How to Overcome Sadness and Be Happy

Courtesy of Taheerah Alam www.suhaibwebb.com

So should I be thankful for the good clothes I wear or the Gucci bag I carry? Maybe the good food I can eat? Oh wait, what about the opportunity to study at a reputable university or being employed at a good company? Hey, did I mention my caring and wonderful parents or my cool siblings who are my best friends? Hold on, I completely forgot about the blessing of Islam in my life; How Allah guided my heart to His path! AlhamdulilLah (praise be to God).

Tired of counting already?!

No wonder Allah said in the Qur’an that if we were to count the favors of Allah, we will not do justice to even one favor! (14:34)

Yes, we are all struggling with something and I feel ya, my brother/sister in Islam. Maybe it’s been months and you are still looking for a decent job. Maybe you are a single brother/sister struggling to fight off temptations while there seems to be no progress in the ‘marriage’ part of your life and you are tired of searching for that ‘right’ person. Maybe you have been trying for years and still with no success in conceiving a baby. It could be anything. Anything that makes you feel that sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. A gap between what you desire to happen and what is happening in reality. And I feel your pain and I will never underestimate it.

But brothers and sisters, I request you all to take concrete steps to change your situation. Do something about it right now! You know how?

“…If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…” (Qur’an, 14:7)

Here’s how:

Shift your focus.
Pay attention to the wonderful things you have, as opposed to what you don’t have.
Believe me, you will get lost in the counting of those blessings even if you’re a math expert!

And then, when you genuinely appreciate the blessings you enjoy and, in turn, appreciate how Merciful He, your Lord, has always been to you, He will do as promised inshaAllah (God willing); He will increase you in various ways in life. Trust me, with a positive and grateful mindset, you will feel His barakah (blessing) in your life constantly and that will make you a much happier human being. You will enjoy the days and nights of this fleeting life that doesn’t want to slow down! You will kick away depression from your life and make way for activism and energy!

And most importantly, you will be able to remember your Lord consistently and His consciousness will become ingrained in your lifestyle inshaAllah. What a wonderful way to worship the One to whom we owe everything!

But then you might be thinking “how” exactly do I show this gratitude? Is it just repeating “thank you God” every time I buy a Louis Vuitton bag?

That too and maybe something more. The best way to be grateful for Allah’s favors is to use them for things that make Him happy.

So you’re good in accounting? Help someone to do their homework. You love writing? Use your beautiful words to inspire people to Allah’s deen (religion). Maybe Allah blessed you with wealth so you can buy all the good stuff alhamdulilLah. Why not buy something nice and gift it to a poor person once in a while? And you can be as creative as you want! The list is endless. But you get the point inshaAllah.

Come on fellas. It’s time to be positive. It’s time to be grateful. It’s time to act.

And always remember this motto no matter what you go through in life:

“An attitude of gratitude is what is truly needed!” – Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan

Stay blessed.

Thanks, but No Thanks: Imam Ghazali on Gratitude

Courtesy of Abid Mohammad and www.suhaibwebb.com

Being grateful is something that we all know is a virtuous quality. Lecture after lecture has been delivered on the subject of “showing thanks to God for His favors.” Articles have been written to encourage us to “recognize His blessings,” and “be grateful for what God has given us.” We are continuously reminded of how little appreciation we show for the fact that many of us have food on our table, a roof over our heads and relative peace and security in our lives. This discussion almost always takes place in the context of experiencing trials and tribulations, and I couldn’t agree more. There is a lot of room for improvement for many of us when it comes to gratitude. When the going gets tough, we should strive to avoid going towards ingratitude.

Yet, part of me always has always wondered—is gratitude an emotion to be experienced exclusively during times of hardship? And what are many of us actually grateful for? The gifts or the Giver? These may seem like easy questions to answer, but the next time you come across “gratitude,” be it as a topic of a discussion or an emotion you experience, I want you to pay close attention to the circumstances in which it arises and where exactly your heart lies. Does your heart only show thanks when it is pushed against the wall? And even then, does it only find happiness and peace intrinsically in the gifts of this world (albeit with some acknowledgement that God is the Giver), like a child who loses their favorite Buzz Lightyear toy, only to be consoled by the fact that he still has his awesome Optimus Prime helmet that his dad gave him for ‘Eid last year? Or does your heart delight in the fact that it can use those very gifts to draw nearer to Him and that the gifts, themselves, are meaningless?

In his Ihya `Ulum Al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences), Imam Al-Ghazali draws a beautiful analogy in trying to show the different form of gratitude that people express:

“Let us give an example. We say that a king who desires to make a journey grants a man in his entourage a favor in the form of a horse. He imagines that the man to whom it is granted will be delighted with the horse for three reasons. Firstly, he will be delighted because it is a horse and because it has monetary value which can be of benefit to him; because he can use it for riding and that suits his purpose; and because it is a valuable racer as well. This kind of joy is for one who has no interest in the king, his interest is only in the horse. Had he found the horse in a desert, he would have taken it and his joy would have been similar to this joy.

“The second kind of joy is when he delights in it, not because it is a horse, but because he infers the care of the king expressed in it, and his [the king's] compassion for him. Had he found the horse in the desert, or someone other than the king had given it to him, he would not really be happy with it because, in principle, he has no need of the horse and it is of no significance to him compared to his desire to have a place in the heart of the king.

“The third kind of joy is when the servant delights in the horse in order to ride it, to go out in the service of the king and bear the toil of the journey in his service and to obtain the rank of nearness to the king. Perhaps he will be promoted to the position of a minister, because he is not content that his position in the heart of the king should be limited to his [the king's] giving him a horse and caring for him only to this degree. Rather he does not want the king to convey the [favors] from his wealth on anyone. Except through him. Yet, he does not want the ministry for the sake of the ministry, rather he wants to see the king and be near him. If he had to choose between this proximity to him without the ministry and the ministry without proximity, he would choose proximity.

“These are the three levels [of joy]. In the first, there is no thankfulness at all because the vision of the one possessing it [this level of joy] is confined to the horse and his joy lies in the horse, not in the one who gave it. This is the state of all those who are made happy by a blessing because of the pleasure of it and because it is agreeable to their purpose. This is far from the meaning of thankfulness. The second [kind] enters the definition of thankfulness in that the person delights in the giver but not exactly because of him [the giver], rather, because of the knowledge of his care; this incites [the person] to seek favor in the future. This is the state of the righteous, who worship God and are thankful to Him for fear of His punishment and hope for His reward.

“Perfect thankfulness is found only in the third kind of joy. It is when the joy of the servant in the blessing of God (exalted is He) is because it enables him to reach a place of proximity to Him (exalted is He), to reside in His companionship, and enjoy the vision of His countenance continually! This is the highest level [of attainment]. Its characteristic is joy in this world only for what it is, a field under cultivation for the Hereafter and the means to assist him to it. He grieves at every blessing that diverts him from the remembrance of God (exalted is He) and turns him away from His path. He does not desire the blessing because it is pleasurable, just as the possessor of the horse does not desire the horse because it is a racer or an ambler, but because it carries him in company with the king, that he may continue to see the king and be near him.

“Thus Shibli (may God grant him mercy) said, ‘Thankfulness is the vision of the Bestower, not the vision of the blessing.’”1

May God enable us to show continuous gratitude towards Him, as best as we can, so that He will give us even more (Quran, 14:7), and so that we can use that more to draw nearer to Him. May He enable us to be amongst the “few” who are “thankful” (Qur’an, 34:13) and may He protect us from being amongst “most human beings” who “do not give thanks” (Qur’an, 2:243) and the terrible punishment that they face (Quran, 14:7).

When recognizing His gifts, may He empower us to say, as Sulaiman (`alayhi assalam, peace be upon him) said, “…This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous,”(Qur’an, 27:40).

Combating the Disease: Materialism and its Effects

Courtesy of Safia Latif and www.suhaibwebb.com

Rows of colorful handbags repose on shelves and display tables around me. They boast of their structured silhouettes and textured leathers: boarskin, saffiano, patent. But these are not just any handbags. Carefully embossed in the center in glossy patent black or lined in gold, the words of the designer brand catch the eye of even the most timid shopper.

The brand, a multi-million dollar high-end fashion company and daughter of a multi-billion dollar global corporation—caters to the world’s sophisticated elite. Handbags, accessories, and clothing are specially designed for a particular type of woman: the career woman on a mission, who gracefully flags down taxis and makes important business meetings just in the nick of time—all while modeling the latest haute couture and thousand-dollar handbag. She is fun, playful, and smart. But most importantly, she is rich.

This fashion house, like any other global brand, capitalizes on our naivety—our false belief that somehow a glamorous new handbag can solve our problems. Worse yet, it fools real working-class Americans into thinking that they too, can be worth a million dollars. You can be a celebrity so long as you acquire this superfluous material item most likely manufactured in China for a fraction of American minimum wage yet sold at the price of an average car payment. The shattering reality, however, carries deep social ramifications.

Last year, I lived abroad in Egypt where I studied Arabic at Alexandria University. When I returned to the States, I began the tedious process of applying to jobs. Egypt—where socioeconomic problems run rampant and a large portion of society visibly lives below the poverty line—had rendered me disillusioned with modernity and materialism. So one can imagine what a painful process it was to go from life in a developing country to the shiny interior of a wealthy corporation. I became a temporary employee at the above mentioned company to make, as one of my co-workers thoughtfully put it, “fun money,” while I pursued other more long-term enterprises.

I began work, detached and aloof yet resolute in my antipathy towards consumer culture. I hated the slew of handbags and their patina of false promises. I observed as customers attempted to trade in their personal problems for a new designer purse. One woman confabulated with me about a death in the family. She had recently come into money and decided to treat herself. Another woman also lamented over the loss of a family member. This evidently prompted a shopping spree. She bought four purses and a wallet and trying to justify her lavish expenditure stated matter-of-factly, “I needed retail therapy.”

My co-workers and managers, also puppets of a deceitful corporate puppeteer, cautiously pick up various handbags in the store, and as if children, cradle them longingly. Every particular purse has a name. Eerily, they are treated like animate objects, virtually assuming human value.

“I love this little guy,” my co-worker says, eying a pebbled cowhide neon green purse. “Little Curtis is my faaavorite.” Another popular piece, the “Beau Bag” or “boyfriend” bag replaces the need for male companionship. It is, according to the official fashion brand’s website, “the ideal companion to tote around town.”

Sales associates, like at most corporate companies, are paid minimally with little health benefits. Pressured into buying products, as the company demands that employees model the name brand at work, associates find their already meager paychecks further diminished. Duped by the illusion that employee discounts actually save them money, they end up spending more in the long run. One manager, a young dainty single mother, struggles to make ends meet every month. Although she works full-time, managing unseemly hours and forsaking invaluable time with her three-year-old daughter, she complains mournfully of having to eat ramen noodles for dinner. As American social critic, Chris Hedges contends in his book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle:

“The wild pursuit of status and wealth has destroyed our souls and our economy. Families live in sprawling mansions financed with mortgages they can no longer repay. Consumers recklessly rang up Coach handbags and Manolo Blahnik shoes on credit cards because they seemed to confer a sense of identity and merit. Our favorite hobby, besides television, used to be, until reality hit us like a tsunami, shopping. Shopping used to be the compensation for spending five days a week in tiny cubicles. American workers are ground down by corporations that have disempowered them, used them, and have now discarded them.”

In an age of capitalist fantasy and materialism, Hedges’s words ring painfully true. The upshot is unavoidable. Societal ills are tempered with and all together forgotten for a beguiling fantasy world that aims to encroach upon even the most fervent iconoclasts. Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad also preaches against materialism. In a scholarly essay, he notes:

“When we forget who we are, so radically, the protection begins to be withdrawn, and we are at the mercy of the material world, which we now trust and love more than we trust and love God.”

That God should become secondary to our materialistic pursuits is a very real scare. We see it happening in our local Muslim communities. Muslim families compete over luxurious homes and fancy cars. Intrinsic value is measured monetarily by occupation and financial status rather than moral and spiritual conduct. Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), warns against this precarious state in surah Al-Takathur: “Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you. Until you visit the graveyards,” (Qur’an, 102:1-2). The reality—cold and difficult to swallow—reminds us that all trivial pursuits end in permanent privation. The middle path, however, can be hard to find.

Lately I have nurtured a radical desire to withdraw from the modern world, and become somewhat of an ascetic. Although many of my friends candidly pointed out severe flaws in this plan, I still struggle to maintain a balance between love of this world and love of the next. Shamefully I must admit that, despite all my attempts in resisting the urge, I am not immune to the sparkly consumer allure of this fashion house. I purchased my first leather handbag a few weeks ago. I can’t say that I am any happier than I was before. But I can say with every certainty, that money would have been better spent elsewhere. In the future, it might do well for me as well as everyone else battling the pathology of consumer culture to remember the beautiful adage attributed to the Prophet Jesus, alayhi as-salaam, blessings be upon him:

“The world is a bridge; so pass over it to the next world, but do not try to build on it.”

The Callers Epiphany

By Yadira Thabatah. Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided” (Qur’an, 2:186)

As reverts, we share several common challenges. Many of us have felt the sting of loneliness, lived with the despair of rejection, and experienced our share of disillusionment. We’ve been caught in the trap of desperation and many of us have even questioned our decision.

For those of us who have forged ahead on this beautiful arduous path also share the same desire to worship and seek the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). We strive to embrace our identity as Muslims and gain balance in our lives through our Islam. As reverts, we also have found ourselves fervently searching for our place in the vast expanse of this ummah (global Muslim community). For many, this taxing search for acceptance has left us feeling overwhelmed and misunderstood by the very community we yearn to be a part of. Yet, it is in these moments of confusion, disappointment, and hopelessness that we should look to strengthen our relationship with Allah (swt). It is in these trying times that we should hold fast to the promises Allah (swt) has given us.

Often times, the voices of pained reverts will echo through what seems to be a hollow community. The cries for help and support seem to reverberate off of unyielding barriers only to return to the despondent crier. Many times, it seems our inquiries will never be heard and we are left wondering why the ummah fails to notice us. I myself have been in this very predicament.

When I first entered a masjid (mosque), my experience was disastrous. Not only was I a revert coming from a very different background, I also was facing the congregation as a blind Muslim. I endured a degrading experience that included women speaking to me as if I were a child. Their words were spoken very slowly and loudly. They seemed to panic whenever I made an attempt to move at all and honestly treated me as if I was the next good deed to acquire in their account. A few of them went as far as encircling me and demanding to watch how I prayed. They insisted that I was doing it wrong and that I needed to be promptly corrected. Now, I believe that these women did not act with malicious intent and pray that Allah (swt) grants them His mercy, but I was not treated like a dignified human being.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joseherme/8342915856/In response to my trauma, I left the masjid and never returned. I did not abandon my beliefs but I did not integrate myself into a masjid. It is only now that I realize how grave this mistake truly was. Rather than questioning myself about what I could do to improve my situation, I allowed my feelings of humiliation guide my actions. I allowed myself to be swayed by hurt and anger, and crumbled under the pressure of this test. I didn’t follow my soul’s innate inclination towards Allah (swt) and became tainted by the worldly poisons of anguish and despair.

Unfortunately, I cannot regain the time I wasted feeling hurt and reveling in blaming everyone else. Yes, the ummah has a responsibility to make every Muslim feel welcomed and loved; However, simply blaming others for our trials will never solve anything. Life has taught me that if one desires change to come, one must approach situations with a positive and proactive mind and heart. We must learn to place our faith in Allah (swt) and know that he will always ease our pain and make a way for us to thrive.

Whenever our cries for help seem to fall upon unhearing ears, we must remind ourselves that Allah (swt) always hears our call. We cannot expect the world to solve our problems. Instead, we should rely on Allah (swt) to be our sustainer. If our issues are too grand then we should ask Allah (swt) to grant us the strength, wisdom and clarity to overcome them. We should take our experiences and use them as a tool to positively impact this beautiful ummah Allah (swt) has blessed us with. Yes, it is flawed and yes, it can be hurtful, but simply dwelling on our bitter ordeals will not improve anyone’s life; not even our own. As difficult as it may be to accept, Allah (swt) will only give us what is allotted for us. Whether our personal situations are good, bad, or indifferent, we can ultimately thrive through the will and grace of Allah (swt). It is up to us to open our hearts to Allah (swt), place our complete faith in him, and trust that he knows best.

5 Ways to Navigate Your Parents’ Rocky Marriage

By Aisha Shahnaz www.suhaibwebb.com

Rocky marriages can be strewn with boulders and trenches for the husband and wife involved, but they can be especially trying for their children. My parents, may Allah bless and have mercy upon them both, had a marriage that involved a series of disputes that I was too young to understand. Despite a number of counseling sessions with our local imam and interventions with family and friends, the weight of many years of emotional wounds took their toll and their marriage gradually dissolved, ending in divorce. There is no denying that divorce is a disagreeable ordeal and there is a sensible reason why in Islam it is accepted as only a final choice, after all other avenues of reconciliation and counseling between a couple have been exhausted. This serves to protect the family unit as a whole, and initiate the rippling effects of a permanent separation only if it is absolutely necessary.

Navigating your parents’ long rough marriage, temporary separation, or divorce can be troublesome and confusing, but you can train yourself to rise above all the turmoil and find tranquility. Looking back as an adult, I can say with assurance that the five points below really helped me and can do the same for you, whether you are a young individual who is currently experiencing your parent’s rocky marriage, living with divorced parents, or even parents who have remarried.

1. Trust in Allah’s Will

Surrender everything to Allah’s will, increase your tawakkul (reliance on Him) and you will never be discontent. We must put our trust in what has been written for us. Make du`a’ (supplication) to Allah to grant you and your parents only what is best in this life and the next and help you to overcome your difficulties.

2. Always Treat Both Your Parents with Immense Love and Respect

There are times that you may find yourself swayed towards siding with one of them, especially if you feel one of them has been wronged. Remember though that your relationship with your parents was ordained by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (Exalted is He) and that you have to try your best to treat them both with respect and love. In the long run, instilling this will benefit your relationship with each parent and give you a sense of great inner peace. Allah (swt) says in the Quran in surah Al ‘Isra,

And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small” (Qur’an 17:24)

3. Seek Support & Be Yourself

Speaking about your situation to a third party can be beneficial, and a meaningful talk with a trusted friend can go a long way. If you feel your situation is especially difficult, seek professional help. Along with this, try to keep your own personal goals in sight so that you are not bogged down by your parents’ situation exclusively. Strive to pursue goals in life that will bring both you and your parents great happiness.

4. Be Grateful

Take time to thank Allah (swt) for all the good things in your life frequently. Thank Him (swt) for placing your parents in your life if you have both (so many people do not have this blessing and would do anything for a little more time with their parents), for a home, for food and water, and a comfortable way of life.

5. Change Your Perspective

Strive to change your perspective when it comes to your parents’ marriage. If they are separated or divorced and you have two different homes then tell yourself that ‘Two homes only means twice the love,’ etc. A positive outlook can paint everything with a fresh coat of brilliance. One thing’s for sure: there are a number of diverse family types and so many different challenges that one may face. Do not feel burdened, overwhelmed, or helpless regardless of the situation and know that Allah (swt) can guide you out of rocky terrain to smooth rolling pastures.

How Do We Get Closer to Allah?

By AbdelRahman Mussa

Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com

This small series of articles aims to explore the following questions:

Does Islam promote ease or difficulty?
Does Islam state that the path to Allah is that of difficulty?

Previously we discussed:

With Hardship There is Ease
Wondrous Are The Believers’ Affairs
Seek Help Through Patience
He Always Chose The Easiest of Two Matters
Allah Wants Ease For You
Allah Wants To Alleviate The Burden
We Shall Test You With Something of Fear
Hell is Surrounded By Worldly Desire
When Is The Help Of Allah Due ?
Allah Tests What Is In Your Breasts
So That They Might Return To Allah
The Misunderstood Hadith

In this article, we will discuss what the goal is and there will be a small word about sacrifice.

Difficulty or Ease or Something Else?

If you are going through difficulty then your goal is not big enough and the biggest goal is Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).

Surat al-Ikhlas is the surah of sincerity (Qur’an, 112). Allah, as described in Surat al-Ikhlas, is the ‘ahad,’ meaning the ONE.

All of creation is in pairs. If it is not Allah, then it is creation and it has a pair.

To achieve the outcome of a goal, you need to set the goal and fulfill the means to attaining the goal. You’ll notice that the means are always different from the goal. For example, if ‘getting to the door’ is your outcome, then ‘walking to’ the door is different than ‘being at’ the door.

With Allah, it is different; the means to getting to Allah is Allah. By remembering Him (the means), you attain Him. When you attain Him, you are remembering Him. Allah is the goal and the means.

Remember that if the goal is big enough, you won’t feel the paper-cut. Also realize that the easiest goal to attain is Allah, because the means equals the goal.

Finally, the terms ‘difficulty’ and ‘ease’ are used by the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) as being tools. The Prophet ﷺ used to choose ease over difficulty when he had a choice. In other words, he chose to do things easily when that was an option.

The terms are also used as description of circumstance, such as when ease and difficulty befall a believer.

Allah reminds us that any pain felt in His way is insignificant:

“…If you are in pain then surely they too are in pain, but you have a hope from Allah that they do not have…”(Qur’an, 4:104)

It’s important to mention that this verse is in the context of war. It’s important to mention that because ease is the usual status quo. Pain and difficulty only come by rarely.

It’s good that pain and difficulty isn’t the path to Allah, because we wouldn’t have been traveling much.

A Word on Sacrifice

Sacrifice is a form of self-inflicted difficulty. The term ‘sacrifice’ is not even stated once in the Qur’an. ‘Dhabh’ is stated in the Qur’an, which means ‘to slaughter,’ not to sacrifice. Sacrifice is a loss/giving-up of something (i.e. to give with no return).

In Islam, we are asked to INVEST, not sacrifice. And when you hear the term sacrifice in an Islamic talk/presentation, you are to remember that what is meant is “investment.”

Just think about Ibrahim `alayhi assalam (peace be upon him). Allah asked him to slaughter his son. (Note: the English translation of ‘sacrifice’ is inaccurate.)

How does he do it? After the third night, he tells his son about the command. Why does he tell his son? Is it with the hope that Ismail will say ‘no, I do not wish to be slaughtered?’ Is Ibrahim (as) looking for an excuse?

No. Ibrahim (as) could have just ignored the dream and not told his son. Why did Ibrahim (as) tell him then? Why didn’t he just cut his throat in the middle of the night, whilst his son was unaware?

It is because Ibrahim (as) wants his son to partake in the investment. He loves his son so he wants him to gain reward through this act of worship.

Ibrahim (as) moves the knife on his son’s neck. But the knife won’t cut. So Allah preserves Ismail. Moreover, Allah sends a ransom even though the parent should be the one paying the ransom in the effort to reacquire his son.

Did Ibrahim lose anything?

No, He didn’t lose his son. He doesn’t even have to pay a ransom!

He actually GAINS so much from this. Allah sends him a ransom. Allah keeps for him his son. Allah asks that they BOTH build His house (the Ka`ba) together for Him. Allah makes us remember their act of submission till the Day of Judgment.

Was there any loss in this whatsoever?

What is your worth?

By Waqas Mustafeez. Courtesy of suhaibwebb.com

Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He), tells us in the oft quoted verses of Surah Hujarat:

“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.” (Qur’an, 49:13)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/w4nd3rl0st/6981050418/We are being told that one of the primary reasons for creating us all differently is to teach us the art of getting to know one another and to become comfortable with being different. However, human beings regularly use these differences to demarcate boundaries, or worse, to feel superior to others in their identity. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) in his farewell sermon told us of the equalizers that are the basis of human rights:

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”

In today’s world, we have found even more ways of establishing superiority, hierarchy and worth. Race and color are just not comprehensive enough.

Since the first thing we deal with when meeting another human being is their exterior, it is natural that we may evaluate their physical characteristics such as how tall they are, how their face looks, their skin color or how they dress. This is natural, but there are certain manifestations of this evaluation that take away from our God-given dignity. For example, the perception that fair is better than dark or in other cultures that color is better than pale. In Pakistan and India, there is a gigantic market for skin lightening products. Both men and women are targeted through advertisements whose basic aim is to reduce people and to tap into the psychological remnants of colonial rule.

The second thing we look at is dress, and the cultural background of the dress. Is it ironed? Is it clean? Is it tight or loose? Is it revealing or is that a tattoo! Are they wearing a hijab, or in men’s case, does he have a beard? All this happens within moments and may not even be a conscious decision. Of course all of these things induce some flash of acknowledgment that we may have some idea of what this person thinks, some box that we can fit this person into. For Muslims, the hijab or the beard is a good example to look at. Both of these evoke a familiarity, and we may see these as an aggressive outward manifestation of faith and Islam. We also assume that these things may mean that a person holds certain views about another issue. However, we cannot always make assumptions, because every circumstance is different. For example, if a woman refuses to wear hijab in Iran, it is an aggressive act of defying authority. On the other hand, if a woman does the very opposite in a school in France, it is still an aggressive act of defying authority even though it is a completely opposite action. In other places where there is not a central authority dictating exteriors, the presence or absence of a hijab or beard may not be as significant.

We have stripped down the material part of how we reduce our fellow human beings and do not account for the endless circumstances that may lead to what we see. Now let us look at another aspect of initial interactions that is particularly problematic—especially in places with a colonial past. That is the mastery of the colonial master’s language. The fluency in English in an English-speaking country, for example, determines not only social status, but how confident people are of their own standing. Sometimes even fluency is not sufficient; people are obsessed with accents and what they project about themselves and others. A south Indian accent may be deemed hilarious in one region while someone who speaks the “Queen’s English” would be considered superior in education, in social class and in refinement. The question one must ask is who came up with the idea that if a certain word comes out sounding one way or another it may be crass or class? What an absurd metric to determine one’s social stature! If that is not debasing enough, sometimes we judge a particular person based on how they can be of use to us. Can they further my career? Could they get me into a particular social circle? Will they fit with my desire for a particular plan of action?

We evaluate people using titles and names of things and the institutions they associate with. Be it Harvard, Stanford, Google or Facebook, or any big corporation, these little titles and tags mean something to us, as we evaluate not just others but ourselves. This may be a manifestation of us being taught to be ambitious and to aim high as children. We are taught to work hard, to get into the right schools, land the right jobs, make an impact, and to be famous or rich. These “delusions of grandeur” offer an exaggerated sense of self-worth; tangential to how Allah (swt) evaluates us. Now while a little troubling that we evaluate others’ worth based on these titles and honors and awards, it is outright sad when we do it to our own selves when we associate our own worth with what sits in the bank account or how many influential people we know or even where we were educated. We disregard all the privilege that Allah (swt) sent our way and we forget that the biggest differentiator between “the best” of humanity and the ordinary is not ability, but opportunity.

In Surah At-Teen Allah (swt) says:

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature; Then We return him to the lowest of the low, Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward uninterrupted.” (Qur’an, 95:4-6)

Allah (swt) the creator of everything in this universe including all our objects of desires is telling us that you and I were created in the best of forms and with the highest stature. We were created better than the things we desire and given amazing abilities. Allah (swt) himself acknowledges those abilities. He has given us the ability to conquer the whole world and in fact the whole physical universe!

In Surah Al-Jathiya, Verse 13:

“And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all from Him. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”

And again in Surah Ibrahim, Verse 33:

“And He subjected for you the sun and the moon, continuous [in orbit], and subjected for you the night and the day.”

Despite this mastery, He says that He will return us to the lowest of the low, through great tests in this life and despite our ability to subjugate the physical world through our intellect and our will—both of which are used extensively as collective ego boosts. In other words, He (swt) is attacking the ego based on accomplishments and repeating again that everyone is at a loss except those that believe in Allah (swt) and those who take the initiative to do good wherever they go and to whomever they meet.

In Surah Ali `Imran Allah (swt) says:

“You are the best of nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” (Qur’an 3:110)

That is the ONLY metric for evaluating human beings. It is a stark contrast to how a lot of us quantify other human beings. Our true dignity and stature is defined very differently from how we routinely define it. We only debase ourselves below our true and God-given nobility by evaluating our self-worth and others’ worth through the arbitrary and ephemeral.

Two Words

An article by Maryam Amirebrahimi; courtesy of Suhaibwebb.com

He had never prayed two rak`ah (units of prayer) in his adult life. Born and raised in Egypt, he had continuously heard the athan (call to prayer) and the iqama (second call to prayer) rolling through the streets, calling the believers to prayer, but he had never voluntarily accepted the call. This included refusing to pray at the masjid (mosque) on the first floor of the apartment building in which he lived; He passed by it day and night, on his way to work, on his way to spend hours at the local Hookah Café with his friends, and on his way home to his wife and children, only to start the routine of neglecting his prayers again the following day.

On one Friday, he was suddenly hit by a novel idea. “Why don’t I just try Friday prayer today? Just to see what it’s like? I’ll just try it,” the man thought. He came in late to the masjid; The Khatib (speaker) was already speaking. As the man was looking for a place to sit, he heard the words of the Khatib, “The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’” (Bukhari)

The man, preoccupied with having just entered and finding a place to sit, only heard a few of the Khatib’s words. He sat, perplexed, turning the fragmented words over and over in his mind, “Kalimatan (two words)… habibatan (both beloved)… ila-Rahman (to The Merciful)… Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi (Glory be to Allah and by His praise)… Subhan Allah il-`atheem (Glory be to Allah, the Immense).” He had lost complete focus on the rest of the khutbah (sermon), overtaken by these words he had heard in passing, working hard to make sense of what the words could possibly mean.

After the prayer, he approached the Khatib directly. “Is all what you’ve said in the khutbah today true?” he questioned. Surprised, the Khatib responded, “I’ve said quite a bit in the khutbah today. To what specifically are you referring?” The man replied, “You said some words… Kalimatan… habibatan… ila-Rahman… Subhan Allahi wa bi hamdih, subhan Allah il-`atheem.”

The Khatib smiled in recognition. “Yes, those are in fact from a blessed hadith (narration) from The Truthful himself ﷺ. He told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’” (Bukhari)

The man stood, overwhelmed, awestruck, in a daze. The words had penetrated through his heart and embraced his soul. Captivated, he continued to repeat the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ over and over to himself:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

He walked out of the masjid in a trance and left for his home. Upon entering, he gathered his wife and children. “Have you heard,” he began to tell them, “the words of the Prophet ﷺ? He has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

From that moment, the man transformed. From his home, he would leave to work, from his work, he would go straight to the Masjid, and from the Masjid, he would immediately go back home to his wife and children. All the while, two words kept his lips moving and his tongue wet with remembrance, “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi, Subhan Allah il-`atheem.”

Soon, his friends from the Hookah Café noticed his continued absence. They came to his apartment one day. “Where have you been?” they asked. “We haven’t seen you smokin’ hookah with us for a while.”

A beautiful, wistful look came over the man’s face. “Haven’t you heard?” He replied to his old crew from the café, “The Prophet ﷺ has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

And this is how he spent his days; reminding his family, his friends, those in the masjid and those who passed by in the streets, about the beloved words to Allah, those heavy words on the scale, those words light on the tongue, “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi, subhan Allah il-`atheem.” The man had gone from a person who never prayed, spent little time with family and frequented the house of hookah instead of the House of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), to a person who longed for Allah (swt), whose eyes were filled with tears, whose tongue, heart, and soul burned with the inscription:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

Soon, he fell ill. It had only been a few months since he had gone to the masjid, since he had first heard the beloved words of the Prophet ﷺ by the Khatib in a Jumu`ah (Friday) khutbah. He told his son to go and to ask the Masjid administration to call upon that very Khatib to come visit him in his illness.

When he was informed, the Khatib remembered the man immediately and rushed to his apartment. Upon being let in, he saw the man, sleeping in his bed, the doctor sitting at his side. The Khatib sat at the foot of the bed and waited for the man to awaken. Finally, the man stirred and he noticed, at the foot of his bed, the very Khatib who had related the beloved, noble words of the Prophet ﷺ.

The man looked at the Khatib. He then asked him, “Have you heard? The Prophet ﷺ has told us:

كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان ، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن: سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم

“Two words are light on the tongue, heavy in the balance, beloved to the Merciful: ‘Glory be to Allah and by His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Immense.’”

With that, the man passed away.

The Khatib in this story is the teacher of my Arabic teacher. My Arabic teacher related this incident to me and continued to stress that it wasn’t a story from books of the past, it wasn’t a story coined to tug hearts, it was the true story of a man who was completely disconnected from Allah (swt), but to whom Allah (swt) gave a passing thought to enter the masjid, and who Allah (swt) blessed with hearing the words of the Prophet ﷺ at a time and in a way which truly impacted his soul and final actions in life.

My teacher then told me, “The Prophet ﷺ has said: ‘Convey from me, even if it’s just one ayah [verse]…’” (Bukhari).

We never know what word or action, done with a sincere intention, will truly be a means of impacting another person’s life to come back to Allah (swt).

Let’s stop judging people; let’s stop driving people out of mosques because “we” deem their dress, their swagger, their accessories, or language as something “unsuitable” to the House of God. Let’s stop assuming they’ll never be guided to “our righteous path” (since we’re so righteous, we guided our own selves, right?) and thus resolve to harsh words or disapproving stares. Perhaps those who “we” think are far from Allah (swt) will pass in a more honorable, beloved state to the One Who guides.

Let us be the first to cling to the beloved words to Allah (swt), “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdih, subhan Allah il-`atheem,” and let us warmly, sincerely and smile-fully be a means of helping ourselves and others come back to Allah (swt)—with His Power and Mercy—through relating the beautiful words of Allah (swt) and His Prophet ﷺ, through action and speech. We never know what small, miniscule act, may be a means of guidance for ourselves and another, and a means of possibly entering jannatul firdose al `alaa bi ghayri hisaab—The Highest Paradise, without any reckoning.

May Allah (swt) bless this man’s soul. Subhan Allah—if he had died like any other person who knows about the obligation of prayer and lazily defies praying, we would never know his story—he’d just be another person who passed away in another country, a person we may have never even known existed..

But perhaps because of his repentance and his sincere coming back to Allah (swt), Allah has blessed us with coming to know of him—so that his actions will continue to be rewarded even while he’s in his grave, every single time any one of us, because of his story, even across the world, remember to say, “Subhan Allahi wa bihamdi, subhan Allah il-`atheem.”

What will you do—so sincerely—that Allah (swt) will bless people with being transformed because of you, even after you’ve passed on?

Life After Ramadan

Written By NAIYERAH KOLKAILAH
Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com

Say, ‘In God’s grace and mercy let them rejoice.’ That is better than all they accumulate. (Qur’an, 10:58)

Today is one of the happiest days for millions of Muslims all over the world. While we’re sad to see the blessed month of Ramadan go, we’re so grateful for having completed a month of intense fasting and detoxification; a month meant to cleanse our hearts, minds and bodies so we can be closer to God with our souls and spirits. We experienced a special sweetness of faith during this past month, and now we celebrate with family and friends, fun festivities, delicious food and sweets of all kinds.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/elycefeliz/5814171545/As we rejoice and celebrate, we can also remember that we have another happy camper celebrating too. He was locked up during Ramadan, and he just gained his freedom. For the last month, he’s been watching millions of Muslims fill up the masajid, pray intensely during the night, supplicate fervently to Allah, give abundantly in charity, and feel more motivated to do good than ever before. He saw Muslims who would drink often now stopped drinking; people who didn’t feel like praying before want to pray regularly; believers who never opened the Qur’an throughout the year choose to read it and contemplate its meanings. He saw Muslims who envied and hated one another stand side by side in prayer and become the closest of brethren. Before, they were held back by his whispers and their sins, distractions, temptations. Now that weight is lifted, so they picked up speed and worship became easier and more enjoyable. So, he was chained and they were freed. He was restrained so we could be liberated.

Have you seen people who live for a cause? They eat, sleep, breathe and die for their work. Imagine if these people were prevented from living their passion; and not only that, but imagine that they watched all their life’s efforts being destroyed right before their eyes. They have no control and can’t change what happened. It would probably make them sad, frustrated and angry. If they were given the power and freedom again, they could at least rebuild what was destroyed and fix what was broken.

Of all non-human creation, Satan is probably the most passionately committed to his cause. Yet, his mission in life is not to build, but to destroy. His sole purpose is to mislead and deviate and burn, as is his nature. Speaking to God, he said, “I swear by Your might! I will tempt all of them, except Your sincere servants,” (Qur’an, 38:82-3). So now that he’s liberated, he’s not just walking towards us casually; he’s coming back with a vengeance.

Fasting is designed by God to increase our taqwa. While taqwa is often translated as God-consciousness, its linguistic root connotes protection from harm. Fasting is a shield that protects us from harming ourselves and others, that protects us from the harmful effects of our sins. It’s a shield that protects us from getting burned by Satan’s tricks, and ultimately, from getting burned by the Fire. One of Satan’s tactics is to make us indulge in our physical pleasures, cravings, and desires in the most unbridled way. He wants to ignite the animalistic tendencies within us and make us pursue these pleasures as ends in and of themselves, not as means for livelihood and lawful well-being.

Out of God’s mercy, He restricts our access to these two pleasures during fasting so that they don’t consume us and define our being. Through fasting, our relationship with these desires becomes less obsessive and animalistic, and more tamed and disciplined. So, when the month-long training is over and we’re back on the battlefield with Satan, his avenues to our hearts and minds are tightened and restricted. If we choose to broaden those pathways and re-indulge in our desires again, we invite him back into the very veins that run through our bodies; but if we feed these instinctual appetites in moderation and through the proper channels, we loosen Satan’s grip and become freed to nurture a deeper spiritual relationship with God throughout the year.

God says in the Qur’an, “O Believers, do not follow in Satan’s footsteps—if you do so, he will urge you to indecency and evil; and if it were not for God’s grace and mercy towards you, not one of you would ever have attained purity. God purifies whoever He wills; and God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (24:21)

During the blessed month of Ramadan, we may have gained more spiritual awareness, clarity and focus, and even felt a deep desire to become better Muslims, believers, and worshipers. Let’s not allow those feelings to dissipate and disappear just because Ramadan has passed. While the shade of Ramadan has left, the shade of God’s Mercy is everlasting. If God purifies whomever He wills, let’s also do our part in pursuing and recommitting to the path of purification. As Khurram Murad says, “The initial desire and ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath.”1

So, before we get caught up in our busy lives and demands of family, work, or school again, now is the time to inculcate the good practices and habits we gained from Ramadan—no matter how small. Perhaps you didn’t used to pray sunan and voluntary prayers, and now you do. Maybe you would pray late often, and you found yourself praying more on time. Perhaps you would flirt a little much with the ladies, and during Ramadan you had some self-control. Maybe you were used to hearing or seeing shameful things, and you found it improper to do so during Ramadan. Perhaps you tried performing night prayers for the first time, and you absolutely loved it. Or maybe you didn’t feel the need to make du`a’ (supplication) before, but you poured your heart out to Him one night and felt an amazing, healing effect. Or maybe, like many people, you would think about food most of the day and fasting made you focus on more important matters like nourishing your soul.

What else? What other positive changes did you experience? Keep reflecting on your special moments and changes during Ramadan and hold on to those. Keep nurturing these feelings, habits and practices. Continue to fast, pray, read Qur’an, and forgive. Continue to shine with love, patience, and empathy. Give a little more than before, and don’t give up on yourself or on God’s mercy. Remember that Satan wants to take you away from God’s remembrance and bury you under layers of darkness and fleeting pleasures, but God is calling you to purity and peace, and to what gives you life.

So make this Eid a memorable one. Be happy and rejoice in God’s bounties and blessings, and start pursuing the endless opportunities for rising to greater spiritual heights.

How Do We End Our Ramadan?

REPOSTED FROM WWW.SUHAIBWEBB.COM

YUSRA OWAIS (AMATULLAH)

We thank Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) who has blessed us with witnessing yet another Ramadan! The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said that actions are judged by their ending [Bukhari]. So while many of us have started preparing for Eid, we should also make sure that we end this blessed month in a great way.

Tawbah: Repentance

We end this month by returning to Allah (swt) in a state of humility and repentance. We seek forgiveness of Allah (swt) and repent to Him because we acknowledge that our deeds are deficient, and we acknowledge that we have wronged ourselves and others.

Repenting to Allah (swt) is a reminder that Allah is the One who guided us to righteous deeds, and we do not know if He will accept them from us. Allah (swt) teaches us in the Qur’an that when we end a deed, we end it with seeking forgiveness. We seek forgiveness after finishing our prayers and after we end a gathering just as Allah (swt) told the Prophet ﷺ to seek forgiveness and to repent after the Opening of Makkah.

We are taught to repeat the du`a’ of the last 10 nights: “O Allah, You Alone are the One who Pardons, and You Alone love to Pardon, so pardon me.” This du`a’ embodies one of the goals of Ramadan, to be forgiven and to start anew. Pardoning, or ‘afw, means to wipe the slate clean. We end this month by turning back to Allah (swt) and asking Him to wipe our slates clean.

Shukr: Gratitude

We end this month in a state of gratitude to Allah (swt). Allah (swt) says:

“[…] to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which he has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful,” (Qur’an 2:185).

We thank Allah (swt) for all that He has given us during this month. He blessed us to be among those who worshiped Him and He gave us the health and ability to fast, to pray, and to increase in our good deeds. We thank Him for giving us the opportunity to grow and come closer to Him. We thank Him for the innumerable gifts – the ones we often forget because we are accustomed to their presence in our lives.

Gratitude is a trait of the believers that is highlighted throughout the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet ﷺ. We even see that when the believers enter Paradise, they say:

“[…] ‘Praise to Allah, who has guided us to this; and we would never have been guided if Allah had not guided us.’ […]” (Qur’an 7:43).

Being grateful to Allah (swt) and thanking Him reminds us to be humble, because we would not have received anything good or have had the opportunity to do any good without the Help of Allah (swt). Gratitude is a means to faith. It reminds us of our need and reliance upon Allah (swt).

Takbeer: Proclaiming the Greatness of Allah

We end this month by declaring the Greatness of Allah (swt) for what He has guided us to. Allah (swt) says:

“[…] to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which he has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful,” (Qur’an 2:185).

Takbeer is to declare the Greatness of Allah (swt), to exalt Him, and magnify Him. Saying “Allahu Akbar” is the highest and best way to exalt Allah (swt). It literally means “Allah is Greater”, and it is understood: Greater than everything and anything else.

We repeat this throughout the night and day, reminding ourselves that Allah (swt) is Greater than everything else, that He is Perfect, Flawless and deserving of all Praise for having guided us to finish Ramadan.

Shaykh ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahu allah, may Allah have mercy on him) says: “What is more beautiful than seeing the people declare the greatness of Allah (swt) and His Magnificence in every area and place, filling the horizon with Allahu Akbar (Allah is Greater than everything), Alhamdulillah (Praise and thanks is for Allah Alone) and La ilaaha il Allah (There is no deity worthy of worship except for Allah), between hope and awe of Him!”

Intention to Change

We end this month with the intention to continue fasting, praying and doing good. Ramadan is a month of change that is meant to give us a spiritual cleansing that will last us the whole year. The virtues of fasting and praying do not end after we celebrate Eid; rather, Eid should be the beginning of a new chapter for us to continue doing the habits we started in Ramadan. We can continue reading the Qur’an, fasting Mondays and Thursdays, or the White Days (the 13th-15th of each lunar month), and we can pray the night prayers every night (or once a week).

We’ve tasted the sweetness of standing during the night; we’ve tasted the sweetness of raising our hands to Allah (swt) in supplication; we’ve tasted the sweetness of breaking our fast after a long day; we’ve tasted the sweetness of giving charity.

Continuing these habits after Ramadan may be difficult, but now you know that you can do it. The sacrifices we’ve made during this month to take full advantage of it have shown us that developing good habits and a strong spiritual relationship with Allah (swt) is not out of our reach. We’ve done it, so now can we continue it? One of the great past scholars, ibn Rajab (ra) says: “Be cautious of returning to enslavement after having been freed.”

So we ask Allah (swt), the One who guided us to worship Him in Ramadan, to help us continue in our worship and good deeds. Remember that Ramadan has left us but the One who created this month will never leave. He is Living and His reward is Everlasting.