Courtesy of Reehab Ramadan and www.suhaibwebb.com
There is this uneasy feeling that I often get after being friendly with someone. It’s a feeling based on many experiences of misunderstanding and mistaken intentions. It is that uneasy feeling of fearing that my kindness and compassion will be mistaken as flirtation or affection by the person standing in front of me. But here’s the thing: I am a firm believer that this world lacks compassion. This world lacks love. Not the romantic or sexualized love that we are bombarded with in every book, movie and billboard. I am talking about true, genuine, love for all of humanity. The love that would allow me to go out of my way to buy my brother or sister in humanity a gift to bring a smile to his or her face, despite the hardship that he or she may be going through. The love that motivates me to check up on my brothers and sisters, because I really do care how they are doing. The love that makes me raise my hands in the middle of the night and request from the One who answers our prayers to bless my brothers and sisters in humanity with peace and light.
Why is it that the only kind of ‘love’ that comes to mind today is that of the marriage-bound, or at times not-so-marriage-bound, love? Yes, that is a type of love. Yes, that is an important kind of love. But there is another type of love that is missing in our day-to-day interactions, our hearts, and our lives. A kind of love that I am–and hopefully you will be, too, after reading this–determined to revive. A kind of love that, if spread, would revolutionize our quality of life, from the inside out.
But before I take this leap and begin to infuse this blessed emotion into all of my words and actions, let me take a moment to apologize:
I’m sorry, you misunderstood; I am not infatuated with you.
My soul is attracted to your soul, in the most platonic way possible. My heart wants what’s best for you, without gaining anything in return. My smile wants to see your smile reflected back in my eyes, not because I am “in love” with you, but because I love you, just as I love the rest of humanity.
I love you because through you, I begin to see me. I look in your eyes and I see my reflection. I love you because you just happen to be living on the same planet as me, and if I didn’t love you, I could even start to hate you. I love you because if you are hurt, a part of me is pained, because in reality we are a part of a whole; we are one. I love you because when I’m with you your state impacts my own. When you are angry and upset a part of that is reflected onto me. When you are joyous and content, the peace spreads to my soul as well. I love you because when I look at you and see your flaws, what I am really seeing are my own flaws being projected onto you. I love you because love heals wounds and makes scars vanish. I love you because without you, whether I like it or not, I would not be exactly who I am today, even if I don’t know your name. Even if I have never had a conversation with you. God placed us together on this Earth for a reason, and it was not so we could stay as far away from each other as possible. It was so that we can love each other, and through each of our love, we can begin to experience His Love—the one true Love.
Love has many faces, but we have stripped it down to only one type, and in doing this we have deprived ourselves of caring for and helping others in ways that can only be achieved by allowing His Love to shine through us. His Love and His Light.
Many of you reading may find these words too flowery, too weird or just plain absurd for your liking. If that’s the case, don’t worry. It’s okay. I love you anyway.
Courtesy of Lusana Ahsan and www.suhaibwebb.com
I am a believer in miracles. Yes, I was a chemistry major in college. I saw and still see this world as a conglomeration of atoms and molecules that follow the precise laws of nature in a symphony that defies the notion of miracles. I am in a profession where treatment must be evidence-based—a calculated evaluation of patient parameters where the data takes precedence over a doctor’s hunch. Yet, there are so many moments in life when I can only describe the gifts of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) as miracles—signs of His Power, Mercy and Grace.
It all started when I was a little girl in Bangladesh. I saw the servant girl removing the stems of dried pepper on the rooftop of my grandfather’s house and decided to help her. It was fun, until my hands started burning as if they were on fire. I could not stop crying. Being only five, everyone in the house was by my side as I started bawling. I sat on my mother’s lap with my hands immersed in a jug of cold water, but the burning simply would not go away. Then my grandmother had an idea. She turns to my grandfather and goes, “Why don’t you read the du`a’ (supplication) that Ibrahim `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) read when he was thrown into the fire by Firawn?” So I took my hands out of the water and held them in front of Nanabhai (Grandfather) as he repeated the du`a’ of Ibrahim and blew on my fingers.
“Sufficient for us is Allah , and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs.” (Quran 3:173)
Suddenly, the pain was gone! It was not a gradual decrease of pain the way we normally expect; but an instant relief. I remember laughing in disbelief at that amazing miracle. In my five years of existence, it was the most wonderful act of God that I had ever witnessed. Subhan’Allah (Glory be to God), there is no cure like Allah’s cure. It is a beautiful memory that still lives within me today and makes me a believer in the power of du`a’.
Du`a’ is difficult to make if you do not believe in its power to be accepted. When I was five, I believed with all my heart that my Nanabhai’s du`a’ would cease the burning of my hands and alhamdulillah, (praise be to God), it did. However, as an adult, I wonder, do I still have that same pure conviction, the same reliance on Allah’s divine help?
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein,” (Quran 50:16). Allah (swt) knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our thoughts, our fears, our desires and our hopes, and therefore, He grants us our du`a’ in a manner that is best for us. Allah (swt) responds to every du`a’, but we lack the clairvoyance to appreciate the journey that is necessary to receive the gifts that we desire.
Although we are encouraged to make du`a’ for many things, we will probably not live long enough to see the full effects of the du`a’ that we make for our children, community, and the world. Other types of du`a’ we are encouraged to make are for our afterlife: to be in the shade of Allah’s Throne on the Day of Judgment, to be entered into Jannah (Paradise), etc. Although these du`a’ are for the future, there are still times, when the answer to my du`a’ is so instantaneous that it knocks me to my knees. I end here with another story.
When I was a third-year medical student, I was observing the final moments of a woman’s delivery. After thirty hours of labor, she screamed in pain as it came to the final push to the birth of her first child. Nurses and physicians smiled as the baby was finally born and we all cocked our ears for the first cry. Except the baby did not cry. The delivery room turned chaotic as pediatric intensivists rushed in to take care of the newborn. I looked at the mother and all I could see were silent tears streaming down her face. The hope that sustained her for nine months of pregnancy and thirty hours of labor had turned to devastation in the blink of an eye. I held her hand and started making sincere du`a’. Everyone in the room was silently praying. After some agonizing minutes, the baby started breathing by the mercy of Allah (swt). Alhamdulillah. You may say it was by medical intervention, but I believe it was a miraculous response to du`a’. For every human effort there is a chance that it will fail; its success is only with the permission of Allah (swt)
By Ismail Sheikh. Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com
I cried after my first interview. It was June of 2011 and I had finally landed an interview after frantically sending out applications to prospective employers. Job-hunting had been a stressful experience as I began to feel increasingly desperate under both family and financial pressure. So when I received a call to interview on short-term notice, I happily obliged.
Without much time to prepare, I went into the interview feeling very anxious. It was a panel interview and for the first time I experienced what it was like to be “grilled” by management. The short of the long of it – it was a poor interview and the program manager scoffed at my level of preparation. I exited that interview feeling relieved it was over but terribly sad, embarrassed, and fruitlessly hopeless. Still, I adhered to interview protocol and sent a thank-you email to management, sincerely explaining to them what had happened.
Allah, the Most Exalted, is the Best of Planners.
The next week I received a call from human resources for a round two interview. Not wanting to repeat myself, I prepared well and felt relatively calm and confident. A week later, I got the job alhamdulillah (praise be to God).
Since then I have had many interviews in my attempt to climb up the career ladder. With each interview, I can sense myself feeling increasingly confident. This is vastly different than how I started out.
What have I learned from this experience? That there is growth in discomfort, uncertainty and unpredictability.
Of course there is a level of comfort in knowing; to be able to predict with certainty how life events will exactly pan out. But then life would lose purpose with no opportunities for personal, professional, and spiritual growth. I have realized that it is difficult to grow when we are in our comfort zone. Many of us prefer to stay here because we don’t want to experience the stress and anxiety of discomfort. But by doing so, we limit our potential for growth.
For many of us, the anxiety and stress is understandably unbearable. Sadly, too many of us have often been scarred in childhood—emotionally beaten down rather than being built up. Experiences in adulthood are a microcosm of this earlier life where we never truly learnt how to carry discomfort, to manage our anxiety and learn to soothe ourselves while moving through life. Consequently, we find safety in avoidance.
It is easy to forget that once upon a time, in our attempts to walk and run as toddlers, we had to embrace falling and bruising ourselves. Instead, the relationship many of us have with our discomforts, as a result of trials and tribulations, uncertainty and unpredictability, is negative. Rather than viewing them as windows for opportunity, we fall into hopelessness and despair.
However, the idea of growth through discomfort is not novel. Fourteen hundred years ago, the concept was revealed in the Qur’an, where Allah, the Most Exalted, says, “With difficulty comes ease,” (Qur’an 94:6). Hence, facing discomfort in this life is inevitable; what is important is how we view this discomfort and respond to it. If a moment of discomfort for a believer brings them closer to Allah, is that not a sign of growth? It is essential to also mention here that Allah will never burden you with more than you can handle, as taught to us in the Qur’an when Allah says, “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an 2:286).
The reality is that we need to embrace our healthy share of uncomfortable experiences in this life. A simple but effective way of doing this is finding one thing in life that makes us a little anxious and embracing it. For instance, maybe someone is socially anxious and has difficulty having conversations with people. If this is something they want to change, a starting point could be greeting at least one person at the local mosque or in the neighborhood. This is not done with the hope of having a positive outcome (as this may not happen). Rather, the idea is to embrace the discomfort that comes with stepping out of the comfort zone for a moment. With time, the discomfort faced will, God willing, pave the way for learning, reflection, and growth.
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)
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
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.