Imagine a person is in the last throes of life. Around him are his three brothers. One of the brothers says to him, "Dear Brother, I will be able to assist you only until you die, but after your death I will be able to do nothing for you."

Hearing this, the second brother says, "Dear Brother, I will serve you day and night until you die. When you die I will serve the guests who come to the funeral and I will praise you after your death."

The third brother then says, "Dear Brother, until your death I will be able to do nothing, but as soon as your eyes close I will be with you in the grave. I will keep you company in the dark and I will keep the snakes and scorpions away from you and ensure that you reach your destination safely."

Which brother will the dying man love and value the most? The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has mentioned the same concept in a hadith that a person is followed to the grave by three things: his family, his wealth and his deeds. The family and wealth return and it is only the deeds that stay with a person. It is obvious that if the person had performed good deeds then these will be of great value to him and will ensure that he reaches his destination of Jannah with ease and peace.

We, the Huffāz, need to contemplate once or twice each week about how Allāh ta'ālā has been so kind to us that He has made us from the elite of this ummah. Are we living up to this title? Are we fulfilling the rights of this title? With what perspective do the people look at us? Do they respect us because of who we are or because of our being from amongst those who uphold the Qur'ān? These are just some questions we need to ask ourselves and ponder over.

It is very pleasing to know that many people try to act upon the sunnah of our beloved Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and bring his teachings into their lives; however, most only act upon those things commonly known as sunnah and miss many out. The sunan of eating are just a few of many examples.

Although the sunan of eating are numerous, only a few are commonly practiced, i.e. spreading the dining cloth, sitting on the floor, reciting the masnūn ad'iyah, and washing the hands before and after eating.

Another important point to remember is that these sunan are not just for lunch and supper; they are to be implemented whenever we eat and whatever we eat, even at tea-time or when we are merely snacking on a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate.

At the start of the year, we need to keep in mind that one more year of our lives has gone. If our actions were evil, and we were treading the path to Jahannam, we have now come one year closer to it. And if we were in search of Jannah then we now have one year less to reach that goal. In brief, the end of the year means the end of a year of our lives. An Arabic poet says,

The passing of days please a person,
But this passing(in reality) is the passing of his life.

Take the example of a person who wants to lose weight. In the initial weeks, with self motivation at its peak, he will exercise regularly, follow a special diet and do all the necessary things required to achieve his objective. However, after a few weeks once the initial motivation wanes, he will return to his old ways and will end up as he started, with no long term benefit whatsoever.

In contrast, if this person had taken professional advice from the outset, he would have been able to set a timetable and develop a manageable action plan under expert guidance. This in conjunction with the continued supervision of the dietician would have resulted in long term benefit and success in his objective.

This is precisely the example of the relationship between a shaykh and a murīd. A murīd will find great difficulty in purifying his soul and acquiring the recognition of Allāh ta'ālā by himself. Thus he needs someone to slowly – but surely – guide him and take him along the path that leads to soul rectification and the recognition of Allāh ta'ālā. That someone is the Shaykh.