Accountable for Our Blessings

Vancouver from the air

Vancovuer, Canada from the air

I’m still in Vancouver for a martial arts seminar, and it’s so beautiful here. Mountains, rivers, trees, beaches, shining buildings, and perfect weather. When Allah has given a people so much, they will be accountable for what they did with their blessings.

Are we doing what we should with our blessings? Are we grateful? Do we share? Do we proclaim the truth? Are we fulfilling our potentials?

If not, then there is no better time to begin than right now, this moment. Choose one small way to be a better Muslim, and implement it in your life today. That’s how it starts. The road to Jannah begins with the first step.

Diligence is the Mother of Good Luck

Hanalei River Valley in Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei River Valley in Kauai, Hawaii... God created the earth and everything in it, and laid it at your feet

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” – Arabic proverb

If you want something, work for it and do not stop. That’s how you create your own luck. Whether you were born into a rich family or a poor one, whether you are innately talented or not, whether you have charisma and charm or you are a tongue-tied nerd, it doesn’t matter. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to be rich, talented, and charismatic, but you can succeed without them, and you’ll appreciate it all the more. All you have to do is hang on even after others have let go.

Don’t bemoan your fate. No one is born into a perfect family. Don’t complain about lack of resources. Allah created this world and everything in it, and laid it at your feet. If you’re facing the right direction, you can reach anywhere in the world if you keep on walking.

Find a Way

In 1997 I started a small web development consulting service. I really wanted to work with Muslims and help to create Islamic websites. As a small adjunct to my service, I started a Muslim matrimonial service. I thought of it as a hobby. That was the first incarnation of Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials. It was one of the first three such services on the internet. The problem was that I was not really a programmer (I was more of a graphic designer), and in the beginning I was hand-creating every page for every ad. The traffic climbed, until I was getting many new ads every day. It quickly became impossible.

I contacted some large web development firms to get a price quote for building a proper, automated matchmaking service. Their quotes were too high for me. I contacted some firms in India, and found one that would build the website first, and let me pay in monthly installments of $500. The bill was many thousands of dollars, and that was at a time when I could barely pay the bills. I agreed to the deal, not knowing where the money would come from. Every month I had to come up with $500 somehow. I eliminated all unnecessary expenses, I borrowed from my parents and my wife, and somehow I made it, and paid it all off.

More than ten years later, Zawaj.com is still my bread and butter.  I don’t know what I would have done without it. I feel that Allah guided me to make that choice, and I was smart enough and determined enough to seize the opportunity. For once in my life, ha ha!

Make your own luck. Make something happen. Find a way.

Diligence, diligence. Focus on your goal, work hard, don’t give up… be as persistent as the sun. Sometimes the sun is hidden behind clouds, but it’s there every day. It’s okay to have days when you’re tired, when it seems hopeless, when you wish life would give you a break, but just keep showing up every day and doing the work, and your break will come.

Whoever said that opportunity knocks once must not have been paying attention, because opportunities come along all the time. It’s just that you have to listen for them, and you must lay the groundwork so that you are ready when the knock comes.

Faith and Diligence

I’ll finish with a story from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (sws):

Narrated Khabbab bin Al-Arat:
We complained to Allah’s Apostle (of the persecution inflicted on us by the disbelievers) while he was sitting in the shade of the Ka’ba, leaning over his Burd (i.e. covering sheet). We said to him, “Would you seek help for us? Would you pray to Allah for us?” He said, “Among the nations before you a (believing) man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that (torture) would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves, yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion (i.e. Islam) will prevail till a traveler from Sana (in Yemen) to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you (people) are hasty.”

What type of persecution was Khabbab referring to? Was it simple name calling, or Muslim businesses being boycotted? No, it was torture and murder. Bilal was laid in the desert with a huge stone on his chest. Others were place in chains, burned, stabbed by spears… all because they had adopted the religion of Allah. So it was no small thing they were complaining of. And yet all the Prophet had to say to them was that they were hasty, and that a time would come when all of Arabia would be united and safe. Someone standing beside him at the moment, looking around at the weak circumstances in which the Muslims found themselves, might have found such a statement hard to believe. But the Messenger of Allah (sws) had faith, and he had diligence, and those together can achieve anything.

Be the Person You Are Looking For

Double rainbow and bluebird

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

When seeking a marriage partner, or even if you’re already in a relationship, be the kind of person you want to be with. If you want someone who puts Allah first, then put Allah first! If you’re looking for someone kind and open hearted, then be kind and open hearted. If you want someone athletic and slim who loves sports and the outdoors, then be athletic and spend time outdoors. If you want someone who is calm and trustworthy, then express those traits in your own life.

If you want someone who is absolutely honest, then be absolutely honest!

For those who are already married and wish their partners were different in some way, realize that you cannot change anyone else. The impetus to change has to come from them. What you can do is set an example. Walk the path yourself, and hold out your hand, and maybe your partner will follow. Just make sure you do it with love, not with judgment. I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you’re close to someone who is dedicated to something, you get interested in it too, sometimes without even meaning to. If you have a friend who loves to play ping pong, you’ll end up playing ping pong with them sooner or later. This happens in marriages too. Show your love for Quran, or salat, or healthy food, or fitness, and it will rub off on your partner.

For those who are seeking a partner, spend less time looking outward, and more time filling your own heart with love and joy.

Don’t imagine that you can be irreligious, selfish and sedentary, and yet attract someone who is pious, generous, and fit. And if you are miserable, you’re not going to attract someone happy who will complete you and fill your life with joy. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it doesn’t work that way. If you are depressed and emotionally unhealthy, you are going to attract one of two types:

1. Someone who is also unhappy and unhealthy in ways that build on your misery like pieces of a sick puzzle. These kinds of matches are destructive, and lead to silent, non-communicative marriages; or infidelity and/or divorce.

2. A predator who may be stronger than you but is still unhealthy, and will prey on your unhappiness and weakness, using you up the way an olive press squeezes oil from the fruit.

Become a Diamond Among the Stones

If you are unhappy, then transform yourself first. Work on your spirit, mind, and body. Get involved in the world, exercise, study, strengthen your imaan, develop some hobbies, make friends. Pursue your goals and dreams.

Please understand, I’m not saying that you should develop these qualities just to attract a partner. No, do it for God and for yourself, so that you can grow as a human being. Be active in your ‘ibadah (worship), be humble and sincere. Do it for your own soul, and your heart.

If you do this, then you will find that good people will be automatically attracted to you. Like attracts like. If you are joyful, confident and sweet, you will appeal to someone similiar. Of course you might also attract lying, cheating bozos – the world is riddled with them – but you’ll be able to see through their lies and kick them to the curb.

Look, you don’t have to be perfect. Out of all the qualities I’ve mentioned, the most important is sincerity. It’s okay if you’ve got flaws. I sure do! I can make my daughter Salma a peanut butter sandwich (she likes it with honey) or scrambled eggs, and I can open a tin of green beans, but beyond that I couldn’t cook my way out of a tissue box. I weigh more than I should (my knees remind me of it daily), and I’m a klutz with mechanical repairs. Some of these things I’m working on, and others I’m not too concerned about, but I’m always struggling to improve myself in some way, every day. The crucial thing is, I’m sincere. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and if I find that my words don’t match my deeds, then I try to reform my deeds, or I moderate my speech.

Be sincere. Be honest. Live the life you aspire to. Be the ideal you that you see in your mind. You will become a joy magnet, and the ideal person who is fated for you will find you even in a crowd, like a diamond among the stones.

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.

Accept the Life that is Waiting for You

Beautiful road

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell.

You may have an idea about how your life should go: who you should be with, where you should live, what kind of career you should have. But Allah may have a different idea for you, and it is His plan that will manifest in your life, not yours.

Be open to Allah’s hand guiding you. Don’t fight it. Allah has something great in store for you, or He would not have created you. Your life has a meaning and purpose.

There is a mission on this earth that only you can accomplish. Many people never realize their destinies and never complete their missions. Will you? If so, then don’t waste your time staring at the closed door. Look around and see the other doors that Allah has opened for you.

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.

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!

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