Category Archives: Biography

Alauddin Abbas: Volunteer of Haram

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Every Ramadan a group of African teenage boys serve iftaar to over a million pilgrims at Masjidul Haram. They do this voluntarily to earn reward from Allah. Since the schools remain closed during Ramadan in the Kingdom, these teenage boys usually spend majority of their Ramadan days and nights at the Haram. After asr prayer, they start their work by spreading out plastic sufras (clothes over which food is spread out). Then they bring in dates and evenly distribute them.  About half an hour before maghrib, they distribute zamzam water and Arabic coffee and tea among the pilgrims.

These volunteers are very diligent in their work and take great pride in serving the guests of Haram. No matter where you sit in the Haram, these volunteers ensure that you receive dates and water.

Once the iftaar is over, they quickly roll in the sufras and collect litters. Before maghrib prayer, these volunteers remain busy serving the pilgrims. Only after maghrib prayer, they enojy their own iftaar.

During my recent umrah, I met one such volunteer. I was able to have a brief conversation with him because he could speak English. Below is the conversation, which gives a brief glimpse about the life of these volunteers.

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What is your name?

My name is Alauddin Abbas.

You had told me yesterday that it was your grandmother who came to Saudi Arabia first. How did she come here? Did she come here for hajj?

Yes, she came from Nigeria for hajj. Then she stayed here. MashAllah, my grandmother is still alive, and she is probably 130 now.

MashaAllah! Were your parents born here is Makkah?

Yes. And my father married my mother in Makkah.

So it means you are the third generation here is Saudi.

Yes.

Do you have Saudi passport now?

No, but some people in our family have Saudi passport. There was a time when they (Saudi government) used to give passports, but my father did not like the idea then and did not take it.

It means you are now living in Saudi without any passport or documents.

Unfortunately yes.

How many brothers and sisters do you have?

We are seven brothers and sisters together: four brothers and three sisters.

MashaAllah! Where does your family live in Makkah?

About a kilometer away from the haram.

Did you and your siblings all go to the local schools here?

Yes. Some of my siblings also studied up to college. All praise is for Allah.

What are you doing now?

At the moment I am staying in the haram (and serving the pilgrims). After Ramadan InShaAllah, I am going to get vocational trainings on electrical work.

Is there a vocational school in Makkah?

Yes, I will have the training in Makkah. At same time, I am already doing an electrical field job now.

Is the earning good?

Alhamdulillah.

Are you hopeful that sometime in future you will attain Saudi citizenship?

May be, I don’t know. InShaAllah when Allah grants, we will get it.

Yes, we are a nation who never lose hope from the mercy of Allah. You must be very lucky because you are living in Makkah, the blessed of all places.

Alhamdulillah. We can come to haram anytime.

All the children and young men who are volunteering and serving the pilgrims, do they get paid for this?

Some families do pay some of them. However, it is primarily a volunteer work.

All right brother. It was a pleasure speaking with you. Assalamualikum.

Wa alikumusalam.

How well do you know the companions (رضى الله عنه) of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)? Part 4

Here are the links to the first three installments of this quiz: Part 1Part 2, Part 3. This is the final and concluding part.


Maryam Jameelah: Interview of a Jewish Convert to Islam

Recently I read a book titled Testimonies of Jewish Converts to Islam. The book contains testimonies of some ex-Jews about the incidents, realizations, and reflections that had led them to accept Islam as their religion. Among all the testimonies, a particular testimony has impressed me the most. It is the interview of Sister Maryam Jameelah, previously known as Margaret Marcus. She accepted Islam in 1934 at the age of 27. I have found her story of converting to Islam a mesmerizing read because her story is a remarkable testament of how Allah can guide someone through his or her fitrah to the true religion.

The term fitrah means natural disposition. As the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) indicated in one of his sayings, every human child is born with the innate natural disposition that inclines him or her to recognize the oneness of Allah and worship Him alone. By the mercy of Allah, the fitrah of Sister Maryam remained so pure that despite being actively taught and encouraged by her parents to enjoy this worldly life without fearing any consequence in the hereafter, she failed to reconcile with such a false philosophy since her childhood days. Her pure fitrah had always fueled her search for the truth and eventually led her to accepting Islam.

Mayram Jameelah died on 31 October 2012 (may Allah have mercy upon her) and it is purely coincidental that I am reproducing her interview about her conversion to Islam in my blog at this time. Prior to reading her interview in the book Testimonies of Jewish Converts to Islam, I knew nothing about Sister Maryam. However, I Googled about her life and found out that she later associated herself with Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan and authored many books. Here I would like to make it clear that I am NOT associated with Jammat-e-Islami and with their ideologies in anyway. At the same time, through reproducing this interview, I neither advocate nor endorse the writings of Sister Maryam. I am posting her interview only because her conversion to Islam seemed to me a remarkable example of how fitrah can be someone’s guide  to recognize the truth.

Here is her interview:

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Q: Would you kindly tell us how your interest in Islam began?

A: I was Margaret (Peggy) Marcus. As a small child I possessed a keen interest in music and was particularly fond of the classical operas and symphonies considered high culture in the West. Music was my favorite subject in school in which I always earned the highest grades. By sheer chance, I happened to hear Arabic music over the radio which so much pleased me that I was determined to hear more. I would not leave my parents in peace until my father finally took me to the Syrian section in New York City where I bought a stack of Arabic recordings. My parents, relatives and neighbors thought Arabic and its music dreadfully weird and so distressing to their ears that whenever I put on my recordings, they demanded that I close all the doors and windows in my room lest they be disturbed! After I embraced Islam in 1961, I used to sit enthralled by the hour at the mosque in New York, listening to tape-recordings of Tilawat chanted by the celebrated Egyptian Qari, Abdul Basit. But on Jumah Salat (Friday Prayers), the Imam did not play the tapes. We had a special guest that day. A short, very thin and poorly-dressed black youth, who introduced himself to us as a student from Zanzibar, recited Surah ar-Rahman. I never heard such glorious tilawat even from Abdul Basit! He possessed such a voice of gold; surely Hazrat Bilal must have sounded much like him!

I traced the beginning of my interest in Islam to the age of ten. While attending a reformed Jewish Sunday school, I became fascinated with the historical relationship between the Jews and the Arabs. From my Jewish textbooks, I learned that Abraham was the father of the Arabs as well as the Jews. I read how centuries later when, in medieval Europe, Christian persecution made their lives intolerable, the Jews were welcomed in Muslim Spain and that it was the magnanimity of this same Arabic Islamic civilization which stimulated Hebrew culture to reach its highest peak of achievement.

Totally unaware of the true nature of Zionism, I naively thought that the Jews were returning to Palestine to strengthen their close ties of kinship in religion and culture with their Semitic cousins. Together I believed that the Jews and the Arabs would cooperate to attain another Golden Age of culture in the Middle East.

Despite my fascination with the study of Jewish history, I was extremely unhappy at the Sunday school. At this time I identified myself strongly with the Jewish people in Europe, then suffering a horrible fate under the Nazis and I was shocked that none of my fellow classmates nor their parents took their religion seriously. During the services at the synagogue, the children used to read comic strips hidden in their prayer books and laugh to scorn at the rituals. The children were so noisy and disorderly that the teachers could not discipline them and found it very difficult to conduct the classes.

At home the atmosphere for religious observance was scarcely more congenial. My elder sister detested the Sunday school so much that my mother literally had to drag her out of bed in the mornings and it never went without the struggle of tears and hot words. Finally my parents were exhausted and let her quit. On the Jewish High Holy Days instead of attending synagogue and fasting on Yom Kippur, my sister and I were taken out of school to attend family picnics and parties in fine restaurants. When my sister and I convinced our parents how miserable we both were at the Sunday school they joined an agnostic, humanist organization known as the Ethical Culture Movement.

The Ethical Culture Movement was founded late in the 19th century by Felix Alder. While studying for rabbinate, Felix Alder grew convinced that devotion to ethical values as relative and man-made, regarding any supernaturalism or theology as irrelevant, constituted the only religion fit for the modern world. I attended the Ethical Culture Sunday School each week from the age of eleven until I graduated at fifteen. Here I grew into complete accord with the ideas of the movement and regarded all traditional, organized religions with scorn.

When I was eighteen years old I became a member of the local Zionist youth movement known as the Mizrachi Hatzair. But when I found out what the nature of Zionism was, which made the hostility between Jews and Arabs irreconcilable, I left several months later in disgust. When I was twenty and a student at New York University, one of my elective courses was entitled Judaism in Islam. My professor, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Katsh, the head of the department of Hebrew Studies there, spared no efforts to convince his students–all Jews, many of whom aspired to become rabbis–that Islam was derived from Judaism. Our textbook, written by him, took each verse from the Quran, painstakingly tracing it to its allegedly Jewish source. Although his real aim was to prove to his students the superiority of Judaism over Islam, he convinced me diametrically of the opposite.

I soon discovered that Zionism was merely a combination of the racist, tribalistic aspects of Judaism. Modern secular nationalistic Zionism was further discredited in my eyes when I learned that few, if any, of the leaders of Zionism were observant Jews and that perhaps nowhere is Orthodox, traditional Judaism regarded with such intense contempt as in Israel. When I found nearly all important Jewish leaders in America supporters for Zionism, who felt not the slightest twinge of conscience because of the terrible injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian Arabs, I could no longer consider myself a Jew at heart.

One morning in November 1954, Professor Katsh, during his lecture, argued with irrefutable logic that the monotheism taught by Moses (peace be upon him) and the Divine Laws reveled to him were indispensable as the basis for all higher ethical values. If morals were purely man-made, as the Ethical Culture and other agnostic and atheistic philosophies taught, then they could be changed at will, according to mere whim, convenience or circumstance. The result would be utter chaos leading to individual and collective ruin. Belief in the Hereafter, as the Rabbis in the Talmud taught, argued Professor Katsh, was not mere wishful thinking but a moral necessity. Only those, he said, who firmly believed that each of us will be summoned by God on Judgment Day to render a complete account of our life on earth and rewarded or punished accordingly, will possess the self-discipline to sacrifice transitory pleasure and endure hardships and sacrifice to attain lasting good.

It was in Professor Katsh’s class that I met Zenita, the most unusual and fascinating girl I have ever met. The first time I entered Professor Katsh’s class, as I looked around the room for an empty desk in which to sit, I spied two empty seats, on the arm of one, three big beautifully bound volumes of Yusuf Ali’s English translation and commentary of the Holy Quran. I sat down right there, burning with curiosity to find out to whom these volumes belonged. Just before Rabbi Katsh’s lecture was to begin, a tall, very slim girl with pale complexion framed by thick auburn hair, sat next to me. Her appearance was so distinctive, I thought she must be a foreign student from Turkey, Syria or some other Near Eastern country. Most of the other students were young men wearing the black cap of Orthodox Jewry, who wanted to become rabbis. We two were the only girls in the class. As we were leaving the library late that afternoon, she introduced herself to me. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family, her parents had migrated to America from Russia only a few years prior to the October Revolution in 1917 to escape persecution. I noted that my new friend spoke English with the precise care of a foreigner. She confirmed these speculations, telling me that since her family and their friends speak only Yiddish among themselves, she did not learn any English until after attending public school. She told me that her name was Zenita Liebermann but recently, in an attempt to Americanize themselves, her parents had changed their name from “Liebermann” to “Lane.” Besides being thoroughly instructed in Hebrew by her father while growing up and also in school, she said she was now spending all her spare time studying Arabic. However, with no previous warning, Zenita dropped out of class and although I continued to attend all of his lectures to the conclusion of the course, Zenita never returned. Months passed and I had almost forgotten about Zenita when suddenly she called and begged me to meet her at the Metropolitan Museum and go with her to look at the special exhibition of exquisite Arabic calligraphy and ancient illuminated manuscripts of the Quran. During our tour of the museum, Zenita told me how she had embraced Islam with two of her Palestinian friends as witnesses.

I inquired, “Why did you decide to become a Muslim?” She then told me that she had left Professor Katsh’s class when she fell ill with a severe kidney infection. Her condition was so critical, she told me, her mother and father had not expected her to survive. “One afternoon while burning with fever, I reached for my Holy Quran on the table beside by bed and began to read and while I recited the verses, it touched me so deeply that I began to weep and then I knew I would recover. As soon as I was strong enough to leave my bed, I summoned two of my Muslim friends and took the oath of the “Shahadah” or Confession of Faith.”

Zenita and I would eat our meals in Syrian restaurants where I acquired a keen taste for this tasty cooking. When we had money to spend, we would order Couscous, roast lamb with rice or a whole soup plate of delicious little meatballs swimming in gravy scooped up with loaves of unleavened Arabic bread. And when we had little to spend, we would eat lentils and rice, Arabic style, or the Egyptian national dish of black broad beans with plenty of garlic and onions called “Ful”.

While Professor Katsh was lecturing thus, I was comparing in my mind what I had read in the Old Testament and the Talmud with what was taught in the Quran and Hadith and finding Judaism so defective, I was converted to Islam.

Q: Were you scared that you might not be accepted by the Muslims?

A: My increasing sympathy for Islam and Islamic ideals enraged the other Jews I knew, who regarded me as having betrayed them in the worst possible way. They used to tell me that such a reputation could only result from shame of my ancestral heritage and an intense hatred for my people. They warned me that even if I tried to become a Muslim, I would never be accepted. These fears proved totally unfounded as I have never been stigmatized by any Muslim because of my Jewish origin. As soon as I became a Muslim myself, I was welcomed most enthusiastically by all the Muslims as one of them.

I did not embrace Islam out of hatred for my ancestral heritage or my people. It was not a desire so much to reject as to fulfill. To me, it meant a transition from parochial to a dynamic and revolutionary faith.

Q: Did your family object to your studying Islam?

A: Although I wanted to become a Muslim as far back as 1954, my family managed to argue me out of it. I was warned that Islam would complicate my life because it is not, like Judaism and Christianity, part of the American scene. I was told that Islam would alienate me from my family and isolate me from the community. At that time my faith was not sufficiently strong to withstand these pressures. Partly as the result of this inner turmoil, I became so ill that I had to discontinue college long before it was time for me to graduate. For the next two years I remained at home under private medical care, steadily growing worse. In desperation from 1957 – 1959 my parents confined me both to private and public hospitals where I vowed that if ever I recovered sufficiently to be discharged, I would embrace Islam.

After I was allowed to return home, I investigated all the opportunities for meeting Muslims in New York City. It was my good fortune to meet some of the finest men and women anyone could ever hope to meet. I also began to write articles for Muslim magazines.

Q: What was the attitude of your parents and friends after you became Muslim?

A: When I embraced Islam, my parents, relatives and their friends regarded me almost as a fanatic, because I could think and talk of nothing else. To them, religion is a purely private concern which at the most perhaps could be cultivated like an amateur hobby among other hobbies. But as soon as I read the Holy Quran, I knew that Islam was no hobby but life itself!

Q: In what ways did the Holy Quran have an impact on your life?

A: One evening I was feeling particularly exhausted and sleepless, Mother came into my room and said she was about to go to the Larchmont Public Library and asked me if there was any book that I wanted? I asked her to look and see if the library had a copy of an English translation of the Holy Quran. Just think, years of passionate interest in the Arabs and reading every book in the library about them I could lay my hands on but until now, I never thought to see what was in the Holy Quran! Mother returned with a copy for me. I was so eager, I literally grabbed it from her hands and read it the whole night. There I also found all the familiar Bible stories of my childhood.

In my eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and one year of college, I learned about English grammar and composition, French, Spanish, Latin and Greek in current use, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, European and American history, elementary science, Biology, music and art–but I had never learned anything about God! Can you imagine I was so ignorant of God that I wrote to my pen-friend, a Pakistani lawyer, and confessed to him the reason why I was an atheist was because I couldn’t believe that God was really an old man with a long white beard who sat up on His throne in Heaven. When he asked me where I had learned this outrageous thing, I told him of the reproductions from the Sistine Chapel I had seen in “Life” Magazine of Michelangelo’s “Creation” and “Original Sin.” I described all the representations of God as an old man with a long white beard and the numerous crucifixions of Christ I had seen with Paula at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But in the Holy Quran, I read:

“Allah! There is no god but He,-the Living, The Self-subsisting, Supporter of all. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is thee can intercede in His presence except as He permiteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).” (Quran S.2:255)

“But the Unbelievers,-their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds Allah there, and Allah will pay him his account: and Allah is swift in taking account. Or (the unbelievers’ state) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depth of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!” (Quran S.24: 39-40)

My first thought when reading the Holy Quran – this is the only true religion – absolutely sincere, honest, not allowing cheap compromises or hypocrisy.

In 1959, I spent much of my leisure time reading books about Islam in the New York Public Library. It was there I discovered four bulky volumes of an English translation of Mishkat ul- Masabih. It was then that I learned that a proper and detailed understanding of the Holy Quran is not possible without some knowledge of the relevant Hadith. For how can the holy text correctly be interpreted except by the Prophet to whom it was revealed?

Once I had studied the Mishkat, I began to accept the Holy Quran as Divine revelation. What persuaded me that the Quran must be from God and not composed by Muhammad (PBUH) was its satisfying and convincing answers to all the most important questions of life which I could not find elsewhere.

As a child, I was so mortally afraid of death, particularly the thought of my own death, that after nightmares about it, sometimes I would awaken my parents crying in the middle of the night. When I asked them why I had to die and what would happen to me after death, all they could say was that I had to accept the inevitable; but that was a long way off and because medical science was constantly advancing, perhaps I would live to be a hundred years old! My parents, family, and all our friends rejected as superstition any thought of the Hereafter, regarding Judgment Day, reward in Paradise or punishment in Hell as outmoded concepts of by-gone ages. In vain I searched all the chapters of the Old Testament for any clear and unambiguous concept of the Hereafter. The prophets, patriarchs and sages of the Bible all receive their rewards or punishments in this world. Typical is the story of Job (Ayub). God destroyed all his loved-ones, his possessions, and afflicted him with a loathsome disease in order to test his faith. Job plaintively laments to God why He should make a righteous man suffer. At the end of the story, God restores all his earthly losses but nothing is even mentioned about any possible consequences in the Hereafter.

Although I did find the Hereafter mentioned in the New Testament, compared with that of the Holy Quran, it is vague and ambiguous. I found no answer to the question of death in Orthodox Judaism, for the Talmud preaches that even the worst life is better than death. My parents’ philosophy was that one must avoid contemplating the thought of death and just enjoy as best one can, the pleasures life has to offer at the moment. According to them, the purpose of life is enjoyment and pleasure achieved through self-expression of one’s talents, the love of family, the congenial company of friends combined with the comfortable living and indulgence in the variety of amusements that affluent America makes available in such abundance. They deliberately cultivated this superficial approach to life as if it were the guarantee for their continued happiness and good-fortune. Through bitter experience I discovered that self-indulgence leads only to misery and that nothing great or even worthwhile is ever accomplished without struggle through adversity and self-sacrifice. From my earliest childhood, I have always wanted to accomplish important and significant things. Above all else, before my death I wanted the assurance that I have not wasted life in sinful deeds or worthless pursuits. All my life I have been intensely serious-minded. I have always detested the frivolity which is the dominant characteristic of contemporary culture. My father once disturbed me with his unsettling conviction that there is nothing of permanent value and because everything in this modern age accept the present trends inevitable and adjust ourselves to them. I, however, was thirsty to attain something that would endure forever. It was from the Holy Quran where I learned that this aspiration was possible. No good deed for the sake of seeking the pleasure of God is ever wasted or lost. Even if the person concerned never achieves any worldly recognition, his reward is certain in the Hereafter. Conversely, the Quran tells us that those who are guided by no moral considerations other than expediency or social conformity and crave the freedom to do as they please, no matter how much worldly success and prosperity they attain or how keenly they are able to relish the short span of their earthly life, will be doomed as the losers on Judgement Day. Islam teaches us that in order to devote our exclusive attention to fulfilling our duties to God and to our fellow-beings, we must abandon all vain and useless activities which distract us from this end. These teachings of the Holy Quran, made even more explicit by Hadith, were thoroughly compatible with my temperament.

Q: What is your opinion of the Arabs after you became a Muslim?

A: As the years passed, the realization gradually dawned upon me that it was not the Arabs who made Islam great but rather Islam had made the Arabs great. Were it not for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Arabs would be an obscure people today. And were it not for the Holy Quran, the Arabic language would be equally insignificant, if not extinct.

Q: Did you see any similarities between Judaism and Islam?

A: The kinship between Judaism and Islam is even stronger than Islam and Christianity. Both Judaism and Islam share in common the same uncompromising monotheism, the crucial importance of strict obedience to Divine Law as proof of our submission to and love of the Creator, the rejection of the priesthood, celibacy and monasticism and the striking similarity of the Hebrew and Arabic language.

In Judaism, religion is so confused with nationalism; one can scarcely distinguish between the two. The name “Judaism” is derived from Judah-a tribe. A Jew is a member of the tribe of Judah. Even the name of this religion connotes no universal spiritual message. A Jew is not a Jew by virtue of his belief in the unity of God, but merely because he happened to be born of Jewish parentage. Should he become an outspoken atheist, he is no less “Jewish” in the eyes of his fellow Jews.

Such a thorough corruption with nationalism has spiritually impoverished this religion in all its aspects. God is not the God of all mankind but the God of Israel. The scriptures are not God’s revelation to the entire human race but primarily a Jewish history book. David and Solomon (peace be upon them) are not full-fledged prophets of God but merely Jewish kings. With the single exception of Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), the holidays and festivals celebrated by Jews, such as Hanukkah, Purim and Pesach, are of far greater national than religious significance.

Q: Have you ever had the opportunity to talk about Islam to the other Jews?

A: There is one particular incident which really stands out in my mind when I had the opportunity to discuss Islam with a Jewish gentleman. Dr. Shoreibah, of the Islamic Center in New York, introduced me to a very special guest. After one Jumha Salat, I went into his office to ask him some questions about Islam but before I could even greet him with “Assalamu Alaikum”, I was completely astonished and surprised to see seated before him an ultra-orthodox Chassidic Jew, complete with earlocks, broad-brimmed black hat, long black silken caftan and a full flowing beard. Under his arm was a copy of the Yiddish newspaper, “The Daily Forward”. He told us that his name was Samuel Kostelwitz and that he worked in New York City as a diamond cutter. Most of his family, he said, lived in the Chassidic community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, but he also had many relatives and friends in Israel. Born in a small Rumanian town, he had fled from the Nazi terror with his parents to America just prior to the outbreak of the second world-war. I asked him what had brought him to the mosque? He told us that he had been stricken with intolerable grief ever since his mother died 5 years ago. He had tried to find solace and consolation for his grief in the synagogue but could not when he discovered that many of the Jews, even in the ultra-orthodox community of Williamsburg, were shameless hypocrites. His recent trip to Israel had left him more bitterly disillusioned than ever. He was shocked by the irreligiousness he found in Israel and he told us that nearly all the young sabras or native-born Israelis are militant atheists. When he saw large herds of swine on one of the kibbutzim (collective farms) he visited, he could only exclaim in horror: “Pigs in a Jewish state! I never thought that was possible until I came here! Then when I witnessed the brutal treatment meted out to innocent Arabs in Israel, I know then that there is no difference between the Israelis and the Nazis. Never, never in the name of God, could I justify such terrible crimes!” Then he turned to Dr. Shoreibah and told him that he wanted to become a Muslim but before he took the irrevocable steps to formal conversion, he needed to have more knowledge about Islam. He said that he had purchased from Orientalia Bookshop, some books on Arabic grammar and was trying to teach himself Arabic. He apologized to us for his broken English: Yiddish was his native tongue and Hebrew, his second language. Among themselves, his family and friends spoke only Yiddish. Since his reading knowledge of English was extremely poor, he had no access to good Islamic literature. However, with the aid of an English dictionary, he painfully read “Introduction to Islam” by Muhammad Hamidullah of Paris and praised this as the best book he had ever read. In the presence of Dr. Shoreibah, I spent another hour with Mr. Kostelwitz, comparing the Bible stories of the patriarchs and prophets with their counterparts in the Holy Quran. I pointed out the inconsistencies and interpolations of the Bible, illustrating my point with Noah’s alleged drunkenness, accusing David of adultery and Solomon of idolatry (Allah Forbid) and how the Holy Quran raises all these patriarchs to the status of genuine prophets of God and absolves them from all these crimes. I also pointed out why it was Ismail and not Isaac who God commanded Abraham to offer as sacrifice. In the Bible, God tells Abraham: “Take thine son, thine only son whom thou lovest and offer him up to Me as burnt offering.” Now Ismail was born 13 years before Isaac but the Jewish biblical commentators explain that away be belittling Ismail’s mother, Hagar, as only a concubine and not Abraham’s real wife so they say Isaac was the only legitimate son. Islamic traditions, however, raise Hagar to the status of a full-fledged wife equal in every respect to Sarah. Mr. Kostelwitz expressed his deepest gratitude to me for spending so much time, explaining those truths to him. To express this gratitude, he insisted on inviting Dr. Shoreibah and me to lunch at the Kosher Jewish delicatessen where he always goes to eat his lunch. Mr. Kostelwitz told us that he wished more than anything else to embrace Islam but he feared he could not withstand the persecution he would have to face from his family and friends. I told him to pray to God for help and strength and he promised that he would. When he left us, I felt privileged to have spoken with such a gentle and kind person.

Q: What Impact did Islam have on your life?

A: In Islam, my quest for absolute values was satisfied. In Islam I found all that was true, good and beautiful and that which gives meaning and direction to human life (and death); while in other religions, the Truth is deformed, distorted, restricted and fragmentary. If anyone chooses to ask me how I came to know this, I can only reply my personal life experience was sufficient to convince me. My adherence to the Islamic faith is thus a calm, cool but very intense conviction. I have, I believe, always been a Muslim at heart by temperament, even before I knew there was such a thing as Islam. My conversion was mainly a formality, involving no radical change in my heart at all but rather only making official what I had been thinking and yearning for many years.

How well do you know the companions (رضى الله عنه) of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)? Part 3

Here are the links to the first two installments of this quiz: Part 1, Part 2


How well do you know the companions (رضى الله عنه) of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)? Part 2

You can find part 1 of the quiz here.

Wisdom of Aisha (رضى الله عنه)

An excerpt from Martin Ling’s Muhammad (ﷺ) and his life Based on earliest sources:

A’ishah’s perceptions and reactions were exceedingly quick. Soon after Khaybar, or perhaps a little before it, Halah the mother of Abu l-‘Aas had comee on a visit to Medina to see her son and daughter-in-law Zaynab and her little granddaughter Umarnah; and one day when the Prophet was in ‘A’ishah’s apartment there was a knock on the door, and a woman’s voice was heard asking if she might enter. The Prophet turned pale and trembled; and immediately divining the cause, ‘A’ishah was overwhelmed by a wave of jealousy and scolded him; for she knew that in the voice of Halah he had heard the voice of her sister Khadijah. He confirmed this afterwards, and said that also her manner of asking to enter had been the same as that of his dead wife.

Sawdah, now grown somewhat elderly, gave her day with the Prophet to ‘A’ishah because she felt sure that this would greatly please him; and the rest of the community, including the other wives, had no doubt that of those wives now living it was ‘A’ishah that the Prophet loved most. This was not mere conjecture, since from time to time, by one or another of his Companions, he would be asked the question: “0 Messenger of God, whom lovest thou most in all the world?” And although he did not always give the same answer to this question, inasmuch as he felt great love in more than one direction-for his daughters and their children, for’Ali, for Abu Bakr, for Zayd and Usamah -the answer was sometimes ‘A’ishah but never one of the other wives. For this reason it was becoming the custom in Medina that if a man had a favor to ask of the Prophet, and if he was offering him a gift with a view to his petition as the Koran recommended, he would postpone the offering until the Prophet was in ‘A’ishah’s apartment on the assumption that he was then at his happiest and therefore at his readiest to grant favor. This caused ill feeling in the household of the Prophet, and Umm Salamah went to him on behalf of herself and the others asking him to make an announcement that anyone wishing to give him a present should do so without waiting until it was his day to be in a particular house. The Prophet did not answer her, and she asked him a second time, and again he remained silent. Then she asked him a third time, and he said: “Trouble me not with regard unto ‘A’ishah, for verily the Revelation cometh not unto me when I am beneath the coverlet of a wife, except that wife be ‘A’ishah.” Umm Salamah said: “I repent unto God for my having troubled thee.” But others of the wives were not content to stop there and they sent to Fatimah and asked her to intervene on their behalf and to say to him: “Thy wives adjure thee by God to give them justice in respect of the daughter of Abu Bakr.” Fatimah reluctantly agreed to this, but put off doing it for some days until finally her cousin Zaynab, the daughter of Jahsh, came to her and insisted. So she went to her father and said what she had been asked to say. “My little daughter,” said the Prophet, “Lovest thou not what I love?” And when she assented he said: “Then love her” –meaning ‘A’ishah. Then he said: “It was Zaynab who sent thee, was it not?” “Zaynab and the others,” said Fatimah. “I swear,” said the Prophet, “it was she who set this afoot.” And when Fatimah admitted it, he smiled.

She returned to the wives and recounted what had happened. “0 daughter of God’s Messenger,” they said, “thou hast availed us nothing!” They pressed her to go a second time, but she refused, so they said to Zaynab “Go thou,” and she went to the Prophet, who finally told ‘A’ishah to speak to her, and she produced arguments against which Zaynab could say nothing. The Prophet was bound to be just and equitable towards his wives, and to encourage others to follow his example; but he was not responsible for the equity of others towards his own wives. Nor would his sensitivity have allowed him to interfere; it was for him to receive a present with thanks, and to leave all else to the donor. When Zaynab had gone he said to ‘A’ishah: “Thou art indeed the daughter of Abu Bakr.”

How well do you know the companions (رضى الله عنه) of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)? Part 1

Allah said in the Quran,

And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment. [The Noble Quran 9:100]

Have you ever contemplated upon this verse? Allah is saying in this verse that He is pleased with ‘them’ and ‘they’ are pleased with Him. Does Allah need anyone’s pleasure? Does He need anyone to be satisfied with Him?

No He does not. Allah is al-Ghaniy. Allah is free of all needs. Yet Allah is saying in this verse that ‘they’ are well pleased with Him.

Do you know who ‘they’ are; who have received such a commendation from Allah, the Lord of the Universe and all that exists?

Yes, you know the answer. If you did not know, you have probably guessed it from the title of the post. They were the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). They were the people who met the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) during his lifetime, accepted Islam, and also died upon Islam.

They were the chosen generation. They were the best generation. They were chosen by Allah to accompany His greatest Messenger (ﷺ). They were chosen to propagate the message of Islam. They were chosen to endure hardship. Allah said in the Quran:

For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. [The Noble Quran 94:5]

Because the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and his companions bore the hardships for the sake of Islam, today we can find Islam just by the click of mouse.

I will give you a small example, which inshallah I believe will be helpful in understanding the enormity of the sacrifice the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had made for the sake of Islam.

When a person converts into Islam in a community, everyone praises Allah and celebrates the event. However, after the initial euphoria, the new convert often discovers himself in an isolated environment. He is willing to learn the deen of Allah, but he struggles to find a Muslim friend who is willing to regularly dedicate a certain amount of time to teach the new religion.

Teaching a new convert the basics of religion may require only a few hours of commitment per week. Yet, majority of us do not find a window in our schedule to shoulder the responsibility of teaching a new brother in faith. The companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) on the other hand had to shoulder the responsibility of teaching multitudes of new Muslims and transmitting an ocean of knowledge without even paper. Compare our commitment to Islam to that of theirs and you will understand the profundity of their dedication.

Shouldering this tremendous responsibility of transmitting the knowledge of Islam itself was a great trial for them, but it did not stop there. Allah tested them with the greatest of trials. And it was the death of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

None other than Allah will be ever able to comprehend the love that the companions had for the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). They were the witness of him (ﷺ) being commissioned as the Messenger of Allah. They listened the Quran from his voice. They fought beside him. They said their prayer behind him. For twenty three years they strived alongside the Prophet of Allah (ﷺ) for the sake of Allah.

Then the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) died.

Yes, their faith was billion times stronger than us. So what? They were still human beings. And how does a human being feel when a loved one dies? By Allah, when my uncle died (and he was uncle only, my mom’s brother, and we were close in age and we used to play together), I felt the world crumbling upon me. The whole world became totally meaningless to me. It took a few months for me to recover from this blow.

And here, the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), who was dearer to them than their parents, wives, children, and their own selves, had to deal with the demise of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). Can we imagine how it affected them? Can we imagine the deepness of the scar in their heart? Can we imagine what a great void they felt inside whenever they thought that their eyes would never behold the sight of the beloved Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) in this life anymore? Didn’t life suddenly become meaningless to them after losing someone who was closer to them than their own hearts?

Life felt meaningless to them. But the responsibility that Allah had placed upon their shoulders did not cease. They had no other option but to withstand the pain and stand up to propagate the eternal message of Islam. They stood up. They fulfilled their obligations. They remained firm upon their duty until they met Allah.

That is why simply knowing them is not enough. You have to know them well. Very well. Here are some other reasons of why you should learn about the lives of the companions of the Messenger of Allah:

  • Allah praised the companions in the Quran. That is enough as a reason to be eager to learn about them.
  • The companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) were the greatest followers of his sunnah. By leaning about them, you will come to understand what it means to follow the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).
  • It is incumbent upon us to understand and interpret Islam the way they have understood and interpreted Islam. No one will understand Islam better than them. Because the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was their teacher. If you learn about them, you will also learn about how they understood the deen of Allah.
  • If you read the biographies of the companions, you will learn that it is possible to develop totally distinct characters yet after following the same faith, the same book, and the same role model.
  • Reading the biographies of the companions will increase you imaan.
  • If you know the lives of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), you will be able to tell good stories to your children or your younger brothers and sisters when they ask you to tell a story.
  • You will come to understand and get a clear picture of what it means to have faith in Allah and His Messenger and the last day.
  • Islam has reached us through the sacrifice of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). So, how can we be apathetic about learning the lives of these great men through whom the mercy of Allah has reached us?

I hope and wish that after you read this post of mine, you put some effort to learn about the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). Here are some resources to help you in this regard:

Our belief concerning the Sahaba

Men Around the Messenger (ﷺ) [Very good book. I have read it]

Biographies of the Companions (Sahaba)

Biographies of the Rightly Guided Khalifa

Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him): His life and time

Umar (May Allah be pleased with him): His life and time

I have also prepared a quiz that you can use to test your knowledge about the companions. This post contains the first installment of the quiz. This quiz can be considered as a diagnostic test to determine where you stand regarding your knowledge about the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). There will be three more installments of this quiz, which you may use to see how much progress you are making (assuming that you will read some of the books that I have linked above).