A People of Hope

Cloud and birds

We (Muslims) are not a people of despair. We are a people of hope and redemption and transformation. The wind will always come. Fall in prostration during the storm and you will be safe. Like all things of this world, it will pass. Healing will come. Change will come. Victory will come.
It always does.

– Yasmin Mogahed, January 30, 2017

Not prepared for Ramadan? The door is open anyway

Muslim woman prays at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, in Ramadan 2009

Muslim woman prays at Jama Masjid in New Delhi, in Ramadan 2009

By Maryam Amir

If you cannot fast this Ramadan, if you cannot go to the masjid for tarawih, if you’ve been so overwhelmed that the month has crept up and you don’t feel like you’re at all prepared, remember:

Ramadan is the month of mercy anyway. Ramadan is the month of forgiveness anyway. Ramadan is the month of acceptance and rewards and prayers answered anyway.

Instead of feeling guilty and angry over your inability to fast and spend this month in the masjid or your lack of preparation, find creative ways to reconnect with your Creator. Your taking care of your health, your taking care of others, your duaa, your Quran, your dhikr, your charity, your doing the laundry and going to work and taking care of the kids and supporting your parents and studying for exams- all of them, all of them, are acts of worship magnified in this month by your intention.

If you feel the door has shut for you and the month hasn’t even begun, remember, “Allah will not close a door to His servant out of wisdom, except that He opens two doors for him out of mercy.” Ibn al-Qayyim

Allahuma, we are not ready, our hearts are hard and our vices many, but You are All Forgiving, All Loving and All Answering and all is easy for You – so make us successful anyway! Bring us close to You anyway! Be pleased with us, forgive us, answer us and enter us and every one of our loved ones into the highest Paradise without reckoning anyway! ameen!

Give It To Allah

Sun shining on a river in the wilderness

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?

How Satan tricked a pious man

Tall tree, huge tree, beautiful tree

There was a pious man among the Banu Israel who always remained busy in the worship of Allah. A group of people came and told him that a tribe living nearby worshiped a tree. The news upset him, so with an axe on his shoulder he went to cut down that tree.

On the way, Satan met him in the form of an old man and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to cut a particular tree. Satan said, “You have nothing to be concerned with this tree, you better mind your worship and do not give it up for the sake of something that does not concern you.”

“This is also worship,” retorted the worshiper.

Then Satan tried to prevent him from cutting the tree, and there followed a fight between the two, in which the worshiper overpowered Satan. Finding himself completely helpless, Satan begged to be excused, and when the worshiper released him, he again said, “Allah has not made the cutting of this tree obligatory on you. You do not lose anything if you do not cut it. If its cutting were necessary, Allah could have got it done through one of his many Prophets.”

The worshiper insisted on cutting the tree. There was again a fight between the two and again the worshiper overpowered Satan.

“Well listen,” said Satan, “I propose a settlement that will be to your advantage.”

The worshiper agreed, and Satan said, “You are a poor man, a mere burden on this earth. If you stay away from this act, I will pay you three gold coins everyday. You will daily find them lying under your pillow. By this money you can fulfill your own needs, can assist your relatives, help the poor, and do so many other virtuous things. Cutting the tree will be only one virtue, which will ultimately be of no use because the people will grow another tree.”

This proposal appealed to the worshiper, and he accepted it. He found the money on two successive days, but on the third day there was nothing. Enraged, he picked up his axe and went to cut the tree. Satan as an old man again met him on the way and asked him where he was going.

“To cut the tree,” shouted the worshiper.

“I will not let you do it,” said Satan.

Again a fight took place between the two, but this time Satan had the upper hand and overpowered the worshiper. The latter was surprised at his own defeat, and asked the former the cause of his success. Satan replied, “At first, your anger was purely for earning the pleasure of Allah, and therefore Almighty Allah helped you to overpower me, but now it has been partly for the sake of the gold coins and therefore you lost.”

***

Dear readers, what do you feel is the lesson of this story?

Ramadan is Half of Sabr (Patience & Endurance)

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Does the suffering of the Muslim Ummah leave you feeling depressed and constantly angry? Read this transcript of a talk by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. It’s long, but take the time to read it, as it’s really quite profound:

“One of the things about the current crises in the Muslim world, is that it’s very disheartening for people. A lot of people feel really, really.. I get calls from people lately and they’re.. A lot of depression in our community. I mean, really, like.. A lot of people feel very, very down. And the thing about.. what you’re doing when you succumb to those feelings and those emotions—and the Prophet (sws), you know, he had periods where he was down—undeniably, you know, he was a human being. So, that’s part of being a human being; you don’t have to be up all the time. But, to succumb to that. To allow the conditions of this planet to enter you into a grief state, you’re just adding yourself to a long list of Iblees’s victims. That’s all you’re doing. He has a long list of victims. And what he wants to do is just depress everybody, to thrust depression into your hearts.

So, you know, we really have to resist that temptation. Because it’s actually, it’s somewhat of a self-indulgent one. No matter how hard whatever we’re going through—and each one of us, we all know our troubles. Because Ibn Abbas said, ‘the nature of this dunya is that it is dar al balaa.’ That is the baseline nature of the world; it is a place of tribulation. That’s what it is.

And the Prophet (sws) said—he calls Ramadan ‘shahr as-sabr’, and he said, ‘Ramadan nifs as-sabr’—‘Ramadan is half of sabr.’ And the ulema said, Rajab Hanbali said, the reason Ramadan is half of sabr is because sabr is in three parts; being patient with obedience, patience in restraining yourself from disobedience, and being patient with the decrees of God that are difficult, that are painful. And he said that Ramadan has all three. Because you’re restraining from doing things that are haram, you’re patient with being obedient, through your fasting. And then, there are difficulties that go just with depriving yourself of food, and water, and these things. It’s a qadar —qadar of Allah. So it’s accepting the qadar of Allah.

So, that’s the nature of the dunya. It’s dar al balaa. So people know what they’re going through, but.. Ibn Abbas said in every tribulation are three blessings, hidden; the first one is that it could be worse. If you lost a hand, you could have lost both hands. If you lost an eye, you could have lost both eyes. If you went blind, you could have gotten dementia. There’s always something that could have been worse, that’s the first. The second is that it’s in your dunya and not in your deen. So even if you lost money, it’s just money. If you lost anything, if it’s dunya, it’s not important. And the last one, is that you’re still in this abode; it’s not in the next one. Because that’s where the real tribulation is.

So whatever difficulties you’re having, there are people in this ummah right now having much worse.”

—Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

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.

Photo Gallery: Muslims Praying in Amazing Places, Part 2

Muslim cabbie prays on his cab during rush hour.

Muslim cabbie prays on his cab during rush hour.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

(If you haven’t seen part 1, it’s here:  Muslims Praying in Amazing Places, Part 1).

Is there any blessing in this life greater than the opportunity to speak directly to God and be heard?

Salat (the Muslim prayer) is a command and a gift, and it’s something anyone can do at any place, anytime. The amazing photos below are proof of that.

Part 1 was published three years ago, and it’s taken me that long to collect these additional photos.

“Say: ‘My Lord hath commanded justice; and that ye set your whole selves (to Him) at every time and place of prayer, and call upon Him, making your devotion sincere as in His sight: such as He created you in the beginning, so shall ye return.'” – Quran 7:029

Poem: The Sorrows – by Sarah Saghir

Muslim woman praying in Indonesia.

Muslim woman praying beside a rice field in Indonesia.

   the sorrows
that borrow
the four chambers
of the heart
     shrivel
in the hour
 of Remembrance.

   the sins
that sit
on the shoulders
     tumble
to the floor
 where I'm bowing.

   the troubles
that scribble
over my vision,
     disperse
in the horizon
of Your Pleasure.

By Sarah Saghir
July 15, 2013

***

The Messenger of Allah said (peace be upon him): “When the worshiper gets up to perform the Salah, he comes with all his sins, placed over his shoulder. When he bows into Ruku’ or Sajdah, his sins fall down.” (Reported by Abu Nu‘aim)

Let Ramadan Do Its Work

My daughter Salma sitting in our garage

My daughter Salma sitting in our somewhat cluttered garage.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

•*• Ramadan Mubarak! •*• Alhamdulillah for the arrival of this sacred and special month! May Allah bless our brothers and sisters all over the world.

Going into Ramadan, many of us are experiencing hardships of some kind. Some of us are dealing with painful relationship problems, difficulties in our marriages, problems with in-laws, breakups, debt, loneliness, or are struggling with feelings of shame and guilt.

Let’s allow Ramadan to be a soothing balm for our souls. Let it purify us. Let Ramadan remind us of Allah’s immense and infinite favors. Let Ramadan do its inner work on us, and when it’s over let’s not go back to what we were.

If Ramadan allows us to climb ten steps higher on the ladder toward Jannah, then maybe after Ramadan we fall back two or three steps, but not all the way. Be better and stronger than we were. This holy month will teach us, if we let it.

New Habits, Insha’Allah

I told my daughter Salma a few days ago – she just turned six years old – that Ramadan is a time for giving up not only food and water, but also bad habits. I said, “Let’s make a deal. I will try not to lose my temper when you misbehave, and you will work on being less grouchy and more grateful for all your blessings.” To my pleasure, Salma smiled and said, “Okay, that’s  a deal.”

Of course I don’t want this to be a change in Ramadan only. I hope that Ramadan will set me on a new course, enabling me to be a better parent all year long, and will teach my daughter how to be more aware of the ne’mah (blessings and provisions)  in her life.

As for the fast itself, it is hard. Ramadan is in summertime, while much of the world is suffering from heat and drought. When we get to Maghreb, it’s a relief and a joy to break fast, especially with family and friends.

Even better than that is Allah’s reward, which comes when we need it most and least expect it, and is always greater than we can imagine, Insha’Allah.

As the Messenger of Allah (sws) said, “The fasting person experiences two joys: one when he breaks his fast, and one when he meets His Lord” (Muslim).

Give Sadaqah and Make Dua’

Lastly, let’s remember those who are suffering. Afghanistan and Yemen are in the midst of famine. The Horn of Africa is withering from drought. The people of Syria are struggling and dying as we speak. Give sadaqah if you can, through organizations such as Islamic Relief, Islamic Relief UK, and Life for Relief and Development.

And make dua’! Your dua’ matters. The Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, said that there are three whose dua is never rejected by Allah: a fasting person at the time of breaking fast, the just ruler and the one who is oppressed.’ (Ahmad,Tirmidhi)

O Allah, for You do we fast, and for You do we break our fast. All praise is due to You, who fed us, and gave us to drink, and made us Muslims. Purify us during this month, relieve us from our burdens, and forgive us. – Ameen.

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.

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