Categories
New Muslims Reflections

My Way to Islam

Who is your God? How did you find Him? What are His words? Who is His final Messenger, from his time to the end of mankind?
What did lead you to Islam?

Most importantly, why Islam, and not any other religion?

Here are Dr. Bilal Philips provides the strikingly elaborate answers sharing his personal experiences about the choice of his life; Islam.

Here is an insightful story with great lessons for all Muslims, New Muslims, and non-Muslims as well.

Listen…

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
New Muslims Reflections

Experience Lessons from Converting to Islam

prayer beads, Islam

Some people may continue to cut you off, but even those hurts will heal as so many more people continue to love and accept you.

1- It Gets Easier

The beginning is always the hardest. You’ve found the truth, fulfillment, and a sense of peace you never imagined possible. A handful of people can’t wait to share Islam with their families, but for most of us, breaking the news to parents, grandparents, relatives, and sometimes kids, brings a sense of dread.

This sense of dread has been even more heightened since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Many people perceive being a Muslim as the antithesis of being an American for example, even though Islam teaches us to uphold religious freedom. To most people, Islamic practice embodies the opposite of American or Western values and lifestyles.

Family members may be shocked or even mildly okay at first, but after it has sunk in, they may be angry, devastated, or cut themselves off from you. You may never again experience the kind of emotional hurts that you will when you first tell your family that you’ve accepted Islam. The reality is they are hurting too, and their hurts are justified in their minds, even if they aren’t in yours.

In the beginning many family members will act their worst, making threats and saying hurtful things, but the more you stay calm and continue to be yourself despite your new faith, the more they will cool down and eventually realize they overreacted.  Some people may continue to cut you off, but even those hurts will heal as so many more people continue to love and accept you.  Hang in there, it does get better.

2- No Matter How Much You Explain, They Still May Not Get It

Sometimes we think that if we just explained to our family members what Islam is and why it is right or why it doesn’t oppress women and why it isn’t about terrorism, our family members will suddenly have a light bulb moment and say “You know what, that does make perfect sense! I’m not upset anymore!”

Don’t be surprised if it seems to go through one ear and out the other. The truth is they are hearing what you’re saying and cataloging it, but they are too emotional to focus on it right now.

Over time you will begin to have thoughtful, rational conversations with family and friends, but it’s not something that’s going to happen right away in many cases. Even if your family doesn’t have a problem with Islam, or Muslims, they have a problem with you becoming one. You were as American as apple pie; they watched you unwrap Christmas presents under the tree every year, and dreamed of your white wedding. There is a sense of loss that they are trying to cope with.

Don’t expect to rationalize with them much at first (unless they ask questions—and even then, don’t expect too much) and don’t be disheartened.

3- Goodness Is Not Just about Religion

You will find that some of the best people you know are still people of other faiths, and by ‘best people’ I mean people who are ethical, caring, and altruistic; people who are civil and well-mannered. You will find that some Muslims act as third-world and corrupt as the dictators that preside over their homelands.

Do not assume that all Muslims will be exemplary human beings (and the organizations that many of them run are even worse). Expect to be gravely disappointed in the way many mosques are run and how unkempt they are, in how rude and ill-mannered some of your brothers and sisters in faith are, and at how dysfunctional Islamic schools and their students seem to be.

Be ready to feel a pang of disappointment when you find Thanksgiving with your family was more pleasant than iftar (meal to break the fast) at the masjid with your brothers and sisters in faith. Don’t, however, let this disenchant you from the deen or become harsh with them. You may have been privileged to grow up in a first world country and raised on its high standards. No one chooses the family and country into which they were born. Hone in on your strengths as a citizen and what positive things you can bring to the community, rather than letting it make you arrogant.

4- Be Merciful

Converts are surrounded on all sides by frustrating experiences. They have to deal with ignorance and intolerance from other faith based family and friends, and often have to deal with the same thing from the Muslim community. Add a few bad relationships or failed love stories in and you have a recipe for some serious bitterness.

Many times we get blind-sided by our negative emotions: fear, disappointment, anger, resentment, etc. We become intolerant of the shortcomings we see in others that we don’t find in ourselves.

As converts we are in a unique position of having a blended identity that gives us different perspectives, but whatever shortcomings we see in others we should remember that we have our own as well.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) truly had no shortcomings, and his trademark in dealing with ignorance was mercy. Instead of looking at others with distaste and judging them, we should feel sorry for them if they really have a problem and resolve to be good friends.

At no point should any person look at us, Muslim or not, and get the impression that we have our noses in the air. We should focus on keeping a soft heart towards everyone, because the real enemies of Islam are few and far between (though they may get the most traction) and we should always maintain a soft heart towards our Muslim brothers and sisters.

5- Being a Muslim Is Awesome, Becoming a Minority Is Difficult

Welcome to a world you may have never experienced before, the world of ‘the other’. This is the place of those who don’t hold an ‘entitlement’ card by virtue of their birth, a world of strange looks and racial slurs. This can be hard to grapple with initially since some of us were never raised to deal with it.

When you wear hijab you may notice that people aren’t as friendly to you as they once were; you see the change in demeanor that is provoked by your religious identity. It is not fair, and being raised on certain values that preach fairness and equality but never having really experienced racism yourself, you are in for a frustrating experience.

You will see the latent hypocrisy that exists in many aspects of our society, you will have a perfect image of our great nation shattered, you will experience double standards and security checks and anti-Muslim bigotry, but take heart in the fact that you will also experience the greatness of the human spirit and the people of your country. You will see that for every negative experience you have, you will have many more positive ones.

On the other hand, you will meet people who go out of their way to compliment you on your hijab, people will politely ask you questions and make it a point to tell you how much they respect what you’re doing. You will find that most people strive toward fairness, justice, and morality. The bumps in the road are just going to make the smoother patches seem all the more smooth. Don’t focus on the negative or take it personally, just enjoy the positive.

6- Don’t Be a Groupie

Never subscribe to any single imam, scholar, or organization as the ultimate authority and source of knowledge, and stay away from people who tell you to do so. There are kooks and cults within the Muslim community, and your innocent, convert face makes you a perfect follower.

Even within conservative Islam, there are varying opinions on many subjects, and the best scholars and imams are those who acknowledge those differences respectfully. Be wary of imams and scholars who are quick to put down others, who insult, and who promote their teachings and opinions as ‘correct’ with a disdain for those who are ‘incorrect’. What most people don’t realize is that these types of people are everywhere, not just in the Salafi community. They are Ṣufis, Ḥanafis, and progressives too. Every sect within Islam has its extremists. Stay away from all of them.

Also, keep in mind that if you have a question you want answered, talk to a sheikh or imam who understands your particular scenario, preferably one who has a great deal of experience with domestic issues and converts. In such cases avoid Google if you can. A good rule of thumb is to seek religious advice or rulings only from someone who is very familiar with your society and circumstances.

7- You Are the Trophy Muslim

“How long have you been Muslim? How did you convert?” These are two questions you are going to hear for the rest of your life, so have the edited monologue ready. Every time people ask you these questions, their eyes light up. (I know, it’s annoying.) They want you to move them and give them their daily iman-boost with your magical story, and suddenly you feel some pressure to perform. You don’t have to.

While I encourage you to be polite, understand that you aren’t putting on a show to make others else feel good about themselves or Islam. Keep it short and simple. Other people will patronize you in the beginning when they hear you’ve been Muslim for a few years, and may ask you basic questions, assuming you know nothing. They are well intentioned, but have a response ready, that is polite but also ends the conversation. You don’t have to stand there and smile and endure this time and again.

Be nice but brief, and know that you don’t have to share any details of your life or conversion that you don’t want to.

8- Be Careful of Whom You Marry

There are plenty of examples of successful interracial and intercultural marriages, and most converts will marry someone who is not of the same ethnic background. However, I will say this: you are more devoted citizen than you probably realize, and even if a man or woman has been living in this country for decades, if they grew up in a Muslim country, you are going to have some major differences in terms of expectations, mannerisms, and how you think and process things.

While racism is completely prohibited in Islam, a person who marries a Muslim from another country will face challenges directly related to race and/or culture. If you’re a woman, you may be especially vulnerable to being put in a position where you are expected to sacrifice aspects of your identity, especially because you are the one coming from a non-Muslim background. This is not to say that this is always the case, but it is a common problem that converts face when marrying, so it’s something to keep in mind.

9- Stick to Your Nationality

Some Western policies are at a low when it comes to how this country treats Muslims both at home and abroad, and unfortunately anti-Muslim bigotry is shockingly rampant. Many You are not a drone program or a war or a policy. You are not anti-Muslim or anti-Western bigotry. You are a person who was born in a country that has so much more positivity going for it than it does negativity, a country that has provided you with an experience that has made you into the person you are today: the person who chose Islam as their faith.

You may be outspoken, educated, independent, proactive, charismatic, caring, brave, and filled with dreams that you are determined to make come true for the better of the Muslim community and the world. You didn’t become all that the day you became a Muslim, you became all that the years you were raised as a can-do American or British for example.

Don’t let anyone else tell you what it means to be a true or a real patriot. Don’t let anyone make you feel that as a Muslim you are less entitled to being the person you have been your entire life. You have the unique opportunity to redefine your citizenship, so get out there and do it.

_________________________

Source: muslimmatters

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Conversion Stories New Muslims

Brother Paul: It Takes Time to Learn What Islam Is about

Brother Paul

I didn’t realize what Islam was, and even confused it with the turbans from other religion.

My name is Paul, which is my given name, but my Muslim name is Farouq. I grew up in the city before I moved up to Austin. I went to a normal high school with a normal youth and normal people.

The first time I heard about Islam, or more correctly about Muslims, was from 9/11. I didn’t know what that meant, and I didn’t know it was related to Islam.  So I decided to conduct a research on it. I didn’t realize what Islam was, and even confused it with the turbans from other religion. It all mingled and seemed the same to me.

I was searching for the truth through different avenues, looking for what was right and what was wrong, what is the meaning of the wobbly wars around the world, why religion usually is at the base of wars, etc.

And I was trying to find the truth; the true cause of these wars. And then brother Martin said have a look at this Qur’an; there’s a lot of truth in it. And the why I was trying to find the truth was to disprove what was presented to me; to try to say ‘No, this is actually wrong’. I couldn’t do that with the Qur’an. I couldn’t find anything wrong in it. And Martin said: ‘look, there’s actually a lot of depth in this. He says, as I was in the Hebrew industrial metropolitan, ‘look deeper into it, there’s a meaning in that miracle.’

I took Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) in the mosque and shake hand with the imam at time. And I remember there were about four hundred people in the mosque. It was a very humbling moment.

At the time there was someone of the brothers behind me was crying. And I said, like a kid: ‘Well, why are you crying? It is a good thing that I’m converting to Islam.’ It was until too later that I could’ve fully understood what Islam is about. And to understand why they were crying helped me see that one-way myth.

Family Reactions

At first when I was waking up for Fajr Prayer I feared my mad could hear the recitation of the Qur’an, and I kept saying ‘keep quite.’ He didn’t know at that time.

My dad was in the Vietnam War. He was very western and almost racist. So, for me to tell him I was Muslim I was just scared. So, I needed to prepare myself for it. I was leaving my dad’s house at that time.

It was for about two months until I told him. I embraced Islam in December and I wasn’t assure than about telling him I was a Muslim. Now, …

Watch brother Paul telling his conversion story here…

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

On the Path to God

path in nature

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

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

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

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

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

The Goal in Life

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

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

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

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

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

Way to Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

Life’s True Joy and Major Assets

In Allah’s Hands

 

beautiful nature

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

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

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

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

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

True Joy

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

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

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

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

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

Good Deeds

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

Make Your Way to Jannah

nature-green fields

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

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

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

Journey to the True Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gradually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

True Faith and Personal Responsibility

flower in nature

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

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

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

Tazkiyah: Your Personal Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fiqh books-knowledge

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

True Success… True Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Genuine Effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

Willpower between Reliance on God and Self-Confidence

By Khurram Murad

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

flowers-nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reliance on Allah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Use of Time

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

Self-Purification: How & What For?

light-stones

Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part.

The most comprehensive goal for a Muslim is the single-minded desire to attain Paradise. This desire to seek Paradise is a life-long process which can be sparked in a moment- and this desire will provide the means and the momentum to reach the goal.

Your model for self-development is that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In your quest for Paradise, you must personally take charge of your responsibilities, develop the willpower to perform and make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations, ensure that you make the best use of your time and adopt a balanced approach to life.

All-embracing Process

Islam does not subscribe to the type of asceticism where we purify our hearts and yet remain immersed in political, economic or social corruption. Tazkiyah must encompass our entire life – the privacy of our thoughts as well as their social manifestations in our daily life. Everything must be in conformity with Allah’s will.

This will of God also requires you to seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand your attention; between your obligations to Allah, your obligations towards others and your obligations towards yourself The Prophet advised us against extremism of any kind. It is reported that he said to `Abdullah ibn `Amr:

“Have I heard right that you fast every day and stand in prayer all night?” `Abdullah replied, “Yes, O Messenger of God.” The Prophet said, “Do not do that. Fast, as well as eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as sleep. For your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you”. (Bukhari & Muslim)

Unless you approach tazkiyah as an all-embracing process, you will find that your life is compartmentalized, certain parts impeding the development of others. This can only result in a life of disharmony and unhappiness.

Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna, easier and full of grace.

As you struggle to make headway on the path to God, always remember that you have an excellent example before you. This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Often we would like to emulate our sports heroes, our parents, our teachers, our friends or others who attract our attention. For your spiritual development, however, the most beautiful example is that of the Prophet. Allah says in the Qur’an:

You have, indeed, in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar, whoever places his hopes in God and the Final Days and who remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzab 33: 21)

The Ultimate Goal

The decision to purify and develop yourself requires that you clearly define the path and consider the ways and means to achieve Paradise. This whole process will not only purify your heart, but also affect your entire life and the will of Allah will become so much easier for you to follow.

Following the Divine Will is, of course, tazkiyah itself, soon, all your efforts will be directed towards the ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah and Paradise:

Know that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness, and forgiveness is a sure way to Paradise. As you strive to better yourself, then, simultaneously and continuously pray for forgiveness for all your shortcomings. God says: And whoever repents and believes and works righteous deeds, God changes evil deeds into good ones, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Furqan 25:70)

It is a misconception to believe that simply by setting up Paradise as the ultimate goal, one can get there without any further effort. It is also a misconception that Paradise can solely be achieved by concentrating only on certain aspects of life, the ‘religious and the spiritual’.

The very fact that Paradise is the ultimate objective means that tazkiyah must be pursued in all aspects of life, and in life as a whole. Consider, for example, the following:

– Is not honesty a means to enter Paradise?

– Will not a sense of responsibility enable me to enter Paradise?

– Will not striving to fulfill the needs of fellow human beings make me deserve Paradise?

– Will not abstaining from vain talk and aimless actions, bring me closer to Paradise?

– Is not consciousness of the best use of my time a key to Paradise?

– Will not keeping promises and offering salah on time, which are distinguishing traits of the righteous, put me on the highway to Paradise?

– Must not all of the above be sought to attain Paradise?

Every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah.

In sha’ Allah (God-willing), if you take heed of all the prerequisites, blessings and benefits of tazkiya, you will surely find the right environment, the true companionship and brotherhood and the most appropriate training programs to make the task of self-development easier and more rewarding.

So give the good news to My servants who listen to the word [of God], then follow the beauty in it. Such are they whom God has guided And such are they who are endowed with understanding. (Az-Zumar 39: 17-18)

Through the Guidance of God

Remember that every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah and that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness – and that forgiveness is the sure way to Paradise.

And as for the one who fears to stand before his Lord and who restrains himself from base desires, the Garden is surely the abode. (An-Nazi`at 79: 40-41)

May Allah enable us to be among those who purify themselves for it is “God Who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity; and none shall be wronged by as much as the husk of a date stone” (An-Nisaa’ 4: 49).

Were it not for God’s favor upon you and His grace, not one of you would ever have remained pure. For it is God who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity: for God is all-Hearing all-Knowing. (An-Nur 24:21)

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]

Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

Dhikr: God’s Always Open Door

dhikr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Significance of Dhikr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart-based Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blindness only draws them nearer to the ultimate chastisement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________

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

[ica_orginalurl]