Let's Talk Religion: Ep. 11 - Servanthood to God in All Times - Advice of the Ahl al-Bayt (p)

Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim, my dear brothers and sisters, Assalamu alaykum Jami'an wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. Welcome to this final episode of "Let's Talk Religion, the season one". I hope you were able to catch for the Sheikh Faiyaz Jaffer on Monday, and I hope you benefited and enjoyed his excellent and enlightening lectures. I want to thank you for joining us and for giving us your time. And I hope you benefited and you learned and we hope more that you will share your comments and your recommendations so that we can continue to learn together.

I want to begin this final episode by talking about one of the matters that was brought up. Somebody asked a question after last week's episode. The question was that if somebody has been committing sins and the gist of the question was that someone has been partaking in sinful action for some time and has been doing so under various circumstances, how is it that they can stop committing that sin or how is it that they can build inside themselves the will to move away from that sin?

Well, this is a challenge of our life and indeed it is a challenge that we are going to face until the very last moment, because Shaytan, Satan, he will not leave us until the very last breath that we breathe. He has vowed that he will continue to pester us and in particular, he will try to delude us. He will try to get into our hearts and our minds when we are not cognizant where we are, to some degree, heedless of the fact that his attack or his assault is coming.

Now, if a sin is being committed because you do not know that this is prohibited or that the act that is being done is not allowed, once you find out, then it is relatively straightforward to say, well, I did not know that consuming such and such an item was not allowed. Now I am not going to consume it anymore because I know. And in fact, it is not really a sin when you do not know yourself, when you do not understand. However, there are circumstances in which you know, and yet there is something inside of you that does not allow you to adhere to the law. When you know that something is prohibited and you know that something is not allowed and you continue to do it, that is a sin.

And sometimes when we become completely clear and completely realize the fact that this is a sin, we tend to move away from it. We feel the gravity of that act. Now, sometimes a sin is being committed because you feel that you gain something out of that act. Sometimes the sin is committed because there is some pleasure being derived out of it, some so-called pleasure. Those sins are more difficult to deal with. Those sins are harder to fight off.

Why? Because your body has grown accustomed to reaping pleasure from that act. And that is why those are the ones that require a great deal of introspection. And we must ask that the so-called benefit or the perceived pleasure that I am getting from that sin, is it worth it? Where is it taking me? Is this the benefit or the advantage of committing that sin going to be long lasting? What actually is it going to allow me to do? Is it going to allow me to excel in life?

And I think when a believer sits down and ponders about their acts, they will know that that sin that they are committing because it was giving them some form of pleasure, it may have blinded them as to the true benefit of any act or the true detriment of that act in itself. That is why when you sit and think about the sin, you must ask, why is it that I am committing it? Is it a lack of control? Is it because I derive some pleasure out of it? Or is it because I am just I do not have any sense of it? I know it is wrong, but I am without any sense I am doing it.

And that was the first example that I gave that sometimes we know something is a sin and we commit it. Yet we do so without any sense of the fact that really we are committing a sin and that heedlessness is not good, and we need to be cognizant and sit and be very focused on our actions.

Now, in this last episode, I want to focus on one very nice thing, and that is the timelessness of the message of Allah Subhanahu wa Subhanta'ala as given to us as transmitted to us by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and his holy Ahlul Bayt , alayhim assalatu wa assalam. I begin by stating that in all times we can find some message, some benefit, some piece of advice that the Ahlul Bayt give to us the Holy progeny of Prophet Muhammad, on them be peace, that their lives at any moment had some element in it, some transaction, something that transpired that we can use today, that we can apply today, that we can implement into our lives like a tool that will help us become stronger, more deep and certainly more sincere as the servants of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.

So let us begin with this. We know that from the example of the Ahlul Bayt, from the various circumstances that they lived, whether it was struggling against the enemies of Islam, those who were assaulting Islam and Muslims, whether it was dealing with internal matters among the Muslims, whether it was dealing with hypocrites, whether it was the persecution by the dominant regime as many of the Imams faced, in fact, all of the Imams faced after Al-Imam 'Ali, alayhi assalatu wa assalam. And we know how difficult those circumstances were. Can we derive some understanding from the material lives of the Imams, from the journeys of the Imams, from the conversations of the Imams?

One of the things that the Holy Ahlul Bayt, alayhum assalatu wa assalam, that they taught us and they reiterated the point of their grandfather, Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alyhi wa sallam, is that we live as servants of God between the positions of hope, raja', and fear, Khauf, and that we sort of fluctuate between these positions. Now, these two positions, if you glance at your life at any moment in time, if you look at how you are living at any moment, you will find that you are caught between these two positions, whether that hope and that fear is restricted to the life of this world, to the gain of this world, to what you are trying to achieve in the 50, 60, 70, 80 years of the life that God has given to you or whether it is with respect to your relationship with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

And so why is that the case? Hope and fear? Because Insan, if he becomes or she becomes too hopeful and actually goes very far in the direction of hope such that it becomes an extreme, then that means that person sometimes will fall into the trap of not fearing any consequences. They will not fear that their negative actions will come back and will have a consequence on them or even on other people. They will not fear any punishment, any recourse of what they are doing.

So hence you have to have hope. But in a balanced amount, not so far to the extreme where people have now become heedless of any consequence. On the other hand, we know that fear is on the other side, and although fear of God invest in my future, that I will be at risk of of some shortcoming, any type of fear. When that fear becomes extreme, when it goes to the farthest end, you find that human beings begin to cower. They do not have any capability to ascend, to step forward, to advance, to move forward in a direction in which they can achieve something. Hence, too much fear is not a good thing in the sense of going to that extreme.

That is why human beings are between fear and hope, and they have hope and fear in God in that manner. Hope and fear in such a way that they realize that Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala will forgive all sins, but fear in the sense that they do not want to transgress his rules, that they know that they are prone to falling, prone to committing a sin, prone to stumbling over. But they know that with the hope in God that his mercy will eventually forgive them and the fear that they do not want to transgress anymore, that even though they made a mistake tomorrow, that mistake will not be repeated.

That is one of the beautiful examples of the Ahlul Bayt, alayhim assalatu wa assalam. And it shows this personal relationship with Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, this beautiful relationship that in all honesty, we we feel this sense of awe with God. We feel this personal connection and this part of the relationship, this balance between hope and fear, an Insan [person] will not feel it with another creature, another human being, another entity only with Allah. It is only with Allah that you can flourish being both completely hopeful and also fearful of him and his punishment and what he has prohibited you from. That is why you see that there are those who live their lives like the Ahlul Bayt in this pattern, complete hope and complete fear.

It is described once that Jabir ibn Abdallah al-Ansari, he was visited by the daughter of Imam Husayn, alayhi assalam, and this daughter, they say either a daughter of Imam Husayn or one of the daughters of the Imam in that time, she came to Jabir ibn Abdallah al-ansari, who was an old companion of Rasul Allah who had come to Karbala on the day of Arbaeen. And she said to him, my relative, Ali Ibn al-Husayn, the Imam of that time, spent so much time in worship and he prays and he prays and he prays such that his back has become bent. He looks pale. The color has gone from his skin because of his excessive worship, and he looks like he is physically wearing himself down. So it is reported that, she says to Jabir ibn Abdallah al-Ansari that please go talk to him, tell him to take it easy a little bit, tell him to maybe lessen it. So they say Jabir ibn Abdal al-Ansari he goes to Imam Al-Sajjad, alayhi assalam, and after greeting the grandson of Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alyhi wa sallam, he says conveys the message that is brought that you are worshiping so much.

Jabir even says to him, he says, O grandson of the Prophet, he says, your grandfather is the chosen of God. Allah had given him victory over his enemies. Allah has purified him a thorough purification and has purified and thoroughly rid you and made you sinless the Ahlul Bayt you, the progeny of the Prophet. He has chosen paradise for you as your permanent abode. Yet still you worship so much you have tired yourself out. Imam Al-Sajjad, he says, my grandfather, the Rasul, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, he worshipped Allah so much, so completely, so tirelessly, despite the fact that he was sinless, despite the fact that he had already been chosen for this messengership and as the most complete human being, and that his final abode was going to be paradise.

And it was already known because when someone asked him that Ya Rasul Allah you pray so much, you worship so much, why do you do so? Rasul Allah's answer was, all of those things you say are true, that my home, final home and abode is in Jannah, in paradise, that we are sinless. We have been chosen by God. We have been given this. The message has been given to us, the success has been given to us. But should I not be a thankful servant of God? And because I feel this thankfulness to God, continue my rigorous worship?

My dear brothers and sisters, this is the nature that Ahlul Bayt, alayhimu assalatu wa assalam, are trying to inculcate within us. This is the very feeling that they are trying to put into our hearts about God and to say that at any moment, yes, we may be worshiping because we have hope in Him. We want something from Him. We are struggling and we need an answer. We are sick and we need a cure. We are lacking in some way and we need fulfillment or we worship Him because of fear, because we fear the unknown of tomorrow, because we fear the punishment of the grave, the squeezing of the grave. We fear the punishment of the next world. We fear the assault of our enemies or because of something that is perilous in our lives, we worship Him.

But indeed, in all of that, the Ahlul Bayt are teaching us that we must recognize why we are worshiping. If it is because we are fearful we should worship with that feeling that Allah remove our fear, and let us depend on You hundred and ten percent. If it is with that hope, let us worship with the hope that Ya Allah, whatever we desire, You give it to us because You know it to be best for us. Do not give us what we think is best for ourselves as al-Imam Ali, alayhi assalatu wa assalam, says in Du'a Kumayl.

And we know even in the beautiful du'a of Imam al Sajjad alayhis salam, Abu Hamza Ath-Thumali, in which he says "afa turaka ya Rabbi tukhlifu dhununana, aw tukhaiyibu a'malana. Kalla ya Kareem! Fa laysa hadha dhannuna bik". He says that is it we should think Ya Allah, that you are going to dash our hopes, as I paraphrase and summarize this beautiful du'a. He says, should we think that you will not fulfill what you have promised us or that the hopes that we have in you are false or that they are going to be negated in some way? No, "Kalla! Fa laysa hadha dhannuna bik" never Ya Allah we never think that about you. "Inna lana fika a'malan tawilan katheera". Allah we have extended hope in you and you only Ya Allah, extended hope that you will take care of us and you will give us.

That is the first way to realize whether it is because we fear something, we have hope for something or because we are grateful. It is a struggle. Why? Because our minds are constantly, constantly looking elsewhere. Our minds are constantly engaged by other things and so is the case for our hearts. My heart is tied up in my food because I am hungry. My heart is tied up in my bed because I am tired at night. My heart is tied up in the football match that is about to come on because I want to watch it, and thus it takes my attention away from something else. And we must ask ourselves, Allah, You have made this nature for us. How do we live and maximize our worship of You knowing that nature?

And to this Rasul, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, gives his advice. He says know, the servants of God, that your hearts sometimes they are close to you. It is reported that he has said that your hearts are sometimes close to you and sometimes your hearts are far away from you. When your hearts are close to you, meaning they are feeling spiritual, they are feeling connectedness to God, they are feeling disconnected from the world, he says, give them a little more rigor, allow them to worship a little more. If you are feeling that extra spirituality, as you might feel in the month of Ramadan, pray an extra two raka't of nafilah or salat al-shukr or do some extra Du'a or tasbeeh or reading of the Holy Qur'an.

Or on the other hand, Rasul suggests to us that if your hearts are far away from you, meaning you are so burdened by the life of this world, and it happens. It happens, my dear brothers and sisters, that you feel overwhelmed, you feel there is too much swirling in your mind. Then Rasul says, then at that time, treat gently your heart, deal with it kindly, deal with it gently, fulfill the necessary the required obligations. And do not overburden yourself. Know what it is you need. It is human nature, that at times you will feel high and at times you will feel low. And for each case Allah says, recognize what you need to do and you will find that your Worship will fulfill every aspect of your need. It will answer every one of your questions.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Ahlul Bayt, alayhimu assalatu wa assalaam, they remind us that we must live with patience. Now we mentioned living between the states of hope and fear. We mentioned being worshipful and recognizing our state on a day to day basis. My mind is consumed, my heart is overwhelmed, or my heart is open to Allah and I am feeling very spiritual. The third thing, one of the third advices that come to us from the Ahlul Bayt, that you all obviously know is patience.

A believer, a servant of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala cannot excel, cannot reach God without patience. Patience is the very head of the body, that without it the body collapses, it cannot survive. And this is because patience is the thing that is required to keep us away from sin, to keep us on the path of fulfilling Allah's obligations and also weathering the storms that come on us. Now, one of the things that happens to us is that in the course of our lives, we feel that the burden is so great on ourselves that we are not going to survive it. And because we feel we cannot survive it, we tend to let go of our inhibitions and we tend to seek paths that we should not seek because we doubt our own ability to withstand what we are encountering, what we are dealing with in our lives in terms of pain and difficulty.

And yet Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, he says, look inside of you is something great. And he even says in the Holy Quran, "La yukalliful-laah nafsan illaa wus'ahaa" (2:286). Allah will never test you outside your capacity.

So they say one day there was a lady in the time of Imam al Sadiq alaihi as salatu was salam and she had a young son. Her husband had died. She had no other family. And so she, one day her son came to her and he said to her mother, I am going away on a caravan to a trip. I will be back in such amount of time, two,three or four weeks, however long, and I will return. They say she reluctantly let him go and he goes traveling on this caravan. As he goes to travel on that caravan, the weeks go by, the appointed day of his return comes, and yet he does not return. The mother becomes anxious. She goes to the door. She constantly is checking the door, checking to see if anyone has arrived. Nobody comes. Some days go by past that deadline. She begins to feel more anxious. She picks up, covers herself and goes to the door of Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi assalatu wassalam.She comes in, bids the Imam Salam. He answers her. She says to him, "O grandson of the Prophet. O Imam Al-Sadiq, my son, my only life, my my only family. I have no one else, he promised me he would return from caravan on this day. He has not come back. There is no word. He he days have gone by and I do not know what is happening. And I am very anxious. I am very worried".

One can imagine and feel something like that in their own lives. One can recall moments when you feel this way, this sort of helplessness, this sort of trepidation, this sort of almost a tremor that shakes our very being, our very soul. She says this to him and she says, What should I do ya Imam? What should I do, my master? Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi assalatu wa ssalam, he says to her, Go home and be patient. That is all he says. It is related that he says this to her. She hears this answer and she goes. Now, this was a very strange answer. He just told her to go home and be patient. She goes home and she prays and she tries to do anything that she can to divert her mind. And the days continue to go by. Still no sign from her son. And again, she begins to feel the anxiety, the discomfort, the feeling of of worry, the terrible thoughts start to come into your mind.

She goes back and she says, I must go see Imam al Sadiq. She goes to Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam. Again she says to him, I came to you some time ago. Still, my son has not come back. I am very worried. My master tell me what I can do? Al-Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, he says, Go home. Your answer will be there. Your answer will be there. She goes home, feeling in her heart that I do not know what I am going to do. I am at my last energy. I am going to collapse if I do not get some answers. She was about to fall. She gets home, she sees the door is open and her son is there. She hugs her son, embraces him. And after this reunion, she goes back to Al-Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam.

She comes and she says, My master, I came to you the first time you told me to go home and to be patient. I then tried to be patient. And until I got to the very last bit of my strength and I could not take it and I was so worried, I came back to you and you said to me, go home, your answer will be there. How did you know that my son would be standing there? Al-Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi assalat wa assalam, says, I know because of what my grandfather Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, has said. She said, What is that? O grandson of the Prophet? He said, My grandfather Rasul Allah said 'Inda Fanaa as-sabr, yaht al-Faraj'. He said, My grandfather said that when your patience reaches the very last drop and you have no patience left, then you know relief is right around the corner, it will come to you.

If the relief may be is not coming to us brothers and sisters, if the answer is not coming because maybe Allah says you have more patience in the tank, you have more resilience inside of you. And in the process of going through that, that rigor, that difficulty, that exercise in patience, He is saying, come closer to me because you will continue to ascend. If you do and know that I will never test you outside of your capacity. This is one of the advices of the Ahlul Bayt, alayhim assalatu wa assalam. This patience has to be held on in the course of our lives, not just when we are suffering with difficulty, trial, loss, trouble in our material life, but also when we are being tempted to move away from the path of God, when Shaytan is trying to dissuade us. The greatest form of patience, patience is to fight him off is to resist him and to do so from the very gut of ourselves, from the very inside of ourselves, and do so continuously and continuously and continuously until we finally feel that, yes, I can overcome his wiswaas. And I know that he will come to me from this avenue or from that avenue or in this approach.

My dear brothers and sisters, I want to finish this last part of this episode of this series by describing one of the other very important things that our Imams have spoken to us about, in particular, Ameeral Mu'mineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib.

We have been discussing for a few weeks that a servant of God knows who they are, they know who she is and who he is. They are determined by God. Their value is determined by God, not by any other human being, not by any other person, not by society, particularly our sisters, my dear brothers and sisters. Our Muslim women and women of any kind, women of any religion. Their value is not determined by society, by their husbands, by their fathers, by who they know or what their group they are part of.

Their value is determined by themselves, by their connection to God, by their intelligence, by their perseverance, by their strength, by their patience. And so we know that a servant of God has an identity and that identity cannot be derived or should not be derived from anywhere else other than Allah. That is not to say that we are not Americans or that we are not Mexican or Canadian or from this part of the world or that family or that tribe or we speak a specific language or a culture, no, we can have those identities.But the core of our identity, the standard should be Islam.

Now, why do I say this? Because unfortunately, my dear brothers and sisters, when we do not know who we are, we become the tools of somebody else. We become the instruments of somebody else. Ma'mun al Abassi, the Abbasi khalifa who forced Imam Al-Ridha, alayhi assalat wa assalam, to leave Medina and come up to Persia and stay there and was forced to stay there. He kept trying to compel Al-Imam Al-Ridha, alayhi assalam, to become his deputy. He kept trying to force him and he even threatened him in a certain manner that if you do not become, you will face some consequences. Imam Al-Ridha kept rejecting. He kept saying, I do not want this position. I do not want to be your deputy. Why? Because he knew that Ma'mun wanted to use him as a tool to curry favor among those people who followed Ahlul Bayt, he wanted to reinforce his position. Imam al-Ridha kept resisting until finally he was forced and threatened. Imam al-Ridha he says, I accept, but with the condition that I will not give any judgments, I will not provide any support, you will not come to ask me for counsel. I will just be a figurehead, a position that you have given me solely because you have forced me and compelled me into this position.

We do not want to be the tools of anyone else. We do not want to be such that others can use us for their negative purposes. Good purposes, yes. Positive puposes build on and requires help and support, yes. But we do not want to be the tools or the instruments of anyone's negative agenda. And for that we must be very aware and Imam Ali, alayhi assalat wa assalam, he says it, is reported that he has said that be like the young camel, the baby camel. Do not have, do not be such and act like the baby camel. Why? Because the baby camel, it has a very weak back. Nobody can ride on it. So be like the baby camel such that nobody can ride on your back and be such that you do not have any udders that they can milk you and they can use you for what you are. Do not become such.

Imam Ali, alayhi assalatu wa assalam, says that. Have a mind of your own, recognize what you believe and recognize who you are. These are the advices of the Ahlul Bayt, alaihihum as salatu wa assalam, and we want to be this way. Why? Because we want to preserve and protect what is most weighty, what is most valuable for us. We want to be cognizant and conscious and we want to worship with mindfulness. We want to do everything we do because we know what it means and we know where it is taking us and we know its consequences. And we want my dear brothers and sisters, to be a benefit to everybody around us, to our community, to our fellow citizens, to our nation, to uphold justice and what is good and to spread the blessing of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.

With this, I thank you again for joining me in this series. I ask you to share your thoughts. I also ask you to pray for me and I will remember you in my du'a. Go to www.imam-us.org to read the wonderful articles, the blogs and the other beautiful material that is on there. Your fiqhi questions. Subscribe to Imam's YouTube channel and look out for new content and continue to share goodness and knowledge and join with us in this journey. With this, I wish you well, wa assalamu alaykum, wa Rahmatullahi, wa barakatuh.