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.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Being a single parent is rewarding and exhausting at the same time. On the good days I think, “I’ve got this.” My daughter plays, laughs, and tell she loves me. She completes her homework cheerfully and eats what I serve. On days like that I say, “Alhamdulillah!” (All praise is due to God).
Other days I feel inadequate. I feel that I’m not doing enough to teach my daughter Arabic and Islam. I let her consume too much junk food and TV. I haven’t tried hard enough to help her cultivate friendships with kids her age.
On the worst days Salma is depressed and focused on what she doesn’t have. Or she’s down on herself, crying and saying, “I’m no good…” It’s as if she’s determined to see life in the saddest possible light. I don’t know where she’s getting these negative self-images. Certainly not from me. From her schoolmates perhaps? I wish I could shut out the outside world and raise my family in some pristine environment, like an idyllic island, or a small village where the adhaan rings out at dawn every morning.
Sometimes I feel desperate for an ally. Someone to talk to, someone to help, someone who cares. I look around and there is no one. Just me and my child. Other people seem to pass like travelers, not wanting to get involved, not staying, or not caring. (I’m sure every single parent experiences these feelings of isolation sometimes).
Then I remember that Allah (God) is all of those things: Ally, Helper, and Provider. He is the One Who Stays; The First and The Last. And I wonder if that very feeling of desperation that I experience is designed to bring me closer to Allah, and to make me reliant on Him. As we say, Hasbun Allahu wa n’em al-Wakeel. Allah is sufficient for us and the best One in Whom to trust.
So again I say, “Alhamdulillah!” I am grateful to Allah for guidance, for the roof over my head and the food on my table, and even for the difficulties with my daughter, because I have a daughter to have difficulties with, and that’s the greatest blessing.
Thus we say, Alhamdulillahi ‘ala kulli haal. Praise be to God in every condition. And we trust that Allah will bring us through, because having Him as an Ally is not an abstract concept.
Sarah Saghir has written:
“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I will find As-Salam (Allah: The Peace).’
And the spirit says, ‘Find As-Salam (The Peace) and everything will fall into place.'”
So this is what it is to have God as an Ally. It doesn’t mean that we give up on our worldly needs and satisfy ourselves with an ascetic, purely spiritual existence. Rather, when we find Him, when we trust Him and take Him as an Ally, those worldly needs fall into place, and we are able to meet the challenges of life by His grace.
Allah will guide those who seek it out of confusion and into clarity.
By Amy Estrada | IslamicSunrays.com
One thing I totally believe about Allah, is that He will guide those who seek it out of confusion and into clarity. He will clearly show right from wrong, good from bad, pure from impure. Sure there are plenty of times we get stuck in a situation where we can’t figure out up from down, or what’s really going on. We follow wisdom as best we can. And Alhamdulillah, when He sees fit, He shows the truth of things in a way that cannot be denied.
Don’t despair if the situation doesn’t make sense. Don’t worry if the way forward doesn’t seem clear. Don’t degrade yourself if you can’t figure that person out. Throw your cares to Allah all the time, and take those small steps forward as His noor slowly reveals the way. Eventually it will all be clear, and your iman will blossom as you see how He really is bringing you to all things good in this life and the next.
We can never sabotage His mercy. Never!
Misty rainbow in Waialu Valley, Hawaii
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
You may turn away from Allah (God), but He does not turn away from You. He is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful. He waits. When you make the smallest motion to return, Allah carries you the rest of the way.
In a famous Hadith Qudsi, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that Allah said:
“I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” – (Sahih Bukhari)
You may turn away from Allah, but He does not turn away from You.
There have been times when I turned my back on Allah – or you could say I turned my side, since I still believed. But I was not practicing well. I walked in a different direction, getting far away from the Muslim I should have been and wanted to be. I knew in my heart that I had to get back to the deen, but I felt powerless to change.
The amazing thing, the glorious thing, is that Allah NEVER turned away from me. He kept on guiding me. He preserved that small flame of faith in my heart.
When I lived in SF and I felt ostracized from the community because they all had a certain ethnic background and I didn’t seem to fit in, I ended up moving across the bay to Oakland and discovered a masjid nearby with an active, multi-racial congregation that inspired me. That was Allah, taking me where I needed to go.
Ramadan is a tool that Allah gives us to bring us back to the faith. The constant flow of excessive food and drink burdens the spirit and buries it beneath a layer of sugar, salt, fat and processed junk. When we abandon all that, the spirit revives and emerges like a flower in spring. And when we turn back to Allah, we find that He was there all along, waiting for us.
Reprinted from Al-Jumuah Magazine
In a recent Khutbah, I heard Allah’s divine name, Al-Afoo, The Pardoner, and a very touching qudsi hadeeth that exemplified it:
“A servant [of Allah’s] committed a sin and said: “O Allah! Forgive me my sin.” Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes them.” Then the man sinned again and said: “O Lord! Forgive me my sin.’ And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes them.” Then the man sinned again and said: “O Lord! Forgive me my sin.” And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes them. [My slave!] Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you!” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is no free ticket to sin as you please. But it did make me realize we should always have hope that Allah will forgive our sins and guide us to become better Muslims.
How many times have we sat down to count our mistakes and recognized we have sinned so much we can’t even keep track anymore? We think that there’s no way Allah can forgive us now. To our minds, we don’t even deserve forgiveness.
This hadith shows the extent of Allah’s mercy, which no human mind can even imagine.
“And do not despair of Allah’s mercy. For, most surely, none despairs of Allah’s mercy except the disbelieving people.” [Quran 12:87]
Take note. Hope is no luxury to make our lives better. It is a Muslim obligation, part and parcel of faith.
Sunrise over the Great Smoky Mountains, USA
Question from a reader:
Assalam u Alaikum,
I have been reading things on your website for about a year and it has helped me tremendously in a very dark time in my life.
Recently, after making mistakes over and over again, I have this question: do you think Allah ever gives up on us?
I know the answer is “No He does not”, but what about when we made a mistake and repented but then did it again, repented and did it again, but then stopped and asked for forgiveness? Do you think at this point He has given up on us and punishes for the rest of our lives?
I know we must learn our lesson, and I know my sadness now is to reaffirm my faith and to learn my lesson, and is hopefully temporary. I just don’t want Him to give up on me. Do you think its possible that He will be happy with me if I keep praying and making my faith stronger and stronger? I know you have another website for people to post questions but for some reason I feel more comfortable asking you here.
– Sister F.
Dear Sister F., wa alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullah,
I’m happy to hear that my articles have helped you, Alhamdulillah. My first response to your question of whether Allah gives up on us: “I sure hope not.”
Seriously though, the real answer is that Allah does not give up on us, nor does He get tired of forgiving us as long as we keep turning to Him sincerely. We must not despair of Allah’s pardon. Allah says in the Quran,
“O those of My servants who have transgressed against your own selves, despair not of Allah’s mercy. Allah does forgive all sins, for surely He is the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful One.” (Quran 39:53)
The key is sincerity. Allah says,
“O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance!” (Quran, al-Tahreem 66:8)
Allah – Glorifed and Exalted – loves to forgive our sins. In fact, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“If you did not commit sins, Allah would dispose of you and replace you with people who commit sins and then ask for forgiveness so that He forgives them.” [Muslim]
That is a shocking statement on its face. However, it’s not that Allah loves for us to commit sins; rather, he knows that a tendency to commit sins is part of our human nature. What Allah loves therefore is when we realize our mistakes and return to Him in repentance.
Also on this theme, the Messenger of Allah (sws) said: “Allah rejoices more over the repentance of His servant than any one of you who finds his camel after having lost it in a desolate land.” (Agreed upon). This is quite touching if you think about it. Imagine a man is making a journey through the desert on his camel. All his food and water are packed into bags carried by the camel. He sleeps one night, and wakes to find the camel gone. He is hundreds of miles from the nearest oasis, in a trackless wasteland. He knows that without the camel’s transportation and the supplies it carries, he will die in this barren land. He is crushed. He will never see his wife again, never hug his child, never even taste food again. Everything he has worked for has come to an end, and he will die of thirst in the blazing heat – a terrible way to die.
Suddenly the camel comes trotting back over the horizon, and returns to him! The man will live! Imagine the joy he feels.
Allah’s joy at our return to Him is greater than that. Glory to Him.
We humans hold grudges. If a friend or spouse betrays us we might be able to forgive him once or even twice, but if it happens repeatedly we will eventually stop trusting him and refuse to forgive him again. I’ve certainly wrestled with this. There are people from my past who I haven’t spoken to in years. Even if I’ve forgiven them with my tongue, it’s such a struggle to cleanse my heart of all resentment.
But SubhanAllah, Allah is not like that. He is Al-Ghafir (The Forgiver of Sins), Al-Ghaffaar (The Oft-Forgiving) and Al-Ghafoor
His forgiveness and mercy are farther beyond ours than the stars are beyond the earth. Abu Bakr (ra) heard Allah’s Messenger (sws) say: “No man will commit a sin, then get up and purify himself, then pray, then ask Allah’s forgiveness, without Allah forgiving him.”
There’s a very good article about tawbah in Islam on one of my other websites, IslamicAnswers.com. Here’s the link:
It’s not over until the trumpet blows; Tawbah and repentance inn Islam
So dear sister, keep on praying and working on your faith, as you said. It’s the only way. We are not angels. We are human beings who make mistakes and stumble. As long as we keep getting up and turning to Allah, we are on the right path, Insha’Allah.
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 Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
For every setback, Allah has a comeback. For every trouble, He helps you double. Every day He shows you the way. Alhamdulillah.
Allah does not get tired of you. He does not write you off, or forget about you, or give up on you. In fact, when you need Him and call on Him, He comes to you quickly, at speed, rushing to help you:
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
What an amazing, benevolent, merciful God is Allah. He is Master of all: He could have been capricious, selfish, or destructive, and we would have been helpless pawns, unable to help ourselves or be helped. But that is not His nature. In hundreds of verses of the Quran, Allah Almighty describes Himself as “Ghafurun Rahim”, that is One Who forgives and has mercy.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Do we think we can go to Allah only when we “need” Him?
I’m not saying that it’s wrong. I’m saying that it’s impossible.
We need Allah every hour, every day. Every heartbeat, every breath, every bite of food, every ray of sunshine. We need Him when we are poor and sick, and when we’re rich and robust. We need Him when we’re starving in the gutter, or cruising on top of the world. We depend on Allah more than a newborn baby depends on its mother, even when we don’t see it.
Our failure to see this reality does not change the fact that it is true. We can achieve nothing without Allah. I write this article only by His will. You get out of bed, pour your cereal, hug your children, go to work, run that 5K race, and breathe, all by means of the gifts He has given.
When we’re doing well, and everything is butter, that’s the time to turn to Allah even more, with gratitude and praise. If we do that, then when we’re having hard times He’ll be there for us, He’ll rescue us and lift us up, even if we don’t ask.
This not my idea. I did not make this up. The Messenger of Allah (sws) said, “Remember Allah during times of ease and He will remember you during times of difficulty.” (Tirmidhi)
Remembrance of Allah is not only a matter of prayer. It is also kindness to others. If I have an excess of energy, I need to use that to help someone who is ill, weak, depressed, or lost. If I have been blessed with wealth, intelligence, knowledge, or talent, then I need to use that to bring someone relief.
I need Allah , I know that. I feel it.
We need Allah with every rotation of the earth. So yes, go to Allah when you need Him – at every moment in time.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
“What am I going to do? Why is my life so messed up? Why can’t I find happiness? Why am I alone? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I have these problems?’…
These questions only have meaning if we direct them to Allah. No one else can answer them. Consider the words of the Prophet Ya’qub (alayhis-salam, peace be upon him) when his son Yusuf (as) was secretly thrown into a well by his brothers. They then reported to their father that Yusuf had been killed by a wolf.
And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,” and his eyes became white from grief, and he fell into silent melancholy.
They said, “By Allah , you will not cease remembering Yusuf until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.”
He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know.
– Quran, Surat Yusuf, 12:84-86
“I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah…”
When you feel stuck, when you feel that no one understands your situation, when you’re in pain and you can’t even imagine a solution, only Allah has the answers. You can’t see a way forward, but He can. You don’t see your own worth, but He does. You can’t figure out the road to happiness, but He can show you.
I remember a night in Arizona when I was twenty six years old. I lay on a cot in a small, frigid cell. There was snow outside and I had only a thin blanket. As I often did, I put on all my clothing in layers – three pants, three shirts, an army jacket and a pair of boots – and still I kept waking up shivering and shaking. Yet, even more than the physical discomfort, my spirit was tired. I had made mistakes in my youth and had been locked up for almost five years. I had become hard mentally and physically, but my heart was full of sorrow. I lay there that night and I thought, “I have nothing in life. I have accomplished nothing. I have no university degree, no wife, no children, and not even my freedom.”
That was a bad time. But I had my faith, and I used to weep to Allah, asking Him to have mercy on me. I think I gave up on myself for a while, but I never gave up on Allah. It would not even have occurred to me to do so. I did cry to Him sometimes saying, “Why, Allah? Why? Why am I here, suffering like this?” But it wasn’t despair, only confusion. In my heart I knew that He heard me and that an answer would come.
Shortly after that I received a letter from the parole board granting me early release. I had previously been told very clearly that I was not eligible. It was entirely unexpected, and if you are familiar with the American penal system, miraculous. But for Allah, nothing is impossible or even difficult.
Within a few months I was free. I found a job a week after my release, and I excelled. I began writing, sitting at my desk every night after work and disciplining myself to work on poetry, stories and articles. Eventually I went back to school and began a new career, got married, bought a beautiful house, and one day had a child…
What can I say except Alhamdulillah! SubhanAllah! What can I do except weep in gratitude for these blessings that I did nothing to earn, but were given to me by my Lord who loves me and cares about me, and wants good for me. I am so deeply touched and moved by the way Allah has answered my prayers from the depths of darkness. If I did anything to merit His blessings, perhaps it was only that I directed my pleas to Him. I knew that no one else could help me.
This is a very emotional post for me to write. I want every Muslim to have this sense of Allah as their friend, as someone who cares for them deeply. I want to put that awareness into your heart like a gift.
When I was in that cell I used to pray the same dua’ over and over, begging Allah repeatedly. If I had made such pleas to a human being they would have stopped hearing me long ago. When we’re needy with people it pushes them away, but when we’re needy with Allah He comes closer to us! He never tires of answering our need and forgiving us.
I know of many similar stories of people who have hit rock bottom and have called upon Allah – or , not even knowing “Allah” by that name, have called to the Supreme Being, saying, “I know you hear me, tell me what I need to do, show me the way!” – and then, like a circle of sunlight piercing a cloud, something or someone comes into their lives to show them the way forward.
When we’re out of ideas, surrounded by problems, and feeling totally alone… we’re not alone. Allah is with us. If we pray sincerely and strive, He will put light in our hearts and help us from directions we did not expect.
Ask Allah sincerely, open yourself to Him, and accept what He gives you even when it goes against your own desires. The answers to your questions are there, with Allah, I promise you. All those terrible questions that you ask yourself in the silence of your mind, the answers are with Allah.