Imam Suhaib Webb (Maliki) on tabligh


My wife is pushing me to go with Tabligh! Who are they and what to do?

Answered by Imam Suhaib Webb

“My wife is constantly bothering me about going with Tabligh Jamat? I do other acts of goodness and don’t really want to join these people. At times she starts to drive me crazy and says I need to do something for the ummah? Please give me some background on this group and tell me how to deal with my wife?”

Tabligh’s Beginnings

Tablighi Jamat represents one of the great efforts to revive the faith of Islam in the hearts of Muslims. Their founder, Mawlana Ilyas (may Allah have mercy on him) was a man of great piety and concern for the Umma. His father was Mawlana Muhammad Ismail (may Allah have mercy on him) who, although a great learned man, was known for drawing water from wells, serving travelers and then offering two rakats of shukr to Allah for blessing him to serve them. He died in 1896 and his funeral prayer was so crowded that it had to be repeated. Shortly after his prayer, a pious man saw him in his dream saying, “Send me off soon. I am feeling ashamed The Holy Prophet is waiting for me.”

His mother, Bibi Safia (may Allah have mercy on her) memorized the entire Qur’an and was known for reading 10 Ajza (parts) of Qur’an every day during the month of Ramadan. She was known for her piety and reverence in worship. She was not only a worshiper of Allah, but she was a Murabiyah, who built and nurtured the young Mawlana and watered him from the blessed spring of Islam. Once, seeing something great in her son’s future, she said to him, “Ilyas, I feel the aroma of the holy Companions in you.” She used to place her hand on his back, and would say, “How is it that I see figures resembling the holy Companions moving along with you?”

The blessed fruit of these noble parents, Mawlana Ilyas, was born in 1885. It was in this home that the Mawlana was raised and nurtured on faith and actions. Once, the Mawlana, describing his grandmother, stated that she had become so engrossed in her worship and dhikr that she stopped eating. It was said to her, “You are old and weak and must eat!” She responded, “I draw sustenance from my tasbihat (remembrance of Allah).” Thus, the young Mawlana was surrounded by pious examples of people who were so attached to Allah that the world attached to them.

The Mawlana memorized the entire Qur’an at a young age and continued his studies of different Islamic sciences. He was known for having an intense presence about him. One day his teacher said to him, “When I see Muhammad Ilyas, I am reminded of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them).” He was known for a strong intellect and excelled his peers in all of his studies. He had a number of great teachers and was blessed to study the works of Bukhari and Tirmithi; however, he was struck by an illness which led to his increase in studies and spiritual devotion.

In 1910 he assumed a teaching position at a famous school. After the death of his two brothers, and almost his own, the Mawlana moved to Dehli and began to teach. There he witnessed the horrible conditions of the Muslim Umma. In fact, it is well known that the Muslims there had adopted Hindu names, forgot their prayers and observed Hindu rights and festivals over their own. Under these conditions the heart of this saint pushed him to act. It was not sufficient for the Mawlana to focus solely on himself, but his true devotion to Allah and the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him pece) led him to openly address the ills of the society. Thus, like the famous scholars before him, he not only focused on the purification of his soul, but the purification of his society and the Muslims around him. Thus, he was led to open a number of schools and educational institutions that focused on reviving the core Islamic teachings amongst the people. It was through this effort that Tablighi Jamat was born.

I’m sure many of our readers are wondering, why the long answer. Let me state that I felt it was an obligation to give them a small glimpse into the life of one of the greatest reformers our Muslim nation has seen in the last 200 years.

Summary of Tablighi Jamat:

Tablighi Jamat is a movement designed to bring faith back into the lives of the Muslims. They focus on five major duties and travel to different locations in order to spread the message of faith and dawa (calling to Allah) to other Muslims. They serve as one of the important alarm clocks whose job is to awaken a sleeping Umma, and remind it of its noble position and tasks. Members are encouraged to go for 3 days in a month, 40 days in a year and, if possible, 4 months in a lifetime.

Answer to the question:

Akhi, I think you should be happy that your wife is complaining that you’re not making dawa, praying, or doing enough for Allah’s deen. It sure beats hearing someone complain about the bills, not having the latest Visa Platinum or a new SUV etc. In fact, such a wife is one of the greatest gifts of Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said, “This world is nothing but goods. And the best thing in this life is a righteous wife.” Thus, instead of being angry at your wife, you should praise Allah that he has blessed you with her and she is encouraging you to look after your faith.

As was mentioned earlier, Tablighi Jamat serves as one of the many alarm clocks that Allah has used to wake up this umma. There are many such that are working to benefit others and do good in society. All of these groups have good and bad qualities, thus, what is obligated is to follow the truth. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said, “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer.” Thus, one should approach these different groups as one would a fruit garden, examine the fruit and take what is good, If you are able to correct the wrongs found in these groups, based on sound knowledge and wisdom then you should do so. In addition, one of the dangers that any group possesses is a blind fanaticism (ta’assub) which, at times, causes splitting and hatred to appear in the hearts of the believers. It is important to realize that these groups are mere custodians of the umma and not vice versa. Thus, if you are not comfortable with Tabligh, then try and work with another group in your city or location. Islamic work is needed today in the West more than ever. Thus, work with groups who cling to the way of the sunna, avoid extremes on any side, and seek Allah’s assistance.

As for your wife, mention to her the story of Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him): Once a man from the people of renunciation (zuhd) sent him a letter, chastising him for not fasting enough, praying in the night or wearing shabby clothes. The Imam responded by saying, “Allah has distributed actions amongst His servants as He has distributed their sustenance.” Then he mentioned how Allah has placed the love of certain types of worship (ibada) in the hearts of His servants. Thus, you would have a person who loved seeking knowledge, one who loved zuhd and another who loved dawa. The Imam finished his letter by saying, “I have no doubt that you’re on good from your Lord and I’m on good from Him as well.” Thus, you can explain to her, it is very normal for one to be inclined to a certain type of Islamic group. Then, explain to her where your heart leads you and perhaps try to compromise. One night a week you can attend different programs together as a family. Thus, one week for her flavor and the next for yours.

Finally, nicely remind your beloved that it impossible for anyone to know what is in the hearts of Allah’s servants. Thus, if you do something good, she should assume the best and avoid the whispers of Shaytan. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said, “Be careful of suspicion. For, indeed, it is the worst type of speech.”

A Few Points:

1. Mawlana Ilyas (may Allah have mercy on him) did not appear out of a vacuum. Like so many other great luminaries of our umma, the Mawlana was surrounded by wonderful parents who encouraged him to be a great Muslim. Thus, our brothers and sisters should focus on raising the next Imam Shafi’i, Malik or Salah al-din. Therefore, try to teach your children about the Sahaba (may Allah be well pleased with them). Then ask them to choose their favorite. Try to encourage that child to emulate the characteristics of that Sahabi. But remember that the most important lesson they will learn, are those that illuminate from the parents.

2. True tazkiyah leads one past mere focus upon the soul. A true servant of Allah is also concerned with the conditions and situations around him. Ibn Kathir relates that once Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked, “Who is better? One who stays away from others, or one who mingles with others and continues to worship Allah?” Umar said, “Those who mingle with others, put up with their difficulties and continues to worship Allah, “Indeed, they are those whom Allah has tested their hearts for Taqwa.” At the same time mere actions with no inner connection are like an empty cup. Thus, Mawlana Ilyas represented a rare balance of a person. He had a personality built on sound knowledge, sound tazkiyah and sound actions.

3. It is important to realize that the Ahl-Sunna is very wide. It is very dangerous to declare different groups out of Ahl al-Sunna based on one’s mere love for their group. Thus, such issues should be left to the scholars. One thing that one should do is not merely listen to what others say about certain scholars such as Imam Ghazali or Ibn Taymiyya. It is always better to read about their lives and understand the historical and cultural realities that they dealt with.

4. In general it is important to realize that people are different when it comes to different acts of worship. Thus, a truly wise person recognizes this and tries to facilitate the needs of his or her family or community. It is important for MSA’s and masjids to organize programs that benefit all community members. We must move past group politics and work towards realistic unity.

5. The state of the heart is known only to Allah. Thus, questioning another’s intention is something that should be avoided. The great knower of Allah, Junaid (may Allah have mercy upon him), said, “Ikhlas is a secret between Allah and His servant. No angel knows it, nor can any shaytan overcome it.”

6. The virtue of having a pious good fearing wife.

I ask Allah to protect us from ta’assub (blind fanaticism) and hatred. I ask Him to unite the hearts of the umma and make us as one body.

And Allah knows best

Suhaib Webb

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