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.

Allah First

The sun shining from behind a cloud

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Allah first, glorified and exalted be He. Not career, money, savings, stocks, investments, 401K, IRA. Allah first. Not family, because we cannot serve our families well unless we serve Allah first. Not culture, nationality, “race”, caste, tribe, clan, lineage, social status (all of which are utterly meaningless).

Allah first. Not material, shopping, sales – people get up early for a sale but can’t wake up for Allah – smart phone, internet, computer. Allah, Allah, Allah first. Not movies, shows, fake celebrities who are worshiped like idols. Not sports teams, city, school, neighborhood.

Only when we put Allah first can we stay that we have understood “Laa ilaha il-Allah” (there is no God but Allah) – this simple sentence and testimony of faith, over which Prophets have been killed, believers persecuted, and which has been so little understood even by Muslims.

This Laa ilaha il-Allah was the call of every Prophet and Messenger from time immemorial. Allah says about it, “…and know that Laa ilaaha ill Allah (there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah)…” [Quran 47:19, 20:8, 3:18, 59:22-3]

And Abu Sa`eed al-Khudri said, that the Messenger of Allah (S) said:

“Moses (AS) said: ‘O Lord! Teach me something that I can remember You with and I can supplicate You with’. He (Allah Ta’ala) said: ‘Say ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah’, O Musaa’. He (Musaa) said: ‘All of your servants say this’. He (Allah) said: ‘If the seven Heavens and those who dwell in them other than Me and the seven Earths are put into one pan (of the scale) and ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allaah’ is put into the other; ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah’ would be heavier.'” [Ibn Hibbaan and Haakim]

Laa ilaha il-Allah is the stuff of legends. It is the calling card of the Eternal Prime Mover. It has rights over us. It’s a contract, an oath, a promise to love Allah before the people, fear Allah more than the people, and to ask ourselves in every situation, “What does Allah want me to do here?” It’s a vow to trust Allah before the people, call upon Allah in times of hardship, thank Allah in times of plenty, and know in our bones that our return is to Him.

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.

Expecting Great Things, and Doing My Part

Misty rainbow in Waialu Valley, Hawaii

Misty rainbow in Waialu Valley, Hawaii

“Holding on to the rope of the LORD, believing in the power of prayers, faith and good deeds. Expecting great things from GOD. I am ready and willing to put in the work and do my part to make it happen… faith without works equals nothing but false hope… wanting without striving and struggling is like dreaming. I gotta get busy putting in more work!”

– Hanan K Bilal

What to Say on Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power

Center of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen from Cherry Springs State Park

Center of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen from Cherry Springs State Park, one of the darkest places in the USA.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

The last ten nights of Ramadan are here. This is an amazing, powerful, unique time. These days are the most spiritually charged days of the year, more full of power than a great star or the mighty ocean. And one of these days is Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, equal to a thousand months. Every prayer is magnified, every good deed is multiplied exponentially.

What to say during Laylat al-Qadr? It is recommended to supplicate a lot during this night.

It is reported from ‘Aisha (ra), that she said: “O Messenger of ALLAH! What if I knew which night Lailatul-Qadr was, then what should I say in it?” The Prophet (PBUH) said.- “Say.-

(Allahumma innaka ‘affuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee.)

“O ALLAH You are The One Who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me.”

[reported by at-Tirmithi]

I also wish to remind everyone that all difficulties pass, all troubles pass. Hard times don’t last, but strong people do! Worry if you must, but do not fear. Allah is with you. He is The Forgiving, The Merciful, The Loving, and the Giver of Peace. Call upon Him, especially during this blessed time.

As one of my readers said, call upon Allah using His beautiful Names…

Ar-Rahman – All Compassionate
Ar-Raheem – Most Merciful
Al-Wadood – All Loving

You have no idea how much your worship at this special time is valued. More than any of us can count. SubhanAllah.

A Gate in Paradise Called Ar-Rayyaan

St. Louis Gateway Arch, seen from the park

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

The holy month of Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, purification, worship, charity and forgiveness, all to bring us closer to our Creator.

There are so many blessings and benefits to fasting in Ramadan. Some are physical, some are spiritual, and some relate purely to our aakhirah.

Among these blessings is the right to enter through Bab Ar-Rayyaan:

Narrated Sahl (ra) : The Prophet (sws – peace be upon him) said,

“Indeed, there is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Rayaan. On the Day of Resurrection, those who fasted will enter it and none except them will enter. It will be said, ‘Where are those who used to fast?’ They will arise and none except them will enter it. After their entry, the gate will be closed and none will enter it.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 120]

Many Muslims have heard this hadith, but most don’t know the meaning of this name, “Ar-Rayyaan”. In fact I was at the masjid recently for a Ramadan class and I asked the Imam this question and he did not know. So when I got home I looked it up:  the linguistic meaning of Ar-Rayyaan is something that is well-watered, and therefore lush, succulent and beautiful…

Doesn’t it sound lovely? I imagine it surrounded by water, maybe a river, stream, or a waterfall… A tall and shining gate, beautifully decorated, silver or golden… Allah knows best.

I want to walk through that gate, and I want the same for my daughter Salma. At this moment, I want that more than anything else I can imagine… if I achieve that, then I will have succeeded in life.

Fasting is a Key

Why should there be a gateway to Jannah only for those who fast? What is so special about fasting for only month every year, as opposed to praying every day, or making the great effort of Hajj, or giving one’s hard-earned money in charity, or any other important Islamic deed?

Actually we know from various saheeh hadeeth (authentic narrations of the Prophet) that there are many gates to Jannah. Some will reward people who perform specific actions, and according to the Prophet (sws), certain individuals willed be called to all the gates, and may enter from whichever they choose. SubhanAllah. This is a fascinating subject in its own right. However, Bab Ar-Rayyaan has been mentioned quite prominently in the narrations. It is clearly an important and privileged gate.

Why is that?

Fasting is designed to put us into a state of hyper-awareness of Allah. Hasan al-Basri said,

“By Allah, in the last twenty years, I have not said a word or taken something with my hand or refrained to take something with my hand or stepped forth or stepped back, except that I have thought before I have done any action, ‘Does Allah love this action? Is Allah pleased with this action?'”

This is how we should be when fasting. The fast is a highly personal act of worship between the servant and the Creator. It’s an invisible act. When you pray or perform tawaaf, you can be seen by others, so there is always the risk of one’s intention being tainted by the desire to be seen or admired. However, when we are fasting, no one can look at us and know that we are fasting. Even in Ramadan, a person could eat or drink secretly. It is an honor system. That is why Allah said in a hadith qudsi, “Fasting is for Me and I reward it.” (al-Bukhari)

Another truth is that fasting is difficult. It is more arduous than salat, or giving sadaqah. When done properly, fasting can be very hard, especially in summer or in hot climates. For me personally, fasting at the height of summer is the most punishing physical experience I go through, particularly on the days when I have martial arts classes scheduled.

The greatest mistake would be to think that fasting is only about hunger, thirst and abstinence. It seems to me that fasting is a physical experience that opens the doorway to a spiritual state of being. The hardship of fasting is a key that unlocks a tremendous reservoir of strength, and that plunges one into a state of humility, and an extreme awareness of one’s actions before Allah.

That’s ultimately what fasting is about. It is about being conscious of Allah, sacrificing for Him, being humbled before Him, growing closer to Him, and pleasing Him.

Fasting is a key that opens a door. And the door is called Ar-Rayyaan.

May Allah make us among those who enter through Ar-Rayyaan.

Allah Will Make a Way Out

Al-Masjid An-Nabawi Al-Sharif, in Madinah

Al-Masjid An-Nabawi Al-Sharif, in Madinah

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Are you stressed? Take a deep breath, and as you release it, let your heart slow down and be calm.

Step back and look at your situation objectively. It’s almost never as bad as you think. Just do your best, and trust Allah. He will show you a way forward, and bring you through. He will bring you relief from a direction you did not expect.

This is true. I have experienced it over and over in my life, and it is a promise from Allah:

“And whoever is conscious of Allah, He will make for him a way out, And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” (Quran 65:2-3)

Here is a true story that illustrates this point in an amazing way:

The Hotel Manager

Recently, a Muslim man was caught in a dilemma, where he faced two choices, both of which were onerous. This man was the manager of one of the largest hotels in Egypt. The hospitality industry in Egypt is one of the most competitive in the world so this manager always strived to provide the best possible service in his hotel. He paid attention to the smallest details, set the budget priorities, observed his staff, and got personally involved whenever a problem occurred. He was very good at his job. Because of this he was highly valued by his superiors.

However, there was one element of the job that galled him. A duty that he felt ashamed over. In any large hotel in Egypt, serving alcoholic drinks is a must, and that duty was killing him inside. He knew that serving alcohol is haram. It is forbidden by Allah, and whatever money comes from it is not blessed but haram; but it was part of the job and had to be taken care of, regardless of how he felt towards it.

Time went by and he performed his job admirably, but this business of selling alcohol was eating him up inside. Finally he decided to go to one of the well- known Egyptian sheikhs and ask his advice. After arranging for an appointment to meet this sheikh, he met him and explained the problem. The sheikh without hesitation said, “You must leave this job.”

That was not enough of an answer for the manager. He explained to the sheikh, “This is the only job I know. I’ve been working in this field all my life. I don’t know what else to do. I have a wife and children to take care of. I can’t just leave the job and be unemployed and penniless like so many others in Egypt.”

The sheikh replied, “Did you come to me thinking that I might give you permission to do what Allah forbids? Leave this job for the sake of Allah.”

The man, not knowing what to do, said, “But I have family to take care of. I’m their only source of money. How will I feed my children? If I leave the job, I won’t be able to provide them with the simplest needs of life. What shall I do?”

The sheikh reminded the manager of a verse from the Quran:

“And whoever is conscious of Allah, He will make for him a way out, And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him.”

The man returned to the hotel, knowing that he had to make the most difficult decision of his life. He knew now that this job would not satisfy Allah. As frightened as he was for his future, he was not willing to lose his faith and lose the hereafter because of a job; but he trembled when he thought of the risk he was taking, and the fear of what the future might hold for him and his family.

At the hotel the manager went about his job, looking normal on the outside. But inside he was thinking furiously, considering.  Then he made his decision. He decided to quit the job with no regrets. He became convinced that this was the right thing to do. With a strong faith and an absolute trust in Allah, he made a plea to the heavens: “O Allah, I trust You, and I’m doing this only for You. I know you will make for me away out, so please help me.”

He headed directly to his office, sat at his desk, and began writing his resignation.

As he was writing, the phone in front of him rang. It was his superior at the corporation office, calling with news. The manager was stunned and could hardly believe the news he heard, but it was true. The man was informed that he had been promoted and would no longer be responsible for managing this hotel but instead he would manage a new hotel located in Al-Madinah, the holy city of our Prophet (peace be upon him), and right next to the Masjid of the Prophet. Of course, being in Saudi Arabia, this new hotel sold no alcohol.

His dua had been answered in a heartbeat, from one moment to the next, before he even finished the letter of resignation.

Till this day, the man is still the manager of the hotel in Madinah.

Subhan’Allah…

“Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” (Quran 002.286)

Invite Allah’s Power and Wisdom Into Your Life

Man surrounded by sun rays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Allah’s power and wisdom are limitless and beyond our comprehension. But guess what? There is a key that brings Allah’s infinite wisdom into play in your life. That key is prayer. Salat and dua’ are like a special hotline that transcends the veils of space and time and goes directly to Allah. Prayer is the means and the voice that Allah has given us to speak to Him, ask His forgiveness, and request His assistance and wisdom in any situation that we are dealing with. And it works.

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be guided.” Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:186

Miracles happen every day. Do you not believe that miracles can happen in your life as well? Do you think that you are too insignificant for that? SubhanAllah. Allah sees and knows every fallen leaf, every grain in the darkness of the earth; and He knows your innermost thoughts. He is closer to you than your jugular vein. (Quran 50:16)

Do you think that Allah’s nearness to you is because He mistrusts you? No! Allah has nothing to fear from you, and therefore nothing to mistrust. Allah is near to you because He loves you. He is near to you because He cares about you and understands your pain. He is near to you so that He can help you. You matter, as much as the ocean, the trees and the stars. You are important to Allah, not as a general concept, but you, as an individual person with your own private needs and fears. You only have to turn to Him, and call upon Him; and His wisdom, power and guidance will manifest in your life.

I personally went through a very difficult period when I was younger. At the time I felt that I had failed in life. I was beginning to feel some despair. But I kept my faith in Allah, and I prayed to Him in the day and the dark of the night. I trusted Allah, and I knew that He would not abandon me. And then the last person I would expect, an acquaintance who I hardly knew and who had no reason to care about me or my situation, suddenly took an interest and began helping me. Within a short period of time I had a job, and was able to get my own apartment, and my life had changed completely. It was literally a miracle. Even now it blows my mind. Allah stepped into that situation, and He made the impossible possible, because I believed in Him and I prayed.

Miracles happen every day. Allah hears you. You matter.

“O You the Ever Living Who sustains all that exists! O You Who created the heavens and the earth without precedence. O You, Who owns the glory and the honor, none has the right to be worshiped except You. We seek refuge with Your mercy. Grant us success in all of our matters. Please, do not abandon us to rely on ourselves even for an instant nor on any of Your creation.” – (dua’ mentioned in Tafsir ibn Kathir, in the tafsir of Surat Ar-Rahman, ayahs 26 to 30.)

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.

Page 2 of 3«123»

Support Our Sponsor, Join Today!

Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials

Join our Islamic Sunrays Facebook page.

If you like an article, please comment! It means a lot to the authors.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 199 other subscribers

Archives

Pieces of a Dream