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The Greatest Miracle

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

The Greatest Miracle

An article I recently read discusses how television affects our minds. It states that "what happens to the brain is the frontal lobe - our brain's most sophisticated control system, responsible for organizing, planning, and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment, and attention - is completely subdued when watching television. This is the same mechanism involved in hypnosis, and like hypnosis, TV reduces our ability to analyze critically what we are being told and what we see."

Because we live in an era when even the news is laced with fiction, this leads to a more fatal effect. Without you realizing it, television wires you to become more comfortable with fantasy & illusion. This, in turn, wires you to put less value on authenticity & truth.

But even when interacting with children, the Prophet (sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) forbade the most benign forms of falsehood: "If any of you tells a child 'Come here, take this' only to not give him anything, this is a lie." So, as 'A'ishah said, "there was no characteristic the Sahabah hated more than dishonesty. A man would tell a lie in the presence of Allah's Messenger, and he'd hold it against him until he knew that he'd repented from it." This attitude was carried over to the Tabi'in, as al-Qadi Shurayk an-Nakha'i was asked: "I heard a man intentionally lying. Can I pray behind him?" He replied: "No." And it was carried over to the next generation, as whenever Imam Ahmad would see one of the People of the Book, he'd shut his eyes and explain that "I can't stand looking at someone who has lied against Allah." In fact, he reported in his 'Musnad' that the Prophet commanded us to flee from lying du'at, as Hudhayfah said that "the Sahabah used to ask Allah's Messenger about good, and I used to ask him about evil. So I asked him: "Messenger of Allah, will there be evil after this good?"

He replied: "Yes."

I asked: "What will protect us from it?"

He replied: "The sword."

I asked: "What will happen next?"

He replied: "There will be an uneasy calm."

I asked: "Then what?"

He replied: "Then there will emerge callers to misguidance (du'at ad-dalalah). So if you see a khalifah on Earth, stick to him even if he beats you and takes your wealth. If you don't see him, flee throughout the land even if you must die while biting onto a tree stump."

I asked: "Then what?"

He replied: "Then the Dajjal will emerge...""

This narration was declared authentic by al-Albani. Imam Ahmad reported another authentic hadith instructing us on how to deal with the Dajjal himself: "Whoever hears that the Dajjal has emerged should stay away from him (the Prophet said this three times), because someone will approach him thinking him to be a believer, then stick to him due to his deceptive arguments, then end up following him."

Indeed, one of the signs of the end of time is that the wrong people are followed while the right people are demonized, as the Prophet said that "before the Hour are years of deception. In them, the truthful is belied, the liar is believed, the trustworthy is considered treacherous, and the treacherous is trusted." In particular, people will become increasingly comfortable with the munafiqin, as Imam Ahmad said that "a time will come upon people when a believer is like a corpse amongst them, and they instead point to the munafiq with their fingers (i.e., out of respect)." And with time, the munafiqun themselves become increasingly comfortable displaying their nifaq, as Hudhayfah once said that "the munafiqun today are worse than they were in the Prophet's days. Back then, they hid their nifaq. Today, they openly display it." And he said that "during the days of Allah's Messenger, a man would utter a single statement that would turn him into a munafiq. Today, I hear one of you repeating it ten times in a single sitting."

Hudhayfah said this while addressing the Tabi'in, roughly 1,400 years ago. If he were to hear some of the munafiqin today, he'd probably wish for a quick death.

Part of the reason nifaq has become so common & widely accepted over the past two years is that many hearts are too overwhelmed by it to see it for what it is. Like the effect of hypnosis or television on your ability to critically analyze, the Prophet confirmed that your heart can reach the point where "it doesn't recognize any good or repel any evil." Only a person who genuinely tries to cling to the Shari'ah in the midst of this will be protected from confusion, as Allah said that {"if you have taqwa of Allah, He will give you a furqan."} (8:29) Commenting on this ayah, ash-Shawkani wrote that "taqwa is to beware of violating His commands and falling into His prohibitions, while the furqan is what's used to distinguish truth from falsehood. This means that He will strengthen your heart, sharpen your perception, and perfect your guidance so that you can distinguish between the two when there's confusion."

Imam Malik was perceptive enough to point out that "the last of this ummah won't be corrected by anything other than what corrected the first of it." This means adopting a Sahabah-like attitude, viewing the world as they did, and defining terms as they did. Because of the prevalence of confusion, learning this is more crucial for us than it was for those before us. Ibn Mas'ud once told his students that "you live in a time when deeds are more incumbent than seeking knowledge. But a time will come when seeking knowledge is more incumbent than deeds." This knowledge is gained by studying, and the most crucial matters to study are: how did the Salaf define Iman? Kufr? Nifaq? Riddah? Their understanding of the Din is what the Prophet was referring to when he said that all of the Muslim sects will be in Hell "and one will be in Paradise, and they are the Jama'ah."

Imam Abu Shamah said that "whenever you come across the command to stick to the Jama'ah, it means to stick to the truth & its followers, even if those clinging to it are few and their opponents are many. This is because the truth is defined as what the first jama'ah - the generation of the Prophet & the Sahabah - were following. Don't look to the fact that many people after them follow bid'ah." He then mentioned that Ibn Mas'ud asked 'Amr bin Maymun: "Do you know what the Jama'ah is?" 'Amr replied: "No." Ibn Mas'ud explained that "the majority of people have left the Jama'ah. The Jama'ah is whatever complies with obedience to Allah." Nu'aym bin Hammad explained that "this means that if the Jama'ah becomes corrupt, stick to what it followed before it became corrupt, even if you find yourself all alone. This is because in such a case, you are the Jama'ah."

Our concern, therefore, is the purity of belief rather than how many people approve of it. The mushrikun asked the Prophet for one concession in exchange for the sought-after goal of them worshipping Allah, but Allah Himself revealed that {"they were about to tempt you away from what I revealed to you so that you'd fabricate something against Me instead. In that case, they would've certainly taken you as a close friend! Had I not kept you firm, you would've nearly inclined to them slightly."} (17:73-74) Ibn 'Abbas explained that "the Prophet was protected from this. But this is a lesson for the Ummah that none of us should compromise with the mushrikin in any of the rulings of the Shari'ah."

Commenting on the same ayat - which, by the way, were revealed during the Makkan period - Sayyid Qutb wrote that "these attempts from which Allah protected His Messenger are the same attempts always made by the authorities with those involved in da'wah. They try to trick them into deviating - even if slightly - from the solidity of the da'wah into a compromise in exchange for the promise of a great reward. There are some du'at who are tempted away from their da'wah because they don't consider this to be a big deal. The authorities don't ask that he totally abandon his da'wah. Rather, they request minor adjustments so that both sides can meet in the middle of the road. From this opening, the Shaytan enters on the da'i, convincing him that the interests of the da'wah necessitate winning over those in authority - even if this involves compromising on some of it! The da'i who agrees to surrender even a sliver of it won't stop there... His willingness to compromise will only increase whenever he's forced to take a step back. Thus, the authorities gradually entrap the du'at."

Those who refuse the offer can sometimes literally be counted on one hand. Ibn Kathir wrote that out of all the scholars subjected to the Mihnah, "those who stayed firm, completely refusing to affirm, were five: Ahmad bin Hambal, who was their leader; Muhammad bin Nuh al-Jundaysaburi, who died when he & Ahmad were being taken to al-Ma'mun; Nu'aym bin Hammad al-Khuza'i, who died in prison; Abu Ya'qub al-Buwayti, who died shackled in prison, and requested in his will that he be buried in his shackles; and Ahmad bin Nasr al-Khuza'i (who was executed in prison)..."

These were the radicals of their time. In fact, their mihnah wasn't much different from ours: Western ideas (back then, it was Greek philosophy) are used to castrate Islam through re-interpretation of its texts (back then, those concerning Allah's names & attributes). Everyone has a choice to make. Those who sell out keep their jobs and get a pat on the back. Those who hold out pay the price. Regarding the latter, Ibn al-Qayyim wrote in his 'Nuniyyah':

And Allah won't let the difficulties suffered for His sake go to waste;

The lone servant's contentment despite the flood of enemies and few allies indicates true certainty, love, and real understanding;
It's enough weakness & loneliness that he has few allies amidst the troops of Shaytan;
Everyday, one group attacks. When it retreats, another takes its place;
Ask this lone stranger what he experiences at the hands of countless enemies;
It seems like it'll never end, and it's been so long after the era of goodness;
This is why he's like a man holding a burning coal. So ask about the heat of this fire that he feels inside;
Allah knows what he feels in his heart. It's enough that He knows;
There's something in the heart that none can estimate except the One who gives it to the human being;
Goodness, Tawhid, patience, contentment, gratitude, and implementation of the Qur'an...

This "flood of enemies" was promised by Shaytan: {"Then I'll come at them from in front of them, from behind them, from their right, and from their left...} (7:17) But as Ibn 'Abbas said, "he couldn't say 'and from above them' because he knew that Allah is above them." Indeed, one of the miracles of our time is that the forces of the world - even the most bitter of historical enemies - have all set aside their differences and joined forces in an unprecedented manner to wipe out a simple principle, yet their opponents won't budge from this principle, instead giving the response Imam Ahmad gave as he regained consciousness from each bloody beating: "Give me something from the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of His Messenger, and I'll affirm it." In fact, this is the greatest miracle possible, as Ibn Taymiyyah said that "the greatest miracle is to maintain istiqamah."

Just as people today are inspired by Imam Ahmad, he was likewise inspired by those before him who loved the truth more than their own lives. Describing an incident during the Mihnah when Imam Ahmad was in ar-Raqqah (may Allah protect it), Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Bushanji said that "when they were in ar-Raqqah, they began to remind Abu 'Abdillah of narrations proving that he could verbally affirm in order to save himself. So he replied: "What will you do with the hadith of Khabbab which says that from those who came before you was a man who was sawn in half, but he still wouldn't abandon his din?" So we lost hope in being able to convince him."

The fact that Imam Ahmad ended up surviving the savage beatings he was made to endure in prison is besides the point, as Ibn al-Jawzi wrote that "his beautiful reputation didn't spread randomly, and people didn't make their way to his grave except for something amazing. What praise that filled the horizons, and what beauty that beautified existence, and what honor that wiped out dishonor! All of this was in this life, while the later reward is indescribable. On the other hand, reflect on the graves of most scholars: unknown & ignored. They took the easy way out, clung to convenient interpretations, and associated with the authorities. So the blessing of their knowledge vanished, their dignity was erased, and they drank from the fountain of regret on their deathbeds..."

Written by: Tariq Mehanna
Thursday, the 25th of Rabi' ath-Thani 1437 (4th of February 2016)
Marion CMU


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