10: Towards Good


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This Ramadan…

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The Messenger, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam said,

Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like the rewards of those who follow him, without that detracting from their reward in any way…” [Muslim]

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Dear Umm Arwa,

Thank you so much for gifting me with your personal copy of Hisn al-Muslim, “The Fortification of the Muslim,” all those years ago.

We were in a hajj group together, back in 2002, and you pulled out Hisn al-Muslim one day in our tent in Mina – a bright, orange booklet, pocket-sized, with green and blue writing on the cover.

I sat nearby – so much of my time at hajj was spent in your company – and you peered up from what you were reading. “Do you have a copy of this?” you asked. I shook my head “no.”

I had no idea what you were reading; had never, until that time, come across the booklet filled with authentic phrases from the Qur’an and Sunnah: what to say during salah, what to say after salah; what to say when traveling and before sleeping; etc. Phrases for so many occasions, to keep us constantly connected with Allah, even while going through normal, everyday motions.

The look on your face when I indicated “no,” no I didn’t own a copy, was incredulous. How could anyone go through life without “The Fortification of the Muslim”?

“Here,” you said, handing me the orange booklet that was yours. You would pick up a different copy later, or maybe you had another at home. You paused your own worship for just a moment before pulling out something else and reading from there.

Umm Arwa, it is ten years later, and I still have your copy of Hisn al-Muslim. It’s my copy now, but I still think of it as yours, too. You might not recognize it if you were to see it today: its edges are frayed, the protective plastic covering has long-since peeled off, and the vibrant orange of the cover has faded over time. There are blue Post-it flags sticking out from some of the pages, and a few pencil marks (where I noted alternate wordings or additional information) pepper the insides.

I will not deceive you. My copy of Hisn al-Muslim could have been more used; and by now, I wish I’d have memorized more of it. Much of the wear and tear comes from simply throwing it into bags and purses, never wanting to leave the house without it, taking it with me wherever I go.

But you have no idea, Umm Arwa, how much I love my little orange booklet. How I have used it to remind myself of the du’aa for traveling and the du’aa for entering the marketplace so many times, passing the booklet around to friends so they could recite and learn the du’aa while out shopping, too.

In my third year of high school (and this was just some months after your small gift reached me), I would ride the bus to school. I got there half an hour before classes, and a good ten or so minutes before any of my classmates arrived. I would sit on top of my desk, pull out my trusty companion, and read my morning athkaar.

I often recited the last ten ayahs of Surat Aal Imran from there until I had nearly memorized them. (I have since put in the effort and can recite them from memory, alhamdulillah.)

There is a price tag on the front cover that reads, “1 Saudi Riyal.” That’s roughly 25 cents. But do you know how much your gift was really worth, Umm Arwa? If the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam said that every letter recited from the Qur’an is worth ten good deeds… how many letters are in the last few ayahs of Aal Imran… and how many hundreds of deeds lie in my reading those ayahs alone, bi’ithnAllah?

Umm Arwa… I write you this letter knowing it may never reach you in this world. I write it in a language you probably do not understand. But Umm Arwa, regardless of all this, I cannot express my thanks to you for deciding, on that day, that I really couldn’t go through life without my orange booklet any longer.

Thank you for the booklet, Umm Arwa. May Allah reward you immensely. And for a gift which you may not even remember giving, I pray you’ll be pleasantly surprised with mountains of deeds on the Day of Judgment.

Your Hajj-Mate from Ten Years Ago

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When I think of the things that have changed my life and the people who have affected me, I never cease to be amazed by how seemingly small, simple things, can make such a difference.

Yes, my life has been changed by famous shuyookh, and yes it has been changed by the books and works of classical scholars. But my life has equally been affected by the everyday people around me: A friend who does not teach classes, but who dragged me once to a weekend seminar that opened up a world of new knowledge for me. A stranger whose face I cannot remember, but whose gentle words moved me beyond measure, and made me understand how beautifully advice can and should be given (if only we would package our advice more beautifully, deliver our words with better manners, people would be more willing to take them). A hajj-mate who may never compile an Islamic resource on her own, but who selflessly gave me her copy of a booklet as soon as she learned I didn’t have one.

During his farewell sermon, the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam stood in front of his companions and said to them, “O Allah, have I conveyed (the message)? O Allah, have I conveyed (the message)?” to which his companions answered “Yes.”

So he told them, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, “O Allah, bear witness (that I have conveyed the message)! Let those of you who are present inform those who are absent; perhaps the absent will retain more than some of those present.” [Bukhari]

In some of his final words to his Ummah, the Messenger salla Allahu alayhi wasallam teaches us the importance of being conveyers of the message he was sent with.

You don’t have to become a world-renowned speaker or a famous author. You don’t need the bright lights and podium of a stage, a sea of heads turned in your direction, listening. Whoever you are, and in whatever situation you are in, convey some small amount of good. And what are any of us but simple conveyers of the Book and Message the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam was sent with? Could words more beautiful than “Allah said” and “His Messenger said” ever cross our lips?

It’s Ramadan, now, and people’s hearts are more open than ever to Allah’s guidance. Find a way to reach them. Encourage them towards good. Convey some small part of the message of Islam to them.

And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims.‘” [41:33]

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Since the time I was gifted my copy of Hisn al-Muslim, I’ve often wondered how people can go through life without their own copy of this invaluable booklet. If you’ve never come across it, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with it:

Hisn al-Muslim online: http://www.makedua.com/

Hisn al-Muslim for the iPhone: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fortification-of-the-muslim/id328660048?mt=8

Hisn al-Muslim in print, available in many languages: English | Arabic | Urdu

Better yet, buy yourself a few copies, and hand them out to people whenever you get chance. You never know what good may come of it.

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The doors of doing good are many. If you have any ideas for encouraging others towards good – especially in Ramadan – or stories of how someone else’s simple efforts affected you, we’d love to hear them in a comment below.

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