By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
It’s possible to make ourselves the prisoners of others. How? By caring so much what they think that we let if affect how we practice our religion, how we dress, how we speak, even what names we call ourselves.
Prisoners have their names taken away and are given numbers. We do it voluntarily when we change Muhammad to Mo, Wael to Will (I’ve been advised by some to do this but I have always refused), and Khadija to Kim.
Prisoners are told how to dress. We do it to ourselves by giving up our hijabs and kufis in order to fit in. We enslave ourselves to the cultural dictates of others. We humiliate ourselves by suppressing everything that says, “I am Muslim.”
Prisoners are sometimes refused the right to pray or to have a Quran. We do it to ourselves by missing our prayers because we are afraid of being seen in public; or putting away our Quran and letting it gather dust.
Prisoners are given no choice in their diets. We do it to ourselves by eating the non-halal meat that is put in front of us, because we are ashamed to say, “I only eat halal.”
Prisoners learn to remain silent. We do it to ourselves when others speak of faith and religion – sometimes even criticizing Islam in our presence – and we remain silent because we are embarrassed to speak up.
“And believe in what I have sent down confirming that which is [already] with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And do not exchange My signs for a small price, and fear [only] Me.” – Quran, Al-Baqarah, 2:41
Allah gave us a great gift, He gave us truth and guidance, and others are hungering for it, so don’t hide it! We must be ourselves, be proud (not the pride of arrogance but of gratitude), let our faith show, shine our light! A lamp in the darkness cannot be hidden!
Don’t make yourself a prisoner! Wear your Islamic clothing without embarrassment, eat halal without apology, speak your name with pride, pray on time no matter where you are, read the Quran on the bus or the subway if you wish, and when people ask you about your faith, tell them with a smile, “I am Muslim.” Speak your truth without fear. Be proud of Islam. Be free, and hold your head up high, bowing only to Allah.
Advice from a cloud
By Wael Abdelgawad, with contributions by Arif Kabir | IslamicSunrays.com
Everyone deserves water to drink, so shower your kindness on sinners and saints alike.
People will see different things in you: relief, or comfort, or a fearsome sign of a storm. Pay no attention to any of that; but do your job peacefully.
It’s a beautiful thing to provide shade on a hot day (to comfort those in distress).
You sometimes drift aimlessly, but by the will of Allah, you get in the right drift and current again.
Oppose evil with thunder and lightning, but with others be soft as cotton.
Not everything is what it seems: the darker the cloud, the more water it carries within, to cleanse the earth and bring new life.
Never forget, you are mainly made from water. Make sure to always replenish yourself with pure sustenance.
There’s a rainbow right behind the storm.
Can you think of any other advice a cloud might give? Please share.
Inspirational Islamic sayings by Wael Abdelgawad, Hanan Bilal, Imam Zaid Shakir and Others
By Wael Abdelgawad, Hanan Bilal, Imam Zaid Shakir and Others
The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.” – Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners.
Abdullah bin Al-Haarith said, “I didn’t see anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of Allah (s).” – (At-Tirmithee, 3641).
“Allah. It all starts with Him – the universe, humanity, and our own conception – and it all comes back to Him in the end. There’s no victory without Him, no progress, no peace. Strengthen your relationship with Him in the easy times, and you will find Him beside you in the hard times.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Allah (God) is an exponential word.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“Keep your head up, forge forward fee-sabeel-illah, keep praying, learning, thinking, following your dreams, and loving the people in your life. It’s all worth it, it all matters and makes a difference. Every single thing you do is meaningful, even when you don’t see it. You are my brothers, my sisters, my heroes.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“When you’re out of ideas, that’s when faith comes in. Let Allah show you the way.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“No one should ever be depressed by his or her worldly situation as long as he or she is walking on the path leading to Paradise. Attaining Paradise is the great objective of this life, and the person who gains it is victorious, regardless of what he achieved in the world.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
Allah has a beautiful plan
for every woman and man.
Trust Allah and pray
and He will light the way.
- Wael Abdelgawad
“When I am feeling low and downtrodden I just find a quiet place and sit alone with my favorite book (the Quran)! When I turn each of its miraculous pages my heart begins to feel lighter and the world around me brighter! The love, warmth and security of each word sets in and it is in these very moments that I know for sure in my heart how much Allah really loves me! Alhamdulillah! Subhanallah! Allahu Akbar!” – Asmaa Deanna-Dee
“‘Oh, but what’s the use of trying to be a good Muslim when I end up sinning again and again?’… Well, what’s the use of bathing when you get dirty again and again? Salat (prayer) is a purifier. Though you sin again and again, keep returning to Allah for purification. Fasting is a purifier, Zakat is a purifier, Hajj is a purifier… We can use the same analogy for hope and motivation. We have to keep finding them again and again. That’s the nature of life.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Try to become an embodiment of compassion and mercy in your daily life. Do not wait for a situation to occur that will call out these virtues in you. Rather, seek out opportunities where you can manifest them along with all of the other prophetic virtues. Do not live your life passively waiting to be used, roused or stimulated into action by events. Live an active life wherein you become the one who is initiating acts of goodness and kindness in all that you do. Be an embodiment of the truth you represent. Let your words and comportment convey the dignity of the believer to all that you meet.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“Wash your heart every morning with salat, then warm it up with dhikr. Approach life with hope and faith. Every day do your best, Allah will do the rest.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“God is truly AWESOME! I see the POWER of GOD moving in MY LIFE, in my families’ lives, in the world….GOD has GREAT things in store for us. All we have to do is submit and accept GOD’s direction for our lives. I accept!” – Hanan K. Bilal
“I believe in Allah because He believes in me… and in you too. He made us Muslim, didn’t He? That is a gift and a blessing. So believe in His plan for you, because He believes in you, He has faith in you, He has a purpose for you.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Is not the help of God close by? Certainly it is. God says “Call upon Me and I will respond.” Don’t tire on calling on Him. Don’t despair from receiving His Mercy. Despair is a sign of disbelief.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“It’s okay to feel sad, anxious, lonely, frustrated, and confused. Feeling these emotions doesn’t make you less of a believer. The difference between the believer and non-believer is that the believer remains patient and turns to Allah for help.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“Sharpen the mind, harden the body, soften the heart, and be of service to others.” – a motto for the believer, by AbdelMalik Ali.
“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 to the best of our capacity, He will put light in our minds and hearts and help us from directions we did not expect.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. Let’s all practice having a lot more love for self and others… LOVE is a verb… it’s an action in constant motion…. we are either loving or unloving… love starts at home with our family.” – Hanan Bilal
“If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” – Unknown author
“If we let Taqwa – Allah-consciousness – become our guide then it leads us to self-awareness and sincerity. A person who cultivates Taqwa can never be a terrorist, an oppressor, or a hypocrite. A person with true Taqwa must shed compassion as the sun sheds light.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“You will not believe until you are merciful to each other. Your faith is not complete until you are merciful to each other.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
“Even when we think we have nothing, we have Allah, and Allah is everything.” – Wael Abdelgawad
Let love be selfless
and truth fearless;
Let our breasts be flooded with light -
Make our hearts clear as crystal.
– Muhammad Iqbal
“One of Allah’s names is Al-Wadood, The Most Loving, and this is appropriate because a Creator must have love in order to create works of beauty and power. Allah created you out of love. He created you with intent. He created you to succeed, not to fail, and He gave you all the tools that you need to thrive. Open your eyes and see what a miracle you are, what a thing of beauty, what a gift to the world. I see that in every person I know. Do you see it in yourself?” – Wael Abdelgawad
“True religion shines from the face of the believer and impresses itself on others without words. It is subsequently followed by words that are uplifting and beneficial.” – Imam Zaid Shakir
It’s okay if you’re not free from sin;
Allah will forgive you, and let you in.
Just turn to Him, and from your soul
ask forgiveness, and make Him your goal.
- Wael Abdelgawad
“I asked Allah for strength and Allah gave me difficulties to make me strong. I asked Allah for wisdom and Allah gave me problems to solve. I asked Allah for courage and Allah gave me obstacles to overcome. I asked Allah for love and Allah gave me troubled people to help. I asked Allah for favors and Allah gave me opportunities. Maybe I received nothing I wanted, but I received everything I needed – Alhamdulillah.” – Anonymous
“Forgiveness is not for the weak. Being able to forgive those who have wronged you is a mark of spiritual strength and confidence. When you forgive, you grow, your heart begins to heal, your back straightens up, your eyes clear so that you can see the road ahead. Anger is a spiritual sickness; but when you forgive you live.” – Wael Abdelgawad
“You are all my family. I know that you are human and imperfect. Some are confused, some struggling, some tired, needing a moment’s rest. Tired of the rain and needing the rainbow. I love you all fee-sabeel-illah. Have no fear. Allah is with you and will not abandon you for a single heartbeat. The rainbow is coming, or maybe it’s already here and all you need to do is look up. ” – Wael Abdelgawad
By Amy Estrada
This is Who I Am
I can only come as I am to you, Allah
You’re not the only thing in my heart
But can’t I still give it, full of everything as it is, back to you?
You’re not the only thing on my mind
But can’t I still ask you to help me with my random, sinful thoughts?
I’m not perfect, and You even said You wouldn’t want this
You want those who can be forgiven
And I need forgiveness You see, because
I sometimes am fine with having more than just You in my life
I sometimes am fine with thinking things I shouldn’t
I sometimes am fine with skipping a prayer or two
I sometimes am fine with eating a haraam burger
I sometimes am fine with saying a bad word
This is who I am Allah, a girl who is sometimes fine with sin in my life
But I don’t forget You, everywhere I look I see You
And I’m just tired of being told to be someone else, just to come to You
I am who I am Allah, and while I am making my bad choices
I am also hating that people are being hurt
Whether it’s by me or someone else
I am hating that people are mistreating one another
Whether in the name of Islam or any other cause
Allah I am who I am, and I am someone who loves goodness
I love fairness and compassion
My favorite thing is to see people come into a blessing of any kind
And find their heart’s desire, to see them really find You
So this is who I am Allah, I am a contradiction
I am a lover of Your attributes even while I am rejecting them in my own life
By means of my own actions
I am messed up and hurt and scared, all while hopeful and trusting and strong
I cry that things don’t go my way, and I cry at the story of Muhammad (saws)
I argue for the fun of it, yet sometimes Your words take the fight right out of me
You are ultimate and real and deep and pricelessly complex
And I am whimsical, moody, emotional, nafsy and greedy
And all I want is to be able to come to You and be who I really am
While You make me who I was always meant to be.
Valley in Colusa County, California
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
It would be nice if we all had loving and supportive parents. Some do, Alhamdulillah. To have kind, caring parents is such a great gift.
But some have parents who are critical, demeaning and harsh. Do you have an abusive parent who tells you that you are worthless, stupid and good for nothing? If so, you can’t spend your life waiting and hoping for that parent to love you and be proud of you. It’s not going to happen, my friend. Most likely your parent was raised harshly himself/herself and doesn’t know how to act any other way. Accept that reality and learn to value yourself, no matter what anyone says.
You will have to be strong and independent in spirit. You will have to find validation of your worth within yourself. You do have worth, after all. You are as unique and beautiful as the sun and the moon, the sea and the stars. You are special and gifted and you will need to realize that on your own, even in the face of external abuse.
Seek your support from Allah.
“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created…” – Quran, 17:70.
Allah has honored you. Dignity is your birthright. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. No one is. You can still love yourself, with all your special gifts and funny habits, and whatever is lacking, well, you can work on it. That’s what all of us do.
“I Know Who I Am”
It can be very hard to resist the negative labels that parents put on us. Nothing wounds like an insult from a parent. Their words have a way of worming into our brains even when we know better.
We must be patient with them and love them, without buying into their negativity.
Write some positive affirmations about yourself. Affirmations are true statements that express your best qualities, and also express what kind of person you strive to be. They represent the ideal you.
I personally have a list of 29 affirmations, and here’s number 12 on my list:
“12. I am a good son to my parents. I am patient and loving with them. When speaking to them I maintain a positive, independent and calm spirit, knowing who I am and confident in my choices.”
Read your affirmations every day. Even if you don’t quite believe your own affirmations at times, even if you feel inwardly skeptical, keep reading them. When you speak to your parents, breathe deeply and slowly. Don’t let anything they say make you anxious or excited. Tell yourself silently, “I know who I am.”
Allah loves you and has a plan for you. Believe this and move forward, and when you have children, shut down the cycle of negativity and do better than your parents did. It’s okay to be better than your parents. Any good parent wants their children to surpass them.
Show your own children patience, gentleness and endless love.
May Allah bless you and fill your heart with self-knowledge, self-dignity, and hope for the future.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Anything I have in my life, I have fought for. Yes, it all comes from Allah. The two are not mutually exclusive.
There are universal gifts that Allah gives to all. Life, the soul, the will… beyond that, nothing is assured. Breath? Some people fight to breathe. Food? Some people struggle for a bit of grain. Water? Some people work an entire day to get water. Health? Some people are born sick and fight for every day of life. Freedom? Millions of children are born in refugee camps.
Allah gives us opportunities. He gives us abilities, talents, gifts, and it’s up to us to make something out of them. Allah gives us guidance and truth, but if we want to follow that truth then we’ll have to fight for it, and it won’t be easy. As soon as we dedicate our lives to truth, we’ll see obstacles appearing in our paths.
I don’t mean physically fight (though that is sometimes the case). I mean strive, struggle, work hard, deal with personal attacks and naysayers, stay positive, find a way forward when the path appears to be blocked, and refuse to give up!
If you want to pursue your dreams, you’ll have to struggle. If you want (halal) love in your life, if you want something real, if you want to make something happen, well then brother and sister, you’ll have to strive with all your might. That’s how it is.
“And those who strive in Our cause, We will surely guide them to Our paths.” – Quran, Al-Ankaboot, 29:69.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Sometimes we have a problem with a Muslim or Muslims, and we get frustrated and we think, “I don’t want to be around those people anymore.” Or something happens at the Masjid (the mosque) that we don’t like, maybe the Imam says something we don’t agree with, or we don’t like the Masjid policies, and we feel offended and we stop going. Maybe we pray at home, and stop associating with Muslims, then maybe over time we become slack in our prayers, but we tell ourselves it’s okay because we’re still Muslim “in our hearts”.
That’s one kind of trap.
On top of that it’s hard to represent this deen among non-Muslims. It’s hard to carry yourself as a Muslim at work when you’re the only one there and you’re aware that some of your co-workers are bigots or are operating on negative stereotypes. It’s hard to wear the hijab when some people look at you as if you’re a terrorist.
So maybe we give up the outer trappings of Islam, telling ourselves that we have to survive in this society.
That’s another trap.
And if you’re a convert and your family is opposed to your conversion to Islam, that’s another weight to carry. If they are openly hostile, and if you still live with them as they mock your deen (maybe in front of your children) and try to undercut your childrens’ practice of Islam by feeding them pork or letting them have “a little taste” of wine… or something comes on the news about a conflict in the Muslim world and your family says, “Look, those Muslims are at it again…” And you don’t know how to respond, or you don’t want to start another fight so you keep your mouth shut, but inside you feel humiliated and confused…
And if you are isolated from the Muslim community for racial reasons (this is not supposed to happen but it does) or for simple cultural reasons, because you can’t speak Arabic or Urdu and you don’t fit in, and you haven’t been able to make any Muslim friends, or you feel that the Masjid crowd don’t regard you in the same way as so-called “born Muslims”… instead they look at you as an oddity, or a child, or a trophy of some kind, as if your conversion somehow validates their faith…
Well, then, you might start to say to yourself, “What’s the point? Is it really worth it? Is it even really true?”
That’s obviously a huge, deadly trap.
Okay, if you’re a “born Muslim” you might not reach the point of that last statement (“Is it even true?”) because for most of us who were raised Muslim, Islam is bred into us from childhood, and it’s a part of us even when we don’t understand it or appreciate it. But you still might feel that identifying as a Muslim is too much trouble… it’s easier to associate with non-Muslims, abandon your prayers, drink wine at the company dinner, have relationships with non-Muslims, and not have to battle against society every day, not to mention battling against your own nafs (desires). This is an easy trap to fall into if you are a professional living alone.
We fall into these traps because we forget what this deen is. Shaytan (Satan) isolates us just as a wolf isolates a sheep, driving it away from the herd; then he plays games with our minds so that we become reactive, responding emotionally to circumstances in our environments. (“That Muslim cheated me, so I don’t trust Muslims anymore.”) Shaytan gives us pathetic rationalizations that we latch onto as if they really mean something. (“I’m a single Muslim alone in a non-Muslim environment. It’s not practical for me to live an Islamic lifestyle right now.”)
We fall into these spiritual traps because we forget what Islam is all about. We forget the heart of the matter, the core, the fulcrum upon which the universe turns, the foundation of reality itself:
Laa ilaha il-Allah.
There is no God but Allah.
Laa ilaha il-Allah
Frankly, if you became Muslim for any reason other than this, then you never understood Islam to begin with. And if you were raised Muslim but were not taught the infinite importance of this single sentence, then you were not really raised as Muslim. You were only taught cultural practices.
This is Islam. This is what all reality is based on. This is what religion has been since the beginning of time. This is what all the Prophets brought (may Allah bless them all). Every element of creation acknowledges this truth except us; every child is born on this truth (which is why we are all “born Muslim”): This truth that we were created by a single, indivisible God; that our Creator is Loving, Merciful and Compassionate; that everything we are and everything we own comes from Him; that we began with Him as a breath, and we return to Him as dust; that He witnesses everything we do; that He rewards the good and punishes evil; that He loves us and wants good for us in this life and the next; that He answers when we call and guides us when we ask; that we owe gratitude to Him for every heartbeat, every lung full of air, every bite of food, and every glimpse of truth.
No one deserves our love and obedience before Allah. Our first loyalty is to Him.
No one can help us but Allah; and no one can harm us but Him. When we’re struggling and we cry out to ourselves, “What am I going to do? Who will help me? What is the way forward for me?”, we need to address those cries to Allah! The answers will not come from our own thoughts or tears; the answers won’t come from banging our fists or pulling our hair. The answers will come from Allah.
Forget for a moment about all those other factors that you are reacting to: how so-and-so treated you, how your family treats you, what the non-Muslims say, what the policies are at the Masjid, how some Muslims gossip or discriminate, blah, blah, blah, these things are distractions and traps.
I’m not saying that these things should not affect us. We’re human beings and we can’t help being affected by how other human beings treat us. Our relationships with family and society are real and they matter. But these factors should never cut us away from Laa ilaha-il-Allah. If they do, then the wolf has isolated us, cut us away from the truth and begun to devour our souls.
Truth. If you are in Islam for any other reason, then indeed, what is the point?
This is a characteristic of a believing Muslim, that he or she is committed to truth like a plant to the sun. We must have a passion for the truth, we must be willing to die for the truth.
Sumayyah bint Khayyat
When I speak of dying for the truth, I think of Sumayyah and I find my eyes becoming wet.
Sumayyah bint Khayyat was a slave of Abu Hudhayfa ibn al-Mughira. She was married to Yaasir, an immigrant to Makkah. Because he was an immigrant and not a member of any local tribes, Yaasir had no influence or support. He went to Abu Hudhayfa seeking sponsorship and Abu Hudhayfa gave him his female servant, Sumayyah, in marriage. Sumayyah soon gave birth to ‘Ammaar and Ubaidallah.
When Sumayyah’s son ‘Ammaar became a man in his thirties he came to know about the faith of Islam which was being preached by the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him). This took place in 615 C.E., five years after Muhammad’s (sws) declaration of Prophethood. ‘Ammaar embraced Islam after deep thought and consideration. He then expressed what he heard from the Prophet (sws) to his parents. At once, Yaasir and Sumayyah embraced Islam as well (may Allah be pleased with them all, and reward them with the highest station in Paradise).
When Banu Makhzum (the tribe of Makhzum) learned that Yaasir, Sumayyah and ‘Ammaar had accepted Islam, they arrested them and burned their home. Abu Jahl and others chained the family in the burning desert. They whipped them, burned them with torches, and put heavy rocks on their chests. The Prophet (sws) went to the place where they were tortured. He lacked the political power or social influence to stop what was happening to them – in fact he was being regularly abused himself in those days – but he wept and told them, “Patience, family of Yaasir. Verily, your meeting place will be in Paradise.”
Upon hearing the Prophet’s words, Sumayyah proudly recited, “I testify that you are the Messenger of Allah and that your promise is true.” Allah had put courage in her heart and the sweetness of imaan in her soul, so that it overrode all her fear of death. Finally, Abu Jahl stabbed her in the privates with his spear and killed her. I am sorry to share such graphic details, but if Sumayyah could bear for it be to done in the name of truth, then I can bear to tell it. Sumayyah became the first martyr in Islam. Abu Jahl then kicked Yaasir until he died. ‘Ammaar survived the torture and went on to live and fight beside the Prophet (sws) for many years more.
I have no words to express my awe at Sumayyah and Yaasir’s strength and sacrifice. I will only point out that the Arabic word for martyr is shaheed, which means witness.
Witness to what?
Consider this: our testimony of faith in Islam, the statement that one must declare to become Muslim, is, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” This is called the shahadah, the witnessing. Shaheed and shahadah come from the same root, sha-ha-da, he witnessed.
Why? Because someone who says, “Laa ilaha-il-Allah” is witnessing the truth, and must be ready to die for that truth. This the heart of the matter, the beginning and the end.
The Heart of the Matter
Life can get you down. Human relationships can be hard. When you’re alone, Islam can start to feel like a burden. You get confused, and you forget the heart of the matter.
Remember the heart of the matter. Contemplate Laa ilaha-il-Allah. Say it out loud or silently a hundred times every day, two hundred, more. Think about its implications and how everything in Islam proceeds from it. Think about how it should affect every aspect of your life. The Messenger of Allah (sws) said that if the earth and everything in it were placed on one side of a balance, and Laa ilaha-il-Allah were placed on the other, Laa ilaha-il-Allah would outweigh it.
Laa ilaha-il-Allah is charged with power. It pours out truth like the sun pours light. When we say it, and read about it, and think about it, we find that we want to order our lives according to its truth. When that happens, Islam becomes easy. All those external problems and pressures don’t magically disappear, but we begin to see the way through them to the other side, because we are connected to Allah, and He is guiding us, showing us a light, filling us with light. I repeat, we are connected to Allah. That is the heart of the matter.
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.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
You are not defined by the stuff you own. Your “stuff” is not a part of you. Your “stuff” will break, disappear, or be left behind one day.
In fact what truly defines our character is how we react to loss. If we were stripped of all the possessions we love, who would we be in that moment? Would we still be grateful to Allah, patient, trusting?
Hopefully it never comes to that. But seriously, those times of greatest sadness and joy are when our thoughts must turn to Allah, The Eternal, The Merciful, The Wise.
Allah says, “Never will you attain the good until you spend from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” [Quran 3: 92]
Think about that. Allah is telling us to give away the things that we love the most! SubhanAllah! Why does Allah ask this of us? Is it to liberate us from slavery to material possessions? To f0cus our minds on Allah and the aakhirah (hereafter)? To prevent the evil that results from the love of money? To benefit the poor?
Yes, for all of those reasons. Excessive attachment to any material thing is misguidance. The love of possessions is a spiritual trap.
I have at times given away things that were precious to me, thinking they would mean as much to the other person as they do to me. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, and yes it hurts my feelings when the other person doesn’t value my gift; but eventually I get over it, because the point is the act of giving. And maybe – Insha-Allah – I’ll have something to show Allah on Yawm Al-Qiyamah (the Day of Resurrection), maybe I’ll be able to say, “O Allah, I gave away these things that I loved,” and maybe that will earn me some forgiveness, Allah knows.
There is a powerful spiritual lesson in taking an object that you love, and giving it away. I remember a middle-aged brother named AbdulKareem (Damis-Salaam, for those of you who know him). He worked hard, supported a family, and got by on a tight budget. One time he got a nice brown leather coat, the long kind that comes down to the knees. It looked good on him. Then a younger brother, a teenager with poor manners, said, “Man, that’s a cool coat. Can I have it?” Without a word, AbdulKareem took off the coat and gave it to the teenager. There’s such a strength of character, such freedom from attachment, in being able to do that. That was 27 years ago and I imagine that AbdulKareem (who is an old man now) has forgotten all about it. But Allah sees and remembers.
This deep generosity was one of the qualities of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It’s said that he never refused anyone who asked him for anything, if it was his to give.
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an. Allah’s Messenger was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 5]
Aside from being generous, the Messenger of Allah (sws) had no attachment to “stuff”. The extreme simplicity of his lifestyle was astounding. He never ate lavish food (not even soft bread), never ate on a dining cloth, and never filled his belly even with barley bread. His household often went many days with no cooking fire in the oven, living on dates and water, and occasionally a glass of milk donated by the neighbors. His mattress was a piece of tanned skin filled with rough palm fibers.
Once Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) entered upon the Messenger of Allah (sws) when he was lying on a mat of palm fibers that had left marks on his side. Umar (ra) said: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you not get something more comfortable than this?” He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “What do I have to do with this world? My relationship with this world is like that of a traveler on a hot summer’s day, who seeks shade under a tree for an hour, then moves on.” [Musnad Ahmad and al-Hakim. Saheeh al-Jamee (5545)]
So you see, he lived like this not out of necessity, but out of choice. Money often came into his household (especially later in his life when Islam has spread to all of Arabia) but he would give it all to the poor, retaining nothing.
Excessive possessions are anchors that drag us down. The hunger for material goods is a kind of sickness. It causes us more stress than happiness, and in the end we gain nothing genuine.
I once got angry with my daughter when she was no more than four years old, because she pulled the soft cover off my headphones and tore it. I chastised her roughly (verbally only) and she cried. I immediately felt deeply guilty and I hugged her and told her it was okay. I still regret that moment and I wish I could take it back. It would have been enough for me to tell her once, kindly, that she should not do that again. Instead I made my beautiful child cry because of a meaningless possession. I don’t ever want to do that again. One moment of happiness with my child is more precious to me than a thousand stupid headphones.
I want to divorce myself as much as possible from the desire for needless possessions.
When I was a bicycle messenger in San Francisco many years ago, I had a colleague, Jennie, who could pack all her possessions in a pair of bicycle saddlebags. Anything that wouldn’t fit in the bags, she’d give away. She had a small flat in the Mission district, and when later she was moving to a little place up on 2nd Avenue, she called me and a few friends over to help. It turned out she called us not to help her pack, but so she could give away to us whatever possessions she had accumulated that wouldn’t fit in her saddlebags. I had another messenger friend, Ben, who lived in a small travel van. He was a kayaker and sailor. When not working, Ben spent much of his time on the sea or the bay. Interestingly, Jennie and Ben were both non-Muslims, yet they lived more simply than any Muslim I have known.
I can’t live that simply, or I’m not willing to, but I do envy those who can. They have discovered something deep and true about the nature of the world. Life is not about stuff that costs too much, takes up space, wears out, breaks, and contributes nothing to the world. Rather, life is about experiences, family, learning, worshiping, and leaving a legacy of compassion and love. All those things last beyond our lifetimes, and beyond the veil of this life.
May Allah help us to live simply, and to be generous, and to value ‘ibadah, family and love more than “stuff”.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
We get what we give. This is one of the laws of the dunya (this earthly life) and al-ghayb (the unseen) as well. When we give money to the poor and oppressed, God rewards us with more than we can imagine. When we share truth, greater truths are revealed to us. When we teach, we learn. When we show mercy, our Creator has mercy on us. When we smile, people smile back.
The same is true for love. When we give love, love comes into our lives.
Some people think, “I will open up my love when I meet someone who loves me truly.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. It’s only when we open up the gates and let our love flow, that loves comes rushing in.
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