Tag Archive | Jihad al-nafs

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!”

Advertisements

Your lease on life

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

 

I just want to say that I HATE cleaning the bathroom. But don’t worry, I’ve already cleaned the bathroom before making this post. I think most people don’t really enjoy cleaning the bathroom. The only time I did it willingly was when I was paid to do it a a janitor. Being paid made me willing to clean up messes much worse than anything I have to deal with here at home. Yet I still find myself resistant, crying out “I don’t want to!”

 

There are two things that still get me to do it. Firstly, I don’t want to be lazy. It’s too easy to be lazy. Complacency is one the worst things that can happen to a person. But the big helper in making sure the cleaning gets done is the fact that it’s not mine. We rent our house. While the house may not belong to us, while we’re here it’s our responsibility.

 

While contemplating this the other day I realized the same can be said of our bodies and lives here in the dunya. This body is not mine but in fact belongs to Allah. My body, and the life that comes with it, is merely a gift that has been granted to me. I must take care of it as best I can. I may even be rewarded for not leaving any blemishes behind.

If you have ever rented an apartment or house or anything, you’ve likely signed a lease or some sort of terms of agreement. At the very least you’ve reached a verbal agreement with the owner. While living in your rented house or using your rented item you may want to do something with it that you’re not sure it you are allowed to do. So you would of course look back on your lease agreement to see if you are allowed to do what you want to do. If you violate any of the terms of the agreement you can be punished by a fine or eviction. If the landlord is just, you will first be warned, then maybe even warned again before more severe action is taken. Or, once you move out, you may even be rewarded with your deposit being returned to you if you have taken good care of the borrowed item.

 

Similarly, we entered into our “terms of agreement” long ago:

And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam’s loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes! We testify,” lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “Verily, we have been unaware of this.” (07:172 Dr. Mohsin)

This is  why the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “No babe is born but upon Fitra (as a Muslim). It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist.” (Muslim; 33; 6426) This is also why many people who “convert” to Islam will more often refer to it as “reverting” to Islam. They are going back to the state they were in before. Maybe more on that later but back to my main point for today.

 

The Qur’an details how we should live our lives in obedience to Allah. Muhammad (pbuh) came and warned us against our transgressions that we had fallen into after our initial agreement. This life that we live is a gift and we need to treat this gift with all the respect we can. In this way we are also showing our gratitude to the One who has so generously given us this gift. And if we don’t know what’s the best way to go about doing something, we always have our “terms of agreement” the Qur’an to consult. We must never become lazy in taking care of what isn’t ours lest we be punished for it.

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)

No Four Letter Words

Assalamu alaykum my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims

 

I would just like to quickly note, while I should have been perfecting what I want to say over the past few days I was instead spending time with my husband who had been away for a month. So please pardon me for being a little incomplete in my thoughts today.

 

I have a few goals in mind for improving myself as a Muslim which I will be sharing soon. But first I’d like to talk about a few things I already do in my everyday life that I see as part of my striving to be a good Muslimah. And trust me, I do have to strive for these things sometimes because they aren’t always easy to do, either for personal reason or simply because of the environment I am in. Anyway, our first topic: Swearing! I bring this up first because I want to make it clear here and now that cursing and swearing will not be tolerated here.

 

Growing up my mother would not allow any sort of obscenities to be spoken in the house. At it’s most extreme, when my sister and I were quite young we didn’t even talk about heaven and hell in the house. We talked about heaven and heck. Or heaven and “the other place.” That passed as we grew a bit older but the big ones you still can’t say on TV were still out of the question as well as damning anything or using hell out of context. We still weren’t allowed to say anything “sucked” unless we were talking about the vacuum cleaner and the words “this sucks” was followed by “up dirt really well.” Even some of the swearing alternatives were not allowed. “Crap” was still considered too vulgar but “crud” was acceptable. “Friggin’” or “fricken” (or however one might spell it) though not strictly forbidden was strongly disliked. “Freaking” could be used instead but still preferable only to refer to “freaking out.”

 

My point being I was raised not to use curse words. Being raised this way it was pretty much inevitable I went through a stage where I learned just about every swear there was and used them as often as I could out of a misplaced sense of maturity. This was roughly around 5th grade (about 11 years old.) Some time in middle school (junior high school – around 13 or 14 years old) I grew weary of the senseless use of these words and started being more sparing with them. Somewhere along the line I became disenchanted with them all together and gradually tried to drop them out of my vocabulary. Nowadays, I do my best not to say any vulgar words but in rare moments I have dropped an inappropriate “damn” and in a rather embarrassing incident a rather passionate “son of a bitch.”

 

In the Quran Allah says what  means: “Tell My servants that they should speak that which is best. Surely, Satan creates discord among them. Indeed, Satan is an open enemy to mankind.” (17:53 – Mufti Taqi Usmani traslation) And the prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Muslim does not slander, curse, speak obscenely or speak rudely.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, who said, this is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth; it was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani). So not swearing is largely a personal struggle and a goal one should try to achieve. We should strive to say only what is good and avoid speech which may cause harm. It could even be said the struggle not to swear is also part of jihad al-Shaytaan (which I’ll insha Allah discuss more next week.) It is difficult, however, to avoid bad talk here in the US. It’s just so commonplace and those who try to avoid swearing are often made fun of as “prudish” and “old fashioned.”

 

But despite these challenges I try my best to speak only beautiful words and not curse anything or anyone who does not deserve it. For the most part if I find myself about to swear I will try to not even let out the first sound of the curse word and just say very, very random words or garbled nonsense. Generally I find it very easy to say what I need to say without curse words, even if I’m very angry. While I do my best not to say these words, I still think these words in my head and that is my biggest challenge. Those words are still there, looming, tempting me to use them, making every day a challenge to continue speaking only that which is best. Insha Allah my struggle does not go unnoticed.

What about JIHAD?!?!

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims!

 

Well here I have this provocative title for my blog and yet have said barely a word on Jihad. Let’s get to it then. What is jihad? What does it mean? Perhaps a quick Google search could shed some light on this topic?

 

The first result when searching “jihad” is a Wikipedia entry (of course.) While it does provide some general information there’s no real depth to it. Next in the results is Jihad Watch. Yikes!…. Then we have Daniel Pipes…. oh dear….. Then a very brief definition form Merriam-Webster. FINALLY, the fifth result has a somewhat of an actual answer from About.com’s section on Islam, not just glossing over the fact there are non-violent jihads like the Wikipedia article does but actually explaining it a little bit. But this is just anecdotal.

 

There are many many articles and even entire books on the subject and I’m not about to make any breakthroughs here. As you may have noticed I have been giving information in chunks. It’s not that I can’t see the forest through the trees. It’s more that I know which forest I’m in so I’m taking my time to look at all the trees. So I’ll be taking my time to analyze and define the term over the course of many entries. And let’s not forget I’m not specifically here to define Jihad. This is my jihad after all and while part of that jihad is to define jihad in the first place, this is largely chronicling my struggle to better myself as a Muslim. So, let’s start with that definition; the definition of the personal jihad.

 

I’m using excerpts from this fatwa from Islam Q&A for my definition this time. Feel free to click the link and read the full fatwa on your own. I’ll be returning to it later as well as researching other sources and presenting them at later dates, as the opportunities present themselves.

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Once this is understood, then jihad is of four kinds: Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self), jihad al-Shaytaan (jihad against the Shaytaan), jihad against the kaafirs and jihad against the hypocrites.

He goes on to say

Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self) is of four kinds: 1 – Striving to learn the teachings of Islam… 2 – Striving to make oneself act in accordance with what one has learned… 3 – Striving to call others to Islam; teaching those who do not know about it… 4 – Striving to bear patiently the difficulties involved in calling people to Allaah and the insults of people; bearing all that for the sake of Allaah.

Interestingly enough, in what seems to be an unavoidable meta way, my studying about jihad is actually part of my jihad!

 

With that, here is what you can expect from me for this part of my jihad. I’ll be posting what I’m learning about Islam. I’ll also set goals for myself which I’ll be more likely to strive to accomplish knowing others are watching me. While I should strive to accomplish these goal knowing Allah is watching me, this is a weakness in me. I know Allah is watching me but it’s not enough to motivate me to action sometimes. It’s not at all that I want to do these things simply to be seen by others. I want to do things only to please Allah and sometimes that means I need other people keeping an eye on me. I’ll also post about how I’m trying to apply what I learn to my everyday life. I’m going to strive to remember Allah in all my actions. Hopefully posting what I learn will help me with my dawah efforts in the community and perhaps be good dawah for anyone who may stumble on this blog. I may also post about those dawah efforts or any difficulties I face from others (though I have suffered very little injustice so far, alhamdulillah.)

 

But this is just me talking about what I’m going to do. Starting tomorrow insha Allah (or the day after tomorrow, I may have to skip the update tomorrow) you’ll finally see my jihad in action over the next several days!