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Fasting `Ashura: Use the Staff of Moses to Save Yourself

Shaykh Nour Kabbani

22 October 2015 Chicago, Illinois

Suhbah at Turkish Mosque

As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh.

Imam Senad was reminding us today of whether `Ashura is tomorrow or Saturday; Allah (swt) knows, but most likely it’s tomorrow. In the Holy Qur'an, Allah (swt) orders that we have to take a lesson of what happened to the people before us. In Holy Qur’an, chapter after chapter there are verses that are saying, “Pay attention to what happened to people before you and take a lesson.” The biggest lesson they say is from Sayyidina Musa (a), the prophet whose name has been most often repeated in Holy Qur’an, more than 100 times. We all know what happened to Sayyidina Musa (a), how he escaped with his people from Fir`awn and Allah (swt) saved them.

حديث سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال : قدم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة فرأى اليهود تصوم يوم عاشوراء فقال : " ما هذا ؟ " قالوا : هذا يوم صالح نجى الله فيه بني إسرائيل من عدوهم فصامه موسى قال : فأنا أحق بموسى منكم " فصامه وأمر بصيامه

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "The Prophet (s) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of `Ashura. He said, 'What is this?' They said, 'This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Musa fasted on this day.' He (s) said, 'We have more right to Musa than you,' so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day." [Bukhari, 1865]

That does not mean the Prophet (s) was following Jewish traditions; we have to be careful. Our teachers point out that we are not following the Jewish faith and practices; rather, it is mentioned by our shuyookh that Prophet (s) set a new way of fasting that day: we fast not only on the 10th, but two days, on the 9th/10th or 10th/11th. It is also mentioned in a Hadith narrated by Sayyidah `Ayesha (r) that the Prophet (s) used to fast on Ashura in Jahiliyya, before prophethood.

حديث عروة عن عائشة رضي الله عنها أن قريشا كانت تصوم عاشوراء في الجاهلية ثم أمر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بصيامه حتى فرض رمضان فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : " من شاء فليصمه ومن شاء فليفطره

`Ayesha narrated that the Quraysh used to fast `Ashura in Jahiliyya and that the Messenger of God (s) commanded the fasting of this day until Ramadan was prescribed, then he (s) said, “Whoever wishes fast this day and whoever wishes do not fast.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The Arabs used to fast that day before the Message was asked to be forwarded by Prophet (s). So this day was observed by the Arabs before Islam. Many of us have heard of what happened on that day. Subhaan-Allah, Allah (swt) has made so many events to happen on that day, but inshaa-Allah we will mention just one, as that should be enough for all of us. We mentioned the Hadith that when the Prophet (s) came to Madinah, he saw that the Jewish people were fasting and asked, “Why are you fasting?” They said, “We are fasting in observance of the day Musa (a) and his people were saved and Fir`awn and his people were drowned.” Allah (swt) mentions that day in the Holy Qur'an:

وَإِذْ فَرَقْنَا بِكُمُ الْبَحْرَ فَأَنجَيْنَاكُمْ وَأَغْرَقْنَا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَأَنتُمْ تَنظُرُونَ

And when We cleft the sea before you, and so saved you and caused Pharaoh's people to drown before your very eyes. (Surat al-Baqara, 2:50)

Allah (swt) says, Wa idh faraqnaa bikumu al-bahra, “In that period of time, We opened up the sea for you.” So our shuyookh say that when Allah (swt) says, “Remember the period of time...” that period is brought in front of the Prophet (s) in his vision and whatever events happened in that time is shown to him, not that he has to imagine it like us, he can see it. Allah is saying, “I am bringing the time period in front of your eyes or in your heart.” However, Allah (swt) knows best, but, “We are bringing that time period where the sea was split, and We have split the sea for you, O followers of Musa (a) and have saved you!”

There are four things to note here: Wa idh faraqnaa bikumu al-bahra, “We have split the sea for you.” Fa anjaynaakum, “We have saved you.” Wa aghraqnaa aala Fir`awna, “And We have drowned the people of Fir`awn with Fir`awn.” Wa antum tanzhuroon, “And you were looking.” Four `Ashura events are mentioned in one verse, and Nabi (s) said we are going to fast tomorrow and an extra day, so we keep that practice.

When Allah (swt) wanted to take away Fir`awn, He ordered Musa (a), “Now it’s time to move at night and get out of Egypt,” and the people of Musa gathered themselves and started to walk at night, marching out of Egypt, and they say they were about 600,000 Jewish people, descendants of the twelve sons of Ya`qoob, Jacob of Israel (a); his name is ‘Israel’, meaning "`abd" in Hebrew and "el" means ‘Allah’, so his name means “the servant of Allah” (swt). Sayyidina Musa (a) walked with them at night. It was said the people of Fir`awn were busy burying their dead who fell victim to a disease or calamity. When Sayyidina Musa's (a) people started to march out of Egypt, Fir`awn did not know until it was too late, until they were almost gone, so he gathered all of his people that he could and took them to chase Sayyidina Musa (a), who had taken his people until they confronted a sea, and when they looked behind them they saw millions of Fir`awn’s people coming after them and they said:

إِنَّا لَمُدْرَكُونَ

Indeed, we will be caught. (Surat ash-Shu’ara, 26:61)

They will reach us and we are going to be killed, what do we do now? In front of Sayyidina Musa (a) was the Red Sea, a dead end, he could not take them further, and behind them was their enemy! What do you do? All of us go through this every day or every month: you have an enemy behind you and a dead end in front of you. Who do you call? What did Sayyidina Musa (a) say?

قَالَ كَلَّا ۖ إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ

He said, “Nay, indeed my Lord is with me and He will guide me.” (Surat ash-Shu’ara, 26:62)

“With me is my Lord. I am not alone! My Lord can change the laws of the universe and save us!” That is why tomorrow is important, because the laws of universe, physics, were changed! Do you think it's easy it to split a sea into twelve for each tribe to pass? Who can do that?

فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ أَنِ اضْرِب بِّعَصَاكَ الْبَحْرَ ۖ فَانفَلَقَ فَكَانَ كُلُّ فِرْقٍ كَالطَّوْدِ الْعَظِيمِ

Then We revealed to Moses, “Strike the sea with your cane!” Thus it split and every passage was like a vast mountain. (Surat ash-Shu’ara, 26:63)

Each passage was like tawd, a huge mountain. Imagine you are in the bottom of the sea seeing mountains of water going up to the air. Which laws of physics accept that? then Sayyidina Musa (a) was told, “Strike the sea with your staff and it will split!” He hit it with his staff and it split into twelve passages that each tribe entered and they did not see each other, so they asked Sayyidina Musa (a) to make windows. He swung his staff right and left to make windows between the mountains of water so they could see each other. “Remember the time period when We have split the water for you and We saved you.” They all passed to the other side; it is said Allah (swt) sent the heat of the Sun and wind to blow the bottom of the ocean to dry it, so they walked on dry land, not slipping, not falling, not hurting themselves, until they reached the other side.

"Wa aghraaqna aala fir`awna", the third event in the verse, “We drowned Fir`awn and his people,” when Fir`awn and his army came to the shore they saw the big mountains of water, but were afraid to go in and didn't know what was going to happen. Our shuyookh narrated that Fir`awn and all his soldiers rode horses, but he rode a male horse (colt), and Sayyidina Jibreel (a) came riding a female horse (mare), but Fir`awn’s horse ignored his orders and followed it into the ocean or else they would not have entered it. If Allah (swt) does not give us control over our ride we will never ride it! Do you think a camel or horse or whatever we mount is an easy animal to control? Allah (swt) says:

ذَلَّلْنَاهَا لَهُمْ فَمِنْهَا رَكُوبُهُمْ وَمِنْهَا يَأْكُلُونَ

We have lowered them for them, so from among them are their mounts and from them they eat.

(Surat Yasin, 36:71)

We have made them dhaleel for you, dhallalnaahaa lahum, We have made them humble for you. You see these big animals, an elephant in your country, an elephant crushes a man just like that. People ride an elephant, a huge beast. Allah (swt) says wa-dhallalnaaha lakum, “We have made a dhaleel, We have made it humble for you.” So Fir`awn had no control over the horse anymore, because Allah (swt) took that from him; his horse followed Sayyidina Jibreel (a) into the ocean and all the horses followed the male horse into the water and it is said that Sayyidina Mika’eel (a) came with his horse and pushed the rest into the water. So with two angels on each side, the people of Fir`awn were pushed into the water out of their control, because:

وَأَغْرَقْنَا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَأَنتُمْ تَنظُرُونَ

We drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were watching. (Surat al-Baqara, 2:50)

And the Jewish people went on the other side, watching what was happening to Fir`awn and his people, who all drowned! Allah (swt) is saying, “We have saved you on this Day!” It is said that Allah (swt) ordered Sayyidina Musa (a) to hit the staff with Laa ilaaha illa-Llah. What did Sayyidina Musa (a) come with? To call Fir`awn to one Lord, to say “Laa ilaaha illa-Llah,” so his weapon and power was from Laa ilaaha illa-Llah, because he came to Fir`awn and told him to say, “Laa ilaaha illa-Llah.” So with that staff, that power, he was able to do miracles,

It is said that each one of us has that staff, it is the staff of your heart. When we make dhikr of Laa ilaaha illa-Llah in our heart, we split the ocean of dunya and its pleasures, because we are drowning in it. We are walking to Allah (swt) and you have to walk through dunya to reach Him! We are in dunya, but you walk in dunya with with Laa ilaaha illa-Llah. So that water splits, dunya splits, pleasure splits and with Laa ilaaha illa-Llah in your heart you can walk through dunya to the other side. So your heart and its soldiers, the good characteristics and good manners, are being followed by a nafs, ego and its soldiers: anger, gluttony, love of dunya, love of wealth, all that is chasing after your heart to kill it. All of us are being chased: we are trying to escape our ego and the ego is after us with its soldiers, with its anger, with its love of money, love of wealth, love of this dunya, and our heart is escaping with Laa ilaaha illa-Llah and the soldiers of the heart. So Allah (swt) saves the heart and the soldiers from Fir`awn, which is the bad ego, but with Laa ilaaha illa-Llah.

That is why dhikr is important: the dhikr of Laa ilaaha illa-Llah will save us and take us to the other side. That is the remembrance that Imam Senad was talking about. If you read the stories of Sayyidina Musa, Sayyidina `Isa , Sayyidina Nuh (`alayhimu ‘s-salam), in fact all prophets, you will see that they all have a meaning that is spiritual, not only physical. The physical absolutely happens, there is no question about it as they have been narrated in Holy Books and throughout history, but there is a spiritual meaning: to be saved you have to do what Sayyidina Musa (a) did, you have to use that miraculous power of Laa ilaaha illa-Llah to split the water of dunya. In addition, at the bottom, the water of dunya is still slippery so you still need the Sun of Guidance and the Wind of Love of Allah (swt) that will dry up dunya completely; also, the guidance and love of Allah (swt) and His Messenger will dry up the bottom of that water, so you can walk in these twelve passages.

I will finish here. Sayyidina Shaykh said that there were twelve tribes of Bani Israel. We mentioned earlier that the spiritual staff is Laa ilaaha illa-Llah, in which there are twelve letters.

Alhamdullahi Rabbi 'l-`Alameen. Tomorrow inshaa-Allah we are fasting; some people fasted today and whoever did not will fast tomorrow and Saturday to practice what the Prophet (s) said, not to resemble the Jewish people, but they are People of the Book, People of Faith and Allah (swt) knows best about them, but we follow the Prophet (s) and fast these two days inshaa-Allah.

Wa min Allahi 't-tawfeeq, bi hurmati 'l-habeeb, bi hurmati 'l-Fatihah.



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