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Muslim Lifestyle New Muslims

Meet Aminah Assilmi: The True Truth Seeker (Part 1)

 

Little did I know that Islam would change my life.

When I first started to study Islam, I did not expect to find anything that I needed or wanted in my personal life. Little did I know that Islam would change my life.

This American lady, a former radical feminist and Southern Baptist from Oklahoma, studied the Qur’an, Sahih Muslim and fifteen other books on Islam in an attempt to convert the Arabs in her college class to Christianity and ‘save those poor ignorant heathens from the fires of hell’. But guess what happened!

The Introduction and Decision

I was completing a degree in Recreation, when I met my first Muslims. It was the first year that we had been able to pre-register by computer. I pre-registered and went to Oklahoma to take care of some family business. The business took longer than expected, so I returned to school two weeks into the semester (too late to drop a course).

I wasn’t worried about catching up my missed work. I was sitting at the top of my class, in my field. Even as a student, I was winning awards, in competition with professionals.

Now, you need to understand that while I was attending college and excelling, ran my own business, and had many close friends, I was extremely shy. My transcripts actually had me listed as severely reticent. I was very slow to get to know people and rarely spoke to anyone unless was forced to, or already knew them. The classes I was taking has to do administration and city planning, plus programming for children. Children were the only people I ever felt comfortable with.

Well, back to the story. The computer printout held one enormous surprise for me. I was registered for a Theatre class; a class where I would be required to perform in front of real live people. I was horrified! I could not even ask a question in class, how was I going to get on a stage in front of people? My husband was his usual very calm and sensible self. He suggested that I talk to the teacher, explain the problem, and arrange to paint scenery or sew costumes. The teacher agreed to try and find a way to help me out. So I went to class the following Tuesday.

When I entered the classroom, I received my second shock. The class was full of ‘Arabs’ and ‘camel jockeys’. Well, I had never seen one but I had heard of them.

There was no way I was going to sit in a room full of dirty heathens! After all, you could catch some dreadful disease from those people. Everyone knew they were dirty, not to be trusted either. I shut the door and went home. (Now, there is one little thing you should know. I had on a pair of leather hot pants, a halter top, and a glass of wine in my hands…but they were the bad ones in my mind.)

When I told my husband about the Arabs in the class and that there was no way I was going back, he responded in his usual calm way. He reminded that I was always claiming that God had a reason for everything and maybe I should spend some time thinking about it before I made my final decision. He also reminded me that I had a scholars’ award that was paying my tuition and if I wanted to keep it, I would have to maintain my G.P.A. Three credit hours or ‘F’ would have destroyed my chances. For the next two days, I prayed for guidance. On Thursday I went back to the class convinced that God had put me there to save those poor ignorant heathens from the fires of hell.

I proceeded to explain to them how they would burn in the fires of hell for all eternity, if they did not accept Jesus as their personal savior. They were very polite, but did not convert. Then, I explained how Jesus loved them and had died on the cross to save them from their sins. All they had to do was accept him into their hearts. They were very polite, but still did not convert. So, I decided to read their own book to show them that Islam was a false religion and Muhammad was a false God.

One of the students gave me a copy of the Qur’an and another book about Islam, and I proceeded with my research. I was sure I would find the evidence I needed very quickly. Well, I read the Qur’an and the other book. Then I read another 15 books, Sahih Muslim and returned to the Qur’an. I was determined I would convert them! My studies continued for the next one and half years.

During that time, I started having a few problems with my husband. I was changing, just in little ways but enough to bother him. We used to go to the bar every Friday and Saturday, or to a party, and I no longer wanted to go. I was quieter and more distant. He was sure I was having an affair, so he kicked me out. I moved into an apartment with my children and continued my determined efforts to convert the Muslims to Christianity.

The, one day, there was a knock on my door. I opened the door and saw a man in a long white night gown with a red and white checkered table cloth on his head. He was accompanied by three men in pajamas. (It was the first time I had ever seen their cultural dress.)

Well, I was more than a little offended by men showing up at my door in night clothes. What kind of a woman did they think I was? Had they no pride or dignity? Imagine my shock when the one wearing the table cloth said he understood I wanted to be a Muslim! I quickly informed him I did not want to be a Muslim. I was Christian. However, I did have a few questions. If he had the time!

His name was `Abdul-`Aziz Al-Shiekh and he made the time. He was very patient and discussed every question with me. He never made me feel silly or that a question was stupid. He asked me if I believed there was only one God and I said yes. Then he asked if I believed Muhammad was His Messenger. Again I said yes. He told me that I was already a Muslim!

I argued that I was Christian; I was just trying to understand Islam. (Inside I was thinking: I couldn’t be a Muslim! I was American and white! What would my husband say? If I am Muslim, I will have to divorce my husband. My family would die!)

We continued talking. Later, he explained that attaining knowledge and understanding of spirituality was a little like climbing a ladder. If you climb a ladder and try to skip a few rungs, there was danger of falling. The Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) was just the first step on the ladder. Still we had to talk some more.

Later that afternoon, May 21, 1977 at `Asr (afternoon), I took Shahadah. However, there were still some things I could not accept and it was my nature to be completely truthful so i added a disclaimer. I said: ‘I bear witness that there is no god but God and Mohammed is His Messenger’, ‘but, I will never cover my hair and if my husband takes another wife, I will castrate him’.

I heard gasps from the other men in the room, but `Abdul-`Aziz silenced them. Later I learned that he told the brothers never to discuss those two subjects with me. He was sure I would come to the correct understanding.

The Shahadah was indeed a solid footing on the ladder to spiritual knowledge and closeness to God. But it has been a slow climb. `Abdul-`Aziz continued to visit me and answer my questions. May Allah reward him for his patience and tolerance. He never admonished me or acted like a question was stupid or silly. He treated each question with dignity and told me that the only stupid question was the one never asked. Hmmm…my grandmother used to say that.

He explained that Allah told us to seek knowledge and questions were one of the ways to accomplish that. When he explained something, it was like watching a rose open – petal by petal, until it reached its full glory. When I told him that I did not agree with something and why, he always said I was correct up to a point. The he would show me how to look deeper and from different directions to reach a fuller understanding. Al-hamdu lillah!

Over the years, I had many teachers; each one special, each one different. I am thankful for each one of them and the knowledge they gave. Each teacher helped me to grow and to love Islam more. As my knowledge increased, the changes in me became more apparent.

Within the first year, I was wearing hijab. I have no idea when I started. It came naturally, with increased knowledge and understanding. In time I even came to a proponent of polygamy. I knew that if Allah had allowed it, there had to be something good in it.

Glorify the name of thy Guardian – Lord Most High, Who hascreated, and further, given order and proportion; Who has measured, and granted guidance; and Who brings out the (green and lush) pasture, and does make it (but) swarthy stubble, By degrees shall We teach you (the Message), so you shall not forget, except as Allah wills: for He knows what is manifest and what is hidden. And We will make it easy for you (to follow) the simple (path). (Al-A`la 87:1-8)

When I first started to study Islam, I did not expect to find anything that I needed or wanted in my personal life. Little did I know that Islam would change my life. No human could have ever convinced me that I would finally be at peace and overflowing with love and joy because of Islam.

This book spoke of the One God, the Creator of the universe. It described the beautiful way in which He had organized the world. This wondrous Qur’an had all the answers. Allah is the Loving! Allah is the source of peace! Allah is the Protector! Allah is the Forgiver! Allah is the Provider! Allah is the Maintainer! Allah is the Generous One! Allah is the Responsive! Allah is the Protecting Friend! Allah is the Expander!

Have we not expanded you your breast? And removed from you your burden, which did gall your back? And raised high the esteem (in which) though (art held)? So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief! (Al-Inshirah 94:1-6)

The Qur’an addressed all the issues of existence and showed a clear path to success. It was like a map forgiving, an owner manual for life!

                                                                               To be continued

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Source: whyislam.org.

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Aminah Assilmi: Without Islam I’m Nothing (Part 2)

I am so very glad that I am a Muslim.

Islam is my life. Islam is the beat of my heart. Islam is the blood that courses through my veins. Islam is my strength.

 

How Islam changed my Life?

‘How much more we love the light…if once we lived in darkness.’

When I first embraced Islam, I really did not think it was going to affect my life very much. Islam did not just affect my life. It totally changed it.

Family life

My husband and I loved each other very deeply. That love for each other still exists. Still, when I started studying Islam, we started having some difficulties. He saw me changing and did not understand what was happening. Neither did I. But then, I did not even realize I was changing. He decided that the only thing that could make me change was another man. There was no way to make him understand what was changing me because I did not know.

After I realized that I was a Muslim, it did not help matters. After all, the only reason a woman changes something as fundamental as her religion is another man. He could not find evidence of this other man, but he had to exist. We ended up in a very ugly divorce. The courts determined that the unorthodox religion would be detrimental to the development of my children. So they were removed from my custody.

During the divorce, there was a time when I was told I could make a choice. I could renounce this religion and leave with my children, or renounce my children and leave with my religion. I was in shock.

To me this was not a possible choice. If I renounce my Islam, I would be teaching my children how to be deceptive, for there was no way to deny what was in my heart. I could not deny Allah, not then, not ever. I prayed like I had never prayed before.

After the thirty minutes was up, I knew that there was no safer place for my children to be than in the hands of Allah. If I denied him, there would be no way in the future to show my children the wonders of being with Allah. The courts were told that I would leave my children in the hands of Allah. This was not a rejection of my children!

I left the courts knowing that life without my babies would be very difficult. My heart bled, even though I knew, inside, I had done the right thing. I found solace in Ayat Al-Kursi (verse of the throne):

Allah! There is no god but He – the Living, the Self-subsisting, Supporter of all. No slumber can seize him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permits? He knows what (appears to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He wills. His throne does extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is Most High, the Supreme (in glory). (Al-Baqarah 2:255)

This also got me started looking at all the attributes of Allah and discovering the beauty of each one.

Child custody and divorce were not the only problems I was to face. The rest of my family was not very accepting of my choice either. Most of the family refused to have anything to do with me. My mother was of the belief that it was just a phase and I would grow out of it. My sister, the ‘mental health expert’, was sure I had simply lost my mind and should be institutionalized. My father believed I should be killed before placed myself deeper in Hell. Suddenly I found myself with no husband and no family. What would be next?

Friends

Most of my friends drifted away during that first year. I was no fun anymore. I did not want to go to parties or bars. I was not interested in finding a boyfriend. All I ever did was read that ‘stupid’ book (the Qur’an) and talk about Islam. What a bore. I still did not have enough knowledge to help them understand why Islam was so beautiful.

Employment

My job was next to go. While I had won just about every award there was in my field and was recognized as a serious trend setter and money maker, the day I put on hijab, was the end of my job. Now I was without a family, without friends and without a job.

In all this, the first light was my grandmother. She approved of my choice and joined me. What a surprise! I always knew she had a lot of wisdom, but this! She died soon after that. When I stop to think about it, I almost get jealous. The day she pronounced Shahadah, all her misdeeds had been erased, while her good deeds were preserved. She died so soon after accepting Islam that I knew her ‘book’ was bound to be heavy on the good side. It fills me with such joy!

As my knowledge grew and I was better able to answer questions, many things changed. But, it was the changes made in me as a person that had the greatest impact. A few years after I went public with my Islam, my mother called me and said she did not know what this ‘Islam thing’ was, but she hoped I would stay with it. She liked what it was doing for me.

A couple of years after that she called again and asked what a person had to do to be a Muslim. I told her that all person had to do was know that there was only One God and Mohammed was His Messenger. Her response was: ’Any fool knows that. But what do you have to do?’ I repeated the same information and she said: ’Well…OK. But let’s not tell your father just yet’.

Little did she know that he had gone through the same conversation a few weeks before that. My real father (the one who thought I should be killed) had done it almost two months earlier. Then, my sister, the mental health person, she told me that I was the most ‘liberated’ person she knew. Coming from her that was the greatest compliment I could have received.

Rather than try to tell you about how each person came to accept Islam, let me simply say that more members of my family continue to find Islam every year. I was especially happy when a dear friend, Brother Qaiser Imam, told me that my ex-husband took Shahadah. When Brother Qaiser asked him why, he said it was because he had been watching me for 16 years and he wanted his daughter to have what I had. He came and asked me to forgive him for all he had done. I had forgiven him long before that.

Now my oldest son, Whitney, has called, as I am writing this book, and announced that he also wants to become Muslim. He plans on taking the Shahadah as the ISNA Convention in a couple of weeks. For now, he is learning as much as he can. Allah is the Most Merciful.

Over the years, I have come to be known for my talks on Islam, and many listeners have chosen to be Muslim. My inner peace has continued to increase with my knowledge and confidence in the wisdom of Allah. I know that Allah is not only my Creator but, my dearest friend. I know that Allah will always be there and will never reject me. For every step I take toward Allah, He takes 10 toward me. What a wonderful knowledge.

True, Allah has tested me, as was promised, and rewarded me far beyond what I could ever have hoped for. A few years ago, the doctors told me I had cancer and it was terminal. They explained that there was no cure, it was too far advanced, and proceeded to help prepare me for my death by explaining how the disease would progress. I had maybe one year left to live. I was concerned about my children, especially my youngest. Who would take care of him? Still I was not depressed. We must all die. I was confident that the pain I was experiencing contained blessings.

I remembered a good friend, Kareem Al-Misawi, who died of cancer when he was still in his 20′s. Shortly before he died, he told me that Allah was truly Merciful. This man was in unbelievable anguish and radiating with Allah’s love. He said: ‘Allah intends that I should enter heaven with a clean book’. His death experience gave me something to think about. He taught me of Allah’s love and mercy. This was something no one else had ever really discussed. Allah’s love!

I did not take me long to start being aware of His blessings. Friends who loved me came out of nowhere. I was given the gift of making Hajj. Even more importantly, I learned how very important it was for me to share the truth of Islam with everyone.

It did not matter if people, Muslim or not, agreed with me or even liked me. The only approval I needed was from Allah. The only love I needed was from Allah. Yet, I discovered more and more people, who, for no apparent reason, loved me. I rejoiced, for I remembered reading that if Allah loves you, He causes others to love you. I am not worthy of all the love. That means it must be another gift from Allah. Allah is the Greatest!

There is no way to fully explain how my life changed. Alhamdulillah! I am so very glad that I am a Muslim. Islam is my life. Islam is the beat of my heart. Islam is the blood that courses through my veins. Islam is my strength. With Islam my life is so wonderful and beautiful. Without Islam, I am nothing and should Allah ever turn His magnificent face from me I could not survive.

“O Allah! let my heart have light, and my sight have light, and my hearing (senses) have light, and let me have light on my right, and let me have light on my left, and let me have light above me, and have light under me, and have light in front of me, and have light behind me; and let me have light.” (Al-Bukhari)

“Oh my Lord! Forgive my sins and my ignorance and my exceeding the limits (boundaries of righteousness) in all my deeds and what you know better than I. O Allah! Forgive my mistakes, those done intentionally or out of my ignorance or (without) or with seriousness, and I confess that all such mistakes are done by me. Oh Allah! Forgive my sins of the past and of the future which I did openly or secretly. You are the One who makes the things go before, and You are the One who delays them, and You are the Omnipotent.” (Al-Bukhari)

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Source: whyislam.org.

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Ethics & Values New Muslims

How to Be Muslim and Modest? (Part 1)

By Naiyerah Kolkailah

Allah’s Love of Modesty

When we have modesty with Allah, our manners and behavior with His creation will naturally exude more modesty.

Think about haya’ (modesty), what comes to mind? It could be wearing hijab and dressing modestly. Or maybe it is using decent and clean speech. Or it might be conducting ourselves with dignity and self-respect around the opposite gender.

If we know we’ve fallen short in our modesty, we feel the need to change in some way. So, we try to wear more loose-fitting clothes, for example, or wear less make-up. Or we might try to curse a little less, look at lewd images less often, or flirt a little less with a guy friend or girls at work. But sometimes we find it difficult to change these habits and behaviors. Why is that?

Part of the reason is that we overlook the inner spiritual dimensions of modesty; we try to cure the symptoms without dealing with the problem at its root. It is almost like trying to save a dried out plant by dipping its leaves in water or fertilizer.

Maybe what needs our attention is less apparent. Maybe it is our attitude towards Allah (Exalted is He), or the purity of our hearts, or the depth and strength of our faith in Allah. If we develop modesty and shamefulness in our hearts, it becomes easier for our thoughts, desires, conversations, and actions to reflect that modesty. When we have modesty with Allah, our manners and behavior with His creation will naturally exude more modesty. So, outer modesty is a byproduct and manifestation of the God-consciousness and modesty we nurture within.

I recently read a book almost entirely on the inner dimensions of modesty. It is called Fiqh Al-Haya’ (Understanding Modesty) by Muhammad Al-Muqaddim. I’ve translated some excerpts that I felt capture the essence of haya’ and how it relates to imān and our relationship with Allah. The last translated portion includes ways to adorn our character with more modesty, both internally and externally. May it be of benefit to all Insha’Allah (God-willing).

What is Haya’?

Linguistically, haya’ is derived from the root hayiy, which comes from the word hayah (life). Heavy rain is referred to as hayyan because with it comes the life of the earth, and plants and animals. Similarly, the worldly life and the afterlife are defined through haya’; whoever does not have haya’ would be (spiritually) dead in this life, and also miserable in the afterlife. Some linguists have said: ‘The life in one’s face comes from its haya’, just as the life of a planted seed comes from watering it’.

The level of one’s haya’ is based on how much life is in the heart…so the more alive the heart, the more complete the haya’.

Technically, haya’ is defined as a change or a state of humility that overtakes a person out of fear of being blameworthy. Ibn Al-Qayyim says: ‘haya’ is a state that emerges from combining exaltation with love, so when the two are coupled, haya’ is born’. Some scholars say that it stems from feeling shameful in the heart about something and feeling averse to it.

It can also emerge when the servants know that Allah (the Truth) is looking at them, making them more patient with a certain struggle, or making them feel uncomfortable with their own sin, or making them refrain from complaining.

Haya’ can also come from recognizing the bounty and graciousness one receives. This is because a generous person would not return favorable treatment with mistreatment.

Imam Al-Junayd (may Allah have mercy on him) said: ‘Haya’ is seeing the signs, and being aware of one’s shortcomings. Out of these two will arise a state of haya’. In reality, haya’ is a character trait that encourages a person to avoid shameful things and prevents one from neglecting the rights of the One Who deserves them most’.

Haya’ and Iman

It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Haya’ and iman are two companions, so when one increases, the other also increases”. (Al-Hakim)

He also said: “Haya’ is a part of iman (faith)”. (Muslim)

Imam An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) reported that Al-Qadi `Iyad said: ‘Haya’ was made to be a part of iman– even if it is innate- because it can either be acquired and adopted like all other acts of righteousness, or it can be one’s natural disposition.

However, practicing haya’ according to Islamic legislation requires that being acquired with the right intention and with sound knowledge. That is why haya’ is a part of iman. Another reason is that haya’ encourages one to do acts of righteousness and it prevents one from committing sins’. (An-Nawawi’s Commentary on Sahih Muslim)

Allah’s Love of Modesty

It is narrated that the Prophet said: “Verily, Allah the Exalted is Modest and Concealing (Sittīr); and He loves modesty and concealment. So, when any of you bathe, let him conceal himself”. (Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, Al-Baihaqi, and Ahmad)

Al-Mubarakfuri said: ‘(The Prophet’s statement’s ”Allah is Modest” means He is Modest in practice, or shows a lot of Modesty. Describing Allah with the Attribute of Modesty is to be understood in a way most befitting for Allah, just like all His other Attributes; we believe in them but do not delve into how (the traits are manifested)’.

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

‘…Whoever has a trait similar to one of Allah’s attributes, that trait will lead him to Allah, and will bring him closer to Allah’s Mercy, and will make him/her beloved to Allah; for Allah is Most-Merciful, and He loves the merciful; He is Most Generous, and He loves the generous; He is All-Knowing, and He loves the knowledgeable; He is strong, and He loves the strong believer, who is more beloved to Him than the weak believer; He is Modest, and he loves the people of modesty; He is Beautiful and He loves the people of beauty; He is One (witr) and he loves the people of the witr (Witr Prayer)’.

Who Deserves Our Modesty?

A person should be modest with Allah (the All-Mighty and Exalted) with the angels, and with oneself. Whoever is modest with people but not with oneself has belittled his self because he does not see it as worthy of his own modesty. Whoever is modest with oneself but not with Allah does not truly know Allah, the All-Mighty and Exalted.

As such, the Prophet told a man he was advising: “I advise you to have shame with Allah as you would have shame (in the presence) of a righteous man from your people”. (Ahmad)

In the words of Allah (the All-Mighty and Exalted): “Does he not know that Allah sees (everything)?” (Al-`Alaq 96:14) there is an implied warning to the servant; if he knows that Allah sees him, then he should be ashamed of committing sin.

Whoever knows that the One he worships is observing his worship will be more inclined to adorn it externally with humble reverence and internally with sincerity and presence. Surely, Allah knows the secret glance of the eyes and what the hearts conceal.

To be continued…

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Source: suhaibwebb.com.

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Ethics & Values New Muslims

How to Be Muslim and Modest? (Part 2)

By Naiyerah Kolkailah

How could a Muslim develop a modest character?

Islamic legislation calls for adopting beautiful moral traits and eliminating bad character traits.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) has made modesty a standard and measure for a person’s actions. An-Nawwas ibn Sam`an (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he asked the Messenger of Allah about righteousness and wrongdoing. So the Prophet responded: “Righteousness is good character and wrongdoing is what makes you feel discomfort, and that you would hate for people to see (what you are doing)”. (Muslim)

One of the areas where modesty, i.e. shamefulness, should be avoided is in seeking knowledge and in educating. `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “One who does not know should not be ashamed of asking until he has knowledge, and one who is asked about something he does not know should not be ashamed to say ‘I do not know’”. (Ibn Hajar, Fath Al-Bari; commentary on Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Al-Bukhari said that Mujahid said: “The one who is shy or arrogant does not gain knowledge”. `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “How great were the women of the Ansar; their modesty did not prevent them from seeking knowledge about their religion”. (Ahmad)

How Do We Become More Modest?

If a person’s character traits were completely innate, they would be difficult to change, or replace, or adjust.

Islamic legislation calls for adopting beautiful moral traits and eliminating bad character traits. If it was not possible to do so, Islamic legislation would not obligate it. Allah (the Most-High) says:

He has succeeded; the one who purifies it, and he has failed; the one who corrupts it. (Ash-Shams 91:9, 10)

Despite that, people vary in their ability, capability, or willingness to adopt or change certain character traits. So, if a person is naturally disposed to express a specific quality, it is easier to develop that character trait even further. This is because his fitrah (innate disposition) is assisting him. As related to modesty as a character trait, it can be innate, and it can also be acquired. These are some ways to help in acquiring and developing modesty:

1- Refrain from shameless words or actions, such as foul or evil speech. This will aggravate Satan, who beautifies these actions, and tempts people with them. So, not engaging in such actions would actually make him hopeless, and he would in turn retract in disgrace.

2- Continuously learn about the benefits of modesty, and expose one’s heart to them repeatedly. Also, make a commitment to gaining the highest levels of modesty, and actively adorning oneself with it.

3- Strengthen iman and belief in the heart, because modesty is a fruit of iman and knowing Allah (the All-Mighty and Exalted).

4- Worship Allah (Exalted is He) by reflecting on His beautiful names and attributes, which bring about Allah-consciousness and excellent (character and behavior). Examples of such names would be: the Witness, the Overseer, the All-Knowing, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the All-Encompassing, and the Protector.

Hatim Al-Asam said: “Make a pact with yourself in three (areas): when you do something, remember that Allah sees you, and when you speak, remember that Allah hears you, and when you are silent, remember Allah’s knowledge of your inner (thoughts, feelings, and being)”.

5- Consistently observe the obligatory and recommended worship, like prayer. Allah said: “Verily, prayer prevents lewdness and evil deeds”. (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

It was said to the Messenger of Allah: “So and so prays all night, but when he wakes up he steals!” So, he said: “What you mentioned (i.e. his prayers) will (eventually) prevent him from that”. Or he said: “His prayers will prevent him”. (Ahmad)

Zakah is another example. Allah says regarding zakah: “Take a portion of their wealth as charity [zakah] to purify them and increase them with it”. (At-Tawbah 9:103)

6- Always be truthful and avoid dishonesty. This is because truthfulness will guide a person to righteousness, and modesty is a part of righteousness. The Prophet said: “You should be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to paradise…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

7- Actively practice modesty on a regular basis so that it becomes a natural disposition. This will require beautifying oneself with patience.

8- See righteous people, intermingle with them, listen to them, and learn from their modesty. Some scholars have said: “Enliven your modesty by sitting with those whom you would feel shameful around”. Mujahid said: “If all that a Muslim benefits from his brother is that his feeling of shame with him prevents him from sinning, then that would suffice him”. (Makarim Al-Akhlaq)

9- Bring to mind the modesty of the greatest example for mankind, the Messenger of Allah, and learn about his Seerah (biography of the Prophet) and his noble traits.

Also, bring to mind the modesty of his Companions and their lives, especially the righteous caliphs, the ten given glad tidings of paradise, those who witnessed Badr, and the Bay`at Ar-Ridwan (a covenant of fealty), and the rest of the Muhajireen and the Ansar, and those who followed in their footsteps from the people of knowledge and faith.

10- Remove oneself from a corrupted environment that keeps one away from good character. Do not accompany those who show little modesty; befriend righteous people instead. In the Prophetic narration about the man who killed one hundred souls, the knowledgeable man said: “…And who can stand between you and a sincere repentance? Go to so and so land, for you will find people there who worship Allah. So, worship Allah with them, and do not return to your land because it is a land of evil…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

We seek Allah’s forgiveness for every misstep, and for every mistake we made with the pen; and we seek His forgiveness for any words that do not match our actions; we seek His forgiveness for anything we showed or revealed of knowledge despite our shortcomings; we ask that He makes us act upon what we know, for His sake only, and that He places this knowledge on our scale of righteous deeds when our deeds are presented before us. Verily, He is Most-Benevolent and Generous.

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Source: suhaibwebb.com.

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Without Islam My Life Would Have Been a Lie

By Muhammad Schieber

islam myWhen I was 23 years old I had just graduated from community college and I entered the University. During this period of my life, I was at a bit of a personal crossroads.

During my teenage years I had been a bit rebellious, experimenting with drinking and drugs, a typical American teenage rebellion. All this stopped during the summer of my 20th year when I nearly drowned in an alcohol fueled canoe trip.

However, simply staying away from life’s evils wasn’t providing the meaning and the understanding of life that I required. I had been raised Roman Catholic, but the Trinitarian doctrine and the concept of somebody needing to die for my sins never really made sense to me. I had dabbled in some new age stuff, some Buddhism and Hinduism as well.

As part of my Asian Studies minor, I enrolled in a course entitled “Islamic Fundamentalism.” The course was a graduate level seminar that was focused on whether or not the term “fundamentalist” was useful or applicable to Muslims. I had had a very general idea about Islam at that point.

After that course I was hooked, I switched my major to Comparative Religion and took every course I could about Islam. I pride myself on being a very critical thinker. I struggled over the next couple of years to find a way to discredit Islam or disprove it, but in the end I couldn’t. It became a truth I could no longer deny. For me to live any other way would be to live a lie. That was 19 and a half long years ago, Alhamdulillah.

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

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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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Contentment: Belief & True Happiness

Contentment & Belief

– ‘How much money do you have?’

Happiness

Belief is the driving power that makes you feel content with things that have been destined for you.

– ‘I have millions.’

– ‘Do you want more?’

– ‘Yes, I do.

– ‘How many children have you got?’

– ‘I have three.’

– ‘Do you want more?’

– ‘Yes, I do.’

Think of the ‘how many’ and ‘how much’ questions you can ask someone and his expected answers. The answers are very normal. You know why? Because it is natural that people want to be richer, healthier, and more famous than others.

If one has a Land Cruiser car, he aims for a Jaguar. If he has one house, he wants to have a second then a third. It is very rare to find someone who would answer: ‘No. I do not want … I am happy with what I have’.

But such an answer is expected from someone who has a degree of faith in his heart.

Belief is the driving power that makes you feel content with things that have been destined for you. Through belief, one can enjoy the blessings of this life and earn Allah’s pleasure in the world to come.

Contentment is a sign of a true believer. When one is afflicted with catastrophes and shows patience and contentment and does not complain about his sufferings; be sure that he is indeed a true believer.

By this, we are not saying that those who want to be richer, healthier, more famous, etc. are not believers. But they lack the complete understanding of belief. Contentment does not mean that you do not feel the pains and trials of this life. You feel them, but you do not complain about them.

The virtue of contentment is closely connected with the virtue of putting trust in Allah. When one shows contentment with what he has got and does not foster envy or hatred towards others, he is certain that Allah will not let him down and there is a great reward awaiting him.

Allah’s Contentment with His Servants

Muslims are required to accept Islam and follow its teachings as their way of life. They are also commanded by Allah to enjoin what is good and forbid what is bad. In addition, Muslims are to denounce associating others with Allah. Once Muslims fulfill Allah’s commands and obligations, Allah will be satisfied with them and He will bestow his mercy and pleasure upon them.

Allah’s Pleasure as a Reward

We read in the Qur’an:

God will say, ‘This is a Day when the truthful will benefit from their truthfulness. They will have Gardens graced with flowing streams, there to remain for ever. God is pleased with them and they with Him: that is the supreme triumph’. (Al-Ma’idah 5:119)

In another verse we read:

Their reward with their Lord is everlasting Gardens graced with flowing streams, where they will stay forever. God is well pleased with them and they with Him. (Al-Bayyinah 98:8)

It is reported that Allah will call the people of Paradise in the Hereafter saying: “’Enter Paradise; whatever you see in it is yours’. They would say: ‘O Lord, You have bestowed upon us (favors) which You did not bestow upon anyone else in the world’. He would say: ‘There is with Me (a favor) for you better than this’. They would say: ‘O our Lord! what is better than this?’ He would say: ‘It is My pleasure. I will never be angry with you after this’.” (Sahih Muslim)

The Qur’anic verses and the Prophetic Hadith speak for themselves. Allah’s pleasure is the highest reward for Muslims in Paradise.

A very clear evidence for this is the verse which reads: “God has promised the believers, both men and women, Gardens graced with flowing streams where they will remain; good, peaceful homes in Gardens of lasting bliss; and–greatest of all–God’s good pleasure. That is the supreme triumph.” (At-Tawbah 9:72)

Benefits of Contentment

With contentment one feels inner peace and spirituality increases. When one fosters contentment, he loves others and would be loved by others. He does not compare himself with those who are in better conditions, but rather he remembers those who are in worse conditions.  For example, if someone is one-handed, he should be content and remember those who do not have hands at all.

If the spirit of contentment prevails in a society, there would be no place for greedy people who foster discontent. Contentment and patience earn one Paradise in the Hereafter.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

“Allah will not accept other than Paradise for a believing person who is afflicted with the death of his beloved one from among the inhabitants of the world and shows patience.” (An-Nasa’i)

Contentment will get you closer to Allah in this world and the world to come. If one is content, he will not suffer psychological problems such as depression, worries, anxiety, etc. When you feel discontent, Satan will find his way to your heart. But with contentment, Satan’s way will be blocked and you will be busy with the things that please Allah.

Examples of Contentment

Prophet Zakariyah (Zachariah, peace be upon him) used to pray to Allah to grant him a child who will be well pleasing to Allah. We read in the Qur’an: “… to be my heir and the heir of the family of Jacob. Lord, make him well pleasing (to You)”. (Maryam 19:6)

Prophet Muhammad used to pray to Allah saying: “I ask you to grant me contentment after You decree my destiny”. (Al-Tabarani)

The story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) is an example of contentment. Prophet Yusuf was put to many trials; his brothers threw him into the hidden depths of a well. He was put into prison because of a false allegation. He never complained to Allah, but he showed patience. Allah rewarded him for his contentment by giving him a standing as he became the second man in Egypt.

At the end of the story when his dream came true, what did he say? A man in his position would have mentioned the trials he went through. On the contrary, he looked at the good side of the trials and said:

Father, this is the fulfillment of that dream I had long ago. My Lord has made it come true and has been gracious to me– He released me from prison and He brought you here from the desert– after Satan sowed discord between me and my brothers. (Yusuf 12:100)

When `Abdullah ibn Mutraf, one of the Companions, died, his father came out of the house in his best clothes. When he was asked why he wore such clothes, he answered: ’Why should I be sad? Allah has promised me three things, each of them is better than this life and what it contains’.

Allah says:

… Those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given (1) blessings and (2) mercy from their Lord, and (3) it is they who are rightly guided. (Al-Baqarah 2:156-7)

A friend of mine has been married for almost 8 years now, but has not yet had any children. Whenever I ask him about it, his answer is always: Alhamdullilah (Thanks and Praise be to Allah). They are leading a very happy and peaceful life because they are content with what Allah has destined for them.

Contentment

Refine your heart. Think always of the things that will draw you nearer to Allah. Leave out the trivialities.

How to be Content, Happy

Here are some tips on how to obtain contentment:

– Do not cry over spilled milk. Whenever you miss a job, for example, do not feel embarrassed. Be sure that the money that you were supposed to earn from that job is not yours; it is somebody else’s. Your rizq (provision) will come to you through another channel.

– Refine your heart. Think always of the things that will draw you nearer to Allah. Leave out the trivialities. You have a purpose in life.

– Think of the rewards awaiting you in the Hereafter. Allah says:

Whatever things you have been given for the life of this world are merely [temporary] gratification and vanity: that which is with Allah is better and more lasting– will you not use your reason? (Al-Qasas 28:60)

– Think always of the present day. Do not worry about the future. Be content with what you have today.

– Look at the positive aspects of each calamity. For example, if someone is involved in a car accident which he survived and you ask him about it, he will tell you that the car has been damaged and it needs a lot of money to fix. So, he will think first of the damaged car and forget that he survived the accident and he is still alive.

– Finally, the key to happiness is this sentence: “Allah willed what will happen, and whatever He wants will come to pass.” By this you are acknowledging the authority and power of Allah, and you are declaring your acceptance of His Divine Decree.

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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Thanksgiving: The Essence of Belief

How does thanksgiving contribute to one’s belief? Is it just a faith requirement or just moral development? How can we reach the state of thankfulness?

The hadith of Jibreel (Angel Gabriel) is considered by most Muslim scholars to be one of the fundamental texts of our religion. It presents, in a comprehensive way, the foundations of Islam.

the essence of Islam

The spiritual path is not a philosophical picnic. It requires action; the action of the heart, the tongue and the limbs.

This is made clear by the fact that the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him) mentions to `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) at the conclusion of the hadith: “’O `Umar! Do you know who the questioner was?’ Umar replied: ‘Allah and His Messenger know best’. The Prophet replied: ‘Verily, it was the Angel Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion’”. (Muslim)

This narration focuses on four things that are essential to our religion: Islam (Muslim practice), Iman (Muslim dogma), ihsan (states of inner excellence) and the Sa`ah (Doomsday).

To rephrase the focal points of this hadith, we can say that Islam is a religion that demands of its adherents that they do something, that they believe something, that they embody something and that they prepare for something. What we do involves the devotional acts that are enjoined by the religion. This is the essence of Islam, in this particular context.

What we believe involves the dogma that we affirm as agreed upon by the scholars who have mastered the prophetic message and distilled from it the essential beliefs whose affirmation is necessary if a person is to be considered a Muslim. This is the essence of iman, again, in the context of the hadith.

The states of being that a believer embodies are illustrated, in the immediate context of the hadith of Gabriel, by the saying of the Prophet: “…that you worship Allah as if you see Him. If you fail to see Him, be mindful that He observes you”. This is the essence of ihsan.

Finally, by living a life, which encompasses in a real way all of the aforementioned elements, we are preparing for the end of things in the world, or Doomsday.

To expound further on the idea of a Muslim embodying something, we can add that this is an aspect of our religion that many Muslims fail to adequately consider. Specifically, the idea that we are to embody the prophetic virtues is lost by many. Those virtues, which the Prophet embodied, are an articulation of the ontological stations he attained to.

In other words, his very being, for example, embodied the station of patience. This ontological reality then manifested itself in his character as he displayed unmatched patience in his dealings with others. This is what ihsan is about.

Imam al-Qushayri, in his Risala, mentions some of the states a believer should strive to embody: repentance or penitence (tawbah); sincere exertion in worship (mujahada); spiritual insularity (khalwah or `uzlah); God-consciousness (taqwa); religious scrupulousness (wara`); worldly detachment (zuhd); silence (samt); fear of God (khawf); hope for God’s Mercy (raja’); sobriety of heart (huzn); suppression of the appetite for food and drink (Ju`); humility (tawadu`); opposing the whims of one’s ego (mukhalafa an-nafs); avoiding envy (hasad); avoiding backbiting (ghaybah); contentment (qana`ah); trusting in Allah (tawakkul); thankfulness (shukr); being certain of divine truths (yaqeen); patience (sabr); being mindful of Allah’s observation of one (muraqabah); being pleased with Allah’s decree (rida); willing servitude to Allah (`ubudiyyah); strong conviction for truth and religion (iradah); consistency (istiqamah); sincerity in all of the relevant realms (ikhlas); honesty (sidq); shyness (haya’); freedom from the weight of worldly engagements (hurriyyah); constant remembrance of Allah (dhikr); concern for others (al-Futuwwa); viewing things in the light of truth (firasa); good character (khuluq); generosity (jud) and many others. (Abi Al-Qasim Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala)

Thanksgiving: How?

One of the loftiest of stations mentioned by Imam Al-Qushayri, and others, is that of thankfulness (shukr). To fully strive for the actualization of this station in our lives we must know its meaning. The linguistic meaning of shukr is from sha-ka-ra, which means an animal attaining to pasture and then fattening on it.

Thus, the Arabs say, sha-ka-tat al-ibilu, meaning the camels attained to pasture and became fat. The expression hisan shakur means a horse that is fattened up by very little fodder. In general, an animal that is shakur eats little but grows much.

This definition gives us insight into the nature of a thankful person. It does not take much to please them. We find that a person that is truly thankful is appreciative of very little. When we give them the smallest gift they are deeply grateful and seek to express their gratitude in the warmest terms and kindest actions. As for the ingrate, no matter how much they receive they desire more and fail to express any gratitude for what they have received.

Thus, the effect of a blessing, be it pasture or fodder, is seen on the animal who receives that blessing, in its increased size. Likewise, the effect of a blessing given by Allah to His servant manifests itself on the tongue, heart and limbs of a thankful person. Hence, in the technical usage of the religious scholars, as expressed by Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, thankfulness means ‘to manifest one’s appreciation for the blessings bestowed by Allah on the tongue, through praise and acknowledgment; in the heart by witnessing the giver of the blessing and loving Him; and on the limbs by willingly accepting His guidance and obeying Him’.

This definition helps us to understand that the spiritual path is not a philosophical picnic. It requires action; the action of the heart, the tongue and the limbs. Knowledge though, does play its part, in fact, as emphasized by Imam Al-Ghazali in the Ihya’, it is the foundation of the subsequent acts of thankfulness. He says:

‘You should know that thankfulness is among the stations of those journeying to Allah. It is also (like other stations) organized around the categories of knowledge (`ilm), state (hal) and action (`Amal). Knowledge is the foundation and it bequeaths the state, while the state (in turn) bequeaths action. As for knowledge it is the knowledge that the blessing is from the giver of blessings (Allah: Al-Mun`im).The ensuing state is the happiness resulting from His bestowing the blessing. The action is undertaking what is intended and loved by the giver of the blessing’. (Al Ghazali, Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Deen)

Imam Al-Ghazali outlines a process whereby thankfulness can become actualized in our lives. The foundation of this process is the knowledge that every blessing we have ultimately comes from Allah. In our increasingly ’material’ world people are losing touch with this great reality. Many view their hard work, intellect or creativity as the source of the good they enjoy. They cannot conceive of the role played by the divine in their good fortune.

Hence, we witness the growing disinclination on the part of the wealthy to share their wealth with the less fortunate members of our society. In the face of appeals for greater charity we increasingly hear retorts such as, ’Poor people should work hard as I did…’ ‘Those people should pick themselves up by their bootstraps like we did…’ People uttering such statements may recognize the blessings they enjoy, but they fail to see the giver of those blessings, and because they do not see or acknowledge the giver of the blessing, they neither see nor acknowledge the rights He has established in their wealth.

The various sayings of the scholars we have considered let us know that to really be people of thankfulness we must be people who praise and worship our Lord. When the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah upon him, was asked why he was standing in prayer at night until his feet were swollen, he replied, as the tears flowed down his cheeks, ”Should I not then be a thankful servant?” (Al-Bukhari) His thankfulness was expressed in his worship. This should be our case.

A final way we can express our thankfulness in indicated by the name of Allah, Ash-Shakur. One of the meanings of this name is one who rewards a small amount of human effort with a great amount of grace. A vile criminal can enter into Islam one moment and then die the next. Having done only one righteous deed, uttering the Testimony of Faith, he is rewarded with eternal bliss in Paradise. How small was his action compared to the magnitude of Allah’s grace?

This should remind us that in all of our relations and dealings in the world we should try to give far more than we take. This is especially important when the dominant ethos is becoming ‘take as much as you can and give as little as possible’.

Let us take time to reflect on what it truly means to be thankful, and let us work to the extent of our capabilities to extend the blessings we enjoy to others, not just on one day, but every day.

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Source: newislamicdirections.com.

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