As we bid farewell to another year, it is important for us to look back and reflect on our achievements, failures and challenges.
Muharram is the first month of the Hijri calendar and one of the four sacred months (the other three being Rajab, Dhul Qa’dah and Dhul Hijjah). Muharram is so important to Allah that He gave His own name to it (Shahru-Allah), something He has not done for any other month.
Many of us understand the importance of Ramadan but often neglect other holy months like Muharram. The fact is that these holy months offer us a wealth of opportunities to seek the mercy and favour of Allah, the likes of which cannot be found at any other time of the year.
“A year contains a limited number of days, which is what makes up our lifespan. When a day passes then a part of you has passed along with it. We are a body and spirit existent in a limited time period. When that period comes to an end, you come to an end. It is only those of sound intellect who realise the true value of time. Whatever anyone has achieved throughout the day that has not increased them in reflection and gratitude has missed the purpose and fundamental wisdom for which we were created” (Shaykh Habib Umar bin Hafiz).
Allah says “If he comes walking, I will come running to him” (Hadith Qudsi). The path of submission and devotion to Allah is a laborious one, strewn with thorns and scarped with potholes. There are vast spaces of arid deserts to cross as well as perilous jungles. It requires enormous courage and bags of enthusiasm to reach the destination. However, Allah is Kind and Caring, He does not leave the seeker of truth wandering in the wilderness. He comes to every sincere seeker, holds their hand and leads them on the path. The following verse alludes to this:
“Those who strive hard for Our sake, We shall guide them along on Our ways. Allah is with those who do good.”Ankabut: 69
This heralds good news for the passionate and enthusiastic believer as it helps to transform the torturous path into a path carpeted with scented roses. ‘Strive hard’, which commentators define as: ‘Jihad’ and ‘Mujahada’ meaning to expend whatever capability one has defending against an enemy. There is an external enemy and an internal enemy. To fight in the battlefield is jihad and to strive hard against Shaitan and the human ego is an even greater jihad, known as Mujahada.
The preposition ‘Feena’, ‘in us’ or ‘in our way’ excludes all those whose motives are other than the Divine path. The people who strive to gain Divine pleasure or countenance. A man once asked the Messenger (peace be upon him) about a man who fights in battle but for the name of his people, or his personal gain, he tells him there is nothing good in him, the reward is only for those who have no such ulterior motive. Those who are enthusiastic, passionate and yearning for divine pleasure, “Behold Allah is with such Righteous people”. He is their supporter, helper and guardian who is always with them. What a great honour! Those who spend their every joule of energy in Allah’s way are welcomed with open arms as beautifully described in this Hadith:
Allah says: “When my seeker draws a hand-span near me, I come an arms-length to him, when he comes near me an arms-length, I draw near to him two arms-lengths. If he comes walking I come running to him” (Muslim).
With such promises why shouldn’t the true seeker strive? The beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) would stand in the night vigil for so long that his feet would swell and start bleeding. His wife Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) could not bear to see this and would lament, “O Messenger, why do you do this? You are sinless!” He would reply “Shouldn’t I want to be a grateful servant of my Lord?”
How much time, effort and wealth do we expend in Allah’s way? We can measure the degree of our relationship with Him by quantifying our struggle. How well do you think you will fair on a scale of 1-10? Where 1 is the least effort and 10 the effort of our venerable ancestors. Make this your new year’s resolution to go up a few points.
The sacrifice of Ibrahim provides us with a beautiful example of serving the Lord. The wish to please Allah at any cost is a real challenge for us in an age of plenty and abundance. Can we control our carnal desires and work for the Divine pleasure? May Allah guide us and protect us. Have a happy and prosperous new year!