Manal Universe

Lessons from a Bird

InshAllah-u-tala today I want to share with you some reflections from two places in the Quran. One of them is surah An-Numl, the 27th surah of the Quran and the other is surah Al-Qasas, the 28th surah of the Quran. And Allah az zawajal organizes lessons in His Book in very unique ways and there are lots of parallels between these two beautiful surahs. They talk extensively, for example, both of them about Musa Alayhi salaam and one fills in details that the other doesn’t have. But what I wanted to highlight today is something relevant to our appreciation of the month of Ramadan and how we take from this Book that we are supposed to be so attached to in this month. A lot of times when we think of the concept of taqwa تقوى because the fasting of this month was given to us La allaqum tattaqun [لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ] (Al- Baqarah, 2: 63), so that you can be grateful and the first cognizance that we are supposed to have this month is that we are supposed to get closer and closer to the Quran. Fa naqrauhu, فنقرأه أكثر , we read it more;نحفظه , we try to memorize it as much as we can, we try to listen to it’s recitation of course we spend longer times in prayer, listening to the recitation of the Quran every night also. More people show up to fajr solat in this month than they usually do in the entire year. So it is a time that we try to get closer and closer and closer to the Quran and as a result become more and more cautious and aware of Allah and that’s what Taqwa is. But there are different kinds of proofs and different kinds of manifestations of taqwa.
Taqwa means you are in recognition of Allah’s presence, which means it changes your behavior. To make it very straightforward, its simple if you are working and you’re used to working with your boss is never in the office. He is always gone somewhere, flying somewhere else and you are kind of doing your own thing. After one month when your boss shows up and he sits right next to you, the way you are gona behave is gona be different. You are gona be aware of this person who you have to report to and he is sitting there so the next time you are about to just check your email casually, you’re gona stop yourself and say “ no, he is still sitting there. When he goes for a coffee break maybe, then I’ll go check my email”. You’re gona be cautious. Its gona change your behavior. It’s gona change the way you make jokes. Its gona change the way you casually speak because you are in the presence of a higher authority. Children do that with their parents sometimes. Students do that with their teacher, teacher walks in and they behave differently. You guys have all some experience with taqwa when you are driving a little bit over the speed limit and you see a police officer on the side and every body just kind of recognizes the authority and slows down. That’s really you are trying to protect yourself from getting in trouble. وِقاية , the origin of the word taqwa is to try , is to protection. اتِّقاء is to protect yourself. So you’re trying to watch out because you know a higher power is there, that’s what taqwa is. And usually, when we think of taqwa, we think of our attitude towards Allah az zawwjal in matters of halal and haram. But what I wanted to highlight today is an aspect of taqwa that has to do with our dealings with each other. Taqwa is also manifest on our conscience and consciousness of Allah is also manifest in how we interact with each other. How humble, how respectful, how courteous we are towards each other is also a sign of what kind of taqwa we have of Allah az zawwjal.
You know the ayat in which Allah az zawwjal told us that he created all of us from one man and one woman [يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا] (An- nisa, 4: 1), it began with taqwa. The ayat of surah An Nisa begins with taqwa and immediately then He talks about how we come from one origin, we are supposed to be, you know treated equally even. Even in the ayat in which [إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ] ( Al- hujurat, 49: 13) in Surah Al Hujarat, “ the most noble among you are the ones that have more taqwa” is the ayat in which we are supposed to all treat each other equally. The idea is if people have taqwa they will treat each other with respect and if people don’t have taqwa they will not treat each other with respect. The ayat I read to you from surah An Numl in the beginning, very strange part of the Quran. It is the story of Sulayman Alayhi salaam. And Sulayman Alayhi salaam was given many gifts, an expansive kingdom. Perhaps even, pretty much the entire known world. The entire civilized world was under the khilafat at one point, of Sulayman Alayhi salaam. Expansive power, if you’re talking about, we talked now about, nowadays in the media we talk about how president of the United States may be the most powerful man in the world that compares nothing to the khilafat of Sulayman Alayhi salaam. And on top of that Allah had given him extensive knowledge. Not only is he the, you know from the lineage of prophets, meaning he is from Dawud alayhi salaam but also on top of that Allah gave him the ability to speak with animals and to control jinn. So he has massive armies in the world of human beings obviously, but he has entire armies of birds, entire armies of horses, and the horse don’t have to have horsemen for him to control them. He can talk to the horses directly. He can command the birds directly. So you can imagine he has an endless, endless, endless army and in any military there are assemblies. You have to, you know military gathers; they stand in front of the general. There’s a parade, they stand you know in salutation in front of the general and he kind of inspects the army. But you cannot imagine that one general can keep track of everyone. So the general has to have commanders and lieutenants and battalion leaders and there’s a hierarchy, there is a chain of command, right? So you could have a small battalion of five or six soldiers and they have their commander over them or they have their battalion leader over them but, and he knows about them and he knows their personalities and he knows their names but the general doesn’t know their names, the general is too big. And let’s not even talk about the military because that’s one of the biggest organizations even today, even in your company if you’re working at your company and you are 500 employees at your company, the CEO doesn’t know your name. Unless you are like the senior VP or something if you’re like the guy at the door or you just got one of 500 cubicles, he doesn’t know your name. But you know we learn in this ayat, Sulayman alayhi salaam in the position that he is in; is inspecting the armies and one bird is missing. One bird is missing. Of all the armies, and he says, Allah says [وَتَفَقَّدَ الطَّيْرَ] (An-naml, 27: 20) now iftiqad افتقاد in Arabic means to miss something, to miss something. Tafaqqud تفقُّد is to feel sharpening, to immediately get the sense and to make that, when you miss something and it hurts you; this is tafaqqud. This is seeratul mubaligha. صيغة المبالغة –تفعُّل and Allah says that He felt the pain of the bird missing. One bird. And its not like he was doing a count. Okey there’s 50 thousand birds, this is 49 thousand 9 hundred and 99, one is missing. I am pretty upset about that. Actually, he says, Allah az zawwjal quotes in the ayat [وَتَفَقَّدَ الطَّيْرَ فَقَالَ مَا لِيَ لَا أَرَى الْهُدْهُدَ] (An-naml, 27: 20) what is wrong with me? Something must be wrong with me”. And this is interesting, he didn’t say something’s wrong with the army, he says something must be wrong with me. He is in that position where the first thing a person in the authority does is, blame the following. But he says maybe I am counting wrong. Maybe I didn’t get it right. So he begins with ninety that’s the most incredible example of humility, that he is in this position and he is saying “something must be wrong with me” لَا أَرَى الْهُدْهُدَ “I don’t see الْهُدْهُدَ ” and there is an al on it, which means he knows this bird personally. He knows every one of them personally. And he says I don’t see that one, and I miss it. SubhanAllah. The leadership of this man. If you are running a business and you have 5 employees and you cant remember their names and you don’t care how they are doing or whatever. There’s a problem. You and I have a problem then. You’re the manager, you don’t care. When you walk into a building, there’s a security guard, you don’t even make eye contact. So what if he’s not muslim? So what if he’s not muslim? You don’t even make eye contact. Hey, how’s it going? How’s your day? How are you doing? Just dignify the person. When you are going to the you know, the drive through at the restaurant or something or you’re pulling up at the cashier; how do we treat these people? We don’t even look, make eye contact with them. like they’re just you know, they’re basically machines to us. They’re just service. They are not people. The people at the cash register, the person at the counter at the bank or at the post office. How do we treat these people? You know. And then how do we treat people at our masajid مساجد , the people that are standing next to you. And this is more even about the dua’at دعاة and the khateeb خطيب and the ulema علماء. Because people come and ask questions. People wana come and say salaam afterwards. How do we treat those people? How did Rasul Allah salAllahu alayhi wasalam treat those people? I mean serious. It’s serious. And then when you are in a position of authority and some of us even if you are not the boss, and you are not the CEO of 50 employees. You are at least in charge at your home, right? You are at least the older brother, right? The eldest sister, you’re the father, you have a family under you. You have people you are responsible for and this is true even for the people who are serving the masajid مساجد, people that are in the boards of masjids; they are the servants of the people. They chose to be in this position. Out of taqwa of Allah they decided they are gona spend time, time they could have been using for their families, and time they could have been using in making money; they decided they are going to attend really boring long masjid meetings, they are gona sit there trying to work on the construction project or this and the other. But if they have taken that position, they understand that they are now more answerable to Allah, they have a مسؤولية to every single person that they know or they don’t know that walks through the doors of that masjid. That they are in service to them. That’s an attitude change. This is what we are learning from the ayaat of Sulayman alayhi salaam. These stories that are mentioned in the Quran they are not just for our entertainment. They are not just interesting history of the bird that was called hud hud. Who asked for the bird? When did he ask for it? What position is he in and why would he have to worry about a bird? Who is gona ask him about that? Why would he even have to care? But this is humility at it’s best. This is humility at it’s best. And it gets even better. The bird showed up late, and when an employee shows up late, it’s not a matter of arrogance. If the employee shows up late you are supposed to be angry. You are supposed to be upset; you are supposed to take disciplinary action. Why? Because if you are okay with one being late and the second one being late and the third being late, you cant have an organization anymore and the strongest kind of organization in the world is the military. There is no tougher organization. Right? So you have to have serious ramifications for messing up the discipline of a military. Why is the discipline of a military so tough? It’s so tough because when they go into the battlefield and the commander says, “go” and you are two seconds late, it might cost people their life. Other soldiers might die; you might lose the entire war because of one soldier. Discipline is everything to an army. Sulayman alayhi salaam is the leader of an army. So he does show anger. [لَأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَاباً شَدِيداً] (An-naml, 27: 21) “ I’m gona punish that bird, I’m gona come at it if it’s late. Where, why don’t I see it?” What is he doing that for? Not because of arrogance, because he wants to make sure nobody else thinks about being late. And you guys have responsibility. Now the bird does show up late and he needs t hear an explanation. “ What were you doing?” and one of the words, I wont give you the entire dialogue, but I wana just highlight some things from this incredible dialogue. The bird shows up SubhanAllah, and it says [أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ] (An-naml, 27: 22) I have come across knowledge that you don’t have”. The bird says to Sulayman alayhi salaam “I know some thing, you don’t know”. “Actually you’re, before you get mad at me let me tell you, you don’t even know what’s going on” and talk about, this bird is gona be delicious lunch, you know, like there is no… , this, this bird is talking back, its chirping back at Sulayman alayhi salaam and saying “ hold on a second before you get mad, I got something you don’t even know”. Now you tell me, the general of an army that has human soldiers, that has animal soldiers, that has jinn soldiers, that gather all of that intelligence and report back to him and one bird is late and this bird is speaking to him in front of who? Everybody. Everybody. The bird is speaking back to him and says I know something you don’t know. You want me to tell you? subhanAllah. And you know, does your employee talk back to you like that? What do you do? Your child talks back to you “ dad I know something you don’t know. Let me tell you, you don’t even know what’s going on” “Oh really? I don’t know what’s going on. Come here let me teach you a lesson first, let me tell you what’s going on first and then we’ll talk later.” Who is going to talk to an authority like that? Who is gona talk to a judge like that? For judge, the guy who is standing on trial says, “ By the way you don’t know everything, let me tell you what’s going on”. The judge is gona throw you out of the gates, he’s gona throw you in jail for disrespecting the position. You know, and Sulayman Alayhi salaam isn’t just a king, isn’t just a khalifa, he is a prophet. So you’re apparently disrespecting a prophet. What’s his reaction gona be? What’s he gona say?
He said “ let’s see, lets see what you have to say. Maybe you are telling the truth. Maybe you’re not. I don’t know but I’m not gona punish you yet. Let me find out” and it turns out it was telling the truth so we see no more angry language towards the bird, its gone. The anger was why are you late. It’s a legitimate anger. He is supposed to have that anger because he is a disciplinary. But when the bird talks back, he says “ lets just see, lets verify your story ‘coz you know somebody who comes late may have a lame excuse. So, you know in Islam we give benefit of the doubt right? We give benefit of the doubt but not when you’re in authority. When you’re in authority, you are supposed to verify. That’s part of the organizational principles of a, that’s why you have to have excuses when children miss school or come late they have to have a slip, they have to have some doctor’s note or some thing. Even in Islamic school the kid can’t say “hey teacher this is an Islamic school حسن الظن a personal one. I don’t have a doctor’s note. No, no, no, no, no, it doesn’t work like that. Our personal dealings are something else, organizational principals are something else. We are learning both of them from Sulayman alayhi salaam. That’s on the one hand. That’s on the one hand. And this is something very powerful. It’s proof of taqwa. What your reaction is going to be when you hear things from people that are beneath you. That are, that you don’t think are at your level and they say something to you that is news to you, you didn’t know. I mean they said it in front of everybody. Makes it feel like they undermine your authority. “How dare you speak to me this way?” but we have to maintain our composure. So it’s an incredible balance between, coz you know if you’re just too humble, then you can’t run an organization. But if you are too arrogant then you cant run an organization. You are not gona have a following that loves you and follows you.
Now the rasul of Allah, صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم quick, quick example, even the entire khutbah could have been about RasulAllah himself SAW, when it comes to this issue. RasuAllah SAW is talking to a leader of Quraysh and a blind sahabi صحابي shows up. You know the story. And the blind sahabi shows up Abdullah ibn maqtum عبد الله بن أم مكتوم, and he interrupts the prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم . now he Is blind but he is not deaf. Which means he, and by the way blind people have extra sensitive hearing. So when he walked up to the rasul of Allah صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم he very well knew there’s a conversation going on. He knew that, RA رضي الله عنه. He knew. And he knew that he is interrupting a conversation. So from the story we already know that the rasul of Allah صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم is not at fault, it is the person who interrupts the conversation, they are at fault. They are being rude. I am talking to somebody, somebody just jumps in the middle and starts talking to them and ignores me completely it’s rude. It’s not acceptable. But the rasul of Allah صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم could have told the sahabi “ listen I am in a conversation right, and he could have told him softly, I am in a conversation right now, just wait, just give me a minute, I’ll get to you in a second and I’ll give you all the time you need. Let me finish this one conversation”. The rasul could have done that صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم but he refused to do that. Because he thought that might be too harsh. That might be too mean. Abdullah ibn maqtum might get really sad if I say even nicely to him “just wait”, he might think “I’m not that important”. The prophet told me to wait, I cant believe, I must have made him, I must have offended the rasul صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم . All these feelings are gona go in Abdullah’s head so he says I’m not even gona say anything. But he is frustrated because he is trying to talk to someone and he keeps getting interrupted. So the forehead bulged like this, like the bulges on the forehead just a little bit of a bulge that is just called عبَس in Arabic. And his face turned a little like this, when you get frustrated, your face just turns a little bit. Like, not even a sound, just a frown, and a little turning of the face. And the ayat came down [عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّى(1)] ( ‘Abasa, 80: 1) “he frowned and he turned away [أَنْ جَاءَهُ الْأَعْمَى (2)] ( ‘Abasa, 80: 2) that the blind one came to him[وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّى (3)] (‘Abasa, 80: 3)what – do you have? He might wana cleanse himself. What is Allah doing? Allah is teaching the messenger of Allah صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم that he has to be, even though he is so humble and so courteous; he has to hold up to even a higher standard of humility. And if he has to hold up to that, where do you and I stand? He, rasul صلی اللہ علیہ وآلیہ وسلم has a right to teach the sahabi discipline. He has that right. But Allah teaches him humility instead. Subhanau wa tala. And the other thing you have to wonder is the sahabi is blind. So how will he know that the prophet frowned? How will he know that the prophet turned his face a little bit? He won’t know. There’s no way for the sahabi to feel that even. He can’t even see it. It’s not like the prophet made a sound. و لم يقل له أف “uff” you know. لم يتأوَّه He didn’t say “ahh”. Nothing. He just frowned. And even then Allah said “No, you need to be even more humble to the blind sahabi” and Allah didn’t call itجاءه أعمى , he says [جَاءَهُ الْأَعْمَى] ( ‘Abasa, 80: 2), لام التعريف فعرَّفه سبحانه و تعالى. Allah az zawwjal made him known” that person is important, he gets a lam, that the blind one came, you know. And by the way the leader, maybe no body knows this blind guy, but the leader of Quraysh, everybody knows, a famous person. Allah says
[أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَى] ( ‘Abasa, 80: 5) not evenالذي استغنى , من استغنى . The other guy who thinks he doesn’t need this message, he doesn’t even dignify him in making him proper. He is like, indefinite, unknown. Whoever he was, who thinks he is a big deal. SubhanAllah. This is Allah az zawwjal teaching humility even to the rasul عليهم السلامand this is in the most casual dealing. This is such a just a small gesture. Just showing frustration and turning your face, and this is recorded in the Quran for a reason. I wanted to highlight the story of Sulayman alayhi salaam to you on the one hand and on the other hand the opposite I wanted to highlight to you, because it’s the same subject. It’s being completed in the next surah, in surat-ul-Qasas. At the end of surat-ul-Qasas, we read about Qaruun قارون. Qaruun who is a very wealthy man at the time of bani Israel, living under the rule of firaun and he was basically a snitch. He used to snitch on the Israelites to the Egyptians and the government used to pay him a lot of money, for all the Israelites were bankrupt, they were all slaves and he is the only one that’s got like brand name horse, he’s got big old cars like, he is the only rich guy in the poor neighborhood. He is the only rich guy. And Allah az zawwjal, look at the other side on the one hand a bird is telling a rasul, a nabi, and telling a nabi “ I know something you don’t know” and on the other hand this guy who is completely ignorant of the deen and is arrogant; he says
[إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ عِندِي] (Al Qasas, 28: 78) “ I got all this wealth because of knowledge that I have. I am a pretty good expert. I am pretty smart. I am pretty good at business. I have a pretty impressive resume, that’s why I have my job. I am a pretty lean mean investor that’s why my business is so successful, that’s why I have opened up five shops and the sixth one is coming up. That’s why I saved a million dollars in a year. ‘coz I’m pretty smart. He said that. Now that’s offensive enough. That’s offensive enough but Allah az zawwjal takes it a step further and I just wanted to highlight how He Subhanau ta’ala does that. How He puts people in their place and the punishment usually that Allah describes in the Quran. In the Quran Allah usually does not describe punishments for individual people. Allah usually, in this dunia in any way; that’s not the case. Usually Allah describes punishment for entire nations. Entire nations are drowned, entire nations suffer an earthquake, entire nations get hurricanes and tornadoes, entire nations get fire raining from the sky, that’s entire nations. But this guy’s attitude was so bad, he was so bad and Allah describes what made it so bad [فَخَرَجَ عَلَى قَوْمِهِ فِي زِينَتِهِ] (Al Qasas, 28: 79) “he came out into his people, he came to hang out to drive his car through the neighborhood, through the village, back in the day his horse, decked out, like if he could put rims on his horse he would have, is what I’m saying. You know he is blasting the stereo system and he’s gona slow the car down, make sure everybody takes a good look, roll down the tints you know, that’s what he is doing and Allah says, and he was definitely purposely doing that in a neighborhood where he knows everybody is poor and Allah is so angry at him. [فَخَسَفْنَا بِهِ وَبِدَارِهِ الْأَرْضَ] (Al Qasas, 28: 81) Allah buried him into the ground along with his house, ‘coz his house was nice, his house was nice, he used to be really proud of his house. Right? Now we learn one thing he said, “I know I already know bro. I don’t need to know. I already got all the knowledge I need to be successful. Now that is his attitude. That attitude was offensive to Allah and second on top of that, when he, the way he exposed himself in the society the way he dealt with people in the society, even if he didn’t open his mouth, he made people feel like they don’t have anything and he has everything. He liked to do showy things. He liked to be a show off. He liked to flaunt his money. You know. When he liked doing that Allah az zawjjal taught him a lesson in this world. He buried him into the ground. The same people the day before, that said “ oh I only wish I had what ما أوتي قارون Qaruun” “If I was given, if only I was given what Qaruun was given, man I wish I had a house like that. That’s nice. You ever do that? Drive by a nice house and wow that is nice” and even if you don’t say it in your mind you go “I wish I had a house like that. That’s, that’s beautiful. Look at that driveway. Oh my God, look at that finish. That’s their backyard! Oh that’s cray- that’s a sick house man and you just get overwhelmed by the beauty of the house, people used to say that about his place, about his ride, about his money, about his car you can say nowadays. But the next day when people are driving by that house, you ever drive by a house that’s been hit by a tornado? By a hurricane? By an earthquake? And people look at that and they are like “oh neighborhood”, so all the homes are intact, one went down. Tornado touched that one house; earthquake came to one house in the neighborhood. People are like “oh we’re so lucky that didn’t happen to us, we got saved. That was a close one. Thank God what happened to him didn’t happen to us. The same sura, same people. They are looking at that and say “Oh my God, thank God I didn’t live in that house. Thank God I didn’t go over to his house that day. Look at what happened to it. Allah taught him and the people around him a lesson. This is at the end of surat ul qasas, I urge you to read the ayaat yourself. But the thing I wanted to leave you with as we enter these last ten days of Ramadan, as we enter this beautiful time; I want yourself, and myself to remember that we have to try to get closer and closer to Allah but getting closer to Allah also means that our attitudes towards people have to be different. The way we lose our temper has to change, the way we talk back to people, the way we look at people has to change. You know. The way we, if we say hurtful things we have to try to stop ourselves. We have to become more conscious of that and all of us have improvements to do. I am not above you in that and my employs will testify to that. You know, there’s a lot of improvement needed. All of us. All around, this is a reminder for myself first before it is to any of you. But this is important folks, this is really really important. And it extends even to those of you that have friends. A lot of guys, I see a lot of young guys here. When you have friends and you hang out with each other, you hurt the other friend’s feelings, or two, three, four of you gang up on one and you really take him to town. I’m guilty of that quite often myself. Make sure that you square things away with your friends. Jokes aside if they have something in their heart and they’re holding it against you and they never told you coz they didn’t want to make the situation intense. Believe me on Judgment day they will open their mouth and say “yea I was holding back but right now I need your good deeds; you used to make fun of me, used to call me fatty or shorty, used to call me stupid and I used to laugh at that time but I was actually really insulted. So I’m just gona take all that, you know you caught layla –tul- qadr, that Ramadan, I’ll take the credit for that because when you, your good deeds will be given to those you offended. They’ll just take them away. So don’t let your friends rob you on judgment day. Fix that today. Fix that now. This is the time to make the calls to people that you have been mean to. This is the time to go be nicer to people that you haven’t been nice to. This is the time to forgive people that you haven’t been able to forgive. To let your temper go. To apologize, it takes a lot of humility to apologize and you have to put yourself down when you have to apologize. But when you recognize Allah’s power then you feel weak enough and it’s easier for you to apologize. When you’re not conscious of Allah its gona be hard to apologize. May Allah az zawwjal make us truly a people of taqwa and make us of those who are good to each other and say good words to each other and may Allah az zawwjal soften our hearts so that we can give forgiveness to others and others can give forgiveness to us.
بارك الله لي و لكم في القرآن الحكيم و نفعني و إياكم بالآيات و الذكر الحكيم.

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