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It is a great favor and blessing that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has made for His servants; periods of time in which good deeds are magnified and multiplied. All praise and thanks is due to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for gifting us with these glorious days in which rewards are multiplied and sins are forgiven. The days which are the most beloved to Him and the days that He prefers over all other days; where He gives us yet another chance to get closer to Him, to worship Him, to seek His forgiveness, and to try to make up for all of our shortcomings. Days that are so great that He swears:

وَالْفَجْرِ

وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ

“By the dawn, and by the 10 nights” [Surah Al-Fajr; 1-2]

Ibn Kathir said that “the ten nights” referred to in this ayah are the ten days of Dhul Hijjah. As narrated by Ibn Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), these are the ten days in which Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There are no days in which good deeds done during them are more BELOVED to Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) than during these days!” The sahaba then asked, “Ya Rasulullah, not even struggle in the way of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?” He replied, “Not even struggling in the way of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Except [the struggle] of a man who goes forth in the Way of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) with his life and his wealth, and does not return.” [Bukhari]

Allahu Akbar! Just imagine how amazing these days are! But what makes them so special? Ibn Hajar wrote in Fath al­-Bari: “The most apparent reason for the ten days of Dhul­ Hijjah being distinguished in excellence is due to the assembly of the greatest acts of worship in this period, i.e. salawat (prayers), siyaam (fasting), sadaqah (charity) and the Hajj (pilgrimage). In no other periods do these great deeds combine.”

Oh Hajj! We all wish we could have gone this year. When we read all of our friends’ and families’ Facebook posts talking about how they are getting ready for Hajj, we get a little jealous (the halal type of course) and wish we could have gone as well. Who wouldn’t want to go? Especially when one knows the reward of a person who goes for Hajj: that they return without sins like the day they were born [Bukhari and Muslim] and, as mentioned in another hadith, that an accepted Hajj has no reward except Paradise [Bukhari and Muslim].

[AFP/Getty Images]

Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to Hajj this year. Alhamdulillah, our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) thought about us, thought about you and I, who couldn’t go to Hajj. What if I were to tell you that we can get a similar reward? Yes, a reward similar to the Hujjaj insha’Allah. “How?!” you ask.

But before we talk about the five easy good deeds that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told us we can do to get reward like that of Hajj/Umrah, there is a prerequisite:

Imagine that you find out on the Day of Judgment that none of your good deeds were presented to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He): all those hot, long days of fasting, all your prayers, your sadaqa; that none of it was presented to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “The deeds are presented on every Thursday and Monday and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the Exalted and Glorious, grants pardon to every person who does not associate anything with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) except the person in whose (heart) there is hatred/resentment against his brother. It will be said: ‘Put both of them off until they are reconciled.”” [Muslim]

I know it’s hard, and that’s why the reward is forgiveness and Jannah, insha’Allah. [If you would like to learn more about why you should forgive check out my article: “Heal Yourself with the Power of Forgiveness”]

So insha’Allah, let’s take a minute right now to forgive all those who have hurt us; not because they necessarily deserve it, but let’s forgive them for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and for ourselves.

Now let’s get back to our Easy Good Deeds that will get us a reward like that of Hajj. Bismillah:

PURE AND SINCERE INTENTION

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I will narrate a saying to you, so preserve it. Verily, the world is only for four kinds of people. There is one whom Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has granted wealth and knowledge, so he fears his Lord regarding them, upholds family ties, and acknowledges the rights of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) over him. He will be in the best position. There is one whom Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has granted knowledge without wealth and he has a sincere intention and he says: ‘If I had wealth, I would have acted like this person. If that is his intention, then he will have the same reward as the other…’” [Al-Tirmidhi]

It is narrated by Anas bin Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), “We were coming back from the battle of Tabuk with the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he remarked, ‘There are people whom we left behind in Al-Madinah who accompanied us in spirit in every pass and valley we crossed. They remained behind for a valid excuse.'” In another version he said: “They share the reward with you.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

We all have different reasons for why we couldn’t make it to Hajj this year, so keep your heart attached and your intentions sincere. Let us be like the one who was given the knowledge but not the ability to go for Hajj. Let us renew our intentions and make them pure and sincere, only for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Let us think well of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) the Most Generous, and let us make the intention to do as much as we can to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)and get closer to Him in these 10 blessed days.

FAJR IN THE MASJID UNTIL SUNRISE

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever prays Fajr in congregation, then sits remembering Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) until the sun rises, then prays two rak’ah, will have a reward like that of Hajj and Umrah.” The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said: “In full, in full, in full.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

So what are you waiting for? Set your alarms right now and make it to the masjid for Fajr tomorrow. Pray, stay in your spot, and recite Qur’an. We all know the hadith: “Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah, he will be credited with a good deed, and a good deed gets a ten­fold reward. I do not say that Alif­ Laam­ Meem is one letter, but Alif is a letter, Laam is a letter and Meem is a letter.” [At-Tirmidhi] So imagine, during these blessed days, how much Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will multiply that reward for you!

Make dhikr. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “There are no other days that are as great as these in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), nor are there any deeds more beloved to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) than those that are done in these ten days. So increase in tahlil (la illaha illa Allah), takbir (Allahu akbar) and tahmid (Alhumdulillah).” [At-Tabarani]

Ibn Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) used to go out in the marketplace during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, reciting takbeer, and the people would recite takbeer when they heard them. In addition to making dhikr while waiting for sunrise, make dhikr throughout your day. While you are driving, walking, or just sitting at your desk, make it a habit to constantly make dhikr. The beautiful thing about dhikr is that you can do it almost anywhere, and that you don’t need wudhu or need to be facing the qibla; so there are no constraints.

Make dua’. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the best dua’ is the dua’ on the day of Arafah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no day that Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) will free people more from the fire than on the Day of Arafah.” [Muslim]. Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)used to advise people to say, on the day of Arafah, “Oh Allah free my neck from the fire.” So make lots and lots of dua’, and I pray that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) answers and gives you all the best in this dunya and the ahkira. Ameen.

Do all of these things until the sun rises, then wait about 15-20 minutes and pray two rak’ah. Now congratulate yourself because, inshaAllah, you just got the reward of a full Hajj and Umrah!

DHIKR AFTER SALAH

The poor emigrants came to the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and said: “The wealthy have gone with the highest ranks and lasting bliss.” He asked: “How is that?” They replied: “They offer salat (prayer) as we offer it, they observe fast as we do, (and as they are wealthy) they perform Hajj and Umrah, and go for Jihad, and they spend in charity but we cannot, and they free the slaves but we are unable to do so.” The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Shall I not teach you something with which you may overtake those who surpassed you and with which you will surpass those who will come after you? None will excel you unless he who does which you do.” They said: “Yes, please do, O Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)” He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “You should recite: tasbih (Allah is free from imperfection), takbir (Allah is Greatest), tahmid (Praise be to Allah) thirty-three times after each salat.” [Bukhari and Muslim]. How easy is that?! It takes about three minutes to do this, so don’t let Shaytan distract you after salah.

PRAY IN THE MASJID

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “If anyone goes out from his house after performing ablution for saying the prescribed prayer in congregation (in the mosque), his reward will be like that of one who goes for Hajj pilgrimage after wearing ihraam (robe worn by the Hajj pilgrims). And he who goes out to say the mid-morning (dhuha) prayer, and takes the trouble for this purpose, will take the reward like that of a person who performs Umrah. And a prayer followed by a prayer with no worldly talk during the gap between them will be recorded in Illiyyun.” [Abi Dawud Hasan Al-Albani]

“Whoever walks to [perform] an obligatory prayer in congregation, it is like Hajj [in terms of rewards], and whoever walks to [perform] a voluntary prayer, it is like a voluntary Umrah [in terms of rewards].” [Tabarani, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad Hasan]

LEARN/TEACH IN THE MASJID

“Whoever goes to the mosque not desiring except to learn or teach what is good has the reward of a pilgrim who completed his Hajj.” [Tabarani]

Those are the five easy, good deeds we can do everyday to insha’Allah get the reward like that of Hajj and Umrah (*Please note that doing these actions will bring great reward, but doesn’t mean it replaces the obligation of performing Hajj)

We’re not done yet! Here are five more easy good deeds we can do to maximize our reward and elevate our status in Jannah insha’Allah!

SALAT UD-DHUHA

Let’s revive the sunnah of the dhuha prayer. A prayer that is performed about twenty-five minutes after the sun has risen until about twenty-five minutes before dhuhr. You can pray either two rak’ah, four rak’ah, or eight rak’ah.

Charity for every joint in your body:

“When you get up in the morning, charity is due from every one of your joints. There is charity in every ascription of glory to Allah; there is charity in every declaration of His Greatness; there is charity in every utterance of praise of Him; there is charity in every declaration that He is the only true God (worthy of worship); there is charity in enjoining good; there is charity in forbidding evil. Two rak’ah of Dhuha (forenoon prayer) is equal to all this (in reward)”. [Muslim]

Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) will suffice you: “Son of Adam: Perform four rak’ah for Me in the beginning of the day; it will suffice you for the latter part of it.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

BUILD YOURSELF A HOUSE IN JANNAH

“He who observed *twelve voluntary rak’ah, a house will be built for him in Paradise.” [Sahih Muslim]

*Sunnah Prayers: two before Fajr, four before/two after Dhuhr, two after Maghrib, two after Ishaa

FAST THE NINE DAYS, ESPECIALLY THE DAY OF ARAFAH

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “The Fast is for Me and I will give the reward for it, as he (the one who observes the fast) leaves his sexual desire, food and drink for My sake. Fasting is a screen (from Hell) and there are two pleasures for a fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord. And the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better in Allah’s Sight than the smell of musk.” [Bukhari]

“Every slave of Allah who observes sawm (fasting) for one day for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will draw his face farther from Hell­ fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

If you can fast all nine days, go for it! If you can’t, try every other day. If that’s too much, do Mondays and Thursdays. And if you can’t, then fast at least the day of Arafah, for which the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Be content with the fact that Allah will expiate for you your sins for the year before and the year after.” [Muslim]

Let’s all make our intention from now, so that even if something happens and we can’t fast, we still get the reward for our intention insha’Allah!

GIVE SADAQAH (CHARITY)

We all know the virtues of giving charity. Let’s try to give a sadaqa every day. Even if it’s a dollar, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows our intentions. If you can, sponsor an orphan or feed someone who is hungry.

There are many forms of charity.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Charity is due upon every joint of the people for every day upon which the sun rises. Being just between two people is charity. Helping a man with his animal and lifting his luggage upon it is charity. A kind word is charity. Every step that you take towards the mosque is charity, and removing harmful things from the road is charity.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Provide food for breaking of the fast. “Whoever provides food for breaking of the fast of a fasting person receives the reward of the fasting person, without the reward of the fasting person being reduced in any way.” [Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]

Smile, it’s Charity! “Your smile for your brother is charity.”

Alhamdulillah there are many reputable Islamic organizations to choose from and it’s very easy to go online and give. The best sadaqa, during these days, is to sacrifice an animal for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) on the day of Eid.

HELP SOMEONE IN NEED

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The most beloved of people according to Allah is he who brings most benefit, and the most beloved of deeds according to Allah the Mighty, the Magnificent, is that you bring happiness to a fellow Muslim, or relieve him of distress, or pay off his debt or stave away hunger from him. It is more beloved to me that I walk with my brother Muslim in his time of need than I stay secluded in the mosque for a month. Whoever holds back his anger, Allah will cover his faults and whoever suppresses his fury while being able to execute it, Allah will fill his heart with satisfaction on the Day of Standing. Whoever walks with his brother Muslim in need until he establishes that for him, Allah will establish his feet firmly on the day when all feet shall slip. Indeed, bad character ruins deeds just as vinegar ruins honey.” [Tabarani, Hasan]

I’ve created a 10 days 10 Easy Good Deeds tracker just for you so that you can track your progress and reach your goals. Download and print it now by clicking here.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept all of our good deeds, make them heavy on our scales, forgive our shortcomings and sins, and may He grant us all paradise with the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Ameen!

Sr. Dunia is a certified marriage educator, host of Deen with Dunia, motivational speaker, lecturer and author. She combines the Qur’an, Sunnah and psychology to help Muslims who are striving to create and maintain a harmonious relationship between their deen and dunya. To learn more about her and her work visit her website: DuniaShuaib.com, and to catch her weekly livestream follow her on Facebook Facebook.com/DeenwithDunia or Twitter @DuniaShuaib

Dunia is a psychoeducator, author, speaker, and host of Deen with Dunia. She has a passion for helping people, and continually strives to do so by providing high quality psychoeducation in a way that is easily accessible to the entire Ummah. She is on a mission to empower Muslims by integrating the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, as well as principles of psychology.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Noor

    August 24, 2017 at 1:19 PM

    JazakumAllahu Khairan for the beautiful set of tips. I think we really undervalue the weight and the blessings of these last 10 days of Dhul Hijjah. Insha’Allah we can make the most of them. And thank you so much for the easy good deeds tracker on your website, as I’ve already started using it and it’s such a great reminder and motivational tool.

  2. Avatar

    N

    August 27, 2017 at 12:22 PM

    Jzk Dunia for this article. I was so down about never having preformed hajj and the very real possibility that it may never happen. This article gave me a little peace. May Allah swt reward you in this life and in the hearafter

  3. Avatar

    Madiha

    August 30, 2017 at 11:44 AM

    JazakumAllahu khair for this wonderful article wish I read it sooner

  4. Avatar

    Nura

    August 30, 2017 at 12:23 PM

    Absolutely loved this practical article I’ve never heard of most of these hadiths

  5. Avatar

    Robin Gazi

    August 31, 2017 at 5:47 AM

    zajakAllah Khair for the informative reminder. May Allah grant our deeds. ?

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#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.
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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

charity
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I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

1. My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

3. Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

dardir

4. People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

5. Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

6. It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

7. Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

8. It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

9. Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

10. Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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#Islam

He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Tawakkul- a leaf falling
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While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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