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by Rutgers University Muslim Students Association

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Rediscovering Purpose: It’s the Little Things

Life’s encounters, daily epiphanies, and other personal situations to which Muslims everywhere can relate. From a small discovery of God’s creation to His infinite mercy during our most difficult times–whatever it is, truly it’s the little things that bring us back to Him.

Understanding Tawakkul…But Tie Your Camel First

We as humans like to plan. We plan everything we possibly can, for isn’t that what life teaches us? Planning is the path to success…so they say. So plan for tomorrow, we plan for next week, the next year and if not we sometimes plan for our long term future.  Planning gives us a sense of control, that we are able to dictate what we want to happen and what we want to avoid. But if that is the case, then where does our faith come in? More importantly, how much faith do we as fallible humans have to the infallible, Best of Planners?

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us,

رَّبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَاتَّخِذْهُ وَكِيلًا

“[He is] the Lord of the East and the West; there is no deity except Him, so take Him as Disposer of [your] affairs.” [Qur’an 73:9]

Allah has created us to feel, it is what distinguishes us from His other creations. Therefore at times we feel our planning becomes a burden. We begin to ponder, what if it doesn’t work out? What if I don’t get over it? What if they don’t accept me? The anxiety in our hearts begins to settle, and the uncertainty overwhelms us from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reassures us and says,

وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ

“…And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him…” [Qur’an, 65:3]

So what does this mean? What does it mean to have tawakkul?  As Ibn Ata’illah once said,

“Relieve yourself of worry after you have planned; do not concern yourself with what Allah has undertaken on your behalf.”

It means we have faith that indeed He is the Best of Planners and Al-Wakeel, who controls His worshipers’ affairs. He is also Al-Qareeb, the one who is Near, for Allah is always with us. What worries then do we have? Like a child who is around his mother, he never worries. He knows mom is watching over him, ensuring what is best for his future will come. Isn’t Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala the best caretaker we can ask for?

And so we should continue to plan. One day Prophet Muhammad ﷺ noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it and he asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet ﷺ then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (At-Tirmidhi).

So graduating seniors, college students, the ummah of the Prophet ﷺ and humans who plan, let us tie our camels first. Go ahead and plan with the best of intentions and as the doers of good, and let us tawakkul in our Creator.

Finding To Forgive

Forgiveness is said to be the attribution of the strong, and rightfully so, for forgiveness is not a matter of words. Rather, it is the matter of the heart. It’s easy to tell someone you forgive them. But how many times have we held a hurtful word, action, or hesitated a kind gesture out of a grudge? Fact is, most of want  to forgive, but the question isn’t about if want to; rather, are we able to?

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us in the Qur’an towards the end of Surah Al-Ma’idah:

“…but pardon them and overlook [their misdeeds]. Indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.”

We are all human. We are fallible and prone to mistakes—and worst of all—we can hurt others. But at the end of the day, when we choose not to forgive, who are we really hurting besides ourselves?  If we don’t sought to bestow our forgiveness to those around us, can we really ask for forgiveness from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala? Imagine if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala withheld His mercy, because we wronged Him. How many prayers we miss, people we hurt, things we see or do and sometimes continue to do? Would we even survive if Allah didn’t forgive us?

And yet, SubhanAllah we remember, that He is Al-Rahman, Al-Raheem, the Most Merciful, Most Kind. So if we don’t forgive others, and genuinely so, how do we expect to be forgiven ourselves?

Jarir reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“Allah will not show mercy to a person who does not show mercy to other people.”

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was said to be seated in a gathering with the Sahabah, his companions, when he looked toward the entrance and said, “A man of Paradise is coming.” Someone who seemed to be very ordinary entered the mosque where they sat. One of his companions was very curious as to why the Prophet ﷺ said this, so he followed the man to his house.

This Sahabi told the man he was a traveler and stayed as a guest. For three days the Sahabi saw nothing unusual, so he finally told the man what the Prophet ﷺ said and asked him what was so special. The man thought for a long time and said, “There might be one thing—before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart.”

How many of us can genuinely say we sleep every night not angry at someone? We must find it within ourselves to release a self-poisoning boomerang that only returns to haunt us. May we learn to forgive those around us and have those around us forgive us, and let that be the one of the many blessed reasons we attain Jannah, Insha’Allah. Ameen.

Rediscovering the Pursuit of Patience

Growing up in the 21st century, today’s generation—infamously known as Generation Y—is characterized among the most hardworking and intelligent, however we are also characterized as perhaps the most abrasive, ungrateful and furthermore, among the extremely impatient. We demand the world, and we demand it now. We crave results, but we crave it now. Yes, we are willing to work continually for our goals, however, we want the fruits of our labor right now.

The virtue of sabr, or patience, is among the most sought after, yet most difficult characteristic to achieve. It is within the human tendency to desire, to worry, and to even doubt. When we are not witnessing our some sort of productivity, we begin to panic, question our intentions and perhaps question the plans of our Creator.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah Al-Baqarah:

“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad
 tidings to as-Saabireen (the patient ones).  Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘Inna lillaahi wa Inna Ilaihi Raaji’un (Verily to Allah we belong and verily, to Him we shall return).’ They are those on whom are the Salawaat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are
 those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.” (2:155-157)

How many times have we furiously questioned due to what we perceive for the lack of answers? How is it that we, as the limited and flawed humans, strive for perfection when we cannot even fathom its existence? Our worries get to the best of us and eventually we fail the tests that Allah bestowed upon us. Our foresights prevent us from seeing the benefits in which comes under the wraths of these tests. For don’t the greatest gifts come in the strangest packages?

Due to its rarity and difficult, sabr is indeed a beautiful concept, but attaining it is truly difficult. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chose the people of patience and gratitude to benefit from His signs and be distinguished by this great fortune. He says in four places in the Qur’an:

“Truly, therein are Ayaat (evidences, proofs and signs) for every patient, thankful (person)”

[Ibraheem 14:5; Luqmaan 31:31; Saba 24:19; al-Shoora 42:33] .

The Prophet ﷺ adds to this by telling his Ummah:

وَمَا أُعْطِيَ أَحَدٌ عَطَاءً خَيْرًا وَأَوْسَعَ مِنْ الصَّبْرِ

“There is no gift that is better and more comprehensive than patience.”

Patience is truly not only a virtue, but a remarkable blessing. It is more than merely calming our anxiety before an exam, worrying about a job interview or any other worldly affair that we so quickly become consumed with. Rather, it is also holding our anger when provoked, our reactions during our trials and tribulations, and most importantly, understanding the testing of our faith so that we may see if the intentions of our hearts really do match with the words of our tongues and the actions of our existence. And if not, so let us take a moment to correct ourselves and strive for a new level of patience for the benefit of our sanity and the contentment of our Lord. May Allah bless us all with such an Iman that we never doubt Him or become angered by His perfect plans, and may He guide us to be pleasant and understanding with those around us and of course ourselves. Ameen.

Featured image: Lift Me Up

The Modern Muslim-American Identity Conflict

This past Sunday on December 1, I was honored to be asked to speak at an event hosted by an organization called We Care. We Care is an Islamic based not for profit organization that aims to build a safe space for Muslim youth around the state and to provide them with academic, mental and social resources. The goals were simple, to create a sense of community for free expression in the short term and  the long term, to build a physical institution and a future youth center. It would take time, but the organization was determined. Their target audience was more than just uncles and aunts of the community donating money, rather they looked to mark a different crowd: the future of Muslim-American youth.

As the No. 1 growing religion in the world, Islam has rapidly spread to the United States. The country was no longer dominated by Muslim immigrants, but rather a new wave of first, second and third generation Muslim Americans. Our generation was starkly different in regards to overcoming obstacles. We did not struggle with the English language, attaining green cards or fitting into society.  Instead, we were going through an identity crisis. Our daily lives included the debate of what is the easiest way to pronouncing my very “Muslim” name? What will my teacher say when I request off for Eid? We weren’t exactly foreigners, but we didn’t feel quite at home either.

Being a Muslim-American in the post 9/11 era tests our patience to prove ourselves. Our parents saw America as evil, while America saw Islam as evil. So the question is, where do we come in?

Simple. We establish our identity. Being a Muslim-American in today’s era is no longer a void where we must prove our worth; instead, it is about embracing our identity. We are Muslims, continuing the faith of our parents and grandparents, speaking the native tongue of our families and adapting to the morals we were raised with. At the same time, we are Americans. We are today’s physicians, writers, engineers, artists and professors. We are not a threat. We are a community. One that is proud, diverse and vibrant.

The Prophet ﷺ once said,

“Take benefit of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied and your life before your death.'”

As Muslims today, we are encouraged to be great. To succeed in the fields which God blessed us in. This is our time to be confident Muslim-Americans and to embody an identity of Islamic principles and American opportunities. Our parents and great-grandparents came here for a reason, and that reason is us. We are here to stay. To continue to succeed in our careers, establish our families and be acknowledged as valuable part of American society. And may Allah subhana wa ta’ala guide us to the righteous paths blessed with His opportunities and to futures where our identities hold strong and ultimately please Him. Ameen.

The Disillusioned Du’aa: When Hardships Blind Our Answers

Du’aa (supplication) is an incredible power many of us have been conditioned to practice. When in doubt, we are told to make du’aa. When we need something, we make du’aa. When we are faced with a life decision, we make du’aa. We make du’aa over and over again, consistently praying for guidance and ease. Life’s stresses and despairs force us to turn to the only One who truly does understand us.  Who else understands the tiny complex bits of our souls we are too afraid or ashamed to share other than the One who created us? We say we need Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). We repeatedly gloat about the amount of times we’ve supplicated and begged for a response. But what happens when we raise our hands for an answer to only receive it back empty?

Patience is beautiful; attaining it is exceptionally painful. Living in a world full of fast-paced chases and short-lived emotions, our happiness relies on instant gratification of the desires we think we deserve. We remind ourselves of the pains and obstacles we’ve been through, convincing ourselves we are worth of a response. Don’t I pray, ya Allah? But I gave charity? Aren’t you the Most Merciful? We begin to question our intentions and reevaluate our actions. Surely, God is the Most Merciful, right?

Right.  But are we the Most Grateful? Of course not.

Human beings are such intriguing creatures. If our du’aas are not responded in a clearcut matter within an expected time period, we begin to panic. But when life is at its highest peak and we are comfortable, the anxiety is gone. Why pray when we have everything we need?  And as the imperfect creatures we are, we fall into the fallacy of forgetting.

And so, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) said:

“وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا”

“…And if you would count the blessings of Allah you would not be able to count them…” [Qur’an 14:34]

And we cannot. We thank Allah for the obvious: our health, family, wealth, and other tangible items. Rarely do we remember the little things: our mental state, the ability to attain a cup of coffee, a heart to love, and a hand to hold. Are these things included? Remembering the blessings bestowed upon us is one way of the many ways of maintaining patience. It is through understanding that Allah loves those who are patient and that He tests those He loves. Allah does not test us in spite of us, rather to be reminded.

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says:

“ومن يتق الله يجعل له مخرجاً، ويرزقه من حيث لا يحتسب”

“…And whoever fears Allah—He will make for him a way out / And will provide for him from where he does not expect.” [Qur’an 65:2-3]

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) also says:

“وإذا سألك عبادي عني فإني قريب أجيب دعوة الداع إذا دعان”

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me—indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of every supplicant when he calls upon Me…” [Qur’an 2:186]

It has been said the answers of our prayers normally fall within the following three categories: Yes, not now, or here’s something better.  Just like our du’aas, Allah’s responses come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re desperately praying on a bus, crying in the middle of the night, or reflecting after a prayer, Allah is Near. He always is.

So the next time you are supplicating for guidance, remember the answer will come if it hasn’t already. Perhaps if we truly knew how many times God has saved us from something we’ve wanted that would have only ended up hurting us, we would supplicate more often with increased confidence and decreased frustration.

“وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ”

“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [Qur’an 2:216]

Since we do not know, is it then our right to truly be angry? If we cannot see what is to come in the next hour, how can we trust our limited capacities with our fate when the One who is the All-Knowing and the Best of Planners is on our side? We should ask ourselves, how can we despair?

It is time to rest aside the worries that fill our minds during the late hours of the nights, our heavy hearts we fill with burdens rather than comfort, and our tired eyes that have become tunneled to seek an end rather than means. Du’aa is a form of worship, but with worship comes faith. It is okay to feel sad, but know everything is perfectly planned by only He who is capable of seeking out what is best for us.

And may Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) fill our thoughts with comfort, our hearts with ease and open our eyes to an enlightened path to attaining serene patience and faith-filled confidence in our du’aas and decisions. Ameen.

Featured image found here

Friendship in Islam: Reflecting the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The establishment of our comfort zones is a very intimate sphere within our personal lives. The secrets we keep, emotions we feel, and the thoughts constantly running through our heads are the minor details that contribute to the intimacy of our comfort zones. Despite what may be happening around us, we create a safe haven for the things that concern us most.

In the midst of these intimate moments, we come across friends who we are willing to share these very personal moments with. We invite them to look into the darker corners within us that we may not be proud of. We  also do so risking judgment and vulnerability. But we do it because we want to, never because we have to.  And so our friends become more than just other humans; rather, they become a part of us, sharing a component of our temporary world of ups and downs.  Friendship then becomes a rare and cherished relationship that we strive to have. We grow with these people experiencing milestones together. We become accustomed to each other and with time, we begin to reflect one another with our habits, both the positive and the negative.

Our Prophet ﷺ advised,

المرء على دين خليله فلينظر أحدكم من يخالل

“A person is on the way of life of his friend. Therefore, he should think very carefully whom he is making a friend with.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)

Therefore, it is important to ask ourselves, what kind of friends are we reflecting? Or more importantly, who is reflecting us? Are we proud of the characteristics we pass to the people who we care about the most? When we are questioned of the habits we passed one, will we be happy or ashamed?

Allah, the All-Wise, says in the Qur’an:

“Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqoon (i.e. those who have Taqwah).” (Qur’an 43:67)

We should strive to seek healthy friendships for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). In a life that is so short, it is important for our friendships to ultimately be of benefit in this world and the hereafter.  We should also love one another, pray for each other, and reflect valuable characteristics we want to maintain within ourselves.

The Prophet ﷺ said:

إن أحدكم مرآة أخيه فإذا رأى فيه شيئاً فليمطه عنه

“Each of you is the mirror of his brother, so if he sees any fault in him he should wipe it away from him.” (Tirmidhi)

In a secondary hadith, Imam Bukhari narrated that our Messenger ﷺ said:

لا يؤمن أحدكم حتى يحب لأخيه ما يحب لنفسه

“None amongst you believes (truly) till one likes for his brother, that which he loves for his himself.”

So let us remember the benefits we are able to attain through a positive friendship that aims to please Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).  Let us also strive to steer away from judgments and provide a support system for each other in our most difficult times.  Friends are a blessing from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), so we ask Him to bless us with righteous companions that will keep us away from that displeases Him and guide us to what does please Him. We also pray we learn to benefit from one another in this dunya and may we be reunited with our loved ones in the highest level of Jannut-al Firdoos, Insha’Allah. Ameen.

Featured image found here.

Bismillah: The Start of New Beginnings

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem. In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, Most Kind.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful and vital phrases identified by Muslims across the world. Bismillah, or In The Name of Allah. Soon images of our childhood begin to flood our memories, as we reminisce the days of our younger selves sitting diligently in our Islamic school classrooms, chanting verses after our proud instructor. Before prayer!, the teacher would remind us. Recite it before every meal and every surah. With time, we found that it all flowed in such synchronized rhythm from our tongues and into our daily practice. Naturally, it became more than habit. It became a lifestyle.

The phrase Bismillah has become so beautifully popular throughout various occasions and during different stages within our lives. At first thought, it is most commonly associated before reciting the holy text of the Qur’an. However, today we find even the word Bismillah is more than the mere introduction to Qur’anic recitation; rather, it grew up with us, embodying a concept of faith and the start of new beginnings.

As flawed humans living in an short-lived world, we tend to give our every decision as much thought as possible, carefully examining our pros and cons in hopes of making the “right” choices.  We plan and plan, constantly formulating verdicts that involve with factors greater than us that include our loved ones, academics, career choices, relationships, and much more. But with age and increase in such responsibilities, the decision making process begins to consist of an inevitable element of fear of the unknown. We then begin to repeatedly ask ourselves, is this what I want to study for the next four years? Is this person the one I really want to spend the rest of my life with? Does this career choice define who I am?

The questions undoubtedly cloud over us with an overwhelming trepidation of what the future may or may not hold. And so we  panic. And we question our intentions. And we reassess the situation and return to our initial thoughts. At times we feel as if we have fallen into a never ending cycle. But have we so quickly forgotten what our Creator has reassured us? Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says in the Qur’an,

“But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners” (8:30).

For how can we expect to plan for the unknown when the All-Knowing Himself has it all written? Why then, do we fear? And so with that in mind, we grasp onto our faith, hold onto our heart, and utter the words that we’ve so beautifully conditioned to repeat whenever we were in doubt back in our classrooms, “bismillah.”

And so with the new academic year upon us, Muslim students across the university brace themselves for another year filled with emotional roller coasters, academic achievements, and social gatherings. The reunion is bittersweet, for it encompasses the realization of a fully passed year but an opportunity to embrace another one.  We enter this year in reflection, as we promise ourselves to improve our study habits, begin going to the gym, and through it all actually make time for friends.

But new beginnings do not just begin with new schedules and goals, they also embody an endeavor for good character and a moral conscious, one that entails understanding that at the end of the day, we are  humans with very limited vision on our own futures. That it is okay to worry, to plan and to attempt to rationalize logic. But with all of that, it is rather imperative to remember that certain elements are truly beyond our control and most importantly, that indeed He is is the best of planners.

So with a new year ahead of us and a new perspective in mind, here’s to new beginnings, all under His perfect planning.

Let it begin, bismillah.

Image © Mohammad Alagha

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