Al-Kitab Club: Our Thoughts on This Month’s Book

If you’ve ever wanted to delve into the Seerah of the Prophet but didn’t know where to start, this book is for you!

Title:

Muhammad (PBUH): his life based on the earliest sources

Author:

Martin Lings

Rating:

5/5

Quick summary

This book details the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), starting from before he was born until his death in 632 AD. As stated in the title, it covers the story of his life by referring to the ‘earliest sources’ and presents an accurate and authentic picture of his life course. Beginning with context of Makkah and the tribes residing there, the book proceeds to cover all of the fascinating components of the prophet’s life, including: his birth in Makkah (570 AD), the descent of revelation when he reached the age of 40 (601 AD); the hijra (emigration) to Medina (622 AD), battles such as Badr (623 AD) and Uhud (625 AD), the conquest of Makkah (629 AD), and finishing off with the death of the Prophet (632 AD) and his succession.

Comments on the style

The book skilfully utilises dialogue, causing it to be engaging and appear to present a very realistic portrayal of events. The level of detail and realistic description is brilliant and allows the reader to almost feel as if they are living the experiences as they read them. The book utilises short chapters, with descriptive titles which help to signpost to important events in the Prophet’s (PBUH) life, allowing the book to be clear to follow at all times (e.g. ‘The Year of Sadness’, ‘The Entry into Medina’). The fact that the chapters are very short, although there are a lot of them, adds to the ease of reading the book as the reader does not feel overwhelmed by lengthy chapters filled with historical information. The author’s writing is captivating and is effective at drawing the reader into a story that, to its incredible credit, is entirely based on records of real events.

Personal insights

Reading about the Prophet (PBUH)’s life and his interactions with the people in it, highlighted aspects of his character which acted to increase my love and admiration for him. He treated everyone in his life with the utmost respect and kindness and was a constant calming influence on those around him. He was an entirely devoted and charitable member of society, and everything that he did was done with excellence. He touched the hearts of so many people, to the extent that those in distant lands would simply hear of him and instantly wish to be around him. Furthermore, I was able to gain a greater appreciation of the love of the companions for the Prophet (PBUH) – seeing the way that those who actually knew him and interacted with him would revere him and hold him in such high esteem was enlightening. As described in the book:

“those who were with him were always loath to leave him. Nor could they have been blamed if they stayed, for when he spoke to anyone he would turn to him so fully and make him so amply the object of his attention that the man might well imagine himself to be privileged enough for liberties which others dared not take” (page 214).

Final thoughts

Martin Lings was able, using his various sources, to package and present the magnificent story of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in an easy to read, detailed and engaging book. Anyone can read and learn from it, and it is a perfect introduction to the life of one of the most important figures in Islam. It will leave the reader with a greater appreciation for the Prophet’s (PBUH) life and story, and ultimately leave them wanting to find out more.

Let us know what you thought of the book in the comments below!

Coping with Injustice: Strike Your Stick Like Musa (AS)

Every time we turn on the news, scroll down our Facebook feeds or listen to the radio it seems as though all we hear about are stories of oppression, war, crimes, poverty and disease. When one crisis is over, another one emerges. News nowadays seems to be just that…bad news.
For many of us, the more aware we are of all the injustice going on, the more we find ourselves struggling with our faith. So how do we remain hopeful when there is so much global injustice?

We’ve all been asked the question by a non-Muslim. How can you believe in a God who allows people to suffer? The answer is by allowing ourselves to see a different perspective, that injustice is a means to deepen faith, not make us question it.

If we reflect on the creation of heavens and the earth, we have day and night, summer and winter. Allah has built balance into the universe. He says balance exists in everything.
When shaken, the system shifts towards balance again.

This ‘balance’ exists within everything but there seems to be no balance at all in human affairs, there is an inconsistency.

Everything else has a cyclical balance however all the injustice in this world seems to be unbalanced, there’s always all this ‘bad’. Always.

Unlike a storm which is followed by the calm or a harsh winter which is followed by summer. If all the injustice in the world was to become balanced, imagine what it would take for example, for the oppressed to no longer be oppressed, the poor to longer be poor and for the ill to regain their health. It would take a corrective phenomenon for us to achieve the same balance that exists within our universe.
So, therefore, how can anyone not believe in the Akhirah when there is so much injustice? We have to believe that this balance is in the Akhirah.

How do you live otherwise?
How can you not believe that there will be justice, when there are so many tyrants getting away with doing horrible things?
It is not logical to not believe.
Let this deepen our faith, the fact that there is an Akhirah where we are all held accountable for our actions. Subhanallah.

We are servants of Allah and we are Khalifas. We are told to ‘stand firm as witnesses to justice’. Ignite in your heart a passion for Akhirah.

On a smaller scale, the same goes for the way we react to outcomes in our life. We depend on our means, we want results straight away but we are told in the Qur’an to ‘work for justice’. The Qur’an does not tell us to bring about justice. We are not held accountable for outcomes, can you imagine if we were? Allah is the Most Just and the Most Merciful. We are only held accountable for that which we can control, which is our intentions and our actions.
So, do not worry about what may happen or that which we cannot control. Let injustice in this world deepen faith.
Let’s strive to not marry ourselves to means and outcomes because the sooner we realise we do not have any control, maintaining hope becomes so much easier.

We can look at Musa (AS) for example. When Musa reached the Red Sea, the tyrant army were in pursuit and his people were being unhelpful.
But how did Musa respond when the odds were against him? When he was faced by this sea with an army in pursuit and his people, who he was trying to save, were being unhelpful and growing impatient?

Did he doubt Allah in that situation? Did he once doubt Allah?
He said, ‘I have my Lord, He will not forsake me’.

And Allah responded. But did He just fix the problem? No, He commanded Musa to strike his stick.
And what happened? Subhanallah, when Musa struck his stick, the sea parted and they could cross to safety.

But why did Allah ask that? Allah did not need Musa to actually strike his stick  in order for the sea to part. The stick is not what caused the sea to part, Allah did not need any help.
Rather, it was an order from Allah to His servant. All Musa had to do was have faith in Allah and strike his stick. And Musa did, without question.
In the same way, you and I are servants of Allah.
We are told to work hard and do our best.
We all have to strike our stick and know that whatever the outcome is, it is from Allah.
We do it because we obey Him. That is all we are asked.

Strike your stick.

Just do your best, believe the best in Allah and forget about the outcomes because we are only held accountable for that which we can control.

And the sooner we realise this, that’s when we can maintain hope when things are difficult and when things don’t go our way. We don’t lose hope. We realise that it is all in Allah’s control. Allah sees the injustice.

“Whether you conceal what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allah knows it. And He knows that which is in the heavens and that which is on the earth. And Allah is over all things competent.” Surah al-Imran [3:29].

Revert stories: The only Muslim in the village

This week we got the opportunity to interview Sherrie, an MA Translation and Interpreting Studies student from Malpas, who reverted to Islam. The interview was wonderfully insightful and it really gave us a much better understanding of the life of reverts to Islam!

Please do read this interview right up to the end, because trust us, it’ll really enlighten you on so many things!

How old were you when you accepted Islam?

I had just turned 26, it was around 2015 time and I said it with a couple of friends of mine. I was in Saudi, Riyadh. We went out for a dinner and I told them that I was considering converting. I was at that point where I was ready. One of them, she was so excited (this was like in Eid ul Adha time), and she was like you know, you should say it these days, it’s really good! You should say it now! And yeah, so she walked me through it and I said my shahada then.

How did you become interested in Islam?

Well I think it’s hard to attribute the sort of catalyst for my interest in Islam to one particular cause. You know my conversion story isn’t one of those dramatic, you know, I was a wild child then I stumbled across it one day? No, it’s not like that, rather it’s like multiple moments of significance along the way have sort of culminated into a well thought out conviction.

So firstly, I had been a practising Christian for basically all of my childhood although my family isn’t practicing Christian per se. I also had this desire to become close to my creator. I’ve always wondered about why we’re here, why the world is how it is, you know?

I’ve always had these questions about creation and I always accepted that there was one god, so from a young age and growing up in a very sort of white British village, the way that was available, to sort of explore religion, was by going to church.

But then when I was around 19 I went to Morocco. One of the girls on the course was a Moroccan Muslim and she was a very good ambassador for her country and her religion. She was very hospitable and [always] inviting me to stay with her and her family and I guess I had a sort of exotic experience, hands on, of a Muslim country and a Muslim family and I found it quite alluring. So yeah maybe that was kind of the most tangible catalyst if you will.

And following on from that, I lived in Spain for another period of time. One particular Muslim I ended up getting engaged to and I guess when I was in a relationship with him I thought, right if I’m gonna marry this guy I need to know what he properly believes in and what his expectations are because y’know, I’d just heard people warning me like, be careful, Muslims [etcetera], so I was like lemme go find out about what it is he believes in, what it is that his religion says, because I just didn’t buy into the idea that Muslim [equals] bad, like the rhetoric.

And then fast forward a little bit, I went to Egypt and made friends with an Egyptian girl, she was such a good ambassador for her religion. I never liked the idea that we were different because at that time I was very much practicing the Christian faith. I had been baptised actually in that year and I was very fervent in my practices so praying in the morning and reading bible [etc] but then I saw her praying 5 times a day and I just found that dedication really inspiring and encouraging and I guess it sort of lured me in, that commitment.

I ended up getting a job in Saudi Arabia. Seeing the dedication and seeing that people’s lives would stop in the day just to worship god and to pray and to give thanks, I wanted a piece of that you know? And again, Allah placed another crucial figure in my path, who is still to this day my closest friend. [Through her], I saw how there were other ideas in Islam that I also found favourable. I can’t exactly think of the exact ones right now. But yeah, I guess I just found that through discussion with her and through learning more about Islam, where Christianity had questions that were left unanswered, Islam had them.

And then fast forward a little bit more, I went to Cambodia. I think its important that at that time I was like on my own, I didn’t have any influences from people at church, people back home or the church group that I used to attend in Saudi. I didn’t have influences from Muslim friends, or the Muslim culture that I was living in in Saudi. I was in a Buddhist secular country, on my own, with no influences from outsiders so yeah.

I was also spiritually feeling like the ways that I was trying to reach to god and get that closeness weren’t working. And actually, I remember I was thinking about how Muslims pray and how they get down into the position, at the time I didn’t know what it was called, sujood, and just bowing. I had known from reading the bible that Jesus himself, peace be upon him, had also prayed like this. And I just thought, maybe this is what I need to do to humble myself, to get myself into that position of prostration. And yeah so, I was actually praying, making dua, in the way that I knew how at that time, and then I got down into prostration and yeah like, I guess the feeling of humility and connection was even present then.

And then fast forward a little bit more, I had applied for another position working in Saudi Arabia. And when you apply for another job in Saudi Arabia, you need to get a work visa and, on the application, you have to state your religion. Um I left that box on the form unticked for like 3 days because I was like I’m not technically yet Muslim but I feel like I’m becoming Muslim, but I don’t wanna put on the form that I’m Christian but then I also haven’t made that change yet officially. So, I guess yeah I could sense that I was coming to Islam and I had read and heard sufficient information about the practice and the beliefs, to make that step but there was still something holding me back.

And now I can say that the thing that was holding me back was the fear of how I would be accepted by my family, by my friends, by my society, by those who knew me, whether or not they were close to me. And the fear of what are people going to say? What are people going to think? How am I going to be accepted by people? That was what held me back.

And so, for the time being, I selected Christian on the form. Then when I went back to Saudi as I mentioned before, I took the decision while I was with friends, made the shahada and alhamdulillah since then I haven’t looked back.

How did you tell your family about your conversion to Islam?

So, for a while I didn’t like ‘come out’ for want of a better term, to my family or my friends back home. I would say that it took a few months until I was able to come out to people back home.

And I guess one of the toughest things was dealing with my mum who was very ill towards the last couple of years of her life because she asked me one day. She came out with this, she said ‘Sherrie, are you Muslim?’

And because of the way that she had spoken before, I mean she’s not prejudiced per se but I guess it’s one thing being friendly and accepting of other people and other religions but it’s another thing when your child decides to, in her eyes, reject what she had been following all of her life and change to a different religion. So, I think my mum, she probably saw it as though I was turning away from everything. I obviously didn’t want to upset her because she was ill, but I also could not denounce my faith so I just kind of very diplomatically said that I think there are many things in Islam that we can embrace, that I embrace, and I went on to explain a couple of things because she was thinking that y’know it’s not safe for women and so I basically was sort of promoting some of the ideologies of Islam to my mum, by saying that I embrace them, so yeah, it was difficult to come out to my family.

How accepting was your family of your conversion?

So, one of my sisters, she’s very understanding and supportive. My Dad, he’s also pretty cool about everything. He knows like I only eat halal meat, he knows if I don’t answer him if he’s calling me and I’m upstairs, then he knows, oh she’s praying, so he’s understanding of that. My brother in law, he’s also lived in Saudi for a couple of years so he’s had experience with Muslims, and he’s also on the ball when it comes to the way Muslims are portrayed in media. My sister, the one who’s married to my brother in law, she’s relatively okay but like once or twice she’s come out with something. We’ve dealt with that but yeah that was difficult, and like my mum, she actually passed away before seeing me actively and visibly Muslim. So, I guess, who knows what she knows now?

On the New year’s vacation this year, we went to my other sister’s house and she’d gone to the effort of going to her supermarket and ordering halal beef. They don’t have halal meat there so they had to order it in, they went to the effort to do that. So, my family has been really supportive actually in those things.

I remember also on my first Ramadan, she got me a happy Eid card and she got my family to sign it. So yeah, they’re very supportive in those things so yeah.

But it’s more of the community, the village where I spent a lot of my teen years. Maybe because it’s a predominantly white British community. I am literally the only Muslim in the village, I think.

What’s it like being, perhaps, the only Muslim in the village?

When I visit home, I still wear hijab but like I wear turban style in a way that doesn’t look too ‘muslamic’ but inshallah this will also improve and my fears will dissipate as I sort of come out more visibly to people.

I don’t feel I can fully be myself when I go back to the village, I feel like I’m the elephant in the room. Even like wearing my funky turban style. I feel it’s just people being people isn’t it? Chit chatting, gossiping, maybe looking at you a bit skewwhiff.

Is there any particular hadith or ayah from the Quran which helps you in certain situations?

‘If you go to Allah walking, He’ll come to you running.’

(Sahih al-Bukhari)

Jazakallah khair for the interview! Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed every single bit of it! May Allah reward you for it!

Note: If any other readers want to be interviewed, please contact us through blog@manchesterisoc.com