12/05/2014

Challenges

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A couple of years ago, one of my teenage, weekend school students suggested that I watch a documentary about homosexual Muslims so that we could discuss it. 

Apart from my student's invitation, I have no direct use for making sense of the perspectives, challenges, ideas, and ways of this segment of the community. None of my acquaintances have ever mentioned it. Nonetheless, I ask myself, should one of my friends or loved ones identify with this challenge, how would I respond?

My response is what follows.

~~~
Its challenge, at least initially, is that the person wonders why he has such inclinations when in fact acting on them is forbidden in Islam and all monotheistic traditions.

The journey for said person progresses so that he contacts Islamic scholars and asks them about the legal ruling regarding homosexuality. He is told that it is haram (forbidden). Not surprised, he either accepts and continues the struggle with or without guilty feelings or he continues to search for some "loophole" in the texts to accommodate these inclinations that he would rather not have himself as it complicates his life tremendously. 

One person, a graduate of a reputed Islamic studies course, ventures to argue that the scholars are misinterpreting the verses that are primarily used to reach the legal ruling of haram. Others may follow his lead, but I would advise strict caution in this area. Why? Because textual interpretations and legal rulings in Islam are a deeply scholarly endeavour. It is not the work of the layman, and thus the scholars bear the responsibility for it. The layman need only ask qualified scholars. Each person has a place in society and we need to know and respect them.

For those who consider themselves among the scholars, scholarly discussions should be pursued but with the prominent and skilled Islamic jurists of the day, knowing well that there is a process for reaching Islamic rulings and when reached, they need to be acknowledged. It's a dangerous tactic trying to say "But I think Allah meant this and not that" when we speak of the words of God. Better err on the side of caution I would advise. 

My friend wisely accepts the advice of trusted scholars, but is still not reconciled between his feelings and shari'ah boundaries. It is a time when he has to decide on what will he do, much like a married man who wants to commit adultery or an unmarried couple who is inclined to having illicit relations. All are haram. All are based on feelings. All may not intend harm for any party (however unavoidable it is with adultery).

Islam is guidance and not a game. For the one who says she will tell God on the Day of Judgment that all she did was love someone, I say she is playing a game. Love is not the issue, but even still love does not need physical interactions. For the one who said he married but could not make his marriage work because he is "different," he missed the point.

I hate to be crude about it, but the whole issue is about sexual tendencies and we do not require them to survive nor do we need to indulge them because we have them. There are boundaries. 

The issue is not that people have atypical sexual/emotional/psychological inclinations fancying intimate and closer interactions with people of the same gender, but the issue is three-fold:
1) Denying its Islamic legal ruling and scholarly consensus,
2) Acting on one's inclinations, and
3) Publicizing 1 and 2

For those who are practicing Muslims and are faced with this difficulty, if you find yourself weak, then do yourself a favour by hiding your sin and repenting for it, as with any other sin, and pursue the greater part of our existence which is far beyond basal desires.

For those who have "outed" themselves, don't expect the general community to understand you nor to support you in your effort to normalize your tendencies. Many have done it with premarital and extramarital relations, but they are all morally wrong. Instead, ask your loved ones for their prayers and keep your actions pure even though you must struggle with yourself. Marry or remain married if you can fulfill your spousal responsibilities even if he/she is not your idea of an ideal partner and companion. With high intentions, your marriage may be a light for you on a very dark day. May Allah protect us all, ameen.

For those who erroneously comfort themselves by looking at the aspect of Islam that is loving, know that there is no principle in any Islamic teachings - not even among the Sufis - that tolerates deliberate transgressions and a blatant disregard for divine boundaries. At least none of which I'm aware.

Allah will forgive all our sins, except for shirk, but we need to sincerely repent. Repentance has three primary conditions:
1) Leaving the sin,
2) Being remorseful for the sin, and
3) Resolving never to return to the sin

Should any believer find himself weak and returning to the sin after his repentance, the door of sincere repentance is still open and remains open until death approaches. How gracious is our Lord. Allahumma laka kullu al hamd. O Allah, all praises are due to You alone.

So, why do people have such inclinations, a natural phenomenon for them, if acting on them is forbidden Islamically? I imagine it is because this world, inherently, is a test and everyone is tested in different ways. It's a test of obedience and servitude to Allah. There is no doubt that if He has tried us with anything, it is not more than we can handle. The conditions set us up for success if we are brave, patient, strong, perseverant, sincere, humble, and grateful.

It’s fashionable to say “we live only once” and therefore we should do as we please. I agree that we do live once in this world, but our soulful existence is eternal. And because we live only once in this relatively short testing period, we need to remind ourselves (and seek those who help in reminding us) that our pain in this world for Allah’s sake is not in vain. Surely short term pains will reap long term gains when done with high intentions and as acts of servitude before our Creator.

We all have every reason to have a good opinion of our Lord and to know that He never closes the door of acceptance on us, regardless of how lowly we become. But we must wear our faith in a way that befits it and graciously accept the veils that hide our weaknesses in front of people. We must struggle with ourselves to be better, and we must be honest with ourselves even if is against ourselves. 

The aim is not to outwit divine guidance for that can never be achieved and it will never bear fruits. The goal is to embrace it. It is the key to our very existence. Our existence is purely servitude of our Gracious Creator in whatever He guides us to and demands of us.

And Allah knows best. و الله أعلم

May Allah guide us all to correct the wrongs in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls, and may He grant us the wisdom, strength, and understanding to choose better and to draw closer to Him leaving our lower selves starved while feeding our spiritual hearts, ameen.

12/04/2014

Another Year Gone

A Loss

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

If you asked me what I've learned, I'd be hard pressed to answer. The lessons are in me, in some form, but such lessons tend to emerge in their own time and their own way.

One of my greatest insights only struck me long after I articulated it to a good friend. Allah sent a most unexpected confidant my way in those days, one who appreciated the challenge of knowing that who we are is not necessarily a reflection of where we have been or what we have experienced. A friend who didn't let me accept my weakness as my sole reality and who shared thoughts and a character worthy of the word precious. Good friends are rare to find and tough to lose.
اسأل الله أن يبارك لك في كل وقت و حين آمين

December 3, 2014

Tahooran inshaAllah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Illness is really something to be grateful for because it is not in vain. It reminds us of our neediness before our Lord and of His great mercy, compassion, and care. How spectacular it is that He cures us of our maladies and purifies us of our sins for the hardships that we endure through them. Every situation that He allows to reach us is loaded with opportunities to reach Him.

November 28, 2014

Social Prosperity

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

We are social beings not necessarily in needing others to survive but rather in needing to know how to serve others with sincerity so we can all prosper, inshaAllah.

November 22, 2014

Love

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Love for our own sake constrains and makes us vulnerable, but love for the sake of Allah liberates and sets us free.

November 16, 2014

Futile

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I will do that which most might advise against. I will not transcend my state, nor fight it. I shall wait. Confident that only the best will be. I will wait until the best for me becomes me.

September 6, 2014

Beautiful

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

How beautiful it is to be alive in these blessed days. How overwhelmingly beautiful it is to want to be close to one's Lord. How beautiful, generous, and loving is our Lord. Words do not suffice such sentiments, so I shall cease this attempt and move on to other matters. 

July 3, 2014

Settling The Unsettled

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Many of us attempt to find ourselves, but I realize now that searching is a misdirected strategy. We can only search for that which is lost, but often times all we need to do is let the dust settle enough for truth to manifest.

May 30, 2014

Live...

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Live and love with mercy, patience, and gratitude for Allah's sake alone.

April 28, 2014

Cheese

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I love the written word. It can be likened to cheese. Yes, cheese. It is very versatile and when used with the right combination, it's delicious. The written word has one overwhelming quality - for better or worse - and that is that it can be relived potentially infinite times either in the exact same way or morphed into a renewed flavour.

February 27, 2014

Counting

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

My sister tells me not to count, but it's been five months since I've been with my loved ones. I haven't seen my brother in one year more than that and I miss them all. 

I do find my family particularly special. We have our share of dysfunction, but a thousand times over, they are precious and I'm ever grateful to have such a family. I often think of writing about them and the few others who claim a high rank in my heart, but how do words do justice to love?

February 15, 2014

Perhaps

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Perhaps relationships can be likened to tajweed. To recite the Quran as is befitting of its greatness is to recite it with tajweed, thereby giving every letter its right. 

Tajweed is one of the most humbling Islamic sciences as it requires the student to continuously correct his mistakes. These mistakes are best realized at the hands of a skilled teacher. The key to tajweed is to practice, listen, and practice some more. Each letter is different and unique. Each letter plays a different role in each word. To master tajweed, one must not only know the source of each letter but also their attributes.

People too are all different, each with a different story, each with a different set of characteristics. Yet depending on the role that that person has in our lives and his temperment, he is treated accordingly. 

The only way to master relationships is to know their roles, to continuously correct your mistakes in giving each relation its due rights, and to do it for the sake of Allah with hopes of realizing the great potential with which mankind was created.

January 4, 2014

11/23/2014

Every Moment

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The lifeline of every relationship, as I see it now, is to have a good opinion of each other. Quite expectantly, it is a difficult task, but it is essential. 

Relationships, it seems, mark every moment of our lives. We cannot free ourselves of them. In the higher realm, we have an eternal relationship with our Creator, whether or not we acknowledge, honour, or live by it. Secondary to that, we are born into this world with, in the least, a connection to our mothers who have each endured the challenges of our prenatal growth and our births.

Relationships mark every moment, and it will serve us well to understand how best to approach and manage them. With respect to our Lord, it is ever-so natural to submit to Him and to have a good opinion of Him. We know Him from His revelations and His signs and thus there is no room for doubting His guidance and His will. The difficultly, I find, is always having a good opinion of fellow humans.

None of us (with an active nafs) like to feel like a fool, so it makes good sense not to trust everyone we meet and all that we hear. It seems only wise, but there has to be exceptions or else we would become cynical maniacs without restful hearts. 

The exceptions are those that earn titles, so to speak, in our lives. Where we can say "This is my so-and-so" i.e. mother, father, grandparent, sibling, spouse, child, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbour, elder, friend, leader, student, teacher, etc., we must know that there is an equation of rights and responsibilities and an array of expectations and protocol. But within these defined roles and interchanges of give and take, there is also the great possibility of failing to deliver or one merely perceiving the failure to deliver - both of which result in tense relationships.

Is there a preventative measure? Perhaps we simply need to give our relations the benefit of the doubt by having a good opinion of them even if they've disappointed us in some ways or they have wronged us. If nothing more, it will at least allow us to appreciate that we sometimes interpret people's actions negatively without just cause. 

I don't, however, believe that having a good opinion of a person is meant to excuse explicit harm - abuse and bullying. But where we can swallow our pride and consider the reasons for all that seems amiss, we probably should. Will we lose out? Perhaps. That all depends on why we do what we do. If the relationship itself and our management of it is for Allah's sake, then we have nothing to lose regardless of the tough times.

As Muslims, we live for the next world and for the pleasure of our Lord, so let not the pettiness and sneaky behaviours of others harm our relationship with our gracious Creator. In essence, it's the only one worth preserving and we can only preserve it truthfully by honouring His creations to the best of our abilities as He has commanded of us - that is, with an open heart and a flexible mind. 

We must also recognize that our sworn enemy, Shaytan, feeds ill thoughts of and feelings towards others and we only support his cause by failing to challenge it. 

Relationships mark every moment, and the decision to be better and see the best is others is ours alone. We will all surely reap what we sow. 

Allah knows best. و الله أعلم


~~~

Excerpts from a lesson with Al Habib Umar bin Hafiz on having a good opinion of others.

"Do not see yourself as superior to any Muslims. Reflect upon how your ending would be. Don't be proud or arrogant. Think about how your ending will be. You cannot be certain about other people's misdeeds but you can be certain about yourself and your sickness in the heart. Why leave this certainty about yourself in favor of assumptions on other people? Don't be happy about people's praise when you know your own true state with certainty. The more increase in knowledge you may have, the more you should feel conscious about your ignorance. No one can be certain about other people's faults but one can be certain of one's own faults. You have to take yourself to account. As for your brothers, you should excuse them thinking maybe they do this/that for this/that reason. Do not be judging or attacking other people. Have etiquette with the One who hides people's ending. Have etiquette with Allah concerning His creations." - Imam Al Haddad

11/08/2014

Time Travel

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I took a walk today. Though my destination was futile, I savoured every moment of the stroll and thought to myself, "It's like walking through a postcard." Last night I wrote a potential blog post that I expect will not be published here. It built on the idea of experiencing beauty and knowing that I must leave it.

Perhaps life is a succession of postcards. The wise from among us know that postcards are snapshots of beautiful experiences that serve only as a reminder and perhaps a meager testimony of those times.

It seems we spend a great deal of energy trying to record moments. With cameras and recording devices at our fingertips, moments are constantly captured. For what purpose though? To relive them? To enjoy them? I certainly do. I watch a couple of video clips of my kids repeatedly, smiling no less the fifth time than the first. I miss them - the children and the moments. And while I am unable to witness and share in the newest moments of their lives, it's a comfort having a few seconds from times long past.

Do you ever re-read old letters or e-mails? I do, and again I smile no less the fifth time than I did the first, though sometimes with sadness. 

And this is life. Live and love and keep living and loving, the old and the new, but let it not be in vain. Let reminders of the past be invitations to ponder and reflect and to thank the One who bestowed them on us and continues to favour us with His graces. Let moments worth recording, words worth re-reading, smiles worth adorning, and tears worth shedding have a greater purpose. To thank, praise, and glorify our Lord. To ponder, discover, and appreciate our relationships, endeavours, and purpose.

May every postcard have a story that feeds the heart and nurtures the soul, and may every departure be followed by a gracious arrival. May we never imprison our futures with experiences of the past. May Allah guide us to Him and His good pleasure and to submit to that which He wants for us. Truly, we want not except what He wills, inshaAllah wa ameen.

10/07/2014

A Flicker

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الحمد لله رب العالمين العالم الخبير العزيز الحكيم و الف الصلاة  و السلام على الحبيب المصطفى المحمود  و آله الكرام  و صحبه و سلم أجمعين

All praises and gratitude are forever due to our Sustainer and Creator, He who is so gentle yet firm with us. Rabbuna al 'azheem, laka kullu al hamd wa ash shukr.

I'm learning that the power of the mind is extraordinary as defeat begins there and ends in the heart. Despite the potential fickleness of the heart, it can be ruthless. It is a characteristic from which I tire but appreciate. There is such an intricate balance between the two that I don't know how to retaliate in the face of an attack. Do I start with the heart or the mind? Regardless, I get a fine beating from them both and have failed to gain the upper hand thus far. No surprise there.

I'm learning that I'm odd. This descriptor has been mine for as long as I can remember, but I didn't know how or why, and I'm still not sure if it is to my advantage or not. Nonetheless, there is no escaping it.

I'm learning that people's opinions of me are overwhelmingly inaccurate. But I guess that's a secret between me and my Lord, so I chastise myself only for my failure to even attempt to be who I like to think I am. A tangled web of denial.

I'm learning that loyalty is as much my weakness as it is a strength. So I try to be loyal to what is true, but many times I can't separate fact from fiction. A shame really.

I'm learning, quite happily alhamdulillah, that I don't let people bully me for long. Actually, I think I intimidate some people, but that is an old realization because some perceive my silence as deep thinking when in fact there is an absence of thought. Misinterpretations make for false impressions.

I'm learning that it's okay to have a sensitive nature because it is my nature and there is little I can do about it. I'm a sensitive soul that has to learn to wed my sensitivities to knowledge of what is ahsan or most pleasing in the sight of Allah. Again, tall tales of ambitions. But it is better to hope for something great than to resign myself to nothing. The latter, unfortunately, adorns most of my outfits, except when speaking of anything other than myself. Hypocritical I'm sure.

I'm learning that I have a connection to Arabs in general. And perhaps that is simply because the Arabs I know are some of the best examples I've seen of generosity, kindness, hospitality, and care, and I love them for it. That is part of the legacy of our beloved Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam. It is beautiful.

I'm learning that Allah's generosity with us is so vast that we cannot even pretend to grasp it. One of its greatest manifestations is in my parents. Allahu yuziduhuma fi kulli al khayr, ameen. Allah chose them as the means to teach me how to respect my existence and the existence of others. Respect is essential for me. Where it fails to exist, so does the relationship.

I'm learning that I am selfish, greedy, and self-indulgent in ways I don't fully understand. A sad and burdensome reality. Allahumma ishfi qulubana, ameen.

I'm learning that I have much to learn, but I know I cannot teach myself. Perhaps if I can empty my heart of its thorns, Allah will fill it with His jewels. Allahu al Musta'aan.


8/31/2014

ِ A Breath

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I'm grateful for all that I am, have been, but most importantly want to be. I'm grateful for my mistakes and the successes bestowed on me as they are both essential parts in building my character and my sense of me.

I'm grateful for the health that carries me throughout my days and nights, but most importantly that allow me to even dream of a better me, to attempt to do the work that my heart needs done. 

I'm grateful for my family and loved ones who I carry with me wherever I go, but most importantly I'm grateful for the character, personalities, insights, and ambitions that distinguish them in my life and thereby honour my existence.

I'm grateful for the glorious sun and moon whose alterations bring us blessed hours and days but most importantly, I'm grateful that they remind me that my time is passing all too quickly. May I be blessed to use it wisely, ameen.

I'm grateful for all the things that bring tears to my eyes the mention of which I am undeserving but the existence of which I am much obliged. But most importantly, I'm grateful that from them I have the hope of being with them.

I am grateful that Allah allows me to write this. I am grateful, and I pray that my words and emotions can be better realized in actions.

اللهم لك كل الحمد و كل الشكر.
 نشكرك  يا رب العظيم الغفور الرحيم على كل حال.
 اهدنا الصراط المستقيم يا رب العالمين، آمين.

7/10/2014

Human Concern

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I am not politically-minded by any means. I long stopped reading and listening to the news as my heart and mind have a hard time handling it. Nonetheless, I was recently sent a video about the situation in Iraq, so I ask myself, "Are the people in a better or worse state with this new leadership?" "Are injustices, such as wrongful imprisonment, being rectified?"

I have heard snippets of news wherein terms such as "dangerous" and "vile" are being used to describe this Islamic leadership. I definitely agree that it is a powerful leadership (and thus frightening to anyone hoping to rule the world), but it seems that the people are faring much better. It has been far too long since that land has seen leaders who are concerned about the people and their welfare. Ironic as it may be since that, by my definition, is the entire point of a leader.

News reports from the west come with ever-repeated undertones that Islam and anything to do with serious Islamic practice is to be feared, so terms that all relate to "fear" are now being used. But I am entirely committed to Islamic practice because it secures all people from injustices and atrocities. Islamic law is ethical and just to its core, and those who beg to differ have likely not studied it with any intensity or with any sense of understanding of communal good and spiritual excellence.

By Islamic law, blood cannot be shed unjustly. Women, children, and non-combatants are to be protected. Natural resources and animals are to be respected, cared for, and preserved. But who ever writes about that? 

It was said that the best of leaders, Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, wept profusely at the demise of a Jewish boy who was accidentally killed in crossfire. When asked by his companions why he wept, he responded with (something to the effect), "Was he not innocent?"

This world needs a serious change wherein people begin to look at each other with the gaze of compassion and human concern. We desperately need to see the human race as unified such that we won't accept the murder, torture, and harassment of another human being. The bullies of the world need to give it a rest, and the leaders of the world need to maintain ethical standards.

The code of justice, human compassion, and care was exemplified for us by the one (peace and blessings be upon him) who sacrificed his every comfort for the sake of ensuring that we knew what God wanted us to know about living on this earth in peaceful coexistence in servitude of Him and not of our lower, selfish, and aggressive selves. 

We can be better. 

We must affirm that the human condition should be better. In my ignorance of political happenings, I can only say that I pray for a better world, and I pray that success is granted to those who are sincerely striving to bring good to all people - whoever they may and wherever they may be.

Aug. 23, 2014 - Update:

It seems the video that I was sent was severely skewed and deceitful. The situation of the people now involves an array of gross human violations. May Allah grant them relief of such horrors and grant them leadership that serves its true purpose - serving the people and ensuring their rights and welfare are being preserved. Ameen.

6/03/2014

Be-Aware

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

It seems no matter where I run to or where I run from, I can't get away from my life's only predicament. That which I conceptualize intellectually, I fail to manifest realistically. It is an endless cycle. Over and over and over again. I've thought it, said it, written it, and yet I go back around again.

It is my life's Rubik's cube and while my vision is blinded to various colours on the cube, I don't believe that not solving it is an answer or an option.

Some days I take off my glasses, blurry-eyed to every colour, and I throw the cube into the deepest and darkest hole that I can find. But I still don't forget it. Eventually, I put on my glasses again and glance at it from afar. My heart wants to reach for it, yet my hands don't. I then recall the words "love thyself" as that may be the only obstacle keeping me from it. Nonetheless, I turn away making the first of many bad choices.

But the heart remembers. It always remembers. I extend my hand to touch the cube from afar, but I am much too afraid to attempt to work at it. What is there to fear? 

But the mind still remembers. It always remembers. I hold the cube in my hand, secretly thrilled at this mini step while simultaneously grieving the predictable expectation of no progress. I release it.

And I cry because my heart and mind know better. I will be judged by what they know is truth while I busy myself with my self-imposed recklessness and heedlessness.

الله المستعان.
 اللهم اغفر لي و جميع المسلمين آمين.

5/09/2014

Be Beautiful

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

It rained yesterday. No, it poured yesterday. We all went out to enjoy the rain as it is a rare feature in this region, but we soon found ourselves seeking shelter under the parking lot's canopy as it poured. Suffice to say, we were all soaked. Nonetheless, the rain was beautiful. 

The wind is especially strong tonight, stronger than last night. As I peek out of the window, the only clear evidence of the wind's strength is the movement of the water that remains in the partially flooded parking lot. The wind is singing her song.

I'm reminded of Huthaifa bin Al Yaman (حذيفة ابن اليمان) radhi Allahu 'anhu, a particularly special sahaba (to me) of the Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam. He was asked by the Prophet salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam to go into the enemy's camp on a severely windy and cold night during the Battle of the Trench (Al Khandaq). I won't attempt a retelling of the experience except by mentioning the comfort and security that he felt on this mission until his safe return. His steadfast and sincere obedience to the Prophet salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam was met by immediate comforts.

I find myself unable to find a fitting home for my heart. I should know better than to expect a change in the physical environment to have any role in this journey. The outward does facilitate the inward, but it doesn't dictate it. It is no wonder that the outward experiences of the sahabas were all beautiful. Despite being tortured, abused, mocked, and murdered - things vile by themselves - the sahabas exemplified beauty after beauty. How so? With their responses. The outward circumstances had no negative influence on their inward states. Disobedience to the commands of Allah and His Messenger are repulsive to the rightly guided. What of us today?

The beloved of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "Be in this world as though you are a stranger or a wayfarer." This is specific advice regarding the inward's relation to the outward, but does that mean that sakinah, for some, may not take a form? I don't know. I live one day at a time, grateful for the many favours of my Lord that constantly ease my affairs while I chastise myself for failing to walk on this earth manifesting this honored debt of gratitude to my gracious Creator and Lord.

Written on November 18, 2013


4/10/2014

Courage

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Her final piece of advice was to do that which is out of my comfort zone. At first glance, this may sound pretty self-explanatory, but in my usual way, I've made a mess of it before being able to grasp it.

What would classify as being outside of my comfort zone but still within good sense? Quite precisely, her first two pieces of advice. Seeing these three parts come together as a bull's-eye is intimidating in its own right, but they have long been at the tip of self-realizations.

A few months ago, I put myself 100% out of my comfort zone with an equal degree of conviction that what I was doing was worth it. Normally, putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone forces us to engage in things with the the hope that they can offer something. But should we want for ourselves other than what our Lord wants for us?

On might argue then, "If Allah wants something for you, He would facilitate it." True. He always does, but He has requirements and He orders us to make an effort.

There is no easy way to benefit by being outside of one's comfort zone except with constant prayers, reflections, and to attach the act or the effort to Allah, intending it for His sake alone.

Consider the example of going to swim in the sea when one does not know how to swim. This is clearly outside of one's comfort zone because it contains the key element of fear, but the act itself is in vain if not preceded by deeper intentions nor concluded with humble gratitude. And truly, there is no act that is sandwiched by both phenomena except that it is bereft of fear and regret.

As I considered the state of both heart and mind, my decision to act in an uncharacteristic way was attached primarily to the advice of a scholar - Allahu yahfazuhu - (given almost a year prior) and assisted by the counsel of a sincere friend.

I was awestruck by the shaykh's words, doubting that I understood him correctly due to my severe challenges in Arabic, yet allowing my surprise to distract me entirely from paying attention to the translation in English. He spoke of the character of Khadijah radhi Allahu 'anha pointing out her courage which did not indulge fear but only sought khayr (that which is best) or benefit. May Allah unite the believing women with lady Khadijah in this world and the next wa ij'alni wa ahbaabi minhunna, ameen.

For better or worse, this journey of tapping into discomfort for the sake of greater good is likely a constant life exercise forcing the heart and brain to unite on mutually agreeable terms. It is a lot of work but it eliminates "risks" entirely when wedded to high intentions.

My brain is tiring from just trying to articulate these thoughts. In the least, I hope the basic gist is clear so perhaps when these meanings are lost to me in the weeks to come I will, insha Allah, have a somewhat-comprehensible reminder to help push me along the way.

اللهم لك كل الحمد و كل الشكر


2/28/2014

Love Thyself

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Is there any outward evidence that indicates a person loves himself? I suppose the immediate response would be the appearance of confidence and perhaps even a cocky attitude. But is that really loving oneself or is it just a personality type? 

Confidence is sometimes considered the opposite of shyness. I am certain, nonetheless, that they are not in opposition to each other but rather they are truly complementary.

Confidence, as I see it, is not to express one's perceived superiority over others but it is the ability to carry oneself at one's own standard despite others. 

Shyness, I imagine, is the comfort level that one experiences when sharing aspects of himself with various people. Hence, a person may be shy with one person but not another. It is a trait that, I think, is sometimes confused with humility.

Personality traits, however, are not in today's pot of stew. The topic is self-love and what it means. I've mentally tossed this idea around for a while as it was my friend's first piece of advice - love yourself. My first introspective query was and is whether I do or do not love myself and how I would know.

I am assured that this advice is legit within an Islamic framework, but how can we say "I love myself" without being arrogant? 

The quest to love oneself is far beyond the superficial or the obvious. I don't believe it is as simple as saying, "Well people applaud x-y-z qualities in me, so surely these are aspects I should love." People only see a tainted glimmer of partial aspects of us, and those who are honest with themselves are hard pressed to accept such lovable opinions as wholly true. Regardless if they are true or not, laudable traits need not personal recognition in order for one to love himself. 

I am beginning to understand that to love oneself is to love the quality of life that exists in us. It is to love the potential for excellence that Allah has given us all and to believe that it is a potential worth striving for. 

By not loving ourselves, we may be inclined to give up on grand opportunities that are in front of us because we don't believe ourselves worthy of them or we don't feel ourselves capable. But life isn't about us, now is it? It's about Allah and nothing else. 

Perhaps loving the potential to be better is also a tool with which we can fight the lower self (nafs) as it actively calls us to indulge our vile and lowly inclinations. Perhaps it is an untapped force that can actually drive our aspirations to improved states. 

Love thyself for the sake of your Lord, He who created you in all forms and in the best of forms for an elevated purpose. Love thyself and perhaps your purpose can, in the least, be pursued if not realized.

Allah knows best.
الله أعلم

2/21/2014

Happiness

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A few years ago, my dearest friend gave me three pieces of life advice. I have thought about her words and continue to return to them because I haven't implemented any of them due to the lack of truly understanding the first, the lack of insights for the second, and a host of reasons regarding the third.

The third, a deep can of worms, is what I'm considering opening up now. This attempt may be the sheer result of inhaling Vicks' fumes, and I'm already running out of steam.


***

She advised me to get married. While many kind people make du'as for me for this, her words have stuck with me because of our relationship and because she posed it as advice and not as a personal hope.

Marriage is a topic that has come up frequently, for obvious reasons, since my mid-20s. I'm grateful that my parents have a fair approach towards it. Some incline themselves to analyze me, as did one sister recently, after which she finished with: "Is that not so?" A laysa kathalik? I said,  "Nope it isn't" Kalla. I suppose she, like others, consider me either in denial or a lost case. I don't mind either way, even if that is truly the case.

I have had significant reasons and opportunities to reflect on my life in recent months, and the topic of marriage is not one that I misunderstand in myself but rather that I frame it in a way that I can handle and that takes my psychological and emotional peculiarities into account. At least as I see it.

As a baseline, some years ago I decided that I should at least consider any suggestions made, though I do wish that people's suggestions were more than "he's looking to get married." There are a lot of good people out there, but good for one is not necessarily good for another. My sister once advised me that if I have to try to convince myself that I'm inclined, then I'm not. It's only for me to wonder why I'm not and to disregard why he may not be inclined.

I suppose familial expectations dictate what some must look for i.e. ethnicity, education, social connections, etc., but my family's only requirements are that he is good i.e. morally upright and a practicing Muslim, that they are at ease about it, and that I'm happy. Is that a tall order? Seemingly no, but perhaps the most difficult is what I'm happy about. Which leads to people's other criticism about me, and that is that I'm "too picky."

I am particular, but I don't expect more than what I can offer in a marriage and there isn't much that I can offer. I do, however, reserve the right to be as "picky" as I wish before marriage as it is not an option after marriage.

Nonetheless, while people blanket their misunderstandings as picky, I do give it my best and follow some of the advice that was recently offered by Al Habib Hussein As-Saqqaf on making decisions. He said that one must reflect and not rush into things or he will have regrets. Reflection, he said, has three elements:

1) Consulting with three upright, righteous people who have your affairs at heart (استشارة)
2) Making istikhara between you and Allah (استخارة)
3) Engaging in a lot of zhikr (ذكر)

In the same lesson, he gave advice about marriage and said that many forget to look for intelligence. He said, "For a happy home, look at the intelligence of the woman of the household because it affects the atmosphere of the home. When the groom comes to her and she says 'let me think about it' then she is the one because she is a thinker." Similarly, he said to choose friends who take the time to think before they offer advice.

Some things are probably lost in translation there, but the overall message is clear. Likewise, I think the intelligence of a man is vital. But intelligence comes in various forms and I think it's probably most suitable that spouses can at least appreciate the varieties in each other so much so that they can truly say that they respect each other.

Habib Hussein also mentioned, "Allah will guide you accordingly. But when you've done the necessary steps and reach a decision that is clear and then you hesitate, then there is a problem. Have tawakkul 'ala Allah."

This advice is golden and absolutely precious. One need not regret when approaching decisions in this way, and I am grateful that in my heart of hearts I have no regrets. I've done what I can do with regards to possibly getting married, despite that it may seem pathetic and meager to others and that it is riddled with things that people don't or can't understand about me.

Marriage, as I've often written, is a form of rizq and while we are charged with making an effort to seek it, ultimately it is not in our hands. Thus, our efforts must not be considered the reason why we are or are not married. Like everything else under the sun and beyond the sun, we depend on Allah alone to guide us to that which is best for us and our iman and we know that His plan is the best even if we don't understand it.

Praise be to Allah in every and with every situation!

!الحمد لله على كل حال

.اللهم اجعلنا من عبادك الصالحين و ارزقنا ازواجا صالحين، آمين


2/16/2014

Mine To Dream

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I once dreamed a dream that was not mine to dream. 'Twas a beautiful scene from which my mind would glean. How spectacular it was to dream a beautiful dream, a dream that was not mine to dream.

But who can deny me the will to dream? To learn and discern things glorious and serene. To hope and pray for more than a shadowy scene, to embrace the glow that moonlight would glean. How liberating it was to dream a purposeful dream, a dream that was not mine to dream.

Times passes by, and I still savour the dream. A thought, an idea, a direction, an unforgettable scene. Fortitude and fear together answering what life may glean. How undeniable it was to dream a promising dream, a dream that was not mine to dream.

I can no longer dream a wonderful dream. Lost is all ability to dream a new dream, Such is the tragedy of a phenomenal dream. A dream that was mine forever to dream.



2/03/2014

Optimal Illusions

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Teach your kids. That's all there is to it. Schools are a brilliant idea on paper, but in terms of early-years education, teach your children at home if you can. Why? Because they need it. Schools are 90% control and 10% education, and while I definitely agree that there are ample opportunities to learn in early-years classrooms, I am not convinced that, in general, it is optimal learning.

None. In answer to your first question, I don't have any children, but I've had the opportunity to observe them and wonder about what works for them and what doesn't. And then, and then, and then (that's the dramatic influence of being around children), the green light goes off and I realize it doesn't need to be thought out. It's already there. Open the books of ahadith and it is there.

Women. Men. What. Is. The. Point. Of. Your. Lives? Really. Work. And Work. And Work. Annoying. It's an annoying way to live and to see people live when they have other options such as to choose to be a bit more simple or to not try to "secure" their futures so they can actually honour, respect, cherish, and live their present existence. It is lost time with your children and family that you'll never get back. It is lost opportunities to educate them on what it means to be a person, not an excellent school-attendee, but a decent person.

Is decent not a fabulous thing?

The best thing you can teach your child is how to think. To think intelligently, critically, and deeply rather than to replicate the masses. "If they but think..."

All these fragmented sentences are getting me nowhere. I feel a deep sadness and rage for the utmost confusion that we harvest in times that we boast as being advanced. Get over the illusion and get to the heart of the matter. Families need to be re-built and they need work. Marriages need to last. People need to find themselves and find a place where they can live with sincerity and not judgments, with tranquility and not demands.

I suppose I should be living alone on some island. Some things are possible but not always optimal.

اللهم اهدنا آمين