Assalamu alaikum (May peace be upon you all)
Being the most honorable creature, with intellect and will, Allah, the Most High, gave us responsibilities and sent us prophets and books to fulfill them. Life on earth can be divided in three parts; that which was, that which is and that which will be. We are often told we should only focus on the present, but learning from past mistakes is a crucial human skill for success.
Allah, the Most High, addresses us with a powerful question in His Book:
Have they not seen how many generations We destroyed before them which We had established upon the earth as We have not established you? And We sent [rain from] the sky upon them in showers and made rivers flow beneath them; then We destroyed them for their sins and brought forth after them a generation of others. [Qur’an, 6:6]
Through many prophets, the message of the Lord of the Worlds has been sent to all former generations. However, when they would transgress and large numbers would ridicule His signs, Allah, the Most Just, sent destruction upon them. Interesting is that the factor of time, dates, and often locations aren’t mentioned much in detail; focus is on the attitudes and characteristics of those people and communities and for us to learn which of those to avoid.
Allah Himself tells us to reflect upon their stories and fates and use them as fuel for our future! Don’t be of those who describe the Qur’an as tales of the ancients [Qur’an, 6:25] and discover action points from 3 generations and people from the past, insha’Allah!
1. As’haab Al-Feel: how to be beware of the dangers of status
Can you honestly say you don’t get affected by the amount of likes or followers you have? We’re constantly updating our ‘statuses’, sometimes even compromising our Deen while competing for more followers.
Shortly before Islam, Abraha built a huge church in San’aa, Yemen in an attempt to have the Arabs abandon the Ka’ba. Not only did he want to compete with the Ka’ba, he wanted to destroy it. Upon this incident Allah, the Most High, sent down Surah Al-Feel:
Have you not considered, [O Muhammad], how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not make their plan into misguidance? And He sent against them birds in flocks, striking them with stones of hard clay, And He made them like eaten straw. [Qur’an 105:1-5]
– Reflect on how important it really is to have a certain status on social media; is it real, what are you being liked for, and most importantly, will it benefit you in the Hereafter?
– Ask Allah, the Most High, to protect your Deen from seeking status while compromising His regulations and laws.
– Think about your role in your social network; are you being followed for the good you do, or are you being liked for actions or posts showing disliked deeds? Beg Allah to use you to inspire others to good deeds.
– If you are competing for likes and followers, at least don’t do so while ‘destroying’ others’ work or reputation.
2. The People of A’ad: how to fight pride
“That won’t happen to me….“, “I can buy whatever I like…” Sometimes without realizing, we act like we are ‘untouchable’. Just because we are generally wealthy, doesn’t mean we should use Allah’s resources without care, waste them and even worse not be grateful and thinking we won’t incur punishment.
A’ad is the name of (the father of) a tribe in the Arabian Peninsula and they were known for their giant and strong built and extravagant buildings (lofty pillars) as described in Surat-ul-Fajr [Qur’an, 89:6-8]. They were blessed with fertile land and abundant water resources and lived seemingly prosperous lives. However, they worshipped statues and Prophet Hud, peace be upon him, was sent to them who asked: Do you build high palaces on every high place, while you do not live in them? And do you get for yourselves palaces (fine buildings) as if you will live therein forever? And when you seize, seize you as tyrants? So, fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me. [Qur’an, 26:128-131]
They thought they had everything they needed: As for ‘Aad, they were arrogant upon the earth without right and said, “Who is greater than us in strength?” Did they not consider that Allah who created them was greater than them in strength? But they were rejecting Our signs. [Qur’an, 41:15] Instead of being humble and thankful to Allah, they not only ignored the Prophet Hud’s message, they even challenged him to bring them the Punishment of Allah. The Prophet Hud, peace be upon him, supplicated: “O my Lord! Help me because they deny me.” Allah said: “In a little while, they are sure to be regretful.” [Qur’an, 23:39-40]
Yet, Allah, the Most Wise, did not punish them straight away; He gave them chance after chance to turn back to Him through drought, famine, calamity and disease. They refused: ‘And when they saw it as a cloud approaching their valleys, they said, “This is a cloud bringing us rain!” Rather, it is that for which you were impatient: a wind, within it a painful punishment. [Qur’an, 46:24] And as for ‘Aad, they were destroyed by a screaming, violent wind. [Qur’an, 69:6]
– Look around and recognize where are the blessings you have come from.
– Look within, and work on bringing gratitude to your daily life. A simple exercise it to daily write down five blessings and ten (small) things you were grateful for that day. This habit will wire your brain to notice them more and more.
– Remind yourself to see set-backs, loss, and tests as guiding signs from Allah, Al-Lateef, the Subtle Guide, and ask Him to help you use them as reasons to repent and turn back to Him.
– Ask Allah, the Most High, to forgive you and protect you from pride and from using His Mercy as a license to self-indulge and be arrogant.
3. The People of Madyan: learn the source of all good
Is the way you make money pleasing to Allah? Are you honest in your dealings with people or do you sometimes bend things your way in order to get things done or achieve a certain material goal? It’s perhaps the world’s most famous cliche: money doesn’t buy happiness.
The people of Madyan, from an area which comprises current greater Syria, were known to be prosperous traders. Yet, they got carried away and were overcome by greed; giving short measures, making goods look better and hiding defects. They turned away from the truth and the Prophet Shu’ayb, peace be upon him, was sent to them. And to [the people of] Madyan [We sent] their brother Shu’ayb. He said, “O my people, worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him. There has come to you clear evidence from your Lord. So, fulfill the measure and weight and do not deprive people of their due and cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation. That is better for you, if you should be believers. [Qur’an, 7:85] The Prophet Shu’ayb, peace be upon him, reminded them there was no personal gain, yet they seized his and his followers’ belongings and drove them out. Then Allah, the Most High, sent His punishment: So the earthquake seized them, and they became within their home [corpses] fallen prone. Those who rejected Shu’ayb became as if they never dwelt there. Those who rejected Shu’ayb were themselves the losers. [Qur’an, 7:91-92]
-Reflect on your earnings; if any part of your work or business is against the rulings of Allah, beg Him to guide you to other ways.
-Whenever you engage in any new venture, or when you have to make any job- or business-related decisions, try to pray the Istikharah prayer.
– Educate yourself on Islamic trading and business etiquettes.
– Ask Allah, the Most High, to forgive you and your offspring and guide you in both buying and selling.
– Don’t let money get to your head and prioritize acts of worship. For example, balancing working and praying (on time). How many times do we think ‘let’s finish this deadline and then pray‘?
– Advise others when it comes to Islam and explain you don’t benefit from this in any material way, yet you do it out of love of Allah. Also, don’t always suspect people with good advice do so because they want to (monetary) benefit from you and learn to take in feedback.
– Bless your income and expenditures by giving charity. Make giving Sadaqah, however small a regular habit. For example, from every paycheck or profit, give an amount to charity. Also teach this habit to children; inspire them or even give them a little extra pocket money specifically designated for charity and let them choose the cause.
– Truly realize the source of all good is Tawheed.
O Allah, help us to effectively learn from the past generations and stories mentioned in Your Book and guide us in conveying them, ameen!
Praying you will benefit,
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Khawlah b. Yahya – United Kingdom
Khawlah b. Yahya founded SISTERS’ PROJECT in 2008, a United Kingdom based women’s support organization, the creative community lead in an art gallery and is a writer for different Islamic organizations and academies. She authored the renown How to Live by the Names of Allah Series, published by the Understand Qur’an Academy, as well as the internationally shared Revive a Sunnah Series. She focuses most of her work on how to translate classic Islamic Knowledge to daily life action. She recently released Personal Lessons from the Qur’an, in which daily life action points are based on Qur’anic Ayaat in a way that’s never seen before. You can purchase the E-book on: understandquran.com/product/personal-lessons-from-the-quran/