Community Dawah (Outreach) Overcoming Hardships Reflections Spiritual Purification

Beware of Zombies. Or Are You One? Moutasem Atiya

A few months ago, I was sitting with Shaykh Mohsen Al’Najjar in the Mosque of our Messenger Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him and his family), preparing to make the blessed ziyara (visitation).  As we sat, I could not help but marvel at the amazing Ottoman calligraphy decorating the mosque.  My eyes and spirit quickly fixated on an ornate inscription from the Messenger ﷺ:

“My Intercession is for the Major Sinners of my Nation.” (Sunan Tirmidhi)

I contemplated this for a while.  Why was the Messenger ﷺ pointing this out? We know his intercession is for his whole nation. Why then say it is for the major sinners?

I quickly turned to Shaykh Mohsen, posing this question to him. He reminded me how some, sitting on their high horses, look down upon their brothers and sisters in spiritual need.  We box them into a category and quickly disassociate ourselves from them. We say, “He is a thief, she is a liar, they go clubbing,“ and the list goes on and on.

While we run away from them, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is running to them on the day of Judgment.  While we treat them as some band of zombies, the Messenger ﷺ treats them as his followers in need of aid. Being sent as a mercy to all the worlds does not preclude any of his followers from his intercession before Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).

His concern during his lifetime was to reconnect people with Allah (swt), no matter how bad the spiritual times they had fallen on.  His objective was not to just condemn, but to rectify.  He once described himself by saying, “I am to you like a parent is to a child.  I teach you,” (Ibn Majah). And taught us you have, O Messenger of Allah!

Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten that model. We often act on our perceived religiosity by quickly condemning others, as if it somehow comes with the territory.  The length of my beard, the perfect placement of my hands in prayer and my impeccable recitation somehow puts me on the higher rank of the spiritual totem pole and I become the judge, jury and executioner of your spiritual life. Allah (swt) warns us of this attitude in the Qur’an when He says:

“So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him.” (53:32)

It was narrated that during the time of Prophet Moses alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) two men had passed away.  One was considered to be righteous, the other to be a sinner.  Allah (swt) revealed to Moses that the perceived righteous man was in damnation while the sinner had been forgiven.  Moses decided to investigate the matter, visiting the widows of the men to see what they were like at home.

The widow of the “righteous” man said he was just as good inside the house as he was outside, except he would sometimes strangely say, “We will be successful if Moses is really telling the truth.”  The widow of the “sinner” said he was just as bad inside the house as he was outside, except every so often he would cry himself to sleep saying, “Oh Allah, what level of punishment will you place me in?”

One man showed sincerity in his belief even though he fell short in action, earning him Allah’s mercy, while the other man showed doubt in his belief even though his acts were many. The realm of spirituality belongs to Allah (swt).  Our goal is to call people to Him in the most beautiful of ways while taking ourselves into account first. So the next time you plan on judging your Muslim brother and sister, don’t, because that zombie you see just might be your own self.

Moutasem Atiya has been actively involved in the Metropolitan DC communities through classes, speaking engagements, and Friday khutbahs on a regular basis for the past 10 years. He has studied the Islamic sciences from three of the luminaries of our time, Shaykh Mohsen An-Najjar, Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui, and Shaykh Muhammad bin Yahya Al-Ninowy. He is a teacher at the Al-Madina Institute.

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  • Thank you for a beautiful article. However, the title of the article is misleading and frivolous and diminishes the serious nature of the article.

  • This is really needed for us all to hear, jazakallah for putting out a good reminder, appareciate the reality of the situation

  • When i read this row..'”Oh Allah, what level of punishment will you place me in!” I cried hard…because i am asking this to myself every time…i am a sinner! 🙁

    • Sarah,
      Every human by nature is a sinner , but those who compete in seeking repentance Are the Victorious ones. So don’t brand yourself as a “sinner”
      Rather turn to Allah and beg to keep you away from sin etc and try your best to do so.
      And don’t disclose your sins to anyone lest they become a witness against you on the day of judgement. It is the mercy of Allah that He conceals our sins even though we are consistent in repeating them. Even on the DOJ, if you are a sincere believer Allah will take you to account in privacy ie a one on one conversation! So If Allah conceals so much then it is not befitting for us to publicize our own sins.
      May Allah purify us and make us of those who consistently turn to him in sincere repentance .

    • Sister Sarah,
      Do you know you have done the best after calling yourself as “sinner”! At least you admit! People are doing blunders but they do not want to admit and try to justify in one or another way!
      Repent! Allah SWT will convert your sins into “Hasanat”.
      JazakAllah Khair

    • Salaamun alaikum Sr Sarah

      The prophets themselves prayed for forgiveness – and gave thanks.
      Prophets aside, Abu Bakr himself, when praised by people, reportedly prayed:

      “O Allah, You know me better than I know myself, and I know myself better than these people who praise me. Make me better than what they think of me, and forgive those sins of mine of which they have no knowledge, and do not hold me responsible for what they say.”

      Hide your faults – we all fall short in different ways – and turn to the One who is is accepting of our repentance and is the One who can give without measure.

      May Allah SWT accept us all to be of those who strive to be foremost on His Path.

  • Allahu Akbar, a beautiful reminder for myself. I benefited from reading this as a previous comment mentioned. JazakAllah Khair.

  • MashaAllah! Jazakallah Khair for sharing a heart-awakening article. May Allah guides me and the Ummah always 🙂

  • SubhanAllah; Its so scary how we have opinions for others its a lesson that we should all learn from. Thanks for sharing

  • As Imam Zaid Shakir puts it, “bury your ego in the earth of obscurity.”

    Jazak’Allahu Khairan for an eloquent article and reminder.

  • AsSalamu Alaikum!

    Does anyone know by any chance where the narration about two men at the time of Moses, alayhi salam, is coming from?
    Thanks 🙂

  • Subhanallah, the realm of the spiritual shows us that we cannot compete with one another in intention, remembrance and taqwa, the most important criteria that we will be judged by, but we must compete against our former selves to continually strive for improvement in these same areas..

  • I like the comments of Ms Khadija. I would like to add that even showing repentance about one’s sins to others is a kind of “RIYA” since one like to show his or her righteousness. Expressing about one’s sins means an arrogant attitude. Sharing is even worst. May Allah (SWT) keep us all on the righteous path and true Islam, save us from all sections and factions – save us from “DEEN FAROSH MOULVIS AND ALLAMAS” (i.e. those who made religion as their “kasb” and fool people that its for their time) Al-Qur’an, Surat Al-Taubah: verse 34.

  • This is an extremely important reminder. We all must be reminded that “spiritual status” can be something we want to gain for dunya-driven reasons. We should never think we are better than someone, and always remember that we have many shortcomings and need Allah’s mercy to purify our stained hearts. Thank you so much for writing this, Jazak Allah Khair.

  • Thanks for this beautiful reminder. “I always demanded justice when I looked around me, but started to beg for mercy when I looked at myself.”

  • This is my question–to what degree is faith a gift from God and to what degree is it something that is earned through effort, not to say that these are mutually exclusive, but which outweighs the other. To be honest, a part of this doesn’t seem completely fair. I mean, I like the message of sincerity, but isn’t this also really scary. Let’s be honest, how many Muslims can say they’ve never doubted. And if you haven’t it seems to me like you haven’t challenged your beliefs which undermines faith as well.
    The man who said “we’ll be fine if Moses is right,” did act the same inside the house as out, at a time when the opinion of the wife was, I’m assuming, pretty much irrelevant. Doesn’t that display some level of sincerity. To what degree can we actually control our own faith through more than actions? I feel at once touched and shocked by the narration, as it displays mercy but in someways also perhaps unfairness. If you respond, please don’t argue simply through assertion, meaning don’t just quote passages. Please explain through reason the justice behind this.

    Additonally, it seems to me that continuing on with the practices of something you doubt would seem very challenging–it seems to me more noble to overcome the thought and continue on rather than to simply just be given the gift of faith.

    Thanks ahead of time to any who attempt to answer.

  • Continuing on from my previous post, perhaps I missed something. I was just pondering the title of the article and wondering what zombies had to do with anything. Is it that the man who committed all the right actions was just kind of going with the flow of his society, meaning that his society practiced Islam and it is for this reason that he practiced Islam. His fate would make a lot of sense to me because, as I stated before, that person wouldn’t have challenged their beliefs which would actually undermine their faith. And had they been pulled out of that specific context and into another one, they would just go with the flow of that society, even if it was completely opposing Islam.

    If that is the implication then I guess I get it…if not please explain if you can and please attempt to answer the previous question that I posted. Questions open to all (not just author) but once again please don’t assert your claim but explain it.

  • ‘Awaiting’ certainly does merit some response here even if it’s from England,for he has certainly been doing some serious thinking about the story of the two husbands in Moses’ time or should I say who were held as examples of mercy or otherwise.There are so many instances in the Holy Qur’an where we are exorted by the Surahs to undertake good practises,to do good deeds,to be mindful of God(swt) to try our best to follow His guidance in respect of both prayer & action. The man who acted with good,even praised as he was by his wife for his constancy ie at home he showed similar practises to those in the outside world,so we can hardly say he was running on the ego of gaining the esteem of others.He may not even have been concerned as to wether or not anyone else saw his good work.His only error seems to have been the word ‘if’ ie ‘if Moses(peace be unto him) approves etc’.He’d already suffered the epithet of being called righteous which can oten mean ignominy in this world. The truly righteous I imagine are often accused of this. The Prophet himself(swt) was often called a sorcerer, even ‘we think you are a fool’I do not consider myself a scholar,and I could not never deny mercy to the 2nd husband depicted in his crying at home in respect of the punishment he expected for his mean deeds.These are realms of theology like the dots above the letter ‘i’ & the crosses upon letter ‘t’s. especially when one thinks of the many times in the Qur’an where we are told that judgement will be a totally honest reflection of what we have earned with our own hands and that eleventh hour protestations will be of little avail.I can only therefore say the Seven oft repeated verses now so that I myself may more clearly understand the passage that the initial writer quoted.Especially the verse that says ‘Thee alone do we ask for help.’ It is as if what one may called spititual understanding is beyond intellect,where faith is gained by following the practises.I hope this contribution isn’t a disappointment either to ‘Awaiting’ nor to other readers or the original writer.We are Inshallah Ummah.

  • SubhanAllah!!
    Allahu Akbar.
    That means everything.beyond our tiny imagination.
    May Allah (swt) shield and protect and shower His mercy on all of us here and hereafter.
    Thank you brothers who circulate such noble eye opening histories.
    Assalamu Alaikkum
    E. Hashim

  • […] Beware of Zombies. Or Are You One? by Moutasem Atiya (Guest Author) Two men passed away during the life of Moses – but the perceived righteous man ended up in damnation while the sinner had been forgiven. Moses decided to investigate the matter, and here’s what he found. […]

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