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The Mawlid and the 5 Ms of Confusion: Overcoming Theological Complexes in Our Community

Shaykh Hasib Noor

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We live in turbulent times— there’s no doubt about that. Yet in this era of confusion, we’re witnessing a moment of revival for Muslims when it comes to religion— not just as individuals but also as communities.

We see many returning to the faith, others entering the faith, and even more so, many are battling to understand where they fit within the faith. In an age where  people of all faiths are seeking answers on how to balance the complexities of life and what role religion plays, Muslims are also increasingly trying to see how their faith can bring them such balance. When seeking answers to questions of how to balance life in a modern context, how can we stay true to the principles of our faith in its practice? The “R word” is often thrown around – relevance.

Oftentimes, these questions are more like reverberations of a deeper rooted scream of desperation to understand, “How do I live?” Let’s not lie, it’s a hard process. We’re all trying to stomach how we can be functional Muslims. Heck, even writing the first few sentences in this article spiked my blood pressure. We all have this anxiety. We all feel it.

But, maybe we’re not adjusting properly. Maybe our shortsightedness constantly blurs the bigger picture. Maybe in the process of focusing on mechanics, we lose functionality. And maybe, at other times, we delve into metaphysics to such an extent, we lose sight of workability. Maybe we collectively get so worked up over discrepancies, that we forget the purpose is to in fact … enjoy Islam.

Perhaps for many of us the practice of Islam we are following may not be based on a correct application of its essence, but rather has become a religion of complexes.

In the Pursuit of Islam

Islam is easy.

Come on, in how many contexts have we heard this statement? “Islam came to bring ease and remove hardship; Islam came to remove difficulty; Islam’s practice is meant to be simple.” What does all this really mean?

More importantly, how should we understand it?

Theological Complexes

Based on how Muslims go about seeking these answers, it is apparent that segments of our community do a poor job of empowering its members to understand their individual roles and responsibilities when it comes to practicing their faith. People often don’t have any guidelines about how, what, and whom to ask.

In addition, we as Muslims have a tendency to make Islam about “issues,” rather than impart a narrative so anchored in understanding that the issues are only a means to achieving the objectives of Islam, that the issues don’t become our theology.

For many of us, unfortunately, it has become the opposite. Our Islam revolves around a theology of complexes. A theology of arguing over issues These issues have become our faith rather than a means to fulfilling our faith.

I call this theology of complexes and the issues many have convoluted with the faith of Islam the 5 Ms of confusion.

The 5 Ms of Confusion

In our time where communication is built around constant social interaction, we’ve seen that this theology of complexes is magnified. It’s everywhere, among Muslims of different backgrounds, locations, and demographics. Year in and year out, we see the same complexes around the same issues. We see arguments, heated debate, trolling, sectarianism, and complete engrossment of said issue to such an extent that the purpose of Islam’s injunction behind the issue is completely lost. This is something we all witness (if you haven’t, just look at the comments section of any article, YouTube video, Facebook post, or Twitter discussion).

The 5 Ms:

  1. Meat – The issues of halal, zabiha, ingredients, and molecules. Does the pursuit of pleasing our Creator by wanting to digest what He’s permitted call for heated excommunications of Muslims who don’t choose to grill their burgers with meat from the same source we use?
  2. Mawlid – Does our love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) call us to hate others based on how we love him? Does this make sense to you?
  3. Marriage – Does the way we seek to balance our culture with our faith really call for us to have tribal/urban wars with families/parents/between genders on gender relations and marriage issues?
  4. Madhabs – Is the way in which we practice Islam according to a particular juristic school of thought call for us to harbor enmity toward others who follow a different, but just as valid, scholarly method?
  5. Moon-sighting – Does the approach we choose to commemorate our holiest of days call for disparaging those that don’t choose to sight the moon the way we do? As Ramadan nears and “moon-fighting” erupts, does this really embody the experience of this amazing spiritual month? Does it fulfill its spirit when we begin and end it in such tasteless discourse?

I’ve only chosen to include these 5 Ms, but there are definitely more. I chose to call them the “5 Ms of Confusion” because these particular issues are constantly highlighted in our communities as reasons why Muslims disparage one another. No doubt, there is an incredible amount of intra-faith disagreement, disparagement, and unneeded argumentation amongst Muslims over these issues.

The reality is that, for many, these issues have become Islam to the extent that there is an ideological war waged over them. Islam, in fact, is against this ideology of resentment and blame over issues with valid differences of opinion. Period.
Those who take part in any way, shape, or form in dividing Muslims along these issues have lost the plot, missed the boat, live on a different planet, need a new eye prescription, hit the tree and missed the forest, focused on the ink mark instead of the painting, failed the test, and undeniably… still don’t understand the objectives and purpose of Islam.

 

The Blame?

The blame, no doubt, goes back to all of us: regular people, teachers, and institutions. Although each of us have a portion of blame, there’s certainly more blame on those who should know better— teachers and institutions.
It’s a shame that any Muslim is involved in causing rifts based on these issues, but it’s a greater disaster when teachers of Islam, who should know better, who supposedly  have gone through the formal training so as to not engage their congregations, students, and Muslims at large in this theology of complexes, do so.


Causes

Firstly, let’s not disregard people’s efforts. Much thanks, appreciation, and prayers are owed and go out to all those sacrificing and constantly striving to disseminate the message of Islam. Our moral standard doesn’t call for negating people’s achievements, sacrifices, and service to the faith due to some shortcomings or mistakes. Our ethos is above and beyond that.

In fact, it’s an integral part of our faith to address shortcomings with sincere advice and prayer and not question people’s sincerity and intentions. This advice goes to ourselves before anyone. Our purpose is to bring awareness of a collective responsibility. We are more in need of rectifying our mistakes before we look to the mistakes of others, especially those who have outlived us in service of the faith, sacrificed more than we can imagine, and been blessed by God. We may critique a few shortcomings only apparent to us, whereas their actions and deeds in the sight of God outweigh these shortcomings in spades. Let us not lose sight of that, let us remain humble. May God bless those working tirelessly in the service of faith, elevate their status, rectify their faults, and benefit others through them.

Criticism of a segment does not negate the good work that others are doing with excellence. God keep you strong and bless you. The criticisms that will follow are a way for us to build and grow as a community, and do not negate the appreciation and realization of struggles. With that said, some of the causes for these theological complexes go back to the following:

As teachers and institutions: We have a serious shortcoming in imparting true Quranic teachings of the holistic objectives of Islam in our message through the Prophetic example. We don’t emphasize the purpose of rituals in our teaching. We falter in highlighting what will increase the quality of our worship. We don’t stress enough the importance of the ethics of interaction and building upright moral character. We fall short in leading by example through our actions, in defining unity. In short, we teach the ‘how’ with the ‘why’, in an imbalanced way. So when the discussions come around teaching these particular five issues, we must impart the understanding that they are a part of a whole – the meaning of Islam isn’t fulfilled except by respecting what is valid, understanding what is not, and learning to deal with fellow Muslims over differences that are not reconcilable.

Some of us have lost people to the mechanics of Islam, where the infinite minutiae is taught but the objective is lost. Others have lost people in the metaphysics, seeking to instill the spirit of Islam without true practical guidance, causing people to follow a ghost, rather than the spirit they claim to be seeking. Both of these extremes have led to name calling, partisanship, and cult mentality among people who otherwise theologically agree on orthodoxy.

We struggle to teach and instill the proper Islamic concepts of discipline (tarbiyah) and self rectification (islah and tazkiyah). We lack true genuineness when it comes to disagreeing.  We have instead instilled in our students and congregations a ‘movement mentality,’ where our Islam is according to a particular movement. Some of have even taught disparagement of those Muslims with whom they disagree.

And there’s much more.

A good example of  how to correctly deal with the issue of the Mawlid was exemplified by a great scholar who taught the matter academically and discussed all the relevant evidence used to debate the legislative merit of holding a feast and celebrating the birth of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He ended with one single beautiful comment,  “It’s impossible that any person who has faith in Islam, love of God and His Messenger, and seeks to be in their companionship, that these days go by and they not feel that expression of love and sincere longing for the Prophet (peace be upon him), regardless of whether they attend a celebration. These days are unlike any other days when a person reflects over them and in the heart of someone who is attached to his beloved, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).’‘

As regular people, we need to learn how to ask questions. We need to learn how to have the patience and perseverance to seek out knowledge regarding our faith systematically as well as the etiquette in doing so. We need to invest in ourselves to build our characters and moral standards. We need to learn how to solicit our scholars, understand our roles, and know our responsibilities. We need to stop wasting energy complaining, being apathetic and negative, and constantly criticizing, with no regard to etiquette or understanding.

We need to know how to be instruments  of change. We need to know how to empower ourselves so we do not live in the dichotomy of ‘masjid life’ and  normal life. We need to reach out to our families, friends, co-workers, communities, and neighbors. When we seek to hold others responsible for their failures, we should also hold ourselves accountable. We need to understand how to define  religious authority: who is a teacher, who is a scholar, and who is qualified to give fatwa?

Islam does not have a clergy. The faith, in fact, obligates seeking knowledge at an individual level and highly encourages fulfilling the needs of the community by seeking deeper scholarship. That said, most people are not qualified to have in-depth scholarly discussions on detailed issues. The reality is  there is religious authority in Islam which must meet  one condition – one must have the requisite level of knowledge.

The irony is, as a society, we accept the right to choose specialists in any field. We even seek to understand what’s related to our needs in their fields when we petition them, and we actively engage with them. Yet, we understand that there is a limit to our depth of knowledge. We realize that at some point in the discussion we don’t have the qualification to understand the minute details in the final recommendations they make for us. We do our research, ask them until we’ve established trust, and accept their recommendations. We do this with doctors, engineers, financial and psychiatric counseling, and more. Ironically, we don’t exercise this same process when it comes to Islamic issues.

We often don’t even know how to differentiate between those who are teachers and the scholars who should be petitioned. Not every person teaching Islam, preaching Islam, or representing Islam is qualified to give religious guidance on these issues (called fatwa). What’s even more ironic is that, in Islam, conditions of scholarship, etiquette of seeking answers, and the responsibilities and roles of the person asking as well as the one giving the answer, are all clearly defined.  It’s just a matter of us attempting to understand ourrights and responsibilities.

Notice that in the first category I used the word teachers and not scholars. It’s become a habit for many of us to criticize all of scholarship and the work being done by all religious authorities with no-holds-barred criticism.

Not to exonerate scholars from their responsibilities, but the reality is that the burden scholars face in the sight of God outweighs all others. Islamic scholars (‘ulama) are defined as those that not only speak with outlined qualifications, but also lead by example when giving religious direction. They are people of God who balance the needs of people by directing them to benefit, and not taking them away from the essence of faith. They are those who direct people to application, never lose sight of objectives, take into consideration individual circumstances and social context, and cater to the specific and unique experiences of each individual. Most importantly, they have the requisite level of knowledge. Oftentimes we do not consider that the speakers and teachers in front of us are there to remind us of or teach us what is needed. If we, as a community, fail to seek appropriate scholarship, we are just as responsible for failure as those who answer our questions without proper qualifications.

The Way Forward

We have to recognize that the masses are led by ideologies disseminated by institutions and teachers. The source of the disarray that we see definitely has historical background outside the scope of this particular article. Some of the important factors nonetheless have been highlighted, and it is clear  that we, as a community, should no longer accept a dissemination of a theology of disparagement, a theology of complexes. We, as a community, have to understand how to disagree. We have to understand the difference between valid disagreement and unorthodoxy — which should not be accepted regardless of who supports it.

This starts, first and foremost, with people understanding their rights, responsibilities, and how to solicit scholars who are qualified when asking questions regarding their faith. This is outlined by scholars in books dedicated to the Etiquettes of Soliciting Fatwa.

Next Page Ten Points for People Asking Questions:

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Hasib Noor is an instructor and researcher that specializes in History, Islamic Heritage & Law, alongside other Islamic disciplines. Founder of Prophetic Legacy & Foundation dedicated to researching and teaching Islamic history, heritage, and archaeological sites. He resides in Madinah.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    December 18, 2015 at 1:42 AM

    May Allah forgive me, but we need to be honest. there is no group of Muslims hating other Muslims because they do not celebrate Mawlid. There are some intolerant Hanafis, but most, if they are educated are not. Non Muslims love to jump on Salafis and I met a brother who was so good and he was Salafi so I don’t like to say they are all bad, but there are many of them off the deep end and totally in love with all things Saudi. It’s like the Shia. If someone is hating you, but you are not hating them or what they like, it’s not fair to call the disagreement two-sided.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa

      December 19, 2015 at 1:08 AM

      Shia, Sufi, Barelvi and so on. The all commit practices I consider deviated(like Mawlid). But in this age where the best to walk the earth is more slandered and abused then ever before I can’t help but appreciate the intention behind what they do. As wrong as I consider them I recognize we are brethren of one Ummah who testify la ilaha illAllah Muhammadur Rasulullah, we pray salah in a similar form to the Messenger sallahualayhiwasalam in the direction of the Qibla and agree on the basics like the finality of Islam, it being the only path to Jannah along with deeds to accompany it.

      In this age of tribulation and strife I think one way forward is to show Allah “I united with other Muslims on every front possible.” Where we can agree, lets remain in agreement and thank Allah we haven’t disagreed further than it. I recently read that there are something like 40 thousand(yes 40k!!!) different Christian groups. Alhamdulilah we have far fewer disagreements and when we do disagree it is usually over issues that aren’t of the absolute minimum.

      There isn’t any doubt that these are all serious issues because everything legislated by Allah is a serious matter. But so is unity and if we can tell Allah “we did the minimum required we were commanded by you to stick together” then that’s one more responsibility we fulfilled before the we leave the earth.

      We Muslims are commanded to obey Allah and His Messenger and that Muslims are passionate about these issues is no doubt a good thing insha Allah because it’s coming from a good place. The 5 M’s all have to do with what Allah and His Messenger commanded. However sticking together and unity is from the commandments of Allah and His Messenger so where we agree on the truth we ought to stick together.

      May Allah guide us and save us from all evil!!!

      • Avatar

        Jamshed Hasan

        March 24, 2016 at 1:00 AM

        Assalamu Alaikum,
        Ya Nabi Salam- Alaika for everyday.. every moment of our time…as Allah and His Angels are sending Durud and Salam all time….with all respect and love.. Mohammad SAW is the Mercy of Creation…
        Sura Al-Azhab – Ayat 56, please read and research , Mawlid, Reciting durud, Kiyam, Nasid, any praising, Salam, durud is for everyday , we should fast on every Monday as this is great Sunnah as well.
        ” Inna Allaha wamalaikatahu yusalloona AAala alnnabiyyi ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo salloo AAalayhi wasallimoo tasleeman”

        Meaing: Undoubtedly, Allah and His angels send blessings on the prophet the Communicator of unseen news, O you who believe! Send upon him blessings and salute him fully well in abundance.

        English (Yusuf Ali): (Recite)
        33:56 Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.

  2. Avatar

    Mahamoud Haji

    December 18, 2015 at 3:27 AM

    Jazakallah Kheir Brother Hasib. Weighty matter indeed in an age of confusion, intolerance and labeling. Ultimately it is the seeking of true knowledge with the aid of Allah, and not blind following, that will free us. May Allah guide us to the right path.

  3. Avatar

    Blog Islam Barcelona

    December 18, 2015 at 6:37 PM

    Interesting,

    Thank you!

  4. Avatar

    Habeeb

    December 21, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    We are Muslims Canadians and love and respect all Muslims alike and tolerant to all faiths and cultures alike like Madina. Thanks

  5. Avatar

    FM

    December 21, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    You lost me as soon as you started to preach that thorny “who has authority” and then lamenting lay Muskkms like me on our shortcomings. We hear this everyday anyway. What we need is questioning of “authorities” on promoting cult like thinking. What do you do when one “authority” says that the other “authority” actually has no authority? How do we know who do we trust?
    Yes, we need specialties and we go to professionals to seek answers when we need them as you stated in your piece but we are not legally or morally bound to accept their professional advices. They are no “go between” between us and a supreme being.
    Just two days ago I read the fatwa from a very respected looking scholar that those who celebrate Mawlid are evil and Satanic. Now, I am against celebrating Mawlid as well but just as overwhelming majority of lay Muslkms do in these situations, I do not have any problem with those who do. In fact, I have attended quite a few on the invitation of friends who do celebrate. So now based on the evidence from this scholarly opinion, I am supposed to believe that those who are celebrating Mawlid are evil and satanic? Okay, I won’t but there will be many others who will. And do I have the right to challenge this scholarly authority? Or I would be told in step 1 that “you do not have the authority” or “you cannot understand the deen because you do not possess the KNOWLEDGE, so you should surrender to this fatwa”. What is the mechanism for lay people like us to challenge the authorities? And are they ever taught to listen to these challenges with open mindedness even if it means questioning what they have believed?
    i can go on and on but the point is that no real change can come in the Muslim community until either the authorities change or the community makes them accountable for what they say and how they act without the fear of being called “kafir” or “astray Muslim” (later is only a kinder way of saying the former), or in worst cases, fear of getting a permit to hell by a so called riteous Muslim who wouldn’t mind taking the fatwa against you to the next level where you don’t deserve to live anymore.
    I hope this will be published but I have my doubts based on past experiences :)

    • Avatar

      Mustafa Mahmud

      December 21, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      Fuqaha are not what they used to be. Nowadays an actual heresy will run rampant and some daees, scholars will be ranting about raf ya dayn which is a fiqh issue or mawlid which they strongly believe to be innovative.

      On Al Jumuah (website) there is a good article on how it is absurd to blame laymen alone and excuse certain members of the religious classes.

      • Avatar

        Mustafa Mahmud

        December 21, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        BTW I strongly believe Mawlid should be avoided but subhanAllah we’ve got an onslaught of kuffar telling us to not give our Messenger his due status, to abandon Sharia to believe that they can go to Jannah and more.

        Refute mawlid raf ya dayn or whatever. But for God sake take some time out to talk about what is actually relevant and of far greater severity(kufr vs bidah it isn’t hard to tell.)

  6. Avatar

    Yacoob Vahed

    December 23, 2015 at 11:17 PM

    I think it was Ali (RA) who said that when people know a little about something they concentrate on the minor issues.
    Let’s look at the Bigger Picture always – we will then learn to appreciate the good and leave out the small differences with respect and dignity. We should however always strive to practice evidence-based Islam but always remember the TOLERANCE and CHARACTER of the Prophet (SAW) when guiding others. Let’s have Mercy unto one another and unite against the Kuffaar as the Quraan instructs us to do. Look at the overall good in the Muslim and inshaAllah he/she will learn from you without your instructions.

  7. Avatar

    Steven

    December 23, 2015 at 11:49 PM

    Perhaps the problem is that so many people are seeking to learn about the religion in order to use it to chastise others instead of learning it to increase their chances of entering paradise. If we really wanted to make it into paradise we would never, with all our faults, have the time to worry about what others are doing.

    • Avatar

      M.Mahmud

      December 24, 2015 at 10:25 PM

      Muslims are commanded to simultaneously enjoin on what is right and forbid what it wrong, to affirm what is true and to reject what is false, all while fearing for ourselves and for others.

      This is the way of the Messengers and whoever followed guidance.

  8. Avatar

    javaid

    January 8, 2016 at 10:14 PM

    I was relatively tolerant of Mawlid even though I considered it a Bidah. I was tolerant because I thought to myself that they do it for the love of Prophet(sa) and because we had more things to worry about.

    But I realized that Mawlid celebrations are getting insane by every passing year with huge cakes, models of Madinah, disco songs, even inviting women-dancers and what not. Now I think that Mawlid is a Munkar which must be warned against and stopped. Not just ignored.

    Another fact to mention is that some people quote Ibn Hajar Asqalani and others, even by their standards and by the standards of the genuine classical scholars who allow this, the Mawlid of today is a far bigger deal and clearly a Munkar.

    • Avatar

      Ghufran Ali Muzaffar

      January 20, 2016 at 12:23 AM

      Its a great blog and really leraned alot from this blog. I think Their is another M you should include and that is “Money”. Which is the biggest cause for discrimination between different sects and culture

  9. Avatar

    Ali

    July 1, 2016 at 4:44 AM

    As Salaamu Alaikum

    The Purpose of the Kuffar was to divide and conquer and they have successfully done so!
    As we see the Muslims being constantly defeated by the western forces today, as well constantly arguing amongst one another!

    The current Saud Family is a tribal Family put in power by the Kuffar, remember that tribalism is forbidden in Islam, the split began with Abdul ibn Wahhab, he was the one who caused the rift which lead to the Ottomans leaving Arabia and the beginning of the SalafI movement.

    If Islam was the way the Saudis are running the blessed Cities than Nabi Muhammad (saw) would have elected Hazrath Ali as the 1st Caliph and it would have stayed within the family of Muhammad peace be upon upon.

    Islam is about Just and fairness not who has the most money will be in power!

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#Islam

When Faith Hurts: Do Good Deeds = Good Life?

Loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way- even if it hurts. It is a time to learn.

Zeba Khan

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hurts, hardship. Allah, test, why Allah is testing me

The Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the faith in our hearts wears out the way our clothes wear out. Deterioration, maintenance, and renewal are part of the cycle.  That’s life with all that hurts. That’s normal.

But what happens when that’s life, but life is not your normal? What happens when it feels like life isn’t normal, hasn’t been normal, and won’t be normal for a foreseeably long time?  For some of us, refreshing faith becomes secondary to just keeping it.

It’s easier to say Alhamdulillah when you are happy. It’s harder when you’re not. That’s human nature though. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with what we teach about faith that can leave us unprepared for when Allah tests it. I believe that our discussions about faith tend to be overly simplistic. They revolve around a few basic concepts, and are more or less summed up with:

Faith = Happiness

Righteousness = Ease

Prayer = Problem Solved

Good Deeds Equals Good Life?

Basically, the TLDR is Good Deeds = The Good Life. None of these statements are technically untrue. The sweetness of faith is a joy that is beyond any other gratitude, for any other thing in this world. Righteousness in the sight of Allah will put you on the path to the good life in the afterlife. Making dua can be the solution to your problems. But when we say these things to people who have true faith but not happiness, or righteous behavior yet distressing hardship, we’re kind of implying that that either Islam is broken (because their prayers seem unanswered), or they are broken (because their prayers are undeserving of answers.) And neither of those is true either.

Allow me to elaborate. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a single parent who has not begged Allah to make their sick or disabled child well again. Yet, our Ummah still has sick and disabled children. Through history, people have begged Allah for a loved one’s life, and then buried them – so is prayer not equal to problem solved?

Many righteous people stand up, and are then ostracized for their faith. Many people speak truth in the face of a tyrant only to be punished for it. Many of us live with complete conviction, with unshakeable belief in the existence and wisdom and mercy of Allah, and still find ourselves unhappy and afraid of what He has willed for us.

Are We Broken?

No, but our spiritual education is. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to anyone else?

No one ever told me. It was hard for me to learn that lesson on my own, when I pleaded with Allah to make my son’s autism go away, and it didn’t. Everyone told me –Make dua! The prayer of a mother for her child is special! Allah will never turn you down!

It was hard trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting messages- that Allah knows best, but a mother’s prayer is always answered. It was even harder facing people who tried to reassure me of that, even when it obviously wasn’t working.

“Just make dua! Allah will respond!”

I’m sure people mean well. But it’s hard not to be offended. Either they assume I have never bothered to pray for my son, or they imply that there must be good reason why Allah’s not granting to my prayers. What they don’t consider is that allowing my test to persist – even if I don’t want it to- is also a valid response from Allah.

I have been told to think back in my life, and try to determine what sin caused my child’s disability, as if the only reason why Allah wouldn’t give me what I asked for was because I was so bad I didn’t deserve it. As if good deeds equaled the good life, and if my life wasn’t good, it’s because I hadn’t been good either.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

You can assume whatever you like about my character, but bad things do happen to good people, even when they pray. You can try your hardest and still fall short. You can pray your whole life for something that will never come to you. And strength of faith in that circumstance doesn’t mean living in a state of unfulfilled hope, it means accepting the wisdom in the test that Allah has decreed for you.

That’s a bit uncomfortable, isn’t it.  When we talk about prayer and hope, we prefer to talk about Zakariyyah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – who begged Allah for a child and was gifted with one long after anyone thought it even possible. But we also need to talk about Abu Talib.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, and in his mission to preach Islam he was protected by Abu Talib.  But Abu Talib died without accepting Islam, was there something wrong with the Prophet, that Allah did not give him what he asked for? Was he not good enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Astaghfirullah, no. So if Prophets of God can ask for things and still not get them, why are we assuming otherwise for ourselves?

Making a Bargain with Allah

If we can understand that faith is not a contract for which we trade prayers for services, then maybe we can cope better when fate cannot be bargained with. Maybe it won’t have to hurt so bad – on spiritual level – when Allah withholds what we ask for, even when we asked for the “right” things in the right way and at all the right times.

Life is not simple. Faith is not simple. The will of Allah is not simple, no matter how much we want it to be, and when oversimplify it, we create a Muslim version of Prosperity Gospel without meaning to.

If you’ve never heard of it, prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that health and wealth and success are the will of God, and therefore faith, good deeds and charity increase one’s wellbeing. Have faith, and God will reward you in this life and the next. That’s nice. But it’s too simple. Because the belief that Good Deeds = The Good Life doesn’t explain how Ibraheem 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s father tried to have him burnt alive.

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s brothers left him for dead in the bottom of a well. He grew up a slave and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aasiya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – the wife of the Pharoah – one of the four best women in the history of womankind – died from her husband’s torture.

Good people are not guaranteed good lives. Islam is what we need, not a system of practices that we use to fulfill our needs.

When we limit our understanding of faith to a simplistic, almost contractual relationship with Allah, then we can’t even explain the things that Allah Tested His own prophets with.

Nor can we understand, or even begin to cope with- what He Tests the rest of us with either. We have to be real in our talk about faith, because otherwise we set each other up for unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation for when we face hardship. Faith is not protection from hardship. Faith is part of hardship. And hardship is part of faith.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks us in the opening of Surah ‘Ankabut,

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And ˹in this way˺ Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.

Allah says in Surah Baqarah, ayah 155: “And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who are patient in adversity.

tests, hurts, faith , hardship

Allah Tests Everyone Differently

Allah tests each of us differently, but in every single case – every single time – a test is an invitation to success. Hardship is the process through which we prove ourselves. Experiencing it– and then drawing closer to Allah through it –is how faith is tested as well as strengthened.

If we can change how we perceive hardship, then we can also change how we perceive each other. On our cultural subconscious, we still see worldly failure as being equivalent to spiritual failure. So when we see people who are homeless, we assume fault. When we see people facing depression or divorce, we assume fault. We even look at refugees and victims and special needs children and we look for fault. Because if it’s that bad then it’s has to be someone’s fault, right?

Fault is how we place blame. Blame is how we know whose mistake it is. But the will of Allah is never a mistake, it’s a test.  Instead of faulting each other for what Allah tests us with, we could respect each other for the struggles we all endure. We could see each other with more compassion for our challenges, and less aversion when Allah tests us with dealing each other.

So when you’ve done things the right way, but the right things aren’t happening. Or you’ve been charitable to others, and they’re being evil towards you. Or you’ve earned only halal, but haram- it’s been taken away from you, remember this- your faith is being tested. Allah tests those that He loves. When He raises the difficulty level, Allah is extending a direct invitation for you to climb higher.

So How Do We Succeed When Faced With Failure?

The first thing to do is redefine failure. There is only one true failure in this life, and that is dying on the wrong side of Siraat ul Mustaqeem, because if close your eyes and wake up in Jahannam, no success in this life can compensate for that.

I find that helpful to remember, when I fail to stay fit because I can’t exercise without hurting myself, when I fail to fast in Ramadan because it’s dangerous for me to do so- when I fail to discover a cure for my family’s personal assortment of medical issues through rigorous internet “research,” none of that is my failure either. And I can feel a lot of different ways about these situations, but I do not feel guilty- because it’s not my fault. And I do not feel bitter, because my test is my honor. Even when I do feel scared.

Being scared in not a failure either. Neither is being unemployed. Being unmarried is not a failure. Being childless is not a failure. Being divorced is not a failure. Nothing unpleasant or miserable or unexpected is a failure. It’s all just a test, and seeing it as a test means you have the state of mind to look for the correct answers.

Not even sin is failure, because as long as you are alive, your sin stands as an invitation to forgiveness. The bigger the sin, the greater the blessings of repenting from it.  Everything that goes bad is the opening of the door for good. A major sin can be the first step on a journey that starts with repentance and moves you closer to Allah every day thereafter. Sin only becomes failure when it takes you farther away from Allah, rather than closer to him.

Jahannam is the Only Failure

Addiction is not a failure. Depression is not a failure. Poverty is not a failure. Jahannam is the only failure. Everything else is a gap in expectations.

You assumed you would have something, but it’s not written for you. You assumed you’d ask Allah for something and He’d give it to you, but what is that assumption based on again? That good deeds are the guarantee to the good life, and that prayer equals problem solved?

Allah has all the knowledge, Allah has the wisdom, Allah is the best of Planners – how are you assuming that your wishes supersede His will? Even when you put your wishes in the form of a prayer?

They don’t. It is absolutely true that Allah may choose to rewrite Qadr itself based on your prayers – but that’s still His choice. Allah has always, and will always be in control of this world. And that means your world too. If you still think you’re in control, you will find it really, really hard to cope the first time you realize you’re not.

When we understand that we don’t get to control what happens and what doesn’t, we can then release ourselves from the misplaced guilt of things going wrong.  Lots of special needs parents struggle with guilt. I meet them often – and every single parent has asked the question- directly or indirectly-

What did I do for my child to deserve this?

Can you hear the presumption in there? That the parents were good, so why did something bad happen? They were expecting for good deeds to equal the good life.

There’s a second presumption in there too, that their life choices were a determining factor of what happened to their child. That is a presumption of control. And as long as you try to hold on to that presumption of control, there is the constant feeling of failure when it just doesn’t work the way you think it will.

I am not proposing that we lose hope in Allah and despair of His Mercy. I am in no way insinuating that Allah doesn’t hear every prayer, hasn’t counted every tear, and isn’t intimately aware of your pain and your challenges. Allah hears your prayers, and in His wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we want. In His Wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we need.

Even if we don’t see it.

Even if it scares us.

Even if it hurts us – because Allah has promised that He will never, ever break us.

hurts, hardship, special needs

Allah Tests Us in His Mercy

I am proposing that we put trust in the wisdom of Allah, and understand that when He tests us, that is part of his mercy, not a deviation from it. When He grants something to us, that is part of His mercy, and when he withholds something from us, that too is part of His Mercy, even if we don’t like it. Even when we ask Him to take it away.

The third thing I would like to propose, is that we correct our understanding of – Fa Inna Ma’Al usri yusraa, Inna Ma’al usri yusra.

So verily, definitely, for sure- with hardship there is ease. Again, Inna – for sure, with hardship there is ease.

I’m sure lots of you have said this to people you loved, or to yourself when you’re struggling with something and you’re just trying to get through it. But did you mean that this hardship will end, and then things will be good again? Like as soon as things have been hard for a while, Allah will make them easy again?

Would you believe that’s not really what that means? Ma’a means with, not after. With this hardship, there is ease. And maybe you’re like aww man, but I wanted the ease! I want the hardship to go away and Allah I’m ready for my ease now!

But that hardship, will bring you ease. Allah does not tell us what the ease will be, or when it will be- but He says it’s there, so trust Him. Even if you can’t see it right away, or in this life –it will become apparent.

I can tell you some of the ease I found with mine.

Learning When It Hurts

When my son was diagnosed with autism, my husband and I had to drop everything. We dropped our plans to save, to travel, and to live the charmed life of neurotypical parents whose only fears are that their children may grow up and NOT become Muslim doctors. We spent our earnings and our savings and our time and our nights and our tears and Alhamdulillah, we learned patience. We learned perspective. We learned compassion.

We really learned what we thought we already knew – about unconditional love and acceptance. We learned to be bigger than our fears, and smaller than our own egos. We learned to give and take help. We learn to accept what wisdom our cultures could offer us, and respectfully decline what did not. We learn to set boundaries and make rules that did justice by our children and our family, regardless of whether they were popular. With hardship comes ease.

When we couldn’t afford therapy for my son, my husband and I founded a not for profit organization in the UAE that provided it for my son and dozens of other people’s sons and daughters. Three and a half years ago I left that organization to seek better educational opportunities for my son here in the US, but it’s still running. The seed that our challenges planted has grown into something beyond us. With our hardship came ease for ourselves and others as well.

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my health issues were upgraded from challenging to permanent. I had to rethink how I lived, how I planned, how I dressed, and even – my relationship with Allah. But if I had never been sick, I would never have started writing. When it hurt, I wrote. When I was scared, I wrote. When I was lonely, I wrote. And by and by the grindstone of fear and sickness and frustration sharpened my skills. Where I am today both spiritually and professionally – is actually a direct result of both autism and chronic illness. With hardship comes ease.

I don’t like my hardships, but I don’t have to. You don’t have to either. Being a good Muslim doesn’t always mean being a happy Muslim. It just means being Muslim, no matter the circumstances.

That means loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way – even if not loving everything He throws your way. You may hate your circumstances, and you may not be able to do anything about them, but as long as you trust Allah and use your hardships to come closer to him, you cannot fail, even if this life, you feel as if you never really succeeded.

hurts, depression, faith , hardship

Faith Wears Out In Our hearts, The Way Our Cothes Wear Out on Our Bodies

The hardship that damages and stains us is Allah’s invitation to repair, renew, and refresh ourselves. Our test are an invitation, an opportunity, an obstacle – but not a punishment or divine cruelty. And when we know that those tests will come, and some may even stay, then we can be better prepared for it.

Trust Allah when He says that He does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. He told us so in Surah Baqarah Ayah 286. Remember that when you are afraid, and Allah will never cause your fear to destroy you. Take your fear to Allah, and He will strengthen you, and reward you for your bravery.

Remember that when you are in pain. Allah will never cause your pain to destroy you. Take your pain to Him, and He will soothe you and reward you for your patience. Take it all to Allah – the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion. Do not assume that the only emotions a “good Muslim” takes to Allah are gratitude and happiness and awe. Take them all to Allah, uncertainty, disappointment, anger — and He will bless you in all of those states, and guide you to what is better for you in this life, and the next, even if it’s not what you expected.

The struggles in your life are a test, and whether you pass or fail is not determined on whether you conquer them, only on whether you endure them. Expect that they will come, because having faith is not protection from struggle. Faith is protection from being broken by the struggle.

I ask Allah to protect us all from hardship, but protect us in our hardships as well. I ask Allah to grant us peace from His peace, and strength from His strength, to patiently endure and grow through our endurance.

Ameen.

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#Islam

This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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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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