Farewell Ilm Summit

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce to all who tune in for glimpes into Ilm Summit, that we had to leave today, unexpectedly, due to a family emergency. Please make duah for my younger sister who underwent heart surgery today.

I am going to miss everyone at Ilm Summit. It is said that knowledge makes its students like family.

اﻠﻌﻟﻡ ﺭﺤﻡ ﺑﻴﻦ ﺍﻫﻠﻪ

Insha’allah I plan to to post the notes from some of the more beneficial sessions here in the near future.

Dying for Da‘wah

based on a talk by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni


Seven years after migrating to Madinah, the Prophet was facing a variety of plots and conspiracies, especially from Jewish tribes in the fertile stronghold of Khaybar. During a military expedition to that region, the Prophet announced to his Companions, “Tomorrow I will give the banner to someone who loves Allah and His Messenger, and Allah and His Messenger love him.”


The point is not to love but the real point is to be loved. It is easy to profess love. But you should think about it on a daily basis: Is Allah really pleased with me? Does he love me and what I do?


That night, no one slept out of the desire to be that person.


In the morning, the Companions gathered, standing on their toes in anticipation The Prophet asked for ‘Ali. ‘Umar eagerly cried out, “He’s not here, he’s sick.” One person eliminated. But the Prophet insisted for him to be brought forth, and prayed for him and he was cured of his eye ailment. Then the Prophet told him something, in the face of the spoils and tremendous riches that were at stake in Khaybar. Now you should remember the state of the Companions at this point.


o        Once the Prophet left his house in the middle of the night. Abu Bakr saw him and asked if there was a problem. He replied: “By Allah, the only thing that made me come out was hunger!”

o        Aisha remarked once, “The Prophet was dying in my house and I don’t even have oil to light the lamps to check on him!”

o        The Companions would tie stones to their stomachs to reduce the pangs of hunger.


In this absolute state of destitution, and before the impending riches of Khaybar which were about to be opened up, the noble Prophet gave this advice to ‘Ali: “I swear by Allah, if Allah were to guide one single person to Islam through you is better for you than the best riches of the world!”


It’s all about da‘wah. That was their life and work. That was their passion. It was never about riches or material wealth. Even when they were in dire need of them.


Aisha asked the Prophet once, “What was the hardest day in your life?”


Reflecting on the seerah, what would you think was the hardest day in his life?


Was it the day he was finally forced to migrate from his beloved city of Makkah, after years of efforts to bring Islam to the people and the people to Islam, and he left with great emotions, saying, “By Allah, you are the best and most beloved land to Allah, and had I not been forced to leave I would never have left.” [Tirmidhi 3860, Ibn Majah 3099, Ahmad 17966, al-Darimi 2398; also in another context in Tirmidhi 3861]


Was it the day he saw the disemboweled corpse of his own dear uncle Hamza, or the bodies of his best companions in the aftermath of Uhud, many of them still bleeding? In that instance, he prayed to Allah, “O Allah forgive my people for they know not what they do.” [Bukhari]


Was it the time when he and his early Companions, including his beloved wife Khadijah, were confined to the Valley in an economic and social boycott and facing slow starvation?


No. That wasn’t it. The hardest time in his life, by his own words, was his da‘wah trip to Ta’if, where he went with great hopes and aspirations, and exerted tremendous efforts in the da‘wah. Yet he failed so miserably, with not a single person listening to him, and was driven out so cruelly, that he was bleeding from head-to-toe., and fell into a ditch at Qarn al-Tha‘ālib (Qarn al-Manazil).


Why was that day so hard? No one died, as on other occasions.  The Prophet was hurt badly, but he was hurt more so in Uhud, where he lost some teeth and almost died. What was the secret?


It was an emotional pain. The pain of rejection of his da‘wah! That was why, when Jibreel came down with the Angel of the Mountains to crush these people, the Prophet, still bleeding from their rejection, stopped them immediately and said those Golden words of mercy and optimism, “No! I have hope that from their progeny will be those who worship Allah!”


What a Merciful Prophet! How intense with his love for humanity, and how earnest his desire to save each and every one of us from the Fire?


o        “My example and yours is like a fire in the desert, with insects falling into it. My role is to protect you from that fire.”


o        When he heard of a boy he knew who was dying, he immediately left everything and ran to his house as quickly as he could. When he arrived, he gave him the da‘wah and was able to extract the shahādah just before he died. The Prophet then left the house, with flowing tears, saying,  “Praise Allah who saved this person from the fire!” Ask yourself: What benefit was this dying boy going to bring to the community?


o        The Qur’an confirmed this passion of the Prophet and instructed him to say, “Say, this is my way, that I call onto Allah . . .”  The Prophet’s way was da‘wah.

[For a khutbah, based upon this, click here]

Abu Zayd,

Live from Houston, Ilm Summit 2008, day 9


Eye-Opener in Hanafi Fiqh

Today we were graced with the visit of Imam Nasir Jangda, a scholar and imam of the Hanafi legal school who presented to us Hanafi fiqh from an insiders view, including a perspective on the Deobandi movement. As Shaykh Yasir Qadhi himself admitted, it was indeed an eye-opener for all of us. Imam Nasir was literally flocked by individuals fielding endless questions, many of which were answered. You can download one of his handouts here: The Deobandi Movement.

Don’t Take Your Worship from the Fiqh

Shaykh Zubair Bouchiki gave some valuable advice to students of knowledge, the type of advice that can only come from people of knowledge with a deep attachment to Allah. It is the type of advice you cannot find in books nor emails, but requires meeting and interacting with individuals. And that is why we are here, of course.


While teaching us Maliki fiqh, with all its technical rules of water, purification, and the pillars of ablution, he paused to give us some special advice. The advice is counter-intuitive but insightful and profound: Don’t take your ‘ibādah from the fiqh, but rather, take your personal worship from the lofty standards of wara’ (piety) and ihsan (excellence).


If you live by the legal rules alone, sticking to the categories of what is obligatory and sunnah and haram, etc., sometimes you lose touch with the spirit of the law. Sometimes you have to do more for your own self, and push yourself harder.


One child memorized the Qur’an in 3 months, and his mother was questioned as to how their family was able to achieve such a unique blessing. She couldn’t find anything extraordinary, but eventually remembered only one thing: She said that she and her husband never touched each other without wudu’, and that she never even breast-fed this child except with wudu’. Now, although, that isn’t found in the works of fiqh, but imagine such a person as she, with such an attachment to purity- what would you expect from such a person but goodness?


Raise your standards brothers and sisters! Don’t make wiping the socks, though allowed, a permanent habit. Today’s youth come to the bathrooms dragging and sagging their pants, cleaning the floors with them, and then they wipe their socks in ablution. If that is the case with them, now, just think what would happen with the next generation? They will probably not even make wudu!


Lawful is the marriage to the women of ahl al-kitab, from a textual legal perspective, but the Companion Ibn Umar forbade it as Muslims were spreading out to foreign lands. I share his opinion here in the US. Many of us imams gave fatawa decades ago allowing Muslims to marry Jews and Christians, but now many of those same imams are regretting their decisions as they are seeing the long-term results of those decisions.


Allah says, Marry not the mushrik women until they believe. [2:221]  Note he doesn’t say until they convert or become Muslim. Until they become believers and grounded in the deen, as long as it takes,.


The law of the land works against you as Muslims trying to raise your children Islamically. The children of even practicing parents are getting lost, can you imagine happens if one of the parents is not even Muslim?


So it is time for students of knowledge to raise their standards. Take your worship from the station of wara’ and not the fiqh.


Abu Zayd,


Live from Houston, Ilm Summit 2008, Day 6

Live for the Moment, Plan for the Future

Shaykh Isam Rajab










When I embarked on my journey of knowledge, I wanted to learn it all. I came across:

The Alfiyya of Imam Malik in grammar, 1000 lines

The Alfiyya of Suyuti in the science of hadith, 1000 lines

The Shātibiya in Qur’anic recitation, 1173 lines

I resolved to memorize each, but eventually wound up doing none.


People think about many things and want to do much, but lack organization and planning skills stops them. The key is to start one thing at a time, take it step-by-step and prioritize.


Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many times have you finished the Qur’an since last Ramadan?
  • How many hours are you spending online?
  • What was the last book you’ve read?
  • Have you ever read Saheeh Bukhari cover-to-cover?


On average an American reads 11 books a year, while those in the Muslim world average ½. This while the first command to the Prophet was iqra’. You have to devote your time to reading, make a list, a plan of titles to read over the next 6 months.


Write down the following statement:

“I am without a cell phone, internet connection, laptop, TV.”


What would you do if you are in this situation? What would you do without friends or family, if you were truly alone? Some of the pious predecessors yearned to be alone and shunned company to devote themselves to their books. They knew their priorities and what they had to do.


Write down the five most beloved people to you. Go ahead, do it.



Now take a look at that list, and know that one day, you will be running away from some of these and be enemies with some.

The day when man forsakes his brethren

His mother and his father

His wife and his own children

-The Noble Qur’ān


There are 4 types of people in the world:

  1. a person who does not care
  2. people who feel bad but do nothing (like a doctor who tells you the diagnosis, but then tells you, there is nothing I can do . . .)
  3. people who care and want to do something but wind up not helping or creating bigger problems (for example, you see a fly on your friend’s face – – – you get the picture)
  4. people who care, want to do something and do positive things


Aim to be the of the 4th type, those who positively help others. Remember that the Prophet said: The feet of the son of Adam will not move until he is questioned about 4 things: his knowledge, wealth, life, and his youth. These are 4 assets all of us possess, but we must invest those assets for the future.


How do we do that? When we die, all our assets come to a close, except for continuing charity, beneficial knowledge or righteous progeny that prays for you. So it’s all about helping others. And helping someone who will help others.


Be ambitious and aim high. Ask for the highest level of Paradise. Allah says: I am as my servant thinks of me . . . [Hadith Qudsi]



When was the last time you made a difference in the life of someone else?


Have vision and think for the future. We build masajid but only plan for the building. After years of collecting that, then we fundraise for electricity, etc. Why don’t we include that planning from the beginning, and create projects that sustain themselves?


There is a man I know of who used to be a medical doctor but then wanted to help others. He moved to Africa, establishing a relief group, and began helping all, including non-Muslims. He ended up converting 2 million people to Islam! I don’t know anyone that achieved that from among any of the scholars or writers or Islamic workers today.


In Madinah University, there are over 140 nationalities. Every time the African students would meet me and find out where I was from, they would comment, you are from the country of this man.


Not all Muslims were scholars, some were warriors and fighters, like Khalid bin Waleed. Some Companions were poor, some rich, but each contributed what they were good at.


When was the last time you helped someone else?


There is a unique project that comes to mind. Some people made a prison for the dead in Kuwait in front of a shopping mall. Here, they would display the bodies, shrouded, of those who left debts behind. Since it was situated in front of a busy shopping district, curious passerbies would ask why the bodies were being kept there. When informed of the debts, most people would contribute to the bodies, some even taking care of the entire debts. This was a wonderful and unique way of helping someone who really is in need. That person would be benefited until the end of time in their graves.

Try to imagine the rewards! The Prophet said, Verily lending loans is equivalent to one-half of sadaqah. [Musnad Ahmad]


18 years ago, one imam I know prayed once for a son who would be able to help him and correct him. He had a righteous intention and proper planning. Today, 18 years later, he has seven sons, all of whom memorized the Qur’an. They lead the prayers in his place. One of his children memorized all six books of hadith, and he relies on him for hadith.


Our time is limited. Ibn Hazm said, Your life is only the current moment, for the past is already gone, and the future has yet to come. So take advantage of the moment.


Abu Zayd


Live from Houston, Ilm Summit 2008, day 5

al-Maqāsid al-Sharī‘ah

Theory of the Higher Objectives and Intents of Islamic Law


by Shaykh Yasir Birjas


How many Muslims there are in the world that are Muslim in a nominal sense only, and are not fully convinced about many matters of Shari‘ah, such as Salah, Hijab, Fasting, etc.? The subject of Maqasid is an attempt to present the wisdom and underlying intents of the Islamic law. The basic premise: What is easier, practicing something that you logically understand or something you have no idea of its intents and purposes? While we don’t have a right to question Allah, we can reflect and ponder over His laws and attempt to decipher their wisdoms.


This is the need of the times today. A brilliant scholar from the 8th century felt this need and compiled a ground-breaking work on the subject for the first time in our history with a text that remains the standard in the field to this day. He was none other than Imam Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi [died 790H] from a place none other than al-Andalus.


The Sharī‘ah, or sum corpus of Islamic legislation, has a number of distinct characteristics (referred to as Khasā’is al-Sharī‘ah):


1.       Inclusiveness  (‘Umūm al-Sharī‘ah): The Sharī‘ah applies to all legally competent human beings, as the Prophet was sent to mankind in general, as a “Mercy to the Worlds.”


2.       Consistency and Flexibility (Thabāt al-Sharī‘ah wa marūnah): In general, the devotional acts (Huqūq Allah) are consistent and unchanging while those related to human transactions (Huqūq al-‘Ibād) may be subject to circumstances; therefore it’s more pressing to know the maqāsid related to the transaction wing of the Sharī‘ah than to the devotional side


3.       Universality of Sharī‘ah to all public welfare (Shumūl al- Sharī‘ah)

a.        The legislation covers worldly as well as spiritual matters, public and private welfare, personal and community affairs

b.       Islam is not purely capitalist nor purely socialist, but a balanced combination of the two

c.        For instance, one objective of the Sharī‘ah is the circulation of wealth as broadly as possible (based upon verse 7 of surah al-Hashr) and underlies many commands, including those related to inheritance. Most people today leave their wealth to one or a few individuals, sometimes to one child or two, or even a pet, leading to a modern version of feudalism. Islam, on the other hand, fixes the distribution among a broad range of relatives, while leaving flexibility for only one portion of it to bequeath it to whom you will.


4.       Religious Incentives: Islam provides religious incentives to all human conduct, even in mundane worldly acts, business transactions and their likes. For instance, conservation and environmentalism is a modern value that arose as a realization of the harm we are causing the environment, while in Islam, there were numerous safeguards already in place that would be considered such measures, but they were linked to religious incentives. Examples include the instructions for being frugal with water at ablution time, even if one were by a river. Also, the ihram requirements, with its simple dress, prohibition of cutting vegetation and hunting, is also about maintaining the ecosystem of the barren valley of Makkah .


5.       Preservation of Sharī‘ah: We believe that the two primary sources of Sharī‘ah are permanently preserved.


There are inherent dangers in this subject, which requires careful balance. Imam Al-Shatibi stated that sticking to fiqh without knowing the objectives leads to shallowness and dryness, while those who know the objectives without being grounded in Sharī‘ah have the danger of deviating from the established norms.


Abu Zayd

Live from Houston, Ilm Summit 2008, day 4


The Last Lecture

based upon an inspiring session by Shaykh Isam Rajab

وأوصيك بتقوى الله يا عمر، إن لله عملاً بالليل لا يقبله بالنهار، وعملاً بالنهار لا يقبله بالليل. واعلم أنه لا تقبل نافلة حتى تؤدى الفريضة وأنه إنما ثقلت موازين من ثقلت موازينه يوم القيامة بإتباعهم الحق. ويحق لميزان لا يوضع فيه إلا الحق أن يكون ثقيلاً. وإنما خفت موازين من خفت موازينه يوم القيامة باتباعهم الباطل في الدنيا. ويحق لميزان لا يوضع فيه إلا الباطل أن يكون خفيفاً. إن الله جل ذكره ذكر أهل الجنة بحسن أعمالهم، وتجاوز عن سيئاتهم، فإذا ذكرتهم فقل إني لأخاف ألا أكون من هؤلاء. وذكر أهل النار بسوء أعمالهم، فإذا ذكرتهم فقل إني لأرجو ألا أكون من هؤلاء. وذكر آية الرحمة مع آية العذاب ليكون العبد راغباً راهباً لا يتمنى على على الله غير الحق، ولا يلقي بيده إلى التهلكة. فإن حفظت وصيتي فلا يكونن غائب أحب إليك من الموت ولست بمعجزه.




Life is short and passing you by rapidly. In late 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given weeks to live. Shortly thereafter he delivered a final lecture at Carnegie Mellon University that became a phenomenon and inspired millions. As Muslims, our tradition teaches us that we must live likewise. We are all headed towards death, with only a few days left. The question is, how do spend those remaining days.


The great Caliph Abu Bakr on his deathbed gave some beautiful parting words of advice to Umar that should serve as a guide to each one of us, and point us to the proper way of living and prioritizing our lives.


I advise with the piety of Allah (taqwa) O Umar, and know that there are some deeds for Allah during the night that cannot be postponed to the day, and some deeds for Him in the daytime that cannot be postponed for the night. And know that superogatory deeds will not be accepted until the obligatory ones are fulfilled.


It is all about prioritizing our lives. Allah has fixed various actions into various timings with an order or succession. Some deeds are more virtuous than others. Some times are more valuable than others. And some deeds are more virtuous in specific times over others. Some deeds cannot be postponed and should be done immediately. And the obligatory deeds always take precedence over the others. Real knowledge is to recognize these priorities and virtues and carefully choose the steps we take in our lives to maximize results.


How many of us waste our time with insignificant or less significant things? How many Muslims are diligent in Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan while neglecting Isha? The great worshipper Fudayl ibn Iyad [died 187H] recalls his former days as a highway robber, when, as he sat down with his band of robbers after a robbery to distribute the spoils, his chief refused to eat, stating he was fasting. They were amazed and began laughing at that, to which the chief responded, “Look, you don’t know what will happen to you, so never sever the link between you and Allah. Always have at least one good deed.”


Those who follow the truth in dunya despite it being heavy on them will have their scales weighty on the Day of Judgement, while those who followed falsehood because it was easier and light upon them will have their scales very light on that Day.


The truth is hard and heavy while evil is easy and light in this dunya. Those who practice the deen find it difficult. But remain focused on the end. What are we filling our scales with? Will they be heavy or light on that Day?


Verily, Allah has mentioned the people of Paradise by virtue of their good deeds and has forgiven their sins, so when you remember them, say, “I fear not being among them.” And He mentioned the people of the Fire with their evil deeds, so when you remember them, say, “I hope not to be among them.” And he mentioned verses of mercy along with verses of punishment so that the servant may be both hopeful and fearful.


If you live by my advice, nothing shall be more pleasing to you than death, which you shall never escape.


This is the action plan for your remaining days. If you remain focused and prioritize, keeping your eyes on the prize, focusing on the obligations, then you will have no regrets. You will not only be ready for death but will welcome it. Professor Randy Pausch died last week but left his Last Lecture for the world. And this was Abu Bakr’s Last Lecture for the ummah.


Abu Zayd

Live from Houston, Ilm Summit 2008, Day 3