Wednesday, Ramadan 17, 1440 AH (May 22, 2019)

In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation. May Allah extol the mention of the Prophet in the highest company of Angels and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his family, his Companions and all those who follow him exactly until the Day of Judgement.

Respected servants of Allah! Allah the Most High says:

“Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad)? And removed from you your burden, Which weighed down your back? And raised high your fame? So verily, with the hardship, there is relief. Verily, with the hardship, there is relief. So when you have finished (from your occupation), then stand up for Allah’s worship (i.e. stand up for prayer). And to your Lord (Alone) turn (all your intentions and hopes and) your invocations.” [Qur’an, 94:1-8]

Dear brothers and sisters! If we look back at the lives of the Sahabah (i.e. Prophet’s Companions), and the great scholars and leaders of Islam, and the noble Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) himself, the times in their lives when they made the greatest leaps forward, were times of crisis. When the Prophethood came to Muhammad (Peace be upon him), when Angel Jibril visited him in the cave and hugged him painfully and commanded him to “Recite!”, he was fearful. It was the greatest moment of change in his life, but also the most frightening.

The great Companion Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (RA) came to Islam after a terrible fight with his sister, when he caught her and her husband Zaid reciting the Qur’an, and he flew into a terrible rage and beat them both. Then he felt shame and regret; and demanded to see the manuscript they had been reading. Upon reading it, he was deeply shaken by its beauty, and the nobility of its call. He went straight to Al-Safa, where the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was meeting with his Companions, asked permission to enter, then declared his conversion in front of the noble Prophet (Peace be upon him). Umar went on to become one of the Prophet’s closest Companions, and then the second Khalifah of the Muslim world after the death of the Prophet (Peace be upon him).

Many of the Sahabah went through terrible hardships in the name of Islam. Many were tortured. One, Salman Al-Farisi, left behind a life of comfort and nobility in order to search the world for the truth, finally ending up as a slave before the word came to him of the Prophet that he had sought for so long.

My beloved people! My point is not to say that they suffered, so be patient. This has been said voluminously. My point is that their suffering led them to astonishing places spiritually. Because they were sincere and of pure hearts, their suffering purified them, and raised them to a kind of generational nobility unseen in human history. Materially, they literally became the masters of the world, but only because they first proved that they did not desire it. Even from their position as rulers they were humble as the dust, like Umar, who, as commander of the second largest empire in the world, ate bread made from coarse flour, and wore patched clothes.

There is a story told by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in a Sahih Hadith:

“Three persons from the tribe of Bani Israel got together and started out on a journey. On the way, clouds gathered above them and it started to pour with rain, so they sought shelter in a nearby cave.

Suddenly, a large boulder slipped and blocked the entrance to the cave, trapping the three inside and transforming the day into a dark night for them. They had no other alternative except to turn to Allah Almighty for help. They said:

“Let us use our sincere deeds as a means (tawassul) to obtain deliverance from this predicament,” suggested one of them. All the others agreed with the suggestion.

One of them said:

“O’ Lord! You are aware that I have an extremely attractive beautiful cousin and that I was infatuated and obsessed with her. One day, finding her alone, I took hold of her and wanted to satisfy my carnal desires, when she spoke out to me saying: O’ My cousin! Fear Allah the Most High and do not harm my chastity. Hearing this, I crushed my lustful tendencies and decided against the evil act. O Lord! If that deed of mine had been done out of absolute sincerity and only for the purpose of acquiring Your pleasure, deliver us from grief and perdition.”

Suddenly they witnessed that the huge boulder had moved away a little, faintly brightening up the interior of the cave.

The second person spoke out:

“O Lord! You know that I had a father and a mother, so old that their bodies had bent over due to their excessive age, and that I used to tend to them regularly. One night, having brought them their food, I observed that both of them were asleep. I passed the entire night near them, the food in hand, without waking them up for fear of disturbing them. O Lord! If this deed of mine had been only for the sake of Your pleasure and happiness, open up a way for us and grant us salvation.”

As he completed his speech, the group noticed that the boulder had moved aside a little more.

The third person supplicated:

“O Knower of every hidden and manifest! You know Yourself that I had a worker who used to work for me. When his term had reached its termination, I handed over to him his wages, but he was not pleased and desired more and, in a state of dissatisfaction and displeasure, he went away. I used his wage to purchase a sheep, which I looked after separately and very soon I had a flock in my possession. After a period of time, the worker again approached me for his wage and I pointed towards the flock of animals. Initially, he thought I was ridiculing him, but later, realising my seriousness, took the entire flock and left. O Lord! If this act had been prompted by sincerity and had only been for Your pleasure, deliver us from this quandary.”

At this point the entire boulder moved aside from the mouth of the cave and all three emerged from it, joyous and ecstatic, and continued their journey.

We’re not Prophets or Sahabah, but the principles of human nature hold true. Think about the amazing symbolism of the story above. The three men were trapped in the dark, facing the possibility of death by thirst or starvation. Allah saved them only because of the power contained within their sincere deeds, done solely for His pleasure.

How many of us are stumbling in the dark, or sitting quietly in despair, not knowing where to turn? How many have giant boulders blocking our progress, preventing us from living happy lives? How many are stuck, immobilised like fish in a net? Sometimes we are so frustrated at our situations that we don’t see that our problems themselves are tests and opportunities given by Allah.

To develop as human beings, to become better people and move closer to Allah, we must experience hardship. That is a fundamental principle of our creation. Those are the rules. They are no different for us, sitting here in the year 1440 AH/2019, than for the Prophets and great mortals of the past.

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” [Qur’an, 2:214]

My beloved brothers and sisters! Know that, in hardship lies opportunity. Adversity is the soil in which we grow. The challenge is to recognise that, and to know that Allah is very near, guiding us all along.

And all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.

I ask Allah the Most High to strengthen us in this blessed month of Ramadan, accept our fasts, and reward us with His forgiveness and the highest place in Paradise. Ameen.

Written by your brother, Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusaumurtada@gmail.com or +2348038289761.