2016 has seen a rise in Islamophobia and with it a marked increase in violent hate crime toward Muslims.
Most recently, in August Mawlana Akonjee, Imam of Al-Furqan Jame Masjid in New York and his assistant Thara Uddin were gunned down when leaving the Mosque. On Monday, the Islamic Centre of Fort Pierce in Florida was struck with an arson attack, followed a day later by a Muslim woman set on fire in New York as she window-shopped along Fifth Avenue.
Commenting on the latest attack, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations explained
“It’s symptomatic of the overall rise in Islamophobic sentiment in our society.”
Whilst many of these incidents can be seen as responses to the threat of extremism committed in the name of Islam, arguably the overt xenophobic discourse fuelled by many politicians has contributed to the wave of incidents.
This is borne out by figures such as in the UK stating that in 2015 Islamophobic crime in London increased by 70%, succeeded by a 57% rise in anti-Islamic incidents after Britain voted to leave the European Union in June.
From its infancy, Islam experienced violent opposition with many of the great companions suffering at the hands of the pagan Arabs. The Qur’an repeatedly recounted the story of the Children of Israel reminding the Muslims that previous communities had too suffered hardship. The Qur’an even specified that the Muslims would be tested “through fear” but to “give glad tidings to those who are patient” (2:155).
The Qur’an records people would relay the threats of aggression against the early Muslims, seeking to change their practises by supplanting fear in their hearts. Amongst such verses the Qur’an states, “Indeed, the people have gathered against you, so fear them.” Instead of fear, the Qur’an attests
“But it merely increased them in faith, and they said, ‘Sufficient for us is Allah and He is the Best of Protectors” (3:173).
The sentence portrays the Muslim’s total dependence on Allah, because of their faith. Moreover the word al-Wakil (agent, manager, representative) refers to one who manages the affairs on behalf of someone, in this case the Creator of the Universe.
The relationship between reliance upon God and Him being the Best of Protectors is found in many practical things that Muslims should do to remain safe. They should try not to travel on their own where possible; make sure their family members know where they are going; and they should keep a full charge of their phone battery in case of emergencies. Narrations also place great emphasis on the giving of Sadaqah (charity) before leaving home, even if it be just a few cents, as a means of invoking safety.
Islam has long since understood changes in social circumstances providing insight and advise as how best to respond. One of the best forms of seeking protection is that of supplication (Du’a) for safety from the kinds of physical and emotional harm that many Muslims are suffering at the moment because of their faith.
Here I would like to suggest five supplications that can be recited specifically to invoke protection of Allah (swt) especially during this difficult period of extreme Islamophobia.
1. When waking up in the morning
According to narrations, every morning when beginning his day, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) would recite the following supplication and then place his needs before Allah (swt)
سُبْحَان اللهِ الْمَلِكِ الْقُدُّوسِ ، اللَّهُمَّ اِنّى اَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ زَوٰالِ نِعْمَتِكَ ، وَ تَحوِيلِ عٰافِيَتِكَ ، وَ مِنْ فَجْأَةِ نَقِمَتِكَ ، وَ مِنْ دَرَكِ الشَّقٰاءِ ، وَ مِنْ سُوءِ الْقَضٰاءِ ، وَ مِنْ شَرِّ مٰا سَبَقَ فِي الْكِتٰابِ ،اللَّهُمَّ اِنِّى اَسْأَلُكَ بِعِزَّةِ مُلْكِكَ ، وَ شِدَّةِ قُوَّتِكَ ، وَ بِعَظَمِ سُلْطٰانِكَ ، وَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ عَلٰى خَلْقِكَ (ثٌمَّ تَسْألْ حاجَتُكْ)
“Glory be to Allah, the King, the Holy. Oh Allah, I seek refuge with You from a decline in Your blessings. And a change in what You have destined. From a sudden punishment and a reaching adversity; from a bad fate and from the evil of what has been written for me. Oh Allah, I invoke You through the glory of Your Kingdom and strong power, Your great force and authority over Your creation.”
2. When leaving the house
According to narrations, the recitation of Ayat al-Kursi is one of the best forms of protection against harm and calamity. According to some narrations it is the single greatest verse in the entirety of the Qur’an.
Many narrations have described its recitation as a means of protection. Amongst them, a powerful narration says,
“Whosoever recites Ayat al-Kursi once, Allah sends an angel with the purpose of protecting him. Whosoever recites Ayat al-Kursi twice, Allah sends two angels with the purpose of protecting him. Whosoever recites Ayat al-Kursi three times, Allah sends three angels with the purpose of protecting him. And whosoever recites Ayat al-Kursi four times, Allah tells the angels ‘I will protect him Myself.’”
3. When entering and leaving a new place
Imam Musa ibn Ja’far al-Kadhim (a) was discussing various supplications such as what to recite for safety from wild animals. His companion told him about a lonely place he lived in and that because of it he lives in a constant state of fear. The Imam (a) responded
قُلْ اِذٰا دَخَلْتَ: بِسْمِ اللهِ وَ بِاللهِ وَ اَدْخِلْ رِجْلَكَ الْيُمْنٰى ، وَ اِذٰا خَرَجْتَ فَاَخْرِجْ رِجْلَكَ الْيُسْرٰى وَ سَمِّ اللهَ فَاِنَّكَ لاٰ تَرٰى مَكْرُوهاً
“Whenever you enter a place, put your right foot forward first and say, ‘In the Name of Allah and with the Help of Allah.’ And when you leave the place, recite Allah’s name and put your left foot forward first and nothing harmful will happen to you (God willing).”
4. Special prayer at the beginning of each lunar month
According to narrations, a special prayer (salaat) is to be performed at the beginning of each month. This is a two unit (rak’aat) prayer said after seeing the new moon, or to be said within the first three days of the new lunar month. It is called As-Salaatu Ru’yat al-Hilal (The prayer upon seeing the new moon) which, if recited and charity is given thereafter, Allah (swt) would afford its reciter special safety and protection throughout the entire month.
It can also be performed on behalf of others, for example a mother can perform on behalf of her children, or a husband on behalf of his wife. The details of the prayer can be found here.
5. Special prayer to be prayed whenever embarking on anything that may require special protection
Amongst the greatest compilations of supplications, is the monumental corpus known as Sahifa as-Sajjadiyyah by Imam Ali ibn Hussain az-Zain al-Abideen (a). Supplication 49 is specific for ‘Repelling the trickery of enemies and driving away their severities.’ As it is seventeen stanza’s long, I will quote a section of it to give a glimpse of its form and power.
“How many an assailant have not allowed the eye of his watchfulness to rest and secretly thought of visiting me with something hateful? So You my Lord, saw my weakness and my being alone before the great numbers of him who is hostile toward me, and lie in wait for me with an affliction about which I have not thought.
You set out at once to help me and You braced up my back! You blunted for me his blade, and turned back upon him what he had pointed straight. All of that was favour and graciousness from You. And in all of it I was occupied with acts of disobeying You. Yet my evildoing did not hinder You from completing Your beneficence toward me.”
During this period of heightened extremism, tensions and Islamophobia, these are just some of the supplications we can recite beseeching Allah (swt) for extra safety, for ourselves and those who we care for. We must also remember that the best means to reduce tensions is to act as a model Muslim so that people come to love the faith of Islam and the practises of the Prophet Muhammad (s).
May Allah (swt) keep us all safe InshaAllah.