By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
I’m not ready to give up on humanity. The world is torn by war, and billions are crushed by poverty and hunger. Torturers practice their dark arts in the prisons of the world. Raveners consume the rainforests. The oceans fill with garbage…
But I’m not ready to give up on this world, or on the human experiment. We were not created in vain. God said to the angels, “‘Verily, I will place humankind generations after generations on earth.’ They (the angels) said: ‘Will You place therein those who will make mischief and shed blood, while we glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You?’ God said: ‘I know that which you do not know.’” (Quran 2:30)
Notice that God did not say, “No, they will not make mischief and shed blood.” Rather He said, “I know that which you do not know.”
Could it be that He saw our potential for greatness? That He saw within us the seeds of compassion and transformation? They say that a man must hit rock bottom before he can change. Could that be true for us as a species? Could it be that we must explore these disgraceful depths before we can turn around and evolve? One thing is certain: this must be our final century, or our first. We will continue to a hurricane of self-destruction, or we will begin a new way of living.
We must find a way to solve our problems without war. We must stop burning fossil fuels. We must abandon the culture of disposal goods and begin to live sustainably. We must redistribute resources more equitably. We know what we have to do. It’s not a mystery. We simply have to find the moral courage to do it. And we need better leaders. We must remove the reins of power from men who serve the gods of greed and selfishness.
Martin Luther King Jr., in one of his last speeches (“Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”), said:
“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!” With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore.”
Sadly, the global trend at the time of this writing is toward division and hatred. We are seeing the rise of nationalist sentiment and so-called leaders who call upon the worst instincts of their people, fanning the flames of racial division.
Still, I insist on having faith. I insist on believing in the future. Because, after all, what is the alternative?
Men will beat their swords into plowshares… Is that possible? Yes, why not? It’s within our power to choose a better way to live.
Will we? I don’t know. But I suspect that the human story contains a few surprises yet to be seen.
We (Muslims) are not a people of despair. We are a people of hope and redemption and transformation. The wind will always come. Fall in prostration during the storm and you will be safe. Like all things of this world, it will pass. Healing will come. Change will come. Victory will come.
It always does.
– Yasmin Mogahed, January 30, 2017
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?
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Being a single parent is rewarding and exhausting at the same time. On the good days I think, “I’ve got this.” My daughter plays, laughs, and tell she loves me. She completes her homework cheerfully and eats what I serve. On days like that I say, “Alhamdulillah!” (All praise is due to God).
Other days I feel inadequate. I feel that I’m not doing enough to teach my daughter Arabic and Islam. I let her consume too much junk food and TV. I haven’t tried hard enough to help her cultivate friendships with kids her age.
On the worst days Salma is depressed and focused on what she doesn’t have. Or she’s down on herself, crying and saying, “I’m no good…” It’s as if she’s determined to see life in the saddest possible light. I don’t know where she’s getting these negative self-images. Certainly not from me. From her schoolmates perhaps? I wish I could shut out the outside world and raise my family in some pristine environment, like an idyllic island, or a small village where the adhaan rings out at dawn every morning.
Sometimes I feel desperate for an ally. Someone to talk to, someone to help, someone who cares. I look around and there is no one. Just me and my child. Other people seem to pass like travelers, not wanting to get involved, not staying, or not caring. (I’m sure every single parent experiences these feelings of isolation sometimes).
Then I remember that Allah (God) is all of those things: Ally, Helper, and Provider. He is the One Who Stays; The First and The Last. And I wonder if that very feeling of desperation that I experience is designed to bring me closer to Allah, and to make me reliant on Him. As we say, Hasbun Allahu wa n’em al-Wakeel. Allah is sufficient for us and the best One in Whom to trust.
So again I say, “Alhamdulillah!” I am grateful to Allah for guidance, for the roof over my head and the food on my table, and even for the difficulties with my daughter, because I have a daughter to have difficulties with, and that’s the greatest blessing.
Thus we say, Alhamdulillahi ‘ala kulli haal. Praise be to God in every condition. And we trust that Allah will bring us through, because having Him as an Ally is not an abstract concept.
Sarah Saghir has written:
“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I will find As-Salam (Allah: The Peace).’
And the spirit says, ‘Find As-Salam (The Peace) and everything will fall into place.'”
So this is what it is to have God as an Ally. It doesn’t mean that we give up on our worldly needs and satisfy ourselves with an ascetic, purely spiritual existence. Rather, when we find Him, when we trust Him and take Him as an Ally, those worldly needs fall into place, and we are able to meet the challenges of life by His grace.
Allah will guide those who seek it out of confusion and into clarity.
By Amy Estrada | IslamicSunrays.com
One thing I totally believe about Allah, is that He will guide those who seek it out of confusion and into clarity. He will clearly show right from wrong, good from bad, pure from impure. Sure there are plenty of times we get stuck in a situation where we can’t figure out up from down, or what’s really going on. We follow wisdom as best we can. And Alhamdulillah, when He sees fit, He shows the truth of things in a way that cannot be denied.
Don’t despair if the situation doesn’t make sense. Don’t worry if the way forward doesn’t seem clear. Don’t degrade yourself if you can’t figure that person out. Throw your cares to Allah all the time, and take those small steps forward as His noor slowly reveals the way. Eventually it will all be clear, and your iman will blossom as you see how He really is bringing you to all things good in this life and the next.
We can never sabotage His mercy. Never!
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.
- 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.
You matter, as much as the sun and the sea. I know that may seem hard to believe sometimes. It may feel like you are walking through this world without leaving a mark; like no one sees who you truly are; like your existence has no greater significance, no purpose except survival, work, and getting by.
That’s not the case. The truth is that you are important and special, even if it’s not apparent to you. I remember one time years ago when I was in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the mosque in Santa Clara for Jum’ah. After salat, a man approached me. He was a handsome young Indian or Pakistani man in his twenties, professional looking, perhaps a software engineer or doctor. He asked if my name was Wael, and I said yes. He told me that I had been his counselor at the Muslim Youth Camp almost twenty years before, when he was a kid and I was a teenager. He said that I had changed his life, and that he still remembered the things I had taught him. All the years since then – when I sometimes felt sorry for myself and wondered if I had accomplished anything in life – I had no idea that I had changed the life of one young man. I wonder, if I had that effect on him, did I affect others as well?
Is it possible that you and I are living our lives, doing the things we do, and not realizing what wide ripples we are sending out into the world?
In September 2012 I attended a martial arts seminar in Newport Beach, California. During the first day of training I injured my shoulder. I went to an empty room next door and lay on the floor, in terrible pain. A woman who was attending the seminar saw me. She brought me an ice pack, then checked on me repeatedly over the course of the day. I did not even know her name. But when I think of that seminar, what I remember is that woman’s kindness. Her compassion – which was perhaps a small thing to her – made my injury bearable.
I have no doubt that you too have changed someone’s life, or helped someone through a time of pain. I know that there is someone out there who looks up to you. Someone you have inspired. Someone who needs your friendship. Someone you have saved without realizing it. And someone you will save in the future, Insha’Allah.
You Matter to Allah
You are important to Allah Ta’aala (God). Consider that:
- Allah created you to be His khalifa (representative) on the earth.
- Allah created you with the best of forms.
- Allah created an ideal environment for you to grow. The earth is just the right distance from the sun. It has an ideal mixture of oxygen and nitrogen in the air. It is beautifully laid out with forests, oceans full of fish, mountains, grass and sky.
- Allah provides your daily needs. Every bite of food you put in your mouth, and every breath you take, comes from Him.
- Allah sent you Prophets and a Book so you would not be spiritually lost.
- Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein. That is not a warning from Allah, it is an expression of love and care. Who do you want to be close to? You want to be close to those you love.
- We might think that we are far down the list on those of whom Allah loves. But Allah is all-powerful, and needs nothing from human beings. He doesn’t need the favor of the mighty, or the wealth of the rich. He only desires our gratitude and ‘ibadah. The kings of the world, and the young, strong, famous, and educated – they have no advantage over you when it comes to Allah’s favor. To Allah, you are as important as any other person.
Would Allah have done all of this if you were not important to Him? If you did not matter?
Your journey in this life lies before you like a path through a beautiful valley. You have places to go, and things to do. Allah caused you to be born at this moment in the history of the world, as the person you are, for a reason. Your purpose is unfolding before you day by day. Your life has important meaning. Your victories, your injuries and illnesses, the losses and heartbreaks you suffer, have meaning.
Have faith in Allah’s plan for you. If you’re going through something difficult, then know that Allah will not abandon you. Things will get better, Insha’Allah. You will not be stuck in this moment forever. Take a breath, say a dua’, and be peaceful within yourself.
I know you have talents and gifts Alhamdulillah. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because everyone is unique. Use your own special talents in Allah’s cause, to make a better life for yourself and your family, and to make the world a better place.
Let go of self-recrimination. The past is not a curse, it’s a gift. It teaches you and makes you wise. If you’ve been through hardship and survived, that’s a blessing! It means you are strong and capable, and Allah is preparing you for something important.
Have faith in your own heart. Believe in Allah, in our noble Messenger Muhammad (sws), in the Ummah, and in the future. Whatever pain we suffer in this life is not in vain. We may cry and groan, but Allah sees our suffering and will compensate us more than we can imagine, as long as we are patient and keep faith. Allah the Most High has a plan for us, and He is the best of planners.
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.
Big Wet Meadow in Cloud Canyon, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
We all feel weary at times. We feel like we’re fighting on so many fronts and that we have no helpers. At times our passion drains away and we feel like we’re just going through the motions. This happens to me. I think it happens to everyone.
At those moments, Shaytan (Satan) tries to push us into despair. Despair is one of Shaytan’s greatest weapons. If we are in debt, Shaytan tries to get us to despair of getting out of debt. If we’re ill, he tries to convince us to despair of getting well. If we have committed sins, he whispers to us to despair of Allah’s mercy and the possibility of forgiveness. He tries to make us despair of our futures, despair of our salvation, and fail to see the beauty in our lives.
Believers must resist Shaytan’s whispers. Believers must be people of hope, and must see the world through eyes of hope. Believers make life choices that are rooted in hope.
“Shaytan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” – Quran, Al-Baqarah, 2:268
So we have two different calls echoing in our ears. Shaytan calls us to fear, and grasping attachment to this material world.
Allah the Almighty, on the other hand, offers us forgiveness and true blessings. Allah offers us hope. Hope is not wishing on a star, or daydreaming. Hope is a real thing, because it’s a part of trusting Allah. After all, prayer is all about hope.
The Quran tells us that with every difficulty comes ease. Hope is an acknowledgment of that reality, that things will get better, and a time of ease will come.
When life becomes hard, we need to see through eyes of hope, not eyes of despair.
Eyes of Hope
The morning spills out
yellow like a poppy field.
My street is emerald with life:
olives and spring fire,
Chinese fringe and apricot.
My six year old daughter
kneels to pet a cat
but it runs, bell jingling.
“That cat is complicated,” she says.
Later she grasps my hand
and says, “Baba,
you are number one.”
There’s a smell of rain in the air.
When Salma was near
to being born, the doctor said
that the umbilical cord
was looped around her neck.
She could suffocate, he said.
For a week of nights my thoughts raced
as I lay in bed, listening to the frogs
in the field behind the house.
I prayed much harder
than I’ve ever prayed for myself.
As we walk, Salma collects
acorns and red berries,
fallen leaves and dandelions.
“I’m making a nature salad,”
she says. “I’ll hand you the things,
and you put them in the bucket.
That’s the process.”
I want to laugh, but I only smile,
and I follow Salma down the street
humbly, and with eyes of hope.
– Wael Abdelgawad
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
For every setback, Allah has a comeback. For every trouble, He helps you double. Every day He shows you the way. Alhamdulillah.
Allah does not get tired of you. He does not write you off, or forget about you, or give up on you. In fact, when you need Him and call on Him, He comes to you quickly, at speed, rushing to help you:
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
What an amazing, benevolent, merciful God is Allah. He is Master of all: He could have been capricious, selfish, or destructive, and we would have been helpless pawns, unable to help ourselves or be helped. But that is not His nature. In hundreds of verses of the Quran, Allah Almighty describes Himself as “Ghafurun Rahim”, that is One Who forgives and has mercy.