Ramadan Reflection #5: Repel Evil With Good

When I look at the intense craziness happening in the world, I am reminded of the example of the Rasool, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, time and time again. Despite the immense backlash the Prophet faced in Makkah, the torture and humiliation of his followers, he was still kind to those whom oppressed him the most. In this, as always, there are many gems for us.

The Prophet’s return to Makkah after its conquest has many lessons for us in his interaction with those who mistreated him and his followers.

Khalid ibn Waleed, a name we are familiar with, was responsible for a huge amount of death and injuries of Sahabah in the Battle of Uhud. Clearly at that time, he was on the other side. After the Conquest of Makkah happened, he fled the city. He assumed, as many would, that he was going to be punished for his previous actions. The Prophet found his brother was like where did Khalid go? He’s such a great guy, an intelligent man. He didn’t mention negative qualities – he only focused on the positive. His brother later tells Khalid that the Prophet was speaking so highly of you, welcoming you back. This simple act turned the heart of Khalid. He became one of the heroes of Islam, as many of us know him now, and carried the Muslims to countless victories.

Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, hired Wahshi to kill Hamza ibn Abdul Mutalib, the Uncle of the Prophet (S) during the Battle of Uhud. She then personally mutilated his body, took out his liver, and chewed on it. Imagine the amount of hatred that leads a person to do such a thing. Later during the Conquest of Makkah, Abu Sufyan left Makkah to approach the Muslims to broker a peace deal and he was granted protection. He came home and Hind, his wife, ordered people to go kill her husband because she felt he begged for his life. She was still staunchly against them. Yet even her heart was melted by the generosity, kindness, respect given by the Prophet despite everything she had done.

There are so many stories with this similar theme: even when the Prophet was met with hatred, violence, and evil, he repelled it with good. He was kind, he was generous, he was positive. He looked for the best in people, even in those who killed his family and closest companions. He truly gave everyone a chance until their last breath. He did not *judge* anyone solely based on their actions and have them room to improve. He saw potential in those we would condemn to hell on first glance.

It is a tough act to follow. From seeing people murdered senselessly around the world to those who oppress others in school or work or home, we tend to let only our anger colour our judgement of that person. Most of us will not experience the former extreme. Still, it is a huge struggle to be the better person, the bigger person, to be kind to someone who has wronged you beyond relief. Some situations may not require it. But many situations, especially those in our daily lives, would benefit immensely from us being kind instead of angry, generous instead of vindictive, and positive instead of critical. Like Allah swt promises, only good will come out of goodness. It sure doesn’t hurt to try it.

Ramadan Reflection 3: Naseehah

In my first job interview, I had no idea what to expect. I walked into a room with multiple interviewers and really did not know how it would turn out. I just took deep breaths, made du’aa, smiled and plowed on. Looking back on it, I find that out of all the questions in that interview, this is the one I remember best: “If you had a disagreement with a [colleague], how would you address it?”

Right away my mind flicked to the hadith on advising others or naseehah:

The Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Whoever wishes to give advice to a ruler about a matter should not do so publicly. Instead, he should take him by his hand and be alone with him [to talk to him] about it. If he accepts the advice from him [the matter is finished successfully]. If he does not [accept the advice], the person has fulfilled [the obligation] upon him.” [AlHaakim & Ahmad]

Although I was not in a religious setting, I knew this lesson from the Rasool applied to life in general. So I smiled and answered that if I disagreed with someone or felt he or she was doing something incorrect, I would find a time to speak to him or her or privately and relay my concerns then. I would do my best to avoid embarrassing him or her in front of others at all costs.

How many times have we made a mistake – knowingly or not – in public? It is bad enough when we realize we made that mistake. It is even worse when a person, with perhaps the best intentions, begins to point out the wrongs of our ways in front of others. If the mistake was not enough to humiliate us, the supposed advice will then do the trick. Even our greatest scholars understood this predicament. Imam AshShafe’ee, rahimahuAllah, said in a poem to the meaning of: “Whenever you want to advise me do so privately, / and avoid advising publicly, / because advising in the presence of people, / is a form of embarrassment I am not pleased to listen to.”

How many times has a sister come into the mosque in improper hijab and been berated? How many times has a brother been embarrassed over his lifestyle choices? How many times has a person praying been told they’re doing it all wrong? How many times has a child playing in the mosque been made a public example – for being a child? The salaf used to say, “Whoever commanded his brother [to do good] in a gathering where there are [other] people, then he has exposed him.”

We are all human. We *will* make mistakes. That is a given. But by the grace of Allah, we live, we learn, and we improve from our mistakes. The test for both you and I is in how we give that naseehah and how we receive it in when we are in either situation.

Just as our siyaam, our fasting is only between us and Allah swt, let us ensure that our naseehah, our advisement, is only between that person and Allah swt. I would hate to find out on the day of Judgement that because of my supposedly well-intended advice, I actually turned a person away from the deen than towards it. I pray that this Ramadan may be a means of softening our hearts towards each one of our fellow humans, both in this month and for the rest of the our lives.

Ramadan Reflection Day 2: The Good Neighbours

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar, radhiaAllahu ‘anhu, The Prophet sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, ‘The best friend in the sight of Allah is he who is the well-wisher of his companions, and the best neighbour is one who behaves best towards his neighbours.’ [Tirmidhi]

On the first night of taraweeh, we had some lovely teens who decided it would be a good idea to ring the doorbells of neighbourhood houses and run away. These neighbours, who may have been sleeping at the time, were obviously not impressed (to say the least). They called the police. (Hey, at least this time, they weren’t smoking weed, right? Ha.)

We all know what a nuisance this is. We also know kids will be kids. It’s the summer. School is out. Everyone is together and taraweeh sure takes a long time to end. But this is when it matters. If Ramadan, our most blessed time of the year, ends up being a major pain for our neighbours, are we really, truly reaping the rewards?

Yes, the onus is on the parents of those kids to make sure they’re doing what they came to the mosque for. As individuals, however, it is a good idea to evaluate what we’ve done. What kind of relationship do we have with our neighbours? Have we said more than 5 words to them in the 5, 10, 20 years we’ve been there?

Make this Ramadan the change in your relationship with your neighbours. Smile. Start up a conversation. Become friends. Mow their lawn when they need it. Shovel the driveway in the winter. Take the garbage to the curb. Send over sweets and a card on Eid. Share the khayr, the rahma, the barakah. The benefits will last you much longer than 29 or 30 days.

Ramadan Reflection Day 1: Manners, Manners, Manners

The last few months have solidified one concept for me: we are more in need of good manners than a little bit of knowledge. Don’t get me wrong here – the need for knowledge is immense. I pray that we continue to learn that which is beneficial to society as a whole until the day we die. However, people tend not to listen to those who are rude and condescending even if they are knowledgeable. This is amplified for those who speak on behalf of religion.

Ramadan is a month of reflection and looking at ourselves. We want to improve ourselves for the upcoming year and benefit our akhirah. It is relatively ‘simple’ (I use this term loosely) to fast and pray in this age of air conditioning and summer vacations where we can sleep the hot day away and stay up the short nights. The real challenge comes into how you act when you are hungry and someone annoys or angers you. When things don’t go according to your plan. When you are running late to an important meeting. When you meet someone new and when you see someone you haven’t seen in a while. When dealing with your family. When just frustrated about something in general and taking it out out on the first person who comes by.

Anas radhiaAllahu ‘anhu, said, “I served RasulAllah, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, for ten years. During that time, he never once said to me as much as ‘Oof’ if I did something wrong. He never asked me, if I had failed to do something, ‘Why did you not do it?,’ and he never said to me, if I had done something wrong, ‘Why did you do it?” [Bukhari]

Anas ibn Malik was with the Rasool for a decade. Think about that for a second. He watched his actions during the good times and the bad. He watched him deal with his family. He watched him interact with the general public. He saw him interact with those whom he had just met and those whom he had known for ages. He observed him while he was fasting and when he was not. He pretty much saw it all. Yet could not recall a time when the Rasool took out any sort of frustration upon him.

For many of us, a person just needs to watch us for an hour to see the anger come out. And what about when fasting? Shaykh Ibrahim, during Jummah a few weeks ago, mentioned how we all know a person (or may be that person!) who is the one to avoid while fasting. Br. or Sr. Bad Mood While Hungry. Hangry. Stay away or else you will suffer his or her wrath. After iftar? All is back to normal. SubhanAllah, what a backwards concept. How different it is from our righteous predecessors.

We should be more aware of our actions while fasting than any other time. It should be a training ground, not just physically or spiritually, but for our interactions with others. We hear all the time about the physical acts – which shouldn’t be ignored! – but too quickly set aside our adaab. I hope that this Ramadan is a reflection upon our manners. We can attain a lot of other things, both in our deen and dunya, but without proper akhlaaq, they will be useless.