Poem: Build a Dream

Tree of dreams

Build a Dream

I have trudged through sands.
I have come with injured hands
to build a dream.

I’ve given it all to you
and worn ragged shoes.
I’ve grown lean.

I’m walking this path
out of the dark past
carrying child and faith.

I’m late on the scene –
but I am not done trying
to build a dream.


Wael Abdelgawad
January 26, 2015
Fresno, California

Chase Your Dream – Poem by Mirza Yawar Baig

Beautiful road

My Thoughts

My deepest fear is that I will simply die one day
Crying for what might have been
The earth will be free of carrying my burden
And there will be no trace of my passing

What use such a life?
That one lives and one dies
Yet there is nothing to show that either happened!

Nothing was changed
No oppression relieved
No ideas ignited
No lives touched
Nothing!!

Just that I had lived
And now I am dead

Chase your dream and know
Dreams want to be caught
To live, the dream must come true
Until then it is only a dream

I walked alone through the desert
I walked alone by the ocean
I walked alone through the forest
I walked alone on the mountain

For I was born to die
But I was not born to die without meaning
I was given the chance to make what meaning I desired
For that is what would define me when I was gone

I ask myself, ‘What did I do?’
What more could I have done?
For in the end it was not about others
It was about me.

By Mirza Yawar Baig  of YawarBaig.org

Keep up your good work

Sunrise behind a hill, Sun and tree

Sunrise

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Keep up all your good work. Don’t give up on yourself.

I am 100% sure that there are people who admire you and look up to you.

Recite Surat al-Asr often and contemplate the meaning. Imam Shafi’ famously said that if Allah had revealed only Surat-al-Asr, it would have been enough for the guidance of humanity.

By the time!
Surely, humankind is in loss –
Except for those who believe and perform righteous deeds, and strive together for truth, and strive together for patience. – Quran 103

Those who do as Surat al-Asr advises are not in loss. Where are they? In success, peacefulness, gratitude, and progress.

If you are still struggling on the path to your dream, then believe in yourself and know that you have a bright future in your work and in love, Insha’Allah. Problems never last, but patient people do. Your day will come, don’t worry.

Make dua’ (pray) immediately when you wake up, and last thing before you sleep. Be peaceful and trust Allah. The road unfolds ahead of you each day. Keep your head up.

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.

To Be Human is to Move

Woman climbing Mt. Everest

On May 16, 1975, then 35-year-old Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

It is your Lord who drives the ship for you through the sea that you may seek of His bounty. Indeed, He is ever, to you, Merciful. – Quran 17:66

To be human is to move. To learn and improve ourselves. To evolve. To fall, take our bruises and stand again, wiser for the experience. To use our bodies, minds and spirits to do good in the world, for ourselves and others.

Mountains and statues stand still. And the dead – the dead do not move. They lie in one spot, powerless, no longer able to say, “I love you,” or, “I seek forgiveness.” No longer able to pray. No longer able to walk, run, play, visit friends. Unable to move.

But to be human – and alive – is to move:  move on, move forward, move upward! To be human is to speak your heart, pray to the Creator, and strive to do better each day, so that when our time comes, and we join our ancestors in the grave, we have something good to carry with us to the next life.

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”  ~Frederick Douglass

Move Your Feet

Blue and white earth

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Life is a heavyweight bout. The other guy – let’s call him Mr. World – hits hard and doesn’t let up. There’s no standing eight count. If you lose this particular bout you don’t die, you just go to your corner and sit on a stool. Everyone’s gone and the arena is dark. You sit there nursing your wounds and wondering what might have been.

The good news is that anytime you want a rematch, it’s yours. The lights come up and the crowd roars, and Mr. World is there again, dancing in his blue-green robe, throwing combinations you’ve never seen. You don’t have to be big to win this fight. You just have to want it, and believe, and move your feet, and not take no for an answer.

Tanzanian girl’s long walk to school

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I was humbled by this photo essay on the BBC News online, depicting the danger-fraught journey that an eight year-old Tanzanian girl must take to get to school.

Eight-year-old Sylvia, in rural Tanzania, is determined to get an education and each school day makes a long and often risky one-and-a-half hour journey by foot – on her own – to school. Her family is poor and cannot afford to provide her with basic shoes for the walk or a good uniform. But she is considered lucky as it is estimated that 29 million primary school-aged children, more than half of them girls, are out of school in Africa.

There is so much we take for granted, and I ask God to forgive me for anytime I have been wasteful, or have failed to appreciate the blessings in my life. I’m awed and inspired by Sylvia’s determination and vision. I have no doubt that she will succeed and build a bright future for herself, Insha’Allah.

My Only Advice

Take responsibility for your own choices.

Take responsibility for your own choices.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I’m often touched by my readers’ comments, and I feel grateful to Allah that I have the opportunity to help people through my writing.

I apologize that I’m unable to advise people personally through email or Facebook chat. I have so many business and personal projects going, and I have a daughter to take care of. And I have my own struggles. I’m doing my best just to walk the path.

If you need advice on a marriage or family issue, please to go my IslamicAnswers.com website and submit your question to the team.

Here is the best advice I can give for any situation:

“Take responsibility for your own choices and happiness. Live up to your talents and make something happen. Eliminate ‘I can’t’ from your vocabulary. Create opportunities. People will tell you ‘no’: you tell them ‘yes’.

Turn to God for guidance with an open heart and have the courage to follow what comes, rather than clinging to your own imagined outcomes. He will always provide a way out, will always open a door; you only need eyes to see it, and that comes from sincerity.

Be sincere with yourself above all, because if you’re lying to yourself then you’re stuck. Focus on your own mistakes rather than the mistakes of others, but only in order to learn and do better. Don’t bind yourself with guilt and self-pity. Regret for the past is a waste: it’s gone and you can’t change it, so forgive yourself and forgive others.

Believe in something greater than yourself. You have a purpose in this life, a mission, and most likely you know in your heart what it is, so find a way to follow that path, one step at a time.

Guard your spirit from harm but be open to love. Choose compassion again and again, even when the world makes it hard. Be patient with your family and friends. Don’t hold your love back: you only go through this world once, so let your love shine like the sun.”

***

If this has been helpful, then make dua’ for me. Jazakum Allah khayr, may Allah reward you all.

Don’t You Fall Now

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

– Langston Hughes

When the Unstoppable Force Meets the Immovable Object

Rhinoceros charging

The unstoppable force

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

There’s a centuries old Chinese story about a man trying to sell a spear and a shield. When asked how good his spear was, he said that his spear could pierce any shield. Then, when asked how good his shield was, he said that it could defend from all spear attacks. One person asked him what would happen if he were to take his spear and strike his shield; the seller could not answer. This led to the idiom of “zìx?ang máodùn“, or “self-contradictory”.

Today we would call this a paradox. A modern phrasing of this particular paradox might be, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

The scientist and author Isaac Asimov answered this by saying that the question was essentially meaningless, because a universe in which there exists such a thing as an irresistible force is, by definition, a universe which cannot also contain an immovable object, and vice versa.

I want to look at this paradox from a personal angle, in terms of challenges in our relationships and at work, and confronting the myriad obstacles of life.

I believe that – within this worldly plane and subject only to God’s decree – the human will triumphs over all. I can become either the unstoppable force or the immovable object.

Unstoppable Force

Try it. When faced with a challenge, become the unstoppable force. Don’t give up, no matter what. If one approach does not work, try another. Ignore those who tell you that what you’re doing is impossible. Learn from failure and try again. When the road is dark, ask Allah for guidance and feel your way forward. When the path is obscured with thorns and branches, blaze your own trail. You will find that through sheer determination, the so-called “unstoppable force” will crumble before you like a clod of dirt, Insha’Allah.

I’ve experienced this. By not taking “no” for an answer, I’ve gotten jobs when there were no jobs to be had. By being persistent and patient and never losing hope, I’ve experienced true love. By never quitting even when I was tired and discouraged, I’ve become a martial arts expert.

I first began practicing martial arts as a teenager. I used to literally walk across the desert outside Riyadh to get to karate class, carrying stones in case I needed to keep the wild dogs at bay. Later, when I lived in Oakland, I took up a different martial art called Hapkido. When I moved to Panama I found a Hapkido school and I rode the bus over an hour each way to get there. The bus had no air conditioning and was packed with tired Panamanians going home from work. It was noisy, hot and uncomfortable. People covered their mouths with cloths because of the smog. The Hapkido school also had no air conditioning. After class I would wring the sweat out of my uniform.

When I later moved up to a village in the mountains there were no martial arts schools nearby, so I bought mats, laid them in my living room, and recruited a few locals to come to my house for training. I even convinced my gardener to practice with me, on the clock. So I was paying him to learn from me, just so I could have a practice partner! When I returned to California I found no Hapkido school, so I started my own class, and three years later that class is still going strong. Meanwhile I have earned black belts in two other martial arts.

I’m not boasting, I’m simply trying to give you a real-world example. When you want something badly enough, become the unstoppable force. Keep moving toward your goal no matter what.

Immovable Object

Conversely, when you feel like you are under attack, become the immovable object. Duck your head and root yourself like a mountain, and the “unstoppable force” will break around you like a breeze. Whether you are under attack for your faith, or being criticized for making life choices that others do not understand, hold your ground and do not yield an inch, as long as you are on the right path.

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) began preaching in Makkah, the people were idol worshipers. The Prophet used to go to the Ka’bah, the square mosque which is the oldest house of worship on earth, and preach the idea of “Laa ilaha-il-Allah”. There is no God but Allah. In other words no idol is worthy of worship, no human being should be deified, no saint or angel should be venerated. Only Allah (God – the Creator).

Because of this preaching the Quraysh (the Arab tribe which held sway in Makkah, and to which the Prophet Muhammad himself belonged) persecuted him relentlessly. And yet he persisted, gaining followers, until the Quraysh became desperate. They met with Muhammad (sws) privately, and offered to make him king of Quraysh, and to bestow great wealth on him, on the condition that he stop preaching. He replied, “…if they should put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, even then I shall not abandon the proclamation of the Oneness of God. I shall set up the true faith upon the earth or perish in the attempt.”

Allahu Akbar! That is the immovable object! I will not detail the extreme suffering that was imposed upon the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his family after that; the economic boycott, the assassination attempts and attempted wars of extermination against the Muslims; suffice it to say that Islam persisted and grew until it became one of the two dominant religions of the world. All because one man was unstoppable and immovable.

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