Preparing for Tomorrow
Prepare for Tomorrow
Optimism is what we need for a New Year!
The Prophet (peace be on him) was an optimist by nature. He inspired optimism in others, despite all the difficulties and challenges he faced. We should learn from the master, and emulate his character (peace be on him).
Optimism is contagious just like pessimism. If you have even one pessimistic person in your team, the whole team will be dragged down by their attitude. Similarly if you have an optimistic person, like their smile, their mood will spread. If you smile, others smile back at you. And if you frown others frown back at you.
The Prophet (peace be on him) was preparing people to face their reality with optimism.
The Meaning of Tomorrow
Tomorrow is the Qur’anic term for the hereafter. In surah Hashr, when Allah Almighty talks about tomorrow, He is referring to the Hereafter:
O you who believe, fear Allah and let every soul prepare for tomorrow. (59:18)
How did the Prophet (peace be on him) prepare for tomorrow? Utrujj actually delivered an entire 3-day retreat entitled ‘A Day with the Prophet (peace be on him)’. We studied how the Prophet (peace be on him) would spend his day from the moment he opened his eyes until the time he went to sleep. The sunnah is to start the day by praising God first thing in the morning:
All praise is for Allah who gave us life after death, and unto Him we shall return. (Bukhari)
The reality of tomorrow is before your eyes in the morning. Not in the middle of the day, nor the end of the day. It’s the first conscious moment of your day. It makes your day. Our tomorrow might be today. So our preparation for ‘tomorrow’ is from waking.
In the same ayah, Allah Almighty says itaqullah, often translated as ‘Fear Allah’, though this is not the best translation. The quick, comprehensive definition of taqwa is fulfilling obligations and refraining from the prohibitions.
Another definition is to ‘fear the Almighty, and act upon the revelation. And prepare for the day of your departure, and be content with what you have been given.’
Thus when Allah Almighty says itaqullah, he means prepare for that day.
When the Prophet (peace be on him) defined taqwa, and he pointed to his chest three times, he said taqwa ha hunna, taqwa ha hunna, taqwa hahunna:
Taqwa is here [And he pointed to his chest]. (Muslim and Bukhari)
Taqwa is not a badge, or a label, it settles in the heart. Preparation starts in the heart.
When Ibrahim (may Allah be pleased with him) was raising the foundations of the Ka’aba, he made the following du’a:
Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing (2:127)
Our Lord! And raise up among them a messenger, of themselves, who will recite to them Your Verses and teach them the Book and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, the Wise. (2:129)
Then Allah responded to that supplication:
God has blessed the believers, as He raised up among them a messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His revelations, and purifies them and teaches them from the Scripture and wisdom; although before that they were in evident error. (3:164)
There are three things which we need to incorporate in our lives, which he prayed for: Reciting the Qur’an, acting on it and purifying ourselves.
Make the Qur’an Your Priority
Recitation of the Qur’an. This is a priority. This is what we take with us for tomorrow. You will see it in your bank account. It is the most important account. So we must dedicate time for the Qur’an and improving our relationship with it:
Let’s say we recite 3 pages a day, take one ayah to apply for example about charity, or refraining from evil. Make your target to apply one ayah from what you have recited. This is achievable and do-able.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Prophet (peace be on him) said that the most beloved or pleasing deed to Allah Almighty is:
That which is done continuously, even if it is small. (Bukhari)
In Arabic we say don’t carry a big stone, as you cannot carry it a long distance. Whereas a small stone can be thrown a long distance.
Improve Your Understanding of the Qu’ran.
Even if you do not know the language, you can still understand most of the Qur’an in translation- over 70%. Do not assume that all Arabs understand what they are reading when they pick up their mushaf. The Qur’an is the highest form of the Arabic language. We need to make the intention to understand the Qur’an and activate it. At the very least we need to understand what we recite in salah. After that, whatever Arabic we can learn is beneficial, but even if we do not know the Arabic language, it should not become a barrier to us picking up the Qur’an to read it, because we mistakenly assume only those who understand Arabic can access it.
Reflecting on the Qur’an
One of the forgotten forms of worship is reflecting on the verses of the Qur’an.
We recite Fatihah at least 17 times a day. Fatihah has 7 ayahs. Pick one verse to reflect on it, starting with bismillah.
Take one ayah a day or even one word such as rahma for instance and try to live by it/apply it daily. Reflecting rahma in our actions means that if we see someone who needs help – financially, physically, emotionally etc. we go to their aid if we can.
So choose one ayah or even a word of your reading, and practice it. Try living by it and applying it.
We have to create a daily commitment (wird) for the Qur’an. Do not make your target heavy. Make it manageable. This brings you closer to Allah Almighty and makes you better.
You can start by 1 page a day and gradually increase to as many pages as one can reasonably read.
This is why ibn Ata illah AI Sakandari said:
Because of the continuous remembrance of Allah you have special opening from Allah.
Without consistency, you won’t have ‘fath’ or openings in our lives. A small drop of water – with consistency – will penetrate a rock, or at least polish it.
The Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Take on board actions which you can tolerate. (Muslim)
Otherwise you will drop it. Take it step by step. We have plenty of examples in the sunnah for moderation.
Focusing on Three Qualities
Al Ashajj (literally means the one with a scar on his face) was the leader of the Abd Qays tribe (from Bahrain). In year 8 Hijri, he travelled with a delegation to Madinah,in order to become Muslim. Al Ashajj managed to meet our Beloved Prophet (peace be on him) and spent 10 days with him (peace be on him) during which the Prophet (peace be on him) taught him as much as he (peace be on him) could. The Prophet (peace be on him) had a talent for reading faces, and he noticed immediately that Ashajj had two qualities which Allah Almighty loves. Al Ashajj excited by this, asked what these were. Bukhari, in his book Adab al Mufrad, describes how the Prophet (peace be on him) responded, replying:
You have two traits that Allah loves.
- Forbearance – Al Hilm
- Modesty – Al Haya’
In another narration, also in Bukhari, it was told that the Prophet (peace be on him) mentioned the following qualities:
- Deliberation (as an opposite to hastiness – Al Anat)
Why did the Prophet (peace be on him) mention these traits in public? Ashahjj was not the best looking man and we often judge people based on looks, as we judge books from covers, so the Prophet (peace be on him) wanted to draw attention to the importance of good character, particularly as Ashajj was a leader.
And he specifically pointed out three traits which we need to focus on:
- Forbearance – Al Hilm: Anger Management in our contemporary language. We need to stop brushing this under the carpet. Forbearance is an attribute of good leaders. The one who can overlook mistakes and give a new chance to people. Without this attribute, we cannot live with each other. If we stop talking to others when we have a conflict then no one would be talking to anyone anymore. This stems from Allah’s attributes – Al Halim – the One who postpones punishment for those who deserve it. Let’s start fresh and open a new page with others.
- Modesty – Al Haya’: This is refraining from what displeases Allah, and the feeling that Allah Almighty is watching us, and also translated as bashfulness or shyness. Remember the beautiful hadith Jibril (narrated by Bukhari) on Ihsan: To worship Allah as if you can see Him, and if you cannot see Him, know that He sees you.
- Deliberation – Al Anat: The opposite of hastiness. Those who are hasty are often those who are angry. In the story of Ashajj, everyone rushed to meet and greet the Prophet (peace be on him), however Ashajj took time to prepare himself and be presentable for the meeting. It is important NOT to rush our decisions. Read the small print, do things properly, and with excellence.
To create new habits we need to start with baby steps and then we can take bigger steps.
To come back to the story of Al Ashajj, we must emulate these qualities. Controlling our anger must be our top priority, and we can connect this with sabr. The moment we lose our control, the consequences can be disastrous. Preserve these qualities to maintain good relationships, spreading love, mutual respect and creating a community based on love and care.
Purification of the Soul
Imam An Nawawi, who is accepted as a major scholar by all main schools, from the seventh century, (died in 676 AH) mentioned the Maqasid al Tazkiyah ‘The Aims of Purification’ in one of his critical works, Al Maqasid, translated in English.
From the du’a of Ibrahim (peace be on him) he identified the importance of reciting and learning the Qur’an ( both understanding and applying it) as well as purifying ourselves. He mentioned the importance of tazkiya:
We need to feed our bodies, but we also need to feed our souls. This is one of our requirements.
Imam Nawawi drew a road map for tazkiyah. The way to tazkiyah is through five pillars of purification, each with five subcategories:
1- Taqwa of Allah in secret and in public
2- Following the Sunnah in our actions and words
3- Make our concern Allah not people
4- Being pleased with Allah Almighty regardless of your situation
5- Coming back to Allah Almighty – ‘escape’ to Him, even when it is from Him to Him. From his displeasure to His pleasure. He is always there for us.
To attain our new year resolutions, we must think in terms of achievable targets, make them practical not just theoretical. Link these to your daily routine, whether it is utilising your commute time or something else. Focus on one attribute per week, and in the fourth week take a break. If we do not know how to rest, how can we be efficient?
Your recitation will be better, your connection with Allah Almighty will be better. Adopting this regular practice will definitely impact and reflect in your character. Your family and friends should see the transformation. It is not for the sake of ticking the box, it is a genuine exercise. And it stems from our sincere intention to improve. Keep coming back to check your performance.
Finally you should always have a source for light (knowledge). Have a circle, once a week or every fortnight. We all need knowledge that nourishes our soul, our heart and our character.
I hope that Allah Almighty will help us achieve our targets and accept them and make us better this year.
Talk delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim to the City Circle, London – Friday 11 January 2019
Transcribed by Zahra Hrifa
July 30, 2021