Ramadan Discourse 2

Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib

(tafsir on 7:168-170)

This was a discourse which Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib gave in his zawiyya in Meknes in the year he died. He was over 100 at the time.

[Transcribed and translated by Abdalhaqq Bewley]

[This has not been finally edited, but people have asked for access to the talks which have been transcribed.]


168 And We split them into nations in the earth.

 Some of them are right-acting and some are other than that.

 We tried them with good and evil so that perhaps they might return.

169 An evil generation has succeeded them,

  inheriting the Book,

 taking the goods of this lower world,

 and saying, "We will be forgiven."

 But if similar goods come to them they still take them.

 Has not a covenant been made with them in the Book,

 that they should only say the truth about Allah

 and have they not studied what is in it?

 The Final Abode is better for those who have taqwa.

 Why do you not use your intellect?

170 As for those who hold fast to the Book and establish salat

 We will not let the wage of the right-acting go to waste.

Allah ta'ala says in His Mighty Book: "And We divided them into nations in the earth." We have already told you that this sura is called Suratu'l-'Araf and was revealed to the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in the noble city of Makka, except for these ayats which we are looking at which came down to the Prophet salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam in Madina. We know this because there were no Jews in Makka, only idolaters, whereas there were Jews in Madina and all round it – for instance in Khaybar and places like that. These places were all inhabited by Jews. So all the references in the Qur’an concerning the Jews were revealed in Madina.

Anyway Allah, tabaraka wa ta'ala, says: "And We divided them into nations in the earth." This is an example of Allah telling us about unseen things in the future because the Jews will never be able to establish themselves as a nation. Allah says: "We divided them, meaning that Allah", tabaraka wa ta'ala, put some of them in every country. They will never be truly unified. All those Jews in Palestine who came from France and Britain and the West and various other countries will never establish themselves as a nation. Allah says: "We divided them into nations in the earth." Those whom Allah divided into nations did not follow Sayyidina Musa, 'alayhi salam. No! rather they disobeyed what they were ordered to do in the Torah.

Some of them are right-acting. This refers to the ones who followed Sayyidina Musa, 'alayhi salam, respecting what he brought and it also applies to those who died during the gap between Sayyidina Musa and Sayyidina 'Isa. Those who died during this gap are also called right-acting, in other words they won’t go to the Fire. When there is a gap between Prophets and you die during that period as someone who affirms Allah’s unity you will not enter the Fire. This is because there was no Prophet there to be rejected. However, what about those who were alive during the life-time of Sayyidina 'Isa, 'alayhi salam, and did not follow him, what category do they fall under? They are kuffar because Allah sent Sayyidina 'Isa after Sayyidina Musa, 'alayhi salam. Then after that Allah sent Sayyidina Muhammad, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and very few of the Jews followed Sayyidina Muhammad, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam – just 'Abdallah ibnu Salam and Ka‘b al-Ahbari, those two people.

When 'Abdallah ibnu Salam became Muslim the Jews did not know about his Islam. He went to the Messenger, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and said, "I would like you, Messenger of Allah, to put the Jews to a little test," – and remember he was their leader and their great scholar – "I will hide and you ask them what is their opinion of 'Abdallah ibnu Salam. Then when they tell you and mention the respect they have for me, I will come out and say I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."

So the Messenger of Allah, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, did that. He summoned the heads of the Jews from Khaybar and surrounding areas and he hid 'Abdallah ibnu Salam from them. He asked them, "What do you say about about this man 'Abdallah ibnu Salam, your 'alim?" They said, "He is our master and the son of our master." He then asked them, "What would you say if he were to become a Muslim?" They said, "God forbid that he should ever become a Muslim." When they said that he came out and said the shahada. They immediately said, "He is our enemy and the son of our enemy." One minute they were saying he was their master and the son of their master and the next that he their enemy and the son of their enemy! Enemies of Allah, they will never admit the truth.

In any case Allah says: We divided them into nations in the earth. Allah split them up among different countries and they will never achieve unity. Some of them are right-acting – those who believed – and some are other than that – the kafirs among them. We tried them with good and evil so that hopefully the would return. What is meant by "good" here are all the good things Allah lavished on them, for example, plenty of rain, plenty of vegetation, and their trading. These are the "good" they had. As for the "evil" that refers to the droughts and illnesses they suffered. These are the "evil" referred to.

Go on! So that hopefully they would return. But, nevertheless, they did not return. Because Allah firstly tested them by pouring out good things on them, so they might return and cleave to the Torah and the deen of Sayyidina (Interruption "Muhammad") No, Sayyidina Musa, not Sayyidina Muhammad. We are only talking about Sayyidina Musa at the moment. They disagreed regarding him as well. Then when Allah sent Sayyidina Muhammad, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, they all rejected him outright, with very few exceptions. Like that Abdallah ibnu Salam and a few other Jews who followed the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

Go on! An evil generation has succeeded them, inheriting the book. Up to now we have been talking about the condition they were in. The word khalf (evil generation) refers to people of bad character. They are called khalf and then we also have the word khalaf. We have khalf and khalaf. Khalaf refers to descendants of good character. For example, a man appoints a khalaf to succeed him. He is his khalifa, a good successor. But if they are evil people we call them khalf. They are successors of bad character, who are no good for anything. That is why Allah ta'ala uses the word khalf here.

Go on! Inheriting the Book. What's the book referred to here? It's the Torah.

Go on! Taking the goods of this lower world. People would come to them for judgement and then they would take bribes and change the laws, which were in the Torah. Why did they do that? Out of pure greed.

Go on! and saying we will be forgiven. And in one reading adding, "because we do not associate anything with Allah," because Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him. Allah says: "Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him, but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that." 4:47 But that only applies if they are believers, not if they are idolaters or unbelievers, in that case there is no forgiveness. The only fate for a kafir is eternity in the Fire.

Go on! But if similar goods come to them again, they still take them. Has not a covenant been made with them in the Book, that they should only say the truth about Allah. The truth referred to here is what Allah revealed in the Torah. Because their Book was the Torah, which Sayyidina Musa received from Allah, ta'ala. This Torah is a big thing: "We sent down the Torah, containing guidance and light, and the Prophets who had submitted themselves gave judgement by it for the Jews – as did their scholars and their rabbis – by what they had been allowed to preserve of Allah's Book to which they were witnesses." 5:44 In any case the Tora contains sciences and secrets but the Jews destroyed it, may Allah curse them! They added to it and deleted things from it and altered it. They acted on what suited their whims and desires and abandoned everything in it which did not suit their purposes.

Go on! and have they not studied what is in it? The Final Abode is better for those who have taqwa. "The Final Abode". This advice applies to both them and us. This matter is something that also applies to us Muslims. Allah ta'ala says: "The Final Abode is better for those who have taqwa." Those people who have taqwa and have fear of Allah, they do not go along with bribery, for instance, because Allah has ordained that the practitioners of bribery, if they don't repent, they too will have an immense punishment. Because if someone is poor and people cheat him through bribery, they will take everything he has got. That's what bribery does. His money will disappear and everything else he has got. How? Through bribery.

Go on! The Final abode is better for those who have taqwa. You know what taqwa is, don't you? We have said on many occasions that taqwa consists of following Allah's commands and avoiding His prohibitions. "Whatever the Messenger gives you you should accept and whatever he forbids you you should forgo." 59:7 Allah has given us the injunctions of prayer and zakat and fasting and Hajj, and ordered us to safeguard our limbs from actions of disobedience, and to safeguard our hearts as well from envy and rancour and pride. If a person is free of this he possesses every good thing, every good thing.

Then Allah says: Will you not use your intellect? The purpose of the intellect is to examine what will bring us nearer to Allah and so act on it, and to examine what will distance us from Allah and so avoid it. If you have got any intellect, everyone with intellect uses it to examine things. If someone really has intellect they will use it to examine what brings them close to Allah and will act on that. And as for the things that they know will distance them from Allah, they know that the repayment of the Next World is coming. Belief in the Next World gives a person certainty about Allah's control of the decree. All of us are going to die. "Every self will taste death." 3:185 "Everyone on it will pass away; but the Face of your Lord will remain, Master of Majesty and Generosity." 55:24-25 "All things are passing except His Face." 28:88

If someone is certain about their death and what comes after death, such as the Reckoning and the Sirat and the Balance, and knows that he himself will have to go through this, he will certainly take this into account. If someone takes these things to heart he will know that when he dies there is punishment in the grave and that he will be tested at the Resurrection, and on the Sirat and at the Balance. These are big tests. But if Allah takes him by the hand, he will counsel himself and say, "Death is definitely something which will come to me. That is clear! And after it comes the Resurrection and after that the Sirat, and after that the Balance. And after all those things there is either the Garden or the Fire."

If someone knows this, and confirms it and believes it, he will certainly prepare for it. But if someone wastes their time in complete heedlessness, not knowing where he is at, not being aware of his death or what comes after it. He is going to be in trouble when he dies. He will have trouble in his grave and at his rising and on the Sirat and all of us are going to have to face these things. That is why Allah says: "Will you not use your intellect?" You should have an enlightened intellect to reflect with on what will benefit you and bring you closer to Allah.

Go on! As for those who hold fast to the Book. This is talking about the opposite of those other people - those who hold fast to the Book, they are the people who grasped hold of the Torah and acted on it. This ayat, however, also refers to us, because everything that is revealed concerning past peoples also applies to us. The commands and prohibitions they were subject to also apply to us, even if there are some differences. "those who hold fast to the Book", they are those who obey its commands and avoid its prohibitions.

and establish salat, Allah does not say just "do the salat"; He makes a distinction between doing salat and establishing it. Not everyone who does salat establishes it. Establishment includes, for instance, the freeing oneself from impurities which underlies the act of salat. Everything is built on freeing oneself from impurity. For instance someone might have urine on him when he does wudu'. But the whole purification process is based on being free from urine. And once that basic purification is in place then you have to be absolutely correct in your wudu'. You must not leave any dry spot on either your face, or your arms or your feet.

That is why Allah ta'ala says: and establish salat, And after you have finished wudu' you must give the salat its full due. Say the takbir al-ihram with majesty, and the recitation with clarity, and do ruku' until you achieve stillness, and say three times "subhana'llahi wa bihamdihi, subhana'llahi'l-'adhim" and if you want to to give full measure say, "subhana'llahi wa bihamdihi 'adada khalqihi wa rida nafsihi wa zinata 'arshihi wa midada kalamatih" and that is better. It encompasses a huge benefit. And likewise in sujud, "subhana rabbi'l'ala wa bi hamdihi 'adada khalqihi wa rida nafsihi wa zinata 'arshihi wa midada kalamatih". Allah gives a tremendous reward for this tasbih.

Go on! We will not let the wage of the right-acting go to waste. If anyone is right-acting (salih), putting both himself and other people right, Allah will never neglect his reward. It is incumbent on every human being to put himself right and his children and his wife and his close relations, "All of you are shepherds and all of you are responsible for your flock." Do not only think about yourself. What if your wife does not pray – and maybe does not even fast – tomorrow on the Day of Rising you will be questioned about that, and also about your children who are living with you: "All of you are shepherds and all of you are responsible for your flock." When they come back from school should ask them if they have prayed and if not they should pray. If you are not strict with them they will never have any deen, if you do not remind them they will not do anything, the teacher should be ordering from one side and the father from the other, so that there are two forces, one from the school and one from the home.

Go on! When We uprooted the mountain, lifting it above them like a canopy, No, not that yet; we still have not finished with the previous ayat. We will not let the wage of the rihgt-acting go to waste. We said that the right-acting is someone who puts himself right and his family and close relations, because as we said, "All of you are shepherds and all of you are responsible for your flock." You have your children and your friends and other people you mix with. It is your duty to counsel them for the sake of Allah. Tell them, for instance, that death is coming to us all, and the only thing of any use to us will be our right actions. The first thing that comes to people in their grave are their actions. If they are right actions they will be a comfort to them, if they are other than that they will torment them.

So the first thing to come to a person in their grave is their actions, if their actions are good, they take on a beautiful form and have a pleasant scent. They will ask, "Who are are you?" He will reply, "I am your right actions, and I am going to keep you company until you enter the Garden." And if, and we seek refuge with Allah from it, someone's actions are bad, they take on a hideous form and have a foul smell. An terrifying sight. He says, "Get away from me." "What do you mean get away from you? I am your actions. You are the one who made me look this." Everyone's actions enter their grave with them, if they are right actions they will be a comfort to them, if they are other than that they will torment them. So everyone should wary about that.

Before you go to sleep you should say: "astaghfirullah al-'adhim alladhi la ilaha illahu al-hayyu'l-qayyumu wa atubu ilayhi," three times. It has come in a sahih hadith: "Whoever retires to his bed and says 'astaghfirullah al-'adhim ladhi la ilaha illahu al-hayyu'l-qayyumu wa atubu ilayhi,' three times, his wrong actions will be forgiven even if they are as many as the froth on the sea, the grains of sand on the shore, the days of this world and all the leaves on the trees." This istighfar should be said by people, how many times? Before sleeping three times. There is no need to do it any more than that. This a hadith and it is sahih, recorded by the two shaykhs: "Whoever retires to his bed and says 'astaghfirullah al-'adhim ladhi la ilaha illahu al-hayyu'l-qayyumu wa atubu ilayhi,' three times, his wrong actions will be forgiven even if they are as many as the froth on the sea, the grains of sand on the shore, the days of this world and all the leaves on the trees."

Then Allah says, go on! When We uprooted the mountain, lifting it above them like a canopy. This is amongst the things which Allah used to discipline Banu Isra'il. When He ordered them to follow the Torah and they disobeyed Him, Allah ordered that mountain to hover above them, He lifted it above their heads. If Allah had ordered it to fall on them, it would have done so and crushed them. He lifted it as if it was a canopy and it stayed up there. It was waiting for the order, whether to fall on them and crush them, or not. But Allah just did it to scare them and didn't send the mountain crashing down on top of them. But they were frightened and some of them returned and held fast to the Torah, and some of, and we ask Allah's protection from that, stayed as they were.

Go on! and they thought that it was about to fall on them. It was on the point of falling on them but then our Master was kind to them and just caused them fear by it. Some of them returned to the truth and believed in Sayyidina Musa and acted on the Torah; and some of them remained hypocrites.

Then Allah says: Seize hold vigorously of what We have given you, Now this command, in the same way that it applied to Banu Isra'il, also applies to us. So it is incumbent on us as well to seize hold of the Book, i.e. the Qur'an, vigorously, in other words not neglect any of it. Wherever there is a command we have to comply with it and wherever them there is a prohibition we have to observe that. This doesn't just apply to Banu Isra'il; any sura or command directed at any previous peoples also applies to us.

Repeat the ayat. Seize hold vigorously of what We have given you, vigorously not feebly! Don't do salat: "da, da, da, da, assalamu 'alaykum" and that's it! Give it its full due; and safeguard the fast properly; and standing in the night in prayer; and all those things which bring you nearer to Allah. Do these things with energy and vigour, in the knowledge that you are going to leave this world. Here we are all sitting here but where have all the previous generation gone? All gone back to Allah. In any case it is clear that in death we have a great reminder. Allah commands us to remember death and what comes after death; but if we stay wrapped up in the world and our appetites and think of nothing else but it, and is only concerned with working for it, when we get to the Next World we will find ourselves utterly bankrupt. Allah ta'ala says: "Whatever good you send ahead for yourselves you will find it with Allah as something better and as a greater reward." 2:109 "Those who produce a good action will receive ten like it," 6:161 or indeed up to seventy, "Allah gives such multiplied increase to whoever He wills." 2:160

Go on! and remember what is in it, so that hopefully you will have taqwa. We discussed taqwa earlier. Allah mentions taqwa in His Book in relation to certain things. So anyone who wants knowledge has to have taqwa as well. Allah says: "Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge." 2:281 Those students who pray and have fear of Allah, Allah will open the doors of knowledge for them straight away. Because Allah says, "Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge." 2:281 But as for someone studying at school or college who doesn't pray or do dhikrullah, and spends all his time with the heedless or playing football or wasting his time like that, the door of knowledge will never open for him.

So Allah ta'ala says: and remember what is in it, so that hopefully you will have taqwa. Allah ta'ala orders Banu Isra'il to remember what is in the Torah and to act by it and He orders us to ponder the Qur'an and act by that. The meanings of the Qur'an embrace every other revelation; it includes what is in the Torah and what is in the Injil and what is in the Zabur; all the Revealed Books have been placed by Allah in the Qur'an. Just as Allah gathered together all good things for Sayyidina Muhammad, he gathered together all good for us in the Book of Allah.

Allah says: and remember what is in it, so that hopefully you will have taqwa. We said that taqwa is obedience to all the commands of Allah and avoidance of all His prohibitions. The first stage of taqwa is knowledge of Allah. If you ask someone if they know Allah they say la ilaha illa'llah, but this la ilaha illa'llah has a meaning, and if someone says it they should know what it means, in order to enter the land of tawhid. They must know Allah tabaraka wa ta'ala in the correct way, acknowledging the evidence for His existence, either phenomenological or epistemological. Allah tabaraka wa ta'ala commands us to affirm His Oneness and to gain knowledge of Him. This knowledge of him is of two kinds, one is based on evidence and proofs and one is from natural things. We might say to someone how did you get to know your Lord. He might reply I found my parents saying la ilaha illa'llah and so I said it. That is not enough. If someone says they know Allah they must produce something in support of that statement. A person might say that he was non-existent and then his Lord nurtured him in his mother's womb and continued doing that until he emerged into this world. Then He gave him milk to drink until he grew bigger. What is this called? It is phenomenological evidence and it is sufficient. An Arab was asked how he knew his Lord and he was someone who knew about camels. So he replied that the dung (ba'r) indicates the camel (ba'ir) and footprints indicate the traveller. And as the poet said: "The sky with its constellations, and the earth with its plant-life, and the oceans with their waves, do they not indicate the All-penetrating, the All- aware?" All that indicates Allah.

Who raised up the sky? Who filled up the seas with water? Who makes the winds blow? Who makes the rain fall? Who makes the plants grow? These are all phenomenological evidence for the existence of Allah. Allah ta'ala revealed seven hundred ayats in the Qur'an containing this type of evidence. "Mankind worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that hopefully you will have taqwa. It is He who made the earth a couch for you, and the sky a dome. He sends down water from the sky and by it brings forth fruits for your provision. Do not, then, knowingly make others equal to Allah." 2:20-21 "In the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and day, and the ships which sail the seas to people's benefit, and the water which Allah sends down from the sky – by which He brings the earth to life when it was dead and scatters about in it creatures of every kind – and the varying direction of the winds, and the clouds subservient between heaven and earth, there are Signs for people who use their intellect." 2:163 "Among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and the variety of your languages and colours." 30:21 All of us are different. Why is this one black and that one white, this one tall and that one short, this one have a good intellect and that one not? They are all manifestations of who? Of our Master. And in that way they are evidence for our Master, subhanahu.

Anyway Allah ta'ala says: "Among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and the variety of your languages and colours. There are certainly Signs in that for every being." 30:21 These ayats outlining phenomenological evidence for the Divine existence in the Qur'an are many. But as for the epistemological ones it is the logicians who talk about them. They bring, for example, the analogy of exception and the analogy of concurrence, and use linguistic analysis of Arabic. But this is beyond the majority of people. It is enough, in fact, just to have knowledge of yourself. You need only say to yourself, "Who gave me eyesight, enabling me to see? Who gave me hearing, enabling me to hear. Who gave me an intellect, enabling me to think." That is enough. It is what? It is phenomenological evidence for the Divine existence. This has all come from His words, subhanahu wa ta'ala: and remember what is in it, so that hopefully you will have taqwa.

Let's leave it here for the time being. I was saying a few words about Ramadan. We said to you that Ramadan is the storehouse of all the actions of the year. Why did we say that? It is because in it the nafila has the same status that the fard does at other times. So anyone who has missed a fard and does a lot of nafilas in Ramadan, then each nafila replaces a fard. If anyone does a voluntary action in Ramadan it counts as doing a fard at any other time and if anyone does a fard action it counts as seventy fards outside Ramadan. So we have a store of wealth in Ramadan which does not exist outside Ramadan. All of our actions are multiplied.

For this reason people should be especially on their guard. They should have all their faculties under control. The most important of them is the tongue because backbiting actually breaks the fast. The companions said, "Messenger of Allah, what if what we say about someone is true?" He replied, "If you say that about him, that is backbiting." If you talk behind someone's back and say, for example, that he is a thief, and he actually is – it's not that he is not, he really has got that bad quality – what you should do is advise him to his face: "My brother, I love you but I see things in you which people might find objectionable. If Allah guides you and you turn to Your Lord and go back to Our Master, know that the door of tawba is always open." That's a good thing to do. But on the other hand, if you talk behind his back and say that so and so is ignorant and doesn't know anything or keeps indulging in bad actions, and all of it is true, what is that called? It is backbiting. Allah ta'ala says: "…and do not backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat his brother's dead flesh? No, you would hate it." 49:12

The Prophet said to us that we should adopt four traits: two which gain the pleasure of the Lord and two we cannot do without. The two traits which please the Lord are worshipping Him and not associating anything with him. So make sure that the aim of your actions is the Face of Allah, not doing things so that you will be given something in return, that puts you in danger, "They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their deen sincerely His." 98:5 Your actions must be for the Face of Allah alone. And this is what the slave will be asked about and this will be the important thing for the person concerned on the Day of Rising.

Anyway we were talking about the four traits two of which to gain the pleasure of your Lord: to worship Him and not to associate anything with Him. And you know what shirk is, don't you? With us shirk is of two sorts – and make sure you understand this – there is hidden shirk and open shirk. As for open shirk, it is when people worship statues and idols, thinking that they will benefit them, that they can harm them and give to them and prevent them from getting things, like the idolaters of Makka. They had idols and the thought that they harmed them and benefited them. That kind of shirk is open, no doubt about it, such people are in the Fire for ever. "Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him." 4:48

Then there is hidden shirk and that is to attribute effects to their causes. Allah ta'ala has set up causes but effects accompany these causes, they are not brought about by them. In all the things that happen to us, Allah is the doer. "Allah created both you and what you do." 37:96 He created your actions, as for the good we link that to Allah but as for the ugly we link that to ourselves. So as for all the things which are good and right we link those to Sidi our Lord. He is the One who helps us, provides for us, gives us, keeps evil away from us, all this we link to Sidi our Lord. As for the ugly actions we say that we are the ones who disobeyed, we are the ones who went against the grain, and we ask Allah to grant us a effective repentance. It is necessary for every human being to know this.

We said that if someone does a nafila – and the night is very long – if you do a nafila in Ramadan, it is the same as doing a fard in any other month. We have all got some shortcomings in respect of our fards; no one completely fulfills all the fards he has to do. How many people don't start praying till they are eighteen, how many till they are twenty? And some do not start till they are thirty. So all of us have something to make up. And if you want to do that then every nafila in Ramadan has the status of a fard.

May Allah give us and you success in what is good and take us and you by the hand.

Return to Home Page