Pottery seller with his donkey in Istanbul, Turkey.
Farhia Yahya tells a true story on SuhaibWebb.com of an incident she witnessed in Cairo:
An old pottery seller was walking with his donkey. The donkey reared, sending the pottery crashing to the ground. The poor man, seeing his livelihood destroyed, was heartbroken. His face turned dark with sorrow as he surveyed the wreckage of his goods.
Then a wonderful thing happened. People came out of apartments, shops and cars to help him pick up the pieces. Then they gave him money, purchasing his broken clay.
In Farhia’s words, “It was incredible to see the hearts of people move like this. Humanity may disappear and people may be cruel towards the poor in certain places and at certain times, but in other places and at other times, the humanity is truly beautiful.”
Wael and Salma, February 15, 2013
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
As-salamu alaykum everyone,
What’s up? How is everyone?
My apologies for not updating this page quite as often recently. Many of you know that my father died of a heart attack on November 28, 2012. I went through a period of deep sadness that lasted for a few months. Alhamdulillah, I’m doing better now.
I’m doing a lot of writing these days, but the reason you don’t see it here is that I’ve been working on a novel featuring Muslim characters. I’m about half done, Insha’Allah. I’ve also been nurturing my “I Love Islam” Facebook page, which now has almost 100,000 followers. I don’t write articles for that page, but you can see some inspiring images and little blurbs that I’ve written.
Of course I continue to manage the IslamicAnswers.com advice page, and that takes time every day, as it is a high-traffic website. It provides common-sense advice on marriage and family issues.
As far as my own work goes, I’ve been developing a website with a variety of text tools for writers and web publishers. It’s called TextElf.com. Feel free to check it out, though it’s still in development, so not everything looks perfect yet.
And of course amid all this, I care for my daughter Salma – she is six years old and is my joy ma-sha-Allah – and I practice martial arts fairly intensively. Salma has become an amazing reader for her age, and is also an imaginative and resourceful artist. In the martial arts arena, I am hoping to test for nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Jujitsu this year, Insha’Allah.
Since I’m here anyway, I’ll take a moment to say a few words, inspired by something that I read recently:
Put Down the Stone
Imagine you take something light – say a stone that weighs one pound – and hold it out at arm’s length, with your arm rigid. In the beginning it’s easy, right? But after a while your arm begins to tire. Your shoulder aches, your muscles tremble, and the stone begins to feel like a boulder. The pain becomes agony and the only thing you want in the world is to set the stone down. All other considerations are forgotten.
Did the stone become heavier? In absolute terms no, but because you could not set it down, it became a mountain.
That’s how it is with the burdens of life. You’re anxious about how you’re going to pay your bills or your debt, worried about your parent whose health is deteriorating, worried about your job or school grades, fearful that you will not find a good husband or wife, stressed about problems in your marriage, self-critical because you are not the kind of good Muslim you feel you should be…
The longer you hold on to these worries the heavier they become, until life itself feels like a burden.
We all know the feeling.
Just as with the stone, you must set these burdens down.
The only way to do that is to hand them to Allah. This is called tawakkul, or trust in Allah. It doesn’t mean that you flutter through life carefree as a butterfly, no. You strive to excel in every aspect of life, but you realize that the outcomes belong to Allah; so you trust Him to handle them. You hand over your fears to Allah. You set that stone down by giving it to Allah, Who feels no fatigue, and for Whom all things are easy.
Wolgan Valley, Australia
A new Muslim convert named Eya submitted this lovely poem:
A Heart Like Ibrahim
A Christian who becomes Muslim
Finds much work is needed
To have a heart like Ibrahim
Soon discover I will be tested.
Islam is new for me to learn;
However, I am up to the task.
As Islam is something I yearn
I wash & pray to Allah to ask.
I wish for much patience
With love and tender care;
While having much guidance
As one day I too will share.
Touarag man praying in the Moroccan desert.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
::*:: What is a “Real Man”? ::*::
Answer: A real man is humble before God. He fears for his aakhirah (hereafter). He works to clothe and feed his family, and to lead them to Jannah (Paradise). The Messenger of Allah (sws) said, ”Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Sahih Muslim).
A real man does not rule his family with an iron fist. He would never raise a hand to strike. He is tender with his wife and children, and hard against anyone who would hurt them. He respects his parents, and honors blood ties. He loves the Ummah and considers all Muslims brothers and sisters.
Beyond that, a real man respects the human rights of all people, regardless of religion, nationality, or race. The Prophet (sws) said: “Allah, Most High, has removed from you the pride of the pre-Islamic period and its boasting in ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. You are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust.” (Abu Dawud)
A real man respects women. “The most perfect in faith among believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” - Prophet Muhammad (sws), Sunnan of Abu Dawud.
A real man is dedicated to the truth, even against himself. He keeps promises. He doesn’t lie or cheat. He doesn’t gossip or betray anyone’s trust.
He never mocks people. “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” – Quran 49:11.
He is not needlessly suspicious of others. “O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion. Indeed, some suspicion is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other…” – Quran, 49:12.
A real man keeps himself clean. He dresses modestly, and represents himself well as a Muslim. He exercises and eats well. He takes care of his body because it is a trust from Allah.
He’s not greedy. He pays zakat and gives sadaqah, knowing it will come back to him. Allah says in the Quran (2:262), “Those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, and then do not follow what they have spent by demands for gratitude or insulting words will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow.”
A real man does not hurt or exploit the weak; he protects them. Animals too.
A real man fights for something genuine. He does not fight for status. He walks away from verbal insults, because he understands that honor comes from the heart, not the fists.
A real man knows he doesn’t have all the answers. He listens before he speaks. When he makes a mistake he admits it. He studies and grows. He worries more about who he is than what people think.
A real man doesn’t whine about his circumstances. He takes whatever abilities Allah has given him and applies them. When times are hard he forges ahead and finds a way. He knows that success and failure come from Allah, so he is humble and grateful, and never stops making dua’.
Am I this real man?
Just now I had this conversation with my daughter Salma, who is six years old:
Me – “How would you define a real man?”
Salma – “He’s strong, he’s confident, and he does stuff.”
Me – “What about me, am I a real man?”
Salma – “You’re mostly a silly man, because you tell silly jokes.”
I won’t put the question to my ex-wife.
Seriously though, I’m not there yet, and maybe I never will be. It’s a lifetime trip. But I do think I’m closer than, say, five years ago. I teach martial arts, and I tell my students, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Instead, compare yourself to yourself. Ask yourself, ‘Have my skills improved in the last year? Has my character improved?’ If the answer is yes, then you have succeeded.
I’m not asking you to be a perfect man. Just a real man.
You matter, as much as the sun and the sea. I know that may seem hard to believe sometimes. It may feel like you are walking through this world without leaving a mark; like no one sees who you truly are; like your existence has no greater significance, no purpose except survival, work, and getting by.
That’s not the case. The truth is that you are important and special, even if it’s not apparent to you. I remember one time years ago when I was in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the mosque in Santa Clara for Jum’ah. After salat, a man approached me. He was a handsome young Indian or Pakistani man in his twenties, professional looking, perhaps a software engineer or doctor. He asked if my name was Wael, and I said yes. He told me that I had been his counselor at the Muslim Youth Camp almost twenty years before, when he was a kid and I was a teenager. He said that I had changed his life, and that he still remembered the things I had taught him. All the years since then – when I sometimes felt sorry for myself and wondered if I had accomplished anything in life – I had no idea that I had changed the life of one young man. I wonder, if I had that effect on him, did I affect others as well?
Is it possible that you and I are living our lives, doing the things we do, and not realizing what wide ripples we are sending out into the world?
In September 2012 I attended a martial arts seminar in Newport Beach, California. During the first day of training I injured my shoulder. I went to an empty room next door and lay on the floor, in terrible pain. A woman who was attending the seminar saw me. She brought me an ice pack, then checked on me repeatedly over the course of the day. I did not even know her name. But when I think of that seminar, what I remember is that woman’s kindness. Her compassion – which was perhaps a small thing to her – made my injury bearable.
I have no doubt that you too have changed someone’s life, or helped someone through a time of pain. I know that there is someone out there who looks up to you. Someone you have inspired. Someone who needs your friendship. Someone you have saved without realizing it. And someone you will save in the future, Insha’Allah.
You Matter to Allah
You are important to Allah Ta’aala (God). Consider that:
- Allah created you to be His khalifa (representative) on the earth.
- Allah created you with the best of forms.
- Allah created an ideal environment for you to grow. The earth is just the right distance from the sun. It has an ideal mixture of oxygen and nitrogen in the air. It is beautifully laid out with forests, oceans full of fish, mountains, grass and sky.
- Allah provides your daily needs. Every bite of food you put in your mouth, and every breath you take, comes from Him.
- Allah sent you Prophets and a Book so you would not be spiritually lost.
- Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein. That is not a warning from Allah, it is an expression of love and care. Who do you want to be close to? You want to be close to those you love.
- We might think that we are far down the list on those of whom Allah loves. But Allah is all-powerful, and needs nothing from human beings. He doesn’t need the favor of the mighty, or the wealth of the rich. He only desires our gratitude and ‘ibadah. The kings of the world, and the young, strong, famous, and educated – they have no advantage over you when it comes to Allah’s favor. To Allah, you are as important as any other person.
Would Allah have done all of this if you were not important to Him? If you did not matter?
Your journey in this life lies before you like a path through a beautiful valley. You have places to go, and things to do. Allah caused you to be born at this moment in the history of the world, as the person you are, for a reason. Your purpose is unfolding before you day by day. Your life has important meaning. Your victories, your injuries and illnesses, the losses and heartbreaks you suffer, have meaning.
Have faith in Allah’s plan for you. If you’re going through something difficult, then know that Allah will not abandon you. Things will get better, Insha’Allah. You will not be stuck in this moment forever. Take a breath, say a dua’, and be peaceful within yourself.
I know you have talents and gifts Alhamdulillah. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because everyone is unique. Use your own special talents in Allah’s cause, to make a better life for yourself and your family, and to make the world a better place.
Let go of self-recrimination. The past is not a curse, it’s a gift. It teaches you and makes you wise. If you’ve been through hardship and survived, that’s a blessing! It means you are strong and capable, and Allah is preparing you for something important.
Have faith in your own heart. Believe in Allah, in our noble Messenger Muhammad (sws), in the Ummah, and in the future. Whatever pain we suffer in this life is not in vain. We may cry and groan, but Allah sees our suffering and will compensate us more than we can imagine, as long as we are patient and keep faith. Allah the Most High has a plan for us, and He is the best of planners.
“By the morning brightness…”
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
I was asked to write a post on this subject. Sorry it took so long.
Have you ever felt unwanted by the world, or abandoned? Personally, there have been times in my life when I felt that there was no one who truly loved me for who I was. I was wrong, of course. I was seeing the world through the dark glasses of depression, which distort the true image of the world.
We all go through gloomy periods when we feel that no one sincerely cares for us; that even our friends and family are using us, or only tolerating us because they have to.
Muslims raised in the West (especially converts) sometimes have a different dilemma. We may feel that “born” Muslims don’t really want us because we don’t fit in; and the non-Muslims don’t appreciate us either, because we are believers. So we don’t fit in anywhere.
Feelings of being unwanted are also common among those who have committed sins. They may be plagued by guilt and feelings of worthlessness. People go so far as to feel that God Himself has abandoned them. At IslamicAnswers.com we get questions from people who say things like, “I know that Allah hates me,” or, “I don’t deserve Allah’s love.”
Often the intensity of people’s guilt is out of proportion to the deeds they have committed. I wonder if the child’s fear of abandonment (a universal human experience) doesn’t linger in the human psyche, waiting to leap out when things go bad, and say, “See! I knew I’d be abandoned one day.”
The Prophet (sws)
Let’s look at the Prophet Muhammad (sws), our noble example. He never committed sins; nevertheless, he went through periods when he felt worried and stressed. Early in his Prophethood there was a time when the revelation of the Quran was suspended. The Prophet wondered if he had made some mistake that had caused Allah to abandon him.
Until Allah revealed Surat ad-Duha (Quran, Surah 93):
By the morning brightness
And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,
Your Lord has not taken leave of you, [O Muhammad], nor has He detested [you].
And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].
And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.
Did He not find you an orphan and give [you] refuge?
And He found you lost and guided [you],
And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.
So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him]. And as for the petitioner, do not repel [him]. But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].
Syed Abul-’Aalaa Maudoodi commented on the first verses of this Surah, saying,
“He (the Prophet sws) was given the consolation that revelation had not been stopped because of some displeasure but this was necessitated by the same expediency as underlies the peace and stillness of the night after the bright day, as if to say: “If you had continuously been exposed to the intensely bright light of Revelation (Wahi) your nerves could not have endured it. Therefore, an interval was given in order to afford you peace and tranquility.” This state was experienced by the Holy Prophet in the initial stage of the Prophethood when he was not yet accustomed to hear the intensity of Revelation. On this basis, observance of a pause in between was necessary.”
SubhanAllah, what a brilliant insight. I never considered this before: that if I’m going through a period when there’s no one who appreciates me – when I’m all alone – maybe it’s because that’s where I need to be spiritually. Maybe there is an important life lesson that can only be learned in solitude.
So not only has Allah not abandoned me – and He never will! – but He is guiding me, watching me, and bringing me along the best path for me at this moment.
That changes things completely. It tells me that my narrow perspective – “Allah is not helping me” – is 100% wrong. The truth is the opposite – Allah is helping me in ways I do not yet perceive. He is with me at every moment. He has never abandoned me.
Allah does not turn away from us. The light of His guidance shines unceasingly. His Mercy and Compassion are available at all times, day or night.
Rather, we are the ones who turn away from Allah. We cover our eyes to block His light so that we can continue in sin; or we turn away to pursue paths of lust and desire.
What About Family?
If we can acknowledge that Allah has not abandoned us, then why do we sometimes feel that the people closest to us are the ones who respect us the least?
Love between family members is taken for granted. We are “supposed” to love our families, so we sometimes don’t feel the need to express our love. Also, family members often feel that they have a right to criticize each other, so it can feel like our families only see the bad in us. Furthermore, when we see someone every day and know them intimately, we can become hyper-aware of their faults and bad habits.
What’s needed is compassion. We must forgive our family members, and focus on their good qualities. Everyone is imperfect. You may not see it so much with your friends because you don’t live with them, but everyone has bad habits. We need to spend time with our families outside of the obligated family functions. Go to the park with them, go on a road trip, etc.
Lastly, if you have a family member who is truly abusive, then avoid that person, and recognize that it’s not your fault. Not everyone can be what we would like them to be. Not everyone will approve of us and be proud of us as we would like, and that’s true even for family members sometimes.
What About Friends?
I don’t have all the answers on this one, as I have not been totally successful in forming close, lifelong friendships. I had three solid, long-term friendships that lasted for 12 years, 25 years, and 27 years, respectively, but they came to an end. I have other casual friendships: people whose histories I somewhat know, and are good to chat with, but not people I could call in an emergency.
I think part of the problem is that I am a generous and giving friend; and this attracts “takers” – people who are needy, manipulative or selfish.
I suspect that many of those who feel unwanted and unloved by their friends are making the same mistake. They are choosing friends who are takers, not givers. This gives you a temporary feeling of usefulness, because it appears that the other person needs you. But when you are feeling down, when you’re having a problem, when you need someone to hold you up – your “friend” is nowhere to be found.
But what happens if a person who is a “giver” – someone who is kind and compassionate – befriends another giver? You get a deep relationship in which the two of you support each other through good times and bad, Insha’Allah.
You are wanted. Allah created you for a reason, and put you on this earth at exactly the time that you are needed.
If it seems that certain individuals do not appreciate you, consider the example of the Prophets, most of whom were rejected by their own people. Some, like the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), went from being respected and admired by his people, to being reviled. The point is that there will always be those who don’t appreciate you. Accept that, and work on becoming sincere with Allah. Trust in His plan for you. Trust that He is guiding you, and that if you go through hardships it’s because there are important lessons for you to learn.
Allah created you deliberately. You have a special and unique purpose on this earth. If you don’t see it yet, give it time. But trust that you are indeed wanted and necessary, as much as the mountains or the moon, and as much as any human being who ever lived. Be peaceful in your heart. Forgive others, and forgive yourself. Stay close to Allah, praise Him, ask His forgiveness, and thank Him for every blessing in your life.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
When you buy a glowstick, it’s just a tube of inert plastic with some liquid inside. It doesn’t look like anything special. It certainly does not glow.
When you put it under pressure, however – when you bend it – a transformation occurs. A capsule inside the glowstick is crushed, and the stick begins to shine.
This is a good example for the mu’min – the believer. Life puts us under pressure, but if we rise to the challenge then we become more than we were. We become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to others (because we know what pain feels like). We begin to shine with a new inner light.
Maybe, just like the glowstick, there’s something inside us that needs to be crushed in order for us to reach our full potential. Ego? Arrogance? Selfishness? Greed? Attachment to material goods?
And maybe the pressures of life are Allah’s way of crushing that obstacle inside us, so that our true light can start to shine.
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” [Quran, Al-Ankaboot (The Spider) 29:2-3]
The key is that Allah does not try us in order to hurt us. Allah Himself is not in need of our character development, or our striving, or the results of our trials. It’s for us. However He tests us, it is for our own benefit.
So next time you feel yourself being pressured and bent, remember: it’s just a bend, not the end. Good things are coming, and with sabr (patience) you will come out better than before, Insha’Allah.
Wael’s daughter Salma riding a camel.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
* Today, let us be grateful for everything good in our lives. *
Let us thank Allah for the sunshine or the rain, for there are blessings in both. People love to complain about the weather, but today let’s simply be grateful.
Let us thank Allah for our parents, our siblings, and our children – there’s my own child, above, riding a camel Sometimes our relatives can drive us crazy – sometimes we wish we could divorce our own families – but at the of the day, they are a part of us, aren’t they?
Le’ts be grateful to Allah for food and drink, leaves and grass, birds and beauty.
Let us be grateful for our bodies, for taking deep breaths, and feeling our hearts beat in our chests. People love to complain about their bodies as well, don’t they? “Oh, my joints are killing me today… I have the worst headache… Oh, my aching back…” – but today let’s just be grateful that we are alive, with the opportunity to laugh and love for one more day.
Let us thank Allah for iman, hidayah and haq (faith, guidance and truth).
SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar.
Big Wet Meadow in Cloud Canyon, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
We all feel weary at times. We feel like we’re fighting on so many fronts and that we have no helpers. At times our passion drains away and we feel like we’re just going through the motions. This happens to me. I think it happens to everyone.
At those moments, Shaytan (Satan) tries to push us into despair. Despair is one of Shaytan’s greatest weapons. If we are in debt, Shaytan tries to get us to despair of getting out of debt. If we’re ill, he tries to convince us to despair of getting well. If we have committed sins, he whispers to us to despair of Allah’s mercy and the possibility of forgiveness. He tries to make us despair of our futures, despair of our salvation, and fail to see the beauty in our lives.
Believers must resist Shaytan’s whispers. Believers must be people of hope, and must see the world through eyes of hope. Believers make life choices that are rooted in hope.
“Shaytan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” – Quran, Al-Baqarah, 2:268
So we have two different calls echoing in our ears. Shaytan calls us to fear, and grasping attachment to this material world.
Allah the Almighty, on the other hand, offers us forgiveness and true blessings. Allah offers us hope. Hope is not wishing on a star, or daydreaming. Hope is a real thing, because it’s a part of trusting Allah. After all, prayer is all about hope.
The Quran tells us that with every difficulty comes ease. Hope is an acknowledgment of that reality, that things will get better, and a time of ease will come.
When life becomes hard, we need to see through eyes of hope, not eyes of despair.
Eyes of Hope
The morning spills out
yellow like a poppy field.
My street is emerald with life:
olives and spring fire,
Chinese fringe and apricot.
My six year old daughter
kneels to pet a cat
but it runs, bell jingling.
“That cat is complicated,” she says.
Later she grasps my hand
and says, “Baba,
you are number one.”
There’s a smell of rain in the air.
When Salma was near
to being born, the doctor said
that the umbilical cord
was looped around her neck.
She could suffocate, he said.
For a week of nights my thoughts raced
as I lay in bed, listening to the frogs
in the field behind the house.
I prayed much harder
than I’ve ever prayed for myself.
As we walk, Salma collects
acorns and red berries,
fallen leaves and dandelions.
“I’m making a nature salad,”
she says. “I’ll hand you the things,
and you put them in the bucket.
That’s the process.”
I want to laugh, but I only smile,
and I follow Salma down the street
humbly, and with eyes of hope.
- Wael Abdelgawad
Hear Those Who Call
O Allah, hear those who call:
the refugees, the small,
and those who cannot speak.
Hear them and help with blessings from above;
and for me…
give me love.
I know I’m weak.
A life that sometimes weighs
to others would be sweet.
Help the victims of war, and prisoners of speech:
feed them, care for their wounds…
and for me… bring a heart that beats.
For my people in Palestine,
in Syria, in Burma, I weep.
Give them freedom and a new day.
And if there’s one stray soul
searching for me, Ya Allah,
then show her the way.
If You think I’m arrogant,
then break me down.
Bring me low to praise You above.
And if You think it’s right,
if I’ve grown as You want me to grow,
if You look inside
and see a soul
sincere as a dove,
new and ready to be born…
then bring me love.
September 9, 2012
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