Tadaru' is a term that means extreme humility and humbleness caused by despair and is expressed when a person has reached a critical juncture. Imam Ahmed ibn Hambal explained it saying, "Imagine a man drowning in the middle of the sea and all he has is a piece of wood that he is clinging onto. He is getting weaker and weaker and the salty waves are pulling him closer to death. Imagine him with his eager eyes looking desperately at the sky crying out loud 'O Lord, O Lord!!!' Imagine how desperate he is and how sincere he is asking for God's help. That is tadaru' in front of God".
God teaches us in the Quran that tadaru' is a form of worship a believer uses during emergencies and crises. It requires a person to remove the veils of arrogance and ego covering his or her heart. It implies sincere pleading to the Lord of the Worlds. It demonstrates that a person has realized how weak he is and how Powerful our Lord is. Sometimes when God sees that His servants are becoming distracted with this worldly life and have strayed from the Straight Path, He puts them in a trying situation so that they realize their weakness and run back to God for protection. Therefore calamities falling upon Muslims are to make them wake up and turn back to God. We must be thoughtful and perceptive enough to understand these messages and act upon them.
God The Almighty says, "Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad). And we seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health (with calamities) so that they might humble themselves (believe with humility)." (Quran 6:42). This verse shows that God uses calamities as a routine method to wake people up and encourage them to run to Him for protection. It is as if a calamity is a bitter medicine for us to become better believers. God does this for our benefit, because we need to maintain a close relationship with Him. God expresses our need for this form medicine in the following verse, "And if We had mercy on them and removed the distress which is on them, still they would obstinately persist in their transgression, wandering blindly." (Quran 23:75).
In another verse God says, "When Our Torment reached them, why then did they not humble themselves (believe with humility)? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaytan (Satan) made what they used to do seem fair and correct" (Quran 6:43). We must not make this mistake and close our eyes and hearts in front of God's call to humbleness and humility to Him. We must not let Shaytan trick us into believing that our problems have nothing to do with our relation with God.
God says, "Say (O Muhammad) 'Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and the sea (dangers like storms), (when) you call upon Him in humility and in secret (saying): If He (God) only saves us from this (danger), we shall truly be grateful.' Say (O Muhammad): 'God rescues you from this and from all (other) distresses, and yet you worship others besides God.'" (Quran 6:63-64). No one will rescue us from the darkness we Muslims are in today except God, but first, we must call upon Him in humility.
How to achieve tadaru':
It is necessary to realize the grave calamity that is falling upon us. Our children are being pounded by missiles that are weighed in tons, people are being oppressed and tortured all over the world. It is not so distant back in time that tens of thousands of women were raped in the Balkans and until this day innocent people are falling in Palestine with Israeli bullets. Homes are being demolished and the dignity a person is being stepped on ever day. Its not just about Iraq, and believe it or not, its not just about our Muslim Ummah, Its about our whole planet. Our world is heading straight towards a cliff and its not slowing down. We can delude our selves by saying this does not effect me, but then we will be guilty of negligence. If we can't realize the severity of the situation, then we have an additional problem, read verse (6:43) above. We need God's help and protection!
When the whale swallowed Prophet Yunus (Jonah) after he was thrown off the boat, he was in a terrifying situation. Imagine for a second being locked up in a small closet, its dark, and there is no hope of getting out. Now imagine yourself in a whale's stomach, imagine the darkness, and the difficulty in breathing. The whale is in the storming sea and its night. Imagine how Prophet Yunus felt, and imagine how he was when he prayed to God in humility saying, "None has the right to be worshipped but You (O God)!! Glorified (and Exalted) be You!! Truly, I have been of the wrong doers!" (21:87). Imagine a Prophet, a role model for human beings, saying that and referring to himself as a wrong doer, then imagine how we should plead to God.
The night before the battle of Badr, Prophet Muhammad saw how the army of the Pagans had out-numbered them and was so well equipped. Then he looked at the Muslim army and how few they were with poor weaponry. Badr was the first military confrontation between the Muslims and the Non-believers. It was a critical event in the history of Islam. If the Muslims lost this battle, Islam would have disappeared forever. Realizing this, Prophet Muhammad started to pray to God in humility and humbleness. He raised his hands up high, stretching his arms to the extent that his armpits appeared. He engaged in sincere supplication to God and his body was shaking causing his cloak to fall off his back. He was begging God crying, "O Ever Living!! O Sustainer and Protector!! I beg You for Your mercy!!! O God!! I am waiting for Your victory which You have promised me. I beseech You God to defeat them."
This is the level of humility we should try to reach when praying to God for help. Let us beg God for His help with the utmost humbleness as if we are really drowning and there is no one there to rescue us except Him. Let us get up in the middle of the night to pray keyam layl (night prayer), and let us break down in front of God begging Him, as we have never done before. Let us gather each other and do it together. Let us pray to God in humility in groups. Let us cry to Him together, let us run to Him with our families and friends. Let us all beg him for His help, protection and guidance.
Tadaru '.... is what we need to understand and practice. We need to achieve tadaru' so that God may change our situation, because...
"Verily God will never change the condition of a people until they change themselves"
Adapted from "We must always humble ourselves towards Allah" by Amr Khaled, a Muslim activist and preacher based in Egypt.
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