بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
إِنَّ الإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعاً
Inna alinsana khuliqa halooAAan
Indeed, mankind was created anxious:
إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعاً
Itha massahu alshsharru jazooAAan
When evil touches him, impatient,
وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعاً
Waitha massahu alkhayru manooAAan
And when good touches him, withholding [of it],
Except the observers of prayer.
(Surah Ma’arij, Quran 70:19-22)
My dear brothers and sisters,
All praises are due to Allah. Especially for the greatest blessing that we have, which is that of our imaan, our belief in Him, in the way of His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
In the Quran and in the way of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), one of the things that we are told to do over and over is to think, to reflect.
- افلا تعقلون – Don’t you think?
- أَفَلَا تَتَفَكَّرُونَ – Don’t you reflect? Why don’t you reflect?
- أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ – Why don’t you ponder?
- أَفَلَا تَفْقَهُونَ – Do you not understand?
He is telling us, emphasizing to us the need to have purpose in our words, and have purpose in our actions, to think before we speak, and that this worldly life was not placed here for mere play or enjoyment.
La’ibun Walahun – It’s not just for entertainment. It’s not just to chase the next thing, the next shiny object. Rather our time on this earth is for so much more.
One of the aspects of our lives that I’d like to focus on today is the idea of ritual and the power of ritual, in today’s society that is built upon individualism. “I just have to get what I want right now.” The individualism tells us, “Rituals don’t matter. That’s a waste of time. What can rituals do? That’s taking time away from my dollars per hour. So what is the power of that?”
Rituals in Our Lives
And so I’d like us all to think about our daily rituals. What are the things that we do every single day? Each and every single one of us? Maybe we have some shared rituals? Maybe we have different rituals? What are those rituals? In our day, how do we start our day? How do we end our day? And are all of those habits and all of those rituals – are they all things that we have purposefully built into our life? Or is it something that we just kind of picked up along the way?
So when we’re scrolling before bed – all the blue light ruins your sleep. We all know that. Is that something that is purposely something that is part of your life, or is it something that we’re just doing because that’s what our nafs is telling us to do?
It reminds me of the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he said:
الكيس من دان نفسه، وعمل لما بعد الموت ، والعاجز من أتبع نفسه هواها، وتمنى عل
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “A wise man is the one who calls himself to account (and refrains from doing evil deeds) and does noble deeds to benefit him after death; and the foolish person is the one who subdues himself to his temptations and desires and seeks from Allah the fulfilment of his vain desires”.
الكيس من دان نفسه – who is that intelligent person is the one who is able to tame his nafs or her nafs?
وعمل لما بعد الموت – and as a result of that is able to prepare in terms of actions and deeds. For what comes after this worldly life?
والعاجز من أتبع نفسه هواها – And the incapable person, the defeated person, is the one who, allows himself to follow each and every single temptation.
How do we build our habits and rituals in our lives? Is it something that is purposeful? Is it something we just picked up when we were young?
Maybe it was something from our parents. Maybe it was something from school from our peers, from college days, from university days, from work, or colleagues. Maybe you were a tea drinker, and you join this new workplace and everyone is a coffee drinker. So you’ve joined the dark side now?
Are we just going about it in that way, purposeless without a purpose? Or are we putting thought into each of our daily actions?
The Power of Ritual
So studies have been done around ritual, and the power of ritual.
One Harvard study studied the effects of everything from eating chocolate to winning the lottery that, if you do a ritual before you talk about how you feel, even if it seems like a random ritual, that actually reduces your anxiety, it reduces your stress, it reduces all kinds of things. They interviewed entertainers and performers, and they found that many of the top entertainers, the top athletes, they have a certain ritual that they do before their performance before they go out onto the field or out onto the court. They have a certain way of doing things whereby they prepare themselves mentally for what’s to come.
And throughout all of humanity, there have been rituals, and every society has rituals, because those help us and they are a part of our natural fitrah. So, once we start to lose those rituals, then our anxiety increases, our depression increases, our focus decreases in Allah as our Creator.
Rituals in Islam
As soon as I read this study, I was reminded of the verse of the Quran where Allah says:
إِنَّ الإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعاً – that within the creation of mankind is anxiety.
إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعاً – when something bad happens to them, they become جَزُوعاً impatient
وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعاً – and when something good happens then they want to keep it all for themselves.
Have you heard the saying where you make it and then you’re pulling up the ladder behind you. The people who get to the top and then they pull the ladder up from behind them so no one else can make it up. Once good comes to them, then they want to stop everyone else – مَنُوعاً – to prevent, they want to prevent everyone else from getting to that good. This is part of the creation of mankind.
And so how do you defeat this? What does the next verse say? إِلاَّ الْمُصَلِّينَ – except for those who pray. It’s part of our fitrah to want ritual, to want something to stick to. Allah knows our creation, and He has given us the solution to our lack of focus. He has given us the solution to our anxiety. Of course, mental health is real. And it’s something that we have to take care of. And there’s many other ways of taking care of mental health.
But in particular, as a foundation of your lifestyle, and as a life that you want to spend with purpose, so that everything you do in your life has purpose behind it, and it’s a decision that you are making, and not just because there’s incredible UX designers on that team on Facebook or whatever. It’s not just because of that.
But it’s actually something that you’ve made a purposeful decision in your life that “this is my ritual for my life. And this is what’s going to prepare me for how I’m going to spend my life and for the challenges ahead, the good times and the bad times.”
And that’s where Allah says that mankind is anxious, mankind withdraws, mankind prevents others from getting to the top of the hill. Except إِلاَّ الْمُصَلِّينَ , except for those will establish the prayer.
And then Allah continues
الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ
Allatheena hum AAala salatihim daimoona
Those who are consistent in their prayers
And then He continues with the characteristics of these people that it’s the الْمُصَلِّينَ that is the first one. Those who give charity, they placed their trust in Allah knowing that not a single penny is spent on charity, except that it increases our wealth, it-duniya wa-al aakhirah – so they are open with charity and they believe in the Hereafter. And they realize the accounting of Allah that will take place.
They guard their temptations and they hold to their word. If you’re someone who doesn’t keep your word, you’re worried people are going to find out, it continues your anxiety.
وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِشَهَادَاتِهِمْ قَائِمُونَ
Waallatheena hum bishahadatihim qaimoona
And those who are in their testimonies upright
You stand by what you say, you say what you mean and you mean what you say.
Then Allah repeats –
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
Waallatheena hum AAala salatihim yuhafithoona
And those who [carefully] maintain their prayer:
So, He starts with prayer in the characteristics and He ends with prayer:
أُولَٰئِكَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ مُّكْرَمُونَ
They will be in Paradise, they will be honored.
And so they will live a life of good not only in this world, but also in the Akhirah. And so that is the power of the rituals which Allah has given us.
And the amazing thing about it is we don’t have to go and figure out what our rituals should be. The foundation or rituals are there for us. And they are not just at the individual level. But they also exist at a family level. How can you unite your family? And they also exist on a communal level. How do we unite our community? We don’t have to experiment and figure it out. It’s there for us. It’s guidance for us. What brings us together? This Khutbah, this Jummah and Ramadan brings us together in the exact amount that we need, the exact dose that we as human beings need. This was told to us 1400 years ago, we didn’t need a Harvard study in 2016 to tell us that.
The Best Days of the Year
The greatest of them all is the at the global level – it is the Hajj. And we are now starting in those 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, which are blessed days.
These 10 days of Dhul Hijjah are incredibly important to us. They are incredibly blessed. And it’s a time that we should try to take advantage of even with everything else that’s going on in our busy lives. We should try to make time for these 10 days in whatever way that we can, whatever way that we are able. Let’s not compare ourselves. Do what everyone else does in these 10 days, but let’s compare ourselves to what we did last year for these 10 days.
What did you do last year when these 10 days were here? And how can you bump yourself up one level so that you can do more than you did last year? You can show more devotion than you did last year.
So what’s special about these 10 days?
Allah swears by these days in the Quran –
By the dawn
And [by] ten nights
(Surah Al-Fajr, Quran 89:1-2)
These are those 10 nights referred to. These 10 nights and 10 days help us to remember the sacrifice of Ibrahim (as) and the sacrifice of his wife Hajar. We remember the man, the woman, and the child Ismail, throughout the rituals of Hajj. And so for 10 days we are honoring the legacy of our father, Abu-Ibrahim, our Father Ibrahim. And so for these 10 days, we’re honoring him by increasing our devotion to Allah.
In one way, it’s unfortunate, of course, that we cannot go and make Hajj right now that it’s very limited to just those people in the area like it was 1400 years ago. But we can still participate. Even though we haven’t been given the opportunity this year, we can still participate in the Hajj. How can we do that? By increasing our devotion in these 10 days.
For a lot of us Hajj is much closer than it is for the majority of Muslims. The majority of Muslims might save up their entire life, the whole family might save up so one person can go for Hajj for us. We’re blessed in that that possibility is much closer for us because of where we live. And so remember that blessing as a part of these 10 days.
The first thing that the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned for us is to fast during these 10 days. So as much as we can to fast during these 10 days in in particular, in particular the day before Eid, which is the day of Arafah. When you fast on that day, then your your sins are forgiven. And it’s a very incredible day. It’s the day when Allah descends in a way that is according to His Majesty. He descends and He announces to the angels, the pilgrims, and He looks down upon us with forgiveness and mercy, more so than He does for the rest of the year.
So on that day of Arafah especially we should fast, but throughout these 10 days as well. Also increase our Zikr, increase our remembrance of Allah. Think of the person who, on the Day of Judgment are under the shade of Allah, and the only reason they are there is because they remembered Allah in solitude. One of the seven groups is the person who remembered Allah in solitude, and their eyes teared up. That was enough. That immense feeling of being in awe of Allah’s power that was enough for this person to receive the shade on the day when there is no shade, but His.
Another thing we should do during these 10 days is to increase our charity. And of course the charity of the animals we sacrifice on our Eid.
Also increase our recitation of the Quran. Read the Quran and read the translation of the Quran. Try to maintain wudu throughout the day so that you are in that state of wudu and are able to pray when it is time for prayer. Speaking of which, holding on to the minimum required prayers as a part of 10 days. So it’s an opportunity, if you have lost that habit, for whatever reason, to get back into that during these 10 days.
And out of all the dhikr, the best dhikr is saying Allahu Akbar.
And the final thing I will say is also to share Eid with others.
Very important. I remember growing up in Texas, being the only Muslim in school. This was before 9/11, before Islam was known, to be honest. Most people, if you told them you’re Muslim, you told them you are originally from Pakistan, they have no idea what that is. It’s still difficult, but especially in those days. So Muslims were in the background. It’s so important for us, for our kids to see that we are open with our Islam. We are open with our Muslim names. We are open in terms of how we practice Islam.
We’re not embarrassed of any part of our faith. When it’s time to pray outside we pray. We should not be embarrassed of any part of our faith and that is part of the Hajj. The Prophet (pbuh) said “when you make tawaf, you should make it.” Allah does not like arrogance. That is one time when you can walk proudly, show the the immensity and the power of the Muslim ummah. As parents, it is our utmost duty to this format for our children. I know some of us have maybe accepted nicknames. Instead of Muhammad, maybe we go by Mo. It’s fine. If they call you a nickname, it’s fine. Nicknames are fine. But they should also know that your name is Muhammad. If you go by Mo, it’s fine. As long as you’re not doing it out of embarrassment. It’s all about the intention.
That’s how we should role model for the next generation. So sharing Eid is important, and one way to do that without being so upfront about it, or in someone’s face about it, is sharing sweets, talking to your coworkers about it, talking to your teachers, your students, your employer, your boss. Say, “Hey, I am taking off for the day.” Or “I’m fasting.” Having that conversation is so important, so that we can display our faith.
We ask Allah that He gives us strength. Ameen.
So, I’ll finish with the day of Arafah, just to emphasize that that is the day when Allah says “This is the day when I have perfected and I have completed your religion. I have completed for you my blessing upon you by giving you this faith.“
So Allah promises His mercy in these 10 days and especially on the day of Arafah.
We ask Allah that He helps us to make the most of these 10 days. I ask Allah that He helps us to do more this year than we did last year in these 10 days. That He helps us to level up this year inshaAllah in terms of these 10 days. I ask Allah that He helps us to make the most of the day of Arafah. I ask Allah that He helps us to increase our remembrance of Him and our connection to Him during these 10 days.
We ask Allah that He gives us strength, that He has mercy on us that He helps those that are sick and cures them. May Allah have mercy and forgive those that have past. May Allah help us to realize the need for us to establish our traditions in our lives and to purposefully live our lives and to have the realization that this life is only a preparation for the next life and that whatever we do, we will be asked about whatever we do, we will have to answer for so may Allah make that accounting easy for us. And may Allah help us to live lives that prepare us for that day, when we will be standing in front of Him alone. And we ask Allah that on that day He raises us with the ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ العَلِيمُ وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.
Share your reflections below!