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?

Eid Mubarak! And some thoughts on how to celebrate amid suffering

Eid card with butterfly

Eid Mubarak, may every year find you happy and healthy

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Sometimes Eid comes around and I don’t feel like celebrating. Sometimes I want to say, “When Muslims are no longer being massacred in Syria and Myanmar, when they are free in Palestine and China, when hunger is ended and torture is abolished, when we are free from dictatorship, and when corrupt Muslims no longer harm others in the name of religion, then I will celebrate.”

But suffering has always existed, and Allah decreed the Eid as a day of joy. How do we reconcile these two facts?

Perhaps by celebrating, we stand in the face of evil and say, “I still believe in the capacity of humanity for good. I still believe in Allah. I am grateful for all I have. I do not surrender, and I will not stop striving to help the downtrodden. Today, evil does not win. Today we express brotherhood and sisterhood, and we celebrate life.”

Lastly, remember that the days preceding the Eid – the Hajj, and especially the Day of Arafah – are days of dua’. These are days when Allah is especially inclined to answer our prayers. Let us use that time to pray for those are suffering, for Allah has the Power, and we have none. He is Wise, while we struggle to comprehend. May Allah have mercy on us all.

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

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.

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.

Feeling Unwanted

Heart shaped leaf

“By the morning brightness…”

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I was asked to write a post on this subject. Sorry it took so long.

Have you ever felt unwanted by the world, or abandoned? Personally, there have been times in my life when I felt that there was no one who truly loved me for who I was. I was wrong, of course. I was seeing the world through the dark glasses of depression, which distort the true image of the world.

We all go through gloomy periods when we feel that no one sincerely cares for us; that even our friends and family are using us, or only tolerating us because they have to.

Muslims raised in the West (especially converts) sometimes have a different dilemma. We may feel that “born” Muslims don’t really want us because we don’t fit in; and the non-Muslims don’t appreciate us either, because we are believers. So we don’t fit in anywhere.

Guilt

Feelings of being unwanted are also common among those who have committed sins. They may be plagued by guilt and feelings of worthlessness. People go so far as to feel that God Himself has abandoned them. At IslamicAnswers.com we get questions from people who say things like, “I know that Allah hates me,” or, “I don’t deserve Allah’s love.”

Often the intensity of people’s guilt is out of proportion to the deeds they have committed. I wonder if the child’s fear of abandonment (a universal human experience) doesn’t linger in the human psyche, waiting to leap out when things go bad, and say, “See! I knew I’d be abandoned one day.”

The Prophet (sws)

Let’s look at the Prophet Muhammad (sws), our noble example. He never committed sins; nevertheless, he went through periods when he  felt worried and stressed. Early in his Prophethood there was a time when the revelation of the Quran was suspended. The Prophet wondered if he had made some mistake that had caused Allah to abandon him.

Until Allah revealed Surat ad-Duha (Quran, Surah 93):

By the morning brightness

And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,

Your Lord has not taken leave of you, [O Muhammad], nor has He detested [you].

And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].

And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.

Did He not find you an orphan and give [you] refuge?

And He found you lost and guided [you],

And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.

So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him]. And as for the petitioner, do not repel [him]. But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].

Syed Abul-‘Aalaa Maudoodi commented on the first verses of this Surah, saying,

“He (the Prophet sws) was given the consolation that revelation had not been stopped because of some displeasure but this was necessitated by the same expediency as underlies the peace and stillness of the night after the bright day, as if to say: “If you had continuously been exposed to the intensely bright light of Revelation (Wahi) your nerves could not have endured it. Therefore, an interval was given in order to afford you peace and tranquility.” This state was experienced by the Holy Prophet in the initial stage of the Prophethood when he was not yet accustomed to hear the intensity of Revelation. On this basis, observance of a pause in between was necessary.”

SubhanAllah, what a brilliant insight. I never considered this before: that if I’m going through a period when there’s no one who appreciates me – when I’m all alone – maybe it’s because that’s where I need to be spiritually. Maybe there is an important life lesson that can only be learned in solitude.

So not only has Allah not abandoned me – and He never will! – but He is guiding me, watching me, and bringing me along the best path for me at this moment.

That changes things completely. It tells me that my narrow perspective – “Allah is not helping me” – is 100% wrong. The truth is the opposite – Allah is helping me in ways I do not yet perceive. He is with me at every moment. He has never abandoned me.

Allah does not turn away from us. The light of His guidance shines unceasingly. His Mercy and Compassion are available at all times, day or night.

Rather, we are the ones who turn away from Allah. We cover our eyes to block His light so that we can continue in sin; or we turn away to pursue paths of lust and desire.

What About Family?

If we can acknowledge that Allah has not abandoned us, then why do we sometimes feel that the people closest to us are the ones who respect us the least?

Love between family members is taken for granted. We are “supposed” to love our families, so we sometimes don’t feel the need to express our love. Also, family members often feel that they have a right to criticize each other, so it can feel like our families only see the bad in us. Furthermore, when we see someone every day and know them intimately, we can become hyper-aware of their faults and bad habits.

What’s needed is compassion. We must forgive our family members, and focus on their good qualities. Everyone is imperfect. You may not see it so much with your friends because you don’t live with them, but everyone has bad habits. We need to spend time with our families outside of the obligated family functions. Go to the park with them, go on a road trip, etc.

Lastly, if you have a family member who is truly abusive, then avoid that person, and recognize that it’s not your fault. Not everyone can be what we would like them to be. Not everyone will approve of us and be proud of us as we would like, and that’s true even for family members sometimes.

What About Friends?

I don’t have all the answers on this one, as I have not been totally successful in forming close, lifelong friendships. I had three solid, long-term friendships that lasted for 12 years, 25 years, and 27 years, respectively, but they came to an end. I have other casual friendships:  people whose histories I somewhat know, and are good to chat with, but not people I could call in an emergency.

I think part of the problem is that I am a generous and giving friend; and this attracts “takers” – people who are needy, manipulative or selfish.

I suspect that many of those who feel unwanted and unloved by their friends are making the same mistake. They are choosing friends who are takers, not givers. This gives you a temporary feeling of usefulness, because it appears that the other person needs you. But when you are feeling down, when you’re having a problem, when you need someone to hold you up – your “friend” is nowhere to be found.

But what happens if a person who is a “giver” – someone who is kind and compassionate – befriends another giver? You get a deep relationship in which the two of you support each other through good times and bad, Insha’Allah.

Wanted

You are wanted. Allah created you for a reason, and put you on this earth at exactly the time that you are needed.

If it seems that certain individuals do not appreciate you, consider the example of the Prophets, most of whom were rejected by their own people. Some, like the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), went from being respected and admired by his people, to being reviled. The point is that there will always be those who don’t appreciate you. Accept that, and work on becoming sincere with Allah. Trust in His plan for you. Trust that He is guiding you, and that if you go through hardships it’s because there are important lessons for you to learn.

Allah created you deliberately. You have a special and unique purpose on this earth. If you don’t see it yet, give it time. But trust that you are indeed wanted and necessary, as much as the mountains or the moon, and as much as any human being who ever lived. Be peaceful in your heart. Forgive others, and forgive yourself. Stay close to Allah, praise Him, ask His forgiveness, and thank Him for every  blessing in your life.

Be a Glowstick

glowsticks

Glowsticks.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

When you buy a glowstick, it’s just a tube of inert plastic with some liquid inside.  It doesn’t look like anything special. It certainly does not glow.

When you put it under pressure, however – when you bend it – a transformation occurs. A capsule inside the glowstick is crushed, and the stick begins to shine.

This is a good example for the mu’min – the believer. Life puts us under pressure, but if we rise to the challenge then we become more than we were. We become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to others (because we know what pain feels like). We begin to shine with a new inner light.

Maybe, just like the glowstick, there’s something inside us that needs to be crushed in order for us to reach our full potential. Ego? Arrogance? Selfishness? Greed? Attachment to material goods?

And maybe the pressures of life are Allah’s way of crushing that obstacle inside us, so that our true light can start to shine.

“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” [Quran, Al-Ankaboot (The Spider) 29:2-3]

The key is that Allah does not try us in order to  hurt us. Allah Himself is not in need of our character development, or our striving, or the results of our trials. It’s for us. However He tests us, it is for our own benefit.

So next time you feel yourself being pressured and bent, remember: it’s just a bend, not the end. Good things are coming, and with sabr (patience) you will come out better than before, Insha’Allah.

Don’t You Fall Now

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

– Langston Hughes

Where Are the Answers?

Sunrays shining through the forest

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“What am I going to do? Why is my life so messed up? Why can’t I find happiness? Why am I alone? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I have these problems?’…

These questions only have meaning if we direct them to Allah. No one else can answer them. Consider the words of the Prophet Ya’qub (alayhis-salam, peace be upon him) when his son Yusuf (as) was secretly thrown into a well by his brothers. They then reported to their father that Yusuf had been killed by a wolf.

And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,” and his eyes became white from grief, and he fell into silent melancholy.

They said, “By Allah , you will not cease remembering Yusuf until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.”

He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know.

– Quran, Surat Yusuf, 12:84-86

“I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah…”

When you feel stuck, when you feel that no one understands your situation, when you’re in pain and you can’t even imagine a solution, only Allah has the answers. You can’t see a way forward, but He can. You don’t see your own worth, but He does. You can’t figure out the road to happiness, but He can show you.

I remember a night in Arizona when I was twenty six years old. I lay on a cot in a small, frigid cell. There was snow outside and I had only a thin blanket. As I often did, I put on all my clothing in layers – three pants, three shirts, an army jacket and a pair of boots – and still I kept waking up shivering and shaking. Yet, even more than the physical discomfort, my spirit was tired. I had made mistakes in my youth and had been locked up for almost five years. I had become hard mentally and physically, but my heart was full of sorrow. I lay there that night and I thought, “I have nothing in life. I have accomplished nothing. I have no university degree, no wife, no children, and not even my freedom.”

That was a bad time. But I had my faith, and I used to weep to Allah, asking Him to have mercy on me. I think I gave up on myself for a while, but I never gave up on Allah. It would not even have occurred to me to do so. I did cry to Him sometimes saying, “Why, Allah? Why? Why am I here, suffering like this?” But it wasn’t despair, only confusion. In my heart I knew that He heard me and that an answer would come.

Shortly after that I received a letter from the parole board granting me early release. I had previously been told very clearly that I was not eligible. It was entirely unexpected, and if you are familiar with the American penal system, miraculous. But for Allah, nothing is impossible or even difficult.

Within a few months I was free. I found a  job a week after my release, and I excelled. I began writing, sitting at my desk every night after work and disciplining myself to work on poetry, stories and articles. Eventually I went back to school and began a new career, got married, bought a beautiful house, and one day had a child…

What can I say except Alhamdulillah! SubhanAllah! What can I do except weep in gratitude for these blessings that I did nothing to earn, but were given to me by my Lord who loves me and cares about me, and wants good for me. I am so deeply touched and moved by the way Allah has answered my prayers from the depths of darkness. If I did anything to merit His blessings, perhaps it was only that I directed my pleas to Him. I knew that no one else could help me.

This is a very emotional post for me to write. I want every Muslim to have this sense of Allah as their friend, as someone who cares for them deeply. I want to put that awareness into your heart like a gift.

When I was in that cell I used to pray the same dua’ over and over, begging Allah repeatedly. If I had made such pleas to a human being they would have stopped hearing me long ago. When we’re needy with people it pushes them away, but when we’re needy with Allah He comes closer to us! He never tires of answering our need and forgiving us.

I know of many similar stories of people who have hit rock bottom and have called upon Allah – or , not even knowing “Allah” by that name, have called to the Supreme Being, saying, “I know you hear me, tell me what I need to do, show me the way!” – and then, like a circle of sunlight piercing a cloud, something or someone comes into their lives to show them the way forward.

When we’re out of ideas, surrounded by problems, and feeling totally alone… we’re not alone. Allah is with us. If we pray sincerely and strive, He will put light in our hearts and help us from directions we did not expect.

Ask Allah sincerely, open yourself to Him, and accept what He gives you even when it goes against your own desires. The answers to your questions are there, with Allah, I promise you. All those terrible questions that you ask yourself in the silence of your mind, the answers are with Allah.

Patiently Persevere

Wheat field and rainbow

Wheat field and rainbow

“The writer Mustapha Sadiq Ar-Rafei wrote, ‘When I looked into history I found a small number of individuals whose lives mirrored the life cycle of a grain of wheat. They were torn from their roots, then crushed, then ground in mills, then kneaded with fists, then rolled out and baked in ovens at high temperatures… just so they could provide food for others.’

Patiently persevere in the face of hardship hoping for a good outcome because you never know how many dead hearts you will bring to life in the process. No hardship lasts forever. There is always an end.”

–Babar Ahmed

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