Dear Ones. Several years ago I was listening to the radio and I heard a story on the news that I wanted to relate to you because it relates to the way we are controlled by our own nafs. The story is that many of the Catholics in the Boston area petitioned the bishop there to release them of the rule not to eat meat on Good Friday because there was going to be some kind of sporting event going on and they want to be able to eat hot dogs. Now some of us might find this request rather funny, but in truth it is not. The power of their own nafs was so strong that it overcame their belief in their church. And to his credit the Bishop did not accede to this request and instead reversed the stakes saying that the scheduling of this game on Good Friday was insensitive to the needs of Catholics in Boston and that he would not be watching the game. So, brothers and sisters why do I bring this up? I am not here either to disparage nor to promote the Catholic church but rather I am using this to point out to you and to remind myself of the power of our nafs and of Shaytan to fool us into forgetting to obey the commands of Allah (swt).
You know this comes after many years when the Catholic church prohibited the eating of any meat on any Friday. Then they relaxed this rule and only made it a rule on Good Friday. See how sneaky Shaytan is? He starts with a seemingly innocuous suggestion, but one that we know is false and wrong for us. But once we have become accommodated to that suggestion, he increases it, step by step until we are steeped in disbelief and disobedience.
And how does this affect Muslims? Well, we are not that different. How many of us want to bend the rules just a little in order to make life a little easier? And what does that lead to? I will tell you a story about a shepherd guarding the flock of the village. He grazed the sheep in a field that bordered a forest that was the land of a cruel king. Anyone wandering into the forest was arrested and executed after being tortured, and any livestock that wandered in, became the property of the king. As it happened, each day the flock grazed closer and closer to the edge of the forest. Each time they got closer, the shepherd thought to himself “They get closer to that forest but still, they are in the field and not in any danger so I will let them stay where they are.” But a few of the sheep would always wander away from the flock and the shepherd had to run after them before they got to the forest and bring them back. In a few days the sheep were grazing so close to the forest that when one of them wandered off it went straight into the forest. The shepherd was heedless of the danger and followed the sheep into the forest, hoping to bring it back to the flock. Instead, the kings guards, who had been watching the situation for many days, immediately confiscated the stray sheep and killed the shepherd. Without the vigilance of the shepherd, the rest of the flock wandered into the forest and the village lost them.
So you see, when we stick to the middle of the field, those things in our life which advance our connection with God and what he has enjoined upon is, then we are safe. But if we wander astray from that place, at first it may still seem safe, and so little by little, we enter further and further into the grey areas until we no longer know how to stop and eventually find ourselves on the wrong side of the line.
We must remain vigilant and use the intelligence that Allah (swt) has given us. We must avoid even the slightest hint of getting close to the grey areas, because under the influence of our own nafs and of the whisperings of Shaytan we do not know when to stop.
I once read a tract written by Ayatollah Khomeini (ra) on the prohibition of alcohol. It was written in a Q and A form. In it he explained the reasons for the prohibition from the Quranic perspective and from Sunnah and Shariat. One of the questions that was asked was if it was ok to take just a little alcohol, since that did not affect us much but rather made us just relaxed. His answer was that this may be so. And perhaps, if we could stop there Allah (swt) would have said in the Qur’an that we can have no more than such and such an amount. But the truth is that we cannot stop at that point, that we have the tendency to over do it and we do not know when to stop and so it is forbidden altogether.
This is a part of our natural human-ness. We must be constantly vigilant for these characteristics within ourselves. Bad habits are far too easy to develop and far to hard to break, and good habits are very hard to develop and fall away so easily.
I want to remind you and myself again about what Allah (swt) says in the Quran Sharif in surat al ‘Asr:
وَالْعَصْرِ.(103:1) إِنَّ الإنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ.(103:2) إِلا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ.(103:3)
Waal’asr(103:1) Inna al-insana lafee khusri (103:2) Illa allatheena amanoo wa’amiloo alssalihati watawa saw bi al haqqi watawa saw bi sabr (103:3)
By (the Token of) Time (through the ages)(103:1),Verily Man is in loss(103:2), Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. (103:3)
And it does not have to be through the ages! It is happening minute by minute now even in every day of our lives. The ticking of the clock tries to wear at our iman all the time.
But the good news is that Allah (swt) has promised us that if we do keep the good deeds and if we do keep our faith in him then our reward is in this life and in the next.
And he has given us clear guidance:
ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لا رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (2:2) الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُونَ(2:3) وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ وَبِالآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ(2:4) أُولَئِكَ عَلَى هُدًى مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (2:5)
Thalika alkitabu la rayba feehi hudan lilmuttaqeena (2:2)Allatheena yu/minoona bialghaybi wayuqeemoona alssalata wamimma razaqnahum yunfiqoona (2:3)Waallatheena yu/minoona bima onzila ilayka wama onzila min qablika wabial-akhirati hum yooqinoona (2:4)Ola-ika ‘aala hudan min rabbihim waola-ika humu almuflihoona (2:5)
This is The Book in which there is no doubt. It is a guide for those who are God conscious,(2:2) who believe in the Unseen, who establish Salah (five regular daily prayers) and spend in charity out of what We have provided for their sustenance;(2:3) who believe in this Revelation (The Qur’an) which is sent to you (O Muhammad) and the Revelations which were sent before you (Torah, Psalms, Gospel…) and firmly believe in the Hereafter.(2:4)
They are on True Guidance from their Rabb and they are the ones who will prosper.(2:5)
And what an amazing gift this is. Such a clear light of guidance.
And do we ask for Allah (swt) to relieve us of these obligatory tasks when it is inconvenient for us? Oh Allah, there is a ball game on Friday, can I skip my prayers that day? Oh Allah, I live where it is very difficult to get Halal meats and other food, can I eat pork just once or twice? No!
But you know what? Allah (swt) has already known about this, he knows what is in our hearts and in our minds, he never tires and does not sleep. La ta huduhu sinatum wa la nawm, and he is vigilant in our cause. In his infinite mercy and compassion He has relieved our burdens. He has already given us that which we have not even asked from him. For instance, when we are traveling, do we not get a dispensation on prayers and even even for fasting during Ramadhan? And there are other examples too many to mention here. Remember – if Allah (swt) wanted to make it impossible for us to follow our deen believe me IT WOULD BE! But it is not.
And in return for this what does Allah (swt) ask of us? Simply that we follow that which he has commanded us to do, and to avoid those things which he has forbidden for us and that we worship him with all our hearts and souls.
And Allah knows best.