Birthday – Happy or Not?

Birthday-party-candlesSalim was over joyous; he had just reached home after submitting the application form for one of the most difficult exams, the ACCA. “Wow! I am going to be a certified professional this year!” and then a brilliant idea struck him. “Why don’t I call all my friends over for an exam party?” After doing all the planning in his head he made the calls. Everyone was so eager to have another day to celebrate. While he spent the next two days going in and out preparing for a grand get-together his mother watched worriedly.

“Salim! Are you OK? You should be calling them over to study; your exam is just a month away! I have never ever heard of anything as absurd as an exam party!” She pleaded anxiously. “You are supposed to celebrate after you succeed in the exam, are you sure you are going to clear it when you haven’t even touched your books?!”

Salim ignored his mother, “Mom, it’s the trend these days, everyone does it! Please don’t be so backward! Besides it’s a good thing to make others happy and we are celebrating to thank for this blessing.”

His mother felt like crying. What can I do?

 

What do YOU think? Have you ever heard of such a pre exam party? No?

Well… I have! Read on…

“Afnan is turning 15 tomorrow! Masha Allah she is growing up so fast! I’ll call all her friends and aunts for a surprise party.”

The next day when Afnan opened her facebook account she was shocked to see so many notifications. “Happy Birthday Afnan” they had all wished. ‘Oh’ she remembered.

On her arrival at home she was even more surprised to find that her relatives and friends had come over to celebrate her birthday. It was a day full of wishes, hugs, gifts and a grand cake. To celebrate the day she entered this world…

Can you relate between the first and the second scenario? No? Well…Read on…

We all live according to our views and perspective about life. The non-believers regard this life as everything; enjoy it to the utmost, enjoy it while it ends. For them this is the time to gain all that they can; to them there is no hereafter.

For a Muslim on the other hand life is a serious matter, it is a responsibility that they shall be accountable for. Life is a tough exam; based on the curriculum of Quran, Seerah and Sunnah. It is a journey on a thorny road to Hell-fire or Paradise. A Muslim is not free to do anything and everything that they desire. They willingly bind themselves in the boundaries set by Allah, so that they can be free in the eternal life; in the gardens of Paradise, near their Lord who is pleased with them. When a Muslim enters this world, their assessment begins.

Prophet Muhammad SAWS explained the reality of this world in a beautiful parable. He said: “The world is a prison-house for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer.” (Sahih Muslim)

With this in mind, does celebrating birthday really make sense? Does it make sense to rejoice on the commencement day of your examination each year? Have you ever seen a prisoner partying the day he entered his prison cell? No! The reason to celebrate will only come afterwards…

This is why we see the best generations of Muslims far from such celebrations. We never hear the Sahaba, the tabi’en or later scholars celebrating various days; Badar day, Fatah Makkah (conquest of Makkah) day or Ahzaab day. Instead we read about them being hasty in racing after good deeds, seeking forgiveness and wishing they were birds and trees from the fear of accountability before Allah.

The History

One of the gifts of colonialism and media is the rising tide of western values and culture which has brought with itself their futile celebrations. It is the nature of human beings that they copy those who overpower them with a sense of inferiority. Same is the case with Muslims today, having forgotten their own glorious civilization they are ready to accept everything being handed down to them by the west.

A little research will show that birthdays were originally celebrated by the pagans, the pharaohs and the ancient Greeks to honour their ‘gods’. Even the Christians believed it to be a pagan celebration and admonished it at first, until in the 4th century they themselves started celebrating the birthday of Isa AS. It is a celebration rooted deeply in shirk (polytheism).

“Lighting candles on a birthday cake originates from pagan beliefs in gods. People had believed that their gods lived in the sky among the stars. Lighting candles or torches during ceremonies were a way for people to send messages and prayers to the gods. Making a wish and blowing out the candles on the cake personified the idea of sending prayers up to the gods. Germans were recorded putting candles on birthday cakes over 100 years ago. The number of candles on the cake represented the age of the birthday honoree. Blowing out all the candles in one breath would give your wish a better chance at coming true.” (http://history.answers.com/language/the-history-of-birthdays)

Stand Apart – From those who Disbelieve

The Prophet SAWS warned us about imitating the non believers. He said: “He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.” (Abu Dawud; Sahih).” In every sphere of life he wanted us to be distinguished from the non-believers. He once said: “Act against the polytheists, trim the mustache closely and grow the beard.” (Sahih Muslim) At another point he said: “Act differently from the Jews, for they do not pray in their sandals or their shoes.” (Abu Dawud; Sahih)

These are some of the many examples from ahadith that instruct us about not imitating the non-believers in their customs, traditions and celebrations. We the Ummah of Muhammad SAWS are a distinct nation.

The irony is that the non- believers, as a whole, continue to oppress and support the oppression of Muslims throughout the world. Countless children, women and men are their victims each day. Whereas, turning a blind eye to this, Muslims are busy in celebrating the days and events borrowed from them.

So, the next time we wish someone on their birthday, or think of celebrating it let us review the purpose of life in our minds. Let us take pride in our exclusive 1400 year old Muslim identity and culture given to us from the Lord of the worlds. Let us be the trendsetters for the world and not let the tides set our course. Let us distribute to the world the true perspective of life. Let us stand apart – from those who disbelieve.

May Allah make our best day the day we meet Him. Ameen!

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Story: Was I Being Ungrateful?

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Streaks of sunlight streamed in through the red velvet curtains. Lost in her thoughts, Sameera was busy scribbling away in a diary.

“The lonely rose,
Jolted in misery and gloom,
Darkness all around,
My fate is never to bloom…”

She loosely constructed some verses of poetry to empty out the cries of her aching heart. She could no longer bear it. “Why are my prayers not answered? Why am I destined to never achieve what I desire? Why?” There were so many unanswered questions circling inside her mind. She had racked her brain on the monthly budget this time to manage saving for a few extra things she wanted. Three new sweaters and a pair of sandals for Bilal, a new dress and handbag for herself, a cutlery set and a few other accessories; the list of things she had made will have to be postponed for yet another month. Bilal, her two year old son was down with fever and all her savings ended up with some clerk in the medical stores.

Sameera could picture her sister in law, Raheela, boasting about her tableware. She could imagine her friends swaggering about the attire of their children. “Oh! I choose the best for my chipmunks! Sadaf so wanted this frock and I didn’t have the heart to refuse.” She recalled one her friend’s remarks. Anger, frustration and self-pity stewed inside her heart. The poor soul thought about how she would feel out of water among all the other fishes as they discussed their shopping sprees. Sameera would just have her lips tightly closed. She had nothing to tell. At times, the others would quip about the number of times they had seen their comrade in the same clothes, carrying the same handbag and wearing the same shoes. Their memories were sharp enough to remember what she wore months back in the wedding of a distant cousin.

“Why??” she mumbled aloud. “Life is terrible!” Sleeping on the bed beside, her husband could now hear the sound of muffled cries. He knew his wife too well to wonder what must have gone wrong. He, with the caring nature he had, tried his utmost to provide the best for his family. However, the winds were bitter and despite all his efforts the needs in such a society never end.

A tiny finger tugged at the end of her shirt. “Kids will never let you sit in peace”, Sameera sighed and turned to the darling face. It was Bilal wanting to cuddle in the heavenly spot that heals and comforts; his mother’s lap. Overcoming her previous feelings she started ruffling his curls and rummaged for the thermometer. Alhumdulillah, after copious wakeful nights, Bilal was now recovering.

“I am going to meet an old friend of mine, Sameera. It has been a long time since I met him. Do you want to come along?” Asim asked as he was getting ready to leave the following day.

“I don’t want to ruin another evening with a snooty woman boasting around me. I’ll just stay home I guess.”

“She won’t be that way I hope. I’ve heard her to be very simple.” He assured.

After a quiet twenty minute drive, the three of them arrived at the gate of a fairly old but well-kept house. Brother Ismael welcomed them inside. His two sons whom she assumed were identical twins jumped up and down in excitement, they wanted to shake hands with a sleepy Bilal. Sameera was lead inside as the men settled themselves in the guestroom. All the while the woman in her was doing the same job she detested. Those eagle eyes scanned everything in the house from top to bottom; the furniture and their polish, the curtains and their rods, the carpet and upholsters. Nothing was as grand, as new or as perfect. However, the house-keeper deserved an extra mark for neatness. A plump little lady greeted her as she entered the lounge. She was holding a baby in the other hand. “Whoa!” Sameera exclaimed instinctively. The sofa had sunk as she tried to sit down. “Oh I’m sorry! You may take this chair over here; the kids have broken the sofa springs!” Asiya smiled and offered an arm chair. Sameera noticed that the baby did not appear normal. He was a mentally disabled child.

The table had been set for tea beforehand. Spicy egg sandwiches, biscuits and a delicious looking cake were waiting to be tried over. The host poured out tea as the two of them introduced. A vigorous tête-à-tête followed; it was all about children, food, family and the town. All the while the woman was patiently tending to the child, as well as her two naughty twins who kept interrupting from time to time for a biscuit, or to tell that daddy needed something.

“How old is your daughter Asiya?” Sameera asked inquisitively.

“Five years.” She replied with a smile. That warm smile looked as if it was fastened to her face.

“Hmm…I feel so sorry for you Asiya. I see you are having a real tough time.” said Sameera.

“Sorry? There’s nothing to be sorry for. Ahumdulillah! I am so blessed. I have food in my fridge that can last for more than a week, I’ve a ceiling over me to safeguard and I have a loving family. There’s everything I can ask for. And this dear little daughter over here, she is the greatest blessing of all. She reminds me of Allah! What if in her absence I never turned to Him, never prayed to Him and just cascaded away in the luxuries of this world?

I know what you mean though; at first I felt the same. But then, it was a small incident that changed the whole perspective. It was as if someone took my dust covered glasses and rubbed them sparkling clean.”

Asiya paused to take a lavish sip of tea. Sameera was listening intently. “I was waiting for the bus one evening.” She continued. “My eyes fell on a shabbily dressed lad probing through the garbage bins. His face and hands were covered in dirt. Wash his face, change his clothes and he was as charming as a prince, with the beautiful blue eyes that he had. He was stunningly handsome, I repeat. All of a sudden the boy shrieked with joy. I kept looking on; he had found some rotten fruit to eat. I most unconsciously followed him to his so called home. I don’t know what to call it; it wasn’t even a proper tent, just a few tattered pieces of cloth tied together. More than fifteen people were living there. All of them dressed in rags, eating leftovers thrown in the garbage and fighting like chickens over stale bread. Obviously they had no beds, no kitchen ware, there was nothing at all! I’ve seen poor people all my life but that instance just crept inside my heart and decided to stay. Being a teenager, I was in those days craving for a new cell phone, but seeing them made me forget all about it. For days these people stayed hooked on my mind. I thanked Allah for all that He blessed me with. It is true; sometimes in life we are so busy looking uphill that we forget the view below us….”

Sameera listened quietly as she reflected on her own state. The forlorn heart that lied inside her was in such dire need of this reminder. “Yes”, she thought to herself, “the sweaters can wait; the older ones are still as good as new. The new cutlery set I wanted was just a luxury. The dress Mama gave me last month will suffice for the upcoming wedding…” she was reviewing her list. This was not a list of needs; it was a list of wants. She reminded herself of all the bounties she had been blessed with, they were immeasurable! Contentment and bliss engulfed her heart.

“Alhumdulillah, indeed you are right.” She replied with a nod.

Sameera blinked away a tear that had crept up silently. Do I really not have enough? Or was I being ungrateful?

[This story won in the Islamic Writer’s Alliance Islamic Fiction Story Competition 2013. http://islamicwritersalliance.net/ifwnr_adult_2013.html%5D

Unmatched Love….!

keep-calm-because-allah-loves-you-2Yesterday, just as we began  taraweeh behind Salih’s youngest Chacha and he began reciting verses from Surah Kahf, Salih came up to me and started asking for ‘sharbat‘. In his innocent and tired voice he continued his chant, on verge of tears: ‘ammi sharbat dai dain…ammi sharbat dai dain‘ throughout the lengthy two raka’ahs – not even stopping once! I knew he was tired running around and playing all day, and must be thirsty not having drunk anything in a while.

None can appreciate a mother’s feeling but a mother, and this very special bond can only be understood when you’ve stepped into the world of motherhood! My heart was liquefying as I stood there, waiting for the prayer to end. Those few minutes seemed to go by so sluggishly. The only thing on my mind at that time was to give him a drink!

In the morning I related this to Salih’s father and  he said: “You, as a mother, really wanted to answer him and fulfill his desire, then think about Allah who loves us more than seventy mothers, He surely listens to us and will answer our prayers….Insha Allah!”

SubhanAllah! This realisation is so soothing….Allah the All Hearing(Al Samee’), The Most Near (Al- Qareeb), The Most Loving (Al-Wadood), The One aware of all our fears and concerns, our weaknesses and trials, won’t He answer our prayers? Be assured! He sure will, for His love for us is more than that of seventy mothers combined. His love for us is……love unmatched!

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And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” [Surah Ghafir 40:60]

“Any muslim who supplicates to Allah in a Du’a which contains no sin, breaking of kinship, Allah will give him one of three things: either his Du`a will be immediately answered or, it will be saved for him in the hereafter, or it will turn away an equivalent amount of evil (from him)” The companions said “so we will ask for more”   [Tirmidhi, Ahmad]


[Part 2] The Gates of Mercy….Now Open!!

[…continued from here.]

2. Patience = Allah’s mercy!

Mentioning His Sunnah about trials and tribulations Allah (swt) says in Surah Baqarah:

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Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided. [2:156-157]

Patience during trials is another source of Allah’s mercy. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or loss of a beloved possession, whether it is a trivial test of everyday life or a greater affliction comes upon you, endurance and patient perseverance is what Allah wants; it is the key to His mercy.

Ramadan too is the month of patience, as our Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has said:”This is indeed the month of patience, and the reward for true patience is Jannah.”{Nasai-Bayhaqi} In Ramadan we go through a training program for patience, restricting ourselves and controlling our desires itself entails patience. This endurance does not only require us to keep away from food and drink but also to restrain our eye from watching whatever displeases our Beneficent Rabb, restrain our mouth from blurting out Haram, our ears from hearing that which Allah forbids and our feet to drive us to places that are displeasing to Allah.

The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” [Sahih Bukhari]

Sulaymân b. Mûsâ [d119H]  said:

When you fast, your hearing and sight should also fast, and your tongue should fast by keeping away from lies; and do not harm your servant. Don’t let the day you fast be the same as the day you don’t fast. [Tarikh Damishq]

3. Repentence:

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And when those come to you who believe in Our verses, say, “Peace be upon you. Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy: that any of you who does wrong out of ignorance and then repents after that and corrects himself – indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah An’aam 6:54]

The ayah mentioned above relates that” whoever repents from the sins he has committed, intending not to repeat them again and turns towards a rightful life, Allah out of his compassion and beneficence will forgive him. Allah loves that His slaves turn back to him and He has obliged His Most Honored Self to grant mercy.”[Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

The Messenger of Allah said: “When Allah finished with the creation, He wrote in a Book that He has with Him above the Throne, `My mercy prevails over My anger‘.” [Musnad Ahmad]

If we’re tracking on the path of Allah’s wrath, now is the time, and Ramadan is the prime time to turn back to Allah. The mercy of the Merciful is flourishing in Ramadan and performing righteous deeds is relatively easier, why not then return to Allah?

4. Ihsan

Allah Almighty says in Surah A’raaf:

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Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.[7:56]

The characteristic specified here for availing Allah’s mercy is Ihsan. This, like many others, is a special terminology of the Quran which is used for a higher level of Imaan. According to a Hadith, Ihsan is worshiping Allah as if you can see Him and keeping in mind that He is watching you. This way a person stops himself from doing everything that displeases Allah and races towards good deeds, searching and seeking them wherever they can. This is Ihsan, doing what is best and in the best possible way.

In Ramadan, when the gates of Jannah are open;i.e, the opportunities of righteousness are abundant, we must aim to collect as many rewards as we can from the showering blessings of Allah. When rewards are multiplied and fasting is singled out for an even greater reward.

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be rewarded between ten and seven hundred fold. Allaah said: ‘Except fasting, for it is for Me and I shall reward for it’” – i.e., I shall reward it greatly, without specifying how much.[Muslim]

This greater reward depends on the quality of our fast! The Husn (beauty, goodness) of it. So let us struggle and work hard to make this Ramadan meaningful….a Ramadan with the power to keep us charged for the whole year to come! A Ramadan of Transformation!

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The Gates of Mercy…Now Open!!

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The month of Ramadan is fast approaching. 30 days, 720 hours, 43200 minutes of Allah’s mercy, forgiveness and blessings. The gates of Jannah are open for all, the gates of Hell fire are closed and the devils are chained. It is our ‘bonus’ month of the year for collecting hasanaat(rewards), renewing faith and re-building our relationship with the Quran.

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:

When there comes the month of Ramadan, the gates of mercy are opened, and the gates of Hell are locked and the devils are chained. [Sahih Muslim: Kitab us Saum]

Am I Worthy?

The admission test of a college/university is open for all, a number of candidates appear on the test, but then, only those students are admitted who prove their merit. Similarly, Quran is an open book; a guidance for all mankind[ھدی للناس]. However, only those having taqwa qualify to benefit[ھدی للمتقین].

In the same way, the gates of mercy are open wide in Ramadan, but one will have to take a step towards them. They’re open does not mean everyone will have a definite share. What we collect depends on our intentions and efforts!

Before Ramadan I tried to mark all the places in the Quran where Allah has mentioned the ones worthy of his mercy. Up till now I could only do this for the first ten para’s. Insha Allah I’ll share these highlighted verses so that we can endeavor to gain the mercy of the Most Merciful and Beneficent in these blessed days, under the light of Quran.

1. The Scripture is a Mercy:

Allah(swt) says about the Quran in Surah Yunus:

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O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers. Say, “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.” [10:57-58]

In Surah Nisa, verse 174-174, Allah says:

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O mankind, there has come to you a conclusive proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear light. So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path. [4: 174-175]

In Surah An’am, Allah says:

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And this [Qur’an] is a Book We have revealed [which is] blessed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.[6:155]

In ayah 157 of the same surah Allah (swt) has again defined Quran as ‘clear evidence from your Lord, and a guidance and mercy.’

In Surah A’raaf, Allah says:

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And We had certainly brought them a Book which We detailed by knowledge – as guidance and mercy to a people who believe.[7:52]

In Surah A’raaf, verse 63, Allah says that Nuh (alayhi salam) proclaimed to his people:

7_63Then do you wonder that there has come to you a reminder from your Lord through a man from among you, that he may warn you and that you may fear Allah so you might receive mercy.[7:63]

In the passages that follow Allah says about Torah:

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And when the anger subsided in Moses, he took up the tablets; and in their inscription was guidance and mercy for those who are fearful of their Lord.[7:154]

Ponder over these Ayat and you’ll clearly see that Allah has termed his message; the previous scriptures and Quran as a mercy for mankind. In the profound darkness of ignorance Allah’s message came as a savior for human kind leading them out to the light of Tawheed, to the goodness of this world and the hereafter.

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For this ummah Quran is the life line; the tool for salvation. Through this book Allah arranged for our guidance. This book is actually the reason that makes Ramadan so special! Ramadan is as Noman Ali Khan puts it ‘the month to celebrate the inauguration of the Quran’. The night of Al Qadr, better than a thousand nights has this special status because of the Quran. Hence, the most important goal in Ramadan is to revive our connection with this book. Spend quality time with this merciful and compassionate friend. A friend that will hold hands and guide, touch our heart and cleanse it, remind us and show us the right way. A friend that will accompany through hardships and ease, the only friend who’ll be there for us in the grave.

Quran indeed is a mercy from Allah. This Ramadan let us struggle to open up our hearts, minds and souls to gain as much as we can from this blessing.

Our Goal: Recite, reflect, act and spread….the Quran!

[To be continued… we’ll explore more paths to Allah’s mercy Insha Allah!]

The Choice….

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One is a murky, gloomy and dark night; full of grief, frustration, torment, hardships and an incessant struggle. Yet, you’ve knowledge that as soon as the first rays of dawn emerge in the horizon, your troubles and labour will turn into joy and eternal bliss. There will be no worry, no pain, no sorrow, not a single millisecond of tiredness. The morning will bring you out in a world of complete and pure, everlasting pleasure; in the world of heart rendering beauty and abundant luxuries, valleys and palaces of gold and silver, diamonds and pearls. Delectable and luscious ready-to-eat delicacies served by the most handsome and mannerly of servants. Moreover, all your knowledge about this day is just a trailer, there will be more to come, much more than you expect; things you’ve never seen or heard of, things you are incapable of imagining!

Contrary to that, there’s another night. A lively and lovely night where in you can enjoy to your utmost limit, play around, entertain yourself and have fun. Do whatever you want and in any way that you want. It’s full of laughter and luminosity, freedom and enjoyment. However, the moment this night is wrapped up by the proceeding day you’ll enter a world of suffering and pain; torment that will never end and a fire that will never extinguish. Excruciating and never-ending agony; this is what the morning will have in store. Cries and screams, bugs and serpents, fire and fire! (O Allah! Save us from it!)

You have a choice between how you wish to spend your night. The morning is bound to come, it’s just around the corner….the meeting with our Rabb is destined. Now, the choice is yours….

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“Whoever should hope for the meeting with Allah – indeed, the term decreed by Allah is coming. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”[Surah Ankabut 29:5]

Food for Thought

An Excerpt from ‘The Sealed Nectar’ mentioning the battle of Uhad. It has some lesson for us all!

In reference to the duel that took place before battle it states:

Then it was Shuraih bin Qariz who was killed by Quzman — he was a hypocrite who fought for prestige only, not in defence of Islam. Abu Zaid ‘Amr bin ‘Abd Munaf Al-‘Abdari lifted the standard up but he was killed by Quzman too. A son of Sharhabeel bin Hashim Al-‘Abdari hoisted it again and was also killed by Quzman…..

When mentioning the martyrs of battle the book states:

Qazman, who was found among the wounded, fought heroically, and killed seven or eight idolaters. He was weakened by the wounds he had sustained, they carried him to the habitation of Bani Zufr. The Muslims gave him glad tidings of the Paradise. But he said: “By Allâh I have fought out of a zeal to my people. Had it not been for that I would have never fought.” When his wounds worsened he committed suicide. The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) had already said whenever he was mentioned to him: “He is an inhabitant of Fire.” This is the end of those who fight for a national cause or in a way other than that of raising up the Word of Allâh, though they fought under the banner of Islam or even in the army of the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) or of his Companions.

The last four lines by the author are noteworthy! Something we don’t pay attention to…Qazman was a hypocrite who fought only for the sake of his tribe, he fought courageously in the front line alongside the best of people, killed seven or eight of the disbelievers and yet Rasusullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said that ‘he was in fire’! Reason? Fighting for something other than the religion of Allaah! A Tribal/National cause…! Allahumma A’azana min Zalik!