I prayed to Allah for Syria last night.
It’s a simple act, a basic obligation, but is it enough?
Ramadan is here and the dragging hours of summer daylight test the endurance of the believer. The pain of hunger and the anguish of thirst render the first date sweeter than those of the past. So imagine for a moment that peak of hunger and thirst, the impending quenching of one’s dire need, the climax of focus on fulfilling an appetite…
But you have nothing to break your fast with. You can only taste with the tongue of the imagination. The focus on the need becomes the very source of pain.
You scramble to find something, anything, to put in your mouth; to chew, to suck, to soothe. The sight of your starving children deeply exacerbates the suffering.
There was a man like this, except that his state was persistent, not due to a set duration of fasting. There were people like this in the Ummah (Muslim community), who exhibited immense strength in times of hardship. May Allah be well pleased with them.
Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Hurayrah radi allahu `anhu (may God be please with him) said:
“A man came to the Prophet ﷺ and said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Poverty has stuck me.’ The Prophet sent a messenger to his wives (to bring something for that man to eat) but they said that they had nothing. Then Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, ‘Who will invite this person or entertain him as a guest tonight? May Allah grant His mercy to him who does so.’
An Ansari man said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger!’ So he took him to his wife and said to her, ‘Entertain the guest of Allah’s Messenger generously.’ She said, ‘By Allah! We have nothing except the meal for my children.’ He said, ‘Let your children sleep if they ask for supper. Then turn off the lamp and we go to bed tonight while hungry.’ She did what he asked her to do.
In the morning the Ansari went to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ who said, ‘Allah wondered (favorably) or laughed at the action of so-and-so and his wife.’ Then Allah revealed, ‘and they give them preference over themselves even though they were in need of that.’”
This was also reported by Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa’i. In another narration, the Companion’s name was mentioned as Abu Talhah Al-Ansari, may Allah be pleased with him.
Ibn Katheer mentions that this was the cause behind the revelation of verse 9 of Surat al-Hashr (Chapter of the Exile):
والذين تبوءوا الدار والإيمان من قبلهم يحبون من هاجر إليهم ولا يجدون في صدورهم حاجة مما أوتوا ويؤثرون على أنفسهم ولو كان بهم خصاصة ومن يوق شح نفسه فأولئك هم المفلحون
“And [also for] those who were settled in al-Madinah and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.” (Qur’an 59:9)
The Ansar (the Helpers) opened their homes and their hearts to people they did not even know. They shared with the Muhajireen (the Emigrants) their wealth and so much more. They drew the Muhajireen near to them to compensate for the loss of their disbelieving kin. They did all of that gladly, with love, seeking Allah’s pleasure, and in compliance to the command of the Prophet ﷺ. The Ansar adopted our dear Prophet ﷺ when everyone had turned him out.
It is no wonder that he said about them, in a narration recorded by both Bukhari and Muslim:
حدثنا أبو الوليد قال حدثنا شعبة قال أخبرني عبد الله بن عبد الله بن جبر قال سمعت أنسا عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال آية الإيمان حب الأنصار وآية النفاق بغض الأنصار
It is narrated on the authority of Anas that the Prophet ﷺ said: “The love of the Ansar is the sign of faith and hatred against them is the sign of hypocrisy.”
We simply don’t understand. If you had to fast from 5 AM until 9 PM would you give up your meal for the guest of the Prophet ﷺ? What if you went for days without anything substantial to eat? Would you prefer another Muslim, just as hungry as you, over yourself?
Would you give up your security so that another Muslim would be safe? Would you narrow your standard of living, voluntarily, so that many other Muslims could live off of that expanse?
Would the men of the Ummah defend their women? Or have they lost every semblance of dignity?
The Companions of the Prophet ﷺ were fundamentally different than us. They put the concerns of the Ummah before their own. They saw themselves as part of an integral whole and so no one could break them. The Prophet ﷺ was their leader. Faith was the glue. They inhaled the revelation together. They exhaled falsehood together. They were always together. How alone and confused we are today!
This is not about food and it’s not about fundraising dinners. It’s about what faith means to us.
We don’t have to be Syrians or know the people of Syria, or be married to a Syrian or speak their language. It is enough that they are believers. In fact, it is enough that they are humans, let alone our brethren in faith.
To defend or support a Muslim, in justice, is to defend and support the deen (religion) of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). To love the Muslims, even with all their deficiencies, is from the love of Allah and His Messenger; because He chose them for guidance and so we choose whom Allah (swt) has chosen for us. He chose to bond us, over oceans, beyond languages, piercing through egos, He, the Most Merciful made us brethren.
وألف بين قلوبهم لو أنفقت ما في الأرض جميعا ما ألفت بين قلوبهم ولكن الله ألف بينهم إنه عزيز حكيم
“And He brought together their hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have brought their hearts together; but Allah brought them together. Indeed, He is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Qur’an 8:63)
This is about the manifestation of true and sincere faith. How did the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ achieve such feats, while most of us would be reduced to hysterical beggars if left for more than one day to eat nothing more than a cheese sandwich?
There is a hunger in the soul that can only be fed by Allah (swt). There is a thirst that can only be quenched by the Divine spring. It is a need beyond physical need. It is an impulse deeper than the appetites of the base self. It is the need for the Truth. Allah is the Truth.
The Companions of the Prophet ﷺ met the Best of Creation, whose heart was fully saturated by Divine Guidance, and so they saw the emptiness of their own selves and the radiance of the Prophetic soul.
When he called them to a different type of feast they responded. Perhaps we cannot conceive of it, but they actually endured intense hardships with more contentment than we have with our current state of ease! They were satiated in a different way; through deep belief in Allah (swt), unblemished sincerity, unswerving trust in His Decree, and adherence to the Truth, which they acknowledged. They proved this through submission and sacrifice.
Easy living blinds us to the towering heights of human refinement that can be achieved in times of hardship. What do we want for the people of Syria? Do we want them to live in ease like we do? Or perhaps they are the ones who wish something for us. That we would realize how lowly an existence we live when the circle of the heart is so narrow that it encompasses nothing more than the self.
Perhaps, through their struggle, and if we adopt it as our own, we would all be elevated to a new awareness, a new standard, a renewed mission.
That mission is what we were created for; to worship Allah (swt). Not when it’s convenient, not when things go our way, not so long as it serves our worldly purposes, but out of the deep realization that we will starve without it.
The Companions sacrificed for Islam because it was their everything, their happiness, their identity, their pride, their Hereafter. It was an entirely natural result that they loved all those who felt the same way, believed and yearned for the same thing.
If we yearn for worldly gains, then we probably won’t care about our brethren in Syria or any other Muslim, because they will not contribute to the achievement of our goal.
If we yearn for the Hereafter, then Syria and every other Muslim on the face of the Earth is our concern, because Allah (swt) commanded it to be so and because they do contribute to our goal.
We are one Ummah and we will always be. If we cannot be connected to the Muslims who live in our own times, how can we possibly be connected to the Muslims of the past? To the Companions? To the Prophet ﷺ!?
(إن هذه أمتكم أمة واحدة وأنا ربكم فاعبدون (92) وتقطعوا أمرهم بينهم كل إلينا راجعون (93) فمن يعمل من الصالحات وهو مؤمن فلا كفران لسعيه وإنا له كاتبون (94
“Indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me.
And [yet] they divided their affair among themselves, [but] all to Us will return.
So whoever does righteous deeds while he is a believer – no denial will there be for his effort, and indeed We, of it, are recorders.” (Qur’an 21:92-94)
We may just be able to transcend the many legitimate and petty differences that are currently tearing this Ummah apart, but not in any other way than that of the Companions. Their target was one, even though they approached it from many different directions.
As for those whose target was other than Allah (swt), they also converged and so Allah says,
والذين كفروا بعضهم أولياء بعض إلا تفعلوه تكن فتنة في الأرض وفساد كبير
“And those who disbelieved are allies of one another. If you do not do so [help your allies], there will be trials on earth and great corruption.” (Qur’an 8:73)
We are very occupied with the practical. It may very well be that we can cannot see the potential to help because we cannot fathom the concept of preferring another over ourselves. We think we can’t help because we really don’t want to help.
We claim to love our Prophet ﷺ. Yet we fight most in the month in which he was born. How can we be so oblivious of the fact that the disputing of the believers grieves our beloved Messenger ﷺ? If we truly loved him, we would be saddened by that which saddens him. There is no one who would be more grieved by the plight of the Muslims than the Prophet ﷺ of this Ummah.
لقد جاءكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حريص عليكم بالمؤمنين رءوف رحيم فإن تولوا فقل حسبي الله لا إله إلا هو عليه توكلت وهو رب العرش العظيم
“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” (Qur’an 9:128)
What can we do? The question is posed by the sincere. The answer is within that very sincerity. We will find a way because we have to; because we will be asked about it. Our souls can’t do without it.