Why Are You Still Here?

Sun rays over city skyline

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Three days ago I was driving north on Highway 99 in California’s Central Valley. This stretch of 99 is under construction and the shoulders are closed off with concrete barriers. So the road is two narrow lanes, with nowhere to go on the sides; in spite of that, many cars hit 80 or 90 mph in the left lane.

Suddenly a truck a few cars ahead of me swerved into the left lane to avoid a slow-moving truck on the right. The fast-moving cars skidded this way and that to avoid the truck, but there was nowhere to go. I slammed on my brakes so hard that the smell of burning rubber filled the car. I swerved right but the slow-moving truck was there. In my mind’s eye I saw myself crashing into that truck at 50 mph. At the last second the truck that started the whole mess swerved back into the right, creating an opening, and averting a disaster. I drove on, my heart pounding in my chest.

Yesterday I was not so lucky. I stopped at a traffic light in Los Banos, with Salma strapped into her car seat in the back. Out of the blue a pickup truck slammed into us from behind at a high rate of speed, knocking my car into the car ahead of me. I felt my head snap backward then whip forward. For some reason the airbags did not deploy. I checked Salma and she was okay, though she had bumped her head on the car seat, and she was frightened. After reassuring her I pulled to the side of the road. The entire back end of the car was crushed. It’s a miracle that Salma was not hurt. Thank God, thank God.

I’ve had many close calls like this, not only in traffic but in other situations as well. I can think of a few instances where death was literally only inches away.

You may have had similar experiences. Many people have. So why are you still here, when so many others are not? Why didn’t you die in that car accident? Why didn’t I?

I can’t say for sure. I don’t know what’s behind the veil of the unseen. But I wonder. Could it be that God has a special purpose for you in this life? Could it be that He is not done with you? Could it be that you are one of His blessed tools for earthly transformation?

Could it be that there is a mission that can only be accomplished by you – not just anyone, but you, with your particular failures and successes, heartbreaks and joys, and all the things you’ve seen and done that make you unique? Is there someone whose heart needs to be touched by your kindness? Someone lost in darkness, who needs your light? Some child needing your love? Something important on this earth, some cause that requires your skills? Some evil to be stopped, or something to be built?

And what of those who did not survive? Those who were taken “before their time”, as people say? Who died young, precipitously or catastrophically? Were they then not special, or not needed by God on this earth?

I choose to believe just the opposite: that they were so special, so innocent or full of light, that God desired to have them close to Him. He made a place for them in Paradise, where they are like jewels who shine in His garden.

These are pretty thoughts, but are they real? I can’t provide evidence, but they feel real to me. They have the ring of truth in my heart. You decide. But I remind you that God is a God of Mercy and Forgiveness, and that He does nothing without purpose.

I believe in you, my friend. I believe in your purpose here on this third planet from the sun, at this exact age in the history of man, in this place where you now sit, reading these words. Not by accident did you come here. You might think, “Me? A blessed tool for earthly transformation?” Yes, you brother. You, sister. Have faith in God to guide you to your unique destiny, and have faith in yourself to fulfill it.

Advice from a Mountain

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

No matter how great you are, God is still above you.

There’s nothing wrong with having your head in the clouds, as long as you have roots in the earth. If you want to be beautiful and strong, be yourself. In anything, build your foundation first. Be solid, be real.

Rise above the bigotries of others. Provide refuge to the oppressed, the traveler, and the seeker. Protect the rivers, trees, and animals.

Keep your secrets. Cherish silence and solitude, but roar when you must.

Be patient: everything changes in its season, and all things come to those who persevere.

Allah Prepared the Earth for Us

Yosemite Valley, California

Yosemite Valley, California

“As the pregnant mother excitedly prepares the cradle for the arrival of her new baby, Allah also prepared the earth for us before He sent Adam and Hawaa. He set all in place for us: the earth as a soft bed, the heavens as a canopy, the rain, the fruits, the stars, even companions and love. He (SWT) gave us everything we need to live and fulfill our needs. It’s truly amazing.”

– Sister Fozia

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

Beauty All Around Us

Grape vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley

Grape vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Every Saturday I drive from Fresno, in the geographical center of California, across the western side of the San Joaquin Valley and up into the mountains, to Casa de Fruta. It is such beautiful country, SubhanAllah. The San Joaquin Valley is a part of California’s great Central Valley, a vast agricultural breadbasket that runs 450 miles (720 km) from north to south.

Right now in March, the fields are on fire with orange poppies and yellow mustard flowers. The almond trees have been blossoming for a month, and the white petals fall to the ground like rain. On my way home, I sometimes pull over and park under the almond trees. I have a snack, listen to the radio, then get out and practice martial arts moves beneath the trees. When the irrigation pumps are running I use the water to wash my face or perform wudu’.

The grapes are just coming up – the slender stems are like the idea of a grape vine. Corn, cotton and lettuce are newly planted, and birds with long white necks flock to the fields. The fields are full of huge herds of white sheep and black cows, and our unique local cows with a large white stripe down the middle.

The green grass sweeps up into the mountains, where it becomes forest and finally snow.

The years-long drought is over. The San Luis Reservoir is setting a new high water mark. It is normally full of islands, but now they have all disappeared as the water is a solid sheet of deep blue from one side to the other, with fingers of water stretching into surrounding valleys. I’ve never seen it so high. The Eastside Bypass, which is a flood control channel and is normally dry as dust, is running with water.

The San Joaquin River is running to the Pacific Ocean for the first time in decades. In coming years the Chinook salmon may return to the river, Insha’Allah. This is a type of fish that swims upriver from the sea. There has not been a Chinook run on the San Joaquin River since the 1940’s.

The skies in this part of the Valley are huge, with vast expanses of clouds sweeping the sky like ships. Late in the day, the sky is a giant palette of blue, yellow, orange and red.

The world is amazing. Never think that beauty is gone from the world. Open your eyes and look at the majesty around you. All this was not created in vain. It is a miracle, a blessing, and a sign pointing to the Most Merciful God.

SubhanAllah, glory to Allah The Provider, The Creator, The One.

Beginnings from endings

Butterfly emerging from its cocoon

Butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

Amidst the rush
of worldly comings and goings,
observe how endings
become beginnings.

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

Reaching for the light

Flowers reaching for the light

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Click on the image above and allow yourself a few minutes to do nothing but gaze at it. Really think about what you are seeing. Isn’t it beautiful and astounding? SubhanAllah.

To me, the amazing thing is that it’s a simple image of a small (some might say insignificant) creature in Allah’s universe. It’s not a big-budget film popping with special effects and designed to elicit a canned emotional response, or a classic novel, or a grand symphony, or a skilled musician playing a soul-stirring solo on a guitar.

It’s just a capture of the light shining on a little flower that most of us would probably pay no attention to if we walked past it.

Rather than insert my thoughts here, I would like to ask you:

What does this image do for you? What does it make you think? How does it make you feel?

Our Beautiful Earth’s True Colors! Incredible New Images of the Earth from Space

“And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming.” – Quran, Al-Anbiyaa, 21:33

These spectacular images of the Earth are the most true-colour images of the entire world released to date, according to Nasa scientists.

The images of the Indian Ocean and North America were produced by researchers at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center using images from the Terra satellite more than 700km (435 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

The Blue Marble series was pieced together from thousands of images taken over many months by the satellite’s remote-sensing device Modis, of every square kilometre of the Earth’s surface.

Allah’s signs are all around us, and modern technology reveals more signs to us every day. Some of Allah’s miracles are so small that we can only see them with modern microscopes; while others are so great that we can only see them from the distance of space, Subhan Allahu wa bihamdihi, glory to Allah and all praise to Him.

Click on the thumbnails to see the amazing full-size photos.

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Pieces of a Dream