Azizi Khalid

May 31, 2021

Life Through a Cup of Coffee


Last Saturday, we continued our reading of Surah al-Muzzammil with the Quran 3 students at Qaswa. I had my cup of McCafe coffee from lunch with me.

Student 1: Do you like Maccas (McDonald's)?

Me: Not really. But Maccas is the closest cafe for coffee. So one of the teachers went to get some coffee for all of us since Qaswa Kitchen is not operational yet. Do you all go to Maccas often?

Student 2: Yes, but never for the coffee.

Me: Do you know that coffee was once considered a Muslim drink and declared haram in the Christian world?

Student (all): Really? No way.

Me: Yes. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. But it wasn't made into a drink. Instead, it was eaten as an energy food. In the 1400s, a scholar in Yemen named Sheikh Ali ibn Umar as-Shadhili made du'a to Allah to give him the strength to pray at night as the Sahabah did. Do you remember our discussion last week about the night prayer?

Student 3: Yes, they prayed really long prayers.

Student 2: Up to 6 hours or even more.

Me: Yes. As Muslims get further away from the Prophet, their strength to follow him becomes weaker. So Allah inspired Sheikh Ali to grind the coffee beans and made them into a drink. 

It became the official drink of Muslims who want to do extra prayers, read the Quran, or do dhikr at night. Coffee was always served at dhikr programs. So it became synonymous with dhikr that Imam al-Haddad said that shaitan would run away when the coffee cups jiggle.

Student 1: So if I jiggle coffee cups, shaitan will run away?

Me: No, the Imam did not mean it literally. It means that when you hear the sound of coffee cups jiggling, it means a dhikr program is about to start.

But what is interesting is that our pious predecessors always looked for ways to help them improve their ibadah. Coffee wasn’t invented as a drink for the sake of drinking. It was a means to get closer to Allah.

The Islamic civilisation of the past was spiritually driven. Muslims understood that Allah loves beauty — so we studied architecture to build beautiful masjids as a place of worship. We learned and developed further the technology of papermaking and bookbinding to beautifully preserve the Quran. In order to facilitate Hajj, Muslims learned and advanced shipbuilding and navigation. As a result, we became the most advanced civilisation on the planet. But that was never the aim. It wasn't progress for the sake of progress. The objective is to get closer to Allah. Progress was a by-product.

When you work hard for the sake of Allah, you will succeed in this world and the hereafter.

So that's life through a cup of coffee. Now let's get back to reading Surah al-Muzzammil.

Azizi Khalid
Making Islamic education fun at Qaswa House
Towards the Middle Path