Justice First, Then Love

Man surrounded by sun rays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“Say: ‘My Lord has commanded justice…'” – Quran, Surat al-A‘raf, 29

Some people speak of love as it if it is the answer to all the world’s ills:

“All you need is love”… “God is love”… “Jesus loves you.” And so on.

But Islam chooses instead to focus on justice, because when people perceive that they are being treated fairly and justly, everything else becomes possible. The Quran does speak of love, but it emphasizes justice more strongly.

“You who believe! be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, Allah is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, Allah is aware of what you do.” – Quran, Surat an-Nisa’, 135

What does it mean to speak of love while at the same time oppressing people? What does it mean to speak of love while harboring racial prejudice, or while supporting the occupation of another country, or engaging in oppressive labor practices? On a personal level, what does it mean to speak of love while abusing one’s spouse or children?

No. Be just and give people their rights. Harm no one, cheat no one, and oppress no one. Be kind and compassionate to friends and strangers alike. Do that, and everything will follow: peace, harmony, love, and progress. That’s the Islamic way.

If we do not see justice being practiced in the Muslim world today – and we do not, for the most part – it’s because many Muslims are not  living Islam. They are infected with un-Islamic ideologies and behaviors such as tribalism, sectarian hatred, and misogyny. We have lost our way as an Ummah. The last few centuries have reduced us from kings of the earth to squabbling children, and now we have to grow up all over again.

Read that verse again. Be upholders of justice even against yourselves. Carry the torch of truth. Judge yourselves before others. Be fair, be kind, and help the ones sitting in the dust, crying for a morsel of food, or for safety from the guns. Think of your spouse’s needs before your own. Fulfill your duties to your children: not only financially, but the duties of time, care, playing, hugging, and always being honest.

And here’s something you may have realized: justice practiced at this deep level begins to look a lot like love. The difference is the starting point: not flowery words, but the practical expression of justice on a societal and personal level.

Justice and kindness are the rich soil from which loves grows. Be just.

You ask for forgiveness, then you’re struggling in life?

Painting of a ship on the sea.

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.

10 Islamic quotations by Sarah Saghir

Big Wet Meadow in Cloud Canyon, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Big Wet Meadow in Cloud Canyon, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Thoughts on Prayer, Faith, Gratitude and the Soul
By Sarah Saghir

1. Make wudu, not war.

2. You can’t love God, without Him letting you. He must have loved you first.

3. It’s the dua at the Iftar table that tells us what we really want. It’s the ability to suppress the nafs and hush the stomach for a few extra minutes, all to let the heart speak what it wishes.

***

4. The only mirror we should obsessively check is that which reflects the soul. You cannot purchase such a mirror, but you can find it within you. *Ponder* over the condition of your soul. Sit with yourself and reflect. But for such reflections to surface, you need blessed light from God and a pair of open eyes – nay, an open heart. Because sometimes, “It is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts.” (Qur’an 22:46)

Ya Allah put the light of the Quran in our hearts. Make it a means for us to clearly see. Ya Wahhab

***

5. There is absolutely no need, my friend – no need for you to wipe the rain off my face after the prayer. I know your intentions are well, as it may seem like there are dark clouds hovering over my head, but I am harboring rainbows on the inside, with colors of love, fear, hope, guilt, peace, shame and calmness. And sometimes these tears mean i’m desperately looking for the rays of sincerity that bring this prism to life, under the rain.

***

6. I know you cannot measure the magnitude of your blessings; but please tell me you noticed one thing: the difference between the guided and the heedless. You — whom God addresses, while causally sitting on a bus, reading His speech, surrounded by passengers full of hunger & vacancy — must be so lucky. Tell me you recognize this debt; tell me you found in its depth, gratitude.

***

7. When you finally decide to practice your faith, know that God is 100% behind you. He’s the one to give you that initial push. And at first, it will be easy breezy; you will feel ‘the rush’ and experience that ‘spiritual high.’

But then He will test you (only because He loves you) And now you’ve got to start swinging yourself, using your core, feet, arms, your will – against the wind, gravity, the hardships, people, your sins..

You need to keep pushing to the rhythm of faith that swings high, low, beautiful. Keep pushing to get higher, closer to Him. Keep pushing.

***

8. O Allah whoever wishes khair (good) for me in the secrecy of the night or in the openness of daylight, grant them double what they’ve wished for me. And whoever wishes sharr (harm) to touch me, pardon them and stretch distance and forgiveness between us. Ya Karim,

9. I want to live a life of simplicity, not an easy life.

10. If you only pray when you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble.

Righteousness in public and in private – Imam Zaid Shakir

Pull over - time to pray.

Pull over – time to pray.

By Imam Zaid Shakir

One of the signs of true faith is that it leads its possessor to manifest piety wherever he or she may be, because of the awareness that God has the ability to see, hear and witness us at all times.

Hence, for the righteous there is no difference in their public and private behavior. One of the great tribulations befalling many people in our time is that they appear as saints in public, but in the privacy of their homes they are tyrants and oppressors.

Such behavior is totally unacceptable and one behaving thus will be taken to task by God. The Prophet, peace upon him, has admonished us to be mindful of God, both publicly and privately.

One of his prayers was the following:

“O God! I ask you to grant me reverence of You, privately and publicly.”

Imam al-Shafi’i mentioned, “The three most precious things are giving charity during times of need; being impeccably mindful of God in private; and speaking the truth in the face of one you hope to benefit from, or one you fear.”

Honored and blessed to wake up

Bird inflight - a sequenced shot.

Bird in flight – a sequenced shot.

“I wake up feeling great every morning not because everything yesterday went perfectly as planned, or last night I slept on a bed of roses and had dreams of successful happy ending, or that I’m entering today with a forecast of having no cloudy problems, no rainy challenges, no thunderous setbacks or no stormy test.

“No! I wake up feeling great every morning because God allowed me to wake up, and to that I am honored, blessed and thankful. Therefore I sacrifice my own selfish self-interest and I dedicate every minute of everyday to God by entering it like every bug, every fish, every bird, every reptile, every mammal and every tree: full of life with a hungry faith relying totally on God to provide me with my daily sustenance, my daily bread…

“Did I say good morning?”

– Bilal Mustafa, aka Bilal Int’l

Blessing the child of a Christian couple

Cute baby with blue eyes

They asked for their baby to be blessed.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah, an Imam at the Jama Masjid in Las Vegas, Nevada tells the following story:

In these time, where Muslims are under microscopic scrutiny and where all sorts of accusations are being hurled at Islam and Muslims and where some Muslims through their actions are driving even Muslims away from Islam, a young couple, Andrew and Ericka walked in the Jama Masjid with their newly born baby.

They are Christians and they live some 25 miles west of the Masjid and asked for the Islamic blessings for their child. It was the first for me when a non-Muslim couple was asking for the Islamic invocation for a child born in a Christian family.

Many Muslim friends might object to what I did. I said Azan in his right ear and Aqama in the left year and recited Sura Fatiha, asking God to protect this child from all evils, and praying for his parents. They want him to grow with love towards all and malice to none.

I was frozen and my whole body was shaking when I was reciting the Quran. Am I wrong if I assumed that God, the creator of all has really blessed them with an innocent heart and a pure mind? I reminded myself of the verse of the Quran ” Your Lord has decreed upon himself nothing but mercy.”

Story: The old man and the lost purse

A medieval purse circa 1600.

A medieval linen purse circa 1600.

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari relates:

I was in Makkah during the season of Hajj and I saw a man from Khurasaan calling out to the people: “Oh pilgrims, oh people of Makkah – from those who are present and those far off, I have lost a pouch that contains a thousand dinars. So whoever returns the pouch, Allah will reward them with good, save them from the hell fire, and His bounty and favors will be acquired on the Day of Accounting (Day of Judgment).”

An old man from the people of Makkah approached him and said: “Oh Khurasaani, our city is in a very tough condition, and the days of hajj are few, and its season is appointed, and the doors of profit-making are closed. This money might fall in the hands of a believer who is poor and old in age. Maybe he plans to give it if you make a promise that you will give him a little bit of money that is halal (permissible) for him to use.”

The Khurasaani said: “How much does he want?”

The old man said: “He wants one-tenth of the money (a hundred dinars).”

The Khurasaani said: “No. I will not grant him the money and instead I will take my case to Allah, and complain to Him on the day we meet Him, and Allah is sufficient for us and the best one to trust in.”

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: “I realized that it was the old man is poor, and he was the one who took the pouch of dinars and wishes to have a little portion of it. So I followed him until he returned to his home. My assumptions were confirmed. I heard him calling onto his wife:”Oh Lubabah.”

She said: “I am at your service, O Abu Ghayth.”

The old man said: I found the owner of the dinars calling for it, and he does not intend to give any reward to the person who finds it. I said to him “Give us a hundred dinars and he refused and said he would take his case to Allah. What should I do O Lubabah? I must return it, for I fear my Lord, and I fear that my sin is multiplied.

His wife said to him: Oh Man! We have been struggling and suffering from poverty with you for the last 50 years, and you have 4 daughters, 2 sisters, my mother and I, and you are the ninth. Keep all the money and feed us for we are hungry, and clothe us for you know better our situation. Perhaps Allah, the All-Mighty, will make you rich afterwards and you might be able to give the money back after you fed your children, or Allah will pay the amount you owe on the day when the kingdom will belong to the King (Allah).

He said to her: Will I consume haram after 86 years of my life, and burn my organs with fire after I have been patient with my poverty, and become worthy of Allah anger, even though I am close to my grave?! No, By Allah, I will not do so!

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: I left with amazement concerning his condition and that of his wife. At a later point during the day, I heard the owner of the pouch calling out…

Saying: “O people of Makkah, O pilgrims, who ever of you find a pouch containing a thousand dinars, let him return it and they shall surely find great reward with Allah.”

The old man said: Oh Khurasaani, I have addressed you the other day and advised you that our land is low on cultivation, so reward the person who found the pouch so that he is not tempted to break the laws of Allah. I have advised you to pay the person who finds it a hundred dinars but you refused. If your money falls into hands of a person who fears Allah the All-Mighty, will you give him 10 dinars at least, instead of a 100?

The Khurasaani said: I will not do so, and I will complain to Allah on the day I meet him, and Allah is sufficient for us and the best one to trust in.”

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: The people dispersed and left. Later on during the hours of the day, once again, the Khurasaani made the same call, saying:

“O people of Makkah, O pilgrims, who ever of you find a pouch containing a thousand dinars, let him return it and they shall surely find great reward with Allah.”

The old man came again and said: O Khurasaani, I said to you the day before yesterday to reward the finder a hundred dinars and you refused. Then I advised you to give him ten dinars and you refused, so will you give only one dinar so that he can buy with half of it things he needs and with the other half, sheep milk, so that he can give to the people and feed his children?

The Khurasaani said: I will not do so, and I will complain to Allah on the day I meet him, and Allah is sufficient for us and the best one to trust in. ”

The old man angrily said: Come you, and take your money so that I can sleep at night, for I have not had a good mood ever since I found this money.

Ibn Jarir said: So the old man went with the owner of the money and I followed them until the old man entered his house, dug a hole and pulled out the money and said: Take your money and ask Allah to forgive me and bless me from His bounty.

The Khurasaani took the money and intended to leave, but when he reached the door he said: O old man, my father died, May Allah have mercy on him, and left behind three thousand dinars and said to me: Take out a third of this money and give it to a person from the people who is most deserving of it. Therefore I tied it in a pouch so that I may spend it on someone who is worthy of it. By Allah, I have not seen a person, since I left Khurasaan until now, who is more worthy of it then you. So take it, May Allah’s blessing be upon you, and May He reward for the trust you kept, and your patience during poverty. The Khurasaani man left without the money.

The old man wept and prayed to Allah, saying: May Allah bless the owner of the money in his grave, and May Allah bless his son.

Ibn Jarir said: I left after the Khurasaani but Abu Ghayth (the old man) followed me and brought me back. He asked me to sit down, and said: I have seen you following me since the first day; you have come to know of our situation yesterday and today. I have heard that the Prophet said: “If you are gifted from the provision of Allah, without begging or asking, then accept it and do not reject it.” So this is a gift from Allah to all those attending.

The old man called: O Lubabah, O so and so, O so and so. He called on his daughters and his sisters and wife and her mother, and sat down and made me sit down. We were 10. He opened the bag, and said spread your clothing over your laps.

So I (Ibn Jarir) did, but the girls did not have proper clothing that would enable them to do that, so they extended their hands. The old man gave dinar by dinar in order until he reached me (Ibn Jarir) and said: “Here is a dinar.” The process continued until the bag was empty and I received a hundred dinars.

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: So joy filled my heart because of the provision they received more then the joy I had because I received a hundred dinars.

When I was leaving the old man said: O young man. You are blessed; keep this money with you for it is halal. And know that I use to wake up for Fajr prayer with this wet shirt. After I was done I would take it off, and give it so that my daughters can pray – one by one. Then I would go to work between Dhuhr prayer and Asr prayer and then I would come back at the end of the day with what Allah has given me from dates and dry pieces of bread. Then I would take off my clothes for my daughters and they would pray Dhuhr prayer and Asr prayer, and the same would happen for the Maghrib and Isha prayers. And we did not ever expect to see this kind of money. So may Allah make us make good use of them, and may Allah bless the person in his grave and multiply the reward for him.

Ibn Jarir said: So I greeted him goodbye, and took the hundred dinars and used them to write knowledge for two years! I used it to buy paper and pay rent and after sixteen years I returned to Makkah and inquired about the old man. I was told that he died a few months after the incident that occurred between us. His wife died, along with her mother, and his 2 sisters. The only ones that remained were the daughters whom, when I asked about, found that they were married to kings and Princes. I dropped by and they honored me as a guest and treated me kindly until they died also. So May Allah bless them in their graves.

{That will be an admonition given to him who believes in Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty).

And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things. (Quran, Surat At-Talaq 65: 2-3)

The old pottery seller and the kindness of human beings

Pottery seller with his donkey in Istanbul, Turkey.

Pottery seller with his donkey in Istanbul, Turkey.

Farhia Yahya tells a true story on SuhaibWebb.com of an incident she witnessed in Cairo:

An old pottery seller was walking with his donkey. The donkey reared, sending the pottery crashing to the ground. The poor man, seeing his livelihood destroyed, was heartbroken. His face turned dark with sorrow as he surveyed the wreckage of his goods.

Then a wonderful thing happened. People came out of apartments, shops and cars to help him pick up the pieces. Then they gave him money, purchasing his broken clay.

In Farhia’s words, “It was incredible to see the hearts of people move like this. Humanity may disappear and people may be cruel towards the poor in certain places and at certain times, but in other places and at other times, the humanity is truly beautiful.”

Put Down the Stone

Wael and Salma, February 15, 2013

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.

A Real Man

Touarag man praying in the Moroccan desert.

Touarag man praying in the Moroccan desert.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

::*:: What is a “Real Man”? ::*::

Answer: A real man is humble before God. He fears for his aakhirah (hereafter). He works to clothe and feed his family, and to lead them to Jannah (Paradise). The Messenger of Allah (sws) said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Sahih Muslim).

A real man does not rule his family with an iron fist.  He would never raise a hand to strike. He is tender with his wife and children, and hard against anyone who would hurt them. He respects his parents, and honors blood ties. He loves the Ummah and considers all Muslims brothers and sisters.

Beyond that, a real man respects the human rights of all people, regardless of religion, nationality, or race. The Prophet (sws) said: “Allah, Most High, has removed from you the pride of the pre-Islamic period and its boasting in ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. You are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust.” (Abu Dawud)

A real man respects women. “The most perfect in faith among believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” – Prophet Muhammad (sws), Sunnan of Abu Dawud.

A real man is dedicated to the truth, even against himself. He keeps promises. He doesn’t lie or cheat. He doesn’t gossip or betray anyone’s trust.

He never mocks people. “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” – Quran 49:11.

He is not needlessly suspicious of others. “O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion. Indeed, some suspicion is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other…” – Quran, 49:12.

A real man keeps himself clean. He dresses modestly, and represents himself well as a Muslim. He exercises and eats well. He takes care of his body because it is a trust from Allah.

He’s not greedy. He pays zakat and gives sadaqah, knowing it will come back to him. Allah says in the Quran (2:262), “Those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, and then do not follow what they have spent by demands for gratitude or insulting words will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow.”

A real man does not hurt or exploit the weak; he protects them. Animals too.

A real man fights for something genuine. He does not fight for status. He walks away from verbal insults, because he understands that honor comes from the heart, not the fists.

A real man knows he doesn’t have all the answers. He listens before he speaks. When he makes a mistake he admits it. He studies and grows. He worries more about who he is than what people think.

A real man doesn’t whine about his circumstances.  He takes whatever abilities Allah has given him and applies them. When times are hard he forges ahead and finds a way. He knows that success and failure come from Allah, so he is humble and grateful, and never stops making dua’.

Am I this real man?

Just now I had this conversation with my daughter Salma, who is six years old:

Me – “How would you define a real man?”

Salma – “He’s strong, he’s confident, and he does stuff.”

Me – “What about me, am I a real man?”

Salma – “You’re mostly a silly man, because you tell silly jokes.”

I won’t put the question to my ex-wife.

Seriously though, I’m not there yet, and maybe I never will be. It’s a lifetime trip. But I do think I’m closer than, say, five years ago. I teach martial arts, and I tell my students, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Instead, compare yourself to yourself. Ask yourself, ‘Have my skills improved in the last year? Has my character improved?’ If the answer is yes, then you have succeeded.

I’m not asking you to be a perfect man. Just a real man.

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