70 Excuses

20150921_000012

Link to Book: Prayers For Forgiveness – Hasan Al-Basri

There are few books I’ve read like it.

Every line resonates so deeply. The pain. The struggles. The humanity. It’s as if you’re inner thoughts and feelings are speaking out to you as you read each prayer begging Allah to forgive you. But what is most striking is the realisation of who penned these words: the saints who impressed the great Al-Hasan Al-Basri.

(23) O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for every sin upon which I embarked, thinking well of You—that You would forgive me for it and not punish me. I thus audaciously continued in committing it while relying, with my knowledge of Your generosity on You not to disgrace me after having concealed it for me.

So send blessings and peace, O my Lord, upon our Master Muhammad, and upon the family of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, and forgive my sin, O Best of those who forgive!

To think that men universally acknowledged to be friends of Allah (awliyaa) could write words like these really strikes a chord. Whilst we rightly place them on a high pedestal, we forget to recognise that they were human too. As you read the litanies, you witness the out-pour of their humanity; these were people who struggled with the same tribulations we face.

But in the recognition of their flaws and the outpouring of their guilt, the greatest doors of acceptance and mercy were opened to them in return.

(28) O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for every sin that I committed in solitude during my night and my day yet You lowered over me a covering so that none besides You—O All Compelling One—could see me engaged in it. My soul thus fell into confusion, and I wavered between abandoning it out of fear of You and committing it out of good hopes in Your mercy; but my lower self-adorned it for me such that I boldly committed it, though being aware that, in doing so, I was disobeying You.

So send blessings and peace, O my Lord, upon our Master Muhammad, and upon the family of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, and forgive my sin, O Best of those who forgive!

The past few months have been really hard. Every time a wave subsides, a greater one comes crashing in. Whilst shaytaan whispers his devilish tricks, the nafs whines and groans at the restraint you try to place upon it.

Your soul plays endless tricks on you to convince you to slip. It trivialises the sin, building false analogies to convince you that this is insignificant. It tells you stories of great predecessors who reformed themselves after terrible sins, highlighting that you could reform yourself after. It reminds you that God’s Mercy is far greater than any sin you could do, manipulating you to do as you please from your own twisted understanding. It convinces you that no one is watching, ignoring the greatest witness of all: Allah.

(20) O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for every sin in which I gave preference to my base desire over Your obedience and my passion over Your command—thus I contented myself with Your wrath and subjected myself to Your displeasure, though You had forbidden me, presented Your admonition to me, and established the proof of it to me through Your warnings [of punishment in Your revelations]. I seek Your forgiveness, O Allah, and repent to You.

So send blessings and peace, O my Lord, upon our Master Muhammad, and upon the family of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, and forgive my sin, O Best of those who forgive!

But as you read through each prayer, your thoughts are laid bare before you. Every excuse you have uttered is there. You thought you could justify it, outsmart Allah, yet there it is, written by people who went through the same before you. The book of 70 prayers is in fact your list of 70 excuses…

You break down…

How could you be so gullible? How could you think something so clearly wrong was ever going to be ok?

(29) O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for every sin that I took to be petty but You took to be grave, that I deemed to be small but You deemed to be great, and in which my own ignorance embroiled me.

So send blessings and peace, O my Lord, upon our Master Muhammad, and upon the family of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, and forgive my sin, O Best of those who forgive!

But in that moment a moment of respite comes. People far greater than me wrote these words as they suffered the same problems, yet they overcame their struggles and were accepted as friends of Allah (awliyaa). Through Allah’s subtle mercy, He has brought forth the pheonix of hope and from the ashes of your repentance. Your admission of guilt has only brought the mercy of your Lord, guiding you to turn over a new leaf.

The Remedy

My teacher, Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf (may Allah preserve him), gave an enlightening exposition in his lesson on certainty (yaqeen) from book 1 of Imam Ghazali’s Ihya Uloom Al-Deen. When asked about how to overcome this perpetual state of sinfulness, he pointed towards the keystone in the bridge of forgiveness; acknowledgement. Many of us recognise a sin conceptually. We know what is right and wrong in theory. In fact, we even know what the remedy is in most cases. All those blogs we’ve read, programmes we’ve watched and classes we’ve attended have told us what to do. Yet, for many of us, when the theory is put into practice, we struggle to apply all that we have learned in the reality we face.

Acknowledgement is more than just a theoretical appreciation of the truth. It is a branch from the tree of certainty (yaqeen) which we place in our Lord in order to shape our thoughts and actions. This certainty can be understood to cover 3 key components, each of which is a step toward remedying the problem:

  1. Conviction 
    How much conviction do we have in our belief? If God is telling us something is impermissible, are we willing to accept that entirely, or do we place our own desires ahead of that such that subconsciously we believe our judgement to be better than Allah’s? Compare this with the certainty we place on receiving our salary at the end of each month, on waking up after sleeping or on the ability to urinate when going to the bathroom. Each of those has an element of doubt, yet we treat them with more certainty than than the words of God we claim we accepts as fact. Our conviction in God should be greater than anything material, as He is the causer, sustainer and provider of all things and nothing can be without Him.
  2. Evidence
    How many examples can we sight to strengthen our conviction? How many times have we indulged our gluttony and lay regretful afterwards? What good has drunkenness brought any of those who consumed it? The more knowledgeable you can build to understand the wisdom behind the conviction, the more likely it is you can uphold it when the trials come.
  3. Consciousness
    How present is you certainty within your consciousness? Everyone may acknowledge a fact as true, but its constant realisation at the front of the mind is another matter. Everyone is certain of death, yet people are at varying degrees as to how conscious they are of that reality. Keeping a constant awareness of the certainty of God at the front of the mind will prevent one from slipping into a sin

When seeking to remedy a sin, we must consider each of these 3 elements to shape our thoughts and decisions. We must first acknowledge the truth that this sin is bad for us, recognising that God is neither benefited nor harmed by our actions. His only reason for asking us to abstain is for our own benefit. This awareness has to be certain in each of the 3 aspects listed above.

When we struggle with a sin, we should not only remember our conviction that God is All-Knowing, but we should bring forth many examples of where this has proven true in the past and make this awareness at the forefront of our consciousness. Remember the remorse you felt the previous time it happened. Imagine the consquence if your sin was exposed. This certainty should drive your appetite to believe that abstaining from the sin is better for you and, in turn, curb your desire to do it. Bringing all this to the fore of your consciousness and trusting in Allah is the driver behind the change.

Perspective

One of the most fascinating verses in the Qur’an explores the human psychology of sin, highlighting alcohol an gambling as key examples

2_219

They ask you [Prophet] about intoxicants and gambling: say,
There is great sin in both, and some benefit for people: the sin is
greater than the benefit.’ They ask you what they should give: say,
‘Give what you can spare.’ In this way, God makes His messages
clear to you, so that you may reflect
[Al-Baqarah, 2:219]

It is important to recognise your whims and desires appetite to indulge in the sin. The nature of the nafs is that it will resist your efforts to subside it. It will glorify the benefit and belittle the harm. The Qur’an acknowledges this by highlighting that there is indeed some benefit in such impermissible things, but that the harm far outweighs the benefit of these.

When desire overcomes us and we seek to indulge once more, having certainty in God’s judgements, realising the great harms than benefits and placing that in the front of your consciousness is the remedy we seek.

Time

One final component is key: time. Humans seek instant change, yet very few can attain this. Try your best to make the change you wish, but if you fall, recognise that time will remedy you. Do not fall into despair in feeling you cannot overcome this addiction, but place your hope in Allah that He can help you ride the wave next time it comes.

However, be careful not to confuse this with the wilful negligence that often accompanies sin. Time is an attribute of change, not a condition. Do not use it as an excuse to indulge in the sin once more, because it may be that this moment is when the wrath of Allah strikes.

(26) O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for every sin that leaves grief on its heel, that causes remorse, that holds back sustenance, and that prevents acceptance of [my] prayers.

So send blessings and peace, O my Lord, upon our Master Muhammad, and upon the family of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, and forgive my sin, O Best of those who forgive!

Thought Path

Diagram outlining the though process and the essential role thought plays

Life is a test, and Allah has forewarned us that we will be tested to see our true faith in Him. Take comfort in that you are not alone in your struggles, and place your Trust in the One who will never let you down!

And May Allah make it easy for us all. Ameen!

———————————————-

Imam Hasan Al-Basri

Imam Hasan Al-Basri, may Allah be pleased with him, is universally accepted as being from the foremost of the Muslim community in piety. Born in 21 AH, He was brought up in the house of Umm Salama (radhiallahu ‘anha), wife of the prophet ﷺ, and shared the company of many of the great Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum). With his knowledge of the Qur’an and Hadith he excelled many of the learned men of his time.

Thabit ibn Qurra says, “In his learning and piety, forbearance and restraint, frankness and large-heartedness, insight and sound judgment, he resembled a bright star.” The reason Hasan al-Basri’s words carried weight with his audience was that he was not simply a preacher, but a man with a noble disposition and soul. His speeches had a magnetism that no other mentor or scholar of Basra or Kufa could attempt to surpass.

Whenever he lectured on the hereafter or described the days of the Companions (radhiallahu ‘anhum), the eyes of his audience would be seen brimming with tears. When he passed away on Friday 5th of Rajab 110 AH, at the age 89, the entire population of Basra attended his funeral, so that for the first time in the history of Basra the Jami Masjid of the city remained empty at the hour of the Asr prayer.

The 8 Saints

The prayered were received in event which took place between Imam Hasan al-Basri and eight men he met in Arafat. He narrates his own story as follows:

I had always wished to see a friend or dear servant of Allah, either while awake or in a dream, so that I could ask him of a need of mine, until one year, while I was standing in Arafat at noon, I suddenly noticed eight people by the Arak (trees) in the vicinity of the Valley of Numān facing the Mount of the Valley of Sakharāt. I resolved that they are the ones I was seeking, so I approached them and greeted them, to which they responded most cordially. Among them was elderly man whose face Allah had illuminated and its brilliance was ascending into the horizon. I sat with them and felt little in myself when I observed the calmness and tranquillity they possessed within them.

Then one of them stood up, made call for prayer, and then made the call to commence. At this the elderly man proceeded forth and led them in prayer. I prayed with them, and I knew that there was no prayer – nor would there be any- recorded in my book of deeds with a value like this one.

After the prayer, he faced in the direction of Kàba and then said: “For Allah is abundant praise” I did not hear him say anything other than that. I feared that my opportunity to be with them [and benefit from them] would pass, or that they would soon leave me, so I said to the one next to me “By Allah, the One Who has chosen you, how have you achieved this [great] status and [moral] excellence?” His face changed, and he opened his eyes [in surprise], upon which the elderly man said to him, “Whomever Allah guides, he is truly guided. Show him the way; may Allah have mercy on you.” So the one beside me said to me, ‘I used to recite the prayers of forgiveness that save from the Hellfire’ during three nights.” I asked as to exactly what these prayers were and in which nights they were recited? He said, “I recite them on the nights of the seventh, ninth, tenth of Dhū’l Hijja, and if the one reciting them really knows what he is reciting and what words he is uttering, it is incumbent upon Allah to provide him with security on the day of great grief [Judgement Day], and to distinguish him with [His] mercy and friendship.” I said, “Teach me these prayers; may Allah Most High have mercy on you.” So he said to me, they are….

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s