Feeding and Helping the Poor: Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz

The Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz

The Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz feeds the homeless and disabled.

I came across this inspiring story of a hotel/restaurant in Pakistan that feeds the poor and homeless for free. It touched me, so I am sharing it here. – Wael

By Sarfaraz Memon
Reprinted from Pakistan’s Express Tribune

SUKKUR, PAKISTAN: For Mai Jindo, the Gharib Nawaz Hotel is nothing less than a blessing as the hotel has been providing free meals to her family for more than 35 years now.

“Like a majority of the girls of my community, marriage proved a gamble for me, as my husband turned out to be a drug addict and, instead of providing livelihood to the family, has always remained dependent upon me”, Mai Jindo told The Express Tribune. “It was very hard for me to earn enough to feed so many mouths but I kept on trying.”

Her initial struggles were soon eased. “One day a woman in my neighbourhood told me about the Gharib Nawaz Hotel, near the Sukkur Clock Tower, which provides free meals to the poor and needy,” she said. “In the evening, I went to the hotel along with my four children and to my surprise, the hotel owner gave me so much food that it was enough for my family for dinner and even breakfast the next day. Since then, I come to this hotel every evening to get food for my family and now I don’t have to worry about feeding my family at least.”

Poor families eating for free at the Hotel Gharib Nawaz

Poor families eating for free at the Hotel Gharib Nawaz.

Kamalan is also one of the regular visitors of the hotel. “Considering the high prices, poor people like us cannot afford to feed our children regularly but thanks to the Gharib Nawaz Hotel, we do not have to face hunger,” she said. “Hundreds of men, women and children visit this hotel in the evening to get free food for their families.” Kamalan is a widow and has seven children to take care of and though she works as a maid in two houses, she doesn’t earn enough to make ends meet.

Mashooq Ali used to earn a livelihood for his family through a donkey cart and while he was unable to afford the extravagant, he was doing sufficiently well enough for himself. But everything changed when Ali lost his left arm in an accident five years ago. He has been unable to work since then.

“I don’t have a son, otherwise I wouldn’t have come to this hotel,” he said, his pride hurt at being forced to accept charity. “I cannot let my five daughters die of hunger, therefore, I come to this hotel and get food for them.”

The owner of the hotel, Haji Shabbir Ahmed, told The Express Tribune that the hotel was established before the partition and was named the Gharib Nawaz [the carer of the poor] by his forefathers. “Since its establishment, it has been our practice to provide free food to the poor,” he said. “And with the passage of time, people have started giving money to us as charity to provide free food to more people. Now we can provide for hundreds”

The Gharib Nawaz Hotel is not the only hotel that provides free food to the poor but it is famous for its cheap rates even for those who can afford to pay. Most of the labourers working in the nearby markets come to the hotel to eat meals at the comparatively low rates and Ahmed said that due to the low rates, profits are a bare minimum. However, the owner is more than happy with the business model, saying that their main priority is to help the poor and not to make large profits.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2014.

Allah’s Plan for You and Me

Morning Sun

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Allah had a plan for you before you were born, and He still has a plan for you. Allah’s plan for you is necessary and glorious. His plan is vital to your success, and important to the world. If that sounds grandiose, bear with me.

Some people are fatalistic, believing that everything that we do is set in stone, as if we were robots pre-programmed in the factory. Such a reality would strip us of free will and deny our natures. Rather, I believe that Allah has a flexible plan for each human being:  a plan that allows that person to benefit the world with his/her unique talents.

This is in fact the Islamic view of al-Qadar, or predestination. There is no doubt that Allah has decreed everything that happens in the universe from the beginning of time to the end, and that Allah has written it all in al-Lawh al-Mahfooz (the Book of Decrees).

“Know you not that Allah knows all that is in the heaven and on the earth? Verily, it is (all) in the Book (Al?Lawh Al?Mahfooz). Verily, that is easy for Allah” (Quran, al-Hajj 22:70)

However, as Sheikh Muhammad Saalih Al-Munajjid explains,

Belief in al-qadar does not contradict the idea that a person has free will with regard to actions in which he has free choice. Sharee’ah and real life both indicate that people have this will.

Allaah says concerning man’s will (interpretation of the meaning):

“That is (without doubt) the True Day. So, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with (or a way to) His Lord (by obeying Him in this worldly life)!” [al-Naba’ 78:39]

(and other similar ayaat)

These verses confirm that man has a will and the ability to do what he wants and not to do what he does not want.

With regard to real life, everyone knows that he has a will and the ability to do what he wants and not to do what he does not want. And he can distinguish between the things that happen when he wants them to, such as walking, and those that happen without him wanting them to, such as shivering. But the will and ability of man are subject to the will and decree of Allaah.

Sheikh Al-Munajjid’s last paragraph is the key to understanding Al-Qadar: walking (voluntary) versus shivering (involuntary). Other scholars have explained it as two types of Qadar, fixed and flexible. The fixed Qadar is that which happens to us from beyond our control. For example the time and place of our birth, any illnesses and natural disasters that befall us, etc. The flexible Qadar is that which is within the realm of our free will. That includes our choice to do good or evil, what we choose to believe and how we choose to live.

Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah wrote:

There are two types of provision and lifespan: the first type has already been decreed and is written in Umm al-kitaab, and cannot be changed or altered. The next type of qadar, Allah has informed His angels of His decrees. This is the type where provisions and lifespan may increase or decrease. Hence Allah the Almighty says what may be translated as, “Allah blots out what he wills and confirms [what He wills]. And with Him is the Mother of the book.” (Surat Ar-Ra’ad, verse 39)

The mother of the Book (Umm al-Kitaab) is Al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh, in which Allah has decreed all things as they will always be without change.

However, the decrees contained in the books of the angels, such as lifespan and provisions, may increase or decrease according to various circumstances; thereafter, the angels will re-write a person’s provision and lifespan. If a person upholds the ties of kinship, his provisions and lifespan will be extended, otherwise they will decrease.” [See Majmoo’al-Fataawa 8/540]

So Allah has a plan for you, but fulfillment of that plan is up to you:  the choices you make, as well as your degree of faith, persistence and determination will determine the outcome.

I said that Allah’s plan for you is important to the world. The proof of this is simply that Allah created nothing in vain. Look at His creation. Everything has a purpose, from the sun that heats our world, to the bacteria that consume waste. Everything in creation has a purpose that is necessary to the functioning of its ecosystem.

You are the same. You have a purpose. You are necessary to the world. If your presence were not vital in some way, then you would not have been made.

Discovering Allah’s Plan

How do we discover Allah’s plan for us? Where do we find it? How do we realize it in our lives?

It’s not as difficult as we might think. It wouldn’t make sense for Allah to have a plan for us and then leave us stumbling in the dark. Allah’s plan doesn’t have to be a mystery. If we trust Him, do what He asks, and follow our hearts, His plan will unfold in our lives like a brightly lit path.

If you are trying to follow Allah’s guidance, but you find yourself confronted by obstacles and hardship, don’t despair.  The hardship is probably a sign that you are on the right path. Consider our Prophets (may Allah bless them all) who faced tremendous obstacles:

* The Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis-salam, peace be upon him) was disowned by his family and thrown by his people into a blazing fire; Allah rescued him from that, and made him the father of two nations.

* Allah inspired the mother of the baby Musa (as) and told her to place her infant into a chest and send it floating down the Nile. That must have been an enormously difficult plan to follow, but she trusted her Lord, with the result that an entire people were eventually freed from bondage.

* The young Yusuf (as) was thrown by his brothers into a well and left for dead; later he was sold into slavery, then imprisoned for years; but in the end he became an important minister, and was reunited with his father.

* Maryam (as) the mother of Isa (as), delivered her child alone under a palm tree, far from her people as she feared their reaction; but Allah helped her through miracles, until she became the honored mother of a great Prophet.

* The Prophet Yunus (as) gave up on his mission to the people of Nineveh, ventured onto a ship and was then cast into the sea, where he was swallowed by a whale. At the point of despair, he called upon Allah with all his heart and was rescued. He returned to his mission, and achieved success.

* A’ishah (ra), the wife of the Prophet (sws), was slandered; but Allah brought the truth to light, and Aishah became a leader and scholar in her own right.

* The companion Umm Salamah (ra) lost her beloved husband Abu Salamah in the battle of Uhud; she thought that no husband could ever replace him, yet she ended up marrying the Prophet himself (sws).

Things are not always what they seem. Be patient. Allah has a plan for you.

Following Allah’s Plan

This is the hard part. Allah’s plan for us is true to who we are at our core, in our very essence. It will not correlate to an artificial persona we have adopted, or our desire to be seen and recognized. Allah’s plan may not bring us fame, fortune, or physical pleasure. It might mean giving up material comfort. So Allah’s plan for us may not be what we would wish it to be.

Road up a mountain
Allah’s plan for us is not always what we would wish it to be.

Abu Hurayra (ra), the companion of the Messenger of Allah (sws), was asked about Taqwa (God-consciousness). He said, “It is a road full of thorns. One who walks it must have extreme patience.”

In fact, Allah’s plan may be so challenging that we may perceive it but decline to follow. I have known all my life that I was a writer. I’ve been talking for years about writing certain books. And yet it took me until the age of 44 to begin writing about the things that really mattered to me, and I still have not published a book (look for it soon, Insha’Allah!). Why did it take me so long to do what I was meant to do?

I have a friend who says that Africa has been calling her all her life. She believes that her destiny is to go there and help the African people in some way. But she has not done it. Why?

I have another friend who believes that da’wah is his mission in life. He spent ten years studying Japanese at the university level, and he dreams of living in Japan and doing da’wah there. But he has no concrete plan to do so. Why?

I asked several brothers and sisters if they know what their mission in life might be. Some said yes. I asked them if they were carrying out their mission. Most said no, and gave these reasons:

  • I feel that others are more qualified than me.
  • It seems like a fantasy.
  • It feels like a dream.
  • I tried once and it didn’t go my way.
  • Right now I need to focus on financial security.
  • I’m not ready yet.

Brothers and sisters, no one is more qualified than you to fulfill the plan that Allah has for you! Allah’s plan is not a fantasy or a dream. It may not go your way the first time, or the second, or the third. It may not make you rich, but there is no true financial security in this life – that’s an illusion.  No one expects you to let your family go hungry. Work hard and provide for them, but don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the accumulation of wealth will save you, because the only true security is with Allah. And last of all, no one is ever ready to walk fee-sabeel-illah (in the path of Allah). It is a road full of thorns. But it is also the road to fulfillment, happiness, barakah (blessings) and tawfiq (success).

Fulfilling Allah’s plan for us requires that we silence the voice of our own desire, open ourselves to Allah, and look within with total sincerity. It takes courage, patience and determination. It is the path to Jannah (Paradise), Insha’Allah.

Faith, love and kindness are secret weapons to change the world

Sunrise about snowy fields

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Faith, love and kindness are not cute ideas or naive catchphrases. They are elemental forces with the power to alter human hearts, and to change the world. They are transformative emotions and behaviors that were bestowed upon us by Allah, who is Al-Rahman (The Most Merciful) and Al-Wadood (The Most Loving). They are stronger than hurricanes, and they transcend the birth and death of individuals, and the rise and fall of nations.

Don’t we still have love for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and for the Sahabah, all of whom lived many generations and nations ago? In fact we look upon them as our heroes and leaders and we love them as if they were dear friends. This is proof of the enduring nature of love, which survives when all else changes around us.

Faith, love and kindness are the secret weapons that Allah has given us to conquer corruption, cynicism, hatred, racism, and evil, in ourselves and in the world.

These ideas are not naive, as some might say. Was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) naive? He suffered in his mission, but he persevered. His mission was rooted in faith and love of Allah, and expressed through kindness to all people. There are so many stories about him showing tremendous kindness to rude and even murderous people, and changing their hearts in the process. He succeeded in the face of impossible odds. His success is a testament to the power of these noble emotions and behaviors.

That’s why I illustrated this piece with a photo of sun rays shining on a dark and snowy world. Because these powerful emotions and behaviors are not the stuff of sunny afternoons, cotton candy and daisies. They are like a guiding star that is only seen in the darkness. They come into their own and show their true power by confronting and overcoming hatred, bitterness, painful loss, war, poverty and despair.

I describe them as behaviors because faith that exists only in the heart is not true faith. Faith is proven by action. Faith is defined by the way you live your life. The same is true for love and kindness. Love is a verb, not a noun. It’s not an abstract feeling in your heart, but a matter of behavior, the way you treat people, the way you help, forgive, and show mercy to people.

Love Works Miracles in the Heart

It may be a cliche’ to speak about love changing the world. It’s not something we can envision in concrete terms. So let me bring it down to the level of one human being.

Growing up, I had a friend named Ismail. He was a few years younger than me – when I was 17 he was 14, I think – and had grown up in a dysfunctional family that had moved around constantly and had not bothered to educate the children, so that at the age of 14, Ismail was functionally illiterate.

I began tutoring Ismail and his younger brother, teaching them to read and write. I started from scratch, teaching them the alphabet and the sounds of the letters, and working up to small phonetic words. I tutored them for one hour every day, seven days a week, in the living room of their apartment. Their parents were not supportive. I was never paid. Sometimes their parents were fighting with each other at the same time I was trying to teach. At times I noticed that the two boys could not concentrate because they were hungry, so I began feeding them before our study sessions, and giving them multivitamins. Slowly they began to learn, until they could write short essays and letters on their own.

Back then I worked for the United States Geological Survey, measuring water levels at farms in the Central Valley, and taking water samples to be tested for various fertilizers and pesticides. It was hot, difficult work. I’d ride my motorcycle more than an hour to the huge corporate farms on the west side of the valley. Armed with survey maps, I would trudge across vast farms in 100 degree heat, seeking the sumps that brought up ground water for irrigation. If the farms had been recently irrigated the ground might be soft and my feet would sink into the mud with every step. Some of the sumps were a dozen feet deep or more, so in order to get a sample I had to toss a chain link ladder down into the sump, climb down, fill a test tube, and climb back out. I was very aware that if the ladder broke I could get stuck in the sump, and I might not even be missed for two or three days (no cell phones in those days). It worried me.

So I began asking Ismail to come to the farms with me. He wasn’t doing anything anyway – he was not enrolled in school because he could not function anywhere near his grade level. He’d ride on the back of the motorcycle as we passed through dusty, poverty-stricken migrant towns like Mendota and Firebaugh, sometimes swerving to avoid patches where tomatoes or oranges had fallen from farm trucks and been splattered by traffic. By the time we arrived, our helmet face shields would be crusted with dead gnats and butterflies. At the farms, Ismail would help me locate the wells, keep an eye on me while I climbed down, and then ride back with me. Sometimes on the way home I’d feel him tilting a bit and I’d realize he had fallen asleep on the motorcycle, so I’d give him a nudge with my elbow to wake him up.

Ismail was like a brother to me. I tutored him not because I wanted anything from him, but because he was like family. I loved him, though I never would have told him so. I was not raised to speak such words.

When I was twenty years old, Ismail got a scholarship to study at the Islamic University of Madinah, in Saudi Arabia. When it was time for him to leave I drove him to Los Angeles and took him to the airport. The next year was hard for him. The living environment in the university dorms at Madinah was austere, and Ismail was lonely. I used to send him letters with jokes, or stories about the people back home.

One day Ismail called collect, and as we spoke I told him to keep his head up, that we were all proud of him. Ismail’s voice became choked with emotion and he said, “I love you, Wael.” Strange as it may seem, I had never heard those words before from anyone. I was never aware that I needed to hear those words, or that they would mean anything to me, but the instant I heard them, they struck my heart like a hammer, and I found myself speechless.

I don’t know if I can explain what those words did to me. Somehow they gave meaning to all the difficulties I had been through up to that point. The failures at college, the confusion and deep loneliness, the brief bouts of homelessness. Those words seemed to crawl through my chest, sowing seeds of light and warmth. They gave me strength.

Even now, twenty five years later, I feel the impact of those words. I am still close to Ismail, though we live in different states. I call him sometimes – he told me recently that he is writing his autobiography, ma-sha-Allah – and I worry about him. I love him. And I find that the light of those words – and the sincerity behind them – is still inside me, and is one of many things that inspire and empower me. This is the miracle that love performs in the human heart.

Love Overcomes Hatred

A few years later, when I was working in Fort Worth (in my early 20’s), there was a supervisor who used to harrass me. He was abusive toward everyone, but he seemed to have a particular dislike of me. I don’t know why. Well, I had been experimenting with meditation, and had been reading a few books about spirituality. One day I decided that I would go about my day trying to see the soul within each person. With each person I met, I would look past the exterior appearance, past the external behaviors, and try to perceive the soul inside.

It may sound silly or new-agey, but I noticed a difference immediately. I was able to see things in people that I had not previously perceived. In particular I saw a lot of fear. As I was walking toward the cafeteria, I saw the abusive supervisor standing near the door. I tried to forget everything I had experienced at his hands, and look to his soul. I can’t say exactly what I saw, but as I approached him, he smiled at me. This was so unexpected and incongruous, that I didn’t know how to react and I continued on my way without response.

After that day, I noticed a change. That supervisor and I certainly did not become friends, but he stopped being hostile toward me. I cannot really explain this, except to speculate that the act of looking to a person’s soul is a form of love, just as listening deeply, without judgment, is an act of love. We are so unaccustomed in this life to people regarding us in a pure way, without judgment, without responding to our appearance or dress, without resentment for past mistakes, that when someone does it, it’s disarming. It transforms.

This is the power of love.

I’m not suggesting that all oppression in this world can be overcome with a look. There is evil in the world. There are times when we must fight to defend our lives and our families. Certain entities are immune to the power of love (the current murderous regime in Syria is not going to be overthrown with love). But even in the context of conflict, love and faith are powerful. Some Russian soldiers in Chechnya embraced Islam after being captured by the mujahideen and treated with kindness. Some soldiers in Egypt who were ordered to fire upon civilians refused to do so after being embraced or kissed by protesters.

The Prophet Muhammad (sws) himself was a reluctant warrior who disliked fighting except as a last resort. He was one of the first military leaders in history to lay down stringent rules for humane warfare, prohibiting even the killing of animals or burning of crops. He was a champion of faith, not fighting. His mission was one of compassion. The most powerful tools in his arsenal were the Quran and the testimony of “Laa ilaha il-Allah” (there is no God but Allah). That is how he changed the world.

Proof of this is that, as Wikipedia reports, “The sum total of all casualties on all sides in all the battles of Muhammad range from 1200 to 1500 dead according to the most authoritative sources.” This is outrageously low by today’s standards. We are talking about a series of defensive battles over the course of a dozen years, involving hundreds of thousands of fighters on both sides, in which all of Arabia came under the sway of Islam. But the key is that the Prophet (sws) was not fighting for wealth, or personal power, or vengeance. It is said that he never took personal revenge on any human being. He fought for truth alone, and taught his followers to do the same.

Love Defeats Bigotry

I don’t mean to portray myself as an enlightened soul. I’ve made my share of mistakes and I still struggle not to be judgmental or reactive. But I’ve also had experiences that have shown me the way forward. One was with my former sister-in-law, Crystal. I am divorced now, but I was married for ten years. Laura (my ex-wife) and her family were not Muslim, and her family had their reservations about our marriage. Her mother expressed a fear that I would kidnap our future children and take them to Egypt (even though I’ve never lived in Egypt). “Like Sally Field in ‘Not Without my Daughter'”, she said.

One day I was at a restaurant with Laura, her mother and her sister. When the waiter came to our table, he said to me, “As-salamu alaykum.” I did not know him, but I was wearing a kufi and had a beard. I replied, “Wa alaykum as-salam.” Crystal began laughing, and after the dinner was over, when we were going to the car, she began saying, “Salami, salami, baloney.”

At the time I was in a mental state where I was fed up with bigotry. I had experienced a lot of it, and I had no more patience for it. I told Crystal that her behavior was rude and bigoted. She got extremely angry, and after that I was a persona non-grata at my in-laws’ house. I was not invited to their home for any reason, and there was no communication whatsoever between me and them for more than a year. After that my mother-in-law reached out to me tentatively, and offered a makeshift apology, which I accepted. But Crystal remained angry.

Later, Laura and I moved to Panama. The place where we lived was so beautiful and peaceful, and the natives were so accepting of us, that I found my heart healing. The in-laws still didn’t quite accept me – in fact Laura’s father came to visit once and told me angrily that my religion was ridiculous and backwards – but I found that it did not bother me so much. When I returned to the USA for a visit I spoke to Crystal. I said, “I apologize for my attitude in the past. I love you and your family. You all mean a lot to me.” I said that sincerely, holding in my mind all the good I had experienced from Crystal over the years, and forgiving the bad.

From that moment on, my relationship with Crystal was transformed. She came to visit us in Panama and had a great time. After my divorce, when I returned to California, Crystal actually began attending my martial arts class. She became more open minded, began exploring religious thinking outside of the narrow Christian fundamentalist box she had always lived in. I’m not saying that any of that is because of me. But what I can attest to is that ever since I gathered the resolve to say to her, “I love you and I value you,” she has not showed a hint of bigotry or anger toward me, and in fact has become a pleasant person to relate to.

I”m afraid I may be telling a string of random stories here. I don’t know if I’m communicating this thesis I have, this understanding, that sincere love is transformational. When you can love someone without desire, expectation, or judgment, it utterly changes your relationship with that person, even with those who hate you. I believe this is the essence of faith. It is the heart of da’wah. It is the Golden Rule.

I have given examples of one-on-one interaction, but I believe that love and kindness can work their wonders just as well when it’s one to a thousand, or ten to a million, just as a single great ocean wave can flood a whole city, except that love is a good flood that washes away the fires of hatred.

Lead the Way

Do you want to see something different in the world? Show it. Do you want to see things moving in a better direction? Then get stepping and walk it, and I guarantee that others will follow, because they have seen the problems as well, and they are waiting for someone to lead the way.

Do you want to be a better Muslim, father, mother, son, daughter, sibling, or friend? Then be it. Now is the moment. The past is prologue leading to this moment.

Are you waiting for someone else to show love and kindness first? Are you waiting for someone else to be vulnerable or brave, to put himself out there, to take the first step, to show the way? There is no someone else. You are the someone else. You…  are…  someone.

Le’ts open ourselves to faith, love and kindness. Let’s change the way we move in the world, the way we behave with Allah, the way we treat people, the way we interact with every person. Let us become testaments to the power of these transformative behaviors, not through our words but through our actions. Let’s express a new sincerity from our hearts and walk through the world like believers. Let’s become people of Allah, people of Jannah (Paradise), people of imaan (faith), love and mercy.

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.

 

 

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

A miracle and a miracle worker

Mountain Light

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Each of us is a walking miracle.

“Among His Signs in this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, you are human beings scattered (far and wide)!” – Quran, 30:20.

Our existence is a miracle. That we are here, on this tiny planet revolving in space, thinking our thoughts, sailing the ocean, growing crops, loving, worshiping, forgiving, living and dying, is a miracle.

Our aspirations, hopes and bravery are miracles and gifts.

Beyond that, each of us has the potential to be a miracle worker, not in the sense of walking on water or splitting the sea, but in changing the world, spreading peace, and being examples of love and faith in action.

My fellow editors at IslamicAnswers.com – SisterZ, Leila, Sara, Amy, Muhammad, Abdul Wali, Maria and the others – are miracle workers. They save lives and help desperate people.

One editor took in two foster children and raised them with love. He and his wife are miracle workers.

Anyone who speaks out for truth, who dedicates themselves to helping others, who plants trees and protects endangered species, who raises good children in this turbulent world, any such person is a miracle worker.

Think of it: to be a miracle and a miracle worker. What a thing.

What an amazing creature the child of Adam can become if he (and she) turns away from hatred, bigotry and revenge, and turns to compassion and fellowship instead.

What’s Your Legacy?

Sunset behind a tree

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“Who are you? What makes you special? What is the legacy that you’ve built and shared with others (self, family, community and the world)? If we died today, what would our obituaries say? What have we done for GOD and GOD’s people lately? What is our mission and vision, and are we living it? If we died today, what would our obituaries say?” – Hanan K. Bilal

This is what it’s all about. I heard someone say recently that only two things can happen with the wealth you accumulate in this life: either it leaves you, or you leave it. Wealth is not a legacy. Having fun is not a legacy. Helping a company to sell useless products is not a legacy.

Making a difference in the lives of human beings, relieving the suffering of even one person, raising righteous and happy children, leaving behind knowledge that benefits people, making the world a better place, those are legacies.

I have not met the sister who is quoted at the top, but I have read some of her writings. Whenever I hear her name I think of being responsible, taking care of my family, loving my children and bringing them up right, making a difference in the community, following my dreams… that is a legacy. She has already created a vital legacy.

I have another friend whose name is Ismail. He is so humble ma-sha-Allah, and as a friend he is the most discreet and closed-mouthed person I know, by which I mean he never speaks badly about anyone else, and never reveals anyone’s secrets or violates their trust. When I think of him, I am inspired to emulate him. That is his legacy, and it’s an important and valuable one.

More than twenty years ago I knew a brother named Qawiy. His life was hard, but every time I met him he’d give me a big smile and an enthusiastic handshake. He wore a kufi and carried a folded musalla (prayer rug) on his shoulder, so he could pray whenever salat time arrived, no matter where he was. Kind of quirky, but also inspiring. All these years later, just the thought of Qawiy brings a smile to my face, and reminds me of the importance of doing salat on time. That’s a legacy! SubhanAllah.

I could name many more people who have affected me in positive and critical ways. I will always remember them, even after they are gone, Insha’Allah. They have created lasting legacies.

Of course we don’t even have to speak of the Prophets (peace be upon them), and the Messenger of Allah (sws), and the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them). Their legacies shine like the moon and stars and will illuminate human history for all time.

What’s your legacy? What do people say about you, and what will they say when you’re gone?

Love Can Change the World

Sun rays shining from behind the clouds

This is an excerpt from a song by Aaron Niequist. They are a Christian chorus, and this is a Muslim blog, but I consider that irrelevant. It’s a beautiful song.


Love Can Change the World

Bridges are more beautiful than bombs are
Bridges are more beautiful than bombs.

Listening is louder than a lecture
Listening is louder than a shout

But Love – Love can change the world.
Oh do we still believe that
Love – Love can change the world.

An open hand is stronger than a fist is
An open hand is stronger than a fist

Wonder is more valuable than Wall Street
Wonder is more valuable than gold.

Repeat chorus

May we never stop this dreaming
Of a better world

May we never stop believing
In the impossible.

 

©2005 AARONieq Music

7-Point Plan for Achieving Your Dreams

Climbing a steep mountain

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Aaisha stated that Prophet Muhammad (Shallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) said, “The deeds which Allah loves the most are those done regularly, even if they are small.” (Bukhari & Muslim).

You can achieve tremendous things if you just take one step at a time and keep on going, letting nothing stop you. You can get a doctorate, or a black belt in martial arts, memorize the Quran, write a book, start a successful business, or any other great achievement, if you are consistent, as steady as the sun. It’s not about the big push. It’s the light but steady touch that does it.

1. Begin in the name of Allah (Almighty God, the Eternal and Omnipotent, the Creator of all). Always remember to call upon Him and ask His help. With Allah, all things are possible. And in seeking more, always be grateful for what you have. “And remember when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will give you more.'” (Quran, Surat Ibrahim, 14:7). The number of blessings in your life is limitless.

2. Make a plan. Put your plan on paper, and follow it. Don’t limit yourself. Enlarge your thoughts and hold an image in your mind of what you want to achieve. Visualize yourself succeeding, and see the steps necessary to make this happen.

Be as specific as possible when writing your plan. Don’t only write, “I will memorize the Quran in my lifetime.” Write down the first step: “I will memorize three surahs from Juz Amma this month.” Instead of writing, “I will get fit,” write, “I will work out Mon-Wed-Fri from 5pm to 6pm and will lose 5 pounds this month.” Instead of writing, “I will go back to school one day,” write, “I will enroll at City College for the next fall semester.” You get the idea.

3. Know yourself. Work on your project during the time of day when you are most productive. I personally work on these articles first thing in the morning while my mind is fresh. I wake up, say a dua’ of thanks, do a couple of yoga stretches, then sit in front of the computer and write.

Work on your goal every day, no matter what mood you’re in, whether you are tired, sick, depressed or discouraged. Just do it. If you need help, seek someone who knows.

4. Believe in yourself. Condition your mind that you can and you will. Be around people who believe in you and support your goals. During my first Hapkido martial arts grading, three senior instructors sat at the judging table. I did very well, and after my test one of the instructors said, “I expect to see you on this side of the table one day.” I never forgot that and it helped to propel me forward.

Keep positive and constructive thoughts flowing through your mind. When you find negative thoughts creeping in, send them away and replace them with positive images of yourself succeeding. Which brings me to…

5. Abolish negativity. Give up “I can’t” and all such negative phrases. Separate yourself from negative people who only find fault and express doubt. Such people cannot change their own lives, let alone helping you with yours. Negative people can destroy you if you let them. So don’t let them.

Never deprecate yourself. Don’t call yourself names, or tell yourself that you are stupid, clumsy, or hopeless. Other people will do enough of that for you. No need to aid them.

Also try to let go of anger, resentment, bitterness and suspicion. Those emotions consume a lot of energy and hold you back spiritually and even physically. You might feel like those emotions protect you in some way, but I have lived on that dark side of the street and I can tell that negativity can only destroy. It cannot build. You don’t need those dark emotions. Experience them, then let them go. Use that energy to move forward instead.

6. Take responsibility. If you fail, be honest about the reasons why, and look for a way to solve the problem. See failure as a chance to improve. Don’t try to blame others, as that only sends your energy in the wrong direction. If you trip and fall you don’t stand in one place looking for a tree root or a crack in the sidewalk to blame. You get up and move on, and maybe you watch your step a little more carefully, or pick your feet up higher.

Also do not blame your life circumstances, lack of funds, lack of qualifications, or whatever. No one is born into a perfect life. Take what you have and build on it.

It’s your dream, your plan, your life. Take responsibility and make it happen.

7. Be consistent. Take action. Do. Work toward your plan every day, no matter what else is happening in your life, but don’t burn yourself out. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) already gave us the formula in the hadith above. Persistence, determination, small steps, one after another, every day.

That’s how you change yourself, and change the world. I am giving away the formula, free of charge.

That’s how you conquer a mountain. That’s how the most majestic redwood tree grows. That’s how the Prophets (peace be upon them) did what they did. One step at a time, and keep on going, and you will do great things, Insha’Allah. I am writing down my plan today. Will you do the same?

Everything is possible for those who believe

Iceland mountain valley

A mountain valley in Iceland

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Nourish your dreams. To achieve anything requires faith in Allah, belief in yourself, imagination, vision, persistence, hard work, and sometimes blood and tears.

The will of Allah and the power of your heart and mind make an unbeatable combination. Everything is possible for those who believe – anything you can envision, and many things you can’t.

I’m thinking of a ragtag group of desert Arabs, who, in the course of a single generation, transformed the world forever. I am speaking of course of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions. What they did was impossible – there’s no other word for it. But through the power of Allah, and the tremendous determination of one man, and the faith of those who followed him, the impossible became possible. Because of their faith and sacrifices, you and I can utter the words, “Laa ilaha-il-Allah” and put them into practice in our lives.

Your dreams don’t have to be that grand. Whether you dream of building a new masjid for your community, writing a novel, competing in sports, becoming a doctor, doing charity work overseas, memorizing the Quran, or any other good and meaningful goal – it can be achieved by the will of Allah. But you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. Feed your dream as you would feed a newly planted seed. Care for it, devote time to it, don’t give up, and watch it grow before your eyes.

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