We have Allah, and Allah is everything

Man surrounded by sun rays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Even when we think we have nothing, we have Allah, and Allah is everything. We can be materially poor and still be wealthy beyond belief.

I’m not advocating poverty. Money has its uses. Most importantly, it can be used to help people and relieve suffering. But it is still just a tool created by men and women. An object, a thing. It can never define us, nor can it elevate us, or take us where we need to go in this life and the next.

There are things that matter more than our wallets. Allah is everything, and our relationship with Him defines us more certainly and clearly than our bank balances ever could.

If we are close to Allah, if we have a bond with Him, if we trust Him, then we have everything. We have greater security than any alarm system could provide. We have a brighter light than any chandelier. We have a clearer path than any highway. We have a truer happiness than any entertainment system, house or car could offer. We have everything.

Sleeping Peacefully When the Wind Blows

Wisconsin farm with red barn

Can You Sleep when the Wind Blows?

Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received A steady stream of refusals.

Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer.

“Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him.

“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man.

Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!”

The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”

Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down.

Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

When you’re prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm.

We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of Allah. We don’t need to understand, we just need to hold on to His commands in order to have peace in the middle of storms.

(Note:  I am not the author. I found this online some time ago, but I don’t know who wrote it. – Wael)

Letting Go of Material Illusions

Desert Mirage

The happiness of material wealth is a mirage.


By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

As infants, our first seeming victory is being able to grasp – a finger, a toy, or anything bright. Only later do we realize that the dunya (the material world) is constantly grasping at us, trying to get us to buy, eat, feel, possess, own. Forces of greed are trying to get us to pour our souls down the drain of disposable consumerism, and poison our planet in the process.

Believers realize at that point that the real struggle is to give up our love for material things, and let go. To take what we need, and enjoy the simple pleasures, and not let ourselves be corrupted by waste.

Doesn’t Allah say that the wasters are the brothers of the devils?

“And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully. Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful.” (Quran, Al-Israa’ 17: 26-27)

Modern society, and Western society in particular, is based on waste. Everything is disposable, everything is plastic, everything is buried in landfills where it seeps into the drinking water, or dumped into the ocean where it poisons the marine ecosystem. Knowing this, how are we to regard modern society in view of Allah’s statment that the wasters are the brothers of the devils? And what is our role in this massive assault on planet earth?

Things are not always as they seem. Consumerism is a spiritual desert, and the happiness that we think will come from buying this, or owning that, is a mirage. Buying the latest flat screen TV or data phone will not make us happy. Owning a McMansion in the suburbs will not bring us inner peace. Having a pile of money in the bank will not bring us closer to Allah, or save our souls, or extend our lives one moment beyond what has been written, regardless of our insurance plans. In fact, all those things are balls and chains that bind ours soul and create stress and worry.

The Messenger of Allah (sws), is reported to have said, “That which is little yet sufficient is better than that which is much and diverts man from his goal as a result.”

What is the goal? It is the worship of Allah, working fee-sabeel-illah, and the ultimate goal of Jannah. In the Bible, Jesus (peace be upon him) asks, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” If you own the most beautiful furniture, the most expensive clothing, and the coolest cars, yet you fail in your mission of achieving Jannah, then what have you achieved? You have ruined yourself.

Let go of these material illusions. We’re not infants anymore, trying to grab any pretty thing and put it in our mouths. We can think critically. The “reality” that is flashed in our eyes a thousand times a day by commercials, billboards, movies and TV is a lie. See things as they are. All that matters is Allah. Above all is Allah. Success lies in our relationship with Allah. Peace and happiness come from being in harmony with Allah’s teachings, which in turn brings us in harmony with all creation.

Buy less, own less, don’t use disposable products, don’t throw away things that can be repaired, re-sold or donated. Hand things down, pass them on. The best fun is free:  playing sports or word games with your children, walking in the park, swimming at the beach or the public pool, enjoying tea with friends. Don’t worry about owning the latest gadget. Forget about brand names. The only brands we need are Muslim, Mu’min, Ummah, Deen. Keep your eyes open, think for yourself, and don’t be fooled by bright illusions.

In the End it is Between You and Allah

Cambodia rice fields

Beautiful rice fields in Cambodia

 

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the end it is between you and God – it never was between you and them anyway.”

– This is based on something written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home, which itself was based on a composition by Kent Keith.

When You Forgive, You Live

Valley of forgiveness

In ancient Chinese thought, the state of broadmindedness and forgiveness is like a wide, deep valley.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Forgiveness is not for the weak. Being able to forgive those who have wronged you is a mark of spiritual strength and confidence. When you forgive, you grow, your heart begins to heal, your back straightens up, your eyes clear so that you can see the road ahead. Anger is a spiritual sickness; but when you forgive you live.

I know this isn’t easy. In an earlier article I mentioned my time in Fort Worth. There was one particular person there who treated me quite badly. It’s very difficult for me to hold an image of that person in my mind and say, “I forgive you.” It’s almost frightening in some strange way. But in doing it, I feel something in my chest let go, and I find tears in my eyes, and a smile on my face. SubhanAllah.

It doesn’t matter if the other person deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. If someone has hurt you, don’t worry about receiving an apology or explanation, or making them understand you. You’ll rarely get an explanation that makes sense. In fact, if you want to move on, the best way to do that is to forgive. Resentment is a chain that binds you to the other person, but forgiveness breaks the chain, so that you can release that person along your anger.

Not to mention, as the poet Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”

In ancient Chinese thought, the state of forgiveness is like a wide, deep valley. That’s because it opens your mind and allows your thoughts to flow freely, while anger constricts your mind and makes you blind.

“Hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Qur’an, 7: 199)

In other words be constantly forgiving but don’t give up your principles (“command what is right”). If you’ve forgiven the ignorant and they persist in their hurtful ways, then move on and leave them behind. Separate yourself from those who are negative, and seek the company of people who are supportive and kind. Hold no rancor. When you lay your head on the pillow, sleep in peace, and you’ll wake with tranquility.

I admit that I’m working on this. It’s easy to say, “I forgive you.” The hard part is getting to a place where my heart is clear, where I have no resentment or fear. At times I hold conflicting emotions: I might love someone, but mistrust them. I think I should take a lesson from my daughter Salma. I make mistakes with her, but her love flows like a mountain stream. No one forgives with more grace than a child, and no one forgives more fully than God.

Every day do your best, Allah will do the rest

Idyllic village next to beautiful mountain

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Wash your heart every morning with salat, then warm it up with dhikr. Begin each day with faith in you heart, and know that no matter how steep the mountain, Allah is with you as you climb. Every day do your best, Allah will do the rest.

See the Beauty Around You

Cut lemon

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

We tend to think of beautiful places as being far away. We imagine exotic lands like the Caribbean islands, the Mediterranean coast, the Alps or the Himalayas, or anywhere in New Zealand, ha ha.

There is glory everywhere. Right now, in this moment, there is something beautiful within the boundaries of your vision, or very near.

From where I am sitting, through the kitchen window I can see a rose bush. The pink roses are blooming and reaching for the sky, and it’s quite lovely ma-sha-Allah. I hear birds singing outside, and through the front window I see a birds of paradise bush, with it’s angular orange flowers.

Closer at hand, on my desk is a lovely ornate metal vase from Egypt. It is covered in intricate Islamic patterns with verses of the Quran twining around the sides. There are other beautiful works of art in the house if I take the time to glance around – including a simple artwork that my daughter Salma made by sticking different kinds of leaves to a sheet of paper.

Beauty can be found in ordinary things as well. On the kitchen counter I see two lemons cut in half, and beside them a boiled egg. It reminds me of an artist’s tableau and makes me wish I were a painter. My daughter is playing on the floor with her train set, and she is the jewel of my eye, ma-sha-Allah.

One of the reasons we fall into depression is that we focus on what we don’t have, or what we have lost; and we fail to see the blessings and beauty that surround us.

Right now, look around you. Quiet your mind, and focus on beauty. Remember that life is a gift, and a miracle, and a sign.

And the grazing livestock He has created for you; in them is warmth and [numerous] benefits, and from them you eat.

And for you in them is beauty when you bring them in [for the evening], and when you send them out.

And they carry your loads to a land you could not have reached except with difficulty to yourselves. Indeed, your Lord is Kind and Merciful.

And [He created] the horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride, and [as] adornment. And He creates that which you do not know.

And upon Allah is the direction of the way, and among the various paths are those deviating. And if He willed, He could have guided you all.

It is He who sends down rain from the sky; from it is drink and from it is foliage in which you pasture.

He causes to grow for you thereby the crops, olives, palm trees, grapevines, and from all the fruits. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.

And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.

And [He has subjected] whatever He multiplied for you on the earth of varying colors. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who remember.

And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat, and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful.

And He has cast into the earth firmly set mountains, lest it shift with you, and [made] rivers and roads, that you may be guided, And landmarks. And by the stars they are [also] guided.

Then is He who creates like one who does not create? So will you not be reminded?

And if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Quran, Surat an-Nahl (The Bee), 16:5-18

Let Go of Grudges, for Your Own Sake

Sunrise over the prairie

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“Pardon them and overlook – Allah loves those who do good.” (Qur’an 5:13)

If we hold grudges, our spirits get stuck like trapped birds. We can’t fly the way we’re supposed to, because our own resentments bind us and hold us down. When you hate someone, they don’t feel it. Only you do. It affects only your own heart, until your heart hardens and your vision narrows, and life loses its joy and zest.

We must forgive each other and forgive ourselves. Let go of resentments from the past. Do it for your own sake, because letting go and forgiving is the only way to be happy.

Whatever others have done against you, let it go. Consign it to Allah, then forgive. Whatever you have done against others, apologize and ask forgiveness, and ask Allah’s forgiveness as well.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was seated in a gathering with the sahabah (his companions) when he looked towards the entrance and said, “A man of Paradise is coming.” At that instance someone who seemed to be very ordinary entered the masjid where they were seated. One sahabi was curious as to why the Prophet had said such a thing about this man, so he followed the man to his house. The sahabi told the man of Paradise that he was a traveler, and was invited to stay as a guest. For three days the sahabi watched the man of Paradise, but he saw nothing unusual in the man’s character or worship. Finally he told the man what the Prophet had said and asked him what was so special about him. The man thought for a long time and said, “There might be one thing — before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart.”

Mr. Evatt

I went to high school in Saudi Arabia, and I had an American teacher who I really liked. He was my English teacher for two years and his name was Mr. Evatt. He was from Georgia and had long hair and a heavy Southern drawl. He lived in an old neighborhood of Riyadh that was situated on a dusty, rocky hilltop. Every morning our school bus would pick him up, and I always found it amusing when we’d pull up and he’d be standing in the dirt road, smoking a cigarette, his shirt already plastered with sweat at 7 am , and a herd of goats climbing on the rocks all around him. He used to call us students, “wallets”, which was his version of “walad“, which means boy in Arabic. He’d come into the classroom and shout, “Siddown, little wallets!” But was a good teacher and I respected him.

Sometime during the second year, I was passing by the teacher’s lounge and the door was open. I heard a few of the teachers talking about Arabs. I paused outside the door to listen, and I heard Mr. Evatt refer to his students as “sand-ni****s.” I was very hurt. I think it also fueled the beginning of a deep resentment and intolerance in me that lasted for many years. I returned to the USA for college, and for a long time, if I ever found out that one of my non-Muslim friends harbored the least bit of bigotry against Muslims or Arabs, I would cut that person off forever. I had no patience for it.

I also had an increasing sense that I did not belong in American society. I had always been proud of being an American, but while I loved America, America did not seem to love me back. I was turned down for a job because of my religion, openly mocked on a few occasions, visited at home by the FBI, stopped at the airport for questioning and invasive searches… I became restless and unsatisfied with life in America. None of that had anything to do with Mr. Evatt of course, but that insult that he cast on us students represented my first awareness of bigotry; it became, in my mind, a symbol of racism.

My most satisfying times were my trips abroad to Mexico or Costa Rica. Finally I left the USA and emigrated to Panama.

I was happy in Panama. It was a peaceful, beautiful place. The people there had no preconceptions about Arabs and Muslims. I think I was able to finally relax, and breathe easily. I came back to the USA in late 2008 for family reasons, but I’ve realized that somewhere along the road, I let go of the grudges I was holding. I’m more easy going with people now. I have a martial arts teacher who has some anti-Arab ideas, but I am patient with him. Who knows, maybe his interactions with me will help to dispel his stereotypical beliefs. People need to be educated, not condemned. It’s the only way forward. “Pardon them and overlook – Allah loves those who do good.”

It’s so much simpler to extend love to people, and show them the way, rather than react with anger. And it’s better for my own soul. I feel calm now, and balanced. Alhamdulillah. If I could see Mr. Evatt now, I would thank him for being a good teacher. He must have cared about us, or he would not have made the effort. And maybe I would ask him about the statement he made. But I wouldn’t blame him or get angry. I wish him well.

Forgive Yourself

This is important. Forgiveness needs to extend in all directions, even to yourself. Whatever you’ve done against yourself, forgive yourself. Don’t hold grudges against yourself. We humans all make mistakes. “Pardon them and overlook – Allah loves those who do good.”

Don’t call yourself names. You are not stupid, shameful, or useless. Just the opposite! You are bright, special and unique, with a special mission in this life. If you feel that you have been corrupted by sin, then the glory of Islam is that innocence can be yours again, with tawbah. We Muslims don’t believe in original sin. All human beings were created pure, on the fitrah. That is your birthright.

That’s why ‘A’isha reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as having said: “None of you should say: ‘My soul has become evil,’ but he should say: ‘My soul has become remorseless.'”

In other words, your soul has not turned into an evil thing. It is not totally lost. It is just at a point when it is not feeling remorse or sorrow for its actions. But that can be changed! The soul can be softened through prayer, dua’, dikhr (remembrance of Allah), fasting, reciting Quran, doing good to others, and other acts of worship, until your soul once again feels remorse, and can return to a state of purity. SubhanAllah!

Allah knew exactly what He was doing when He made you. If you don’t trust your own judgment, then trust Allah’s.

Tonight, let go of your grudges and sleep with a clean heart. Tomorrow the day is new, and life goes on. You have far to go and much to do. Look ahead, with a sunrise in your eyes.

Knowing Who to Believe, and Who to Trust

Forest path

Finding your way through the forest

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

The world is chaos. There is an underlying order in nature, but human society is a tsunami of lies, disinformation, conflicting claims, selfishness and greed. This news channel says one thing, that one says another. One group claims to be freedom fighters, others call them terrorists. One person tells you to practice Islam this way, another says that way. You meet someone and he or she seems honest, while others say, “Don’t trust him, he’s no good.” You make personal choices for your life, and people criticize you and say you are foolish or misguided.

What confusion! How do you know what to believe, and who to trust?

Answer:  Believe in Allah. Trust Him. Invite His word and guidance into your life and open yourself to it fully.

Next, believe in Allah’s Messengers, His books, the angels, the Day of Resurrection, and that certain things are predestined and beyond your control (Qadar).

These are the six pillars of Imaan (faith).

Lastly, believe in yourself. With Allah guiding you, have no fear. Believe in your instincts, your choices, and your own heart. This is the most difficult challenge, but it’s vital. Know yourself, and believe in yourself.

If you get that down, it’s clear sailing. You’ll know which people you can trust, and which ones you can’t. You’ll know which causes you can support, and which ones are lies. That’s the power of faith. It lights the way and makes things clear. The Quran is Al-Furqaan, the criterion by which all things can be judged. The authentic Sunnah is our guide that shows us how to put the Quran into practice in our lives.

These are the sources of Truth. As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said during his last sermon, on the occasion of the Hajj and on the day of ‘Arafah, in the Uranah valley near Makkah, with ten thousand people listening:

“O people, no Prophet or Messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand the words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things: the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah; and if you follow these you will never go astray.” (Agreed upon)

Islam is as-sirat al-mustaqeem, the Straight Path. When you have knowledge of the Truth, you cannot be distracted or fooled by falsehood.

Allah says,

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clearly distinct from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (Quran,  2:256)

On the day the Muslims opened Makkah, the Prophet (pbuh) recited, while watching the idols being smashed:

“…And say [O Muhammad]: ‘Truth has come, and falsehood has departed, Indeed is falsehood, [by Nature], ever bound to depart.’” (Quran, Al-Isrâ’: 81).

The same is true on a personal level. When Truth arrives in your heart, and you put it into action in your life, you will find that falsehood can no longer stand before you.

You’ll walk calmly amid the media whirlwind, the spin, the claims, the bigotry and greed, the selfish people who only want to use you, the betrayers who would hurt you without remorse. You will know who to believe and trust, because you know yourself, and you carry truth inside you.

Forgive Yourself

Yellow sunlight and clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

First, ask Allah for forgiveness. Then, if you’ve harmed someone, ask their forgiveness as well. Do tawbah, then forgive yourself. Don’t carry guilt and shame around in your heart like a poisoned dagger. Constant regret for the past is a waste of spirit.

You are not an angel, nor am I, nor any human being on this earth. It’s part of Allah’s plan that you commit sins, and He forgives you. That’s why He has written that His mercy is greater than His wrath.

Don’t despise yourself. Forgive yourself. It’s okay to let go of the past. Self respect and dignity come from who you are right now. You have a good soul, or you would not be here, reading these words.

Tomorrow is a new day. Wake up and thank Allah, and do your best every day. Have faith in Allah’s love and mercy, and reflect that in your actions toward others. Be peaceful, and strive to be happy.

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