riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Amazing Race

Truly the Righteous (abraar) will be in Bliss...They are given to drink of a sealed nectar. Its seal is musk, and for that let the competitors compete. (Qur'an 83: 22-26)

One of the best ways for Muslims to stay on track with all their duties, and to do more than what is required, is to think of it as a friendly competition. Sayyidna Abu Bakr and Sayyidna Umar, may God be pleased with them, always competed for good deeds. Abu Bakr would always win, and Umar would try to catch up to him- whether in charity or in extra devotions, Umar would constantly try to find out how much Abu Bakr is doing and try to match him. It's a great way to win the pleasure and the Ridwan of Allah.

Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whereof the breadth is as the breadth of the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His messengers. Such is the bounty of Allah, which He bestoweth upon whom He will, and Allah is of Infinite Bounty. (Qur'an 57: 21)

As one Shaykh puts it, better than I:

...when one carefully looks at peoples’ behavior, he will notice different kinds of competition. Some people do compete over this mundane world as to conquer and hold it in their possession; some compete over the attainment of high positions; some compete to achieve fame and stardom and some compete on building luxurious houses just as if this world is an everlasting one.

Let us leave those people moving directionlessly in their fake pleasures, and ponder over a better and sublime competition; a competition that is encouraged by the Glorious Qur’aan. It is a race towards the Pleasure of Allaah and the Paradise, a competition in the field of righteous deeds. It is a competition in which the participants are wise people who are aware that this life is short hence they compete with one another in investing their lives in acts of obedience to Allaah.

“The Mufarridoon have gone ahead!", said the Prophet one time to his companions. "Who are the Mufarridoon, O Messenger of Allaah?", they asked. “They are those men and women who remember Allaah much.”

He also said,

“Should I teach something with which you can catch up with those who have gone ahead of you and outstrip those who are behind you and none will be better than you except the one who does as you do?’ They said: ‘Yes! O Messenger of Allaah!’ He said: ‘You should glorify Allaah, praise Him, and exalt Him 33 times at the end of every prayer.” (Subhan'Allah x 33, Al hamdu lillah x 33, Allahu Akbar x 33).

"Were people to know the blessing of pronouncing the Adhaan and the standing in the first row in prayer, they would even draw lots to secure these privileges. And were they to realize the reward of performing Salaat early, they would race for it; and were they to know the merits of the Isha and the Fajr Salaat, they would come to them even if they had to crawl."

Competing for these rewards is a great thing, something that the the sahaaba always tried to do... None of them were content to do simply what was required of them. Instead, they wanted to be ahead, to gain the highest rewards in Paradise, and be raised to the highest degrees. If they saw others surpassing them in good deeds, they would do all that they could to catch up or outstrip them.

Some poor companions came to the Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) one day and asked him of what they could do to be ahead of the rich in terms of reward.

They said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah! The rich people have made away with rewards. They pray as we do, fast as we do and spend their excess wealth in charity, and they free slaves.’

He answered: ‘Has Allaah not provided for you what you can do charity with? Indeed, every glorification (Subhaanallaah) that you do is charity, every exaltation (Allaahu Akbar) that you do is charity, every praise that you give (Alhamdulillaah) is charity, every ‘Laailaaha illa Allaah’ that you say is charity, enjoining what is good is charity, preventing evil is charity and even doing marital intercourse with one’s spouse is charity.’

They said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah! How can we enjoy ourselves and still get reward for it?’

He replied: ‘Tell me, if he does it in an unlawful way, is it not going to be a sin? Likewise is when he does it in a lawful way, he is going to get a reward for that.”

The Prophet told them also to do the dhikr in the way mentioned above, thirty three times each for Subhanallaah, Alhamdulillaah, Allaahu Akbar after every prayer.

So, the poor began to catch up with the rich in rewards, by doing the dhikr after prayer, by trying their best to forbid what is wrong and to enjoin what is right. And realize also that dhikr does not only benefit oneself- it is also considered a sadaqa, charity, because every act of worship benefits all of humanity and not just the person who is worshipping. (I wonder, though, if someone tried to catch up in rewards by giving lots of pleasure to his wife). And what do you think happened when the rich people- already ahead of the poor because of giving in charity and the freeing of the slaves- what do you think they did when they found out that the poor are doing this dhikr that the Prophet promised would make them "overtake those who have preceeded them and outstrip those who were behind them and make them better than all except those who do the same"?

The rich started doing this dhikr as well! Why? Because they were not content to just make it to Paradise, because the companions of the Prophet wanted to reach the highest degrees, and no less! So the poor went back and complained to the Prophet, saying: "Our brothers who possess property heard about what we were doing and they have done the same." The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "That is a favour which Allah gives to anyone He wills."

Even for martyrdom the companions competed. Before the Battle of Badr, Sa'd ibn Kaythamah drew lots with his father to see who will go out to fight and who will stay to take care of the women and the children. Sa'd won the lot for battle, but his father said, "My son, give me preference over yourself today". Sa'd replied, "If it was for other than Paradise, I would have", and so he went out to battle, hoping to get the reward of martyrdom, and gained his wish.

Before the Expedition of Tabuk, the Prophet asked his companions to donate all that they could as charity to fund the expedition. Umar found this was his chance to surpass Abu Bakr. "Today, I am going to surpass Abu Bakr," he thought. "So I came with half of my property", as he later told. "The Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) asked: 'What have you left for your family?' I answered: ‘As much as this.’ Then Abu Bakr came with all that he has and the Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) said: ‘What have you left for your family?’ He replied: ‘I left for them Allaah and his Messenger.’ "

I remember this story that a shaykh related one day. Knowing about the competition between Umar and Abu Bakr for good deeds, the Prophet teased Umar once, saying to him: "You will be the one to open the gates of Paradise". "But what about Abu Bakr?" asked Umar. "Abu Bakr and I will be waiting for you inside!" said the Prophet.

And even the generation that came after the sahaaba, the taabi'een, would attempt to catch up with those who went before them. They thought of their egos, their nafs, as riding animals, which one must tame and ride in the pursuit of good deeds, and in the attempt to join with the Messenger of God in Paradise. So they would say:

“The Sahaaba rode behind the Prophet (pbuh) on the backs of perfectly bred race horses and we are riding on the backs of lame donkeys."

Then they would address their own nafs, saying: "Do you then want to hamper our movement so that they (the sahaaba) can win the Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) while we remain on the way? By Allaah, we shall meet up with them even though we have to crawl so that they will know that those they left behind are really men.”

In this way, hopefully I will start to compete with my friends in everything.. In doing what is required of me, and in exceeding that.

"have you done all your prayers on time today"?
"yeah, and I did the zuhr sunna prayers as well!"
"oh yeah? Well i'm gonna do all the sunna prayers, inshalla."
"well, i'm gonna try to do all my prayers in congregation at the mosque."
"I'm also memorizing the Qur'an."
"Where have you reached? I'm beginning my second juz' already".

etc, etc.

Perhaps then, if I turn my ego into a well-trained horse, I could race on ahead and catch up with some of those who went before me, so that I may drink from the raheeq makhtoom, the sealed nectar reserved for the abraar "...and for that let the competitors compete."


Lots of what I quoted came from this link: Competing for the Hereafter...


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