Archives

Count Your Blessing

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

Let me begin by indulging in an an anecdote. When I was younger and still a Christian I would go to church every Sunday. There was another church we would pass on the way that had a scrolling marquee. It would often list events going on, bible verses, and give inspirational messages. One time while driving by the sign was scrolling along and then stopped on the phrase “Count your blessing.” Singular. My mother and I had a good laugh about this. “Count your blessing?” we would say, “okay. One.” Of course the expression is “count your blessings” but the limitations of the marquee or perhaps the mistake of the programmer created this humorous alternative.

In trying times it’s easy to forget all our blessings or to take them for granted. It’s in our nature to always want more.

“If the son of Ādam had a valley full of gold, he would love to have two valleys, for nothing fills his mouth except dust. And Allāh forgives him who repents.” [Sahih Bukhāri, Volume 8 Book 76 Number 447]

So lets take a step back and take a look at all the blessing that we do have and remember to be grateful for those blessings.

Firstly, lets remind ourselves that we are blessed with more blessings than we realize. We are blessed with more blessings than we can count!

And He gave you whatever you asked for. If you (try to) count the bounties of Allah, you cannot count them all. Indeed, man is highly unjust, very ungrateful.” (14:34)

If you count the bounties of Allah, you cannot count them all. Surely, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.” (16:18)

If you’re still a little stuck, Allah reminds us of some of these blessings.

And among His signs is that He sends winds giving good news (of rain), and so that He gives you a taste of His mercy, and that the ships may sail with His command, and that you may search for His grace, and you may be grateful.” (30:46)

O you who believe, eat of the good things We have provided to you and be grateful to Allah, if it is He whom you worship (in real terms).” (2:172)

And this leads me into my next point. When we are reminded of these blessings we should also remember to be grateful. We cannot spend all day in prostration out of gratitude for all our blessings and thankfully we do not have to do this – yet another thing to be grateful for! So how do we show our gratitude? Firstly, we acknowledge where our blessings have come from:

Whatever blessing you have is from Allah. Then, once you are touched by distress, to Him alone you cry for help. Then, as soon as He removes the distress from you, a group from among you starts ascribing partners to their Lord. Thus, they deny what We have given to them. Well, enjoy yourself (for some time), and soon you will come to know (the fate of your misdeeds).” (16: 53-55)

We save ourselves from punishment by remembering where our blessings have come from and we do not try to claim those blessing have come from any other than Allah.

We should also strive to act in accordance with Allah’s will to show our gratitude.

Narrated Aisha: The Prophet used to offer prayer at night (for such a long time) that his feet used to crack. I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Why do you do it since Allah has forgiven you your faults of the past and those to follow?” He said, “Shouldn’t I love to be a thankful slave (of Allah)?’ [Sahih Bukhāri, Volume 6 Book 60 Number 361]

While many of us may not be able to emulate the prophet (SAW) and stand in prayer all night out of gratitude until our legs and feet are swollen, we can do our best to use our bodies for good. If you can speak you can speak with good words and make dawah. If you are healthy enough and have the means, you can do hajj. A more articulate explanation of how to show our gratitude for our blessings can be found here

 

Of course we all know what happens when we act in accordance to Allah’s will (hint: paradise) so it’s always in our best interest to take a minute and remind ourselves of our blessing to help us along. So the next time you’re feeling down, take in a deep breath and thank Allah for that breath you just took by exhaling “ALLAH AKBAR!”

Treatment of parents

Assalamu alaykum and Welcome.

 

I figured now would be a good time to type up a few thoughts since I’m visiting my parents and I need something to do to keep me from sitting in front of the TV the whole time. While I do perhaps waste a good chunk of time in front of the computer on the internet there is nothing quite as alluring as the Discovery channel. And at least while I’m on the internet I am often reading articles about Islam.

 

So here’s one thing I learned from Islam and am trying to act upon in my everyday life: keeping the ties of kinship. I’d be very interested to hear the perspective from someone who grew up Muslim since I feel like I more often hear the struggle of those who reverted and have non-Muslim parents like myself. Perhaps it’s a bit of laziness on my part or maybe it’s a bit of fatigue from the long car drive I made today but I’m not going to be posting much in the way of fatwa, hadith, or even ayat from the Qur’an. Just more a bit of a “then and now” comparison/reflection.

 

I was never terribly disrespectful to my parents but I of course had my “rebellious” phase in my teenage years. Maybe some of the respect I give them now comes from simply becoming an adult and I don’t owe it all the my reversion. Some of the respect I give them comes from the fact they are good parents who are easy to respect, masha Allah. But I did notice a marked difference in my attitude towards them after leaning about and reverting to Islam. There are responsibilities and obligation of the parents and responsibilities and obligations of the children. I’ll probably post an addendum to this once I return home and have access to the book from which I learned these right and responsibilities. For now I will say that what I learned from that book helped me realize that a lot of what my parents had been doing for me over the years are what parents should be doing for their kids. I also realized that because they are doing these things for me they deserve from me, among other things, a great deal of respect.

 

My mother, my mother, my mother especially deserves respect. And this is not always an easy task for me. My mother is a feminist. Not that her being a feminist is the only hurdle to our harmonious relationship but it is the biggest one. There are aspects of Islam that she still does not agree with. But I’m not about to say anything negative about my mother here. I am more prone to say it’s a shortcoming on my part for not being good enough in my dawah to speak on women’s issues more competently. While she may or may not be one who is guided to Islam, it is my duty as a Muslim to teach her.

 

My actions have changed along with my attitude (as it often does for most things.) I try my hardest to call them at least once a week. I try to spend as much time talking with my father as I do with my mother. It’s so much easier to talk with my mother (you know, girl talk) but I sometimes run out of things to say with my father or I’ll take over the conversation and he’ll just excuse himself after a while. I try to remember to engage in topics of interest to him and get him talking and me listening rather than the other way around.

 

When I come to visit I am more willing, in fact almost insistent, that I do more chores. I’ll help make dinner, help serve, and help clean up. I’ll run errands and ask if there’s anything else I can do to help around the house during my brief visits. My parents will often protest that I don’t need to work so much when I visit. They say I should be as a guest. But they still accept and greatly appreciate the help. They’re just not used to any of us kids acting so generously. (Not that my brother and sister aren’t generous, but they have both acted more as guests when they visit)

 

The biggest difference is the amount of time I’ll spend with my grandfather. He’s lived with us since I was 7 years old but I never felt much like I could hold a conversation with him. Now though, I sit patiently as he tells me stories of his youth, sometimes as the words slowly come to him. I’m fresh ears to him because I’ve never taken the time to get to know my own grandfather! I will keep him company until he finishes he meal as well. He eats much more slowly now so everyone else finishes before him and often will go off to do their own things while he finishes alone. While I’m here I make sure to spend as much time as I can with him.

 

Parents and grandparents deserve a lot of respect. It takes patience, humility, and diligence to give them that respect. If it were easy I wouldn’t be talking about it here. Every time I visit my parents I work just as hard to please them as I do to please my husband.

I am incredibly LAZY!

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

 

Almost all of us know that our idle time often goes to waste.

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The Prophet said, “There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) Health and free time for doing good.” (Bukhari: 8: 76: 421)

What causes the loss of these blessing? It is often laziness, doubt, and the ego. And one does not have to look far to find the origin of these maladies.

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said: “Satan puts three knots at the back of the head of any of you if he is asleep. On every knot he reads and exhales the following words, ‘The night is long, so stay asleep’…” (Bukhari: 2: 21: 243)

 

Well then, what can be done to overcome this? Firstly, the Qur’an offers this advice:

And if an evil whisper comes to you from Shaitân then seek refuge with Allâh. Verily, He is All-Hearer, All-Knower. Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqûn (the pious), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitân, they remember Allâh, and (indeed) they then see (aright). (7: 200-201 Dr. Mohsin)

And the rest of the latter hadith is in agreement:

“…When one wakes up and remembers Allah, one knot is undone; and when one performs ablution, the second knot is undone, and when one prays the third knot is undone and one gets up energetic with a good heart in the morning; otherwise one gets up lazy and with a mischievous heart.”

 

Even with reminding myself of the rewards of obedience the temptations of the dunya are strong and made stronger still by Shaitan. That is why I want to set a few goal for myself. It will combine my continuing jihad al-nafs with jihad al-shaytaan. “Jihad against the Shaytaan is of two types: 1 – Warding off the doubts that he stirs up to undermine faith. 2 – Striving against him to ward off the corrupt desires that he provokes.” (source) I want to overcome this laziness and strive against Shaytaan to better myself as a Muslim.

 

First and foremost I want to memorize more of the Qur’an. But not just memorize it, I want to understand it as well. This means memorizing how to say it in Arabic and memorizing the English meaning. There have been times when I pray and I feel like I’m merely “going through the motions” because I have stopped paying attention to what I am saying and I need to refresh my memory of the meaning of what I’m saying. Prayer should not be robotic, it should be sincere. Learning more verses will keep prayer from getting boring and the knowledge of these verses can help me be a better Muslimah in my everyday life as well.

 

I need a refresher on how to read Arabic as well. When I first reverted I started to learn Arabic with great enthusiasm. Then, after I learned the alphabet and began reading the Qur’an, I stopped studying Arabic to any extent. Later, I became lazy in reading the Qur’an and have lost much of the ability to read it. I need to remedy this. For me, I cannot simply memorize the Qur’an by repeating sounds. If the sounds are meaningless to me I will not retain it in my memory very well. But If I am actually reading letters in Arabic that I understand I know I will retain more of what I read.

 

I think these first two goals work together very well. This will help me in making Islam more the way of life it should be and not just my religion. The better I understand it, the better I can live and teach it. “We must understand that Islam is not simply possessing a Muslim name or being born to Muslim parents, or saying that one comes from a certain part of the world.  Rather, Islam is a way of life, a methodology for living, not only dealing with religious matters but addressing one’s conceptual outlook on worldly matters as well.” (islamweb)

Now I lay me down to sleep

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

Many of you may have heard this bedtime prayer before.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

It’s a staple of the bedtime routine of many a Christian family. When I learned it as a child I could scarcely understand it’s meaning. I thought “nowilayme” was one word and I had no idea what “ifishoulddie” meant! That’s probably why I didn’t realize what I was talking about for a while. Now it’s quite easy to understand what the meaning of the prayer is. And as a Muslim now, I realize even more how important such a prayer is. It’s quite simple so I won’t spend time explaining it here, I simply want to express my personal understanding of this type of prayer and it’s importance as part of the bedtime routine.

In the Qur’an Allah says what means:

It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day, then He raises (wakes) you up again that a term appointed (your life period) be fulfilled, then (in the end) unto Him will be your return. Then He will inform you of that which you used to do. (6:60 – Dr.Mohsin translation)

And in another passage He says what means:

It is Allâh Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for a people who think deeply. (39:42 – Dr.Mohsin translation)

Our souls belong to God. He does with them as He wills. Our souls are in His possession by night and it is by His will that they are returned to us each morning. That’s not to say that we die each night. Anyone hooked up to a machine that measure vital signs will prove our bodies continue to function as we sleep. But one cannot live his/her life without a soul. What kind of life are we living when asleep? So our lives continue only if our souls are returned to us.

 

My understanding of this prayer now through the eyes of Islam is that it’s much like the 5 daily prayers. The 5 daily prayers are not prayers asking for something to be given to us (that’s usually done after we have completed the prayer) they are prayers done to remind us of Allah’s glory and our subservience to him. Similarly, the “now I lay me” prayer is not a prayer requesting that God take and keep our souls since He already does that, it’s a prayer that serves as a reminder that this is what He does. A reminder that your final resting place is with Allah. A reminder to start, live, and end each day in worship of Allah.

 

There are many supplications one may make before going to bed to serve as a reminder. And the best part is: these reminders allow one to die upon the firtah if he or she should then die while sleeping.

Al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) commanded a person (in these words): When you go to bed during night, you should say: Oh Allaah, I submit my soul unto You, and I entrust my affair unto You, and I turn my face towards You, and I totally rely on You, in hope and fear of You. Verily there is no refuge nor safe haven from You except with You. I believe in Your Book which You have revealed and in Your Prophet whom You have sent.” Make this as the last word of yours (when you go to sleep) and in case you die during that night, you would die upon Fitra. (Muslim; Book 35; Hadith 6544)