I open my favourite book and it speaks to me:
He gave us, the children of Adam, power on this earth, and the means to live a full life, 
but how little thanks we show in return for his generosity. 

Our thanks is not something he requires for he is self-sufficient 
but oh how my soul needs to show it. 
 So I ask him to show me ways to show him gratitude. 
He responds toute suite, by reminding me of his blessings, 
 from the seemingly minute to that which is clearly profound, 
from that which seems good to that which seems bad, 
from all that I possess to all that he has kept from me, 
from that which he has given me with ease, to that which he has given me through pain and struggle. 
The full picture of his blessings is beyond my awareness, my knowledge, my comprehension, 
How immense! 

So which of his favours could I possibly deny? 
his loving embrace which comforts and protects? 
all that he has forgiven me for? 
all the peace he has surrounded me with? 

...the movement of curtains catches my eye 
I turn to the window and through it I see 
 the sun rising 

My eyes fill with tears as I ponder his infinite mercy, 
I call out to him: 
Oh Allah, I just want to be in the right place. 
This here is the righteous place. 
Don't let me leave this place, 
this place of remembrance, 
this place of gratitude, 
this place of humility, 
this place of intense love for you. 
I don’t want to come down from this high! 

…then through his mercy he in fact takes me down slowly 
for it is only through coming down from that intense place 
that I may rise again to face him with tears in my eyes 

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Salman and Salman

Salman and SalmanFor different reasons, I find them both inspiring. Salman al Farsi first, and now Salman Khan.

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What Makes Us Seek Knowledge of Islam?

People often say that converts/reverts are “better Muslims”. Do you find that your convert friends are more pious than your friends who were raised by Muslim parents? You might find that they know more about Islam than nationals of Muslim majority countries. You may even find that they have greater knowledge of the history of Islam, the fundamental principles, and stronger faith which manifests itself outwardly. Why would this be the case? While there are people who convert to Islam and shortly thereafter become Muslim in name only, wearing the clothes and carrying a new name, many converts fall into the opposite category, practicing Islam with the greatest zeal. This enthusiasm leads them to read books, attend lectures and become active in various Muslim organizations which help them to develop their knowledge of Islam. For many converts these activities are the very actions that lead them to Islam.

One of my dearest friends came to Islam after reading the Qur’an. A history major and the daughter of Christian missionaries, she read it expecting to find faults in it and instead was inspired. I personally came to Islam seeking a detailed set of rules to follow after realizing that I could not find true success by simply taking life on my own terms. In order to call myself a Muslim I had to come face to face with rules and as I continue to grow in my faith I don’t just learn more rules, I learn more about their history and purpose. Allah instilled this desire to learn in me, in my friend and in converts in general. He instills it in the hearts of those raised as Muslims as well but perhaps it is from a different level of consciousness.

There are Muslims from Muslim lands who migrate to developed countries such as the US and UK. Some fall prey to fitna but others find that their respect for Islam and desire to grow closer to Allah increases. Seeing Islam against the backdrop of a non-Muslim environment develops within them an appreciation which did not exist when they were in their homelands where perhaps they took it for granted.

When we look at how and where a Muslim as raised and how and where he is currently living, we are bound to find differences in levels of Islamic knowledge and outward expression of faith. Perhaps it is the influence of the environment that has a stronger effect upon one’s likelihood to see knowledge of Islam and consequently strengthen one’s faith. In pre-9-11 New York, I was often hurt by the fact that my salaams to born Muslims of the same sex went unanswered. Post 9-11, I my salaams were always enthusiastically returned. Prior to 9-11, those sisters who failed to return my salaam identified themselves as Arabs or according to their national origin and did not identify with an African American Muslim like me. But in a post 9-11 world there was a realization that non-Muslims see us as a monolith and a potential threat so there developed a new identity amongst previously divided Muslims. Negative as it may be, such an environment can develop a sense of pride in Islam that leads one to seek knowledge in Islam.

What encourages Muslims to seek knowledge? It may be simple curiosity. It could be in preparation for giving dahwah. As is the case of minority Muslims, especially those living in lands where Muslims are misunderstood or vilified, the need to gain greater knowledge of Islam is more pressing in that it becomes an attempt to defend one’s faith.

Let us not forget the early Muslims. They began the tradition of memorizing al Qur’an and developed the Islamic sciences. In an environment where they were persecuted they laid the foundation for those of us who seek Islamic knowledge today.

Whatever setting we may find ourselves in, let us pray that Allah instills in us the will to seek greater knowledge in this deen and to encourage others to do the same.

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Power wasted on the powerful

Last night I opened an email from a friend whose subject line read “Grand Opening of Atlantis Hotel in Dubai”. It started with a hadith which I scanned quickly, rushing to see the pictures. I have an interest in architecture and I wondered if the design might be unique but I became increasingly disgusted as I scrolled threw them

The first shot reminded me of a structure I’d expect to find in the heart of Vegas but it was surrounded by water so then I thought of Sin City’s east coast counterpart – Atlantic City. Then I went back to the hadith narrated by AbuHuraira which the email opened with, the part most pertinent being the response to angel Gabriel’s question of the prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him): "When will the Hour be established?"

The reply: When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher Buildings. (Book #2, Hadith #47)

Have you seen it yet? Look here:

It’s not the height of the building but its luxury that disturbed me. Whenever I see scenes of such opulence I can’t help but think of the immense suffering in the world. When I mentioned it to a friend, showing them the photos they expressed that Allah made rich and poor, meaning for us to be different and for that reason seeing the exploits of the rich did not bother him. I replied that if a day came that I could witness such decadence and not feel disturbed I no longer wanted to be alive, my heart and soul would be dead.

We went on to talk about poverty and privilege. I always get on this friend because in my eyes he focuses on the privilege I have holding an American passport and the great value of the American dream while overlooking the corruption and poverty that exists in the US. He agrees that corruption exists everywhere then I ask how corruption in Africa or Asia can be deemed worse than the corruption in the US simply because Americans enjoy many rights and opportunities that Africans and Asians don’t enjoy? How can you compare a hamburger made of ground pork to a shish kebab made of roast pork? So one is on a skewer and the other on a bun with lettuce tomato and sauce, they are both haram!

I then go on to say that those who have power and privilege should be held more responsible for uplifting those less fortunate. We agreed that we are both greatly disappointed in the way the leaders of the birthplace of Islam practice Islam at home and portray Islam in the world. He even pointed out that their king’s proficiency in Arabic and Islamic studies is lacking. Yet when I said that the US should be expected to do more for the world than weaker countries he seemed to let the US of the hook. I don’t understand this logic, clemency for the west and austerity for the east, leniency for the powerful and stringency for the less powerful.

What should our expectations be based on? If own great wealth or have great knowledge you are expected to succeed in life. If you’ve got more power than I have, shouldn’t you be expected to use that God given power to help others? Yes, the US is great in its philanthropic exploits, but do we let that hide its hegemony? Should we overlook its oppression of numerous peoples throughout the globe simply because it also sends a bit of aid here and there?

When I woke up in the morning, I found myself reading Sura Sad. There I found many prophets praised but in light of the discussion with my friend the night before, the ones that grabbed my attention were David, Solomon and Dhul Qarnayn. They were kings. They were leaders. They were powerful men. At the same time, they were righteous. This only reinforces my point that today’s leaders should be held accountable for their actions be they from North America or Southeast Asia. They will be called upon to answer for their deeds, if not in this life, in the hereafter.

Listen to AbdulBaset AbdulSamad, Ibrahim Walk [Saheeh Intl translation]
Here http://quranicaudio.com/sura/38

Read Ibn Kathir’s tafsir
Here http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=category§ionid=42&id=89&Itemid=94

A bit of irony, according to wikipedia: While Vegas's tolerance for various forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City, it also has the highest number of churches per capita of any major U.S. city.

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Isn’t it Ironic?

This look is familiar.

When I do it they say it’s oppression but when they do it’s protection.

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My veil, your mask

I’m a new niqabi and its ironic that I started wearing the veil right round the time folks started donning masks to protect against H1N1, a.k.a. swine flu.

There are two types of masks: surgical masks are designed to keep your germs in, while N95 respirators are designed to keep germs out. So, if you want to ward off the virus by wearing a mask, you would wear the N95 type.
According to William Schaffner, a professor at Vandebilt University School of Medicine:

“…masks that are worn properly tend to be uncomfortable, it will fit snugly over both the mouth and nose, which can make a person feel warm and even claustrophobic…an N95 respirator, which must be properly fitted to form an airtight seal against the skin, can make it hard to breathe.”

I’ve got a friend who used to wear niqab and had difficulty breathing. Praise God, I haven’t experienced that. I believe that some types do make breathing difficult and surely Allah did not intend that for his servant.

In any case, it never dawned on me that my thin piece of fabric could even begin to protect me against the dreaded virus. Then today I came across an article that says there are doctors who say women do not need to wear medical face masks to guard against swine flu if they instead wear a suitable veil. I’m not sure what they mean by “suitable”. In any case, I pray that my veil protects me (and others) from not just H1N1 but diseases of the heart.

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That cartoon said it all but I forgot to say…

Please forgive me. I forgot to acknowledge the cartoonist from yesterday’s post.

It’s Saudi Gazette’s own “Shaf”. Click here and browse through previous Ma’alish by Shaf cartoons.

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It’s Ramadan: Eat, Drink and be Muslim

“and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allaah) likes not Al-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance)” [al-A’raaf 7:31]

From the first time I observed Ramadan, I had no idea of its history and great blessings.
The only thing I knew was that going without food made me appreciate food and other aspects of life in a way I never had. Some people are not in touch with their bodies, eating whatever is in front of them and later regretting it (or not). For me, with my first Ramadan, I knew that a small amount of food for iftar could satisfy me and it certainly made me more grateful than a lavish or large amount of food.

But many born into Islam seem to have developed a culture of feasting in Ramadan that deeply disappoints me। If you are invited for iftar you will find a spread fit for a king when all you really want is a simple meal, the kind our prophet Muhammad (salallahu aleihi wa salaam) wou
ld eat. You appreciate the company and sharing a special moment. But your host insists that you eat more and more and you feel obliged to satisfy him at the expense of your observance of the sunnah itself.

The prophet Muhammad (salallahu aleihi wa salaam) said: “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight। If you must fill it, then one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2380; Ibn Maajah, 3349. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1939).

How many women spend more time in the kitchen in Ramadan than any other time of year। Shouldn’t they be spending more time in front of the Qur’an and behind the imam in prayer than any other time of year? Here’s a picture that says it all:

Allah acts as a witness of that hard work she does in her kitchen to please her family and guests, but he also sees that family and those guests eating in excess and leaving that woman to clean up the subsequent mess and begin preparing the next feast, all at the expense of her prayers and reading Qur’an। How many women are working full time outside the home these days and still trying to keep up with such unislamic demands during Ramadan?

Is not Ramadan, a great month for contemplation? Then we should contemplate this:
Al-Haakim narrated that Abu Juhayfah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The more people eat their fill in this world, the more hungry they will be on the Day of Resurrection।”

Allaah knows best।

I did not inherit Islam, I reverted to this way of life in my mid twenties. I came to Islam via life experience (the school of hard knocks) and simple layman’s logic. Along with a growing faith, it is that simple layman’s logic that has kept me committed to this way of life. It is that logic that confirms in my heart that Ramadan is not about a five course meal at sunset or spread out through the night. It is that simple logic that tells me it is wrong for anyone to discourage my efforts to eat more than the simplest of foods in Ramadan. I understand Ramadan to be the month of prayer and simplicity, so let us save the feasting for Eid ul Fitr.

note: The title of this post is an adaptation of a King James biblical phrase “eat, drink and be merry”. Simply being Muslim makes me merry!

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