Brothers and Sisters,
As the pilgrims return home from their journeys of rebirth and the Islamic calendar comes to a close, we are reminded of our own life journeys: the path we have taken, the path we are on, our future path, and our final destination. Allah (SWT) calls upon us to engage in self-examination and contemplation stating,
“Oh you who believe, fear Allah, and every soul must consider what he (or she) has sent ahead for tomorrow. And fear Allah. Surely Allah is fully aware of what you do,”[59:18]
Muharram, the first month in the Hijri calendar, marks the monumental journey Prophet Muhammad (S) and his righteous Companions embarked on 1438 years ago, leaving everything, their families, homes, and livelihoods, solely for the sake of their Creator (SWT). This event, which marked a transition in the history of Islam, holds significance for generations of Muslims and bonds them in a way like no other.
A few verses before Allah (SWT) calls us to engage in introspection in the above-mentioned verse, He describes three distinct groups of Muslims in three verses in Surat Al-Hashr, The Gathering. The name of the Surah is a telling reminder of the groupings of individuals described in the Surah who will be all be gathered on the Day of Resurrection.
Al-Muhajjireen, The Emigrants
The first of the three groups is identified as the Muhajjireen:
“For the poor emigrants who were expelled from their homes and their properties, seeking favor from Allah and [His] acceptance and supporting Allah and His Messenger. Those are the truthful.”[59:8]
The Muhajireen were persecuted by members of their very own families and community because of their declaration of faith. They abandoned all that which they knew purely ‘seeking favor and acceptance’ from Allah (SWT) as the verse highlights. They were indeed successful in passing the ultimate test of being truthful. Here Allah (SWT) teaches us that being amongst as-sadiqoon, those who are truthful, is not a simple task and requires real sacrifice. It is one thing to claim to believe and another to live by that claim. How can one claim to be faithful if their faith has not been tested just as someone cannot claim to love someone without sacrificing for them? As Allah (SWT) states in another verse,
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, "We believe" and they will not be tried?” [29:2]
The Muhajireen embody this very important distinction. Their journey was not simply from one city to another. It was a transforming spiritual journey to Allah (SWT). They severed their ties with all that chained them from worshipping their Creator, ‘seeking His favor’. Let us take a moment to reflect upon what this might mean for us. Is there something in our lives that is standing in the way of seeking Allah’s favor? Maybe it is a sin we have not abandoned or an obligated ‘ibadah we have yet to fulfill. Prophet Muhammad (S) was reported to have said,
“A (true) Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe; and a Muhajjir (Emigrant) is he who leaves the deeds which Allah has prohibited.”[Bukhari & Muslim]
As the Hadith indicates, a true Muslim is someone people do not fear will cause them harm, neither verbally nor physically. This is a person who people trust not to engage in verbal aggression such as gossip, rumors, and slanders nor physical aggression. The Hadith continues by describing the Muhajjir as someone who abandons sin. Therefore, each of us can experience hijrah by changing working towards changing our state from a state of heedless sinning and being far from Allah (SWT) to a state of obedience and nearness to Allah (SWT).
Al-Ansar, The Supporters
The second group of Muslims are described in the next verse of Surat Al-Hashr:
“And [also for] those who were settled in the Home and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who seek refuge with them and find not any want in their chests 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 own soul - it is those who will be the successful.” [59:9]
The Ansar are described here as a unique group of individuals who Allah (SWT) recognizes as achieving the highest of moral standards. In fact, people often speak of these achievements only in idealistic terms. Allah (SWT) says of them, ‘those who were settled in the Home’. This refers literally to Madinah, but if we were take a closer look at the phrase which immediately follows it, ‘and adopted faith before them’ we are able to realize that Home here cannot merely refer to a city, but rather a spiritual dwelling place. Let us take a moment to ponder over people we have come to know in our lives whom we consider to be amongst the righteous servants of Allah, and certainly their only judge is Allah. However, let us consider the qualities they appear to share. One quality that clearly stands out is their sense of reliance on Allah (SWT), freeing them from the burden of being consumed with pleasing His slaves. Despite facing the most difficult of calamities, and they seem to face them more than others, their faith remains unshaken, if anything, more firm. They find solace and refuge in the Home of faith, which shields them from suffering and misery.
Perhaps the most frequently noted quality of the Ansar is the second mentioned in the verse, ‘They love those who seek refuge with them and find not any want in their chests of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation.’ The welcoming reception the Muhajireen received by the Ansar is so widely known because it is truly unmatched. What individual can we find today that receives another human in their home, a stranger, gives them from their belongings without seeking any recompense, present or future? The Ansar not only did that, they competed amongst themselves to do it. In fact, they competed to give when they did not even have enough for themselves and their families as the verse indicates ‘even though they are in privation’. The Ansar masterfully accomplished this without harboring any ill feelings in their hearts, neither desire nor envy and did it with love as the verse indicates. If we reflect back on those individuals who we identified to be amongst the righteous, is not selfless generosity a quality they possess? Certainly, it is deeply rooted in their faith, their Home, which they value above any fleeting possessions of this worldly life from which one can never gain lasting satisfaction or joy. As Allah (SWT) ends the verse, ‘And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his own soul - it is those who will be the successful’. Giving with the gratification of gaining His pleasure alone, free from greed, is what Allah deems as being successful. Brothers and Sisters, let us evaluate what we give from our time, love, attention, effort, and money. First, do we fulfill the rights of those Allah (SWT) has commanded us to fulfill when we give including the rights of Allah (SWT), our parents, our spouses, our children, our siblings, our neighbors, the needy? Do we give generously and selflessly expecting no return? Is pleasing Allah (SWT) sufficient gratification? Unfortunately, we live in a time when selfless generosity has become endangered especially with the increasing use of phone applications and social media platforms, which more than often poison the heart with unrestrained desire and envy aside from depriving others of their rights to our love, attention, and time such as our spouses and children.
At-Tabi’un, Those Who Followed
The third and final group of Muslims are identified in the following verse of Al-Hashr,
“And [there is a share for] those who came after them, saying, ‘Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts [any] resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Compassionate and ever Merciful.”[59:10]
Fascinatingly, this group did not exist when the above verse describing them was revealed which emphasizes the great hope and promise it offers us who live 1438 years later. This final group is described first by a prayer they engage in, an act of ‘ibadaah, which begins with seeking forgiveness. Embarking on our hijrah towards Allah (SWT) emulating those who preceded us requires recognizing our transgressions as sinners and seeking forgiveness from He alone who can grant it. Like the Tabi’un, we should seek from Allah forgiveness not only for ourselves, but those whom preceded us. This not only serves to acknowledge the bond of faith we share with them, but an expression of the deep sense of gratitude and esteem we hold for them and our sacred love for the man who lived amongst them, peace and blessings be upon him. Like the Tabi’un’s prayer, we should ask Allah to remove any resentment in our hearts towards our believing brothers and sisters and work towards purifying our hearts by giving from that which we love and being in the service of His creation. In doing so, we emulate the generosity and selflessness of those who Allah (SWT) elevated above us in spiritual status.
It is in this spirit of a generational bond of faith we welcome the month of Muharram. In seeking Allah’s pleasure alone and our deep love and bond with the generations that preceded us, those whom we live amongst, and those who will come after us in the future, harboring no ill-feelings we offer a true reflection of a believing brotherhood, the highest standard humanity can experience. Together let us reap the benefits of this month by engaging in the ‘ibadah of fasting, especially the 9th and 10th days of this month, as Prophet Muhammad (S) was described by Ibn Abbas (R),
“I never saw the Messenger of Allah so keen to fast any day and give it priority over any other time than the day of Ashoora’ and the month of Ramadan.”[Bukhari]
It was also narrated that the Prophet (S) stated,
“The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.”[Muslim]
In addition, fasting Ashoora’ also serves to expiate the sins of the past year as Prophet Muhammad (S) stated,
“This fast is a compensation for the sins of the past year.”[Muslim]
Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts resentment towards those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Compassionate and ever Merciful. Allahuma Ameen