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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!”

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)