Ramadaan 1438 series: DUA OF MAKARIMUL AKHLAQ – SUPPLICATION FOR NOBLE MORAL CHARACTER
By Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 3 June 2017 at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
In the last discussion we concluded the first portion of this beautiful Dua Makarimul Akhlaq by explaining the Philosophy of Ethics/Akhlaq. We studied various opinions, and then finally the approach of Islam towards this matter.
In the last discussion on the Philosophy of Ethics we discussed:
– why the need for Akhlaq
– what are the criteria for good Akhlaq
– the sustainability of Akhlaq; and
– the comprehensive system of Akhlaq
QURANIC VERSES ON OBSERVING AKHLAQ
Herewith are verses from the Holy Quran which directly deals with the issues covered relating to Akhlaq, starting with Fitrah (our pure essence). In this verse, the Holy Quran explains that Akhlaq is not something new. It is exactly what is already hidden in our pure nature as per the way Almighty Allah (SWT) has created us.
In the Holy Quran, we read in verse 30 of Surah Rum (chapter 30), where Allah (SWT) says:
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“Then set your face upright for religion in the right state – the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah’s creation; that is the right religion, but most people do not know”.
We spoke about the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and he says that we derive our Akhlaq from our inner voice of conscience, which is similar to what we comprehend from this verse.
Furthermore, in verse 4 of Surah Qalam (chapter 68), Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”
Almighty Allah (SWT) describes our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWAS) as having the best of Akhlaq.
The word “khalq” refers to creation while the word “khulq” in this verse refers to inner nature. So it means that the greatest of levels that our Prophet Muhammad (SAWAS) reached in morality is derived from his inner nature having the greatest of purity and cleanliness, meaning it is not developed from the external environment i.e. he was born with it.
At the same time, the inner conscience cannot guide you to achieve ultimate moral perfection. You need to take it a step further, as explained in the Holy Quran in verse 56 of Surah Dhaariyat (chapter 51), where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.”
This is the ultimate purpose of creation, to worship Almighty Allah (SWT) to be able to be guided to true akhlaq.
This requires effort from and our journey is to strive to gain proximity to Him, as articulated in verse 6 of Surah Inshiqaaq (chapter 84) of the Holy Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنْسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ
“O man! Surely you must strive (to attain) to your Lord, a hard striving until you meet Him.”
The following verse of the Holy Quran, which is verse 109 of Surah Tawba (chapter 9), very clearly establishes that the only sustainable foundation of any system should be based on attaining the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) and nothing else:
أَفَمَنْ أَسَّسَ بُنْيَانَهُ عَلَىٰ تَقْوَىٰ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٍ خَيْرٌ أَمْ مَنْ أَسَّسَ بُنْيَانَهُ عَلَىٰ شَفَا جُرُفٍ هَارٍ فَانْهَارَ بِهِ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
“Is he, therefore, better who lays his foundation on fear of Allah and (His) good pleasure, or he who lays his foundation on the edge of a cracking hollowed bank, so it broke down with him into the fire of hell; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.”
There are 2 scenarios explained in this verse and Allah (SWT) is asking from us which one is better:
1. Where your foundation is based on something other than the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT);
2. Where your foundation is based on the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT)
And important point to note is that Allah is asking us a question in this verse due to us already knowing the answer to it in our inner nature i.e we are innately able to identify that a foundation based on the pleasure of Allah is more stable.
There is a beautiful message in verse 22 of Surah Ra’ad (chapter 13), which explains that only Akhlaq based on attaining the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) is comprehensive and sustainable:
وَالَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا ابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ رَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنْفَقُوا مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً وَيَدْرَءُونَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ
“And those who are constant, seeking the pleasure of their Lord, and keep up prayer and spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them secretly and openly and repel evil with good; as for those, they shall have the (happy) issue of the abode”.
Sabr is one of of the great prerequisites to have good akhlaq. This gives you the ability to repel good with evil. When someone is nasty towards you and you in return show kindness towards that person is a result of good akhlaq which emanates from sabr.
The next verse of the Holy Quran draws a contrast with the above verse. In verse 18 of Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14), Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ ۖ أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَرَمَادٍ اشْتَدَّتْ بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي يَوْمٍ عَاصِفٍ ۖ لَا يَقْدِرُونَ مِمَّا كَسَبُوا عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الضَّلَالُ الْبَعِيدُ
“The parable of those who disbelieve in their Lord: their actions are like ashes on which the wind blows hard on a stormy day; they shall not have power over anything out of what they have earned; this is the great error.”
The value system of these people is so fragile, that the wind comes and blows their actions away i.e. no sustainability! An example of this is where we see those who strongly profess human rights and democracy but bow down to the biggest dictators. This is because profit and self-interest demands this!
SECOND PORTION OF DUA MAKARIMUL AKHLAQ
أللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّد وَآلِهِ
O God, bless Muhammad and his Household,
وَاكْفِنِي مَا يَشْغَلُنِي الاهْتِمَامُ بِهِ،
spare me the concerns which distract me,
وَاسْتَعْمِلْنِي بِمَا تَسْأَلُنِي غَداً عَنْهُ
employ me in that about which Thou wilt ask me tomorrow,
وَاسْتَفْرِغْ أَيَّامِي فِيمَا خَلَقْتَنِي لَهُ،
and let me pass my days in that for which Thou hast created me!
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is again starting with Salawaat on our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWAS) and his Ahlul Bait (AS), and is asking from Almighty Allah (SWT) in the above verses to grant him a focused approach to life!
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) speaks about a number of issues in this regard.
Firstly, he is saying that time has a great value and passes by very quickly. We have a short life with lots to achieve. Therefore, he is saying realize the precious value of time.
Secondly, he is saying the utilization of this time is crucial! Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is indirectly saying to us that we should learn to delegate in order to prioritize the matters in life, to maximize the value of our time.
EFFECTIVE UTILISATION OF TIME IS A KEY DISCIPLINE IN LIFE
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is asking Almighty Allah (SWT) to take care of matters in his life which he does not necessarily need to do himself. It must be done, but it does not matter who does it. So Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is asking that his time not be consumed in basic affairs. A beautiful, thought-provoking request!
Let us explains this through the following example. Let us say there is a student from a far remote city who came to study at an established institution in a well-developed city. So he dedicates all his time for his studies. Then he receives a message from his remote home city that his mother is very sick and that doctors have prescribed medication for her which is not available there, but only in the more developed cities like the one where he is currently studying.
This is before the advent of courier service, which means that this student must leave his studies and physically transport the medication himself, all the way to his home-city, so that his mother can be cured.
What Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is saying in these verses from the second portion of Dua Makarimul Akhlaq is that this student should ask from Almighty Allah (SWT) to make a plan to get the medication to his mother. That is the priority, and the priority is not for HIM to physically transport the medication himself per se, as that will result in him losing precious hours of study time.
And in the case of the student, he hardly makes this dua and then meets someone who is coincidentally going the next day to the same remote hometown of his mother and is willing to take the medicine on his behalf and thus save him many days of time lost in his studies.
This is how Almighty Allah spares him the concerns that distract him.
So, the basic, yet crucial principle that Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is teaching us from these verses is for us to delegate in order to prioritize and maximize the value of our time!
Almighty Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran, in verse 4 of Surah Layl (chapter 92):
إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّىٰ
“Your striving is most surely (directed to) various (ends).”
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is saying that the life of a Mu’min should not be scattered.
In his last will before he was martyred, Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) advised us to consider the pleasure and displeasure of Almighty Allah (SWT), namely Taqwa, and discipline in our matters.
OUR TIME IS OUR ACCOUNTABILITY
So what are we supposed to do? Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is saying that we should spend our time productively i.e. with purpose. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) raises a major issue here, and that is ACCOUNTABILITY!
He says we should realize that the favours we are enjoying in this life on a daily basis are not without question. We are accountable for the way we spend our time and this should be foremost in our minds at all times. This life is a responsibility and we will be questioned about this when we transfer to the next life.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) is therefore asking Almighty Allah (SWT) that he spend his life in those things for which he will be questioned.
The 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (a.s) narrates from the life of Luqman (a.s) wherein he trains his son that you should know that you will be questioned on these 4 things when you defend yourself in the court of Almighty Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgement. They are:
1. How did you spend your youth?
2. How did you spend your old-age?
3. How did you earn your assets?
4. How did you spend your assets?
So we should be mindful of these 4 questions when we plan our days, since we will be accountable on these 4 matters on the Day of Judgement. It is crucial for us to ensure that our time is dedicated in the direction of these 4 basic questions.
Otherwise there is no shortage of opportunities in life to waste time. This is particularly relevant in today’s digital age of social media which presents multiple distractions despite the rich benefits.
Our own community is taken in by wasting many hours each day on Whatsapp and Facebook. One should really critically ask ourselves whether we are simply stuck in a distraction or using this same social media for a purpose which is in line with the purpose of our creation.
FOCUSED USAGE OF TIME AS NARRATED IN HADITH
One day, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWAS) was sitting with his companions (Sahabah), and he pointed to the door saying someone who enters from there will be from the people of paradise. The Sahabah (companions) became particularly inquisitive to see who this will be. A person named Abdullah ibn Salam entered the door.
The Sahabah (companions) approached him, saying that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWAS) told them that he is from paradise. They asked him what is the most important deed you can rely on, for which our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWAS) guarantees you paradise?
Abdullah ibn Salam was surprised by these claims saying he is a weak person but there are 2 things which he can share from his life:
1. He has a clean heart. He does not have any ill feeling for any believer.
2. He does not engage himself in matters which have no purpose.
This brings us back to the point of maintaining a focused approach to life!
What is the purpose?
The purpose is to move in the direction for which we have been created, as explained in the verse of the Holy Quran quoted earlier. Verse 56 of Surah Dhaariyat (chapter 51), where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.”
So now, we have to really always analyze how we started our day, and how did we end our day, and where is that worship of Almighty Allah (SWT) as the prime purpose.
IMAM KHOMEINI’S FOCUSED APPROACH TO LIFE
Today we are remembering a great personality who was undoubtedly the epitome and manifestation of Akhlaq and Taqwa, namely Imam Khomeini (RA). These lessons from Dua Makarimul Akhlaq can best be admired in our time through reflecting on this fearless man, who truly feared none except Allah (SWT).
How is this possible without steadfast Imaan and clear conviction (Yaqeen)? How is this possible where this man, who was on the highest level of academic excellence in theological seminaries of Qom, but always believed that he is only a student and knows very little. This was the humility and Taqwa of Imam Khomeini (RA) which took him to that level where Almighty Allah (SWT) bestowed special favours upon him.
In the 1940s and 1950s he would hold a weekly class teaching the students of Qom about Akhlaq! Ayatullah Ibrahimi Amini said that they would countdown the clock for this weekly class of Akhlaq. People would come from different walks of life to attend these classes, which use to move the audience when he explained from the depth of his sincerity.
Popularity and fame was not an issue for him. His complete dedication was to attain the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Discipline in the life of Imam Khomeini (RA) is truly amazing. He had a great allergy for wasting time and despised it heavily when he saw this.
When Imam Khomeini (RA) was in exile in Najaf, he would meticulously arrive at 3am every morning for Ziyarat at the shrine of Amir al-Mu’mineen Ali ibn abi Talib (AS). So much so, that people would reset their clocks with his arrival in the morning.
He was a stickler on time management. Imam Khomeini (RA) was a keen believer in physical exercise being part of your daily routine. So he would walk daily and at the same time carry a portable radio to keep up to date with world events, or peruse the newspapers, thus obtaining benefit from 2 activities at the same time.
Even when he was imprisoned, the total length of his cell of solitary confinement was 4.5 steps, but even there he did his exercise between these 4.5 steps for 90mins!
EVERGREEN IMPACT OF IMAM KHOMEINI (RA) REACHES ALL CORNERS OF THE WORLD
We remember Imam Khomeini (RA), who passed away on 3 June 1989. This man gave reality in our day and age, to the dreams of Ambiya. He led us, he guided us and he liberated us. And we in South Africa are deeply indebted to Imam Khomeini (RA) who was the shining light for us to embrace the path of Ahlul Bait (AS).
Imam Khomeini (RA) is the reason why we are today in this rich treasure of Ahlul Bait (AS). It is him who taught us to read Dua Kumayl every Thursday night, and it is him who taught us to stand up for justice. It is him who championed the cause of the oppressed in Palestine and elsewhere.
The revolutionary Islam which Imam Khomeini (RA) taught us is not the Islam of extremist groups of ISIS and Taliban and others. The Islam of Imam Khomeini (RA) is based on friendship and love, which is diametrically on the opposite end of Wahhabism, which is based on hate!
It is the Islam of Imam Khomeini (RA) which gives birth to our role-models like Sayed Hassan Nasrullah, who is loved by Christians as much as he is loved by Muslims!
Imam Khomeini (RA) was very much misunderstood and the world could not capture the magnitude of his personality. His firm belief was that this world is the creation of Almighty Allah (SWT) and therefore looked at this world as a creation of good, because Allah (SWT) cannot create anything evil so whatever exists is good!
Lets read Surah Fatiha on his dear soul.
To be continued……………