[ Note: The following is an edited version of a recent Friday Khutbah at Toledo Masjid. The opening Hamd has been omitted, and both sections of the Khutbah have been merged into one article.]
Prophet Muhammad as a teacher
In the Hadeeth literature, we read about the supplications [Ad'iyah] that the Prophet -Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, would make. These are not only prayers to Allah- they are also instructions in and of themselves. This is logical, when we consider that the Prophet is a teacher, so there are lessons or teachings present in his supplications.
We are told in the hadeeth literature that he, upon whom be peace and blessings, would make these supplications at Fajr [Dawn] and Maghrib [sunset], the traditional beginning and end of the workday.
"O Allah, I ask you for useful knowledge"
This is the first line. Allahumma innee as-alooka 'Ilman Naafe'an. The Prophet asks God for knowledge that will bring benefit.
In the Qur'an we have the Du'a "My Lord, increase me knowledge " [Rabbi Zidnee 'Ilmaa]. While the Quranic verse is general, the hadeeth here specifies the sort of knowledge as being useful knowledge. In order for knowledge to be useful, a goal or a series of goals has to be made. A person seeking entry into medicine, he or she is required to study certain subjects and have under his or her belt certain actions to meet this goal, A person wanting to do business in Japan would perhaps have to study Japanese language. These are examples of useful knowledge [Ilman Naafe'an].
As Muslims, we should be seeking, above all other goals, knowledge that will make our character better, that will smooth over the rough edges. Knowledge that will touch the heart and bring positive influences.
"And a provision that is lawful and wholesome"
The du'a continues "and a wholesome, lawful provision" [Wa Rizqan Halaalal Tayyiban]. Rizq is money, food, clothing. We want that which is healthy and lawful in Allah's sight. In today's world, knowledge and provision are increasingly interconnected. But perhaps the Rizq here is also spiritual. I admit this is speculation, a thought. Rizq , that sustenance or provision can come in many ways. We are sustained by our friends, our surroundings, the television programs we watch, the music we listen to and the figures, both religious and political, we follow. Look at Donald Trump, he does sustain his followers. They get something from listening to him. They receive "provision", however it is not healthy!
Even physically, a person can eat chips and cookies daily, and survive. Yet, we know that this is not healthy sustenance.
We are to desire sustenance that nourishes the soul, that is Halaal and wholesome. Parents seek to limit their children's contact with certain things, such as foods, immoral television programs and the like. This can likewise be applied to us, as adults, building self-discipline.
"And that [my] deeds are acceptable"
The Prophet's du'a continues "and that [my] actions be acceptable" [Wa 'amalan Mutaqabbalan]. Obviously, some actions are unacceptable. In the Qur'an, we have the du'a "Our Lord, accept this Du'a". We have "Our Lord, accept from us".
Our actions in God's sight, and even in wider society, are acceptable if they are in keeping with what is Halaal, wholesome and beneficial. These are all connected with the heart.
Shaikh Muhammad Al-Ghazzali said "and when the human conscious [Dameerul Insaan] has died, it will not even be of benefit his memorization of the Qur'an."
So we pray that Allah makes us of those whom benefit from useful knowledge, may he give us goodly provision and may our actions be acceptable in his sight.
What we need to derive from the Sunnah
This du'a is an example of what we need to take from the Prophet's Sunnah in order to make this deen more than a collection of books, opinions and traditions. We want to make Islam a living reality, a force that truly benefits life.
This is how the Prophet functions, even after his death [peace be upon him] as Rahmatul lil 'aal ameen, a mercy to all nations [Q 21:107]. We need to get away from minimizing the Sunnah to things such as the Prophet's toothbrush [Miswak] and his clothes. His Sunnah is above and beyond such reductionist issues!
In a similar way, Allah sent a book called the Qur'an. It has not been sent to decorate your living room, simply to be recited at funerals and weddings. It is a book that has been given to benefit a people who ponder deeply [Qawmin Yatafakkaroon]. God says directly that the Qur'an has been sent as a pure recitation, in order that "perhaps you will use your mind." [La'allakum Ta'qiloon] [Q 12:2 and 43:3]
It is true that our interests will differ, and our conclusions will differ, however, if we stay firmly grounded in Allah's deen and in the inspiration from the Prophet, we can be dynamic, change our lives for the better and have an impact upon others.
So it is important not only to memorize this du'a, but the lesson and impact behind it.