May 2, 2008

Agenda to Change Our Condition, by Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir

Posted in Character, Da'wah, Islam, Islamic Books, Knowledge, Taqwa at 7:41 pm by faith786

Salaam! Sarah let me borrow a book she was reading, Agenda to Change Our Condition by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir. It was is an AMAZING BOOK. I recommend EVERY Muslim to read it. Even Super smart and holy people out there. Even if people do follow everything that is advised in the book (which, I do not,) it is still an imperative reminder for people out there. And the use of language is excellent-not many Islamic books use the English as well as it is used in Agenda to Change Our Condition. Anyway, I totally want this book, but it is Sarah’s so I am taking notes/copying some of the passages from the book. I hope you gain a lot out of it!

Ch. 1: Taqwa: Its Definition and Benefits

Taqwa: conscious awareness of Allah (and there are 4 pathways):

  1. Fulfilling obligations outwardly
  2. Fulfilling obligations inwardly
  3. avoiding prohibitions outwardly
  4. avoiding prohibitions inwardly

To achieve Taqwah, one must undergo a spiritual struggle (mujahadah)

“This is our purpose for being here [worship to realize Taqwah]. We must simply start–not tomorrow or the day after–but today, right now, at this moment. The heart must make a firm commitment and never turn back.”

Ch.2: The Heart and Its Treatment

There are two modes of action:

  • Action of the limbs
  • Actions of the heart
  • —belief (Aaqidah)
  • ——Sound belief and removing all your doubts
  • —Sincerity (Ikhlas)
  • ——sincerity of the heart comes through the sincerity of the limbs

Achieving sincerity:

Remove the four destructive forces of the tongue:

  • Lying: it is only allowed as a means to rectify between people, an effective military tactic, and when an individual plays with young children (But these can only be practiced with HUGE discretion and as a last option)
  • Backbiting: it is only allowed in 7 circumstances:
  1. “When appealing to an authority to remove an injustice.”
  2. “When seeking help from others to change a wrong or to stop an oppressor from his wrongs.”
  3. “When seeking a legal opinion.”
  4. “When warning others concerning commerce, marriage, neighbors, and companionship (for example, it is acceptable to mention the violent temperament of a man to his prospective wife).”
  5. “When one mentions a man by a nickname he is known by, such as, the “Lamented One” (however, if the nickname is used to belittle him, it is prohibited; if not, then using another name is preferable).”
  6. “When mentioning innovation in terms of religious practice (if someone is known for practicing such innovations, then it can be mentioned in relationship to him to warn others, unless there is a valid difference of opinion about that matter, in which case it is strictly prohibited!).”
  7. “When mentioning the wrongs of someone who openly commits those enormities (however, it is prohibited to mention wrongs that others do not know about).”
  • Argumentation For Its Own Sake:like, trying to create bid’ah with Quranic verses as back up. Trying to present something false as true. Can’t explain this one very well.
  • Mirthful Jesting on Serious Occasions: self explanatory and also butting into other people’s business.

So we need to fix how we use our tongues and focus on two essentials:

  • The five foundations of religion
  • Avoiding mortal sin vigilantly (kaba’ir)

So there are enormities we have to avoid. Here is the collection directly from the book:

Four enormities relate to the heart:

  • Association with Allah (shirk)
  • Perseverance in wrongs, even in lesser ones
  • Despair of the mercy of Allah
  • A false sense of security from the design of Allah

Four enormities relate to the tongue:

  • False testimony (shahadat al-zur)
  • Accusing others of adultery (qadhf)
  • Sinful oaths (yamin ghamus)
  • Magic (sihr)

Three enormities relate to the stomach:

  • Intake of alcohol or intoxicants
  • Consuming the wealth of an orphan
  • taking interest on wealth

Two enormities relate to the genitals:

  • Illicit heterosexual relations
  • Homosexuality

Two enormities relate to the hands:

  • Killing
  • Theft

One enormity relates to the feet:

  • Fleeing from a battle

One enormity relates to the whole body:

  • Disrespect of parents

[okay, no more copying]

Recommendations for reaching sincerity:

  • Recitation of the Quran with reflection
  • Concern ourselves with appropriate litanies (a.k.a supplications, salwaat, etc.)

Ch.3: Practical Steps to Change Our Condition

Things we can do:

  • The 5 Pillars: Learn the five pillars thoroughly
  • —Make an effort to learn Arabic (YAY), tajweed, and recitation of the Quran
  • Active Outreach:Practice Da’wah (see my ICNA notes about Da’wah)
  • Focus:Focus an area of concern (problem) and be passionate about making a change (both individually and collectively-have an idea? Hit me up!) Also focus on changing ourselves and the world. Even if our best isn’t enough, we still give ever fiber of our being to trying our hardest.
  • Cooperation: help promote unity and help strengthen the bonds of brother and sisterhood. The innate human bond between each other. That intrinsic love.
  • Good character:have adhab. haya2, and good character with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The prophet was sent to perfect character, so we should try to perfect ours.
  • Kinship:Have a strong bond with your family (referring to extended). Family is important.
  • Families:Be kind to our families (both nuclear and extended) and especially one’s spouse. There is great barakah in this.
  • Charity:Do our regular zakat, but also help put with an Islamic cause and regularly do acts of/give charity
  • Quran:A person should at least read it fully twice a year, and we should read surah Yasin, Mulk and Waqiyah every day. We should also try memorizing parts of the Quran and the 40 hadith of Imam Al-Nawawi
  • Remembrance of Allah:We should do regular dhikr, and litany (that the prophet himself did) and the greatest remembrance is doing good and avoiding evil. We should also give a portion of the night or before fajr to do servitude (which can be prayer, duaa, salwaat, tauba, etc. etc.)
  • Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil:self explanatory, but if confused, two references (other than Quran and hadith) to look at are: Revival of the Religious Sciences by Imam Al-Ghazali (EXCELLENT BOOK) which is translated by Shaykh Nuh keller in The Reliance of the Traveler (which, I have read the first by another translator and excerpts of the second)
  • Empathy:Avoid criticizing and judging people and have empathy and compassion towards others.
  • Supplication:Do duaa for ourselves and others
  • Physical Health:Exercise regularly, eat healthy food and not in excess, play sports (don’t get super competitive people), follow proper cleanliness (shower, groom, brush your teeth, etc. etc.), stay away from impurities, and your homes, cars, (and Masjids) should be cleaned
  • Commitment: Renew our pledge everyday that everything we do, think and say is for the sake of Allah
  • Time: Utilize your time wisely-for the sake of Allah and on a side note, give up TV-it is pointless, looking back at it.
  • Attitude:We should strive for excellence in our religion and perfection in our worship. Ihsan means perfection and beautification.
  • Devotion: Devote our lives to constantly improving ourselves. When you start making a commitment, live up to it!

Ch.4: Exercises for Attaining Taqwa

Exercise 1: Guarding the Prayer

  • There is super immense barakah in prayer, and is one of the pillars of Islam
  • If there are those who struggle with prayer, do the following exercise:
  • —Keep a chart in which you pray ALL your prayers ON TIME for 40 days STRAIGHT. If you missed fajr because you woke up late (me), then start the chart over. But this will, insha ‘Allah, help a person establish prayer or prayer that is done on time. =)

Exercise 2: Guarding the Tongue:

  • Refrain from: lying, backbiting, argumentation, and engaging in that which does not concern you.
  • The exercise works like this:
  • —40 days make a vow not to do the four things above and verbally say out-loud: “I vow not to lie, backbite, argue, or speak in matters of no concern to me for this entire day.”
  • —Throughout the day, be vigilant in observing what you say and note when you break your vow.
  • —At the end of the day, if you succeed, say, ” Oh Allah, I can honestly say I did not commit any of these offences today.” If you broke your vow, start your forty days over and ask for forgiveness. It may take awhile, but be patient. Fasting and charity can help you try to do this.

Exercise 3: Guarding the Eyes:

  • Make a commitment that for 40 days you will not look at anything that is prohibited (not only the opposite gender, but obscene things.) You are allowed the first look, but quickly avert your gaze and you can’t stare for so long. It is all about protecting your eyes and lowering your gaze.

Exercise 4: Guarding the Ears:

  • Again, do the following for 40 days:
  • —turn away from vain talk
  • —do not listen to lies, slander, calumny, backbiting, mockery, or any bad deed by the tongue
  • —change the topic if someone is talking bad things-if they don’t listen, tell then what you are trying to do, if they still don’t listen then you better off leaving.
  • —Avoid all television (YES!!!) and educational and halal media should be watched in reasonable limits, but preferred not at all. [Books are totally cooler, or me. =) ]

Exercise 5: Guarding the Stomach

  • You may want to start with this one if you are currently eating haraam (for Muslims reading this)
  • Focus on not eating that which is prohibited
  • And then step up from that and try to eat home cooked food because processed food normally go through gross and inhumane processes. Home cooked food have a great barakah and there is spiritual barakah in the food we eat. (For more about spiritual barakah in food, see Shaykh Husain’s lecture on one of my links)
  • Learn to control your appetite-don’t eat too much.
  • And practice nafil fasts-13th, 14th, 15th on Islamic months and Mondays and Thursdays. This is super easy in winter for people who live away from the equator.

Exercise 6: Guarding the Private Parts:

  • Under no circumstances can you be alone with the opposite gender (unless it is a mehram or spouse)
  • COVER YOUR AWRAH (This applies to sooooooo many people I know)-this means, LOOSE, LONG AND NOT SEE THROUGH CLOTHES
  • And people should control their carnal desires or get married.
  • If someone caved in to the above unlawfully, ask for forgiveness and never do it again.

Exercise 7: Guarding the Hands:

  • Don’t shake hands with the other gender. Just explain it to them (or as my speech teacher said, put your hand near your chest and be like, “the pleasure is all mine,” or something.)
  • Have haya2 (modesty)

Exercise 8: Guarding the Feet:

  • Do not go to haraam places or places that can put doubt on one’s character

Ch.5: Civic Involvement: An Islamic Imperative

  • We need to help our families and help our outer community
  • Involvement in civic engagement was critical to the birth of Madinah
  • We, Muslims in today’s world, need to help out different ways: some of us financially, in healing, in education, in humanitarian services, and grow in a balance.

PHEW! That was long. I’ll type the Appendixes in another post. I hope you got a lot out of it. I did. Majority (97%) of it was from the book, and some slight additions by myself. But I thought there was a lot of barakah in it, so I want to share it with the world. Please comment anything that struck a cord with you!



  1. Aischa said,

    Many thanks for this lengthy post. I can’t find a copy for sale! Grrrr…
    Inshallah, someday I’ll find a copy.

  2. faith786 said,

    No problem! I actually don’t own the book and I want to have a copy too. But I am very lucky to have a friend to let me borrow it. The Appendices are on my blog too, so you can check that out.

  3. Aisha said,

    thank you so much for taking good notes. May Allah reward you.
    I can not find a copy of this book.
    I was told that it has a calendar or something, is this true or is that another book.

    I wish I would have had this for Ramadan, but thats ok.
    I will work on these things now, inshallah !

  4. zayn said,

    This is definately an amazing book, had it for a good few years (since 2001)and its been alot of help. The great thing about it is that its something practical you can apply step by step its life changing (ill calm down now). Id recommend it 2 every1 who want to improve themselves. May Allah give us the tauwfiq to apply it in our lives and receive benefit from it and may He reward abundantly those who have compiled it.

  5. Joshua Nouril said,

    They carry the book here:

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