By Sabeen Mansoori
We have often heard from our parents stories from their childhood that seem completely fantastic to us. The endless number of miles that they had to walk to get to school or the fact that they were given one pencil to use for the entire year and the unbelievable trouble that they would get into if they lost that one pencil! More fantastic than those stories of struggle and frugality were the times that we were informed about the degree of respect that they had for their parents. How they were not allowed to speak in the presence of most elders and the thought of talking back to a mother, or father, or grandparent never crossed their minds. Disobeying an adult, even a neighbor, was a punishable offence at home and completely unacceptable socially.
The stories seem so fantastic because the majority of parents now days seem to spend their time negotiating with their children and are plagued by the “why?” questions. On every little thing the kids seem to roll their eyes and ask: Why do I have to do my school work? Why do I have to do the dishes? Why do I have to make my bed? Why can’t I play on the Xbox for 20 hours straight? Why do I have to listen to you? But why? A question that got someone into eternal trouble when he asked, “Bow down! But why? I am better than him.”
Parents seem to be sweating under the blaze of these interrogating questions even as their homes and their hearts shake to the sound of slamming doors. This attitude of disrespect becomes truly dangerous when it is brought to compliance on religious matters. Then the question becomes why do I have to pray? Why do I have to fast? Why can’t I wear the super tight skinny jeans? The questions are sometimes driven by a sincere desire to understand and sometimes they are used as tools to chip away at the patience of the worn out parents. Some parents repeatedly buckle under the pressure of society that their child seems to have on his/her side.
Apart from teaching the ritual aspects of the religion, it is our responsibility to inculcate in our youth the love of Allah and His Messenger. The ability to obey Allah and carry out His commands comes only if this love is foremost in the heart. It cannot be created by bombarding them with lists of haram (forbidden) and halal (permissible) that they disregard because in the greater society almost everything is permissible.
“. . . But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else) . . .” (Qur’an 2:165)
Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an 3:31)
It is difficult to convey this emotion of love and reverence to a generation that is essentially being taught that respect to any authority figure is ‘un-cool.’ In order to reach across this generation gap we need to couch these terms in language and place them in contexts that they can relate to. For example in most well known commentaries of Surah Al-‘Asr a quote from Imam Razi is mentioned. Imam Razi has cited a scholar as saying, “I understood the meaning of Surah AI-`Asr from an ice-seller, who was calling aloud for the attention of the people repeatedly in the bazar: ‘Have mercy on the one whose wealth is melting away!’ Hearing what he was crying I said to myself: this then is the meaning of Wal- asr-i innal-insana la-fi khusr-in. In order to contextualize this in modern terms you could take the name of the person who sells snow cones at the masjid (mosque) every time there is an event and ask your child how would Uncle so and so get his money if no one bought the snow cones and all his ice melted away. Our time is running out just like his ice is melting so we should also do good and tell others to do good or we will also be in loss. Br. Nouman’s Tafseer of Surah Al-Asr is outstanding, especially the analogy of the drowning man which he presents at the end of Part 1.
Abdullaah ibn Hishaam said: “We were with the Prophet ﷺ (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and he was holding the hand of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab. ‘Umar said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allah, you are dearer to me than everything except my own self.’ The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘No (that is not right), by the One in Whose hand is my soul, until I am dearer to you than your own self.’ ‘Umar said to him, ‘Now, by Allah, you are dearer to me than my own self.’ The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Now (you are right), O ‘Umar.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, no. 6632)
This ideal of a profound love where Rasulallah ﷺ is more beloved than even one’s own self was something that Hazrat Umar radi Allahu anhu (May Allah be pleased with him) initially found difficult to grasp. But at the Prophet’s gentle reminder he agreed that indeed he loved Rasulallah ﷺ more than he loved himself. Contrast this with the attitude of the Muslims today. There are those who take their reverence too far so as to almost deify him and then there are others who are completely apathetic towards his personality. There are those of our youth masha’Allah (God has willed it) whose hearts are imbued with the love of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Glorified is He) and his Messenger ﷺ and, insha’Allah (God willing), we pray that Allah (swt) keeps them on guidance and they can lead us in the future. But there are others who flippantly pass judgment on his character or relegate him to a time 1400 years ago even though Allah (swt) called him a Mercy to all of Mankind. They make snide, disrespectful remarks about his family life as if they have the right to do so even though Allah (swt) warned the believers that were with him that the slightest hint of disrespect to the Messenger ﷺ could destroy their deeds:
O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not. (Qur’an 49:2)
Imagine that you are walking with a friend and someone holds the door open for you. You might smile at the person and say a polite thank you and move on. If it is your habit to pass comments on other peoples clothing you might say, “Did you see what he was wearing?”
Now imagine that you are hiking in a mountainous region with a group of people. The air becomes crisp as the altitude increases. You are enjoying the magnificent scenery when suddenly you lose your footing and begin to slide down the steep precipice. The person behind you lunges and grabs your hand and without a care for his own safety he hangs on to you, literally for dear life. (Yes, I know it sounds like a cheap movie but bear with me.) When they finally haul you up to safety you thank your savior profusely and say that you are indebted to them forever. No one would be so low as to pass comments about the appearance of the person who had just rescued them from near certain death. You would probably do something special to express you gratitude, possibly try to repay the favor by sacrificing something for their sake and developing a close relationship in the process.
We are also on the treacherous path of life and we are constantly losing our footing. The danger is not that we will fall to a certain death in some valley but the fear is that we will fall in the eternally blazing pit of hellfire. The Prophet ﷺ is the person who reaches out to save us. He has no selfish motives, no greed for recompense and no desire for gratitude. His only concern was to convey the message that Allah (swt) had entrusted him with so that he could save us from the hellfire. This was his one consuming concern even as he suffered persecution at the hands of his own people and was driven out of his beloved city. Allah (swt) comforts him with the words:
Perhaps, [O Muhammad], you would kill yourself with grief that they will not be believers. (Qur’an 26:3)
I used the word “us” because he spoke of you and me to his companions:
Anas bin Malik (ra) narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “I wish that I could meet my brothers.” The Sahabah (companions of the Prophet ﷺ ) asked: “Aren’t we your brothers?” He replied: “You are my Companions, but my brothers are those who will believe in me without having seen me.”
(This version is found in Musnad Ahmad and Al-Albani graded it saheeh in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah#2888)
He worried about us when he was on this earth and he will worry about us on the Day of Judgment when the people will plead with the Prophets to intercede so that the accounting can begin. Every other Prophet will cry ‘nafsi, nafsi’ (‘myself, myself’), only Muhammad al-Mustafa ﷺ will say ‘ummati, ummati’ (‘my people, my people’).
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet ﷺ said, “All of my Ummah will enter Paradise except those that refuse.”
Those who were with him (the Sahabah) said, “And who will refuse?”
He ﷺ said, “Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, and whoever disobeys me will have refused.” (Bukhari)
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ is still reaching for us as we travel through the slippery slopes of our existence. His words, deeds and his character, which were the embodiment of the teachings of the Qur’an, beckon to us through the ages. Maybe the ‘why’ question that we should be asking ourselves is, “Why do I not love the Messenger of Allah ﷺ more than I love myself? He cared so deeply for my well-being why am I not willing to sacrifice anything in his obedience? Why do I brush aside his example and clutch at the straws of culture and fashion as if they are going to save me from the fire? The truly fantastic thing is that salvation is within our reach and we are saying, “It’s ok, I don’t wish to be saved.”
May Allah (swt) fill our hearts with the love of Allah and his Messenger ﷺ and make us worthy of his company in Paradise.