Archive for Spiritual Issues

12 Tips for the Convert Muslim

By Brother Alex (Dallas, TX)
 
1. Practice Islam as much as you can

“He who loves my Sunnah has loved me, and he who loves me will be with me in Paradise.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Tirmidhi)

As a new Muslim, you will have trouble keeping up with prayers every day, fasting during Ramadan, and the many other practices in this religion. The struggle that we face, with such a radical change in lifestyle, is difficult and will take some time. Awkward moments are bound to happen, don’t fret. You are not expected to wake up at 4am every morning to pray tahajjud (extra night prayers). If you have problems with certain practices, then gradually work yourself into the mindset of worship. A counselor once told me when I was young, “How do you eat an elephant? Just One bite at a time.” Think of it as one step at a time. Pray to Allah (swt) and ask for Him to make it easy for you and the rest will come naturally.

Keeping up with your devotional practices is something that will strengthen your faith immensely. Read the Qur’an whenever possible. Find a collection of hadith, such as Riyadh us-Saliheen, and read it often. You will start to feel a connection to Allah (swt) and you will become used to Islam as a religion and way of life.

2.  Respect your parents

“Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Ahmad, Nasa’i)

Keeping up a good relationship with your family is essential. Try to avoid bringing up or taking part in controversial subjects regarding religion. This is almost unavoidable, but your parents will eventually accept that Islam is not going to turn you into a terrorist if you stay calm during these tense moments. Gradually, your parents will gain some respect and understanding of Islam and may start to become genuinely interested. This is a great sign and insha’Allah, God will make a way for them to accept Islam.

What you do not want to do is act like you know everything, attempt to debate everything, or overly defend yourself in a way that might make you angry or upset. This will just cause heartache and uneasiness. Your priority now should be to work on yourself.

3. Find a teacher

“For him who follows a path for seeking knowledge, Allah will ease for him the path to Paradise.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

Finding a teacher to bounce ideas off of is a great way to learn your deen (religion). I found it is good to find someone with as much knowledge as possible who also has an understanding of the English language and American culture. It is difficult to listen to someone with a thick accent or someone with a back-home mentality. When I first accepted Islam, I would drive every day to visit my teacher and I would ask him what seemed like an endless stream of questions. Sometimes he seemed overwhelmed! This is a great way to clarify things you hear on Sheikh Youtube or Google or any part of the Qur’an you are reading at the time.

This will also help you have a real grounding in the Islamic tradition. You will eventually have spent more time learning Islam than most people from Muslim families. Maintain a sense of humility if you do gain a lot of knowledge, as there will always be someone who will be more knowledgeable than you. Learn everything you can in small chunks, no one is asking you to be a scholar!

4. Keep away from debates and arguments

“Verily anger spoils faith as aloe spoils honey.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

Trying to constantly defend your religion is something that will cause you a lot of stress. I remember when I first accepted Islam, it seemed like the whole world was after me. This may happen to different people at different levels, but it was a very overwhelming experience for me. The best thing to do is avoid these arguments at all costs. If you are mature about your religion and display a desire to explain yourself without refuting others, then many doors will open for you. You are bound to give someone a refreshing view of Islam, which is what so many people are hungry for after seeing Islam in such a negative light in the media.

Staying away from these discussions will put you at peace and give you breathing room. A lot of converts are not really comfortable with bringing up their religion because of the backlash they receive. Personally, I recognized that if I just mention it when necessary, I get a more positive reaction. You’ll be surprised to hear “Oh that’s cool dude, what made you pick that religion?” This is always an opportunity for da’wah (inviting to Islam).

5. Gain a connection to the Arabic language

“Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.”
-The Holy Qur’an, 12:2

This is one of my favorite parts of becoming a Muslim. To be honest, I’m a language-lover and I realize everyone is not the same in this regard. Just because you failed high school Spanish though doesn’t mean you will have trouble with Arabic. There are many tricks to learning the language that I won’t go into here, but there are ways to make this easier on yourself. These methods can be found online or in books; with a little research you can pave your way to gaining an understanding of Arabic.

Start by learning the alphabet and connecting letters together. You can learn this in an afternoon if you know someone that is a native Arabic speaker (but go at your own pace). Sit on that for a while and eventually you will be able to follow along in the Qur’an if you listen to a recitation on your computer or MP3 player. You will start to recognize words, after which you can get into simple grammar rules. I recommend learning common nouns and prepositions first (words like “in”, “on”, “for” and “with”).

Arabic can be really enjoyable, and you are bound to gain an Islamic vocabulary after listening to talks or lectures. Eventually you will know meanings of words like “furqaan” and “sajdah” and you’ll be able to use them in conversations with Muslims. Sabr (patience) is essential!

6. Understand Islam’s organic nature

“Those who make things hard for themselves will be destroyed. (He said it three times.)”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

Coming to Islam will sometimes put you in a situation where you are overwhelmed with opinions that are hard to follow. As an example, one might be told that you have to wash your feet every time you make wudhu (ablution) unless you wipe over leather socks that have been worn from your previous wudhu. For most Americans, the idea of wearing leather socks is something that we find extremely unusual. If we do a little research, we find there are opinions of scholars that mention the permissibility of wiping over cotton socks (even ones with holes in them!). To an American convert, these opinions can cause a huge sigh of relief.

7. Maintain your Identity

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
-The Holy Qur’an, 49:1

Being a Muslim is a huge part of your identity now. That doesn’t mean you can’t barbeque with your friends or watch football on Sundays. If there are things in your culture that do not directly contradict with basic Islamic creed, then you are welcome to keep those things in your life. You do not need to start wearing Arab or Indian clothing. As long as your clothes cover what they are supposed to cover, you are in the clear.

Many converts are also exposed to really weird food that is overly spicy or funny tasting. This might lead us to think that eating curry is sunnah or something righteous. We can still have our own culture and tastes in food: pot roast and beans are still halal!

There are many other examples of things that you will be exposed to that are from foreign cultures and do not necessarily have anything to do with Islam. Our goal as new Muslims is to worship Allah (swt), not to add a Pakistani or Arab identity to our persona.

It is good to have a teacher who understands the subtleties of different opinion in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and can inform you of differences among the scholars on issues that are of concern. Most people in masajid will have a very limited view of the juristic possibilities inside the Islamic tradition. Islam is a vast tradition and we should not make it small. These diverse opinions are there to help us, not cause strain on ourselves.

8. Force yourself to go to the masjid

“The person who receives the greatest reward for the Salah is one who lives the farthest and has the farthest to walk.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Bukhari, Muslim)

Going on Fridays is a given, but I would also recommend trying to fit a few prayers (at least) per week in the masjid. This will open many doors for you and will insha’Allah grant many good deeds to your account. You will meet people who are connected to Islam; networking opportunities are more readily available; and you are bound to make long-lasting friends. This is one of the things that I really love about Islam, that you can almost always find people in the masjid.

Although this may be hard initially, try and go to the masjid. The payoff will be huge, even if you just pray and leave right after. You will eventually warm up to the community and you can feel more comfortable going to the masjid whenever you like.

9. Find Muslim friends and avoid severing ties

“On the Day of Resurrection Allah Almighty will proclaim: “Where are those who have mutual love for My Glory’s sake? Today I shall shelter them in My shade where there is no shade but Mine.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

Saying “As-salamu ‘Alaykum” ( “Peace be upon you”)  to people you see on campus or at the grocery store is a real blessing in Islam. It immediately lets people know you are Muslim and they usually will be happy to return the greeting and hopefully share a few words with you. Doors of friendship will be opened and you will meet lots of people. Try and spend some time with Muslims when you can. It is beneficial to remind yourself that you are not the only Muslim on the planet and you share your religion with almost 2 billion people around the globe.

Also, don’t sever your friendships with your non-Muslim friends unless they are constantly partying or using the list of major sins as their weekend to-do list. You can be a light to your Christian, Agnostic, Jewish, or Atheist friends. You never know who Allah (swt) will guide, and showing that you are living an ethical life can encourage these people to learn a little about Islam or change their mind to having a positive view of the religion.

10. Avoid Loneliness

“Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

This is a major problem in the convert community. We are lonely. The best thing we can do to fight the feeling of loneliness is to spend as much time as possible with good company. Having dinners with people a few nights a week is a sure way to maintain a good attitude. The practice of becoming a nun or a monk is alien to Islam; we are social creatures and Islam recognizes this.

Try not to lock yourself away in your apartment to avoid the world. This will just cause a vicious cycle that will cause deep depression and can lead to searching for solace in haram (unlawful).

Make it an obligation on yourself to remain a sociable human being. It takes a lot of work but the result is happiness and contentment in life.

11. Stay away from extremism

“And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people.”
-The Holy Qur’an, 2:143

Most converts do not enter Islam looking for an extremist point of view. Unfortunately, we have seen some converts do end up overseas working for terrorist organizations. This is something that can happen from a person feeling victimized or ostracized by their own culture and being overcome with anger.

I personally have not had a problem with anyone trying to “radicalize” me. It does happen enough though that it should be a concern. It will be best for you to keep your head on your shoulders and not get caught up with extreme points of view. Know that all of the scholars overseas and in America have absolutely refuted terrorism in their fatawa (legal rulings). Extremism is on the very edges of the Islamic thought. Do your best to stay on a middle way.

12. Do not despair

“So know that victory is with patience, and relief is with distress and that with hardship comes ease.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Being a convert to Islam, you will face a lot of tribulations. There is not anything that you cannot overcome though, and never despair in Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) guided to you to Islam, you searched for the answer and you found it. Be happy and constantly remind yourself of the blessings in your life. There are a lot of good things that will happen to you and you are on the straight road to Jannah (paradise). Rejoice in being Muslim. Remember the Sahabah (companions) were all converts to Islam and they were human beings that came from Adam and Eve just like you! Be strong and find comfort in your prayers and worship to Allah (swt). The first six months were the hardest for me, and insha’Allah we will all continue to grow as a convert community in America.

Courtesy of: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/society/dawah/12-tips-for-the-convert-muslim/

 

Showing Off: The Minor Shirk

You have to realize that most of the diseases of the heart are solved by “iyaka na`budu (it is You we worship).” (Qur’an, 1:5). When we say “iyaka na`budu” arrogance, for example, is wiped away. Being scared is wiped away. Shirk (associating partners to Allah) is wiped away. Being lazy, misguided, miserly or devious is wiped way. Most of the diseases of the heart are cured by struggling to obey Allah (swt). Sometimes you wonder, “SubhanAllah how long do I have to keep going through this internally?” Iyaka na`budu. I’m waiting and I’m trusting in You. One day You’re going to fix it for me.

The next disease of the heart is very dangerous; in fact the Prophet ﷺ feared this thing the most for us. The Prophet ﷺ was merciful, loving and good to everyone – but this is the thing he feared for you and me the most. It is so dangerous that the one who feels safe from it is usually the one who’s been entrapped in its tentacles with no way out. It’s so deadly that you can do a lot of good deeds but if you’ve cloaked your good deeds with the dress of this thing, you’ve lost all the rewards. Imagine doing good and getting none of the rewards. You’re doing good deeds but you’re getting nothing: in fact you’re getting punished.

This is the disease of ar-riyaa: to be a show-off. People like me with big mouths who you guys invite to speak everywhere are the ones who have the biggest test of riyaa. It’s very difficult.

Nobody can say, “I’m safe from riyaa.” The one who says this is showing off. The Prophet Muhammed ﷺ warned us about riyaa, but what is the meaning of ar-riyaa?

Imam al Ghazali said in his book Al Ihya that ar-riyaa is to seek stations (i.e. being high in people’s minds and hearts) with actions so that they see you; to seek the praise of the people. There are some signs of the one who has riyaa that we will talk about , as well as their cures as found in Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an, 1).

Riyaa is so dangerous that the Prophet ﷺ gave it a special name. He said, “Indeed the thing I fear for you the most is the minor shirk (associating partners with Allah).” We have minor shirk and major shirk. Major shirk is something like worshipping a statue or another god with Allah (swt) or to take a legislator other than Allah (swt). But the minor shirk is mentioned in this hadith. And the Prophet ﷺ said that it is the thing he fears for us the most. The Companions of the Prophet ﷺ asked him, “What is minor shirk, ya Rasullah?” He said, “Ar-riyaa. Showing off.” In one hadith the Prophet ﷺ gave the example of someone making the athan (call to prayer) and while making the athan he thinks, “Wow I bet the people think my voice is beautiful.” This is ar-riyaa. In another hadith the Prophet ﷺ said it’s so dangerous that it’s like the black ant on the black rock in the night with no moon. It can sneak up on you like this.

Indeed riyaa is so difficult and dangerous that it can fall into your good actions. The Prophet Muhammed ﷺ said, “The one who prays and wants people to see them has committed shirk. The one who fasted and they want the people to know about their fasting has committed shirk. The one who gave sadaqah (charity) and wants people to know about their charity has committed shirk.” You know how dangerous shaytan is, especially when it comes to sadaqah? For example, maybe Islamic Relief or some charitable organization comes to your campus and they do a fundraiser. You’re not even married and you say, “Subhan’Allah I really need this money but the Prophet ﷺ said wealth does not decrease from giving charity. So I’m going to give and no one will know about it.” So you give the money and then later you get married. Then ten years later you’re sitting with your spouse at home and you say, “You know what I did ten years ago?” You just lost it. This is Shaytan. Don’t think that Shaytan will just mess with you at that moment. We will talk about the attacks of Shaytan later in this series, insha’Allah. One word that Ibn Qayyim used to describe Shaytan is very scary. He said Shaytan is patient. He waits. Then, at a specific moment, he hits you. For ten years you got the hasanat (blessings) of this charity. But what counts is when you die. So after that ten years if you start boasting to someone, then you’ve lost it. You’ve got to start over. This attack is even more dangerous because if Shaytan hits you today with riyaa you still have ten years to make up for it. But if he waits ten years and then gets you then you lost ten years. Shaytan is an enemy to us.

How dangerous is riyaa, the minor shirk? If you read any of the du`a’ that we recite every day after Fajr (predawn prayer) or `Asr (afternoon prayer) we say, “Oh my Lord, I seek refuge in You from associating partners with You knowingly and from associating partners with You unknowingly.”

How subtle is riyaa? Maybe a sister goes to Egypt or Syria for three months to study. She buys a nice jilbab (dress), not the American not-really-quite-there jilbab. She buys the real jilbab. Then she comes back and goes to campus and now she wears jilbab and she thinks to herself proudly, “Oh yes, now I wear jilbab.” Why is she wearing this jilbab? Did she wear this jilbab to please Allah (swt) or did she wear this jilbab so that people would say, “Oh you wear jilbab, you’re a big sheikha!” This is very dangerous.

Maybe a brother got some knowledge and then he comes to the MSA and he starts preaching, “Well Ibn Malik said in the Al-Fiya…” and he reads some poetry that no one in the world can understand except him. Then you say to him, “SubhanAllah, brother. We’re talking about parking at jum`ah (Friday prayer), and you’re reading the poetry of sarf (Arabic morphology)?” Why did the brother read this poetry? Why did he learn? Why is he increasing himself? This is ar-riyaa.

Many of us might be listening today and think, “Oh well I’m not even a good Muslim. I don’t need to worry about riyaa. I’m doing bad, ain’t no riyaa in doing bad.” Check yourself before you wreck yourself. That’s not the case because you can even have riyaa in doing bad.

You might be doing bad and think, “Yeah them brothers see how I’ve got it going on. They’re going to think I’m all that.” This is riyaa. In fact 99% of hip-hop music is riyaa. “Look at me, I’m the baddest dude on the block, I got more girls than stars in the sky, I can drink more than the Pacific Ocean. It’s because of me that the world’s in motion.” This is riyaa! This is showing-off and exaggeration.

Those of us who feel safe from riyaa, listen to the following statements of one of the great scholars. He said, “The closest to people to falling into showing off are those who feel the most secure from it.” Those people who think, “I don’t have to worry about what he’s talking about. I’m not an active Muslim.” There is only one type of Muslim and that’s an active Muslim. You move, you breathe, right? Your blood is moving in your body. You’re active and you’re a Muslim. Therefore you are an active Muslim.

We should note the types of riyaa so that we can protect ourselves from it.

Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohammad. Courtesy of http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/showing-off-the-minor-shirk/

Bravo Egypt! Thoughts on the Revolution in Egypt – Imam Zaid Shakir – New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

The Egyptian people have accomplished one of the major objectives of their historic revolution. They have brought the thirty-year reign of Hosni Mubarak to an end. As they celebrate, from Alexandria in the north down to Aswan in the south, they realize that this is only the beginning of the long and arduous march to a free and open system that will guarantee their dignity and fundamental rights. However, every journey has a beginning and this glorious beginning is a harbinger of a glorious end. As the great Egyptian sage, Ibn ‘Ata Allah Sankadari, mentioned, “An illuminated beginning is a portent of an illuminated end.” May that be so in the case of the Egyptian Revolution.

The size and strategic position of Egypt, her central place in America’s geo-strategic planning, her historical leadership of the Arab world and the sheer magnitude of the security “apparatus” that the people had to overcome to reach this point will ensure that the ongoing revolution will be deeply studied by many for decades to come. Here are some of my reflections on the revolution thus far.

First of all, I do not write these lines as someone unfamiliar with Egyptian society. Upon completing my graduate studies in 1986 I departed for a year of Arabic studies in Cairo. As a poor student with only the irregular salary from my part-time job as an English teacher at the ‘Aziz Billah Mosque in the Zaytoun section of Cairo, I ate what my neighbors ate, namely a steady diet of Ful and Ta’miyya sandwiches, supplemented by pickled turnips. I slept on the floor of the masjid with my brothers during my Ramadan retreat. And I rode the crowded buses, becoming adept at grabbing the pole and jumping into the backdoor of those constantly moving, diesel-belching wrecks.

I also had an opportunity to become familiar with the expansive reach of the secret police, the Mukhabarat. One day while walking to one of my classes, I was offered a “taxi” ride to the mosque where the class was being held. In my then broken Arabic and through pointing I indicated that the mosque was only two blocks away. The driver and the passenger in the front seat insisted that they take me to the Mosque. I was adamant in my insistence that I walk the remaining distance. Finally, one of them flashed a badge and demanded that I get in the car. Upon doing so, I was bombarded with a barrage of questions asking what I was doing in Cairo, did I know this or that Muslim personality, where was I really going, etc. Finally, convinced that I was just a student from America they let me go, but not before rifling through my briefcase and helping themselves to a few “souvenirs.”

I was allowed to go on to my destination, but for far too many Egyptians, their “taxi rides” ended on the “dark side.” I had the opportunity to get first hand descriptions of that “dark side” by talking to many Egyptians who had been in the “Zinzanah,” the torture cells of the regime. They spoke of the beatings, the cigarette burns, the dogs, and other horrors they had experienced directly or witnessed. This is part of the reality that contributed to the revolution that has succeeded in ousting Hosni Mubarak.

In the events leading up to and now culminating with Mubarak’s resignation there are accusations, such as that articulated in an editorial in the Israeli daily, Haaretz, that Obama will go down in history for losing Egypt. This sentiment succinctly expresses the deep, dehumanizing racism that has driven the policy of supporting authoritarian dictators in the Middle East. These paternalistic tyrants will keep their “children” in their “place” to protect foreign interests. The same racist sentiment also drives the idea of Muslim “exceptionalism.” Muslims in the Middle East, we were told, are too irresponsible, reckless or just plain undeserving of governing themselves.

The people of Egypt have shown that they are not the property of any foreign power to be owned, used, abused and then discarded or possibly “lost.” They are human, men and women determined to carve out a dignified existence for themselves and their progeny. In so doing, they have shattered, to this point, virtually every myth and stereotype encouraging Americans to view Muslims as our inherent enemies. For example, we have been told that Muslims are bloodthirsty savages. We have been told that political Islam is a totalitarian system that knows of no compromise. Yet in Egypt, as in Tunisia, we have seen a majority Muslim population engage in a nonviolent revolution. The Muslim ideologues in the movement, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have cooperated with their Christian and secular fellow citizens aspiring to a new Egypt, not as a domineering and condescending force, but as full partners.The youth have been universally recognized as the visionaries who expanded the realm of the politically possible. Finally, women have been accepted as equal if not surpassing agents of change -the heroine of the revolution is a brave and defiant woman, Asmaa Mahfuz, whose youtube appeal was critical in the success of the pivotal January 25, 2011 mobilization. All of these characteristics make the Egyptian revolution one of the great sociopolitical developments of this new century.

Here in the United States many politicians and pundits are asking, “Why didn’t we see this coming?” I will offer my answer here. Specifically, American policy-making towards the Middle East has become dominated by anti-Muslim bigots. They have projected their own fears onto the governing elite and created such an obsession with so-called radical Islam that the latter has accepted the draconian (and profitable for some) measures being put into place to fight it, including support for “moderate” regimes like Mubarak’s. All the while, they have failed to take note of the real, dynamic politics on the ground in the Middle East and the civil society that has sprung up around those politics. The Egyptian Revolution has shown just how weak and marginal so-called radical Islam is in most Muslim societies. In one of the great ironies of history, the violent nihilists of “radical Islam,” besides the army, represent one of the few potential counter-revolutionary forces in Egypt.

The road ahead in Egypt will not be an easy one. There are powerful interests, both in Egypt and in other countries who were profiting lavishly from the ancient regime and the system of crony capitalism it has put in place to syphon off the country’s wealth. They have much to lose from a new system and will fight hard to preserve at least some of the privileges they formerly possessed. New institutions will have to be built. A new balance of power will have to be hammered out between the groups the protesters represent and the older, more established parties and groups who supported the protests, along with those who did not. The health care and university systems, both of which have been destroyed by mindless and neglectful policies, will have to be rebuilt. The minefields of the Palestinian situation will also have to be traversed.  However, that is tomorrow’s work and tomorrow’s worry. As for today, let the people of Egypt celebrate. Bravo, Egypt, Bravo!

Originally posted on http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/articles/bravo_egypt/

Today’s Opening of the Red Sea (Lessons from Egypt)

By Yasmin Mogahed

When Prophet Musa (as) stood in front of the Red Sea, a tyrant and his army approached from behind. Some of those in Musa’s midst began to divide. Looking ahead, those people saw only defeat:

“And when the two bodies saw each other, the people of Moses said: ‘We are sure to be overtaken.’”(Qur’an, 26:61).

But Musa (as) had different eyes. His eyes were spiritual eyes that saw through the illusions of worldly hardship and defeat. He saw through. With a heart connected to the Most High, looking at the same seemingly impossible situation, Musa saw only God:

26:62

“(Moses) said: ‘By no means! My Lord is with me! He will guide me through!’” (Qur’an, 26:61-62)

And indeed Allah did just that:

“Then We told Moses by inspiration: ‘Strike the sea with thy rod.’ So it divided, and each separate part became like the huge, firm mass of a mountain. And We made the other party approach thither. We delivered Moses and all who were with him; But We drowned the others.” (Qur’an, 26: 63-66).

Today in Egypt, we are standing in front of a Red Sea. Today in Egypt, a tyrant and his army are at our back.  Today, there are some who see only defeat. But, there are others whose eyes are looking through the blockade to the path and the hope beyond it. Today in Egypt, there are some who – even with a tyrant at their back – are saying:

إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ

“Indeed my Lord is with me, He will guide me through.”

One might wonder why, at such a critical time in history, we would retell an ancient story. Why would something that happened thousands of years ago be relevant today? The reason is that it is not just a story. Nor is it ancient. It is an everlasting sign and a lesson for all time. In the very next ayah, Allah says:

26:67

“Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe.” (26:67)

It is a sign of the Reality of God and the secrets of this world. It is a sign that tyranny never wins and that obstacles are only illusions, created to test us, train us, and purify us. But most of all it is a sign of where success comes from. And it is a vision of what that success, against all odds—at a time we think we’re trapped, defeated, and powerless—really looks like.

Some might ask why, if we are indeed on the side of God, does victory not come easily? Some might wonder why God doesn’t just give the righteous victory without immense struggle and sacrifice. The answer to this question is also given by God. He tells us:

7:94

“And We did not send a prophet in a town but We overtook its people with distress and affliction in order that they might humble themselves (reach a state of tadaru’).” (Qur’an, 7:94)

Here, Allah says that the purpose of the affliction is to reach a state of tadaru. Tadaru is humility before God – but it is not just humility. To understand the concept of tadaru, imagine yourself in the middle of an ocean. Imagine that you are all alone on a boat. Imagine that a huge storm comes and the waves become mountains surrounding you. Now imagine turning to God at that point and asking for His help. In what state of need, awe, dependency and utter humility would you be in? That is tadaru. Allah says that He creates conditions of hardship in order to grant us that gift. God does not need to make things hard for us. He creates those situations in order to allow us to reach a state of closeness to Him, which otherwise we’d be unlikely to reach.

That priceless state of humility, nearness and utter dependence on God is what the Egyptian people have been blessed with today. Allahu akbar – God is great. But Allah mentions another purpose for these hardships and struggles. He says:

7:168

“And We divided them throughout the earth into different groups. Of them some were righteous, and of them some were otherwise. And We tested them with good [times] and bad that perhaps they would return [to obedience].” (Qur’an, 7:168).

In Surat ali-Imran, Allah tells us:

If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong. Allah’s object also is to purify those that are true in Faith and to deprive of blessing Those that resist Faith. Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (In His Cause) and remained steadfast?” (Qur’an, 3:140-142).

Here, Allah describes the purpose of hardship as being tamhees. Tamhees is the same word used to describe the heating and purifying of gold. Without heating it up, gold is precious metal—but it’s full of impurities. By performing tamhees, a process of heating, the impurities are removed from gold. This is what God also does with the believers. Through hardships, believers are purified—just like gold.

And so too are the Egyptians being purified. Only days before the uprising, the world had considered the Egyptian youth a lost cause. We believed they had lost their direction and their purpose. We believed that they had chosen to live their lives on the streets, catcalling girls, or at internet cafes smoking hookah. Through this hardship, the Egyptian youth have been brought back from the dead.

Now, these youth are standing on the streets in defiance of tyranny, on their knees praying, and with their hands facing the sky, calling on their Lord. The same people who just days before barely prayed, stand today in front of military tanks to bow down to their Creator. Only days before the uprising, the tensions between Egyptian Muslims and Christians had grown to an all-time high. Today the Christians and Muslims stand side by side in defense of each other and their country. The same people who did not trust each other the day before their ‘heating,’ have come together as brothers and sisters, as one body, to defend their streets, their homes, and their neighborhoods. And through this hardship, a person who only days before lived for his cell phone, sheesha, and cigarettes, has become willing to sacrifice his own life to give freedom to his people.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

10:31

“Say: ‘Who is it that sustains you (in life) from the sky and from the earth? Or who is it that has power over hearing and sight? And who is it that brings out the living from the dead and the dead from the living? And who is it that rules and regulates all affairs?’ They will soon say, ‘(Allah)’.  Say, ‘Will you not then show piety (to Him)?’” (Qur’an, 10:31)

It is Allah who brings the living out of the dead. He has brought us back from the dead. Don’t think for a moment that a single moment of this is not happening with a purpose—a deep, profound and beautiful, liberating purpose. For decades the Egyptian people have lived a life of fear. But when you let fear control you, you are a slave. Allah has liberated the Egyptian people from this slavery, by making them face–and overcome–their greatest fear. Allah has liberated the Egyptian people by allowing them to look their oppressor in the eye and tell him, and the whole world, that they will no longer live in fear.  And so whether Mubarak stays or goes, lives or dies—it doesn’t really matter. The Egyptian people have already been liberated.

They have been liberated.

Hosni Mubarak is irrelevant. He is nothing but a tool—a tool by which God carries out His plan for the Egyptian people and for the entire Ummah. A tool to carry out His plan to purify, beatify and liberate the Egyptian people and the Ummah. And whether we are in Egypt today or not is unimportant. Egypt is just one limb of our body. The purification of Egypt is a purification of the whole body of our Ummah. It is the purification of you and me. It is our chance to ask ourselves to what are we attached. What are we afraid of? What are we striving for? What do we stand for? And where are we going?

When a body is in a deep, deep slumber—a coma—it is only out of His infinite mercy that He sends us a wakeup call. It is only from His infinite mercy that He sends to us life where there was once only death. We were heedless, so He sent us a sign. We were asleep, so he woke us up. We worshiped this life, and preferred our material possessions to the liberation of a soul attached to, and afraid of nothing but Him—so He freed us.

How many people will experience something like this in their lifetime? How many people will experience the opening of a Sea, the humbling of a tyrant? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why we were chosen to see it? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves what we were intended to learn, change, transform? Because if we think for a moment this is all just about the people of Egypt, then we have desperately missed the point. We were asleep, and Allah chose to wake us.

We were dead and Allah wants to give us life.

We were conditioned to believe that our enemy was outside of ourselves. That he had power over us. This is also an illusion. The enemy is inside of us. All external enemies are only manifestations of our own diseases. And so if we want to conquer those enemies, we must first conquer the enemy inside ourselves. This is why the Qur’an tells us:

13:11

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they first change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)

We must first conquer greed, selfishness, shirk, ultimate fear, love, hope and dependence on anything other than Allah. We must conquer hubb ad-dunya (love of dunya)—the root of all our diseases, and all our oppression. Before we can defeat the Pharaohs in our lives, we must defeat the Pharaoh inside ourselves. So the fight in Egypt is a fight for liberation. Yes. But liberation from what? Who is truly oppressed? Are you and I free? What is true oppression? Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) answers this question when he says: “The one who is (truly) imprisoned is the one whose heart is imprisoned from Allah and the captivated one is the one whose desires have enslaved him.” (Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil)

When you are free inside, you will never allow anyone to take away your freedom.  And when you have inner freedom, you can look through tyrants and thugs to the Lord of the tyrants and thugs. When you are free inside, you become unenslaveable, because you can only enslave a person with attachments. You can only threaten a person who is afraid of loss. You only have power over someone when they need or want something that you have the ability to take away. But there is only one thing which no person has the power to take away from you: God.

And so when we fight to free Egypt, on a grander and realer scale it is a fight to also free ourselves. It is a fight to free ourselves of the tyranny of our own nafs and desires. A fight to free ourselves from our own false attachments and dependencies, from all that controls us, from all that we worship—other than Him. It is a fight to free us from our own slavery. Whether we are slaves to the American dollar, to our own desires, to status, to wealth, or to fear—the purification of Egypt is a purification of us all.

That is why the formula for true success given to us in the Qur’an consists of two elements: Sabr (patience, perseverance) and Taqwa (fear of God alone):

3:200

“O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear God (alone) that you may be successful.” (Qur’an 3:200).

So if we watch Egypt today as if it is only a spectacle happening outside of ourselves, without cleaning, examining, and really changing ourselves and our lives, then we have missed it’s purpose.

After all, it isn’t every day that a sea is opened before our very eyes.

Orignially posted on www.suhaibwebb.com

Turning Towards God in the Worst Moments of Our Lives

These moments are often full of anger, sadness, regret, or a combination of all. They show up in our lives as the death of our child, emotionally painful marital strife or divorce, through difficult living situations, or health problems that wage war upon our physical bodies which leave us in constant pain. They can materialize through financial losses, physical assault, or sexual abuse and victimization.

How does one recover from these traumatic times? How does one trudge through them and come out of the other side still capable of functioning and finding some semblance of joy in life? And how does one deal with the realities of these problems, and find the strength to develop optimism and happiness again?

If you are being victimized or have thought about hurting yourself – seek help from professionals immediately.

Before we discuss how to turn towards God to withstand tribulations and heal the rifts in our hearts, I want to mention that if you are being hurt physically in any way, you should not hesitate for a single moment in seeking help from the authorities. Contact a friend, a school counselor, a teacher, or the police. Many people hold off on doing so, thinking that their situation will get better or that reporting their victimization will somehow bring dishonor on their family; they think their abuser will one day stop. This  only makes bringing an end to the abuse more difficult. You need empowering to end the situation immediately, and then we can begin to discuss your healing process. The same goes for anyone thinking about hurting themselves or have already self-harmed. Before any progress can begin spiritually, this physical complication needs to end.

Islam values the roles of expertise and professionalism, as the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency (إحسان) in all things” (Muslim). We should remember that religion alone is not a ‘cure all’ – but that each subject field has its own set of professionals and licensed workers who can help us through various issues. Thus, if victimized, we should always seek to protect ourselves through the professionals in law enforcement, and sound medical advice – in addition to prayer and faith.

The Trap We Fall Into: “When my situation is better, I will be able turn to God and practice my religion better.”

One of the reasons for Islam’s revelation, along with improving the human condition and pointing the way towards Allah’s worship and love, is to give us the spiritual sustenance we need to navigate through life’s tribulations.

As Muslims we can make the mistake of idealizing Islam as being some kind of perfect lifestyle that if implemented ‘we will have the perfect life, without the trials and difficulties we face today’. We may think that Islam is a set of teachings, rules, and acts that we can only incorporate fully when our lives aren’t so messed up. What happens when we think this?

Firslty, we may suffer withdrawal symptoms of finding sweetness in our prayers and pray just to get salat out of the way, if we pray at all. We break our relationship with the Qur’an. We might start to withdraw emotionally and spiritually from engaging with Islam as an active path to allow God’s Light to burn away the impurities, the anger, the sadness, the depression, and the burden in our hearts. Finally we may completely stop thinking about Islam altogether, learning about it, and conversing with it. We instead believe that before we can engage with Islam and partake in strengthening an ongoing relationship with God – we need to lick our wounds and heal from the calamity that has befallen us.

This thinking is a fatal mistake that first and foremost is one of Shaitan’s (Satan) best tricks: to push us away from engaging Islam and pursuing a relationship with God, precisely when our hearts are bursting with negative emotions and sadness. Shaitan dupes us precisely when we NEED GOD THE MOST. This in turn misplaces the reason why Islam came with a form of worship to God and functional way of life. Islam came to strengthen us, heal us, and ultimately guide us to salvation from these trials of life. Whether those trials are spiritual, material, emotional, or all of the above, we must maintain that Allah (swt) is our Friend. The One Who will never leave His worshipper alone. The One God Who will never forsake His slave. He is Allah. And His names tell us about His true attributes:

As-Salam – The Source of Peace
Al-Muhaymin – The Guardian
Al-Qahhaar – The One Who Subdues with Strength
Ar-Razzaaq – The Provider
Al-Fattah – The Giver of Victory
Al-Latif – The Gentle
Al-Nur – the Light
Al-Mu’eed – The Restorer

So, we come to the main question. If we are going through a tribulation and we are stressed with what no-one in the world understands, why would we not want the Source of Peace on our side? Why wouldn’t we want to engage with Ar-Razzaaq, The Provider to strengthen us? Why do we shy away from studying and delving into life’s trials that the Giver of Victory has sent down to us?

It is time to ask the only One Who Subdues with Strength to subdue our sorrow, and ask God to shine His light into our lives and Restore our joy. This is why Muslims use du`a’ (supplication) for anxiety as taught to us by the Prophet ﷺ:

“O Allah, I am Your servant, son/ daughter of Your servant, son/ daughter of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You, which You name Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.”

 

Just look at this beautiful du`a’ taught to us by our Prophet ﷺ. Here, we are reminded of Allah’s (swt) Overwhelming Dominance over everything and over ourselves. We are also reminded of His Names, so that we can feel connected to His unlimited abilities that help us understand His roles in our lives. And finally, we are reminded of the Book – the Qur’an – that He sent, and through the Qur’an, the religion that is outlined for us.

But how can the Qur’an be our heart’s light and a release for our sorrows if we never read it? How, if we did not drown ourselves in it and in learning its secrets?

The Test is Not Whether We Bear Calamity, But Whether it Pushes Us Towards Allah

 

We know from Surat-al-Mulk that Allah (swt) has created life and death in order to try us and test us. We also know that Allah (swt) tries those whom He loves. However, there is more to life than simply passing a test of difficulty.

The test is not only whether or not we will bear the burden we are given, with patience. The test is also accepting that for our patience, at the end of the road is a guaranteed reward. It is accepting that a child we lost will insha`Allah (God willing) play with Prophet Ibrahim (as) in Paradise. That through patience a broken marriage devoid of love will be replaced by one that is better in this world or in the Hereafter. And that a painful sickness endured with remembrance of God, only results with each ounce of pain forgiving a sin clean.

The test is not simply to remember these things either, though they are the key to being patient. The ultimate test is whether the calamity pushes us towards Allah (swt). Whether we are able to take our difficult situation, and rather than relying on ourselves alone, recognize our dependency on and rely on God. From this we can then pursue a stronger relationship with God Who can bring peace to our hearts, and we can seek knowledge of how the deen (way of life) He revealed can in fact ease our pain.

It may be easy to worship Allah and engage with His deen when our lives are perfect. But that is exactly the wrong point. Our lives are not perfect, and will never be. So will we worship Him by participating fully in His Religion, even when things fall apart around us? Will we accept that the Sovereign King has the power and the mercy to bring us what we so desperately need? We must begin turning back to Allah, today, because He loves us unconditionally every day. And how does Allah love His servants? This story from the Prophet ﷺ should give us the answer:

“…Suddenly, a woman saw an infant in the midst of the captives. She took hold of it, brought it into her bosom, and started nursing it. The Prophet then told the Companions, “Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?” We said, “No, By Allah she would not, if she is able not to.” He then said, “Allah the Exalted is more merciful with His slave than this woman with her child.” (Al-Bukhari)

Courtesy of Abdul Sattar Ahmed http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/turning-towards-god-in-the-worst-moments-of-our-lives/.

Da’wah in the Age of iPhones

by Jannah

“By (the Token of) Time (through the ages),
Verily Man is in loss, except such as have Faith,
and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching
of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.”
(Qur’an, Chapter 103)

In the 103rd chapter of the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Glorified and Exalted is He) gives us a blueprint for our lives:  Have faith, do righteous deeds, and join together to teach people truth, patience and constancy. Our first priority then is to have this faith and to do good deeds as individuals, families and a collective community. Secondly, we need to teach others.

Everyday, people interact and learn from the internet. The world is now so wired that people sleep with their iPhones so that they don’t miss anything. (Yes admit it!) The statistics on how obsessed people are with things like Facebook are mind-boggling. The internet ‘cloud’ is now the living space of the world. Everyday, there are new and more sophisticated anti-Islamic websites, rants on Youtube and powerful bloggers that publish their latest Islamophobic tirades. Where are the Muslims?

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf once said, “Spend a little time on the Internet, and search for issues related to Islam, the way people who have little or no knowledge about Islam might do if they were curious about our religion. Try Google searches for terms like “jihad” or “women in Islam,” and see the top websites and links that appear. Compare some of the websites run by Muslims with the ones run by people attacking the Muslims, and note the difference.” Indeed, what we will find is that we still have a lot of work to do. Not just for non-Muslims but for Muslims as well. We need to do something to counter this disinformation about Islam.

“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching;
and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious:
for thy Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.”
(Qur’an, 16:125)

My philosophy since the 90’s has not been that we need to convert people. That is not our job. Faith is something that is between a person and Allah (swt). Our job is to present the real, true, good Islam. It is up to people if they want to believe, understand, sympathize or hate. (There will always be people who won’t believe and we should accept that.) However, we should not accept when the Palin-Geller monsters of the world create a “terrorism-honor-killing-jeehad-shariah-izlam” and present that to the world as our faith. That is not fair, and it’s about time that each of us participates in taking back our own narrative. The Qur’an asks us to join together in this mutual teaching. We need to step up, participate, represent, and bring true Islam to the people.

You might ask at this point if one person/website/blog/video/tweet can make a difference. The way I look at it is, that if one person is affected positively by what you’ve created, it is well worth the effort. (It can even be beneficial to you.)

So the typical image of an Islamic website you might have is of an elderly scholarly Shaykh (with a big beard) posting long religious edicts! Or perhaps a programmer in big glasses typing feverishly away in complex programming languages. Yet, the websites of today are far more nuanced and don’t have to be in ‘traditional website’ form. Easy software, helpful guides and simple interfaces make everything accessible, even to those not technically inclined. You also do not have to be a scholar or “perfect” in religiosity to show different aspects and positive sides of Islam.

A few great examples of non-traditional ‘Islamic websites’ that have popped up recently:

  1. Muslim heroes/Muslims wearing things – blogs in response to Islamophobes showing the huge diversity of what Muslims are doing to serve the world and what Muslims actually look like and wear.
  2. iPhone Islamic apps – now you can do everything from finding a Halal restaurant in a new city to memorizing online with a Tajweed master.
  3. How-to-Hijab videos – Youtube videos showing girls how to pin their Hijabs.
  4. Twitter’s Hadith-a-day – tweets a reflective Hadith a day to thousands of followers.
  5. Muslim media & radio shows – broadcasting everything from Qur’an recitation to discussions on relevant topics for Muslims.
  6. Halal food blog – all about creating great Halal recipes, good substitute ingredients and traditional foods from the Muslim world.
  7. Muslim anime artists – creating anime and comics representing Muslims and their struggles.
  8. Flickr collections – showing Muslim architecture, art and life throughout the Muslim world through photos.
  9. Facebook fan pages – fan pages on such diverse topics as Salahuddin Ayyubi, Muslims & Science Fiction and Steampunk Shariah.
  10. Youtube Muslim skits & parodies – cartoons, skits and entertainment for all, by funny people and MSAs.
  11. Yahoo! comments – Muslims who comment on Islam related articles to counter all the hate. (Hey, we have to start somewhere!)

These are all just ordinary, individual Muslims using their talent to educate and spread Islam online. They’re not perfect and I’m sure their diverse opinions will differ, along with the way they went about things, but the point is they are regular, normal, struggling Muslims expressing their own faith, interests and daily lives to others.

So what about the rest of us? There are so many Muslims that have such great talents and skills. Each of us can contribute to this mutual teaching. So how do we get started in making something beneficial? And what are some steps in the process?

But oars alone can ne’er prevail to reach the distant coast;
The breath of Heaven must swell the sail, or all the toil is lost.

– William Cowper

Pre-Step 1: Purify your intention. Anything we do should be for Allah (swt), so it’s important to keep in mind our goals and original intentions.

Step 1: Find your niche. Do you have any special abilities or talents? Do you know how to program Islamic widgets, themes, apps, software? What are you interested in? Do you like politics? Art? Software? Poetry? History? Fashion? What kind of website do you want to create? Do you want to start a blog? Create some funny videos? Gather articles on a specific topic? Live stream local lectures and study circles? Start a forum for a certain hobby? Open a Yahoogroup for people similar to you or for your local community? Every Muslim can contribute in their own way, so think of the way you can best contribute, using your interests and skills.

Step 2: Do some research. See what’s out there in the areas you’re interested in. Who is the audience you are targeting? Muslims, non-Muslims – both or a specific group? Do you think your website will be useful to them? Does it add value to what is already out there? How is it different or needed? Analyze what works and what doesn’t. Seeing other things might spark some new ideas or help you find where you are most needed. If the idea is out there already, you could do something similar or a little different. If someone is already doing what you’re interested in, then you should join and strengthen them. You might even want to contribute something or help an established site out there already instead of starting something new.

Step 3: Get started. Create some content! You don’t have to buy your own domain and host your own site at this point, which can be expensive and technically complicated. You can use free services like WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr, Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Deviantart, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Find things you can use for your site, write to publishers and authors for permission. Write articles, create videos, and start tweeting. Be smart, innovative, creative and fresh. There is so much potential for us out there with so many great ideas.

Step 4: Advertise and allow for feedback. Advertise in Google, post comments on other blogs, and list your site in Islam related search engines. Ask other website owners, friends and those who might be interested to take a look and give you suggestions. Tweak and change where needed. Keep your goal in mind and don’t mind negative criticism. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the response you wanted. The internet is a big place, but know that you have contributed positively, insha’Allah (God willing).

Step 5: Try to keep it up. This is actually the hardest step. There are so many outdated and orphaned Islamic sites out there. Or worse, good things that were completely deleted! Don’t destroy good work. Pass it on, delegate or encourage others to continue. Keep updating and posting, be current and in touch.

“The World is three days:
As for yesterday, it has vanished, along with all that was in it.
As for tomorrow, you may never see it.
As for today, it is yours, so work in it.”
- Hasan al-Basri

Some guidelines that can help keep your website da’wah (call to Islam) friendly:

  1. Keep sites small, simple, clear and organized. With more and more people accessing the web using their mobile and hand-held devices, a complex and maze-like site is near impossible to navigate.  Include what the site is about, who it’s for, who’s behind it, what we can find and why. There’s no point to androgynous, nameless, anonymous Islamic sites. People crave a personal connection, so why not share who you are and what you’re about as a Muslim.
  2. Share, collaborate and work with others that have the same goals and interests. What’s better? Having 10 tiny sites with a few articles here and there on ‘Women in Islam’ or having one collaborative site by ten people on women in Islam? Obviously, synergy is better. Let’s strengthen and grow what we have already. Then, strive to expand your site, recruit contributors and moderators, and make your website a collective effort. We can also work with non-Muslims in our shared goals as well. It’s of interest to note that in Surah al-Asr, Allah (swt) mentioned universal principals that we all share. So a site on Hijab (head covering) can collaborate with those of other religions that talk about their covering traditions. A site on a Muslim soup kitchen should link with other charitable groups.
  3. Avoid controversial Islamic issues and Fatwas; let’s leave those to the real scholars. Some sites can easily degrade into fighting over five issues: Shia/Sunni, moonsighting, meat, music and Mawlid. It can get ugly. People also ask difficult complex Fiqh (understanding of Islamic laws) questions because they really need help. It’s easy to give them an answer, but we may not have the wisdom or knowledge to give them the best answer. For example, we could give them a very strict, difficult opinion we know of, while there is an easier and just as Islamic way out there. We’re also unable to know all the details and conditions of a person’s problems or follow up with them. Leave it to the professionals.
  4. Use wisdom and kindness when speaking to other Muslims and to non-Muslims. Follow the general Islamic guidelines of Adab (proper conduct relating to each other and with the opposite gender). It’s amazing what some people say online. I’m reminded of an old Dawud Wharnsby song, ‘We use so many words but have so little to relay/ as angels scribble down every letter that we say/ All the viral attachments sent and passionate insults we vent/ It’s easy to be arrogant behind user passwords we invent/ But on the day the scrolls are laid, with every word and deed displayed/ when we read our accounts, I know, for one, I’ll be afraid.’ People may think they’re anonymous, but guaranteed you are not. Remember that literally thousands of people are reading your words, including many many non-Muslims (and government agencies). We forget that words have a powerful effect even through a computer screen. Arguing with your Muslim brother/sister to such an extent where hate starts to bloom is just wrong. A Golden Rule: Never post when you’re angry. Wait a day or two, and then respond calmly.
  5. While ‘counter’ websites are needed, such as those dispelling myths, countering religious dogmas and refuting certain anti-Islamic sites, it’s better to create positive websites about Islam. We can talk all day about how X is wrong but it will not bring a person to Z. Any form of negativity also can keep people from learning more. Again, we’re not trying to forcibly convert anyone. We just want to show the truth about Islam and Muslims so people can understand it and us.
  6. Allow some room for interactivity, so you’re not just sticking static pages out there. Imagine a very long lecture without any Q&A at the end! You can enable comments or have some kind of guestbook or even have an email address available. Rather than sending a one way dissemination of knowledge, you end up with ‘relationships’ and ‘conversations’. This brings a website to life. Don’t mind the haters. Feel free to censor them and keep your comments moderated. (There are so many Islamic videos/sites with disgusting comments. There’s no need to have them there.)
  7. Stick mostly to English (or your main language) and explain concepts and words where possible. Too much of Arabic or a different language may cause people not to understand what you’re saying. It may even make Islam seem like a ‘foreign religion only for foreigners’. Even if your site is for Muslims only, not everyone knows complex Islamic terminology, Arabic or Arabic script. It’s very difficult to learn about Islam when you also have to learn Arabic and learn all about Arab and Desi (Indian and Pakistani) cultures! Also, keep things relatable to your audience. Using examples like going to the Souk is probably going to be foreign to westerners, just like ordering a pizza would be inexplicable to someone in Damascus.
  8. Balance design versus content, form versus function. There are many beautifully designed and technically advanced sites with little value content wise, and there are some sites that are so rich with information and resources but have no infrastructure. People don’t know how to access the information available or even that it’s there. Try to keep both in mind, as both are important.
  9. Attribute, get permission and follow internet protocols and copyrights. It’s not cool to steal. This is because people spend time and energy to create something, just like you, and they want it to be out there a certain way. Most authors/artists have no problem with sharing as long as you ask their permission. To recreate or copy someone’s entire site is redundant. Why not join others or contribute something new instead?
  10. Lastly, this may seem strange, but the most important concept for Islamic webmasters/app designers/admins to remember, is to be fair. Be fair to your users, to your ‘competitors’, to other Muslims, to non-Muslims and to the greater internet sphere. Be open-minded and just in how you present things, how you attribute things, and how you handle things. You might be the creator and administrator, but you’re more like a diplomat at the UN. Everyone has their rights and everything should be balanced. Give people your time and help. Respond to all those who email you, write to you and even criticize you. Stick to what you know and can do. There’s an Arabic proverb that says ‘one cannot give what they do not have’. If we are not educated in an Islamic topic we should not talk about it, if we do not know the politics of a region we should not enter into a debate over it. In the same way, whatever we create should be something we have knowledge of, and a love for.

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
– Rumi

I hope one day to find such diverse sites as a comprehensive commentary on all those ‘controversial verses’ in the Qur’an, academic and interesting responses to current Islamic issues in the media, a detailing of the Muslim response to 9/11, Muslim bloggers and tweeters with thousands of dedicated inter-faith followers,  interactive live streaming of every Muslim-related event in North America, and of course, a site on how to make the perfect Ramadan cupcakes!

Jazakamullahu khairan. May Allah reward you all.

Jannah is the founder of Jannah.org, one of the first Islamic websites ever, and is also the founder and administrator of two discussion-board sites, themadina.com and halfmydeen.org. Jannah can be reached at jannahorg@yahoo.com.

This article was originally posted on www.suhaibwebb.com.

The Essence of Islam: Are We missing the Point?

DELETEE
To some, a Monet is only a collection of dots. To others, it is a perfect masterpiece. To some, Islam is nothing but a code of rules and regulations. But, to those who understand, it is a perfect vision of life.

As Muslims, we often focus so much on Islam’s dos and don’ts that we miss the bigger picture. Islam came to perfect our manners, and yet we are willing to scream and shout to win an argument about zabiha meat. Islam came to build our bond with our Creator, and while we wear our hijabs and kufis, we delay our prayers.

Islam came to establish a community of believers, but while we decorate our masjids with gold and silver, our prayer rows remain empty. Islam came to teach us about God, and despite wearing His words on our necklaces and decorating our houses with them, when those verses are recited to us, our hearts remain unmoved and our lives unchanged.

And Islam came to make us one brotherhood, yet we divide ourselves and alienate one another over issues like moon sighting and voting.

This is not to say, of course, that the dos and don’ts in Islam are not important. They are crucial. The problem is that we have forgotten what they stand for. For example, the wearing of Islamic dress should never be minimized. But we have forgotten that that hijab and that beard are only symbols of our greater devotion to God. For us to wear that hijab and that beard while it has no bearing on our character means we have missed the point.

If we spend thousands of dollars decorating our masjids but then use that masjid only to display status and win arguments, we have lost its intended purpose. And if we have memorized every haram and halal ingredient of facial soap, but we own businesses that are based on interest and sell alcohol, have we not made a mockery of Allah’s deen?

That deen is what transforms humanity from the lowest of the low to the representatives of God on earth. The Qur’an tells us: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth…’” (Qur’an, 2:30)

As a representative of God on earth, we are given a very great responsibility. It is a trust so heavy that even the mountains rejected it. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “We did indeed offer the trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish.” (Qur’an, 33:72)

As believers, we should never lose sight of this responsibility. It is the fulfillment of that mission that transforms us from ‘asfala safileen’ - the lowest of the low (Qur’an, 95:5), into ‘khaira ummatin ukhrijat linnaas’ – the best of people arisen for mankind. (Qur’an, 3:110)

But how can we be that “best of people”? Allah describes how in His book: “Ye are the best of peoples, risen up for mankind, commanding what is right, forbidding what is evil, and believing in Allah…”  (Qur’an, 3:110).

The essence of that struggle is to believe, to fight for Truth and to strive against evil. And as soon as we give up that noble struggle, we will become among those people who Allah describes in surat Al-Asr as being in an utter state of loss. Allah also describes the ones who will be saved from that state: “Except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy.” (Qur’an, 103:3)

And, so, if we continue to abandon this greater mission and purpose, we will have transformed the perfect vision of existence into nothing more than a collection of dots.

 

 Originally published by InFocus

How to Get Peace and Joy in Life – by Yasir Qadhi

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, an Islamic scholar, appears on The Deen Show, an Islamic TV show hosted in Chicago USA: