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Fitnah by Tariq Mehanna

New letter by Tarek: “Fitnah”

It’s my eighth autumn looking at the Sun through a cage.

Though I’m looking directly at it, the fact that the part of the planet on which I’m standing is tilted away from the Sun at this time of year means that its light strikes it at a less direct angle, leaving its energy less concentrated, which is the reason we’re feeling the biting cold here. We adapt to this cold, but we can’t adjust the Earth’s tilt or orbit to prevent it. It’s a law of this particular time Allah has laid down that we can’t change. Allah said: “I am time. I alternate its night & day, and if I want, I could withhold them both.”

Nor can we change the laws of time as it nears its end.

We can’t change the fact that, as the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “time will become compressed.” Explaining this, an-Nawawi wrote that “time being compressed is the disappearance of barakah from it. For example, an entire day will contain the barakah of just a single hour.” Ibn Abi Jamrah wrote that “this has been the case for some time now. Those with religious knowledge, as well as the clever ones with worldly knowledge, know this very well. They find themselves unable to accomplish the same tasks they were able to before. They complain of this, and can’t explain it.” Ibn Hajar wrote that “we see the days go by much faster than they did before… In truth, this is describing the removal of barakah from everything, even time. This is from the signs of the Hour…”

Nor can we change the fact that as time nears its end, barakah is removed from people. ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak once wrote the following lines of poetry:

Gone are the men whose actions are worth emulating * The men who oppose every evil,
And I’m left behind with people deluded about each other * Such that one corrupt man emulates another…

Before him, Abu ad-Darda’ said that “people used to be leaves without thorns. But now, they’re thorns without leaves.”

And before all of them, the Prophet said that “the righteous people will die, one after the other, until only useless people will remain.”

Centuries later, Ibn Kathir wrote that when the Crusaders advanced on al-Quds, the Khalifah pushed the scholars to mobilize the local governors to resist them. Instead, Muslims fled en masse from Sham to Iraq. One of the few scholars who pleaded with them to fight was Ibn ‘Aqil, who summarized the attitude of the masses by writing that “one of the strangest things I’ve observed in people is how they grieve over deteriorating homes, dying relatives, and declining income by blaming the times they live in & the people living in them, and complaining of how miserable life is. All the while, they see the attempts to destroy Islam, the decay of religion, the disappearance of the Sunnah, the appearance of bid’ah, indulgence in sin, and time wasted in useless & harmful matters – yet I don’t see any of them grieving over his religion or weeping with sadness over the wasted years of his life. The only reason I see for this is that they don’t care about their religion, and are in awe of the dunya. This is exactly the opposite of how the righteous Salaf were…”

So these people had it backwards, failing to understand that the most valuable thing you possess is Iman. To lose it is worse than to lose your life, as Allah said that {“fitnah is worse than killing…”} (2:191) ash-Shawkani explained this to mean that “being afflicted with any type of fitnah affecting the Din – no matter what form it takes – is worse than being killed.”

This fitnah is often subtle, and may even come from those who are sympathetic. For example, Muslims are today one of many communities expecting to suffer under Trump’s rule. This means that we find ourselves being lumped together with homosexuals, transgenders, and so on. Because the Islamic position on homosexuality is offensive to many in the world who are sympathetic to us, some American Muslims adapted to this awkward situation by softening their stance on it. By doing so, they fell into a fitnah worse than the one they thought they were repelling. Jamal Zarabozo made the point in his book ‘Purification of the Soul’ that “the Muslim must realize that his very goal, purpose, and way in life is fundamentally different from everyone else in the world today. For example, today, in particular, those who have previous scriptures are, for the most part, secularized in their thinking, especially about social and political issues. The Muslim’s life, on the other hand, is supposed to be based completely on the guidance that has come from Allah. No human opinion or view can ever take the place of what Allah or His Messenger have stated.”

He continued, writing that “in reality, non-Muslims are either of bad intentions or they are ignorant of the final revelation that has come from Allah via the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, when it comes to spiritual knowledge, worship, and belief in God, ethics and morals, they have virtually nothing – if anything at all – to offer the Muslim. Indeed, they can only harm the Muslim. Since most non-Muslims do not understand Islam at all – and perhaps view it within the light of their own faiths that have been modernized – even those who seem sympathetic to Muslims want something from Muslims that is no more than an abandonment of Islam.”

Finally, he wrote that “Allah will judge such people who think themselves sincere and just. However, that does not change what the Muslim’s attitude must be today: he must stick to his religion no matter how much these people strive, no matter how good their intentions are made to look, and no matter how many wonderful sounding slogans they give. In other words, in what they see as the best approach for Muslims, they want to see Islam changed. This is in reality nothing more than them taking the Muslim away from the path of purification. Even if one claims that their intentions are good but they are simply ignorant, the end result is the same for the Muslim: they are working to distort the path of purification. The result is clearly one: the Muslim must remain on the straight path and ignore any suggestions to do otherwise.”

Nor can we change the fact that as time nears its end, doing this will get so tough that, as the Prophet said, “a time will come in which my ummah will wish for the Dajjal to appear.” When asked why, he took hold of his ears, shook them, and then said: “Because of the fitan they’ll be facing.” These fitan are harsh in nature, as Lane’s ‘Lexicon’ defines fitnah as “a burning with fire,” and as “the melting of gold and of silver in order to separate or distinguish the bad from the good,” and as “an affliction whereby one is tried, proved, or tested,” and as “temptation,” and even as “madness, insanity, or diabolical possession.”

Nor can we change the fact that as time nears its end, barakah is removed from places around the world to make way for this madness. Referring to these fitan, Ibn Hajar wrote that “these began to appear in the era of the Sahabah, then increased in some places in exclusion to others. It’s when these aspects become dominant that the Hour will then occur… These aspects are now on the rise everywhere, although more so in some places than others. Whenever one generation passes, a lot of deficiency appears in the one following it.”

The door to the Khilafah has been re-opened, but this general decline will continue everywhere else until, as the Prophet said, “the world will be filled with injustice & tyranny” by the time the Mahdi appears to reverse it all. Even as he was swallowing large swaths of Persian & Roman territory into the Khilafah, Khalid bin al-Walid understood that there would be believers living in the future feeling that there’s nowhere to go. So when asked about the fitan, he replied that “a man will look around and ask himself if there’s a place where he hasn’t been stricken with the same fitnah & evil he’s been stricken with where he’s standing, but he won’t be able to find such a place.”

Regardless of where you live, what you’ve seen around the world lately confirms that the Prophet was saying what could only have come to him through revelation when he said that “no time will come except that the one after it is worse.” This law was laid down for a reason. We can’t change it, but we can adapt to it the way the Sahabah did when they saw his promise manifest before their eyes, as the Dawlah of Madinah was under attack by the largest coalition it had seen by that point:

{“And when the believers saw the coalition, they said: “This is what Allah & His Messenger promised us, and they spoke the truth,” and it increased them only in Iman & submission.”} (33:22)

Explaining the promise referred to in this ayah, al-Mawdudi wrote that “when they saw the storms of danger gathering, they remembered Allah’s promise. But this promise wasn’t that once they believed, they’d instantly take over the whole world without any effort and the Angels would come down to place crowns on their heads. Rather, the promise was that they’d pass through severe trials, endure extreme hardship & fitnah, and sacrifice a lot, after which Allah would bless them with His grace and give them that promised success in this world & the next.”

He continued: “On seeing fitnah approaching, they didn’t waver in their Iman. Rather, they only became stronger in it. Rather than giving up on obeying Allah, they were ready to surrender to Him whatever they had with complete conviction. Here, you must fully understand that Iman & reliance are qualities of the soul which are tested with every command & demand. At every step in life, you come across situations where Iman either enjoins something, forbids it, or requires you to sacrifice yourself, your money, your time, and your desires. At every such occasion, the faith & conviction of one who deviates from obedience will decline, while the faith & conviction of one who submits to the commands & demands will be strengthened & enhanced.”

He finished: “Yes, you become a believer & a Muslim by uttering the Shahadatayn. But Iman doesn’t remain static. It’s open to both deterioration & development. Decline in sincerity & the spirit of obedience causes your Iman to deteriorate, such that constant regression will push you to the last limits of faith where the slightest move backwards will turn you from a believer into a munafiq. Conversely, the more sincere, obedient, and dedicated to Iman you are, the stronger you’ll grow to the point that you can even attain the rank of a siddiq…”

So Iman enables you to adapt to any season, as the Prophet said that “the believer is like a flexible plant, which the wind pushes left & right – knocking it over, only to raise it up again – until it dries…”

And Iman transforms any situation into a good one, as he said that “I’m amazed at the situation of the believer. Indeed, every situation is good for him. He’s thankful if he experiences something good, and that’s good for him. And he’s patient if he experiences something bad, and that’s good for him. This doesn’t happen for anyone but the believer.”

And Iman can be fulfilled in any condition you find yourself, as he told the Ansar: “Give me bay’ah that you’ll listen & obey whether you’re energized or lazy, and that you’ll spend your money for Allah’s sake in good times & bad, and that you’ll enjoin the good & forbid the evil, and that you’ll speak the truth for Allah’s sake without fearing anyone’s condemnation… If you do this, Jannah is yours.”

Written by: Tariq Mehanna
Thursday, the 24th of Safar 1438 (24th of November 2016)
Marion CMU

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