Monday, October 29, 2007

Ramadan Has Passed

Carrying the torch of Ramadan throughout the year
By: Yasmin Mogahed

Ramadan has passed. Our Qurans have shut. Our masjids have emptied. And our hearts have once again filled with the love of life, the hatred of death, and the desires that consume us. The shaytan that was once banned, has again taken his place in our minds, our homes, at our front, and at out back. Once again he has kept his vow of assault:

“He (shaytan) said: ‘Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way: Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies).’” (7:16-17).

And so while we find ourselves again vulnerable to the very same struggles that plagued us before Ramadan, let us not forget the very purpose of our efforts during that blessed month. Let us not allow the fruits of Ramadan to be lost. And let us not miss out on the very purpose of our fast.

When commanding mankind to fast, Allah says: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed upon those before you, that ye may attain God-consciousness (taqwa)” (2:183).

It is that consciousness of Allah which is essential for the fulfillment of our purpose in this life. It is that fear of Allah which provides the muscle for our struggle to remain on the straight path. And if taqwa is the muscle, Ramadan was our personal trainer.

If, during Ramadan, we were able to keep ourselves from an essential physical need (of eating and drinking) out of fear of Allah, are we not able to keep ourselves from haram after Ramadan, out of that same fear? None of us would dare sneak a glass of water while we are fasting. And yet, the very same Lord who could see us sneak in that drink during Ramadan can see us commit haram outside of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, we could wake up before sunrise to feed our bodies. But after Ramadan, we sleep through fajr and starve our souls. Let us not allow ourselves to be conquered. Yes. The Shaytan can call us again. But all he can do is call. The power is ours. Allah tells us in the Quran:

“And Satan will say when the matter is decided: ‘It was Allah Who gave you a promise of Truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no authority over you except to call you, but ye listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls. I cannot listen to your cries (on this Day), nor can ye listen to mine. I reject your former act in associating me with Allah. For wrong-doers there must be a grievous penalty’”( 14:22 ).

And so there are some who will allow Shaytan to reign over them. But there are others over which Shaytan has no power. Addressing Satan, Allah says: "For over My servants no authority shalt thou have, except such as put themselves in the wrong and follow thee." ( 15:42 )

But how do we become among Allah’s servants, over which Shaytan has no authority? How do we continue the spirit of Ramadan for the entire year, and throughout our lives?
The following are some ways:

1. Guard your prayers:
During Ramadan, many of us make sure to pray every prayer on time—often at the Masjid. Continue to guard your prayers, because surely they will guard you. Allah says in the Quran: “Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greatest. And Allah knows that which you do” (29:45).

2. Remember Allah by staying close to the Quran:
During Ramadan, many of us spend our nights and days reading Quran. Remembering Allah by staying close to the Quran everyday will protect you from Shaytan and keep your heart polished. Allah’s messenger said: “There is a polish for everything that takes away rust; and the polish for the heart is the remembrance of Allah” (Bukhari). The Prophet has also said: “Read the Qur’an, for verily it will come on the Day of Judgment as an intercessor for its companions.” (Muslim)

3. Think more and talk less:
The Prophet said: “Sometimes a person says a thing which pleases Allah, and in return Allah raises his status; and sometimes a person says something which displeases Allah, and it takes him to hell" (Bukhari). Ibrâhîm an-Nakhâ‘î, a pious predecessor, once said: “Whoever reflects will find that the noblest and most dignified person of every gathering is the one who is most silent, because silence beautifies the scholar and conceals the faults of the ignorant.”

4. Repent often:
Many of us seek forgiveness from Allah during Ramadan, but abandon this practice once Ramadan is over. Keep in mind that the Prophet Muhammad used to repent to Allah 100 times every single day. Repenting often keeps out hearts clean and always connected to Allah.

A dear colleague of mine said that with the passing of Ramadan one feels as though they have lost a relative. Indeed. But in our grief, let its’ passing not be in vain.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Finding Heaven at Her Feet

InFocus News
By: Yasmin M.

Finding Heaven at Her Feet

When Maryam, mother of Isa (AS), first felt the pangs of childbirth she retreated to a remote palm tree. There, her pain became so severe that she wished she had never lived to see it. Allah says: “And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): "Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!" (Quran 19:23).

In Maryam’s pain and isolation, she cried out—and was not ignored. Allah sent a reply to her: “But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): "Grieve not! For thy Lord hath provided a stream beneath thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee” (Quran 19:24-25).

The status of Maryam is unique, but much of her experience is not. Every single one of us was born to a mother who endured this very pain. And by that endurance every single mother has earned an honor guaranteed by Islam and unparallel by any other faith tradition.

Allah says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years – give thanks to Me and to your parents, - unto Me is the final destination” (Quran 31:14).

The Quran’s commandment to be kind to parents is followed by specific mention of this sacrifice made by the mother. By reminding mankind of the pain that our mothers endured to carry and give birth to us, Allah reminds us of our debt to her.

This debt, as we learn from the seerah of our beloved Prophet (pbuh), can almost never fully be repaid. Once Abdullah ibn Umar, a leading scholar among the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions, saw a man from Yemen carrying his mother on his back and going around the Ka’abah in his tawaf. The man asked ibn Umar whether by doing so he had discharged his debt to his mother. Ibn Umar replied: “No. You have not even repaid one single moan that escaped her when she gave birth to you.”

This debt to our mothers is so high, that once when a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) to join in a military campaign, the Prophet (pbuh) told him to return home and take care of his mother because "heaven lies at her feet". In fact, Allah has even connected worship itself with kindness towards parents:

Allah says: “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, not shout at them, but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.’” (17:23-24).

And as we pray for mercy for our parents, we should remember that when each one of us dies, all of our actions will cease to benefit us—except three. Among those three actions is a righteous child who prays for his/her parents. Such a prayer for mercy will reach our parents, even in their graves. And are not these prayers the very least we can give to repay a lifetime of love, pain, and sacrifice?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Seeing Through the Dream

InFocus News
By: Yasmin M.

Seeing Through the Dream

I watched as the raging wind annihilated everything in its path. Now the storm was headed for our house. As it reached the front, the tornado ripped off the roof and began destroying everything beneath it. It seemed to last forever. By the time it had gone, there was nothing left. I tossed in my bed until suddenly…I woke up.

It was then that I realized that the complete destruction of my home was only a dream. I was now awake and the true Reality put everything into perspective. What I had once thought real, was only a fleeting dream. And yet, while I was asleep it seemed to never end. It was only after I awoke that I realized it had only lasted seconds.

What many people do not recognize is that one day every one of us will also wake up. Not from a dream of devastating storms, flying, or escaping a charging tiger—but from the dream of this life. At death, every soul will wake up from the dream of the dunya, and enter the Reality of the hereafter. Allah describes this awakening in the Quran:

“And the stupor of death will bring Truth (before his eyes): ‘This was the thing which thou wast trying to escape!’ And the Trumpet shall be blown: that will be the Day whereof Warning (had been given). And there will come forth every soul: with each will be an (angel) to drive, and an (angel) to bear witness. (It will be said:) ‘Thou wast heedless of this; now have We removed thy veil, and sharp is thy sight this Day!’" (50:19-22)

Our sight will be keen on that day, and upon that awakening, we will look back and feel as if the entire dunya had lasted no more than an hour. Allah says in His book: “On the day that the hour (of reckoning) will be established, the transgressors will swear that they tarried not but an hour: thus were they used to being deluded!” (30:55)

But the delusions of this worldly life are so strong and the mirage is so convincing; how can we ever escape it? How can we escape living in this life as if it were our lasting home? How can we keep from chasing after that mirage of the dunya, as so many have before us?

The Prophet (pbuh) taught us exactly how to see this life for what it really is. When offered a soft bedding, he (pbuh) said: “What have I to do with this dunya. I am like a rider who has sat under a tree for its shade, then went away and left it.'' [At-Tirmidhi]

It was for this reason that the Prophet (pbuh) advised us in his wisdom to “be in this life like a stranger or traveler.” A stranger forever longs for his true home, and a traveler is never attached to his stops along the way.

He (pbuh) taught us how to walk through the dream of this life with our eyes open, remembering always the words of Allah when He says: “And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion, but the home of Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah. Will you not then reason?” (6:32)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tawakkul, Hope and Striving

InFocus News
By: Yasmin M.

Tawakkul, Hope and Striving: Three Pieces of a Whole

At first she was terrified. She called out to her husband who now turned to leave. “Will you leave us here to die?” There was no reply. She called after him again. Still there was no reply. Suddenly she called out again: “Were you commanded by your Lord to bring us here?”
“Yes,” replied Prophet Ibraheem.

It was then that Hajar’s fear disappeared. Although she suddenly found herself alone in the middle of a desert, with her newborn child and no sign of water, she knew with full certainty that Allah would never leave her side. Her faith was strong, her conviction untouched.
But soon after Prophet Ibraheem left, her child, Ismail, began to cry from thirst. And although Hajar had complete tawakkul (trust and reliance) on Allah, she did not remain sitting, waiting for the water to fall down from the sky.

The reliance on Allah filled Hajar’s heart; but with her limbs, Hajar strove with everything she had. She began to run quickly between the mountains of Al Safa and Marwa, looking for any sign of water for her son. Each time Hajar came to the top of the mountain and found nothing, she did not despair nor did she lose hope. Her will was unshaken, and she continued to strive. In fact, Hajar strove so hard that the ritual itself became known as Sa’ee--which literally means “to strive.”

Many people confuse tawakkul with resignation and the secession of striving. But by no means does having tawakkul mean one ceases to struggle. The story of Hajar serves as one of the most beautiful examples of this lesson taught to us by our beloved Prophet (pbuh): When a man came to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and asked him if he should have trust in Allah or tie his camel and then have trust in Allah, the Prophet (pbuh) replied that he should tie his camel securely and then put his trust in Allah.

Tawwakul is not an act of the limbs—it is an act of the heart. And so while the limbs are striving hard, the heart is completely reliant on Allah. This means whatever the outcome of the limbs’ striving may be, the heart will be completely satisfied, knowing that it is the flawless decision of Allah.

But in order to reach this level, one must hold on to hope, strive with the limbs, and let go with the heart.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

That Handhold that Never Breaks

InFoucus News
By: Yasmin M.

Tawakkul: Holding the Handhold that Never Breaks

He was devastated. His only source for nourishment had disappeared. It was all he knew, and now it was gone. Suddenly, the world grew cold, and only strangers surrounded him. The newborn child screamed. He thought his life was over.

What the child did not realize was that there was someone taking care of him. There was a plan for him. And in place of everything that had been taken away, his Protector would provide something better. The nourishment he had once received only through blood, would soon come through his mother’s milk. And the lifeless walls of the womb—once thought to be his only protection—would soon be replaced by the comfort of his family’s arms.

But yet, to the newborn child, it would seem he had lost everything.
Many of us find ourselves like this child. There are times when we feel we have lost everything, or things look broken and nothing like we wished they would be. At times we even feel as though we’ve been abandoned and nothing is working out the way we planned.

But just like that newborn child, things are often not what they seem, and tawakkul (trusting and relying on Allah) is realizing that our Protector has a plan for us. Tawakkul is having complete trust that Allah’s plan is the best plan. Tawakkul is having full faith that Allah will take care of you—even when things look impossible. Tawakkul is standing in front of the Red Sea—as Prophet Musa did—with an army behind you, and yet not even flinching, knowing that Allah will get you through. It is having full faith that when Allah takes away the umbilical cord, He will replace it with milk.

There can be no faith without tawakkul; and if there is true faith, tawakkul must always follow. Allah says in the Quran: “The believers are only those who: when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful; when His verses are recited to them, they increase their faith; and on their Lord they rely (have Tawakkul)” (Quran 8:2).

If one truly understands the Reality and the power of Allah, one will realize that it is in fact an infirmity of the human mind to not rely on Allah. Nothing in the entire universe happens except by the permission of Allah. Not even a leaf falls from a tree without His leave (hadith). It is He who provides for everything in existence, He has power over all things, and it is in His hand the dominion of the heavens and the earth (Quran 67:1-2).

So how could we not but put our entire trust in Him?

Allah tells the believers in the Quran: "Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector’: and on Allah let the Believers put their trust” (Quran 9:51).

The Quran explains that “whoever relies on Allah (has Tawakkul), He is sufficient for him” (Quran 65:3). And the Reality is that there is nothing and nowhere else that will be sufficient. Allah is the only handhold that never breaks (Quran 2: 256).

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “If you trust Allah with right kind of Tawakkul, He will provide you sustenance as He provides for the birds – they go out in the morning with empty stomachs and come back in the evening with full stomachs” (Tirmithi).

And just like He does for the birds and the newborn child, Allah provides for us from places we could never imagine (Quran 65:2-3)

Friday, December 15, 2006

We and the Dunya

"By Allah I don't fear for you poverty, but I fear that the world would be abundant for you as it has been for those before you so you compete for it as they have competed for it, so it destroys you as it has destroyed them." (Agreed upon)

"Whoever makes the Hereafter his sole concern, Allaah will be sufficient for him concerning his affairs and needs in the world, and whosoever makes this world his utmost concern, his life is scattered amongst the affairs of the world and Allaah would have no care in which path he is destroyed". [Reported by Ibn Maajah, paraphrased]

The Prophet (pbuh) said: "What relationship with the world have I? My similitude is like a traveller on a mount, halting in the shade of a tree (for a short while only to leave it again, and proceed along the sojourn)."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Search For Zuhd

I have tasted the same tears
I have known the same broken heart
And I have felt the same sweetness of Your comfort
I’m alone now
With You
As I was in the first white sheet
And as I will be in the last

I find myself again
Stumbling through
Struggling to let go
And to free my heart
Of the chains to this life

I am here…again
To meet You
To know You
And to bow down at your door
As helpless as I ever was
Humbled again in the knowledge
Of my barrenness before You

Take me in
And I’ll leave it all behind