Slowing Down Time

We live in a time where there is only a split moment between your random thought, rolling off your tongue or rolling off your fingers being tweeted to the world or statused on facebook. We live in a world of instantaneous. We have faster computers every year, faster internet connection, faster phones and faster fingers as practice makes perfect. Instant gratification and instant expression. If you want to see a dog, google it. Your friend sent you a snapchat, hurry you only have 10 seconds. We do so much, communicate so much and yet, we do so little and feel alone, communicating nothing. We are always connected, but never connected.

We are always doing something, we go from waking up, checking facebook, showering, restroom while checking twitter, microwaved breakfast while checking the news, to our cars to go to work while listening to our favorite music, then at work we “multi-task”, etc etc. And yet, we actually get very little done. We actually make very little close friends. Sociologist and psychologists are discovering that people are more lonely than ever. Less than half of people in America have someone to confide in and tell anything to. The old definition of friend, over less than half a century has become so warped that we now have to say Best Friend to mean Friend. And we have less of them than our grandparents did, although our facebook claims otherwise.

We are the paradox generation. The generation that invented social networking, but doesn’t know how to hold real conversations. We sit together liking each other’s posts, hearting each other’s instagram photos and tumblr posts while the other is five feet away. We take pictures of a sunset to show the world, but we can’t even remember what it looked like. Our psychology is changing and our perception of time is changing. We are always in a rush. Fast food, fast cars, fast everything. We live fast, but we barely live at all.

We are missing our lives while we miss them. Our families sit at home during holidays coming together to stare at screens. We stare at facebook but rarely ever look at each other’s faces and story books. We snap chat but don’t know how to chat. Life is happening and we are missing it. You can take a photo of a sunset and never see it, never experience it.

Slow down, and you’ll do more. Its not about how many likes you get on facebook, there is only one quantity that matters: One. God is One. The only one we should be trying to please is God. No likes on facebook can cover that reality up. A million people can like your photo, but if God doesn’t, its working against you. The only quantity we need is one. Live slower and better, death is coming anyways, might as well enjoy life and actually experience it. Your phone won’t tell you on the Day of Judgement, oh hey thanks for letting me experience life for you, now as a gift you can have those memories now. Don’t go for a hundred things, a million things, just do one thing, please God.

Put down your phone for an hour. Its ok. The heart in your chest and soul in you is calling out to you, its been a long time since you listened. Slow down, prayer longer, no distractions, sit down and just be with God. He is the only One you will ever need.

Aspiration and Growing in Faith (Reviving Relationships Part 2)

Reviving Relationships Part 2: Continuation of 3 Wishes.
For Part 1: Click Here 

Inna lillahi wa inna alayhi rajioon.

To God we belong and to Him we are returning. This is the reality we live in, no matter who you are you, you belong to God and you’ll return to Him. So we are going back to God whether we like it or not or whether we are ready or not, the secret of life is going back to him doing what pleases Him.

So how do we stop making our lives about chasing spiritual highs and actually have a real relationship with Allah subhanawata alaa. Too many of us go from conference to conference, lecture to lecture, and retreat to retreat trying to feel spiritually good, but how about being spiritually healthy and growing. When does Islam stop being about just feeling good into being good and doing good. We have to look at our spiritual state the same way we approach things in actual life, because there are commonalities. The transformative quality of Islam and faith is only accessed with effort.

I have a cousin who has lost 100 pounds mashaAllah. I asked him how he did it. Basically 3 things needed to be done, have a goal, eat healthy and exercise regularly. This can be applied to being healthy spiritually too.

We can’t ride our Shayukh and their speeches and their connection to Allah to pretend we too have that close connection. Your Imam isn’t going to be in sujood with you telling you to be humble before God while you glorify Him and His perfection. Your Imam isn’t going to be in your heart giving you tranquility as you feel your closeness to God and His rahma descending. Only you can do that.

1. Himma – Aspiration:
So first we need to have actual spiritual goals, spiritual aspirations, or as we call it Himma. Ask yourself, what is your aspiration? Too many of us make our aspiration feeling good or “spritual high for days”. Actions are but by intention and if thats our intent to seek knowledge, that’s all we are going to get. Its like someone who  gets a gym membership, pats himself on the back for making a healthy choice and doesn’t go back for months. Aspire to be a Muhsin, an excellent believer or an Arif, a knower of Allah or a Wali of Allah, a friend of Allah. Each himma requires different types of knowledge and work, the same way that physical goals will change the type of workout you do regularly. The workout for abs isn’t the same as the workout for your legs. The same goes for the spirit. If you aspire to be someone who draws near to God through generosity there are good deeds for that for your growth. If you aspire to draw near to God through service, that too has a difference prescription.

2. Health Diet

Once you have made an aspiration, look at your diet. How healthy is it? Healthy in this sense means to evaluate your deeds especially sinning. As Imam Malik advised Imam Shafi’ about his heart as a teenager about how it was apparent the light of knowledge was in his heart so he should be careful not to extinguish it with sin. Look at what sins may be weighing you down. Repent from them sincerely and create a strategy ways to avoid them. Avoid the environments that lead up to that sin such as the company you keep, the place you commit it, or even the things done throughout the day that affect your heart to incline to it. The one who cannot control his desires at the end of day, should look at all the small ways he contributed to it in the day. Most importantly replace that time and that sin with something good. If someone quits lewd music, find a halal alternative such as nasheeds.

So like working out, building spirituality and a healthy relationship takes removing negative things and doing positive things. You can workout for hours but if you are still eating unhealthy, it’ll inhibit your results.

Your sins are like overeating. They harm your relationship with Allah subhana wata alaa, except there is an easy out Allah gave us, sincerely repent to him and its like you never ate it.

3. Excercise:
Start small. Have a high goal, but work slowly towards it. If you ever raise your voice with your parents, work on stopping that, but aim to treat them amazingly. We have the mother’s day syndrom, or valentines day syndrome: one day of good treatment, or expression of love and 364 bad days. Big gestures aren’t worth as much as consistency.

Imam Zaid taught me that for most people if you ask them how their iman is doing, and they reply negatively, almost always you can ask them how has their worship increased overtime. They’ve been doing the same worship for years. No wonder, they never put more weight on the bars. Little by little add more worship into your life, keeping adding weight to the bar. Remember the hadith qudsi I narrated earlier where The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam narrates to us that Allah says:

“If the servant draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; and if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running” Narrated by Al-Bukhari.

There’s no shortcut in Islam. Islam is work. Keeping up good relationships is consistent work. We are taught that Allah loves the deed most that is consistent even if its small. If you can only go to Allah a handspan, do that, and if only a finger do that. Let Allah make things big, just work on starting small and working your way up.

Imam Junayd of Baghdad, one of the foundational scholars of Ihsan, was told about a people by his students who said that “they arrived”. And by that it meant that there was a group of people claiming that they had arrived to a certain station with Allah that they didn’t have to pray anymore, etc. Imam Junayd heard this and he said the only place they have arrived is the hell fire.

Islam is work, but we can all do it, just do little by little because I promise you, if you do, Allah subahana wata alaa will facilitate it. If you go to him an arm’s length, he’ll facilitate so much khayr in your life from that one act you do everyday. My whole life changed and my whole relationship with Allah and spiritually changed just by adding two extra rakats into my life. Its a small action and Allah makes the results big. Alhamdulillah.

An easy almost shortcut:

The best advice that changed my life was, change the way you begin the day, and the way you end it, and everything in between will be facilitated. For me it just meant changing my alarm, and waking up saying some type of dhikr before sleep and after sleep. Quran in the morning will change your whole day.

Mornings determine your day. That’s why I call my mother at Fajr time, honoring my mother and worshiping Allah, aren’t two different goals. They are both part of pleasing Allah. One of the happiest days of my life, I was talking to a friend and I we made a dua together, that our mothers be pleased with us. The next morning, I call my mom and for no reason, she tells me she’s happy with me as a son. I remember thinking, maybe this is just a fluke, maybe its because of just this one moment. The next day, during fajr, I call her and she tells me the same thing twice. This is one of the best moments of my life. I’m not claiming I’m the best son ever, but you have to start somewhere. It took years of work. I have a long way to go, but Allah will provide rest stops to remind you you are heading in the right direction.

Ya Rabbi, if I please my mom, I would have lived a  meaningful life. Ameen.

How hard is it to please someone who loves you unconditionally? Why are we making it so hard.

So think about your spiritual aspirations and do little things that will get you there, because the most beloved deeds to Allah are the ones that are small but consistent. So today make the intention to do one extra good deed, everyday. Even if its only reading one  line from the Quran.

Almost shortcut number 2: Sending one extra salawat on the Prophet salalallahu alayhi wasalam. Remember that sending salaams is a dua and that the Prophet returns our salaams. Imagine what his dua is like compared to yours? Allah also sends 10 blessings back onto you for each one you do.

You know those moments when you are sincere with Allah, your heart is all in and you make dua to Allah, like you’ve never made dua like that before, or that prayer that was so sweet that you just want to sit there until the next one, if you add one small good deed, that will become more common. But you have to take it one day at a time, one deed at a time, there isn’t a secret shortcut except effort and sincerity, maybe Salawat on the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam.

And if you keep doing little by little, its like that hadith Qudsi :

God, ever blessed and exalted is He, says: “Whoever treats a friend of Mine as an enemy, on him I declare war.  My servant  draws near to Me by nothing dearer to Me than that which I have established as a duty for him.  And My servant does not cease to approach Me through supererogatory acts until I love him.  And when I love him, I become his hearing with  which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grasps, and his foot with which he walks.  And if he asks Me [for something], I give it to him. If he seeks refuge with Me, I place him under My protection.  In nothing do I hesitate so much as I hesitate [to take] the soul of a believer.  He has a horror of death, and I have a horror of hurting him”

Reported by al-Bukhari, according to Abu Hurayra.

The Provider is Near

In Surah Ali Imran, the third chapter of the Quran entitled the Family of Imran we learn the story of one of the most blessed families in history, which was favored by God and God had incredible mercy and care for them. We learn from them that anything is possible and that God will provide for us from places unseen and even unbelievable.

The mother of Mary out of her devotion of God, wished to have a righteous child that she would dedicate to Allah and His service. She had such a high himma (aspiration) and high intention and Allah gave her Maryam, peace be upon her. The greatest women of all time and of all nations. Maryam who would become the mother of one of the greatest men of all time, the Prophet Jesus, Ruh Allah, the spirit of God. Zackaria, a prophet too seeing Maryam growing up in their place worship prayed to God for a righteous child too. Something that seemed impossible for him and his wife. But the same way Mary received fruits from plants that weren’t in season from a divine source, Allah, God, would provide for Zacharia too; Prophet John.

This is a story about 3 Prophets, the greatest woman and their righteous families. They sought Allah’s help and they trusted in Him and he provides unexpectedly and miraculously. Their God is your God. Their provider, their Rabb (Lord, Caretaker) is Al Razzaq (The Provider) and he is your Rabb, so don’t fall into worry that He’ll provide. Instead worry and be concerned with how you seek the provision and how you use the provision. Because even the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam: peace and blessings be upon him) complained of his weakness, and his lack of means and his state among the people, but he spoke to God and as long as God was not displeased with him, he was pleased. The results are always up to Allah, but we determine if our efforts are beautiful or ugly. Failing with grace is much greater than succeeding with no dignity. Because grace is success and losing dignity is failure.

I am pleased with Allah as my Rabb, with Islam as my way of life and with Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam: peace and blessings be upon him) as my Prophet. Knowing this suffices as an eternal provision for me and everything else is a gift from Allah who is Al Kareem and Al Wahhab, the Most Generous and the Giver of Gifts. May Allah give us beautiful patience. I await your plan for me, Alhamdulillah, All Praise and Thanks is due to God, I thank You for what You have provided and thank You for what You have withheld. Your knowledge is over all things and my knowledge is nothing and it eases me knowing You know all and that You are near.

The Term Hijabi

American Muslims are obsessed with the terms Hijabi and Non Hijabi. Thanks tomy friend  Uzma, I came across a beautiful reflection: In the Quran, Allah doesn’t call anyone that, at least that I know of. He refers to Muslim women by terms such as Believing Women. Allah has spoken the truth and has defined the terms and categories in the world, who are we to divide each other? Why do we prefer what we say and how we group each other when Allah has already spoken the truth on the matter? Then I came across this verse:

“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (9:71)

If we held on to just this verse, 90% of our gender issues and inter-gender issues would be over. “Believing men and believing women are allies of one another.” SubhanAllah, such a short, concise, simple, yet high aspiration to strive for. Bismillah.

3 Wishes (Reviving Relationships Part 1)

For Part 2: Click Here
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim. The Beauty Behind Loss

Losing something is something that we all experience. We have all felt that pain in our chests from knowing something we love is gone. Its in loss that we truly appreciate what we lose. Its then that we think of all things we should have done.

That’s the beauty of loss, it forces us to be grateful for what we lose, because when it is right there with us, we don’t see it for it for what it is. We don’t love it the way we are supposed to loved. Loss forces gratitude.

So what about your life when you lose it to death. When you lose your life you don’t just lose that car, the job, your family, your friends, your health, your youth. I want you to imagine losing just one of those things, losing one thing you love. When you die you lose all of that at once.

How valuable is your life?

Allah subhanata alaa shows us how attached our hearts are to things in this life all the time, thats where most pain comes from. Pain is usually losing that attachment, its your letting know that thing or that person can’t be there, the same way anymore. And death is losing everything at once.

SubhanAllah in the Quran Allah subhana wata alaa talks about this, about people who die and ask Allah if they could go back and do good in Surah Al Mu’minum:

“[For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “My Lord, send me back. That I might do righteousness in that which I left behind.” No! It is only a word he is saying; and behind them is a barrier until the Day they are resurrected. “(23:99-100)

There is this concept taught by earlier teachers called to die before you die. Meaning you let go of this world before it lets go of you. Die before you die, if you were in your grave tomorrow, what would you have regretted? Not giving more charity, telling your mom you love her more, thanking your teachers, getting up that night and praying. Die before you die so you know exactly what to live for, so that you remember what you really value.

There is this man in Saudi Arabia who after a car accident is paralyzed from the neck down. In a way his body died before he died. How beautiful is the plan of Allah that he caused a man to lose his body, but may be the very reminder that saves you and me?

He was asked what 3 things he would wish for now that he is the way he is. The first one he said was he wish he could make sujood one time and never get up from it. How many of us can make sujood anytime we want, to be in the position in which Allah subhana wata alaa is closest to his servant. How many sujoods do we do a day, and how many of them do we want to do?  We have come so far from the sahaba whose leg needed to be amputated, where he suggested that they cut off his leg during his sujood, when they could tell he was really in it. He was about to face a traumatic event to his body and his first thought was that he wanted to be with Allah when it happened, to be in the place he found most sweet.

Die Before You Die is what fasting actually teaches us. When you are fasting, we aren’t eating or drinking. We lose something that we usually have. We appreciate it more. After a long day of fasting food never tastes so delicious, but the food is the same as yesterday’s food. The difference is you. Die Before You Die is a concept about changing your state of mind.

Remember that the purpose of fasting is to have taqwa, to have God conscience-ness, awareness of Allah subhana wata alaa. When you break your fast, remember that when you reach for the glass of water, in reality you are reaching for Allah subhanawata alaa, you are in need of him to quench that thirst, and that the water does not quench your thirst, but it is Allah that wills it. The same way that Allah made the fire cool and peaceful for Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salam), water can only quench thirst because Allah wills it to be so.

So when its sunset and you are dying of thirst and hunger, remember that

“There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” (Hadith Narrated by Abu Hurayra in Sahih Bukhari)

Remember that on the day of Judgement when there is no shade but His shade of the throne and people are thirsty, perhaps your thirst will be quenched because of your fast in this life.

Don’t just get hunger and thirst from your fast, don’t just reach for food and water, reach for the only One who can quench that hunger and thirst within your soul, Allah subhana wata alaa.

Be more hungry and be more thirsty, look into your soul and ask it how thirsty it is for Allah subhana wata alaa and feed it. If you don’t it’ll die.

How many sujoods have you made with your soul fasting, but it didn’t get its thirst quenched with the nearness of its Lord. Subhana rabikka alaa.

Make sujood, go to Allah. Make sujood like if this was the last action you could ever take, it’d be your best action and your most loved action. Like its your last sujood. Before the prayer the Imam usually says, pray as if this is your last prayer, maybe its time we tried it.

The paralyzed man had two other wishes. The second wish he said that he wish for was that he could just once turn the page of the mushaf (Quran), that to him it is like trying to lift a mountain.

Everyday we can pick up that mushaf and recite the Quran, recite the words that Allah subhana wata alaa revealed to mankind, that He revealed to you. Don’t think of just as revelation revealed 1400 years ago to arabs in the desert, but think of it as something that was revealed specifically for you. When Allah says Oh Mankind, He’s talking to you, when it says Oh You Who Believe, it means you. Everytime. When Allah is consoling the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam in the Quran, he is also consoling you. Having a human Prophet is essential to our guidance because we need someone who hurts like we do, loves like we do and struggles like we do.

How much is it an honor that Allah subhana wata alaa allowed you to hear the Quran? Last year at MSA West, I met a sister who hasn’t heard anything her whole life and she spoke to me about her struggles in her life and with Islam. She’s never heard the Quran before.

Never hearing the majesty of Subi hismirabbi kal alaa. No engaging sound of iqra. No soothing melody of Ar Rahman. Everyday we can see, we can hear and can recite Allah’s words to us. Even your phone recites the Quran now. This is a blessing that no people have ever seen before and that no people have probably ever neglected this much before.

His third wish, was that he wished just once he could hug his mom. He tells a story from an Arabic poem about a man who was tricked and told that he would receive wealth if he cuts out the heart of his mother. On the way to delivering the heart, he tripped and a voice comes from the heart. Asking the son, are you okay son? He realizes what he’s done. So he takes the knife and wants to stab himself. The heart cries out to him, will you kill me twice in one day?

This is the love of our mothers, except the hearts of our mothers are in their bodies beating and living full of love for you. Its not too much to say I love just a little more, to hug a little longer. And for those who have lost a believing mother who has returned to Allah, smile at the prospect that you can be a son or daughter that prays for her mercy and forgiveness and you may never be able to hug her again in this life, but you can ask Allah to surround her in mercy.

The message is simple, die before you die. He got 3 wishes, and everyday you have 3 opportunities to make those 3 wishes come true. He can’t do any of his wishes, but you can, everyday. Death shouldn’t paralyze you, but should enliven their hearts into action so that when you do meet the Angel of death, you will go as a complete person whose soul is matured, heart is pure, mind is developed all united by their love for Allah. The oneness of God causes the oneness in you and the universe. It makes you whole and reminds you of your purpose.

This is what it means to die before you die. We are all returning to Allah, so return in the most beautiful and pleasing way.

For Part 2: Click Here

About Time

We are all time travelers moving forward through time even though we can’t perceive it. Every moment we get is unique and we’ll never get it back. Time is the dimension of our being or as Hasan Al Basri says “Son of Adam! You are nothing but a number of days, whenever each day passes then part of you has gone.” [Reported by Salih al-Murri]. We don’t know how many days we are actually composed of, but because we are always decreasing in them, each one becomes more rare as another is loss. We are travelling through the dimension of time and as we go further and further along, we lose a part of us.

So live every moment as if it is the most precious. We’ll never get it back. Its why we always search for meaning. We walk closer to death and its beautiful because we get to choose the way in which we walk. There’s no avoiding the destination, only choosing to do it with dignity and righteousness.

The only thing the people of paradise regret is that an hour passed in this life and they didn’t remember God in it. So be thankful of every hour you get to spend remembering God. Be thankful that He made it obligatory that 5 times a day, you take a break to remember Him. So when you love, do it with purpose, and walk as if you always have a destination. Destiny is not that our destination at the end of this life differs, we all die and return to the Earth, but that the means we take, the character we possess and seal in which we die on differ. May we be given a good and beautiful seals to this life. May each moment be full of mercy, righteousness and towards the most beautiful abode.  Ameen.

The Palm Tree’s Stump

The Sahaba, the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, narrate a story about a tree stump that loved the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alyayhi wasalam) so much that it wept. The Sahaba Jabir bin ‘Abdullah (may God be pleased with him) narrates to us that “The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam (God send peace and blessings be upon him) used to stand by a tree or a date-palm on Friday. Then an Ansari woman or man said. “O Allah’s Apostle! Shall we make a pulpit for you?” He replied, “If you wish.” So they made a pulpit for him and when it was Friday, he proceeded towards the pulpit (for delivering the sermon).The date-palm cried like a child! The Prophet descended (the pulpit) and embraced it while it continued moaning like a child being quietened. The Prophet said, “It was crying for (missing) what it used to hear of religious knowledge given near to it.”

A tree stump was moved so much by the prescence of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and longed so much to be near him that it wept knowing he would be losing his closeness to him. How many times have we wept because of our longing and yearning to be with the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam). Its possible that this tree stump loved him more than many of us do and its not even human. I think that all Muslims say they love their Prophet, but the proof is in our actions and how much our hearts are moved by the mentioning of the Prophet, the best of creation (salallahu alayhi wasalam).

I’m of the opinion that if your heart doesn’t pine and yearn for him, it is probably because you don’t know him. He is as Allah (Glorius and Most High) has described him “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (21:107). This becomes quite clear in the story of the tree stump in which the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) embraced while it continued moaning like a child being quieted. Perhaps the tree stump weeping is miraculous in itself but I am more deeply moved by the amount of mercy the Prophet had for the tree. He gave the tree a hug and comforted the tree. Such a great level of love in his heart and imagine how much more love he has for his Umma,  his community.

He had so much concern for his community that instead of using his special supplication he was given as a Prophet on himself, he used it (salallahu alayhi wasalam) so that he could intercede for us on the Day of Judgement. He had so much love for his community that he used to supplicate to Allah for our forgiveness, probably more often and more sincerely than most of us supplicate for ourselves. He certainly loves us more than we even love ourselves. He used to weep out of his concern for us. His concern for us doesn’t just stop in his lifetime either, it keeps going until we walk into Paradise. SubhanAllah, Glorius is God.

If a tree could be so moved by the presence of this man and do something abnormal to its type of creation and weep, imagine what true love for the Prophet, (salallahu alayhi wasalam), could do with us. Its no wonder how the Sahaba, his companions did the unimaginable and went from traders and shepherds into running a territory larger than the Roman Empire. It’s because they were transformed by their love for this man, the beloved of God, the best of all creation, a mercy for all the worlds. Salallahu alayhi wasalam,  peace and blessings be upon him.

May our love for the Prophet, salallahu alayhi wasalam, deepen, increase and transform us into people greater than we think we can be. Ameen.