This is a translation of Dr. Roqaya al-Mohareb’s Halaqaat on the praiseworthy and blameworthy characteristics and manners as derived from the Qur’an.
We sit in these few minutes, by the leave of Allah, with manners from among the manners of the Qur’an which Allah cultivates in those who read it (the Qur’an).
This characteristic, my beloved sisters, is: the characteristic of Struggle, and it is the origin of origins of the chapter of Akhlaaq (manners), and the foundation of the soul and personality. This characteristic, a person cannot reach his furtherance, his strength, his success, and his happy ending except with it.
And if we looked into the noble Qur’an, we would find this characteristic has many kinds: the battle with the soul is from it, the battle with Shaytan is from it, and the battle with the disbelievers and hypocrites is from it.
Striving against the Soul
As for the the battle (or struggle) with the soul, then it is not possible for a person to reach his goal except by struggling with and striving against his soul. The Qur’an came with that in the His جل وعلا saying:
And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.
[Surat al-‘Ankaboot, verse 69]
And it (the Qur’an) also says that the soul originally commands that which is evil because Allah has created it to love itself, to love desires, as Allah جل وعلا has said:
Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.
[Surat Ali ‘Imran, verse 14]
Therefore, these desires have been beautified due to the love of the soul for them, and then leaving these desires requires struggle. This is because leaving them goes against the very nature Allah created the soul with. And this disposition (inclination towards these desires) is a disposition of test and trial.
For among them (these desires) is that which conforms to the law [of Allah], such as the love of marriage, and among them is that which goes against the law [of Allah], such as the love for women outside the confines of marriage.
Thus, a person needs to struggle with the soul in regards to this, and the Qur’an has pointed out that the soul is always inciting to evil in His saying, in Surat Yoosuf upon the tongue of the wife of the ‘Azeez:
And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”
[Surat Yoosuf, verse 53]
And this is the case, even if it came from the words of the wife of the ‘Azeez, except that it came in the Qur’an and she is not blamed for this word. [And this is] like the example of the Queen of Saba’:
She said, “Indeed kings – when they enter a city, they ruin it and render the honored of its people humbled.” And thus do they do.
[Surat al-Naml, verse 34]
Therefore, the soul, it’s default state is that it incites to evil and this requires the person to manage it, and when he sees that it (the soul) is inciting to evil, he stops it and repels it so that he doesn’t transgress the law of Allah جل وعلا, or the rights of others. Actually, [he may stop this evil] for its (the soul’s) sake, like one who commit’s suicide or puts himself in the path of destruction (meaning, it can be a desire of the soul to destroy its own self, and a person should prevent this also).
For that reason, the first of the manners in Islam is struggling with the soul and developing this characteristic. And you have verily seen the state of this struggle, so how will it be?
You find that it is the first notion that occurs with regard to doing good. Then the soul comes making this good deed look extremely heavy and difficult, becomes lazy towards it, and seeks to push it away. This is like he who fasts or prays voluntary prayers, so the notion of love for fasting or love for standing in prayer occurs to him, but then he slackens. A thought occurs to him which says, “It will be for tomorrow, or we start after a week, or such and such a day,” and you begin to feel lazy [regarding it].
Sometimes this occurs to a person when performing acts of worship, sometimes it occurs with regard to matters of the land or this world, so whoever wants to engage in battling the soul in the strongest way possible, then he should struggle with the first impediment of that initial notion or thought.
The first thing that occurs to a person is that first thought occurs and a person surrenders, then he surrenders to this first thought which increases and becomes larger, for if the person had struggled with this initial thought, he would have become stronger [instead]!
For this reason, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said for a similar case:
يعقد الشيطان على قافية رأس أحدكم إذا هو نام ثلاث عقد ، يضرب كل عقدة : عليك ليل طويل فارقد
Satan puts three knots at the back of the head of any of you if he is asleep. On every knot he reads and exhales the following words, ‘The night is long, so stay asleep.’
[Narrated by al-Bukhari, no. 1146]
In reality, O Sisters, Shaytan doesn’t say to him, “Sleep!” while he’s asleep!
He doesn’t come to him except after he wakes; he wakes, becomes aware, and senses, and then Shaytan comes to him an says, “You have a long night’s worth of sleep, so sleep!”
So if he stands, one of those knots comes undone, and this is the heaviest struggle. And if he sleeps, then Shaytan tightens the knot upon him.
The three knots: if the first one is undone, the two remain. If the second one is undone, the third one remains.
Therefore, the first stage of the struggle is repelling that first thought that occurs, for whoever repels it, then the subsequent knots become fewer. And each time becomes easier than the one after it. For that reason, which is heaviest upon you? Standing up from your bed or standing (for prayer) when you’ve made ablution?
Which of them is easier for the prayer (getting up from your bed or making ablution for prayer)? After making ablution, correct!
Good. Which is easier upon you: for you to wake up, make ablution and stand for prayer, or is it easier to be on your bed only?
No doubt, the easiest thing is for you to be in prayer! The worship will be easier upon you because the knots were undone! However, when a person is in the bed, there are still two knots, and he must undo each knot until he becomes stronger, because the one who struggles must start with the first notion of good that occurs.
And then know that that first notion of good that occurs [to a person], if it [itself] is repelled, then it will distance itself and become more difficult.
So if it occurs to you, for example, the notion to give in Sadaqah (charity), and you repel this thought, it may or may not come back to you. If the thought of fasting occurs to you or any type of good deed, or seeking knowledge, then you should take advantage of that when?
When it is first ignited, when the thought occurs at that moment, and if not, it will become weaker.
Likewise is the case with regard to matters of obedience and disobedience.
It is easy for an obedient person to repent immediately after committing a sin, and it is then easier to repent for two of them. However, [repenting from the first one] is easier than repenting for the second. But when the sins accumulate, repentance becomes difficult. For this reason they say that treating such and such a drug addict is more difficult than treating someone who just started [taking drugs], right?
Do you not see that Man, if he becomes addicted to something, anything, regardless if it is to singing, drinking, smoking, [spreading] evil speech among people, repentance becomes more difficult? Likewise is the case as he becomes older; each time, it becomes more difficult for him to return to the [right] path. That is why improvement of the younger generation is better than improvement of the older generation…
Likewise is the case of the tree. Right now, if you had a tree with a delicate branch, wouldn’t you be able to control this branch, moving it right and left? It’s possible.
For this reason, people now decorate with these branches due to its freshness and tenderness. They decorate them and it complies with whatever they want, shaping it, binding it, coiling it…
But they cannot do that to a tree.
The tree grows this way; it is not possible to change it, and if you did, you would only chop it. Therefore, right now, you are in an age where you can do this struggle, time after time, O sisters. I used to say to myself, “Why did the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم say to a man when he asked him about a deed which would enter him into Jannah:
لا يزال لسانك رطبا من ذكر الله
Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah.
… is it (remembering Allah) more difficult than keeping one’s mouth moist with His remembrance?…
Some women reach the age of 70 or 80 years, she becomes a grandmother, and sometimes, she becomes disabled until she cannot move; you find her sitting, paralyzed for example. You find her, when family invites guests over, managing [the situation] as if she has the last word and is the person in charge. And if her children say to her, “O my mother, go and increase in your remembrance of Allah and whatever else is not your concern.” You find she doesn’t respond [to this], but continues what she was doing, whereas sometimes she would say, “I cannot, I am not able…” Why?
Because she did not struggle with her soul from the first moment, at the first stage, and for that reason, it became difficult for her and as the saying goes:
من شب على شيء شاب عليه
He who is raised upon something, grows old upon it.
Therefore, the one who struggles from the first moment is better than one who struggles at the end. And for this reason, you find different ways the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would respond to different questioners who would ask about the best of deeds.
For one would ask about the best of deeds, and he صلى الله عليه وسلم would say:
الجاهد في سبيل الله
Striving in the path of Allah.
And if you saw the questioner, you would find that he was a young person.
And a second one asks, and the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم says:
لا يزال لسانك رطبا من ذكر الله
Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah.
Why? You would find him [the one who asked this question] was actually an older person.
You will find the difference between the two whereby enjoining the remembrance of Allah upon an older person is like enjoining struggling in the path of Allah upon a younger person.
The struggle for young people is much easier. It’s possible a young person fills his whole life for the sake of Allah جل وعلا, but maybe this is difficult upon an older person unless there was proper instruction, sacrifice, effort, faith, certainty and extreme love of Allah جل وعلا.
Therefore, we should take advantage of this opportunity, the opportunity which is the topic of our talk today, so that we struggle with ourselves in order to achieve knowledge and its learning, and this is in light of what I have mentioned in the previous week regarding earnestness and dedication.
Striving against Shaytan
The second type of struggle which came in the noble Qur’an is the struggle with Shaytan. We are commanded to battle with Shaytan, and not to be captured by him. What did Allah جل وعلا say to us [regarding this]?
Indeed, Satan is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy. He only invites his party to be among the companions of the Blaze.
[Surat Faatir, verse 6]
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.
[Surat al-Baqarah, verse 168]
Shaytan has footsteps, just as a soul has footsteps towards disobedience.
Everytime we walk in his footsteps, the harder it gets to turn back. For this reason, we need to struggle against him from the first step. I’ll give you an example regarding Waswasah (evil whisperings of Shaytan):
If you ask anyone who is afflicted by al-Waswasah, “When did this start?” You will find that he says, “It started with doubts, so I did it (the ablution) again, and then became doubtful; then I did it a second time, and became doubtful a third time. Then I did it a third time, then the doubts developed in the ablution and I began to have doubts in my prayers. When doubts developed in the prayer and ablution, I began to have doubts regarding Tawheed (the Oneness of Allah)…” [In this way], if a person surrenders to doubts, it begins to increase.
What is the cure that scholars have mentioned, actually the cure the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم himself mentioned?
Cutting off the path of Shaytan. Thus, you find in the aHadeeth methods for taking the necessary measures to throw this (the Waswasah) back upon Iblees.
For example, it is narrated in a Hadeeth, the saying of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم:
إن الشيطان يأتي أحدكم فيقول : الله خلق كذا وكذا ، فكم خلق الله؟
Verily, Shaytan comes to one of you and says, “Allah created this and that, so who created Allah?”
You see the way Shaytan starts with the first step and says to you, “Allah created you. Who created Allah?” What did the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم say?
فإذا وجد ذلك أحدكم ، فليقل: آمنت بالله
So if any one of you find this, then he should say, “I believe in Allah.”
…and in another narration:
وليستعذ بالله منه فإنه شيطان
…he should seek refuge in Allah from him, for he is a Shaytan.
Therefore, the way of the one who struggles [with Shaytan] is at the first step: “he should say, ‘I believe in Allah,'” saying it out loud. He cuts off the path from Shaytan. This is in regard to Tawheed (the Oneness of Allah).
As for the breakdown of the ablution, [then] the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was asked about doubts occurring in the prayer, so he said (Hadeeth #362 in Sahih al-Bukhari):
فلا يخرجن من المسجد
So do not let it get you out of the Masjid.
…and in another narration (Hadeeth #177 in Sahih al-Bukhari):
…then do not leave…
حتى يسمع صوتا أو يجد ريحا
…until you hear a sound or smell an odor.
So cutting off the path of Shaytan was made at the first occurrence. What was this path? The path of doubt. How do I know this is Shaytan? I ask myself, “Am I certain or doubtful?” This is a question you must ask yourself. “Am I certain?” If the answer is, “Yes, I am certain.” Then what are you certain about? You ask yourself this question internally, “Then what are you certain about? Did you hear a sound? Did you find an odor?”
If the answer is, “No,” then I am in a state of doubt, and my ablution is correct and it did not get canceled. I then complete my prayer.
Either she says this [to herself] or Shaytan comes and says to her, “Ok, if it happened in the obligatory prayer, then it canceled it and your Salah is not valid!” The answer: No, if it broke, then my Salah is still valid.”
Because I didn’t hear a sound or find an odor, and I did not depart [from the prayer] because that was a doubt, and doubt is transient while certainty is that which is established, and in this way, the path of Shaytan is closed shut.
The same is the case with regard to the prayer when someone doubts how many [Raka’aat] were performed. He builds upon what he is certain of and then makes up for what is deficient.
He asks himself, “Am I certain about 3 or 4 [Raka’aat]?” And if the answer is, “I am certain about 4,” then he finishes his prayer. And if [the answer is], “I am doubtful,” then he assumes 3 and does another Rak’ah to make 4. Then he performs two prostrations for forgetfulness. If there is any deficiency, the two prostrations make up for it. And if there wasn’t any deficiency, then it is ****, and it becomes a source of humiliation for Shaytan because the door was shut in his face.
These ways of training and managing as mentioned in the Shari’ah to counterattack Shaytan makes us a strong Ummah because it struggles and battles from the first moment.
And the one who responds (to this doubt) and performs the action again, what does he achieve? He will do it again, and then a third time, then a fourth, and a fifth.
I have seen the extreme [nature] of those who are afflicted with doubts, a people, by Allah O sisters, as if they have lost all the reward [of the deed] due to their constant response [to these Waswasah]. And when I ask about the history of this matter, I found it began from one step, the step of doubt.
After that it increases and increases until I am not able to respond to this one afflicted by Waswasah except by ending the call, or sometimes by replying with a question, and he would answer me, and I say, “You answered yourself!” Because he still doubts and doubts and it never ends. Therefore, cutting off of all doubt happens at the first moment.
Then indeed, Iblees comes in different forms and we need to expose his affair.
Sometimes he comes in the form of a preacher. A preacher for what? A preacher to innovation. A preacher for what? A preacher for a deed with a good intention behind it, but done in an incorrect way.
Or he comes in the form of one who stirs up fear.
That is only Satan who frightens [you] of his supporters. So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are [indeed] believers.
[Surat Ali ‘Imran, verse 175]
Or he comes in the form of one who obscures the truth with falsehood. Or someone who beautifies desires or actions that man can fall into.
Therefore, it is compulsory for us to know the ways of Shaytan and be wary of him.
Striving against the Enemy
There are three types of struggle and I will end with the struggling with the enemy, which are two types: the disbelievers and the hypocrites.
As for the Hypocrites, then they struggle against the truth, and the truth they are struggling against is the speech of Allah and the speech of His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. And they don’t get into any discussion except that it is about this, because they outwardly show their faith. The Qur’an is proof against them, the Sunnah is a proof against them.
For this reason, Allah جل وعلا says:
So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with it a great striving.
[Surat al-Furqan, verse 52]
And the pronoun in the word به here is referring to the Qur’an.
As for the second type [of enemy], then they are the Disbelievers who do not believe in the Qur’an and don’t believe in the Sunnah.
These people, we don’t argue or dispute with them, not with the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Then what do we fight them with? With rational proofs. Where do we get these rational proofs from? That which Allah uses when addressing the disbelievers in the Qur’an; we learn from these proofs, how we initiate them, formulate them as the Qur’an has formulated them. When we argue with them with these proofs, we will find them to be very powerful.
Those who associated with Allah will say, “If Allah had willed, we would not have associated [anything] and neither would our fathers, nor would we have prohibited anything.” Likewise did those before deny until they tasted Our punishment. Say, “Do you have any knowledge that you can produce for us? You follow not except assumption, and you are not but falsifying.”
[Surat al-An’aam, verse 148]
This proof is used by the Disbelievers amongst the polytheists as well as the Qadariyyah sect who are considered disbelievers by the people of Islam. And the answer to them is in the same way.
“If Allah wanted, we would not have assigned partners to Allah,” is their saying, “If Allah wanted, we would not have disobeyed [Him]; if Allah wanted, we would not have left worship, we would not have left the prayer.”
We argue with them according to the way of the Qur’an… and this will allow them to be guided or to come near to it…So if they believe, then all praise is due to Allah. For us is the reward, as well as for them.
And if they don’t believe, then they don’t have any rights upon us, nor do we incur any of their sin.
And in this way, we have taken in all the ways of struggle that have been mentioned in the book of Allah جل وعلا.
I say this saying of mine and I seek Allah’s forgiveness for myself and for you, and all blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad, and upon his family and all his companions.