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Tony Blair’s Sister-in-law Converts to Islam

Most of us have already heard of her conversion story to Islam, read about in newspapers or watched her on TV programs. But the Muslim voice on this video articulates the matter differently. With heartfelt peace, gratefulness and compassion, sister Lauren Booth communicates different sides and incidents of her spiritual journey to Islam taking us back and forward in her life.

How indescribable the feeling of submitting oneself to God, of being a sincere worshipper and servant of Him, sister Lauren passionately exclaims, explaining how Islam changed her outwardly and inwardly.

She is mostly known as the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Yet this is not the issue.

On interesting discoveries and keen pursuit of knowledge about Islam, particularly after 9/11, like many, Lauren found her destination within Islam. Leaving behind years of drinking and dating, she now is living by Islam’s code of life and teachings.

Watch the video and enjoy listening to Lauren Booth diving into her heart and mind exploring what exactly Islam has done for her.

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Young British Convert to Islam

‘Thanks to my mother who took me to conferences and meetings I came to know Islam.'

‘Thanks to my mother who took me to conferences and meetings I came to know Islam.’

According to several recent British studies, the number of Muslims in the UK has increased by 37% over the last six years, while the number of mosques has reached 1,500, al Jazeera.net reported.

With the fact that hundreds of British people are embracing Islam, the British authorities recently confirmed the numbers of British prisoners and students converting to Islam are on the rise every day.

During a tour to mosques and Islamic centers there, al Jazeera.net has reported that some of the children who converted to Islam are originally from Brazil, Luxembourg, Panama, and Sweden.

Tranquility and Peace

Interviewing Alexandra, the daughter of Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, who converted to Islam last Ramadan at the age of 12, she said:

‘Thanks to my mother who took me to conferences and meetings I came to know Islam. Converting to Islam has given me much tranquility and soulful satisfaction.’

Alexandra remarked how Islam has changed her life forever and certainly for the better:

‘My life is no more the same; now I love God and I fear Him’, Alexander said.

On the moment of her conversion the girl recalled how the warm senses of peace and serenity washed over her when she uttered the Shahadah as if her soul ascending upward saying ‘I did it. Yes, I did it’.

More respect and humility are among the many things that Islam gave her, that after wearing the hijab, she feels self-respectful and dignified as she never felt before, she noted.

‘I was lucky starting at a secondary school this year where I’m treated with gentleness and respect. I feel welcome there, that I even have a separate prayer room.’

Alexandra concluded that it is by the will of God that she became Muslim.

On her family and relatives’ reactions to her conversion, she said that she hasn’t met her aunt, the ex-PM’s wife, yet.

‘At first it provoked weird reaction; in the first weeks after conversion my father’s family were staring at me strangely. But then they came to treat me very normally.’

In Love with Minarets

Aged 14, George, originally from Sweden, for his part, converted to Islam after reading about Islam and identifying with Muslim families and friends in London.

George explained that his first relationship with Islam was through minarets, which he then used to photograph, and the Adhan (Islamic Call to Prayer):

‘I couldn’t help waiting for the Adhan to feel that strange feeling, what made me turn to my father to explain the mystery’, he said.

‘George’s curiosity to learn about Islam and his love for call prayers has led him to embrace Islam,’ Abdullah, George’s school colleague, then close friend, said.

‘My father’s answer that ‘it’s just a temporary feeling’ helped only increase my curiosity exponentially. That’s why I turned to `Abdullah for consultation.’

The boy’s link with Islam strengthened after moving to Abu Dhabi where his father was offered a job in aviation.

George’s life came to a u-turn on seeing the close, healthy and stable family relations Muslims have, and how they are built on love, respect, remarkable strength and nobility.

About the biased and sensational way in which Western media deals with and portrays Islam, George said this was part of his initial motivation to study about Islam.

“What is all this controversy about Islam for?” George asked his father.

After `Abdullah and Tamer, the school colleagues, helped George learn more about Islam through the internet, he told his family that he wants to be a Muslim.

George’s family didn’t oppose his decision, but asked him to think deeply before taking it.

He did and took the decision, converted to Islam last month in London.

Real Love

‘Islam is my real love’ said Sheila Rudd, 15, from South London, describing her relationship with the new religion.

‘It’s not a lust, a disgusting glass of alcohol or a drug sold on cheap markets for pleasure.’

Rudd, who converted to Islam a year ago, enthusiastically declared how happy she is seeing people entering Islam every day in Britain.

‘It tells that the media lies and bias have failed in distorting the true image of Islam. On the contrary, it made more people learn about Islam and, consequently, choose it’, she said.

Upon embracing Islam, British converts admitted that they felt inside a deep breath of relief and happiness that were never experienced before.

According to the British authorities, the emotional, soulful void felt by the British youth is the principal motive behind seeking Islam as propeller for lasting happiness and peace.

Observers say that in place of failing role of the Church and, accordingly, of Christianity and Judaism in general, and the moral decay and spiritual emptiness in the British society, Islam has become the safe haven of peace, content, and tranquility.

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Source: Aljazeera.net

 

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From an Atheist to a Devoted Muslim: My Path to Islam

fence in nature

I know times can get hard, with family, society, friends not agreeing or mocking your religion or choices of life. Just know that Allah is testing you.

I didn’t even know Islam existed. I did not even know it was a religion, the only religion I knew was Christianity, due to my mother’s side of the family being Catholic and Christian.

I was oblivious to what Islam was. Subhan Allah, I was obviously caught up in this world way too much. Satan had seriously veiled my heart from seeking the true path.

Glory be to Allah, I went from being an atheist to (al-hamdu lillah) being a God-fearing person who implements Islam into every aspect of my life. I converted September the 21st 2011. Islam was the total opposite of how I lived my life before. It was a literally huge turning point in my life.

How I Did It

As I said, my Mom’s side of the family are Christian and Catholic. They’ve never been religious, only taking me to church occasionally on Christmas Eve. My dad’s side of the family are all non-practicing Muslims. However, due to my parents breaking up I was never close to my Dad. My dad would tell me to not eat pork or reveal myself, but never told me why, so I ignored it.

Before I converted, my life was chaos. It was all about me. When I was nine years old, I had many problems which eventually led me to nearly killing myself, accidentally. Family problems, problems at school, bullying, self-image… you name it. I decided to self-harm, and ended up cutting too deep, just missing my artery on my left arm. I had to stay in hospital and have four stitches. Al-hamdulillah, Allah gave me life when I did not deserve it. I was thirteen and had been through so much.

Towards the end of my ninth year, I had a Muslim person on my BBM. I would always see them post words such as ‘In sha’ Allah’ and ‘Masha’Allah’. This intrigued me, as they would send broadcasts and etc. about Islam. I became interested and started to seek answers.

My friends at the time were all Caucasian or Jamaican. I approached a Muslim girl in my year, who had been in my class since year seven. I told her I wanted to convert. I didn’t know why, it was so confusing. I never even knew what the religion was. Something was just telling me to convert!

Another sister in my year, would speak to me every science lesson and decided to take my number. At first I was interested, I was at the point of converting, then I told my Mom.

She told me that I wouldn’t be able to conform to the rules of Islam, due to how different it was. This hurt me. Then some serious family problems arose which was when I decided to not convert.

I then went on holiday to Spain, as it was the six-week holiday! I was a proper Western girl and lived life to the fullest; wearing my bikini, eating bacon, and occasionally drinking Lambrini or Malibu. When I came back I was surprised to see messages from this sister. She was still trying to help me convert (Al-hamdulillah). Not once did this sister give up on me!

I started to challenge the religion, trying to pick flaws, but it was too perfect, there were no flaws, subhan Allah!

When we went back to school, the sisters were trying so hard. One day, they brought me some chocolates; this is what changed my heart. I was no one to these girls yet they were so passionate about my hereafter. The love they showed towards me was beautiful and unique. I converted later that day!

Challenges Faced

As for reaction from non-Muslim friends and family members, my mom’s family was disappointed and still are. I lost all my old friends.

I don’t speak to most of my family. Now, morals, friends, choices and life are for Islam.

As for holidays, I spend most `Eids alone. Still, he warming, loving atmosphere of `Eid is beautiful.

Stand Your Ground

You can benefit and learn from my experience. So, this is my advice to you:

– Ensure that you have good company, leave any bad influences.

– Learn the basics of the religion before trying to rush into the deeper aspects of it.

– Do things in your own time with pure intentions for the sake of Allah; do not aim to please the creation, but to please the Creator.

– Try to use your experience to help others to convert.

– Share the message of Islam.

– Put your trust in Allah. I know times can get hard, with family, society, friends not agreeing or mocking your religion or choices of life. Just know that Allah is testing you.

– Hold firm to your religion and know that Allah chose you to be amongst his beloveds.

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Source: Islam.about.com

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On the Path to God

path in nature

When goals are desirable, the process of aspiring to, working towards and achieving them also become desirable.

The path to God is only illuminated when a person recognizes the central place of God in his life and strives to develop his self accordingly. The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said:

“If someone wants to know what position he enjoys in the eyes of God, he has only to look at what place he gives to God (in his heart and life).” (Al-Hakim)

The term nearest in meaning to self-development in the Qur’anic vocabulary is tazkiyah. Tazkiyah means purification and refers to the cleansing of the human self from all that is unwholesome, undesirable and unwelcome.

It also refers to the nurturing and strengthening of all the qualities within the human self that are essential for growth and development, for blossoming and flowering.

The Goal in Life

Success and happiness in this world and the Hereafter depend on tazkiyah, the purification and nurturing of our personality. The Qur’an states that true success is only reserved for those who seek to purify themselves:

Successful indeed is the one who purifies his whole self. (Ash-Shams 91:9)

Our personality comprises not only the physical body but also the mind and the heart, feelings and attitudes, character and behaviour. Proper nurturing and development of these elements of the personality will achieve desirable goals. When goals are desirable, the process of aspiring to, working towards and achieving them also become desirable.

This is part of human nature. It is critical, therefore, that we recognize and understand the true nature of our ultimate goal in life.

For the believer, the most coveted goal in life is to seek the good pleasure of Allah and Janna or Paradise. Our Creator has set this goal for us: “And surely Paradise – it is the goal” (An-Nazi`at 79:41); “Indeed the Next abode – it is truly the life!” (Al-`Ankabut 29:64); “The companions of Paradise – they are the triumphant ones” (Al-Hashr 59:20).

Way to Paradise

Know, however, that attaining the pleasure of Allah takes precedence over seeking Jannah but the two are closely connected. Paradise can only be attained through seeking Allah’s pleasure, and when Allah’s pleasure is gained, we will indeed be granted Paradise. Reflect upon the following two verses in the Qur’an:

And there is a kind of person who would willingly give up personal interests, seeking Allah’s pleasure; and God is Most Compassionate towards His servants. (Al-Baqarah 2:207)

Indeed Allah has purchased from the Believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise, in return. (At-Tawbah 9:111)

The alternative to attaining Paradise in the Hereafter is to be placed in Jahannam or Hellfire and to receive its punishments. The Quran states: “But in the life to come: (it is either) severe suffering, or God’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance.” (Al-Hadid 57:20). What is it that makes a person deserving of such a suffering?

The answer is to be found in the second part of the same verse: “for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion” (Al-Hadid 57:20). Jahannam therefore, is for those who seek as their ultimate goal in life, not the pleasure of Allah or Paradise, but the enjoyment of worldly gains.

The pursuit of worldly gain is but a mirage. All worldly gains are left behind when you die. All that is on earth is bound to perish while Allah and His good favour will remain forever. It is for this reason that the Qur’an advises:

Vie with one another in seeking to attain to your Sustainer’s forgiveness; and to a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been readied for those who have attained to faith in God and His messengers: such is the bounty of Allah which He grants unto whomever He wills -for Allah is limitless in His great bounty. (Al-Hadid 57:21)

All your efforts in this world should therefore be focused only on seeking Paradise. It is the promise of the Almighty that:

You will only be rewarded fully for all your good deeds on the Day of Resurrection, and (on that Day) whoever will be drawn away from Hellfire, and admitted into Paradise, will indeed have triumphed. (Aal `Imran 3:185)

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The article is excepted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Life’s True Joy and Major Assets

In Allah’s Hands

 

beautiful nature

Man should realize that life is temporary and that it is solely at Allah’s command.

The life of this world is one of Allah’s major bounties. Life flourishes at Allah’s command. As rain revives the dead land, filling it with thick foliage and pleasant vegetation, in the same measure Allah makes life full of charms and joys.

Life must, therefore, be led only in the manner that its Master, Allah, asks us to do. Notwithstanding its great attraction, the greenery around us should not blind us to its short life. Allah Who causes life to appear in its innumerable forms does and can reduce it to nothing in no time. The dense vegetation withering and decaying into dry, ugly stubble is a common sight.

From this everyday occurrence man must learn the striking truth that all life is mortal, as brief as seasonal vegetative growth is.

Equally significant is the truth that Allah being All-Powerful causes life to appear in its countless splendid manifestations and again, it is Allah Who ends it suddenly. Man should not therefore be carried away by the outward beauty of life. Rather, he should realise that life is temporary and that it is solely at Allah’s command.

True Joy

To illustrate the point further, the Qur’an cites the concrete examples of wealth and sons who are extremely dear to man in this life. They are, no doubt, precious assets and a source of much joy. Yet they too, are as impermanent as seasonal vegetation is.

Wealth and sons are adorments of the life of this world: But the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of your Lord, as rewards, and best as (the foundation for) hopes. (Al-Kahf 18:46)

Man cannot turn wholly indifferent to worldly objects. He is dependent upon them in leading his life. And precisely for the same reason has Allah blessed man with the basic necessities, especially wealth and children, sources of immense physical and emotional support and comfort. However, man should not be engrossed in these.

Wealth and sons often distract man from strictly and consistently following Allah’s way. Out of his love of wealth and children man is liable to do things which are not desirable in Allah’s sight. The Qur’an therefore, cautions man against this pitfall. Wealth and sons are not evil in themselves. For their outright rejection implies monasticism as the preferred way of life.

Islam does not banish economic pursuits from the sphere of man’s life. The Qur’anic note of caution, nonetheless, is that man should not be given wholly to this world which might misdirect him away from Allah’s path.

Good Deeds

In Islam these are rather the favours which Allah showers on man, and which render his life joyful and meaningful.

Man should, therefore, set his eyes firmly on the performance of good deeds which bring him Allah’s pleasure. Wealth and sons may be deployed for achieving the same end. Significantly enough, Allah promises eternal reward and hope for deliverance for every good deed.

Any particular deed is not specified on this count. It is evident from several hadiths that every good deed, permeated with the belief in the One True God, brings man nearer to Allah.

This is what man’s chief preoccupation in life should be. Although man and life itself are mortal, good deeds have a lasting effect, which may brighten man’s prospects and exalt his rank in the Afterlife.

Man should, therefore, realise this truth notwithstanding all the distractions and temptations in life.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s The Qur’an: Essential Teachings, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Make Your Way to Jannah

nature-green fields

Islam is a state of becoming not a state of being. Each day strive to improve and better yourself, and you will.

The first step in self development is to concentrate single-mindedly on Paradise. Indeed, the one who is unsure of his destiny in life, torn between this world and the Next, like one standing with his feet in two separate boats, will be thrown off balance.

Many of the difficulties that we face are due to this lack of commitment and inability to focus on the real and ultimate goal. If you can keep your focus on Jannah, then everything else will be possible.

Journey to the True Goal

The selection of the ultimate goal of Paradise must be made consciously and may involve an absolute break with the past. To choose this new goal as the ultimate goal in one’s life is in fact to choose a new life, to begin a new journey.

Embark on this new journey by refreshing your wudu’ (ablution) and offering two rak`ahs (units) of salah or prayer reminding yourself of all the punishment of Hellfire you have just resolved to avoid at all costs and all the rewards of Paradise that you will strive to achieve.

Remind yourself also of the important stations and landmarks on the journey; imagine death as near; imagine the moment when the Angel of Death will declare, ’your time is over, now you must follow me’; imagine that moment when you will be made to stand in the presence of Allah, Most High, so that the final judgment of life may be passed on you and imagine the consequences of that judgment.

When you have completed the two rak`ahs then resolve once more that all efforts will be directed towards achieving Paradise, beseech Allah and pray with humility:

‘O Allah, I ask for Your mercy and whatever brings me closer to it, in word and deed.’

‘O Allah, I ask for a faith that will never vanish, a blessing that will never diminish, a pleasure that will never abate, and the most elevated position in Paradise distinguished by the Companionship of Your Messenger, Muhammad.’

While improvement in your habits and actions is a life-long process, the desire to achieve it can thus be sparked in a moment. This desire will provide the momentum for attaining your goal – the good pleasure of Allah and Paradise.

Your Mission

Having taken the fast step and resolved to attain Paradise, you may ask yourself, ‘what does Allah require from me in order for me to succeed?’

What Allah requires of you, in Qur’anic vocabulary, is for you to be a mu’min (believer) and mujahid (striver). A mu’min is one who is true and firm in his faith in God. A mujahid is one who strives his utmost, with all the means at his disposal, to gain God’s pleasure.

If you are a mu’min and a mujahid, Allah (the Most Exalted in Power and yet the Most Compassionate) will assist you to rise to higher stations both in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah has promised this to those who possess the qualities of iman (faith) and the active resolve for jihad or struggle. The Qur’an states:

The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they doubt not and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah; they are the truthful ones.(Al-Hujurat 49:15)

You now have a mission: to become a mu’min and mujahid. As you embark upon this mission you may come to feel that your knowledge of Islam is somewhat limited or perhaps that you are unable to attain those heights of submission and purification that you desire or others expect of you. This is only natural.

You must not, however, allow these feelings of personal shortcomings to undermine your efforts to practice Islam. Remember that Islam is a state of becoming not a state of being. Each day you must strive to improve and better yourself – and you will improve.

Gradually

Tazkiyah (purification) or this new program for self-improvement that you now find yourself in, is a process that unfolds itself step by step. You cannot expect to change all at once. This is against the laws of nature.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was always aware of this when he was dealing with his Companions. Whenever someone embraced Islam, the Prophet would not ask that person to do everything immediately. Instead, he would teach and expect that person to start fulfilling his obligations only as much as he could bear at a time. This gradual process of change is also clearly reflected in the manner in which the Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years.

In all your efforts towards becoming a better Believer, you must bear in mind this principle of gradualism, otherwise you may try to attain the impossible, and when you do not achieve it, you may become frustrated.

At this stage, what matters most is that your bargain with Allah, iman, remains sound and firm. This definition of iman is perhaps a little different from the definition you usually hear. It is, however, a definition that we find in the Qur’an definitely in Surat At-Tawbah 9. Furthermore, attainment of such iman, allows you to be counted among the true and sincere servants in the eyes of your Lord:

Behold, God has bought of the believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise in return, they fight in God’s cause, and slay, and are slain: a promise which in truth He has willed upon Himself in the Tawra, and the Injil, and the Quran. And who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? (At-Tawbah 9:111)

Once you have committed yourself to Allah, all that you have must be spent in His way. This is the ideal. Ideals, however, are always difficult to achieve – and this you must understand and accept.

Ideals are always to be pursued; if they are easily and always achievable, they can hardly remain as ideals. Keeping to your side of the bargain then, is an ideal that you must always seek to maintain.

It is this seeking and this striving to spend all that we have in the way of Allah that is known as jihad and alternatively, in this instance, as tazkiyah.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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True Faith and Personal Responsibility

flower in nature

To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself.

As you proceed on your journey along the new path, in quest of the ultimate goal of Paradise, you will encounter difficulties and hardships. These may often seem insurmountable.

Overcoming them may be made easier by a good early grasp of the prerequisites of tazkiyah (purification). These are as follows:

Tazkiyah: Your Personal Responsibility

You must accept that tazkiyah is a highly personal process and that it demands taking personal responsibility for carrying it forward. You can only see the results of tazkiyah through your own realization, your own personal efforts and your own exertions.

No one else can perform tazkiyah for you. No organization, no leader and no teacher can replace your own responsibility. God says:

And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden; and if one weighed down by his load calls upon (another) to help bear carry it nothing thereof may be carried (by that other), even if it be one’s near of kin. (Fatir 35:18)

This sense of personal responsibility is basic to the whole purpose and approach of Islam. Ultimately, we are judged individually for discharging our own responsibilities. If someone else fulfills your obligations, then it should be he that is rewarded, not you. To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself:

Whoever strives hard in God’s cause does so only for his own good: for, verily, God does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds! And as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did. (Al-`Ankabut 29:6-7)

Some people allow themselves to be dictated by others. The Qur’an states that the weak will say on the Day of Judgment that they were coerced into following the dictates of others, but that Allah will reply that the excuse is not legitimate for the decision to deviate from the Straight Path was their own.

Who set up another god beside Allah: Throw him into a severe penalty. His Companion will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not make him transgress, but he was (himself) far astray.’ He will say: “Dispute not with each other in My Presence: I had already in advance sent you Warning”. (Qaf 50:26-28)

Even Satan will stand up on the Day of Judgment saying: ”I invited you and you responded to me, so don’t blame me, blame yourselves“ (Ibrahim 14:22). Ultimately, then, the blame and the reward will be yours, because the responsibility was yours:

On that Day all people will come forward, cut off from one another, to be shown their deeds. And so, he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it. (Az-Zalzalah 99:6-8)

Taking charge of your own affairs may certainly seem a daunting task, but one which you will accomplish with distinction if you appreciate and take advantage of the tremendous human potential that Allah has blessed you with. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Verily, We created man in the best conformation, and thereafter We reduced him to the lowest of the low – excepting only such as attain to faith and do good works: and theirs shall be a reward unending! (At-Tin 95:4-6)

fiqh books-knowledge

To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam

True Success… True Faith

Tazkiyah does not consist simply of ideas, but of life, behavior and conduct. The key to success, according to the Qur’an, lies in having true faith.

To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam through a dedicated study of the Qur’an and Sunnah. You must then translate your knowledge into practice. For this to occur, you need to have firm resolve and determination. This, in turn, will produce righteous conduct.

To aid you in your task, you must seek the company of those who are also striving to please Allah. They will encourage you towards righteousness and correct you when you deviate from the true Path.

Your company also includes your mental and psychological company- the ideas you entertain, the ambitions you nurture, the sensitivities and sensibilities you develop and the books you read.

All of these represent a form of company because they are your companions in solitude.

Genuine Effort

In order to succeed, you must have a deep desire to make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim:

But as for those who strive hard in Our cause – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold God is indeed with the doers of good. (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)

With desire, of course, come actions. But know that it is not solely the results of your endeavors that count; what matters most is that you made your best effort.

This is a very important point to appreciate because without genuine effort nothing can happen. Those who think that prayer alone can work miracles are not living in a realistic world. Prayers are part of the effort, but prayers are not the whole answer.

If you pray, ”Allah! Guide me and make me good”, it is not going to bring you any benefit unless you are also determined to become good and make an effort towards becoming good.

Once you have done the latter two things, then, of course, prayer will be a source of barakah or divine grace that will further inspire and strengthen your efforts. The initial desire and the ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath:

O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of Allah with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow, death to overtake you until you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. (Aal `Imran 3:102)

There will never be a point when you will be able to say that you are now a perfect person or that you have achieved your full potential. If at any point you feel so, then be sure that is the starting point of your downfall.

On the other hand, you may find that the greater your desire to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim the more you feel beset or plagued by frustration, despondency and despair in your heart and mind.

All of us, whether young or old, have experienced these diseases, and often just give up. What we should try to remember at such times is that it is the intention and effort that matters, not the result. This effort must be a continuing process:

Be not, then, faint of heart, and grieve not: for you are bound to rise high if you are believers. (Aal ‘Imran 3:139)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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The Deeds Most Beloved to God: The Gates to Goodness

First of all, the Muslim must commit to perfecting all the mandatory acts of worship. Thereafter, each one may find certain acts of worship which He likes most and make them His way to getting closer to the pleasure of Allah.

The Companions were keen to draw closer to Allah so; they used to ask the Prophet about the means for accomplishing that goal.

Here are some of the Prophet’s answers: (Note: The answers will vary according to the person and the situation)

Dhikr

Narrated Mu`adh ibn Jabal, I asked the Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds is more beloved to Allah, He said: “To die while your tongue is wet with the remembrance of Allah.” (Ibn Hibban and At-Tabarani)

Praying on Time, Being Good to Parents, and Jihad

Narrated `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, ”I asked the Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds are most beloved to Allah? He said: ‘Praying on time” then I asked and which is next?

He said: ‘Kindness to parents’, then I asked, and which is next? He said: ‘Jihad in thecause of Allah’ and, if I asked him for more, he would have given me more.” (Al-Bukhari)

Devote all of your worship to Allah,

Be good to your Kin,

Ordain good and forbid bad

Itis reported from a man from Khath`am, who said, “I came to the Prophet and, he wasamongst his Companions and, I said, ‘you are the one who claims to be the messenger ofGod?’ He said: ‘Yes’. I said, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds is morebeloved to Allah?’ He said: ‘Faith in Allah’. I said, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah, which isnext?’ He said: ‘Kindness to the kin’. I said, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah, which is next?’ Hesaid, ‘Ordaining good and forbidding bad’.” (Abu Ya`la)

Be good to your Muslim brother,

Help him with his needs,

Pay off his debt, and bringhappiness to his heart

Control Your Anger and Rage

Narrated Ibn `Umar that a man came to the Prophet and said: Oh Messenger of Allah,which of the people is more beloved to Allah and which of the deeds is so? The Messenger of Allah said: “The most beloved of people to Allah are those who are mostbeneficial to the people, and the most beloved deeds to Allah, the most High, is to bring happiness to a Muslim, or ease his hardship, or to pay off his debt for him, or to end his hunger. And it is more beloved to me to walk with a brother of mine (in Islam), to run an errand for him than to make I`tikaf (seclusion) in this Masjid (in reference to the Masjid of Al-Madinah) for a month. And he who controls his anger, Allah will cover his shortcomings, and he who suppresses his rage despite being capable of taking it out(against his opponent), Allah will fill his heart with hope on the Day of Judgment, and he who walks with his brother to run an errand for him until it is done Allah will make his feet stable on the Day when feet will be paralyzed.“ (At-Tabarani)

Prayers, Zakat, Fasting, Hajj, Mustahab Fasting and Charity, Night Prayers, Jihad,Control Your Tongue.

Narrated by Mu’adhibnJabal: “I was traveling with the Prophet and, I was close to himwhile we are walking then, I asked him, ‘Oh Prophet of Allah, tell me of a deed that willenter me Paradise and keep me away from the Hell?’ He said, ‘You have asked about agreat matter, but it is easy for those whom Allah will make it easy for; worship Allah anddo not associate partners with him, perfectly perform the prayers, give Zakat (obligatory donations), fast the month of Ramadan and make pilgrimage to the House (Al-Ka`bah).’

And then he said, ‘Should I tell you about the gates of goodness! Fasting is a protection(from Allah’s punishment), Charity puts off the sins, and a man’s Prayer in the middle of the night’ and, then He recited the saying of Allah the Most High:

“Their sides forsake their beds…” until he reached”…that which they do.”, and,then he said, ‘Should I tell you of the head of the matter (meaning the religion), its pillar,and its peak?’ I said, ‘Yes, oh Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘The head of the matter andits pillar is the prayers and, its peak is Jihad,’ and, then he said, ‘should I tell you of themalak(the string that holds all the beads together) of the matter?’ I said, ‘Yes, Oh Messenger of God.’ So, he held his tongue and said, ‘Control that.’ Then I said, ‘OhMessenger of Allah, shall we be accounted for what we say?’ He said, ‘May your mother lose you Mu`adh! (Note: the phrase is not interpreted literally), and would anything befall the people in the Hell but the earnings of their tongues.’” (Ahmad and others)

Control Your Tongue and Be Good to Your Neighbors

On the authority of Anas, the Prophet said: “The faith of a servant is not put right until his heart is put right and, his heart is not put right until his tongue is put right and, the man whose neighbor does not feel safe from his harm, shall not enter Paradise.”(Ahmad)

Reciting the Book of Allah with Contemplation

Almighty Allah says,

And those who disbelieve say, ‘Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once?’ Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart thereby. And We haverevealed it to you gradually, in stages.(Al-Furqan 25:32)

Know that it is only Allah who guides and misguides and-as He said- all peoples’ hearts are between two of his fingers so, ask Him with humbleness, and humility, and, with certainty that without his help and favor you will perish.

Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us…(Aal `Imran 3:8)

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Source: The article is an excerpt from the paper “Acts of Worship as a Means to Strengthen the Attachment between the Servant and his Lord” by Dr. Hatem Al-Haj whichwas prepared for a conference in Austin, Texas, 2002. It first appeared at drhatemalhaj.com.

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Willpower between Reliance on God and Self-Confidence

By Khurram Murad

To achieve the ultimate goal in life requires a sustained determination to do so, a willpower that is forever responsive and strong. In Qur’anic terminology this is called iradah. Iradah is basic to all our efforts. Without willing to do something you cannot do anything.

flowers-nature

Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive in His way

Iradah is very different from desire. You always hear people reflecting upon unfulfilled aspirations. One of the main reasons why aspirations and dreams remain unfulfilled is that they are no more than desires which faded to assume the status of iradah.

The Qur’an explains that one of the basic weaknesses in human nature which impedes self-development is the weakness of will. While narrating the story of Adam, Allah informs:

And, indeed, long ago We made Our covenant with Adam; but he forgot and We found no firmness of purpose in him. (Ta-Ha 20:115)

Iradah requires strength and consistency and is indeed the antithesis of doubt, hesitation or lethargy. Once iradah is firmly in place, then you must have no doubts and you must not hesitate.

Now, what purpose should iradah serve? The Qur’an makes it clear that this will power must be a firm resolve to seek the pleasure of Allah because this is the part of the bargain that you must deliver:

And whoever desires (arada) the Life to Come, and strive for it as it ought to be striven for, and are (true) believers withal-they are the ones whose striving finds favour (with God). (Al-Isra’ 17: 19)

Reliance on Allah

Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive and struggle in His way. Self-confidence comes from depending upon Allah and knowing that He is there to help you, protect you and shower His mercies upon you:

So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah) and (in all sincerity) testifies to the best- We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. (Al-Layl 92:5-7)

Self-confidence also emanates from knowing that Allah in His infinite mercy has equipped you with all that you require to undertake the tasks set before you. It is not characteristic of the One that is Most Just and Most Merciful to prepare you for a duel without equipping you with the necessary tools.

Self-confidence is thus borne of total reliance and trust in Allah. It is knowing that at every step of your journey Allah is there assisting you. If you constantly hold yourself back believing that you are weak and incapable and blame your incompetence on minor inadequacies, then you are bound to fail. You must never allow yourself to believe or feel that Allah has treated you unfairly or that He has placed upon you a burden you cannot shoulder for “on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

Likewise, hope is central to your efforts and your success. You must sincerely hope and believe that everything you do to earn the pleasure of Allah will lead you to fulfillment. A superiority complex negates the task of self-development. An inferiority complex is derived from a lack of confidence in Allah and oneself. You should never allow yourself to believe that you cannot fulfill your obligations nor should you despair of the mercy of Allah.

Confidence, hope and determination are all important ingredients for your success:

Those unto whom men said: Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. But it only increased them in faith and they cried.. Allah is sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust! (Aal `Imran 3:173-174)

You must be wary, however, of the kind of self-confidence that causes a person to proclaim himself self-sufficient. Modern concepts of self-sufficiency are indeed an evil form of shirk or polytheism. To ascribe self-sufficiency to one’s self is to assume for oneself an attribute reserved only for Allah.

For the Muslim, self-confidence is wholly dependent upon the trust one places in Allah; it is not an arrogant proclamation of complete independence from Allah. Allah alone is self-Sufficient. All else is reliant upon Him for existence.

The Best Use of Time

Time is not money or gold; it is life and it is limited. You must begin to appreciate every moment of your life and always strive to make the best use of it. With all the demands of worldly life on your time, you will yet need to find time for self-development and maximize its potential.

The better route towards self-development is, of course, to integrate all your efforts into a structured daily life. Imam Al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, in his great work, Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Deen, gives the following advice:

“You should structure your time, arrange your regular devotions and assign to each function a set period of time during which it is given first priority but which it does not overstep. For if you abandon yourself to neglect and purposelessness, as cattle do, and just do anything that may occur to you at any time it happens to occur to you, most of your time will be wasted. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital; it is the basis of your transactions (with God), and the means to attain to everlasting felicity, in the proximity of God the Exalted. Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, and when it passes away it never returns.”

Remember also that “the deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are few.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

While you must always strive to make the best use of your time, you must always aim for excellence in everything you undertake, whether at school, at home, at work or at play. Indeed, the Prophet has said, “Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (proficiency and excellence) in all things”. (Muslim.)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Dhikr: God’s Always Open Door

dhikr

Dhikr purifies your heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having such a heart.

In a verse of the Qur’an that I love very much, Allah (Most Gracious and Loving) commends:

Remember Me and I shall remember you. Be grateful unto Me and deny Me not. (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

Can you imagine a more gratifying state than this; where, when you remember Allah, the Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the Universe, He remembers you in return?

The same exhortation has been beautifully conveyed in a hadith qudsi:

“I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My `heart’; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better than that gathering; if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth are highly commended in the Noble Quran. They are wise in that they fill their hearts with the remembrance of God in every, moment, in every circumstance and in every posture of their lives. (Aal `Imran 3:191)

The exhortation to remember Allah at all times is a reflection of Allah’s all-embracing and overwhelming love for us. The door to Allah is always open to us: Remember Me and 1 will remember you. We need only find our way to and through that door.

The Significance of Dhikr

Regarding the significance of dhikr (of Allah) or the remembrance of God, Allah says in the Qur’an, itself “the ultimate reminder (dhikr) to all the worlds”. (Sad 38:87), the following:

Remember Allah. for He has guided you. (Al-Baqarah 2:198)

O you who believe! Remember Allah often with much remembrance. And glorify Him morning and evening. (Luqman 31:41-42)

And men who remember God much and women who remember – God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (Al-Ahzab 33:35)

Hadith literature is similarly replete with references to the remembrance of Allah:

“The servant cannot perform a better deed which will save him from God’s punishment than the remembrance of God.” (Malik)

“Whoever wishes to feast in the gardens of Paradise, let him remember God often.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Indeed, with regard to dhikr, the Qur’an concludes: “And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest deed without doubt.” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

The significance of dhikr lies in the fact that it is God’s own chosen and recommended mode by which the believers show gratitude for having been shown the straight path. In addition, it is indeed the surest way of attaining God’s forgiveness and achieving the ultimate reward of Paradise.

The importance of dhikr then is not difficult to understand. It is dhikr that purifies your  heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having a pure and sound heart.

Heart-based Process

The ‘heart’ referred to here is not the pump in your breast that pushes blood around your body but rather the center or locus of your personality which pumps out your desires and motivations and which makes you conduct yourself as you do. It is this heart that lies at your center and dictates your actions which is the key to your ultimate success. Thus, with reference to the Day of Judgment, the Qur’an declares:

(It will be a Day) when neither wealth nor children shall profit (and when) only he (will be saved) who comes before God with a sound heart (free of evil). (Ash-Shu`ara’ 26:88-89)

This point is more elaborately made in a hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) says:

“Listen (to me) carefully. There is a lump of flesh in the body – if it is set right and made good, the entire body becomes good and healthy; but if it becomes diseased, the entire body becomes diseased. Remember well – it is the Heart.” (Al-Bukhari)

If the heart is the key to ultimate salvation and success, it may, likewise, be the seat of much corruption and open doors to many evils. It may facilitate the corruption of political and economic activities and ultimately the social institutions of a society. Where such a state prevails, the Qur’an suggests that it is because people, individually, have become “diseased in their hearts”. (Al-Baqarah 2:10)

In this state, people stop seeing and doing what is right. The Qur’an explains that this “is not because they have become blind in their eyes but because their hearts have become blind.

Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. (Al-Hajj 22:46)

This blindness only draws them nearer to the ultimate chastisement.

It is the heart, as the decider of our ultimate fate, that must then be the starting point of any tazkiyah (purification) program, to purify this heart and then summon it to the service of mankind.

Ibn Al-Qayyim, one of the great scholars of Islam, states in his Kitab Al Adhkar (The Book of Remembrance), that “the heart which is devoid of the remembrance of Allah is a heart that is dead’; it is dead even and long before the body carrying the heart reaches its grave. Indeed, this living body that carries the heart is the heart’s grave.”

Ibn Al-Qayyim’s statement is reminiscent of the hadith of tire Prophet which states: “The difference between someone who remembers His Lord and someone who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Al-Bukhari.)

The statement is also reminiscent of the following verse of the Qur’an: “Do not become like those who forget Allah and Allah makes them forget themselves. It is they who are truly deprived.” (Al-Hashr 59:19)

The purpose of tazkiyah is to ensure that the heart never falls into a sorry state of being and that it is always alive with the remembrance of God. Prosperous indeed is one who purifies himself and remembers the name of His Guardian-Lord, and prays (unto Him). (Al-A`la 87:14-15)

The Prophet further emphasized the importance of dhikr when he said to his Companions:

“Shall I not inform you of the best of your actions, the purest in the sight of your Lord, which raises your rank to the highest, which is better for you than spending gold and silver, better than meeting your enemy so that you strike at their necks and they strike at yours?’ They replied: ‘Yes, indeed,’ and he said: ‘It is the remembrance of Allah.’” (At-Tirmidhi)

Strive then, to fill all your moments, all your thoughts and all your actions with His remembrance. Recite tasbeeh or words of glorification and praise to punctuate all your actions and achievements.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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