽān by al-Ājurrῑ and al-Baghawῑ in his Tafsῑr.
[4]Sūrah al-Mā’idah, 5:118
[5]Reported by Ibn Abī Shaybah and Aḥmad in his Musnad.