By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
The world can be a dark place. War, greed, racial hatred, oppression… these are expressions of social ignorance on a sweeping scale. Sometimes it feels like the world is being consumed by the forces of darkness, doesn’t it?
Then we have personal suffering, abuse, and selfishness – manifestations of spiritual darkness at the most intimate level. Because these ills strike at our friendships, in our homes and in our own hearts, they are even harder to deal with than global calamities.
There’s only one refuge, one source of protection, comfort, and guidance. The only true light comes from Allah (God, the Creator). Only Allah’s light can defeat the darkness. All other promises of hope and salvation are illusions.
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” – Quran 24:35
Can one find comfort in material luxury, physical sensation, or intoxication? Not really. Those are distractions. Whatever pleasure we get from them fades quickly.
Can one find solace in nature? Perhaps, but only because the beauty of nature is a reflection of Allah’s mercy and creative genius. The creation is a sign that points to the Creator. When you’re sitting there on a mountain meadow, looking out over the forested slopes and thinking, “This sure is beautiful. I feel at peace,” what you’re really doing – whether you realize it or not – is praising Allah and sensing the beauty and wonder that He placed in His creation.
One another note, do some fools commit evil in the name of religion? Yes, but Allah is exalted and glorified above what people do.
Our refuge from all of this is Allah’s light. The following is an authentic dua’ which the Prophet (sws) used to supplicate in sujood:
“O Allah, place light in my heart, and on my tongue light, and in my ears light and in my sight light, and above me light, and below me light, and to my right light, and to my left light, and before me light and behind me light. Place in my soul light. Magnify for me light, and amplify for me light. Make for me light, and make me light. O Allah, grant me light, and place light in my nerves, and in my body light and in my blood light and in my hair light and in my skin light. O Allah, make for me a light in my grave… and a light in my bones. Increase me in light, increase me in light, increase me in light. Grant me light upon light.”
It should be noted that this light has nothing to do with skin, hair or eye color. It is a reference to Allah’s light, which Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) said was the gift of Allah’s guidance in the heart of the believer. Allah says, “Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light.” – Quran 2:257
It seriously disturbs me that people – and Muslims are not immune – continue to equate lightness and darkness of skin to goodness and badness of character. A person might have skin dark as ebony, yet be filled with Allah’s light, so that the noor radiates from her face. And a person might be white as bone, yet thoroughly evil. Anyone who believes differently is confused and spiritually lost. May Allah protect us from such corrupt ways of thinking.
We seek refuge in Allah’s light from the darkness of the world. In practical application, seeking Allah’s light means that we seek the guidance of the Quran (which is a manifestation of light). We love and follow the Prophet (sws). We strive to be present in our worship. We try to be kind to Allah’s creatures – not only other humans, but the animals and plants as well, as we were placed in stewardship over them. We struggle daily against our own negative impulses, and we try to make the world a better place.
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
Keep up all your good work. Don’t give up on yourself.
I am 100% sure that there are people who admire you and look up to you.
Recite Surat al-Asr often and contemplate the meaning. Imam Shafi’ famously said that if Allah had revealed only Surat-al-Asr, it would have been enough for the guidance of humanity.
By the time!
Surely, humankind is in loss –
Except for those who believe and perform righteous deeds, and strive together for truth, and strive together for patience. – Quran 103
Those who do as Surat al-Asr advises are not in loss. Where are they? In success, peacefulness, gratitude, and progress.
If you are still struggling on the path to your dream, then believe in yourself and know that you have a bright future in your work and in love, Insha’Allah. Problems never last, but patient people do. Your day will come, don’t worry.
Make dua’ (pray) immediately when you wake up, and last thing before you sleep. Be peaceful and trust Allah. The road unfolds ahead of you each day. Keep your head up.
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 the morning brightness…”
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
I was asked to write a post on this subject. Sorry it took so long.
Have you ever felt unwanted by the world, or abandoned? Personally, there have been times in my life when I felt that there was no one who truly loved me for who I was. I was wrong, of course. I was seeing the world through the dark glasses of depression, which distort the true image of the world.
We all go through gloomy periods when we feel that no one sincerely cares for us; that even our friends and family are using us, or only tolerating us because they have to.
Muslims raised in the West (especially converts) sometimes have a different dilemma. We may feel that “born” Muslims don’t really want us because we don’t fit in; and the non-Muslims don’t appreciate us either, because we are believers. So we don’t fit in anywhere.
Feelings of being unwanted are also common among those who have committed sins. They may be plagued by guilt and feelings of worthlessness. People go so far as to feel that God Himself has abandoned them. At IslamicAnswers.com we get questions from people who say things like, “I know that Allah hates me,” or, “I don’t deserve Allah’s love.”
Often the intensity of people’s guilt is out of proportion to the deeds they have committed. I wonder if the child’s fear of abandonment (a universal human experience) doesn’t linger in the human psyche, waiting to leap out when things go bad, and say, “See! I knew I’d be abandoned one day.”
The Prophet (sws)
Let’s look at the Prophet Muhammad (sws), our noble example. He never committed sins; nevertheless, he went through periods when he felt worried and stressed. Early in his Prophethood there was a time when the revelation of the Quran was suspended. The Prophet wondered if he had made some mistake that had caused Allah to abandon him.
Until Allah revealed Surat ad-Duha (Quran, Surah 93):
By the morning brightness
And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,
Your Lord has not taken leave of you, [O Muhammad], nor has He detested [you].
And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].
And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.
Did He not find you an orphan and give [you] refuge?
And He found you lost and guided [you],
And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.
So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him]. And as for the petitioner, do not repel [him]. But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].
Syed Abul-‘Aalaa Maudoodi commented on the first verses of this Surah, saying,
“He (the Prophet sws) was given the consolation that revelation had not been stopped because of some displeasure but this was necessitated by the same expediency as underlies the peace and stillness of the night after the bright day, as if to say: “If you had continuously been exposed to the intensely bright light of Revelation (Wahi) your nerves could not have endured it. Therefore, an interval was given in order to afford you peace and tranquility.” This state was experienced by the Holy Prophet in the initial stage of the Prophethood when he was not yet accustomed to hear the intensity of Revelation. On this basis, observance of a pause in between was necessary.”
SubhanAllah, what a brilliant insight. I never considered this before: that if I’m going through a period when there’s no one who appreciates me – when I’m all alone – maybe it’s because that’s where I need to be spiritually. Maybe there is an important life lesson that can only be learned in solitude.
So not only has Allah not abandoned me – and He never will! – but He is guiding me, watching me, and bringing me along the best path for me at this moment.
That changes things completely. It tells me that my narrow perspective – “Allah is not helping me” – is 100% wrong. The truth is the opposite – Allah is helping me in ways I do not yet perceive. He is with me at every moment. He has never abandoned me.
Allah does not turn away from us. The light of His guidance shines unceasingly. His Mercy and Compassion are available at all times, day or night.
Rather, we are the ones who turn away from Allah. We cover our eyes to block His light so that we can continue in sin; or we turn away to pursue paths of lust and desire.
What About Family?
If we can acknowledge that Allah has not abandoned us, then why do we sometimes feel that the people closest to us are the ones who respect us the least?
Love between family members is taken for granted. We are “supposed” to love our families, so we sometimes don’t feel the need to express our love. Also, family members often feel that they have a right to criticize each other, so it can feel like our families only see the bad in us. Furthermore, when we see someone every day and know them intimately, we can become hyper-aware of their faults and bad habits.
What’s needed is compassion. We must forgive our family members, and focus on their good qualities. Everyone is imperfect. You may not see it so much with your friends because you don’t live with them, but everyone has bad habits. We need to spend time with our families outside of the obligated family functions. Go to the park with them, go on a road trip, etc.
Lastly, if you have a family member who is truly abusive, then avoid that person, and recognize that it’s not your fault. Not everyone can be what we would like them to be. Not everyone will approve of us and be proud of us as we would like, and that’s true even for family members sometimes.
What About Friends?
I don’t have all the answers on this one, as I have not been totally successful in forming close, lifelong friendships. I had three solid, long-term friendships that lasted for 12 years, 25 years, and 27 years, respectively, but they came to an end. I have other casual friendships: people whose histories I somewhat know, and are good to chat with, but not people I could call in an emergency.
I think part of the problem is that I am a generous and giving friend; and this attracts “takers” – people who are needy, manipulative or selfish.
I suspect that many of those who feel unwanted and unloved by their friends are making the same mistake. They are choosing friends who are takers, not givers. This gives you a temporary feeling of usefulness, because it appears that the other person needs you. But when you are feeling down, when you’re having a problem, when you need someone to hold you up – your “friend” is nowhere to be found.
But what happens if a person who is a “giver” – someone who is kind and compassionate – befriends another giver? You get a deep relationship in which the two of you support each other through good times and bad, Insha’Allah.
You are wanted. Allah created you for a reason, and put you on this earth at exactly the time that you are needed.
If it seems that certain individuals do not appreciate you, consider the example of the Prophets, most of whom were rejected by their own people. Some, like the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), went from being respected and admired by his people, to being reviled. The point is that there will always be those who don’t appreciate you. Accept that, and work on becoming sincere with Allah. Trust in His plan for you. Trust that He is guiding you, and that if you go through hardships it’s because there are important lessons for you to learn.
Allah created you deliberately. You have a special and unique purpose on this earth. If you don’t see it yet, give it time. But trust that you are indeed wanted and necessary, as much as the mountains or the moon, and as much as any human being who ever lived. Be peaceful in your heart. Forgive others, and forgive yourself. Stay close to Allah, praise Him, ask His forgiveness, and thank Him for every blessing in your life.
Valley in Colusa County, California
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
It would be nice if we all had loving and supportive parents. Some do, Alhamdulillah. To have kind, caring parents is a great gift.
But some have parents who are critical, demeaning and harsh. Do you have an abusive parent who tells you that you are worthless, stupid and good for nothing? If so, you can’t spend your life waiting and hoping for that parent to love you and be proud of you. It’s not going to happen, my friend. Most likely your parent was raised harshly himself/herself and doesn’t know how to act any other way. Accept that reality and learn to value yourself, no matter what anyone says.
You will have to be strong and independent in spirit. You will have to find validation of your worth within yourself. You do have worth, after all. You are as unique and beautiful as the sun and the moon, the sea and the stars. You are special and gifted and you will need to realize that on your own, even in the face of external abuse.
Seek your support from Allah.
“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created…” – Quran, 17:70.
Allah has honored you. Dignity is your birthright. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. No one is. You can still love yourself, with all your special gifts and funny habits, and whatever is lacking, well, you can work on it. That’s what all of us do.
“I Know Who I Am”
It can be very hard to resist the negative labels that parents put on us. Nothing wounds like an insult from a parent. Their words have a way of worming into our brains even when we know better.
We must be patient with them without buying into their negativity.
This is not to say that parental abuse is acceptable. Not at all. Respect goes both ways. Parents have a duty to raise their children with kindness and love. If your parents are physically abusing you, then that’s a situation that you should try to get out of. Separate yourself from them if possible. Be safe, and know that they too will face God one day in judgment, and will be called to account for their deeds.
This article is focused more on the issue of verbal abuse. The truth is that even if you are accomplished, well behaved, and devoted, some parents will continue to abuse you verbally. Even if you have moved out, married and have children of your own, and only see your parents occasionally, they might continue to find fault with everything you do, and generally devalue you. I’m not saying it’s okay. I’m saying it’s an unfortunate reality with some parents, and you cannot allow it to define you.
Write some positive affirmations about yourself. Affirmations are true statements that express your best qualities, and also express what kind of person you strive to be. They represent the ideal you.
I personally have a list of 29 affirmations, and here’s number 12 on my list:
“12. I am a good son to my parents. I am patient and loving with them. When speaking to them I maintain a positive, independent and calm spirit, knowing who I am and confident in my choices.”
Read your affirmations every day. Even if you don’t quite believe your own affirmations at times, even if you feel inwardly skeptical, keep reading them. When you speak to your parents, breathe deeply and slowly. Don’t let anything they say make you anxious or excited. Tell yourself silently, “I know who I am.”
Allah loves you and has a plan for you. Believe this and move forward, and when you have children, shut down the cycle of negativity and do better than your parents did. It’s okay to be better than your parents. Any good parent wants their children to surpass them.
Show your own children patience, gentleness and endless love.
May Allah bless you and fill your heart with self-knowledge, self-dignity, and hope for the future.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Road repair! Televisions blaring! Radios playing, phones ringing, appliances beeping, traffic roaring, horns honking, commercials, mall music, elevator music… That’s the external noise.
Then there is shame, worrying about the bills, frustration over relationships, guilt, anger, resentment… That’s the internal noise.
There’s so much clamor in our lives, outside and inside, that we can’t hear our own hearts anymore. We can’t hear Allah’s guidance, or we don’t recognize it when we do.
We need to find moments of total silence to pray, make dua’, read Quran, contemplate Allah… We need periods of uninterrupted calm to get back in touch with our fitrah, that pure nature given to us by Allah. We need to confess everything to Allah, lay ourselves bare before him and beg forgiveness, then forgive ourselves for what we’ve done, and pardon others who have harmed us, so that we can get rid of the baggage of bitterness and anger.
We must open our eyes to the clear light of Allah’s huda (guidance), and have tranquility in our hearts, and quiet in our minds, so we can recognize the guidance when it comes.
We cannot silence the modern world. But we can make personal changes. It’s okay to have periods of silence in our lives. We don’t constantly have to have our phones or MP3 players with us, or be listening to lectures… We don’t have be doing something every moment of the day.
So many of us are afraid to be alone and silent because that’s when the disturbing thoughts come: resentment over the way someone treated us, regret over a lost love, shame over things we’ve done in the past, anxiety about the future. Believe me, I know exactly what that’s like.
It’s okay to feel those things. In fact we need to feel those things, to deal with them and confront them. When those feelings come we can turn to Allah and say, “Ya Allah, I have made mistakes, forgive me. I am lost, please guide me. I am worried, help me.” Let the tears come. Weep before Allah. Those tears are precious to Him. Allah, the Exalted, says:
“And they fall down on their faces weeping and it increases their humility.” (17:109)
Abu Umamah Sudaiy bin `Ajlan Al-Bahili (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Nothing is dearer to Allah than two drops and two marks: A drop of tears shed out of consciousness of Allah, and a drop of blood shed in Allah’s way. Regarding the two marks, they are: Marks left in the Cause of Allah and a mark left in observing one of the obligatory acts of worship of Allah, the Exalted.” [At-Tirmidhi].
And if tears do not come, that’s okay too. As long as you are honest with yourself and with Allah, and turn to Him with sincerity and humility, that’s what matters.
Find a place that is your special place, a refuge where you can be alone to pray, recite Quran, do dhikr, meditate and think. Amid the chaos and noise of modern life, take time to be alone with your Lord.
For me that place is in my bedroom with the door closed and the lights dimmed, late at night when everyone is asleep. I sit on the floor on a musalla and confess everything to Allah. But I also want to find an outside refuge, someplace in nature.
Do you already have a special place like that? Tell me about it. And if you don’t, then your mission is to find such a place, then comment here and tell me about it Insha’Allah.