Challenge #18

•December 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

bff Is there someone you’ve been meaning to call, visit or write, but just haven’t. Let me rephrase that. Maybe you just couldn’t be bothered? That sounds harsh, but that might be what your friend, neighbor, or relative is thinking. Is that how you really feel about them?

I was having a conversation the other day with a sister who was confident enough to ask me why people don’t return phone calls or call their “friends.” I made excuses for all the people like me out there who don’t call their “friends,” even though I really do love and respect them. To some degree, I stand by my defense (explanation)- that by the time I’ve got my children down for the night, I just want to be by myself. I don’t want to talk to anyone; I’m too tired to talk to myself. BUT, that doesn’t mean I can’t make an effort once in a while.

Call, write, or visit someone who you feel you’ve been ignoring/neglecting for a while.  Don’t make excuses. Just say,  “I was thinking of you.” Don’t wait. It’s part and parcel of our faith to keep strong ties and relations (taken from: http://www.crescentlife.com/youth%20matters/islam_and_friendship.htm):

Sealing a friendship for Allah’s sake will result in one’s receiving protection of Allah (swt). And as Ibn Abbas said: “No one may taste true faith except by this (i.e. building relationships for Allah’s sake), even if his prayers and fasts are many. People have come to build their relationship around the concerns of the world, but it will not benefit them in any way.”

A scholar has said: “To seal a friendship for Allah’s sake indicates the obligation of establishing relationships of love and trust for His sake; this is a friendship for the sake of Allah. It also indicates that simple affection is not enough here; indeed what is meant is a love based upon alliance. This entails assistance, honor, and respect. It means being with those whom you love both in word and deed.” Loyalty for the sake of Allah really means to love Allah and to come to the assistance of His Deen; to love those who are obedient to Him and to come to their help. Moreover, the Shahadah “La Ilaha Illa Allah” requires us to ally ourselves for the sake of Allah, and it requires us to ally ourselves to the Muslims wherever we find them.

Challenge #17

•December 6, 2008 • 1 Comment
Pilgrims praying at Mount Arafat (BBC News)

Pilgrims praying at Mount Arafat (BBC News)

Say : “O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your ownselves! Despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.” (39:53)

We all need forgiveness. No matter how infallible we think we are- how sensible, how careful, how conscientious… we make mistakes. And sometimes they’re really big ones. In just a few days, the best day of the year will be upon us.

1. Ask for forgiveness.
Something I have learned through Islam is that seeking forgiveness is a whole-body experience. It is not the flippant repentance I used to seek as a child- squeezing my eyes shut, begging for forgiveness, and bargaining with an act of goodness, only to revert to bad behavior when I felt that my penance was done. Since becoming Muslim, I’ve been caught off guard by the intensity of emotion that accompanies my prayers for forgiveness (when they are done correctly). Despite how difficult it is to accept responsibility for certain acts, I am inexplicably grateful that I now have the ability to recognize that they are mistakes. Or that I care enough to apologize for them. Or that I am humble enough to acquiesce to ALLAH’s power to forgive. Reflect on ALLAH’s boundless mercy, celebrate HIS limitless powers, and call on HIM:

“O Son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins as great as the earth, and were you then to face Me ascribing no partners to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.” (Hadith Qudsi)

2. Forgive others who have wronged you.
The Quran and the legacy of the Prophet (SAW) regarding forgiveness and mercy towards others is very clear.

“Pardon them and overlook – Allah loves those who do good” (Qur’an 5:13)
“Those who control their anger and are forgiving towards people; Allah loves the good.” (Qur’an, 3: 134)

How unjustifiably haughty and unjust we would be to refuse others what we wanted for ourselves, in this case, forgiveness. Without bestowing forgiveness, we imprison ourselves to destructive emotions associated with resentment, pain, and possibly hatred. Out of spite, pride, or obstinacy, we CHOOSE to carry the baggage of our damaged souls. This is not the way of a Muslim… so let us forgive. Pray for the strength and humility to forgive as you wish to be forgiven.

“The Messenger of Allah was seated in a gathering with the Sahabah when he looked towards the entrance and said, “A man of Paradise is coming.” At that instance someone who seemed to be very ordinary entered the mosque where they were seated. A Sahabi was curious as to why the Prophet .‘ said this, so he followed the man to his house. This Sahabi told the man that he was a traveler and stayed as a guest. For three days the Sahabi saw nothing unusual, so he finally told the man what the Prophet had said and asked him what was so special. The man thought for a long time and said, ‘There might be one thing — before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart.’

I’ve been absent for about six months now due to a combination of things- travel, lack of enthusiasm, lack of will. I’ll write more about that later. Now, I think it’s more important to focus on these next few days. Focus on your worship. How merciful ALLAH is, that one day of sincere worship and repentance can absolve a lifetime of sins! What have we done- what are we doing- to deserve this immeasurable gift? Here’s a link to a beautiful post by Hesham Hassaballah about the Day of Arafat. It is very much worth the read.

http://godfaithpen.blogspot.com/2006/12/let-us-reflect-upon-most-forgiving-one.html

Forgive my absence for so long. I pray that you have all been well and will wake to a clean slate and fervent celebration on Eid Day. Ameen.

Fi AmanILLAH…

Good Deeds Challenge #16

•June 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“…Be kind to your parents and near of kin, to orphans, the needy, the neighbor who is related to you and the neighbor who is a stranger, the friend by your side, the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. God does not love those who are arrogant and boastful.” (4: 36)

A’ishah, the Mother of the Believers, (may Allah be pleased with her) stated that she once asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah! I have two neighbors. To whom shall I send my gifts?” He said, “To the one whose gate is nearer to you.”

The other day, we went for a walk. As usual, my son reached home before the rest of us, and as I turned the corner I saw an older woman speaking to him. Immediately, my defenses went up. Was she a solicitor, was she a neighbor coming to complain about his incessant drumming of the soccer ball against the wall? I strode up behind her and with ostensible politeness asked, “May I help you?” She turned around, put out her hand and said, “Oh hi! I’m Miss Hall, your neighbor. I’m so sorry I haven’t welcomed you to the neighborhood sooner!” SubhanALLAH! I was equally touched and embarrassed by her gesture.

I had allowed my timidity and uncertainty to get in the way of my duty to the neighbors. Instead, this 85-year old woman had crossed the street to come to me. Small acts of kindness are often immense in their effects. Remember that you have a duty to ALLAH (SWT) to be good to your neighbors. I’m sure an unsuspecting neighbor would love to find flowers from the garden, a special note, or a sweet treat from you.

I love the story told by this Muslim woman on her blog— perhaps it will give you inspiration as well:

http://themuslimhousewife.com/category/share-islam/

Remember that EVERY deed you do is taken to account by ALLAH. If you don’t have time to bake like she did, remember that even a smile is charity. ALLAH gives us so many opportunities to do good in this world through his commands. And by His mercy, we reap benefits not only in this Life, but in the Hereafter, and leave a legacy that Muslims can be proud of.

Miss Hall called me yesterday and left a message, thanking me for “the gorgeous flowers.” My kids ran home after giving them to her, and they said she was so happy… my kids were happy too!

Good Deeds Challenge #15

•May 30, 2008 • 1 Comment

A dear, dear friend of mine wrote this challenge and sent it to me. I thought it was beautiful: “Here’s an idea for the blog. Encouraging each other to be a strong supporter of our spouses and have the intimate relationship of Rasul (saw) and Khadijah (RA) . The girls sang this nasheed during the Walimah and it was beautiful, MASHALLAH. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLfvzncSwzA

Going through Islamic history, we so often read about all the “huge” events that have defined Islam, we tend to skip over the seemingly insignificant ones.

Zamilooni means “Hold Me”- just thinking back to when the Prophet SAW first received revelation- the emotions that must have been going through his heart and mind- the first person that we went to, the person to comfort him, understand him, help him make sense of it all, was his beloved wife, Khadija. He ran to her asking her to Hold Him & Cover Him- and she did. She was the pillar of strength in one of the most defining moments of history. She was there for him, she supported him, she believed in him, she encouraged him… The relationship between them is a shining example for all of us….”

Make du’a for this sister and her family, for all of us to succeed in this challenge, and for a renewed commitment to our roles as the “garments” of our spouses (and if you are not married yet, ponder what this will mean in your impending marriage, insha’ALLAH).

He stepped inside his home, and he overwhelmed with fear
An angel came with words from God, things were still unclear
Saying read – read, but he couldn’t read, then amazing words he heard
A trembling deep inside his heart, confused by what had occurred
There was only one who could comfort him
And help him see the light
To ease his fears, to reassure
It was khadijah, his wife…

Chorus
He said Zamilooni, Zamilooni, Dathirooni, Dathirooni, (Envelop me, Embrace me)
A mighty task has come before me…
I need you here with me…
By my side…

She was a woman of nobility, successful in all her trade
Many wealthy men had asked for her, she had turned them all away
But when she saw Muhammad, a shining moon, may peace be on his soul
He was a light for her – so right for her – her life will now be whole

But she had never seen him so distressed, as he was there that day
She would comfort him, and hold him tight, and chase his doubts away

Chorus

Bridge…
We look for stories of love, in places dark and cold
When we have a guiding light, for the whole world to behold
But were so selfish in our ways, and to the ones we hold so close
Our own pleasure and happiness is what we value most

But she sacrificed all her wealth and everything she had
And he honored her, and gave her faith,
when the times were bad, when times were bad…

Now years have passed, times had changed,
since khadijah breathed her last.
Message of the one true God,
was spreading far and vast

But then he came across some jewelry,
that khajidah once had worn
His eyes began to swell with tears,
his heart again began to mourn

Cause she was there for him, when times were rough,
and his enimies were cruel
Was the first believer, so keen and eager, to comfort al-Rasool

Chorus

Mawlaya salli wa sallim da’iman abada
‘Ala habibika khayril khalqi kullihimi
(O my Leader, send your salutations and blessings forever
Upon Your Beloved, the best of the whole of creation)

Good Deeds Challenge #14

•May 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“Call on your Lord with humility and in private, for Allah loves not those who transgress beyond bounds. Do not mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing in your hearts, for the Mercy of Allah is always near to those who do good.” Al-Araf 7:55-56

“Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers…” Al-Muminoon 23:1-2

“Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed to them…” Al-Hadid 57:16

Pride can creep up on you in a number of situations- with friends, with children, with spouses, etc. We live in a world in which egocentricity has almost been made a prerequisite for survival. At its most benign, it has become a justifiable means to take care of your own needs. Its a dog-eat-dog world; disengaging from the rules of engagement might be perilous. Or that’s what we’re led to believe, anyway.

The clearest and best human example of humility is that of the Prophet (SAW). The Prophet’s (SAW) humility manifested itself in all of its forms, first and foremost through his sincerity towards ALLAH (SWT), then trickling down to all whom he encountered- even many of his enemies. ALLAH (SWT) has promised that those who walk and act humbly in this world will be elevated in their ranks. So why is it so hard to do?!

Admitting your mistakes or shortcomings can be difficult. Relenting in an argument can be tortuous. It can be tempting to pass judgment on others because of something they have said or done to you. And for some unexplained reason, it can be very difficult to stand in prayer before ALLAH (SWT) with a sincere cloak of humility, while your kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, and dinner is on the stove, bubbling over.

One scholar wrote that, ” Humility comes from knowing about Allaah and His names and attributes, and His greatness, venerating Him, loving Him and being in awe of Him; and also from knowing about oneself and one’s faults, and weaknesses. From that may develop the attitude of humility, which means feeling helpless before Allaah, and being humble and compassionate towards His slaves, so that the person does not feel superior towards anyone, or think that he has any rights over anyone else; rather he thinks that others are better than him, and that their rights come before his. This is a characteristic that Allaah gives to those whom He loves, honours and draws close to Him. “

Can you honestly say that your humility manifests itself in those ways? Do you recognize your own weaknesses? Do you forgive others their weaknesses, instead showing them compassion without judgment? This may be a difficult challenge- to reassess your lack of humility. Like I said, sometimes you engage in pompous or obstinate behavior without being cognizant of it. It’s like an unwitting trigger just goes off. Take stock, everyone. Make sure that what you are fighting over, commenting on, or focusing on is worth ALLAH’s (SWT) judgment. If you could step outside of yourself and observe, would you be proud of the way your are walking, acting, or speaking?

If you are talking to a friend, and they engage in bad behavior, stop them. Don’t be an accomplice to arrogance and pomposity (but do it privately!). If each of us can uphold the standards of humility that ALLAH (SWT) has given us, and the Prophet (SAW) has shown us, how many people around us can we affect? How much nicer would our immediate environments be. And, much like urban sprawl, maybe our environments will spread for everyone’s benefit, insha’ALLAH. Do your best, everyone. I think we all know how we are supposed to act. Try to be who you know that you should be. May ALLAH (SWT) make us humble as we stand before him, and as we deal with other people and His creation. May He (SWT) protect us from a state in which we no longer recognize our own arrogance or lack of humility. Ameen.

Good Deeds Challenge #13

•May 17, 2008 • 4 Comments

” O you who believe! Fulfill your promises…” -Quran 5:1

The Prophet (SAW) said: “Three traits single out a hypocrite, even if he prays or fasts and claims to be Muslim: If he speaks, he lies. If he makes a promise, he does not keep it. If he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.” -Al-Bukhari and Muslim

We all know that fulfilling promises is an inextricable part of our faith. But in the frenetic pace of our lives, sometimes our words get the better of us. How many times have you told a friend, “Yeah, I’ll call you next week so we can get together,” and then you don’t. These types of relatively innocuous promises can become habitual. I am the first to admit that this is a huge problem for me. I certainly do not premeditate my lack of following through, but I too often allow other trite issues to usurp priority over these “everyday” pledges of action.

It’s time to take stock of how we use our words. Do we mean what we say? Do we follow-through? If we tell our children we’ll take them to the park tomorrow, do we? What I realized is that, as Muslims, we have a very clear code of ethics, as delineated by the Quran and the Sunnah. Our characters are a combination of many things: ethics, values, morals, and integrity (they are, technically, very different, though many people use them interchangeably). So, though we may be able to avert willingly breaking promises, it’s the little things that I’m talking about now. I’m asking you to engage in quality control. Don’t say you are going to do something unless you are CERTAIN you will be doing it. I think we’ll all find that it may be harder than we think.

I don’t want us to underestimate how even these very slight broken oaths (and though they may not be phrased in the language of promises and oaths, they ARE our words- implicit assurance that we will do what we say) threaten to erode our integrity, trustworthiness, and genuineness. If you are a parent, it is even more important to take stock of the weight of your words in the eyes of your children. It is our responsibility to them to exhibit Islamic morals and imbibe Islamic values. Above all else, it is our duty to ALLAH (SWT), and in the end, it is He that will take account of our deeds.

May ALLAH (SWT) help us to take the time to think before we speak, enabling us to fulfill our every promise, thereby honoring us with dignity, trustworthiness, and unwavering integrity through our deen. For those of you who know me, please forgive me for any unfulfilled promises I have made in the past, and treat me with mercy if I fail again in the future. Ameen.

Good Deeds Challenge #12

•May 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an:O you who believe, do not forbid the good things which Allah has made lawful for you and do not exceed limits. Surely Allah does not love those who exceeds the limits.'” (5:90)

The Prophet said, “No man fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice to keep his back upright are enough for a man. But if he must eat more, than he should fill one third (of his stomach) with food, one third with drink and leave one third for easy breathing” (Ahmad).

“One will also feel heaviness in his body, his heart and spirit will experience languor and drowiness and his limbs will fail to obey him in performing his basic religious duties. Hence a filled stomach is damaging to one’s body, heart and spirit. Moderation is the path of good health and the body benefits from moderate and nutritious meals.” (Taken from great article at http://islamic-world.net/sister/h23.htm)

I think we all know how we are supposed to deal with food, but I think applying what we know is an entirely different thing. ALLAH (SWT) makes it clear to us in the Quran that he has bestowed upon us bounties within the earth from which we are to eat and drink. However, throughout the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), we are repeatedly warned about excess and waste. BALANCE. I think that that word is the essence of so many components of our deen. Yet balance (it sounds easy enough to achieve) is sensitive. Picture a scale on which you must balance two weights- the slightest difference will determine whether you achieve balance or imbalance.

The Prophet (SAW) told us that our stomachs are the worst vessels that we fill, meaning that it so easily tempts us to excess, and leads us to lose control. Let’s try to follow the sunnah- even for one day, with the intention of following the Sunnah of our Prophet (SAW), and obeying the commands of our Lord (SWT). As you do this, make sure that you are partaking of the bounties He (SWT) has provided us, following the etiquettes of eating, and finishing with praise to Him for His graciousness and generosity.

One third food, one third water, and one third air (and the hadith says that this ratio is “if [man] needs to eat more” than a few mouthfuls)!

This is also very topical given the current food crisis in the world. In America, very few of us know what a shortage of food means. I obsess over my children’s school lunches, often panicking if I don’t have every component of a balanced meal ready to pack up (protein, carb, veggie, fruit, and dairy). SubhanALLAH, this challenge is a reminder of the bounties of our Lord, and an opportunity to experience a life in which we eat to live- imbibing food to nourish our bodies and sustain our faculties. It is less about being social and more about being practical. Let’s see how our worship will benefit from this, insha’ALLAH. I have a feeling that if we purify our intentions on this challenge, there will be a whole host of tangential benefits.

I’d love to hear your feedback, insha’ALLAH.

Fi AmanILLAH.

 
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