The paradigm shift
How do you prioritise your priorities?
With so many competing priorities in life, how does one decide what is the top priority? Is it your life or your wealth? Is it your dignity or your wealth? Is it your freedom or your wealth? We could go on, but this gives you a flavour. How does one decide? For some people, it’s simple – their priority will always be money. No matter what is at stake, and what the choices they have to make, they will always pick the same answer. This is reality. Let’s not forget that this was also the reality during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The human community is like this. Now, Iet’s look at how the revelation changed this mindset in Makkah and Madinah.
The Seven Pillars of Makkah
In Makkah, what did the Prophet (peace be upon him) do? What was the priority in Makkah? You could say it was to build the leaders who would carry the divine message forward. Therefore Makkah was a hub for building leadership. Primarily leadership in establishing monotheism (tawhid of Allah Almighty), and in addition in personal development as well as improving relationships. In a nutshell what was the Makkan mission. We see this reflected in the encounter between Abu Sufyan and Caesar in which he summarised the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
In the lengthy hadith that details their exchange, Caesar asked Abu Sufyan, who was an enemy of Islam at that time, what the Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded people to do. Abu Sufyan enumerated seven things.
He said, ‘What does he order you to do?’ I said, ‘He tells us to worship Allah alone, and not to worship others along with Him, and to leave all that our forefathers used to worship. He orders us to pray, give in charity, be chaste, keep promises and return what is entrusted to us.’ (Bukhari)
I see these as the 7 pillars of Makkah:
- Worship Allah Almighty alone. (Recognise the reality of your existence).
- Do not follow faith and customs that have been handed down to you blindly. (Take responsibility for your choices)
- Pray. (Establish your direct connection with Allah)
- Give charity. (Look after the vulnerable in the community)
- Remain chaste. (Protect the family unit)
- Fulfil your covenants, keep your promises. (Integrity, trustworthiness)
- Return what is entrusted to you. (Be honest and fair when dealing with others).
If you look at the list, these are traits of successful people and good leaders, which predate Steve Covey’s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In the corporate world and in MBA programmes they talk about the importance of confidentiality, trust and best practice. These 7 pillars summarise outline best practice neatly and succinctly.
Ibn Ishaq narrated in his Seerah the story of Ja’far ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) and the Najashi. Jafar said to him:
“O King, we were a people in ignorance, worshiping idols, consuming carrion, committing indecencies, severing family ties, being bad neighbors, and letting the strong among us exploit the weak. We continued in this way until Allah sent us a Messenger from among us, known for his lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity.
Based on this narration there are 13 commands:
- He invited us to worship and serve only Allah.
- He commanded us to abandon the stones and idols we and our forefathers used to worship.
- He ordered us to speak the truth.
- He emphasized the importance of fulfilling trusts.
- He encouraged maintaining family ties.
- He advised good treatment of neighbors.
7-8. He prohibited forbidden relationships and shedding blood unjustly.
- He forbade indecencies.
- He condemned false speech.
- He prohibited consuming the wealth of orphans.
- He condemned accusing chaste women. He directed us to worship Allah alone without associating any partners with Him.
- He enjoined prayers.
- He mandated giving charity.
- He prescribed fasting.”
She said: “He enumerated for him the matters of Islam, and we believed in him, trusted him, and followed him in what he brought. We worshiped Allah alone, associating nothing with Him, and refrained from what He forbade us while indulging in what He made lawful for us. Our people opposed and persecuted us, trying to divert us from our religion, hoping to return us from worshiping Allah alone to worshiping idols, and to revert us to the indecencies we used to commit. When they oppressed us, treated us unjustly, and stood between us and our religion, we left for your land, choosing you over others, seeking your protection, and hoping not to be wronged under your rule, O King.”
The Four Pillars of Madinah
In Madinah, on top of self-development, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was teaching believers how to build a community. His focus was building a loving, harmonious, caring and compassionate community. How do you establish this? In his opening speech in Madinah, he laid down four pillars.
‘Abdullah ibn Salam (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace be upon him) say:
“O people, spread the greeting of peace profusely, maintain kinship ties, feed others, and pray at night when people are asleep, you will enter Paradise in peace.” [Ibn Majah]
Spreading salam is essentially breaking the isolation and fragmentation of any community by opening communication and uniting it. Maintaining ties of kinship strengthen the family and thereby the community at large. Feeding others means ensuring that all members of society are looked after and no one is neglected. These pillars create a real brotherhood and sisterhood, and make individuals rise above their innate selfishness and self-centeredness.
Meanwhile, the fourth pillar, night prayers (Qiyam) give us spiritual strength by deepening our connection with Allah Almighty through time devoted to Him one to one, at a private and intimate time, engaging in dhikr and salah. This polishes the spiritual heart, keeping our actions and intentions during the day, pure.
In order to be a strong leader and carry the heavy weight of responsibility, one has to be more than a pillar, one has to be a load-bearing wall – a wall that doesn’t crack or wobble, unlike flimsy partition walls made of plaster which can barely carry a picture hook, crack easily, and collapse if kicked. Allah mentioned people in the Quran who sound impressive when they speak but when it comes to action, they do not deliver. They are not load-bearing walls.
Palestine – the manifestation of true imaan
Palestine is the first Qiblah, and the place where imaan will be most manifest until the Day of Judgement, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated in the hadith:
عن أبي أمامة قال: قال صلى الله عليه وسلم: “لا تزال طائفة من أمتي على الدين ظاهرين، لعدوهم قاهرين، لا يضرهم من خالفهم إلا ما أصابهم من لأواء، حتى يأتيهم أمر الله. وهم كذلك”، قالوا: يا رسول الله وأين هم؟ قال: “ببيت المقدس وأكناف بيت المقدس”. مسند أحمد وأخرجه أيضا الطبراني . قال الهيثمي في المجمع ورجاله ثقات.
“A group of my nation will continue to adhere to the religion, victorious over their enemy, and those who oppose them will not harm them except the calamities that befall them, until the command of God comes to them. And they are like that.” They said: O Messenger of God, and where are they? ? He said: “In Bayt al-Maqdis and the outskirts of Bayt al-Maqdis.” (Musnad Ahmad and al-Tabarani. Al-Haythami said in the council, “And his men are trustworthy.”)
A group of my people will stay clinging to the truth, in Palestine until the Day of Judgement. That is why it’s the compass of the Ummah. Anyone who’s heading towards this direction is insha’Allah ta’ala following the truth.
Mu’awiyah bin Qurrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated from his father that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
لاَ تَزَالُ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْ أُمَّتِي مَنْصُورِينَ لاَ يَضُرُّهُمْ مَنْ خَذَلَهُمْ حَتَّى تَقُومَ السَّاعَةُ ” .رواه الترمذي.
“There will never cease to be a group in my Ummah who will be helped(by Allah), they will not be harmed by those who betray them until the Hour is established.” (Tirmidhi)
The paradigm shift of revelation
The revelation is creating a paradigm shift in our thinking. For instance when we look at power and weakness we see that it is not necessarily the side with the most military might who is the winner. You can win even if you are smaller in number and the people of Gaza have already won the hearts of the people around the world. This is what has taken those in power by surprise, because it is not about muscles. It’s Allah Almighty’s power. Just look at the outbreak of food poisoning in the army. Where did it come from? It’s Allah Almighty’s power. Just as the enemies of the Prophet (peace be upon him) experienced blindness when he blew sand towards them.
The revelation came to teach the believers that you may be weak in numbers, but your weakness will lead you to be strong. You may be afraid, but in the midst of this terrifying situation, your iman will increase and rocket to the sky. This is how you can overcome all these obstacles. This is exactly what we’ve seen. Every day as we watch clips, we see the Quran in action. Allah is telling the people of Gaza that He is with them. He will support them, when they are with Him, and follow His commands. Don’t worry about what’s going on, do your best, leave the rest to Him.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
‘Allah Almighty loves those who rely on him.’ (3:159)
Of course, in a positive sense, we rely on Him when we have done our homework, not when we are sitting idle, doing nothing.
Therefore we should change our way of thinking. No matter how difficult a situation might be, we have to face our reality, the Prophet (peace be upon Him) insisted on changing the reality, and it took him some time but he did it. So we need to change our way of thinking.
Power and weakness
From weakness you become strong, from fear you develop a strong iman. And this is how things can improve. As we know when you spend in charity, you are not losing wealth, but increasing the barakah in your wealth as well as adding to your akhirah account in multiples. This is how the Qur’an is changing the way we think. When you do the calculation, if you spent £100, then your account will show -£100 however Allah has multiplied it tenfold.
That is why it is wrong to think that we are just few people, we cannot do anything. We need to teach our children to change the way they think as well. Profit and loss is not measured as 1+1 = 2, when you deal with Allah Almighty. So we have to be strong. Success comes when you have ikhlas in your actions (ongoing purification of the heart). Therefore we need to continuously review ourselves.
Prioritising what is important
Moreover we need to get the right ingredients and understand that in the very beginning. The first revelations in Makkah focused on 5 things. The first of these is education. In the first revelation, Iqra Allah emphasised the importance of education and understanding. The second revelation, Surat al Qalam, is about character. If you want to create any change you need good character. Then we have the third one is about qiyam ul layl, and connection with Allah Almighty. This is the priority. We learn that our priority is the akhirah. This is why the akhirah is one of the six pillars of iman, because dunya is very, very tempting. We can lose ourselves in the dunya – luxury, new gadgets, new cars, mansions and what have you. But those with imaan care more about their status in the akhirah. The fourths is spreading the message and the fifth is having optimism and gratitude.
1 Seek knowledge
2 Develop your character
3 Pray in the night (qiyamulayl)
4 Spread the message
5 Have optimism and gratitude
It’s not easy, but it’s mental shift. How do you see things around you? When you see your priority is the akhirah, then things will automatically shift in your life. You will see that Palestine is part of your journey. And building leaders who can drive the change. These leaders are our children insha’Allah ta’ala. So we need to work on ourselves and on them. And if we were to do so, then insha’Allah these pillars can carry the load and spread the message far and wide. Now is the right time now. Insha’Allah we can do our best at an individual level, and at the family level, at the community level, and at the Ummah level.
The individual level requires us to work on yourselves and improve our character and our relationship with Allah Almighty. It requires working on clearing our spiritual diseases, and flaws.
At the family level, we need to work on our children, spouses, siblings and parents etc. At the community level, we need to engage with our community and create alliances. This is what we saw in Madinah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did create alliances in Madinah. He created rules and the constitution. He inculcated fairness, justice, and freedom. We have many things in common with others, so we need to make alliances as we are minority. Current events have helped us to communicate with those with whom we have common ground, so we can increase our strength.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah, was keen on having an independent economy. We need this paradigm shift in our spending habits, by supporting small businesses, local businesses, and not support corporations whose values are not inline with ours.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was keen on political independence. He created a new way of doing politics. And I believe the world is hungry to see politics with no vetoes.
We need to be smart. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not open all fronts at once. No. So we need to be smart and do things in the right manner. The key point is how do we change our way of thinking to be in line with the revelation? The revelation and prophetic guidance give us the guidance to change our thinking. When we follow them we can achieve success. However we should not try to carry more than we can bear.
Based on a talk delivered by Shaykh Haytham on 9th Dec 2023. Transcribed by Zayna.
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