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Category Archives: Gems

When Nineveh Met Taif: Gems from Ilmfest

NinevehBoxIt was a sad day in Ninevah. The Prophet Yunus, peace be upon him, was leaving.

Angry, frustrated, and unable to continue what felt like a hopeless endeavor, he boarded the first ship out of town, leaving his homeland behind. He had tried and tried and tried– but no matter how hard he argued or how sincerely he reasoned, they were unwilling to see that reason. And he couldn’t see himself staying there anymore, so he left.

The ship left the shore, and as it sailed towards the open sea his homeland grew smaller in the distance. He looked towards its shore and he could see the land, the trees, the sky above the place where he had been born and brought up. He could also see clouds- dark, angry rolling clouds gathering above. A storm was brewing.

He thought the storm would be unleashed on his people, but it turns out that the people of Nineveh did something unusual when they saw the wrath of God coming- they actually repented. And Allah forgave them.

Wow. I know, right? All those other times people saw the wrath of God coming and thought, “Wow, those are some ominous-looking clouds. I bet it’s going to be a lovely drizzle! It’s not like God’s angry at us or anything…” but the people of Nineveh got it right. So that storm never hit them. It hit Prophet Yunus alaihis-salam instead.

Back on the boat, there was chaos. The ocean waves had grown into rolling hills, and the ship scaled their heights before racing down their depths and into the danger of capsizing. People began throwing their belongings over- their life’s possessions, their wares, their financial investments in the future- to save the reality of their present. It wasn’t enough. That’s when they threw Yunus AS over instead.

Man, first his own people rejected him. Now the people on the boat chucked him into the monstrous waves of a Wrath-level storm. It couldn’t get any worse. Or maybe it did, because that’s when an enormous whale swallowed Yunus AS and swam straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Beneath the darkness of the storm lay the darkness of the water. Within the darkness of the water swam the darkness within the whale. And in the darkness of the whale, Yunus AS thought he was dead.

He lay unmoving, unseeing, unsure of what-if anything- was to come. Then, in silence of the darkness he heard a tiny sound. He listened closer and realized he was hearing the pebbles on the ocean floor. They were making tasbih.

That is when Yunus (AS) understood he was still alive. Grateful, ashamed, humbled – he began to turn his body. He squeezed and pushed against the crushing insides of the whale until he was lying on his stomach. Then he strained, he pulled, he fought until his knees were bent beneath him, and pulled his hands around to his face. There, in the belly of the whale, in the darkness within the darkness within the darkness- Yunus AS made sujood.

He prayed.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He made this dua over and over again, and he kept repeated it until the whale began to swim upwards, rising from the ocean’s darkness to the shore’s light, where he spat Yunus onto the shore.

Sunlight seared Yunus’s raw, acid-burned skin. He screamed, and then turned that scream into prayer- GAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaathere is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned. There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He kept praying until the pain subsided and the skin healed, and to make a long story short- it turns out the people that Yunus AS ran away from were looking for him. They wanted him to teach them the faith that they had earlier rejected. And here is where Nineveh meets Taif.

When the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ﷺ was ten years into his mission, he was hit with terrible loss. His wife Khadija RA- who had been best friend, his wife, his first believer and his first supporter- died. In the same year, his Uncle Abu Talib- who had been his protector and friend- also died. And not only did he die- he died without accepting Islam or becoming a Muslim.

In this state of grief, Muhammadﷺ had a big problem.

The chiefs of the Quraysh controlled who could live or stay in Makkah, and getting the chief’s stamp was kind of like getting a visa or a greencard. No visa? No residence. Abu Talib had been stamping Muhammad’s SAW proverbial visa to this point, but when he died, his brother stood next in line to head the tribe of Bani Hashim.

You know Abu Talib’s younger brother don’t you? Abdul Uzza- aka- your jolly old uncle Abu Lahab?

Abu Lahab was one of the Prophet’s ﷺ most hateful opponents. Despite being related by blood, he was viciously opposed to his nephew’s mission. His wife put thorns outside the Prophet’sﷺ  door, and Abu Lahab himself dumped camel guts there. Because when cursing, rejecting, and disowning your own family members isn’t enough, the next logical step is guts.

Having lost his wife, his uncle, and his ability to stay in his hometown, the Prophet ﷺ went to Taif to see if the people there would be receptive to the message of Islam.

Contrary to pop-seerah, he didn’t just walk in and then get pelted out with stones on the same day. He was there for two weeks- talking, reasoning, calling people to the beauty of Islam and instead facing the ugliness of rejection.

“What, you? A messenger?” people spat in his direction.

He faced spite, arrogance, and verbal abuse. Finally, he was forced to leave the city, and on his way out, the children of Taif pelted him with stones until he bled all the way into his sandals.

In physical pain and emotional anguish, the Messenger of Allah slumped down against a palm tree outside a home at the outskirts of Taif, and covered in blood- he began to cry.

The owners of the home looked out their window and took pity on him, sending out a servant with a plate of grapes. The Prophet ﷺ accepted the grapes and before eating said, “Bismillah hir-Rahman nir-Raheem.”

Curious, the slave asked Muhammad ﷺ what his name was. Muhammad ﷺ introduced himself and asked the slave what his name was.   The slave’s name was Addas.

The Prophet ﷺ asked where he was from, as Addas was not a local name. Addas said he was from Nineveh.

“Nineveh?” The Prophet remarked, “You are of the people of Yunus.”

“What would you know about Yunus?” Addas challenged, surprised that a bleeding Arab would have anything to say about his Christian homeland.

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Yunus was a prophet, and I am a prophet, and the prophets are brothers.”

And there the story of Yunus intertwined with the story of Muhammad ﷺ, and Addas- a Christian slave- became the only person to embrace both the Prophet ﷺ and Islam in Taif that day.

And Allah is the Best of Planners.


This made me feel better today

The Prophet ﷺ was asked, “O Messenger of Allāh, which of the people are the most sorely tested?” He said:

“The Prophets, then those similar, then those similar. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of faith. If his faith is strong, he will be tested more severely, and if his faith is weak, he will be tested in accordance with his faith. Calamity will keep befalling a person until he walks on the earth with no sin on him.”



Three Hadith you’ve [prolly] never heard

Suhaib Webb published an short list of authentic but little-heard hadith here, and three of them really caught my attention.

  • “The believer is friendly and likeable*1  and there is no good in the one who is not friendly nor likeable, and the best of them are the most beneficial to the people.” (Sahih al-Jami)
  • “Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which wept out of the Fear and Awe of Allah. Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which stayed awake and vigilant (through the night) in the Way of Allah. Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which looked away from that which has been forbidden by Allah.” (Hakim)
  • “Whoever dies and is free from three: arrogance, grudges and debt will enter Paradise.” (Tirmidhi)

The first one made me happy, because in my mortal conceit I consider myself a people person.  The second one made me hopeful, because I am an optimist.  The third made me sad, because I struggle with both debt and grudges.  So now I have something to work towards, InshaAllah. 🙂

Lessons from Abu Huraira’s fingers :)

May Allah be pleased with Abu Huraira, he was an amazing man and I love his kuniya.  Abu Huraira means father of the kitten-you see, he used to have a pet kitten. 🙂  And I know I just updated yesterday, and I wouldn’t want to overwhelm my *vast* readership with such excesses as *daily* posting, but I found this gem in my email while cleaning out my inbox just now, and I want to put it somewhere where I will see it again.  So here it is- Lessons from Abu Huraira’s fingers. 🙂

“I, ya Rasulullah!” Such were the words of the great Companion, Abu Hurayrah (radhiAllahu anhu) in acceptance of the request of his beloved, when he asked, “Who among you will accept of me the following words and adopt and execute their meaning or teach someone to adopt them and act according to them?”

Then, as Abu Hurayrah recalls; “So he held my hand and counted five things according to my five fingers as follows.” Upon pondering over this sentence, one can rightfully assume that this act of the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) of teaching Abu Hurayrah in such a personal manner – one by one, on the fingers of his hand – was a significant step in the effort to keep these words etched in his heart. In fact, it was a method of aiding him in fulfilling the responsibility to which he agreed to moments earlier.

So, what were these teachings that numbered the fingers of Abu Hurayrah’s hand?

عن أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رضي الله عنه ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ :
( مَنْ يَأْخُذُ عَنِّي هَؤُلاَءِ الكَلِمَاتِ فَيَعْمَلُ بِهِنَّ أَوْ يُعَلِّمُ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ بِهِنَّ ؟ فَقَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ : فَقُلْتُ : أَنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ !
فَأَخَذَ بِيَدِي فَعَدَّ خَمْسًا وَقَالَ :
اتَّقِ الْمَحَارِمَ تَكُنْ أَعْبَدَ النَّاسِ ، وَارْضَ بِمَا قَسَمَ اللَّهُ لَكَ تَكُنْ أَغْنَى النَّاسِ ، وَأَحْسِنْ إِلَى جَارِكَ تَكُنْ مُؤْمِنًا ، وَأَحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا تُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِكَ تَكُنْ مُسْلِمًا ، وَلاَ تُكْثِرِ الضَّحِكَ ، فَإِنَّ كَثْرَةَ الضَّحِكِ تُمِيتُ القَلْبَ ) .
رواه أحمد والترمذي والطبراني في الأوسط

Keep away from prohibited things and you will be the best of worshippers.
Be content with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people.
Be good to your neighbor and you will be a true believer.
Love for other people what you love for yourself and you will be a (perfect) Muslim.
Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.

(Recorded by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi)

The rest of the article is here, and a great read for anyone in need of a refresher of some fundamental standards of Muslim character. 🙂  And really, who doesn’t?

Islamic Gems: Manners have limits- Ibn Al Qayyim

Ibn al-Qayyim said:

“…Manners have limits. When these limits are crossed, this is transgression. When they are fallen short of, this is deficiency and disgrace.

Anger has a limit: and it is to be bold while being above having negative and deficient traits, and this is the perfect form of anger. If this limit is exceeded, you become a transgressor. If you fall short of it, you will be a coward and will not be able to raise yourself above negative traits.

Covetousness has a limit: it is to take all you need from this world and what it has to offer you. When you fall short of this limit, it becomes disgrace and wastefulness. When you exceed this limit, you end up wanting what you shouldn’t want.

Envy has a limit: and it is to compete in becoming perfect and to excel such that your rival is unable to excel over you. When this limit is exceeded, you transgress and oppress in which you wish that the good things are taken away from the one you envy and are keen to harm him. When you fall short of this limit, you become low, weak in aspiration, and you belittle yourself. The Prophet (Õáì Çááå Úáíå æ Óáã) said: “There should be no envy except in regards to two things: a man who was granted wealth by Allah and he was able to spend it for the sake of the truth, and a man who was granted wisdom by Allah and he takes it and teaches it to the people.”So, this is an envy of competition, where the envious one pushes himself to be like the one he envies without wishing that he is deprived of the good things that are with him.

Sexual desire has a limit: and it is to relax the heart and mind from the exhaustion of worship, to maintain moral excellence, and to use the fulfillment of these desires to help you in this. When you exceed this limit, you fall into being overly lustful, and you come to resemble animals. When you fall short of this limit and don’t use this time to obtain excellence and virtue, this becomes weakness, inability, and disgrace.

Relaxation has a limit: and it is to collect yourself and your strength to prepare for worship and perfection of the self, and to save this so that you don’t become weak or tired. When you exceed this limit, this becomes laziness and waste, and you end up missing out on so many things that could benefit you. When you fall short of this limit, you end up hurting and weakening your energy, and it might even be cut off from you like a farmer who is unable to land to plow or crops to pick.

Generosity has a limit between two extremes: and whenever this limit is exceeded, this becomes wastefulness and extravagance. When you fall short of this limit, you become cheap and miserly.

Bravery has a limit: and when you cross this limit, you become reckless. When you fall short of this limit, you become a coward. This limit is that you put yourself forth when the time is right to do so and that you hold yourself back when the time is right to do so, just like Mu’awiyah said to ‘Amr bin al-‘As: “I don’t know whether you’re brave or cowardly! You go forth to the point that I say you’re the bravest person, and then you stay back to the point that I say you’re the most cowardly person!” So, he replied:

I am brave if I am guaranteed the chance * If I don’t have the chance, I am a coward…

Protective jealousy has a limit: and if you exceed this limit, you fall into accusation and suspicion of the innocent. If you fall short of this limit, you fall into heedlessness and lack of manhood.

Humility has a limit: and if it is crossed, this becomes humiliation and disgrace. If you fall short of it, you deviate to arrogance and false pride.

Honor has a limit: and if you exceed it, you fall into arrogance and blameworthy traits. If you fall short of it, you deviate to humiliation and disgrace.

The basic principle in all this is to choose the path of moderation between excess and negligence. This is what all of the benefits of this world and the next are built upon. In fact, you can benefit your body in no other way, because when some of your activities are done with lack of moderation and either exceed or fall short of it, your body’s health and energy begins to decline accordingly. Likewise, natural activities such as sleeping, staying awake, eating, drinking, having intercourse, playing sports, spending time alone, spending time with others, etc. – if these are all done moderately between the two blameworthy extremes, this is justice. If you deviate to either extreme, this is a sign of deficiency and will lead to even more deficiency.

This knowledge of proper limits is from the best types of knowledge, especially the limits of what is commanded and prohibited. The most knowledgeable people are those who know the most about these limits, such that they don’t put in them what doesn’t belong and don’t remove from them what does belong. Allah Said: {“The bedouins are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be ignorant of the limits that Allah has revealed to His Messenger…”} [at-Tawbah; 97]

So, the people who are most just are those who recognize by way of knowledge and action the legislated limits in their manners and deeds, and Allah is the source of success…”