This renown man was a harsh man. The Quran changed him!
This mighty man doubted Islamic prophethood
He was raised harsh and tough by his father and eventually grew up to be one. Carrying his tall, muscular physique everywhere, people around had trembled many a time at his presence.
Possessing exceptional skills in wrestling and martial arts he was feared by many. Nobody in their right mind would dare to provoke him for fear they would suffer adverse consequences.
There were only a few men with such standing among the Arab Quraish. Umar, son of al-Khattab was one of them.
The news of some people embracing a new faith by the name of Islam upset Umar tremendously. He expressed his abhorrence of the new religion and partook in torturing those who deserted their ancestors’ belief to embrace Islam.
Umar’s active opposition to Islam disadvantaged the fledgling Muslim community who was the minority at the time. The Muslims were already in constant fear of persecution from the non-Muslims of the Quraish tribe. Now that the incredible Umar had waged in the Quraish fight, the oppression was only expected to intensify.
To sustain the Islamic da’wah Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) supplicated Allah:
“O, Allah! Give Islam strength through one of the men you love more: ‘Umar, son of al-Khattab or Amr, son of al Hisham (Abu Jahl).”
The Quran answered him
There was an event in Mecca, when Umar first encountered Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Mosque of Haram. This was also the initial moment of Islam entering his heart as he acknowledged it later.
The Prophet of Islam was praying before his very eyes, reciting the Quranic Chapter of al-Haqqah (the Reality). Umar immediately recognised the beauty of the recited verses :
“By Lord, this is poetry as the Quraish people have said” he exclaimed.
Right after that exclamation, the Prophet reached the 40th and 41st verse of the chapter:
“(That) indeed, the Quran is the word of a noble Messenger. And it is not the word of a poet; little do you believe.” (al-Quran 69:40-41)
Umar was shocked upon hearing this immediate response. Had that man of the new religion foreseen and foreknown what he would be saying? “He must be a soothsayer” Umar said to himself echoing the sentiment of his fellow Quraish unbelievers.
As Umar said that, the next verses were being recited by the Prophet (PBUH):
“Nor the word of a soothsayer; little do you reflect. (It is) a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.” (al-Quran 69: 42-43)
It is hard to miss the point that such a serendipitous moment of revelation was divinely orchestrated.
His sister had become a Muslim!
As the number of Meccans deserting their old faith grew, Umar became more agitated than ever.
Umar decided he must go and exterminate this “man who has disunited our people, cursed our gods and made fools of us,” as he expressed it to another Meccan man, Nu’aim.
He did not know that Nu’aim was already a believer in Islam as his conversion was not disclosed to the Meccan public. To rescue the Prophet from Umar’s deadly intent, Nu’aim tried to divert him.
“Why don’t you take care of your own house first?” Nu’aim questioned Umar.
Umar demanded Nu’aim to explain himself. Nu’aim revealed that Umar’s sister and her husband had secretly converted to Islam. In no time, Umar changed his direction to her sister’s house.
As he approached the house, his ears could capture the murmuring sound of the Quran being recited. He banged on the door loudly enough to shock the occupants and hastening them to hide the copies of the Quran.
He demanded to know if what he heard earlier was some Quranic recitations, but her sister denied it and told that they were only having a conversation.
“Have you become a Muslim?” Umar menaced her husband. He affirmed it and was consequently wrestled to the ground. Umar’s sister tried to stop him, but Umar hit her face, drawing blood. She stood up back to him.
How a tragedy became a blessing
Umar’s sister said:
“You enemy of Allah! You would hit me just because I believe in Allah. Whether you like it or not, I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger. Do whatever you will!”
Umar paused, holding his anguish and distress. He asked for the verses of the Quran he just heard to be recited to him.
“Ta, Ha. We have not sent down to you the Qur’an that you be distressed. But only as a reminder for those who fear (Allah).
“A revelation from He who created the earth and highest heaven. The Most Merciful (who is) above the Throne established. To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is on the earth and what is between them and what is under the soil.”
“And if you speak aloud — then indeed, He knows the secret and what is (even) more hidden. Allah – there is no deity except Him. To Him belong the most beautiful names.” (al-Quran 20:1-8)
Then, the eyes of Umar — the man of strength and severity — began to well with tears from listening to those beautiful words. “Is this what we were against?,” Umar asked. “The One who has spoken these words needs to be worshipped.”
Allah had indeed answered the Prophet’s supplication. Umar went to him straight away and declared his faith. “O Messenger of Allah, I have come for no reason except to say I believe in Allah and his Messenger.”
The Prophet was overjoyed. The Muslims were relieved. With Umar on their side, the effort of spreading the message of Islam could only advance.
That is just one of the stories of how the conversion of a great man became a great help to Islam and da’wah. The Prophet was delighted on having Umar. He would too if you come on board.
When Allah chose us to shine His light of guidance and to assist in His religion, no man would be able to prevent it.
When Allah chose a heart to be graced with His Words, no heart is too hard to Him, for He is the Creator and Bearer of our hearts.
What is Ibadah? It’s ‘slavery’, but that’s the best part of Islam.
This might be life’s eternal question: what is the purpose of our being here, alive in this world? What are we, and why we?
Being here in this world are we meant to be growing up, chasing our dream, leaving behind some legacies, and returning to earth ? That’s it?
Or are there a more ultimate purpose ? We need to be enlightened on this curious purpose?
Allah, the Almighty Lord and the Creator of us, sent down His Word to satisfy this eternal curiosity of mankind. And you know what? To your surprise, we are but ‘slaves’ in this world!
“And I (Allah) did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (al-Quran 51:56)
Ibadah: a Total Submission
In Arabic, the word ‘Ibadah’ means submission and surrender. The same derived word ‘Ya’buduni’ (translated as worshipping Me) is used in the said Quranic verse, grammatically to indicate current, common and ever-happening states, as well as the future.
Let us rephrase it for you: it’s total, absolute and eternal submission to Allah. In Islam, life is but a full-time ‘slavery’ to Him solely.
From that precept come the decreed acts of worship: the specific tasks we have to perform in our life as His ‘slave’ and worshipper. Among the well-known are the five daily prayers and fasting throughout the month of Ramadhan.
There are also the obligations to adhere to the ordained practices. Some of these pertain to character building (the akhlak) which encompasses enacting divine injunctions of ethics, principles, morals, and much more.
It is expected of a full-time ‘slave’ of a comprehensive religion to accept that Islam guides on every aspect of life as Allah decrees. These constitute principles that relate to the economy, politics, education, parenting, community, hygiene, research and the like.
Does it sound restricting? No, it’s liberating, in fact!
How can restricting be liberating? You might be interested in this infamous story in Islamic history during the battle of Qadisiyah. The Persian general, Rustum, requested from Rabi’ bin Amir, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, to shed light on their intention regarding the battle.
Rabi’ delivered to him a brief, inspirational declaration on liberating people through the ‘slavery’ of Islam:
“Allah has sent us to deliver whomsoever He wishes of mankind from subjugation to the creation to the servitude and worship of Allah; from the narrowness of the dunya (the world) to the vastness of the akhirah (the Hereafter), and from the injustices of (fabricated) religions and ideologies to the justice of Islam.”
Being a Muslim is to be liberated from being enslaved by other people. All people are the creation of Allah, hence worshipping the creations is a grave degradation to the nobility of mankind.
Allah is the only One deserving of servitude, not the aristocrats or the corrupt leaders who exercise control beyond what is determined by Him.
Being a Muslim is to be liberated from being a slave to the worldly life. The world is but a sowing land to be reaped in the hereafter. We should give our best in this life, but only for the purpose of gaining Allah’s pleasure and securing the best rewards in the hereafter.
In the end, the righteous deeds resulting from our worldly performance are what really matters, not those accomplishments themselves.
Being a Muslim is is to be liberated from being lost, wandering in this world without a purpose. Allah sent down the comprehensive guidance through the Quran and the Prophetic traditions. With these super guides other ideologies about life should be redundant.
Some consider liberation as an absolute right and sanction for them to do anything they think is good. It does not occur to them that they might end up trapped by their limited and fallible thought. By contrast, Allah offers an all embracing guide of life as befits the encompassing perspective and wisdom of a Supreme Creator, Designer and Arbiter.
“(Mention, O Muhammad), when the wife of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb as muharraran, so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” (al-Quran 3:35)
Commenting on the above verse, an Islamic scholar, Syed Qutb explained that the term ‘muharraran’ used here is derived from the root word of “freedom” or “liberation” — al-Hurr.
This term signifies that no one is truly free unless and until he devotes himself totally to God, and liberating himself from servitude to anyone, anything, or any value.
Thus the submission to Allah alone indicates total freedom. Any other situation is a form of slavery however it disguises under the name of freedom or liberty.
It’s a ‘slavery’ built on faith and love
Being a worshipper — a ‘slave’ — of Allah is to experience a relationship of pure love. We will discover a vast expression of Allah’s love for us: how concerned is He with every bit of our life affairs, how delighted is He to forgive us when we return to Him, how caring is He about our wellbeing that He persistently reminds us to avoid harm.
Allah sent down trainers — the prophets — to introduce us to Him. Sometimes He grants us with some trials and challenges so we would rely greater on Him and become stronger in our faith.
Allah never stints from giving us mercy and bounties, despite all the mistakes we have committed before Him.
Being His beloved slave, we portray our love to Him by worshipping Him and live according to what He has assigned us. We do everything in our life to please Him and try our best not to incur His wrath.
We bear strong faith in the destiny that He has written for us. At the same time, we give our best effort to make a great ending.
By virtue of our sincere devotion to Him, we hope that He will be pleased with us and prepare the best rewards for us in the Hereafter.
Ibadah in Islam — in all its established forms through all the deeds which we perform to please Allah — is the best manifestation of life. It provides us with the very purpose of life itself.
And one thing for sure, it is the best part that makes Islam worth accepting and embracing: the virtuous, direct relationship with Allah , the real Most Supreme Lord of the Universe that we won’t find anywhere else.
“Why does it seem like Allah doesn’t accept my du’a?” He reached to me, I almost couldn’t hold my tears.
I have just finished my Zuhr prayer when a friend of mine came by. One look at his haggard face and I knew he was not the usual, happy guy I used to spend time together with.
I could see worry, despair and disappointment written all over his face. He sat by my side, looked down and struck my heart with some heavy questionings.
“I’m so tired of asking from Allah. Why the deafening silence? Am I asking too much? Is my constant asking displeasing Him ? Why should my turning to Him displease Him? Why am I being rebuked after I gave all of my heart and soul submitting to Him?”
My heart trembled, my eyes welled with tears from listening to his cracking voice. He was just being honest about his feelings. Certainly, this was not the cheerful, happy-go-lucky guy as people used to know him. This is his inner self crying from the depth of his being, breaking, despairing and gasping for some air of hope from anywhere he could get .
As I tried to bring myself together, I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and said:
“You know, brother. Allah is so close to our being that He knows us better than anyone else. Allah is fond of our repeated appeals to Him because He made us so inclined. It is our fitrah to unwaveringly seek for His constant support. So how could He be displeased with our persistent dua – our cry for His rescue?”
As a lifelong friend, I had come to know him rather intimately — the ups and downs he had gone through, the heavy trials and tribulations he had faced, and how all this had made him a rugged survivor.
But now he is beset with nagging doubts as to whether Allah is really listening to him and granting what he had persistently asked for.
“Brother,” I patted his back. “There are three ways in which Allah responds to our supplications”:
1. Allah decides to grant us precisely what we asked for.
Sometimes, Allah does accept our request as it is. For instance, when we fell sick and prayed for Him to cure us. At the appointed time, praise be to Allah, we found ourselves in the pink of health again.
We might be in a financial crisis, and we knew that money never rain from the sky. And we have nowhere to avail ourselves of a quick fortune. So, We asked from Him. Suddenly someone appeared on the scene and voluntarily paid our dues.
We asked for the ease of heart after offering shahada and embracing this religion of Islam as our heart fluttered upon making that life-changing decision. Gradually, Allah granted us that ease.
2. Allah decides not to grant our requests so as to save us from a worse outcome.
We have been asking for a raise in our salary for some time already, but still, we returned home with a gloomy face on our payday. We began to wonder that since a pay raise is not a sinful thing to desire for, why isn’t Allah granting it to us then?
The truth is Allah knows us better than we do about ourselves. For all we know, had we been granted that ‘privilege’ of a pay raise we have been asking, we could be under severe pressure later — due to the heavier workload or responsibility that came with that salary raise — such that we would not be able to bear it.
Perhaps, we might also become conceited and forget altogether that Allah is the sole reason for all the blessings. For our own ultimate benefit Allah desires that our faith in Him to be preserved intact by not being traded with the fleeting worldly trappings. For indeed Allah is the All-Knowing beyond the boundary of time?
So, our supplication is virtually answered by His relieving us of what is a worse outcome and for which we ought, indeed, to be grateful.
3. Allah decides to defer our earthly reward for the ultimate recompense of Jannah in the Hereafter.
It feels like we have been asking forever. In the end, all we get is but the eternal prison of hope. The hardship remains until the end of our earthly time.
In such a predicament the right and wise thing for us to do is to stick with Him no matter how dark the tunnel of our life is.
Let our conscience be illuminated that by this tribulation Allah is answering our supplication with even a better gift – the ultimate, the eternal reward of jannah in the Hereafter. What could be a better victory for us than Divine forgiveness and Jannah as our homes? To think that after all the suffering that we had to endure going through this earthly life, it is unbelievable that we are finally reaching the best finishing line of our journey.
So instead of despairing, what we ought to say is “O Allah, forgive us for having bad thoughts of You. O Allah, grant us our Duas with what You know is the best for us. Amin.
May Allah grant us the strength and the wisdom to keep being steadfast. May Allah strengthen the heart and spirit of my friend, and the heart and spirit of ours too.