My Letter to the Beloved

I was inspired to write this letter in light of the Letters to the Beloved initiative. I imagined what I might say if I were to meet the Prophet ﷺ and be asked “how are you”. This was an emotionally healthy writing exercise for me.

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And Allah knows Best.

– A.S.

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Rainy Days & Sunshine

Photography by Aya Salah.

Photograph by Aya Salah.

 

I live in Montreal, and like most days, I woke up to rain today.

I woke up healthy but grumpy today.

And because of my grumpiness:

I missed my bus stop today.

I arrived to work late today.

I had a bad day at school today.

My silky hijab got soaked today.

My new expensive awesome sneakers got soaked today.

Today… was… dreadful. Of course I’d never been hopeful

Because when it rains, I know my luck

When it rains, I know my day is gonna suck,

And MAN… such a tough life I live

To live in pure eternal sunshine, what I’d give…

 

First world problems.

How we love to hate on things just simply to complain

Yet when it comes to bringing the sunshine in someone’s actual rainy life

Way too many of us abstain.

 

Won’t give a buck or two to someone on the street

Cuz it’s probably not gonna be the thing that gets them on their feet

So use up this money and buy a cheap coffee instead

Take a sip… yeugh… declare all quality is dead.

 

MAN… such a tough life!

Pretty soon I’ll think I’m from the thug life.

 

But all jokes and exaggeration aside,

Speaking first to my greedy self inside:

 

We think we have it bad,

Until we see who has it worse

It’s then we realize just how much

We have our priorities in reverse.

 

You should make a difference

Because that’s exactly what you’re here for

Yet most of us are great slacktivists –

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, we do nothing more.

 

Now, social media is important

Raising awareness just the same

But if hashtags is the most us privileged folks can do,

Then we are drowning ourselves in shame.

 

Whether it’s here in our local communities,

Or whether it’s far away somewhere there

Words need to be followed by concrete actions

And our emotions can’t be reserved only for certain people to spare.

 

Many of us can’t spare the change

And we can’t spare the time

Because we don’t think our small deed

Will impact the world in a manner sublime.

 

But if one’s motive is solely to sway the world,

Then it’s no longer about the cause, why –

It’s about you.

 

The problem with those who stubbornly stall

Waiting to act ONLY in guaranteeing big change

Is that often, sadly, they end up making none at all.

 

Makes you wonder

Where they got the notion

That they’re destined to be leaders of change

Without first going through the petty motions.

 

Don’t let it be about your ego

In an attempt to tell the world you could be a hero

Don’t let it be about you acting out of pity

But let it be about integrity, love and mercy.

 

If it’s for God, know that every deed you do

Be it the seed of an atom, is being accounted for you

And don’t think it too little, unless you can do more

And don’t think it too much, until you can give it no more.

 

Know that with every dime you spare,

With every smile that shows you care

With every hour spent protesting in the streets for others

With every good thoughts for your sisters and brothers

With every secret prayer that you make

And with every intention done for God’ sake…

 

You are making a difference.

 

And yes it’s hard to bear, and it nearly never feel enough

Few people have it easy, the majority have it rough

Yet did you really think for a moment that you and you alone

Could overthrow oppression and put justice on the throne?

 

Yes, it needs your commitment

And yes, it needs your wealth

But never forget God in the equation

For all our physical and mental health.

 

Is not the same God Who watches you here

The same God Who watches them there?

Is it not the same God Who has given you security,

The same God Who shall provide it over there, with certainty?

 

Let’s go back for a moment to the old you who complained of rain

And pretend your wish was granted such that the sun shone all day

Some of the land has become a desert, other areas not

It is so humid and hot, but despair not –

Verily with hardship comes ease

Maybe you’ll be chosen by God to provide some of the cool breeze.

 

The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, once said,

That the best actions are continuous ones even if small

We’re here together today, with good intentions, I daresay

Yet may we continue for the rest of the year to give it our all.

 

Verily God does not change the condition of a people

Until they change what is in themselves.

 

And Allah knows best.

-A.S.

A Message In Motion: ﷺ

*I believe one of the biggest sources of ease referred to in the following verse is none other than the Prophet Muhammed himself. “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you” (2:185 Quran).

ImageOnce upon a time, in the far desert of Arabia,

there lived a people that very much couldn’t be labelled as ‘enlightened’. Like every nation of people that had strayed from the truth, they lived by their own superstitions and rules, to the point that girls were considered shameful enough to be buried alive. It was a nation of  ignorance and dangerous arrogance; no one could find the meaning of life, all were lost in their own oppression. That is, until the Prophet Mohammad embraced his calling and surfaced with the timeless message of Islam… that there was only one God, and he, Mohammad, was Allah’s final Prophet. Islam was a whole new way of  life, a religion that refused any harmful teachings, that brightened up any path and that welcomed any person into it, regardless of the deeds of  the past.

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Suddenly there was a meaning of life; there was hope for the future;

“Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual enjoining of truth, and of patience and constancy” (103:2-3 Quran).

       We must ask ourselves, who is this Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), that managed to spread the message of Islam from the desert of Arabia to every other continent? What was his personality like in order to attract all of his followers? (No blog post, or two, not one book, nor 10, nor an entire library can do justice to him!) He was the brightest of lights, the noblest of men, a perfectly wonderful walking Quran, the highest standard of being anyone can ever hope to acquire. And yet, despite the fact we can never attain his level of superiority, the least we can do is try. We can get close to certain characteristics and feel the blessings of living in simplicity & humility. And God willing, inshaAllah, with His mercy and compassion,

we will one day meet the Prophet and he will smile at us, a smile so serene and genuine because he knows you tried your best to manifest your love for him into actions, even if you failed multiple infinity times.

Now, here I am going to attempt to write, in a few clumsy words, one reason why I love the last & final beloved Prophet– but some things are best expressed  in silence because words will not explain an ounce of it. Nonetheless, I will try… and I will fail, without a doubt… but if it brings a smile to his face at my feeble efforts, it will be well worth the failure.

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The biggest blessing that has made the world easier to live in, to prosper and bring real meaning, is Islam. But Islam is not a word that fell from the heavens with no guidance and clear instruction. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, did not simply convey a message, but he was the message in motion.

I am going to focus on one tiny statement that is surprisingly (and perhaps alarmingly) critical & necessary to our well-being, made up of just two words (in Arabic)

الحمدلله


We say ‘alhamdulileh’ a million times during the day, during prayer, as a response to ‘how are you’, maybe absent-mindedly said, etc. It means ‘all praise is due to God.’ But how much do we mean it? Has the meaning of it sunk in deeper than on the tips of our tongue? It is so thrillingly easy to say ‘alhamdulileh!’ when life is smooth, and everything is going exactly as you want it to. It becomes always “alhamdulileh! (Yes, with the exclamation mark at the end.)

Which is fantastic, of course, because indeed, all good things do come from Him!

But we know that gratitude to God should be at all times, the good and the “bad”, and we say it, too, all of us– but how often do we mean it? I mean, when you’re going through something rough, and someone asks you how’s life, you DO say ‘alhamdulileh.’ But deep down, are you really praising God with all your heart for the positive side of things– for blessing you with life, a beating heart, a sight-seeing pair of eyes, a nose that smells, ears that hear, just to name a few priceless treasures–

deep down, are you reminding yourself of His gifts even as you hurt?

(Don’t answer this to anyone, it’s no one’s business. Just think of it for yourself.)

ImageThe following passage from ‘Purification of The Heart’ by Hamza Yusuf really struck me… because although we hear of the Prophet’s trials and sufferings scattered here and there and everywhere,  to see a few of them condensed in one paragraph was mind-staggering, to say the least:

“It is important to look at the life of the Prophet PBUH and know that no one faced greater tribulation. The Prophet lived to see all of his children buried, except for Fatima. How many people experience that in their lifetime? Out of six children, he saw five of them perish. His father died before his birth. His mother died when he was just a boy. His guardian grandfather then died. When he received his calling, he saw his people turn against him with vehemence and brutality. People who had once honored him now slandered him, calling him a madman, liar, and sorcerer. They stalked him and threw stones at him until he bled. They boycotted him and composed stinging invectives against him. He lost his closest friends and relatives, like Hamza, who was killed on the battlefield. His beloved wife Khadija after 25 years of blissful marriage died during the Prophet’s most difficult moment. Abu Talib, his protecting uncle, also died. The Prophet PBUH was the target of 13 assassination attempts. How many people have faced all of that? Not once in a single hadith is there a complaint from him—except when beseeching his Lord.” 

And yet, while he went through all that (and his companions suffered similar trials)– while he went through that, and we self-absorb in our own lives making mountains out of moles– he still calls out “Ummati, ummati.”

On the Day when no one will consider save himself, he will be interceding for us.

Let me emphasize in case I am not being clear: before he, your father, and she, your mother, were born– before you or I or the idea of us ever existed–  hundreds & hundreds of years ago, there was a man who loved you for His sake already. He did not merely say it, but acted on it. He did not wait for you to love him, he took the first move and showed us what unconditional love looks like.

Come, let’s be sensible here:

Is there really any explanation needed for why a Muslim cannot be considered a true believer until he loves the Prophet more than himself?

The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was not just any man who did a few good deeds and died. He isn’t as dead as you might think.

WELL… Let me clarify that.

He may be dead in body, but his spirit continues to live on in the heart of every practicing Muslim, the one who has submitted to God in mind, body & soul.

As long as Islam is being practiced through the ways he has taught us- as long as the real Islam lives…

So will the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. ~

صلى الله عليه وسلم 

 

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-A.S.