Fruits for the Week

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The Prophet (saw) said: “Indeed iman gets worn out inside of you as a piece of clothing gets worn out. So ask Allah to renew iman in your hearts.” (Al-Hakim and Tabrani)

Our iman is our most prized possession, the most valuable thing in life. Like all other possession, it degenerates with time and neglect. If our iman is to meet Allah with strong iman, we have to be constant in its renewal and rejuvenation in our hearts.

The Prophet (saw) compared iman in clothing. This link between the two can also be found in the Qur’an where Allah (swt) the Most Wise says: “O children of Adam, We have given you clothing to conceal you and as adornment. But the clothing of taqwa is better. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.” (Al-A’raf: 26)

Allah reminds us in this ayah of His favor in granting us clothing that cover out nakedness and add beauty to our appearance. Allah then draws our attention to another type of dress that is better: taqwa, the clothing that lasts till the Day of Judgment. It conceals our spiritual shortcomings in this life and beautifies us before Allah and humanity. If physical clothing is essential for our bodies, the spiritual clothing of taqwa is indispensable for our souls and out fate in the next life. Another ayah affirms this link between what we wear and our beliefs and deeds. It is the ayah where Allah says: “And purify your clothing.” (Al-Muddathir: 4)

Some of the sahabah and their followers interpret this purification to mean purify your heart, intention, deeds, and soul. The Arabs, the tafsirs explain, praise one for possessing clean clothes when they mean that he is pure and virtuous in character and behavior.

In one hadith, the Prophet (saw) interpreted clothing in a dream as iman when he said: “While I was sleeping, people were presented to me. There were wearing shirts, some of which reached their breasts and some reached lower than that. Umar was presented to me and he was dragging his thirt.” They asked: “How have you interpreted it, O Allah’s Messenger?” He said: “Religion.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Since Umar (ra) possessed incredible iman ad taqwa, the dream represented his iman as long as thirt that he was dragging. Those with weaker iman were wearing shorter shirts that left part of their bodies exposed. The covering and protection of iman in real life is likened to the covering of shirts in the dream.

The link between our insides and outsides can also be expressed in terms of clothing. According to Ibn Mas’ud (ra): “Conceal whatever you wish inside. The one who conceals good, Allah will cloth him its clothing. And the one who conceals evil, Allah will cloth him its clothing.” (Abu Yusuf)

Ibn Mas’ud announced that whatever we hide in our hearts must and will be externalized. There is no possible sustained way to hide who we are on the inside. He expressed this eventual externalization in terms of clothes that Allah puts on us, an honest reflection of who we truly are. The one who desires a beautiful exterior must remember that it is a product of their inner beauty. Pretense is ephemeral.

Iman gets old
Do you feel exhausted? Fatigued? Burned out? Many of us have this feeling in life as we move between its many demands. We are physically tired, mentally drained, and most importantly spiritually dry. It feels like we have run out of fuel and cannot keep running anymore. We keep going on because this is what everybody else does. At times, it seems we are one to two steps away from giving up completely. Why does this happen?

The Prophet (saw) lets us know in this hadith that our iman weakens with time. We have been introduced to this reality in past hadith. The Prophet (saw) likened the process of decline of iman to decay of clothing. This visual example approximates what happens to our iman. By observing and remembering how clothes wear out, we understand the immaterial and invisible decay of our iman. Comprehending the physical aspect strengthens our understanding of the immaterial one.

Let us try to understand the impact that the decline of iman has on us. Allah explained in Surah Al-A’raf: 26 the benefits of the blessing of clothings: concealment and beautification. When a dress is worn-out, it doesn’t cover the body parts that we want to cover. Secondly, it leaves the body exposed to heat and cold, without protection. Thirdly, it loses its ability to adorn us. When iman is worn-out (weak), it suffers from similar shortcomings:

  1. Like clothes failing to cover our nakedness, a weak iman fails to cure and conceal our flaws, diseases, and weaknesses.
  2. Like the failure of worn-out clothes to protect, a weak iman does not protect us from Satan, our impulses and desires, the fitnah of this life, and Hellfire.
  3. And like decayed clothes, a weak iman fails to add beauty to our souls and lives.

(To be continued)

by Dr. Ali Al-Barghouthi