Ramadan Discourse 3

Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib

(tafsir on 7:171-178)

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. There are some obvious places where the tape has not been deciphered yet.]

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               'Seize hold vigorously of what We have given you

                     and remember what is in it,

               so that hopefully you will have taqwa.'

   172 When your Lord took out all their descendants

               from the loins of the children of Adam

          and made them testify against themselves

               'Am I not your Lord?'

          they said, 'We testify that indeed You are!'

               Lest you say on the Day of Rising,

                  'We knew nothing of this.'

   173 Or lest you say,

               'Our forefathers associated others with Allah

                     before our time,

               and we are merely descendants coming after them.

         So are You going to destroy us

               for what those purveyors of falsehood did?'

   174 That is how We make the Signs clear

               so that hopefully they will return.

   175 Recite to them the tale of him to whom We gave Our Signs,

               but who then cast them to one side

                  and Shaytan caught up with him.

               He was one of those lured into error.

   176 If We had wanted to, We would have raised him up by them.

               But he gravitated towards the earth

                  and pursued his whims and base desires.

               His metaphor is that of a dog:

                  if you chase it away,

                     it lolls out its tongue and pants,

                  and if you leave it alone,

                     it lolls out its tongue and pants.

                  That is the metaphor of those who deny Our Signs.

         So tell the story so that hopefully they will reflect.

   177 How evil is the metaphor of those who deny Our Signs.

               It is themselves that they have badly wronged.

   178 Whoever Allah guides is truly guided;

               but those He misguides are the lost.

Seize hold vigorously of what We have given you and remember what is in it, so that hopefully you will have taqwa. This ayat was revealed about the Jews because they abandoned acting by the Tora and so Allah ordered them to take hold of the Tora with seriousness and energy, but they were negligent about it and disdainfully tossed the Book of Allah behind their backs, just as if they did not know. They followed their own whims and desires.

But this ayat, although it was revealed concerning the Jews is also true for us. It is incumbent on us to take hold of the Qu'ran with seriousness and energy and to implement the commands in it and avoid its prohibitions and to take to heart what it tells us regarding the matters of the Next World – the Garden and the Fire and the Sirat and the Balance and the Basin and other such things. We shouldn't recite the Qur'an and then it is as if we hadn't heard anything at all.

Seize hold vigorously of what We have given you and remember what is in it, of admonitions, of commands which we should follow and prohibitions which we should avoid. And what is the result of this for us: so that hopefully you will have taqwa. Because taqwa is obedience to the commands and avoidance of all the prohibitions. And Allah has made taqwa the cause of many benefits. Allah ta'la says: "Whoever has taqwa of Allah -– He will give him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect." 65:2-3 He says: "Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge." 2:281 "The people who have taqwa will be amid Gardens and Rivers, on seats of honour in the presence of an All-Powerful King." Taqwa is that your eyes should not look at haram things; your ears should not listen to backbiting and slander; your hands should not anything which does not belong to you; and your feet should not walk to any inappropriate place, only to some place where there is profit for you. But any place devoted to the wrong action of usury, or slander, or wine or some other such thing, it has haram for you to go to it. You will have the anger of Allah on you both going there and coming back. Taqwa gives us every good thing, in the sensory and the meaning. Whoever wants the profit of this world must have taqwa, and whoever wants the profit of the Next World must have taqwa. Seize hold vigorously of what We have given you and remember what is in it, so that hopefully you will have taqwa.

Then Allah goes on to mention here things relating to the world of the spirits. Allah says: When your Lord took out all their descendants from the loins of the children of Adam… Now these spirits we all have were all in another world before, they were in the world of vision and they were aware of everything. And Allah addressed them, ??????? , Allah ordered them to be believing, affirming Allah's unity, right-acting, and made them testify against themselves, what were they testifying to? That they would affirm Allah's unity and be right-acting, in respect of what Allah has ordered them to do, relinquishing what He forbade them to do.

Go on! Am I not your Lord? He asked them, "Am I not your Lord?" He is affirming to us that He is indeed our Lord. And what is the meaning of "Lord". The word "Lord" has several meanings. It means "Putter right" or "Repairer" and it means the "One who nurtures us". He nurtures us from a drop of water, which was in the loins of a man and is transferred to the womb of a female. Allah says to it, "Be a drop, then be a clot then be a lump and then be bones then 'clothed the bones in flesh; and then brought him into being as another creature. Blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators! Then subsequently you will certainly die. Then on the Day of Rising you will be raised again.'" 23:14-16 All that is subsumed under the meaning of Lord.

Allah mentions the word rabb (Lord) in many ayats. He begins His Book with "al-hamdu lillahi rabbi'l-'alamin." It is as if the word rabb gathers together all the attributes. Because you cannot have a rabb who is not powerful, willing, knowing, living, hearing, seeing and speaking, gathering together all the attributes of perfection and being free of any defects which are not appropriate to Lordship. The Lord is the one who gathers together all perfection. And that is what is denoted by His words: When your Lord took out all their descendants from the loins of the children of Adam and made them testify against themselves in that world where they were, asking them who else if not Him was their Lord and they replied that He was indeed their Lord.

But when they emerge into this world some of them remember that pledge, and stick by it and become believers affirming the Divine unity; and some of them, and we seek refuge with Allah from it, those predestined to do that, deny it and do not acknowledge either Lordship or Godhood or anything else. They become what people call atheists, not believing in Godhood or divine attributes, forgetting what we all agreed to in that world when we said we believed and that we would affirm Allah's unity and be right-acting.

'Am I not your Lord?' They said, 'We testify that indeed You are.' What does "indeed You are" mean? "You are our Lord." We testified to that against ourselves. We acknowledged Allah's Lordship and our slavehood, which is owed to it. In that world we accepted His Lordship which entails all perfections whereas our slavehood entails all imperfections. But if we want to achieve perfection we must apply ourselves to the worship of Allah ta'ala. "My slave continues to draw near to Me through voluntary acts of 'ibada until I love him, when I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asked Me for something, I would certainly give it to him, and if he sought refuge with me I would certainly grant it to him." Bukhari. If we draw near to our Lord, all good is ours. The good of this world and the Next lies in drawing near to Allah.

Anyway it is vital for a person to know the importance of the Next world, that he is going to die and he is going to the grave and when he is in the grave his actions will appear to him. If they are right actions they will be a comfort to him, if they are other than that, and we seek refuge from Allah, what will they do to him? They will torment him. Right actions will manifest themselves in a pleasant form, a beautiful one. The dead person will ask, "Why has Allah honoured me by sending you to me?" He will reply, "I am your right actions. You did me and I have now come to keep you company." But if he has nothing but bad actions to his credit, they appear in a ugly shape, something terrible to look at, with a foul stench and an ugly face, horrible to behold. The dead person will say, "Get away from me!" The reply comes, "What do you mean get away from you? I am your actions. You're the person who did the bad things, to give me this awful form." Everyone's actions enter the grave with them, if they are right actions they will be a comfort to him, if they are other than that, they will torment him.

Go on! Lest you say on the Day of Rising, 'We knew nothing of this.' Because on the Day of Rising Allah will question them about the tawhid He ordered them to observe. There will be people who held to that tawhid and belief and right action; but there will be others who failed to do that. The people who failed to do it will address Allah saying, "We found our fathers off the path and we followed," "'We found our fathers following a religion and we are simply following in their footsteps.'" 43:22 Is that going to do them any good? No, it won't be any use at all. It is no good for a Jew to say he is a Jew or for a Christian to say he is a Christian. No. All of them have been ordered to enter Islam. "If anyone desires anything other than Islam as a deen, it will not be accepted from him, and in the akhira he will be among the losers." 3:84 "The deen with Allah is Islam." 3:19 Islam gathers together all good things. It brings together all the actions that bring you closer to Allah and warns you against all the actions which distance you from Allah.

Allah continues: Or lest you say, 'Our forefathers associated others with Allah before our time, and we are merely descendants coming after them.' In other words we simply followed our forebears. For example the Jews at that time, they knew about the existence of Sayyidina Muhammad, and the existence of the Qur'an and the existence of the sunna, but they preferred what their ancestors followed and refused to follow the path it was their obligation to follow, and that was the deen of Islam. It doesn't matter whether they call themselves Jews or Christians or anything else, everyone who follows anything apart from Islam will be in the Fire. So Islam is the only way.

But it is essential for people to really follow Islam. It cannot be just lip service, saying la ilaha illa'llah, Muhammadun rasulullah, and then being someone who doesn't do the prayer and who indulges in shameful actions, or someone who is subject to pride, envy and rancour. Your Islam has got to be a true Islam. Following Islam and its people means mixing with good people, because your state is according to the state of the people you are with. If someone who is not very good mixes with good people he himself will become good as well, and if someone who is ignorant mixes with people of knowledge he himself will become knowledgeable and so on.

The Prophet, salla'Llahu alayhi wa sallam, said to us, "You should have good company," because good company has all good in it. Because a person will inevitably have a similar state to those he keeps company with. If they are good he will follow them in good and if they are bad he will follow them in their badness. So everyone should choose a companion who obeys Allah, because a follower follows. The youth nowadays, poor things, are in great danger. If they come across good people who attract them to the good then great good will come from them. But if they meet people who corrupt them they will have a hard time in their lives.

This youth of ours are great, they have fine intellects, but it is necessary for them to mix with people who will teach them deen and good character. If that happens there will those among them who will support the deen and strengthen Islam at its foundations. But if when they study, they study for the dunya alone, just to get some certificate. What is that for? Your rizq is bound to come to you. You should work hard for what will bring you close to Allah. Not just work for the dunya. In the dunya your rizq is guaranteed. Even if you had everything in the dunya, you would still only take from it your allotted rizq.

Anyway, go on! Allah says: Or lest you say, 'Our forefathers associated others with Allah before our time, and we are merely descendants coming after them. So are you going to destroy us for what those purveyors of falsehood did.' They will be destroyed because Allah made things clear to them but then they followed their forefathers in their lack of deen, whether they are Jews, Christians, idolaters or fire-worshippers. The main point is that the only thing that will do anybody any good is to enter Islam. "If anyone desires anything other than Islam as a deen, it will not be accepted from him, and in the akhira he will be among the losers." 3:84

Go on again! That is how We make the Signs clear so that hopefully they will return. This is not just for the Jews. Allah has also made the Signs clear to us. So that hopefully they will return from a bad state to a good state, from lack of the deen to having the deen, and from bad behaviour to good behaviour. So a person will move away from bad characteristics which distance them from Allah to characteristics which will bring him closer to Allah. The human being has an intellect. Our responsibility for our actions is based on us having intellect. It enables us to differentiate between evil things so we can abandon them and things which bring us closer to Allah and are good so we can follow them.

Go on! Recite to them the tale of him to whom We gave Our Signs, This is another subject and there is a great lesson in it for our people of knowledge. A scholar, provided he acts on his knowledge, is according to the hadith: "The men of knowledge are the inheritors of the Prophets," and there is also the hadith: "Whoever hears two words from a man of knowledge, or eats two mouthfuls with him, or walks two paces with him, Allah builds two cities for him in the Garden, each city twice as big as the whole of this world." So we should honour our men of knowledge and realise what extraordinary people they are and the great benefits we get from them. You only have to eat a mouthful with one or exchange a couple of words or take a step with one, and look what a great gift Allah gives you, a bounty with no limit to it and no end.

Go on! but who then casts them to one side, I seek refuge with Allah! He abandoned all the knowledge he had and followed his whims and desires. Continue! and Shaytan caught up with him. He was one of those lured into error. The dunya came and seduced him, love of power came and seduced him, and bad company came and finished him off. Who is this about? A man called Ibnu Ba'ura. He was a man of knowledge, to the point that he was almost a Prophet. But then dunya and women came along and seduced him. Then he started making du'a against Sayyidina Musa, and that caused the forty years of aimless wandering in the desert for Banu Isra'il, because he knew the Ismu'l-A'dham. Allah taught him that Ismu'l-A'dham but ??? They had to spend a long period wandering about aimlessly. And all the while this enemy of Allah had all this knowledge and he also had the Ismu'l-A'dham. But, and we seek Allah's refuge, in spite of that he cast it aside and followed his whims and desires. The dunya deluded him, and its appetites, and its affairs, and devastated his knowledge.

And so Allah says: and Shaytan caught up with him. He was one of those lured into error. And if We had wanted to, We would have raised him up by them. Those knowledges he had and the meanings. But the Divine will is over everything. If We had wanted to, We would have raised him up by them. But what was that raising up dependent on? It was dependent on sincere repentance, and doing what Allah ordered him to do and avoiding the things Allah had prohibited for him. But because of that bad state he was in He sent him to the fire, and we seek refuge with Allah from it, where he will stay forever.

Go on! But he gravitated towards the earth and pursued his whims and base desires. Then Allah likens him to a dog. His metaphor is that of a dog: if you chase it away, it lolls out its tongue and pants, and if you leave it alone, it lolls out its tongue and pants. Dogs cannot perspire properly. That is why they always pant. Human beings, who can perspire, do not pant like that. But dogs, Allah created them unable to perspire so they have to pant, so if you chase it away, it lolls out its tongue and pants, and if you leave it alone, it lolls out its tongue and pants. And this is the metaphor Allah uses for this scholar who was stripped of his knowledge and followed his whims and desires.

Allah likens him to a dog and then says: That is the metaphor of those who deny Our Signs. There you see! This doesn't just apply to this man, everyone who denies Allah's Signs, and knowledge is necessarily connected to action, anyone who does not act according to the knowledge he has, shoving it behind his back, he is also included in this ayat. So tell the story so that hopefully they will reflect. Tell them the story and make it clear to them what happened to previous communities, about the people who won and the people who lost. So they will follow the way of the winners and avoid the path of the losers.

Go on! How evil is the metaphor of those who deny Our Signs. It is themselves that they have badly wronged. This is because the human being only harms himself. If he goes out and does bad actions he only harms himself. He just exposes himself to the loss of this world and the Next. But if Allah takes him by the hand and enables him to use his intellect, he goes on the Straight Path. So Allah says: "This is My Path and it is straight, so follow it. Do not follow other ways or you will become cut off from His Way." 6:154

During Ramadan some people go to cafes, some go to??, some go out for a stroll, but the best thing would be to go and do a few rak'ats, or reflect on your wrong actions. This space of Ramadan, Allah has put a great gift in it. I always say it is the storehouse of the year. If someone does a prayer in it, just a nafila, it counts as a fard. And if he prays a fard prayer it counts the same as seventy fards at any other time. And not just prayers, every kind of action is multiplied, all good actions count seventy time what they normally do. Dhikr seventy times, fasting seventy times, prayer seventy, every action is multiplied. So if someone has any intellect, if he has neglected something outside Ramadan, he makes it up during Ramadan. Ramadan is the place of making up.

Then we have the time of the breaking of the fast, because every fasting person has a du'a guaranteed to be answered when he breaks his fast. Do not just say "assalamu alaykum" and start eating. There is a proper adab to breaking the fast. You should have a little something and then pray Maghrib. Then after that when you want to eat you should say: "Allahumma laka sumtu wa bika amantu wa 'ala rizqika aftartu faghfir li ma qaddamtu wa ma akhkhartu wa ma asrartu wa ma a'lamtu." Then supplicate Allah saying: "Allahumma inni as'aluka ridaka wa'l-jinna wa ma yuqarribu ilayhima min qawlin wa 'amal wa na'udhu bika min sakhatika wa nar wa ma yuqarribu ilayhima min qawlin wa 'amal." This is the best du'a it is possible for a person to make, because he has one du'a which is guaranteed to be answered.

And you shouldn't over-eat because the whole point of fasting is to cut down on eating. But if when someone breaks his fast, they eat until their stomach is full up, it is as if they haven't fasted at all. Because the purpose of fasting is to train the nafs. You should eat a bit and then have some rest and at sahur it is vital to eat a bit more. There is the hadith: "Have sahur because there is a baraka in sahur. Allah and His angels pray for blessing on the people who have sahur." So you should definitely have something for sahur, even if it is just rice or something light. Not just sleep through and not get up or you will lose out on an important sunna.

You will also miss another time when your du'a is guaranteed to be answered because at that time Allah asks who is asking Him so that He can answer him or asking forgiveness of Him so that He can forgive him. That last third of the night, the sahar time, is full to the brim with good. It is not a time which is fitting for anyone to sleep through. Allah ta'ala discloses Himself during it and says, "Is there any asker so that I can give to him, or anyone seeking forgiveness so that I can forgive him, anyone repenting so that I can turn towards him, anyone wanting My pardon…" until dawn comes and the door of the Allah's treasury shuts. No one must waste that time. So have something to eat for sahur and turn to Sidi our Lord.

Anyway may Allah give us and you success in gaining good, give us and you love for one another in Allah; and our king, may Allah give him every success, and give him good advisors; and this Israel and those who support it, by the baraka of this blessed gathering, may Allah speed their destruction, and give us joy by the Muslims gaining victory over them, very soon.


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