Not Giving Up On Humanity

Beautiful roadBy Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I’m not ready to give up on humanity. The world is torn by war, and billions are crushed by poverty and hunger. Torturers practice their dark arts in the prisons of the world. Raveners consume the rainforests. The oceans fill with garbage…

But I’m not ready to give up on this world, or on the human experiment. We were not created in vain. God said to the angels, “‘Verily, I will place humankind generations after generations on earth.’ They (the angels) said: ‘Will You place therein those who will make mischief and shed blood, while we glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You?’ God said: ‘I know that which you do not know.’” (Quran 2:30)

Notice that God did not say, “No, they will not make mischief and shed blood.” Rather He said, “I know that which you do not know.”

Could it be that He saw our potential for greatness? That He saw within us the seeds of compassion and transformation? They say that a man must hit rock bottom before he can change. Could that be true for us as a species? Could it be that we must explore these disgraceful depths before we can turn around and evolve? One thing is certain: this must be our final century, or our first. We will continue to a hurricane of self-destruction, or we will begin a new way of living.

We must find a way to solve our problems without war. We must stop burning fossil fuels. We must abandon the culture of disposal goods and begin to live sustainably. We must redistribute resources more equitably. We know what we have to do. It’s not a mystery. We simply have to find the moral courage to do it. And we need better leaders. We must remove the reins of power from men who serve the gods of greed and selfishness.

Martin Luther King Jr., in one of his last speeches (“Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”), said:

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!” With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore.”

Sadly, the global trend at the time of this writing is toward division and hatred. We are seeing the rise of nationalist sentiment and so-called leaders who call upon the worst instincts of their people, fanning the flames of racial division.

Still, I insist on having faith. I insist on believing in the future. Because, after all, what is the alternative?

Men will beat their swords into plowshares… Is that possible? Yes, why not? It’s within our power to choose a better way to live.

Will we? I don’t know. But I suspect that the human story contains a few surprises yet to be seen.

A People of Hope

Cloud and birds

We (Muslims) are not a people of despair. We are a people of hope and redemption and transformation. The wind will always come. Fall in prostration during the storm and you will be safe. Like all things of this world, it will pass. Healing will come. Change will come. Victory will come.
It always does.

– Yasmin Mogahed, January 30, 2017

Not prepared for Ramadan? The door is open anyway

Muslim woman prays at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, in Ramadan 2009

Muslim woman prays at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, in Ramadan 2009

By Maryam Amir

If you cannot fast this Ramadan, if you cannot go to the masjid for tarawih, if you’ve been so overwhelmed that the month has crept up and you don’t feel like you’re at all prepared, remember:

Ramadan is the month of mercy anyway. Ramadan is the month of forgiveness anyway. Ramadan is the month of acceptance and rewards and prayers answered anyway.

Instead of feeling guilty and angry over your inability to fast and spend this month in the masjid or your lack of preparation, find creative ways to reconnect with your Creator. Your taking care of your health, your taking care of others, your duaa, your Quran, your dhikr, your charity, your doing the laundry and going to work and taking care of the kids and supporting your parents and studying for exams- all of them, all of them, are acts of worship magnified in this month by your intention.

If you feel the door has shut for you and the month hasn’t even begun, remember, “Allah will not close a door to His servant out of wisdom, except that He opens two doors for him out of mercy.” Ibn al-Qayyim

Allahuma, we are not ready, our hearts are hard and our vices many, but You are All Forgiving, All Loving and All Answering and all is easy for You – so make us successful anyway! Bring us close to You anyway! Be pleased with us, forgive us, answer us and enter us and every one of our loved ones into the highest Paradise without reckoning anyway! ameen!

Only Allah’s Light Can Defeat the Darkness

Sun rays in a field

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.

Give It To Allah

Sun shining on a river in the wilderness

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 – The Saga Continues!

Ouroboros - a story by Wael Abdelgawad

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 (a poem)

Eid card with butterfly

Eid Mubarak, may every year find you happy and healthy

By Eya

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.

Feeding and Helping the Poor: Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz

The Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz

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

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.

How Satan tricked a pious man

Tall tree, huge tree, beautiful tree

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?

Poem: Build a Dream

Tree of dreams

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.


Wael Abdelgawad
January 26, 2015
Fresno, California

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