Quran Journal #1: Surah Kahf 18:28

KAHF_28

Okay,  I’m attempting to start a new series (inner me: haha here we go again), which I hope to write at least once per week. This will be about any ayah(s) I come across which deeply influences me, or makes me feel that it needs to be written about. Bismillah!

Why this ayah hit me like a truck:

Since the start of university (which was about 6 months ago), I have had a massive downfall in terms of good company. Most of the friends (lol friends?) I made are not particularly religious. Or even believers. At first I thought – well that’s always been the case and what could really go wrong? I’m a strong independent minded human who is NOT affected by other people’s thoughts or views. Hah, guess what Shaytan, you were (as usual) wrong. I did start to get influenced by everyone else’s astaghfirullah mindsets. As if my iman wasn’t low enough, I now have newer, stronger, shinier issues deep down inside my heart. Did NOT see that coming. Hey, fitnah, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE BRO?

So this week I read this ayah – which I usually skim over, cause it makes me feel guilty (meta conscience in action, damn) – and I realized i REALLY need to make some changes. Okay, I think that exact thought twice per typical day and then keep going without making any changes (ermm..) but THIS time it’s different. Because I’m writing about it. On my blog. Nuff said. (Yess that’s the secret to success, my boiz. Writing public posts stating your vague personal issues.)

Actions to be taken in shaa Allah:

  • Cut down talking too much to people who don’t have meaningful contribution in my life
  • The world sucks. Do not crave it. I repeat DO NOT CRAVE THE WORLD, IT SHALL BREAK YOU.
  • Stop wanting material things that others have. It’s never as good as it looks wallah.
  • Try to get more practicing friends.
  • Stay off social media as much as possible.
  • m o r e    i b a d a h

Now let me go back to reading the novel about jinn and hackers. Salaam.

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The Paradox of Everchanging Truths – Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Beliefs

I was reading a Harry Potter fan fiction where Harry is a “rationalist” – in all implications of the word’s present day definition – and tries to justify every new thing he learns in the magic world from the point of his existing knowledge and beliefs. When something doesn’t fit, he upgrades/modifies his beliefs and theories (note to wannabe rationalists who “blindly” follow certain schools of thought). This one quote suddenly hit me hard, and i just had to write *something* about it. I haven’t written in a while so excuse my jumbled thoughts.

Professor McGonagall’s eyes were alight. “After you graduate, or possibly even before, you really must teach some of these Muggle theories at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter. They sound quite fascinating, even if they’re all wrong.”

So here McGonagall casually says that Harry’s muggle theories (i.e years of human acquired knowledge) are obviously wrong. He had been talking about some good stuff, like causality and temporal order (a cause having to occur *before* its effect, in the observable timeline), and Turing Computations (going back into a defined moment of the past and computing a different future from there) and things like that. He couldn’t explain the Time Turner based on his existing knowledge of how cause and effect works. So he accepted that it could work backwards too – something that happens *later* in time might control something that happened *before* it.

See, whenever we read or hear about something that doesn’t make sense according to our established scientific theories, we immediately dismiss the phenomenon as “impossible” or just fantasies made up by humans or superstitions. Or religion. While that is true in many cases, it doesn’t always have to be. There could be – and quite definitely are – laws that are beyond our understanding yet. For all we know, all the basic scientific theories we know now could be false in some way, or at least *incomplete* – which is why they fail to explain many things.

The mind projection fallacy, as described by physicist and Bayesian philosopher E. T. Jaynes, says that that if you are ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about your own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself; your uncertainty is a fact about you, not a fact about whatever you are uncertain about; gnorance exists in the mind, not in reality; a blank map does not correspond to a blank territory.

In this particular book the people of the magic world know for a fact that most muggle theories are wrong, and hence they have no problem accepting the reality of magic. Meanwhile Harry Potter, a sort of child prodigy back in the muggle world, just CANNOT come to terms with the apparent unbelievable-ness of magic world laws – which allow things like time turning, mind control, trapping a “large space” inside a “small space”, etc.

The lesson to take from this is, just because we don’t find something believable, doesn’t always mean it is false. We are a species that’s SO arrogant that we are never ready to believe anything that the currently most-credible institution in human society hasn’t declared believable. In the present world this institution is Western rationalist science. For a long time this institution was the Church (which followed different interpretations at different times, based on what suited the current emperor). During Moses’s time (ancient Egypt) it was the Pharaoh. Sometimes it was aristocrats, sometimes philosophers. Keeps changing, is the point.

The only constant throughout history is that we were always too arrogant to think outside the box. Pre-Copernicus scientists were too arrogant to believe that the earth wasn’t at the center of everything. 18th century biologists were too arrogant to believe that plants have life. Descartes was too arrogant to believe that atoms couldn’t be broken down. Hume was too arrogant to believe in the existence of anything we can not see. Non-Darwinians are too arrogant to believe in evolution. Darwinians are too arrogant to disbelieve in evolution. Present day rationalists are too arrogant to believe in the existence of a soul, or an intelligent designer of everything in the universe. Present day scientists are too arrogant to believe in anything that doesn’t show up in existing man-made measurement devices. And on and on and on.

The point is, we think we know. At every point in history, we thought we knew. And this, the present, is also a point in our history. That’s the part we always forgot.

And that is why when someone asks me how I believe in such “backdated, flawed” theories i.e Islamic beliefs (and that too, as a conscious decision) – I can’t expect them to understand what they’re too arrogant to understand. Yes, I believe in divine entities, higher dimensions, eternal consequences, an intelligent designer, and much more. I believe in a bigger reality. And I’m not ashamed of it.

.

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[Reference: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky]

10 Everyday Sunnahs We Need to Bring Back

10everydaysunnahsFINAL

 

1. Saying Bismillah or Salam When Entering The House

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:

“If a person mentions the name of Allah upon entering his house or eating, Satan says, addressing his followers: ‘You will find nowhere to spend the night and no dinner.’ But if he enters without mentioning the Name of Allah, Satan says (to his followers); ‘You have found (a place) to spend the night in, and if he does not mention the Name of Allah at the time of eating, Satan says: ‘You have found (a place) to spend the night in as well as food.”‘ [Muslim]

2. The Right Side Rule

`A’isha relates that the Prophet (SAW) used to like to start with the right side when putting on his sandals, combing his hair, engaging in his ritual purifications, and in all of his activities.

When entering the house, wearing shoes or socks, putting on clothes and other such activities – the sunnah is to start from the right side. And when doing lowly or despicable acts like istinja’, removing clothes, entering the toilet etc – the sunnah is to use or start with the left limb.

3. Eating Less (One-third At Max)

Miqdam bin Madikarib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say:

‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]

4. Musafaha – Shaking Hands

It is sunnah to shake hands with when you meet someone of the same gender. It is one of those remarkable sunnah practices many of us don’t know about, or tend to forget. Science says that a simple touch can lower stress and release oxytocin – bringing about a feeling of trust, connection and other positive vibes. No wonder the Prophet (SAW) practiced this habit and thus left this valuable tradition for the Muslim ummah!

5. Sending Salawaat Upon The Prophet After The Adhan

It is reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:

“When you hear the Mu’adhdhin, repeat what he says, then invoke a blessing on me, for everyone who invokes a blessing on me will receive ten blessings from Allah.” [Reported by Muslim]

We should recite the durood after the adhaan ends.

6. Taking A Nap At Mid-day

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen do not take naps.” [At-Tabarani, Al-Sahihah, no. 2647]

A short afternoon nap, known as Qailulah, is a well-known Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Instead of oversleeping in the morning or napping in the late-afternoon, following this remarkable Sunnah of taking a nap at midday – a time when our bodies and minds just start to get exhausted – would ensure much more efficiency from us and help us avoid a grumpy day.

7. Using Miswak

Ibn Umar (Ra) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Make a regular practice of the Miswak, for verily, it is healthy for the mouth and it is a Pleasure for the Creator (i.e. Allah is pleased with the Muslim who uses the Miswaak).” [Bukhari]

Let’s try to replace our toothbrushes with the miswak and reap the blessings of this highly recommended Sunnah!

8. Dhikr Before Sleeping

The Prophet (SAW) instructed his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) to say before sleeping: Subhanallah (33 times), Alhamdulillah (33 times), Allahu Akbar (34 times) [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi]. Besides, we should make istighfar and recite ayatul Kursi and the recommended surahs, like Surah Mulk, before sleeping. The Prophet would hold his palms together, recite Surah Ikhlas, Falaq and Nas, then spit into his palms and wipe over his entire body as much as possible with his palms.

9. Duha Prayer

The Prophet (SAW) said, “In the morning, charity is due on every joint of the body of every one of you. Every utterance of Allah’s Glorification (saying Subhan Allah) is an act of charity, every utterance of His Praise (saying Al-hamdu lillah) is an act of charity, every utterance of declaration of His Greatness (saying Laa ilaaha illa Allah) is an act of charity, and every utterance of declaration of His Power (saying Allah Akbar); and enjoining M`aruf (good) is an act of charity, and forbidding Munkar (evil) is an act of charity, and two Rak`ats of Duha Prayers which one performs in the forenoon is equal to all this (in reward).” [Muslim]

It is two rakahs of supererogatory Sunnah prayer to be prayed in the morning, any time after the sun has risen but before noon.

10. Greeting Children With Salaam

We talk about the importance of spreading the salaam so often, yet disregard or overlook its value when it comes to children.

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he passed by some children and greeted them. Then he said: “Messenger of Allah (SAW) used to do the same.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Let’s start as many as we can right away. Life is short and, as we all know, every sunnah counts!

The Shift

And one day,
Something changed.
Something in the universe shifted.
As if a long forgotten veil had been lifted.
The winds seemed to shiver in awe
Of the new life she had been gifted.
No one else noticed.
No one had to know.
Perhaps it was the soft, ultrasonic laughter of the angels
At the mighty way their Lord answered a shabbily constructed dua
Of a slave drowning in sins.

Dhikr

Dhikr

5 Sunnah Habits That Boost Our Productivity

Originally posted on ibana.

One of the best things about taking up Islam as a complete lifestyle is seeing its blessings reap in literally every sphere of our lives. The actions directed by Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) are meant to be seeds that we sow for Akhirah, but their fruits are found sprouting right away in this life too. Every time we choose to follow the words and actions of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with the sole aim to achieve the pleasure of Allah SWT, Allah in His infinite mercy makes those very actions a means of enhancing our worldly lives as well, and boosting us physically, mentally and spiritually. Now that’s what you call getting the best of both worlds!

So when we think of leading productive lives, the first place where we should look for direction and inspiration is the Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). We will never find a human being whose life is as productive and filled with barakah as the life of our Prophet was. So before reading tons of articles and watching hours of videos about maximizing productivity, let’s start off with the best possible practices – practices taken from the life of our Prophet himself (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and we will soon sense the barakah surging in our lives, in sha Allah!

  1. Staying Up After Fajr 

    Muslim narrated from Jaabir ibn Samurah that when the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had prayed Fajr, he would sit in his prayer place until the sun had risen properly.How often do we find ourselves settling back into bed right after we have finished fajr salah – as if it is some kind of chore that disrupted our precious sleep? Not only does this habit kill the possibility of a highly productive morning (and in consequence, a highly productive day), but it prevents us from earning immense rewards and following a sunnah of the Prophet. The barakah of the early morning time is as amazing as it gets. Sometimes it seems outright unnatural and bizarre to me how much we can get done in just a few minutes in the early morning period, in contrast to even hours during any other time of the day.

    “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘O Allah, bless my Ummah in the mornings.’ [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]

     

  2. Mid-day Nap 

    The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen do not take naps.” [At-Tabarani, Al-Sahihah, no. 2647]A short afternoon nap, known as Qailulah, is a well known sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It is one of the best ways to boost our bodies and rejuvenate our senses amid the tiresome work or studies cluttering our day. The timing of this nap prescribed in the sunnah is remarkable. Mid-day is the time of the day when we just start feeling exhausted (given that we started the day early) and just can’t seem to focus, no matter how interesting the work at hand is.

  3. Eating Less
    Miqdam bin Madikarib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah say:

    ‘A human being fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third for food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]When we take too much food or eat to our fill, the effect it has on the body leads to a feeling of laziness, sluggishness, lethargy and an overall drop in productivity. This priceless piece of advice of our Prophet can entirely change our everyday activity graph and ensure maximum efficiency out of us. So instead of the sudden drops in productivity for long periods after every meal, we’ll find ourselves giving our best at all times of the day – just by lowering the amount of food we take.

  4. Avoiding Speech After ‘Isha And Sleeping Early 

    The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to dislike speaking after ‘isha prayer (narrated by Bukhari, Muslim). The scholars derive the reason for it to be that it might lead people to stay up late at night, and consequently miss qiyam al-layl or fajr prayer due to sleep. Now this is an essential part of the cycle: we cannot expect to wake up early and remain wide awake through the morning if we stay up for hours into the night. Hence, this habit of calling it a day once we’re done with ‘isha prayer is key to maintaining the balance. Moreover, staying up beyond our body can take and exhausting ourselves can do more harm than good – affecting our productivity levels for the entire next day or several days in turn.

  5. Night Prayer
    The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has said: “Keep up qiyam al-layl. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness.” (Tirmidhi)

    If you’ve ever prayed qiyam al Layl or the tahajjud prayer, you’ll know the difference it makes to our lives for a considerable amount of time following it. It clears our mind of grief and negativity, makes you feel amazingly closer to Allah and fully dependent on Him, strengthens your confidence (since trust in Allah is the best source of confidence) and in all – it gives you the perfect spiritual boost. No wonder our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) placed such great emphasis on qiyam al-Layl and encouraged us so much to establish it. Imagine repeating this highly effective practice every single night: imagine how awesome every single day would go!

 

Let’s take a typical day from our lives, and compare it with a day on which we practice each of these habits. The gap in between the two gives us the new goal to achieve. Let’s turn that gap into a motivation to establishing all of these amazing sunnahs in our lives. Let’s keep in mind, every sunnah counts!

 

A Three-fold Strategy To Survive Loneliness And Other Youth Issues

Originally posted on ibana.

Of the many struggles that the practicing Muslim youth face on a personal level, one of the most common yet untalked of is the battle against loneliness and frustration without falling into any of the fitnah and Haram that surround them. This is not just about fighting desires and urges, that’s a whole different discussion; this is more about the emotional turmoil and emptiness that too many young people have to face, silently wanting the luxury of someone to talk to and lighten the burden upon, when life seems to be moving a bit too fast. The most common advice everyone loves to throw at them is the getting-married-early scheme. While that is probably the best solution for most of these problems, in most cases it is not a feasible option and in many families and societies getting married at 18 (that too to someone with a matching level of “practicing the religion”) is but a utopian dream.

Hence comes in the idea of alternative strategies, which would not only help one go through the apparent “emptiness” or sidetrack one away from frustration, depression etc. but at the same time will also help them make the best use of the blessed time that youth is. Most people find their own way of doing this, or chalk out their own fitna-proof strategy to make it through, while for many, it is more difficult to figure out a way, and more hopelessness entails. Here is a three-fold strategy etched out from my personal experience, which I found extremely useful, and hope will help others too.

1. Taking Short and Long term challenges

Setting up practical, feasible goals and working towards them is one of the best ways to keep your mind off things that make you hopeless or frustrated. Take out some time to chart out some good actions you’ve always wished to do but never got started on. These could be small things like “Send gifts to 10 friends/relatives” to larger plans like “Memorize 3 Juz/Para of the Quran in the next 12 months” or “Finish reading a book of Seerah in the next 6 months”. If you haven’t already started learning Arabic, now would be the perfect time to take on that challenge! Try to put constraining time limits on the challenges so that there is always a motive to not slack off midway.

The Benefits:

  •  Always having an objective to work upon and look forward to
  •  Constant engagement in productive work
  •  Planned utilization of time
  •  Rewards for every good deed!


2. Increasing Nafl ‘Ibadah

On a daily basis, engaging in more frequent acts of ‘Ibadah can do wonders to our heart, mind and body. Observing the Sunnah fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, praying the nawafil prayers, Duha prayer in the morning, reciting more Quran in the day and during night, memorizing Ayahs everyday – simple steps like these can lead to a blissful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Trying to pray regular Tahajjud prayer also falls under this category and should serve as a life (and afterlife) changing practice.

The Benefits:

  •  The happiness of trying to please Allah SWT
  •  A sense of fulfillment
  •  Constant engagement in productive work
  •  Barakah in time and activities
  •  Increase of Iman
  •  Rewards for every good deed


3. Righteous friends, righteous friends, righteous friends

This is one of the basic needs of any striving Muslim, especially one struggling to practice the Deen. In fact, even if you think you are in a somewhat well off condition spiritually, and are doing a good job at being a Muslim but don’t have righteous friends around you, you have no idea what you are missing out on. Pious friends are like the rear wheels that constantly keep you in check, consciously or unconsciously, and without even saying anything can encourage you towards better deeds and a more controlled life. Most importantly, these are the people you can trust your problems with and can always rely on for sincere advice based on Allah’s commands, because these relationships are built to please Allah SWT.

While too many young people turn to opposite-gender friendships or boyfriends/girlfriends to fill the void of loneliness and to feel lighter amidst depression and anxiety, righteous friends are the perfect alternative for practicing Muslims. Sisters or brothers in faith are the rare breed you can find to open up to and expect sincere, meaningful and unconditional support from.

When you feel like giving up because it’s too hard and the fitna around you is too hard to resist, there can be no bigger blessing than having people who can relate to your situation and keep pushing you forward. Do everything you can to get friends like this, if you don’t already have them. Make as much du’a as you can, because a blessing like this just cannot be missed.

The Benefits:

  •  Source of encouragement in hard times
  •  Competitors towards good
  •  Source of sincere, halal advice
  •  Alternative for harmful or haram friendships
  •  Potential cause of earning the Shade of Allah on the Day of Judgement [1]

These are some basic strategies to start with. Youth is one of the biggest blessings in the lifetime of a human being, and a time when no scope of earning virtues and accomplishing big things for the sake of Allah should be missed out at any cost. When we are questioned what we did with our youth [2], our petty problems will not be able to stand as excuses. So instead of being a generation that constantly whines about not being able to get married early, let’s be the generation that uses that very opportunity to become awesome Muslims.

Footnotes:

[1] Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven persons whom Allah will shade on a Day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a young person who grew up in the worship of Allah, a person whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other who meet and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man whom a beautiful woman of high status seduces but he rejects her by saying I fear Allah, a person who spends in charity and conceals it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and a person who remembered Allah in private and he wept.”
[Sahih Bukhari 629, Sahih Muslim 1031]

[2] 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.”
[Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2422; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1969]

A Depressed Post

Things that hurt me beyond words:

1) When people whom I love do things that might greatly displease Allah SWT and I can’t stop them

2) When my mother shows annoyance at my learning Arabic or wearing Abayas

3) When I watch my friends wasting their life on boys, music etc and I can’t do anything about it

4) When I myself waste my time doing nothing and feel all hopeless about this life and the next because I know I’m being a terrible Muslim

And then I spend the rest of the day/week feeling depressed and doing nothing because I’m just like any other teenager at the end of the day. *Sigh*

May Allah guide us all.

In Different Shoes

Have you ever walked through a street while imagining yourself to be someone else? Looking at everything, the posters and the billboards and the cars and the people, from someone else’s eyes – a random foreigner, or maybe a superstar that you like? I do it sometimes. I pretend I’m this guy from a complete different country who doesn’t know the language and is trying to make sense out of all the strangeness going on in the streets of this new weird city. And trust me, a lot of strangeness goes on in the streets of my city.

Sometimes I’m a sports person, sometimes I’m a famous sheikh, sometimes I’m Mark Zuckerberg and sometimes I’m Bill gates. And sometimes, I jump straight back in time and land in the shoes of some famous philosopher, warrior or – more often than not – a Sahabi (companion of our Prophet (SAW)). And that’s when it gets really weird. Weird as in impossible to take in. And I have to instantly switch back to my 21st century self.

I’m pretty sure that if any of the super-awesome people we remember to this day as Sahabis, may Allah be pleased with them all, had the chance to live for a while in this time and moment, they would have been, to the n-th degree and mostly in a negative sense, mind blown. And not just because of climate change.

There are so many things that they would disapprove of that trying to make a list out of those is sheer stupidity. Let’s assume they would ignore the streets or the outwardly conditions of our life and have a glance at us as persons. What would they think of the way we live? From the way we talk to our parents to the things we look at, our lives are hardly worthy of the approval of the Prophets (AS) or the Salaf. Would our beloved Prophet (SAW) approve of the way we talk to each other, or most of the things we watch on tv, the videos we watch on Youtube, the facebook statuses and photos we ‘like’, even the ones we consider “not so bad”? It’s not really a matter of Halal and Haram, it’s more of just an average sense of conscience. We are so used to taking indecency for granted that we hardly stop and consider if it might cost us our afterlife.

I heard someone say just the other day that if a person living at the time of the Prophet (SAW) were to enter the house of a well-to-do person in today’s world, they might easily mistake it for Jannah. A wide range of food on the table. Several flavors of juices and soft drinks in the fridge. Paid people serving those foods and drinks (in many countries and cultures). High, comfortable sofas. Carpets. Cushions. Does that sound familiar?

And then if they turned and looked at the conditions of our hearts – our spirituality I mean – let’s just say that it would be a huge shame for us. I won’t talk about how ungrateful attitudes most of us have despite living in such “heavenly” conditions. But the stone-like conditions our hearts have turned to is a tragedy. Stone-hearted people on feather-soft sofas, sipping at cold drinks and wasting hours and hours of their lives watching utter useless stuff on tv and listening to pointless music. How can we be so stupid that we deliberately try to escape the things that take us closer to Allah but don’t give a second thought when doing something that has no benefit in this life or the next? Maybe the reason our hearts have turned so hard is that we give more attention on increasing the reading on our “I’m Cooler” meter than to increase the score on the actual scoreboard that matters. Or maybe it’s the other way round. It is more of a cycle I guess: hardened heart – less effort to please Allah – even harder heart and so on. Allah says in the Quran:

Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         __ Surah Hadid, Ayah 16

This gives us the entire reason, which also happens to be the remedy, of the problem: our connection to Allah’s book. Maybe if we took more time to read and appreciate the Quran, we would realize how futile most of our activities are and pay more attention to doing more meaningful stuff. Maybe we’d jump out of our comfort zone and try to make our lives worthful by working more for our Akhirah. But wait, isn’t that exactly what we try to avoid? What? Get serious about life? No, thank you. I’ve got more important stuff to do.

Trust me I used to be like that (in fact still am to some extent). But once I connected myself a little to the Quran and tried cutting off my hours on tv, music and other random stuff, I actually felt better. I realized that it wasn’t a myth after all. The Quran does more than just to add to your scales. It actually, seriously makes you feel better. And believe it or not, cutting off/reducing time spent on entertainment also does something. It makes you feel a different kind of good, ironical as it is.

Back to where I started, I think it actually is a cool thing to pretend to be in the shoes of a Sahabi. I really should try it more often. And instead of running away, I should try to stay in those shoes until it turns me to a better person. After all, if any of them really had to be in our place, would they think of transporting to a different time because the world was too messed up? Or would they be their own awesome selves despite the surroundings and rather try to transport everyone around them to a better condition?

Since I was talking about hard hearts, here’s a talk I really enjoyed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2ScGh-__No

 

Ramadan may be months away, but Winter is right here!

It’s a common tendency of many Muslims to wait until Ramadan to bring spiritual changes in their life, or to start a new practice in order to please Allah. And Ramadan in fact is an incredible opportunity to take our spirituality to another level. But is it the only opportunity? Of course not. It sure is a good time to start anything good, but the best time, is right now – whichever month and whichever season may it be. And the right now for us, is winter. Yes, the time of the year when making wudu almost turns to a jihad, and waking up for Fajr and getting out of the blanket gets really hard. But the positive sides of the season, for a believer, beat those by a long way. It was reported by al-Haythami in ‘Majma’ az-Zawa’id’ (3/203) with a hasan chain that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Winter is the best season for the believer. Its nights are long for him to pray in, and its days are short for him to fast in.” For those of us who consider Qiyam al-Layl and performing Tahajjud prayers a distant dream, this winter could be the best opportunity to at least try. Image May Allah make us of His blessed slaves who pray regular Tahajjud prayers. It is related that ‘Ubayd bin ‘Umair used to say when winter came, “O people of the Qur’an! The nights are long for you to recite so recite! The days are short for your fast so fast!” The longer night times and evenings are also great for more recital and memorization of the Quran. Imam Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, said, “Fasting in the winter is the cold spoils.”  The meaning of it being the “cold spoils” is that it is like the spoils of battle taken without conflict, fatigue, or difficulty. Not only are the days really short, but we also feel very less hunger and thirst during these days. What could be a better time to please Allah through some Nafl fasts? ( See more at: http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/notes/the_virtues_of_winter#sthash.GMDVCR3g.dpuf ) Moreover, let’s not overlook this great chance of giving charity – through money and clothes – as this is the time when the poor are most in need. Just an old sweater of ours could mean the world to someone shivering out in the open. And the rewards that come are beyond any amount of money. So we have the following things that winter offers with exclusive ease:

  • Praying at night (Qiyam al-Layl and Tahajjud)
  • More time for Quran
  • Fasting with minimal difficulty/extreme ease
  • Making more charity by means of money and/or warm clothes

As for the difficulty in doing wudu due to the cold, the following Hadith should be enough as a source of comfort: It is related in Sahih Muslim, among the narrations of Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, on the authority of the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, that he said: “Shall I not direct you to something with which Allah will efface your sins and raise your ranks?” They responded, “Certainly O Messenger of Allah!” He said, “Performing an expansive ablution during difficult times; taking many steps to reach the mosque; and remaining in the mosque for the next prayer –doing so a form of guard duty.”  Image

Of Sleeping Heroes And Strange Marvels

A few years ago, one Friday, someone (probably my sister) told me that it was a highly reward-eous act to recite Surah Kahf, the 18th Surah of the Quran, on Fridays. Around the same time I saw a picture posted on Facebook saying something like “Have you read Sura Kahf today?” I’ll be honest and say that it was actually the latter that made me pay some heed to the matter. (One can’t deny the power of those nicely photoshopped images on Facebook. Those are way more powerful than your sister telling you something, even if it be the exact same quote coming out of her mouth). Driven by the notion of getting some rewards (or Sawaab as we call it), I went and opened a copy of the Quran and turned over to Surah no. 18, where the title read: Kahf -The Cave.

It should be said here that reading the Quran wasn’t a regular part of my daily activity then, it was more of an only-in-Ramadan thing for me. Anyhow, I started reading the Surah and by the time I finished the first story narrated therein, I was – to put it as simply as possible – awestruck. A story about some young guys falling asleep in a cave and waking up hundreds of years later? The Quran has these types of things? Isn’t it supposed to be a what-to-do-what-not-to-do Book? Yeah I’ve read stories of some prophets here and there, but such a cool story in the Quran, that too told in such an awesome manner? Wow.

Gradually I came to read all four of the stories put together in this Surah (and each of them are epic I tell you, although it took me years to realize their beauty) and the first one still remains my favorite. Every Friday I would read this part of the Quran and feel the wonders that it did to my heart. I’d listen to lectures on these stories (there are loads of them on Youtube) and even check out the Tafseer once in a while. In fact, Surah Kahf has become one of the reasons I look forward to Fridays (not that I can’t read it any other day of the week, but I love to feel the anticipation).

Here I’m only going to write away some of my thoughts on the first story, the one the Surah is named after. So here I go, let’s start talking about the *drumrolls* Miraculous Story Of The Youths Who Took Refuge In The Cave (I know, that’s a long title and yes, all this was just the introduction).

Although the idea of some young boys remaining asleep for more than 300 years, undiscovered by anyone, sounds like the most wondrous of miracles to us, Allah SWT began their story by asking us,

أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا

Or do you deem that the People of the Cave and the Inscription are a wonder among Our signs?   [18:9]

Thus the first lesson I grasped from this story lies in the very introduction. Allah reminds us that keeping a few people asleep for more than is usual is nothing in comparison to all the amazing things Allah has done, and will do, to the earth and the surrounding universe throughout the history of time (as mentioned in the previous verses). It just happens so that we are so used to all the constant signs and miracles, that we hardly consider them significant anymore.

Now let us delve into the story. There is this nation where everyone is, what we call in colloquial terms, messed up. Everyone is far off track from, and unflinchingly against, Allah’s Deen. So much so that they’re ready to persecute anyone who even tries to worship Allah. And yet from this very nation, Allah brings forth a group of young boys who not only want to follow Allah’s religion, but are risking their lives for it, abandoning everything for it, renouncing all comfort for it. Such people from the same nation where worshipping Allah falls under the category of national offence. This in itself is an Ayah – a miraculous sign – that should humble us before Allah.   Let us reflect on what kind of boys they were.

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُم بِالْحَقِّ إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى

We narrate to you their story with truth. Verily they were young men who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.                                                                                                                                                                                                      [18:13]

The word فَتًى, which is the singular of فِتْيَةُ, is defined as: “a youth or young man in the prime of life“. So they were the same age in which people are generally inclined to “enjoy life”. But amusingly, it also happens to be the age when the heart is most open to truth and ready to pursue it despite the circumstances. And by the grace of Allah, that was their case.

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

When the young people turned to the cave they said, “Our Lord! Grant us especially from yourself a mercy and provide for us from our decision a straight way.”  [18:10]

This is the first of their speech quoted in the Quran, which strongly reflects their dauntless trust, dependence and faith in Allah, and gives us a strong lesson to muse upon.  Allah’s response to this desperate prayer of the youths is mentioned in the following ayah.

فَضَرَبْنَا عَلَى آذَانِهِمْ فِي الْكَهْفِ سِنِينَ عَدَدًا

Then We sealed up [their hearing] in the Cave for a number of years. [18:11]

Here starts the miracle. They are made to fall asleep inside the cave, with their hearings sealed. Each morning the sun rises to their right and each evening it sets to their left. Dawn after dawn. Dusk after dusk. Years pass and generations change, oblivious to these boys. A tiny, petite miracle among all the immense miracles of the Almighty. As if all of this wasn’t a sign big enough, Allah furthermore ensures that anyone who goes near them would be forced to flee, as the sleeping ones and their dog appear to be moving, thus terrifying anyone sighting them. It is yet another example of the endlessness of Allah’s Grace, as stated in Surah Nur:

لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَيَزِيدَهُم مِّن فَضْلِهِ وَاللَّهُ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاء بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

God will reward such people according to the best of their actions, and He will increase for them His bounty: God provides limitlessly for anyone He will.  [24:38]

After the time decreed by Allah has passed and the young men (well they are three hundred and something now, I probably should not call them young anymore) are brought to light, the dominating faith around them is Allah’s Deen, which is Christianity in this case. They are no more considered national traitors for believing in Allah. In fact, people essentially decide to build a mosque over them. I wonder how they felt to be waking up to such a different world, At this point of the narration, Allah points to us the ultimate admonition of the whole occurrence:

وَكَذٰلِكَ أَعثَرنا عَلَيهِم لِيَعلَموا أَنَّ وَعدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَأَنَّ السّاعَةَ لا رَيبَ فيها

And that is how We disclosed them (to the people of the city) that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that, as for the Hour, there is no doubt concerning it. [18:21]

Through this story, Allah SWT admonishes not only the generation which these believers woke up into, but all generations to come – about one of the most vital truths that reverberate again and again throughout the Quran: that the promise of Allah is most definitely true, and the last hour, beyond any doubt whatsoever, will transpire, whether you like thinking about it or not; whether you are preparing for it or not.   In the last of the recorded words of these intrepid young men, we uncover a very subtle yet strong lesson. We find through their words a reverse definition of success, that is, a characterization of true failure. While sending one from amongst themselves to buy food, after they had woken up (oblivious to the fact that 300 years have passed), they advice him to stay very cautious and say:

إِنَّهُم إِن يَظهَروا عَلَيكُم يَرجُموكُم أَو يُعيدوكُم فى مِلَّتِهِم وَلَن تُفلِحوا إِذًا أَبَدًا

 “For they, if they should come to know of you, will stone you to death or assimilate you back to their religion; then you will never succeed in that case.” [18:20]

This connotes their belief that whichever way their lives go and whatever they may have to face, they would still have some form of accomplishment; if not in this life, at least they would be victors in the Akhirah. Even if they are stoned to death, they will have pleased Allah and achieved Jannah. But there is one particular probability, which would, without doubt, lead them to utter failure; a case wherein they would “never succeed”. And what is this possibility, which they deem even worse than being stoned? It is the prospect of being convinced back into their old ways, being converted back to their old religion of Shirk and Kufr. And in reality, the likelihood of that happening was not low (considering that times had not changed). Just a little glimpse of that old life, a little reminder of how supposedly awesome life would be if they stopped caring about the frightening notion of an afterlife and just followed their ‘hawa’: their lusts and wishes, are all it would take. And as simple as the process is, it is also the biggest failure – or rather defeat – a believer can ever encounter. This is explained awesomely in this lecture:

This verse also demonstrates that a believer’s primary worry is always his faith. These youths held their faith dearer even to their own lives, just how every believer should do.

The most basic lesson in the story of the young boys, to me, is the value of being steadfast upon one’s faith even in the face of the strongest of oppressions and the cruelest of tyranny, which, perhaps, is most possible at a young age. And the strongest message that this instance of bravery of the boys sends us – a message exceedingly important to the people of our generation – is that one should never, ever compromise the practice of the Deen in fear of what people might think or anticipating social ridicule. In a world full of belligerently secular governments, culture-based societies, immensely assertive media and judgmental friends, a message like that is something every Muslim should hold very dear. Because when the line between faith and disbelief is as thin as it could ever get, it’s easy to get “assimilated” into their thoughts, ideals, beliefs and even practices (their being everyone and everything not Muslim), without even noticing it. And that is exactly what is happening to us – the Muslims – especially the youth. It is happening when we watch their TV shows and try to become like that; when we listen to their music and take pride in that; when we celebrate Halloween at the end of Octobers; when we replace our headscarves with exotic fashion statements, our beards with intentional attractiveness.

And the worst part? We don’t even want to admit that we are moving away from our religion, rather, we try to assimilate whatever is acceptable in the culture or social media to the religion itself. Only if we cared to take admonition and say the same words these youths uttered, from our heart, Allah would surely answer us:

Our Lord! Give us mercy from Your presence and shape for us right conduct in our plight.” [18:10]

After all, He is Al-Wahhab, Al-Hadi – the ultimate Bestower, the ultimate Guide.

It’s Now Or Never

Two more years. Two more years of devouring painful loads of mostly-useless knowledge, of draining my precious time following a deeply-flawed system and trying to please teachers for grades that would never really matter. Two more years of high school.

Two years may not sound like much to many people, but from where I stand, it is like a long – freakishly long – tunnel that seems almost endless. But whatever is on the other side seems too damn attractive right now. The other side has things I’ve been yearning for too long, things I crave like a diabetic craving for sugar despite knowing about its cons. The other side, has life.

“Just two more years, and then you’ll be able to do all that you dream of doing,” says the delusional optimist in me, hoping that the end of school will bring with it opportunities to use my time the way I want to; opportunities to do something for Allah’s Deen, to learn all I want from the depths of Islam and share that with others, to become the dynamic Muslim that I long to become. It gives me distant hopes saying, “All this pressure of studies will be over one day and then you can learn Arabic, you can memorize as many Juz of the Quran as you want to. You can even teach people, but all that’s for later. Come on now, you have a test next week!” It is funny that I think that way, because the rationalist in me knows quite well that two years later, it might only get worse. There will be college. Then work. Then additional people in my life. Then maybe even more people – until my moments become too clogged up to keep track of; until I find myself saying, “I wish I was back in high school.”

What if it is just a trick by Shaitan – making me be in the delusion that life hasn’t really started yet – to stop me from turning all my aspirations to reality? Because, from what I see around me, I can tell that when I’ve reached the supposed end of the tunnel, I’ll probably be squished from all sides by an overdose of the ‘life’ that I wasted these precious years waiting for. Yes, that does sound like Shaitan in action. And how can I let him win?

So what about turning the picture around – broadening my scope of optimism and putting it this way: These two long years might be the biggest opportunity I’ll ever get. The hundreds of hours of free time I’ll have during this time might actually be more than all the free time I’ll ever have later in my life combined. And if I AM going to do something (something for Islam is what I mean), isn’t now the best time to start?

So what I’m just a teenager? In the view of Islam, you’re an adult the moment you hit puberty. Having considered that, I’ve already wasted too much of my adulthood. And then of course, I could die any day. I could die even before school is over. Just because my country has an average life expectancy of 67.8 years, that does not guarantee ME six decades of life. In fact, no one can guarantee me even twenty years of life! Dying a plain ol’ Muslim who didn’t even try to do something for the Deen, despite having the knowledge and ability, is the worst thing that can happen to a believer. On Judgment day, I can’t put up excuses like “Umm yeah I had the resources, the knowledge, the health and the energy to do something for Islam, but I was only in High school!”

I was in high school! I was the same age when many Sahabah had fought through battles – like real, actual battles! If I even start researching about the Sahabah who braced Islam at an early age and all the awesome things they accomplished even before they had grown up, I would feel like the most useless piece of flesh on earth.

Maybe I won’t be able to build Masjids or found Islamic institutions now. Maybe I won’t be able to arrange big Halaqats or create Arabic learning platforms all by myself now. But there sure are things I can do – and the first thing that comes to mind is learning more. Learning the Quran; its language, its intricacies, all the miracles it bears, all the magic it hides. Learning about the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم, his awe-striking life, actions and ahadeeth. Learning about the Sahabah. And so much more. And of course there are other things to do, all I have to do is to start looking out.

Two years. Two long, unrestrained years. How can I just waste this huge blessing of Allah? The fact is, I can’t. Do I know what exactly to do? Nope. Do I have close friends who share these same aspirations? I wish. But problems are there to be dealt with. So I’ll keep praying to Allah that He makes me of the Saliheen – the righteous – and gives me the ability to use my youth. Because, your youth wasted is your life wasted.

Five-before-Five

A much needed reminder. Priceless.
Subhanallah.

I remember writing this in my diary once on having passed a few months without watching any TV series or listening to any music. It was magical. Probably what alcoholics feel after weeks of being sober.

My Journey To The Jilbab

It was just another gloomy day of autumn as I headed out of home wearing a jilbab for the first time in my life, being as quick as I could so my parents would not see me. But I wasn’t quick enough, because my mother saw me and I had to stop so that she could stare at me for a while. After the staring was done, she had the queerest expression on her face. It was more than apparent, without her even saying anything, that she didn’t quite like the idea of me going out looking like “those Muslims”, the ones who don’t obey public expectations even in the way they dress. I could almost hear her thinking, like I assumed most of my friends and acquaintances to be thinking too, “You were doing just fine in hijab. Hijab is normal. But a burqa? Isn’t that being a little too much?” or maybe “You’re just seventeen! You don’t have to look all extremist, that’s for older people!” However, my mother did not say any such thing out loud, and I did not worry about her at all; I knew that sooner or later she would be following the lead In sha Allah; guidance is hard to resist for some people. What I did worry about though, was how my friends would react; what they would say and how they would look at me.

I had been training myself for weeks if not months to not care about what anyone thought or said. I had kept telling myself again and again that people’s approval would not take me to Jannah, nor would their disapproval change anything in this life or the hereafter. But I am a teenager after all, and anyone who has lived through this age knows very well that teenagers absolutely thrive on the approval of others. I personally am (I won’t say was because then I’d be overestimating myself) one of those people for whom “being cool” is a priority in life. Anyway, to my great surprise (and relief), my first day in the jilbab went by with no one treating me differently. (I almost jumped up in delight when my friends at school just continued to speak to me normally after looking at the jilbab for a while). I had not become an alien to them. Phew. I realized, just like it did not matter for me if I wore what they expected me to, it also did not matter to them if I dressed differently than what they expected.

The hard part, however, was convincing my own self and fighting my own nafs. I have had intense battles with the part of myself that said I was doing better than a lot of other people; the part that tried to logicize my not wearing a jilbab by telling me that many girls didn’t even wear the hijab. At times I almost gave in to Shaitan’s waswaas and delved into Google’s archives trying to find a Hadith, or maybe a Fatwa saying that wearing the jilbab is not really necessary, or that a short one was good enough. But by the Grace of Allah, every forum discussion, Fatwa, Hadith explanation and tafseer that I read, only made me feel more guilty about not having started already. It is a wonder, and a great blessing of Allah on me that I did not come upon a single fatwa or even common-person comment online that suggested that the jilbab was anything less than essential (and I’m sure there are lots of them on the internet, considering how many people wish that what they wish were divine rulings). The next time I need a refresher on the meaning of “Ar-Rahman”, this is what I would look back to.

Regardless of all that, in the end it was only one thing that I needed to encourage me truly, the one thing that stared back straight at me until I went to the shop myself and bought a full-length jilbab. It was the 59th ayah of Surah Al-Ahzab:

O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over themselves. That is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [Surah Ahzab, 33:59]

One final look at the words and all my doubts disappeared (or maybe it was Shaitan that disappeared). How could I avoid something that was there, bold and clear, in the Quran itself? I told myself, “You want the palaces of Jannah? You want the awesome fruits, the amazing drinks, the silk robes? You want the whole happiness-for-eternity deal, and you are having doubts and complains on wearing just one extra piece of clothing for the few number of years you’re going to live on earth?” I couldn’t be that irrational!

So here I am, going out everyday looking like “those Muslims”, the same ones I used to consider ‘uncool’ just a year or so ago. Now I know though, that they are the coolest beings on earth. They are the ones who have learned to not care about what people around them like or approve and have learned to rather live the way that Allah SWT lovingly bade us Himself. They are the ones who have internalized the fact that the silken robes of Jannah will make one look a thousand times more amazing and glamorous than any dress by any brand in the world ever will, no matter how ‘in fashion’ it is. You see, that is one of the many incredible things Islam does: changing the core of one’s way of thinking. It changes the definitions we always were so sure about. Being a person who found beardies and Niqabis a little weird or “extremist” for a major part of my life, I know this very well. I absolutely love how after getting to know Islam better, my definition of ‘cool’ has drastically changed from knowing the lyrics of famous metal songs to knowing long verses outside of JuzAmma by heart; from learning Spanish or French to learning Arabic; from wearing what my peers consider trendy or ‘chic’ to covering up whatever I’m wearing with a not-so-fashionable piece of clothing.

Although there probably is no better word and no better actions, yet “Alhamdulillah” seems like too little, the five prayers seem like too little, just thirty days of fasting out of three hundred and sixty five days seem too little ̶ to thank Allah SWT for the endless love and mercy He has shown me and all the unexpected ways of guidance He has opened for me. And still I know I will never be good enough at doing just this much. There will always be the times when my mind wanders to something else during Salat; there will always be the days I say or look at something wrong during a fast ̶ there will always be my mistakes ̶ and yet, throughout the same days, Allah’s infinite mercy, His Rahmah will also be there. My creator Himself will be there to forgive the biggest of my sins, to listen to my du’a whenever I call onto Him, closer than my jugular vein. How unbelievable is that? If knowing that does not take us aback and make us leave anything that comes between us and obeying Allah, then what will?

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