Too Small to Make a Difference? – Ask a Mosquito

Mosquito white background

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.” – African proverb.

A mosquito makes a difference in an annoying way, but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. One person matters.

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.

 

 

Believe in Allah, Because He Believes in You

Amazing sunrays and clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living Better Than Kings

Hunger in the Horn of Africa

A father holds his child in the Horn of Africa

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Be grateful for what you have.

There are people in this world in desperate situations: homeless, refugees, starving, traumatized by war, alone after losing their entire families. Help those people – donate for Somalia if you haven’t already – then take a moment to thank Allah for what you have.

We live better than the kings and queens of the past. We have amenities that would have seemed like magic to them. Food from all over the world on demand, indoor plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, radio, TV, computers, internet, medical care, education…

These modern conveniences meet our physical needs, but they don’t fill our spirits. Be grateful to Allah for what you have, live simply, and don’t overload your soul with distractions. Focus on your relationship with Allah. Be at peace with yourself.

If your life is still lacking in some way, then make a change. Create a goal, and take a step. You have all the tools you need. Your most important tools are not tablet computers and smart phones. They are courage, faith, and the ability to say, “Yes! I am someone, I matter, and I will follow my dream.”

Keep Your Head Up and Smile

Beautiful road, forest road, road to the future

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Keep your head up, smile, and look to the future. You have much yet to do in this life. Ask Allah for guidance, then do what your heart tells you, speak the words that you’ve always held back, and be yourself.

Don’t let the past freeze you in place, and don’t punish yourself for things you cannot change. Everything you’ve experienced:  the happy times, loneliness, laughter and tears, all have meaning, and have all gone into making you who you are. If you have any wisdom or insight, it is probably a result of hardship you’ve experienced in the past.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Everything that you do today has meaning. The caress you give a child, the help you give a stranger, the quiet charity, all matter and make a difference, even when you don’t see it. It’s all worth it. Your love maters, your work matters, your life matters.

Keep your head up, and forge forward fee-sabeel-illah. Accept yourself and be at peace. Look ahead and smile. Stand up straight, and don’t bow your head except in prayer. Keep praying, learning, thinking, following your dreams, and loving the people in your life. You are my brothers, my sisters, my heroes.

Expecting Great Things, and Doing My Part

Misty rainbow in Waialu Valley, Hawaii

Misty rainbow in Waialu Valley, Hawaii

“Holding on to the rope of the LORD, believing in the power of prayers, faith and good deeds. Expecting great things from GOD. I am ready and willing to put in the work and do my part to make it happen… faith without works equals nothing but false hope… wanting without striving and struggling is like dreaming. I gotta get busy putting in more work!”

– Hanan K Bilal

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?

Allah guides those who struggle

Steep mountain path


By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Allah guides those who struggle. “And those who strive in Our cause, We will surely guide them to Our paths.” – Al-Ankaboot, 29:69. Struggle may seem like something to be avoided, but the alternative is to walk in dim light, seeing nothing clearly. If our lives consist of sitting on the sofa watching TV, doing jobs without passion, shrugging our shoulders at the suffering of others, and accepting the unreality that is pushed at us by advertising and the media, then we are living in shadow, even when the sun shines.

Yes, we all have bills to pay, and sometimes we work jobs that we are not passionate about, in order to support our families. I have a website about money transfer services, and another about paying bills online. They are boring, but I spend time on them because they earn money. In my free time I struggle to do work that is important to me – this website being a notable example. Even a short article might take me two or three days to write, because of the limited time I have to work on it. Longer articles can take weeks. And yet people sometimes tell me that my writing has changed their lives.

We can all find a little time every day to pursue what we love, and to make a difference in people’s lives, even in a small way. Beyond that, we must strive to represent truth in everything we do:  in our family lives, our work, our entertainment – everything.

Imam Jamil Al-Amin wrote in 2006:

“In the heart there is an emptiness and a need which nothing can satisfy except for the remembrance of Allah (swt). The only proof of faith is in struggle, struggling in word and deed, in body and soul. The lack of faith will crush you far more than defeat ever could. ‘And what will explain to you the path that is steep?’ (90:12). Conscious struggle is the path that is steep. Struggle where bitter hardship and misfortune and difficulty becomes sweet tasting to the soul.”

There is no road to success except through the struggle for truth and righteousness. This is actually good news, because if you’re a seeker, if you’ve got a nose for truth, if you care about justice, then you’re already struggling, walking a hard road. It’s inevitable. Those who pursue truth and speak it out loud are seen as strangers and subversives. You might wonder sometimes if it’s worth it, or if you’re moving in the right direction.

Don’t worry. The fact that you’re struggling means that Allah is guiding you, and you’re on the right road.

The Power of Persistence

Machu Picchu and clouds

Machu Picchu, Peru

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Here’s a true story about the power of persistence:

Once, many years ago, I arrived in San Francisco on a warm July day with no friends, no contacts and only a little money in my pocket. I needed work. What I did have was confidence. I had been through some very hard times, and had learned to fight for what I wanted, and not to accept “no” for an answer.

I met a fellow who was a courier and he suggested that I try it. He gave me the names of some courier companies. I visited several and filled out applications, but there was one company in particular that I liked. It seemed well outfitted and professionally run. I spoke to the human resources manager and he told me that they did not need anyone but that I should check back in several months. “Summertime is slow here,” he said. “Try us in fall.”

I came back early the next morning. I couldn’t wait until autumn, and I wasn’t interested in sitting around and hoping for someone to look at my application and call me. I knew they had stacks of applications in filing drawers. I had decided where I wanted to work, and all that remained was for them to accept my reality.

The HR manager said, “Weren’t you here yesterday and I told you we don’t need anyone?” I said yes, but I thought maybe someone might call in sick and they could use me just for the day. The HR manager gave me an appraising look and said, “No, nothing like that. Why don’t you come back in a month?”

I came back the next day. This time the HR man smiled and said, “I’ll tell you what, come back in one week.”

I came back the next day. It was a Thursday. The HR man rolled his eyes in exasperation and said, “Listen. Come back on Monday and I’ll see what I can do.”

I came back the next day, Friday. He gave me a job starting that day. I worked for that company for five years and got promoted twice.

That’s a true story.

I know it’s harder nowadays with the economy in shambles. I’m not guaranteeing that you can get a job by following these tips. But it will certainly help your chances, Insha’Allah. And if you take that same persistence and apply it to every endeavor in your life, I believe you will find that even mountains will crumble before you.

And Allah knows best.

I’m really not a fan of Madison Avenue’s ubiquitous ad messages, but there was a Nike ad that I saw once that really resonated for me. In fact I tore it out of the magazine and pasted it up on the wall, right beside my bed. It said:

All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you’re not good enough or strong enough or talented enough; they will say you’re the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. THEY WILL TELL YOU NO, a thousand times no, until all the no’s become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly.

AND YOU WILL TELL THEM YES.

May Allah help all of you and provide for you and your families.

(O Allah), Guide us to the straight path; The path of those whom you have favored; Not those with whom you are angry; Nor those who go astray.

Real Heroes Don’t Wear Tights

My daughter Salma, 7-9-2011

My daughter Salma, 7-9-2011

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Real heroes don’t wear tights and capes. They work to feed their families, support their ailing parents, cook and clean, sacrifice for their children, and try – in this confusing, bruising, joyful, beautiful trip we call life – to pursue their dreams and make something happen.

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