Quiet the Noise and Weep Before Allah

Sunrays shining through the forest

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.

Getting Through Mini-Depressions

Flower bud in sunlight

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Many people periodically go through short depressions when they feel negative about everything in their lives. There are ways we can minimize these depressions, and steps we can take to ensure we don’t sabotage our relationships when we’re feeling blue.

In my case, I go through regular periods of mini-depression every few months. My mood will be utterly black, my mind filled with self-critical thoughts: “I’m a failure, I’m a hypocrite, I have no real friends, I’ve wasted my life…” But even in the depths of depression I know that the mood will not last. One good night’s sleep will restore me to normal, Insha’Allah. So I keep my mouth shut and do not express those negative thoughts to family or friends, because I know I will regret it later if I do….

Does this happen to you? If so, then pay attention to your own emotional cycles so that you know what to expect. Control yourself when you’re feeling down. Speak only what is good, or stay silent.

Let’s be very clear:  You should not ignore genuine problems in your life. If something is missing or making you unhappy, work on it Insha’Allah. I’m also not saying that you should remain silent about real issues that you face. If you’ve got problems in your family, it’s important to communicate to resolve them. It’s also good to talk to a therapist or counselor.

But when you are depressed, your viewpoint becomes skewed, and it’s not necessarily representative of reality. So when you have those dark thoughts that say, “My life is worthless and I hate everyone,” don’t express those to anyone except your therapist or counselor. Don’t call up your best friend and say, “You’re not a true friend, you don’t care about me.” That’s not productive and will only destroy your relationship.

When you’re depressed, hold on to your lifeline with God, eat well and get plenty of rest, and be patient until the mood passes Insha’Allah. Try to fill your life with good things: people you care about, work that matters, hobbies you love, good books to read, exercise you enjoy… these good things provide a safety net when you’re feeling blue.

For example, photographer and human rights activist Asmaa-Deanna Dee says, “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!”

Also remind yourself of the good things in your life, and try to be grateful for them. Do not look to those who have more than you, but those who have less. Think of the times in your life when God has helped you, guided you, and saved you. He will do so again.

By the way, I don’t get those mini-depressions as often anymore. I’m not sure why, but it could be that I exercise every day now. Also, I am active in the Muslim community, I write passionately about subjects that are important to me, and I have a daughter who I love… my life is full of good things Alhamdulillah.

May your life also be full of good things.

If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it. Whatever misfortune you have experienced, let Allah show you the way out.

Has your heart been broken? Have you experienced disappointment and loss? Trying to figure out how to be happy again? You need only three things: faith, hope and time. Keep the faith alive in your heart, even if it’s just a spark. Hold on to your hope for the future, even by the tips of your fingers. And let time pass… In time your faith will blaze again, your hope will soar.

So be patient, trust Him, thank Him, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. He will bring you through.

“Attach your heart to God and you will never be let down.” – Imam Zaid Shakir

“When I cry or lose or bruise, so long as I am still alive, nothing is ultimate. So long as there is still a tomorrow, a next moment, there is hope, there is change, there is redemption. What is lost, is not lost forever.” – Yasmin Mogahed

Live the Moment – It’s All You Have

Amazing meadow, river, mountain and sunrays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Try to appreciate the present moment and truly live it, rather than using it up by feeling guilty about the past, or fretting about the future. Regret for the past is a waste of spirit, and worrying about the future is pointless.

Hanan Bilal, a community activist and motivator from Florida, asks, “When will we stop living in the past and longing for our future? All we really have is this moment. The question is what are we going to do right now? Our time is now!”

The Past

That’s not to say that contemplation of past and future is verboten. The Quran tells stories of the past in order to educate us. The Messenger of Allah (sws) told us many stories of past Prophets and the Bani Israa’il, for the same reason. We study world history, we study the seerah of our Prophet and the lives of the Sahabah, because it inspires and informs.

I taught a martial arts class several hours ago and I’m still reviewing it in my mind, examining what I could do better next time. That’s part of the learning process for me.

I have a sweet young daughter named Salma and I often think about my time with her, something funny that she said, or the small gifts that she likes to make for me. Yesterday she made me a card that says “I love Baba.” A few days ago we had a poetry reading at our local Muslim community center, and in between readings our host told jokes. For some reason Salma positioned herself in the front row, and every time our host told a joke I heard Salma laughing loudly, even though I’m sure she did not understand the jokes (“do vegetarians eat animal crackers?”). Crazy kid, ha ha. So yeah, I think about past moments. But I’m not stuck in the past. I think about those moments because they educate me or make me smile, so they become a part of my present and future.

On the other hand, I occasionally think about my former marriage, and those are usually not good thoughts, because I tend to dwell on the mistakes I made, and I feel sadness or guilt. I’ve already contemplated deeply on that period in my life, and I’ve learned my lessons. I don’t need to keep returning there in my mind, punishing myself. If I did, then I would indeed be stuck in the past, unable to move forward. That is the kind of pointless regret that weighs people down and burdens their spirits.

The Future

We plan for the future by having goals, getting an education, working hard, saving money, always learning and improving ourselves. We plan for our aakhirah by dedicating ourselves to Allah, worshiping, giving our money to the poor and orphans, and humbling ourselves. We build our futures step by step. But it’s not productive to sit around biting our nails and thinking, “What if I fail my exam, oh, when will I get married, what’s going to happen if I lose my job, how will I pay my bills…” You make yourself sick and it doesn’t help.

Don’t worry, plan. There’s a huge difference! Then acknowledge that you don’t control the future. That’s Allah’s province.  Trust in Him, let him be your guide, find your security in Him.

The security of the dunya is false security. Suffering is the lot of all Adam’s children, in one way or another, and death comes when we’re ready or not. The security of Allah is real and transcends this world.

The Moment

This moment is all we have, my friend. The past is gone, and the future never comes, because when we get there, we’re still in the present.

If you take this moment to breathe deeply and say, “SubhanAllah wa bihamdihi” – glory to Allah and all praise to Him – and then thank Allah for the blessings in your life, or sit down and play a game with your child, go for a walk in the sunshine, maybe take a few nature photos, call an old friend, write your spouse a love note, read a verse from the Quran and contemplate it – then you have lived! You have turned that moment into a precious gem, something to smile about and feel good about.

Let’s live the moment, be conscious of it, feel it, and give Allah the credit, and in doing so let’s turn the moment into a circle of sunshine and barakah.

P.S. Isn’t that the most amazing photo above? I absolutely love it. I want to roll around in that grass, bathe in that river, call the adhaan to the sky, and build a small house among those trees. SubhanAllah.

Believe in Allah, Because He Believes in You

Amazing sunrays and clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I believe in Allah because He believes in me… and He believes in you too. Believe in His plan for you, have faith in Him, trust His guidance to you, because He has faith in you, and trusts you.

Some people might challenge this assertion that Allah believes in us and trusts us. To me, that’s surprising. Allah created nothing in vain. Everything He does has a purpose. His creation of humanity was done with intent.

Why were we created? Many Muslims will automatically respond, “To worship Allah.” That’s true, but why does Allah want to be worshiped? Furthermore, why did He create everything else – the stars, planets, forests, seas, mountains, animals?…

Without presuming to know Allah’s intentions, and returning to the realm of the human for a moment, I will make a simple observation. As a writer, one of the reasons I write is because the act of putting my thoughts and feelings on paper satisfies something deep within me. I’ve been writing creatively since I was a child, and to me it’s not a hobby but a calling. I’m a writer, therefore I write; and I am a writer because I write.

The same is true for a painter or any other artist. I imagine if you asked a painter why he paints, you might get many different answers:

  • “It makes me happy”
  • “It’s my passion.”
  • “To express my ideas.”
  • “To make money.”
  • “I don’t know, I just do.”

The bottom line is that it’s the painter’s nature to paint; it’s her calling, her function. She is a painter, therefore she paints; or she paints, therefore she is a painter. Same difference.

Allah is Al-Khaaliq, The Creator. That is one of His names, one of His attributes. He expresses this attribute by creating. You are a part of that expression, and so am I. So is a blue whale, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Grand Canyon, a dolphin, a mouse and an amoebum. Everything that Allah created is amazing in its function and awesomely complex in its design. Everything that He created is beautiful and purposeful. Including you and me.

To create is an act of love. It is an act of faith. The Creator loves you and believes in you. Believe in Him, believe in yourself, believe in humanity, and believe in the unique path that Allah has chosen for you.

Let’s Love Ourselves First

Water drop on the tip of a leaf

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

We can get so caught up in trying to fix other people’s problems, that we forget to fix ourselves. We can spend all our time helping family members, running around, “sacrificing”, while our own souls are weary, discouraged and approaching despair. We can champion important causes, or do vital work in our jobs, while we cover up or ignore wounds from our past, until we cannot even look at ourselves with respect or love.

I suppose we all have our coping mechanisms. For me, it’s martial arts. When I’m troubled or unhappy, I tend to immerse myself in my martial arts practice. It occupies my mind, allows me to forget my problems, and wears out my body so I can sleep.

Others may plunge themselves into their work, or distract themselves with books, music or television, or busy themselves with other people’s problems. But you can only keep this up for so long. If you don’t face what’s going on internally, the darkness will eventually spread and blot everything else out.

We have to come to terms with ourselves, or happiness will elude us forever.

How can we love and cherish others if we do not love ourselves? How can we extend ourselves to create something good in the world, if what we have inside is not sound and peaceful? How can we raise happy children if we are not happy? Children are very perceptive; if you are troubled and hurt inside, they will pick up on that, and it will affect them. If you really want to love your children properly, you need to make peace with your own soul.

Sometimes there are so many distractions in our lives, so much external noise, that we can’t hear our own hearts anymore. We need to quiet our minds and get back in touch with our fitrah, that pure nature given to us by Allah. We need to ask Allah’s forgiveness, then forgive ourselves, so that we can get rid of the baggage of shame. Only then can we then forgive others, and let go of anger or resentment.

We must listen to our intuition, and hear our hearts speaking, and open ourselves to the clear light of Allah’s huda (guidance).

Keep Your Head Up and Smile

Beautiful road, forest road, road to the future

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Keep your head up, smile, and look to the future. You have much yet to do in this life. Ask Allah for guidance, then do what your heart tells you, speak the words that you’ve always held back, and be yourself.

Don’t let the past freeze you in place, and don’t punish yourself for things you cannot change. Everything you’ve experienced:  the happy times, loneliness, laughter and tears, all have meaning, and have all gone into making you who you are. If you have any wisdom or insight, it is probably a result of hardship you’ve experienced in the past.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Everything that you do today has meaning. The caress you give a child, the help you give a stranger, the quiet charity, all matter and make a difference, even when you don’t see it. It’s all worth it. Your love maters, your work matters, your life matters.

Keep your head up, and forge forward fee-sabeel-illah. Accept yourself and be at peace. Look ahead and smile. Stand up straight, and don’t bow your head except in prayer. Keep praying, learning, thinking, following your dreams, and loving the people in your life. You are my brothers, my sisters, my heroes.

The Good New Days

Beautiful path to the future

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

People often wish for a return to the good old days. First of all, when we look at them objectively, they weren’t really so good. Sure, I have funny and pleasant memories from my youth, but I also remember the confusion and loneliness.

I personally would not trade my life at this moment for my life at any time in the past. Among other things, I now have a beautiful daughter who I love more than life itself; my writing, which has evolved to allow me to express my deepest convictions; and many small blessings that add up to a pot of gold.

Secondly, the old days are called “old” for a reason. That’s the past. We can’t go back.

What we can do is focus on the journey forward.

“Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous; – Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon people;- for Allah loves those who do good; – And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins,- and who can forgive sins except Allah….” – Quran, Surat Aal Imran, 3:133-135

This is how we make a better future for ourselves and our families, Insha’Allah. Letting go of anger, forgiving, asking forgiveness, giving to the poor and needy, and racing to Allah. The Almighty has given us the formula. This is how, instead of yearning for the good old days, we create good new days! Our future can be as good as the past ever was; it can be better, brighter and happier.

Let’s build the good new days.

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.

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