By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
The world can be a dark place. War, greed, racial hatred, oppression… these are expressions of social ignorance on a sweeping scale. Sometimes it feels like the world is being consumed by the forces of darkness, doesn’t it?
Then we have personal suffering, abuse, and selfishness – manifestations of spiritual darkness at the most intimate level. Because these ills strike at our friendships, in our homes and in our own hearts, they are even harder to deal with than global calamities.
There’s only one refuge, one source of protection, comfort, and guidance. The only true light comes from Allah (God, the Creator). Only Allah’s light can defeat the darkness. All other promises of hope and salvation are illusions.
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” – Quran 24:35
Can one find comfort in material luxury, physical sensation, or intoxication? Not really. Those are distractions. Whatever pleasure we get from them fades quickly.
Can one find solace in nature? Perhaps, but only because the beauty of nature is a reflection of Allah’s mercy and creative genius. The creation is a sign that points to the Creator. When you’re sitting there on a mountain meadow, looking out over the forested slopes and thinking, “This sure is beautiful. I feel at peace,” what you’re really doing – whether you realize it or not – is praising Allah and sensing the beauty and wonder that He placed in His creation.
One another note, do some fools commit evil in the name of religion? Yes, but Allah is exalted and glorified above what people do.
Our refuge from all of this is Allah’s light. The following is an authentic dua’ which the Prophet (sws) used to supplicate in sujood:
“O Allah, place light in my heart, and on my tongue light, and in my ears light and in my sight light, and above me light, and below me light, and to my right light, and to my left light, and before me light and behind me light. Place in my soul light. Magnify for me light, and amplify for me light. Make for me light, and make me light. O Allah, grant me light, and place light in my nerves, and in my body light and in my blood light and in my hair light and in my skin light. O Allah, make for me a light in my grave… and a light in my bones. Increase me in light, increase me in light, increase me in light. Grant me light upon light.”
It should be noted that this light has nothing to do with skin, hair or eye color. It is a reference to Allah’s light, which Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) said was the gift of Allah’s guidance in the heart of the believer. Allah says, “Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light.” – Quran 2:257
It seriously disturbs me that people – and Muslims are not immune – continue to equate lightness and darkness of skin to goodness and badness of character. A person might have skin dark as ebony, yet be filled with Allah’s light, so that the noor radiates from her face. And a person might be white as bone, yet thoroughly evil. Anyone who believes differently is confused and spiritually lost. May Allah protect us from such corrupt ways of thinking.
We seek refuge in Allah’s light from the darkness of the world. In practical application, seeking Allah’s light means that we seek the guidance of the Quran (which is a manifestation of light). We love and follow the Prophet (sws). We strive to be present in our worship. We try to be kind to Allah’s creatures – not only other humans, but the animals and plants as well, as we were placed in stewardship over them. We struggle daily against our own negative impulses, and we try to make the world a better place.
Beautiful post by Imam Zaid Shakir:
As-Salaam Alaikum Beloveds,
Sometimes, when the situation seems too big, too complicated, too unbearable, give it to Allah. His capabilities are boundless. When you find yourself at a loss for words, you just don’t know what to say; ask Allah to guide your tongue, His words are inexhaustible.
When you find your courage challenged, your strength waning and don’t even know if you will be able to get out of bed to face another day in a seemingly dirty, dark, death-wishing dunya, ask Allah to lift you up, His strength will more than suffice you.
If you are feeling that the menacing clouds of tribulation gathering over the Sea of Despair are harbingers of yet another gut-wrenching storm, take time to pray. You will find that the light of truth will shine its life-giving rays through those clouds, caressing your heart, quickening it and allowing you to live, love and laugh for another day. Who could ask for more?
Ouroboros, by Wael Abdelgawad
As-salamu alaykum. If you haven’t seen me posting as frequently here lately, it’s because I’ve been immersed in writing a fictional series about a group of young Muslims living in California and dealing with inner and outer enemies.
Some of you may remember the fiction series I published at the popular MuslimMatters.org blog. Almost exactly one year ago I ended “Hassan’s Tale” with a cliffhanger. Ever since then my readers have been waiting for the story to finish.
Well, the end is finally in sight! The exciting conclusion to Hassan’s Tale – titled Ouroboros – is now appearing weekly at MuslimMatters. Part 1 is here: Ouroboros: Trapped!
If you have not read the previous stories, please start at the Story Index and read Pieces of a Dream, A Lion is Born, The Deal, Kill the Courier, Dispatch Wizard and Hassan’s Tale before you start Ouroboros.
I hope you do check the stories out. Let me know if you like them!
Eid Mubarak, may every year find you happy and healthy
Eid is a celebration
Of Ramadan past
Of our consecration
To Allah in our fast
Thankful for much
As those who have not
Allah’s merciful touch
Healing our soul’s rot
Continuing our life
In hopes of reaching
Many lost in strife
To Islam in teaching
The care and kindness
To unbelievers around
Religion of mercifulness
In a love that is bound
Having gone without
Helping the ones in need
Leaving no doubt
A selfless act to the poor we feed
Therefore having guarded
Our actions before man
To be greatly rewarded
In having gained heaven
Ins sha Allah
Eya Sarah is a mom, cashier, poet and photographer. She lives in Alberta, Canada, and enjoys time with her boys.
The Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz feeds the homeless and disabled.
I came across this inspiring story of a hotel/restaurant in Pakistan that feeds the poor and homeless for free. It touched me, so I am sharing it here. – Wael
By Sarfaraz Memon
Reprinted from Pakistan’s Express Tribune
SUKKUR, PAKISTAN: For Mai Jindo, the Gharib Nawaz Hotel is nothing less than a blessing as the hotel has been providing free meals to her family for more than 35 years now.
“Like a majority of the girls of my community, marriage proved a gamble for me, as my husband turned out to be a drug addict and, instead of providing livelihood to the family, has always remained dependent upon me”, Mai Jindo told The Express Tribune. “It was very hard for me to earn enough to feed so many mouths but I kept on trying.”
Her initial struggles were soon eased. “One day a woman in my neighbourhood told me about the Gharib Nawaz Hotel, near the Sukkur Clock Tower, which provides free meals to the poor and needy,” she said. “In the evening, I went to the hotel along with my four children and to my surprise, the hotel owner gave me so much food that it was enough for my family for dinner and even breakfast the next day. Since then, I come to this hotel every evening to get food for my family and now I don’t have to worry about feeding my family at least.”
Poor families eating for free at the Hotel Gharib Nawaz.
Kamalan is also one of the regular visitors of the hotel. “Considering the high prices, poor people like us cannot afford to feed our children regularly but thanks to the Gharib Nawaz Hotel, we do not have to face hunger,” she said. “Hundreds of men, women and children visit this hotel in the evening to get free food for their families.” Kamalan is a widow and has seven children to take care of and though she works as a maid in two houses, she doesn’t earn enough to make ends meet.
Mashooq Ali used to earn a livelihood for his family through a donkey cart and while he was unable to afford the extravagant, he was doing sufficiently well enough for himself. But everything changed when Ali lost his left arm in an accident five years ago. He has been unable to work since then.
“I don’t have a son, otherwise I wouldn’t have come to this hotel,” he said, his pride hurt at being forced to accept charity. “I cannot let my five daughters die of hunger, therefore, I come to this hotel and get food for them.”
The owner of the hotel, Haji Shabbir Ahmed, told The Express Tribune that the hotel was established before the partition and was named the Gharib Nawaz [the carer of the poor] by his forefathers. “Since its establishment, it has been our practice to provide free food to the poor,” he said. “And with the passage of time, people have started giving money to us as charity to provide free food to more people. Now we can provide for hundreds”
The Gharib Nawaz Hotel is not the only hotel that provides free food to the poor but it is famous for its cheap rates even for those who can afford to pay. Most of the labourers working in the nearby markets come to the hotel to eat meals at the comparatively low rates and Ahmed said that due to the low rates, profits are a bare minimum. However, the owner is more than happy with the business model, saying that their main priority is to help the poor and not to make large profits.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2014.
There was a pious man among the Banu Israel who always remained busy in the worship of Allah. A group of people came and told him that a tribe living nearby worshiped a tree. The news upset him, so with an axe on his shoulder he went to cut down that tree.
On the way, Satan met him in the form of an old man and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to cut a particular tree. Satan said, “You have nothing to be concerned with this tree, you better mind your worship and do not give it up for the sake of something that does not concern you.”
“This is also worship,” retorted the worshiper.
Then Satan tried to prevent him from cutting the tree, and there followed a fight between the two, in which the worshiper overpowered Satan. Finding himself completely helpless, Satan begged to be excused, and when the worshiper released him, he again said, “Allah has not made the cutting of this tree obligatory on you. You do not lose anything if you do not cut it. If its cutting were necessary, Allah could have got it done through one of his many Prophets.”
The worshiper insisted on cutting the tree. There was again a fight between the two and again the worshiper overpowered Satan.
“Well listen,” said Satan, “I propose a settlement that will be to your advantage.”
The worshiper agreed, and Satan said, “You are a poor man, a mere burden on this earth. If you stay away from this act, I will pay you three gold coins everyday. You will daily find them lying under your pillow. By this money you can fulfill your own needs, can assist your relatives, help the poor, and do so many other virtuous things. Cutting the tree will be only one virtue, which will ultimately be of no use because the people will grow another tree.”
This proposal appealed to the worshiper, and he accepted it. He found the money on two successive days, but on the third day there was nothing. Enraged, he picked up his axe and went to cut the tree. Satan as an old man again met him on the way and asked him where he was going.
“To cut the tree,” shouted the worshiper.
“I will not let you do it,” said Satan.
Again a fight took place between the two, but this time Satan had the upper hand and overpowered the worshiper. The latter was surprised at his own defeat, and asked the former the cause of his success. Satan replied, “At first, your anger was purely for earning the pleasure of Allah, and therefore Almighty Allah helped you to overpower me, but now it has been partly for the sake of the gold coins and therefore you lost.”
Dear readers, what do you feel is the lesson of this story?
Build a Dream
I have trudged through sands.
I have come with injured hands
to build a dream.
I’ve given it all to you
and worn ragged shoes.
I’ve grown lean.
I’m walking this path
out of the dark past
carrying child and faith.
I’m late on the scene –
but I am not done trying
to build a dream.
January 26, 2015
Shaykh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Today I say no prayers for myself.
As for my enemies, I wish them well
in the truest sense – well hearts
and minds, and a well of light.
Today, on this day of spring sunshine
and headlines full of death
– ISIS leaving heads on the roadside
and young Muslim leaders
gunned down in the USA –
it’s for the Ummah that I pray.
I pray for the Muslim people
to rediscover the merciful heart
of their deen; and to find their power,
science, architecture, art,
and the quiet joy of ‘ibadah
and Allah’s love.
Let them step into the century
free from tyranny, standing tall
with Islam as hope and call.
Let them drink from the bubbling spring
of the Quran.
Let them breathe.
Let them free themselves
and transform the world.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Being a single parent is rewarding and exhausting at the same time. On the good days I think, “I’ve got this.” My daughter plays, laughs, and tell she loves me. She completes her homework cheerfully and eats what I serve. On days like that I say, “Alhamdulillah!” (All praise is due to God).
Other days I feel inadequate. I feel that I’m not doing enough to teach my daughter Arabic and Islam. I let her consume too much junk food and TV. I haven’t tried hard enough to help her cultivate friendships with kids her age.
On the worst days Salma is depressed and focused on what she doesn’t have. Or she’s down on herself, crying and saying, “I’m no good…” It’s as if she’s determined to see life in the saddest possible light. I don’t know where she’s getting these negative self-images. Certainly not from me. From her schoolmates perhaps? I wish I could shut out the outside world and raise my family in some pristine environment, like an idyllic island, or a small village where the adhaan rings out at dawn every morning.
Sometimes I feel desperate for an ally. Someone to talk to, someone to help, someone who cares. I look around and there is no one. Just me and my child. Other people seem to pass like travelers, not wanting to get involved, not staying, or not caring. (I’m sure every single parent experiences these feelings of isolation sometimes).
Then I remember that Allah (God) is all of those things: Ally, Helper, and Provider. He is the One Who Stays; The First and The Last. And I wonder if that very feeling of desperation that I experience is designed to bring me closer to Allah, and to make me reliant on Him. As we say, Hasbun Allahu wa n’em al-Wakeel. Allah is sufficient for us and the best One in Whom to trust.
So again I say, “Alhamdulillah!” I am grateful to Allah for guidance, for the roof over my head and the food on my table, and even for the difficulties with my daughter, because I have a daughter to have difficulties with, and that’s the greatest blessing.
Thus we say, Alhamdulillahi ‘ala kulli haal. Praise be to God in every condition. And we trust that Allah will bring us through, because having Him as an Ally is not an abstract concept.
Sarah Saghir has written:
“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I will find As-Salam (Allah: The Peace).’
And the spirit says, ‘Find As-Salam (The Peace) and everything will fall into place.'”
So this is what it is to have God as an Ally. It doesn’t mean that we give up on our worldly needs and satisfy ourselves with an ascetic, purely spiritual existence. Rather, when we find Him, when we trust Him and take Him as an Ally, those worldly needs fall into place, and we are able to meet the challenges of life by His grace.
An isolation cell at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
What would you do if you were locked away in a prison like this for years? Would you keep up your prayers, alone in the solitude of your cell? Many Muslims do. Remember them in your dua’.
Yesterday I was watching a National Geographic show called “Hard Time”, about the state prison system in Georgia, USA. This episode was filmed in the “Hi-Max”, the ultra-high-security institution where inmates are permanently locked in isolation.
These cells have molded concrete walls and thick steel doors with tiny plexiglass windows. Prisoners are fed through a slot in the cell door. The guards do not speak to them. It is a world of utter silence and loneliness. Men go mad. Many mutilate themselves or commit suicide.
There was a quick shot through the door window of a young man in his solitary cell. He was Muslim. He laid his only towel on the floor and began to pray.
I saw that and it moved me. SubhanAllah. We take so much for granted. Is there any reason why I have been so blessed and that young man has not? Am I a better man than him? There he is, all alone in a concrete box for years and years, praying to God with no one to see him, not giving up hope, not giving up his faith. While we, who have our freedom, fail to give God His due. And which of the favors of our Lord will we deny?
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