A miracle and a miracle worker

Mountain Light

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Each of us is a walking miracle.

“Among His Signs in this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, you are human beings scattered (far and wide)!” – Quran, 30:20.

Our existence is a miracle. That we are here, on this tiny planet revolving in space, thinking our thoughts, sailing the ocean, growing crops, loving, worshiping, forgiving, living and dying, is a miracle.

Our aspirations, hopes and bravery are miracles and gifts.

Beyond that, each of us has the potential to be a miracle worker, not in the sense of walking on water or splitting the sea, but in changing the world, spreading peace, and being examples of love and faith in action.

My fellow editors at IslamicAnswers.com – SisterZ, Leila, Sara, Amy, Muhammad, Abdul Wali, Maria and the others – are miracle workers. They save lives and help desperate people.

One editor took in two foster children and raised them with love. He and his wife are miracle workers.

Anyone who speaks out for truth, who dedicates themselves to helping others, who plants trees and protects endangered species, who raises good children in this turbulent world, any such person is a miracle worker.

Think of it: to be a miracle and a miracle worker. What a thing.

What an amazing creature the child of Adam can become if he (and she) turns away from hatred, bigotry and revenge, and turns to compassion and fellowship instead.

Walking This Path Together

Jasper National Park, Alaska

Jasper National Park, Alaska

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I’m just a guy who has lived an unorthodox life. I have been alone and chained. I have seen frightening violence. I have also wandered the mountain trails in Central America, camped in the snows of the Sierras, and laid on my back in the Sahara, watching a meteor shower decorate the sky. I have witnessed the birth of my child, and received great gifts. I have been so blessed by Allah, so cared for, as He rescues me and heals my heart, again and again. I have been loved monumentally, and have learned to love in return.

Maybe I’ve learned a little something, and maybe I possess the talent to put it into words. Am I someone special? Yes, but so are you! Some of you amaze me. Young or old, married or single parents raising children with no help, sacrificing for your families, finding your way in the world, working, creating, struggling, studying, teaching. I have much to learn from you. I have a long ways to go in this life Insha’Allah, and many strange paths to walk, and so do you. I am happy that we are walking this path together, in this moment.

Do You See it In Yourself?

Sunlight shining through a tree

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

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. If I met you, I’m sure I would see the miracle and beauty in you too. Do you see it in yourself?

Allah Does Not Make “Throw-Away” People

Sunrise over the Great Smoky Mountains, USA

Sunrise over the Great Smoky Mountains, USA

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Have you ever felt “thrown away”? Cast aside like trash that is no longer valued or wanted?

It’s not a good feeling, is it?

Sometimes we feel this way when we’ve been rejected by someone we love; or when we are relentlessly criticised by a spouse, parents, family or friends. We can also feel this way when it seems like we’re not living up to society’s expectations.

Feeling this way makes you doubt yourself, makes you wonder if you are a worthwhile human being, if you have anything meaningful to offer, if you are someone worthy of love and praise.

When you feel this way, you might begin to act this way. You stop valuing yourself, and you start behaving as if you are worthless, ugly, invisible, unredeemable. You do things that you know are bad for you, either because you no longer care, or you think no one else cares. Or maybe just to fulfill the negative labels that others have put on you.

I want to tell you something very important: Allah does not make “throw away” people. He does not create waste.

We humans do that. Increasingly in this modern society, we manufacture cheap items that are meant to be used once then thrown away. Disposable razors, diapers, soda bottles, packaging… hospital visitors are given disposable gowns and gloves… Our oceans are filling up with garbage. There is a floating plastic garbage patch in the Pacific that is the size of Texas. It is known as the Pacific Gyre and contains 3.5 million tons of trash.

We human beings do that. We create such waste.

Allah does not do that.

Look around at what Allah has created: the oceans, mountains, clouds and majestic trees; birds and animals from the eagle to the elephant; the stars, sun and moon; the four seasons, each with a special beauty; and a treasure-trove of amazing, healthy foods like olives, mangoes, almonds, oranges…

Allah says in the Quran, Surat Aal-Imran, 3:190-191:

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this in vain; exalted are You [above such a thing]…”

Allah created nothing in vain. Nothing that He made is disposable or worthless. Every one of His creations is precious and has a profound purpose, from the smallest bacterium to the greatest nebula. Everything is beautiful. Including you.

Allah did not create you to be thrown away. You are not disposable. Whether or not you are ready to admit it, you have a profound purpose in this life. You are priceless, beautiful, unique, redeemable, and worthy of love. Because Allah made you that way.

We must begin valuing ourselves according to how Allah has valued us. Those people who would devalue us, they are not walking in our shoes, living our reality. They’re not responsible for our souls, and we are not responsible for theirs:

“No bearer of a burden can bear the burden of another.” (Quran 6:164; 17:15)

If others are not responsible for us, and cannot bear our burdens, then they have no right to value or devalue us. Allah has given us honor, therefore our honor is with Allah, not with the people. Allah has given us purpose, therefore our purpose is with Allah, not with the people.

Every person has a dignity and value that has been granted by Allah. It is inherent in our makeup and cannot be taken away by anyone. Every person is a gift. Every person is a miracle. Including you.

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?

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.

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.

7-Point Plan for Achieving Your Dreams

Climbing a steep mountain

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Aaisha stated that Prophet Muhammad (Shallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) said, “The deeds which Allah loves the most are those done regularly, even if they are small.” (Bukhari & Muslim).

You can achieve tremendous things if you just take one step at a time and keep on going, letting nothing stop you. You can get a doctorate, or a black belt in martial arts, memorize the Quran, write a book, start a successful business, or any other great achievement, if you are consistent, as steady as the sun. It’s not about the big push. It’s the light but steady touch that does it.

1. Begin in the name of Allah (Almighty God, the Eternal and Omnipotent, the Creator of all). Always remember to call upon Him and ask His help. With Allah, all things are possible. And in seeking more, always be grateful for what you have. “And remember when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will give you more.'” (Quran, Surat Ibrahim, 14:7). The number of blessings in your life is limitless.

2. Make a plan. Put your plan on paper, and follow it. Don’t limit yourself. Enlarge your thoughts and hold an image in your mind of what you want to achieve. Visualize yourself succeeding, and see the steps necessary to make this happen.

Be as specific as possible when writing your plan. Don’t only write, “I will memorize the Quran in my lifetime.” Write down the first step: “I will memorize three surahs from Juz Amma this month.” Instead of writing, “I will get fit,” write, “I will work out Mon-Wed-Fri from 5pm to 6pm and will lose 5 pounds this month.” Instead of writing, “I will go back to school one day,” write, “I will enroll at City College for the next fall semester.” You get the idea.

3. Know yourself. Work on your project during the time of day when you are most productive. I personally work on these articles first thing in the morning while my mind is fresh. I wake up, say a dua’ of thanks, do a couple of yoga stretches, then sit in front of the computer and write.

Work on your goal every day, no matter what mood you’re in, whether you are tired, sick, depressed or discouraged. Just do it. If you need help, seek someone who knows.

4. Believe in yourself. Condition your mind that you can and you will. Be around people who believe in you and support your goals. During my first Hapkido martial arts grading, three senior instructors sat at the judging table. I did very well, and after my test one of the instructors said, “I expect to see you on this side of the table one day.” I never forgot that and it helped to propel me forward.

Keep positive and constructive thoughts flowing through your mind. When you find negative thoughts creeping in, send them away and replace them with positive images of yourself succeeding. Which brings me to…

5. Abolish negativity. Give up “I can’t” and all such negative phrases. Separate yourself from negative people who only find fault and express doubt. Such people cannot change their own lives, let alone helping you with yours. Negative people can destroy you if you let them. So don’t let them.

Never deprecate yourself. Don’t call yourself names, or tell yourself that you are stupid, clumsy, or hopeless. Other people will do enough of that for you. No need to aid them.

Also try to let go of anger, resentment, bitterness and suspicion. Those emotions consume a lot of energy and hold you back spiritually and even physically. You might feel like those emotions protect you in some way, but I have lived on that dark side of the street and I can tell that negativity can only destroy. It cannot build. You don’t need those dark emotions. Experience them, then let them go. Use that energy to move forward instead.

6. Take responsibility. If you fail, be honest about the reasons why, and look for a way to solve the problem. See failure as a chance to improve. Don’t try to blame others, as that only sends your energy in the wrong direction. If you trip and fall you don’t stand in one place looking for a tree root or a crack in the sidewalk to blame. You get up and move on, and maybe you watch your step a little more carefully, or pick your feet up higher.

Also do not blame your life circumstances, lack of funds, lack of qualifications, or whatever. No one is born into a perfect life. Take what you have and build on it.

It’s your dream, your plan, your life. Take responsibility and make it happen.

7. Be consistent. Take action. Do. Work toward your plan every day, no matter what else is happening in your life, but don’t burn yourself out. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) already gave us the formula in the hadith above. Persistence, determination, small steps, one after another, every day.

That’s how you change yourself, and change the world. I am giving away the formula, free of charge.

That’s how you conquer a mountain. That’s how the most majestic redwood tree grows. That’s how the Prophets (peace be upon them) did what they did. One step at a time, and keep on going, and you will do great things, Insha’Allah. I am writing down my plan today. Will you do the same?

Make Something Good Happen

Beautiful road with light ahead

Let go of the past and grow into the future

“Good is what Almighty GOD wants for us… We gotta learn to let the drama go and be present and happy in the moment. Stop living in the past, make something good happen in the here and now… because we might not get many more chances to do good, no days are promised! I am letting go of the past to grow forward!”

– Hanan K Bilal

 

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