18: Take Time to Reflect


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This Ramadan…

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This Ramadan… I will reflect on Allah’s creation.

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When two of the sahabah went to Aisha (radiya Allahu anha), asking, “Tell us about the most unusual thing you witnessed from the Messenger of Allah,” she cried and said,

All his matters were amazing. One night, he came close to me until his skin touched my skin and he said, “Let me worship my Lord.” I said, “Wallahi, I love your being close to me, and I also love that you worship your Lord.”

So he made wudu’, but didn’t use too much water. Then he stood up in prayer and cried until his beard became wet. Then he prostrated and cried until he made the ground wet. Then he then laid down on his side and cried.

When Bilal came to tell the Prophet it was time for Fajr, he said, “O Messenger of Allah! What makes you cry, when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?” He said, “O Bilal, what are you saying! What would prevent me from crying when on this night, this ayah was revealed to me:

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ

{Certainly, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are, indeed, signs for men of understanding.} [3:190]

“Woe to the one who recites it but does not contemplate it.”

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** {Certainly, in the creation of the heavens and the Earth} [3:190] —

Referring to the sky in its height and spaciousness, and the earth in its expanse and density, and the tremendous, visible signs they both contain: rotating planets; seas and mountains and deserts; trees and plants and fruits and animals and minerals; and a world full of all sorts colors and scents and tastes.

{And in the alternation of night and day}

Think about how one follows and takes from the length of the other. At times, you’ll find either the night or the day becoming longer than the other; at times one will be shorter; and other times, you’ll find that they’re both the same length. And this same pattern of changing and altering is repeated again and again over the years, and all this occurs by the decision of the Almighty, the Most Wise. Which is why, at the end of this ayah, Allah says that in these signs,

{there are indeed signs for men of understanding}

Referring to the intelligent and sound minds that contemplate the true reality of things, unlike the mentally deaf and spiritually mute, who don’t contemplate and cannot comprehend. Allah describes these righteous people

** {Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides} [3:191] —

These people remember Allah in all situations, in their heart and in their speech and actions,

{and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the Earth}, —

Contemplating the signs in the sky and the earth that testify to the Might, Ability, Knowledge, Wisdom, Will and Mercy of the Creator. And the ayah continues, implying that these people say:

{“Our Lord! You have not created this without purpose”}

You did not create all this in jest and play. Instead, O Allah, You created it in truth, so that You would pay back those who do evil for what they’ve done, and reward those who do good with something better.

These faithful believers praise Allah and deny that He does anything in jest and without purpose, saying,

{“Glory and praise to You,”}

How far removed and above these things you are, our Lord. You would never create anything without purpose,

{“Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.”}

Meaning, “O You Who created the creation in truth and justice, O You Who is far from any shortcomings, far from doing things without purpose or in jest… save us from the torment of the Fire with Your Power and Strength. Direct us to perform deeds that earn us your pleasure. Guide us to doing good, righteous work so that You’ll enter us into Gardens of Delight, and save us from a painful torment.”

They go on with their du’aa and supplication, saying,

** {“Our Lord! Certainly, those You admit to the Fire, certainly, You’ve have disgraced him} [3:192] —

By humiliating and disgracing him before all people on the Day of Gathering,

{“and never will the wrongdoers find any helpers.”}

On the Day of Judgment, who would save them from You? There’s no escaping whatever fate You decide for them.

** {“Our Lord! Certainly, we heard the call of one calling to faith,”} [3:193] —

A caller who calls to faith, referring to the Messenger of Allah; this caller said,

{‘Believe in your Lord,’ and we have believed}

So they heard the call, and they accepted his call and followed him.

{Our Lord! Forgive our sins”}

Forgive our sins on account of our faith and obeying Your Prophet, forgive and cover them

{“and expiate our evil deeds”}

Forgive these things in private,

{“And make us die along with al-Abrar.”}

Join us with the righteous people.

And still, their du’aa continues..

** {“Our Lord! Grant us what You promised unto us through Your Messengers”} [3:194] —

Meaning, give us what You promised us through the words of Your Messengers, in terms of victory and success in this world, and Your Pleasure and Paradise in the next,

{“and don’t disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection”}

Don’t expose us before all creation,

{“for You never break Your Promise.”}

Certainly, the promise You conveyed to Your Messengers, which includes us being resurrected before You, will surely come to pass.

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It was the Prophet’s habit, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, to recite the last few ayahs at the end of Aal ‘Imran when he woke up at night for voluntary prayer, and it was these ayahs that — when they first came down, caused him to weep until his beard, and the earth where he made sujood, become wet.

[The above was taken — with some alternation — from the Abridged Tafsir of Ibn Kathir.]

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Action points:

Read the last few ayahs of Surat Aal ‘Imran, ayahs 193-200, in their original Arabic, contemplating on what Allah is saying in them. Read a tafsir alongside the ayahs, for maximum benefit. Better yet, memorize these ayahs, and recite them when you wake up at night for prayer.

— Know that some of the righteous people of the past considered it better to spend some time reflecting on Allah’s creation than to pray qiyaam all night. This is because it’s possible to go through the motions of prayer mechanically; but when you sit down to contemplate, you immediately engage your heart and mind in reflecting on Allah’s signs.

Reflect on your own creation. Realize that Allah gave us signs to reflect on, both in His Book, and in the world all around us, and even within ourselves.

Yes. Allah made countless signs inside us, in the creation of humans: in the chambers of our beating hearts; in the inner cochlea of our ears. In our senses and our ability to experience the world around us; in our unique ability to form words and produce beautiful, eloquent speech. Our skin and our flesh and our bones, our movements and our features, our personalities and characters and abilities, all coming together… “And We have certainly created man in the best form and stature” [95:4]

Spend time in nature. Don’t neglect your work or duties or worship, but take time to disconnect from media and its glaring screens, from the constant pull towards “entertainment.”

Go outside for a walk. Leave your phone at home. Sit under the shade of a tree and recite Qur’an. Go out at night this Ramadan to reflect on the stages of the moon and reflect over its phases and the passage of time (these nights, the moon is exceptionally clear to see, and it’s absolutely stunning, subhan Allah). Reflect on the sun – that star, that burning ball of fire – which Allah made a means for life on earth. Trees that grow from minute seeds to become many times their size, branches growing in all directions, twisting and turning to reach this sun. Birds and animals with species to amaze. A sky lit up and painted daily with so many breathtaking strokes of color.

Marvel at Allah’s creation and power and strength. Soak in the beauty of a world Allah created, all the while hoping and praying for what’s better and more-lasting in the Hereafter.

Flawless. Beautiful. Allah’s creation, ‘azza wa jall. Fatabaaraka Allahu ahsanul-Khaaliqeen, “Glory be to Allah, the Best of Creators” [23:14].

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