الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد:
أَلَمۡ يَأۡنِ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَن تَخۡشَعَ قُلُوبُہُمۡ لِذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ ٱلۡحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُواْ كَٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِن قَبۡلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيۡہِمُ ٱلۡأَمَدُ فَقَسَتۡ قُلُوبُہُمۡۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنۡہُمۡ فَـٰسِقُونَ
“Has the time not come, for the hearts of those who believe, to be humbled by Allah's Reminder (this Quran), and what has been revealed of the truth, and not be like those given the Scripture before, and the time was prolonged for them and so their hearts became hardened. And many of them are (still) rebellious.” (Quran, 57:16)
It is not often that the new academic year and the new Islamic Hijri or lunar year coincide, but this year is one such occasion. Separately we usually consider each one as a significant life event and a new start. When they occur at the same time, then indeed we need to pay special attention to the occasion, as it could be for many of us a fresh beginning or a rebirth of sorts.
With the Hijrah of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him), his migration from Makkah to al-Madinah a little more than halfway into his blessed prophethood, Islam was reborn and the Muslims made great strides towards establishing the deen of Allah on this earth. Many civilizations, nations, communities, families and individuals also experienced a rebirth or a revival in their lifespans, sometimes more than once. And while there are many types of revivals, the Hijrah signals a spiritual rebirth and growth for the Muslim ummah; it was in many ways an intellectual renaissance as well. The believers, as individuals and as a community, found fertile ground to express themselves freely and grow on a moral and ethical basis like never before.
Allah Almighty, Most Supreme, Most Compassionate, invites us, too, in the Quranic verse above (57:16) to return to Him when we stray from His path, to recommit to our responsibilities when we slack in our duties, and to recall His grace when we forget His favors. He reminds us in the ayah that it is the heart that must be kept alive with faith and His remembrance, and by righteous deeds. Therein is, furthermore, also a stern warning that over time, our negligence and disobedience will lead to the hardening of the heart and its sealing. This death of the heart leads to frequent disobedience and rebellion, and ultimately to destruction and doom - may Allah protect us all from this.
It is said that as human beings we are born (at least) twice: The first, a physical one, is when we emerge from the darkness of the womb to the light of this world. This is the case for all people - believers and nonbelievers, and the righteous and sinners - even for the animals. The second one, however, is a special favor from Allah, when one emerges from the darkness of disobedience to the light of guidance. This is for those blessed by Allah (SWT) with Divine help and success in this world and in the Hereafter. This is a spiritual rebirth, a return to the Almighty in submission to His will and in obedience to His commands.
A spiritual rebirth can happen to any person, irrespective of their beliefs, status, ethnicity, etc. and can range in its scope. It is granted by the Divine Grace, Wisdom and Justice of Allah for whom He pleases, for some reason or another that only He knows for certain: perhaps it was an answer to their prayers and their quest for the truth, or a reward for their devotion, or simply as a test from the Almighty? It can happen at any time in life: in one's youth, mid age, old age, just after birth or just before death. It does not know only one place: it may come to one in the mosque or another place of worship, the prison, the home, on a hospital bed, in the countryside, in a holy city or a place of depravity and promiscuity. It could have been preceded by an inspirational speech, a profound event, an influential friend or family member or caller, a dream, an answer to someone’s prayer, or maybe for no apparent reason.
When one’s rebirth is destined, it will not be restricted or prevented by time constraints or any bounds or obstacles; it can come at any time, suddenly or gradually, and will not be influenced by any factors, except by the will of Allah. It will certainly come to pass as decreed by Allah (SWT) and may initially be followed by confusion, introspection, regret, gratefulness, humility, reflection, tears, repentance, prostration, commitment and dedication - there may be some of these desired reactions, or the sum of all of them, preferably in the same sequence!
Allah, the Most Merciful, the Omnipotent, in fact gives us the opportunity of a rebirth of sorts with every new day, and with other significant times in the year. It is up to us to grab that chance and make a change for the better in our spiritual lives. This indeed is a laudable and desirable aspiration, and we should not ignore or delay seizing the occasion for any reason. And the beginning of that journey is undoubtedly marked by first seeking repentance. By the will of Allah, the Best of Planners, we will address this stage next time.
May Allah Almighty direct us to the path of guidance and steadfastness all year long, and keep us firmly on track. Our Lord and Master, Deity of our worship and service, Most Loving and Most Powerful, Bless us with increased faith and trust, and security and safety, and be ever pleased with us. Protect us from Shaytan and the evil inclinations of our desires. Reward us with the best in both worlds: Grant us entry into the loftiest levels of Paradise and save us from the horrible torment of the grave and of Hellfire.
All praises are due to Allah, Lord of the Creation. May His peace and blessings be upon our master Prophet Muhmmad (SAW), on his family and on his companions. And may Allah’s peace be with you, and your family, friends and neighbors.