‘A true Muslim is required to act in the world to alleviate human suffering…’ 

This is a summary of a Jumu’ah Khutbah given by Professor Aslam Fataar of Stellenbosch University at Strandfontein Masjid recently. The topic was Adab-al-Ihsan or beautiful conduct.

The waqt of jumu’ah emphasises the need for us humans to come to rest and engage in the remembrance of Allah. Allah declares: Verily, in the remembrance of God, [human’s] hearts do find their rest (Surah Ra’d, 28). Thikr polishes the human heart and makes the heart alert to Allah’s command.

Jumu’ah is a time of spiritual communion with Allah. It is a time when we can perceive clearly how we should live in the world and commit to a life of peace (salaam) and tranquility (sakina).

The mufarridun, those who, according to a hadith of Nabi Muhammad (recorded in Tirmidhi and Muslim), were “devoted intensively to the remembrance of Allah. Allah’s remembrance reduces their burdens. Hence, they will come with very little burden on the Day of Qiyamah”.

Those who truly remember Allah with devotion and commitment were able to access Allah’s rahmah, his abundant mercy. The rahmah of Allah became imprinted on the hearts (qalb) of the believer. When we enter into Allah’s rahmah, our true purposes in life become apparent: to serve Allah and serve human beings.

Once we enter the state of rif’ah or spiritual elevation, we are ready to commit ourselves to a productive life. This is the haddiyah or gift that Allah confers on believers.

The question arises of what we do with this gift. How do we come to understand our commitments to our family, neighbours, the sick and the elderly? What is the responsibility of the one who fasts to the masakin, the most vulnerable and poor in our society?

We are reminded of the du’a of Nabi Muhammad, in a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah, who asked Allah: “O, Allah! Let me live like a poor (person), die like a poor (person), and gather me among the group of the poor”.

The Prophet’s entire mission is to live among the poor and alleviate people’s hunger and suffering. The spiritually elevated Muslim is required to act in the world to alleviate human suffering.


Muslims must respond to the wife’s cry who suffers at the hands of a thuggish husband. We must tend to the old sickly person who lives in lonely isolation. The hungry family and the child who does not attend school or madrasa require our response. The increase in mental health challenges needs a reaction based on compassion and care.

We are required to be Allah’s vicegerents for protecting life. But, such a stance requires us to pray to Allah to give us the capacity for deep understanding of our moral responsibility, the type of understanding that will impact our hearts and prompt us out of our slumber.

Nabi Muhammad (SAWS) makes a duah to Allah to teach him to recognise and act on the reality of the conditions of his life, people and his surroundings. He asks Allah (SWT) to show him the path to the light of his heart in the following short duah: “O, Allah! Show me the reality of all things as they (really) are”.

The Prophet is here asking Allah to show him what is blocking his path toward Allah and blocking him from being connected to Allah’s command. The Prophet prays to Allah to make him respond to the plight of the downtrodden.

We must rescue the wife from the abusive husband by offering her support and shelter. We must establish under what conditions the elderly live and offer to visit and take them to the hospital. We must provide food support for the hungry family. We must create the conditions for the neighbour’s child to attend school and madrasa.

Our a’mal (virtuous practices) require daily acts of generosity. It requires that our institutions – masajid, madrasas, schools, welfare operations, health services –target the challenges in our community. We must join up with government agencies, NGOs, the business sector, civic and religious organisations, and community policing to develop coordinated action.

What informs our active responses is what our din calls ‘Adab-al-Ihsan’, which is beautiful, proficient behaviour based on care and generosity.

It requires all of us to make our contribution. Yet, we know that life under challenging circumstances creates a situation where people are focused narrowly on their survival. We retreat into our homes, draw the curtains and close our doors. We feel we want to protect our families.

Yet, turning our backs is not an Adab-al-Ihsan (beautiful and proficient behaviour) response. Closing our hearts to the plight of the desperate does not conform to the maqsad (objective) of preserving life. Our family’s safety is a priority, but so is our commitment to the neighbour next to us, the sickly in the hospital and the drug addict in rehabilitation.

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