Fight for It

Tree growing from a rock

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Anything I have in my life, I have fought for. And yes, everything I have comes from Allah. These two statements are not mutually exclusive.

There are universal gifts that Allah gives to all. Life, the soul, the will… beyond that, nothing is assured. Breath? Some people fight to breathe. Food? Some people struggle for a bit of grain. Water? Some people walk for miles every day to get water. Health? Some people are born sick and fight for every day of life. Freedom? Millions of children are born in refugee camps.

Allah gives us opportunities. He gives us abilities, talents, gifts, and it’s up to us to make something out of them. Allah gives us guidance and truth, but if we want to follow that truth then we’ll have to fight for it, and it won’t be easy. As soon as we dedicate our lives to truth, we’ll see obstacles appearing in our paths.

I don’t mean physically fight (though that is sometimes the case). I mean strive, struggle, work hard, deal with personal attacks and naysayers, stay positive, find a way forward when the path appears to be blocked, and refuse to give up!

If you want to pursue your dreams, you’ll have to struggle. If you want (halal) love in your life, if you want something real, if you want to make something happen, well then brother and sister, you’ll have to strive with all your might. That’s how it is.

“And those who strive in Our cause, We will surely guide them to Our paths.” – Quran, Al-Ankaboot, 29:69.

 

 

The Heart of the Matter

Clouds and sun rays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Sometimes we have a problem with a Muslim or Muslims, and we get frustrated and we think, “I don’t want to be around those people anymore.” Or something happens at the Masjid (the mosque) that we don’t like, maybe the Imam says something we don’t agree with, or we don’t like the Masjid policies, and we feel offended and we stop going. Maybe we pray at home, and stop associating with Muslims, then maybe over time we become slack in our prayers, but we tell ourselves it’s okay because we’re still Muslim “in our hearts”.

That’s one kind of trap.

On top of that it’s hard to represent this deen among non-Muslims. It’s hard to carry yourself as a Muslim at work when you’re the only one there and you’re aware that some of your co-workers are bigots or are operating on negative stereotypes. It’s hard to wear the hijab when some people look at you as if you’re a terrorist.

So maybe we give up the outer trappings of Islam, telling ourselves that we have to survive in this society.

That’s another trap.

And if you’re a convert and your family is opposed to your conversion to Islam, that’s another weight to carry. If they are openly hostile, and if you still live with them as they mock your deen (maybe in front of your children) and try to undercut your childrens’ practice of Islam by feeding them pork or letting them have “a little taste” of wine… or something comes on the news about a conflict in the Muslim world and your family says, “Look, those Muslims are at it again…” And you don’t know how to respond, or you don’t want to start another fight so you keep your mouth shut, but inside you feel humiliated and confused…

And if you are isolated from the Muslim community for racial reasons (this is not supposed to happen but it does) or for simple cultural reasons, because you can’t speak Arabic or Urdu and you don’t fit in, and you haven’t been able to make any Muslim friends, or you feel that the Masjid crowd don’t regard you in the same way as so-called “born Muslims”… instead they look at you as an oddity, or a child, or a trophy of some kind, as if your conversion somehow validates their faith…

Well, then, you might start to say to yourself, “What’s the point? Is it really worth it? Is it even really true?”

That’s obviously a huge, deadly trap.

Okay, if you’re a “born Muslim” you might not reach the point of that last statement (“Is it even true?”) because for most of us who were raised Muslim, Islam is bred into us from childhood, and it’s a part of us even when we don’t understand it or appreciate it. But you still might feel that identifying as a Muslim is too much trouble… it’s easier to associate with non-Muslims, abandon your prayers, drink wine at the company dinner, have relationships with non-Muslims, and not have to battle against society every day, not to mention battling against your own nafs (desires). This is an easy trap to fall into if you are a professional living alone.

We fall into these traps because we forget what this deen is. Shaytan (Satan) isolates us just as a wolf isolates a sheep, driving it away from the herd; then he plays games with our minds so that we become reactive, responding emotionally to circumstances in our environments. (“That Muslim cheated me, so I don’t trust Muslims anymore.”) Shaytan gives us pathetic rationalizations that we latch onto as if they really mean something. (“I’m a single Muslim alone in a non-Muslim environment. It’s not practical for me to live an Islamic lifestyle right now.”)

Or whatever.

We fall into these spiritual traps because we forget what Islam is all about. We forget the heart of the matter, the core, the fulcrum upon which the universe turns, the foundation of reality itself:

Laa ilaha il-Allah.

There is no God but Allah.

Laa ilaha il-Allah

Frankly, if you became Muslim for any reason other than this, then you never understood Islam to begin with. And if you were raised Muslim but were not taught the infinite importance of this single sentence, then you were not really raised as Muslim. You were only taught cultural practices.

This is Islam. This is what all reality is based on. This is what religion has been since the beginning of time. This is what all the Prophets brought (may Allah bless them all). Every element of creation acknowledges this truth except us; every child is born on this truth (which is why we are all “born Muslim”):  This truth that we were created by a single, indivisible God; that our Creator is Loving, Merciful and Compassionate; that everything we are and everything we own comes from Him; that we began with Him as a breath, and we return to Him as dust; that He witnesses everything we do; that He rewards the good and punishes evil; that He loves us and wants good for us in this life and the next; that He answers when we call and guides us when we ask; that we owe gratitude to Him for every heartbeat, every lung full of air, every bite of food, and every glimpse of truth.

No one deserves our love and obedience before Allah. Our first loyalty is to Him.

No one can help us but Allah; and no one can harm us but Him. When we’re struggling and we cry out to ourselves, “What am I going to do? Who will help me? What is the way forward for me?”, we need to address those cries to Allah! The answers will not come from our own thoughts or tears; the answers won’t come from banging our fists or pulling our hair. The answers will come from Allah.

Forget for a moment about all those other factors that you are reacting to:  how so-and-so treated you, how your family treats you, what the non-Muslims say, what the policies are at the Masjid, how some Muslims gossip or discriminate, blah, blah, blah, these things are distractions and traps.

I’m not saying that these things should not affect us. We’re human beings and we can’t help being affected by how other human beings treat us. Our relationships with family and society are real and they matter. But these factors should never cut us away from Laa ilaha-il-Allah. If they do, then the wolf has isolated us, cut us away from the truth and begun to devour our souls.

Truth. If you are in Islam for any other reason, then indeed, what is the point?

This is a characteristic of a believing Muslim, that he or she is committed to truth like a plant to the sun. We must have a passion for the truth, we must be willing to die for the truth.

Sumayyah bint Khayyat

When I speak of dying for the truth, I think of Sumayyah and I find my eyes becoming wet.

Sumayyah bint Khayyat was a slave of Abu Hudhayfa ibn al-Mughira. She was married to Yaasir, an immigrant to Makkah. Because he was an immigrant and not a member of any local tribes, Yaasir had no influence or support. He went to Abu Hudhayfa seeking sponsorship and Abu Hudhayfa gave him his female servant, Sumayyah, in marriage. Sumayyah soon gave birth to ‘Ammaar and Ubaidallah.

When Sumayyah’s son ‘Ammaar became a man in his thirties he came to know about the faith of Islam which was being preached by the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him). This took place in 615 C.E., five years after Muhammad’s (sws) declaration of Prophethood. ‘Ammaar embraced Islam after deep thought and consideration. He then expressed what he heard from the Prophet (sws) to his parents. At once, Yaasir and Sumayyah embraced Islam as well (may Allah be pleased with them all, and reward them with the highest station in Paradise).

When Banu Makhzum (the tribe of Makhzum) learned that Yaasir, Sumayyah and ‘Ammaar had accepted Islam, they arrested them and burned their home. Abu Jahl and others chained the family in the burning desert. They whipped them, burned them with torches, and put heavy rocks on their chests. The Prophet (sws) went to the place where they were tortured. He lacked the political power or social influence to stop what was happening to them – in fact he was being regularly abused himself in those days – but he wept and told them, “Patience, family of Yaasir. Verily, your meeting place will be in Paradise.”

Upon hearing the Prophet’s words, Sumayyah proudly recited, “I testify that you are the Messenger of Allah and that your promise is true.” Allah had put courage in her heart and the sweetness of imaan in her soul, so that it overrode all her fear of death. Finally, Abu Jahl stabbed her in the privates with his spear and killed her. I am sorry to share such graphic details, but if Sumayyah could bear for it be to done in the name of truth, then I can bear to tell it. Sumayyah became the first martyr in Islam. Abu Jahl then kicked Yaasir until he died. ‘Ammaar survived the torture and went on to live and fight beside the Prophet (sws) for many years more.

I have no words to express my awe at Sumayyah and Yaasir’s strength and sacrifice. I will only point out that the Arabic word for martyr is shaheed, which means witness.

Witness to what?

Consider this:  our testimony of faith in Islam, the statement that one must declare to become Muslim, is, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” This is called the shahadah, the witnessing. Shaheed and shahadah come from the same root, sha-ha-da, he witnessed.

Why? Because someone who says, “Laa ilaha-il-Allah” is witnessing the truth, and must be ready to die for that truth. This the heart of the matter, the beginning and the end.

The Heart of the Matter

Life can get you down. Human relationships can be hard. When you’re alone, Islam can start to feel like a burden. You get confused, and you forget the heart of the matter.

Remember the heart of the matter. Contemplate Laa ilaha-il-Allah. Say it out loud or silently a hundred times every day, two hundred, more. Think about its implications and how everything in Islam proceeds from it. Think about how it should affect every aspect of your life. The Messenger of Allah (sws) said that if the earth and everything in it were placed on one side of a balance, and Laa ilaha-il-Allah were placed on the other, Laa ilaha-il-Allah would outweigh it.

Laa ilaha-il-Allah is charged with power. It pours out truth like the sun pours light. When we say it, and read about it, and think about it, we find that we want to order our lives according to its truth. When that happens, Islam becomes easy. All those external problems and pressures don’t magically disappear, but we begin to see the way through them to the other side, because we are connected to Allah, and He is guiding us, showing us a light, filling us with light. I repeat, we are connected to Allah. That is the heart of the matter.

If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it. Whatever misfortune you have experienced, let Allah show you the way out.

Has your heart been broken? Have you experienced disappointment and loss? Trying to figure out how to be happy again? You need only three things: faith, hope and time. Keep the faith alive in your heart, even if it’s just a spark. Hold on to your hope for the future, even by the tips of your fingers. And let time pass… In time your faith will blaze again, your hope will soar.

So be patient, trust Him, thank Him, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. He will bring you through.

“Attach your heart to God and you will never be let down.” – Imam Zaid Shakir

“When I cry or lose or bruise, so long as I am still alive, nothing is ultimate. So long as there is still a tomorrow, a next moment, there is hope, there is change, there is redemption. What is lost, is not lost forever.” – Yasmin Mogahed

Ask Allah, He WILL Help You

Beautiful sky at sunrise

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

If you ask Allah for guidance sincerely, believing in Him and trusting in Him, he WILL guide you. If you approach Him with humility and faith and ask Him for help, He WILL help you. “And your Lord says: “Call on Me; I will answer you.” (Quran 40:60). I personally have experienced this in my life again and again. Allah is real and miracles do happen.

I remember one time when I was deeply confused about something that mattered very much to me. I prayed to Allah late at night, and began crying. After my prayer, I laid down right there on the musalla (prayer rug), and fell asleep, and BAM, here comes one of the most powerful dreams I have ever had, with a very clear answer to my problem. Then the next night I’m outside and feeling some doubts again, and all of a sudden I see a tremendous meteor go flaming across the sky right in front of me. I was amazed and I laughed out loud because Allah could not have made it any clearer.

I’m not promising you a dream and a meteor (smile). But Allah’s promise is true. He WILL answer you, maybe in ways that you see clearly, or in ways that you don’t. The answer might be to protect you from harm, or to give you something better than what you requested. Or the answer might only be a feeling of faith and tranquility in your heart that allows you to move forward confidently. He WILL help you.

Allah First

The sun shining from behind a cloud

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Allah first, glorified and exalted be He. Not career, money, savings, stocks, investments, 401K, IRA. Allah first. Not family, because we cannot serve our families well unless we serve Allah first. Not culture, nationality, “race”, caste, tribe, clan, lineage, social status (all of which are utterly meaningless).

Allah first. Not material, shopping, sales – people get up early for a sale but can’t wake up for Allah – smart phone, internet, computer. Allah, Allah, Allah first. Not movies, shows, fake celebrities who are worshiped like idols. Not sports teams, city, school, neighborhood.

Only when we put Allah first can we stay that we have understood “Laa ilaha il-Allah” (there is no God but Allah) – this simple sentence and testimony of faith, over which Prophets have been killed, believers persecuted, and which has been so little understood even by Muslims.

This Laa ilaha il-Allah was the call of every Prophet and Messenger from time immemorial. Allah says about it, “…and know that Laa ilaaha ill Allah (there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah)…” [Quran 47:19, 20:8, 3:18, 59:22-3]

And Abu Sa`eed al-Khudri said, that the Messenger of Allah (S) said:

“Moses (AS) said: ‘O Lord! Teach me something that I can remember You with and I can supplicate You with’. He (Allah Ta’ala) said: ‘Say ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah’, O Musaa’. He (Musaa) said: ‘All of your servants say this’. He (Allah) said: ‘If the seven Heavens and those who dwell in them other than Me and the seven Earths are put into one pan (of the scale) and ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allaah’ is put into the other; ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah’ would be heavier.'” [Ibn Hibbaan and Haakim]

Laa ilaha il-Allah is the stuff of legends. It is the calling card of the Eternal Prime Mover. It has rights over us. It’s a contract, an oath, a promise to love Allah before the people, fear Allah more than the people, and to ask ourselves in every situation, “What does Allah want me to do here?” It’s a vow to trust Allah before the people, call upon Allah in times of hardship, thank Allah in times of plenty, and know in our bones that our return is to Him.

Poem: All I Have is You

Turnagain Arm, Alaska

All I Have is You

All I have is you Allah, all I have is you
No lover, no fighter, no comforter
All I have is you

All I have is you Allah, all I have is you
No strength, no hope, no wishes
All I have is you

All I have is you Allah, all I have is you
No colors, no peace, no whispers
All I have is you

All I have is you Allah, all I have is you
No pride, no beauty, no certainty
All I have is you

All I have is you Allah, all I have is you
No future, no patience, no ease
All I have is you

All I have is you Allah, all I have is you
And you are everything that I lack
All I have is you

– Amy Estrada, 11-19-2011

Quick Quotes: Compassion, Taqwa, Allah, Nature, the Heart

Drop of water on a vine

Compassion

“Hatred and bigotry are NOT the permanent conditions of man. Dictators fall and pass. War, oppression and hunger remain, but the power to change those terrible things is in our hands. Allah made us khulafaa over the earth. We have the ability to forgive, to understand, and to comfort one another. I believe that compassion is the essence of who we are. Is the best part of us, the quality that makes us worthy of the mercy of Ar-Rahman. Our love is an elemental force, a vast untapped potential. We only have to be who Allah created us to be. If we can aspire to that, and hew to it, it will suffice us and the earth itself.”

– Wael Abdelgawad

***

“Do not become proud of your position. Do not become harsh toward those weaker than yourself. And always speak of Allah’s kindness to you.” – Ibn Isaq, “The Life of Muhammad”

Taqwa

“If we let Taqwa – Allah-consciousness – become our guide then it leads us to self-awareness and sincerity. A person who cultivates Taqwa can never become a terrorist, an oppressor, a hypocrite. A person with true Taqwa must shed compassion as the sun sheds light.” – Wael Abdelgawad

Changing the World

“Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it; but I”m afraid He might ask me the same question.” – Anonymous

Allah

“People will love you for a short time but Allah will love you forever. People will listen to you sometimes, but Allah will listen to you all the time. People will forgive you sometimes, but Allah forgives every time.” – Anonymous

***

“You don’t need a Plan B if Plan A is for Allah.” – Bilal Int’l

Nature

I gave my Salam to the mountain
And I drank from the mountain stream
And I walked upon its surface
And it all felt like a dream
And this mountain it is a Muslim
And I feel like he’s my friend
And as I climbed on to his peak
I wished it would never end

– Hamza Robertson

The Heart

“Your heart is a mirror that reflects the world. If it’s clean, it will see the world as it really is. If it’s dirty and warped, it will see a warped vision of the world.” – Yasmin Mogahed

***

“When you get close to giving up take a step back, pray and come right back to it. You just never know who you could be inspiring out there. May Allah keep our faith strong and grant us the ability to turn back to Him and to be grateful for that ability and many more…ameen ya Rabb. This goes out to all those who inspire me.” – Fauzia Mohamed

Believe in Allah, Because He Believes in You

Amazing sunrays and clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I believe in Allah because He believes in me… and He believes in you too. Believe in His plan for you, have faith in Him, trust His guidance to you, because He has faith in you, and trusts you.

Some people might challenge this assertion that Allah believes in us and trusts us. To me, that’s surprising. Allah created nothing in vain. Everything He does has a purpose. His creation of humanity was done with intent.

Why were we created? Many Muslims will automatically respond, “To worship Allah.” That’s true, but why does Allah want to be worshiped? Furthermore, why did He create everything else – the stars, planets, forests, seas, mountains, animals?…

Without presuming to know Allah’s intentions, and returning to the realm of the human for a moment, I will make a simple observation. As a writer, one of the reasons I write is because the act of putting my thoughts and feelings on paper satisfies something deep within me. I’ve been writing creatively since I was a child, and to me it’s not a hobby but a calling. I’m a writer, therefore I write; and I am a writer because I write.

The same is true for a painter or any other artist. I imagine if you asked a painter why he paints, you might get many different answers:

  • “It makes me happy”
  • “It’s my passion.”
  • “To express my ideas.”
  • “To make money.”
  • “I don’t know, I just do.”

The bottom line is that it’s the painter’s nature to paint; it’s her calling, her function. She is a painter, therefore she paints; or she paints, therefore she is a painter. Same difference.

Allah is Al-Khaaliq, The Creator. That is one of His names, one of His attributes. He expresses this attribute by creating. You are a part of that expression, and so am I. So is a blue whale, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Grand Canyon, a dolphin, a mouse and an amoebum. Everything that Allah created is amazing in its function and awesomely complex in its design. Everything that He created is beautiful and purposeful. Including you and me.

To create is an act of love. It is an act of faith. The Creator loves you and believes in you. Believe in Him, believe in yourself, believe in humanity, and believe in the unique path that Allah has chosen for you.

The Good New Days

Beautiful path to the future

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

People often wish for a return to the good old days. First of all, when we look at them objectively, they weren’t really so good. Sure, I have funny and pleasant memories from my youth, but I also remember the confusion and loneliness.

I personally would not trade my life at this moment for my life at any time in the past. Among other things, I now have a beautiful daughter who I love more than life itself; my writing, which has evolved to allow me to express my deepest convictions; and many small blessings that add up to a pot of gold.

Secondly, the old days are called “old” for a reason. That’s the past. We can’t go back.

What we can do is focus on the journey forward.

“Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous; – Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon people;- for Allah loves those who do good; – And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins,- and who can forgive sins except Allah….” – Quran, Surat Aal Imran, 3:133-135

This is how we make a better future for ourselves and our families, Insha’Allah. Letting go of anger, forgiving, asking forgiveness, giving to the poor and needy, and racing to Allah. The Almighty has given us the formula. This is how, instead of yearning for the good old days, we create good new days! Our future can be as good as the past ever was; it can be better, brighter and happier.

Let’s build the good new days.

We have Allah, and Allah is everything

Man surrounded by sun rays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Even when we think we have nothing, we have Allah, and Allah is everything. We can be materially poor and still be wealthy beyond belief.

I’m not advocating poverty. Money has its uses. Most importantly, it can be used to help people and relieve suffering. But it is still just a tool created by men and women. An object, a thing. It can never define us, nor can it elevate us, or take us where we need to go in this life and the next.

There are things that matter more than our wallets. Allah is everything, and our relationship with Him defines us more certainly and clearly than our bank balances ever could.

If we are close to Allah, if we have a bond with Him, if we trust Him, then we have everything. We have greater security than any alarm system could provide. We have a brighter light than any chandelier. We have a clearer path than any highway. We have a truer happiness than any entertainment system, house or car could offer. We have everything.

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