الحمد لله، الحمد لله الذي تقبل التوبة عن عباده المومنين، ويعفو عن سيئات عباده المستغفرين، نحمده تعالى ونستعينه، ونشكره تعالى ونستغفره ونستغيثه، نعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، من يهد الله فهو المهتد ومن يضلل فلن تجد له وليا مرشدا، ونشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، له الملك و له الحمد، يحيي ويميت، بيده الخير، وهو على كل شيء قدير،  ونشهد أن سيدنا و مولانا محمداً عبده ورسوله، وحبيبه وصفيه، بلغ الرسالة وأدى الأمانة ونصح الأمة، النبي الأمي الذي أرسله الله بالهدى والدين الحق، بشيرا ونذيرا بين يدي الساعة، صلى الله عليه وسلم وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.

أما بعد! فيا عباد الله اتقوا الله حق تقاته ولا تموتن إلا وأنتم مسلمون. يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله وقولوا قولا سديدا يصلح لكم أعمالكم ويغفر لكم ذنوبكم. ومن يطع الله ورسوله فقد فاز فوزا عظيما. اتقوا الله فيما أمر وانتهوا عما نها عنه وزجر.

 

As we mentioned last week, the account of the journey of the Messenger of Allah on the laylat al-Isra wa-l-Miraj is a gold mine of invaluable lessons for the one who studies it and reflects upon it. For it is a journey undertaken by the Messenger of Allah, and he is our guide and his life is the template for every human being seeking a successful outcome. Allah says,

لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ

 

the translation of which is, “You have a fine example in the Messenger of Allah, for all who hope for Allah and the Last Day.” Every part of his life – everything he said, did or affirmed in others, his state and manner, all of it is Sunna. He was the Messenger, it was not just something he did, it was who he was. The message was being conveyed by him in every second of every day. Nothing that happened to him was for him alone and irrelevant to us. Yes, he had khasa’is, special qualities, states and acts that were not possible for any other, but they were as packed with guidance for the discerning as any other part of his life. And the Night Journey is one of those khasa’is.

Each stage of the journey is replete with meaning and significance and each stage gives us guidance and direction, whether that be the parts of the journey that took place on the earth or those in the heavens, whether that be what he did or what he saw, whether that be how it began or how it concluded. To study them all and give them all the attention they merit and deserve is the work of years not minutes, and requires volumes of explanation not sentences and phrases, so no khutba or even series of khutbas can properly encompass this day.

So, where to begin? The best place, as with all accounts and stories, is to start at the beginning. If we want to emulate the Messenger of Allah, we must start where he started, and there is no doubt that, despite this being but the journey of one single night, it is an allegory for the life of the Messenger of Allah. There are definite parallels between the events of his life and the events of this night for those who are prepares to look. And despite this journey of his being one that no other human being, indeed no other being, has or will ever undertake, it is a complete allegory for the journey travelled by every believing slave of Allah to his Lord. Indeed, when Allah refers to this journey in His Book, He deliberately chooses the word ‘slave’ instead of ‘Messenger’, since slavehood is a quality we all share with him. Allah says,

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى

 

the translation of which is, “Glory be to Him who took His slave on a journey by night from the Masjid-al-Haram to the Masjid al-Aqsa.” So, if want to start out on the path to Allah, we must look to the start of the journey, the initial steps, and see what they can teach us. In the account transmitted by al-Bukhari, the Prophet said,

 

بَيْنَمَا أَنَا فِي الْحَطِيمِ…مُضْطَجِعًا إِذْ أَتَانِي آتٍ…فَشَقَّ مَا بَيْنَ هَذِهِ إِلَى هَذِهِ…يَعْنِي مِنْ ثُغْرَةِ نَحْرِهِ إِلَى شِعْرَتِهِ…فَاسْتَخْرَجَ قَلْبِي ثُمَّ أُتِيتُ بِطَسْتٍ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ مَمْلُوءَةٍ إِيمَانًا فَغُسِلَ قَلْبِي ثُمَّ حُشِيَ ثُمَّ أُعِيدَ

 

“While I was lying down in Al-Hatim, suddenly someone came to me and cut my body open from here to here (while saying this, he gestured to his throat and then the lower part of his abdomen). Then he took out my heart. Then a golden tray filled with iman was brought to me and my heart was washed and filled with it, then returned to its original place.”

What does this show us? That the first stage of the journey of the slave to Allah is the cleansing of the heart, the removal from it of all that sullies it. For us, that means wrong action, or more exactly, the consequence of wrong action. Wrong action muddies and hardens the heart. It is a cancer in the heart that grows and grows until it is extracted and removed. So how do we cleanse the heart of it?  There is but one way and that is through tawba. A correct and sincere tawba that fulfils all its preconditions completely removes all its traces and leaves the heart glistening and clean.

Tawba is necessary for every one of us, no matter how right-acting. We are all human beings, and it is part of the condition of the human being to transgress. We are not angels, Shaytan swims in our blood and whispers in our ears, our selves command us to sou’. The Prophet said,

كُلُّ ابْنِ ءادم خطاء

 

“Every son of Adam sins.” This is true even of the awliya and ‘arifin, for when Imam Junayd was asked if an ’arif could commit zina, he replied,

وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللهِ قَدَراً مَقْدُوراً

 

“Allah’s command is a pre-ordained decree.” In other words, ‘Yes, it is possible.’  In some ways, for many of us, a wrong action can be the start of our path back to Allah. It can be a shock to the system, it can puncture our pride and over-inflated opinion of ourselves, our self-satisfaction, our ujb. For that feeling is one of the greatest barriers to progress – it makes you feel you have arrived when often you have not even set out, it makes you feel you are the best you can be when you haven’t even scratched the surface of your potential. It makes you lazy and complacent, and often the only way to get rid of it is for something to happen to shatter that illusion completely, for you to do something that shows you in no uncertain terms that you are not the perfect being you thought, that you are flawed like the rest of mankind. Hence, wrong action. The Prophet said,

رب ذنب أدخل صاحبه الجنة

 

“The wrong action a person commits may well be the cause of him entering the Garden.” The Companions were just as shocked to hear this as we would be. Surely, wrong actions weigh against us and lessen our chance of getting into the Garden. But they were thinking of a wrong action for what it is, for wrong actions are ‘wrong’ for a reason, they were not thinking of the effect it can have on the sincere slave. So they asked,

 

وكيف ذلك يا رسول الله

““How can that be, Messenger of Allah?” He replied,

 

لا يزال تائبا فارّا منه خائفا من ربه حتى يموت فيدخله الجنة

 

“He continues to be repentant, fleeing from that wrong action and being afraid of his Lord until he dies, and that will take him to the Garden.” He becomes aware of the precariousness of His own position, and how his success or lack of it is all in the hands of Allah. If he cannot even stop himself doing wrong action, then how can what he does guarantee him anything. No, it makes no sense for him to rely upon actions, for on their own they can never be enough. He must instead turn back to his Lord and rely on Him alone. He must instead make tawba.

Allah is waiting for His slave. He wants him to return to Him, He wants to forgive him, He wants to grant him access to the storehouses of mercy and forgiveness He has set aside for him. He knows the weakness in His slaves, and yet He wants only the best for them. Allah says,

 

وَاللَّهُ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَتُوبَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَيُرِيدُ الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الشَّهَوَاتِ أَنْ تَمِيلُوا مَيْلًا عَظِيمًا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُخَفِّفَ عَنْكُمْ وَخُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

 

Your enemies and the enemies of Allah want the opposite. They want to convince you that once you have started down the path to wrong, there is no way back. But it is not true. No slave is too far gone, no matter how heinous or numerous his wrongs. No matter how difficult he finds it to leave those wrongs behind. When Sayyidina Ali was asked what a person should do if he makes tawba but then goes back to committing the same wrong action, he said, “He should make tawba again.” “And if he goes back again and again?” “Then he makes tawba again and again.” “How long does that cycle last?” he was asked. He replied, “Until it is Shaytan who is distressed and aggrieved.” In other words, each time you make sincere tawba, it weakens the effect of that wrong action on you until the wrong action eventually loses its capacity to pull you back and Shaytan’s whispers no longer have an effect.

Every act of tawba increases a slave in nearness to Allah. The Prophet said,

 

وخير الخطائين التوابون

 

“The best of those who do wrong action are those who make tawba often.” And since every human being does wrong action, it follows that the very best human beings are those who are constantly making tawba. So fill your moments with istighfaar and always seek to come back to what is pleasing to Allah.

 

أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين من كل ذنب فاستغفروه إنه هو الغفور الرَّحيم.

 

الحمد لله الحمد لله رب العالمين، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمداً عبده ورسوله، صلى الله وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى آله وصحبه، والتابعين وتابعي التابعين ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.

أما بعد! فيأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله ما استطعتم واسمعوا وأطيعوا وأنفقوا خيرا لأنفسكم. يا عباد الله أوصيكم وإياي بتقوى الله وطاعته وأحذركم وإياي عن معصيته ومخالفته.

 

Tawba is a topic we revisit often because it is not just the start of the journey, but it is the start of every stage of the journey. It is not something you do once and then you are done. Our iswa, the Messenger of Allah’s heart was cleansed at least twice, if not three times according to some narrations. His heart was obviously not cleansed as a result of wrong action, for wrong action was impossible for him, but he was sent to show us what to do. The cleanliness of our hearts must be maintained. We need to do tawba again and again. Tawba is an ongoing process. And it is not one that even requires us to have done something wrong, to have committed a physical wrong action, for the Prophet, who never committed a single wrong action, not even a minor one, used to make tawba more than seventy times each day. Abu Hurayra narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said,

 

والله إني لأستغفر اللَّه وأتوب إليه في اليوم أكثر من سبعين مرة

 

“By Allah, I make tawba and ask forgiveness of Allah more than seventy times each day.” The Messenger of Allah was aware of his Lord in every moment and had perfect sincerity. He never did anything except that it was in the Way of Allah and desiring His face. There were no empty rituals, everything was infused with presence and meaning. Even when he slept, his heart remained awake and in a state of dhikr. The rest of us, however, are prone to forgetfulness, some more than others. We become distracted and our focus goes – sometimes we switch off and just go through the motions and find ourselves, for example, at the end of the prayer without knowing how we got to that point. Man was created weak and forgetful. The goal is to be present in everything, but it is not always possible. So we do what we can. But, for some things, presence is a condition, and if it is absent that action counts for note. And tawba is one such thing. Simply saying “astaghfirullah” a lot does not make you a taa’ib. They are not magic words – they contain no absolution in of themselves, they must be accompanied by the requisite sincerity, repentance and resolve, they must fulfil the necessary preconditions. Only then do they purify and cleanse and wipe the slate clean. Ritual is meaningless without sincerity.

So what are these conditions. Imam an-Nawawi said,

 

التوبة واجبة من كل ذنب، فإن كانت المعصية بين العبد وبين الله تعالى لا تتعلق بحق آدمي فلها ثلاثة شروط: أحدها: أن يقلع عن المعصية؛ والثاني أن يندم على فعلها؛ والثالث أن يعزم أن لا يعود إليها أبدا فإن فقد أحد الثلاثة لم تصح توبته

 

“Tawba is obligatory for every wrong action. If the wrong action the slave commits is between him and Allah and does not impinge on the rights of any human being, then it has three conditions. First, that he stop committing the wrong action, second, that he regret doing that action, and third, that he resolve to never do it again. If any of these three conditions is lacking, then his tawba will not be valid.”

If a wrong action does impinge on the rights of others, such as theft or slander, then there is one further condition that must be met and that is that you set things right between yourself and that person. If you took something from him, you return it, if you spoke badly of him, you publically apologise and take those words back. Without these steps, you have not truly made tawba and that wrong action continues to be recorded against you. Your tawba will have no hope of finding acceptance and without an accepted tawba, no Muslim can hope to achieve success, or hope to advance even a few metres along the path. Instead of being regularly cleansed and purified, his heart becomes filled with muck until there is no room left for his Lord. If we do not return to Him, He will not return to us, and we will truly be abandoned, misguided and without a home. We ask our Lord to place among the ranks of the Tawwabin, and make our tawba truly sincere and truly complete.

 

إِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ، يَا أَيُهَا الذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً.

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ  أَجْمَعِينَ. وَارْضَ اللَّهُمَّ عَنِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ وَعُثْمَانَ وَعَلِيٍّ، وعن أم المومنين عائشة التي أمرنا الله في سورة النور أن ندافع عنها، وَعَنْ سَائِرِ الصَّحَابَةِ أَجْمَعِينَ، خُصُوصاً اِلأَنْصَارَ مِنْهُمْ وَالمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَعَنِ التَّابِعِينَ وَتَابِعِي التَّابِعِينَ وَمَنْ تَبِعَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ.

اللَّهُمَّ اهْدِ وُلَاةَ أُمُورِ المُسْلِمِينَ لِمَا يُرْضِيكَ وَلِاتِّبَاعِ سُنَّةِ نَبِيِّكَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَهُمْ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ المُسْتَقِيمِ، وَأَصْلِحْهُمْ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ.

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى شَيْخِنَا، وَعَلَى أَمِيرِنَا، وَعَلَى جَمِيعِ أُمَرَاءِ وَزُعَمَاءِ المُسْلِمِينَ.

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى المُسْلِمِينَ فِي هَذِهِ المَدِينَةِ، وَوَفِّقْهُمْ لِمَا تُحِبُّهُ وَتَرْضَاهُ يَا أَكْرَمَ الأَكْرَمِينَ.

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِزَّ الإِسْلَامَ وَالمُسِْلمِينَ، وَاخْذُلِ الْكُفْرَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ، وَانْصُرِ المُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ. وَاجْعَلْ كَلِمََتَكَ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَكَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ هِيَ السُّفْلَى.

رَبَّنَا ءَاتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقَِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.

إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى، وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ، يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَّكَّرُونَ، وَلَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُومُواْ إِلَى صَلاتِكُمْ يَرْحَمُكُمُ اللهُ.