An emperor in the Far East was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his children, all of whom were corrupt and a great disappointment to him, the emperor decided to try something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.”
The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor!”
One boy named Ling was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.
Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, 4 weeks, 5 weeks went by. Still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants but Ling didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by-still nothing in Ling’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed.
Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But honest about what happened, Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful-in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey nice try.”
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back.
“My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!” All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front.
Ling was terrified. “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name.
“My name is Ling,” he replied.
All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”
Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”
The Prophet taught, “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to Al-Fajur (i.e. wickedness, evil-doing), and Al-Fajur (wickedness) leads to the fire, and a man may keep on telling lies until he is written before Allah as a liar.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8:116]
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Keep up all your good work. Don’t give up on yourself.
I am 100% sure that there are people who admire you and look up to you.
Recite Surat al-Asr often and contemplate the meaning. Imam Shafi’ famously said that if Allah had revealed only Surat-al-Asr, it would have been enough for the guidance of humanity.
By the time!
Surely, humankind is in loss –
Except for those who believe and perform righteous deeds, and strive together for truth, and strive together for patience. - Quran 103
Those who do as Surat al-Asr advises are not in loss. Where are they? In success, peacefulness, gratitude, and progress.
If you are still struggling on the path to your dream, then believe in yourself and know that you have a bright future in your work and in love, Insha’Allah. Problems never last, but patient people do. Your day will come, don’t worry.
Make dua’ (pray) immediately when you wake up, and last thing before you sleep. Be peaceful and trust Allah. The road unfolds ahead of you each day. Keep your head up.
Misty rainbow in Waialu Valley, Hawaii
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
You may turn away from Allah (God), but He does not turn away from You. He is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful. He waits. When you make the smallest motion to return, Allah carries you the rest of the way.
In a famous Hadith Qudsi, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that Allah said:
“I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” – (Sahih Bukhari)
You may turn away from Allah, but He does not turn away from You.
There have been times when I turned my back on Allah – or you could say I turned my side, since I still believed. But I was not practicing well. I walked in a different direction, getting far away from the Muslim I should have been and wanted to be. I knew in my heart that I had to get back to the deen, but I felt powerless to change.
The amazing thing, the glorious thing, is that Allah NEVER turned away from me. He kept on guiding me. He preserved that small flame of faith in my heart.
When I lived in SF and I felt ostracized from the community because they all had a certain ethnic background and I didn’t seem to fit in, I ended up moving across the bay to Oakland and discovered a masjid nearby with an active, multi-racial congregation that inspired me. That was Allah, taking me where I needed to go.
Ramadan is a tool that Allah gives us to bring us back to the faith. The constant flow of excessive food and drink burdens the spirit and buries it beneath a layer of sugar, salt, fat and processed junk. When we abandon all that, the spirit revives and emerges like a flower in spring. And when we turn back to Allah, we find that He was there all along, waiting for us.
Reprinted from Al-Jumuah Magazine
In a recent Khutbah, I heard Allah’s divine name, Al-Afoo, The Pardoner, and a very touching qudsi hadeeth that exemplified it:
“A servant [of Allah’s] committed a sin and said: “O Allah! Forgive me my sin.” Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes them.” Then the man sinned again and said: “O Lord! Forgive me my sin.’ And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes them.” Then the man sinned again and said: “O Lord! Forgive me my sin.” And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes them. [My slave!] Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you!” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is no free ticket to sin as you please. But it did make me realize we should always have hope that Allah will forgive our sins and guide us to become better Muslims.
How many times have we sat down to count our mistakes and recognized we have sinned so much we can’t even keep track anymore? We think that there’s no way Allah can forgive us now. To our minds, we don’t even deserve forgiveness.
This hadith shows the extent of Allah’s mercy, which no human mind can even imagine.
“And do not despair of Allah’s mercy. For, most surely, none despairs of Allah’s mercy except the disbelieving people.” [Quran 12:87]
Take note. Hope is no luxury to make our lives better. It is a Muslim obligation, part and parcel of faith.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Does the suffering of the Muslim Ummah leave you feeling depressed and constantly angry? Read this transcript of a talk by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. It’s long, but take the time to read it, as it’s really quite profound:
“One of the things about the current crises in the Muslim world, is that it’s very disheartening for people. A lot of people feel really, really.. I get calls from people lately and they’re.. A lot of depression in our community. I mean, really, like.. A lot of people feel very, very down. And the thing about.. what you’re doing when you succumb to those feelings and those emotions—and the Prophet (sws), you know, he had periods where he was down—undeniably, you know, he was a human being. So, that’s part of being a human being; you don’t have to be up all the time. But, to succumb to that. To allow the conditions of this planet to enter you into a grief state, you’re just adding yourself to a long list of Iblees’s victims. That’s all you’re doing. He has a long list of victims. And what he wants to do is just depress everybody, to thrust depression into your hearts.
So, you know, we really have to resist that temptation. Because it’s actually, it’s somewhat of a self-indulgent one. No matter how hard whatever we’re going through—and each one of us, we all know our troubles. Because Ibn Abbas said, ‘the nature of this dunya is that it is dar al balaa.’ That is the baseline nature of the world; it is a place of tribulation. That’s what it is.
And the Prophet (sws) said—he calls Ramadan ‘shahr as-sabr’, and he said, ‘Ramadan nifs as-sabr’—‘Ramadan is half of sabr.’ And the ulema said, Rajab Hanbali said, the reason Ramadan is half of sabr is because sabr is in three parts; being patient with obedience, patience in restraining yourself from disobedience, and being patient with the decrees of God that are difficult, that are painful. And he said that Ramadan has all three. Because you’re restraining from doing things that are haram, you’re patient with being obedient, through your fasting. And then, there are difficulties that go just with depriving yourself of food, and water, and these things. It’s a qadar —qadar of Allah. So it’s accepting the qadar of Allah.
So, that’s the nature of the dunya. It’s dar al balaa. So people know what they’re going through, but.. Ibn Abbas said in every tribulation are three blessings, hidden; the first one is that it could be worse. If you lost a hand, you could have lost both hands. If you lost an eye, you could have lost both eyes. If you went blind, you could have gotten dementia. There’s always something that could have been worse, that’s the first. The second is that it’s in your dunya and not in your deen. So even if you lost money, it’s just money. If you lost anything, if it’s dunya, it’s not important. And the last one, is that you’re still in this abode; it’s not in the next one. Because that’s where the real tribulation is.
So whatever difficulties you’re having, there are people in this ummah right now having much worse.”
—Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Allah had a plan for you before you were born, and He still has a plan for you. Allah’s plan for you is necessary and glorious. His plan is vital to your success, and important to the world. If that sounds grandiose, bear with me.
Some people are fatalistic, believing that everything that we do is set in stone, as if we were robots pre-programmed in the factory. Such a reality would strip us of free will and deny our natures. Rather, I believe that Allah has a flexible plan for each human being: a plan that allows that person to benefit the world with his/her unique talents.
This is in fact the Islamic view of al-Qadar, or predestination. There is no doubt that Allah has decreed everything that happens in the universe from the beginning of time to the end, and that Allah has written it all in al-Lawh al-Mahfooz (the Book of Decrees).
“Know you not that Allah knows all that is in the heaven and on the earth? Verily, it is (all) in the Book (Al?Lawh Al?Mahfooz). Verily, that is easy for Allah” (Quran, al-Hajj 22:70)
However, as Sheikh Muhammad Saalih Al-Munajjid explains,
Belief in al-qadar does not contradict the idea that a person has free will with regard to actions in which he has free choice. Sharee’ah and real life both indicate that people have this will.
Allaah says concerning man’s will (interpretation of the meaning):
“That is (without doubt) the True Day. So, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with (or a way to) His Lord (by obeying Him in this worldly life)!” [al-Naba’ 78:39]
(and other similar ayaat)
These verses confirm that man has a will and the ability to do what he wants and not to do what he does not want.
With regard to real life, everyone knows that he has a will and the ability to do what he wants and not to do what he does not want. And he can distinguish between the things that happen when he wants them to, such as walking, and those that happen without him wanting them to, such as shivering. But the will and ability of man are subject to the will and decree of Allaah.
Sheikh Al-Munajjid’s last paragraph is the key to understanding Al-Qadar: walking (voluntary) versus shivering (involuntary). Other scholars have explained it as two types of Qadar, fixed and flexible. The fixed Qadar is that which happens to us from beyond our control. For example the time and place of our birth, any illnesses and natural disasters that befall us, etc. The flexible Qadar is that which is within the realm of our free will. That includes our choice to do good or evil, what we choose to believe and how we choose to live.
Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah wrote:
There are two types of provision and lifespan: the first type has already been decreed and is written in Umm al-kitaab, and cannot be changed or altered. The next type of qadar, Allah has informed His angels of His decrees. This is the type where provisions and lifespan may increase or decrease. Hence Allah the Almighty says what may be translated as, “Allah blots out what he wills and confirms [what He wills]. And with Him is the Mother of the book.” (Surat Ar-Ra’ad, verse 39)
The mother of the Book (Umm al-Kitaab) is Al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh, in which Allah has decreed all things as they will always be without change.
However, the decrees contained in the books of the angels, such as lifespan and provisions, may increase or decrease according to various circumstances; thereafter, the angels will re-write a person’s provision and lifespan. If a person upholds the ties of kinship, his provisions and lifespan will be extended, otherwise they will decrease.” [See Majmoo'al-Fataawa 8/540]
So Allah has a plan for you, but fulfillment of that plan is up to you: the choices you make, as well as your degree of faith, persistence and determination will determine the outcome.
I said that Allah’s plan for you is important to the world. The proof of this is simply that Allah created nothing in vain. Look at His creation. Everything has a purpose, from the sun that heats our world, to the bacteria that consume waste. Everything in creation has a purpose that is necessary to the functioning of its ecosystem.
You are the same. You have a purpose. You are necessary to the world. If your presence were not vital in some way, then you would not have been made.
Discovering Allah’s Plan
How do we discover Allah’s plan for us? Where do we find it? How do we realize it in our lives?
It’s not as difficult as we might think. It wouldn’t make sense for Allah to have a plan for us and then leave us stumbling in the dark. Allah’s plan doesn’t have to be a mystery. If we trust Him, do what He asks, and follow our hearts, His plan will unfold in our lives like a brightly lit path.
If you are trying to follow Allah’s guidance, but you find yourself confronted by obstacles and hardship, don’t despair. The hardship is probably a sign that you are on the right path. Consider our Prophets (may Allah bless them all) who faced tremendous obstacles:
* The Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis-salam, peace be upon him) was disowned by his family and thrown by his people into a blazing fire; Allah rescued him from that, and made him the father of two nations.
* Allah inspired the mother of the baby Musa (as) and told her to place her infant into a chest and send it floating down the Nile. That must have been an enormously difficult plan to follow, but she trusted her Lord, with the result that an entire people were eventually freed from bondage.
* The young Yusuf (as) was thrown by his brothers into a well and left for dead; later he was sold into slavery, then imprisoned for years; but in the end he became an important minister, and was reunited with his father.
* Maryam (as) the mother of Isa (as), delivered her child alone under a palm tree, far from her people as she feared their reaction; but Allah helped her through miracles, until she became the honored mother of a great Prophet.
* The Prophet Yunus (as) gave up on his mission to the people of Nineveh, ventured onto a ship and was then cast into the sea, where he was swallowed by a whale. At the point of despair, he called upon Allah with all his heart and was rescued. He returned to his mission, and achieved success.
* A’ishah (ra), the wife of the Prophet (sws), was slandered; but Allah brought the truth to light, and Aishah became a leader and scholar in her own right.
* The companion Umm Salamah (ra) lost her beloved husband Abu Salamah in the battle of Uhud; she thought that no husband could ever replace him, yet she ended up marrying the Prophet himself (sws).
Things are not always what they seem. Be patient. Allah has a plan for you.
Following Allah’s Plan
This is the hard part. Allah’s plan for us is true to who we are at our core, in our very essence. It will not correlate to an artificial persona we have adopted, or our desire to be seen and recognized. Allah’s plan may not bring us fame, fortune, or physical pleasure. It might mean giving up material comfort. So Allah’s plan for us may not be what we would wish it to be.
- Allah’s plan for us is not always what we would wish it to be.
Abu Hurayra (ra), the companion of the Messenger of Allah (sws), was asked about Taqwa (God-consciousness). He said, “It is a road full of thorns. One who walks it must have extreme patience.”
In fact, Allah’s plan may be so challenging that we may perceive it but decline to follow. I have known all my life that I was a writer. I’ve been talking for years about writing certain books. And yet it took me until the age of 44 to begin writing about the things that really mattered to me, and I still have not published a book (look for it soon, Insha’Allah!). Why did it take me so long to do what I was meant to do?
I have a friend who says that Africa has been calling her all her life. She believes that her destiny is to go there and help the African people in some way. But she has not done it. Why?
I have another friend who believes that da’wah is his mission in life. He spent ten years studying Japanese at the university level, and he dreams of living in Japan and doing da’wah there. But he has no concrete plan to do so. Why?
I asked several brothers and sisters if they know what their mission in life might be. Some said yes. I asked them if they were carrying out their mission. Most said no, and gave these reasons:
- I feel that others are more qualified than me.
- It seems like a fantasy.
- It feels like a dream.
- I tried once and it didn’t go my way.
- Right now I need to focus on financial security.
- I’m not ready yet.
Brothers and sisters, no one is more qualified than you to fulfill the plan that Allah has for you! Allah’s plan is not a fantasy or a dream. It may not go your way the first time, or the second, or the third. It may not make you rich, but there is no true financial security in this life – that’s an illusion. No one expects you to let your family go hungry. Work hard and provide for them, but don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the accumulation of wealth will save you, because the only true security is with Allah. And last of all, no one is ever ready to walk fee-sabeel-illah (in the path of Allah). It is a road full of thorns. But it is also the road to fulfillment, happiness, barakah (blessings) and tawfiq (success).
Fulfilling Allah’s plan for us requires that we silence the voice of our own desire, open ourselves to Allah, and look within with total sincerity. It takes courage, patience and determination. It is the path to Jannah (Paradise), Insha’Allah.
On May 16, 1975, then 35-year-old Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
It is your Lord who drives the ship for you through the sea that you may seek of His bounty. Indeed, He is ever, to you, Merciful. – Quran 17:66
To be human is to move. To learn and improve ourselves. To evolve. To fall, take our bruises and stand again, wiser for the experience. To use our bodies, minds and spirits to do good in the world, for ourselves and others.
Mountains and statues stand still. And the dead – the dead do not move. They lie in one spot, powerless, no longer able to say, “I love you,” or, “I seek forgiveness.” No longer able to pray. No longer able to walk, run, play, visit friends. Unable to move.
But to be human – and alive – is to move: move on, move forward, move upward! To be human is to speak your heart, pray to the Creator, and strive to do better each day, so that when our time comes, and we join our ancestors in the grave, we have something good to carry with us to the next life.
“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” ~Frederick Douglass
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Life is a heavyweight bout. The other guy – let’s call him Mr. World – hits hard and doesn’t let up. There’s no standing eight count. If you lose this particular bout you don’t die, you just go to your corner and sit on a stool. Everyone’s gone and the arena is dark. You sit there nursing your wounds and wondering what might have been.
The good news is that anytime you want a rematch, it’s yours. The lights come up and the crowd roars, and Mr. World is there again, dancing in his blue-green robe, throwing combinations you’ve never seen. You don’t have to be big to win this fight. You just have to want it, and believe, and move your feet, and not take no for an answer.
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.” – Quran 2:186
By Muhammad Islam
For The Guardian, as told to Shaista Gohir, September 2005
I hated all foreigners but feared Muslims the most. I grew up in the 1960s in Gateshead, in a predominantly white area; I can’t remember seeing an Asian face there. As a family we were not religious. We only went to weddings, funerals and christenings. I was not interested in school, either. You didn’t need to stay on because you were more or less guaranteed a job in the mines, steelworks or shipyards.
When I was 16, all my friends were British National Party activists. It was a cool thing to do, and I joined in, too. I wanted to shock, to rebel. We would get together, drink, listen to music, chase girls and go out Paki-bashing. That wasn’t a phrase we considered bad or wrong.
I remember my first time; it was a Saturday night and we had been drinking. We went into an Asian area and came across a lad of about 17. We started chanting – the usual thing, “Go back to your own country” – and then went after him. There were about 10 of us, and we kicked and punched him. When we ran away, I remember, we were laughing. I don’t know what happened to him, and at the time I wouldn’t have cared: I was in a group and we had camaraderie.
By the time I was 19 I was growing out of the BNP. I moved to London for work and stopped going to meetings. But I still hated all foreigners, especially Muslims. Over the next few years I became involved with people who went to Muslim meetings in Hyde Park, mainly to cause trouble.
Then, one day in 1989, I was walking past a secondhand book stall by the Royal Festival Hall when a cover caught my eye: it was the most beautiful picture, in the most gorgeous colours, of a building. I didn’t know what the book was, but it was only 20p so I bought it. I thought I’d buy a cheap frame and have a nice picture for my wall. I had no idea until I got home that I had bought the Qur’an.
I was horrified when I found out. My initial reaction was to throw it away. But then I got curious. I started reading it, thinking I would find things to use against Muslims; I thought it would be filled with contradictions. When I was young, my mum always made her views known and from her I acquired a love of debating. Now, I would regularly go and debate with Muslims at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. As I did so, I started to get a very different picture of Islam. Seeing people pray in unison was such a powerful image.
A few years later, I returned to the north-east – I’d got a job as a chef. When I saw a group of Muslims at an Islamic book stall in Newcastle, I thought, “Here’s another group I can wind up; I probably know more about Islam than they do.” But I was shocked when I approached them; they were very knowledgeable. I kept going back because I enjoyed debating with them, and after four weeks they challenged me.
They wanted me to try to disprove the Qur’an and convince them my way of life was better. They said if I succeeded they would become Christians, but if I failed I should become a Muslim. I accepted the challenge. But after months of returning to the stall and debating, I realised I was losing and panicked. I stopped going to the stall.
Three years had passed when I bumped into one of the guys from the stall. As I thought about what I wanted to do, I felt as if a big rock were crushing me, but when I told him I wanted to convert, I had a total sense of peace. I made my final decision on Wednesday November 17 1996 and converted the following day. I have been close to the Hizb ut-Tahrir group ever since: I became a Muslim because of them; they were the guys at the stall.
When I told my family, my sister stopped talking to me. My father was horrified but didn’t want to discuss it. My mother thought it was a phase I was going through and was more worried about what the neighbours would think. She now lets me pray in the house, but refuses to call me Muhammad (I was born John Ord).
I met my wife, who is Pakistani, after converting. We live in Birmingham, where she works as a primary school teacher. I have just started a degree in social work. When I look back, I can’t believe the things I did; it feels like a different person and a different life. Ironically, because of the backlash from the London bombings, I now fear attack, and have started going out in my English clothes. In them I look like a bearded, middle-aged white guy.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Picture a blind man, standing in the middle of a desert. Sometimes he thinks he knows which way to go, so he wanders with his hands outstretched, but he finds no help. Other times he gives up, and stands in despair beneath the burning sun…
That blind man is us, wandering in this material desert that is the dunya…
Now imagine that someone comes and takes the blind man’s hand, and shows him the way to a place of peace and fulfillment. That is the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (sws), who showed us the way to Allah SWT; and the way to Jannah.
What would that blind man feel? How deeply grateful would he be? How much would he love the helper who saved him, and the One who sent the helper?
Perhaps that is why, when ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) said to the Prophet (sws), “You are more beloved to me than everything except myself,” the Prophet replied: “No O ‘Umar! I swear by Him in whose hand my soul is, (you will not truly believe) until I become more beloved to you than yourself.” Thereupon, ‘Umar said: “I swear by Allah that you are now more beloved to me than myself.” The Prophet replied: “Now! O ‘Umar.” (i.e., now your faith is complete). (Bukhaari).
‘Umar could not guide himself nor save his own soul from the spiritual destitution of jahiliyyah (the time of ignorance). He needed the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (sws) for that, and therefore his love, fealty and commitment to the Messenger had to be greater than even to himself.
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