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ON hearing the word "first" what should immediately spring to mind is the obvious: basic, primary, obligatory.
But why should we think basic when we consider ourselves advanced? The reason is that nothing grows and flowers unless it is planted well and nourished with the right conditions. Right?
The first thing to do is have a proper attitude. In Islam, "deeds" mean actions and spoken words, and that includes attitudes. Passing thoughts are not accountable.
But an established attitude needs to be examined as it is defined in the dictionary to be: a settled way of thinking or feeling, and it influences a person’s choices and actions when taking up challenges, recognizing truths, seeking rewards, etc.
So how can we change negative attitudes into positive ones? The second ayah of the Qur’an speaks volumes:
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds
Al-hamdulillah – Believers are directed to praise Allah. All praise and gratitude is due to Allah from His servants at every moment of the day; our acute awareness of His favours known and unknown.
And then Rabb al-aalameen – the owner, controller, provider, caretaker of all His creation.
He is the Rabb, so why worry and distress ourselves?
This concept when properly realised brings about a change in attitude. We need to live our lives aware of His care under His ruboobiyyah.
Worship is due to the Creator alone with ikhlaas:
Say, "Indeed, I have been commanded to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion.
Learn the conditions for the acceptance of a deed, which are:
1- Sincerity, i.e., it must be done only for Allah, and
2- Correctness, i.e., it must be done according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Abū Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “The one who marries with the intent of not paying the dowry, is in fact a fornicator. And the one who takes a loan with the intent of not paying it back is in fact a thief.”
[Narrated by Ibn Hibbān and Imām Ahmad)]
Ibn Taymiyyah said,
“Without doubt, ikhlaas removes the cause for entering the Hellfire. So anyone who enters the Fire from those who said, 'Lā ilāha ill-Allah' proves that he had not implemented the sincerity of lā ilāha ill-Allah, which would have protected him from the Fire.” (Majmū' al-Fatāwā, 10/261).
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Allah the Exalted, has said, 'My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than what [religious obligations] I have imposed on him.'"
Some of these obligations are: Salah, Saum, Zakah, Hajj (if one is able), and abstention from everything forbidden.
Imam an-Nawawi went on to explain that it is unfortunate to observe habitual fasting and praying by night, along with careless disregard of such basic obligations as justice, truthfulness, kindness to parents and giving rights.
The next step is to understand ourselves. As humans we are a higher species than animals; beings that can think, feel and make choices.
We have certainly created man in the best of stature.
Allah created man in the best of forms, pleasing in appearance, and endowed with abilities, qualities, and intellect. It essentially implies that these favours have been given for a reason.
From them stems responsibility and accountability. The adjective form of human is "humane," which means kind, gentle, compassionate, understanding, tolerant and good natured. It is important to be humane first. But are we? If not a re-haul of our attitude is necessary.
We Must Keep Our Body Fit
We must eat from halaal food and not from food that was earned in an unlawful way, for it harms the very foundation required to purify the soul.
We need to eat, dress, clothe and behave while keeping in mind our purpose in life and the limits as outlinedٌ for us by our Creator.
And if you should count the favours of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Ibn Jareer said: "This means that Allah is Forgiving when you fail to thank Him properly, on the condition that you repent and turn to Him in obedience, and strive to do that which pleases Him. He is Merciful to you and does not punish you when you turn to Him and repent."
We Must Build Character
This means no lying, no cheating, using polite language, humility, respect for elders, and sensitivity to humans, animals, plants – i.e., all living beings.
It requires a value system based on Islam, not self-aggrandisement and pride in terms of lineage or the power, position, wealth, status, etc. that the world offers on a platter.
Allah hْas told us:
Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.
Abu Dharr al-Ghifari reported that the Prophet ﷺ said that his Lord said,
"O My servants! I have forbidden dhulm (oppression) to Myself, and I have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another…"
It was related on the authority of Abu Sa'id, Sa'd bin Malik bin Sinan al- Khudri that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
"Let there be no harm [to anyone] and no harming [ in reciprocation]."
This hadith is the basis of many fatawa. Harm is prohibited in every form, both to the self and to others, and avoidance of all that is harmful. To take someone’s right unlawfully is a major harm and should not to be ignored, as is damage to reputations and injury to feelings.
Break Through The Difficult Pass
Allah has said:
We have certainly created man into hardship.
This world is not a place of comfort and ease for man. He strives to survive, get his needs, and achieve his goals. His life is a process of continued exerting that never ends until he meets his Lord.
But he has not broken through the difficult pass. And what can make you know what is [breaking through] the difficult pass? It is the freeing of a slave. Or feeding on a day of severe hunger an orphan of near relationship or a needy person in misery. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right.
Keep Worry And Fear Under Control
For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah.
No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things.
It means whoever suffered an affliction, knew that it occurred by Allah's wisdom and decree, and then patiently awaits Allah's reward – Allah will guide his heart and will compensate him for his loss in this life by granting him certainty in faith.
Allah will replace whatever he lost for His sake with the same or what is better. Ibn Abbas said this means he will know that what reached him could not have missed him and what has missed him could not have reached him.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, "Amazing is the affair of a believer. There is no decree that Allah writes for him, but is better for him. If an affliction strikes him, he is patient and this is better for him. If a favour is granted to him, he is thankful and this is better for him. And this is only for the believer." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Take Care Of Your Family
Teach your family the religion and good behaviour. As Allah said:
O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones.
It is an obligation for the Muslim to teach the family members of his household and his male and female servants what Allah has made obligatory and what Allah has forbidden.
The first word revealed to man was "Iqra" which means "recite" or "read.”
Read in the name of your Lord who created – created man from a clinging substance. Read, and your Lord is the most Generous – who taught by the pen – taught man that which he knew not.
The Prophet ﷺ, and through him mankind, is ordered to read, i.e., to seek knowledge in the name of Allah from the Book of Allah. Then later he is told to ponder, to reflect on the verses being read or recited and to comprehend its concepts.
This leads to faith based on clarity and understanding. The Prophet ﷺ said,
"Seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim."
Proper learning requires dedication, perseverance and purpose. To progress from sharing bits and pieces of unauthentic or a mixed hash of information from the internet to a proper study from authentic books and sources. Qur’an and Sunnah must come first.
Just as water sustains the body, knowledge gives life to the heart.
Grasp The Essence
Abu Bakr is said to be the best of the companions because of his strong imaan. Abu Bakr bin Iyaash said,
"Abu Bakr was not better than them because of his many prayers, or because of his fasting, but because of something that firmly took root in his heart."
[Fadaa'il as-Sahaabah, by Imam Ahmad, 1/173]
The secret of our striving in this life is to find out what our Rabb wants from us at every moment and stage of our lives and then do it. And we should work towards the same for all people.
Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:
"None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself."
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Only a single minded focus to change the present lethargic, casual, selfish, everything goes type of attitude to an attitude of: "I want to know the Truth, all of it, endeavour to live it, keep it as top priority, and then remain steadfast on it and spread it" will heal the cancer of doubt, biased thinking, lack of basic knowledge and consequently, selective obedience.
Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.