Beautiful post by Imam Zaid Shakir:
As-Salaam Alaikum Beloveds,
Sometimes, when the situation seems too big, too complicated, too unbearable, give it to Allah. His capabilities are boundless. When you find yourself at a loss for words, you just don’t know what to say; ask Allah to guide your tongue, His words are inexhaustible.
When you find your courage challenged, your strength waning and don’t even know if you will be able to get out of bed to face another day in a seemingly dirty, dark, death-wishing dunya, ask Allah to lift you up, His strength will more than suffice you.
If you are feeling that the menacing clouds of tribulation gathering over the Sea of Despair are harbingers of yet another gut-wrenching storm, take time to pray. You will find that the light of truth will shine its life-giving rays through those clouds, caressing your heart, quickening it and allowing you to live, love and laugh for another day. Who could ask for more?
An isolation cell at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
What would you do if you were locked away in a prison like this for years? Would you keep up your prayers, alone in the solitude of your cell? Many Muslims do. Remember them in your dua’.
Yesterday I was watching a National Geographic show called “Hard Time”, about the state prison system in Georgia, USA. This episode was filmed in the “Hi-Max”, the ultra-high-security institution where inmates are permanently locked in isolation.
These cells have molded concrete walls and thick steel doors with tiny plexiglass windows. Prisoners are fed through a slot in the cell door. The guards do not speak to them. It is a world of utter silence and loneliness. Men go mad. Many mutilate themselves or commit suicide.
There was a quick shot through the door window of a young man in his solitary cell. He was Muslim. He laid his only towel on the floor and began to pray.
I saw that and it moved me. SubhanAllah. We take so much for granted. Is there any reason why I have been so blessed and that young man has not? Am I a better man than him? There he is, all alone in a concrete box for years and years, praying to God with no one to see him, not giving up hope, not giving up his faith. While we, who have our freedom, fail to give God His due. And which of the favors of our Lord will we deny?
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Does the suffering of the Muslim Ummah leave you feeling depressed and constantly angry? Read this transcript of a talk by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. It’s long, but take the time to read it, as it’s really quite profound:
“One of the things about the current crises in the Muslim world, is that it’s very disheartening for people. A lot of people feel really, really.. I get calls from people lately and they’re.. A lot of depression in our community. I mean, really, like.. A lot of people feel very, very down. And the thing about.. what you’re doing when you succumb to those feelings and those emotions—and the Prophet (sws), you know, he had periods where he was down—undeniably, you know, he was a human being. So, that’s part of being a human being; you don’t have to be up all the time. But, to succumb to that. To allow the conditions of this planet to enter you into a grief state, you’re just adding yourself to a long list of Iblees’s victims. That’s all you’re doing. He has a long list of victims. And what he wants to do is just depress everybody, to thrust depression into your hearts.
So, you know, we really have to resist that temptation. Because it’s actually, it’s somewhat of a self-indulgent one. No matter how hard whatever we’re going through—and each one of us, we all know our troubles. Because Ibn Abbas said, ‘the nature of this dunya is that it is dar al balaa.’ That is the baseline nature of the world; it is a place of tribulation. That’s what it is.
And the Prophet (sws) said—he calls Ramadan ‘shahr as-sabr’, and he said, ‘Ramadan nifs as-sabr’—‘Ramadan is half of sabr.’ And the ulema said, Rajab Hanbali said, the reason Ramadan is half of sabr is because sabr is in three parts; being patient with obedience, patience in restraining yourself from disobedience, and being patient with the decrees of God that are difficult, that are painful. And he said that Ramadan has all three. Because you’re restraining from doing things that are haram, you’re patient with being obedient, through your fasting. And then, there are difficulties that go just with depriving yourself of food, and water, and these things. It’s a qadar —qadar of Allah. So it’s accepting the qadar of Allah.
So, that’s the nature of the dunya. It’s dar al balaa. So people know what they’re going through, but.. Ibn Abbas said in every tribulation are three blessings, hidden; the first one is that it could be worse. If you lost a hand, you could have lost both hands. If you lost an eye, you could have lost both eyes. If you went blind, you could have gotten dementia. There’s always something that could have been worse, that’s the first. The second is that it’s in your dunya and not in your deen. So even if you lost money, it’s just money. If you lost anything, if it’s dunya, it’s not important. And the last one, is that you’re still in this abode; it’s not in the next one. Because that’s where the real tribulation is.
So whatever difficulties you’re having, there are people in this ummah right now having much worse.”
—Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
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
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Let’s say you ask Allah (God) to purify your soul, and guide you on the true path, and forgive your mistakes. Then you find yourself facing obstacles in life. You’re struggling and wondering why.
Has it occurred to you that Allah is in fact answering your prayers? That He knows exactly what needs to happen in your life in order for you to find the Way and be purified?
The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “If Allah has decreed a rank for one of his servants to reach, but his deeds will not suffice him to reach this rank, then Allah afflicts him with hardship with respect to his body, wealth and children. Then he perseveres through this until he reaches the high rank that Allah has decreed for him to reach.” [Ahmad]
The good news is that guidance and forgiveness are worth the hardship. They are precious, and far outweigh whatever struggles we must experience along the way. After all, guidance and forgiveness are components of happiness and tranquility of the heart, and that’s what everyone is seeking in this life, whether they know it or not.
Be patient with what Allah gives you. He knows what He is doing. Keep on praying, and keep on walking the path.
Wael and Salma, February 15, 2013
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
As-salamu alaykum everyone,
What’s up? How is everyone?
My apologies for not updating this page quite as often recently. Many of you know that my father died of a heart attack on November 28, 2012. I went through a period of deep sadness that lasted for a few months. Alhamdulillah, I’m doing better now.
I’m doing a lot of writing these days, but the reason you don’t see it here is that I’ve been working on a novel featuring Muslim characters. I’m about half done, Insha’Allah. I’ve also been nurturing my “I Love Islam” Facebook page, which now has almost 100,000 followers. I don’t write articles for that page, but you can see some inspiring images and little blurbs that I’ve written.
Of course I continue to manage the IslamicAnswers.com advice page, and that takes time every day, as it is a high-traffic website. It provides common-sense advice on marriage and family issues.
As far as my own work goes, I’ve been developing a website with a variety of text tools for writers and web publishers. It’s called TextElf.com. Feel free to check it out, though it’s still in development, so not everything looks perfect yet.
And of course amid all this, I care for my daughter Salma – she is six years old and is my joy ma-sha-Allah – and I practice martial arts fairly intensively. Salma has become an amazing reader for her age, and is also an imaginative and resourceful artist. In the martial arts arena, I am hoping to test for nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Jujitsu this year, Insha’Allah.
Since I’m here anyway, I’ll take a moment to say a few words, inspired by something that I read recently:
Put Down the Stone
Imagine you take something light – say a stone that weighs one pound – and hold it out at arm’s length, with your arm rigid. In the beginning it’s easy, right? But after a while your arm begins to tire. Your shoulder aches, your muscles tremble, and the stone begins to feel like a boulder. The pain becomes agony and the only thing you want in the world is to set the stone down. All other considerations are forgotten.
Did the stone become heavier? In absolute terms no, but because you could not set it down, it became a mountain.
That’s how it is with the burdens of life. You’re anxious about how you’re going to pay your bills or your debt, worried about your parent whose health is deteriorating, worried about your job or school grades, fearful that you will not find a good husband or wife, stressed about problems in your marriage, self-critical because you are not the kind of good Muslim you feel you should be…
The longer you hold on to these worries the heavier they become, until life itself feels like a burden.
We all know the feeling.
Just as with the stone, you must set these burdens down.
The only way to do that is to hand them to Allah. This is called tawakkul, or trust in Allah. It doesn’t mean that you flutter through life carefree as a butterfly, no. You strive to excel in every aspect of life, but you realize that the outcomes belong to Allah; so you trust Him to handle them. You hand over your fears to Allah. You set that stone down by giving it to Allah, Who feels no fatigue, and for Whom all things are easy.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
When you buy a glowstick, it’s just a tube of inert plastic with some liquid inside. It doesn’t look like anything special. It certainly does not glow.
When you put it under pressure, however – when you bend it – a transformation occurs. A capsule inside the glowstick is crushed, and the stick begins to shine.
This is a good example for the mu’min – the believer. Life puts us under pressure, but if we rise to the challenge then we become more than we were. We become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to others (because we know what pain feels like). We begin to shine with a new inner light.
Maybe, just like the glowstick, there’s something inside us that needs to be crushed in order for us to reach our full potential. Ego? Arrogance? Selfishness? Greed? Attachment to material goods?
And maybe the pressures of life are Allah’s way of crushing that obstacle inside us, so that our true light can start to shine.
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” [Quran, Al-Ankaboot (The Spider) 29:2-3]
The key is that Allah does not try us in order to hurt us. Allah Himself is not in need of our character development, or our striving, or the results of our trials. It’s for us. However He tests us, it is for our own benefit.
So next time you feel yourself being pressured and bent, remember: it’s just a bend, not the end. Good things are coming, and with sabr (patience) you will come out better than before, Insha’Allah.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
“Resilience is contagious.” – Amy Estrada. Sure, life comes along now and then and blows you off your feet. That’s alright. What matters is that you get back up.
You don’t have to have the answers. You don’t have to be superman or superwoman. When the thundercloud opens up, who among us can stop the rain? When the hurricane blows, who can stay on his feet? No one.
When the storm passes, stand up. Dust yourself off, take stock, and move forward in the name of Allah. If the storm has disoriented you and you don’t see the way forward, look to the Quran. “And if there should come to you guidance from Me – then whoever follows My guidance will neither go astray [in the world] nor suffer [in the Hereafter].” (Quran, Surat TaHa, 20:123). The Quran is a mighty book. Never underestimate it. If you cannot speak Arabic and find the English translations unwieldy, get one of the modern translations that are easier to read, like those by Umm Muhammad, or Thomas Cleary.
When you get knocked down and then stand up tall, with strength, others see it, and it rallies them. Your spouse sees it, your children see it, your friends see it, and of course Allah sees it. Don’t think of it as showing off. Not at all. Think of it as brotherhood and sisterhood, all of us helping each other, giving each other strength, being good shepherds to our flocks.
Superman is no hero, he’s impervious to bullets! Real heroes get hurt, they get down on themselves sometimes, they’re imperfect, they struggle to pay the bills and raise their children, they struggle to be become stronger in their faith, but they struggle! They don’t give up.
That’s inspiring, and it’s contagious, and maybe sometimes it will be someone else inspiring you, and maybe sometimes it will be you, getting up after the hurricane, showing us all how it’s done.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
“What am I going to do? Why is my life so messed up? Why can’t I find happiness? Why am I alone? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I have these problems?’…
These questions only have meaning if we direct them to Allah. No one else can answer them. Consider the words of the Prophet Ya’qub (alayhis-salam, peace be upon him) when his son Yusuf (as) was secretly thrown into a well by his brothers. They then reported to their father that Yusuf had been killed by a wolf.
And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,” and his eyes became white from grief, and he fell into silent melancholy.
They said, “By Allah , you will not cease remembering Yusuf until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.”
He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know.
– Quran, Surat Yusuf, 12:84-86
“I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah…”
When you feel stuck, when you feel that no one understands your situation, when you’re in pain and you can’t even imagine a solution, only Allah has the answers. You can’t see a way forward, but He can. You don’t see your own worth, but He does. You can’t figure out the road to happiness, but He can show you.
I remember a night in Arizona when I was twenty six years old. I lay on a cot in a small, frigid cell. There was snow outside and I had only a thin blanket. As I often did, I put on all my clothing in layers – three pants, three shirts, an army jacket and a pair of boots – and still I kept waking up shivering and shaking. Yet, even more than the physical discomfort, my spirit was tired. I had made mistakes in my youth and had been locked up for almost five years. I had become hard mentally and physically, but my heart was full of sorrow. I lay there that night and I thought, “I have nothing in life. I have accomplished nothing. I have no university degree, no wife, no children, and not even my freedom.”
That was a bad time. But I had my faith, and I used to weep to Allah, asking Him to have mercy on me. I think I gave up on myself for a while, but I never gave up on Allah. It would not even have occurred to me to do so. I did cry to Him sometimes saying, “Why, Allah? Why? Why am I here, suffering like this?” But it wasn’t despair, only confusion. In my heart I knew that He heard me and that an answer would come.
Shortly after that I received a letter from the parole board granting me early release. I had previously been told very clearly that I was not eligible. It was entirely unexpected, and if you are familiar with the American penal system, miraculous. But for Allah, nothing is impossible or even difficult.
Within a few months I was free. I found a job a week after my release, and I excelled. I began writing, sitting at my desk every night after work and disciplining myself to work on poetry, stories and articles. Eventually I went back to school and began a new career, got married, bought a beautiful house, and one day had a child…
What can I say except Alhamdulillah! SubhanAllah! What can I do except weep in gratitude for these blessings that I did nothing to earn, but were given to me by my Lord who loves me and cares about me, and wants good for me. I am so deeply touched and moved by the way Allah has answered my prayers from the depths of darkness. If I did anything to merit His blessings, perhaps it was only that I directed my pleas to Him. I knew that no one else could help me.
This is a very emotional post for me to write. I want every Muslim to have this sense of Allah as their friend, as someone who cares for them deeply. I want to put that awareness into your heart like a gift.
When I was in that cell I used to pray the same dua’ over and over, begging Allah repeatedly. If I had made such pleas to a human being they would have stopped hearing me long ago. When we’re needy with people it pushes them away, but when we’re needy with Allah He comes closer to us! He never tires of answering our need and forgiving us.
I know of many similar stories of people who have hit rock bottom and have called upon Allah – or , not even knowing “Allah” by that name, have called to the Supreme Being, saying, “I know you hear me, tell me what I need to do, show me the way!” – and then, like a circle of sunlight piercing a cloud, something or someone comes into their lives to show them the way forward.
When we’re out of ideas, surrounded by problems, and feeling totally alone… we’re not alone. Allah is with us. If we pray sincerely and strive, He will put light in our hearts and help us from directions we did not expect.
Ask Allah sincerely, open yourself to Him, and accept what He gives you even when it goes against your own desires. The answers to your questions are there, with Allah, I promise you. All those terrible questions that you ask yourself in the silence of your mind, the answers are with Allah.
Inspirational Islamic sayings by Wael Abdelgawad, Hanan Bilal, Imam Zaid Shakir and Others
By Wael Abdelgawad, Hanan Bilal, Imam Zaid Shakir and Others
The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.” – Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners.
Abdullah bin Al-Haarith said, “I didn’t see anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of Allah (s).” – (At-Tirmithee, 3641).
“Allah. It all starts with Him – the universe, humanity, and our own conception – and it all comes back to Him in the end. There’s no victory without Him, no progress, no peace. Strengthen your relationship with Him in the easy times, and you will find Him beside you in the hard times.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Allah (God) is an exponential word.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“Keep your head up, forge forward fee-sabeel-illah, keep praying, learning, thinking, following your dreams, and loving the people in your life. It’s all worth it, it all matters and makes a difference. Every single thing you do is meaningful, even when you don’t see it. You are my brothers, my sisters, my heroes.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“When you’re out of ideas, that’s when faith comes in. Let Allah show you the way.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“No one should ever be depressed by his or her worldly situation as long as he or she is walking on the path leading to Paradise. Attaining Paradise is the great objective of this life, and the person who gains it is victorious, regardless of what he achieved in the world.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
Allah has a beautiful plan
for every woman and man.
Trust Allah and pray
and He will light the way.
– Wael Abdelgawad
“When I am feeling low and downtrodden I just find a quiet place and sit alone with my favorite book (the Quran)! When I turn each of its miraculous pages my heart begins to feel lighter and the world around me brighter! The love, warmth and security of each word sets in and it is in these very moments that I know for sure in my heart how much Allah really loves me! Alhamdulillah! Subhanallah! Allahu Akbar!” – Asmaa Deanna-Dee
“‘Oh, but what’s the use of trying to be a good Muslim when I end up sinning again and again?’… Well, what’s the use of bathing when you get dirty again and again? Salat (prayer) is a purifier. Though you sin again and again, keep returning to Allah for purification. Fasting is a purifier, Zakat is a purifier, Hajj is a purifier… We can use the same analogy for hope and motivation. We have to keep finding them again and again. That’s the nature of life.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Try to become an embodiment of compassion and mercy in your daily life. Do not wait for a situation to occur that will call out these virtues in you. Rather, seek out opportunities where you can manifest them along with all of the other prophetic virtues. Do not live your life passively waiting to be used, roused or stimulated into action by events. Live an active life wherein you become the one who is initiating acts of goodness and kindness in all that you do. Be an embodiment of the truth you represent. Let your words and comportment convey the dignity of the believer to all that you meet.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“Wash your heart every morning with salat, then warm it up with dhikr. Approach life with hope and faith. Every day do your best, Allah will do the rest.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“God is truly AWESOME! I see the POWER of GOD moving in MY LIFE, in my families’ lives, in the world….GOD has GREAT things in store for us. All we have to do is submit and accept GOD’s direction for our lives. I accept!” – Hanan K. Bilal
“I believe in Allah because He believes in me… and in you too. He made us Muslim, didn’t He? That is a gift and a blessing. So believe in His plan for you, because He believes in you, He has faith in you, He has a purpose for you.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Is not the help of God close by? Certainly it is. God says “Call upon Me and I will respond.” Don’t tire on calling on Him. Don’t despair from receiving His Mercy. Despair is a sign of disbelief.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“It’s okay to feel sad, anxious, lonely, frustrated, and confused. Feeling these emotions doesn’t make you less of a believer. The difference between the believer and non-believer is that the believer remains patient and turns to Allah for help.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Sharpen the mind, harden the body, soften the heart, and be of service to others.” – a motto for the believer, by AbdelMalik Ali.
“When we’re out of ideas, surrounded by problems, and feeling totally alone… we’re not alone. Allah is with us. If we pray sincerely and strive to the best of our capacity, He will put light in our minds and hearts and help us from directions we did not expect.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. Let’s all practice having a lot more love for self and others… LOVE is a verb… it’s an action in constant motion…. we are either loving or unloving… love starts at home with our family.” – Hanan Bilal
“If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” – Unknown author
“If we let Taqwa – Allah-consciousness – become our guide then it leads us to self-awareness and sincerity. A person who cultivates Taqwa can never be a terrorist, an oppressor, or a hypocrite. A person with true Taqwa must shed compassion as the sun sheds light.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“You will not believe until you are merciful to each other. Your faith is not complete until you are merciful to each other.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“Even when we think we have nothing, we have Allah, and Allah is everything.” – Wael Abdelgawad
Let love be selfless
and truth fearless;
Let our breasts be flooded with light –
Make our hearts clear as crystal.
– Muhammad Iqbal
“One of Allah’s names is Al-Wadood, The Most Loving, and this is appropriate because a Creator must have love in order to create works of beauty and power. Allah created you out of love. He created you with intent. He created you to succeed, not to fail, and He gave you all the tools that you need to thrive. Open your eyes and see what a miracle you are, what a thing of beauty, what a gift to the world. I see that in every person I know. Do you see it in yourself?” – Wael Abdelgawad
“True religion shines from the face of the believer and impresses itself on others without words. It is subsequently followed by words that are uplifting and beneficial.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
It’s okay if you’re not free from sin;
Allah will forgive you, and let you in.
Just turn to Him, and from your soul
ask forgiveness, and make Him your goal.
– Wael Abdelgawad
“I asked Allah for strength and Allah gave me difficulties to make me strong. I asked Allah for wisdom and Allah gave me problems to solve. I asked Allah for courage and Allah gave me obstacles to overcome. I asked Allah for love and Allah gave me troubled people to help. I asked Allah for favors and Allah gave me opportunities. Maybe I received nothing I wanted, but I received everything I needed – Alhamdulillah.” – Anonymous
“Forgiveness is not for the weak. Being able to forgive those who have wronged you is a mark of spiritual strength and confidence. When you forgive, you grow, your heart begins to heal, your back straightens up, your eyes clear so that you can see the road ahead. Anger is a spiritual sickness; but when you forgive you live.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“You are all my family. I know that you are human and imperfect. Some are confused, some struggling, some tired, needing a moment’s rest. Tired of the rain and needing the rainbow. I love you all fee-sabeel-illah. Have no fear. Allah is with you and will not abandon you for a single heartbeat. The rainbow is coming, or maybe it’s already here and all you need to do is look up. ” – Wael Abdelgawad