‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’!

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I was greatly delighted to ‘attend’ online, the first commencement ceremony of Zaytuna college. Zaytuna (=Olive/Olive tree) college is North America’s first academic Muslim liberal arts college. I believe it’s degree certification is from UC Berkeley. It was set-up by Sh. Hamza Yusuf Hanson, the scholar interviewed in the series I blogged recently.

I have been following the budding and growth of this institution keenly the past four years and it was  a proud moment to be able to witness its first commencement. The occasion was graced by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, one of the few remaining ‘giant scholars’ in the Muslim world. He is a master of many spheres, speaks fluent French in addition to a very high caliber of Arabic and has a CV I have no words to describe, so I won’t. Suffice to say, that in his demenour and service he has come to embody what a true scholar is, and he is one of the teachers of Sh. Hamza. It is a great compliment to Zaytuna college that Sh. Bin Bayyah made the trip out for the commencement despite his 80+ years and difficulty with travel. He did it due to his heartfelt support of the endeavor. And indeed, it is a desperately needed endeavor. You may catch a glimpse of him in the clip, the elderly gentleman in traditional garb with his scholars turban. Knowledge has always been a prized possession for the Muslim, and God bless Sh. Hamza and his likes, who are fighting hard to bring back the light of learning to the Muslim world.

Faatimah Knight is a shining example of what a young person schooled in such an environment of sound knowledge and real scholarship can produce. Imam Zaid Shakir, is a well known and well beloved figure in the North American Muslim world. He is an African American ex-US marine (if I’m not mistaken) who converted to Islam several decades ago, and then schooled in traditional Islamic scholarship, who is now a teacher at Zaytuna. Imam Zaid mentions that whenever he sees Faatimah walking down the aisle, he calls out to her as ‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’. A compliment this young lady well deserves. This young lady is just that – someone inspiring for her truthfulness, sincerity and determination to follow her true heart.

I was so inspired and ‘taken’ by the depth and wisdom of her commencement address, delivered with such obvious sincerity that I wanted to share it with you. It is a 9.5 min clip. I hope you will be able to listen and be as inspired as I was. I pray for this young lady and may there be many more like her. She is well named by wise parents, after the daughter of the beloved Messenger of God, Fathima az Zahra (=the resplendent one… a title given to her by the people out of love. The world’s second oldest continuously running university, Al-Azhar in Cairo is actually named after her)

May God protect and increase this beautiful young lady. I am happy to note she has been offered a full scholarship to grad school in the illustrious University of Chicago Islamic studies program. I believe she refused a full scholarship for undergraduate study in U of Chicago to go to Zaytuna. She is one of the 14 students of the class of 2014. May God bless them all, their teachers and all who have supported this difficult and challenging endeavor.

 

 

 

 

Introducing Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum, peace be upon you all,

February has rushed past and it is already close to the middle of March. I am amazed at the rapid passage of time, as I am sure most of you are as well. However that aside, yours truly is hoping to post again from her travels. Though I’ve finished my series on my ‘rihla’ to Turkey (please see archives with tag ‘travels’ or ‘Turkey’) I was intending to post on Jordan soon inshaAllah as I visited there after Turkey…and what a delightful visit it was, not to mention eye-opening.

For today, here is a talk I just listened to and as most of my readers may not know this lady, I thought I’d post it up here. This is Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the former president of North America’s largest Muslim organization – Islamic Society of North America. She is answers a number of pertinent questions to those of us living in the west, both Muslim and non-Muslim, in this interview, and I was struck both by the sincerity and fairness of the interviewer as much as by the sincerity and honesty of Dr. Mattson. I hope you will listen.

Chess and Divine Decree

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

My dear readers, I am not sure I’ve talked about it before, but those who know me know I am an avid chess player. I’ve loved the game since a dear uncle taught it to me before he passed away (Allah irhamu ‘may God bless and cherish his soul’. I was eight at the time I think…I still have the chess board he taught me on). It  is very relaxing believe it or not, as it focuses the mind and gives clarity to the thought. I used to play tournament level in high school and then at a rather mediocre college level but sadly have not had much opportunity to play since, except now online with a global chess community (you have to love the internet!).

So imagine then my absolute delight at finding this article on ‘chess and divine decree’. I always knew there was some deeper truth the game lead one to or hinted at…there must be, if it has the ability to draw people in so. It is a beautiful game, very profound. Quite surprising a game can be so.

But enough from me, please enjoy the article. One last parting thought on reading it, happy sighs to know our ‘Ummah’ (community or nation, a word Muslims use to talk about the followers of Muhammed, peace be upon them. The real and true followers, not charlatans and abusers of his pure and blessed name) had scholars of this caliber at one time, who could think and write so. May we once more have this level of scholarship in our community and in the world. I do believe peace comes with sound knowledge.

God bless you all!

Chess-and-Divine-Decree

‘A kind word is a charity’ – Prophet Muhammed (peace and salutations of God upon him)

Peace be with you all,

I came across this beautiful short talk by Habib Al-Jifri, a great scholar and one of very noble birth, both his parents are descendents of Ali (Allah be pleased with him), the prophet’s couzin. You can read more of his bio here and I have copy-pasted an excerpt from that site below. This talk and the manner in which it is delivered is a beautiful light and a reminder of what a mercy to mankind we were given in our beloved prophet Muhammed. May you benefit from it as I did and may we all come to know more about and love this great man, this light to the worlds.

Bio excerpt of Habib Ali Al-Jifri- ‘He began taking knowledge from his early childhood from his first teacher, his mother’s great-aunt the scholar and knower of God Safiah daughter of Alawi son of Hassan al-Jifri, she had an immense influence on him and the direction he took in the pursuit of knowledge and spirituality.

As a continuation of the authentic methodology of receiving Sacred Knowledge, and wayfaring on the spiritual path, through an unbroken chain of masters, all the way back to the Messenger of God may God Bless him & his family and give them peace, a methodology the preservation and maintenance of which, the valley of Hadramaut and the city of Tarim are renowned, this work was continued in the intellectual Milieu of the Hejaz which became a meeting point for the Scholars of the School of Hadramaut when they were exiled from the South of Yemen during Communist Rule; he received his education in the Sacred Sciences and the Science of Spiritual Wayfaring at the hands of Scholars and Spiritual Educators’

Beauty

Watching a beautiful and soothing dance piece, one of the 12 tranditional ‘ballet’s or ‘vannam’ in Sri Lankan classical dance here is a little piece of poetry…it is rather a ‘kaviya’ or a poem that is sung according to a slow melody, where often the last syllable is dragged/elongated. Actually I was just humming this to the tune in the video below and thought I’d share it.

O my Lord, I do glorify you
Whatever beauty I see in myself,
That is from you
Protect me from the harm
that I do to myself
and protects others from it too.

I find it amazing that in so many ancient cultures, nature is revered and celebrated, honored and protected. In Sri Lankan classical dance, the 12 vannams are each a celebration of some form of beauty in nature. For example, this dance celebrates the peacock. Others celebrate the elephant, the swan, the eagle etc. I particularly appreciate that there is no complex emotional story or saga like in Western ballet, but a simple veneration of natural beauty. Indeed it is such a humble approach. Watching these dancers I also got to thinking of the discipline and devotion they give their art. The lead dancer for example is a maestro, who has been training since a child. I got to thinking we are all the vicegerants of God, here on this earth to perfect our dance of devotion and master our weaknesses. So the five time ritual prayer, the rules with food, speech, how we should live every day, or simply, the way of life of our great guide and exemplar, the prophet (peace be upon him) taught us is about training and discipline. How beautiful it must be to see our ‘performance’, that of the true devotee of God therefore. What a beautiful person it is who walks the earth in this way. Perhaps this is why the prophets and great sages are so beloved and revered to this day. No wonder Allah azza wa’jal loves those who remember Him! Men and women who lived and walked this earth in that humility, borne out of discipline and training – they were beautiful to behold! Whether Jesus (peace be upon him) or the Gautama Buddha or Moses or Abraham or Mary or our own beloved Muhammed (peace be upon them all). Allah protect us and help us continue upon this way. It gladdens my heart to know we will have the best teacher in this path. And remember, Allah loves you more than you can ever love yourself for your Creator knows you better than you know yourself and is the one true nurturer.
So I am posting this video in the hopes you too will marvel at the discipline and beauty of these dancers and be soothed by the gentle music. I do not see anything but modesty in it and hope you will too. Sometimes we need to see with the heart.

Peace be with you all

Facing Depression

You know in the Muslim world, where we are people of faith, we often don’t feel comfortable acknowledging that we too can get depressed. We feel admitting that is tantamount to admiting that our iman is weak. But it is not. It is merely aknowledging that we are going through a bad time, not that we don’t hope it will get better. The trick is to ride the storm and do it with stoicism. I was tempted to say ‘do it with a smile’ but that is a cliche and really belittling the situation. I learned all this listening to this Jumuah khutbah by Sh. Yasir Fazaga, who I heard, was also a registered counselor. I think we in the Muslim world need more professionals in the area of mental health. Teaching us to cope, to say, yes it’s okay, I’m human…I go through ups and downs. There is a beautiful, profound and very wise du’a taught by the prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) related in the khutbah. Let me paraphrase here…’O Allah, by your knowledge of the unseen, O Allah, by your capability and ability over your creatures, O Allah, extend in my life so long as living is good for me, and O Allah, put an end to my life so long as death is what is best for me’. This du’a is mentioned along with the circumstance of it, about minute 4.00 in the video.

There are a couple things I wanted to express of thoughts on this du’a. First it brings profound peace, in that it aknowledges that life is hard. So it is not wrong to say that. But the wish for death…that should not be the case. Rather give the control over to Allah and believe that if He almighty is keeping you alive, then there is a good reason for it! So it is a trial of patience to wait to know why! :). But the du’a also carries the message that life is a good thing and tells us that we Muslims are meant to enjoy life so we ask for it to be long, and ask Allah to keep it good for us. But look how much more wisdom in the du’a – for we continue by saying that give us death if that be better. There is such a degree of trust in this du’a. Trust that Allah will only make death a better state than the life we lived in the dunya. What this equates to is asking for Jannah…really. It’s that we’ve lived in this world well and now it is time to move on to a more permanent iteration of existence. One, united with our Maker! in complete peace and rest… Subhahanallah! …and with our beloved prophet (sallalaahu alaihi wasalam). InshaAllah may this be the case for all who read this and more. What a beautifully wise, balanced, du’a. Not belittling the sufferers worries, not talking down and preaching patience, but offering a real solution;-put your trust in Allah and give the control over to your loving Lord. Always watchful over you and kind to you. Trust that! it may take time, but don’t loose trust.

May you benefit from this talk as I did and please keep me in your du’a. May Allah remove the oppresion from all those oppresed and may Allah help those in need and help us. May He be closely with us always and we always aware of the deep cherishing nurturing protecting Creator, our Creator and Lord.

Reviving the Islamic Spirit …and the need for it

Alhamdulillah it is good to be back to writing again. Who ever thought my next post would be written laying on a bed in the same hotel I was staying at last year in Long Beach, California! More importantly, that I am back here to attend again the RIS conference. RIS for Reviving the Islamic Spirit, is a fantastic affair..why? Not simply due to the amazing line-up of speakers, the ability to deliver topical sessions year after year, the ever growing attendance and the palpable feeling of ‘barakah’ in the air… but also because this massive event was first envisioned and has been organized and put together every year by youth volunteers. Yep, young working Muslims in Toronto first started it and now after 9 years, they have branched off to a US version too. I am very happy with the latter as its cheaper for me to attend :), but the Toronto convention is about 3 times larger.

Indeed, initiatives like this are so essential. It is a time when events on the global stage are calling us everyday as Muslims, to rise up and let our voices be heard. It is time for us to define ourselves. And to do that, first we must learn Islam. Perhaps then appropriately, this year’s conference is titled ‘Removing the veil of Muslims from Islam’!

Now that I mentioned it, I wonder about that ‘palpable feeling of barakah’ present… is it because of this beautiful truth, where the prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who said, in a hadith Qudsi… Allah Kareem! And Allah knows best

On the authority of Abu Hurairah (radiAllaahu anhu) that the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) said :
Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, ALLAH will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Resurrection. And whoever alleviates the need of a needy person, ALLAH will alleviate his needs in this world and the Hereafter. Whoever shields [or hides the misdeeds of] a Muslim, ALLAH will shield him in this world and the Hereafter. And ALLAH will aid His Slave so long as he aids his brother. And whoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, ALLAH will make easy for him a path to paradise. no people gather together in one of the houses of ALLAH, reciting the Book of ALLAH and studying it among themselves, except that Sakeenah (Tranquility) descends upon them, and Mercy envelops them, and the angels surround them, and ALLAH mentions them amongst those who are with Him. And whoever is slowed down by his actions, will not be hastened forward by his lineage.
It was related by Muslim in these words.

On that note, the exciting news is that RIS has launched a website, allowing live streams of the talks as well as access to previous talks. It is not free however, I think that is necessary to fund the project. I heard RIS Toronto has been running in the green, but RIS USA has been in the red unfortunately. They only began last year so inshaAllah it will soon catch up. Here is the website. http://www.revivingtheislamicspirit.com/streaming/
Check it out..it has some nice features.

I also remembered I had ‘reported’ a previous RIS I attended… here are the links if in case it is useful… rather disjointed, but will hopefully give you an idea for the feel of this event; part 1 and part 2.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a sweet song by Maher Zain, performed last year at RIS much to everyone’s joy. This version is from Toronto though

Generating real scholars and Zaytuna

Assalamu alaikum, peace to all. It’s been a while since I logged on here. Many life events came in the way…mashaAllah very happy ones :).

However there have also been a bunch of posts in my head that have piled up over the days I want to put down…hoping to get started today. The first of May, a beautiful spring day that has only gotten ‘springier’ since the first gorgeous day on Friday. And blessed am I to be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Shukr wa Hamd Allah (thanks and praise to God). On that note, one long planned blog is to share that spring beauty with posting some pictures up here I was fortunate to take. You see, after years of having only a poor camera (the cheapest I could find) that I bought simply to be able to take pictures of slides from talks at conferences (my cheat-sheet on remembering large volumes of data that gets presented at scientific meetings ;)….this was before they banned the use of cameras at talks saying it was distracting..hrmp!), the past boxing day I found a dandy one going for 50% off and still within budget (100$). So this spring I did find odd moments off to walk about and test it out. Rather hoping to do so more and so expect a few photo-journal entries inshaAllah. Hope you will like them and my camera and eye won’t let me down :)

That long preamble done. Here is what I wanted to write of today. The need for good scholars in our community. Its well known (or may not be known at all) that the Muslim ummah has lost or had greatly reduced its history of good religious scholarship the past two to three hundred years, mainly due to the effects of Colonialism. However its roughly been about half a century since the fall of the last Colonial empire (I mean the British…and lets not go in to the USA driven neo-imperialism the world is witnessing now), and mashaAllahu ta’ala we now are witnessing more and more the resurgence of Muslim thought and scholarship.

There are now great luminaries in the Muslim world who are transforming their communities and energizing the Muslim ummah with thought and action. Also important, these are not self-trained, but those who have patiently studied with the best scholars left in the Muslim world that has been somehow preserved in-tact through the ages. Scholars like Sheikh Murabit al Haj who has lived his entire life learning and teaching the Quran in the Sahara desert and did not see a single ‘white’ person until Hamza Yusuf Hanson took his long camel ride to meet him (see this blog post for a precious insight in to Sh. Murabit al Haj’s life). That meeting as the now Sheikh Hamza recounted once, inspired by a dream that he and his teacher had both shared. Subhahanallah (glory be to God), God’s work is being done and will be done despite ever cynic and skeptic that ever lived. Sheikh Hamza is one of the best scholars in the world today. A true polymath he excels with ease on any topic. Mashaallah I’ve spent many a day listening to him speak as I cook/clean and truly learned volumes. Sh. Abdul Hakim Murad, or Professor Tim Winter of Cambridge University, Imam Zaid Shakir who has developed so many community service initiatives, a former USA army man, are other amazing scholars I can think of off the top of my head. If you haven’t heard them, do youtube them… they will offer a glimpse in to true Islam and open your mind and heart to heights and truths that are as deeply peaceful as they are uplifting. And if you have, please do share these gems with me! I will greatly appreciate it!

To resume, Sh. Hamza and Imam Zaid have begun Zaytuna College. The first Muslim ‘seminary’ in North America based at Berkeley University in California. Please do check out their website. I am very excited about the new generation of leaders that are being taught here. The first batch of students are a beautiful mixture of experience and background ….and… of the 15 students, 9 are female!!! (sorry, couldn’t hide my excitement :D..oh how great it will be to see the resurgence of the Muslimah scholar).

If you can do consider becoming a zaytuna companion. An ‘ansar’ to a worthy cause. Sh. Hamza modeled a reward program for the ansar based on the life of the prophet (peace be upon him), where instead of the calling a donor a ‘gold’, ‘platinum’, ‘silver’ etc depending on the amount of funds you give, he said the most precious in their eyes are the first ones to help, regardless of how much they helped with. The first to answer that call. Now isn’t that very touching… it makes me wonder of the great power of our beloved prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) to move hearts… Zaytuna companions are treated as intimate friends of the college and given recourse to all the guest lectures that the students there get to attend. I cannot insert a post of Zaytuna programming in here, but this link will take you to their youtube channel inshaAllah

Also I wanted to share this talk given by Sh. Hamza on the lives of men. It’s a 2.5 hour lecture and is available in parts on youtube (I’ll share the first part and you can find the rest) or as a whole, but that is poorly edited (I’ll share that too). I think he gave it at the ‘workshop on Islam for high school teachers’ conducted in Abiqueu in New Mexico based solely on what the architecture of the room looks like (!). This is a truly amazing series conducted free by DaralIslam an organization that sounds very impressive but that I do not know much more about.

The idea of the workshop seems to be to educate high school teachers, predominantly non-Muslim, on what Islam is all about. Super!

Here are the youtube videos on the talk ‘the lives of man’ .. first the 10 min video, 1 of 16 parts

and full length here

Another must share article, MashaAllah so true! called ‘why do people have to leave each other’

I read this on Imam Webb’s Virtual Mosque here and had to share it. MashaAllah so very well written and speaking of eternal and essential truths. Do please circulate this widely…perhaps there is someone who needs it as much as I.

Why do people have to leave each other?
Yasmin Mogahed | March 29, 2011 5:00 am

When I was 17 years old, I had a dream. I dreamt that I was sitting inside a masjid and a little girl walked up to ask me a question. She asked me: “Why do people have to leave each other?” The question was a personal one, but it seemed clear to me why the question was chosen for me.

I was one to get attached.

Ever since I was a child, this temperament was clear. While other children in preschool could easily recover once their parents left, I could not. My tears, once set in motion, did not stop easily. As I grew up, I learned to become attached to everything around me. From the time I was in first grade, I needed a best friend. As I got older, any fall-out with a friend shattered me. I couldn’t let go of anything. People, places, events, photographs, moments—even outcomes became objects of strong attachment. If things didn’t work out the way I wanted or imagined they should, I was devastated. And disappointment for me wasn’t an ordinary emotion. It was catastrophic. Once let down, I never fully recovered. I could never forget, and the break never mended. Like a glass vase that you place on the edge of a table, once broken, the pieces never quite fit again.

But the problem wasn’t with the vase. Or even that the vases kept breaking. The problem was that I kept putting them on the edge of tables. Through my attachments, I was dependent on my relationships to fulfill my needs. I allowed those relationships to define my happiness or my sadness, my fulfillment or my emptiness, my security, and even my self-worth. And so, like the vase placed where it will inevitably fall, through those dependencies I set myself up for disappointment. I set myself up to be broken. And that’s exactly what I found: one disappointment, one break after another.

But the people who broke me were not to blame any more than gravity can be blamed for breaking the vase. We can’t blame the laws of physics when a twig snaps because we leaned on it for support. The twig was never created to carry us.

Our weight was only meant to be carried by God. We are told in the Quran: “…whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.” (Qur’an 2: 256)

There is a crucial lesson in this verse: that there is only one handhold that never breaks. There is only one place where we can lay our dependencies. There is only one relationship that should define our self-worth and only one source from which to seek our ultimate happiness, fulfillment, and security. That place is God.

But this world is all about seeking those things everywhere else. Some of us seek it in our careers, some seek it in wealth, some in status. Some, like me, seek it in our relationships. In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her own quest for happiness. She describes moving in and out of relationships, and even traveling the globe in search of this fulfillment. She seeks that fulfillment—unsuccessfully—in her relationships, in meditation, even in food.

And that’s exactly where I spent much of my own life: seeking a way to fill my inner void. So it was no wonder that the little girl in my dream asked me this question. It was a question about loss, about disappointment. It was a question about being let down. A question about seeking something and coming back empty handed. It was about what happens when you try to dig in concrete with your bare hands: not only do you come back with nothing—you break your fingers in the process. And I learned this not by reading it, not by hearing it from a wise sage. I learned it by trying it again, and again, and again.

And so, the little girl’s question was essentially my own question…being asked to myself.

Ultimately, the question was about the nature of the dunya as a place of fleeting moments and temporary attachments. As a place where people are with you today, and leave or die tomorrow. But this reality hurts our very being because it goes against our nature. We, as humans, are made to seek, love, and strive for what is perfect and what is permanent. We are made to seek what’s eternal. We seek this because we were not made for this life. Our first and true home was Paradise: a land that is both perfect and eternal. So the yearning for that type of life is a part of our being. The problem is that we try to find that here. And so we create ageless creams and cosmetic surgery in a desperate attempt to hold on—in an attempt to mold this world into what it is not, and will never be.

And that’s why if we live in dunya with our hearts, it breaks us. That’s why this dunya hurts. It is because the definition of dunya, as something temporary and imperfect, goes against everything we are made to yearn for. Allah put a yearning in us that can only be fulfilled by what is eternal and perfect. By trying to find fulfillment in what is fleeting, we are running after a hologram…a mirage. We are digging into concrete with our bare hands. Seeking to turn what is by its very nature temporary into something eternal is like trying to extract from fire, water. You just get burned. Only when we stop putting our hopes in dunya, only when we stop trying to make the dunya into what it is not—and was never meant to be (jannah)—will this life finally stop breaking our hearts.

We must also realize that nothing happens without a purpose. Nothing. Not even broken hearts. Not even pain. That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. That we need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more dunya hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it.

And pain is a pointer to our attachments. That which makes us cry, that which causes us most pain is where our false attachments lie. And it is those things which we are attached to as we should only be attached to Allah which become barriers on our path to God. But the pain itself is what makes the false attachment evident. The pain creates a condition in our life that we seek to change, and if there is anything about our condition that we don’t like, there is a divine formula to change it. God says: “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)

After years of falling into the same pattern of disappointments and heartbreak, I finally began to realize something profound. I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.

As soon as I began to have that realization, a veil was lifted from my eyes. I started to see what my problem was. I was expecting this life to be what it is not, and was never meant to be: perfect. And being the idealist that I am, I was struggling with every cell in my body to make it so. It had to be perfect. And I would not stop until it was. I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to this endeavor: making the dunya into jannah. This meant expecting people around me to be perfect. Expecting my relationships to be perfect. Expecting so much from those around me and from this life. Expectations. Expectations. Expectations. And if there is one recipe for unhappiness it is that: expectations. But herein lay my fatal mistake. My mistake was not in having expectations; as humans, we should never lose hope. The problem was in *where* I was placing those expectation and that hope. At the end of the day, my hope and expectations were not being placed in God. My hope and expectations were in people, relationships, means. Ultimately, my hope was in this dunya rather than Allah.

And so I came to realize a very deep Truth. An ayah began to cross my mind. It was an ayah I had heard before, but for the first time I realized that it was actually describing me: “Those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, but are pleased and satisfied with the life of the present, and those who heed not Our Signs.” (Qur’an, 10:7)

By thinking that I can have everything here, my hope was not in my meeting with God. My hope was in dunya. But what does it mean to place your hope in dunya? How can this be avoided? It means when you have friends, don’t expect your friends to fill your emptiness. When you get married, don’t expect your spouse to fulfill your every need. When you’re an activist, don’t put your hope in the results. When you’re in trouble don’t depend on yourself. Don’t depend on people. Depend on God.

Seek the help of people—but realize that it is not the people (or even your own self) that can save you. Only Allah can do these things. The people are only tools, a means used by God. But they are not the source of help, aid, or salvation of any kind. Only God is. The people cannot even create the wing of a fly (22:73). And so, even while you interact with people externally, turn your heart towards God. Face Him alone, as Prophet Ibrahim (as) said so beautifully: “For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” (Qur’an, 6:79)

But how did Prophet Ibrahim (as) come to that point? He came to it after being let down by other than Allah: the stars, the moon, and the sun. They were not perfect. They set.

They let him down.

So he was thereby led to face Allah alone. Like prophet Ibrahim (as), we need to put our full hope, trust, and dependency on God. And God alone. And if we do that, we will learn what it means to finally find peace and stability of heart. Only then will the roller coaster that once defined our lives finally come to an end. That is because if our inner state is dependent on something that is by definition inconstant, that inner state will also be inconstant. If our inner state is dependent on something changing and temporary, that inner state will be in a constant state of instability, agitation, and unrest. This means that one moment we’re happy, but as soon as that which our happiness depended upon changes, our happiness also changes. And we become sad. We remain always swinging from one extreme to another and not realizing why.

We experience this emotional roller coaster because we can never find stability and lasting peace until our attachment and dependency is on what is stable and lasting. How can we hope to find constancy if what we hold on to is inconstant and perishing? In the statement of Abu Bakr is a deep illustration of this truth. After the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ died, the people went into shock and could not handle the news. But although no one loved the Prophet ﷺ like Abu Bakr, Abu Bakr understood well the only place where one’s dependency should lie. He said: “If you worshipped Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead. But if you worshipped Allah, know that Allah never dies.”

To attain that state, don’t let your source of fulfillment be anything other than your relationship with God. Don’t let your definition of success, failure, or self-worth be anything other than your position with Him (Qur’an, 49:13). And if you do this, you become unbreakable, because your handhold is unbreakable. You become unconquerable, because your supporter can never be conquered. And you will never become empty, because your source of fulfillment is unending and never diminishes.

Looking back at the dream I had when I was 17, I wonder if that little girl was me. I wonder this because the answer I gave her was a lesson I would need to spend the next painful years of my life learning. My answer to her question of why people have to leave each other was: “because this life isn’t perfect; for if it was, what would the next be called?”

A muslim’s take on the disaster in Japan

I wanted to say a few things, not to air my views but because it needs to be said. And I say it first to myself.

Recently I’ve read an article saying things to the nature that…the people of Japan deserved what happened to them, that it is a godless country, etc and etc. These things made me angry. For who is anyone to say anything of the sort. What we have witnessed has raised in every one of us who saw it a great awe. Some may not know at what they feel awe, but they feel it. We who believe in a God, especially those of us calling ourselves Muslims, have this awe of God. But then how is it that we still dare to point fingers at others. Not just any others, but at others who are suffering. Do we not fear Allah to do such a thing? Auzubilllah, Allah protect me from this type of attitude and protect us all from it. We should be among the first to rush to help… sitting in a mosque smirking should not even be a thought in our psyche.

So I dismissed that article, scarcely able to read it to the end. MashaAllah as always Allah sheds light in to a heart with a door open [Oh Allah help me keep that door open all the time] for this beautiful post by Dr. Hasaballah beautifully puts everything in perspective and eloquent as always, he calls us to be better Muslims. Quoting this all important hadith. Never lets forget it, for it is a cornerstone of our imaan (faith).
“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

No sane person can love for himself the suffering, misery, fear and anxiety the people of Japan are going through now. So let us fear to sit by and watch it for others without helping.

On that note, here is a beautiful talk by Sh. Hamza, delivered at a conference in 2009. Please do listen to it. As always my beloved Sh. calls us to the better way. The way of our master Muhammed, who was afraid to have excess food in his house in case there was someone in the city who needed it more.

Allah help us all be better.

I am inserting the talks, in parts below. And it must also be known by the world that there are many many wonderful Muslims out there, joined with our non-Muslims brothers and sisters, doing their darndest utmost to provide relief and help whenever and wherever they can, regardless of religion, race, ethincity and even affluence. For when a person is in need, it is just a person in need. That is all.

Some of these organizations you can donate to are
MuslimsHands, Islamic Relief , Islamicity, mercyMalaysia.

Mashaallah I can personally vouch for Islamic relief, Muslim Hands (to the best of my memory) and Mercy Malaysia, who stayed long after all the big INGOs had gone and provided far more bang for the buck than the big INGOs could (as for example they didn’t need high tech offices, used tractors and wheelbarrows as opposed to 4wheel drive jeeps) in tsunami relief operations in Sri Lanka.

Here is the talk by Sh. Hamza, on the urgency of helping and telling us we have the potential to help.

Peace be with all and may God be merciful upon us.