بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
There’s a hadith that weighs heavily on my conscience as I begin this project (which will no doubt end with the epic defeat of atheism and the reign of God on earth!) It is as follows:
انما الاعمال بالنيات
Actions are only by their intentions.
When I first heard this hadith, it was kind of a feel good “oh that sounds nice and very prophety of the prophet to say,” then I kind of just went about my day. It was much later when the importance of this small little saying dawned on me. On a certain level this refers to an obvious ethical precept, namely that intent must be established for any crime or good deed. Even the legal system acknowledges this; if I push a person in front of a bus, then it’s not murder unless I did so intentionally. Heck you might push someone in front of a bus in an attempt to save their lives, but simply fail to do so.
In this sense, a person’s intention makes all the difference. I’ve even noticed this in movies now-a-days where writers increasingly try to create “multi-dimensional” villains by getting the reader to sympathize with their intentions; despite the obvious horror of their crimes. You see, that serial killer is not really a bad person, they tell us, he only does what he does because he was abused as a child. In fact, the seriousness of intent is so evident to the human race, that you can even make villains into heroes by portraying their intentions in a positive light. This is now becoming an entire genre of Hollywood (think Pirates of the Caribbean, where you’re literally cheering for thieves who make their livelihood by robbing the hard-work and toil of honest men and terrorizing them.)
While I do think there is a point to be made by showing multi-dimensional villains, and exposing the good intentions of a villain to the viewer, overall I think Hollywood is desensitizing the general population’s sense of morality by justifying the evil actions of villains. This translates to people justifying their own actions by reference to their intentions. You see, very few people, in their own eyes, are villains. Very few people think that they are bad people. Very few people admit, confess, acknowledge, and deeply regret their evil actions, despite their intentions.
If you ask a cheater why they did it, 9 times out of 10 they are not going to say “because I’m a terrible person who could not control their urges. I failed to control the beast within. I recognize that countless others have been in exactly the same position that I was in, and chose to do the right thing; I simply lack the self control and moral fortitude.” Most of the time, they will tell you about how horrible their marriage was going, how they didn’t feel loved, etc. I’m not saying that those things aren’t important, because they are.
In fact, nobody sympathizes with us about our circumstances, how we were feeling, and our intentions more than Allah, who is closer to us than our jugular vein. He knows full well exactly what we’re going through, and thus He is the Most Compassionate with regards to our circumstances. He knows us so intimately that we really do not even need to explain our circumstances to Him because He “experienced” it with us. I believe on Judgement Day, Allah will know and understand these things, and it is partially in this that my hope lies for His Mercy. I can almost see myself begging Him: God, you knew how difficult it was for me to control this nafs, you know how much I struggled to still my tongue, and you know how the outburst of anger and rebellion came upon me like a sudden wave. I’m truly sorry, I couldn’t control the beast within. But why wait for Judgement Day to make this confession, when Allah is Ever-Present, Watching?
Allah the Exalted says:
بَلِ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ, وَلَوْ أَلْقَىٰ مَعَاذِيرَهُ
Rather, Man is upon himself seeing, even if he casts forth his excuses (75:14)
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
…And He is with you wherever you are; And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing. (57:4)
A Deeper Meaning
There is another, deeper, more esoteric and spiritual sense to which the hadith “actions are only by their intentions” applies, beyond that of a general and obvious ethical precept. You see, many Muslims tend to view their book of deeds and the scales of Judgement Day like trading goods in the marketplace of yore. Each good deed has a certain value in “good deed gold” and each bad deed has a value in “bad deed gold” and these are traded. If I pray one unit, it’s worth x amount of good deed gold, and if I pray ten units, then it’s worth 10x. Likewise, lying might be worth y in bad deed gold, and 10 lies are worth 10y. However, this is only a partial truth.
This realization came to me after I encountered a problem with this understanding of good actions. You see, we are told that Prophet Noah (as) lived for over 900 years. In that time, the number of prayers he offered, the amount of charity, the amount of dawa the he offered, etc. was no doubt multiple times more than our own prophet, Muhammad (SAWS), who only lived for 63 years. How is it possible for our own Prophet to be greater than Prophet Noah (as)?
The answer lies in the hadith I quoted. You see, despite Prophet Noah’s 900+ years in Allah’s service, the level of his intentions, and the intensity of his sincerity, never reached even one day of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). In this sense, a day of our Prophet is greater than the whole of Nuh’s worship for 900 years, and certainly greater than Iblis’s worship of 5000+ years. I should humbly mention here than I write this as a keyboard jockey because if I prayed even one prayer that was even 0.0001% of Nabi Nuh’s prayer, I would be in eternal bliss. I mention this point not to degenerate Nuh (as), but rather to point out a fact that Nuh himself was much more aware of than any of us.
The quantitative aspect of our deeds actually has no inherent value; it’s value is only in what it contributes to the qualitative aspect of our deeds (i.e. the level of our intention and sincerity.) That’s not to negate the importance of repetition; repetition and practice are themselves forms of sincerity that are pivotal for most spiritual ascendance. But my point is that the sincerity we achieve – whether through repetition or not – is the salient feature determining the weight of our deeds. It is for this reason that there are people who pray day and night who will end up in hell fire (for example, the Khawarij, ISIS, et al).
Allah the Exalted mentions this point when He says:
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَحْسَنَ الَّذِي كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
And those who believe and do righteous deeds – We will surely remove from them their misdeeds and will surely reward them according to the best of what they used to do. (29:7)
وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَلِقَاءِ الْآخِرَةِ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ ۚ هَلْ يُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
Those who belied Our signs and the meeting of the Hereafter – their deeds have become worthless. Are they recompensed except for what they used to do? (7:147)
How this relates to you
If there is one practical tip you and I should take with ourselves going forward, it is to try to have more presence of heart within all of your deeds. The reason the Prophet (SAWS) taught us to say “bismillah” (in the name of Allah) is to try to instill this idea within us. It is easy to utter these words with our tongues, but with completely absent hearts. This is an ongoing struggle for the believer – to increase his or her sincerity. Furthermore, the intent cannot only be at the beginning of an action, as that lends itself to a kind of mental intention, rather than an intention coming from the bottom of our hearts and continuing throughout the action.
The difference between even an action done even with a little sincerity in the heart and an action done with none at all is exponential. If you learn how to make your heart present in your actions, even the mundane things that you do like eating, laundry, going to work, etc. will bring you incomparably closer to Allah than absent-minded prayers will. If you fail to have the intention in your heart, then even your greatest efforts will be worthless. A little goes a long way. This is not an optional thing to learn.
Ever hear the hadith about how going to work and providing for your family is the jihad of the man, or that raising children and obedience to one’s husband is the jihad of a woman? You and I will only reap the benefits of this jihad to the extent to which we learn to maintain a deep and sincere intention within the heart. This topic is huge, so inshaAllah I will write an entirely seperate post detailing more practical tips on how we can bring about this realization within the heart.
All of what I have written thus far was kind of an introduction to my main topic in this post; namely to explore my own inner intentions in starting this blog. You see, if there is even a hint of insincerity, it will diminish my work. If I allow insincerity to fester it will grow like a viral infection until the entire spirit of my work is destroyed. This happened to Iblis during his 5000 years of worship, and to countless Muslim speakers on the circuit who’ve become arrogant after becoming famous. Sincerity is an ongoing test and for that reason I hope I revisit this post, and the Noble Quran frequently for a much-needed reminder.
Below, I will detail what I hope to accomplish with this blog, as well as the challenges my soul currently faces.
1. A forum for spirituality
I wish to use this blog to better understand myself through thoughtful reflection, as well as to help others who may be facing similar challenges. I am not approaching this as a guru, but rather one beggar helping another and one who is open to receiving help.
Along this line, I wish to discuss my personal experience in spirituality and what Allah has allowed me to see of Him, as well as my challenges. I want to create a forum where other seekers of God can come together and help one another along this journey, and sing His praises in one unified spirit.
There is currently a void in this area of the internet in general, and within the Islamosphere specifically. The internet is filled with junk pseudo-spirituality for the most part, but what disappoints me is the lack of serious spiritual material in the Islamosphere. The only ones who have any material out there tend to be Perennialists/Traditionalists, who typically use a language that’s not accessible to the layman.
Join me on this journey as we help one another climb higher towards the Divine.
2. The dissemination of an Islamic philosophical worldview
Currently, most Muslims do not live in an Islamic ethos. The number of thoughts that run through the mind of an average Muslim on a daily basis, that are actually manifestations of shirk or even kufr without them realizing it, is beyond count. I suspect that I am still subject to this ailment to a certain degree, but have made great strides in freeing myself from many of the false intellectual idols that currently permeate Western society. We are literally in a state of crisis. I will be approaching this subject with more a guru attitude as it is, relatively speaking, my field of expertise.
Everything mentioned here is on the rational/conceptual level, not the spiritual/experiential level.
Currently, I view the following as necessary idols to destroy in the minds of Muslims, and indeed the masses:
- SJWism (yes, I’ve made this an ism)
- Profane phenomenology
- The negation of scholarly authority (including modernists and salafis)
- Salafi Jihadism (i.e. ISIS ideology)
On the positive side, there are many aspects of a truly Islamic worldview which must be resurrected, including the following:
- Panentheism/Classical Theism (i.e true tawheed)
- Proofs for the existence of God
- The authority of the scholars
- The relation between Islam and other religions
- Occidentology (the study of Western civilization)
- The Prophetic method of building an Islamic movement
- The Prophetic method of community building
- Masculinity (this one needs a lot of work)
- Technological skepticism and moderation
- Islamic solutions to modern problems (especially psychology, family life, the Environmental crisis – honestly this requires a seperate list in and of itself.)
If you would like to learn more about a traditional Islamic perspective on any of these topics – even if you respectfully disagree with me – I look forward to your future participation.
3. A response to Atheism
Right now, there are hundreds of blogs and dozens of YouTube channels devoted to ridiculing, disproving, or attacking God and religion. The presence of atheism on the internet is MASSIVE, and Muslims to date have not given a serious response. There are tens of thousands of devout Muslims who have left Islam because of an inability to answer atheist accusations. There will be millions in the coming generations if nothing is done. I can count on one hand the number of people from among the Muslim community who are even taking this seriously – and by seriously I mean enough to TAKE ACTION. How many blogs can you even name in which Muslims are even trying to offer a response? Seriously, drop a link in the comments if you know of any other blogs who are as concerned as I am.
The ulema do not seem to be aware of how integral the internet is to the lives of millennials, and consequently few of them have even attempted to seriously use this resource. And when they do, it is usually to a Muslim audience anyway, in which they fail to address basic questions like proofs for the existence of God.
I actually find it laughable when I see the MSA’s working so hard at “giving dawa” to university students on campus. They spend countless hours handing pamphlets and desperately trying to strike up a conversation with a random passer by, only to fail to answer even the most basic questions of random skeptics. The internet is where the real battle is at. The amount of effort it takes to reach thousands, perhaps millions of people in the internet is easier than the amount of effort it takes to set up a single MSA event. At least in the long term. One thing I’ve learned about starting this blog up is that it’s a real pain. May Allah accept all our efforts, as the MSA brothers and sisters do still have good intentions, and do still play an important role in other areas.
If Allah grants me the tawfiq, I would like to begin to respond to the claims of the so-called New Atheism, particularly their false assertion that there is no proof for the existence of God as well as their attacks on the characters of both Prophets Muhammad and Jesus, the blessings of God be upon them both.
This article would not be complete if I did not analyze the current state of my heart as well as my spiritual and intellectual weaknesses.
Personally, I do not view myself as worthy of heading this project. The only reason I am doing it now is because it has been on my mind for years, and I received clear signs from Allah that I should start. Furthermore, nobody else is doing it, and there is no doubt in my mind that it’s actually wajib kifaa’i to utilize the internet as a means to spread the deen – especially given the dire climate. In case some of you think that I’m doing the work for you, I would like to note that this platform alone definitely is not enough to fulfill the wujoob, nor am I worthy or qualified to fulfill an obligation which only the Prophets of God have ever carried. But at least I will not burn in hell for my inaction – can you say the same? More believers are needed to launch the Divine mission into cyberspace. It is important to recognize where you’re at – both spiritually and mentally. I will mention ways you can help no matter what stage you’re in.
That poses a question that I have to answer though – where am I at?
I find that my heart is not pure enough to project God’s light to the world, indeed I myself can barely stay out of committing a sin for more than a few days at best. I really hope, deep down, that Allah will make this a means through which I perfect myself and others, rather than destroy myself and others. I also have an inclination in my heart towards grandeur and self importance. In reality I am nothing and no one, except a beggar before Allah. Even if I had a million followers this reality would not change. The danger is real, and I feel like a hypocrite for even beginning this project. Were it not for the clear signs which came to me, I would not have the shamelessness to even begin to share my thoughts on something as pure and noble as Allah’s deen. How can one as impure as me, speak about something which only the pure heart of the Noble Prophet (SAWS) bore? I request my future self, as well as anyone who does end up becoming a devoted reader of mine, not to put me on a pedestal, because I really am unworthy. I am not saying this as any kind of gesture of humility; it is truth.
As for my intellectual deficiency, in principle I do believe that I have the intelligence required for this task. However, I feel that my philosophical training is still too inadequate to deal with questions beyond a certain depth. InshaAllah, as I continue in life my philosophical depth will grow, so this is not really an issue. Besides, whenever I look at the philosophical shallowness of the New Atheist horsemen, let alone their followers, I am reminded that palpability is more important to the masses than foolproof reasoning. Nevertheless, my personal satisfaction requires impeccable reasoning.
Lastly, and I’m not entirely sure this is necessarily bad, but I do feel it is best if I am honest with you from now. I do wish in the future to monetize this blog in some way. I intend to join a seminary next year, and devote myself to a lifelong study of Allah’s deen. Having enough money to support myself, a family, and to be able to speak my mind through an independent source of revenue are extremely important. If I can kill two birds with one stone (namely spread the deen as well as support myself), it would allow me to devote more time to this, rather than have it be a part time thing. Allah is the best of providers, so ultimately whether I make money off of my writing or not is irrelevant as long as I am fulfilling my obligations to Him.
If you believe in the mission I have stated here, then there’s a lot you can do to help, inshaAllah. First thing is to remember – everyone is either a teacher or a student or both. If you can learn from this blog – great – if not, then I look forward to learning from you. Your participation in the comments is essential to the soul of this blog.
If you find an interesting post, have the courage to share it on Facebook or other social media, even if I’m saying something controversial. You can also leave a comment, even if it’s just something as simple as saying “good post,” although the more thoughtful the better. The more activity the blog gets, the better it ranks on Google, so you are doing your part just by leaving a simple comment or upvoting/downvoting other people’s comments. If you notice any spelling or grammar errors, if you have any suggestions for the Muslim Convert’s Dictionary, or anything else, then let me know inshaAllah. Lastly, you can start a blog or Youtube channel of your own! The larger our sphere gets, the more chance it has of influencing people. That being said, do not start your own blog unless you know what you’re talking about. It is best to have the patience to learn before speaking – in fact I would still be doing so if not for the aforementioned reasons which prompted me to begin this journey.
If you already have a blog of your own, and like what I write, don’t hesitate to send traffic my way! Likewise, I’d be happy to send traffic to those bloggers I believe in, inshaAllah. I would also like to remind you, before you partake in any action to help me, whether it be a share, or a comment, to remember Allah in your heart and to perform the action as a good deed in His way. Let your heart say “bismillah ar-rahman ar-raheem,” for actions are only by their intentions.
Though I am unprepared, I look to Allah to fill my heart with the light of guidance.
كَذَٰلِكَ أَرْسَلْنَاكَ فِي أُمَّةٍ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهَا أُمَمٌ لِّتَتْلُوَ عَلَيْهِمُ الَّذِي أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ وَهُمْ يَكْفُرُونَ بِالرَّحْمَٰنِ ۚ قُلْ هُوَ رَبِّي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ مَتَابِ
Thus have We sent you to a community before which [other] communities have passed on so you might recite to them that which We revealed to you, while they disbelieve in the Most Merciful. Say, “He is my Lord; there is no deity except Him. Upon Him I rely, and to Him is my return.” (13:30)