Category Archives: Reflections

Looking at life with the ability of hindsight, and the hope of improving and moving forward.

Heeding The Call

Midway on our lifes journey, I found myself

In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell

About those woods is hard–so tangled and rough   

                                                       [Dantes Inferno

                                                       Canto I (1-3)]

The ritual of sabbath keeping in my grandmother’s household was one that was strictly adhered to. “Six days shalt thy labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (King James Version, Exodus 20:9-10).  Our favorite after school pastimes, was to make way on Friday afternoons for the humming of the vacuum cleaner, and the inevitable arguments about who’s turn it was the clean the bathroom.

“No, Grandma said you had to clean the bathroom.”

“I did it last week. It’s your turn.”

“Nah ah. No way Jose.”

The fresh aroma of Pine-Sol infused with the chalky perfume of Ajax cleaner is to this day entangled with my memories of sabbath preparations. Intoxicated by the cleaner fumes a sense of satisfaction washed away the chagrin I felt for having once again been duped by my brother into cleaning.  The words of my favorite hymnal rose up from inside of me, and encircled the clouds of steam that fill the cramped space.  “Rejoice ye pure in heart.  Rejoice give thanks and sing,”  the wish wash of the brush gliding across the porcelain enamel, accompany my song leaving the bathtub sparkling with my achievement.  A crimson hue spied through the tiny window tucked awkwardly in the upper left corner of the room, welcomes in the sabbath.

Our two bedroom apartment normally filled with the sounds of cartoons, or video games, gave  way to the tranquility of sabbath. Family Radio blanketed the background as we gathered together in the living room, bibles in tow. My grandmother, brother and I each taking turns to pray.  This scene would replay itself throughout my childhood and teenage years.  By the time I entered university, sabbath was my favorite time of the week. Long gone were the memories of the little girl whom without fail would hurriedly skip towards the exit of our church where pastor Williams and the deacons lined up to bid the worshippers farewell.

“It’s sister Henry’s granddaughter,” the deacon standing to the left of pastor Williams said laughingly. The two men chuckled with anticipation. Our dance of question and answer, followed by the birth of more questions, conceived by my dissatisfaction of the pastor’s answers, always ended with the same question.

“How can Jesus be the son of God, and God be God and the Holy Spirit be God?”

“It’s a matter of faith, little sister Henry.”

“But I believe in God, pastor Williams, I just don’t get it?”

“When you have faith you will understand.”

I could feel a dissatisfied yet a polite smile would creep onto my face and my eyes would lower as my grandmother’s fingernails gently dug into my shoulders nudging me along. “If I have faith,” I muttered. This issue of faith would haunt me until I learned to tuck away my doubt into the attic of mind, where all of life’s unanswered questions came to dwell.

Only a shadow memory remains of the little girl. She has grown into a college freshman and my new role in life exempted me from sabbath preparations. My main responsibility was to continue bringing home straight A’s and making my family proud. Friday afternoons were spent studying at school. Taking a break, I would linger through the rows of books in the basement of the college library.  The musty bouquet of books untouched by human hands for decades, often lured me to a darkest corner of the library. Surrounded by books, I tilt my head to the right and silently read the titles, grabbing those that appeal to me.  With an array of books, tucked under my arms and spilling out of my hands, I found a corner and spread them on the floor.  Kneeling down besides the substantial pile, I got into a comfortable position, and flip each book to the back page, removing the library card from its pocket.  “Wow, 1950,” I thought . The book in question had last been checked out in 1950, and therefore the chosen one to flip through first.

I can no longer remember the title of the book that would rock my faith to its very core. All I recall is that as I read and reread the pages, an overwhelming sense of dread overtook me. Suppressed tears clouded my vision, as I continued to read;  my head spinning with this newfound revelation. A string of words dominate the memory, Council of Nicaea, battle over the divinity of Christ, a claim that Jesus had never said he was the son of God. Could this be true? Months of research followed.  Each book reconfirming what the other had propagated. The question regarding the Trinity, the Christian doctrine that one God exists in three distinct Divine Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, that I had tucked away in my mind violently imploded, leaving a gaping hole of doubt. How could I be saved from Hell if Jesus had not died for my sins?

The nineteen year old me carried this unspoken burden of knowledge with a heaviness of heart.  It weighed on me, dragged me down, invaded happy moments, tormented me with a stream of unanswerable questions.  Maybe I should become a Jew? But how could I be a Jew, I can’t give up on the belief in Jesus.  I knew he must have existed. And I love him. What else is out there?

By my sophomore year I landed a job as a tutor, and my afternoons were spent tutoring members of the basketball team. How the question of my chastity had arisen I cannot recall, but what I do remember is one of the players asking me if I were a Muslim.  No of course I wasn’t, I didn’t even know what a Muslim believed. The only girls he knew who guarded their chastity were Muslims like him.

“I’m a Christian,” I protested.

“So you believe Jesus is God,” he retorted.

“No, no I don’t.”

“What then?”

His question pierced me. But I knew that only one answer was possible.

“I believe God is one. Jesus is Jesus and not the son of God. And he’s not God.  There is only one God.”

“What about the Holy Ghost?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that the Holy Ghost isn’t God. God is one.”

A sparkle in his eyes shot a smile in my direction.  Leaning towards me he beckoned me to come closer.

“Then you’re a Muslim,” he whispered.  “You need to read the Quran.”

“What’s that?”

“The unaltered word of God.”

Our conversation was interrupted by other players gesturing him away.  It was time for basketball practice.

Before leaving he turned to me and said, “Stay sweet and pure. Allah loves the pure of heart.”

Over the next week I watched the door nervously as students entered, eager to continue questioning him about his…wait…I didn’t even know the name of his religion.

“Hey Ivan where’s Talik?”

“He went back to Turkey, some family thing.”

My eyes lowered in disappointment.  A quizzical look formed on Ivan’s face.

“Why you wanna know? You his girl or something?”

“Nah,” I replied.

“Then why you look like you wanna cry?”

Shifting in my chair I hesitantly allowed the words to form and spill out of my mouth.

“I wanted to ask him about his religion.”

“Oh, hey girl you don’t wanna know ‘bout his religion.  He’s a Sunni Muslim. I’m a Nation of Islam Muslim.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I’ve seen you with your brother. You black right?”

“Yeah, but what does that have to do with anything?”

“You look so white.”

“Ivan, come on.”

“Since you a sister I’m gonna be straight with you.  The white man enslaved the tribe of Shabazz, from the Lost Nation of Asia.  Black people in America are the descendants of those people. The Master Fard Muhammad is the Mahdi, the Messiah, see girl Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, that’s a lie the white man uses to enslave us. Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that there is one God and his name is Allah.  85% of the population is deaf, dumb and blind. And these dumb fools are brainwashed by 10% of the population, the white man, who enslaves their minds with a slave mentality…”

“Stop, boy you crazy.”

Ivan laughed.

This was long before Facebook or widespread use of the internet. There would be no way to contact Talik. But I remembered his suggestion that I read the Quran. In the weeks that followed I would replay our conversation in my mind.  The Bible is the word of God.  So how can the Quran be the unaltered word of God. And who is Allah?”  No longer able to resist my desire to read the Quran, I put my guilt aside.  My faith in Jesus as my Savior had been shattered and I was racked with guilt for my blasphemous thoughts. As I read the table of contents of the Quran, the word surah, sent me into a tailspin. After consulting the dictionary my confusion only intensified.  “Surah, noun, a soft twirled silk fabric,” I read out loud. Slamming the dictionary shut I decided to just start at the beginning, Surah a-Fatihah: The Opening.

  1. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
  2. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
  3. The Beneficent, the Merciful.
  4. Master of the Day of Judgment,
  5. Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
  6. Show us the straight path,
  7. The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.

My hands began to quiver uncontrollably.  “I’m going to burn in Hell forever. No, no, no way I’m a Muslim. God is God not this Allah.”

A shadow of doubt lingered in my heart. A few months later, as I scanned a row of books in my favorite bookstore, I chanced upon a brightly colored Quran.  I felt courageous enough to try re-reading al-Fatihah. I quickly slammed the book shut and reaffirmed my idea that Muslims were devil worshippers and I certainly wasn’t one of them.

Over the years that followed, I drifted further and further away from my Christian beliefs. Eventually I stopped praying.  My life slipped into darkness. Following the death of my parents, I became utterly, painfully, and hopelessly lost.

“You need to stop living a worldly life,” my grandmother said over the telephone.  By this time, I had moved back to Amsterdam, the city I had called home until the age of 9. At which time my brother and I were sent to live with our grandmother, in New York City, my birthplace.

“Go back to the church,” she commanded. Her words fell on deaf ears. Responsible for the upbringing of my little brother and sister after our mother’s death, I felt I needed to instill within them the love of God.  I taught them what I knew of the Bible and studied the Seventh Day Adventist quarterly my grandmother religiously sent to us. I taught them to turn to God for everything and to pray each day.  Yet, I myself, still couldn’t believe in the Trinity.

It was the movie Agora in 2009 that finally helped me acknowledge I was no longer a Christian.  It chronicles the last days of the life and death of Hypatia of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, who lived in Egypt, c. 350-370 AD – 415 AD. Her death scene in the movie is mild by comparison to how she actually was murdered by a Christian mob. Stripping her naked inside a church they stoned her to death, then dragged her naked bloodied dead body in the street for all to see before tearing it to pieces. The story of Hypatia resonated with me like no other story of history. I couldn’t figure out why.  Finally, after months of searching my soul for answers I realized why I had been so profoundly moved by Hypatia’s persecution and death.  She had been murdered because she was a pagan. She rejected Christian doctrine and affirmed her belief in her pagan gods.  It was the hypocrisy of the Christians who killed her I could not accept. They preached love, and that God is love, and yet they would kill a great thinker for her religious beliefs. Was is not up to God to judge her? And did God want us to compel people to worship him?

Drifting without a religion, I tried praying over the next few years. My mind would wander before I could even formulate my first thoughts to God.  Prayer, which had been my solace, was now lost on me.  “Satan get thee behind me,” I uttered in the darkness of those desperate nights. I begged God to show me the right way.  As I prospered in my professional life, privately I was slowly dying. Enjoying success at work I earned the respect of my all-male team, with me as the only female exception.  I became well known within the company.  I was the golden girl at work, loved by my managers, rewarded financially for my hard work and dedication; working long hours and volunteering whenever needed.  Work had become my escape from the disconnection I felt. Single, I rarely socialized outside of work expect for the odd coffee with a select few. My little brother was now 21, and although he still lived at home, my life no longer revolved around his upbringing. My younger sister had moved out on her own years earlier. I didn’t know what to do with my free time.  I began tutoring friends and friends of friends and in October 2012 met Amine.

“You teach Dutch me,” he said in broken Dutch.

“Okay,” I replied.

Nearly a month of intensive two hour daily conversational sessions followed. My little brother sometimes joined in ensuring I didn’t assimilate my Dutch to make it easier for Amine to understand.

“You have to speak properly,” he would interject.  “Don’t speak like him. If you don’t speak properly he won’t learn to speak Dutch correctly.”

I had a tendency to dumb down my Dutch but my brother was correct and soon Amine was formulating complete sentences.

Tea and cookies became our favorite treat after our sessions.  It was while we were enjoying a cup of mint tea and chocolate chip cookies that Amine surprised me with questions about the Bible.

“Tell me about Isa. I read the Bible in my country but I don’t understand about Isa.”

“Who?”

“Wait, I google.”

“Oh, Jesus. Sure, well….”

Amine listened intently.  I spoke slowly, after all, it was my chance to convert him, and save him from a life of ignorance and possibly Hell. As I drew my story to a close, Amine laughed.

“That’s crazy.  Islam is the truth.”

He searched his telephone and handed it to me.

“Read,” he said.

“What’s this?” I replied.

“Read. It’s Quran.”

Surah Al-Ikhlas

1       Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One,

2       Allah, the Eternal Refuge.

3       He neither begets nor is born,

4       Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Closing his eyes Amine recited the verses in Arabic.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ

اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ

لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

He explained to me that Jesus (peace be upon him) was a prophet, a man, who was born by virgin birth, as a prophet of God. Allah, I learned that night, was Arabic for God. And Mohammad (peace be upon him) was the best of creation, the last prophet to be sent as a Messenger of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).  The language barrier faded away and I could no longer detect any mistakes in his speech requiring correction. Instead, his words penetrated my heart, I could feel something move inside of me. I knew immediately I wanted to be a Muslim. This was the truth I had been searching for since I was a little girl questioning pastor Williams.  A lifetime of questions were answered.

“Read,” Amine said pushing the telephone back into my hand. “Al-Baqarah” he whispered.

“There shall be no compulsion in religion; the right course has become distinct from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it.  And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” Al-Baqarah 256

 لَآ إِكْرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَىِّ ۚ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّٰغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

His recitation sent shivers down my spine. With tears flowing down his cheeks, Amine took a deep breath and continued to recite.

 يَٰٓأَهْلَ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ لَا تَغْلُوا۟ فِى دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا ٱلْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا ٱلْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُۥٓ أَلْقَىٰهَآ إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَـَٔامِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِۦ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ ثَلَٰثَةٌ ۚ ٱنتَهُوا۟ خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا ٱللَّهُ إِلَٰهٌ وَٰحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَٰنَهُۥٓ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُۥ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَّهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِ وَكِيلً

Pressing the telephone back into the palm of my hand, he could not speak, overcome with emotion. Words were no longer needed.  I read.

“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers.  And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you.  Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth.  And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.”  an-Nisa: 171.

That night I lay awake in bed contemplating what had transpired. My heart full of joy and peace had no doubt that Islam was the truth.  But what would people say if I became a Muslim? My grandmother would be heartbroken and spend her days worrying about my salvation. Who cares I told myself. God is calling me to the truth. I decided to confide in Suzanne, my Muslim friend at work.  With my mind made up, I took Shahada two weeks later at Suzanne’s local mosque. The next day the office was abuzz amongst my Muslim colleagues.   I discovered that we had a prayer room in the office.  And was invited by a coworker, Mohammad to have dinner with him and his wife.  She too was a revert, having accepted Islam, twenty something years earlier. I welcomed the invitation as I wanted to learn more about Islam.  I felt so utterly overwhelmed by a wealth of information. Where to begin? The library, my home away from home would be my starting point. I soon found that the library, which had once been my friend, could no longer be relied upon.  Desperate for the truth I turned to God in prayer, and began my quest for knowledge. Mohammad by proxy would become my first teacher.  I was a Muslim now, but I had no clue what was next. All I knew was that I believed and finally my heart brimming with faith, understood.

Based on my memories by Nour M. Fox

Preparation

Every year, we hear the same thing, year in, year out. Perhaps it’s tiring or annoying to have the same monotonous advice repeated so often.

Yep, it’s “Ramadaan reminders time.” But the truth is, we all know the specialty of the coming month. We all know its virtues; the opportunities for rewards and the yummy recipes to accompany it all.

The question is, despite these constant reminders, have we made the change? Have we attained the perfection we seek so earnestly? Have we earned the paradise? Or has all the reminders filled one ear, only to be emptied on the other side, without staying a moment for our brains to grasp and understand them? And do we continue in our erroneous ways, without paradise in sight?

Dreary, right?

Our situation is indeed pitiable.

The only way we can change, is if we follow the footsteps of those who came before us. Those who made u-turns in their lives, who made enormous sacrifices, and who changed for the better, such that their names are remembered until today.

But the problem is, we may not even know these great men and women who made such admirable changes. Their names are a blur in distant histories. Other things preoccupy our thoughts. To us, those men and women died years ago; what benefit could they possibly bring in today’s world?

The truth is, they changed, and the effects of their change are still visible today, hence Islam thrives. Moreover, they changed at a time, where culture ruled and barbaric practices where rife and firmly rooted. If they could do it, then, why can’t we, in our times of flexibility, and ease?!

Change was not a last-minute decision in their lives. It was pondered over and analysed. They prepared in advance.

Let us do the same this year. Let us be like them. Begin early. Begin now.

 

5 Lessons Derived From Sabr

Often translated as patience, sabr is more than mere patience. Sabr in Islam is a deeper concept, it begins with taking up the means and striving, and ends with accepting the decree of Allah and being content with it. Sabr is not a mere fatalistic acceptance of the decree of Allah. Rather it includes action. The person must work, and put effort for the desired result, and when the result comes forth whether it is what he desired or otherwise, he knows and accepts that it is from the decree of Allah.

For example, a business man invests his wealth, he buys shares, monitors the stock markets and does everything in his ability to make the largest profit possible. He ensures that his transactions are done in a manner that is pleasing Allah and his seeks Allah’s counsel with every business decision he makes. However, if the stock market were to crash, or he was to be unsuccessful in that initiative he bears it patiently, and perseveres. He seeks the help of Allah in recovering his loss, and turns to Allah for support. All his actions, including the investment and his patience afterwards is part of sabr.

Similarly, if one loses a loved one unexpectedly, the shock and pain experienced is incomparable to any other loss. But with sabr, one comforts himself, knowing there is the meeting of the hereafter, they trust that Allah removed that person from their life for the best, and as such they endure it, they turn to Allah to ease their pain and make things easy for them. They do not question Allah’s actions, nor His wisdom in taking what He bestowed. Rather they are grateful for His favour upon them, of having such a wonderful person in their life and they move on seeking the pleasure of Allah, by being patient with the loss.

Sabr produces many benefits for the believer, especially in regards to their relationship with Allah, for Allah advocated sabr.

  • Sabr results in Gratefulness: with patience you are able to reflect on the good in everything, and thus you are grateful to Allah for everything He has decreed for you. As the prophet said, “Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.” (Muslim).

One who has sabr appreciates the little things and the big things. He recognises that there are blessings in every circumstance, as long as he remains patient.

  • Sabr makes one content with the Qadr of Allah: Suhayb (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

One learns to accept the Qadr after taking all the means, he learns that the Decree of Allah is final and Allah only bestows what is good for his servant.

  • Sabr teaches trust: Once one has come to terms with the Qadr they begin to trust Allah, for Allah is All-Knowing, Most Aware. They rely on Allah in moments of ease and difficulty, and bear all situations with a collected calmness. It makes the heart tranquil, and releases it from the pains of anxiety and depression.
  • Establishes the love of Allah in the heart of the slave: Sabr aids one to build a special relationship with Allah, a relationship built on trust and submission, and in turn involving love. A unique love of Allah finds root within the heart as the slave realises the patience he endures, has far-reaching rewards with Allah. Furthermore, once one has committed to accepting the Qadr after recognising it is good for him, one realises the greatness and magnanimity of Allah, and so his heart softens towards his Lord.
  • Sabr increases Iman: believing in the Qadr, having tawakkul (complete trust and reliance) on Allah, naturally increases iman, and one better’s their connection with their Lord, and gets ever-closer to Him. One begins to act in accordance to what is pleasing to Allah bearing the difficulties that arise with patience, and steadfastness.

 “But if you endure patiently, verily, it is better for As‑Saabiroon (the patient),” [An-Nahl 16:126]

Allah advises us to be patient throughout the Quran, in various ayaat, and it is no wonder, for patience generates abundant good in this life and even more in the hereafter. It strengthens the heart, and gives it a sense of tranquillity. In the words of the great Khalifah, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-‘Azeez (may Allah be pleased with him) who said, ‘Allah has not bestowed any blessing upon His slaves then taken it away and replaced it with patience, but what He has compensated them with is better than what He has taken away.’

 

Recognising Sins

“Hold yourself accountable before you are held accountable, and weigh your deeds, before they are weighed for you.” -Umar Ibn Al-Khattab

The only way we can follow through with Umar’s statement is for us to tally up our deeds. Sometimes, it is difficult to see with clarity the reality of our actions. Shaytan deceives us into thinking our sins are little, and there is little for us to improve on. We avoid the major sins, and we pray five times a day. We fast Ramadaan and give in charity too. But is that all there is?

We are told that we sin by night and by day, so why is it that we are unable to pin point our errors. Everything seems ok in our eyes? But is it the same in the eyes of Allah? Have we reached the status of the companions, who were the best of generations, and even they made mistakes. We are not infallible, for sure, but we are sinful and that’s definite.

So here is a list of tips to help myself, and you recognise our errors:

  • Ignoring what we left of the wajibaat:

Sinning is of two types: doing that which is prohibited, and secondly leaving what is obligatory. Both are blameworthy. It is very easy to recognise a Prohibition that one indulged in, but neglecting the obligatory such as fulfilling promises, upholding the ties of kinship, respecting parents etc… is often one that we over look. The next time you try to tally your sins, consider both.

  • Losing the balance between hope and fear: Some rely on hope in the Mercy of Allah, and by this, neglect the obligatory deeds, or overlook the minor sins and thus become sinful. Others, fear Allah to an extreme and thus lose motivation to worship Him. One must strike a balance between the two.
  • Overlooking the minor sins: It’s easy to overlook something small and let it pass, without feeling the slightest bit of regret or remorse. But remember whilst we may consider a sin to be minute, in the sight of Allah it has greater weight.

The Prophet said, ‘Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in your major actions, so beware of following him in your minor actions.’ (Final sermon)

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of minor sins. Verily, they gather upon a man until he is destroyed.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Sahl ibn Sa’d reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of minor sins like a people who descend into the bottom of a valley, so one comes with a stick and another with a stick until they have fire to cook their bread. Verily, when a person is held accountable for these minor sins they will destroy him.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Amongst our pious predecessors, it was said, ‘there is no small sin, if done without care.’ Meaning if a sin is continually disregarded, it is upgraded to a big sin, all tallying up. All these narrations indicate that the small sins, though small as they may seem, are consequential.

  • Forgetting the sins of the tongue: our dear tongues! Many a times they run ahead of us, and sadly cause more damage to our long list of sins. Let us not forget the hadith of the Prophet, ‘He who believes in Allah and the Last day, must either speak good or remain silent.’ (Muslim) The Prophet mentioned believing in Allah and the last day as a prerequisite, for if one believes he will be held to account on the Last Day before Allah, then he will be careful about what his tongue utters and he will find that silence often proves more beneficial.
  • The matters of the heart: There are many acts of worship that are done in the heart, such as hope, fear, love, trust, reliance, thinking good of Allah, etc… These are all actions of the heart, and are taken to account. Yes, ideas of the mind are forgiven, but using the heart to disobey Allah, for example by preferring something of this dunya over Allah’s rights, is blameworthy. The sins of the heart are more subtle than the sins of the tongue.
  • Considering sins that are directly before you, rather than those that you are responsible for elsewhere: this includes the consequences of your actions that spread far and wide. Whoever sets a bad example, will have the sin of one who follows him, until the day of judgement, without deducting from their sin. So be aware of the way you behave before others and the consequences it may have on those around you, especially when in public.
  • Sending out religious messages and instructions without having ‘ilm: many such messages contain false principles, fabricated, weak ahadith, or omitted information. Meaning that the wrong information is shared leading people to commit sin, or to indulge in wrong practices. Knowledge is a responsibility, and to simply share without verifying it is careless.

Indeed, our Prophet has said, ‘Do not tell a lie against me, for whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally), he will surely enter the hellfire.’ (Bukhari)

Messages such as, ‘pass it on to so many people and you will be successful,’ I ask, does such a person have knowledge of the unseen, to know that success awaits?! It is a big sin to say something about the religion of Allah without knowledge. Thus restrict yourself to the authentic ahadith. And if you are unsure as to what is authentic or not, restrict yourself to ahadith from Bukhari and Muslim, and if you are still unsure, refrain from forwarding such messages, until you are able to verify it.

  • Looking at personal sins, rather than those that relate to the rights of others: There are three types of thulm (oppression): oppression against Allah and that is shirk (to associate partners with Allah). Secondly, oppression upon others, whether by neglecting their rights, mistreating them, whether physically, verbally or emotionally. This is unforgiveable unless one asks the injured individual for forgiveness. Lastly, thulm upon the self, and that is engaging in sin.

The second type is what is often forgotten. Consider the oppression you have done to others, whether the person was a stranger or someone close to you. Whether it was in his presence or absence, it all adds up.

  • Presuming sincerity and acceptance in the deeds we do: None of us have a guarantee that our deeds are accepted or that our intentions were sincere. We hope almost to the point of certainty that they are, but we also fear almost to the point of despair that they are not. And thus we should exert our efforts in improving this aspect. It was reported that Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, ‘there is nothing I have wrestled with anything harder than my intention.’
  • Thanking Allah: to omit gratitude is sinful. It is incumbent upon us to thank Allah the way that He deserves, as being ungrateful is the root of disbelief. Though we can never count the favour of Allah, we should strive to thank Him for His bounties upon us.

Allah has said in the Quran, “And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom [and said], “Be grateful to Allah.” And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever denies [His favour] – then indeed, Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy.” (Surah Luqman 31:12

Reading all of this, is not intended to make you depressed. Rather it is to help us to acknowledge our current status, to make us realise, that sin is in our nature, and thus we must act to improve. The only way to improve is to repent and seek forgiveness of Allah constantly. And the first step to repentance and reformation is to acknowledge the problem, in this case, our sins.

We should take lessons from the earliest and best of generations. The Prophet peace be upon him, the best of mankind, whose past and future sins were forgiven used to seek forgiveness one hundred times a day. Many of the sahabahs who were promised Jannah, cried the nights, and sought forgiveness from Allah, despite having a ticket to Jannah. The great Umar, of whom shaytaan was afraid used to fear that he was a hypocrite! Where are we in comparison to these great people? May Allah rectify our condition.

I leave you with this piece of advice, constantly ask yourself, check yourself, account for your deeds throughout the day in order to account for your deeds before the Day of Accounts.

 

We are Aleppo

As I sit at my desk, I force myself to write what words cannot describe…the massacre, the carnage, the destruction, the loss of life, and the unblinking eyes of the world who look on at the whole scene…

You may ask, ‘what do I mean?’

The reality of Aleppo is a reflection of our own situation. If we look deep within ourselves we will find the same scene.

Blood trickles down the narrow alleys of Aleppo, with none to wash the stains. Our blood may still run in our veins, and we sure have the ability to wash. But our hearts are stained with the rust and covering of disobedience, for which we care not to clean.

Death hangs thick in the air in Aleppo.
Within ourselves it’s there too.
While their souls have passed on, and empty corpses remain, our hearts is what has died within us. Our bodies may live on, but they are devoid of life.

Their eyes stare in horror at the fate that awaits them. As for our eyes, we look on at the images of their destruction. Then we turn them back to our homes, satisfied we are safe. We dare not stare at what is within ourselves.

Carnage is wrecked as bombs blow dust in the empty streets of Aleppo, clouding the horizon and blocking rays of the sun’s light. Within us, our records of deeds are clouded by the bombs of sins that we drop by day and night. We block out the light with our own hands.

Aleppo is a reflection of ourselves.

We could have been in Aleppo. It could have been us who were blasted till our ears could hear nothing but explosions and our eyes accustomed to the rubble of the destruction…so easily it could have been us there. What we don’t realise, is, it is us. With every innocent life that is slaughtered, a part of us goes with them too.

Narrated An-Nu`man bin Bashir: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.” (Bukhari)

The question remains what will we do for Aleppo, for ourselves?

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.” (Surah Ra’d, 13:11)

Praying for the aid of Allah and his help, is great. But why should Allah answer your duaa when you are defiant of His commands? Your body is filled with haraam, you shelter in haraam, your wealth is haraam, your clothing is from haraam. Why should Allah respond to you?! And you plan to further indulge in haraam soon at Christmas and New Year!

Yes Allah is Merciful, but do not expect victory from Him when you act contrary to everything He has prescribed.

My brothers and sisters, it’s not just Aleppo. Its me and you as individuals. We are responsible for this crisis. Yes we may have a comfy home, and a good meal on our plate, and we quickly forget the screams of those in Aleppo, Burma, Gaza and wherever the ummah is suffering. But who knows that Allah may trial us with a bigger affliction that what is happening in Aleppo?! Do we feel secure from the plan of Allah, knowing full well we are drowning in sins?

Aleppo is only the beginning. And we know the hour is near.

We have plummeted in our iman and we are humiliated. Which nation looks at us with fear, rather their eyes are full of pity at our states and hunger for our destruction.

So our humiliation and weakness are because of what we Muslims have done, not because of Islam. But when we come back to our religion, our glory and pride will come back to us.

Do we wait for the punishment and affliction to appear before we act. Our predecessors were pro-actionary. Us, in comparison have become reactionary. We wait…we sit…we laze around…we procrastinate…
When will we wake up?

We all will face death. If it was you in Aleppo, would you be ready to die knowing it was certain the army would kill you or bomb you or worse? Death is just as certain for us as it is for them. So why are we not ready to meet Allah and account for our deeds?

What will it take for us to get ready? When will we make the change? When will we return to Allah?

Do we not fear Allah? Do we not believe in Him? Have we not accepted his messenger?

How will you change so that Allah may change the state of the people in Syria?

As imam Malik stated, “The latter part of this nation will not be able to reform itself successfully except by using what reformed its early part.”

What reformed the sahabahs from men who were ignorant, trapped by tribal feuds to world leaders, and inheritors of paradise? It was Islam.

Whilst the world looks on, many sleep in their beds ignorant of the massacre, some fools will travel to Aleppo under the false guise of jihad, and the UN continues to fruitlessly negotiate…but you can be the change you want to see. Don’t wait for the UN, or Bashar, or the Russian PM, or any other world leader. Take the affair into your own hands by giving up the haraam and see how Allah opens His doors.

Do you think Allah would leave us, if we returned to Him seeking his forgiveness, when He has full control over the every soldier? The heart of Bashar is in His hands. So why do we despair?

Invoke your Lord and return to Him, He is accepting of repentance and is fully capable of sorting the situation. He is the The All Powerful, The Mighty, The Subduer, The Delayer, who never forgets and never wrongs, and who is Ever Aware of all things.

Humanity did not fail us.

We failed ourselves. And worse, we failed Aleppo.

Why Should We Follow The Sunnah?

Have you ever sat back and given thought to this question? Why should we follow the Sunnah?

Perhaps not. Perhaps you have.

Well, many people follow the Sunnah or Islam for that matter, without knowing why. To truly appreciate the religion, and the Sunnah, one should understand the reason behind such strict adherence.

Firstly, we follow the Sunnah because Allah has commanded us to do so. We comply with the orders of Allah without questioning it, since we have accepted Him to be our Lord. Thus He is Most Knowledgeable about our affairs and what would benefit us, and would only instruct us with what is best for us. Thus to follow the Sunnah is to observe Allah’s command and respect His authority.

Allah says, “He who obeys the messenger has indeed obeyed Allah…” (An-Nisa 04:80)

He also says, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger…” (An-Nisa 04:59)

Secondly, as muslims we are obligated to love Allah. Thus out of love for Allah, we love His Messenger and follow Him.

“Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (03:31)

Thirdly, Allah sent the messenger as a guide. It would be no use if we did not heed his guidance by opposing the Sunnah. Therefore, to gain the guidance one must follow the Sunnah.

Muhammad peace be upon him, was a mercy for mankind. He reminded them of Allah’s commands, gave them good tidings of paradise and warned against the prohibitions of Allah, and Allah’s wrath. Hence it is only natural that we adhere to his Sunnah.

The Messenger was also a Role Model. Not only did he guide us to what was right and good in his Sunnah, but his actions and life is a role model for us, he set the standards which we must strive to attain.

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

To follow the Sunnah is to uphold the deen. It is a form of preservation of our religion. To protect the Sunnah today, by adhering to it, is almost equivalent to protecting the person and body of Rasulullah.

Lastly, Allah issues a stern warning against those who oppose the Sunnah,

“So let those beware who dissent from the Prophet’s order, lest fitnah strike them or a painful punishment.” (An-Nur, 24:63)

To conclude, following the Messenger and his Sunnah is obligated upon us, and brings benefit to us in this life and the hereafter. The reasons behind following the Sunnah, only make it more beautiful, and helps us to appreciate the status of the Sunnah. Thereby, encouraging us to give greater preference to the Sunnah in our daily lives.

May Allah help us to follow the Sunnah without adding to it or changing it, and may He allow us to receive the intercession of the Prophet.

 

A Responsible Muslim

Responsibility. A scary word for most of us , as we are questioned if a responsibility is not fulfilled. As we grow responsibilities grow with us.  We as muslims have a lot of responsibilities but Allah has given us a guide , the Quran to fulfill them and  the Prophet is a perfect example of how they should be followed.

On the Day of Resurrection, people will be asked about other matters, including the following:

It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam will not be dismissed from before his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he has been questioned about five things: his life and how he spent it, his youth and how he used it, his wealth and how he earned it and how he disposed of it, and how he acted upon what he acquired of knowledge.” (Tirmidhi)

We will be held responsible for our actions as Allah has given us free will to make choices. For this we need to first gain knowledge as to what are our responsibilities and how we can carry them out. Some of us don’t want knowledge so that there is no  responsibility but we are compelled to gain knowledge as ignorance which has been created by oneself can’t be forgiven.

So be responsible.

Not being responsible will only make you feel miserable and you will be held accountable for every second of your life. Procrastinating or neglecting our duties once will only make us do it over and over again when a time comes when we would eventually forget or neglect it completely , so make an action plan, writing it down is better as you won’t forget and just do it!

We as muslims just have to follow the guidelines and everything will fall in to place and In Shaa Allah we can be called a Responsible Muslim.

be-responsibile

Fatima Damad, AAT

Our Mothers

mothers

Mother, mum, amma, ummi, ma and all the other names used all refer to the one person who gave birth to you. Some of us have never met our mothers, others see their mothers pass on right before their eyes, and others still, watch their mothers grow into old age outliving them.

Before we were born our mothers planned for us. They began by choosing for us, our fathers, and then chose a name for us. From the moment we were conceived our mothers have cared for us. She watched her diet to enable us to grow heavily, and she bore the burden of carrying us for nine long months. Then she agonised in pain to bring us into the world, and endured sleepless nights to feed and care for us. She stressed over our food and clothes, ensured we were comfortable, and secure, and when were sick she would do her utmost to to help us return to good health. She spent her days gazing at our little faces as they matured, and her nights she prayed for our well-being and success. May Allah reward all our mothers.

But how do we re-pay our mothers? Do we care for her now that she has reached old age? Do we run to her service, bend to put her socks on and tie her shoes? Do we try to make her smile, when she feels down?

Abu Huraira reported that a person said, “Allah’s Messenger, who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment?” He said: Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order (of nearness). (Muslim) 

Our Prophet peace and blessings did not leave this stone unturned. He taught us Islam as a complete way of life; our mothers are instrumental to our life on earth, so how can we neglect the one who gave birth to us, whose heart cried when our eyes cried, whose heart tore when we were so much as scratched, whose heart broke, when our toys broke?

Our dear, dear mothers. Today, children; young and old alike, have no time for their mothers. They ignore their calls, tune out their voices, and feel burdened by the obligation of devoting time to her. How wretched we are! Do we not feel any shame, that our mothers sacrificed many things for our sake! She sacrificed her health, her time, her sleep, her enjoyments, her hobbies, her personal ‘me’ time, her pamper time, her food, and her money to take care of us, and we don’t even bat an eyelid! May Allah forgive us, and guide us!

Allah reminds us of this great obligation towards our parents,

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents, whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them “uff” (a word of disrespect), nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour, and lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “O Lord, bestow upon them your mercy as they did bring me up when I was young,” (Surah Al-Isra 17:23)

The scholars have explained that Allah used “uff” to show us that such a small word that indicates dissatisfaction, or any sort of negativity, should not be used. Uff is barely even a word, so how about those words that blatantly illustrate disrespect, and rudeness?!

As the saying goes, “you only appreciate it once it’s gone.” How many will count the days until their parents pass on, eager to get them off their hands and be free of the responsibility! Even worse, how many will dump their parents in care homes, to absolve themselves of the duty of care! Only when we arrive at the hereafter will we realise the missed opportunities of earning our mother’s pleasure and will we regret those moments. But regret will do nothing, remorse cannot bring back the past.

Take the time enjoy your mother’s company, just as she used to treasure yours, and discover that she is the long lost best friend you never knew you had! Spend a moment, say a kind word to her. Kiss her forehead, and tell her that you love her. Ask her to forgive you for all the times that you’ve fallen short in serving her, and strive to make her happy; it’s well worth it.

Abdullah bin Amr narrated that, the Prophet said: “The Lord’s pleasure is in the parent’s pleasure, and the Lord’s anger is in the parent’s anger.”(Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Hasan).

 

Ramadaan is Departing

 

Watching my family having a whale of a time while shopping for Eid is great but there is a deep sorrow inside me. I feel content seeing their gleeful faces, but at the same time I’m down in the mouth.

I feel a throbbing sensation in my throat on realising that Ramadan will leave us soon; too soon.

A few days ago, we all were united and were blessed to welcome Ramadan with full spirit.There was a joy in ushering the month of Ramadan. A joy that I can never forget.

Ramadan is indeed a month of mercy. I feel really grateful upon the arrival of this month. Everything about Ramadan is special.

There is actually fun in feeding the poor. Going for Taraweeh is like a feather on a hat. The unison of Muslims, irrespective of their status, colour, health and wealth, for standing up together for Allah and praying long qiyaam is so beautiful to see.

Oh how could I not mention the pangs of hunger while fasting! They remind me of how the poor would survive in various parts of the world without food.

Ramadan is not just a month. It’s a lesson for us to learn how to endure, to learn how to share and care and to realize that you’ve the ability to keep yourself away from your shortcomings and weaknesses.

Allah (The Exalted) has revealed a beautiful verse regarding Ramadan. I’m pretty sure we all know this since it is recited by Sheikh Sudais every first day of Ramadan.

It was just few days back, when I was on the table, twiddling my thumbs waiting to break my fast at Maghrib, I heard him recite the same verse. And that verse made my hair raise. It’s definitely a hair-raising verse

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance” (Surah Al Baqarah)

The Quran was revealed for our betterment and for guiding ourselves to the straight path. In it is a cure. A cure for a dead and dry heart that had become impassive due to neglecting our duties which we owe to our Lord.

In hindsight, it would be better for us to reap the benefits in this holy month by collecting as many good deeds as we can rather than regretting later for not doing so.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Islam, I appeal to you to make the best use of this time. Remember that for some of us this Ramadan maybe a new lease of life and for some it maybe the last they confront.

Ibn Rajab said, “this month is shortening, so increase in righteous deeds as every month will be replaced, but not Ramadaan.” (Lata’if Al Ma’arif pg 262)

I pray to Allah, that He grant us longevity so that we experience Ramadan every year with the same joy and glee, and that each year we develop ourselves further and increase our iman. Aameen

What have you taken from this blessed month?

 

Reflections on Surah Kahf

Last week we looked at the merits of Surah Kahf, and how valuable it is in terms of reward, and as a weapon against the Dajjal. This week I hope to highlight a few main points to reflect on, about Surah Kahf.

Firstly, it is the only Surah that is explicitly linked to the Dajjal, as we learnt from the hadiths, mentioned in the previous article regarding its virtues. This is of vital importance, for we are living in the end times; the hour is near, and a prelude to the hour is the arrival of the Dajjal. This surah should play a major role for us in our preparative preventative measures, against the Anti-Christ. The Dajjal is one the greatest fitan to come, and throughout Surah Kahf we see a recurring theme of trials and tribulations linking it back to the coming of the false Messiah.

Surah Kahf mentions four main narratives in its pages. The first being that of Ashab Al Kahf or the People of the Cave. These youth were tested by Allah in regards to their iman. They were given the choice to abandon their belief in Allah to save their lives or face persecution and death. Ultimately they chose their belief in Allah, for it is priceless, no pleasure can buy it, nor money. This connects to the trial of the Dajjal, for the first and biggest test he will come with, is the trial of iman; faith and belief in Allah. He will appear with many powers, and will even have a paradise and hellfire. Many will fall into disbelief; may Allah protect us from disbelief and the trial of the Dajjal.

The second story is that of the two men and the two gardens. One man, possessed wealth and whose garden yielded a large harvest, yet he denied Allah, and the second man being poorer, with less harvest, yet he knew his provision was secured with his Lord. This is the trial of wealth. How many today are granted wealth, yet deny the One who bestowed this favour upon them? It is a reminder to us, that Allah blesses whomsoever He wills, and we should be grateful for the bounties we have. Success in the dunya, and in one’s wealth does not mean success in the Akhirah. This again refers back to the Dajjal. For the Dajjal will induce many with wealth, to the point that he will call out to the wealth of a valley and it will come out following him. Those who follow the Dajjal will be in abundance of wealth, and he will afflict those who shun him with severe poverty. Thus the believer should have his wealth in his hand, so that it is easy to release, and his faith and trust in Allah rooted in his heart, so that it remains unaffected by the fitnah of wealth.

The third narrative is perhaps to many, the most intriguing; it is the story of Musa and Al Khadr (or Khidr). Musa, was a great prophet of Allah, and was endowed with knowledge, yet Allah instructed him to seek out Al-Khadr, who also possessed a different type of knowledge. Knowledge should humble a person and not make them arrogant. Today, Muslims have neglected the Qur’an and Sunnah, and many find it a burden, thinking that it is outdated and the knowledge it contains is ancient, and this is the trial of knowledge; will we truly hold on to the guidance of Allah? When the Dajjal appears he will distort what is left of the knowledge. May Allah protect us, and enable to cling on to the true authentic knowledge of his deen.

The fourth and final account is that of Dhul-Qarnayn; a powerful king who ruled with justice. He is the very king that sealed off Gog and Magog, whose release is also a major portent of the final hour. The story of Dhul-Qarnayn, though not in detail, exemplifies one who is granted power and authority and uses this in the service of Allah. A minor sign of the hour is tyrannical and foolish leaders, who are astray and lead the people astray. Leadership is an amanah, there are a lot of responsibilities attached to being a ruler. This trial, relates to the Dajjal for the Dajjal will give authority to those who favour him, and will deprive the true believers.

So, the next time you read Surah Kahf, try to remember these points, reflect upon the tales of truth contained in it. I ask Allah to protect me and you from the trial of the Dajjal.

dajjal dua