Leash For My Heart

Staircase Break

I found myself musing this week over the state of my heart when it wanders off.

Sometimes I’m on something I can only liken to a spiritual high. Not the highest, surely… but it is close to what I imagine bliss to feel like. There’s simply nothing that is able to shake me away from this tranquility, happiness and love.

But sometimes it’s not that magical. You wake up and all you can think about is the one topic, the one subject, that you know you shouldn’t even be stressing about… because it’s not in your control. You’ve done all you can do, and what’s left on your part is tawakkul. (Oh, that powerful one word: tawakkul… you’d think it would be as easy to carry out as it is to write.)

The heart is a wondrous thing, it can be pulled in such extremely opposite directions that I often wish I had some sort of mystical leash that I can wrap around it.

(Here, little hearty… come back here! You’ll hurt yourself.)

But sadly, these useful leashes do not exist.

Or do they?

Rope of God

I love metaphors because it gives me an opportunity to reflect deeply on them as my imagination runs wild. Since what popped out instantly to me in this verse is the idea of rope of God, I allowed my thoughts to leap across mountains & fly through the clouds, until something settled and made a little sense in my consciousness.

(Please be aware I am representing no opinions here but my own. And I am not a scholar of any sort.)

What if we were all people stuck at the bottom of a pitt, needing to be rescued? The presence of the rope alone will not benefit you – you must take action, grab the rope and climb it.

Good grip? Still not enough; you have to hold firmly with conviction. You must hold on to it with certainty, without ignorance or blind faith. You may not see what is at the other end of the rope, but you are confident it’s a way out. To do it half-heartedly and without passion is very dangerous; slipping off the rope is always there as a risk, if you don’t believe with all your might that holding on is worth it.

The rope of God”.  

Could the rope be the combination of the Qur’an & the Sunnah? Islam is inward and outward. If you don’t act while knowing something is the truth, you simply won’t benefit and will continue to wallow in your own self-pity. You’ll be stuck at the bottom of the pitt with the rope dangling down to you, but if you don’t have faith that what you have leads you to the Light, to tranquility & bliss, why would you bother holding onto the rope and climbing it to possible disappointment, gaining nothing more than blisters along the way?

Islam is not something you can have blind faith in. Sure, there are certain metaphysical matters you may need to take a leap of faith – with the understanding that humans are souls that are trapped in physical bodies, and thus, we do not and cannot perceive all. Yet we are given enough to see, to observe, and to contemplate whether Islam’s final Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) is truly a sign from God, and is truly a mercy to mankind. It turns out, for me at least, he is. Grabbing onto that rope is suddenly a means to an end, and not the end goal itself.

Now suppose you are at the bottom of a pitt of hopelessness, but your dilemma is not faith-related. Rather, it is something worldly… your career is going downhill. You are overwhelmed with a million things you have committed to with very little time on your hands. Relationship problems. Health declining. Self-esteem. And much more…

The heart may wander off far away from you seeking reassurance to these things, and the biggest problem is, without control over your heart, you know it’s getting even more lost and in despair. All you can think is how useful it would be to have a rope around it… and drag it back where it should be… Where heart agrees with mind…

That rope. The rope of tawakkul. Are you finding it? Look for it, but remember that it may not only be dangling before your eyes, but it might even be inside of you.

Inward and outward. Hope also comes from within yourself.

Bouquet

And Allah knows Best.

A.S.

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Purify Within To Succeed Without

 “Verily, the believers have succeeded.”

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Beyond merely “living” (as in, existing), man ultimately wants to succeed in life – however the term ‘success’ is defined. The tricky part is, although we all have a good sense of what success looks like on the outside, we often find ourselves spending our entire lives reaching out for it; and sometimes, sadly, we do not feel we ever reach it.

I am not  referring to worldly success such as fame and riches. I’m talking contentment, joy, satisfaction, and meaning… success that lasts in the long term.

But there is a way to reach it all. God does not only tell us we can in the Quran, he says we already have – emphasizing the certainty that, if particular measures are taken with sincerity, He will not deny us this sweetest victory over ourselves.

The truth is, there is no way to achieve real outwardly success- the permanent, lasting one – without gaining inner success. 

You’ll have to purify within to succeed without. There’s no shortcut around it, no matter what all those false-promising ‘10 quick things you can do to be a happy and successful person‘ articles claim. Genuine success is not about quick fixes – it’s about real, honest work.

Let’s explore.

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  • Once upon a time in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammed (صلى الله عليه و سلم) informed his people,

“Ten ayat have just been revealed upon me; whoever establishes them will enter Paradise.” Then he recited the first ten verses of Surat Al-Mu’minoon.

  • A small while later, people came to the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, رضي الله عنها , and inquired as to the character of the Prophet.

She responded that his manners were those of the Quran. Then she recited the first ten verses of Surat Al-Mu’minoon.

Time and time again, when I ask a knowledgeable person for which verses of the Quran to immediately focus on, memorize, or “start off” firmly establishing in my life, I am referred to the first ten verses of surat al-Mu’minoon. I figure writing a blog post about it will instill it in my heart, so here I am writing this and there you are reading it!

This chapter begins and ends with the promise of success:

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Some things to quickly note:

-When the word “قد ” appears before a verb, it implies something that has occurred and is continuing to occur. (For example, قد قامت الصلاة) So, think of it like this… you, a believer, will succeed because God has seen you already do so. Hooray!

But it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s not just saying the shahada… it’s more along the lines of living it. 

Another interesting Arabic linguistic observation: the word  for ‘succeeded’ that is used is ” أفلح ” – which derives from the root word ”  فلاح ” (farmer). Allow me to go into some more depth in this for a moment, and although it’ll appear to be tangent to this topic, it actually is extremely relevant:

Unlike our regular 9-hour daily paid jobs, in which we get paid every month or so, farmers don’t see the fruits of their efforts for almost an entire year. Day after day after day they work hard, whatever their moods may be; and they know if they slack off for just one week, there may be consequences for the entire year’s resulting crop.

Painting by Rae Chichilnitsky

Painting by Rae Chichilnitsky

To bring it back to the topic of success, which can be likened to the farmer’s crop – success is not a quick to-do action off a checklist. In this world where everything has become fast-paced and relentless, we’ve become impatient and want to speed even meaningfulness up. You cannot do that. Further, you cannot slack off and expect success to come your way anyways… (you must refuse to be what I call a Type C person!)

The following verses give us sort of a checklist of qualities, all connected to one another, of a mature believer – where do you stand? Judge yourself honestly, you will not get anywhere if you continue deceiving yourself.

In a nutshell, these are the main qualities a believer should strive to have – take out your checklists! 🙂

Khushoo‘ (خشوع) in prayer.

Are you humble in prayer and feel an awe and fear of God so deep it almost feels like it’s physically in your bones? Are you submissive with concentration & devotion without distracting yourself with petty thoughts? That’s khushoo’. It’s a lot tougher to work on internal issues than the external appearance of praying correctly. You must purify within to succeed without.

It’s comforting for so many of us (myself never excluded) to know we pray 5 times a day. We’re making time for our Lord and standing before Him. But are we really whole-heartedly, mind and soulfully, there? I do believe that’s a question that needs a lifetime of devotion to properly answer.

We spoke a little about farmers and the intense amount of work they must have. They cannot get all this work done efficiently if they don’t have a strict schedule to abide by. Why,

“Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is not shortcut.” [1]

Farmers have strict schedules to follow – and our ‘strict’ schedule (though it is a pleasant sort of strictness) is the five daily prayers, minimum.

There is much more than can be said about prayer, but I’m not the one that should keep talking about it. I need to be doing it with more soul & heart before preaching to the choir… so let’s move on and look at the next characteristics of the successful believer:

hunh

Turn away from ill speech (لغو).

” لغو ” has many possible interpretations, but many scholars agree it is idleness; whether this is in the form of actually lying, backbiting, cursing and insulting, falsehoods, vanity… basically, useless conversation that consumes one’s time.

God doesn’t just tell us to avoid “laghw”, but He instructs us to walk past it in a dignified fashion should we encounter it. Don’t allow the peer pressure of others to make you feel like you have to suck it up with them and waste your time listening to useless talk. Your time is worth more than that.

Which brings us back to the importance of respecting time… respecting schedules… ultimately respecting prayer.

Those who do zakaat.

This is a Meccan surah. When this verse was revealed, it was before financial zakat became an obligation. Further, if the verse was referring explicitly to monetary charity, it might have instructed us to give zakat, as opposed to do it. So what is zakat?

First, let’s give a metaphor. Imagine your dishes at home. You wash them every day. Try eating the usual amount of food for one day, just one day – and ignore the dishes. What horribleness will you awaken to! And how much harder is it to get rid of the filth! Well, your heart needs a polish not just now and then; the Ramadan once a year is not sufficient. Boy, girl, you’ve got a LOT of stains on that heart, and until you realize your own flaws, no one else can get rid of them!

Zakaah means purification. To be a successful believer, you must constantly, and consistently, purify yourself. Check your ego, ask forgiveness of sins you know and don’t know of, beg God to let you see through your own delusions… for we ARE delusional in terms of who we think ourselves to be, particularly in front of Allah.

For example, I think there’s something seriously wrong with feeling satisfied after a prayer – rather than feeling anxious if it had been accepted. We delude ourselves that we’re already all righteous and of course God is going to accept it. But where is our feeling of khushoo’?

Purify yourself. It sounds so simple and it requires no outside sources… except, of course, your willingness to admit you badly need it.

Guarding one’s chastity.

Shamelessness between men and women is an already very obvious problem within many societies. I am not going to go to great depths on this issue, but needless to say, I quite agree with Nouman Ali Khan when he said (and I paraphrase):

It goes to show just how much harder we have to work to make our marriages beautiful, and romantic…

that’s part of our duty as believers! Make your marriages beautiful!

Guarding trusts and promises.

Do you make promises you intend to fulfill? Me, too. Do you make promises you guard with all your might to see fulfilled?

Hmm. What’s up with the typical “yes inshaAllah, I’ll try be there” that somehow is now sadly assumed between Muslims as “oh, she’s not coming”?

I believe promises should be guarded in the most excellent manner possible… which goes to say that even a promise on something so trivial, such as attending an event on Facebook, should be guarded! If one is not sure whether he/she will make it or not, it’s OK; put yourself as maybe attending; but by putting an “Attending”, you are making a false promise to the organizers of the event.

Am I making a big fuss of this? Maybe. But I honestly believe that if the smallest details of our lives are taken care of, the humongous boulders will take care of themselves.

Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (RA) says that Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Four traits whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.” (Muslim and Bukhari)

Based on those criteria… while I won’t say our Ummah is full of hypocrites, but I boldly say that there is a lot of hypocrisy that goes on.

And it’ll always come back to prayer. If we can’t bring it in ourselves to fulfill promises to other folks, how can we honor our promise to their Creator? Salaat is a promise between you and God; guard such a promise and everything else will fall into place.

And now… we are almost at the end of these 10 verses…

8 to 10

Did I just say it all ends in prayer? The beginning and ending of the first 10 ayat of surat al-Mu’minoon concerns prayer.

May we all be of those who succeed in this world & the next… 

May we all be of those who purify ourselves & enlighten the way for others to do the same…

And may we all be of those who are the inheritors of Jannatul-Firdaous.

Ameen!

Ameen!

And Allah knows Best.

 

A.S.

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Sources:

Imam Zia’s tafseer of first 10 verses of surat Al-Mu’minoon

Nouman Ali Khan: Characteristics of the Believers Khutba

[1] 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p.22 (Stephen Covey)

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.

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{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.

From a Niche to a Rib Cage

*All references from Nouman Ali Khan.

You may be familiar with this mesmerizing verse of the Quran:Image

Let’s break it down, shall we?

First off, I am a visual person so I needed to draw out what I was hearing from this RIS2013 talk. Sadly, my notes look like a bunch of scribbled words all over the place, so I’ll reveal it at the end of the post when you can easily look at it and know exactly what all the scribbles mean.

Nouman Ali Khan starts off by explaining in detail what the basic translation of the ayah is; then he proceeds to make a fascinating connection that will leave you breathless with amazement! (Stay tuned.)

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  • “The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp”

Never forget that God cannot be explained or understood fully through a human’s mind… He is much too Great, Glory to He, for our limited minds to comprehend Him. Nonetheless, in His mercy, He knows that those who love Him strive to know Him, and gives us examples to help us relate to the reality of things. 

Like a niche“: A niche is an arch-like spacing in a wall to allow for a lamp to be placed within it. The shape of the niche is constructed such to allow for light placed within it to spread outwards. Here is a visually appealing example of a niche with a lamp inside it:

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  • “the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star”

It’s nothing new that the lamp should be made of glass… but for the glass to be shimmering and luminous like a pearly white star, even before a flame is lit up inside of it? Hmm! So the lamp itself, flameless, is almost lighting up on its own. It’s pearly white, clean, pure.

*Note: the word used for lamp in the Quran is ‘misbaah’, which comes from the root word ‘subh’. ‘Subh’ means dawn, but it can also mean to be alert and awakened (“asbe7!”)

  • “star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west”

Now note: the lamp is inside a niche, which is inside a building. Yet Allah tells us in this example that the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree; trees are outside. Blessed things are from outside this world. This lamp is indoors, yet its source comes from outdoors… interesting point to keep in mind.

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Note:

the word used in the Quran for oil is ‘zayt’,

which comes from the word of olive oil,

‘zayt zaytoon’.

  • “whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire”

Not only is the glass itself seemingly glowing without a flame, but so is the oil without the spark! Two sources of luminous matter interacting… what results in…

“Light upon light.”

and we know that

“Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”

And now to blow your minds away. (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a moment to look at my scribbles below: they should make some sense now.

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Prepare for a paradigm shift.

Look within yourself.

You have a rib cage. Inside the rib cage is the heart. Inside the heart is the ruh (or spirit).

Picture this:

  • RIB CAGE = niche
  • HEART = lamp
  • FUEL = ruh

Mind = blown!

Just as a niche’s purpose is to spread light outwards, so is our duty to spread our inner light out.

Just as the lamp is clean and shimmery, so is the heart initially at the time of birth; clean, flawless and bright.

Just as an unkempt lamp will get dusty with time, so does a heart rusty with sins or consistent in refraining from doing any good for the soul.

Just as the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree, so are you, an ordinary earthly human being, lit up by something otherworldly, an outside source… by God Himself…

And just as the oil is initially luminous and blessed, so is your ruh… because it comes straight from Allah SWT. It is your essence, and if you do not actively keep a spark near it to light up your and others’ surroundings, then your inner light is of no benefit.

“The believer and his heart is necessary for dark times… What’s the point of a lamp if it doesn’t light its surroundings?” (Nouman Ali Khan)

Light upon light: the light of your ruh, and the light of Revelation.

May Allah guide us all to His light!

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-A.S.

Thread Of Hope

shattered glass

As all I’d ever termed wondrous bliss unexpectedly died –

As my fantasy of a reality with destruction did collide –

My hopes shattered around me like glass in countless pieces,

Fragments suspended in mocking beauty as time freezes…

The clock hand ticks forward and it all crashes to the floor

My knees hit rock-bottom when I could take no more

All I now see is blackness where once there was color

Gone appears the light from the sun and its fervor…

Shattered_Dreams_by_katrynnie

I begin to walk away from the pond of shattered dreams

But the glass is in my clothes and cutting through my heart, it seems

Perhaps I am too close, the smoke is clouding my full view-

Glance up at the tower, instinctively know what to do…

Run up the steps; one, two,three hundred endless stairs

And I barely catch my breath, or have time to fill lungs with air –

Before the ground beneath my feet crumbles into sand

Loud thunder above me rumbles as I fall back down on land…

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And I hit rock-bottom again

Thinking this must be the end

For surely no human can go through this pain

And still see rainbows through the rain…

The whole world seems gray and black tonight

With not a speck of pure, identifiable white in sight

Nothing is untouched, gone is everything –

Then how do I glimpse in that crack a thin white string?

Among the dirt, surely this uncorrupted clean string is not real

But just to verify the hopeless doubts, I reach out a hand to feel

And to my electric surprise, it’s most tangible indeed

I yank it out attached to a note, uncrumple it and read:

“Verily, with every hardship comes ease” [94:6]

94 6

That white thread…

Of hope.

Hope___Wallpaper_by_pincel3d

–A.S.

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]

Reflections from Surat Al-Baqara {Part 1}

Surat al-Baqara is a beautiful chapter of the Quran. I don’t read this often enough! The long length of it discouraged me in the past, I suppose. Well, careful reading and contemplation of the verses the starting days of Ramadan has me thinking that it’s worth reading again and again and again… I was hoping to condense all my thoughts on this surah in one blog post, but that’s laughably ridiculous because I might as well publish a book (OK, huge exaggeration). I shall inshaAllah share some of my insights in separate parts. I am in no means a scholar, yet I am writing these thoughts to remind myself to keep on reflecting, not simply skim and read.

Bismilleh. 

slim quran

Verse 2:74 

Hearts & Rocks

A rock is deemed to be the hardest thing, and the strongest things are made from rock, such as mountains and the Earth’s crust. But when a rock is used as a simile for a person’s organ, such as “he has a rock for a brain” or “a rock for a heart”, this is most certainly not commendable; it means this person’s mind is in the wrong place, and it means one’s heart may be acting as a bystander to cruelty because his actions seem to indicate he is a heartless man.

So what degree of extreme transgression can we make when God Himself tells us that there are hearts that can be even harder than rocks?

verse 74

The imagery brought on by this ayah is both heartwrenchingly beautiful yet frightening at the same time. The beauty comes from the description of stones gushing out water: truly, when stones get fissures and eventually erode, tree roots and water alike can infiltrate through them. What would be the metaphor for water gushing out a human heart… love, compassion, mercy, hope, trust, faith…?

This remains to be one of my favorite verses. May God open our hearts to be flooded with crashing waves of understanding and wisdom.

rocks and water

Verse 2:83

Harmonious Society

verse 83

Notice the order of the covenant:

  1. Worship God (only your soul benefits)
  2. To parents and relatives (family) do good
  3. Then to orphans and needy (society) do good
  4. Then to people.

A harmonious society is built from the inside out; from the individual to the crowd, from the intention to the action, from one’s soul to external things, from the single household to the society.

Sadly what we often see these days are people sucking up to other people, overly praising them for personal gain, while neglecting to give these kind words to their own family members. It is like purchasing a newly built house, convinced by the artistically painted and decorated outer appearance- yet its very foundation is faulty and shaky, and it collapses before it has a chance to be lived in.

Inside out. If you’re not taking care of your soul by visiting He who can heal it and mend it for you daily through prayer, all other good deeds you do will not benefit you in any way.

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Verses 2:115, 142, 177

East and West

The concept of worshiping Allah regardless if you are east or west repeats several times in this surah. There is not a particular place on earth that has the truth.

east and west

How often have we been doing something out of cultural habit and confused it with being a part of the religion? For most of us, we were facing east without questioning whether Islam and some of those cultural practices were contradictory to begin with.

Similarly, how many of us in the west have deliberately rejected to do something those of the ‘east’ do, assuming it is culture when its basis is actually in Islam?

As God Himself tells us in the Quran, truth is clear and falsehood is clear. East or West, God’s pleasure can be equally sought inshaAllah.

verse 115 verse 142 verse 177

Comes as quite a shock, for everyone actually, to simply acknowledge that God is neither here or there, but that God is everywhere…

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Allah knows best.

I shall conclude this post with a new favorite quote by Mustafa Hosny:

If you make God’s pleasure your ultimate concern, God will take care of your concerns. 

إذا جعلت رضا الله همك، تكفل الله بما أهمك

~

Peace/Salam!

A.S.

[Translations from: http://quran.com/2]

Madhabs, Ijtihad & Ego

A most brilliant excerpt from Abdal-Hakim Murad

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“Because of the traditional pious fear of distorting the Law of Islam, the overwhelming majority of the great scholars of the past – certainly well over ninety-nine percent of them – have adhered loyally to a madhhab. It is true that in the troubled fourteenth century a handful of dissenters appeared, such as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim; but even these individuals never recommended that semi-educated Muslims should attempt ijtihad without expert help….

Nonetheless, social turbulences have in the past century thrown up a number of writers who have advocated the abandonment of authoritative scholarship. The most prominent figures in this campaign were Muhammad Abduh and his pupil Muhammad Rashid Rida. Dazzled by the triumph of the West, and informed in subtle ways by their own well-documented commitment to Freemasonry, these men urged Muslims to throw off the shackles of taqlid, and to reject the authority of the Four Schools. Today in some Arab capitals, especially where the indigenous tradition of orthodox scholarship has been weakened, it is common to see young Arabs filling their homes with every hadith collection they can lay their hands upon, and poring over them in the apparent belief that they are less likely to misinterpret this vast and complex literature than Imam al-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, and the other great Imams. This irresponsible approach, although still not widespread, is predictably opening the door to sharply divergent opinions, which have seriously damaged the unity, credibility and effectiveness of the Islamic movement, and provoked sharp arguments over issues settled by the great Imams over a thousand years ago. It is common now to see young activists prowling the mosques, criticising other worshippers for what they believe to be defects in their worship, even when their victims are following the verdicts of some of the great Imams of Islam. The unpleasant, Pharisaic atmosphere generated by this activity has the effect of discouraging many less committed Muslims from attending the mosque at all. No-one now recalls the view of the early ulama, which was that Muslims should tolerate divergent interpretations of the Sunnah as long as these interpretations have been held by reputable scholars. As Sufyan al-Thawri said: ‘If you see a man doing something over which there is a debate among the scholars, and which you yourself believe to be forbidden, you should not forbid him from doing it.’ The alternative to this policy is, of course, a disunity and rancour which will poison and cripple the Muslim community from within.

In a Western-influenced global culture in which people are urged from early childhood to think for themselves and to challenge established authority, it can sometimes be difficult to muster enough humility to recognise ones own limitations. We are all a little like Pharaoh: our egos are by nature resistant to the idea that anyone else might be much more intelligent or learned than ourselves. The belief that ordinary Muslims, even if they know Arabic, are qualified to derive rulings of the Shariah for themselves, is an example of this egotism running wild. To young people proud of their own judgement, and unfamiliar with the complexity of the sources and the brilliance of authentic scholarship, this can be an effective trap, which ends by luring them away from the orthodox path of Islam and into an unintentional agenda of provoking deep divisions among the Muslims. The fact that all the great scholars of the religion, including the hadith experts, themselves belonged to madhhabs, and required their students to belong to madhhabs, seems to have been forgotten. Self-esteem has won a major victory here over common sense and Islamic responsibility.

The Holy Quran commands Muslims to use their minds and reflective capacities; and the issue of following qualified scholarship is an area in which this faculty must be very carefully deployed. The basic point should be appreciated that no categoric difference exists between usul al-fiqh and any other specialised science requiring lengthy training. Shaykh Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti, who has articulated the orthodox response to the anti-Madhhab trend in his book: Non-Madhhabism: The Greatest Bida Threatening the Islamic Shari`a, likes to compare the science of deriving rulings to that of medicine. “If ones child is seriously ill”, he asks, “does one look for oneself in the medical textbooks for the proper diagnosis and cure, or should one go to a trained medical practitioner?” Clearly, sanity dictates the latter option. And so it is in matters of religion, which are in reality even more important and potentially hazardous: we would be both foolish and irresponsible to try to look through the sources ourselves, and become our own muftis. Instead, we should recognise that those who have spent their entire lives studying the Sunnah and the principles of law are far less likely to be mistaken than we are….

The edifice has stood for centuries, withstanding the most bitter blows of its enemies. Only from within can it be weakened. No doubt, Islam has its intelligent foes among whom this fact is well-known. The spectacle of the disunity and fitnas which divided the early Muslims despite their superior piety, and the solidity and cohesiveness of Sunnism after the final codification of the Shariah in the four Schools of the great Imams, must have put ideas into many a malevolent head. This is not to suggest in any way that those who attack the great madhhabs are the conscious tools of Islam’s enemies. But it may go some way to explaining why they will continue to be well-publicised and well-funded, while the orthodox alternative is starved of resources. With every Muslim now a proud mujtahid, and with taqlid dismissed as a sin rather than a humble and necessary virtue, the divergent views which caused such pain in our early history will surely break surface again. Instead of four madhhabs in harmony, we will have a billion madhhabs in bitter and self-righteous conflict. No more brilliant scheme for the destruction of Islam could ever have been devised.”

P.S.: I strongly recommend reading the entire article for its full context and further elaborated content: UNDERSTANDING THE FOUR MADHABS – the problem with anti-madhabism

Peace. 

Days, Nights & Hearts

*Dedicated to Rwan, who is the sister that shares a room with me and is gracious & kind enough to never mind it when I put the lights on while she is still asleep.

*Inspired by surat Al-Hadeed.

what we soil

Translation: “He merges Night into Day, and He merges Day into Night; and He has full knowledge of the secrets of (all) hearts.”

Normally when I come across that exquisitely divine verse, my mind immediately begins to visualize

a beautiful horizon,

artistically colorful skies while the sun sets or rises,

the stunning glory of His creation–

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One can’t help but be in awe of such Majesty!

But on a smaller scale– it made me think of something else today. Something so simple, so mundane, so not-sophisticated-and-wondrous, that I am astounded and even slightly ashamed why it only occurred to me until now. (Yeah, I know you’re hanging there in suspense right now, so I’ll be a little more explicit.)

OK, let’s pause for a moment, and stop visualizing sunsets and skies for a moment.

Let’s consider vocabulary.

هو يولج: “Allah merges“… MERGES. What does it mean to merge something into another?

According to dictionary.com:

I have never properly considered the blessings of the day merging into the night. But imagine this: imagine during nighttime, the sky is black. And then without warning, come dawn, just like a light switch, your room is flooded with bright sunshine. The result will be you waking up every morning dazed, annoyed, blinded temporarily and unable to do anything but squint, and last but not least, you will be wondering if you’re still asleep and this is part of a dream, or you’ll wake up totally confused wondering what your name is, where you are or who you are–

BASICALLY, sort of like this, to summarize it:


Something so simple, just thinking about how you wake up, and how Compassionate God is to allow us to gradually, slowly and peacefully get out of bed, escapes our minds often. Sure, most of us are too lazy and tired in the morning to appreciate waking up from our sweet dreams, but at least we’re not crashing into walls because our eyes simply can’t open and function.

But that’s not all. (I hope you didn’t think I was gonna end this post with a jungle man from Jumanji.)

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The ending of the ayah is such a comfort, that I prefer to think of it as the very essence of bliss…

“… and He has full knowledge of the secrets of (all) hearts.”

I think the basic need of every human being is to be loved, but you can’t love someone you don’t know. No matter who you meet that tells you they love you, you might always have this seed of doubt in you that tells you: but they don’t know EVERYTHING about me. If they knew about X, Y or Z, would they still like me as much? So in reality, you probably wouldn’t want someone knowing everything about you. We all have a certain degree of ugliness in us, let’s be completely honest– otherwise there would be no need for inner-self jihad as a lifelong journey.

But supposing you knew someone, who did know even the ugly details of you, and still loved you all the same. There would never be anything that can replace the value of such a relationship.

Well, God is that some (and only) One. He has the full knowledge of what is in your heart, and still loves you enough to welcome you again and again, every time you forget and then remember, every time you sin and then repent, every time you reject and then accept…

Basically, every time you stray and get lost, His door is always open for you to come back home.

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~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.