...

Khadija Ali

Its our actions that define us.
What we choose. What we resist.
What we're willing to die for.
Recent Tweets @KhadijaMAli

Tonight I read some of the most beautiful chapters in the Quran starting from Surat Al-Khaf, Surat Mariam and then Surat Taha. I think there are several reasons why I love these chapters so much, all three Surahs cover stories of patience and wisdom. There are stories and characters within these chapters I would like to share.

Read More

image

(A late night mug of soothing herbal tea.)

So it’s past midnight and here I am sitting on my bed sipping tea. My legs crisscrossed with my laptop sitting closed in front of me, just staring at it in the dark and I can barely see a silver gleam reflecting off it from the light in the hallway.

When such detailed details stick to my memory I know I am under the wave and everything just seems blue and deep. Being a Physics student I tend to think of things in the form of graphs and integrated equations. If I were to draw my life in the form of a graph it would simply be a sinusoidal wave; for those of you who don’t know, a sinusoidal wave is basically a wave which oscillates the same distance up and down.

Read More

اللهم اني توكلت عليك وسلمت امري إليك لا ملجأ ولا منجى منك الا اليك

Anyone who knows me is probably rolling their eyes right now at this topic of choice and thinking, “Typical Khadija!” But truth of the matter is this is something I am very passionate about and strongly believe in.

I have been completely obligation free for about a week now; sitting at home with completely nothing to do and having all the time in the world for myself. However contrary to what I thought it would happen when I would have free-time, I have been doing little to nothing. In fact my sleeping hours have pretty much doubled over the past week and that is never a good sign.

Read More

For many the countdown to Maghrib begins from the moment they open their eyes. The whole day and its activities revolve around thinking of or preparing the meal in which they will break their fast.

I feel like there is something more we are missing out on when it comes to fasting. Something much more deeply engraved in our humanity, some sort of inner purification we should feel and some deeper change in our mind and bodies. I paid a great deal of attention to the changes in my attitude during the first week of Ramadan and felt better about myself; I felt “lighter”, in every sense of the word.

Also when I remember that fasting is on the of the five pillars of Islam, that it is what holds up our religion, makes me sure that it is much more than abstaining from food:

 قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: (بني الإسلام على خمس : شهادة أن لا إله إلا الله ، وأن محمدا رسول الله ، وإقام الصلاة ، وإيتاء الزكاة ، وحج البيت ، وصوم رمضان)

The Propghet (PBUH) said: “Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the Salaah (prayer), paying the Zakah (obligatory charity), making the Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramadan.”

Another important attribute of fasting is its an act of worship solely for God, take a look at the following hadith,

يقول الله تعالى في الحديث القدسي: كل عمل ابن آدم له إلا الصوم فإنه لي وأنا أجزي به
Allah says in the hadith Qudsi, “All the actions by the son of Adam are for him, except fasting for verily it is for Me and I shall reward for it.”

Fasting isn’t something that someone can tell you are practicing, like for example prayer which is a clear physical act. Fasting isn’t something one can do to show off which is why it can only be done for God. In addition the reward for fasting is only known by God.

When I reflect back at the past nine days and ask myself what fasting has been about for me, the main theme is self-restrain. The basics are learning self-restrain when it comes to eating and drinking but taking it to another level is learning self-control when it comes to your manners, behavior and attitude. When I am fasting there is this sense of purity I feel internally and it only feels so when there is self-restrain.

A few friends on facebook posted a quote which I thought resonated with me, “In Ramadan you realize it’s not the devil, it is you.” Its an opportunity to see ourselves for who we really are, realize our faults and work on correcting them.

I also find that during fasting I begin to notice things that I don’t on normal days and I begin to think about things in a different way. I find myself seeking opportunities to do some good and make myself a better person. Fasting in Ramadan is an opportunity to focus on feeding our souls.

What is very interesting is there is a hadith about fasting and self-restrain

قال لنا النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: يا معشر الشباب من استطاع منكم الباءة فليتزوج ومن لم يستطع فعليه بالصوم فإنه له وجاء 
The Prophet (PDUH) told the youth: “O youths, whoever amongst you is able to marry then let him do so, since it restrains the eyes and protects the private parts, and he who is unable, then let him fast because it is a shield for him.”

We are about one-third of our way into Ramadan and we have all spent our first third of the month in various ways. However let us keep in mind how high God has upheld fasting, that He rewards for it as he wishes and that it one of the five pillars of our religion. One of my goals is to make sure my fasting is in compliance with teachings to the best of my ability for the rest of Ramadan.

Less morning sleep, less time in the kitchen, less time staring at a screen and more time looking deep into our souls.

I began writing this blog post yesterday on my way to my grandparents’ house in Zliten for Iftaar and never got a chance to finish it. It kind of feels like the last two nights has been really a week long. I had the opportunity to have another group Iftaar tonight with some lovely ladies, who only until a few hours ago I was completely strangers to and I went home feeling like I have known them forever. Coincidentally towards the end of the evening our conversation went into the topic of duaa (supplication).

I am the type of person who does a million things at the same time and I somehow manage to be at two places at once; I am constantly asked how I manage to do it?! And it’s always been the same answer: constant supplication.

One of the things I want to achieve this Ramadan is the practice of constantly making supplication so that it is my number one resort, so that it becomes what I rely and depend on. I want it to be a habit so that my Imaan (faith) is high enough and that I can unconsciously turn to God at the spur of a moment. Below is what I know and what I have learnt about supplication that I would like to share. To begin with  a few things to keep in mind when making duaa:

  1. Sincere Intention: Like everything else in Islam, a sincere intention is required when making duaa. We must ask with the confidence that God will grant us whatever is best for us, keep in mind the following hadith:

:قال النبي - صلى الله عليه وسلم - : يقول الله تعالى
  أنا عند ظن عبدي بي ، وأنا معه إذا ذكرني ، فإن ذكرني في نفسه ذكرته في نفسي ، وإن ذكرني في ملإ ذكرته في ملإ خير منهم ، وإن تقرب إلي بشبر تقربت إليه ذراعا ، وإن تقرب إلي ذراعا تقربت إليه باعا ، وإن أتاني يمشي أتيته هرولة

The Prophet (peace be upon him) related to us that Allah says: “I am as My servant thinks of Me. I am with him when he remembers Me. If he mentions Me within himself, I mention him within Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in a better assembly. If he comes near to Me a handspan, I come near to him the distance of a cubit. If he comes near to Me the distance of a cubit, I come near to him the distance of two outspread arms. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.

  1. Praise and glorification of God and sending blessings of the Prophet (PBUH): Begin and end your duaa by praising God and sending peace and blessings on his message. If you find this difficult  there are many verses in the Quran which you can use to help.
  2. Seek forgiveness: Ask for forgiveness for your sins during duaa.
  3. Acknowledge blessings: Make sure to thank God for the blessings he has bestowed upon you.
  4. Concentration: When making duaa make sure you are concentrated and that you are not asking anyone but God.

When is the best time to make duaa?

  1. At the end of obligatory prayers
  2. Between the Athan and Iqama
  3. During Tahajud (late night non-obligatory prayers)
  4. In prostration (during prayers)
  5. When it is raining
  6. During travel
  7. During suhoor (pre-dawn meal), when fasting and when breaking your fast
  8. When drinking Zamzam water
  9. After recitation of Quran
  10. Last hour after Asr on Fridays

To give you some motivation to put duaa on the top of your to-do list, these are a couple of verses as to why the power of duaa is incredible. Every time I come across them why I would ever waste a minute not making duaa!

  1. وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُواْ بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
    And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.

  2. وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
    And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible.

The first verse I have mentioned several times in my previous blogs so I won’t go into it again here. The second verse is a very strongly worded verse. When I read it I feel humility, God the Almighty asking us to just call on Him so that He may respond to us.

The verse then goes on to say those who are arrogant of worship (duaa being a form of worship) will enter hell fire. To be arrogant of the power of duaa, the power God has over everything in existence and to rely on something else seems to be very foolish. However if we focus-in on our lives we see that we spend so much time relying on other people or things.

We are dug so deep in our worries we forget that God is waiting for us to just reach out to him. Remember the above mentioned Hadith in which God says if we come to Him walking, He will come to us running. We take one step towards God and He in turn takes ten steps towards us. Even though it may be difficult at first to take that first step but take it even if it’s with a duaa as simple as “God forgive me”.

In my summer in the US, I had a friend who was Atheist. During Ramadan she would hear me recite Quran and would come in through our shared bathroom and sit in front of my bed and listen to me recite. Slowly and slowly she would ask me more and more about Islam and was finally able to convince her that God must surely exist. One day we were having a conversation about prayer and she asked me to teach her a prayer, so I gave her the following prayer, “God guide me to the right path”. I am still astonished with how much she fell in-love with such a simple prayer and inshaAllah (by God’s will) she will be guided to right path. Knowing her has made me a million times grateful for faith and for the power of duaa.

Duaa should be our first and last resort, and no matter the outcome we should always have reassurance in our hearts that whatever it is God has chosen for us is what is best for us. The power of duaa is incredible and as soon as you start it’s impossible to stop because duaa becomes the answer to everything.

Read More

(My younger sister Aisha making Libyan bread called “fiteera” earlier today.)

I am challenging myself to learn more by spending the next five nights writing about five different topics. I may not know much but I would like to share whatever that is I do know in order to motivate myself to learn more and maybe even inspire those reading to do their own research.

However before I begin I would like to list my Ramadan goals for this year:

  1. Focus: What I mean by focus is everything. Learning to focus my energy into what I want to achieve without getting distracted. Learning to focus when having a conversation with someone. Learn to focus when I am learning something new.
  2. Strength: There is no way you can challenge who you are and take risks without having confidence and strength. This Ramadan I want to strengthen my faith so that I am confident in the decisions I make and have the courage to move forward with them.
  3. Identity: I would like to come out of this Ramadan with a greater understanding of Islam from different parts of the world. I want to have a more holistic understanding that isn’t limited by culture. In addition I want to be able to view and understand Islamic teachings from a global perspective.
  4. Practice: By the end of this Ramadan I want to have picked up more Ibadat (acts of worship) so that I can sustain the Imaan (faith) I have gained throughout the rest of the year to the next Ramadan.
  5. Sharing of Knowledge: This Ramadan I want to share the knowledge I have through writings and group discussions. I want to hear from the experiences and understandings of others and truly broaden my horizons of knowledge.

The end of this Ramadan I want to be able to walk confidently with a clear vision and make the tough decisions that need to be made un-wavered. I want to have a stronger understanding of Islam and feel part of a larger ummah (Islamic community).

How to Enjoy Prayer

Disclaimer: I am no expert these issues; this is just my own ijtihad (effort) that I would like to share for the benefit of others.

In order for us to enjoy prayer I think it’s is essential we understand three things; first off why we pray, importance of preparing for prayer and of course prayer as an act of worship in itself. I think one of the biggest mistakes is prayer being taught as an action with no real understanding as to the spiritual component of what it means. Thus making prayer seem to many as a burden rather than something we need as humans.

So the questions arises why do we pray? Say you have a goal or a mission you need to achieve over a period of time. Naturally, every once in a while you need to check on yourself, make sure you are in-line with your plans and that you’re focused on what you want to achieve. Prayer is very much the same thing; it’s our compass in life.

We as Muslims believe we have a mission on this Earth to worship God.

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.

Worship is anything we do for the sake of God and relies on our intentions. However as all of us know it’s not an easy to remain focused on such a mission and so it’s important for us to constantly remind ourselves. In prayer we have direction (we face the Kabaa in Mecca) and an allotted time (five prayers at five times a day). In every prayer we make the same supplication,

اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
Guide us to the straight path –

So five times every day we reset our compass and make sure we are heading in the right direction.

The second thing I think is important is being prepared for prayer. That’s probably for me half the struggle; there is the mental and physical preparation for prayer. Prayer is a conversation between you and God so don’t underestimate the importance of it. Before doing anything we must always have the right intention, making sure we understand why we are praying and intending to conduct prayer correctly is essential. The second step is to prepare physically by purifying ourselves to have this conversation with God.

There is a beautiful hadith that always motivates me to take my time with wudu,

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: أَنْتُمُ الْغُرُّ الْمُحَجَّلُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ إِسْبَاغِ الْوُضُوءِ فَمَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمْ فَلْيُطِلْ غُرَّتَهُ وَتَحْجِيلَهُ
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had observed: You shall have your faces hands and feet bright on the Day of Resurrection because of your perfect ablution. He who can afford among you, let him increase the brightness of his forehead and that of hands and legs.

Making sure the place you are about to pray in is calm and clean is always important too so you can focus on your prayer.

Finally the action of prayer; hard to cover it in a few lines but I am going to go over what I find are important aspects to enjoying prayer. Once you are prepared you have already gotten half way there to prayer and so now is the other half. Ever prayer starts with the recitation of the opening Surah of the Quran, Surat Al-Fatiha which is the beginning of the conversation with God, never can get enough of the following hadith!

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال : يقول الله تعالى : قسمت الصلاة بيني وبين عبدي نصفين نصفها لي ونصفها لعبدي ولعبدي ما سأل فإذا قال العبد : { الحمد لله رب العالمين } قال الله : حمدني عبدي وإذا قال : { الرحمن الرحيم } قال الله : أثنى علي عبدي وإذا قال : { مالك يوم الدين } قال الله : مجدني عبدي . وإذا قال : { إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين } قال : هذه الآية بيني وبين عبدي ولعبدي ما سأل فإذا قال : { اهدنا الصراط المستقيم } { صراط الذين أنعمت عليهم غير المغضوب عليهم ولا الضالين } قال : هؤلاء لعبدي ولعبدي ما سأل 

“Allah (mighty and sublime be He), had said: ‘I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says: ‘Al-hamdu lillahi rabbi l-alamin’ (3), Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My servant has praised Me.’ And when he says: ‘Ar-rahmani r-rahim’ (4), Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My servant has extolled Me,’ and when he says: ‘Maliki yawmi d-din’ (5), Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified Me’ - and on one occasion He said: ‘My servant has submitted to My power.’ And when he says: ‘Iyyaka na budu wa iyyaka nasta in’ (6), He says: ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’ And when he says: ‘Ihdina s-sirata l- mustaqim, siratal ladhina an amta alayhim ghayril-maghdubi alayhim wa la d-dallin’ (7), He says: ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’”

"This is for My Servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for." Just through the simple recitation of this Surah God opens up the doors for us to ask for whatever it is we want. And with every action during prayer there is wisdom to it.

Now throughout prayer it can be a struggle at times to focus and not get distracted but don’t give up. Constantly remind yourself why you are praying and that it’s for your own benefit, God isn’t in need of us rather we are in need of Him.

فِيهِ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ مَّقَامُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمَن دَخَلَهُ كَانَ آمِنًا وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّه غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ
In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House - for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves - then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds.

This a very modest post that I hope will motivate those who read this to learn more about prayer because the more you know the more you will enjoy it. Prayer is truly the greatest relaxation for the heart. Once you develop your relationship with God through prayer you will find that you will be in a hurry to come closer to God, waiting for the time to pray.

وَسَارِعُواْ إِلَى مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالأَرْضُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous,―

And God knows best.

Alright time for a change… The first five nights of Ramadan I posted journal entries into my blog. For the next five nights I am going to try to cover five different topics from an Islamic perspective.
So, what topics do you want to #RamadanReflections to cover?

A tiring day! Not because I did anything, quite the contrary it’s because I did nothing. I don’t believe in sleeping in and so I was up early as usual wandering around the house feeling kind of displaced, still getting used to the idea of having all my time completely to me.

We moved into the neighborhood around a month ago but things have been really busy at home with my dad running for elections, my sister doing her middle school exams etc. so we haven’t actually got around to putting everything away. My mom pointed a group of boxes out to me on her way out with my brothers, I immediately zoned out because I knew what she wanted. You could say my dad and I are hoarders when it comes to books and papers, whereas my mom over the years has come to almost becoming allergic to any stack of papers.

I could see my mom’s lips moving and once they stopped, I gave her the typical Libyan “bahi (alright), just leave me along attitude”. This is probably the third time this year my mom has made me sort out through my things and I really don’t want to have to go through it again. I sat down and this time (with great pain) threw out any paper that I didn’t think I would need again and filed everything I wanted to keep. It was a painful experience being a very nostalgic person; I found maps from places I have travelled to, bus tickets, plane tickets, journals I have kept and scrap books. I even found a tiny notebook a friend of mine Noor had given to me when we were kids.

image

That took a couple of hours of my time and I felt a sense of relief when I was finally done. My mom had left the balcony overlooking the beach wide open before heading out so as I walked down the hall I could see the sea right there in front of me. I felt like I could just walk into the water. I sat on the desk in front of the balcony and watched the waves. In the old apartment buildings across the street I watched a couple of ladies clean their balconies and put the laundry out. Maybe sitting in the sun while fasting wasn’t a very smart idea so I decided to lie down until my mom got home.

My mom got home and made clear that she didn’t think we cleaned anything while she was away; I don’t even argue with her anymore I just smirk at her when she says that. So we re-cleaned everything up my mom’s way; fooling around with my sisters about it and then quickly holding our laughter in every time my mom comes to check on how we were getting along with the cleaning.

Then I decided to bake a cake, which didn’t end up looking like I wanted to. I think it’s about time I reconcile with the fact that I have lost my patience for baking. That might be another Ramdan objective, getting back my kitchen groove.

My sisters and I helped my mom fix Iftaar, tonight it was a traditional meal of embaten (stuffed potatoes), boreek (Libyan samosas), brock (something similar to grape leaves) and of course Libyan soup. I finished putting the dishes together and my sisters volunteered to fry, I don’t think out of generosity but more like because they are excited about our new deep fryer.

I went to my room and began my daily reading. I heard a funny knock on my door and knew it was my dad. Called him to come and he had something he was hiding behind his back. Asked him what it was he was hiding and he pulled out a black book with gold Arabic calligraphy, I quickly made out the intertwined letters which spelled out Al-Ayam (the days). It’s an old (my dad would disagree about it being “old”) Arabic auto-biography/journal that I have been looking for.

image

I was recently advised to dig deep into Arabic literature one step at a time and was advised to read a few titles. When I discussed the idea with my dad he told me I should start with Al-Ayam. The other day I asked about the book at a book store, and the shop keeper with grey hair told me it’s what they used to read in high school however they didn’t have a copy. When I told my dad I couldn’t find it at the book store he pointed out I should have looked for the book at home before checking the book store.

My dad and I are notoriously known for buying the same book more than once, or buying a book that either of us had already bought. At the book fair I would take out the books I had bought to show him and we would always have a book in common. I tell my mom great minds think alike : )

Tonight’s Inspiration:

Reading over the past five nights there is something that really stood out for me but didn’t quite understand the wisdom to it. In the Quran there is constant mention of nature, the creation of the heavens and the Earth, the alternation of night and day, the dry earth, the rain, life, death etc. As I read the verses I pondered especially given each of these verses ended in a way that seemed to mean I was supposed to understand something and reach a conclusion. However there seemed to be a gap that I was unable to bridge whilst reading, until I came across Muslim scholar’s Tariq Ramadan’s "chronicles of Ramadan" series.

That’s when I realized that as much as we must read the Quran we must also pay attention to nature around is and read those signs too. In a way they seem to both complement one another from my understanding. As I began my reading today I came across some of the most illustrative verses in the Quran on this very topic.

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ لِأَبِيهِ آزَرَ أَتَتَّخِذُ أَصْنَامًا آلِهَةً إِنِّي أَرَاكَ وَقَوْمَكَ فِي ضَلالٍ مُّبِينٍ

And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said to his father Azar, “Do you take idols as deities? Indeed, I see you and your people to be in manifest error.”

كَذَلِكَ نُرِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ مَلَكُوتَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَلِيَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُوقِنِينَ

And thus did We show Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth that he would be among the certain [in faith]

فَلَمَّا جَنَّ عَلَيْهِ اللَّيْلُ رَأَى كَوْكَبًا قَالَ هَذَا رَبِّي فَلَمَّا أَفَلَ قَالَ لا أُحِبُّ الآفِلِينَ

So when the night covered him [with darkness], he saw a star. He said, “This is my lord.” But when it set, he said, “I like not those that disappear.”

فَلَمَّا رَأَى الْقَمَرَ بَازِغًا قَالَ هَذَا رَبِّي فَلَمَّا أَفَلَ قَالَ لَئِن لَّمْ يَهْدِنِي رَبِّي لأكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الضَّالِّينَ

And when he saw the moon rising, he said, “This is my lord.” But when it set, he said, “Unless my Lord guides me, I will surely be among the people gone astray.”

فَلَمَّا رَأَى الشَّمْسَ بَازِغَةً قَالَ هَذَا رَبِّي هَذَا أَكْبَرُ فَلَمَّا أَفَلَتْ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ

And when he saw the sun rising, he said, “This is my lord; this is greater.” But when it set, he said, “O my people, indeed I am free from what you associate with Allah .

إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا أَنَاْ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah .”

As I waited for fajer last night I was chatting to my friend Sarah in California. One of the things we discussed is “fitra” which means disposition or nature. The reason why the Quran is said to be a mercy upon mankind is because if we were truly honest with ourselves and dig deep down our fitra would naturally lead us to believing in God. Just the same way Prophet Abraham through his observance of nature was able to find God.

Now not everyone has the ability to dig deep and go through that inner struggle. The Quran is a mercy because it is guidance, a reminder, for us to find the right path. So for those of us who cannot find the Truth, it encompasses it. For those of us who had the Truth and then got lost along the way it is a reminder.

This is a topic that is very intensive and very dear to my heart. The thing is Islam is not anything abstract or new, Islam is peace we all have in our hearts. It’s completely up to us to decide if we want to open our hearts and indulge into that peace or otherwise.

Read More

Honestly, I just don’t know how I feel about today. It’s the first day of a new chapter, waking up to no obligations and completely free of having to show-up anywhere.. not quite accustomed to the feeling yet. I went to bed after Fajer thinking I was going to sleep in but my biological clock had other plans, my eyes were wide open at 7:00am and I struggled to rock myself to sleep until three hours later I gave up trying.

My mom, sister and I got dressed and headed to the headquarters of the organization my mom and sister are members of to do some charity work. By the time we left the house it was almost noon, completely forgetting today is a working day the traffic outside took me by surprise. We made a small detour to the Mahari grocery to buy some wholesale boxes of juice.

We arrived at the NGOs headquarters late but apparently not late enough, only a few others had arrived. We put the juice downstairs in the kitchen with the other food items and headed to the meeting room upstairs. We sat down, each taking out her Quran from her purse and took turns reading out loud until the rest of the group showed up. Its simple group activities like this that really gives Ramadan its meaning.

The call to Dhur prayer sounded and as we lined up to pray together most of the others had arrived. After praying we headed downstairs and began to assemble to put together our Ramadan Iftaar handouts. I made a new friend, little cute baby boy Elias who wouldn’t stop irresistibly laughing and smiling mA. And so I volunteered to babysit Elias whilst his mom helped sort out the food. As soon as the food was assembled on to the table ready for packing I put Elias down to play with his toys and rolled up my sleeves to help out.

We packed dates into small bags, put warm food into disposable containers and topped off the iftaar bags with light sweets and drinks. I really enjoy community service and had a real fun-time working with all the young girls and women packing as we socialized and laughed along. It was almost 3:00pm when I reminded my mom I had a skype call that I needed to attend to so I had to get home. My sister wanted to stay behind to finish up the packing and a friend volunteered to drive her home later when they were done.

My mom and I got home at 3:15 and it was a good thing to! I was just about done turning on my computer when I got a phone call telling me that the call would be half-an-hour earlier. Not sure how well the call went to be honest, I love technology but sometimes to really communicate effectively you need sit down face-to-face with the person and experience the “miracles of human interaction”.

Having force-slept until ten in the morning I didn’t feel like napping today and instead open the Quran to read. However I felt an Imaan deficiency and didn’t manage to continue reading for too long. I had received feedback from a few people regarding my blog and so decided to work on making appropriate changes. It took much longer than I anticipated, almost a couple of hours!

Once I was done I went into the kitchen to help sit things for Iftaar and soon after it was time to break our fast. Dinner tonight was Lasagna, a bit heavy for someone fasting so I took a few bights and was careful not to over eat. My dad today decided to pray in Algeria Sq. as well and so we headed there together much later than the time my mom and I would usually go.

We arrived in the mosque and just as I stepped through the door the call to prayer was made. I walked into the prayer hall and grabbed a bottle of water for myself from the entrance; people bring water with them and voluntarily hand it out in the mosque which I am forever grateful for because I can never seem to remember to bring my own water. Ten minutes later we were lined up shoulder to shoulder read to pray.

The windows of the mosque were open today allowing the cool evening breeze to swoosh in. The loose black Abayas, which women are accustomed to wearing to the mosques, swayed with every breeze. It vividly reminded me of Taraweeh prayers in Mecca in the openness of the Holy Kabaa. Although I have not been blessed with a trip there yet I have admired the scenes of Taraweeh prayer there year after year, praying an opportunity for me to pray there would come soon.

The recitation during prayers tonight was beautiful and time flew by quickly. As usual I especially enjoyed hearing everyone chant the supplications between the prayers, you can listen to an excerpt of tonight’s supplications here: الحمد لله الحليم المنان

After prayers my mom and I stood outside waiting for my dad to come out of the mosque however I couldn’t spot him until almost half-an-hour later. Of course we all know that you never ever ever keep a Libyan man waiting. Which is why we are going to fast forward to the driving home bit. We drove along the coastal road home; I tried to make out where the darkness of the sky merged with the darkness of the sea. Thinking to myself I questioned when we would ever be able to walk along the beautiful coast in the dead of the night and enjoy the enclosure one feels standing on the shoreline.  

Even though I didn’t read much today, here is what inspired me from what I did manage to get through:

الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمُ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ فَهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ

" Those to whom We have given the Scripture recognize it as they recognize their [own] sons. Those who will lose themselves [in the Hereafter] do not believe."

Every time I read this verse I feel guilt in the pit of my stomach. Alhamdulilah from a young age my parents sent me on the weekends to the mosque to memorize Quran. However I feel very guilty for not keeping up over the past few years because my time has been so consumed by other commitments. So now whenever I forget a verse I know I had memorized before or I hear a verse and it seems almost unfamiliar I remember that there is a selection of people who know the verses of the Quran in the same way in which they recognize their children. One of my objectives of this Ramadan is to inshaAllah familiarize myself and revise what I have memorized.

وَقَالُواْ إِنْ هِيَ إِلاَّ حَيَاتُنَا الدُّنْيَا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَبْعُوثِينَ

And they say, “There is none but our worldly life, and we will not be resurrected.”

"… our worldly life" the key word here is "our". We must constantly remind ourselves it’s not "ours", our lives are for our Lord and everything we possess is "Amanah" (having difficulty translating it) which means it’s a responsibility. On the day of judgment we will be asked about every small and every great thing encompassed within this "Amanah" of life, so lets bear that in mind.

وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَلَلدَّارُ الآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ

" And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah , so will you not reason?"

The world spins us into circles and sometimes when the world gets the best of me I feel like a dog chasing its own tail. Sometimes when I feel like I have given this world too much importance I ask myself a simple question, “If I were to die right now, what would I be taking with me to my grave?” That usually puts things back into perspective for me. It doesn’t always work, sometimes the fault in worshipping worldly possessions it’s from a more deep rooted problem. In order to solve that it takes time and honesty.

Read More

This morning was really tense, I never intended it to be but it was one of those days where I was taking a turn to the right with my life and my parents were tugging to the left. Don’t get me wrong, I am the type of person who gets along very well with my parents but we all have our differences with our parents and some differences are more critical than others. On a scale from one to ten todays difference of opinion was probably a twenty but let’s not gets into details, will leave it for another blog.

I tend to be a very emotional person, as in I put all my feelings and passion into everything and as some people will describe me, I think with my heart not with my mind. Meaning this morning I made a sharp turn out of our apartment block with tears in my eyes and in absolute confusion. My fingers felt for the track button as I fidgeted nervously trying to fight back the tears to flip to the track I wanted, I needed to hear a few verses of powerful Arabic poetry that mean a lot to me. The verses had little to nothing to do with the situation I was in but they have this calming effect on me because as soon as I hear the words to the poem my thoughts stray into another dimension and I forget the trivialities of the world. If you are privileged to understand Arabic I highly advise you listen to the track I am speaking of here: نور على باب الرجاء

I drove to university trying to avoid the half unconscious drivers which I felt were spinning circles around me. Finished business at university, made a quick drop off and headed home. I knew that I was running out of gas but I absolutely detest being controlled, and I feel like the gas shortages do that to me so I decided to stop caring. By chance a gas station on my way home was open and in less than quarter of an hour my gas meter had moved up from E to F allowing me to speed off with one thing less to think about.

Arrived home an hour before Asr prayer so I decided (learning from yesterday’s yawning session during Taraweeh prayers) to take a nap and woke up refreshed. After Asr prayer I did quite a bit of reading and felt like I needed more depth for my Ramadan and scanned the book shelves. Two books I had bought quite some time ago stood out, one of which focuses on moral values from the Quran and the second stories from the Quran. I skimmed to various sections of the books looking for certain key words and then read a few pages. Without realizing how fast time had flew by, I read from then all the way until a few minutes before it was Maghrib.

We broke our fast sitting on mattresses around a circular tray in the living room. I drank my laban after taking a couple of dates, and as always was really disappointed that a lot of laban gets stuck on the inside of the cup (yes I love my laban). This time after Maghrib prayer I didn’t have to tell my mom to hurry up, she got ready quickly on her own accord. I invested a couple of minutes in the kitchen to make some Turkish coffee so that I wouldn’t feel sleepy at least for a couple more hours.

image

(Watched the silhouette of pigeons move in the window as I waited for the elevator in our apartment building.) 

At the mosque the recitation before prayer left me in awe, the verses recited were from Surat Luqman and then Surat Al-Naser. This recording has an exerpt from the verses recited from Surat Luqman: Allah merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night

Today I decided that I will tolerate the chaos of the crowd while leaving the mosque and risk getting stuck in traffic, by attending Shifaa and Witr prayers as well. As soon as prayers were done the Imaam began reciting supplications with the buzzing sound of people leaving in the background. It reminded me so much of Eid, and for those few moments as I made my way from the front of the prayer hall to the back staircase I could feel a sense of belonging to a community. As I got to the staircase I ran into a friend who I had not seen in ages, seeing her at the mosque was special in a way of its own.

I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult to get down the staircase until I got closer and saw an elderly lady sitting in a chair next to the staircase trying to give every single person leaving a chocolate. I stopped being frustrated.

I put my shoes on and stepped out the door of the mosque and heard a loud cheer from the café across the street. I knew the Algerians were on to something. As I drove home down Al-Nasr street I could see you men clustered in front of televisions in cafes clapping and cheering the Algerian team on. Cars slowed down and pulled down their windows once they approached a café to keep up with the score. The atmosphere was beautiful, plus since everyone was watching the game I made it home with no traffic!

Tonight is very different from last night; the midsummer warm air that I stepped out to yesterday has been replaced by a strong cool breeze. The crescent tonight has become bolder as it works its way to becoming a full moon.

Tonight’s Inspiration:

رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ مَن تُدْخِلِ النَّارَ فَقَدْ أَخْزَيْتَهُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ


" "Our Lord! any whom thou dost admit to the Fire Truly thou coverest with shame, and never will wrong-doers find any helpers!.

رَّبَّنَا إِنَّنَا سَمِعْنَا مُنَادِيًا يُنَادِي لِلإِيمَانِ أَنْ آمِنُواْ بِرَبِّكُمْ فَآمَنَّا رَبَّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَكَفِّرْ عَنَّا سَيِّئَاتِنَا وَتَوَفَّنَا مَعَ الأَبْرَارِ

"Our Lord! we have heard the call of one calling (us) to faith, `Believe ye in the Lord’, and we have believed. Our Lord! forgive us our sins blot out from us our iniquities, and take to Thyself our souls in the company of the righteous.

رَبَّنَا وَآتِنَا مَا وَعَدتَّنَا عَلَى رُسُلِكَ وَلاَ تُخْزِنَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّكَ لاَ تُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

"Our Lord! Grant us what Thou didst promise unto us through Thy Messengers, and save us from shame on the Day of Judgment: for thou never breakest Thy promise." "

As I already mentioned before, the best way to learn to supplicate is to take the Quran as an example. Above are three very beautiful duaas which I took note of.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَرِثُواْ النِّسَاء كَرْهًا وَلاَ تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذْهَبُواْ بِبَعْضِ مَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ إِلاَّ أَن يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُّبَيِّنَةٍ وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِن كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئًا وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا


"O ye who believe! ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them,― except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them, it may be that ye dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good." 

Surat Al-Nisa is very beautiful for it clearly sets out the rights of women and God with His All-Knowing Wisdom has articulated it in such a way I come to appreciate more and more everytime I read this Surah. I love this verse in particular because it tells men to treat women with “kindness and equity”. Then ends by reminding us we should not dislike something when God has instilled a great deal of goodness within it. Regardless of gender this is a message to all, take a second look at the women in your life; I know I need to!

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا سَوْفَ نُصْلِيهِمْ نَارًا كُلَّمَا نَضِجَتْ جُلُودُهُمْ بَدَّلْنَاهُمْ جُلُودًا غَيْرَهَا لِيَذُوقُواْ الْعَذَابَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا


" Those who reject Our Signs We shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise." 

This verse is one that possesses one of the scientific miracles of the Quran. In these verses God says that for those who are cast into hell fire their skins will be burnt and once burnt, replaced. Reason being that once your skin is burnt so are your nerve cells and you cease to feel pain. However, for the punishment to continue the skin will be burnt and then replaced.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُحِلُّواْ شَعَائِرَ اللَّهِ وَلاَ الشَّهْرَ الْحَرَامَ وَلاَ الْهَدْيَ وَلاَ الْقَلائِدَ وَلا آمِّينَ الْبَيْتَ الْحَرَامَ يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلاً مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرِضْوَانًا وَإِذَا حَلَلْتُمْ فَاصْطَادُواْ وَلاَ يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ أَن صَدُّوكُمْ عَنِ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ أَن تَعْتَدُواْ وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الْبَرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى وَلاَ تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ


  O ye who believe! violate not the sanctity of the Symbols of Allah, nor of the Sacred Month, nor of the animals brought for sacrifice, nor the garlands that mark out such animals, nor the people resorting to the Sacred House, seeking of the bounty, and good pleasure of their Lord. But when ye are clear of the Sacred Precincts and of pilgrim garb, ye may hunt and let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part). Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancour: fear Allah: for Allah is strict in punishment.” 

The last line stood out for me, a reminder to cooperate for what is righteous. Seems like such a simple thing that would just come naturally but looking at the state we are currently in as a nation we could do with a little cooperation. Whether it be on an individual level or on a greater level as a community, it is critical we stop letting out differences get in the way of cooperating together.

The first day of fasting has now passed and I must say time flew by today! After a productive morning making arrangements so that I would have Ramadan to myself this year with no other obligations I returned home a few hours after midday. I took a nap for a couple of hours and woke up refreshed to the call to Asr prayer.

After praying Asr I had a bit of time to continue reading where I left off the night before until I got called in to the kitchen to help with making Iftar. Thank God we don’t cook more than we can eat at our house and food is definitely not the main focus of Ramadan which is something I appreciate given how I see other people prioritize the kitchen in the Holy Month. In the midst of the potato slicing I stepped away from the kitchen to watch one of the few programs I have been following for many years now, Khawater with Ahmed Shugairi. The program for me has been one that has given me hope for the Islamic world and has always been simply inspirational.

As soon as things were set for Maghrib I returned to my Quran and continued on reading until it was almost time to break our fast and my family and I sat around the table to eat. Not so surprisingly Hasan, who isn’t fasting, was the first to leap into his chair and was more excited to eat than all of us!

As accustomed in our house we prayed Maghrib together with my father leading the prayer. After prayers my father called me into the balcony overlooking the coastline pointing out the beautiful crescent, it was surreal and looked more like a pastel painting. One of the most amazing things I realized about the sea ever since we moved here is that it looks different at every moment and no two moments are ever alike.

image

I made my mom quickly swallow her dinner as I impatiently told her we need to get to the mosque quickly, I was in thirst of the serenity I had experienced the night before. We arrived to the mosque a little later than yesterday night, and also given that it is now the second night, it wasn’t nearly as empty. I loved seeing the diversity of the way the women in the mosque were dressed, it was a clear indication that we should not be judgmental because when we stand for prayers it is only God that knows what our intentions are. It reminded me of how out of touch our priorities can be when we start fussing over externalities forgetting that we must first cleanse ourselves within and surely then the inner beauty we possess will be reflected on the outside.

As I began reading where I left off, a Quran recitation on the loudspeakers of the mosque began. The voice of the man reciting was stunning and beautiful resembling very much the voice of Abdul Basit Abdul Samad. I got up and sat next closer to better hear the recitation, my heart engulfed every letter of every verse. The slowness of the recitation left the heart in anticipation to hear the next verse and the recitation was in a way such that as you hear every word you give it deep moving thought. You can hear one of the verses which was recited which I recorded tonight here: And if My servant asks about Me

The call to prayer came and about half way through Taraweeh prayers I started to regret not drinking my coffee at iftaar time. Yawning and with my eyes becoming very teary, I was literally about to fall asleep then and there on the spot. I nudged my mom and told her I needed to go home, as we got in the car I was really annoyed with myself for not completing the whole set of prayers because I was sleepy. I got home changed and slipped under the sheets not realizing how tired I was until I attempted to start to write the night’s blog on my phone and was asleep before even starting it. The good news is I woke up over an hour before suhoor time, my ultimate favorite time of the day no matter where I am. A time just for me because nobody else is awake and I can hear is the dead of the night. I took out my laptop a little scared that I had probably forgot half the things I wanted to mention in my blog (which I probably forgot and will remember later after publishing the blog) and began typing away.

I had my suhoor and it was still about half an hour until the call to prayer but the mosque next to us pulls an April fools on us by call to prayer then for reasons I fail to understand.

Here are the verses which inspired me tonight:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ


" The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His Messengers "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His Messengers." And they say: "We hear and we obey; (We seek) Thy forgiveness, Our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys."" 

لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا أَنتَ مَوْلانَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ


" On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray): "Our Lord! condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; help us against those who stand against faith."" 

There are many virtues to the last two verses of Surat Al-Baqara here are a few:

  1. Great Benefit:
    From the Hadith regarding the virtues of Surat Al-Fatihah from Ibn `Abbas which stated “While the Messenger of Allah was with Jibril, he heard a noise from above. Jibil lifted his sight to the sky and said, `This is a door that was opened just now in heaven, and it was never opened before.’ An angel came down through the door to the Prophet and said, `Receive the good news of two lights that you have been given and which no Prophet before you was given: the Opener of the Book (Al-Fatihah) and the last Ayat in Surat Al-Baqarah. You will not read a letter of them, but you will be granted its benefit.”’
  2. Reciting Verses at Night:
    The Propher PBUH about the last verses said, “Whoever recites the last two verses of Surat al-Baqarah at night, it will suffice him.” 
  3. Prayer is Answered:
    It has been authentically reported by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah (RA) that when the slave says these words, Allah (SWT) replies “Yes” (i.e. your prayer is answered). And according to the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas, Allah (SWT) says: “I have already done so.”

It’s become a habit from a young age to recite these last two verses before going to bed along with Ayat Al-Kursi, Surat Al-Nas, Al-Falaq and Al-Ikhlas. I then usually recite athkar until I fall asleep and the best nights I have ever slept are the ones that ended like so.

Not to mention aside from the virtues of the last two verses they also carry beautiful meaning. From the first verse I find these words beautiful:  “And they say: “We hear and we obey; (We seek) Thy forgiveness”.  The second verse reminds us that we are not asked to carry a burden greater than which we can carry, something to keep in mind every time one feels disparity. There is strength within us to overcome the burdens of the world and it is up to us to dig deep and find that strength. Following this line are three beautiful prayers which I catch myself mumbling under my breath whilst driving.

رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ

"Our Lord!" (they say), "let not our hearts deviate now after Thou hast guided us, but grant us mercy from Thee: for Thou art the Grantor of bounties without measure." 

رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ جَامِعُ النَّاسِ لِيَوْمٍ لاَّ رَيْبَ فِيهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

"Our Lord! Thou art He that will gather mankind together against a day about which there is no doubt: for Allah never fails in His promise."" 

If you want to learn how to best make duaa (supplication) my advice is to learn from the Quran. As you read through this Ramadan highlight and take note of every duaa you come across.

قُلْ إِن تُخْفُواْ مَا فِي صُدُورِكُمْ أَوْ تُبْدُوهُ يَعْلَمْهُ اللَّهُ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ


" Say: "Whether ye hide what is in your hearts or reveal it Allah knows it all. He knows what is in the heavens, and what is on earth. And Allah has power over all things." 

One of the reasons this verse stood out for me is because it reminds me of a duaa I make when I feel confusion. “God you know what is within me and I do not know what is within You, for You are the All-Knowing. Fix that which is wrong in my state.” No matter how much we think someone may understand us or how much we think we understand ourselves I find it much more reassuring to turn to the judgment of God. With time I have learnt to never beg for anything but only to ask God to grant me whatever is best for me which in turn brings a sense of ‘ridaa’ satisfaction regardless of what the outcome is.

لَن تَنَالُواْ الْبِرَّ حَتَّى تُنفِقُواْ مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِن شَيْءٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ


" By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, Allah knoweth it well." 

I think we have all been in a situation where we know that to get to the next level of faith, to better ones self we need to give up on something. The more we are attached to that *something* the more difficult to becomes to let go. However hard it is we must always remember nothing in this world goes with us to our graves except our deeds and so we must always keep in mind what truly *remains*. As soon as we rid ourselves of the selfishness and are willing to give up the pleasures of this worldly life we begin to view life in a different perspective. Much easier said than done, I am still struggling with this one.

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ


"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity."

This verse reflects something I strongly believe in. It’s not enough to just believe and not to spread the message. It really annoys me when I see people living in their little worlds with the mission to just feed their children and they are caught up in meeting the expectations of society with no real mission. Life has much more meaning and we as humans have much more life within us when we are actively participating as members of society.

إِن تَمْسَسْكُمْ حَسَنَةٌ تَسُؤْهُمْ وَإِن تُصِبْكُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَفْرَحُواْ بِهَا وَإِن تَصْبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ لاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ كَيْدُهُمْ شَيْئًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطٌ


"If aught that is good befalls you it grieves them; but if some misfortune overtakes you, they rejoice at it. But if ye are patient and do right, not the least harm will their cunning do to you for Allah compasseth round about all that they do." 

If you have had to spend time time around the envious then this verse will make perfect sense to you. Let’s not be like this, rather let us learn to be happy for others when they are successful.

وَسَارِعُواْ إِلَى مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالأَرْضُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ


" Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous,―" 

In Arabic, ” Be quick in the race” is one word “Sare3o” which always stands out for me. Don’t wait, don’t make excuses, don’t put it off until tomorrow… be quick. The impression I receive is God is waiting to forgive us and there are many hadiths and other verses about God’s readiness to forgive.

إِن يَنصُرْكُمُ اللَّهُ فَلاَ غَالِبَ لَكُمْ وَإِن يَخْذُلْكُمْ فَمَن ذَا الَّذِي يَنصُرُكُم مِّن بَعْدِهِ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ


" If Allah helps you, none can overcome you: if He forsakes you, who is there after that that can help you? In Allah, then, let believers put their trust." 

I think this verse is going to be one of my Ramadan highlights  : )

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُواْ لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ


" Men said to them: "A great army is gathering against you, so fear them": but it (only) increased their Faith. They said: "For us Allah sufficeth, and He is the best disposer of affairs."" 

The number of times I have been in a situation like this, the harder you try to bring us down the faster we spring back up.

image

I didn’t realize it at first but I have been impatiently waiting for Ramadan, not consciously waiting but for some time I could feel the disparity in my heart for an opportunity to start over and my mind for some clarity. A couple of nights ago I read that one should start Ramadan with the intensity that in which they ended the last and so I cuddled in the calmness of my grandparents’ home I took out my iPad and started read Surat Al-Zumar. This Surah is one that doesn’t make me cry, it makes me weep into a flood of tears; the main verses that stand out for me are the ones that speak about forgiveness of God.

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ لا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”

That was what I did to get myself ready for Ramadan and what it allowed me to do is welcome Ramadan with an open heart knowing that God’s Mercy is in my reach and it also gave me a head start Imaan boost.

This evening my mom and I prayed Maghrib and headed early to Algeria SQ to pray Taraweeh in the beautiful mosque there. We arrived and there were only as many ladies as I could count on the fingers of one hand but I really loved that emptiness and calm of the mosque. I took a moment to admire my surroundings and sat down and began from chapter one. I was a bit nervous in fear that due to the low faith in my heart it may be difficult to get through reading without having the devil nag on me. However I turned page after page and as I did so I could feel the serenity begin to touch my heart.

image

The call to prayer came and we rose and lined up side by side. Even though I had read the open Surah of the Quran only an hour before, hearing it in the intense voice of the Iman gave it a different meaning and I immediately felt the intensity of having a conversation with God, remembering the following Hadith:

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال : يقول الله تعالى : قسمت الصلاة بيني وبين عبدي نصفين نصفها لي ونصفها لعبدي ولعبدي ما سأل فإذا قال العبد : { الحمد لله رب العالمين } قال الله : حمدني عبدي وإذا قال : { الرحمن الرحيم } قال الله : أثنى علي عبدي وإذا قال : { مالك يوم الدين } قال الله : مجدني عبدي . وإذا قال : { إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين } قال : هذه الآية بيني وبين عبدي ولعبدي ما سأل فإذا قال : { اهدنا الصراط المستقيم } { صراط الذين أنعمت عليهم غير المغضوب عليهم ولا الضالين } قال : هؤلاء لعبدي ولعبدي ما سأل 

“Allah (mighty and sublime be He), had said: ‘I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says: ‘Al-hamdu lillahi rabbi l-alamin’ (3), Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My servant has praised Me.’ And when he says: ‘Ar-rahmani r-rahim’ (4), Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My servant has extolled Me,’ and when he says: ‘Maliki yawmi d-din’ (5), Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified Me’ - and on one occasion He said: ‘My servant has submitted to My power.’ And when he says: ‘Iyyaka na budu wa iyyaka nasta in’ (6), He says: ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’ And when he says: ‘Ihdina s-sirata l- mustaqim, siratal ladhina an amta alayhim ghayril-maghdubi alayhim wa la d-dallin’ (7), He says: ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’”

Taraweeh prayer was beautiful and brought about a real desire to make the most of this Ramadan and truly welcome Eid as a better person from all different sides. InshaAllah we are blessed with the willpower to do so.

Here are a few highlights from today’s readings:

صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لاَ يَرْجِعُونَ

"Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return (to the path)." 

When I read this verse I always pray that I never become like the verse describes because there is nothing worse than being desensitized. Nothing worse than doing wrong and not even realizing it not for the lack of knowledge but merely because it not longer matters to you if you are sinning. To be in a state of constant struggle between yourself and your desires means that you are still alive and are working towards the betterment of yourself.

أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ

"Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people and forget (to practice it) yourselves and yet ye study the Scripture? Will ye not understand?"

Hypocrisy. We all make mistakes but the bitterness of it is when you have actually advised someone against what you are doing and when that happens to me I can’t help question why I don’t take my own advice. Sometimes because we find it easier to criticize others we go on pointing their faults we lose ourselves in the process. Starting with ourselves is essential as leading by example is the most powerful form of advice you can give.

ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُم مِّن بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ فَهِيَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً وَإِنَّ مِنَ الْحِجَارَةِ لَمَا يَتَفَجَّرُ مِنْهُ الأَنْهَارُ وَإِنَّ مِنْهَا لَمَا يَشَّقَّقُ فَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهُ الْمَاء وَإِنَّ مِنْهَا لَمَا يَهْبِطُ مِنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ

"Thenceforth were your hearts hardened; they became like a rock and even worse in hardness. For among rocks there are some from which rivers gush forth; others there are which when split asunder send forth water; and others which sink for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do." 

This verse is one which always stands out for me. I am not sure how to explain why but it’s so very descriptive in Arabic.

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَالْفُلْكِ الَّتِي تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ وَمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاء مِن مَّاء فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخَّرِ بَيْنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ

"Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the Night and the Day; in the sailing of the ships through the Ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;― (here) indeed are signs for a people that are wise." 

I memorized this Surah at a very young age and I always found this verse captivating as it’s easy to understand in Arabic. It’s hard to have the slightest doubt in The Creator as a slight look at nature re-establishes your faith and strengthens it.

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُواْ بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

"When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them); I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me; let them also with a will listen to My call and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way." 

image

This verse comes right after the verses speaking about Ramadan, reason being is this month is full of opportunities to have your prayers answered. Ramadan is the month where the doors of heaven are opened and so especially in this month it’s so important to supplicate and seek your Lord.

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

"Fighting is prescribed for you and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth and ye know not." Verse 216

God is The All Knower and although it might be hard at times when faith is low to believe it, He knows what is best for us. What this brings to mind is the bad habit that we see so much nowadays of making what is permissible un-permissible and vice versa.

(Even though I still haven’t written my goals for this Ramadan one of them is to get back to writing and although this blog post isn’t the best I am hoping to have my writing skills sharpened :) )

The happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts. Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, good conversation, are the happiest people in the world. And they are not only happy in themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others.
William Phelps (via wordsthat-speak)

(via wordsthat-speak)