April 12, 2008
You have come to know some of the ways while we have been discussing various types of sacrifices. There are, how ever, certain fundamental inner resources which need to be emphasized and remembered, which you must try to generate within yourselves.
But first let us recapitulate certain basic principles on which these resources depend.
One, a sacrifice is a sacrifice only when you give up something which you love or value or desire. You can give it up only for the sake of something which you love more or value and desire more, or which is more important or urgent to you. Two, whatever the outer form of sacrifice – time, wealth, life, likes and dislikes, opinions – what you really sacrifice is the love and value you attach to it, and not the form. Three, you will therefore become more willing and pre pared to offer a sacrifice in the way of Allah as your love for Allah and His rewards increases in depth, intensity and strength and as the value you attach to the objects of sacrifice diminishes in your sight.
Love for Allah
Thus love lies at the root of everything. You can therefore realize what you need most to help you gain the inner strength necessary for offering sacrifices. It is your love for Allah. How much do you love him? Do you love Him more than everything else?
That is why the Qur’an says: ‘The [true] believers love God more than all else’ (al-Baqarah 2:165). That is why it confronts every Muslim with one simple but profound question: Whom do you love more? Allah, His Messenger and Jihad in His way, or fathers, sons, wives, brothers, wealth, houses, commerce, careers? (al-Tawbah 9: 24).
Only with such love for Allah will sacrifice turn into an inner urge,rather than remaining a motion of compliance with an external exhortation. Then you will derive the true delight and pleasure in fulfilling the demands of Iman. Remember: there are two types of Iman. One remains on our lips and that is the Iman which becomes a burden to us. There is another Iman which penetrates into the heart that is the Iman which becomes a pleasure, a delight, a joy. Once you have this Iman, if you are required to give time, money, life or sacrifice,likes and dislikes, opinions, you do it gladly. The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, said: ‘There are three things, only the one who has them will taste the sweetness of Iman: [first of them is] that Allah and His Messenger he loves more than any other thing beside them . . .’ (Bukhari, Muslim).
How to attain love for Allah which exceeds every other love? There are not, and cannot be, any precise formula for this purpose. But a few things will help. And each in turn will become a rich inner resource you will need to fulfill the demands of sacrificing.
Remember how He has created you, provided you with everything you need; how infinitely Merciful He is. Look at your existence, look at the universe around you, and everywhere you will see His mercy and care, His wisdom and majesty. As you reflect and ponder over ‘His signs’, which are everywhere, your love for Him will increase.
Part of remembering Him is to turn to Him and seek His help in loving Him. The Prophet, blessings and peace be On him, has taught us many ways of doing so. Two are:
I ask of Thee, Allah, Thy love, love of those who love Thee, and the (doing of) deeds which may bring Thy love to me. Make my love for Thee greater than my love for myself, for my wealth, for my family, for cold water1 (Tirmidhi, Muslim).
Allah, make Thy love greater than every other love, Thy fear greater than every other fear. Make my eagerness to meet Thee cut across all my worldly desires. Place my pleasure in worshipping Thee while Thou gives the worldly their pleasure in this world.
Remembering Him as often as you can is essential and fundamental. It will help you not only to attain love, but all other resources you need to develop your spirit and capacity of sacrifice: mindful of living in His presence, attaching real value to meeting Him and receiving His rewards, understanding the worth and place of this-worldly life, grateful and humble before Him, fearful of never having done enough, prepared and willing to obey His commands.
Living in His Presence
Live as if you are in His presence. Remember that ‘He is with you wherever you may be’ (al-Hadid 57:4). When you are called upon to make a sacrifice, or you prepare to make it of your own accord, remember that you are before His eyes. That is what He asks us to be mindful of: ‘Surely you are before Our eyes’ (al-Tur 52:48).
Coupled with your conviction that whatever you are sacrificing belongs to the One who is seeing you, and His reward would be manifold and eternal, this should give you some measure of that inner urge and strength essential to you.
This consciousness of being in His presence, of His Eyes being upon us, of Him listening to us, of doing our duty as our Master is with us, praising us generously, rewarding us kindly, is a prime source for creating the spirit of sacrifice. This also creates trust in Him, because once you know that you are with Him, you can entrust all your affairs to Him.
Every one of us has to die (al-Imran 3:185). Death is not the end of everything, it is only a transition into the next phase. In that phase we will stand face to face with Allah.
None of us likes to die; it is only human. But die we must, and only after death will the doors open to eternal life and blessings. If you understand the nature and reality of this-worldly life, if you know that you can receive your fair wages only upon meeting Allah, then you will develop two feelings. One, a desire to meet Him, however you may fear Him on account of your own misdeeds. Two, the preparedness to sacrifice everything that belongs to this-world for what you will earn in reward in the Hereafter.
One of the du’as the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to make says:
Allah! Grant me the delight of looking at Thy noble face and a longing to meet Thee (Nasa’i, Ahmad, Hakim).
Grateful and Humble
Whatever the nature of sacrifice, and whether big or small tangible or intangible, offer it in gratitude and humility. It so often happens that one begins to get weary and tired of giving in the way of Allah. One, then, begins to say, ‘We have already spent so much time; we have already given so much money; how much more shall we give?; we have already made so many sacrifices; what else is required of us?’ This will happen only if you are making sacrifices not to please Allah alone; but then you are motivated by something else. Or, when you do not realize that you should indeed be grateful to Him for every opportunity you get to offer some sacrifice. Also offer every sacrifice in all humility.
Let us be very clear that whatever things you sacrifice, you do not give it to some person, nor to some organization. Nor do you give it to Allah, though He is Merciful and Generous enough to say that whatever you give is a loan to Him, which shall be repaid manifold. You give everything to yourselves. Does one ever get tired of giving more and more to himself?
Now this is not selfishness. It only means that we believe that our ultimate prosperity lies in submission to the will of Allah. Through sacrifice we seek our betterment in this life and we desire a successful, eternal life in the Hereafter. At the same time, every sacrifice we make, everything we give in the way of Allah, makes our community stronger.
Therefore be grateful to Allah for having given you the opportunity to sacrifice, for having called upon you to serve Him, for having blessed you with the ability to offer something in His way. Things might have been otherwise. We might have been left wandering astray: we might not have been given the opportunity to sacrifice wealth and thus reap eternal reward. You should therefore give every sacrifice in the spirit of gratitude. To Him you should look for acceptance.
And also humility. You should never have the feeling of having done enough. Once the disease creeps into your heart that you have done enough, then all is lost. You should always think that whatever sacrifice you may offer, it is still nothing compared to the obligations you have to discharge towards Allah.
Being fearful of never having given away enough is very fundamental to your sacrifice. The Qur’an says: ‘They give what they give, but their hearts tremble’ (al-Mu’minun 23:60).
The primary motivating force that drives you to make sacrifices must lie inside your own self. The urge should come from within The roots must lie deep in heart and soul. Neither group approval, nor conformity, nor organizational discipline, nor any other external pressure, should provide the compulsion to come forward with your sacrifice. Each one of them is important and has an important role to play in shaping our conduct. But if sacrifices are offered for any reason other than Allah’s pleasure, it would be extremely difficult to offer large sacrifices, or offer them continually, under all circumstances. The will and spirit to sacrifice must be internalized.
Choice to sacrifice should be made willingly. This means that you should, by your own choice, come forward to offer whatever you can to secure Allah’s pleasure. Your will should harmonize with His will.
This does not mean that one should not feel any pain or discomfort while making a sacrifice. Once you give up your love or your desire or your value, to feel pain is only human. Indeed, if you feel no pain in giving up something, that giving up may not be worth being called a sacrifice. You are throwing away something which is of no value to you. Rather, the greater the pain, the greater the worth of the sacrifice. But pain ought to be followed by contentment; contentment for having given up something you considered valuable for Allah’s pleasure which is really the most valuable, for having willingly borne pain for the sake of your love for Allah which supersedes every other love.
Two Basic Aids
We have been given two basic aids to help us develop all those inner resources which I have put before you. I can only mention them in passing, for each deserves to be treated in detail in its own right.
O Believers! Seek help with Sabr and Salat (al-Baqarah 2:153).
What is Salat? Salat of course is a ritual worship. It consists of certain physical postures. It also consists of certain words which we utter from beginning to end. But the whole purpose of Salat is to remember and to be conscious of Allah. This is what the Qur’an very clearly states: ‘Establish Prayer to remember Me’ (Ta Ha 20:14).
What is sabr? It is very comprehensive in meaning. Literally sabr means to bind and restrain. In the Qur’an it encompasses qualities as wide as restraint and resolve, patience and the will to sacrifice, discipline and steadfastness. It binds you to your pledge to Allah, to your brothers, to your good in the Hereafter.
Hold on to Salat and sabr and you will gain the strength you need to offer sacrifices.
Let us, finally, look at two models of sacrifice.
One is Ibrahim: He was tried and tested in every conceivable way. His father, his family, the priestly and political powers all were opposed to Him. He forsook them. He was thrown in the fire. He was banished from his home. He wandered through deserts and forests. And, ultimately, he put the knife on the throat of his son.
This was perhaps the most difficult thing to do. It involved not only the sacrifice of a beloved son; it asked for the sacrifice of a recognized basic human ethics. Yet, in final analysis, all ethics and morality are rooted in God’s Will. Pleasing Him is the ultimate criterion. But, of course, only a Messenger in direct communication with God can be in a position to override an ethics laid down by God and Him this extreme sacrifice. Each one of us, however, may at times, have to suspend his ‘personal’ ethical judgement in the face of a clear injunction from Allah.
Only after offering all these sacrifices, and the ultimate sacrifice, was Ibrahim proclaimed as the ‘leader of mankind’.
And when his Lord tested Ibrahim by various commandments and he fulfilled all of them, He said, Behold, I make you a leader of mankind (al-Baqarah 2:124).
If we profess and proclaim that we stand for a revival of Islam, where Islam will be the leader of all mankind, then we should, individually and collectively, follow and emulate; that noble model of Ibrahim.
The second model is that of the Prophet Muhammad blessings and peace be on him. Whether it was in the valley of Makkah where thorns were laid in his path or in the valley of Taif where stones were thrown at him, on the battlefield of Uhud where he lost his teeth or in the streets of Madina where his enemies raised all sorts of slanderous campaigns and propaganda against him, he has left for us the best examples of sacrifice. So did his followers and Companions.
Sacrifice, as we saw earlier, primarily means slaughter of an animal. To remember the examples of Ibrahim and Muhammad you sacrifice an animal each year on the day after Hajj; Hajj itself being a worship rite which incorporates the most intense and sustained sacrifices. Here we must remember two important lessons.
One: What finds acceptance with God is not the sacrificial animal, but our willingness and preparedness to sacrifice, His love in our hearts, our obedience to Him. Never lose sight of this root principle; never be content with ‘form’ without spirit; nor,though, ever give up forms.
The flesh of them shall not reach God, neither their blood, but godliness from you shall reach Him (al-Hajj 22:37).
Two: The supreme sacrifice is the sacrifice of life. By giving away your physical life in the way of Allah, you die once. And that is the ultimate sacrifice. But you are required to die every day and every moment as you overcome your deeply-rooted loves, as you offer yourself totally to God, as you obey Him against all opposition from within and without. Thus you lay down your life, not just once, but again and again. That is the supreme sacrifice.
Say: My Prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying belong to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds (al-An’am 6:162).