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Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan and My Non-Muslim Family

By Amal Stapley

Living with your non-Muslim family as a new Muslim poses many different challenges. In my experience, fasting Ramadan is one of the biggest challenges.

Ramadan Challenges

The challenges, of course, vary from family to family, but can be particularly challenging if they aren’t open to your new-found faith or to certain aspects of it.

As in any household, there are always compromises to be made, but when the family members have different beliefs and ways of life, the balance is a very fine one that can easily be tipped one way or the other. It sometimes feels as if you are walking on a bit of a tightrope trying to please everyone, and yet keep true to Islam.

During most of the year, minor adjustments and compromises can be made, as a new Muslim tries to keep within the bounds set by Allah, but still maintaining the family ties. The timing of activities, such as prayer, can be adjusted to fit into the family routine. Islamic activities can happen outside the house, and friends not invited round to avoid arguments and clashes.

But when it comes to the fast of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, it’s not as easy to make compromises, as the timings for fasting are strictly prescribed and the prohibitions are absolute (other than due to the lawful exceptions). Also, Allah’s commands have to take priority over family wishes:

But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness… (Luqman 31:15)

So, how can you manage to do that in Ramadan? It’s impossible to give one standard answer to that question. However, here are some ideas that I have tried while living with my family or that others have tried.

Show Understanding for Their Point of View

It can be very easy in the early flushes of your new faith to be so enthusiastic about it that you forget how strange some of the rituals of Islam seem to other people. They don’t have the same belief as you and therefore find it very difficult to understand why you have to fast for a whole month and be so strict about it. They can’t understand your motivation for doing it and everything about fasting may seem to clash with their own understandings of life and how it should be lived.

If you are facing this type of challenge, one of the best ways to explain about Ramadan I have found is to research the health benefits of fasting. Although this is not our main motivation for fasting, explaining it from a scientific perspective may help your family accept it better. Booklets like the ‘Ramadan Health Guide’ produced by the National Health Service can be a great help with this, as it’s produced by a trusted scientific organization.

Being Gently Firm

Some of my biggest challenges with my family have been when they have tried to tell me what Allah does or doesn’t want from me or when they have tried to impose their interpretation on me of how I should practice my faith.

Looking back, I can see how my practice of Islam may have been confusing, as over the years, when I have learned more and grown into Islam, I have gradually adopted slightly different practices. This may have made it seem as if it is possible to pick and choose what I practice and make it seem as if I could be persuaded to change what I had planned. But in the end, as I will be the one standing in front of Allah accounting for my life; I will be the one who has to justify my actions based on my best understanding of my faith. So I have therefore had to gently stand firm for what I have understood to be the best thing for me to do and used the ‘broken record’ technique; simply repeating my position and not succumbing to persuasion.

This hasn’t always been easy to do at the time and has resulted in some emotional conversations, but in the end, when it became clear that I was standing firm, it was accepted, even though that may have been done grudgingly. Also, maybe I gained some respect for holding onto my beliefs along the way, even though they weren’t necessarily agreed with.

Drink Plenty and Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet

One of the things that non-Muslims find most difficult to understand is the fact that not only we do not eat during the daylight hours in Ramadan, but we also don’t drink anything. Contemporary medical advice encourages people to drink water regularly to keep hydrated. So, when your parents see you not drinking, they naturally get worried that you are harming yourself.

So, make sure that you do drink plenty during the night, and let them know that you are. Also, make sure to eat a healthy balanced diet and take a short nap if you need to, to show them that you are being responsible about your fasting.

Spend Quality Time with Your Family

If your family normally eats together, it will be strange for them to know that you are in the house and not eating with them. It may be even more uncomfortable for you to sit with them but not eat. The ideal would of course be if they would be willing to change their mealtimes to eat with you, but if that doesn’t happen, there are several things you could do.

You could try to make up for missing mealtimes by finding as much quality time to spend with them at other times during the day as you can. You could help to prepare the dinner and clear away after it or better still, cook meals for them! Look out for other ways that you could show your appreciation for this being a difficult time for them.

Make It Easy for Your Parents

My father used to find Ramadan so stressful that he once suggested that I should move out for the month, so they didn’t have to deal with it. It didn’t actually come to that, but instead I tried to make it easier and more natural by taking as many opportunities as I could to go out and have iftar with friends. Not eating with them on those days made me seem more normal. When I brought back food for them, it also let them know that I was thinking of them while I was out. If you are able to go away for some time in Ramadan, it may also help to relieve some of the stress and maybe going to i`tikaf (retreat) might benefit you all!

Whatever you decide to do, you will need to do it with respect, as you are living in parents’ house and this can be a powerful tool for da`wah.

May Allah help you to find the best way to please Him and also your family!

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Source: onislam.net.

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Fasting New Muslims

Ramadan in a Non-Muslim Society

Ramadan is a month awaited by Muslims. This month reflects the rituals of faith that strengthen the links between one and Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Muslims celebrate this Holy Month, according to their lifestyle and custom differences. Nonetheless, the rituals of Ramadan are the same among all Muslims in the west and in Islamic countries.

Russia, for example, is not a Muslim country, but the rituals practiced by Muslims in Ramadan are the same, in the sense of meeting at the suhur table, going for prayers in congregation at the mosque, reciting Qur’an in groups, performing the Tarawih (night prayer in Ramadan), etc. These people feel a sense of closeness and religious faith by meeting with other Muslims who are doing the same.

However, when you have a busy schedule, keeping focused and caring about your spiritual deeds is not always easy. It takes steadfastness to focus, good motivation and working smartly to beat interruptions.

Here are some ways to manage your time in Ramadan, and be productive:

1- Do Not Miss Suhur

Suhur (pre-dawn meal in Ramadan) is a Prophetic Sunnah. Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Have suhur, indeed there’s blessing in it”. (Al-Bukhari)

If you work day shifts and get to bed late, make sure that you wake up for suhur. Even a glass of water and some dates will suffice, for Allah will put barakah (blessing) in this. You will get the blessings in sha’ Allah and at the same time the food will give you some power to stay awake during the day.

2- Join Family for Iftar

Being with family especially in Ramadan, is a good thing that makes you feel warm and close to those who love and care about you. But, due to office working hours, your shift may be during the iftar time. Yet, there’s a way out. You can arrange to have iftar with family over the weekend.

What if you can’t arrange that?  You still can have iftar at work with office colleagues.

3- Don’t Be a Glutton!

A lot of people eat too much at iftar, and end up not praying Tarawih, or even breathe! Eating is not forbidden, but eating too much is not approved of. The body and digestive system are badly affected by that. Break up the big meal into small ones that your body can handle easily, and leave you feeling less overwhelmed.

For example: break your fast with dates and water, then pray Maghrib, then have something light like a fruit or vegetable salad, then pray `Isha’. You can have your main dish after prayers. Take small meals consistently with fruit over time; you will not feel tired during Ramadan and at the end of the month, you will be in better health.

4- Pray Tarawih

Praying Tarawih (night prayer in Ramadan) is one of the most spiritual acts in Ramadan. It is preferred to offer it in a mosque, as the prophet said: “Whoever prays Qiyam (night prayer) with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer”. (At-Tirmidhi)

But what if you don’t have a mosque in your city? Or what if the mosque is very far? You can pray with your friends at home, or specify a place and use it as a mosque, just to get the merits of praying in congregation.

5- Feel Ramadan

Unfortunately, a lot of us say: ‘I can’t feel Ramadan’. No, try to feel it and handle this point. So, how do you stay motivated to make the most out of Ramadan when everyone else around you treats Ramadan as a non-important event? Each one of us has a great way out. Just keep making istighfar (asking Allah’s Forgiveness) all the time. It’s an easy thing you can do while you’re working, cooking, driving, etc. The same goes with dhikr (remembrance of Allah).

You can easily motivate others and get yourself motivated too. For example, distribute dates for iftar at office, your colleagues will be happy and will feel that Ramadan is a month of giving. You could also use this moment to tell them about Allah and Islam.

6- A Coin Might Equal a House in Paradise

Almighty Allah says,

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills, and Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower. (Al-Baqarah 2:261)

The example set by the Allah (glory be to Him) teaches us to be as generous as possible. We are also encouraged to give alms as a way to earn the pleasure of Allah, avert calamities and cure ailments. There was an incident from the recent past regarding a woman who was diagnosed with renal failure. Dialysis stopped showing positive results and she was recommended to undergo a kidney transplant. Another poor woman came to the hospital to donate her kidney, but was crying a lot. They asked her why she was crying. She said she was donating her kidney because she was too poor and couldn’t find any work and her kids were going hungry. The sick woman paid the poor woman the total amount for the kidney without actually taking the kidney. A day after that, when the doctors examined the sick woman, they found her 100% healthy. Subhan Allah!

7- Love Technology?

If you love technology, tune it out and reconnect with Ramadan!

A lot of today’s youth are addicted to technology; they might spend 20 hours per day playing video games or surfing the internet. But Ramadan is to remember Allah (Exalted be He) and share the happiness with your family, friends and community as well.

In Egypt, the youth keep themselves busy with social projects in Ramadan. One such task is called the ‘Ramadan Bag’. Each youth contributes some money and they buy dry rations like rice, sugar, oil etc. Each product is packed and then put into bags, and then distributed to the poor across the country.

8- Do Some Da`wah

One of the most important things each one of us can do in Ramadan as a community is to take advantage of questions from non-Muslims and  do da`wah (call to Islam) about the virtues of fasting in Islam, and how it purifies a person’s soul. Da`wah or calling others to Islam is the best of deeds, because it involves guiding people to the straight path and to that which brings them happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. Almighty Allah says,

And who is better in speech than he who (says: ‘My Lord is Allah (believes in His Oneness),’ and then stands firm (acts upon His Order), and invites (men) to Allah’s (Islamic Monotheism), and does righteous deeds, and says: ‘I am one of the Muslims’. (Fussilat 41:33)

If you do plan on doing da`wah (I hope so), you should know how to make da`wah. Allah says:

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my way; I invite unto Allah (i.e. to the Oneness of Allah; Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge” (Yusuf 12:108)

Allah also says:

Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the divine revelation and the Qur’an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided. (An-Nahl 16:125)

The Muslims must follow the example and guidance of their Prophet (peace be upon him) and call others to Islam, bearing insults and harm with patience for the sake of Allah, as their Messenger (peace be upon him) did. Allah (exalted be He) says,

Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

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Source: productivemuslim.com.

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Islam and the Day of Resurrection

By Abdurrahmann Murad

Does life cease after death, or is it just an initial step leading to another?

Does life cease after death, or is it just an initial step leading to another?

‘Armageddon’, ‘Deep Impact’, ‘End of Days’, the list goes on and on, all though these movies differ in a number of ways, they all have a common plot that depicts an ‘end of the world’ scenario. In the most part, skepticism and mockery play a large role in these blockbuster movies, but the fact that each movie of this nature sells so well and becomes a hit is proof that people are intrigued by the afterlife.

So, what does the future hold? To the majority, ‘once you’re dead, you’re dead’ is the common belief, but is this really the case?  Does life cease after death, or is it just an initial step leading to another?

True Justice

Justice, equality, individuality at best can be described as hollow slogans preached by democracy, rarely implemented in Western society. These terms only attain full meaning with belief in the afterlife, for in this life, we see that crimes go unchecked, unfair judgments are handed down and criminals walk free!

Even in cases were a killer is convicted of a heinous crime, he may escape the death penalty, for it is only reserved for the most ‘culpable’ offenders (such as killers and their accomplices) as was the case of Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer who terrorized America in the late 70s and early 80s. He presumably killed 30 to 100 people.  His death via electric chair was quite painless in comparison to the agony he put each of his victims through. According to Christianity, regardless of this man’s ill doings, since he was a ‘believer’ in God, he will be forgiven as per the Doctrine of Atonement. But is this true justice?

In Islam, no one will go scot-free; all will be held accountable for their transgression in a higher court of law, wherein no one is wronged and all are given proper sentences. God, Almighty, tells us:

And the Book (one’s Record) will be placed (in the right hand for a believer in the Oneness of God, and in the left hand for a disbeliever in the Oneness of God), and you will see the criminal sinners, fearful of that which is (recorded) therein. They will say: ‘Woe to us! What sort of Book is this that leaves neither a small thing nor a big thing, but has recorded it with numbers!’ And they will find all that they did placed before them, and your Lord treats no one with injustice. (Al-Kahf 18:49)

If a person was wronged and did not see true justice or saw only partial justice, God will restore to him his rights on that Day. The Prophet (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) said:

“The rights shall be returned to the proper individuals on the Day of Resurrection, even to the detail of the just retribution of the broken horned sheep from the two horned sheep who had hit it.” (Muslim)

Muslims firmly believe in life after death, we are reminded time and time again of this reality by God, the Exalted. He says:

O you who believe! Fear God and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow, and fear God. Verily, God is All-Aware of what you do. (Al-Hashr 59:18)

Journey into the Afterlife

Death is but a phase in a series of phases, it is the beginning of one’s journey to the afterlife. Death, or the cessation of life functions, occurs when one’s soul leaves the body. This is a very painful experience:

And the pangs of death will come in truth: ’This is what you have been avoiding!’ (Qaf 50:19)

As the soul departs the body, the person will stare at it, and his eyes will follow it. The Prophet said:

“One will follow the path of the soul visually as it leaves his body.” (Muslim)

The soul will then begin its journey up to the heavens; for a believer permission would be sought for the gates of heaven to be opened and the gates would be opened till it reaches the seventh heaven, whereby God says:

Thereof (the earth) We created you, and into it We shall return you, and from it We shall bring you out once again. (Ta-Ha 20:55)

It would then be returned to the body. As for the non-believer, permission would be sought for the gates of the lowest heaven to be opened, but the angels refuse and it will be cast back to earth. God tells us:

Verily, those who belie Our Signs and treat them with arrogance, for them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter Paradise until the camel goes through the eye of the needle. Thus do We recompense the criminal sinners. (Al-A`raf 7:40)

Thereafter, one will remain in either continuous bliss or punishment in the grave until the Final hour is established.

The Day of Resurrection

Nearing the end of time, the trumpet will be blown and creation will cease to exist.  God says:

And the Trumpet will be blown, and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will swoon away, except him whom God wills. (Az-Zumar 39:68)

It will be blown a second blowing, and all creation from the beginning of time till the end of time will be resurrected. God tells us:

And the Trumpet will be blown (i.e. the second blowing) and behold! From the graves they will come out quickly to their Lord. (Ya-Sin 36:51)

People will be standing naked, barefooted and uncircumcised. The Prophet described to us what will happen, he said: “You will be gathered, barefooted, naked, and uncircumcised (as God says):

As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:104)

The first human being to be dressed on the Day of Resurrection will be Prophet Abraham (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him).” (Al-Bukhari)

Just lately, the news was filled with stories of the war criminal Slobodan Milošević and how he ‘prematurely’ died without being served justice. Even if he were convicted of his crimes by The Hague, what just punishment could possibly be served? On the same notion, how many have been able to bribe a judge or an entire justice system?  It’s just too often that we hear of a judge or attorney being arrested on corruption charges.

The Justice system of the Hereafter is flawless and absolutely just. No judgment can be overturned by a jury nor can it be influenced by any individual!

                                                                                                 To be continued…

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Source: alkauthar.org.

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Islam and the Day of Resurrection (Part 2)

By Abdurrahmann Murad

The Intercession

As humankind waits, some would exclaim, ‘Let us ask somebody to intercede for us with our Lord!’

Part 1

The Resurrection

The great Companion, Ibn Abbas (may God be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) said:

“You will be summoned on the Day of Resurrection bare-footed, naked and uncircumcised.”

He then read the words of God:

As We began the first creation, We will repeat it. (That is) a promise binding upon Us. Indeed, We will do it. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:104)

“The first person to be dressed on that day will be Prophet Abraham.” (Al-Bukhari)

`A’ishah, the Mother of the Believers, exclaimed: “Men and women both! Won’t they all look at each other?” The Prophet said:

“The situation they are in is so grim that they would have no time for this!” (Muslim)

As humankind awaits the decree of Almighty God, they would be standing under the sun, which would be brought close to them. Al-Miqdad ibn Al-Aswad, one of the Companions, said: ‘I heard the Messenger of God saying:

“The sun will be a distance of a mile from the creation on the Day of Resurrection.  People will sink in their perspiration according to their deeds. Some would sink in their perspiration till their ankles, while others would sink in it to their thighs and waists; yet others, would sink in it till their mouths!” (Muslim)

If anyone of us, today, was to sweat on a sunny day, they wouldn’t be able to wait to hit the showers… the Day of Resurrection will be 50 000 years long. The Prophet said:

“That day will be 50 000 years long, after which a person will be admitted into Paradise or cast into Hell.” (Abu Dawud)

Peoples’ hearts will be pounding, not knowing what would become of them.  God describes to us the horrors of that day.  He says:

On the Day you see it every nursing mother will be distracted from that (child) she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people (appearing) intoxicated while they are not intoxicated; but the punishment of Allah is severe. (Al-Hajj 22:2)

Even the believers who believed in truth will be severely worried. God says:

And they who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord. (Al-Mu’minun 23:60)

`A’ishah (may God be pleased with her) said: “Are they those who drink liquor, and steal?”  The Prophet answered:

“No, `A’ishah, they are the ones who fast, pray and give out in charity, but are fearful that their deeds would not be accepted from them.” (Muslim)

The Intercession

As humankind waits, some would exclaim, ‘Let us ask somebody to intercede for us with our Lord!’ The people would then go to Adam and say:

‘You are the father of all the people, and Allah created you with His Own Hands, and ordered the Angels to prostrate to you, and taught you the names of all things; so please intercede for us with your Lord, so that He may relieve us from this place of ours.’

He would say: ‘I am not fit for this (i.e. intercession for you)’.

Adam would remember his sin and feel ashamed thereof.  He would then say, ‘Go to Noah, for he was the first Messenger, God sent to the inhabitants of the Earth.’

He would say: ‘I am not fit for this undertaking!’

He will remember his appeal to his Lord to do what he had no knowledge of, then he will feel ashamed thereof and would say:

‘Go to the Khalil Ar-Rahman (i.e. Abraham, the one whom God chose for His love).’

They will go to him and he will say, ‘I am not fit for this undertaking. Go to Moses, the slave to whom God spoke (directly) and gave him the Torah.’

So they will go to him and he will say: ‘I am not fit for this undertaking’, and he will mention (his) killing a person who was not a killer, and so he will feel ashamed thereof before his Lord, and he will say: ‘Go to Jesus, God’s slave, His Messenger and God’s Word and a spirit coming from Him.’

Jesus will say: ‘I am not fit for this undertaking, go to Muhammad, the slave of God whose past and future sins were forgiven by God’.

Prophet Muhammad then said: ‘They will come to me and I will proceed till I will ask my Lord’s permission and I will be given permission. When I see my Lord, I will fall down in Prostration and He will let me remain in that state as long as He wishes and then I will be addressed.’ (Muhammad!) Raise your head. Ask, and your request will be granted; say, and your saying will be listened to; intercede, and your intercession will be accepted.’

I will raise my head and praise God with a saying (i.e. invocation) He will teach me, and then I will intercede. He will fix a limit for me (to intercede for) whom I will admit into the Paradise. Then I will come back again to God, and when I see my Lord, the same thing will happen to me. And then I will intercede and God will fix a limit for me to intercede whom I will let into the Heavenly Abode, then I will come back for the third time; and then I will come back for the fourth time, and will say, ‘None remains in Hell but those whom the Qur’an has imprisoned (in Hell) and who have been destined to an eternal stay in Hell.’” (Al-Bukhari)

The Distribution of Records

After the agonizing wait and the Prophet’s intercession, people’s records of deeds will be handed out. God says:

Then as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will be judged with an easy account and return to his people in happiness. But as for he who is given his record behind his back, he will cry out for destruction and [enter to] burn in a Blaze. (Al-Inshiqaq 84:7-12)

This is further clarified by God in the following verses:

So as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, ‘Here, read my record! Indeed, I was certain that I would be meeting my account.’ So he will be in a pleasant life – in an elevated Garden, its (fruit) to be picked hanging near. (They will be told), ‘Eat and drink in satisfaction for what you put forth in the days past.’ But as for he who is given his record in his left hand, he will say, ‘Oh, I wish I had not been given my record And had not known what is my account. I wish it (i.e., my death) had been the decisive one. My wealth has not availed me. Gone from me is my authority.’ (God will say), ‘Seize him and shackle him. Then into Hellfire drive him. Then into a chain whose length is seventy cubits insert him.’ Indeed, he did not used to believe in God, the Most Great, nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor. So there is not for him here this Day any devoted friend. Nor any food except from the discharge of wounds; none will eat it except the sinners. (Al-Haqqah 69:19-37)

The Scales of Justice

Everyone’s deeds will be weighed in actual scale and if the good outweighs the evil, they will be successful but if the opposite happens they will be among the losers.

God says: “And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is (even) the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant.”  (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:47)

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Source: alkauthar.org.

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In Islam, What Comes First?

balance in life

The beauty of Islam is that it is balanced, and attending to the rights of others on us is prescribed as is attending the rights of Allah.

 

It’s popular today for people to talk about balance; achieving balance between all their aspirations and obligations so they don’t fail in either.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigor, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can’t do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night”. (Al-Bukhari)

Following a middle course is what balance means. Islam does not mean that we observe only our spiritual obligations and totally neglect our worldly lives. We live in this world, while striving for the next world, so we need to be aware of the rights that others have over us; the rights of our Lord, the rights of our families, the rights of our bodies, and respect those rights.

In the seerah (biography of the prophet) class I took a couple months ago, we learned a little bit about Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and were able to draw a lesson about balance from it. In fact, we can learn priorities from his story in the Qur’an. First we can look at people today and see what their priorities tend to be; self first, then family, and then religion. Right?

Sometimes people even say “number one” when talking about themselves, indicating that even the society understands that a person prioritizes himself above all, and then he might place his family. Maybe if the person is married or children, these goals will be intertwined, but last of all comes the religion, and obligations before God.

In Islam, the priorities are that the deen (religion) comes first, that is, the worship of Allah. Then comes families, followed by our physical needs. You can look at the du`a’ made by Abraham in the Qur’an:

And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) said: “O my Lord! Make this city (Makkah) one of peace and security, and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols. (Ibrahim 14:35)

O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind. But whoso follows me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeys me, still You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Ibrahim 14:36)

O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka`bah); in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer, so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. (Ibrahim 14:37)

There is another similar du`a’ in Surat al-Baqarah:

And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, make this a city of peace, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He said: “(Yea), and such as reject faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!”

And remember Abraham and Isma`il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For You are the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.

“Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to You, and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (will); and show us our place for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in mercy); for You are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:126-129)

This is the du`a’ made when Abraham was leaving his wife and child in the valley. It’s interesting because the request for provision is mentioned before belief, but Abraham is actually only requesting the provision for those who believe in the first place.

The du`a’ quoted above is after Ishmael has grown up and Abraham has visited him again in Makkah. (Chronology determined by the statement “make this a safe city” vs. “make this city safe,” a subtle difference implying that in the latter case the city has been established.) The city has been established and so Abraham requests that he and his progeny be protected from shirk.

So we can get an idea for priorities here, but also understand that everything needs to be in balance.

To close, I will quote a statement from the instructor of that seminar on the seerah, that loosely paraphrases a hadith recorded by Ibn Majah, At-Tabarani, and Al-Bayhaqi, which can be read here.

“Whoever’s concern is the dunya (worldly life), Allah will make his affairs disperse and will put poverty between his eyes. And nothing will come from the dunya except what Allah has written for him. But whoever’s concern is the hereafter, Allah will gather all his affairs, put barakah (blessing) in his time, he can be focused–and will enrich his heart, that he will feel rich, content and not poor, and the dunya will come whether looking for it or not.”

So the point of this post is that we need to have balance in our daily lives, which comes from prioritizing our efforts for the Hereafter. And the beauty of Islam is that it is balanced, and attending to the rights of others on us is prescribed as is attending the rights of Allah.

If there are any mistakes in this post, they are my own, and I pray that someone will correct them.

_________________________

Source: ibnatalhidayahblogspot.

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Islam Fastest-Growing Religion in Ireland

By: Maggie Armstrong

Islam Fastest-Growing Religion in Ireland

It is estimated that up to 500 Irish people convert to Islam every year.

Islam is Ireland’s fastest-growing religion, with the number of Muslims recorded in the 2011 Census – 48,130 – expected to reach 100,000 by 2020. In a country where only 34pc of approximately 3.8 million Catholics attend Mass, many people are drifting away from religion. But a small number are finding that Islamic beliefs and practices, which allow for a peaceful and community-oriented life, fit their spiritual needs.

Growing Community

It is estimated that up to 500 Irish people convert to Islam every year. There is no official register and no baptism – to convert you simply have to recite the Testimony of Faith (Shahadah) in front of two Muslim witnesses.

While more women convert than men, and most conversions are for marriage, people can have very personal reasons for converting – or reverting as it is known in the Islamic faith, in which it is believed that everyone was born Muslim.

Ireland has a thriving Muslim community. Building begins next year on what is set to be the biggest Islamic cultural center in the country, in Clongriffin on Dublin’s northside. There are mosques and dedicated primary schools in each of our cities. And unlike the situation in France, there is no policy against Muslim girls wearing the hijab (veil) to school.

Support for converts is offered by the Muslim Sisters of Eire, an organization run by Irish Muslim women, and at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin, where theologian Dr. Ali Salem teaches a course for new Muslims.

“When people revert, they can be very enthusiastic,” says Dr Salem. “We teach a moderate understanding of Islam, and we also teach them (converts) how to change their lives gradually.”

Aishah (formerly Liza) Caulfield (36, crèche worker)

I come from Irishtown in Dublin 4, born and bred Irish. I became interested in Islam around 12 years ago.

My lifestyle wasn’t typically Irish on the social level. I wasn’t going to nightclubs and I wasn’t into drinking. I always wondered if there was a group of people out there who had a quieter lifestyle, a faith that matched how I lived my life.

I was missing a piece of the puzzle, and I was always searching. I already fitted this religion – I just needed to find it.

Through research I kept coming across Islam. I wasn’t very outward about it at the beginning. When 9/11 happened I thought, “Right, maybe not now, but I’ll continue looking”. I took the Testimony of Faith (the Shahadah), three years ago and got married last year to a Muslim from Mauritius.

My dad said, “It’s about time”, when I took the Shahadah. My family bought me hijabs and my dad was like, “I’ll get you one of those Qur’ans.” He was very hands-on. He’s a staunch Catholic, goes to confession every month and Mass every Sunday. He’d be praying morning and night.

I’m definitely happier. Islam is a quieter, more peaceful way of life. There’s a great sense of unity – our prayer times change day-to-day as the sun rises and sets. Everybody who’s Muslim, a quarter of the inhabitants of the world, is facing Mecca and praying at the same time. That is a very powerful and sacred feeling, putting your face to the floor and submitting to God.

The one big change is wearing the hijab. I wear it because it’s a sign of my devotion to God. It shows humility with my husband and with the male members of my family. For me my beauty is my hair and my body, and that’s not for everyone.

I also wear it because one part of my faith is to discuss Islam with non-Muslims. If I’m in the supermarket and someone hears my Ringsend accent, they’ll ask, “Oh, how long are you here, love?” And I’ll reply, “Actually, I’m Irish”. It’s a way of sharing your faith with people, of saying: “Don’t be afraid of us – we’re all human, we all come and go the one way.”

I always dressed modestly. I was never comfortable with showing the figure off. We’re living in a society where people feel threatened because I choose to not show my body, whereas you have girls as young as 11 or 12 who take it to the extreme.

You should be valued for your soul and your personality, not because of how much of your body you show – that’s private, and that’s my beauty.

People often look at Muslim women and think we must feel oppressed. I, for example, when got married, I was given a dowry (mahr) which is a right of the woman in Islam.

You’re going to hear negative stuff in the media – “Oh, the poor Afghan women” and that – but I often say to people: “Please, don’t confuse culture with the faith itself.”

Bridget Darby (68, retired hotel manager)

I was born in Trim into a Catholic family. In the 1950s you were brought up in the fear of God and told, “You’ll be punished, you’ll go to hell”. It was the culture and you did what you were told.

When I was 18 I went to England to study nursing. I met an Englishman in the Royal Air Force. I was at a very vulnerable time and I fell in love with him and we got engaged. He wasn’t a Catholic, so he and I had to have some religious instruction.

One day I showed up by myself and the priest asked me, “Have you got your dress?” He went from the dress to say, “Have you got new underwear?” I tried to answer as best I could, cringing on the edge of the seat. I got out of that office immediately, shaking.

I made myself a promise: that after we married I wouldn’t walk into a Catholic church again, and I never did. We got married, had a child and were stationed in Cyprus and Australia. We got divorced after about 15 years, and in 1985 I went to America. I still had no religion, but I was a good person – I believed in God.

In 2006, I went to Cairo for a vacation. That’s where I was formally introduced to Islam. I had leased an apartment and the owner asked if I would like to visit her ranch outside the city. She picked me up – her husband was driving. She’d asked me to cover appropriately because her farm workers hadn’t seen a Western woman before.

I got in this car, scrunched into the back, and she asked me if I believed in God. “Yes, I do,” I said. Then she asked, “Do you believe in one God?” I said I did. She got really excited and started babbling in Arabic to her husband. She had me reciting, “Mohammad is the prophet and there is only one God”, by the time I got to her house. She was wonderful.

She explained to me about the five pillars (obligations) in Islam. She walked me around her farm and showed me the area where she prayed five times a day.

I walked over to the river and was bathing my feet in the Nile. I can’t describe the feeling, to see the peaceful, respectful way they went about their lives. I had this idea that it was a terrible religion, but by the end of the day I was so taken by it – and I don’t do things on the spur of the moment.

All the years that I’d not been recognizing any religion, trying to survive by myself, I used to feel that someone was guiding me. I realized when I accepted Islam that God was with me anyway.

I’ve been back in Ireland a short time and I haven’t gone around waving a banner that I’m a Muslim. I know that people are afraid of the religion. You don’t see peace, you see violence. The media tells you that al-Qaeda bombed America and brought down the towers, so you tend to stereotype.

A lot of the restrictions are cultural – some are not Islamic. I now have a purpose. I have a belief, I have faith, I have new friends. It’s a sense of security to believe in God. I pray five times a day, but sometimes I miss it. I have the Qur’an by my bed. Islam is very much in your heart. You don’t have to stand on the street and wave the Qur’an. What I have is beautiful for me.

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The article is taken from  Irish Independent with slight editorial modifications. 

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My Path to Islam: It’s about Sincerity & Persistence

nature flowers

Religion is the only one stable you can have in life. So whenever you have any hardships and difficulty in life you should go to your God.

I converted to Islam in October 2007. I was raised a Catholic. I used to teach Catholicism, and I was not so much reactive in the church.

I started to have questions about life I went to the church for my answers and I was met with a lot of resistance. I decided to take my time in knowing about different religions. I started studying Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism , Jainism and, eventually, Islam.

My life has been very different after converting to Islam. It has been one of the most beautiful things that can ever happen to me but it has also brought its share of hardships. My family since I’ve accepted Islam doesn’t speak with me.

As a result, they have taken my daughter from me. I have suffered a lot, I’ve lost my job, I can’t attend school anymore because I’m not able to afford it financially though I was one of the top students in my school.

In life nothing is stable. You can have money, you can have family, you can have anything and all can go in the blink of an eye. But religion is the only one stable you can have. So whenever you have any hardships and difficulty in life you should go to your God.

And going to the church and being told ‘that’s the way it is’, ‘because God said so’, and ‘you shouldn’t question that’, was not acceptable for me.

If I need answers where am I going to find them then?

Being Catholic you believe that there’s the trinity in it (the religion), that Jesus is son of God and he is God, etc. It’s when you can take your mind out of it and look at it, it doesn’t make sense. But it is hard – when for so many years you have this as your faith; this is what you defend and what you’re dedicated to, to take this step back and kind of be open-minded about it.

For me, it took time. I started it for a long time, I had a lot of misconceptions about what Islam was. I even hated Muslims.

I thought all Muslims should die, and in my mind that anyone who is Muslim was they shouldn’t exist; why are they here? They should go back to their countries. You know I had the common American idea of what Islam and Muslims are. But that was my own ignorance following the media.

At this point I read often…

What happened to the sister? Why the change of Heart?

Learn more about what questions the sister had and what answers she have found and how? What did Islam gave here, and how have it contributed to all aspects of her life?

Watch the sister telling her touching and inspiring story her…

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Happiness Like I Never Felt before: Former French Rapper Diam’s

French rapper Diam’s talks about her conversion to Islam

“I discovered a religion of wisdom, of nonviolence, of peace, of sharing, of kindness; the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Salomon and of all the prophets.”

Four years after she converted to Islam, French Rapper Diam’s explains why she decided to take this amazing step that changed her life. In an interview with the French channel TF1, she explains that Islam has brought a lot of meaning to her life.

“I became a normal woman. When I wake up every morning, I know that I have to improve myself,” she said.

“When you carry God’s love in your heart, you are fulfilled.”

She went on to say that she was not built for stardom, clarifying that the life of stars made her miserable. “I tried very hard to have fun in the parties, but, I was not built for that. I believed in the dream of becoming a star, but it was just an illusion,” she said.

Connection with God

The turning point of her life was when she was with her Muslim friend Sousou. When Soussou went to do her prayer, Diam’s asked her if she could pray with her.

“When I prayed with her and I prostrated, I felt being connected with God,” she explains.

When she went on a trip to Mauritius, she took the Qur’an with her in order to read it: “It was a revelation, I was intimately convinced that God exists,” she explained.

“The more I was reading, the more convinced I became.”

Concerning her decision to wear the veil, she explained how it all came step by step. She was not ready to wear I at the beginning, but when she learnt more about Islam, she grew convinced that she needed to wear the hijab.

Hostile Reaction

When the press and her entourage discovered that she converted to Islam, she explained, as she was filmed coming out from a mosque, the press lashed out at her.

Some went as far as accusing her of becoming a danger for all her young fans. She deplored the confusion that the media created about the story of her conversion to Islam.

“I lost my team, because nobody trusted me. When a young girl converts, people say that either she is indoctrinated or her husband forced her to do it, as if I did not have my intellectual independence as if people knew that I was a woman with a weak personality or no character,” she added.

Her veil stirred controversy, especially that she had never explained what led her to change her path. She highlighted the intolerance of the French society and how it is far from being benevolent towards her when she decided to convert to Islam and how she went through tough moments after her decision.

Answering the question if it was complicated to live in France while being a veiled woman, she explained that although France remains a country that promotes freedom, people are not that kind towards her: “France remains the country of freedom since I can still wear my veil, but people’s prejudice and nastiness, make one tired,” she said.

She deplored the fact the French press and the public opinion accused her of becoming a ‘danger for the youth’.

“Is this danger, to advocate peace and be a nice person, and have a family life?”, she wondered.

“I wonder if I people would have said the same to me had I ended up like Amy Winehouse,” she added.

Religion of Peace

She criticized the people who defame Islam without having any knowledge about it and the amalgam between Islam and extremism:

“There are some people who are ignorant and they should refrain from talking. When we talk about something, we have to know what we are talking about,” she said.

Regarding the accusation of extremism leveled at Islam in Western countries, she emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace.

“That is not what I discovered. I discovered a religion of wisdom, of nonviolence, of peace, of sharing, of kindness. It is the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Salomon and of all the prophets. Why do people make it look like that? Under no circumstances can we find it normal that innocent people are killed in terrorist attacks.”

“I am very happy to the point that I have happiness in my heart that nobody can take away, neither through taking pictures nor attacking me, I have faith,” she concluded.

_________________________

Source: Morocco World News

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Ireland’s Muslims and the Quest for the Truth

By: Maggie Armstrong

Islam in Ireland

It was a search of something; a search for knowledge and a search for the way. It’s Islam that brought me here.

Philip Flood (60, community worker with drug addicts)

I’m from Ringsend in Dublin, and I’m a Muslim 12 years now. I was a Buddhist for five years before I started to learn about Islam. I had been on a 12-step programme for addictions – alcohol and drugs. I was single at that time and I was never well enough to have a family. I worked part-time on the docks.

The 11th step on the programme was to search “through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God“, and I started to look at all the different religions through that. I got a higher power into me there.

Most people go back to the religion they were brought up in, but I was never happy with that. I never felt right with the Catholic teachings. My mother and my father were Catholics. I made my ‘First Holy Communion’, Confirmation, went to Mass, was an altar boy. I had and have good friends, priests and nuns. But I didn’t believe, especially with Jesus on the cross. I never felt it was right. I believed in Jesus okay, but not in the cross.

I went for a walk one Friday evening on Sandymount Strand and I met a Muslim couple there, from Libya. I was with the Buddhists at the time and I was telling them about Buddha and his teachings, and they started telling me about Islam. They brought me home to their flat, and we were discussing the different things.

I used to visit them, have a cup of tea and that. They brought me to the mosque. A few weeks before that I had bought a Qur’an in a Pakistani shop in the city centre where I used to buy food, and I could understand the Qur’an more when I was discussing it with them.

When I heard the adhan (the call to prayer) I think my soul connected with that. There was something very spiritual about it, and there were no statues in the mosque.

When I came into Islam I started to study the life of `Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him). I found that made more sense than the Catholic teachings. `Isa was just a prophet; he wasn’t God.

My Life as a Muslim

My family was just happy. They saw the change in me. I married a Muslim woman and have two young children. Part of the Islamic life is to get married and to have children. I went to Morocco on a holiday and I met my wife. About a year after that we got married and she came here. Our two kids are Mohammad and Isa (after the baby Jesus).

I pray five times a day, so that keeps me spiritually well. I visit the mosque as often as I can on Friday for prayer. God has made it easy for me – I don’t have to work on a Friday. I have a television station at home, the Arabic station, and I watch Mecca and Medina, the two holy places in Islam. I get a lot of peace from watching that.

I listen to the Qur’an on a daily basis, even just a small piece, and I read a bit of Islamic literature. I learned a lot of meditation methods with the Buddhists, so I do that quite a bit. It’s the way I live now, and I have the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. I live as best I can on a spiritual basis.

Rasheed (formerly Olegs) Tucs (33, sterile processing technician)

I’m from Latvia. I converted to Islam in 2010. My generation was raised to a certain extent in the Soviet Union. It was a system with its own ideology, in which religion was marginalized. People were discouraged from taking part in any kind of religious services. We were raised in a very rational environment.

In 2006, I met a woman who I fell in love with and I proposed to her. She told me that she had a condition as she was Catholic. She said, “The only way I’m going to marry is in church”. And I said, “I love you, I will do it for you”. It was a bit complicated to become a Catholic, but it gave me a new perspective on the world. My world had been very materialistic, very scientifically oriented.

We got married and the love story continued. But my wife became quite seriously sick with malaria. I started to pray, not like a Catholic because I didn’t care much – it was just a perspective, not a faith. I started to ask someone, something, to make her live and to make us go on. Thank God, she got well. This was the first time I really prayed.

We were going on holidays to Latin America and we had to change flights in Istanbul. On the plane, I got a severe eye infection, conjunctivitis. In two hours I couldn’t see anything. In the middle of a flight, it’s a bit scary.

We had to disembark in Istanbul and go to the doctor. I woke up in the early morning and heard something nice, which was the call to prayer. My antibiotics had worked, my eyes were clear. Then you start thinking, ‘What is it?’ I did a bit of research into all the religions, because I had a whole new perspective for seeing things. During this time, Islam was the message which seemed to me without conflict.

My wife is still Catholic and I’m a Muslim – it doesn’t disturb us. She prays her way and I pray my way. But our prayers, they go to the same place.

Duplin Mosque

Dublin Mosque, Ireland

You have to conform to certain standards. In Islam, it’s said that the only purpose of humans is to worship God. At first you may think that worshipping God is praying five times a day. But actually, worshipping doesn’t mean only praying – it means being a good custodian of the planet. Recycling, buying local or fair-trade food is a way of worship because you are doing the right thing.

A very sensitive issue would be the prohibition of alcohol and all the mind-altering substances. In Islam, it’s said that God has given us a mind and an ability to think and an ability to make a decision, so if we deliberately impair that, we are denying the gift. I used to drink. Eventually, this wish to have a drink or a cigarette, it wore off.

I consider this time as being in search of something; a search for knowledge and a search for the way. It’s Islam that brought me here. I was an embryologist in IVF clinics in Nairobi, and the work was not compatible with the religion, so we had to look for something else.

In Ireland, there are a number of local mosques and cultural centres. In Latvia, there is only one mosque for the whole country. People are good here. Ireland is very friendly to outsiders. In Latvia, people from other societies are still looked at with great suspicion.

_________________________

Source: independent.ie.

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From a Christian to a Houston Imam: Yahya Graff

From a Christian to not just a Muslim, but also a prominent imam and teacher in Huston, Texas, Yahya John Graff’s journey to Islam is an extraordinary and moving one.

Exposed to all kinds of Christian practices, dominations, walks, churches and schools, such seemingly religious upbringing, for John, was nowhere near truly religious.

More interestingly, his childhood dream was to be am orchestra musician. He studied to be a vocal music teacher and conductor. During his student internship and on a ski trip in Colorado the shift happened.

How did the shift towards Islam start? How was his first contact with Muslims? How did Islam enter his life?

How did he feel about the religion before meeting it in person? How did learning about Islam change his views and whole life?

Now a Muslim, how does he see misconceptions about Islam, anti-Islam rhetoric and alleged enmity between Islam and the West and between Islam and civilization?

From where did his journey begin, how and why?

In this episode of ‘Path to Guidance’ watch Imam Yahya John Graff give answers to all these questions as he thoroughly describes his journey to the truth; Islam…

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