Bird in flight – a sequenced shot.
“I wake up feeling great every morning not because everything yesterday went perfectly as planned, or last night I slept on a bed of roses and had dreams of successful happy ending, or that I’m entering today with a forecast of having no cloudy problems, no rainy challenges, no thunderous setbacks or no stormy test.
“No! I wake up feeling great every morning because God allowed me to wake up, and to that I am honored, blessed and thankful. Therefore I sacrifice my own selfish self-interest and I dedicate every minute of everyday to God by entering it like every bug, every fish, every bird, every reptile, every mammal and every tree: full of life with a hungry faith relying totally on God to provide me with my daily sustenance, my daily bread…
“Did I say good morning?”
– Bilal Mustafa, aka Bilal Int’l
Wael’s daughter Salma riding a camel.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
* Today, let us be grateful for everything good in our lives. *
Let us thank Allah for the sunshine or the rain, for there are blessings in both. People love to complain about the weather, but today let’s simply be grateful.
Let us thank Allah for our parents, our siblings, and our children – there’s my own child, above, riding a camel 🙂 Sometimes our relatives can drive us crazy – sometimes we wish we could divorce our own families – but at the of the day, they are a part of us, aren’t they?
Le’ts be grateful to Allah for food and drink, leaves and grass, birds and beauty.
Let us be grateful for our bodies, for taking deep breaths, and feeling our hearts beat in our chests. People love to complain about their bodies as well, don’t they? “Oh, my joints are killing me today… I have the worst headache… Oh, my aching back…” – but today let’s just be grateful that we are alive, with the opportunity to laugh and love for one more day.
Let us thank Allah for iman, hidayah and haq (faith, guidance and truth).
SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar.
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
At this time of year the stores are pushing their sales at us. Advertising is everywhere. There if a frenzy to buy, buy, buy. Let’s realize that this is not a spiritual way of life. It’s not an appropriate lifestyle for someone who is dedicated to God. The consumerist madness is a deception. There’s no joy or peace attached to it. It’s a shallow illusion.
Look at what society has done to itself in the name of consumerism. A day of thanks (Thanksgiving) has become the prelude to “Black Friday”, the biggest shopping day of the year. It used to be that Black Friday did not begin until Friday morning, out of respect for Thanksgiving. Then the starting gun was moved to midnight, and now it has crept into Thursday evening. Nothing is sacred.
The Prophet ‘Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus the son of Mary), peace be upon him, has been turned into a marketing strategy. His purported birthday has become a month of shopping insanity, presided over by a mythical sub-deity named Santa. People go into debt, they fight over sale goods… no mention is made of faith.
We Muslims fall prey to the same consumerist lifestyle. Sometimes the holy month of Ramadan becomes a month of shopping, sleeping and binge eating, astaghfirullah.
Let us – Christians, Muslims, Jews and all people of God – not follow this path. Let’s hew to a way of sacrifice, zakat (purification), sadaqah (charity), zuhd (giving up material luxury). We don’t have to be monks, but we must focus on the things that matter: faith and family.
There are movements that advocate a simple living, back-to-nature, low-impact lifestyle. In Islam this is called zuhd, which could be translated as detachment or asceticism. Zuhd is a choice that a person makes to give up the hunger for material possessions and transgressive carnal experiences, and live a simple lifestyle dedicated to God.
That’s what we need.
The faith in our hearts is more important than the brand name of the clothes we wear. Where our feet carry us – to someplace good or bad – is more important than the cost of our shoes. The sincerity in our hearts is more important than any gift. May Allah help us to see what is important in life.
The Enjoyment of Delusion
There’s a powerful verse from the Bible, Proverbs 30:8-9:
Give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away
and say, “Yahweh – who is Yahweh?”
or else in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.
(Yahweh is an ancient Hebrew name for God).
If you visit the shopping malls at Christmastime, and read the news stories of people lining up from the night before and huddling in sleeping bags in order to buy the latest gadgets, then trampling each other in the rush; if you turn on the TV to the usual Christmas comedies and “Frosty the Snowman” cartoons, you see that God has been forgotten, and has even become taboo. It’s not politically correct to speak of God. Just watch what we broadcast, be hypnotized by our Christmas elevator music, buy and forget…
Allah says about this:
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.” – Quran, Surat Al-Hadeed, 57:20
This theme is struck repeatedly in the Quran. The amusement and adornment of the dunya is an illusion that dries up and crumbles like a corn stalk, and becomes dust. It is empty, the enjoyment of delusion. Wow. That phrase, “enjoyment of delusion”, makes me think of a madman alone in a room, tied in a straight jacket, engaged in a pleasant delusion playing only in his mind.
I know people who have a bedroom devoted to all the junk that they have bought but do not use. They never enter that room and the door is kept locked. Isn’t that a kind of mental illness?
How do we resist the onslaught of the season? How do we remember Allah?
The greatest tool in our toolbox is gratitude. By looking at what we’ve been blessed with, our hearts become content. Socrates commented that contentment is natural wealth, while luxury is artificial poverty. Contentment does not mean complacency or passivity; it refers to a state of awareness of our blessings, and gratitude for the smallest to the greatest provisions – the tiniest cells in our bodies, to the grand earth itself.
Let’s become aware of what we have: the food on our plates, our ability to see and hear, the love and health of our families, sanity, intelligence, knowledge… these things are huge. When we open our eyes and start to see, then we become content and happy, and we see how meaningless are things are like big-screen TVs, the latest smartphone, or another new dress.
Let’s remember Allah the Eternal, and think of our aakhirah (hereafter). While others are are hungering for more, let’s be grateful for what we have, and give.
Our local Muslim community center here in Fresno participates in feeding the poor at soup kitchens; and is currently organizing a winter blanket and coat drive for the homeless. I encourage every Muslim community to do something similar. Get Muslim adults and children involved in the process of giving, whether to needy Muslims or non-Muslims.
It’s liberating to ignore the sales and seasonal hype. When we abandon the idea of acquiring goods, and instead focus on giving, we dump the whole propaganda machine on its head. We change everything. While the frantic buying of “stuff” makes us forget Allah, gratitude brings us back to Him. That’s why Allah brings together gratitude and remembrance of Allah:
“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.”
– Quran, Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:152
Being grateful to Allah means that our hearts become filled with love for Him; our bodies are obedient to Him; our tongues praise Him; we receive His favors with humility; we thank Him for everything we have received; and we use what He has given us for good. We could never repay Allah. The least we can do is thank him.
By being grateful and separating ourselves from the consumerist craziness, we set an example of how to live without avarice. We free our spirits, remove a burden from our backs, and shine a light for ourselves and others.
A father holds his child in the Horn of Africa
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Be grateful for what you have.
There are people in this world in desperate situations: homeless, refugees, starving, traumatized by war, alone after losing their entire families. Help those people – donate for Somalia if you haven’t already – then take a moment to thank Allah for what you have.
We live better than the kings and queens of the past. We have amenities that would have seemed like magic to them. Food from all over the world on demand, indoor plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, radio, TV, computers, internet, medical care, education…
These modern conveniences meet our physical needs, but they don’t fill our spirits. Be grateful to Allah for what you have, live simply, and don’t overload your soul with distractions. Focus on your relationship with Allah. Be at peace with yourself.
If your life is still lacking in some way, then make a change. Create a goal, and take a step. You have all the tools you need. Your most important tools are not tablet computers and smart phones. They are courage, faith, and the ability to say, “Yes! I am someone, I matter, and I will follow my dream.”
Africa and Europe from space
By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
Life has been challenging lately. In July I’ve faced some financial setbacks, and also some personal setbacks that have hit me hard, and drained me emotionally to the point where sometimes I just sit in my padded computer chair and don’t feel like getting up. I feel like I hardly have the energy to get up and prepare some food to eat, let alone pray, work, go to class, care for my daughter…
And yet I do get up. I go out and teach a 2.5 hour martial arts class and I do it with vigor, because my students are looking to me for guidance and inspiration. I get up and do my volunteer job at the Muslim community center. I get up and take my daughter to the lake or the masjid, and have a tea party with her, and read her the latest chapter of “Fish Face”. I laugh with her and love her with everything I’ve got, because she needs me. I don’t have time for self-pity.
I get up and do my thing, because that’s what it is to be a man (or woman), to be a father (or mother), to be a Muslim, to be a friend, to be alive! You get up and do what you have to do. You pick your foot up and take a step, then lift the other one and take another step, and before you know it you are moving ahead, and time has passed and your problems have diminished and don’t hurt quite so much, or maybe you have overcome them entirely, because you are experiencing the joy of life. Your love for Allah, and your gratitude, and your attentiveness to the beauty and blessings around you, all wash the pain away like a river.
That’s what it is to be alive. SubhanAllah.
So, to all those reading this now, I send you light and love, and I know that no matter what physical or emotional aches you are experiencing, you will rise each morning with gratitude, you will take a step and move ahead, you will love and laugh, you will push self-pity to the side and live your lives with commitment, in the short time that we all have on this beautiful ball of brown and blue.
One last note: Eat healthy foods, drink water and – very important – get enough sleep. These are all critical to maintaining an emotional balance and moving forward in life with a positive attitude.
Vancovuer, Canada from the air
I’m still in Vancouver for a martial arts seminar, and it’s so beautiful here. Mountains, rivers, trees, beaches, shining buildings, and perfect weather. When Allah has given a people so much, they will be accountable for what they did with their blessings.
Are we doing what we should with our blessings? Are we grateful? Do we share? Do we proclaim the truth? Are we fulfilling our potentials?
If not, then there is no better time to begin than right now, this moment. Choose one small way to be a better Muslim, and implement it in your life today. That’s how it starts. The road to Jannah begins with the first step.
Yosemite Valley, California
“As the pregnant mother excitedly prepares the cradle for the arrival of her new baby, Allah also prepared the earth for us before He sent Adam and Hawaa. He set all in place for us: the earth as a soft bed, the heavens as a canopy, the rain, the fruits, the stars, even companions and love. He (SWT) gave us everything we need to live and fulfill our needs. It’s truly amazing.”
– Sister Fozia
Fill it With Al-Fatihah
Wounded brother, sister in belief:
pour out your cup of hurt and grief
and fill it with lavender leaf.
Fill it with sunlight seed
and the moon’s reedy laugh.
Fill it with the history of grass,
and the joy of breath.
Fill it with hope
and the poetry of God.
Fill it with Quran
and the moment before dawn.
Fill it with Allah’s soul-saving light,
and the power of His love
expressing in your life.
Fill it with dhikr like gold,
and Prophetic stories
that were old
a thousand years ago.
Fill your cup with beach foam
and the smell of baking bread;
with the mark of prayer
impressed upon your head;
with lemon drop soup
and the comfort of your bed.
Fill it with gratitude
for His gifts from above.
Fill your cup, and laugh,
for you are loved.
April 14, 2011
A Peace That Sings
My soul breathes a breath it has never quite taken before
So crisp, so clean, so pure
And a giddy little grin will peak upon my lips
For no particular reason, just a peace within sings so deep
And though the meaning of life’s lesson is upon me now
I can’t help but feel that I know nothing of anything, but to God I remain, to God I bow
Time and time again we search, we befriend but in the end there are things that remain questionable
Should a friend really be so textable?
Really, is there nothing else to do other then keep us entertained
Twitter,or Facebook, Blackberry or Iphone, Google and Amazon E books
It’s all the same really, friends too many
One or two may know me
But never have they given me this feeling I feel
This ease, this lightness upon my chest, this gushing goodness of “man, God is Indeed The Best!”
Why? some may ask. Wasn’t that a test?
Yes, but a test is only a question mark away from a reward
Will you submit to that which you cannot control? Or will your choice be hard, and dramatic turmoil?
I resolve with, I need not fight if I have the angels fighting for me
I will not wander blindly when I have light making a way clearly
I will not speak ill of what’s meant to be, when I have the All Knowing watching over me
I will not be among the ungrateful, before I become alone just me and me
My life is a breath of fresh air for which I pray lasts until I return home
Though fears I have, it’s not something any human can console
For words don’t come when I try to speak it, just thoughts and only God Knows the Meanings
So I stop here, Praising the All Knowing, The All Wise
Hoping for the best, fearing my weaknesses and begging for success!
By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com
When times are hard, when your spirit is low, when you’ve been knocked to your knees, or maybe just one knee… use that moment of humility to praise Allah, the Most Glorious. Then find something in your life to be grateful for.
Maybe you are grateful for your children, or your good health, or the plentiful food on your table, or having good clean drinking water that doesn’t give you diseases, or a friend who makes you laugh, or the fact that Allah has blessed you with Islam when so many are wandering in darkness and despair. Or even just sitting on the grass feeling the breeze, or a cat that sits in your lap and purrs… Find the many blessings in your life, the hidden sources of happiness, and stand up, and thank Allah.
Move forward with your head up, keeping your focus on Allah’s gifts to you, and your gratitude. Step, step, step with a grateful heart, and that’s how it’s done.