Surely in Allah’s remembrance do the hearts find peace

Showers of sunshine on a green landscape

True peace comes with remembering Allah and growing closer to Him

When we remember God, we also realize that we are constantly in His presence, and thus we are liberated from the self-destructive habits that consume us.

So often in life we are wronged by others, and the temptation to respond in a demeaning and un-Islamic manner is very strong. Fortunately, we can avoid wrong responses in the case of mistreatment by relying on Allah and knowing that He is the All-Knowing. When we take part in wrong responses, we fall victim to disobediences that lead the soul away from righteousness, and into the pits of retaliation and cruelty.

“Surely in Allah’s remembrance do the hearts find peace.” (13:28)

Those who seek God and remember Him will find contentment and joy in their lives with the knowledge that they are under the protection of Allah. When we utter praise to the Almighty and thank Him for his countless bounties, our hearts are filled with inner peace and reflection. How happy and blessed are those who seek refuge in their Lord, the Most Beneficent and Most Merciful Allah.

– written by Renik

Allah knows every fallen leaf, and He knows you

Fallen autumn leaves

Not a leaf falls but with His knowledge

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

“With Him are the keys of the unseen, the treasures that none knows but He. He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but with His knowledge: there is not a grain in the darkness (or depths) of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a record clear (to those who can read).” – Quran 6:59

SubhanAllah, Glory to God. Imagine, brothers and sisters. Allah knows every fallen leaf in your yard, in the gutter, drifting on the wind, or compacted layers deep in the depths of the darkest forest.

To us fallen leaves may be trash to be swept away, or food for worms, or mulching material. Perhaps to a child they are a source of amusement by scooping them into a pile and jumping in (I used to do that while waiting for the kindergarten bus in autumn, when I was growing up in Davis, California).

But Allah knows every leaf: its history, its individual veins and ragged edges, even its microscopic cells.

Don’t you think then that Allah knows your own pain, and fear, and suffering?

“And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Quran 50:16). This does not mean that Allah is physically closer than your jugular vein; rather it refers to His knowledge, understanding, and power. And it could refer to the angels appointed to you, who sit on your right and left, noting everything you say and do.

Allah’s knowledge is with you at every moment. He created you, and He understands your innermost thoughts. Don’t you think that Allah is ready to comfort you, forgive you, help you, and guide you? Don’t you think that a God who knows and cares about each leaf would care about you, a unique creature of great complexity, a special soul that struggles and stumbles and carries the heavy burden of free will?

Don’t you think that Allah rejoices at your successes when you struggle in His path? Don’t you think that He is happy to see you happy, and is pleased to see you learn and grow, just as you are with your own children?

Indeed, Allah knows you, and sees you, and cares about you more than you can imagine.

Be true, and be you

Forest sunrays on the stream

Listen to the quiet, inspired voice of your heart

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Listen to the quiet voice inside yourself. The persistent voice that tells you that there’s something more to life, that calls you to do something meaningful, to experience the world in a profound way. So many of us dismiss that voice and suppress it. We are told that our dreams are not realistic or practical. We are told that we should settle for what is reliable, and will pay the bills, and garner us the respect of our peers.

But if we do not listen to that quiet voice, then who will? There is no external advocate who can read the yearnings of your heart and speak up on your soul’s behalf. You must be the champion of your own soul.

On the authority of Abu Malik Al-Harith bin Asim Al-Ashari said that the messenger of Allah said:

“Purity is half of faith. alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scales, and subhana-Allah [How far is Allah from every imperfection] and alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fill that which is between heaven and earth. Prayer is light; charity is a proof; patience is illumination; and the Quran is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.”

(Related by Muslim).

You are the vendor of your soul: either freeing it or bringing about its ruin. You free it by worshiping Allah in love, gratitude and fear; keeping the praises of Allah on your tongue and in your heart; praying and fasting and living righteously (as opposed to self-righteously); by showing love and concern for other human beings; and by being true to yourself.

Allah created you with a unique nature. Do you think it’s only your fingerprints that are unique? Or your retinal scan, palm print, voice print and DNA? Do you believe that your uniqueness is encapsulated by measurable biometrical data? No, your uniqueness extends to your own wonderful thought patterns, your special heart, and your soul. You are you, not anyone else.

You are not an assembly-line robot, or a machine put here to consume, produce and expire. You are different from everyone else in the world because you are you. Respect that, and don’t try to force yourself into an uncomfortable or even impossible mold that someone else has dictated for you. Be true, be you, and free your soul.

I’m not talking about sinful desires. I am speaking of the quiet and inspired urgings of your heart. Maybe you dream of working in disaster relief, helping all those poor souls who suffered after the Indian Ocean tsunami, or from the earthquake in Haiti. Maybe you have an inner artist and you’d like to pursue that passionately and see where it takes you. Maybe you love children and would like to teach; maybe you are not satisfied with current school curricula and you have an idea of starting your own school. Maybe you’ve always fantasized about being a karate black belt, or helping poor villages in Africa become self-sustaining, or campaigning for human rights.

Maybe you’re single and you have feelings for a certain person, or just an undercurrent of admiration and respect, but you fear rejection if you come forward with a marriage proposal; or maybe the person comes from a different cultural background and you worry that your family or your peers would not approve.

I could go on, but you get the point. The fact that each of us is utterly unique is a blessing, because each of us brings a new imagination to solving the world’s problems, and each of us beautifies the world in a new way. Each of us has something important to teach. Each of us has a different voice, not so that we can win “American Idol”, but so that we add to the universal chorus that praises Allah.

Don’t fear your dreams: cherish them, nurture them, and do your best to live them. Let’s face it, life is short; it passes so quickly, much sooner than we expect, and when we get to the end of the road we will regret only that we suppressed our hearts, and shoved them down into silence, and failed to live up to our potential as believers and as unique individuals, with our own God-given gifts.

Sister Sara, author of the Sweet Serenity blog, pointed out, “Often while in search for who we truly are, we are dictated by the world around us, and thereby lose ourselves. The words of the Qur’an and example of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) should be our guides and inspiration, reaffirming that we need to patiently persevere, following the calling in our hearts and Insha’Allah, we will be able to make our dreams a reality.”

One person pointed out that following his dreams is impractical for him due to his family obligations. That is a valid objection. We have realities of family to deal with, and that often requires compromise. Our duties to our family are a part of our deen.

In response, I would point out that most of us have several dreams that call to us. If one is impossible at the moment, another may be possible.

One of my dreams is to master the martial art of Hapkido, and open a school in the future Insha’Allah. I’ve had four years of proper instruction, but now there is no teacher in my city. If I didn’t have a child I would move to a city where I could study Hapkido properly, and since I’m also fascinated by Southeast Asian martial arts, I might move to Malaysia or Singapore. But I do have a wonderful little girl – Alhamdulillah – and she cannot be moved at this time. I have to find a way to realize my dream while staying put, and fulfilling my duties as a father. So every few months I travel several hours for one evening of intensive training. Then I come back to my city and I work with a group of practice partners that I organized here, teaching them what I’ve learned and practicing it over and over, hundreds of times. In this way I have become proficient. My repertoire is not as broad as some, but what I know, I know very well Alhamdulillah.

I also have an interest in human rights, but I don’t have the ability at this time to travel and work in this field, or to commit to it full time. So I started a human rights blog. I write about human rights issues, and I provide links for people to take action on critical cases.

So pursue the dreams that you can, to whatever degree you are able, and don’t punish or blame yourself for having to give up on others. What is right for others may not be right for you, and what feels right to you may not be what others would choose. Use your wisdom, and let the struggle itself draw you closer to Allah.

Achieving your dream will certainly take very hard work. It may also require some compromises, a creative approach, and putting up with criticism or even ridicule from others. But if it is something pleasing to Allah, something worthwhile, something you believe in, then put your nose to the grindstone and do not quit.

We will never regret pursuing our dreams, taking bold chances, and expressing our love in halal and pure ways. We will never regret attempting to fulfill our missions and destinies here on earth, whether or not we succeed or fail, whether we experienced great joy or intense pain. In the end the difference between success and failure in any venture is in Allah’s hands anyway. All you can do is try, and trying is everything. In that sense, there is no failure, because a sincere whole-hearted attempt is enough of a milestone in itself.

Stand up for your inner voice. Listen to it.

Stand up for your dreams. Give them a chance.

No one else will do it for you.

From a state of darkness to one of light

Sunshine and flowers

From a state of darkness to one of light

I changed from worrying to praying; from complaining to problem solving; from boredom to having good clean fun; from a state of darkness to one of light; from selfish love to love of self and others; from independence to interdependence; from winning or losing to learning, and growing; from telling to asking; from being aggressive to being assertive; from being reactive to being proactive!

-Hanan Bilal

Try to count Allah’s blessings in your life

Photo of the rising moon taken from the Valley of the Moon, California

Photo of the rising moon taken from the Valley of the Moon, California

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Today, try to count Allah’s blessings in your life.

Start with your breath, your beating heart, your ability to see, smell and touch, and the ability to laugh…

Continue to your favorite foods, the roof over your head, and the people who love you…

From there move out to the blue sky, the beauty of a single tree, the sunshine on your face, and the majesty of a rising moon…

Keep counting…

Don’t forget your imaan (your faith) and your knowledge of Allah. That is the greatest blessing of Allah and the truth is that you did nothing to earn it; rather it was a gift from Allah’s infinite mercy.

Also do not forget your safety. So many people in this world live in unsafe conditions; in war, poverty, starvation, refugee camps, political imprisonment, and other forms of extreme hardship. Just to wake up in your bed in the morning and know that your life is not in immediate danger is a great blessing.

Keep counting…

Allah says:

“[…] and if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them,” (14:34).

Let go of anger and replace it with forgiveness

Beautiful sunshine in a blue sky

Let go of anger today, and replace it with forgiveness

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

A man said to the Messenger of Allah, (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam – peace be upon him): “Advise me! “The Prophet said, “Do not become angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said in each case, “Do not become angry and furious.” [Al-Bukhari; Vol. 8 No. 137]

Resolve to give up anger, even if only for today. Whatever anger you are harboring against others, let it go. Whatever anger you have against yourself for mistakes you have made, or for wrongs you have done, let it go. It’s not helping you, it is only damaging your own spirit.

Remember that we are human; we are all imperfect. From the very beginning, starting with Adam and Hawaa (Adam and Eve) we humans made mistakes.

Other people have made mistakes and harmed you in the past because they are human; forgive them. You have made mistakes because you are human; forgive yourself, and turn to Allah in tawbah (repentance).

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has taught us some strategies for dealing with anger. For example, he said:

“I know a word, the saying of which will cause him to relax, if he does say it. If he says: ‘I seek Refuge with Allah from Satan’ then all his anger will go away.” [Al-Bukhari; Vol. 4, No. 502]

And he said,

“Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution.” [Abu Daud; Book 41, No. 4766]

Abu Dharr narrated: The Apostle of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said to us: “When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down.” [Abu Daud; Book 41, No. 4764]

In another hadith, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:

“If one of you becomes angry then he should be silent.”

Narrated ‘Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakra: Abu Bakr wrote to his son who was in Sijistan: Do not judge between two persons when you are angry, for I heard the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, saying: “A judge should not judge between two persons while he is in an angry mood.” [Al-Bukhari; Vol. 9, No. 272]

So the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, has given us several strategies to deal with anger:

  1. Seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan. This reminds us that fury and rage are not good things; they are evil forces that we need to get rid of before they take us over. Seeking refuge with Allah reminds us that Allah is near, watching us; also it reminds us to turn the matter over to Allah, so that we can let go of our anger.
  2. Perform wudu’ (ritual washing for purity). SubhanAllah, what a beautiful thing. The wudu’ is a source of blessings and barakah for us. It also has a powerful symbolic value, washing away our anger and making us peaceful and pure.
  3. Sit down, or even lie down. Modern science has learned that the body influences the emotions as well as the other way around. So assuming a peaceful posture leads to peaceful emotions. Sitting down or lying down are non-threatening positions. This helps to defuse any conflict before it escalates.
  4. Stay silent. This is very important. All too often spouses or family members say things to each other in anger, and later they deeply regret their words. By then it’s too late:  the words have been uttered and the damage is done. When you are most angry is precisely the time to remain silent. Seek refuge with Allah, make wudu, pray, go for a walk, go to the masjid… allow yourself time to calm down and reflect.
  5. Do not judge between people (in other words make important decisions). Obviously making important decisions out of anger is a formula for disaster.

These are all wonderful points for dealing with anger in the moment. However, in todays “Islamic Sunray” I am also speaking about past anger. We all have old emotional wounds that we carry around like scars. We have old resentments and hurts.

If you hold on to these hurts, they will destroy your marriage, or at least make it an unhappy, chafing relationship. Holding on to resentments and grudges will destroy your friendships, leaving you isolated. These persistent negative emotions will eat into your own soul, leaving you bitter and unhappy.

Let them go. Modern medicine tells us that carrying around these old resentments and anger is bad for the health.

Steven Stosny, PhD, and author of “The Powerful Self: A Workbook of Theraputic Self Empowerment”, says,

“Consistent, prolonged levels of anger give a person a five times greater chance of dying before age 50. Anger elevates blood pressure, increases threat of stroke, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety disorders, and, in general, depresses the immune system (angry people have lots of little aches and pains or get a lot of colds and bouts of flu or headaches or upset stomachs). To make matters worse, angry people tend to seek relief from the ill-moods caused by anger through other health-endangering habits, such as smoking and drinking, or through compulsive behavior such as workaholism and perfectionism.

Laboratory experiments have shown that even subtle forms of anger impair problem-solving abilities and general performance competence. In addition to increasing error rates, anger narrows and makes rigid mental focus, tending to obscure alternative perspectives. The angry person has one “right way” of doing things, which, if selected in anger, is seldom the best way.”

Anger hurts our spirits. It makes us brittle and cynical. We become impatient, closed off and quick to judge.

Hurt, anger and resentment tighten your chest and narrow your vision. They make your world smaller.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, opens your lungs and lets you breathe. It releases your heart to beat freely, it removes the shackles from your mind, and lets all the weight drop off your back.

I know that this is easy to say and hard to do, but we must begin to forgive.

Start with forgiving yourself. Ask Allah for forgiveness for anything you’ve done that you regret, and then forgive yourself. Let it go. Breathe in deeply, breathe out, and let that anger escape with your breath. Do this as often as you need.

Brothers and sisters, be gentle with yourselves and with others. The world is already so full of anger, hatred, racism, divisions, and suffering. The world is torn by war and conflict. Let’s change this by starting with ourselves. Go into the world today and be gentle, and forgive.

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