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Hunger Games

1280px-The_hunger_games.svg

We reach a red light. My coworker Dallin turns to me and says “You know before I met you,  when I heard the words Muslim or Islam, all that would come to mind was terrorists.” The images of 9/11 flash before my eyes. It’s been over 13 years since 9/11. I was 13 then, the living room was dark as I got dressed for school and the tv kept replaying images of the planes crashing into the twin towers and the smoke that followed. We’re all scarred with the images of the towers falling and of people desperately running from the oncoming storm of smoke.

I remember this guy in my homeroom, large like the Big Show, at least for Junior High. He uttered that he hated Muslims. He equated the terrorists to Muslims. He didn’t know I was Muslim. Suddenly the 13 year old version of me wasn’t as excited to tell people openly about his faith. My end of the year family seal project featured the crescent moon and star. I felt as brave as a Knight that day.

I turn back to Dallin in the car. I teach him a little bit about how Islam is an Abrahamic faith. I tell him about how Muslims share the same prophets from the bible such as Moses, Abraham, David and about how we even believe in Jesus but not as the son of God, but a prophet like Mose. Peace be upon them all.

Dallin is becoming one of my close friends from my office. Images in movies and on the tv are very powerful in forming our perceptions and opinions, but what I found is one dinner or lunch can change all of that. My office gives nicknames for everyone. Because I am fasting for Ramadan, for me thy chose Hunger Games. I don’t think my coworkers will ever equate Muslims with terrorists anymore, next time theyll think of me, “Hunger Games”. We make more of a difference than we think.

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They Had God

They Had God

Ahmad ibn Hanbal memorized 1 million hadith. He compiled his Musnad, which contains over 27 thousand hadith in it. Imam Nawawi died at 45 yet he publishes some of the greatest works of fiqh and hadith and is the authoritative opinion in Shafi’ Fiqh. They did the infeasible. Its unimaginable people can write that much or memorize that much, but they were able to because these are people who received the help and blessing of Allah. These are things they could have never done on their own.

 

Today we are faced with insurmountable odds against us. We feel helpless and unable to make change. The ocean is dying. We dream of Terra forming new worlds. Titan is looking promising.

A human is much more capable than we think though. Imam Nawawi and Imam Ahmad were people who internalized and lived the reality that “If Allah is your helper none can overcome you, and if He withdraw His help from you, who is there who can help you after Him? In Allah let believers put their trust.” (3:160) The impossible becomes quite possible when your ally is God, who is able to do all things.

Alone, we don’t have power or might. The universe seems too big for one little human to make a difference, but for God, its easy.

I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

23 Drafts

I stop posting. Not because I stop writing, but because I had forgotten why I write. I became scared of putting a little bit of myself out there for the world to see, even if it just be one person.

I never understood blogging and statuses and posts. It seems strange to me even if the people aren’t strangers. I guess you could benefit someone’s life maybe. I am oddly private sometimes. I don’t like presenting unfinished work. Maybe that’s why I stop sharing myself to the world in writing, I am the unfinished work.

Dave Eggers mentions a metaphor for writing being like a snake shedding it’s skin. Writing feels like yoi are putting yourself out there. But really its more like shedding a layer of skin. You’ll know things about what a snake once was from the shell of skin it leaves, but not really of who the snake is now. I’m okay with that. People can look at my shed skin, I’ll just wander off going to my next journey and keep shedding as I keep growing and living God willing.

I have 23 drafts about my most intimate relationship in life. Although I sometimes hesitate to share that relationship, I don’t see a point in wasting my energy hiding those pieces of the shell that was me. I look forward to growing in a relationship with God, and anyone who wants to look at pieces of a shell from that journey is welcome.

In short, I guess I’m back at this blogging thing.

My Ramadan FB Posts 2014

#15 It rained in socal this morning. Briefly, but very strange for the middle of July, especially since we are in a drought. In the story of Moses and the drought, God withheld the rain because there was one person in the community who committed sins for decades and never repented. The man became fearful because he knew he was the cause of the rain being withheld, so he thought of leaving so it could rain but knew his family would be humiliated once everyone realized it was him. In his heart he repented and pleaded to Allah for mercy to cover him. It began to rain and Moses out of joy wanted to know who the man was to congratulate/thank him, and God tells Moses, that he hid his sins for all that time, he wasn’t going to expose him now. 

We are in the 2nd third of Ramadan, known as the 10 days of forgiveness. In my hearts of hearts I hope that that brief shower was a sign that Allah’s mercy is descending and that Allah is forgiving this community. We didn’t do the rain prayer, but we’ve been gathering in large congregations every night seeking His forgiveness. I attended the rain prayer earlier this year in the Bay Area, I drove home and witness the clouds rolling into the horizon, went out at night and watched them from a vista cover the sky and woke up for the morning prayer to sound of the heaviest rain in years. So I’ve seen the power of seeking forgiveness. How many of us are like that man in the story of Moses and haven’t sincerely repented over the whole year? Keep seeking forgiveness peeps.May Allah accept our repentance. Ameen.
(Hopefully this is my last post before I delete my account lol)

#14 I’m going to be honest for a second. Some of the comments said by Muslims are off putting and downright hateful in regards to the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict. I’m sorry but realize that your hate and sometimes racist sentiments is from the same root as the hate and racism that Zionism is produced from. 

To put things in perspective, one of the biggest criticisms against Imam Al Ghazali is that he doesn’t focus on physical fighting in his teachings, which was during the time of the crusades. But I actually praise him for his choice, he saw within the Muslim community so much hate that he knew that replacing an oppressor with a new oppressor was futile. Putting the sword in the hands of another hateful soul just produces another murderer. So instead he, may Allah have mercy on him, wrote and taught to teach a new generation of Muslims to purify themselves, reviving the approach towards good character in Islam. It was from this generation that gave way to great men like Salahuddin, who when reconquering shams embodied Prophetic character and mercy. If our community thinks we can combat hate with hate, we’ve lost a fundamental part of the message of Islam and the way of our Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam. Only light can rid of darkness.

#13#13 Sometimes I wish I had a friend who would talk to me late at night about Islam, Allah, the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasalam, my random reflections and all things related, but then I’m reminded that Allah is the All Hearing (As Sami’) and The Protecting Friend (Al Waliyy). 
“Allah is the Guardian (al-Waliyy) of those who believe” (Quran, 2:257), Alhamdulillah.All praise and thanks is due to Allah.

#12 In Surah Yusuf, we witness the difficult transitions that Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, goes through in his life. At every interval of his life no matter how difficult things become, his unwavering trust in Allah grew. So if we ever reach difficult times of our lives where we feel like we are standing at the bottom of a well, we feel betrayed by those who love us, we are slandered or forgotten, remember Yusuf and where Allah brought him. Do not hesitate to forgive like him, or give like him even if you don’t think some people are worthy of those things. Allah is the Most Forgiving and the Most Generous. Pleasing people is a type of joy of delusion in this world. Pleasing the Lord of the Worlds however is part of the purpose of life and He is al Hayyu al Qayoom, the Ever living and the Sustainer of the Universe.

# 11 We can witness the world through our physical sight (Basar), but the Quran offers us the chance to develop our spiritual sight (Baseera). Meaning we can see condensation, clouds forming, rain falling, but it is our hearts sight that knows it is witnessing Allah’s attributes in the world. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam was known to go out and marvel at the rain because he wasn’t just seeing with his physical eyes. 

“Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightening almost takes away the eyesight.” (24:43)

#10 I attended my second funeral within the span of a week. 5 graves have been added since the last time. Death is the one thing that unites all people regardless of your religion or your ethnicity. “Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.” (3:185). We will soon be joining them. May Allah have mercy on the Believers and Muslims, the first of us and the last of us. I ask Allah to grant us and them strength. Ameen.

#9 “So flee to Allah.” (51:50) In Ramadan we get the chance to race to Allah without the usual distractions. Shaytaan is locked up. InshaaAllah the weight of our sins have fallen from us and when the people are sleeper, the lovers of God stand up in His remembrance. So flee from your sins, from your bad habits, from whoever you think you are and go be with Allah. You, with His help, can be greater than you think you can be. Allah made baby murderers into fathers, slaves in scholars and taught society to truly love their mothers and daughters. Flee to Allah, forget who you were two weeks ago, start becoming who you want to be for eternity. ” “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise” (66:11). Ameen.

#8.5 My brother, made a profound reflection today that I had to share. When we get a dead leg, our actual nerves become disconnected to each other and that intense pain is those nerves reconnecting. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam taught us that the Umma is like one body. In the month of Ramadan we stand up as a community before Allah, and sometimes our nerves are disconnected from each other. And although painful we have to reconnect our bodies nervous system otherwise we’ll just keep limping. Its painful at first, but necessary. Forgiving people and asking for their forgiveness is painful on the ego, but necessary for our body as an Umma to function. Empathy and mercy is like our nervous system, if we don’t have those things, we’ll stop feeling those parts of our bodies. 

My heart and prayers go out to my brothers and sisters around the world, especially those in places of oppression. I pray to Allah that He forgives me for my shortcomings in my love for my brothers and sisters and that He doesn’t let my sins be the source of their hardship. My heart aches for all of you because you are me and I am you. May Allah forgive the Muslim men and Muslim women. Ameen ya arhamar rahimeen. If I have wrong you, I beg for you forgiveness and know that if you have wronged me, I have already forgiven you.

#8 When Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) were sent to Pharaoh, a man who enslaved people, oppressed people, murdered people and a man so arrogant he thought he was Lord most high, they were told “And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [ Allah ].” (20:44) God told Moses and Aaron to speak gently to a man who had one of the worse cases of the God complex in history and was not even compelled to change any aspect of himself. Now imagine the magnitude of gentleness we should have towards one another and those we love. So before we open our mouths to our mothers who bore us, the fathers who supported us, the brothers and sisters who grew with us we should check our hearts and see if we are speaking from the aspect in us like Moses or the aspect in us like Pharaoh. May Allah help us control our tongues and purify our hearts.

P.S. If this is how God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh while he lived in his arrogance (gently), imagine the mercy, gentleness and patience Allah has with us, His willfully submitting slaves. Imagine the gentleness and mercy of Allah towards those who believe in Him on a day we finally get to witness what the other 99 mercy’s are like. SubhanAllahi walhamdulillahi wa la illaha illallahu wa allahu akbar.

#7 “Alhamdulillahir Rabbil alimeen” 1:2, the Quran begins with “All praise and thanks is due to God the Lord of the worlds” I know that we have plenty of things we want to improve, in ourselves, our families, our communities, our country and our world, but I think the first step in engaging in transformation and growth is always gratitude. God didn’t have to give us anything we have. We didn’t deserve any of it and yet He gave those things to us out of Him being Al Kareem, the Most Generous. 

So before complaining about being bombarded with things you don’t want to see or hear, be thankful for being able to see and hear. Being truly thankful to have food for dinner will make any meal taste delicious. Honestly we live in an environment that we are so blessed that our blessings are sometimes a bigger trial than our hardships. Most of us in hardship remember God and our dependency on Him, but while blessings we sometimes become forgetful and even ungrateful. Take a second, breath and with the tongue God blessed you with and with the heart inside of you recite the beginning: Alhamdulillahi rabbil alimeen. All praise and thanks is due to God the Lord of the worlds. And then do it a second time to thank God again for being able to thank Him.

#6 A Poem Inspired by Surat Al Alaa: You Are Beautiful
You’re beautiful.
Not because someone says you are, or you get 100 likes on facebook
But You’re beautiful
Because from that crinkle in your face,
or that slight slant in your eyes
Or those rounds cheeks when you smile
Wasn’t by coincidence or mistake
God chose you
He created and knows you
You look in that mirror worried what others will think
But settle down and recite the Quran
let it sink

The One who creates and fashions, and who decrees and guides
That you think those eyebrows are a little too thick
Or your complexion too dark in this summer heat
But its on purpose
You are perfectly imperfect
Perfect in imperfection
This is why you are perfect
Selected and fashioned by the same One who spread across the stars in the sky
Who colored the crimson horizon of sunset
Carries the birds while they fly
Cast the subtle yellow of dusk
Who gave a scent to the deers producing musk

He chose you, every gene and phenotype
running through your ancestors to finally arrive
At you, you are alive
Not by mistake
Don’t take his signs as play
or forsake
You are certainly selected and fashioned
the way that you are
He chose you,
and perhaps you’ll obey, and hear what he says
This is perfectly imperfect
1 single egg, 1 single sperm. Once you were two.
Then he chose you. Miraculous.
You are a miracle, a sign
And he placed that mysterious soul and heart inside
7 billion miracles walking on Earth!
And then the person still asks, show me a miracle!
He never looked at himself or the world
How can I show you anything when you don’t look!

Hold your heart, listen to it beat
And realize it doesn’t beat for no reason
And don’t tell me it beats so that some guy can come along
and take your heart away!
Don’t give away that part of you
So no, its beats, persists,
Waiting for you to finally submit
To its creator, the vessel from which you know Allah
Its Lord the most High
Sisters, don’t let some man come along and take your heart away
Because it wasn’t created for men, but the Creator of all men
The vessel of knowing God

#5 Surat ‘Abasa contrasts two groups of people, those who sincerely seek transformation (the blind sahaba) and those who think they are self sufficient and not in need of change (the chiefs of Quraysh). Abdullah ibn Umm Muktum, may Allah be pleased with him, was the blind Sahaba mentioned in the Surah. He may have not been able to see with his eyes, but he definitely could see with his heart. The verse that stood out to me about him was when Allah tells the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam: “But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified” (80:3)

The process to purify is also known as Tazkiyat al Nafs, the purification of the soul. While we apply tajweed, the outward rules of reciting the Quran we shouldn’t forget to apply the science of Tazkiyat. When we leave Ramadan, our voices will have already stopped, but the transformation we went through will stay with us. Tazkiya is purification, transformation and growth all in one. It is in essence what Ramadan is about, one month of intense transformation training. It is through this transforming power of the Quran that the Sahaba conquered their own selves (nafs) and brought Islam to the world from Africa to China.

#4.5 Thinking about what’s going in Palestine, I thought of this narration: Narrated Abu Hurairah: Jibril (Gabriel) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: “O Allah’s Messenger! This is Khadijah, coming to you with a dish having meat soup (or some food or drink). When she reaches you, greet her on behalf of her Lord (Allah) and on my behalf, and give her the glad tidings of having a palace made of Qasab in Paradise, wherein there will be neither any noise nor any toil, (fatigue, trouble, etc.).” [Al-Bukhari]

For people facing horrible hardships, I can’t imagine what a beautiful Paradise a palace with no noise or toil would be like. 
O Allah, prepare for those suffering, especially those in Palestine, a palace in paradise near and like our mother Khadija’s palace. Ameen.
“Their greeting the Day they meet Him will be, “Peace.” And He has prepared for them a noble reward.” (Qur’an, 33:44)

#4 Tonight or tomorrow night during taraweeh (Juz 4) you will hear a powerful verse in the Quran that says: “And their Lord responded to them, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another. So those who emigrated or were evicted from their homes or were harmed in My cause or fought or were killed – I will surely remove from them their misdeeds, and I will surely admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow as reward from Allah , and Allah has with Him the best reward.” (3:195) 

Thankfully most of us don’t have to face these type of hardships, but all over the world there are Muslims facing all of these things, from Palestine to Myanmar. Incredible violence against them in this month of Ramadan. Never forget them in your prayers and pray that the latter part of this verse becomes a beautiful reality for them. Ya Rahim.

#3: Today I was struck by this verse. “He merges Night into Day, and He merges Day into Night; and He has full knowledge of the secrets of (all) hearts.” (57:6). Its so beautiful that right before Allah mentions the heart, he mentions the shifting of the night and day. The transition of part of the Earth into darkness and light. The heart is a vessel of light or consumed by darkness when light is absent. SubhanAllah, faith places light in our hearts, but like the night and day, it is Allah who is truly aware and it is Allah, An Nur (The Light) who places light into our hearts moving us from darknesses into light. May Allah make this month a month of enlightenment, a month in which our hearts are illuminated. Ameen!

#2: There’s this beautiful verse in the second half of Surat Al Baqarah: “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (2:186) 

Not only does Allah respond to His servant directly by saying “indeed I am near” instead of “tell them I am near”, but also instead of saying “When he calls upon Me I respond”, Allah shows how anxious He is to respond to us by first saying “I respond” before mentioning the request “When he calls upon Me”. SubhanAllah. That’s love. 

Or as Rabia al-Adawiyya put it again: “I am not amazed that I love God, But I am amazed that God loves me.” Alhamdulillah.

#1 Ramadan Reflection Night 1: In the first Juz of the Quran, Surat Al Baqarah has many verses about the Children of Israel. You could focus on the past and what they did, but what caught my attention was how similar we (the Muslim ummah) is like the Israelites. How many among us, myself included, have hardened hearts (2:74), or are “the most greedy of people for life” 2:96 or we threw the Scripture of Allah behind our backs as if we did not know [what it contained] (2:101). 

SubhanAllah, its easy to critique another group of people, but its difficult to see their faults within ourselves. May Allah purify and soften our hearts, remove our greed and make us generous and put love in our hearts for His scripture and place it above our own whims and desires. Ameen. What a beautiful month to get back on track as a community.

#0 On moon sighting: 
Its actually a blessing from Allah subhana wata alaa that Muslims debate over these things. Its a sign that Muslims still care deeply about the small details in their religion. Its means as a Umma we aren’t willing to concede on things that many other groups might neglect. People still adamantly present proofs to support their religion. I don’t know of any other faith group that still cares about the details of was constitutes a new month or whether the stronger Sunnah is Qabd or Sadl (hand placements in prayer). The debates can only be a form of division if we let those things divide us, but alhamdulillah, the very fact that as a community we still deeply care about those things is a sign that we still deeply care about our religion and God.

#-1 Since Ramadan is just around the corner, I would love it if people shared some quotes and sayings that inspire them with me. I’ll start:

“I am not amazed that I love God, But I am amazed that God loves me.” – Rabia al-Adawiyya via my friend Adil.

#-2 One of my favorite duas in the Quran is that of Asiya, the wife of the Pharoah who while be tortured turn to God and said “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise!” (66:11) As we inch nearer to the blessed month of Ramadan, we should approach it like her. We strive in hopes of a great abode in Paradise, but notice how before she mentions the house she mentions who she would like to be nearest to; Allah. In the deepest parts of our being we seek His forgiveness and His reward, but on an even deeper level we seek Him. Every time we reach for that glass of water to quench our thirst, in reality we reach and we are in need of the only One that can quench any thirst, Allah. 

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

After returning home from the Masjid and smelling itr on my hands after shaking the hands of people, I realize that being in the presence of righteous people will leave its beautiful fragrance on you long after you have left them. But their fragrance is the light of faith that emanates from their beautiful faces and hearts. A light that enjoys the company of Angels and is nourished by the remembrance of Allah. Alhamdulillah, All praise and thanks is due to God.

Black History M…

Black History Month for me doesn’t start with Malcolm and Martin or the cotton fields of the American South, but it starts with Adam (alayhi salam) and his dark skin and the black clay he was created from, to the wisdom of Luqman (alayhi salam) to every call to prayer with the first made by Bilal. It is a celebration of the essence of faith, a celebration that God created us all beautiful and that men and women’s value before God is their sincerity in faith. We celebrate Moses and his spirit to speak for the oppressed and we celebrate the love in our hearts for humanity as a whole, the sons and daughters of Adam.

Intentions

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
In the Name of God, the Most Merciful the Most Gracious

Umar Ibn Al Khattab narrates I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say: “Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

To start I just simply want to state my intentions out loud to remind myself first and foremost and to be able to look back and renew it easily. My intention for this blog is to please Allah subhana wata alaa (God, Perfect and Most High).  I intend to share things that are good and beneficial if He permits. Any good that I share is from Him and anything bad is from myself. I created this blog in hopes that I may benefit myself, that it serves to purify my heart and be a means of pleasing my Lord. I also hope to benefit others by His will and His grace.  May Allah make this blog a source of guidance and light.

Allaahumma ‘innee ‘as’aluka ‘ilman naafi’an, wa rizqan tayyiban, wa ‘amalan mutaqabbalan. 

“O Allah, I ask You for knowledge that is of benefit, a good provision, and deeds that will be accepted.”

O Allah, I ask for your help in my endeavor.

“Rabbi Ishrah Li Sadry, Wayassir Li Amry, Wahlul ‘Uqdatan Min Lisany, yafqahu Qawly.”

“My Lord, I ask you to expand my breast, make my task easy, undo the knot in my tongue so that my speech will become comprehensible” (Prayer of Moses, Dua of Musa)

Ameen