About Wael

Wael Abdelgawad is an Egyptian-American living in Fresno, California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including Zawaj.com and IslamicAnswers.com, and also of various technology and travel websites. He is a writer and poet, and has been a web developer since 1997. This project, IslamicSunrays.com, is very dear to his heart, as it has allowed him to express ideas that have growing inside him for many years. Wael is divorced and has one lovely young daughter. He practices and teaches martial arts (somewhat obsessively), and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and vanilla fudge ice cream. Wael is an advocate for human rights and blogs about these issues at AbolishTorture.com. He is also a volunteer with the MyDeen Muslim youth organization in Fresno.
Website: http://www.IslamicSunrays.com/
Wael has written 263 articles so far, you can find them below.


Tell the truth and watch your relationships shine

Yellow sunlight and clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and be with the true ones.” – Quran 9:119

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allah as a Siddeeq (speaker of the truth). Beware of telling lies, for lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.” (Muslim)

Ali Ibn Abi Talib (ra) said: “The truth teller achieves three things: trust, love, and respect.”

You know the expression, “The truth shall set you free?” It might be amended to say, “Telling the truth shall set you free.”

Being honest is liberating. It might be difficult or emotionally uncomfortable at times, but it’s so much more freeing to the spirit than lying, or living a lie. We don’t have to remember what lies we told to whom, or whether someone will uncover something from our pasts. We don’t have to feel like hypocrites for speaking words we don’t really mean.

The Body Tells the Truth

Did you know that a liar is betrayed by his own body? We all know about the obvious signs that are monitored by lie detectors, such as increased body temperature (manifested visually as sweating), and raised blood pressure. But there are many other signs that are detectable visually. If you live in the USA you may have seen the television drama “Lie to Me”, about a scientist who acts as a human lie detector by studying body language and facial “micro-expressions”. This is based on real science.

For example, when people are lying, they generally avoid eye contact. Frequently, liars will gaze downward and to the right. Another sign is that liars often fidget, moving hands or feet, drumming fingers, or adjusting clothing. Also, liars may subconsciously try to “hide” the lie by covering their mouths, or making a motion that is symbolic of covering the face, such as touching the nose or an eye. These are all attempts to cover up the lie, and are a subconscious expression of shame. Lastly, the liar may fold his arms or cross his legs, which are defensive gestures, as if he is trying to cover himself up.

SubhanAllah. Even when a person’s mind is willing to lie, the body is not. It’s as if a part of him is adhering to fitra, the pure nature of every human being, and is unwilling to go along with the sin.

After all, the body is always in a state of submission to Allah. The heart beats as Allah made it to do, the blood flows, the nerves fire, the cells generate energy, carry oxygen or process waste, white blood cells attack invaders… all these autonomous processes go on without conscious thought, obeying the imperatives given to them by Allah. This is an expression of Islam at the most basic level. So even when a person’s tongue may commit a sin by lying, on a deeper level the body is still in submission.

In fact, everything in existence submits to Allah and praises Him, and functions as a sign of His power. Allah says,

“Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do.

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination.

Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightening almost takes away the eyesight.

Allah alternates the night and the day. Indeed in that is a lesson for those who have vision.

Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies, and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.” (Quran 24: 41-45)

All of the things described in these verses exist in submission to Allah. Only we, children of Adam (and the jinn), have been given the ability to disobey. When we rebel – and that includes lying – we come into conflict with Allah, with society, with all other living creatures, with the weather that surrounds us, and even with the night and day!

Last but not least, we come into conflict with our own bodies. How could that be anything but harmful? Isn’t it a sign to us that lying is wrong on a very deep level?

Truth Builds Trust

My daughter Salma is three years old. She goes to bed at 7:30pm, and I remain beside her until she sleeps. On certain evenings I have a martial arts class, and I hope that Salma will fall asleep quickly so I can hurry to my class before it’s over (my mother watches her until I return). Sometimes Salma asks me, “Baba, are you staying home tonight or going to your class?”

I know that if I lie and say, “I’m staying home,” that will comfort her and she’ll fall asleep quickly, allowing me to go to class. On the other hand, if I say, “I’m going to my class,” she’ll deliberately struggle to stay awake, chattering and rolling around in bed, because she does not want me to leave.

So what do I do? I say, “If you fall asleep soon I will go to my class, otherwise I will stay.” I tell her the truth, even it means that I miss my class, because I could not live with myself if I lied to her for selfish reasons, even if it’s a “harmless” lie.

Some days I get to my class, some days I don’t.

I follow this same strategy in every aspect of my relationship with her. If she says, “Baba, can we go to the zoo on Saturday?” I never say, “We’ll see,” just to placate her and change the subject. Someone did that with me in my childhood and I always hated it because I knew that it really meant “no” and was just an obfuscation. So with Salma I might say, “If it’s sunny we can go to the zoo Insha’Allah,” and when the day comes and it’s sunny I will take her to the zoo no matter what, short of an emergency. Or I might say, “Sorry baby, we need to go shopping on Saturday and we won’t have time.”

My point is that I’m always honest with her even when the answer may upset her, and the result is that she trusts me. I see in my interaction with her that she accepts my word and believes me.

I know these are small examples. There’s nothing earth shaking about telling the truth to a little child. But you know, many people do routinely lie to their children for the sake of convenience.

Wael's daughter Salma at the Fresno Zoo

Wael’s daughter Salma at the Fresno Zoo

Le’ts be ourselves and be honest. Le’ts take these small examples and do a close examination of our interactions with all our family members, our friends, our work colleagues, and our business partners. Do we sometimes lie to simplify matters or to make ourselves look good?

Or do we always tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable?

If we were to adopt a policy of truth at all times, what consequences would that have? Really think about it. How would it affect our credibility, our friendships, and our work relationships?

I believe that, contrary to what our fears and insecurities may tell us, being honest in all our relationships would lay a deep and strong foundation and allow those relationships to flourish.

Tell the Truth Without Harm

There should be no exceptions to honesty, but telling the truth is not a compulsion to harm yourself, nor a justification for harming others.

For example, no Muslim should openly manifest his immoral actions or past. It was narrated that Saalim ibn ‘Abd-Allah said: I heard Abu Hurayrah say: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say:

“All of my Ummah will be fine except for those who commit sins openly. Part of committing sins openly is when a man does something at night and Allah conceals it, but in the morning he says, ‘O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.’ His Lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of Allah.”(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5721; Muslim, 2990)

In my capacity as an editor of IslamcAnswers.com, I have often been anonymously asked some version of this question: “I lived a sinful lifestyle at one point, including committing zinaa, but I have repented. Now I am engaged to be married and my fiancé wants to know about my past. What should I say? If I tell him/her everything, he may break off the engagement, but if I lie then I’ll be building a future on a foundation of dishonesty.”

My response is that one should give a reply along these lines: “My past is between me and Allah. For whatever sins I have committed, I have asked Allah’s forgiveness and continue to do so. I will not say more. Please judge me according to the person I am now, just as I will do with you.”

If that response is not satisfactory to the other person and he continues to pry, I guarantee you he is not good husband (or wife) material for you. If you don’t tell him everything, he will continue to harangue you endlessly. And if you do, he will be jealous and probably never forgive you. No one needs that kind of judgment in life.

Of course if something material has resulted from past mistakes – for example if one has a child from a past relationship, or has acquired an STD – then that must be revealed, as these are things that will affect a spouse in a continuing way.

Truth Builds Rock-Solid Friendships

As far as harming others, Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

If you see your brother making a serious mistake, correct him in the kindest possible way. That is a form of honesty. If you have nothing good to say, stay silent. That too is is an aspect of truth telling. No matter what, do not be needlessly hurtful.

Telling the truth in this way creates strong and healthy friendships, because it builds trust. Real friends don’t just tell you what you want to hear. They don’t say, “Oh yeah, you’re great, that’s wonderful,” when inside they’re thinking, “What a crazy thing to do,” or, “What is he up to now?”

But they’re not cruel or harsh either. They tell you the truth kindly. If they think you’re doing something harmful, they tell you with compassion. When you have a friend like that, you know you can trust every word out of his/her mouth, so when your friend compliments or supports you it means something and lifts your spirit, because you know it’s from the heart.

Real friends are not saccharine-sweet liars, nor are they relentlessly negative. They see the good in you, they appreciate you and let you know it, but when you need some honest advice they are there with the right words.

And I’ll tell you something: most people respect truth-tellers, even if they don’t agree with what’s being said.

The other key component is that real friends are discreet. Many years ago I had two good friends – I’ll call them Ali and Mo (not their real names) – who were given scholarships to study at the Islamic University of Madinah. They left together. After some time I heard a rumor that Mo had gotten in some trouble in Saudi Arabia and had been arrested and jailed. I did not know the details. When Ali returned to California for summer break, I asked him, “What happened to Mo? Tell me the whole story.” To my great frustration, Ali would not reveal a single detail. All he said was, “The Saudi authorities are planning to deport Mo; when he returns you can ask him yourself.” Mo was my friend too, I was concerned about him. Plus, I admit that it was such a juicy piece of gossip that I could not resist. But Ali would not budge, even though I was several years older than him and had been like a brother to him for years.

One consequence is that I trust Ali more than most. I know that he’s as firm as a mountain. I know that if I tell him something in confidence he will not repeat it, and that he never backbites or gossips about my faults.

Real friends keep your secrets, don’t speak about you to others, don’t repeat rumors. Again, that builds a rock-solid foundation of trust.

I want to be a friend like that, don’t you?

See Also: Let’s Tell Our Children the Truth

Never Despair: How a Dying Friend Inspired Me

The sun shining from behind a cloud

Sometimes when it's cloudy we forget that the sun is still shining behind the clouds, waiting to burst forth

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

A Dedicated Da’iyy

The year was 1983. A few of my friends from the Fresno, California masjid were going to the hospital to visit a Muslim brother who was very ill. They invited me along and off we went in someone’s car. I was seventeen years old.

Along the way they told me that the brother, whose name was AbdulGhafoor*, was a tall, dreadlocked man in his mid-forties or so, originally from the Virgin Islands. He had several children. He made his living selling perfume oils at the various swap meets around California. He was a dedicated da’iyy, always talking to people about Islam, spreading the word. He was known for his ready laugh, and for always wearing Islamic clothes, typically a shalwar khamees-style shirt and loose pants.

Unfortunately he had developed an illness called Valley Fever.

Valley Fever, one brother explained to me, is a fungus that resides in the soil of California’s Central Valley. The fungus can be stirred into the air by anything that disrupts the soil, such as farming, construction and wind. The fungi can then be breathed into the lungs, causing fever, chest pain and coughing. Some people develop no symptoms, but individuals of Asian, Hispanic and African descent may develop a more serious and sometimes fatal form of infection.

One of my friends described how he had worked with AbdulGhafoor in the grape orchards some time back, picking grapes. He said that AbdulGhafoor was tireless and strong, and had a vibrant spirit that engaged people around him so that the work hours flew past. Another friend mentioned playing basketball with AbdulGhafoor, and how no one could beat him one-on-one.

So when we got to to the hospital and located AbdulGhafoor’s room, I was shocked to see a man who appeared to be on the edge of death. He lay prone in the hospital bed, with IVs running into his arm, barely able to move. I could see that he was tall and had a proud, distinctive face. But he was terribly thin, and his dark skin appeared to be turning white as chalk in places and flaking off.

I think my friends were stunned at AbdulGhafoor’s condition as well, and they haltingly uttered various sympathetic statements. AbdulGhafoor put up his hand and motioned us all closer. He spoke, and I could barely hear him as his voice was a hoarse whisper. He said, “The greatest sin is to despair of the mercy of Allah. Never despair. Trust in Allah.”

He smiled as he said it, as if to reassure us, so we would not feel bad. It amazed me that in his dire situation that was all he had to say.

We didn’t want to tire him too much and we left soon after, but that moment has always stayed in my mind and has affected the way I see the world. So many times in my life, when I have felt low, or been in desperate situations, have I heard AbdulGhafoor’s voice saying, “Never despair. Trust in Allah.”

AbdulGhafoor did not die. Yes, I know I called him a “dying friend” because that’s how he seemed to me in that first meeting. But he was a man with a vast reservoir of internal strength and he pulled through and returned to his family, his work at the swap meets, and his da’wah. He had a few recurring bouts of Valley Fever over the years, but he was strong and nothing ever stopped him.

I got to know AbdulGhafoor well over the following years. He became one of my closest friends. I was young and impressionable and AbdulGhafoor played a major role in shaping my way of thinking. Looking back with the perspective of advancing age, I can see that his advice to me was not always sound. But that same acquired perspective allows me to avoid judging him, because I know now that everyone makes mistakes, and the only way to avoid losing all your friends, and destroying your relationships, is to learn to forgive.

AbdulGhafoor was powerful, but humble and generous. I don’t know how many times I saw him take in travelers and feed them; or provide a room to new Muslim converts who were down on their luck; or help poor Muslims to get started in some sort of self-employment. These were people that no one else would even look at. Poor Latino brothers working in the fields with no education and no English…  a rough-edged white brother fresh out of prison and newly converted, with a swastika tattoo still on his arm! AbdulGhafoor took them into his home, fed them, and taught them. SubhanAllah, ma-sha-Allah.

I remember a teenaged brother who lived on his own and had been a convert for a year or so. This young brother had little understanding of Islamic manners. He saw AbdulGhafoor in a leather coat and he said, “That’s a really nice coat.” AbdulGhafoor said, “Alhamdulillah.” And just like that the youngster said, “Can I have it?” AbdulGhafoor did not say a word. He took the coat off and handed it to the brother.

I have many good memories of time spent with AbdulGhafoor. I learned from him and admired him, but I could also be overconfident as some youth are, and at times I had to be brought down a notch. One time I was practicing Karate at the masjid by myself when AbdulGhafoor entered. He asked if I would like to spar a little. I was in my late teens at that point and had studied karate for some years, and AbdulGhafoor was maybe fifty years old, so I thought he would be a pushover. I thought I’d have to take it easy on him.

We both put our hands up, and before I even had a chance to feel him out – pow! – he smacked me on the nose with an open hand. It was so fast I didn’t see it coming. To my credit, I managed to keep my hands up even as my eyes watered. But I was embarrassed and I made an excuse: “I wasn’t ready for that,” I said. “You shouldn’t have been,” AbdulGhafoor said. “I shouldn’t have come at you like that.”

My teenage ego was mortified, but it makes me laugh now.

A Terrible Loss

Some years later I was in Arizona, living in a harsh environment, learning some valuable life lessons. I called one of my California friends, and I learned that AbdulGhafoor’s daughter Tahirah had died in a house fire. Their house had caught fire at night from incense or candles; Tahirah had run back into the house repeatedly to rescue her younger brothers and sisters. The last time she went in, she did not come out. She was a shaheedah, who died saving her family.

I remember Tahirah as a girl who was intelligent, articulate, and strong in a quiet way. A beautiful girl. Definitely her father’s daughter. May Allah have infinite mercy on her.

I called AbdulGhafoor. I told him I had heard about what happened to Tahirah. He said, “Yes?” His tone was distant, bordering on cold; I was tongue-tied and I stumbled my way through something like, “I’m so sorry, brother. I won’t even pretend to know what you’re feeling, but I want you to know that I am thinking of you and praying for you, and I know Tahirah is in a happy place now…”

There was a silence for a moment, then AbdulGhafoor burst into tears, and through his sobs he said, “You’ve always been a good friend. I love you.” I was moved by that. He knew that I was in a difficult environment and once again he was transcending his own tremendous pain to reach out to me – SubhanAllah, even now I cannot recall it without bringing tears to my eyes.

Some years later, when I returned to Fresno for a visit, I went to visit AbdulGhafoor, and I discovered that in my absence he had named his youngest son after me. It only occurs to me now that I never asked him why. It was a strange time for me. I was very emotionally bottled up, and Fresno seemed to me a place full of ghosts. Some of my friends had passed away – one of a heart attack in his 30’s – and others had moved away. Still others were now estranged. I felt disquieted in Fresno, and for the first time, I felt uneasy in AbdulGhafoor’s house. We chatted briefly, then I excused myself and left.

Even today, so many years later, I have not reconnected with that past.

I still see AbdulGhafoor at the Eids, and once at a mall where he owns a perfume oil shop. He is divorced now and only his youngest son – my namesake – still lives with him. He played a key role in establishing the downtown masjid, and he is still active there, but he no longer has the energy for the incessant da’wah-in-motion activity of his youth. We exchange salams and hugs, and move on. There seems to be an unwritten agreement between us not to discuss the past.

Never Despair

Allah quotes Prophet Yaqoob (alaiyhis-salam) in the Quran:

“Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (Surah Yusuf 12:87)

And He says,

“Say: O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah az-Zumar 39:53)

Allah speaks of those who have committed great sins, breaking the laws of Allah and harming their own souls, and yet Allah extends to them the offer of mercy and forgiveness. How much more merciful and kind will Allah be to one who is ill, lying helpless in a hospital bed, unable to care for his family, relying only on Allah’s help? Would there be any limit to Allah’s mercy in such a case?

Allah stated in a Hadithi Qudsi, “I am with My servant as He expects of Me.” This means that Allah treats us as we expect Him to do. If we have faith in Allah, expecting His love, guidance and help at every moment of our lives, then we will indeed be loved, guided and helped. But if we imagine Allah to be an angry and unforgiving God, and if we expect harshness from Him, despairing of His mercy, then we commit a great sin and indeed we may not be forgiven.

In the case of illness and adversity, they are in fact a source of forgiveness from Allah, and an expiation for sins. In that sense, illness and adversity are blessings, because we suffer some pain in this life in exchange for forgiveness and comfort in the next. The next post will discuss in more detail this issue of how illness and hardship erase our sins, Insha’Allah.

AbdulGhafoor knew that pain is a source of mercy, and he knew that a Muslim should never despair, never lose faith in Allah, and never think badly of Allah or expect anything less from Allah than ultimate love and tenderness.

All these years later, I still see AbdulGhafoor clearly in my mind’s eye, weak as a baby bird in that hospital bed, his voice hoarse, whispering, “The greatest sin is to despair of the mercy of Allah. Never despair. Trust in Allah.” I think of that moment sometimes when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself because of financial troubles or personal difficulties. At other times, I remember that conversation with him when his daughter was martyred in the fire, and how even through his sobs I knew I was speaking to a man of faith. I never doubted that.

***

* Names were changed to protect the privacy of the people in the story.

Reaching for the light

Flowers reaching for the light

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Click on the image above and allow yourself a few minutes to do nothing but gaze at it. Really think about what you are seeing. Isn’t it beautiful and astounding? SubhanAllah.

To me, the amazing thing is that it’s a simple image of a small (some might say insignificant) creature in Allah’s universe. It’s not a big-budget film popping with special effects and designed to elicit a canned emotional response, or a classic novel, or a grand symphony, or a skilled musician playing a soul-stirring solo on a guitar.

It’s just a capture of the light shining on a little flower that most of us would probably pay no attention to if we walked past it.

Rather than insert my thoughts here, I would like to ask you:

What does this image do for you? What does it make you think? How does it make you feel?

Dua Against Debt

Burden of debt

The burden of debt can crush our happiness and ruin relationships

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Being in debt is a killer. It consumes us with stress, and eats away at our happiness and sense of security. It destroys marriages, and if the debt is between family or friends then it can ruin those relationships. In some countries, inability to pay your debt can even you put in prison.

I feel obligated to mention that part of the reason so many people are carrying so much debt is our addiction to the material lifestyle. We are bombarded with messages and advertisements telling us we need to buy this and own that. It gets to the point where we measure our status in life (and that of others) by what we own, or worse, by how much we spend. If we spend a huge sum of money on a lavish wedding, then we are “honored” in society. If not, we feel shamed. Since our incomes do not match our desires, we go into debt.

This thinking and lifestyle is completely contrary to what Islam teaches us, and to the example set by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them all). Even when they became rulers of the world, they continued to live simple and humble lifestyles, because they understood what really matters in life.

So the first step for us is to readjust our priorities, and to realize that what matters is our relationship with Allah. Beyond that, the important things in life are our family relationships – loving our spouses and children and spending time with them, worshiping with them, supporting them. Then our friendships, and doing some good in the world, creating something meaningful, and being an agent of compassion in the lives of those around you.

Dua Against Debt

If you have done whatever you can to avoid debt, and still you find yourself burdened with debts, try this dua from Fortress of the Muslim. Repeat it many times every day:

Dua for relief from debt

Dua for relief from debt, in Arabic

Allaahummak-finee bihalaalika ‘an haraamika wa ‘aghninee bifadhlika ‘amman siwaaka.

“O Allah, suffice me with what You have allowed instead of what You have forbidden , and make me independent of all others besides You.”

(Reference: At-Tirmithi 5/560. See also Al-Albani, Sahih At-Tirmithi 3/180.)

This dua against debt is really brilliant, because the dua contains within itself the solution to the problem. “Suffice me with what you have allowed.” In other words, let the halal be enough for me. Don’t let me get myself into debt because of haram mortgage loans or excessive material desire, or out-of-control consumer spending. Let me be satisfied with a simple, halal life, so that I don’t get into debt.

If you repeat this often enough it becomes a part of your thinking and awareness, and you modify your own behavior, which leads to: “make me independent of all others besides You.” You become your own man or woman, not owing money to anyone, independent, relying only on Allah.

I’m not saying the dua is just an affirmation, I’m saying it works on both levels, as an affirmation and as a prayer to Allah to help you achieve that affirmation. It’s a subtle and amazing dua.

Three Excellent Dua’s Against Debt:
(note that #2 is the same as the one above)

1) “Oh Allah, I take refuge in You…”

Narrated by Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (ra):

One day the Messenger of Allah (saw) entered the mosque. He saw there a man from the Ansar (a resident of Madinah) called Abu Umamah and said to him: “What is the matter that I am seeing you sitting in the mosque when there is no time of prayer?” Abu Umamah said: “I am entangled in sorrow and debts.” The Prophet Muhammad (ra ) replied: “Shall I not teach you words by which, when you say them, Allah will remove your sorrow, and settle your debts?” Abu Umamah said: “Yes, Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet Muhammad (ra ) said: “Say in the morning and evening: Allahumma inni ‘auzu bika min alhamma wal ‘huzn, wal ‘ajzi wal kasali wal bukhli wal jubn, wa dhala’iddini wa ‘galabatir rajaal.” (See here for the arabic text).

‘O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men.’

Abu Umamah said: “When I did that Allah removed my distress and settled my debt.” [Abu Dawood]

2) “O Allah, grant me enough…”

Ali radi Allahu `anhu said that a slave, who had made a contract with his master to pay for his freedom, came to him and said, “I am unable to fulfil my contract, so help me.” He said, “Shall I not teach you some words which Allah’s Messenger (ra) taught me, and which even if you had a debt as large as a mountain Allah would pay it for you?”:

Allahumma akfini bihala lika an haramika wa aghnini bi fadhlika am-man siwak.

“O Allah, grant me enough of what You make lawful that I may dispense of with what You make unlawful, and make me independent, by Your bounty, of other than You.” [At-Tirmidhi]

3) “O Allah, Sovereign of all…”

The Prophet (saw) said to Muadh radi Allahu `anhu, “Should I not teach you a supplication which, when used to implore Allah, Allah shall pay your debt, even it be as huge as Mount Uhud? He then mentioned:

Allahumma Maalik al-mulki tu’til-mulka man tasha’ u wa tanzi’ul mulka mimman tasha’, wa tu’izzu man tasha’ u wa tudhilu man tasha’, bi yadika al-khayr, innaka ‘ala kulli shay’in qadeer, Rahmaan-id-dunya wa’l-aakhirah wa raheemahuma, tu’teeyahuma man tasha’ wa tamna’ minhuma man tasha’, irhamni rahmatan taghnini biha ‘an rahmati man siwaak.

“O Allah, Sovereign of all, You give dominion to whomsoever You will and You take dominion away from whomsoever You will, You exalt whomsoever You will and You bring low whomsoever You will. In Your hand is all goodness and You are able to do all things. Most Merciful and Most compassionate in this world and in the Hereafter, You give them to whomsoever You will and withhold them from whomsoever You will. Bestow mercy upon Me in such a manner that I have no need of the mercy of anyone but You.” [Tabarani]

Our Beautiful Earth’s True Colors! Incredible New Images of the Earth from Space

“And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming.” – Quran, Al-Anbiyaa, 21:33

These spectacular images of the Earth are the most true-colour images of the entire world released to date, according to Nasa scientists.

The images of the Indian Ocean and North America were produced by researchers at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center using images from the Terra satellite more than 700km (435 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

The Blue Marble series was pieced together from thousands of images taken over many months by the satellite’s remote-sensing device Modis, of every square kilometre of the Earth’s surface.

Allah’s signs are all around us, and modern technology reveals more signs to us every day. Some of Allah’s miracles are so small that we can only see them with modern microscopes; while others are so great that we can only see them from the distance of space, Subhan Allahu wa bihamdihi, glory to Allah and all praise to Him.

Click on the thumbnails to see the amazing full-size photos.

What is Taqwa?

Sun rays shining from behind the cloudsBy Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

People often translate “Taqwa” as “fear of Allah.” Not so. Linguistically it means “to protect” or “to shield”, as in to protect oneself from wrongdoing. The root word is Waqa (spelled with the Arabic letters wow qaf ya) which means to preserve something, to take good of something, to be cautious, to protect, prevent, obviate a danger, or to preserve a thing against any harm or injury.

The meaning of the root wow-qaf-ya ? ? ? is demonstrated in Quran 16:81, where garments are mentioned as a means for protection from heat, and coats of armour for protection in fighting.

In the Shari’ah, Taqwa refers to consciousness of Allah. It describes a state of awareness of Allah in everything you do, and letting that awareness guide your actions and shield you from harm.
Allah often tells us in the Quran to “Ittaqoo-(A)llah”, which is generally translated as, “Fear Allah.” By understanding the linguistic meaning of the root word, we can grasp that the phrase more accurately means, “Take Allah as your Protector.” Or it could mean, “Guard yourself against the consequences of violating Allah’s commands (by obeying Him).”

Fear of Allah is a component, but it is balanced with love of Allah, gratitude to Allah, hope for Allah’s mercy, and remembering Allah’s infinite blessings on us. It also includes patience, forgiveness, acceptance (reda), generosity and treating people with love.

Taqwa is also not just a matter of ritual. As Allah says in the Quran:

“It is not taqwa that you turn your faces toward East or West, but it is taqwa to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book and the Messengers, to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts you have made; to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity. Those are the truthful and those are the muttaqun.” [Qur’an 2:177]

Taqwa is achieved by following Allah’s guidance, staying on the Sirat al-Mustaqeem (the Straight Path), worshiping Allah, and cultivating an awareness of Allah as our Creator, Sustainer and Lord.

One who has Taqwa is a muttaqi. The plural is muttaqeen or muttaqoon. Some of the characteristics of Muttaqeen/muttaqoon mentioned in the Quran are:

  • Those who believe in Al-ghaib (the unseen), establish salat, and keep open for the welfare for others what Allah has bestowed upon them [2:3]. Those who believe in Allah’s Revelations and Al-Akhira [2:4]
  • Those who keep their wealth open for mankind in favorable as well as in adverse circumstances. They divert and sublimate their anger and potentially virulent emotions to creative energy, and become a source of tranquility and comfort to people. They pardon people gracefully. Those who quickly correct any wrong or indecency that has occurred from them, they remember Allah, and protect themselves from trailing behind in dignity. They refrain from willfully persisting in error. [3:133-135]
  • Those who stand in awe of their Lord even in privacy, and fear the approaching Hour of accountability [21:48-49]
  • Those who are the doers of the good; who rarely fall asleep at night (without reflection); who heartily seek to be guarded against their imperfections. Those in whose wealth is the Divine Right of the requester and the deprived [51:15-19]
  • Those who keep on guard and when a visitation from Shaitan comes, they become mindful [7:201]
  • Those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and struggle in the way of Allah with their lives and their wealth [9:44]
  • Those who give away their wealth [92:17-18]

Sometimes it seems to me that Islam is vast, and incorportes so many beautiful spiritual concepts. It seems that achieving a single Islamic “concept” such as Taqwa could be a lifelong journey. I think this is a good thing. Men and women should always have something to strive for.

In Quranic verses 2:2, 3:138 and 5:46, it has been stated that the Quran is huda(n)-lil-muttaqeen (a guidance for those who have Taqwa). The Quran teaches us how to protect ourselves against the perils of this life, and how to preserve ourselves against the punishments of the aakhirah (the Hereafter). Ayah 39:28 also explains that the purpose of the Quran is Taqwa (of those who would follow it). So the Quran is a guide to becoming muttaqeen.

A basic practice that helps to build taqwa is reciting the Quran with contemplation of its meaning and message. Let us make time to implement that today, even if only for ten minutes, and see how it strengthens our spirits and shines a light on the path ahead.

You Are Perfectly Created

Sun Rays by Roy Lichtenstein

Allah is the Master Createor and He made you perfect

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

In many verses of the Quran the human being has been described by Allah as being created in the best form, or created perfectly:

“We have indeed created humankind in the best of molds.”
Quran 95:4 (Surat At-Tin, The Fig)

and:

“Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!”
(Quran 23:14) (Surat Al-Mu’minun, The Believers)

and:

“The work of Allah who has perfected everything (He created).
Qur’an 27:88 (An-Naml, The Ant)

and:

“He is the One Who has made perfectly everything He has created: He began the creation of human beings with clay, And made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised: But He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him something of His spirit…”
Quran 32:7-9 (As-Sajdah, the Prostration)

These ayaat do not speak only of the human being’s physical form. The perfection of man and woman includes the human spirit; the human will; the human emotional capacity, intellectual drive, innate curiosity, desire to excel, ability to love without bounds; and our yearning for Allah, even when we do not recognize it.

Allah is speaking of you.

Not some random historical human being. Not only Adam and Hawaa. Not only the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

You.

Discarding negative self-conceptions

So often we are critical of ourselves. We call ourselves stupid – I do this sometimes when I forget something, smacking my forehead and saying, “Ah, I’m an idiot!”

We find fault with our bodies, sometimes severely so. I certainly have had issues of insecurity surrounding my body. I think all of us do, unless we are Olympic athletes.

Sometimes, when we fail at something, we wonder what’s wrong with us, why can’t we do this or that as well as other people?

Have we ever considered that such negative self-conceptions contradict our faith?

Aren’t we Muslim? Don’t we believe in Allah, and in the Quran? Yes? Then we must believe that we were created perfectly. We were created by the Master Creator who does not make errors.

Allah made no mistakes when He made you.

Your spirit is perfect, your soul is perfect, your mind is perfect, your heart is perfect, and even your body is perfect.

Allah says that He breathed into us something of His spirit! Do we realize how immense that is, how profound, how awesome? Allah the Eternal, The First and The Last, The Majestic, The Omnipotent, has breathed a part of His spirit into Bani Adam, this little two-legged creature of clay, and made us perfect. Me, you, our children and friends, our neighbors and co-workers, and even drug addicts, thieves, torturers and tortured, abusers of every stripe, and everyone walking this earth, believers and disbelievers, were all created perfect in every way. It’s hard to wrap our minds around that. But we must accept it as an article of faith.

In case we have any doubt, let’s look at the ayah above from Surat At-Tin again, but this time with the preceding verses included:

“By the fig and the olive, and the Mount Sina, and this city of peace (Makkah), We have indeed created humankind in the best of molds.”

Allah is declaring an oath by some of the most powerful symbols in existence (an explanation of these symbols is a matter for another article) that humankind was created in the best of molds. When Allah swears in this way it is because He wants to you sit up and open your mind to what is being said; to accept it wholeheartedly and draw it into your chest; and not to have an atom of doubt.

Of course that doesn’t mean that everything you do is perfect. It refers to your capacities, your potential. You were created without flaw, with a pure soul imbued with fitra, a powerful mind, and a body whose magic is still not understood by modern science. You are perfectly capable of fulfilling every obligation that Allah has laid on you; of bearing any burden that is laid on your shoulders; and of achieving any noble dream that Allah has placed in your heart.

What does it mean for us?

So what does that mean for me and you to see ourselves as perfect? I am asking seriously and rhetorically. What does it mean when we can’t fall back on self-pity? What does it mean when we are no longer allowed to view ourselves as flawed?

What does it mean when we have to accept that we can achieve any “crazy dream” that may smolder in our hearts? What does it mean when we look at ourselves in the mirror and see perfect, beautiful faces, no matter the shape of our features? What does it mean when we realize that we have within ourselves the capacity to reach the same heights of imaan (faith) as the sahabah, or the same level of intellectual rigor as Imam Al-Bukhari or Sheikh ibn Taymiyyah, or the same purity and unwavering trust as Sayyidna Maryam? (may Allah be pleased with her).

Do we begin to see that they were simply human beings who acknowledged the perfection with which Allah created them? They strove their utmost to live up to that perfection, placing no boundaries or limitations upon themselves. They were not extraordinary people in their creation; they were only extraordinary because they accepted Allah’s words and thrust themselves utterly into the river of the Quran (or in Maryam’s case, immersed herself completely in tawakkul [trust in Allah], and taqwa [consciousness of Allah], allowing themselves to expand to fill the capacity of the flawless mold that Allah created them in, and refusing to allow themselves to be defined or demeaned by anyone else’s opinion. Nor did they allow themselves to be mentally or spiritually diminished or damaged by the harsh circumstances of life.

We have the same option. You, me, all of us.

You are perfect, whether you admit it or not. Go with it. Live up to it. It’s not a burden but a liberty. It is the freedom to be who Allah put you on this earth to be. It’s the freedom to dream and achieve without the chains of self-doubt or self-deprecation. It’s the freedom to accept yourself, love yourself, and allow yourself to love others fee-sabeel-illah, in Allah’s cause, and to live a full life of meaning and worth.

Surely in Allah’s remembrance do the hearts find peace

Showers of sunshine on a green landscape

True peace comes with remembering Allah and growing closer to Him

When we remember God, we also realize that we are constantly in His presence, and thus we are liberated from the self-destructive habits that consume us.

So often in life we are wronged by others, and the temptation to respond in a demeaning and un-Islamic manner is very strong. Fortunately, we can avoid wrong responses in the case of mistreatment by relying on Allah and knowing that He is the All-Knowing. When we take part in wrong responses, we fall victim to disobediences that lead the soul away from righteousness, and into the pits of retaliation and cruelty.

“Surely in Allah’s remembrance do the hearts find peace.” (13:28)

Those who seek God and remember Him will find contentment and joy in their lives with the knowledge that they are under the protection of Allah. When we utter praise to the Almighty and thank Him for his countless bounties, our hearts are filled with inner peace and reflection. How happy and blessed are those who seek refuge in their Lord, the Most Beneficent and Most Merciful Allah.

– written by Renik

Allah knows every fallen leaf, and He knows you

Fallen autumn leaves

Not a leaf falls but with His knowledge

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

“With Him are the keys of the unseen, the treasures that none knows but He. He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but with His knowledge: there is not a grain in the darkness (or depths) of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a record clear (to those who can read).” – Quran 6:59

SubhanAllah, Glory to God. Imagine, brothers and sisters. Allah knows every fallen leaf in your yard, in the gutter, drifting on the wind, or compacted layers deep in the depths of the darkest forest.

To us fallen leaves may be trash to be swept away, or food for worms, or mulching material. Perhaps to a child they are a source of amusement by scooping them into a pile and jumping in (I used to do that while waiting for the kindergarten bus in autumn, when I was growing up in Davis, California).

But Allah knows every leaf: its history, its individual veins and ragged edges, even its microscopic cells.

Don’t you think then that Allah knows your own pain, and fear, and suffering?

“And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Quran 50:16). This does not mean that Allah is physically closer than your jugular vein; rather it refers to His knowledge, understanding, and power. And it could refer to the angels appointed to you, who sit on your right and left, noting everything you say and do.

Allah’s knowledge is with you at every moment. He created you, and He understands your innermost thoughts. Don’t you think that Allah is ready to comfort you, forgive you, help you, and guide you? Don’t you think that a God who knows and cares about each leaf would care about you, a unique creature of great complexity, a special soul that struggles and stumbles and carries the heavy burden of free will?

Don’t you think that Allah rejoices at your successes when you struggle in His path? Don’t you think that He is happy to see you happy, and is pleased to see you learn and grow, just as you are with your own children?

Indeed, Allah knows you, and sees you, and cares about you more than you can imagine.

Be true, and be you

Forest sunrays on the stream

Listen to the quiet, inspired voice of your heart

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Listen to the quiet voice inside yourself. The persistent voice that tells you that there’s something more to life, that calls you to do something meaningful, to experience the world in a profound way. So many of us dismiss that voice and suppress it. We are told that our dreams are not realistic or practical. We are told that we should settle for what is reliable, and will pay the bills, and garner us the respect of our peers.

But if we do not listen to that quiet voice, then who will? There is no external advocate who can read the yearnings of your heart and speak up on your soul’s behalf. You must be the champion of your own soul.

On the authority of Abu Malik Al-Harith bin Asim Al-Ashari said that the messenger of Allah said:

“Purity is half of faith. alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scales, and subhana-Allah [How far is Allah from every imperfection] and alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fill that which is between heaven and earth. Prayer is light; charity is a proof; patience is illumination; and the Quran is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.”

(Related by Muslim).

You are the vendor of your soul: either freeing it or bringing about its ruin. You free it by worshiping Allah in love, gratitude and fear; keeping the praises of Allah on your tongue and in your heart; praying and fasting and living righteously (as opposed to self-righteously); by showing love and concern for other human beings; and by being true to yourself.

Allah created you with a unique nature. Do you think it’s only your fingerprints that are unique? Or your retinal scan, palm print, voice print and DNA? Do you believe that your uniqueness is encapsulated by measurable biometrical data? No, your uniqueness extends to your own wonderful thought patterns, your special heart, and your soul. You are you, not anyone else.

You are not an assembly-line robot, or a machine put here to consume, produce and expire. You are different from everyone else in the world because you are you. Respect that, and don’t try to force yourself into an uncomfortable or even impossible mold that someone else has dictated for you. Be true, be you, and free your soul.

I’m not talking about sinful desires. I am speaking of the quiet and inspired urgings of your heart. Maybe you dream of working in disaster relief, helping all those poor souls who suffered after the Indian Ocean tsunami, or from the earthquake in Haiti. Maybe you have an inner artist and you’d like to pursue that passionately and see where it takes you. Maybe you love children and would like to teach; maybe you are not satisfied with current school curricula and you have an idea of starting your own school. Maybe you’ve always fantasized about being a karate black belt, or helping poor villages in Africa become self-sustaining, or campaigning for human rights.

Maybe you’re single and you have feelings for a certain person, or just an undercurrent of admiration and respect, but you fear rejection if you come forward with a marriage proposal; or maybe the person comes from a different cultural background and you worry that your family or your peers would not approve.

I could go on, but you get the point. The fact that each of us is utterly unique is a blessing, because each of us brings a new imagination to solving the world’s problems, and each of us beautifies the world in a new way. Each of us has something important to teach. Each of us has a different voice, not so that we can win “American Idol”, but so that we add to the universal chorus that praises Allah.

Don’t fear your dreams: cherish them, nurture them, and do your best to live them. Let’s face it, life is short; it passes so quickly, much sooner than we expect, and when we get to the end of the road we will regret only that we suppressed our hearts, and shoved them down into silence, and failed to live up to our potential as believers and as unique individuals, with our own God-given gifts.

Sister Sara, author of the Sweet Serenity blog, pointed out, “Often while in search for who we truly are, we are dictated by the world around us, and thereby lose ourselves. The words of the Qur’an and example of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) should be our guides and inspiration, reaffirming that we need to patiently persevere, following the calling in our hearts and Insha’Allah, we will be able to make our dreams a reality.”

One person pointed out that following his dreams is impractical for him due to his family obligations. That is a valid objection. We have realities of family to deal with, and that often requires compromise. Our duties to our family are a part of our deen.

In response, I would point out that most of us have several dreams that call to us. If one is impossible at the moment, another may be possible.

One of my dreams is to master the martial art of Hapkido, and open a school in the future Insha’Allah. I’ve had four years of proper instruction, but now there is no teacher in my city. If I didn’t have a child I would move to a city where I could study Hapkido properly, and since I’m also fascinated by Southeast Asian martial arts, I might move to Malaysia or Singapore. But I do have a wonderful little girl – Alhamdulillah – and she cannot be moved at this time. I have to find a way to realize my dream while staying put, and fulfilling my duties as a father. So every few months I travel several hours for one evening of intensive training. Then I come back to my city and I work with a group of practice partners that I organized here, teaching them what I’ve learned and practicing it over and over, hundreds of times. In this way I have become proficient. My repertoire is not as broad as some, but what I know, I know very well Alhamdulillah.

I also have an interest in human rights, but I don’t have the ability at this time to travel and work in this field, or to commit to it full time. So I started a human rights blog. I write about human rights issues, and I provide links for people to take action on critical cases.

So pursue the dreams that you can, to whatever degree you are able, and don’t punish or blame yourself for having to give up on others. What is right for others may not be right for you, and what feels right to you may not be what others would choose. Use your wisdom, and let the struggle itself draw you closer to Allah.

Achieving your dream will certainly take very hard work. It may also require some compromises, a creative approach, and putting up with criticism or even ridicule from others. But if it is something pleasing to Allah, something worthwhile, something you believe in, then put your nose to the grindstone and do not quit.

We will never regret pursuing our dreams, taking bold chances, and expressing our love in halal and pure ways. We will never regret attempting to fulfill our missions and destinies here on earth, whether or not we succeed or fail, whether we experienced great joy or intense pain. In the end the difference between success and failure in any venture is in Allah’s hands anyway. All you can do is try, and trying is everything. In that sense, there is no failure, because a sincere whole-hearted attempt is enough of a milestone in itself.

Stand up for your inner voice. Listen to it.

Stand up for your dreams. Give them a chance.

No one else will do it for you.

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