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Monday, March 26, 2007

Milestones of the Heart - Part II

Posted by Peace at 7:14 AM 0 comments Links to this post
When you are the salve of your desires you spin around pleasing one need after the other but end up walking on a treadmill that takes you nowhere close to relief. The haunting truth is that instead of feeling fulfilled as you seek those pleasures, you reap nothing but chilling emptiness and utter desolation. When moderation is the key to legitimate delight, an excess drags you to defiling the restless soul imprisoned in that body, whirling like a poor helpless bird banging its frail body against the bars of its cruel cage and lost in its gloom. As we fail to soothe that soul and help it heal, we add salt to its open wounds as we go for temporary pseudo satisfaction. This is how all addictions start, and this is how they keep escalating into uncontainable levels. Poor, very poor, and pathetic indeed are those addicts. They need all possible help and reach out for it instead of digging deep inside to reconnect with their estranged souls. They walk like ghosts with horrid secrets that they carry along on their long path of pain. They keep falling when they stop believing that they still can. They give up on the hope that they are still worthy of the soul that is created to be pure no matter what they do to base it. They refuse to believe that there is good inside and shut their eyes in complete desperation. But we are not allowed to fall into that endless pit of despair. The All-Merciful that created us says in the Qur’aan what is interpreted as, “Do not despair of relief from Allah; surely none despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (Yusuf: 87). We have to believe in the mercy that is bound to come our way if we struggle for it. We are created to be strong and to beat all odds and falling short of that would take us back to crippling frames of thought. The choice here is very clear; to opt for the easy way out and bear the shame, guilt and loathing of over-indulgence or to tread on the rocky way of striving again and again to reach the safe shores of lasting peace and serenity.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Milestones of the Heart - Part I

Posted by Sara at 1:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The path ascending to heaven is of an exceptionally special structure. Its early stages are marked with very clear milestones. It starts with believing in the Oneness of the Lord, to taming man's barbarous inclinations like murder, theft or such extremes, passing through behaving one's fatal desires of lust or greed or addiction. Going across any of these stages can be easily identified by avoiding the wrong deed and adopting the righteous one instead. These stages depend on knowing the truth, having the ability of taking a decision, and committing oneself to it. So it is a matter of enlightenment first, then strength and determination.

However, once these basic areas have been covered in a perfect manner, leaving no traces behind and turning into commonsense concepts, one would move into a plain area with hidden markers. No definite milestones to head to or even point to as a guiding light. Reaching the area of the heart is the hardest of all the previous stages. Deciding to pray and committing oneself to it is one hard thing, but perfecting the prayer and reaching a high state of humbleness during prayer is another thing. Stopping practicing what is prohibited by the Lord can be difficult, but it cannot be compared to elevating oneself above the level of the body; the clay, and reaching to the level of the soul; the light.

It is even harder to put one's hand on the defect in such a stage. Knowing that you already avoid all that is clearly sinful leaves no place for clarity and assurance. You have to dig deeper, and aim higher. Being taken away in the hectic everyday life of work and family, with rituals becoming more like habits, just like waking up, washing one's face or driving to work, is indeed more challenging, that is if we stop to think about it for a change! To avoid major sins, or what we think of as major sins, is a lot more easier than to know one's personalised defects; those of the heart. Knowing one's weakness, knowing where things go wrong, where priorities bounce and boundaries seem uncertain, is where no milestones are within reach to cling to. It is where things are flexible and elastic, and left to your own judgment, ethical standards, and ways of heart.

At such a stage, defining your own milestones is the key to advancing. Standing in the vast untrodden area of the heart can lead to frustration and disappointment. However, no one can guide you to be a better person or to have a purer heart, because no one knows you deep inside like you know yourself. Enlightenment, being the first milestone, is when you know yourself. Monitoring one's behaviour, measuring one's responses and reactions, and putting one's hand on the bounces of the heart and haziness of the grey in between what is right and what is wrong, though more difficult, are extremely crucial for a milestone to appear. Constructing one's own lighthouse is the clue to certainty and thus advancement.


P.S. please share in your journey with and to your milestones.

To be continued.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2. The First Lesson

Posted by Serene at 5:39 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Rose used to say that it was by mere chance that she saw the preacher who caught her attention and made her listen carefully. But later she realized that she was mistaken as he was the tool that God has chosen to guide her to the right path. In our life nothing happens by coincidence but everything takes place when God wills it. Everything happens according to the Divine Wisdom and God had prepared her for this moment. That preacher effectively addressed her mind and heart. He kept tackling important points that concerned her a lot and she was ashamed of the silly question "why me" when he talked about suffering and addressed her – as she felt then – saying: "God is sending you a gift. Would you refuse it?"

Trouble is not the only way to God, but still it is how some of us would start to reconsider the way their lives are going on. People are generally classified into good people who truly know about God and the real aim of life, the bad guys who, in most cases knowingly, disobey God. And the third and most dangerous category is the unwary people who consider themselves doing the right thing while they are not. It is necessary then that God shakes them, disturbs their complacency, and awakens them through trials; and this is of course a sign of His mercy. Rose then cried out of joy that her Lord is so generous and forgiving.

Those who respond to God's message are rescued. You need to show any sign of your sincerity and God will accept you and guide you further and further.

God says, "I am as My bondsman thinks I am, (i.e. I do for him as much as he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than them. If he approaches Me by a hand span, I approach him by an arm span. If he approaches Me by an arm span, I approach him by an outstretched-arm span, and if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running."

Authentic hadeeth reported by al-Bukhaariyy in al-Jaami` as-Saheeh page/number 7405, and narrated by Aboo-Hurayrah.

1. The Beginning

Posted by Serene at 3:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Throughout the years Rose has been referred to as "clever", "successful", "promising", etc… She as well might have assumed so. As years passed, she was making a good success on the worldly level, winning one round after the other, and steadily advancing in her plans for the future. But The Merciful HE was watching her and had other plans for her.

Life started to drastically turn its back to her. She was leading her life the same way but life was not the same any more. Things were constantly going wrong for no reason as if the world turned upside down. She was undergoing severe troubles when her potentials failed her and she could not find any solution.

When Rose was a child her parents disciplined her when she neglected her prayers, taught her to fast in Ramadan and watched her carefully, sent her to classes to memorize short surahs (chapters) in Qur'aan, and when she grew up they wanted her to wear the veil. She was serious and well-mannered, yet her vision of religion was superficial. For instance, she prayed out of custom and considered praying regularly as a challenge. In that busy and ambitious life, she did not have time for the real value of existence.

Rose did not stop to reflect whether she was really on the right track or not, whether she was actually successful and clever or what, whether she was contented or not, and what are the criteria to measure all of that. She looked back at her life that had never been easy and as most of us would do in such cases she asked the ignorant question "why me".


When those adversities lasted for a long time with no hope of a way out, this obliged her to stop and think objectively about her life. She began to think about God
and fearfully questioned whether He is punishing her? In a later stage of these reflections she thought that maybe she is not leading her life as it should be. But how could she figure out what is missing and regain her peace of mind? That was the question that she did not have an answer for. Only then did God direct her to the person who opened her eyes to the how.

The first step to change is to perceive the need to change. "Surely God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves" (Qur'aan, 13:11).

Experiences from life

Posted by Serene at 3:07 PM 0 comments Links to this post
These are pages from the biography of a Muslim woman, Rose. Life stories are enlightening if we look at them not with a critical eye and judgmental attitude but from the viewpoint that we are all fallible, mixed, and erring. We all share the same traits, even frailties, but in different proportions, and thus we can learn and grow from the experiences of one another. Though our lives would differ, yet they are somehow related. Even a totally diverse experience would help as it enlarges our scope of seeing to take in new dimensions and various lessons of life.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Humbleness & Communication

Posted by Watermark at 9:37 AM 0 comments Links to this post
The knack for communication. A gift bestowed on us by our Creator to distinguish us from the rest of His creations. You may say that all creations have this knack. Man is no different. Just look at the world of animals, insects and even plants and you will see various forms of communication in action. Yet along with this knack, man was given a brain and an intelligence to channel this blessing in more ways than one; to reach out to each other for a reason.


We speak to each other using words that make up different languages, accents and dialects. We sign to each other and gesture, reflecting what we mean through the science of semiotics. We reach out to each other sending messages full of meaning through the arts and movement. It is not even just a matter of using our tongues, hands or bodies to communicate, we have even managed to resort to tools to aid us in this venture. The pen, paper, books, ink, electronic signals, colours, machines and the list goes on. Our lives revolve around this knack; this means of expression. Everything around us and within us was bestowed to us, given to us, so plainly and simply by our Creator to channel this knack.


Have we ever stopped to wonder whether we are actually using this blessing in a good way? Have we ever even wondered whether the way we communicate with each other does justice to the magnitude of this blessing? Do we say words we should not? Do we speak ill of people? Do we mimic, hurt or belittle?


In the midst of our proverbial glory and might, and as we carry on our lives with an endless array of blessings, time only truly stops for us at one true moment. In the face of a disaster, in the face of sudden death, unexpected calamity or a war, a raw shift in the nature of communication within us comes to the fore. This communicative knack transforms itself and a new sort emerges, directed to The Only One. Our Lord. Through body and soul and with desperate hearts filled to the brim, it is only then that we realise the one and only true meaning of communication. Do we need a moment of truth?


It does not have to take a moment of truth to point to our humbleness. The greatest justice we could ever do to ourselves is through our daily communication with our Lord. The Ever-Bestower of His endless blessings. How do we communicate with Him? Do we need tools? Do we even need words at all?


It is only when we know how to reach out and duly channel this communicative knack back towards our Lord will we find that communicating with each other to be filled with grace, dignity, decency and true modest humbleness.

Monday, March 5, 2007

40 Days

Posted by Sara at 2:43 AM 0 comments Links to this post
When Prophet Moses secluded himself away from his people to receive Allaah's divine orders, his people turned from complete faith to complete infidelity in a matter of 40 days only. Knowing that those are the same people who crossed the sea with him and who defied the Pharaoh, those who remained steadfast in the face of huge tests, it is really shocking to see how they could change that drastically in such a short period of time when they lost the sense of direction and guidance.

Were they hypocrites? Is it a question of how deep they believed before the 40 days? Or is this not a parameter in the first place? No one can endure such hardships without truly believing in the cause behind them. Were they steadfast only because of Moses’ profound effect on them, and when they lost that everything else was forgotten? How can a true believer turn into a rejecter of faith in 40 days? 40 days and not years, 40 days; a month and 10 days?! A period that is too short to be felt in the first place. How could they forget all about the One Almighty God who created everything and who has the sovereignty above every creature in the worlds and replace HIM with a statue of gold, in just 40 days?

Was it too much self-confidence? Or was it too much reliance on having a faithful heart and a concrete creed? I believe this was the reason why they strayed. This is also why we have to remain conscious of our hearts and not rely too much on present steadfastness, even if we are true believers hence no one can even claim this and be so sure about it.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Balance; Messengers and Messages

Posted by Sara at 2:35 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When his people disobeyed him and turned a deaf ear to his teachings and to Allaah's orders, Moses (Peace be upon him) appealed to his Lord saying, "Lord! Surely I possess (no authority) on anyone except myself and my brother. So distinguish between us (Literally: part between us and "between") and the immoral people. Said He, "Then surely it will be prohibited for them for forty years (while) they go astray in the earth. So do not feel sad about the immoral people." [1]


In a similar occasion, Jesus (Peace be upon him) said, addressing Allaah, "In case You torment them, then surely they are Your bondmen; and in case You forgive them, then surely You, Ever You, are The Ever-Mighty, The Ever-Wise ." [2]

Contrastively, when Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him) was stoned by his people and injured in his face and feet, he prayed to Allaah to forgive them, saying, " O Allaah, forgive my people, for they do not know". [3]

Looking at these three attitudes tells us a lot about the personality of each of the noble Prophets, and consequently the nature of their call. According to the Qur'aan, Prophet Moses was a strong well-built man, whose miracles were of a compelling kind that would appeal to the temperament of his people and to the culture of the era.

Prophet Jesus was a kind-hearted man known for his mercy and gentle soul. His miracles, though different from Moses's magical marvels, matched the humanitarian nature of his call, yet they still surpassed the boundaries of the human mind.

Prophet Muhammad is a model of moderation; despite him being a man who depends on logic and wise judgment, he was very affectionate towards his people, his companions, followers of his message, and even the believers of other religions. His strength lies in his ability to balance between having a kind heart, and a compelling reason and force. In contrast to those of his predecessors, Prophet Muhammad's grand miracle, the Qur'aan, addresses the mind of his interlocutors as well as their hearts. He was not provided with enchanted wonders or breathtaking supernatural phenomena. However, his miracle is the only everlasting one of all.

While Moses supplicated against his people, and Jesus left it for Allaah to decide whether to treat them with mercy or with anger, it is Prophet Muhammad who supplicated for his people, asking Allaah to forgive them. Far from the extreme of asking for punishment, or leaving the whole issue altogether, Prophet Muhammad was rather more proactive than Jesus, and more compassionate than Moses.

The nature of these noble Prophets goes in parallel with the colour of their call. Therefore, as we can see Moses' complex history with his people moving from one extreme to another: from total submission and belief to total disbelief and mistrust. A nation of this kind needed a strong man to lead them and to correct their path. As Jesus became a symbol of forgiveness due to his sympathetic nature; an era of such a dark history of hatred and injustice needed a man who is different from Moses who can teach them how to be humans again. Whereas Muhammad, the compassionate yet steadfast, came to tie both threads together in a unique balance, offering a blend of guidance and mercy to all.

Being the last Prophet to be sent to the world, Prophet Muhammad's message is dedicated to all mankind, with no astounding miracles that lasts in memories for a few decades only, but rather with a true convention of all time. His moderation even in his personal traits is an unmistaken sign of Allaah's humbling wisdom in choosing him to be the last Prophet and to be sent not to a particular tribe or nation, but to all human beings : "And in no way have We sent you except as a mercy to the worlds ." [4]

------------------------------------------------------
[1] Qur'aan 5 : 25, 26.
[2] Qur'aan 5 :115.
[3] Authentic hadeeth reported by al-Bukhariyy in al-Jaami` as-Saheeh (3477), and narrated by Abdullaah ibn-Mas`ood (RA).
[4] Qur'aan 21: 107

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2009 THEME: Islam in the West and Our Children (Discussion & Resources regularly updated)

There is increasing concern that second and third generation Muslims in the West are mostly no longer Muslims so they actually end up adding to the Christian or Atheist population of the West, albeit racially from a non-Western origin. Accordingly, the ratios mentioned in the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU) would be correct in regards to race or ethnicity but not necessarily to religion.

It is a grave danger facing our children and grand children from a real life stand point as statistically only 1/5 of the second generation stay really Muslims when they grow up and are independent and almost non from the third generation are Muslims. And that is why the Western authorities are still permitting the immigration of Muslims inspite of the figures provided in the above video. They know that on the long term the descendants of Muslims in the West leave Islam because their parents raised them up with an Eastern mentality in a Western society instead of an Islamic mentality that encompasses all cultures.

You can see more about that by Jeffrey Lang; an ex-atheist American Mathematics University Professor who reverted to Islam in 1982. He has also written 3 books that I highly recommend; "Struggling to Surrender", "Even Angels Ask" and "Losing my Religion; A Call for Help".
Now I will leave you to enjoy 2 short excerpts from one of his lectures followed by links to his most important full presentation regarding our children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmqN75NI0xg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT1KGyxBXC0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMANKaX8khw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgivQJKtQME
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga2rIUWcPPs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYb2v3Yx1LY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhMN_TZavW0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHeM0H0EMAw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD-YefJH9x0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2eVOKjOqHE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBQp7aZjxjc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4_xxQVGU44

Here is a solution that is yet to be implemented.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geRM4AlFBOU&NR=1

Raising children here is not an easy task ofcourse but if we do it the right way they will be true Muslims in shaa Allaah who are "Informed Muslims" rather than "Muslims by inheritance" like their counterparts in the East. Hopefully they will then be a much better generation than ours.

Quickly, I do believe that the best 4 authors (for example, there are many others but these are my favorite) who could guide us through this difficult process are Yahiya Emerick, Jeffrey Lang, Jamal Badawi and Dalia Mogahed.

Here are some links for future reference and for an ongoing learning process that I have started collecting slowly.
Please spread the below information to all your Muslim contacts in the West.

Jeffrey Lang:
http://meccacentric.com/jeffrey_lang.html I highly recommend the lecture titled "The Purpose of Life". It has true meanings that I have not come across in any Arabic literature.

Yahiya Emerick:
Articles:
http://www.islamicedfoundation.com/articles/articles.htm
http://www.islamfortoday.com/yahiyaemerick.htm I highly recommend reading and spreading the last article in this link by the name of "The Confusion of the Scholars"
Books:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&unfiltered=1&field-keywords=&field-author=Yahiya+Emerick&field-title=&field-isbn=&field-publisher=&node=&url=&field-feature_browse-bin=&field-binding_browse-bin=&field-subject=&field-language=&field-dateop=&field-datemod=&field-dateyear=&sort=relevancerank&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.x=29&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.y=8 There are only 14 books, about half for adults and the other half for kids. The extra are just repetitions.

Jamal Badawi:
Many products including books, articles and lectures mostly for adults. You can find them by searching his name online. My favorite is;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMfWURGcvBI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HXGRYaUy6g
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyMD_tE6U68
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AixgiXpAFTY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WUgbgLgMXM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3VLRoQ3qUw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5UvvkCDrm4

Dalia Mogahed: (Obama's adviser)
Has one book so far but has a great potential. "Who Speaks for Islam".
You can watch her debate with Irshad Manji (an openly Lesbian Canadian Muslim who is distorting the picture of Islam in the name of "Progressive Islam")http://fora.tv/2008/07/01/Irshad_Manji_and_Dalia_Mogahed_-_Who_Speaks_for_Islam

Finally here is a website for a store that sells lots of Islamic products including Islamic cartoon DVDs in English and Arabic for kids.
http://www.astrolabe.com/category/17/Cartoons_and_KidVid.html?sid=ceb7c5cf8de15b8f1cb92ad29e183a44
 

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