I wish that I could tell you that I am writing to you from another glorious retreat in Tennessee with SeekersGuidance, but alas I’m not. It’s been a little quiet around here because well…we have a new addition to our family! MashAllah, our second daughter, Safiyya Yusaira, was born on June 5th, and we’ve been adjusting and re-adjusting ever since. And we were pre-adjusting even before that :)! Going to the the SeekersGuidance Retreat this year and having enough energy and sanity to 1) listen to the lectures, 2) watch my childREN (I’m still getting used to this plural form), and 3) report to you all at once just seemed a tad overwhelming, so we’re home. But not without a treat for you. Two months ago today on April 28-29th, we organized and attended our second ISRA Jewels of Mercy event near our home, and as I learned there, and am about to share with you: there is a season for everything.
Shaykh Muhammad Mendes is the one who said it. We were in a special Q&A session just for the women with him and Shaykh Manzur ul Islam, both of whom were our teachers when we went for the Jewels of Mercy event in South Carolina. In this women-centered halaqa, Shaykh Manzur ul Islam spoke of the 7th century Moroccan Maliki scholar Shaykh “Ibn al Hajj” Muhammed bin Abu Abdullah al Abdari (d. 737), who authored Al Madkhal. In many of his writings, he mentioned women’s roles and that women have to be ‘alima (learned/scholars). Shaykh Muhammed Mendes further added that sisters really have to become sisters in order to realize this mandate for female scholars. In order to be ‘alima, and in order to really be sisters, we have to care about each other’s dunya (worldy life) and akhira (hereafter) just as much as or even more than our own. If we can’t go away to study, we should send another sister off to study and then have her come back and teach our families and children. In this is an important message–not all women are created for marriage or childbearing (case and point: Rabi’a Al Adawiyya!). We must each find our own personal mission. Maybe it’s being a mother to those you haven’t birthed. Maybe its enabling others to do the work that you wish you could do. Whatever it is, our mission is to serve Allah through our talents and skills. And to do this, we must understand that our lives have seasons. Certain virtues won’t develop in you until you devote yourself completely to certain aspects of your life, the foremost of them being your family (including spouse and child(ren)). Shaykh Muhammad Mendes mentioned a poem by a 19th century East African ‘alima in Swahili, Mwana Kupona, concerning the adab of a wife. He warned that we post-modern-day women may take issue with some of the advice, but one thing he pointed out in serving others is that if you bring happiness to others, you’ll be happy. Your marriage and your relationship with others is supposed to bring heaven to earth. And concerning the ever-dwindling time of a woman, we have the example of the Prophet (saws) who divided his time into thirds: 1/3 for family, 1/3 for Allah, and 1/3 for self. He split his self-time into halves for the community and himself. Shaykh Muhammad Mendes stressed the need to be involved with community…our deen isn’t an isolated one, even as women. He suggested that if we can’t be involved with community everyday, then we should try to do it once a week or once a month.
In the main sessions, we covered many more hadiths this time around and got a gist of the deep nature of each of them, though I expect it might take a lifetime to fully realize the meaning of each of those profound sayings of the Prophet (saws). Having the hadiths organized by theme rather than in sequential order really helped in my ever dwindling memory which I will attribute to mommy brain. But of what did make it to this mommy’s brain are the following gems:
- Concerning my favorite hadith (34) which states “On the authority of Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (ra), who said: I heard the messenger of Allah (saws) say: ‘Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.'” (Muslim), there’s a jihad of the pen, tongue, hand, and heart. One of those is obligatory upon us at different times based on the context, but the jihad of the heart is always obligatory upon us. So always make du’a–it enjoins all three mentioned in the hadith: hand, heart, and tongue.
- Dunya actually means the densest world–it is everything that distracts you from Allah…even books of knowledge that you become lost in can be a form of dunya.
- The Prophet (saws) knew the different learning styles of the sahaba, that’s why in some hadiths he pointed, and in others he showed or had people experience things. And still in others, he spoke.
Then there was the part that seemed to be speaking directly to me. We were covering the theme of anger, an issue I had been struggling with during this pregnancy which I will gladly blame on hormones but inwardly know is a deficiency within myself as well. The saying, “out of the mouth of babes” never rang truer! Of the many things I learned, I learned that children can (legally) narrate hadiths by the age of 4. And it was a ghulam (a child around the age of 4 or 5), Nu’man Ibn Bashir, who narrated hadith 16 of Imam Nawawi’s Arba’een which states, “On the authority of Abu Hurairah, who said: A man said to the Prophet (saws) : ‘Counsel me.’ He said: ‘Do not become angry.’ The man repeated [his request] several times, and he said: ‘Do not become angry.’ “ (Bukhari). There is deficient anger (not being angry for Allah and His Rights and Regulations, i.e. not being displeased with what is displeasing to Allah), there is moderate anger (which is the anger of the Prophet (saws), and there is excessive anger (anger that’s self-involved, nafs-centered). Anger originates from shaytan and just like fire, you need water (wudu) to put it out. At the end of it all, I even got an impromptu prescription for my spiritual health and pregnancy from Shaykh Muhammad Mendes–he must have seen that I needed to say “Ya Latif” 129 times. I then asked him what else one can do when one is so heated that wudu, sitting, and laying down don’t even work. He told me to eat cooling foods like cucumbers, watermelons, and radishes, and to recite Ya Sin in the morning around fajr, and to increase my salawat and Qur’anic recitation in general. I must say that when I am doing these things, I have been able to control myself. And with that, I must remember that “hilm (forbearance) is the root of every noble trait.” It’s the opposite of anger, and the root of one of Allah’s Noble Names and Characteristics (Al-Halim).
As a final jewel to you, we also were directed to this beautiful English poem that summarizes the 40 hadith from Suhaib Webb’s website. I hope to memorize it and aid my children in memorizing it as well inshAllah, fulfilling that noble role of mother as best I can and utilizing different learning styles in teaching it. This…before we tackle the actual hadiths in Arabic inshAllah, so that this source of knowledge doesn’t become a form of dunya, something learned in vain but never internalized–a mere distraction and pastime for a while. Teaching and learning are a jihad of the pen, the tongue, the hand, the heart. A gem from Shaykh Nurodeen Durkee says it all, “Learning is not about information, it’s about transformation.” Imam Malik (ra) didn’t take hadith from those who didn’t change in face, color, or eyes when the Prophet (saws) was mentioned. So we should keep company with those who are deeply effected by the sunnah. And likewise, we should be effected…changed…and transformed when we learn something new. That’s why the company we keep is so important. Shaykh Muhammad reminded us: We are E.T., we aren’t from here, we are from the world of spirits. We are extra-terrestial. Our true family is our spiritual family. And part of our mission is to rediscover our spiritual family here on earth. I felt like I met some long lost members of my spiritual family that weekend. As the saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together,” so do souls. The people we know here are the ones we’ll know in Jannah or Jahanam. May we be saved from the penalty of the fire…of Allah’s wrath! Amin!