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Inspiration and Spirituality

Unable to Appreciate

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

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nature.jpgIn the Qur’an, Allah directs us over and over to ponder over the miracles of His creation, and even swears by them: the sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the turning of the seasons.

“Wal ‘Asr…” “WatTeeni wazZaytoon…” “WadhDhuha… walLayli ithaa sajaa…” “Wal Fajr…” “WashShamsi wa DhuHaahaa…”

By Time… By the fig and the olive… By the morning brightness, by the night and its darkness… By the dawn… By the sun and its brightness…!

Since the beginning of existence, mankind has been fascinated by the world around us and most if not all of us have realized at one point that none of this could exist without Someone being responsible for it all – however, whether we follow up on that realization by acknowledging Allah as the only One worthy of worship is another matter altogether. Anyway, the point is that the universe we live in is a miracle in and of itself, such that it is within humankind’s nature that we observe it in awe and appreciation.

Yet I have noticed a disturbing trend within myself and others, something which causes this aspect of the fitrah to be… well, quashed, I guess you could say.

Here’s an example:
As amazing as something like a lunar eclipse is, I have to admit that I learnt something shocking about it: it wasn’t as impressive as I’d expected it to be. Why? Because I – and many others – have been accustomed to the new tricks and abilities of technology such as CGI and much more.

The day after the eclipse, I asked my friends and other kids at the Madrasah if they’d seen it and what they thought of it… and I was surprised to see many of them express a total lack of awe or excitement regarding it – the same feeling I guiltily acknowledged within myself.

Just as the culture of instant gratification has made us more selfish and less likely to recognize and appreciate our rizq, it seems that just so has modern technology created within us higher expectations of the “wow” factor. We want more flashes and bangs, yet with each new advance in technology, with every new invention and upgrade, our ability to appreciate and enjoy seems to be dulled. The latest generations are unimpressed with what is currently available, and view the world with jaded eyes, demanding something bigger, flashier, newer, faster every day – yet they’re swiftly bored by whatever is placed in their laps.

Have you observed the same feelings within yourself and others? Is this a sign of the hardening of our hearts? The need for us to let go of the complex unnecessary technological clutter of our lives? Or do we just have to find a way for technology to increase our awareness and awe of Allah’s creation, and in turn of His Might and Power?

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young Canadian Muslimah, originally from the West Coast of Canada. She writes about whatever concerns her about the state of the Muslim Ummah, drawing upon her experiences and observations within her own local community. You may contact her at anonymouse@muslimmatters.org She is is no longer a writer for MuslimMatters.org.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    April 24, 2008 at 10:43 AM

    Very true. On the other hand, I think I appreciate the eclipse in a different way – from among the signs of Allah subhaana wa ta’aala, it is a relatively rare occurence, so from the perspective of supply and demand, it was more valuable for me to have that experience of seeing one.

    Siraaj

  2. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    April 24, 2008 at 11:26 AM

    I shall only repeat after a giant:

    “You can live as if nothing is a miracle, or you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
    -Albert Einstein.

  3. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    April 24, 2008 at 12:20 PM

    That stinks the eclipse felt that way. It’s hard for us to reflect on some of the Quranic signs, especially in the YouTube and Discovery Channel HD era we live in.

    One of the few Sunday School teachers that taught me something (this uncle was amazing, hafidhuhullah) was going over the story of the man with two gardens. He began to describe the imagery of the gardens as presented in the Quran.

    “Have any of you even SEEN an orchard before?” None of us responded, embarrassed at being a bunch of washed up suburbanite high schoolers. “Get out there and go see Allah’s creation!”

    That really hit me. We should make more family vacations to places like the Smokey Mountains or Myrtle Beach instead of just the Disneylands and Mt. Epcots. And for the youth, go on Islamic camps! They’re an eye opener. Youth = under 40 btw, hehe. :P

  4. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    April 24, 2008 at 2:06 PM

    “Wisdom begins in wonder”
    -Socrates

  5. Avatar

    AlBaraa

    April 24, 2008 at 4:15 PM

    I think the issue is that people have become so accustomed to the fast pace of life that we don’t stop to smell the roses. When was the last time you were walking to the car and decided to notice the robins bathe in the creek? When was the last time you decided to pull over on the highway on your way home from work or school and just gaze at the stars for a moment…or even from a road trip. Heck…when was the last time you went camping just to be in the wondrous outdoors and experience the beauty of nature.

    I’ll tell you this…there aint nothing in these concrete jungles that we’ve grown so accustomed to that can compare to the jungles of the real world. Theres nothing like sitting on the side of a mountain, yelling at the top of your lungs and hearing your echo bouncing off the walls off the other mountains.

    The thing one needs to do is take a pause from life and smell the roses :-)

  6. Avatar

    MrEspy

    April 24, 2008 at 6:11 PM

    “In the later stages of an epic worldwide struggle, the forces of Western economic development are assaulting the remaining native peoples of the planet, whose presence obstructs their progress. In some places the assault is violent; elsewhere, as here in the United State, it is legalistic. Given the lack of public awareness and the misreporting by the media, a “final solution” for the native problem is deemed likely. Upon the ultimate outcome of this battle will depend whether a living alternative would view, rooted in an ancient connection with the Earth, can continue to express what is insane and suicidal about the Western Technological project.”

    jerry mander – In the Absence of the Sacred”

  7. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    April 24, 2008 at 11:22 PM

    You can also think about it this way- what seemed so perplexing to us- humans- for ages, is actually so simple for Allah!

  8. Avatar

    Saaida

    April 25, 2008 at 2:00 PM

    Guilty! That’s exactly how I felt! and I kept pushing myself to want to feel more. May I should go camping or something and experience an all out nature-fest! JazakAllahukhair for your honest article, and I pray our hearts soften to see the visibility of Allah’s Majesty.

  9. Avatar

    AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    April 25, 2008 at 5:48 PM

    bismillah.

    when we crave the sheen or glitter of what we know is false, and prefer it over the gleaming majesty of what is wrought by Allah alone, then we do have something for which to be sad. and it is sad whenever a Muslim finds in himself or herself a likeness to the behavior of the people who are misguided.

    at the same time, be grateful to Allah that He permitted us time in which to turn towards Him more completely, time to seek out the opportunities that will increase in us the characteristics of the people on whom are glad tidings, the people of Paradise.

    may Allah strengthen you, me, and all of us from His Mercy. may He guide each of us, and make us among those with whom He is pleased, and not from those who go astray. ameen.

  10. Avatar

    Adam Bhakrani

    May 12, 2008 at 6:09 PM

    Assalaamualeikum,

    after reading the article, I realized that I rather prefer watching pictures of beautiful landscapes instead of taking time and go to that places. I have a forest next to me but I hardly take the oppurtunity. We all have the “wow” effect when see discovery channel or national geographic but when did we say “let us go there and observe Allah’s creation, na?” May be there was this voice but we haven’t listened to it.

    The big issue is our development that from early childhood on we get used to TV, computer and many other things in life but not with nature. Until now I haven’t ever been camping. Due to all those habits we are so stuck in our life that although we wanna get rid of it, even partially, we can’t. I hope Allah may give us strenght for it.

    Allah Hafiz

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#Current Affairs

Do You Know These Heroes of Eid?

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

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Rohingya children

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

Between one million and three million Muslims are being detained in concentration camps in China, while masjids are being demolished and imams executed.

The Rohingya Muslims of Burma continue to suffer from terrible persecution. In one Rohingya refugee camp on the Burma / Bangladesh border there are half a million children. These children are banned by the Burmese authorities from attending school and are at risk of early marriage, child labor or being trafficked.

In the Central African Republic, the Muslim minority lives in daily fear of being killed, especially in the south.

The Palestinians continue to suffer after seventy years of occupation, with no end in sight.

Russian and Assad regime attacks on civilians continue in Syria, with the real possibility of an upcoming genocide in Idlib province.

Heroes Abound

In the midst of this all suffering, heroes abound. There’s Serikzhan Bilash of Kazakhstan, who has labored feverishly to document China’s internment of Muslims across the border. He urges those in his organization to continue their work, even as he himself has been arrested.

Those Rohingya children I mentioned in the refugee camp, banned from attending school? One 14-year-old Rohingya girl mentioned in the article has managed to enroll in school in Bangladesh. Her mother sold her food rations and borrowed money to create a fake Bangladeshi birth certificate, then paid a smuggler to take her daughter out of the camp. The girl herself says, “People hate the Rohingya here. I don’t tell people I am one… I have to lie about my identity to survive. Even though it’s a big struggle… I am able to study. There are hundreds of thousands of kids like me inside of the camps who are forced to marry off early…They have no opportunities.”

Also in that camp is 13-year-old Halim, who runs his own tutoring service, where he teaches more than 20 children. He says, “I am teaching them so they can do something for our nation. If they don’t learn anything, they can’t prosper in their life, as well as they can’t fight for the nation.”

Razan al-Najjar

Razan al-Najjar

In Palestine, let us not forget Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic from Gaza who was shot by an Israeli sniper on June 1, 2018, while tending to a tear gas victim. In her last Facebook post, the day before she was killed, she wrote, “Your conscience will be comforted as much as possible since God always knows your intention. #sleep_well Be good.”

In Syria, we have Dr. Omar Ibrahim, an Egyptian neurosurgeon who could probably be earning a hefty salary anywhere in the world, but instead labors under constant bombardment in the war-torn and half crushed city of Idlib. He’s been in Syria for five years and says, “I have no regrets about doing this work. Because I have passion for my work, and this work inspires me.”

A Religion of Heroes

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Such stories are amazing, but they are not unique. There are countless heroes, and should that surprise us? Islam is a religion of heroes, and has always been so, going all the way back to its inception in Makkah, when the Prophet Muhammad (sws) drew around himself the weak and powerless, the slaves and foreigners. They were tortured, but did not surrender their new faith. Heroes.

Or, several years later, when the disbelievers of Arabia came in great numbers to wipe the Muslims off the face of the earth. The Muslims dug a great trench around Madinah, and held off the attackers under conditions of hunger and terrible cold, until – with Allah’s help – the siege was broken. Heroes.

So if you thought such heroes were a thing of the past, remember Serikzhan Bilash, the Rohingya girl, Halim, Razan al-Najjar, Dr. Omar Ibrahim and the untold, uncounted heroes like them. You may even know a few heroes personally. I do.

There’s my friend Karim, who works for an organization that sponsors Muslim orphans. He’s overworked and underpaid, and struggles to support his family and two children. He’s highly experienced and could earn more somewhere else. But he sticks with it because he believes in Islamic work.

I think also of my daughter’s homeroom teacher, sister Sharmeen. She’s an enthusiastic teacher who pushes the children to read, write and understand the roots of language. She does more than is required and is not appreciated as she should be. But once again, her passion drives her.

Persistence of Dua’

Our local Imam recently gave a khutbah about the importance of dua’. He said that Allah loves the dua’ that is persistent. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawa’: “One of the most beneficial of remedies is persisting in dua’.”

So be persistent. Pray for our suffering Ummah, and pray for our heroes. And donate whatever you can spare to the organizations that work on their behalf.

My Ordinary Life

As for me, my life is ordinary. On the morning of Eid, I, my mother and my daughter Salma – who is twelve years old now – wake up early and put on our best clothes, inshaAllah. We get in the car and stop at Krispy Kreme donuts.  I buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a long line and elbow people to snatch a cruller.

I pick up my cousin’s son, who does not have a car. We go downtown to the Fresno convention center and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. The Eid salat begins, then I strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. Especially, the sisters. Sorry ladies, but it’s true :-)

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone is wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of sharing a connection with every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, my mother makes cookies, and we put some decorations on the walls. Salma opens her presents, which this year are a new Switch game, a dartboard and a pearl necklace. It’s the first piece of real jewelry I’ve ever bought her. Buying it left me with $18 in my bank account, which means I predict a lot of Uber driving (my side job) in my near future. So I hope she likes it.

On such days, I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim and a better human being.

The Spirit of the Prophets

I also talk to Salma, as I do every year, about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world, fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid or pearl necklaces. Some are starving. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet they are resolute. They have a deep strength that, like the well of Zamzam, never runs dry, SubhanAllah. They will not give up their hopes, their dreams or their faith, Allah willing.

These are the real heroes of Eid. I feel small next to them. They are the ones living the spirit of the Prophets and the Sahabah. They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

May Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, and tyranny with freedom. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

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#Islam

Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

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Iblees was no ordinary worshipper. He worshipped Allah for thousands of years with thousands of prayers. He ascended the ranks until he accompanied the angels with his noteworthy worship. Performing good deeds was no issue for him. He thanked Allah with his prayers, and Allah rewarded him with a lofty station in Paradise. But when Adam was created and given the station that he was, suddenly Iblees was overcome by pride. He couldn’t bear to see this new creation occupy the place that he did. And as he was commanded to prostrate to him, his pride would overcome him and doom him for eternity. Alas, swallowing his pride for one prostration of respect to Adam was more difficult to him than thousands of prostrations of worship to Allah.

In that is a cautionary lesson for us especially in moments of intense worship. When we exert ourselves in worship, we eventually start to enjoy it and seek peace in it. But sometimes we become deluded by that worship. We may define our religiosity exclusively in accordance with it, become self-righteous as a result of it, and abuse people we deem lesser in the name of it. The worst case scenario of this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one who comes on the day of judgment with all of their prayers, fasting, and charity only to have it all taken away because of an abusive tongue.

But what makes Iblees’s struggle so relevant to ours? The point of worship is to humble you to your Creator and set your affairs right with His creation in accordance with that humility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in their heart would not enter paradise. The most obvious manifestation of that pride is rejecting the truth and belittling someone else. But other subtle manifestations of that pride include the refusal to leave off argumentation, abandon grudges, and humble yourself to the creation in pursuit of the pleasure of the Creator.

Yaqeen

Hence a person would rather spend several Ramadan’s observing the last 10 nights in intense prayer seeking forgiveness for their sins from Allah, rather then humble themselves for a moment to one of Allah’s servants by seeking forgiveness for their transgressions against him, even if they too have a claim.

Jumah is our weekly Eid, and Monday’s and Thursday’s are our weekly semblances of Ramadan as the Prophet (s) used to fast them since our deeds are presented to Allah on those days. He said about them, “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”

In Ramadan, the doors of Heaven are opened throughout the month and the deeds ascend to Allah. But imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother. Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “IM SORRY.”

Compare these two statements:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”

He also said:

“I guarantee a house in the suburbs of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right.”

Swallowing your pride is bitter, while prayer is sweet. Your ego is more precious to you than your sleep. But above all, Allah’s pleasure is more precious than it all.

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#Life

Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah

Hiba Masood

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Growing up in Jeddah, every evening in Ramadan, we would pile into our car and whiz off to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers to Shoaibi Mosque and spend a few spell-bound hours under the reassuring baritones of Sheikh Abdullah Basfar. His beautiful voice became the anthem of my childhood in many ways but more than his voice, it was the building of tradition and memory that became ingrained in my system. By doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out, my parents gave us a sense of stability and predictability that set the tone for our entire adolescence.

How that rhythm seeped into the very bones of who I am is something I am still discovering well into adulthood.

Last night, standing in my grandmother’s garden in Karachi, I experienced my first Taraweeh Khatam-e-Quran since leaving my parents home in Jeddah so many years ago. It is also, incidentally, my first Ramadan without both my parents, who last year seemingly decided they would much rather be together in Jannah than spend more time in this rubbish world and in quick succession, returned to their Maker, leaving me understandably grieving, awash in memories, struggling to steer my ship.

And so it was, that by the time the imam reached Surah Qadr, I was chokey. By Surah Kawthar, I had tears streaming down my face. And by the time the last three surahs, the comforting Quls, began, I was openly sobbing. Probably more openly than what is considered socially appropriate…but honestly, I was restraining myself. Because what I actually felt like doing was throwing my head back and howling up at the sky. Thankfully, I was flanked by women who knew, who understood, who with tears in their own eyes, let me be with my heaving shoulders and a chest that felt it would crack open under the weight of my emotions.

As the imam had recited surah after surah and the end of the Quran had approached, the ghosts of Ramadan Past had flooded into me and my body had remembered. It had remembered years and years of experiencing that same excitement, that same sense of weight as Sheikh Abdullah Basfar gently and methodically guided us over the course of the month through the Book of all books, that same uplifting, heartbreaking, momentous trepidation of offering something up to Him with the hope that He would bestow something shining in return.

Had this Book been revealed to a mountain, the mountain would have crumbled. You get a tiny glimpse of that weight when you complete a khatam. Here I am, Allah, here I am, in my little hole-y dinghy, with my itty bitty crumbs of ibaadah. Pliss to accept?

Back in Jeddah, after the khatam, we would pile back in the car and go for ice cream. Last night in Karachi, after the khatam, the Imam gave a short talk and in it he mentioned how we are encouraged to cry when conversing with Allah. We should beg and plead and insist and argue and tantrum with Him because He loves to be asked again and again. We live in a world of appropriateness, political correctness, carefully curated social media feeds and the necessity of putting our best, most polished face forwards at all times. How freeing then, that when we turn to our Lord, we are specifically instructed to abandon our sense of control. All the facades and the curtains are encouraged to be dropped away and we stand stripped to our souls in front of Him. In other words, He loves it when we fall apart. Which is exactly what I had just done. 

Last night, I found myself wondering what exactly had I cried so hard over. Which tears were for Him and the desperate desire for His mercy? Which were for the loveliness of the Quran, the steadying rhythm of it, not just verse to verse but also, cover to cover? Which tears were for the already achey yearning of yet another Ramadan gone past? Which were for my breaking heart that has to soon face my first Eid day and all the days of my life without my beloved Mumma and Baba? Which tears were of gratitude that I get to stand on an odd night of the best time of the year, alongside some of my dearest people, in the courtyard of a house full of childhood memories, under the vast, inky, starry sky and standing there, I get to fall apart, freely, wholly, soul-satisfyingly?

And which tears were of a searingly humbling recognition, that I am so wildly privileged to have this faith of mine – the faith that promises if we navigate the choppy dunya waters right, we will be reunited with our loved ones in a beautiful, eternal place, that if we purposely, and repeatedly crumble under the weight of our belief in Him and His plans, our future is bright?

Today, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter why I cried. Because here is what I do know:

1. “If Allah knows good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you…” (8:70)


2. “If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.” Prophet Muhammad

3. “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” Prophet Muhammad

In losing my parents, I have drawn closer to Allah. And though I miss them dizzyingly, I am so thankful that through the childhood they gave me, through the anchoring to the Quran they gifted me with, through their own tears that I witnessed during those long-ago khatams in the Shoaibi Mosque in Jeddah, they left me with the knowledge that if in losing them, I have gained even an atom’s worth more of His pleasure, then that’s a pretty great bargain.

 

As a parent of three young ones myself, I’ve spent my days teaching my children: be strong, be strong, be strong. Stand tall, stay firm, be sturdy in the face of the distracting, crashing waves of the world. But now I know something just as important to teach them: be weak, be weak, be weak.

Crumble in front of Him, fall apart, break open so that His Light may enter and be the only thing to fill you. It’s not easy but it will be essential for your survival in the face of any loss, grief, trial and despair this world throws your way. It will help you, finger to tongue, always know which way the wind is blowing and which way to steer your ship. Straight in to the sun, always. To Jannah. Because how wondrous are the affairs of us Muslims that when it comes to our sorrows and our hopes, out there on the horizon of Allah’s wise plans, it all shimmers as one – The grief of what is, the memory of what was and brighter than both, the glittering, iridescent promise of what will be.

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