Tuesday 31 January 2023

Hadith on helping others


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told a companion: "Help the weak or do some good for a person who cannot work for himself (or herself)." His companion replied: "(But what) if I cannot do that?" The Prophet said: "(Then at least) refrain from harming others, for this will be regarded as a charitable deed (on your part)." Sahih Al-Bukhari 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "O people! Greet others in peace, feed (the poor and needy), behave kindly to your relatives, offer prayer when others are asleep, and (thus) enter Paradise in peace." Al-Tirmidhi

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "There is an abode in paradise. . .prepared for those who are polite in their speech, provide food (to the needy), fast frequently, and (pray) when other people are asleep." Al-Tirmidhi

Thursday 26 January 2023

‘We have no one’: The women and girls sold as brides in Kashmir


Arsheeda Jan* speaks fluent Kashmiri with an accent that suggests it is not her first language. The 43-year-old is originally from Kolkata but now lives in a two-room wooden home on the banks of the river Jhelum on the outskirts of Srinagar city. Her eyes fill with tears as she describes how she arrived in Kashmir more than two decades ago.

Her parents died when she was a child, she explains, and she and her four siblings were sent to live with relatives. “We were very poor,” she says.

When she met a middle-aged Bengali woman who promised her a job in a shawl factory in Kashmir, Arsheeda saw an opportunity to earn some money. She was 13 years old.

“She told me that will provide me with a job in Kashmir and we have to do embroidery on shawls. I had no idea where Kashmir is,” Arsheeda recalls.

She didn’t tell her siblings about her plan.

When she reached Kashmir, the woman, who was herself married to a Kashmiri man, kept Arsheeda in her home for a week. During that time, Arsheeda says she did all of the household chores in the belief that the woman was going to help her build a better life for herself.

“I kept on asking her ‘where is the job?’ Then one day a man and his father arrived with a bearded man who was supposed to do my nikah (marriage contract).”

A photo of a woman looking outside through a window indoors.
Arsheeda has had no contact with her family since she was trafficked two decades ago [Rifat Fareed]
When Arsheeda cried, the cleric explained that he could not marry her against her will and left. But the family found someone else who was willing to do it.

“The agent threatened me that if I raise my voice she will kill me. I was very scared,” she says.

Still just 13, Arsheeda was married to a labourer nine years her senior.

“When my husband entered my room for the first time, I was shivering. I tried to flee many times but failed. Then I became pregnant. I gave up on the idea that I can ever leave this life,” she says.

Arsheeda, who now has four children, has had no contact with her family in Kolkata since she left.

“When there is a fight with my husband he asks me to leave and pay the money for which he bought me,” she says.

Pointing to a scar on her forehead, Arsheeda explains: “My husband beats me sometimes and he taunts me.”

When her husband is violent, she says she tries to take shelter in her neighbours’ house but that they are unwelcoming. “[They] inform my husband,” she explains. “Some neighbours assume I have slept with many men, that’s how they think I landed here. They don’t understand …”

“Everyone looks at me differently. I still feel alien.”


Monday 23 January 2023

Hadith of the day: Helping others


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "A person who looks after a widow or the poor is like. someone who prays all night and fasts all day." Sahih Al-Bukhari


Tuesday 17 January 2023

Forgiveness Despite Repeated Sins

Allah emphasizes His generosity and kindness, in that He forgives whoever repents to Him from whatever evil they commit: “If any one does evil or wrongs his own soul but afterwards seeks God’s forgiveness, he will find God Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful”. Surah 4 Verse 110 Ibn Abbas commented about this verse saying that Allah informs His servants of His forgiveness, forbearing generosity and expansive mercy. So, whoever commits a sin, whether major or minor, ‘but afterwards seeks Allah’s forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful’ even if his sins were greater than the heavens, the earth and the mountains.

It is also narrated by Ahmad that Abu Bakr said that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘No Muslim commits a sin and then performs ablution, prays two rak’ahs and begs Allah for forgiveness for that sin, but He forgives him.’ If a believer makes mistakes, and we all do, we have to offer sincere repentance to be entitled to forgiveness. In Islam, sincere repentance is known as taubah. This requires us to; Recognize and admit we have made a mistake Ask forgiveness from Allah and if the sin was against a person, we have to ask forgiveness from that person also We try to atone for the sin we have done if possible, by for example, returning money if we had stolen it We make the intention never to do the sin again We are told many times in the Qur’an that Allah is the Oft-returning, Most Merciful. 

We understand from this that Allah is waiting for us to turn to Him in sincere repentance. If we are sincere, then Allah will have mercy on us. We are also advised to ‘follow a bad deed with a good deed’. This means, as soon as we realize we have done something wrong, we should immediately try to do something good. We should try to maintain the five times daily prayer, salat. This builds our relationship with Allah. During the prayer we recite the Fatiha in which we ask Allah for guidance. In a hadith Qudsi (conversation between Allah and His Prophet which is not part of Qur’an), it is explained that the prayer is divided into two parts, part is for Allah and part is for the worshipper. Allah promises to give the worshipper what s/he asks for – guidance! It is also necessary to read the Qur’an to understand and implement this guidance from Allah in our daily lives. Both Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim record the hadith of Abu Sa’id (may Allah be pleased with him) that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told about the man who killed ninety-nine people. Later on, he regretted it and asked a worshipper, among the Children of Israel, whether he could repent. This worshiper told him no! So, he killed him, thus, completing one hundred. Then he asked one of their scholars whether he could repent. He said: ‘What is stopping you from repenting?’ 

Then he told him to go to a town where Allah was worshipped. He set out for that town, but death came to him while he was on the road. The angels of mercy and the angels of punishment disputed over him. So Allah commanded them to measure the distance between the two towns, and the place where he died. Whichever (town) he was closer to, when he died, was the one to which he belonged. They found he was closer to the town he was heading for. Thus, the angels of mercy took him. It was said that when he was dying, he moved himself – towards that town – while Allah commanded the good town to move closer to him and the other town to move away. On the other hand, al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn Abbas said that some of the people of shirk(associating partners with Allah) killed many people and committed zina, (illegal sexual acts) to a great extent. they came to Muhammad (pbuh) and said: ‘What you are saying and calling us to is good; if only you could tell us that there is an expiation (way of making amends) for what we have done.’ 

Then, the following verses were revealed: Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes); Those who invoke not, with God, any other god, nor slay such life as God has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; – and any that does this (not only) meets punishment. (But) the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy,- Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for God will change the evil of such persons into good, and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, Surah 25 Verses 67 – 70 Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. “Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped”. Surah 39 Verses 53 – 54 

We can understand from what has been said here that Allah forgives all sins provided that a person repents. Additionally, one must not despair of the mercy of Allah, even if their sins are many and great, for the door of repentance and mercy is expansive. “Know they not that God doth accept repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity, and that God is verily He, the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful?” Surah 9 Verse 104 While we are still able to perform actions, it is never too late to turn to Allah. When we do, we should try to live as Muslims, that is, fulfilling all our obligations as Muslims. As our iman (faith) increases, so our knowledge, understanding and practicing of Islam improves, insha’Allah.

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Thursday 5 January 2023

The Bride Price: Dowry Abuse Read More on islamonline : https://islamonline.net/en/the-bride-price-dowry-abuse/


A woman holds a very high status in the Islamic faith. She is honored and respected at all times, but many startling transgressions have crept into Islamic practice. These transgressions have been caused by cultural influences that have no basis in Islam. One such influence is the dowry. Muslims living on the Indian subcontinent have slowly incorporated the payment of dowry into their lives.

In India, the dowry originated in the upper-caste Hindu communities as a wedding gift (cash or valuables) from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. There is nothing strange or unique about a culture influencing Muslim practice, as it is a common occurrence around the globe. There is nothing wrong with this as long as those cultural practices do not contradict Islamic law. The practice of dowry, however, does in fact transgress Islamic Law. The Bride Price We usually use the word gift for something that we give voluntarily to a person we like. A gift is something that strengthens the bond of friendship between two people. Dowry, which is usually defined as a “gift” given along with the bride by a bride’s family to the bridegroom, is used as a tool of coercion and greed in societies like India. The bride’s family must give this “gift” or the marriage will not take place. Always the price of the dowry is set higher than the bride’s family can afford, and, sadly, this results in the bride becoming a burden on her family. The bride’s family then struggles to pay the “gift.” In Islam, in contrast, it is the man who pays the mahr (dower) to the woman. The following verses in the Qur’an prove that it is the man who is obligated to pay the mahr to the woman unless the woman chooses not to take it. [And give women their dower as a free gift, but if theof themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result.](An-Nisaa’ 4:4) [And all married women [are forbidden to you] except those whom your right hands possess. (This is) Allah’s ordinance to you. And lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise.] (An-Nisaa’ 4:24) Dowry Deaths Cultures that demand dowry from the bride’s family are actually practicing the opposite of what Allah has commanded. They have reversed Allah’s words in their practice. The bride is forced to pay a negotiated amount to the groom unless the man chooses not to take it. When the woman brings less than the negotiated amount, she has to endure constant torture from her in-laws after marriage. When the husband or in-laws are not satisfied with the dowry brought by the bride, they may even go so far as to kill the woman after marriage. The most severe among all the dowry abuse is “bride burning.” The parties engaged in the murder usually report the case as an accident or suicide. While dowry abuse is most common among Hindus, it is rising among Muslims too. Despite the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, dowry abuse is arising in the Indian subcontinent. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 6,285 deaths in 2003.

The official records always include under-reportage. For example, in Delhi, 90 percent of cases of women being burned are recorded as accidents, 5 percent as suicides, and only the remaining 5 percent are shown as murders. The statistics of dowry deaths in the whole of India is spine-chilling. Alternatives Many women remain unmarried due to this dowry. Even worse is that when Muslim men intend to honor the mahr to their brides, it is often rejected. The women prefer to remain unmarried rather than to marry someone who is not from their culture. Another common practice is that people “exchange” their sons. In other words, they give a bridegroom (usually their son) to a woman to be married in exchange for a bridegroom from the woman’s family (the bride-to-be’s brother or any unmarried relative), so that they can have their daughters married without a dowry. This places an incredible disadvantage on the parents who have daughters and no sons. The parents of the daughters have to give money to get their daughters married! Objectify Women It is a sad irony that women (mainly mothers-in-law) are oppressive towards other women (daughters-in-law). It is mainly the mothers-in-law-to-be who demand dowry from the bride’s family and who end up torturing the daughter-in-law after marriage if she brings less than the negotiated amount. Syed (not his real name), aged 35, from Chennai, India said, “It is difficult to find a bride who would be able to afford all that my mom asks. … Because of this I am still unmarried.” When I asked his mother why she demands a dowry from the bride, she said, “We have spent so much on our son, for his education, for raising him and now we will marry him off and most of the money he earns will go to his wife. So she will benefit from all the money we spent on him. For that they can pay an amount to have our son.” Ahmed (not his real name), 29, from Delhi, India, said, “I don’t want to take any dowry, but can’t stop my parents from asking, as I will disrespect them if I do so.” So in an effort to respect parents and to conform to cultural norms, Muslim youth in India are bending over backwards to follow traditions that aren’t even rooted in Islam. Demanding a dowry and getting married may seem valid in the eyes of many, but will the marriage be validated in the eyes of Allah? If a culture contains un-Islamic practices, then one should not feel any shame in breaking those conflicting traditional practices. The practice of dowry has caused Muslims in many parts of the world to continue their prejudices against women despite the Islamic prohibitions against dowry. On the Indian sub-continent, a woman is considered to be a great burden mainly because of the dowry system.

It is common to see people rejoicing over the birth of a son and lamenting over the birth of a daughter. Why aren’t people listening to the message of Islam instead of following the customs around them? [And when a daughter is announced to one of them, his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge.] (An-Nahl 16:58-59) Allah tells us that infanticide is a grave sin and that favoring one gender over the other has no grounds in Islam. As Muslims we should consider the birth of daughters to be a great blessing. Malik reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who brings up two girls properly till they grow up, he and I will come (together) (very closely) on the Day of Resurrection,” and he interlaced his fingers (Muslim 32:6364). Islam stressed fairness and kindness. Islam ensures that boys and girls are treated equally. It is unfortunate to see people submitting themselves to dictates of culture rather than to the will of Allah Who is our Creator, Cherisher, and Sustainer. Let us not succumb to the fitnah caused by culture and let us stand in practicing Islam by enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.[And from among you there should be a party who invite to do good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and these it is that shall be successful.] (Aal `Imran 3:104)

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Tuesday 3 January 2023

Umm Salamah: Mother of Believers


Umm Salamah! What an eventful life she had! Her real name was Hind. She was the daughter of one of the notables in the Makhzum clan nicknamed “Zad Ar-Rakib” (which means the provision for the traveler) because he was well known for his generosity, particularly to travelers. Umm Salamah’s husband was `Abdullah ibn `Abdul-Asad and they both were among the first people to accept Islam. Only Abu Bakr and a few others, who could be counted on the fingers of one hand, became Muslims before them. As soon as the news of their becoming Muslims spread, the Quraysh reacted with frenzied anger. They began hounding and persecuting Umm Salamah and her husband. But the couple did not waver or despair and remained steadfast in their new faith. The persecution became more and more intense. Life in Makkah became unbearable for many of the new Muslims.

 The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then gave permission for them to immigrate to Abyssinia. Umm Salamah and her husband were in the forefront of these seekers of refuge in a strange land. For Umm Salamah, it meant abandoning her home and giving up the traditional ties of lineage and honor for something new, pursuing the pleasure and reward of Allah. Despite the protection Umm Salamah and her companions received from the Abyssinian ruler, the desire to return to Makkah, to be near the Prophet and the source of revelation and guidance, persisted. News eventually reached the emigrants that the number of Muslims in Makkah had increased. Among them were Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib and `Umar ibn Al-Khattab. Their faith had greatly strengthened the community, and the Quraysh, they heard, had eased the persecution somewhat. Thus a group of the emigrants, urged on by a deep longing in their hearts, decided to return to Makkah. 

The easing of the persecution was brief, as the returnees soon found out. The dramatic increase in the number of Muslims following the acceptance of Islam by Hamzah and `Umar had infuriated the Quraysh more than ever. They intensified their persecution and torture to a pitch and intensity not known before. So the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave permission to his Companions to immigrate to Madinah. Umm Salamah and her husband were among the first to leave. The hijrah of Umm Salamah and her husband, though, was not as easy as they had imagined. In fact, it was a bitter and painful experience and a particularly harrowing one for her. Let us leave the story now for Umm Salamah herself to tell:     When Abu Salamah (my husband) decided to leave for Madinah, he prepared a camel for me, hoisted me on it and placed our son Salamah on my lap. My husband then took the lead and went on without stopping or waiting for anything. Before we were out of Makkah, however, some men from my clan stopped us and said to my husband, “Though you are free to do what you like with yourself, you have no power over your wife. She is our daughter. Do you expect us to allow you to take her away from us?”     They then pounced on him and snatched me away from him. My husband’s clan, Banu `Abdul-Asad, saw them taking both my child and me. They became hot with rage.   

“No! By Allah,” they shouted, “we shall not abandon the boy. He is our son and we have a first claim over him.”     They took him by the hand and pulled him away from me. Suddenly, in the space of a few moments, I found myself alone and lonely. My husband headed for Madinah by himself and his clan had snatched my son away from me. My own clan, Banu Makhzum, overpowered me and forced me to stay with them.     From the day when my husband and my son were separated from me, I went out at noon every day to that valley and sat at the spot where this tragedy had occurred. I would recall those terrible moments and weep until night fell on me.  

I continued like this for a year or so, until one day a man from the Banu Umayyah passed by and saw my condition. He went back to my clan and said, “Why don’t you free this poor woman? You have caused her husband and her son to be taken away from her.”     He went on trying to soften their hearts and play on their emotions. At last they said to me, “Go and join your husband if you wish.”     But how could I join my husband in Madinah and leave my son, a piece of my own flesh and blood, in Makkah among the Banu `Abdul-Asad? How could I be free from anguish and my eyes be free from tears were I to reach the place of hijrah not knowing anything of my little son left behind in Makkah?     Some realized what I was going through and their hearts went out to me. They petitioned the Banu `Abdul-Asad on my behalf and moved them to return my son.     I did not now even want to linger in Makkah until I found someone to travel with me and I was afraid that something might happen that would delay or prevent me from reaching my husband. So I promptly got my camel ready, placed my son on my lap, and left in the direction of Madinah.     I had just about reached Tan’im (about three miles from Makkah) when I met Uthman ibn Talhah. (He was a keeper of the Ka`bah in pre-Islamic times and was not yet a Muslim.)     “Where are you going, daughter of Zad Ar-Rakib?” he asked.     “I am going to my husband in Madinah.”     “And there isn’t anyone with you?”     “No, by Allah. Except Allah and my little boy here.”     “By Allah, I shall never abandon you until you reach Madinah,” he vowed.   

He then took the reins of my camel and led us on. I have, by Allah, never met an Arab more generous and noble than he. When we reached a resting place, he would make my camel kneel down, wait until I dismounted, lead the camel to a tree and tether it. He would then go to the shade of another tree. When we had rested, he would get the camel ready and lead us on.

This he did every day until we reached Madinah. When we got to a village near Quba’ (about two miles from Madinah) belonging to the Banu `Amr ibn `Awf, he said, “Your husband is in this village. Enter it with the blessings of God.”     

He turned back and headed for Makkah. Their roads finally met after the long separation. Umm Salamah was overjoyed to see her husband and he was delighted to see his wife and son. Great and momentous events followed one after the other. There was the battle of Badr, in which Abu Salamah fought. The Muslims returned victorious and strengthened. Then there was the battle of Uhud, in which the Muslims were sorely tested. Abu Salamah came out of this very badly wounded. He appeared at first to respond well to treatment, but his wounds never healed completely and he remained bedridden. Once, while Umm Salamah was nursing him, he said to her, “I heard the Messenger of Allah saying whenever a calamity afflicts anyone he should say, ‘We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return; O Allah, with You I leave my plight for consideration, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in exchange for it.'” Abu Salamah remained sick in bed for several days and then he passed away. With his blessed hands, the Prophet closed the eyes of his dead Companion and invoked Allah to forgive Abu Salamah, raise his degree among those who are rightly guided, take charge of his descendants who remain, make his grave spacious, and grant him light in it. Umm Salamah remembered the prayer her husband had quoted from the Prophet and began repeating it, “O Lord, with you I leave this my plight for consideration….” But she could not bring herself to continue with “O Lord, give me something better than it in exchange for it.” She kept asking herself, “Who could be better than Abu Salamah?” But after a while she completed the supplication. Umm Salamah did not know a person better than Abu Salamah. She was not aware that Allah spared for her the best ever person-the Prophet himself. He (peace and blessings be upon him) married her, and so it was that Allah answered the prayer of Umm Salamah and gave her better than Abu Salamah. From that day on, Hind Al-Makhzumiyah was no longer the mother of Salamah alone but became the Mother of All Believers (Umm Al-Mu’mineen).

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Monday 2 January 2023

Tips and Steps to Increase Taqwa (Piety)


Taqwa (piety) is derived from wiqayah, which means self-defense and avoidance. Sufis define it as protecting oneself from Allah’s punishment by performing His commands and avoiding His prohibitions. Besides its literal and technical meanings, in religious books we find the meanings of piety and fear used interchangeably. In fact, Taqwa (piety) is a comprehensive term denoting a believer’s strict observance of the commandments of the Shari`ah and the Divine laws of nature and life. Such a person seeks refuge in Allah against His punishment, refrains from acts leading to Hell-Fire, and performs acts leading to Paradise. Again, the believer purifies all outer and inner senses so that none of them can associate partners with Allah, and avoids imitating the worldviews and life-styles of unbelievers.

In its comprehensive meaning, Taqwa (piety) is the only and greatest standard of one’s nobility and worth: The noblest, most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is the most advanced of you in Taqwa (piety) (Al-Hujurat: 13). What is the meaning of Taqwa? The concept—even the actual word—of Taqwa (piety) is unique to the Qur’an and the religious system of Islam. Its comprehensive meaning encompasses the spiritual and material; its roots are established in this world, while its branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits are located in the Hereafter. One cannot understand the Qur’an without considering the meaning or content of the fascinating and wonderful concept of Taqwa (piety), and one cannot be muttaqi (pious) if one does not adhere consciously and continually to the practices and concepts outlined in the Qur’an. In its very beginning, the Qur’an opens its door to the pious: “This is the Book about and in which there is no doubt, a guidance for the pious” (Al-Baqarah: 2), and calls on people to live in accordance with it so that they may be pious: “O men! Worship your Lord, Who created you and those before you, so that you may be pious” (Al-Baqarah: 21) (and protect yourselves from His punishment) The most lovable act in Allah’s sight is piety (Taqwa (piety)), His most purified servants are the pious, and His matchless message to them is the Qur’an. In this world, the pious have the Qur’an; in the Hereafter, they enjoy Allah’s vision and pleasure. The pleasure felt in the conscience and spirit is another gift of piety, and in order to recall the importance of piety, the Almighty decrees: Fear Allah and be devoted to Him as He should be feared and devoted to (Al-`Imarn: 101). What are the benefits of Taqwa? Piety, which is the conscious performance of good and avoidance of evil, prevents individuals from joining the lowest of the low and causes them to advance on the path of the highest of the high.

For this reason, one who attains piety has found the source of all good and blessing. The following is another testimony to this fact: To whomever Allah has given religion and piety, He has realized his aims in this world and the next. Whoever is a soldier of Allah and pious, He is prosperous and truly guided, not a wretched one. Whoever has nothing to do with piety, His existence is but a shame and disgrace. One lifeless with respect to truth is not truly alive; Only one who has found a way to Allah is alive. Piety is an invaluable treasure, the matchless jewel in a priceless treasure of precious stones, a mysterious key to all doors of good, and a mount on the way to Paradise. Its value is so high that, among other life-giving expressions the Qur’an mentions it 150 times, each mention resembling a ray of light penetrating our minds and spirits. In its limited sense, Taqwa (piety) means sensitivity to the commandments of the Shari`ah and refraining from acts that deprive one of Divine reward and result in Allah’s punishment. The verse: “ And those who shun the worst of sins and indecencies and, when they are wroth, forgive.” (As-Shura: 37) expresses one aspect of this basic religious virtue; the verse: “Those who believe and do good deeds” (Yunus: 9) points to the other. Strict observance of obligatory religious duties and refraining from major sins are the two necessary and complementary foundations of Taqwa (piety). As for minor sins, termed by the Qur’an as Lamam (small offenses), there are many Prophetic declarations, such as: “A believer cannot be truly pious unless he refrains from certain permissible things lest he should commit risky things, that warn people to be careful.” Perfect sincerity or purity of intention can be attained by avoiding all signs of associating partners with Allah, while perfect piety can be achieved by refraining from all doubtful and risky deeds. According to the Hadith: “The lawful is evident and the forbidden is also evident. Between these two are things which most of the people do not know whether they are lawful or forbidden.” A truly righteous, spiritual life depends on being sensitive to matters about which there is some doubt. 

The Hadith just mentioned points out that the Law-Giver has clearly explained in broad terms what is allowed and what is forbidden. However, as many things are not clearly allowed or forbidden, only those who avoid such doubtful things can lead a truly religious life. Using a simile in the continuation of the Hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “It is possible for one who does doubtful things to commit forbidden acts, just as it is possible for the flock of a shepherd pasturing near a field belonging to another or the public to enter that field. Know that each king has a private area under his protection; the private area of Allah is forbidden things. Also know that there is a part of flesh in the body. If it is healthy, the body will become healthy; if it is ailing, the body will be ailing. That part is the heart.” (Reported by An-Nawawi) In light of this basic foundation for a healthy spiritual life, perfect piety can be obtained by avoiding doubtful things and minor sins. In order to do this, however, one must know what is lawful and what is forbidden, and have a certain knowledge of Allah. We can find the combination of piety and knowledge in these two verses: “The noblest, most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is the most advanced of you in Taqwa (piety)” (Al-Hujurat: 13), and: “Only the learned among His servants fear and revere Allah.” (Fatir: 28). Piety brings honor and nobility, and knowledge leads one to fear and revere Allah. Individuals who combine piety and knowledge in their hearts are mentioned in the Qur’an as those who succeed in the test of piety: “They are those whose hearts Allah has tested for piety.” (Al-Hujurat: 3). 

How can a Muslim increase his taqwa? In the context of worship and obedience, piety means purity of heart, spiritual profundity, and sincerity. In the context of refraining from what is unlawful, piety means being determined not to commit sins and to avoid doubtful things. The following may help in this regard: 1-Be alert to whatever may divert you from Allah. 2-Be alert to the carnal pleasures that may lead to the realm of the forbidden. 3-Ascribe all material and spiritual accomplishments to Allah. 4-Never consider yourself as higher and better than anyone else. 5-Long for Allah’s pleasure and satisfaction in all affairs. 6-Renew the fountains of your Iman by studying and reflecting on Allah’s creation. 7-Remember death, and live with the conscious knowledge that it may happen at any time. In conclusion, Taqwa (piety) is the heavenly water of life, and a Muttaqi (pious) is the fortunate one who has found it. Only a few individuals have achieved the blessing of this attainment.” 

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