For His Sake

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A week or so before my departure, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus began a series of classes on Imam Al Ghazali's book Ayyuhal Walad. Alhamdulillah, I had the opportunity to attend the first two lessons, I believe, but it troubled me that I would miss the rest of the classes as he mentioned in the introductory lesson that we would learn why some people might spend their lives doing good works yet they would not be accepted by Allah.

For some time, I worried about what he said as I wondered which pursuits would engage my time and what would prevent them from being accepted by Allah. Surely, anything unacceptable to Him cannot be part of one's life ambitions, yet even doing good had the potential of being weightless. Sometime since then, the obvious key (at least as I see it, but then I really should listen to the recordings to find out) behind his words were illumined for me, al hamdu lillah wa ash shukru lillah.

My father always says, "You're either doing something that is pleasing to Allah or pleasing to Shaytan, so choose that which is pleasing to Allah." But what is pleasing to Allah? It is not only to do that which is good, but it is to do that which is good for His sake alone. Hence my love of the words, "It's about Allah, and nothing else."

***

A co-worker recently suggested that my commitment to additional work was mutually beneficial. I understood how it would benefit others, but I curiously asked her how it would benefit me. She told me that it would look good on my employee record. I wondered, then, how many others care what their employee records say. It seems it is not sufficient for one to only do his best but he also seeks comfort in knowing that those who have the power to praise or criticize him see him as an asset. Perhaps this is because it is nice to feel valued or perhaps it is because for some it could be the difference between having a home and living on the streets.

But what about our life-long record which is compiled by angels at the command of the Lord of all that exists? Where is our concern for its contents?

وَأَمَّا مَنۡ أُوتِىَ كِتَـٰبَهُ ۥ بِشِمَالِهِۦ فَيَقُولُ يَـٰلَيۡتَنِى لَمۡ أُوتَ كِتَـٰبِيَهۡ
(٢٥:الحاقة)
But as for him who is given his record in his left hand, he will say: Oh, would that I had not been given my book. 
(25:Al Haaqqah-69)

The greater understanding, as I see it, is to know that Allah alone is our provider. We do not depend on others for our sustenance nor do we work for their pleasure. We depend on Allah alone for each and everything and we act for His sake alone. Is this not part and parcel of what it means to be a Muslim? We cannot fear that we will miss anything as nothing will come to us except that which He wills. 

 ما شاء الله كان و ما لم يشأ لم يكن و لا حول و لا قوة إلا بالله العلي العظيم
Whatever Allah wills will be, and whatever He does not will will not be, and there is no power or might except with Allah the Most High, the Great.

***

Living our lives in isolation makes it easier for us to remember to adorn our acts with worthwhile intentions, for the sake and pleasure of Allah alone. It is easier to submit our affairs to Him and to affirm His complete control over the dominions of the Heavens and Earth. The greater difficulty, I find, is understanding "for the sake of Allah" in relationships where expectations are seemingly intrinsic and the potential for disappointments are great. But that is another topic for another day, inshaAllah.

Allahu Khaliquna - Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In college, I had a friend who had greenish-brown eyes. They were stunning and I would often tell her - mid-conversation - that I couldn't believe that it was her real eye colour. As the months passed, I remember thinking to myself that I stopped noticing the colour of her eyes despite that they were unchanged and still a wonder.

How long can we behold a thing of beauty and savour its offering before we can't contain any more of it? Or before the wonderment fades and something akin to boredom leads us elsewhere? It is not that we no longer consider that thing beautiful, but rather that we are unable to access, appreciate, or relish any more of it.

If sunrise was a constant, full-day phenomenon, for how long would we or could we enjoy it?

There are two truths of outward beauty. The first is that it is not an end and the second is that it heightens when shared. This is of course a very elementary perspective on beauty.

We must then go deeper and first acknowledge that nothing in creation is without purpose. Beauty exists in every inch of the physical world and every aspect of the intellectual and intangible world. But it is useless if it serves only as a passing amusement. Thus, it must necessarily be connected with the inward: the emotional -on a primary level- or the spiritual -on an elite level- if we are to discover the real meaning and taste of beauty. Only then is beauty savoured and appreciated long past sensory stimulation.

Beauty leads to an experience not a state so it cannot be constant unless or until, I imagine, it is connected to a spiritual insight. With deep reflections, physical, momentous beauty soars in spiritual insights, the inward. Alternatively, we find that a thing of momentous pleasure rises to become a source of deep reflection which is eventually harvested as a state of deep gratitude and profound peace.

Perhaps the reader may consider this articulation a culmination of feathery words and baseless meanings, to which I might agree. However, as I am exposed to innumerable breathtaking sights, I know not how to savour them regularly as I have no one to share them with outwardly. I recognize that they are clearly not in vain and a deeper and prolonged appreciation of them need not require mere pleasant companionship as God is most just and kind.

Thus, I must return to my heart and mind in an attempt to discover what must be made aright so that my appreciation of such beauty is not a mere snack for the sight but is rather utilized as fuel for the heart. Such a transition, I'm afraid, seems impossible without the subtle assistance of weighty companionship 
(those who inspire deeper inward progressions) or the training and guidance of a teacher or spiritual guide. But at least by articulating it, I can now understand some points of my difficulties and failure.

O Allah, all praises and gratitude are due to You alone. You have created all that exists, has ever existed, and will ever exist. We affirm Your beginningless and endless existence, Your majesty, and Your transcendence. Ya Khaliqu, raise your weak and disobedient servants so that creation and its beauty are means through which we draw closer to You. Protect us from vanity as we behold beauty it in all its forms. Let us be of those who recognize You and Your Lordship despite beauty and not because of it. Your governance, power, generosity, and all Your attributes are limitless and must not be limited by only what the eyes behold. O Allah, guide us to You. We are lost and experience the pain and punishment of this misdirection. There is none to lead us to You except You. O Allah unite us with the reality of Your beloved, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, his existence, his beauty, his character, and his way, and guide this ummah to rise to the way of following him for Your sake alone.

اللهم اغفر لي و لوالديّ و لاحبابي و لجميع المسلمين و المسلمات و المؤمنين و المؤمنات و اهدنا إليك
يا ارحم الراحمين يا ارحم الراحمين يا ارحم الراحمين
آمين يا رب العالمين
***
The response of a scholar and a wali as he beholds the sight of the Niagra Falls. الله يحفظه

Allahu Khaliquna

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

If you're reading this, then you're about to embark on a relatively brief journey through one cycle of my thoughts ("relatively" being the keyword of course). Consider this fair warning.

It starts with the notion of modesty as I learned from the Yemenis. Modesty in its outward form manifests itself as niqab. Yet in one of the first khutbas that I heard at a masjid in Sana'a, the imam spoke about how women in the neighbourhood, despite wearing niqab, adorned their eyes with lavish makeup seeking the obvious attentions of the all-too-attentive men on the streets.

In a country where niqab is the norm, one learns that there is a deeper level to modesty which includes veiling the eyes from conveying meaning. I learnt this lesson quickly as it irked me to find that despite being entirely covered, some men still sought a message from the eyes. 

Eyes are miraculous. They are truly phenomenal. Consider the difference between the sound of laughter and the sight of it in one's eyes. Sometimes cameras capture a sliver of the heart shining in people's eyes that moments can almost be relived soundlessly. Almost. Allahu khaliquna.

I then remembered how Yemeni women did not shy away from beautifying themselves in their homes. One evening, as I sat with the children, the lady of the house came into the room. I looked at her and said, "Wow. Where are you going?" She said, "Nowhere." I smiled and said, "I could get married in that."  I admired her commitment to beautifying herself for those who were worthy of beholding her entire beauty, a beauty that was increased by the mere fact that it wasn't available to any wandering eyes. Allahu khaliquna.

A friend, who I imagine has just married or will be married in a few days inshaAllah (may Allah bless her marriage and grant her and husband righteous offspring and protection from all evils, ameen) mentioned how her fiance suggested that she wear coloured contact lenses. Interestingly, the Yemeni sister also had a pair of blue contact lenses. I personally draw the line of beautification at faking one's eye colour, but each their own. Allahu khaliquna.

My friend embraced her fiance's suggestion for all the reasons that would make her a good wife, mashaAllah. It was nice to to find them in agreement in this regard. I had once asked her about whether they attended the same Islamic lessons. She said they hadn't spoken about it. I was dumbfounded as how they could be agreeing to marry yet they hadn't discussed, what I perceived (or assumed) to be such a large aspect of her life.

It dawned on me today that it is sufficient - for some or even most - to say to each other, "We intend to be a comfort to each other's eyes. We intend to be good to each other and to each other's families. We intend to be good people." If their hearts are inclined, then it is a done deal. The missing link, I find, is what people base those ideas of "good" on and how they plan on persevering in them when things get rough. Perhaps my gross intellectual incompetencies on the topic explains my apparent failure in it. Allahu raziquna.

I will say though, returning to the idea of niqab, that it is a very beautiful thing. There is so much more twirling around in my head about it and this idea of modesty and other things, but alas, this tireless thought must end with one minor insight and not much to show for it. Perhaps it'll be more useful to the reader than the writer. Or not. Allahu karim.

Allahu Khaliquna - Part 2


A Message

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Yesterday evening this small community, that is now home for me, was met by a violent and severe rainstorm. Alhamdulillah that I and those who I know here were all at home. Nonetheless, while some of us watched and listened as strong winds swept the streets, broke palm trees in half, uprooted other trees, and even lifted an aluminum roof off a school, others rushed to clean up the rain water that was seeping into their homes or they busied themselves trying to keep their children calm. It rained the entire night alongside howling winds. Things have since settled, alhamdulillah, but the flooded streets and closed schools are a reminder of last night's message.

Only a little bit of water seeped into my apartment.  I only noticed it as I stood by the window and looked out to see the early evening skies darken while intense winds and rain poured through. Little was visible to the eyes, but much could be heard. 

I was reminded of both the people of 'Aad and the people to whom Nuh 'alayhi assalaam was sent. Not a single drop of rain will fall from the sky except that Allah wills it. Yesterday's rain was from the wrath of God, while this morning's rain was surely from His mercy. We have much to fear with regards to our spiritual states and yet there is so much for which to hope. May Allah forgive us and guide us to all that is pleasing to Him and protect us from that which isn't. May He protect us from the evils of ourselves and may He make us among His grateful, patient, obedient, and righteous servants, ameen.

We must take heed as the message that was sent was a reminder of wisdom that has already reached our ears. The issue isn't the mind as much as it is the heart. So I remind myself that as I process the storm in mind I have to strive for changes in heart. Such short-term memories most of us have.

Nov. 21, 2013

Truly Lived

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I can report. I can philosophize. I can dream. I can chastise. I can ponder. I can vent. I can ramble. I think ramble is the most suitable word to describe what I'm doing, but I'd like to taste. The same way a momentous touch lingers. An unfinished thought perturbs. A gesture replays. A glance questions and invites. A breath catches. And an eye waters.

In reality, I play. I play with words. I play with thoughts. I play with ideas. I play with sentiments. I play with hopes. But I must live.

What is it to live, if not to taste or to play? To wonder or to believe? It is to know. It is to have certainty despite the abstract. It is to have confidence despite the confusion. It is to affirm truth.

What is truth? To be. To be what was intended for you to be within what is ordained for you. To be is to submit. To submit is to recognize. To recognize is to serve. To serve is to see reality for what it is. This is life.

How many of us want for ourselves what we cannot have? To be taller or shorter, richer or stronger, darker or lighter, wiser and brighter, happier and free. It is endless. 

Is it not enough to want to just live a life worth living, whatever its shape, whatever its direction? In happiness or sadness, with ease or pain, in health or illness, with wealth or poverty? Are they not all the same when the only measures of a life truly lived are patience and gratitude, morality and uprightness, obedience to the One who deserves all loyal servitude, and sincerity?

I wonder about living a life truly lived. It is close, but still so utterly far.

Ya Sahibi

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلۡتَ إِلَىَّ مِنۡ خَيۡرٍ فَقِيرٌ
القصص: ٢٤
My Lord! I am needy of whatever good Thou sendest down for me. (Al Qasas: 24)

It is another enormous blessing that we find ourselves alive in these blessed days of Dhul Hijjah as it forces us to scrape away all the excess in our lives, essentially all that which doesn't benefit our relationship with Allah.

In recent weeks, I've been disturbed by ideas of consumerism and consumption as a norm for certain people. Many stores, endless merchandise, continuous efforts to own and indulge -- it all seems very pointless to me and lacking in the essence of our beings. I think of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and the choice that lay before him between living the simple life that he did or living as a worldly king. He chose the former and taught us what it means to be royalty among the King of all kings. But what's the point in mentioning his lessons if we are so ill prepared or ill intentioned in practicing and living by them? 

It's worth reflecting on the insights that a sister shared with me a few days ago when she reminded me that Allah does not leave our hands empty when we raise them asking Him for whatever it is that we want. Allahu karim. Weight has no measure when comparing that with which Allah fills our hands to the physical things which we hope to acquire (which is still all from Him).

One such blessing that Allah grants us is sisterhood. I've recently witnessed and experienced the truly spectacular phenomenon of it at work as strangers have so seamlessly turned into friends. I pray that Allah grants them and their families the best of both worlds, ameen. I remind myself, however, that a friend is not always a companion. A companion shares the journey while a friend only illumines it. I'm grateful for the friends I have, but I seek companionship.

There is only one companion worth pursuing, but it requires a pure heart and an intelligent mind. Perhaps one day I shall befit its company. It is something that I must struggle for if there is any sincerity in me. I pray that Allah, most generous is He, makes it beloved to me and my loved ones and makes us beloved to it.


اللهم اجعلنا من اهل القرآن باطنا و ظاهرا و علمناه  من اجلك
 اللهم ارزقنا محبة القرآن و فهم القرآن  وعلم القرآن  و حفظ القرآن  و أخلاق القرآن  و أعمال القرآن و ثبتنا في حياة قرآنية، آمين 

A Lesson

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A friend recently asked me "What's new?" I supposed, perhaps incorrectly, that it was a general question since the few "new" occurrences in the year, unknown to the questioner, had already passed thus making my life uneventful with nothing of great anticipation to share. 

I imagine it is the lack of refreshed insights that has kept me away from this writing space (or perhaps just the angst of old and tireless words that saw no actions). Nonetheless, as I think about this idea of old and new, I must say that I have had a wonderful experience in recent months, namely teaching a group of young ladies weekly lessons. 

My students taught me a great deal throughout our classes, but their lessons manifested themselves in such abstract and intangible ways that they now seem impossible to articulate. 

On a basic level, my students taught me that being a teacher is a part of who I am. I am not a teacher because of any type of training or a job title, but I am a teacher because of the relationships that I share with my students wherein there is mutual respect, concern, and - dare I say - love. 

I recall one evening when my students learned that I'm unmarried. They were surprised, "But sister Farzeen, you're so...." said one of my students just as I turned around to write something on the board hoping to change the topic as swiftly as possible. It was from that incident that I realized that my students did not consider me "a" teacher but rather "their" teacher. It's a distinction that may seem frivolous to many, but it is profoundly significant to me and a true honour.

All praises and gratitude are due to Allah alone, He who sent the best of all creations - peace be upon him - to teach us about Him and our relationship with Him. 

اللهم لك كل الحمد وكل الشكر
 اغفر لنا وتب علينا
 وافتح علينا أبواب رحمتك
 آمين
"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]

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Inspiration

"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]