Poem: The Sorrows – by Sarah Saghir

Muslim woman praying in Indonesia.

Muslim woman praying beside a rice field in Indonesia.

   the sorrows
that borrow
the four chambers
of the heart
     shrivel
in the hour
 of Remembrance.

   the sins
that sit
on the shoulders
     tumble
to the floor
 where I'm bowing.

   the troubles
that scribble
over my vision,
     disperse
in the horizon
of Your Pleasure.

By Sarah Saghir
July 15, 2013

***

The Messenger of Allah said (peace be upon him): “When the worshiper gets up to perform the Salah, he comes with all his sins, placed over his shoulder. When he bows into Ruku’ or Sajdah, his sins fall down.” (Reported by Abu Nu‘aim)

Blessing the child of a Christian couple

Cute baby with blue eyes

They asked for their baby to be blessed.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah, an Imam at the Jama Masjid in Las Vegas, Nevada tells the following story:

In these time, where Muslims are under microscopic scrutiny and where all sorts of accusations are being hurled at Islam and Muslims and where some Muslims through their actions are driving even Muslims away from Islam, a young couple, Andrew and Ericka walked in the Jama Masjid with their newly born baby.

They are Christians and they live some 25 miles west of the Masjid and asked for the Islamic blessings for their child. It was the first for me when a non-Muslim couple was asking for the Islamic invocation for a child born in a Christian family.

Many Muslim friends might object to what I did. I said Azan in his right ear and Aqama in the left year and recited Sura Fatiha, asking God to protect this child from all evils, and praying for his parents. They want him to grow with love towards all and malice to none.

I was frozen and my whole body was shaking when I was reciting the Quran. Am I wrong if I assumed that God, the creator of all has really blessed them with an innocent heart and a pure mind? I reminded myself of the verse of the Quran ” Your Lord has decreed upon himself nothing but mercy.”

Tanzanian girl’s long walk to school

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I was humbled by this photo essay on the BBC News online, depicting the danger-fraught journey that an eight year-old Tanzanian girl must take to get to school.

Eight-year-old Sylvia, in rural Tanzania, is determined to get an education and each school day makes a long and often risky one-and-a-half hour journey by foot – on her own – to school. Her family is poor and cannot afford to provide her with basic shoes for the walk or a good uniform. But she is considered lucky as it is estimated that 29 million primary school-aged children, more than half of them girls, are out of school in Africa.

There is so much we take for granted, and I ask God to forgive me for anytime I have been wasteful, or have failed to appreciate the blessings in my life. I’m awed and inspired by Sylvia’s determination and vision. I have no doubt that she will succeed and build a bright future for herself, Insha’Allah.

Story: The old man and the lost purse

A medieval purse circa 1600.

A medieval linen purse circa 1600.

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari relates:

I was in Makkah during the season of Hajj and I saw a man from Khurasaan calling out to the people: “Oh pilgrims, oh people of Makkah – from those who are present and those far off, I have lost a pouch that contains a thousand dinars. So whoever returns the pouch, Allah will reward them with good, save them from the hell fire, and His bounty and favors will be acquired on the Day of Accounting (Day of Judgment).”

An old man from the people of Makkah approached him and said: “Oh Khurasaani, our city is in a very tough condition, and the days of hajj are few, and its season is appointed, and the doors of profit-making are closed. This money might fall in the hands of a believer who is poor and old in age. Maybe he plans to give it if you make a promise that you will give him a little bit of money that is halal (permissible) for him to use.”

The Khurasaani said: “How much does he want?”

The old man said: “He wants one-tenth of the money (a hundred dinars).”

The Khurasaani said: “No. I will not grant him the money and instead I will take my case to Allah, and complain to Him on the day we meet Him, and Allah is sufficient for us and the best one to trust in.”

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: “I realized that it was the old man is poor, and he was the one who took the pouch of dinars and wishes to have a little portion of it. So I followed him until he returned to his home. My assumptions were confirmed. I heard him calling onto his wife:”Oh Lubabah.”

She said: “I am at your service, O Abu Ghayth.”

The old man said: I found the owner of the dinars calling for it, and he does not intend to give any reward to the person who finds it. I said to him “Give us a hundred dinars and he refused and said he would take his case to Allah. What should I do O Lubabah? I must return it, for I fear my Lord, and I fear that my sin is multiplied.

His wife said to him: Oh Man! We have been struggling and suffering from poverty with you for the last 50 years, and you have 4 daughters, 2 sisters, my mother and I, and you are the ninth. Keep all the money and feed us for we are hungry, and clothe us for you know better our situation. Perhaps Allah, the All-Mighty, will make you rich afterwards and you might be able to give the money back after you fed your children, or Allah will pay the amount you owe on the day when the kingdom will belong to the King (Allah).

He said to her: Will I consume haram after 86 years of my life, and burn my organs with fire after I have been patient with my poverty, and become worthy of Allah anger, even though I am close to my grave?! No, By Allah, I will not do so!

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: I left with amazement concerning his condition and that of his wife. At a later point during the day, I heard the owner of the pouch calling out…

Saying: “O people of Makkah, O pilgrims, who ever of you find a pouch containing a thousand dinars, let him return it and they shall surely find great reward with Allah.”

The old man said: Oh Khurasaani, I have addressed you the other day and advised you that our land is low on cultivation, so reward the person who found the pouch so that he is not tempted to break the laws of Allah. I have advised you to pay the person who finds it a hundred dinars but you refused. If your money falls into hands of a person who fears Allah the All-Mighty, will you give him 10 dinars at least, instead of a 100?

The Khurasaani said: I will not do so, and I will complain to Allah on the day I meet him, and Allah is sufficient for us and the best one to trust in.”

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: The people dispersed and left. Later on during the hours of the day, once again, the Khurasaani made the same call, saying:

“O people of Makkah, O pilgrims, who ever of you find a pouch containing a thousand dinars, let him return it and they shall surely find great reward with Allah.”

The old man came again and said: O Khurasaani, I said to you the day before yesterday to reward the finder a hundred dinars and you refused. Then I advised you to give him ten dinars and you refused, so will you give only one dinar so that he can buy with half of it things he needs and with the other half, sheep milk, so that he can give to the people and feed his children?

The Khurasaani said: I will not do so, and I will complain to Allah on the day I meet him, and Allah is sufficient for us and the best one to trust in. ”

The old man angrily said: Come you, and take your money so that I can sleep at night, for I have not had a good mood ever since I found this money.

Ibn Jarir said: So the old man went with the owner of the money and I followed them until the old man entered his house, dug a hole and pulled out the money and said: Take your money and ask Allah to forgive me and bless me from His bounty.

The Khurasaani took the money and intended to leave, but when he reached the door he said: O old man, my father died, May Allah have mercy on him, and left behind three thousand dinars and said to me: Take out a third of this money and give it to a person from the people who is most deserving of it. Therefore I tied it in a pouch so that I may spend it on someone who is worthy of it. By Allah, I have not seen a person, since I left Khurasaan until now, who is more worthy of it then you. So take it, May Allah’s blessing be upon you, and May He reward for the trust you kept, and your patience during poverty. The Khurasaani man left without the money.

The old man wept and prayed to Allah, saying: May Allah bless the owner of the money in his grave, and May Allah bless his son.

Ibn Jarir said: I left after the Khurasaani but Abu Ghayth (the old man) followed me and brought me back. He asked me to sit down, and said: I have seen you following me since the first day; you have come to know of our situation yesterday and today. I have heard that the Prophet said: “If you are gifted from the provision of Allah, without begging or asking, then accept it and do not reject it.” So this is a gift from Allah to all those attending.

The old man called: O Lubabah, O so and so, O so and so. He called on his daughters and his sisters and wife and her mother, and sat down and made me sit down. We were 10. He opened the bag, and said spread your clothing over your laps.

So I (Ibn Jarir) did, but the girls did not have proper clothing that would enable them to do that, so they extended their hands. The old man gave dinar by dinar in order until he reached me (Ibn Jarir) and said: “Here is a dinar.” The process continued until the bag was empty and I received a hundred dinars.

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari said: So joy filled my heart because of the provision they received more then the joy I had because I received a hundred dinars.

When I was leaving the old man said: O young man. You are blessed; keep this money with you for it is halal. And know that I use to wake up for Fajr prayer with this wet shirt. After I was done I would take it off, and give it so that my daughters can pray – one by one. Then I would go to work between Dhuhr prayer and Asr prayer and then I would come back at the end of the day with what Allah has given me from dates and dry pieces of bread. Then I would take off my clothes for my daughters and they would pray Dhuhr prayer and Asr prayer, and the same would happen for the Maghrib and Isha prayers. And we did not ever expect to see this kind of money. So may Allah make us make good use of them, and may Allah bless the person in his grave and multiply the reward for him.

Ibn Jarir said: So I greeted him goodbye, and took the hundred dinars and used them to write knowledge for two years! I used it to buy paper and pay rent and after sixteen years I returned to Makkah and inquired about the old man. I was told that he died a few months after the incident that occurred between us. His wife died, along with her mother, and his 2 sisters. The only ones that remained were the daughters whom, when I asked about, found that they were married to kings and Princes. I dropped by and they honored me as a guest and treated me kindly until they died also. So May Allah bless them in their graves.

{That will be an admonition given to him who believes in Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty).

And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things. (Quran, Surat At-Talaq 65: 2-3)

Two strangers bridging barriers with the Quran

Beautiful Quran

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

A colleague of mine named Farah* who is a medical doctor in Boston recently sent me the following email:

Assalaamualaikam

I had a beautiful experience today at work. A lady who spoke very little English was admitted, and she was very upset – she came over to me and I said Salaam… Her eyes lit up, she took my hand and started reciting Al Fatiha. We said it in unison and she smiled – “sister”.

We then shared a couple of other surahs – she knows more in Arabic than I do in English! Even though we couldn’t have conversed in our national languages, we could communicate in a far more significant way, by sharing our love for Allah.

In Boston at the moment it’s a bit scary, but this lit up my day and gave me hope that we will be alright in the end, inshaAllah.

My sister from the other side of the world held my hand and said Alhamdulillah.

Wa salaam
Farah

——————–

* Names and locations were changed at my colleague’s request.

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.

The old pottery seller and the kindness of human beings

Pottery seller with his donkey in Istanbul, Turkey.

Pottery seller with his donkey in Istanbul, Turkey.

Farhia Yahya tells a true story on SuhaibWebb.com of an incident she witnessed in Cairo:

An old pottery seller was walking with his donkey. The donkey reared, sending the pottery crashing to the ground. The poor man, seeing his livelihood destroyed, was heartbroken. His face turned dark with sorrow as he surveyed the wreckage of his goods.

Then a wonderful thing happened. People came out of apartments, shops and cars to help him pick up the pieces. Then they gave him money, purchasing his broken clay.

In Farhia’s words, “It was incredible to see the hearts of people move like this. Humanity may disappear and people may be cruel towards the poor in certain places and at certain times, but in other places and at other times, the humanity is truly beautiful.”

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.

Poem: A Heart Like Ibrahim

Wolgan Valley Resort

Wolgan Valley, Australia

A new Muslim convert named Eya submitted this lovely poem:

A Heart Like Ibrahim

A Christian who becomes Muslim
Finds much work is needed
To have a heart like Ibrahim
Soon discover I will be tested.

Islam is new for me to learn;
However, I am up to the task.
As Islam is something I yearn
I wash & pray to Allah to ask.

I wish for much patience
With love and tender care;
While having much guidance
As one day I too will share.

A Real Man

Touarag man praying in the Moroccan desert.

Touarag man praying in the Moroccan desert.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

::*:: What is a “Real Man”? ::*::

Answer: A real man is humble before God. He fears for his aakhirah (hereafter). He works to clothe and feed his family, and to lead them to Jannah (Paradise). The Messenger of Allah (sws) said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Sahih Muslim).

A real man does not rule his family with an iron fist.  He would never raise a hand to strike. He is tender with his wife and children, and hard against anyone who would hurt them. He respects his parents, and honors blood ties. He loves the Ummah and considers all Muslims brothers and sisters.

Beyond that, a real man respects the human rights of all people, regardless of religion, nationality, or race. The Prophet (sws) said: “Allah, Most High, has removed from you the pride of the pre-Islamic period and its boasting in ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. You are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust.” (Abu Dawud)

A real man respects women. “The most perfect in faith among believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” – Prophet Muhammad (sws), Sunnan of Abu Dawud.

A real man is dedicated to the truth, even against himself. He keeps promises. He doesn’t lie or cheat. He doesn’t gossip or betray anyone’s trust.

He never mocks people. “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” – Quran 49:11.

He is not needlessly suspicious of others. “O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion. Indeed, some suspicion is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other…” – Quran, 49:12.

A real man keeps himself clean. He dresses modestly, and represents himself well as a Muslim. He exercises and eats well. He takes care of his body because it is a trust from Allah.

He’s not greedy. He pays zakat and gives sadaqah, knowing it will come back to him. Allah says in the Quran (2:262), “Those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, and then do not follow what they have spent by demands for gratitude or insulting words will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow.”

A real man does not hurt or exploit the weak; he protects them. Animals too.

A real man fights for something genuine. He does not fight for status. He walks away from verbal insults, because he understands that honor comes from the heart, not the fists.

A real man knows he doesn’t have all the answers. He listens before he speaks. When he makes a mistake he admits it. He studies and grows. He worries more about who he is than what people think.

A real man doesn’t whine about his circumstances.  He takes whatever abilities Allah has given him and applies them. When times are hard he forges ahead and finds a way. He knows that success and failure come from Allah, so he is humble and grateful, and never stops making dua’.

Am I this real man?

Just now I had this conversation with my daughter Salma, who is six years old:

Me – “How would you define a real man?”

Salma – “He’s strong, he’s confident, and he does stuff.”

Me – “What about me, am I a real man?”

Salma – “You’re mostly a silly man, because you tell silly jokes.”

I won’t put the question to my ex-wife.

Seriously though, I’m not there yet, and maybe I never will be. It’s a lifetime trip. But I do think I’m closer than, say, five years ago. I teach martial arts, and I tell my students, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Instead, compare yourself to yourself. Ask yourself, ‘Have my skills improved in the last year? Has my character improved?’ If the answer is yes, then you have succeeded.

I’m not asking you to be a perfect man. Just a real man.

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