Ramadan: Recognizing the Traps (6)

After we have believed, committed ourselves to following the Quran and Sunnah as best we can, started staying away from the major and minor sins as best we can and seeking forgiveness when we fail, do you think the Devil is going to let us be? Of course not…

The next traps he lays for us are a bit more nebulous.

Allah azza wa jall has expressly forbidden some things and expressly allowed other things. In between, there’s a grey area of disliked actions and permissible actions that the devils call us towards.

Try as I might, I could only find discussions of disliked actions in Salat, things like coming to the prayer while distracted or in need of a restroom, excessive movement, spitting to the right, fidgeting, and the like, but also being too rigid and excited in your movements: we’re supposed to be tranquil in Salat. But disliked actions outside of Salat, out in the world, are a bit more slippery and hard to define.

As Muslims, our neighbors and fellow Muslims have certain rights over us:

  • When you meet, give greetings of peace (As Salamu Aleikum; Walaikum as Salam)
  • If you’re invited, respond to the invitation
  • If you’re asked for advice, give it (if you’re able)
  • If your Muslim brother or sister sneezes and says “Alhamdulillah” (all praise and thanks belong to God), respond with “Yarhamuk Allah” (may Allah show mercy to you)
  • If they fall ill, visit them
  • If they die, attend the funeral and follow the casket

I’m a bit timid at times (most of the time), and so when I see other Muslims out in the world, I usually give them the Salam, but it’s often very quiet. When I first converted, someone mentioned to me that I should speak up when I give the greetings of peace, and so I got louder. Most of the time, brothers and sisters respond, but I’ve had enough occasions where I received a blank stare or a turned back in response that I got really quiet, and I sometimes fail to greet my brothers and sisters at all. May Allah forgive me and protect me from the whisperings of the devils, ameen.

All of the same goes for responding to sneezes: I try to respond with Yarhamuk Allah when someone says “Alhamdulillah” after a sneeze, but 1) many people don’t say Alhamdulillah when they sneeze, and 2) few respond when I sneeze and say Alhamdulillah. May Allah guide us all, ameen.

Along with responding to an invitation, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala laid out the etiquette in the Quran (Al Ahzab, 53)

O you who have believed, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except when you are permitted for a meal, without awaiting its readiness. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking to remain for conversation. Indeed, that [behavior] was troubling the Prophet, and he is shy of [dismissing] you. But Allah is not shy of the truth.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنكُمْ ۖ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ

We get invitations from time to time, and for the first 2 years here, if an invitation said “after Maghrib,” I would go to the masjid for the Maghrib prayer, pray, pray my sunnah salat, and then rush to the house. More than once, the host opened the door and gave me a confused look before allowing me in. The look always puzzled me, but I figured it was a shock at seeing a white guy there—maybe the lady of the house invited my wife, and the brother didn’t realize or something… But then at every party, I’d be the first person to arrive, despite being the absolute slowest to pray. Other guests would begin trickling in a half hour or so later, a flood would arrive after the Isha’a prayer, and after everyone prayed together, dinner would be served.

I asked people about this, and all told me that it went against the Sunnah… except it’s not Sunnah at all, it’s a directive from Allah azza wa jall. And since it appears that many/most hosts are confused or bothered when I arrive at the time I was invited, Hana and I have started showing up a bit later.

Something like this—showing up late to a party and staying later than you should—may fall into the line of minor sins, since there’s a clear proscription against it, but Allah alone knows. But it seems that it would be most certainly disliked. And sure, it’s a cultural behavior, but just as entire cultures can fall into minor sins (fracking and waste water disposal-caused earthquakes, for example), we can also pursue disliked actions as a society, and just because everyone else does it, doesn’t mean that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala likes it.

That said, in further queries to my neighbors, they put down “after Maghrib” because they mean “after Isha’a” and if they put “after Isha’a” down, people would shoe up 2 hours after that, so we are all, really, following the wishes of the hosts by showing up late… Astagfirullah, and may Allah guide me to better relations with my neighbors.

On a personal level, as a Muslim, I’m required to pray 5 times per day, and it’s vastly preferable to pray with others. Due to my early start time, I usually pray the early morning prayer at home (or at work, depending on the time of year), and one of my coworkers is from Turkey, so he and I pray the midday prayer together sometimes. But I’m usually at home for the Afternoon, Sunset, and Night prayers, and since I live right next to the masjid, I should be going for every salat.

But I don’t.

First off, I have some social anxiety and it’s sometimes hard for me to go outside, let alone for a walk, and let alone to a building with 100-3000 brothers in it. And second off, I’ve had a number of unpleasant experiences walking to and from the masjid, and navigating through the crowds to and from prayer, and I’ve allowed the (sometimes hostile, usually indifferent, rarely pleasant) attitudes of my brothers to chase me away from Allah’s house.

It’s disliked to pray alone, but I do it sometimes. I can’t justify it, really, but I keep doing it, and may Allah guide me to better, Ameen. This is a fairly clear case of falling into the disliked.

Satan’s trap is getting us to rely on the disliked, to choose known disliked things over known preferable things, and to do it regularly. Once we’re preferring the disliked over preferable options, the devil and his buddies hope to distract us enough to get us to start thinking that the disliked is ok, that it’s preferred even, and from there, they hope to draw us into sin and disbelief.

I know I need to pray at the masjid more than I do, and to go there and stand with my brothers solely for the sake of Allah azza wa jall, and may Allah grant me the strength and focus to do just that.

In general, in addition to not being a jerk, it’s a good idea to seek protection from Satan, his buddies, and their whispers regularly. Say “A’udhu Billahi min ash Shaytanir rajeem” (I seek protection from the accursed Satan). Recite Surahs Falaq and Nas. Make dua for protection and guidance in general, and may Allah protect us from falling into repeated error, Ameen.

And once we’ve asked Allah for His help and His strength, we’ve got to tie our shoes and walk to the masjid, speak up when we see our Muslim brothers and sisters at the grocery store or shopping mall, and just keep trying to be better every day. That’s the only way we’re going to defeat the accursed Satan and avoid his traps.

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