Worship with Understanding

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“As-salámu ‘alaikum wa rahmatul láhi wa barakátuh!”

“A-úthu billáhi minash shaytánir rajeem. Bismilláhir rahmánir raheem.

Al hamdu lillahi nahmaduhu wanasta’eenahu, wanastagh-firuhu, wanatoobu ilayhi, wana’oothu Billaahi min shuroori an-fusinaa, wamin sayyi aati a’maalinaa. May- Yahdillahu fa huwal muhtad, wa may- yudlill falan tajidaa lahu waliyan murshida. Wa ash-hadu an Laa ilaaha ill-Alláh, wahdahoo laa shareeka lah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhoo warasooluh”

All Praise is due to Alláh, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Alláh, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Alláh, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad, sws, is His servant, and His messenger.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem! Ya Ay-yuhal-latheena ‘aamanut taqul-laaha, haqqa tuqaatihee wala tamu tun-na, il-la wa antum Muslimoon.”

O You who believe, – Fear Allah, as He should be feared, and die not except as Muslims.

Ya Ay-yuhal-latheena ‘aamanut taqul-laaha, wa qooloo qawlan sadeedaa. Yuslih-lakum a’maalakum wa yaghfir lakum thunoobakum, wamay yu-til-laaha warasoolah, faqad faaza fawzan atheemaa.”

O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory.

My respected brothers and sisters,

Our worldwide family of Islam, the Muslim Ummah, is over one billion strong. How many of us speak Arabic as our mother-tongue? Do you know? Can you guess? The answer is less than 20%. To be precise, it’s 18%. That means that the vast majority of Muslims, 82% including you and me, are non-Arabic speakers. We must make a special effort to understand what we read in the Quran and what we recite in salaah, du’ah and dhikr.

Brothers and Sisters, I hope no-one will take offence, and I mean no disrespect to anyone. But I have to say that too many of us do not appreciate the importance of understanding the meaning of our salaah, our du’ah and dhikr. We’re quite satisfied to recite without knowing the meaning, without caring to learn the translations. I’m sure Allah swt enjoys listening to us reciting His holy Words with such tremendous passion, with meticulous pronunciation of every haraf in [tajweed]. But, how much more will Allah swt not appreciate our efforts, if we actually knew what we are saying? Imagine, we are speaking to Allah in the most elegant language of the Quran, our lips are moving and creating the most beautiful sounds, but our thoughts and our feelings are disconnected because we don’t really feel the full impact of what we are saying. We don’t really understand. And sadly, many of us make no real effort to understand. We should all make an effort to learn Arabic. And if we find that too difficult, we should at least memorise a few short suras in our own language. If only we could think about the meanings when we recite the Arabic, then we could put meaning and feeling into those beautiful and soul-stirring words. If we did this regularly and systematically, then the true power and influence of Allah’s sacred words will touch our hearts. And when this happens, it will change us, it will transform us from what we are to what Allah wants us to become.

Brothers and Sisters, if we can allow Allah’s words to polish our hearts and improve our actions, then I guarantee you, Allah will enable us to put right many of the problems we see around us in our community and in our wider society. It must begin within ourselves, as Allah will not change our condition until we change what is within ourselves. Let us make a start, by learning the meaning and reciting with feeling, passionate feeling, our salaah, du’ah and dhikr.

I must admit, I was a big man in my 20’s when I first understood the meaning of the words that we say several times a day when we pray:

“Innas salaatee, wanusukee, wamahiyaaya wamamaatee, lil Laahi Rabbil aalameen”

“Truly, all my prayers, my sacrifice, my life and my death is for Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.”

When I realised the meaning of those words, I thought, Wow! That’s heavy stuff! I never knew that I was taking on such a huge responsiblility every time I made my salaah! I was actually promising and re-affirming that all my prayers, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah! These words cannot be taken lightly. It’s a complete, lifelong commitment and it affects everything we say and do. And you know, the more we think of the meaning, the more our salaah our du’ah and dhikr will change our lives for the better. Imagine if we really understood every du’ah and every dhikr and we reflected deeply on the meanings. This understanding will generate a complete transformation in the way we think and feel about ourselves and our responsibilities to others. True faith, true iman, does not enter someone’s heart without improving it, without beautifying it. So, if we want our lives to be improved, to be beautified, than we can begin by learning the meanings of all that we recite in Arabic with so much skill and elegance.

If you want proof of this power of Allah’s words to transform human beings from half savages to leaders of great civilisations, then look to the history of every people before their contact with Islam, and afterwards. This is what happened to the sahaaba so many years ago, and to all the awliyah-Allah, the Friends of Allah, throughout the ages. They understood every word of their salaah, du’ah and dhikr, so that they could put meaning and feeling into their worship. They could be absolutely sincere to Allah swt. Unless we know what we’re saying, feeling and doing, our efforts will lack complete sincerity.

So, for those of us who do not speak Arabic, let us make a sincere effort to memorise the meanings of our salaah, du’ah and dhikr. Let us think and reflect on these meanings so that our hearts can be moved and our behaviour improved. This will bring us closer to Allah swt. Thinking, reflecting and contemplating the words of Allah is highly recommended in the Holy Quran. Those who do so are referred to as “yatafak-karoon” or, people of understanding.

These inspiring and soul-stirring words come from the last verses of Sura Al-‘Imraan:

“Inna fi khalqis samáwáti wal ardi wakhtilá fil laili wan nahári la’áyátil lil’úlil albáb.

Allatheena yath-kurúnalláha qiyámaw wa qu’údaw wa ‘alá junúbihim wayata fakkarúna fí khalqis samáwáti wal ard, Rabbaná má khaqta háthá bátilan. Subhánaka faqiná athában nár.

190 “Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding.

191 Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting and lying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth (with the thought): “Our Lord! not in vain have You created (all) this! Glory to You! give us salvation from the penalty of the fire.”

In Islam people who think and reflect are highly valued above those who simply follow without thinking, without reflection and therefore without insight into the deeper meanings of life. [Check Malik Badri’s book] “Contemplation is worth much more than xxx nights of prayer….”

All praise is due to Alláh, the Lord of all the Worlds; may the greetings and peace be upon the best messenger, Muhammad, the unlettered prophet; and upon his family and upon all of his companions. Amma ba’ad, And, after this,

Behold, Alláh and his angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask for blessings on him, and salute him with a worthy greeting.

O Alláh! Send your greetings upon Muhammad and his family, just as you sent your greetings on Abraham, and his family. O Alláh, send your blessings on Muhammad and his family, just as you blessed Abraham and his family. In both worlds, you are praiseworthy and exalted.”

Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen. Was-salaatu was-salaamu alaa Khairil mursaleen. Muhammadin-nabeey-yil Ummiy-yee, wa-‘alaa aalihee, wasah-bihee, aj-ma’een.

Ammaa ba’ad:

Innalláha wa malaaikata yusallúna alan nabi. Yá ay yuhal latheena ámanu sallú alayhi wasalli mú tas leema. Allahumma salli alá Muhammad, wa ala áli Muhammad, kama salayta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali Ibrahim. Allahumma barik ala Muhammad, wa alaa áli Muhammad, kama barakta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali ibrahim. Fil ála meen, innaka hameedun majeed.”

Part Two:

Sub’ hanallahi wal hamdu lillah, wala hawla wala quwwata illah billah yu althi yual theem.

“All glory is for Allah, and all praise is for Allah; There is no power and no strength except with Allah.”

Brothers and Sisters, let us through a deeper understanding of our faith become those whom Allah calls, yatafak-karoon, ‘­people who contemplate,’ people who reflect, people who understand.

I ask Allah to give us all some of his divine wisdom, hikma, so that we have a light to illuminate our way through the confusion in the world out there. May Allah help us and all our future generations to know and love the beautiful Way of Islam. May we all hold fast to the rope that Allah extends for us. May we all set a good example for others, a justly balanced community, ummatan wasatan, and a witness to the nations [Quran 2:143]

Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing [2:127]

Rabbana taqabbal minna innaka antas Sameeaul Aleem

O my Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous [25:74]

Rabbana Hablana min azwaajina wadhurriy-yatina, qurrata ‘ayioni wa-jalna lil-muttaqeena Imaama

Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. [59:10]

Rabbana-ghfir lana wa li ‘ikhwani nalladhina sabaquna bil imani wa la taj’al fi qulubina ghillal-lilladhina amanu

Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful. [59:10]

Rabbana innaka Ra’ufur Rahim

Our Lord! In Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal [60:4]

Rabbana ‘alayka tawakkalna wa-ilayka anabna wa-ilaykal masir

Ameen. Aqeemus salaah!

3 June 2007 and 7 August 2015