Tag Archives: Islam

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. 

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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.

My Mother’s Prison

This morning my mom told me how the life of this world exhausts her. It reminded me of the hadith “The world is a prison for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer.” (Muslim). It really is her prison. When it comes to us, her kids she celebrates our successes, but always reminds us that only our good deeds will come with us to our graves and past this life. She lives in this world, raised us and worked miracles as we grew up, but she simply is not a person seeking this world. Like a palm tree that produces beautiful fruits, but has almost no roots in the soil. She is simply one of the most inspiring people that I know mashaAllah, not just because she is my mother, but because she is also a believer and I forget that this world is her prison. This life has been mostly hardship for her. Allah subhana wata alaa blessed her with people she loves, but who also often make her life difficult, but it never interferes with her love for Allah. On the contrary it is love that stems from her love for Allah. Nothing pleases my mother more than us turning to Islam and taking it on and nothing troubles her more than us turning away from Islam and preferring our way of life over the way she taught us, Islam.

I have heard her speak most proudly and endearingly about her father who at his old age still walks to every prayer at the Masjid even though his legs grow tired and sore from it. She’s excited for her trip this fall inshaAllah where she plans to see her father in Vietnam and the opening of their new masjid at that time, around Eid al Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. I pray that Allah accepts her life as sacrifice for His sake and her Eid will be the Day of Standing before Him where He will be pleased with her and she will be pleased. Ameen. I realize it was probably her father who taught her devotion to Allah. Its difficult on my heart knowing how difficult life has been for my parents, but my mom constantly reminds me that she is not a person that lives for this life, she is simply working to please God, hoping her record speaks in her favor and not against her. She is the woman that gave birth to me twice, she gave me life in this world and gave me life in Islam. She is my blessed example of a Believing Woman. May Allah preserve her, increase her, ease her, have mercy on her, bestow blessings upon her, grant her a beautiful seal, guide her family and her, love her, forgive her and grant her Jannatul Firdaus with the Beloved Messenger salallahu alayhi wasalam. May He do the same for my whole family, especially my maternal grandfather. Ameen. She is the woman I love most in this life, the woman who taught me to love God, Islam and the Prophet. I could never pay you back for even one contraction of child labor or for even a morsel of food you gave me, but I pray to God, Al Kareem, the Most Generous to give you much more than you could ever imagine. Ameen.

Searching For Proofs

People are searching for proofs of God, but if they were to look with an open heart they would find that no proofs are needed, because His existent is the most evident thing in reality. It is reality itself. It is ingrained in every fiber of creation. His attributes manifest in every aspect of creation: from the spinning of the sun and earth, to the electrons racing and to a baby’s smiling face.

It was by this reality that Abu Dhar (may God be pleased with him) would prostrate to God before he ever heard a word of the Quran. It is by this reality that eyes go moist seeing the crimson horizon of the sunset. It is by this reality the birds wake up in the dawn and sing praises all morning in their melodious song.

I do not know how God created the universe, nor do I need to see it happen. The universe in me; the way it transformed, the way my body grows, that my mind is, that my heart lives, that my tongue speaks and my love grows is sufficient. The man praised the scholar who had 100 proofs that God existed and the old woman heard this and said that he only has a 100 proofs because he had a hundred doubts. I’d rather be that old woman, no doubt. Certainty is much more beloved to me.

We live in a modern age full of modern technology and luxuries and somehow people have become so disillusioned that they question the thing that is built into the fabric of every living and nonliving thing: God exists. By His care and His sustenance the Universe persists. The only Uni I need is tawheed (God is One). I know that beyond these majestic stars and galaxies is much more. I think we misnamed the sky we are living it, we are not in a Universe but in a single verse of many. But maybe by Uni they did not mean whole-verse but meant a single. And the only verse I truly need is the first verse in the Quran: Alhamdulillahir Rabbil alimeen. All praise and thanks is due to God, the Lord of the worlds. Worlds: Plural.

When does the sun need proof it exists in the daylight? Its manifest that it exists. The existence of God is more evident than that. He is the Creator of the sun and everything. The sun just makes light. Have we become so caught up in ourselves to see that the nourishing rain is like Rahma(mercy) falling from the sky, or that torrential rains that floods and overpowers man is like sublime majesty descending from the heavens.

Verily some people have eyes but cannot see and some people do not have working eyes, but can see. The sight of my heart is more precious to me, but the heart needs to be open and clear just like our eyes to perceive anything.  Abdullah ibn Umm Muktum (may God be pleased with him), the blind companion could see reality better than Abu Jahl, the father of ignorance. Abu Jahl a man who used to sneak around in the dark of night to hear the recitation of the Quran, but was too stubborn to testify to its reality. How many of us are like Abu Jahl who had eyes, but could not see the truth and how many of us are like Abdullah ibn Umm Muktum who regardless being born blind, could see with his heart.

I praise and thank God for having eyes that can see, and I praise and thank God even more for having a heart that can see! I regret each moment I ever needed proofs, but I praise the One who guides and wills for opening the lens of my heart and clearing its sight. Like the eyes who takes in light, so does the heart.

Alhamdulillahir Rabbil alimeen.
All Praise and thanks is due to God, the Lord of the Worlds.
(1:1)

Default Setting

Some of us get raised to think that the default setting of people is egocentricity. Where the only one that matters is me and I. But the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam (peace and blessings be upon him), was sent to show us that this doesn’t have to be the case. That we can make our lives service to others instead of service to the self. He would turn his whole being towards someone and he gave them his full attention.

He would weep out of sincere care for his community. We forget that his farewell sermon was addressed to humankind (An Nas). We forget that a pagan woman used to put thorns on his path to bother him until she fell ill. The ego would have been thankful for ridding a nuisance in life, but his default setting was to go see her and make sure she was okay. When he carried the groceries of the old woman, who on the walk used her tongue to attack Muhammad, not knowing it was him helping her, he held his tongue and was completely well mannered because his default setting was to help her, even if she said a bad word towards him. Salallahu alayhi wasalam. Peace and blessings be upon him.

In a world that tells us to do whats best for Anna (I or Me), to fulfill our desires above all else, the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) showed us a different way. A way that entails putting others above ourselves. The default setting is mercy and care for people. This is the example that we follow.

Revelation came through the heavens so that we would aspire towards greater ideals. We are taught to reach for the stars, but revelation teaches us to reach for something beyond that. It tells us to stop being obsessed with ourselves and focus on the Creator of everything. Muslims raise their hands declaring that God is greater! and this statement starts with digesting that God is greater than ourselves, greater than our desire for this world, greater than anything and everything. We raise our hands throwing everything else behind us, throwing our own selves behind us and we aspire towards goals that lie beyond the stars and skies.

Do not focus too much in how entrenched we are in darkness, because the Prostitute, who lived a life of darkness was illuminated into Paradise because of one single act of mercy of providing that dog water. Be in between two acts of mercy and do the first act in excellence and look towards the next act in excellence. God is Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim, the most merciful the most gracious. We begin in the name of God, the most merciful the most gracious, and our example is the mercy to all the worlds. There is no more time to waste, illuminate life with a new setting: mercy. And we will finally find that life was worth living.

The Quran begins in the name of God the most Merciful the most Gracious and it ends with the word Humankind (Nas). Hold onto this message of being a mercy to mankind, the Quran’s beginning and end and the middle will follow.

“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”

– The Quran in Surah Al Anbya (The Prophets) 21:107

(This is inspired by the words of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Feb 2013)

Humble Origins

You are over 100 thousand years in the making. Know that everything in this society wants to point out your imperfections, but will not tell you the perfection of your imperfection. They want you to feel bad for that nose you don’t like, or those eyes that aren’t right, or your hair that’s too flat, but they won’t let you know that within you are the genes that have traveled through every ancestor of yours finally culminating in you. You are the crescendo of the orchestra, the masterpiece of a long history of struggle and life. Perfectly imperfect. Your genes were willed and chosen by God, the Creator of those beautiful stars in the sky. You are like that sunset, gleaming and crimson and you only have a short time on this Earth, don’t waste it thinking of your imperfection.

Because every gene was chosen. In arabic, the word Nutfah is translated as sperm drop. Its used in the Quran in the description of the fertilization process.  The origin of its meanings used by the Bedouins is if you pour a bucket full of water out, Nutfah is the small amount of water that stays in the bucket. This is you, that small amount of water left that chose how you would look, like that single egg and that single sperm among millions. Your body, your face, your smile is exactly how it was meant to be. Alhamdulillah, All praise and thanks is due to God for choosing us how we were meant to be. What are the odds? How many millions of coin flips and DNA duplication and even DNA mutations did it take for you to exist.

And even beyond that story of your body that is over 100 thousand years in the making is the reminder that you are not a body that happens to have a soul, but you are a soul that happens to have a body. A soul that spoke to God.  The only odd,probability or number we need is One. God is One and He made one of you. Precisely the way you are meant to be. Every spiral of DNA confirming that Perfect is our Lord, the most high. He hears all and knows all.