By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
For some time now I’ve been thinking of writing a book about hope in Islam. This website is a step in that direction, a means to organize various thoughts surrounding hope, compassion, and love in the Islamic religion. And the way it’s going, it is evolving on its own into the book of my heart. Of all the projects I’ve worked on, some worthy and some merely commercial, this one is dear to my heart, because it’s the expression of my personal philosophy of life, honed over four decades of laughter, suffering, loneliness, love and loss.
I’ve also been inspired by certain individuals, among them Imam Zaid Shakir who has a penetrating sincerity that makes me believe in the future; my ex-wife Laura, who was always loyal even through the most difficult times; my friend Samayya who at times has been a bringer of joy and at other times a cause of deep hurt, but no matter what has always been a source of inspiration; Sister Jinan Bastaki who wrote a brilliant series on salat for Shaykh Suhaib Webb’s blog; sister Fozia, who supported me in this particular venture from the start; sister Hanan Bilal who brims with a consistently positive spirit; certain positive thinkers like Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and the writer Richard Bach; and the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. He (the Prophet) was one of the most courageous, brilliant, and compassionate men the world has ever known.
Let’s face it, we Muslims today are dealing with numerous unhappy realities that can burn little holes in our spirits, and leave us gasping, looking for sources of comfort and serenity.
1. The news is brimming with stories of conflict involving Muslims, desperation and poverty in the Muslim world, oppression of Muslim minorities by non-Muslim states, and tyranny by Muslim governments. More recently in the West, many Muslims are dealing with spiraling bigotry and hate speech directed against them.
2. On a personal level, people often find themselves in difficult family situations, or involved in confusing or painful relationships, or lonely, isolated or abused. The situation is made worse by the fact that Muslim communities often do not have a tradition of counseling and therapy for personal problems, while support organizations may be non-existent.
3. While Muslims in a few locations (the SF Bay Area, Toronto, London, etc) may find a bounty of options when it comes to masjids, Islamic classes, halal restaurants, Islamic financial institutions, and general support from the Muslim community, for most Muslims this is not the case. We often find ourselves isolated and ostracized, unable to form lasting friendships, and feeling very much alone; and sometimes we carry that feeling of isolation within ourselves until it becomes self-perpetuating, even when it’s not warranted.
All of this adds up. It becomes a burden on our souls, it affects our health, our thinking, and our relationships. And no, I don’t think I’m going to change it with a few inspirational quotes and pretty pictures of sunrises and sunsets. But I hope that I can play a small part in changing the way Muslims think about themselves and their religion, and from that can proceed growth.
When brothers and sisters come to see their deen as a source of light, hope, inspiration, and strength, then everything changes. No longer do they imagine Allah as an angry, vengeful God waiting to blast them to bits.
And yes, many people do think that way. As the founder of IslamicAnswers.com, I often get questions from young people who have committed some sin or made some terrible but all too common mistake, and who are in a state of utter despair because they think that Allah will never forgive them. Some are even suicidal.
These people have obviously never been given a correct understanding of the Islamic view of Allah, or they have not assimilated it properly. Allah is a forgiving, merciful, loving, cherishing God. These are the qualities that He has decreed upon himself and has taught us through the Quran and Sunnah. This is not to say that sin and disobedience have no consequences, but that the door of forgiveness is always open.
How many times a day do we recite, “In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful”? And yet we seem not to have truly understood it.
Every time we begin reading the Quran, we seek refuge with Allah from Satan. But do we really see Allah as a refuge, and a source of peace and comfort?
I invite other Muslim writers to contribute to this website. The focus is anything that inspires hope, positivity, change, and helps us grow closer to Allah. We don’t need more anger, hatred or bitterness in this world. We need more forgiveness, kindness and love, and I would like this website to be a hub of positively charged thinking in that direction.
Wael Hesham Abdelgawad
Fresno, California USA
Update, 11-7-2010 – Nominated for a Brass Crescent Award
When I wrote the introduction to this website last year, I mentioned that one of my inspirations was Jinan Bastaki’s amazing series on Salat, written for Shaykh Suhaib Webb’s Virtual Mosque.
Since then, my article, “Remembering a Friend Who Died Badly, and Moving Beyond Blame” has been nominated for 2010’s Brass Crescent award. The Brass Crescents are annual awards that honor the best Muslim blogs and writing on the internet. My article has been nominated in the “Best Post or Series” category.
The irony is that one of my four co-nominees is Jinan Bastaki’s series on salat, the very series that I admired so much.
Jinan’s series clearly wins over my article. Her articles are moving, insightful and scholarly. But it’s nice to be recognized, and to appear in such esteemed company, Alhamdulillah. I’ll just keep on doing what I do, Insha’Allah.