Standing the Test of Time

Old Original Masjid Al-Aqsa - Ancient Pillars

I’ve travelled across certain parts

Of the East and West

And witnessed that which

Boldly stands and passes time’s test.

Whether I saw the confident

Waterfalls of Niagara Falls

Or the humbling mountains

In Palestine, proud and tall

Or the talented clouds that softly dance

Across the skies

And beautifully play with the sun,

Lingering behind them in disguise…

Immediately,

What comes to mind

Is how these creations

Stood, and passed, the test of time.

Whether I saw the ancient powerful

Pillars of the Masjid al-Aqsa

Or the Aya-Sofya and Blue Mosque

In Turkey, full of awe

Or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem…

I notice one thing all these

Man-made structures have in common…

They stood their ground

Through rain and sunshine

I can only marvel at how

They passed the test of time.

Beyond Beauty

The architects of sacred buildings

Thought not of modernly dull designs

They contemplated a timeless beauty

That revealed their reverence for the Divine.

And beauty…

When it is pure beauty sublime…

Stands… demands…

And passes the test of time.

Rocky mountains and vast oceans

Cheerful birds and ringed wise trees

Fruits of all colours and degrees of flavors

Loyal horses and honeybees…

They exist to glorify their Creator

By doing what they were always meant to do

What it means to finally catch the truth

Is to learn how to be true, to you.

His creation alone puts

In our chests

Instant feelings of humility, sincerity

And tranquil rest.

And sincerity…

When it is true sincerity… shines.

And it can stand

And pass, the test of time.

As for myself, I wonder

Will I pass the test of time?

Will who I am assemble to become a lasting poem

Or am I to be as insignificant as a silly rhyme?

Will my actions

And my words

Both the spoken

And unheard…

Will my thoughts

And my beliefs

Moments of joy,

Moments of grief…

Through and with them,

Will it end in cause of praise or condemn?

Will my minuscule deeds of goodness

Live on even when I am lifeless?

All these miracles and signs around us

Showing us what it means to pass

The test of a lifetime

If only I can always be aware

That I have yet to pass

Life’s test of mine.

Speeding Along

 

And Allah (God) knows Best.

-A.S.

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Halaqa Quran Reflections: session #1

Context: Once upon a time in university, with a dear group of friends, we used to assign ourselves certain pages of the Quran and then have a meeting to discuss some verses that particularly striked out at us for one reason or another. The results were beautiful in terms of depth, becoming more engaged with the Quran and bringing us closer to each other’s hearts. Alhamdulileh we’ve begun to do this at the Friday halaqa that I’ve been attending for at least a decade now. These precious sessions will inshaAllah take place every 2 weeks or so.

Needless to say, I will not do justice to all the points brought up; this is simply a summary of what was discussed.

——–

{All verses from Surah Al-Nahl}

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Muna:

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  • If we look at the Arabic text, ” أتى ” is actually in the past tense. The verse is revealed as if the command of Allah is not only coming, but has, in fact, already come.
  • In making it in the past tense, it is confirming, beyond a doubt to those who are skeptical or try to rush it, that indeed it will come to pass; because in Allah’s knowledge, He who does not need time, but can simply say “Be”, and it is – to Allah, the event is as guaranteed to happen as if it already has.
  • God has eternal knowledge, the complete map of all events of all time.

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  • Different things, such as the night and day, do not necessarily imply one’s superior over another. Each has its own unique function to perform.
  • They are not opposites, they are complimentary to one another.

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  • There are three uses of the ocean, and note the interesting observation of difficulty level in getting each:
  1. Tender meat – this refers to the fish and other edible things we can eat from the sea. Allah has not made it very difficult to get them, for eating is crucial to survival.
  2. Pearls – these are the ornaments likely referred to in the verse. Pearls are more difficult to obtain than fish, and definitely more expensive – but then again, as Allah tells us, they are merely for decoration. They are not necessary to survival, yet in His Kindness and Love to us, He showers us with luxuries we can afford to live without.
  3. Ships – God has made the waters accessible to us by giving man the intellect and ability to construct ships that can sail upon it; to seek of His bounty, explore the world, and above all – to be grateful.

(Shukran, Muna!)

Aseel:

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  • This verse makes you see the world through a new lens. When you come across an animal, instead of vaguely observing it as such, you notice it instead of a creation of Allah – and what’s more, as a prostrating and humble creation of Allah – isn’t that simply beautiful? Pretty soon, every creature and every tree is reminding you to remember your Lord.
  • Keep in mind that prostration is not merely a physical act – it is an act of utmost humility and submission to Allah Most-High.

(Shukran, Aseel!)

Rana:

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  • Although at the time this verse was sent down, people were worshiping physical idols, the meaning of this ayah is still timeless. These days, in the “modernized” world, we may not be praying to statues, but we certainly hold ideas and concepts as deities – regarding their importance as high as God’s, if not higher. There are plenty of forms of shirk going on.
  • Obsession with brands, fashion, sports (it’s OK to watch them, just don’t kill yourself over it), technology… there’s plenty to distract us from the One! But we need to be aware of their dangers and not assume that just because statues aren’t around, that shirk is an impossibility in this day and age.

(Thank ye, Rana!)

Sara:

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  • It is without a doubt that Allah is All-Just and each person will get his due reward.
  • Often people will find it greatly unfair that God will send down a punishment on a people, even while there are innocents among them; the truth is, the term ‘punishment’ is not applicable to everyone. For example, it will be considered as punishment for oppressors and wrong-doers; yet for those who have not been oppressive, they will be resurrected in a clean state of innocence.
  • Allah does not burden anyone more than they can bear.

(Shukran ya Sara!)

And Allah knows Best. 🙂 Until next time inshaAllah!

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-A.S.

In The Moment ~

CurtisJ_22-GI

هل فرشت العشب ليلا …وتلحفت الفضا

زاهدا في ما سياتي ناسيا ما قد مضى؟

وسكوت الليل بحر…موجه في مسمعك

وبصدر الليل قلب خافق في مضجعك

اعطني الناي وغن … وانسى داء ودواء

انما الناس سطور كتبت لكن بماء

-خليل جبران 

[Attempted translation]

Have you spread the earth as your mattress, and blanketed yourself in the stars

Neglectful of what will be, and forgetful of what was?

And the silence of the night is an ocean, whose every sound is heard

Give me a flute and I’ll play; forget sickness and its medicine

Humans are but lines written down in water.

-Khalil Gibran

Reflections from Surat Al-Baqarah {Part 2}

This is the final reflection series from the second chapter of the Holy Quran. My next Quran reflection series will likely be accompanied with a less obvious but more creative title. 

Bismilleh.

wisp of fairy

Verse 2:170

Just Because

It’s often easy for us Muslims, particularly those of us born into Muslim families, to forget we are at risk of the same things the Quran warns the disbelievers or hypocrites of. Sometimes we use the label “Islam” as an antidote to all evil by even our own fathers- you know, inserting the word “Islam” before something to halal-ify it [i.e. such as speaking of an Islamic economy without first challenging the notion of capitalism.]

But isn’t doing what everyone else is doing, regardless if it’s good or bad, still almost the same thing? Isn’t neglecting to use your faculty of thinking, not pondering, not understanding, not being sincere, the same evil whether the act is good or bad?

If you’re just doing things “just because”, then you need to contemplate if maybe all you’re doing is taqlid… and maybe, who knows!- if you were in a different context, perhaps you may not have been a Muslim by name either.

Many of us are assured that since our fathers, alhamdulileh, didn’t worship idols, we are safe from ever being misguided. But the verse above does not only imply to the past: if you extract the morals from it, it can equally apply to the present. If you are not praying to a million fictional gods but you worship your lower nafs’ desires in any case, then know that you are still doing what humans have been doing forever, and you have not risen above that.

Again, if one was blessed with a wonderful upbringing by intellectual parents, yet does not use the act of thinking for themselves, then their good deeds will be labelled under the umbrella of taqlid and imitation. What good has that done?

God wants us to be people of understanding.  أفلا تعقلون؟

stormy days ahead

Verse 2:219

Benefit Even With Sin

How often do you hear someone ask a question with a certain answer already stapled in mind, but they merely want just one person to validate it for them?

If you think about it, you can justify up to a certain extent just about anything your nafs desires. Even wine and gambling has some benefit! But as God warns us, the sin is much greater than the benefit in these circumstances, as it is with many other cases.

Although it may seem hard to believe living in the societies we live in today, in which the sinful has been mainstreamed while the beneficial has roughly been sidetracked- in general, the halal (permissible) is in so much more abundance than what God has made haram. If you just think about the food we’re allowed to eat, for example, the range of what is permissible is so much greater than what is forbidden. And there is always wisdom behind everything.

So why do some people simply insist on sinful things on account of their ‘benefit’ or by downplaying their harm?

If I had to reply to that, the first thought that pops to mind is the classic Arabic expression:

كل ممنوع مرغوب

The equivalent English expression to that, I believe, is getting the forbidden fruit.

contemplation-ghetto-techyt-wall

Verse 2:231

You Hurt Yourself Before You Hurt Others

Ah, this verse. I am sure almost every Muslim has read this; I am equally sure not every Muslim has internalized this. I am going to focus on a certain aspect of it:

“…and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress against them. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself.”

There are sadly many people who can only feel good about themselves if they are certain those around them are feeling crappy. The misconception that it is a sign of confidence (as opposed to arrogance) to believe one is better than others because they have more, be it in wealth, power or social control.

For example: there are women who only feel they look glamorous if the girls around them are supposedly less beautiful (at least, according to ever evolving social norm standards). There are men who only feel like real men if they have control on everything- especially on other people, primarily women.

Simply, there are those who only feel whole if others are lacking. This is a great irony because it is out of the perfected faith of a Muslim that he should wish for others what he wishes for himself. Anything less than that is incompletion on his part, and what else could be worse than an unsound character in the long run? If not so in the short term, too.

God in His wisdom reminds us that oppressing others is first and foremost an oppression of the self. May God give us all the best of characters for the sake of humanity, starting with the sake of our own souls!

red old school feld

Verse 2:255

The All-Knowing

What does a human being need most in this world? I am not talking physical needs like water and food, I am speaking emotional ones: isn’t love the strongest need anyone can have?

But love of anything stems from knowledge of the loved. You cannot love a person without knowing anything about him/her. You cannot love a country having no knowledge of its history, culture or peoples. Simply, you cannot love what you do not understand.

Every time I am feeling down, especially in those inexplicable moments where the reason for being down is not a tangible reason, nothing comforts me more than knowing that He knows me better than I know myself.

This wonderful verse is called ayat al-kursi (The Throne Verse):

If that is not raw pure love at its ultimate, I do not know what is.

May God allow the Quran itself to be at the center of the throne of our hearts!

worship

I will conclude with an interesting quote from a Salaf a friend recently shared with me:

“If I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allaah for it four times: I praise Him because it wasn’t worse than it was, I praise Him when He gives me the patience to bear it, I praise Him for enabling me to say al-istirjâ’ in hope of a great reward, and I praise Him for not making it a calamity in my religion.”

-Shurayh Al-Qadi

Allah knows best.

Salamu alaikum/ peace be upon you,

A.S.

[Translation: http://quran.com/2]