Seerah Retreat with Shaykh Ahmad Saad | Event Review by Radhiatul Mardhiyah Mustaffa
What: The Seerah Retreat
Who: Shaykh Ahmad Saad
When: 29 & 30th December 2012, 9am to 5pm
They say rain is a blessing.
Well, blessed indeed were the students of the Seerah Retreat. From 9 in the morning, the hall steadily filled up with eager, anticipating faces, seated and patiently awaiting the arrival of the esteemed Shaykh Ahmad Saad. Having gone alone, I felt quite out of place sitting amidst a group of people who knew one another. It was as if I had missed something. That feeling evaporated within 5 seconds of seeing Shaykh Ahmad’s smiling and serene face. Seeing him again made my spirits lift and my ears perk up to absorb all the information he was about to give us.
As the event was conducted from 9 to 5, to review every single piece of information from this session would be pretty much impossible. Rest assured, I will try my very best to write down the points that resonated the most with me. Are you ready to fall even more in love with our beloved messenger?
Muslims living in secular states
Shaykh Ahmad started off with talking about the migration of Muslims to Abyssina. He emphasized that at this time, Abyssina was not an Islamic state. Yet, Muslim migrants stayed there for 7 whole years. Their experience shows us that Muslims were highly respected and safe in Abyssina. They were the example of what we have here in Singapore. Muslims, living in a non- Muslim country in harmony and peace. It shows that religious peace existed even 1400 years ago during the time of the Prophet (S).
Shaykh Ahmad stresses that just because we live in a place that does not govern using the syari’ah, we do not have the right to attack the government and cause chaos. In his words Shyakh Ahmad says “There is no ayah in the Qur’an saying “kill the disbelievers”. The Qur’an only states to fight those who fight you.”
Living in secular or non- islamic states also gives us the opportunity of da’wah to our non- Muslim counterparts. However, the problem that we have in da’wah, according to Shaykh Ahmad, is that we use too many terms that are foreign to them. For example terms like “InsyaAllah, Solah and Zakah” mean nothing to those who do not practice Islam.
One sahabah who used simple words in his da’wah was Ja’far bni Abi Talib. To speak to non- Muslims about Islam, we need to talk to them about what is impossible or possible logically. Only when we have convinced them on the logic that Islam presents, can we insert the spiritual elements that cannot be understood by the mind but by the heart. In simpler terms, we must first convince their minds and then their hearts will understand.
Also, there will be people in the community that will leave Islam albeit having been born into it or converted in. Shaykh Ahmad explains that even in the time of the Prophet (S) there was this group of people; they took their shahadah and a few days later recanted and took back their pledges to the Prophet (S).
One such example is man called Ubaydillah ibn Jahsh who left Islam for Christianity. When they looked to the Prophet for his reaction, he merely ignored them and let them leave Madinah without a fuss. This is because the punishment for leaving Islam is an Akhirah punishment. It is for Allah and only Allah to carry out.
The sulking of the Ansar
When a brother or sister converts to Islam, we treat him/her well and care for them as they are new and have a lot to learn about the basics of the religion (we do too actually). The same situation happened to our beloved Prophet (S). He would always pay attention and care for the newly converted Muslims to the point that the Ansar people grew, well, jealous.
They started spreading a statement about the Prophet (S) saying “He who has found his beloved ones forgets his friends”. When this reached the esteemed Prophet’s ears, he gathered the Ansar and asked them about it. They bowed their heads down in shame and Rasulullah (S) asked them “Haven’t I come to you when you were lost and Allah had guided you through me?” and they hung their heads lower.
Rasulullah continued to remind them of what Islam had done for them and the Ansar began to understand their wrongdoings. In the same session Rasulullah professed his love for them. He said “By Allah, had it not been for the hijrah, I would have wanted to be from Al-Ansar. Had it not been for Makkah, I would be in Madinah. If all the people in the world went in one direction and the Ansar went in the other, I would go with the Ansar.” He then said a prayer asking Allah to forgive the people of Ansar and their children.
In this incident we can see that the Prophet (S) is not blind to the jealousy and matters of the heart that plagued the people of Madinah. He addressed them and made sure they understood the lesson and that he still and always will love them.
Whenever there was someone who always degraded the Prophet (S) individually, he always forgives them. However, if the degradation and insult is towards his ummah he will put a stop to it. This teaches us about public responsibility.
Shaykh Ahmad explains that if someone has an extremist view, if he keeps it to himself, then we can discuss it with him individually. However when he spreads those views, then it is our responsibility to do something. Because when someone with extremist views make it known to the public, not only will it potentially corrupt the aqidah of some Muslims, non-Muslims will also listen and look at us as a people that are bent on negativity instead of knowing that Islam is actually a religion of peace. This might create a revolution and when revolution is led by the masses, it is not revolution, it is chaos.
Leadership & Love
We all know that the battle of Uhud is one where Rasulullah (S) was badly injured, and many of the sahabi became martyrs while trying to protect him. This all happened because some of the troops failed to listen to the commands of the Prophet (S). The most apparent lesson that we can learn from this battle is that when people stop listening to their leader, chaos will ensue.
In this historic war we also see the love that the sahabi have for the messenger of Allah. One of such is Sa’id Al-Khudri who licked and sucked the blood of the prophet in order to clean his wounds to help heal him. Rasulullah (S) told him that “whoever has my blood running through his veins, hell fire will be haraam on his body”.
The sahabah even formed a human shield to protect him (S) when he was badly injured just to preserve his life and get him to safety. They were pierced with arrows, swords and spears yet their loyalty and faith to the Almighty and His Messenger remained as solid as the rocks of mount Uhud. Such is their love for our beloved Prophet.
Hearing about all that they have done brings me to tears because as compared to what they have done for Rasulullah (S), what have I done for him? Have I stood up for him when he was reviled? Have I made him the ultimate role model in my life? Have I defended him against insults thrown at him even now 1400 years after his time? May Allah bless us all with the love and loyalty that the Sahabi have for the Prophet (S). Ameen.
The power of words
There was once a man called Dimad Al-Azdi. He was a healer of the psychological sort. People sought him to cure them when they suffered from mental ailments. He was called upon to check on and “heal” Rasulullah (S). When he arrived and was in the presence of Rasulullah (S), the Prophet told him to begin his healing. So Dimad started reciting his chants and when he was done the Prophet (S) started to recite Surah Yasin.
Upon hearing the first few verses, he told the Prophet that these words were much better and of a higher level than what he is practicing. Hence, he accepted Islam and went back to his people and preached to them until half converted to the religion of peace. Also proving that words work better than the sword is when the Jinn-folk heard Rasulullah (S) reciting the verses of surah Ar- Rahman, they asked for a private meeting with him where they accepted Islam soon after.
Miracles happen every day and every single one of us has prayed for a miracle at least once. But what are miracles anyway? Shaykh Ahmad explains that miracles are things that break what is impossible customarily. For example, when prophet Ibrahim (S) was thrown into the fire, it did not burn him. That is a miracle.
Fire is customarily expected to burn, but when it does not have the characteristic that it is known for, it becomes miraculous. As Muslims we have to believe in miracles because there is always a higher power that can break something that we are accustomed to. Just because we have not seen it before does not mean it can never happen. What happens to the people at the time of Dajjal is that they believe in their senses too much. When that happens, the belief that Allah is capable of everything is in danger.
In life, Shaykh Ahmad explains, we always have to have a reference point. And that reference point is stated in surah Al-Baqarah, verse 2 which translates to “That kitab (al-qur’an) has no doubt in it and serves as guidance for the righteous”. And who are the righteous? It is explained in the next ayah which means “the ones who believe in the ghaib (unseen) and perform their prayers and give zakah…”
So if we are to be among the righteous, set the Qur’an as our reference point and be willing to open our hearts to miracles that Allah create. Many people reject things because they cannot accept them. They are making themselves the reference point. To do this is as if to elevate one’s status to Godhood. Allah tells us to stay where we are because with mindsets that change and desires that persist, how can we become our own reference point? This is why we are encouraged to recite surah Al-Kahf on Fridays. It teaches us to not be deceived by our senses and ultimately will protect us from the dajjal.
The concept of receiving hidayah is similar. When a person’s heart is willing to accept the light, then he/she will readily believe. The people that cannot accept it will claim that he/she has been deceived.
Respecting scholars and knowledge
Surah Al- Kahf also teaches us the adab of being in the company of scholars. There is a wisdom behind things that they do that we do not understand. We have to have patience. Nowadays Muslims are stubborn. The most important thing is establishing values like compassion and gentleness not fighting and debating just to prove that we are right.
Even Rasulullah (S) always trained his companions to give advice and consultations. He always listened to, respected their opinions and followed them. So what right do we have to claim that we are wiser than anyone when the wisest among mankind listens to and considers carefully the opinions and inputs of others?
One statement that Shaykh Ahmad said struck me was “Having a degree does not mean one has knowledge”. With all the hype about getting paper qualifications and education, that really is true. Let’s try reflecting back on our qualifications. Do they even mean anything if we do not practice them to contribute to the society?
With knowledge also comes the risk of riya’; the temptation to show off during ‘ibadah is very great. I’m sure all of us have had moments where you feel the need to pray with extra focus because your future mother in law was behind you or something. Well, Shaykh Ahmad says “Doing things for the sake of people is showing off but leaving it for them, is shirk.” Hence, if someone is saying that you are someone who does extra ibadah when you actually do not, the best thing to do is to take it as an encouragement from Allah and do it.
Trials faced by the Muslims during hijrah
Many Muslims were tortured during the period of the hijrah. People like Zinnayrah who lost her eyesight due to extreme torture and Khabbab who was grilled on the fire and dragged around the streets of Makkah are such examples.
During the boycott where the Quraisy did not provide supplies to the Muslims, they went to the extent of eating leaves and sucking on pebbles for three years. Quite a number of the companions died during this time due to starvation and dehydration. The Prophet (S) even mentioned that he who steals during this period will not be punished due to the severity of the need of each individual.
The above example showed that punishments for crimes committed were carried out according to the context of the situation that person was in. Rasulullah (S) says that when deciding whether or not to punish someone for their crimes, if there is even a little bit of doubt, then the punishment should NOT be carried out.
This is because the Syari’ah was not created to make Muslims into morbid punishers nor terrorists but to stop criminal activity. Upholding the law is not terrorism. Storming into someone’s house, standing at their door step and telling them they cannot be free in their homes, that is terrorism, and terrorism is arrogance.
During droughts and natural disasters, a person’s willpower is tested. When a human being is denied access to his/her basic needs, everything else besides getting their needs satisfied becomes secondary. When this happens, people will hold on to every opportunity to survive even if it includes sacrificing their beliefs. It is unfair for someone preaching a religion to offer material gain to every person that converts. If that was the way preaching worked, everyone’s beliefs would sway and go where ever there was gain.
As Shyakh Ahmad says “when you offer bread to a starving man with a condition that he has to join a religion, he will convert into that religion!” That is not how Muslims should practice da’wah. To da’wah is to spread Allah’s word and invite people to the religion of peace, there should be no forcing included. In Shaykh’s words “We cannot negotiate on our priniciples. There would be no sincerity in da’wah anymore. People would only be following for gain.” The Muslims suffered so much persecution and torture because of the hijrah that they had to sell and give up everything they had for safe passage to Madinah. Yet they did not give up their beliefs for their wealth but remained steadfast in their faith and traded in the riches of this world for the hereafter. Allahu akbar.
Following the sunnah
There is a sunnah to perform a sunnah. Understanding the context that one is in before incorporating the sunnah is also a sunnah. For example, the shortening of hemlines. Yes, it is a sunnah for brothers to shorten the hemlines of their jubbahs but if they are wearing trousers or a full suit, by shortening the hemline, you are just ruining the suit and it does not help in making you look good which by the way is also a sunnah. Rasulullah (S) paid close attention on ensuring that he always looked presentable. Looking presentable and being clean makes people comfortable when they are around you and hence, it also very much important to look presentable always. How a Muslim presents him/ herself is also a representation of Islam.
Another example of understanding the context is when: there are religious classes conducted in a slightly different way to attract more people to it, to not criticize it immediately. Listen to the full story and understand the reasons behind it. Then, after hearing it out, give constructive criticism rather than verbally insulting the whole event because nothing good ever comes out of humiliating people. It’s worse if you use verses from the Qur’an and ahadeeth to twist your opinions into making your point valid. Our messenger tells us to save people from the hell fire, not drive them towards it.
Representing our religion
It is our responsibility to lead the society and represent Islam. The way we act towards people and each other represent our beliefs. Think about it, when people insult Rasulullah (S), before hurling verbal abuse at them, think about how we have represented them as, to the society. Every stereotype has a basis and although the extension of it may not be true at all, there must be a problem lying somewhere with the portrayal of the Prophet (S) by Muslims to the public.
Interacting with family and friends
If dealing well with the public is important, it is even more important to treat our family and friends better. The people close to us are the ones that make us stay grounded. Have you ever been in a situation where you get into a misunderstanding with a loved one (like your mother or spouse) and for the whole day you can think of nothing else but the argument? Well, Shaykh Ahmad explains that when people are shaken socially, they become unproductive”.
That is why it is crucial that we maintain our relations with the people who love us and are close to us. This includes understanding their needs be it physically, emotionally, spiritually etc. Sometimes we forget that our parents have needs too. As we grow old, we do not realize it but some of us get too greedy with our parents and feel like we own them.
Abu Bakr As- Siddique (radhiyallahuanhu)
We all know that Sayyidina Abu Bakr (RA) was a loyal companion to Rasulullah (S). But do we realize to what extent? He was so close to the messenger of God that when they arrived in Madinah for hijrah, the Ansar could not tell apart who was who. His character and traits mirrored the Prophet (S) exactly. When they arrived, Rasulullah (S) even asked him to give a speech and only when he introduced the both of them did the Ansar figure out their identities.
The Prophet (S) once said that if someone were to weigh the iman of the ummah and weigh it against that of Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina Abu Bakr’s iman would still outweigh that of the Ummah. The relationship between Rasulullah (S) and Sayyidina Abu Bakr was so close that it really puts us to shame. We claim to love our Prophet (S) yet our iman is nowhere close to his. May Allah always increase our iman, Ameen.
Role of mosques
During the hijrah was also when the Prophet (S) started the building of a mosque and hence activating the role of the mosques today. The role of the masjid in Islam is not merely to be a beautiful hall to pray in. Not only must the mosque be maintained but the sufficiency of the people who extend their services to the welfare of mosque must also be ensured.
Mosques should be a place of fun and not a place where children feel restricted and shut out. Nowadays, people care more about the design of the mosque rather than the activities conducted in it. During Rasulullah (S)’s time, the design of the mosque was done by someone who had the expertise rather than leaving it up to the people who financed the building.
Seeing the good in everyone
During the Prophet (S)’s hijrah to Madinah, he and Sayyidina Abu Bakr chose a guide for the journey. This guide was not a Muslim, yet he was a trustworthy man. He told no one of Rasulullah (S)’s journey. This shows us that we cannot stereotype people based on faith. He always saw the good in everyone and that has to apply to us when interacting with others. Seeing the good in people is not only sunnah, it also will make us see our lives in a positive light.
This also applies to the foreigners we have in this country. Now, being Singaporean, we always have something to say about the foreigners here due to the sheer amount of them settling down in this island of ours. However, amidst the controversy, we fail to realize that these people also add to the economy of the country. So next time you see a Chinese national serving you trying to speak very broken English, bear this in mind and try not to blow your top off. Good luck.
Cleanliness of the heart
Which Shaykh Ahmad lecture will be complete without mentioning matters of the heart? To see the good in everyone of course, one’s heart needs to be clean. And clean hearts reflect the light of the Divine. Ever wondered why we recite the Qur’an day in and day out but still feel nothing in our hearts? Ever struggled to cry and be moved by the verses of the holy book?
Because when we recite, one of the adab is to make our hearts present. Only when hearts are clean will angels continue to come down and listen to the recitations of the Qur’an. It does not matter if one is struggling with the language or fumbling with the tajwid if his/ her heart is present in the recitations. Angels will still come down to be in the company of such reciters.
The workshop was conducted over a period of two days and even with the time allocated, Shaykh Ahmad did not manage to cover the whole entire Seerah of the Prophet (S). That is very understandable since the seerah is very big and needs to be elaborated in a very detailed fashion.
However, the pearls of wisdom that the Prophet (S)left for us never failed to make me stop and reflect about the greatness of the messenger of Allah. The way Shaykh Ahmad passionately spoke about Rasulullah (S) was full of determination and love. He even lost his voice about 3/4 way through the event. That did not stop him and armed with glasses of barley water, he continued on with vigour.
His smiling demeanour which only changed when he was overcome with tears of love and admiration for the messenger of Allah engaged everyone as he took us through the history of Rasulullah (S). My respect for Shaykh Ahmad Saad has immensely risen and my heart warms every time his name is mentioned.
Another attendee, Erna Sharida, has this to say about the Seerah Retreat:
”Alhamdulillah, I truly enjoyed the two days of Seerah Retreat. Shaykh Ahmad Saad is as wise and as humorous as ever. The way he conducts the seerah class and the way he links events and the like showed how much goes through his head when he learns about the Seerah of Rasulullah SAW. He injects humour naturally to awaken the class as it can get quite dry at times.
Whenever Shaykh Ahmad Saad starts talking about his experiences and discusses on certain issues we face, I find myself being able to relate to his thoughts and agreeing to how he puts forth his views.
It was disheartening that we were only able to reach less than half the topics we needed to cover due to time constraint. Nonetheless, he has planted the joy and interest further in wanting to know more about the Seerah of Rasulullah SAW.”[/box_light]
May Allah bless Shaykh Ahmad Saad, his family and the organizers of this event. Ameen.
Radhiatul Mardhiyah Mustaffa
Mardhiyah graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a Diploma in Applied Food Science and Nutrition. She’s an aspiring writer who blogs her mind at http://marmardee.wordpress.com/