Category Archives: Reflections

1 Part of Mercy

The Pacific Giant Octopus mother will find a den to lay her eggs in. After laying them she will stay with them to guard them from predators, brush them so algae doesn’t form and to make sure they are well oxygenated. She never leaves the den. In one of the her last actions she will blow water at them to help them hatch. Due to starvation she dies in the den so that her children get a chance to hatch. You’ll find God has written the most beautiful love stories written in the fabric of the universe.

This reminded me of this hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says

“Allah Ta’ala has divided mercy in hundred portions. He kept ninety-nine portions by Him and sent one portion in this world. It is through this one mercy that the creation has mercy amongst them, to the extent that a horse will lift its hoof from its young fearing that it might harm it.” (Bukhari)

The Giant Octopus may well be the most devoted mother in the animal kingdom and yet its mercy is still only derived from that one portion of mercy sent to this world. Everyday Muslims stand up in prayer and declare “Allahu Akbar”, that God is greater. A declaration that no matter what concerns us in this life and the limits we can reach in our imaginations about mercy in this world, God is much greater than any of that. SubhanAllah, Glory be to God.

These moments of wonderment, awe and amazement is what I think as the quintessential experience of the believer. The experience that no matter how much of the Universe becomes clearer to us, that no matter how much we begin to see God’s attribute in His creation it is always just a beginning. It’s impossible for the human mind and heart to comprehend the greatness of God’s attributes. Even the molecules and atoms contain so much of the mercy God sent to this world. The hydrogen bond causes water to go against the norm and expand when it solidifies so that it floats above the lakes and oceans. Because of the of this the fish in the water  can continue to thrive in the frigid winters.

We are engulfed in God’s mercy. The Quran reminds us of this reality and begins with “In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. All praise is due to Allah , Lord of the worlds. The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful” Surrounded by His Mercy we praise Him.

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Laugh and Cry

My nieces were playing outside today and one was crying because I took her toy hammer away, and the other was laughing as she pushed her tricycle around. I was reminded of the verse in Surat An Najm (The Star) “And that it is He who makes [one] laugh and weep” (53:43). Our emotions are so profound and diverse and we have yet to truly explain them. We can identify chemicals that trigger certain emotions, but I don’t think we’ll ever be able to physically explain why certain things touch us the way that we do. 

Allah lets us know that it is He who makes us laugh and weep. The verse is followed by one about how only He causes death and gives life. Meaning God is with us all along, through the whole process. From the planning of our very existence, to the small emotions that we feel throughout the day. God is truly closer to us than our jugular vein. (50:16) Find ease and be pleased knowing how meticulously involved Allah is in our lives. So if today you spend your time weeping out of sadness, find ease in knowing that perhaps Allah is planning for you a beautiful happiness to come where you have never laughed so much in your life. Even perhaps a life full of sorrow will be found smiling and laughing at how pleased they are when they meet their Lord. “Some faces that Day will be beaming, Laughing, rejoicing at good news.” (80:38-39)

My niece who was laughing, went over to her older sister who had been crying for five minutes and started hugging her over and over. By the fourth hug her sister was laughing with her. Allah subhana wata alaa caused that. We might not be little kids anymore, but we are definitely in desperate need of Allah. Through all the laughing and crying of this life, you will find Allah with you if you just pay attention. 

The Dua of Asiya

 “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.”
– Dua of Asiya found in Surah At Tahrim

Asiya, peace be upon her, is one of the four greatest women to ever live. She makes this dua while she is being tortured by the Pharoah, her husband because she believes in Allah. Its so beautiful because she says indaka “near You” before she says baytan “a house”.  Meaning she placed being near Allah above everything else. The priority of her dua was to be near Allah, as if being in a house in Jannah wouldn’t be meaningful to her unless she got to be near Allah.  If she was given a house in jannah, but didn’t get to be near Allah, that would be like hell for her.

She begins the dua by saying “Rabbee” meaning my Lord. Rabbee signifying the name of Allah that describes how He takes care of those under Him. Rabbee a name that signifies closeness. She doesn’t call out by beginning the dua with Ya, but by saying the name of her Lord who cares for her in every moment “Rabbee”. She mentions being “near You (Allah)” before she even mentions her current circumstance of needing to be saved from Pharaoh.

This is a woman who truly loves Allah. There’s this story of Rabia of Basra, in which she was asked about what made a person a great. She was asked about a person who is patient in hardship and thankful when given blessings and she said no.  She was also asked if it was a person who in hardship was thankful and when given blessings was patient and again she said no. Eventually they lamented and asked her what a great person was and she replied the one who whether they are given blessings or hardship they don’t lose sight of Allah.

The one who doesn’t lose focus on their Love; Allah. This is the kind of woman Asiya is. She does make dua to be saved from Pharaoh and his deeds and to be saved from the wrongdoers, but her priority and her focus is always the same: Allah. “indaka, near You”

She is a person who drew close to Allah in the life of the dunya, but also a person who wouldn’t be able to be satisfied with anything in the next life except with closeness to Allah.

 “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise” Ameen.

Making the Unseen Real

As Muslims we believe in the unseen. We believe in the world of Angels, revelation, the day of Judgement, the life of the grave, a life to come and many other unseen things. We don’t see any of these things with our physical eyes in this life. To most of us I think, unless we’ve witnessed unveilings the unseen is exactly that; the unseen. The heart can definitely see the world of the unseen if its been trained to. It can feel tranquility and light in it when in an angelic presence.

What’s amazing about confirming the unseen in the world is that you also have to face the unseen in yourself. Read a verse in the Quran about how Allah can see all including seeing what is in our hearts.

There was this video called Judged, created by the UTA MSA (University of Texas Arlington Muslims Student Association). It was about how this non-scarf wearing Muslim sister, Nura was being judged by some of the other Muslims including some men and some scarf wearing Muslim sisters. As one of the girls spoke ill of Nura I realize that perhaps we see fault in someone and Allah has overlooked it, but we speak ill of them and Allah has not overlooked the fault on our tongue. Perhaps the sinner who struggles is more beloved to God than the one whose outward religiosity comes easy to them, but their heart is poison.

Isn’t the hypocrite the one that outwardly says they believe, but inwardly attest to something else? Do we not fear that our tongues will reveal the vileness in our hearts and that our limbs along with our hearts will testify against us that perhaps we were merely acting. Actions are but by intention and true intentions are part of the unseen part of people, but God is al Baseer, the all seeing.

And then suddenly I am naked. Astaghfurillah, I seek Gods forgiveness. Naked because I realize I cannot hide anything from the King of all dominions. The king of the dominion of my heart and unseen parts of my being. I have too much to work on within my own self and within my own actions. I am much too sick of a man, much too faulty of a man to waste time searching for the faults of others. There will come a day when the only person I have to answer for is myself, standing alone before God.

Bismillah.

Body Image

We get bombarded with images of “beautiful” people. Women covered with make up and digitally made up with photoshop. Perfect complexion and Barbie bodies. We’ll probably never get sick of Ryan Gosling either. We get spoon fed images of perfection and then we all end up bloated having body image insecurities. The industry told us to consume so we consumed it.

But breath. Read the words of divine revelation. Remember that the best woman to ever live on the face of the Earth was Mary the mother of Jesus. Peace be upon them. Remember that the most beautiful woman to ever walk, breath, live and eat was her. And despite the beauty of her creation she was God’s devoted slave who was eternally modest. Her modestly was so profound that she is known around the world as “Virgin Mary”. Despite Islamaphobia in the west, especially against head scarfing wearing Muslim women, Mary can’t be imagined in the images of the west without being in a head scarf. She is unadulterated beauty and reminds us that true beauty wasn’t her unimaginably beautiful face, but her unimaginable devotion to face God in her heart in prayer and serve Him. Her body was not a vessel of objectification, but a body that embodied mercy and nurtured Jesus.

We grow up in a society that wants to take everyone’s purity away, but remember that the woman that is loved more than any other woman by God is Mary, the Virgin that gave birth to Jesus, peace and blessings be upon them. Its significant that in a world where women have eating disorders due to system that systematically attacks her body image, two of the profound stories mention about Mary in the Quran are about how she miraculously was fed.

I just wanted to remind us all that God who created Mary and proportioned her features on her face also proportioned yours and created you. You are beautiful because God created you, not because a man says you are or aren’t. “Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who created and proportioned, And Who destined and [then] guided” (81:1-3)

Half of the Testimony

Ashadu an la ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna muhammadar rasulullah
I testify that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

Perhaps the greatest honor and the greatest illustration of the rank of the Messenger of God is that to enter Islam you have to say the testimony of faith and half of that is testifying that the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam is the messenger of God. Profound because faith can’t even begin until you accept and testify to that reality. You can believe in God, but the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam is how to believe and how to worship God. He is the perfect slave.  Its like the first part is admitting you are a slave and the second part is the how. The how to be a slave is following the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam.

I wonder how is it then that we miss the message of Islam. The revelation begins with “Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, in the name of God the most merciful the most gracious” (1:1) and in its heart Allah tells us that “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds”. (21:107). When Allah describes the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam further He says “Truly, you are of tremendous character.” (68:4) The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent to perfect noble character,” (Narrated by Ahmad) and said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi).

What went wrong? Why is it that some people seem void of mercy and good character? Then I remembered the story of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam and the woman who would put trash and thorns in his path to bother him. One day they were missing and he noticed and went to check on her to see if she had fallen sick. Notice he didn’t sigh due to relief because his dua was answered, because he would never make that dua. He was concerned for a person who we would consider his enemy. He went to visit her and because of the mercy he, salallahu alayhi wasalam had towards her she became Muslim. The example of the Prophet Muhammad is more merciful to his enemies than most of us are to our families, friends, love ones and communities. Meaning He, sallallahu alayhi wasalam is more merciful to people we normally hate (enemies) than we are to the people we love.

We are like that person who marches into Mecca when it was conquered by the Muslims wanting to annihilate its people, but the Messenger of God, salallahu alayhi wasalam announces that the people of Mecca who fought him, humiliated him and killed his family and companions were pardoned.  The people of Mecca were fearful that they’d all be killed for what they had done for the last 20 years of hostility, but the Prophet of God responded to their fear with love and mercy. I remember relearning about this moment as I was getting back in touch with Islam and that hard-hearted person I used to be broke down crying because I knew this was the truth. I cried due to immense gratitude to Allah for making me a person honored to be part of the community of that man, the perfect slave of Allah, sallallahu alayhi wasalam. My heart knew the truth, it knew “Truly, you are of tremendous character.” and it tasted what Allah meant by “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds” I wasn’t even a good Muslim then. I wasn’t even a decent person. I had a hard heart and bad character, but at least I knew and realized then, that the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam is the man I want to follow and emulate for the rest of my life. His example is the medicine to my diseases and the ease in my heart in times of hardship.

The Quran is a guidebook and Allah sent us with it a guide. We are blessed to know how to implement each verse in our lives because the world has seen it implemented through the Chosen One, salallahu alayhi wasalam and all the righteous people who have followed him throughout history. I mess up a lot. I make plenty of mistakes. I have many shortcomings, but I just want to stand before Allah and be able to say I tried and hopefully I’ll be able to say I tried my best.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.

Putting Out the Sky

One of the reasons atheism is probably becoming more common is because we can’t see the stars anymore. Its bad enough that most of us are so removed from nature with concrete walls and paved asphalt, but the artificial lights have put out the majestic order and heavens up above. There is something inherently moving about the heavens and I think it’s rooted in our desire to have that beautiful order within our hearts.

As we stare into that starry space and we wonder at its profound stillness and order we seek that same profound stillness in our hearts. Surah Ad Dhuha begins with “By the Morning Light and the And [by] the (still) night when it covers with darkness”. One of the explanations of these verses is that the morning light is the light of the face of the Prophet Sallallahu alayhi wasalam and the stillness is the stillness of the heart of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam. We seek that stillness. Peace and Tranquility or Salaam and Sakinah. We glue on plastic glow in the dark stars on ceilings and buy nightlights in the shape of stars to calm our babies because there is an intrinsic calmness looking at stars.

But we’ve lost the sky and make jokes about how we can’t see any stars, but we don’t laugh at the disorder and agitation in our hearts. We blocked out the visibility of the order up there and we unknowingly cut off the order in us. We have modern technology, more connectivity than ever before and can even send satellites and people into space, but we lost the essence of being human. The ancients understood that this was all connected and it wasn’t all created in vain. This reality is what made Abraham, peace be upon him, to ponder and realize the reality that God exists.

So as the night sky has less and less stars, its our jobs to make sure we don’t put out the stars in our hearts and we take trips to remember what the night sky was supposed to look like.