Bellies and Souls

Colorado mountain wildflowers

Colorado mountain wildflowers

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Most of us are concerned with our bellies and the souls of others; when we should be concerned with our own souls, and the bellies of others. The first thing the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said when he arrived in Madinah was, “Spread peace, and feed the people.”

Instead of judging others, care for them. Feed them, help them, and spread peace. That is your representation as a Muslim, your da’wah, and your salvation of the world. In the process, you save your own soul.

Let’s Tell Our Children the Truth

Waterfall in the Great Rift Valley, Africa

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

If we lie to our children and pretend that we are perfect and that life is always wonderful, we do them a disservice. Young children are idealistic by nature, inclined to believe that all people are good, that adults have the answers, and that their parents are the best and strongest people in the world. They believe that the adults are managing the world properly as they should.

As they grow older they begin to see through our pretenses. They see that our words don’t match our deeds, and that adult society is running the world into the ground, ravaging the natural environment, making war, and destroying their futures in the process. So our children become deeply disappointed. This disappointment leads to cynicism and bitterness. That’s when we lose them to alcohol or drugs, gangsterism or bizarre countercultures.

That’s when, in Western society, children begin getting tattoos and piercings, wearing black clothing and chains, getting drunk and having casual sex, listening to screaming metal music, and generally saying to adult society, “I see through your lies, and I want nothing to do with you. Since there’s nothing to believe in, I won’t even try.”

Some parents strive to maintain the facade because they have no truth to offer. They are caught up in a meaningless consumerist lifestyle. Or they may see the hypocrisy of adult society but have no alternative to offer.

We do! We have Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’alaa. We have the Qur’an, the Prophets, and the tremendous life lesson of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). We have the amazing lives of the Sahabah, and all the heroes of Muslim history. We have the shahadah, salat, zakat, sawm, and Hajj. We have something real, a genuine alternative to corruption and malaise, but first we must be on the path. We must be dedicated. We don’t have to be perfect but we must be sincere.

So let’s do that, and then let’s tell our children the truth.

Let’s tell them, “I’m not perfect and neither is any other human being, but I’m working on it Insha’Allah, and I love you, and that’s what counts. Yes, there is evil and hypocrisy in the world. Yes, adult society is largely superficial and selfish. But each of us has the ability to change the world. Each of us is powerful. Go out there and be a force for change in the world. Imagine the world as it should be, then work to bring it about. Be sincere, be strong, keep Allah in your awareness, and do what you can. If you do that, then you have succeeded. No matter what, I will always love you and be proud of you.”

See also: Tell the Truth and Watch Your Relationships Shine

The Promises We Make to Ourselves

Mount Everest

When I was younger I vowed that I would climb Mt. Everest one day. I think I'll let that one go, since I'm afraid of heights, lol. But there are other promises I have kept, and more yet to be fulfilled. This website is one of them.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

We know that one of the traits of the believer is that he/she keeps promises. And we tend to think of that in terms of keeping promises to others:  family members, friends, business partners, etc.

But what about the promises we make to ourselves? Aren’t those worth keeping as well? Don’t we all promise ourselves when we’re young that we will do something exciting and important in life? Don’t we grow up convinced that we will change the world in some way? Aren’t we sure that we will do exciting things like climb a mountain, help the poor, or save people’s lives somehow?

Why do we give up those dreams? They are not impossible. They are achievable! Many people do such things. Many people do change the world, help the poor, save people’s lives, climb mountains, fly planes, see the world… so why not us? What one person has done, another can do.

And when we’re older, don’t we promise ourselves from time to time that we will get in shape, learn a new language, go back to school, write a book, travel, memorize surahs from the Quran, and more? Aren’t those promises worth keeping? Don’t we owe that to ourselves, as believers and as human beings?

My goal here is not to guilt you, but to inspire you. Those dreams of your youth, and those promises you’ve made to yourself, are within your grasp. Maybe not all of them, but some of them. Or for now, how about one of them. 🙂 Start with that, and I will too, Insha’Allah.

Footnote:  One year after writing the article above, I achieved one of my lifelong dreams:  at the age of 46, I got a black belt in martial arts. I started martial arts when I was 14 and I practiced on and off, but I moved around so much that I never stayed in one place long enough to graduate to black belt. Some might say that getting it at 46 is very late. Maybe so, but I did it. Other dreams of mine:  to publish several books, make a documentary film, get a master’s degree, travel through Africa, go cave exploring… Why not? It’s never too late, Insha’Allah, for me or for you.

Freedom for Egypt and the Ummah

Fireworks

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

O Allah, make Egypt a beacon of freedom for the Arab world and all of Africa. Bring relief to the Ummah, and let them breathe. Guide them and keep them on the light. Subhanaka wa bihamdik, Glory to You Allah and praise to You.

Power to the people!!!

Mubarak the dictator is gone. But the January 25th revolution must continue until all the corrupt old guard are gone. The killers and torturers of Khaled Said and so many other innocents must be brought to justice. The voice of the people must be respected, and their freedom assured.

What has happened is a huge first step, a historic moment. It is a tremendous victory for the people and the youth. A new age has dawned on Egypt. Now ahead lies the journey.

Alhamdulillah, wa Allahu Akbar.

The Power of a Dream

Sailing ship on the ocean

Ship of dreams

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

The world of possibilities is a vast ocean, and Allah has given each of us our own ship to sail on that ocean, following our dreams and vision where they take us. But so many of us never leave the dock. We listen to others who say, “Your dream is impossible, it’s not practical, you can’t do it.” Or we listen to a negative whisper from our own minds that says the same thing.

So we take a drill to our own ship and bore a hole in the bottom, and sink the ship at the dock. Blub blub blub, there goes the dream. We do that to ourselves! We sink our own dreams.

Replace that negative voice with faith. Allah gave you that ship, that idea, that dream, for a reason! He gave you that ship of dreams so you could sail out onto the sea and change the world, make a difference, exercise your unique talents, and fulfill your special mission in this world.

Allah is a God of dreams, don’t you know that? True dreams come from Allah. Allah is a God who sends a Prophet, a single man unassisted, to an entire nation with the mission to call them to Allah, to save the nation, and to change the world. That is a huge dream! And most amazing of all, many Prophets fulfilled that mission because they believed it was possible. Because they trusted Allah, and believed that the enormous mission entrusted to them was possible, the aid and guidance of Allah came and made the impossible possible.

When others say, “You can’t do that,” pay them no mind. They can’t sink your ship because it resides in your heart. Shaytan will denounce his followers on the Day of Judgment, saying, “I had no power over you. I only called you and you followed.” You see, the voices of cynicism and despair have no true power if we do not heed them. No one knows your hidden potential but Allah. No one has the right to try to limit you, to define you narrowly, to tell you that you’re not good enough or capable enough, or to tell you that your dreams are too big.

Why shouldn’t your dreams be big? If you’re going to dream, dream big! No one says, “My dream is that tomorrow my commute will take 35 minutes instead of 40 minutes.” That’s not a dream. If you’re going to dream, then dream big! No one knows what is possible except Allah.

I am sure that when the first youth went out in Tunisia to demonstrate against the dictator Ben Ali, their families said to them, “What? Are you crazy? You are just some kids, you will never get rid of Ben Ali, this is insanity.” And now look. The dictator has fled, political parties have been unbanned, the press is free, political prisoners have been freed, and all because of some youth with a dream who would not listen to those who told them, “No.”

As I write this, plainclothes police and paid thugs are shooting at the Egyptian youth in Tahrir square. Some of you may be thinking, “This dream of freedom for Egypt is over.” You know what? Don’t count them out yet. The power of an idea cannot be underestimated. The power of one man, one woman, standing up and pursuing a dream of freedom against all odds, cannot be calculated. They are not giving up on their dream. We will see what tomorrow brings, Insha’Allah. I am praying for the people of Egypt tonight, praying for the youth, praying for justice, praying for freedom. My hands are trembling as I write this. But I’m not giving up on the power of a dream. There is no change and no power except by Allah!

Women of Egypt: 120 Amazing Photos

Compiled by Leil-Zahra Mortada, AlJazeera and others. May God bless the people of Egypt, and make this a moment of change for Egypt and all the Arab world. Let’s always remember the contribution of women, in this moment and throughout Arab and Islamic history.

Lift the Torch High: How the Sight of Others in Pain Should Affect Us

Beautiful sunshine in a blue sky

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

“The sight of other people in trouble is almost always something talked about or something laughed at. We must be careful what we laugh at, because we never know when it will be our turn to deal with those same troubles. If we won’t say or contribute something good to improve the situation, then we can at least be quiet.” – Hanan K Bilal

Sister Hanan is right. The sight of other’s misfortunes should never become a source of amusement. News of death, illness or hardship should never become a juicy piece of gossip.

It could be our turn next. Do you think anyone signs up to get cancer, or lose their job, or have a child who uses drugs, or to experience a failed marriage? Do you think you have some shield against misfortune? You do not, my friend. You absolutely never know what tomorrow will bring, or if it will come for you and me at all.

Beyond that, when we mock those who suffer, when we find the agony of others titillating, we’ve lost the thing that makes being human worthwhile. We’ve lost our hearts.

Extending Mercy

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has told us that, “Those who have mercy will receive the mercy of the Most Merciful. Have mercy on those who are on earth, the One in heavens will have mercy on you.” (Tirmidhi)

Our mercy should extend even to animals, for they too are included in “those who are on earth”. Once the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, told the story of a person who had fed water to a thirsty dog by climbing down a well and bringing water in his shoe, and attained Paradise for that act.

I used to know someone who, whenever he heard of someone in the local community who was experiencing hardship, asked many questions to learn all the details. But it’s not because he wanted to help. When I asked him, “Why do you care?” He said, “I don’t care. I just want to know who to blame for the situation.” In other words, he was looking for an opportunity to cast aspersions on another member of the community.

That person has lost his way. May Allah help him and guide him, soften his heart and fill him with love for fellow human beings.

The Messenger of Allah has told us how we should look upon those in pain:

Nu`man bin Bashir (May Allah bepleased with them) reported: the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

In a very powerful statement of our human obligations, Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices by overbidding against one another; do not hate one another; do not harbour malice against one another; and do not enter into commercial transaction when others have entered into that (transaction); but be you, O servants of Allah, as brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he look down upon him, nor does he humiliate him. Piety is here, (and he pointed to his chest three times). It is enough evil for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother-in-faith: his blood, his property and his honour.” (Muslim)

The Deed is the Destination

Let’s allow the sight of those in pain to move us, even to hurt us, because therein lies our redemption. Therein lies our salvation from our own sins and sufferings. When I say the sight of others’ pain should move us, I mean literally that it should make us move, make us act to help.

There is so much pain already in this world. I don’t want to add an atom’s weight to it, and I know you don’t either. Let’s be sources of ease and comfort to others. Let’s be helpers to Allah, which means being helpers to humanity. Let us be beacons of love. Does that sound like a huge, impossible standard? It’s really not. There is such a dearth of selfless caring in the world, that someone who lets the smallest amount of compassion flow freely becomes a torch bearer to all around.

It doesn’t even matter if those whom you help appreciate it. I once knew someone who took a small boat full of clothing, food and toys to the impoverished Kuna Indians of Panama, who live on tiny islands off the Caribbean coastline. She was bitter because they did not thank her, and the families who received the gifts tried to hoard them rather than sharing with other families. I can see how that might be disappointing, but as Muslims we must act fee-sabeel-illah, in the cause of Allah. The value lies in the act itself. We cannot control other people’s hearts, and we cannot determine outcomes. The deed itself is the destination.

It also doesn’t matter if others mock us for being compassionate. And yes, that happens sometimes. People will call you naive, foolish, idealistic… That’s okay, let them, and let it slip away. For every one who taunts you, ten others will be inspired, and once again it does not matter because we do what we do fee-sabeel-illah, not for the respect and admiration of others. The mission is action, and the end is with Allah.

Lift the Torch

There is darkness in the world. It is spread by the wicked among Muslims and non-Muslims. It takes the form of cruelty, bigotry, abuse of those who are weak, political imprisonment, torture, and war for material gain. It lies over the cities and continents like a shadow.

We need torch bearers of truth, justice and love. We need the torch of Islam and imaan (faith) held high. Lift the torch high. Laa ilaha il-Allah.

You change the world, or the world changes you

Iceland waterfall and rainbow

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Keep faith in yourself and don’t let anyone else define your reality. You are strong and unique. You have a particular mission in this life that only you can fulfill. You can wake up in the morning and change the world, one small step at a time, just by fulfilling your unique mission.

Maybe you think, “Hey, I don’t want to change the world. I just want to stay sane, take care of myself and my family, perform the Islamic rituals and hope for Jannah.”

The thing is, life is always a contest between the world changing you, or you changing the world. The world pushes, and if you don’t push back then it will inevitably corrupt you in one way or another.

Today’s world tries to change you through the pressures of:

  • blind materialism
  • consumerism
  • sexual imagery in the media
  • constant advertising
  • negative portrayals of Islam
  • alcohol and drug use
  • peer pressure

to name a few.

Sometimes the pressures are more brutal and blunt: emotional or sexual abuse, pornography, violence, racism, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and war.

Iman (faith) is not static. It rises or it falls, but it never freezes in place. If the world is not changing you then you must be changing the world.

You change the world by spreading light, teaching truth, being honorable and kind, behaving with sincerity in all things, showing compassion to all people, and always being just. You exert an outward pressure of truth that has a transformational effect on those around you, beginning with your family, and then rippling out to all those you come in contact with, and then everyone they come in contact with, flowing outward in concentric circles.

The ultimate world-changer – and our eternal example – was the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah describes Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Quran as an illuminating lamp: “O Prophet, indeed We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. And one who invites to Allah, by His permission, and an illuminating lamp.” (Quran, Al Ahzab 45-46).

The Prophet’s light radiates throughout humanity and the ages. Any objective observer must admit the power and influence of the Prophet’s tremendous struggle. A non-Muslim writer named Michael Hart, in his book, “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”, ranked the Prophet Muhammad as the single most influential human being in history.

The Prophet grew up in a society of idol worship, moral corruption and constant blood feuds, but he never allowed that society to taint his innocent nature. Not knowing how he should worship Allah, he kept himself distant from the evil around him and sought Allah in his own way, until Prophethood came to him. When it did, he accepted the burden and fulfilled the trust, exerting an outward pressure so powerful that it changed the entire world forever.

The same is true for you and I, on a smaller scale. We’ve been given a trust and a mission. We are to be callers to Tawheed, witnesses for truth, a civilizing force, champions of human equality, and restorers of human values (the fact that many modern Muslims have failed abominably on every point does not change the truth of this).

“O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him].

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.

And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.” (Quran, Aal-Imran: 102-104)

That is our mission and trust. If we fulfill it – even if we only try – we will change the world, maybe incrementally, maybe profoundly.

If we fail, then the world will change us, and not for the better.

There is one key to success in fulfilling our mission to change the world. It’s not purity, because in a post-Prophethood age, no one is truly pure. Purification of the soul is indeed a lifelong goal to strive for, but it is not the key.

It’s not wisdom, or power, or finance. It’s not even knowledge. Knowledge is the most powerful tool there is, but like any other tool it can be used or misused. That’s why a little knowledge can be a powerful thing, while great knowledge can sometimes be crippling.

Purity, wisdom and knowledge are goals for us to pursue. But none of those is the single most important key to changing the world.

The key is sincerity in all things:  sincerity with Allah, with your family, your friends, your colleagues, and – this is the greatest challenge of all – sincerity with yourself. Sincerity enc0mpasses purity, because actions done sincerely are done with purity of intention, and with obedience to Allah. Sincerity implies selflessness, seeking knowledge and applying it with compassion, kindness, respect, and fairness.

“Say, ‘Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the way of Abraham, inclining toward truth. And he was not among those who associated others with Allah.’ Say, ‘Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims.'” (Qur’ân 6: 161-163).

That is the ultimate level of sincerity, and the challenge of a lifetime. If you can even approach that level of sincerity, you will change the world, whether you intend it or not.

Life is always a contest between the world changing you, or you changing the world. The prize that lies in the balance is the fate of your soul. Who will win?

Stop trying to control others, and change yourself instead

Man and his camel before the sunset

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11)

Brothers and sisters, each of us must accept that we can only change ourselves. That is the key to changing our situations in life. We can’t control anyone else’s feelings or actions. We cannot make anyone love us, treat us better, respect us even when we deserve it, accept us even when we are right, befriend us even when we are sweet, or believe in us even when we’re true.

Dua’ is not a magic spell that allows you to control other human beings.

Neither will Allah coerce anyone to love us or accept us. Of course He can – He has power over all things – but it is not His way. Allah created us with free will, the ability to choose our own paths in life, and He does not take that away by controlling our emotions or compelling us down predetermined roads. Yes, everything is written, but that does not mean it’s forced, only that the outcome is known to Allah in advance.

I am thinking specifically of people who imagine that there is some special dua’ (prayer) they can say to make someone love them, or stop abusing them and treat them kindly instead. There is not, to my knowledge, and Allah knows best. And the same principle extends to all human interactions: dua’ is not a charm or potion that you can use to control others.

This is true even in very important matters such as guiding people to the truth and bringing them to the worship of Allah. We can certainly pray for Allah to guide someone, but we must understand that Allah’s guidance consists of showing clear signs, no more. It’s up to the individual to make the choice to believe or not. Allah does not force the outcome.

“And if there was any Quran by which the mountains would be removed or the earth would be broken apart or the dead would be made to speak, [it would be this Quran], but to Allah belongs the affair entirely. Then have those who believed not accepted that had Allah willed, He would have guided the people, all of them?” (Quran 13:31)

In other words Allah could certainly force everyone into submission if He willed, or He could manifest miraculous and powerful signs – such as the earth splitting or the dead speaking – that would compel all human beings to submit in fear and awe, as He said:

“If We willed We could send down a sign from heaven to them, and then their necks would be lowered to it in subjection.” (Quran 26:4).

For that matter, Allah could have created us all in submission from the start. He chose not to.

If Allah chose to leave such critical issues within the realm of our free will – vital issues such as acknowledging the truth of Allah’s power, worshiping Him or serving false gods, following the Prophets or rejecting them (and some even killed their Prophets!) – if He chose to leave these all-important issues within the realm of our agency, and under the dominion of our discretion, do you think He is going to violate the principle of free will in order to force your boyfriend or girlfriend to love you and come back to you?

I’m sorry, but this is what it seems to come down to for some people. They actually speak of committing suicide if the boyfriend/girlfriend does not return (ignoring the fact that this relationship is Islamically unlawful in the first place), then they want a dua’ that will force the object of their desire to fall in love, as if dua’ is some kind of magic potion from a fairy tale.

Nor is dua’ going to force your husband to stop abusing you and become kind and loving. Nor will it change occupiers into happy campers so that they quit their occupation, or turn tyrants into hippies who wear flowers in their hair and open the political prisons. I’m not belittling these oppressive situations – they have haunted me for most of my life, and I consider myself a human rights activist. And I’m not saying that dua’ is not effective against oppression – actually the Prophet (pbuh) has told us that the dua’ of the oppressed is one of those categories of dua’ that is guaranteed a response.

Narrated Abu Ma’bad, that the Prophet said, “… and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person because there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.” Sahih Bukhari: Volume 2, Book 24, Number 573.

But the response is not going to be forcing someone else to change heart, or become loving, kind or peaceful. That is an artificial expectation and it doesn’t work that way.

What, then? Is it all hopeless? No, far from it! The hope does not lie in changing someone else, it lies in changing yourself. That’s the whole point. Your free will and power do not extend over others, but they do encompass yourself. When you make a sincere choice to change your own life, when you purge yourself of blind desire, bitterness, self-pity, addiction and sin, when you work at it like your life depends on it, and when you make sincere and pure dua’ to Allah, then Allah’s help comes. New doors open, maybe not the solutions that you thought you wanted, but something better.

“And those who struggle in Our cause, We shall certainly guide them to our paths. For verily Allah is with those who do right.” (Quran 29:69)

A steep road, but not an impossible one

Sometimes there’s serious internal work that must be done before we can change. I’ve said that we cannot control others, we can only control our own choices, but some of us are out of control. We keep making the wrong choices over and over again, and we don’t know why, so we seek to blame our situations on others, and we imagine that they are the ones who need to change, not us.

How did we get to be this way? It usually traces back to the way we were raised. Parents are supposed to be loving and supportive, and most of them are, Alhamdulillah. But there are many rotten parents out there as well, dysfunctional people who turn their homes into environments of confusion and suffering. These parents might be alcohol or drug addicts, violent towards spouses and children, or verbally demeaning.

I remember one family I knew well when I was young. The parents were Muslim converts, and they had five children. The mother was German, and the father Arab. They used to scream at each other daily, in front of the children. The mother would shout, “Arab savage!” And the father would shout back, “German barbarian!” The father would sometimes strike the mother or throw things. I remember one time when he picked up a vacuum cleaner and held it over his head like a war club, shouting. It sounds comical, but the effect on the children was not so funny. Both parents often yelled at the children and insulted them. The children were under nourished, partly because the family was always short of money (the father never held a steady job), and partly because the environment was so chaotic that mealtimes were neglected. In their teens, the two eldest children had not learned to read and write.

This family was active in the masjid, their friends were all Muslim, they attended Muslim youth camps in summer… an outsider would never guess at the insanity that existed inside the home.

Those children are all adults now. One married a non-Muslim abuser who beat her while she was pregnant. She became an alcoholic and drug user before she finally returned to Islam many years later. One left Islam and became a Hindu. One is chronically ill and has never married. He’s bitter and expresses many racist ideas toward Arabs in particular. One married an Algerian man who beats her badly enough to put her in the hospital, yet she refuses to leave him. Only the eldest has what you would consider a healthy and normal Muslim family, though he expresses an unexplainable sense of deep sadness that has persisted inside him for years. The parents themselves have been divorced for many years, and each lives alone in their home countries.

Parents like these can do a number on you for life. They can knuckle your self-esteem into the ground, crush your sense of self-worth, and give you a skewed picture of what a family is supposed to be. If you grew up in such a home then you may have been thoroughly indoctrinated into believing that all the abuse heaped on you is your own darn fault.

As a result some of us have uncontrollable tempers, or a lack of will to resist abuse, or a lack of faith in our own talents and dreams. And so the cycle of broken spirits and bad parenting is perpetuated into another generation.

If any of that sounds like you, then you have a steep road to climb, but not an impossible one. You must find a way to break out of the ruinous mold that you’ve been forced into and emerge a new human being, light and free, or at least on your way to becoming free. It’s not an easy process; in fact it can be enormously difficult because it requires self-candor. It’s hard to look at ourselves honestly, with none of the self-deception that we normally employ like a crutch, and say, “I’m messed up inside. Regardless of how I got to be this way, I’m an adult now and I’m responsible for my own actions. I can’t keep blaming my problems on others, or on external circumstances. If I want a better life, I have to start by changing myself.”

That’s very hard. It requires prayer, dua’, study and introspection, and maybe therapy as well. It’s rigorous work, and it’s important, and it takes time. But it can be done.

The same is true for failed relationships, by the way. People say, “My husband/wife betrayed me and broke my heart. Now I can never trust anyone again.”

I’m very sorry that someone hurt you, but you must recognize that the choice not to trust anyone in the future is exactly that, a choice. Of course there’s going to be a period of mourning after a failed relationship, but if you let it affect you forever then that is something you are doing to yourself, not something the other person did to you. There comes a point when you must take responsibility for your own choices and acknowledge your own power. You can choose to love again, to trust again, to be happy again. It’s not necessarily easy, in fact it can be quite frightening, but it is certainly possible. And if you choose loneliness over the risk of being hurt again, then admit that it is your own choice, not some tragic doom that has been forced upon you.

You can make better choices, by Allah’s will.

You can make better choices, or at least different ones. You can wake up in the morning and be a better human being than you were yesterday. You can strengthen your relationship with Allah, pray at night, purify your spirit, exercise your body, eat your veggies and healthy proteins, study and work hard, love your family like a steady summer breeze, treat people with compassion, help someone who is suffering, speak the truth even when it’s not easy, and be a living example of taqwa.

And yes, have fun too, and pursue your dreams. Look within yourself to find your own God-given gifts, your own special treasure chest, and develop them. Bring something meaningful into the world. Be crazy if you have to – good crazy, not bad crazy. A shot of good craziness is sometimes exactly what the world needs.

If you make these changes sincerely, expecting nothing, doing it all to please Allah and to be the best you that you can possibly be, you’ll find the world changing around you in response. And yes, dua’ is an important part of this process, for dua’ is the essence of worship. But you won’t need to plead with Allah to make someone else do something, or be something, or feel something. Your duas will focus on other things, healthy things that have to do with your relationship with Allah, your struggle in His path, your destination in the aakhirah, relieving hardship in your life, helping your family and supporting the Ummah and all who are oppressed and in need.

You will have moved to a place of positively charged energy, a place of health and vitality, and you’ll find that what you need in life will come to you like a cat to catnip.

Drop and drop makes an inundation

Drop of water on a vine

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

“A little and a little, collected together, becomes a great deal; the heap in the barn consists of single grains, and drop and drop makes an inundation.” – Arabic proverb

Do what good you can in this life and don’t worry that it’s too little, or that it won’t change things, or that you do not see immediate results. Your contribution matters. The ripples spread outward, even unseen, so that your presence on earth eventually affects everyone else in the world.

Or, if you don’t put stock in proverbs, then remember the words of Allah in Surat Az-Zalzalah:

“Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.” (Quran 99:7-8).

Never listen to those who say that it’s pointless to try, or that the good work you are doing is hopeless. The tiniest bit of good you do, matters. An atom’s weight of effort makes a difference! It changes things, whether you see it or not.

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