Exploring Allah’s 99 Names: Ar-Raqeeb

One of the common attributes we often learn about Allah (SWT) is that He is always watching us and what we do every second. One of His 99 Names is Ar-Raqeeb – the One that is All-Observant. However, there is more depth to the meaning of this name that we sometimes can easily overlook.

Allah (SWT) is watching us constantly – so should we feel a sense of nervousness or unease? Definitely not. His watchfulness and observation comes from His ultimate care. I imagine it must be similar to how we look out for those we care most about and love. Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali reiterates that the All-Observant “is one who knows and protects. For whoever cares for something to the point of never forgetting it, and observes it with a constant and persistent gaze.” Honestly, what better protector than Allah (SWT)?

I always remember this one story my mom would tell my siblings and me while we drove to Sunday school about how there is no hiding from Allah (SWT). The story was about three children during Ramadan and their mother was testing them in a way and told them that they were allowed to eat during Ramadan if no one was around to see it. One child ended up saying something along the lines of; there is nowhere in this universe we can go that is hidden from Allah (SWT) as He is watching over us and never tires of observing us.

I also think about this one ayah from Surah Ali Imran a lot:

…and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it. [Quran 3:103]

I reflect upon this ayah often in terms of Allah (SWT) guiding us back to His path when we have been so lost in this dunya. I also think about this ayah in relation to my personal affairs. During times where I wanted something so bad and was sure it would be mine and would bring me endless happiness, I was then taken away from it. It was removed from my life entirely, leaving me absolutely shattered, confused, and in a deep moment of sadness. However, then I think about Allah (SWT) and how He is observant over my heart and of others, and He knows what lies in the unseen. Perhaps if I had gone through with continuing relations with someone that I thought was meant for me, I would be in constant turmoil and distress for numerous reasons that I would not be able to see for myself. I would be more miserable and possibly would have lost myself had I gotten “my way.” He saved me when I was at the edge of ruining myself, at the brink of a pit of fire because He is Al-Aleem – All-Knowing, Al-Basir – All-Seeing, Al-Wali – The Protector, and Ar-Raqeeb – All-Observant in ways incomprehensible.

Through this name we can feel immense comfort that we are never truly alone and Allah (SWT) is with us and watching, observing our affairs, and protecting us with His divine protection. Internalizing and reflecting upon this name and the true meaning behind us will bring us closer to ihsan – the highest level of spirituality, true excellence. May Allah (SWT) make us people that achieve excellence. Ameen.

China Is Still Actively Committing Genocide Against Uyghur Muslims

There is literally a genocide happening in China right now and has been for over a year. No, unfortunately this is not a click-bait one liner to get you hooked in to read this article. You may have already heard about what is happening to Uyghur Muslims in China, but it is far from over.

For several years now, prominent news outlets such as The New York Times and The Guardian have been reporting on the oppression and surveillance of about 11 million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, in addition to other Muslims in the region. So much of this reporting almost sounded so out of bound and unreal that many people ended up dismissing it as false news and that it truly wasn’t happening. However, investigative journalism, which is a form of journalism where reporters deeply dive into a single topic for months and even years prior to releasing a report, has proven all allegations to be reality. Through this type of journalism as well as social media, images and stories have been revealed showing the truth of what is currently happening to Uyghur Muslims – from internment camps disguised under “re-education camps,” to torture, mass rape, destruction of mosques and other extreme violations of human rights. China is literally treating Islam as a “mental illness.”

I sit here in New York and ponder at these atrocities and what we are doing as an ummah to change our condition. It’s a lot, it seems like the suffering of Muslims and minority groups in general, globally is only increasing and it makes me feel really helpless and sometimes selfish even. However, these are normal feelings to have, but we cannot allow this idleness to be our only state.

In the case of the genocide of Uyghur Muslims, it is extremely difficult to help because we cannot even donate properly to help due to the restrictions the Chinese government has put in place in regards to contact with other nations. That is why I am writing this piece, because we need to continuously raise awareness.

Signing this petition can help as it will reach politicians to demand them to condemn these violations of human rights. A lot of times social media is used as a tool to spread hate, but let’s use it to our advantage and spread awareness wherever we can instead. Sharing and speaking up in our direct communities, especially to those who have access to the larger public such as imams and religious leaders can have an effect. In addition to all of these acts, let us also take time to reflect on our individual condition during this continuously chaotic life. How can we become better Muslims for the sake of other Muslims? Although China has put extreme restrictions on any help towards the Uyghur Muslims, they cannot ever stop us from making dua for them. What we do on an individual level as Muslims daily, effects the entire ummah – as the hadith goes,

“This ummah is like one body, if one part is hurt then the whole body suffers.” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

It is very concerning that many Muslim majority countries are remaining completely silent and turning a blind eye to what is happening in China. In July 2019, the UN Human Rights Council penned a letter condemning China for its oppression of the minorities in Xinjiang. It was signed by 22 countries, including the UK, Canada, Japan and Spain. However, not a single Muslim country signed it. During a time where millions around the globe are deprived of the most basic human dignity, it really is up to us to be a voice for the oppressed and not remain silent towards such injustices.

Losing My Mind and Finding It Again: A Muslim’s Journey With Bipolar Disorder

“I seem to have fallen out of time.”

It’s my final year at high school. We’re watching part of The Hours, a film adaptation of Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.

Like Richard, I’m walking through some fractured timeline, where my long days and blurs of my past have all blurred into one. Once the girl who would dance and sing and speak poetry, I am a ghost cowering in a corner. I am in limbo, stagnating and lost — and I can’t place why. It’s frustrating and disappointing and hopeless.

I am always praying. Even as I’m praying, I’m feeling an emptiness that nothing can fill.

I am a dead girl, falling into a bottomless pit.


It’s my penultimate year at university, and I start up a conversation with a student on campus. When she turns to ask about my endeavors, she seems enthralled by them: pursuing two passion project start-ups, opting out of my program to move toward my “real” purpose, applying to exciting jobs and master’s programs interstate.

In my rambles, I mention that I’m torn apart despite experiencing what others would find exciting. This eventually turns into a confession to a kind stranger on campus:

“I just want someone to tell me that something’s wrong.”

Why aren’t I centered when all these beautiful things are happening for me?

Stepping forward with newfound courage to share my burden, I meet with a best friend and mention my bad dreams about suicide. I’m flustered and looking down at my feet. Calmly, she says,

“What’s so bad that’s happened to you that you want to kill yourself?”

I’m deserted.

It is horrible to say, but it’s much simpler to place depression on the repercussions of childhood trauma. When I think nothing particularly bad has happened to me, I feel even less worthy of labeling my sadness as depression or feeling at all worthy of that title.

Being told to “cheer up,” to “not make contact until you feel better,” shows me that I am sick in some way.

1_wdVPlBx8QvkrzvdgISaBcg

Digital note, 26.05.18. What it looks like to beg for mercy during heartbreak.

It’s the beginning of my master’s year. I receive a pamphlet about counseling to one of my alias email addresses. I walk into the clinic to a hijab-wearing Bengali Muslim woman smiling back at me. A version of myself, only older.

“I don’t care what happens to me,” I stutter.

It’s a feeling that permeates sad times, self-sabotage and experiences when I would put myself at risk. When I’d make elaborate plans to run away from home and leave behind everything I know. When I’d plan to do things that could harm my well-being. When I would reject sincere expressions of love to me because I couldn’t imagine myself deserving of love and attention.

We perform a body scan and I start crying in the first moments of the exercise. I’m ravaged by guilt. I’m a burden on my family who once saw so much promise in me. I don’t deserve their prayers for me. Whatever I’ve achieved is not my own. When she asks me to meditate on my shoulders, they hurt. When she asks me to meditate on my chest, it aches.

She asks why I had such an extreme immediate reaction, but I feel like a broken heart without knowing a cause. How did this happen to me?

Diary, 26.06.19. This is the sound of my own heart destroying itself. Can you hear it?

It’s still close to a year that I see a psychiatrist, after a GP ticks beside “crisis situation” on my referral form. I wait a few months for an appointment with a renowned psychiatrist at the Black Dog Institute, one of the most prominent mental health institutes in the country.

I describe my persistent melancholy like a “veil of sadness washing over my life,” feeling guilt and shame while struggling with hopeful experiences in my personal and professional lives. I feel “volatile.” I feel a conflict, a “resistance” within that I can’t place.

The psychiatrist is nodding and jotting quickly on his notepad. I can see myself being measured and like a game, I wonder what score I’ll get. Just how screwed up am I?

He confirms that my counselor was right in wanting to treat depression; I exhibit obvious symptoms like “brain fog,” poor memory, lack of concentration and, at my lowest, suicidal thoughts. From feelings of being “torn apart,” he probes my sudden bouts of hope with characteristics like creative excitement and reduced need for sleep, contrasted with my usual fatigue and comatose.

He then starts elaborating on bipolar II disorder.

As if to convince me, he pulls out fact sheets detailing its common emergence in mid to late teens, when I’d felt my moods and personality had drastically started to change.

I’m told that most people with bipolar II reach out when they are in tough depressive episodes — that their bouts of elevated mood and activity can go unsaid, unrecorded and untreated. To me, experiences of hopefulness and confidence, increased goal-directed activity and excitement are not things you complain about; rather, they are hopes for healing and becoming better.

As our conversation grows deeper, I start to understand that my “highs” are more grandiose or destructive than I’ve led myself to believe. These “hypomanic episodes” are recognized in hindsight: a million rummaging ideas; spending dusk till dawn working on projects that would never fully manifest, come into being; planning to jeopardize my life when I only felt I was “newly enlightened” and meant for better things.

In hindsight, I feel like such a conflicted, “neurotic” person because I have these “up” moods when I feel immensely frustrated or enlightened — often both — then back down to my “lows.”

Oftentimes, these moods of hope and despair will happen all at once and manifest in a frustrated, conflicted endeavor that crushes my heart.

Even after relating to the fact sheets I’ve been given, I struggle to accept my diagnosis. I still feel like I’m making things up. My mind is fighting a frustration that I might have needlessly suffered for all these years.

The reality is: now in my early twenties, I feel like I’ve already reached rock bottom. I can’t steep any lower. There’s no reason for me to resist medication, despite a quiet fear that side effects will sabotage what I have left of my mind.


It must be by the grace of God that from the first night of taking medication, I feel brighter. I feel this is too soon and wonder if I’ve placebo-ed my way to feeling better. I get up for Fajr with no complaints, when I’ve been unintentionally missing prayers from being stuck in my comatose. I’m being beckoned to hold on and have faith in my healing. I’m being shown that there is hope.

Bipolar II is still not very well understood; at this moment, there is no conclusive cause or cure. Through genetic links, I may be able to identify my experiences with those of relatives, but that’s all.

It’s early days, but I can feel my memory improving. I can feel that it takes less effort to focus my attention and feel productive — no longer hopelessly dysfunctional.

After having described myself as a “dead girl walking” with fractured memories time and time again, I feel like I’m finally a living thing.

At last, my mind is my own.


Some of our best lessons are learned through pain and suffering. These are a few things I’ve come to know:

1: You can be a grateful person and a suicidal person at the same time.

I consider myself a grateful person by “Islamic standards”: prayer, dhikr, duas for myself and others. I have been suicidal as this grateful person, to the point where my dreams and daily thoughts are infested by it.

Mental state can in part be remedied or confirmed by improvement in iman, but it can also be completely separate from it. For me, no amount of praying and talk therapy will keep my health at bay. I am being medicated, and that’s what helps me.

Now, my prayer and practice feel better than they have ever been. Now that I’ve confronted my health and been active in dealing with it, I feel even more devoted and at one with my Creator.

2: Remember what you’re here for.

We all have a void within us that can only be filled by our Creator. We are here to do our best, both in our practice and worship and in our efforts to leave the world better than we found it. This requires mental strength and willpower. This means you need to feel well to help someone who is not feeling well. Help yourself and then help your neighbor.

If you are praying as best you can and your mind still isn’t settled, go to the root and treat it. Your practice and daily efforts will improve, and you will be better for it — in this dunya and the akhirah.

Subpoint: You are here for a reason.

Your Creator put you here for a reason. If you are still here, there is a reason for you. You are good at things. Maybe a lot of things, or maybe a few. You can do great work to help others with these things. You can feel like a fulfilled human with these things. You can be grateful for these things and ask to become better.

What matters about us are our character and doing. It goes through all scriptures; I’ve heard a priest say, “We are love and good deeds.” It’s a universal craving and what keeps us going. Find purpose not in others, not in entertainment, not in fleeting things — but in yourself and your actions, both worldly and spiritual.

Remember that your voice matters. What you are going through right now can become part of the story you tell that saves someone else.

3: We’re better together.

The best things happen when societies and humanity as a whole are united for a cause and in action. The sooner we stop fighting about the legitimacy of mental health issues, the sooner we can heal as a community and help people understand their health as separate from their faith.

It also needs to become much more widespread that imams are trained in counseling and know what to maturely advise depending on the circumstances of those who go to them seeking help.

4: Things will get better.

Things will get better: that thing that people always tell you. Open your heart to turning the page.

Image quote, sent to me by my dad on 29.10.19 at 1:04 PM, eight days before my psych appointment.

Even if you don’t trust the advice of flawed people, turn the pages of your Creator’s words to find comfort.

Hope

Ash-Sharh (The Soothing)

94:5 With hardship comes ease.

94:6 With hardship comes ease.

With every difficulty there is relief. So important that He tells us twice. Believe in your better days. May Allah ease your heart.

Peace

Ad-Duhaa (Morning Light)

93:1 By the morning light.

93:2 And the night as it settles.

93:3 Your Lord did not abandon you, nor did He forget.

Just as the dusk turns to dawn, your life is in phases of dark and light. You have not been abandoned. This chapter will end and a new chapter will begin.

93:4 The Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].

93:5 And your Lord will give you, and you will be satisfied.

It’s okay to find peace in the final resting place. Remember the beautiful life that awaits beyond this one.

Protection

Al-Baqarah (The Heifer)

2:186 And when My servants ask you about Me, I Am near; I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. So let them answer Me, and have faith in Me, that they may be rightly guided.

He said: “Do not fear — I am with you.” You are calling Him, and He is near.

When you feel a tension within, remember that He has not abandoned you. Take care of your health and you will become closer. Take care of yourself, for your self and your Creator.

Infinite mercy

Az-Zumar (Throngs)

39:53 Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves: do not despair of God’s mercy, for God forgives all sins. He is indeed the Forgiver, the Clement.”

For the innocent bystanders to your self-sabotage. For the soft targets to your moods and sadness. To the people who have hurt and neglected others from the ways that they have acted or treated themselves.

If you are haunted by a past, there is always a light. Remember your Creator’s compassion.

Whatever mental state you are in, for whatever reason, remember that you are worthy of forgiveness. You are worthy of mercy.

Turn the page. This is the beginning of the rest of your life.

Written by Numa

New Zealand Mosque Terrorist Attacks: Should We Be Afraid?

“Friday is the best of days. It was on this day that Hadrat Adam Alaysi salaam was created, it was on this day that he was granted entry into jannah, it was on this day that he was removed from jannah (which became the cause for man’s existence in this universe, and which is a great blessing), and the day of resurrection will also take place on this day.” (Sahih Muslim)

Friday. Jummah. This was the day that an Australian born citizen felt compelled to walk into Masjid Al-Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand and murder innocent Muslims observing their Friday prayer. I can’t seem to fully digest this reality. I can’t believe that we live in an age and society where violence is so normalized and allowed to the point where someone can massacre a place of worship with one hand, while live-streaming it in the other. Social media moves fast, it hasn’t even been a full 24 hours since this terrorist attack was committed, but I feel like we’re always so quick to move on to the next news story. We need to stop moving so rapidly and understand how attacks like this affect our psyche and lifestyles as Muslims living in the West.

This terrorist attack has shaken us all on a deeper level. It’s shaken us to the core, not only because it was an attack in a Western country, but also because of how much we can see ourselves in the same position that these Muslims were in right before their lives were taken from them. The intent of this terrorist was to not only terrorize the Muslims in this local masjid, but to also terrorize the rest of the world by creating an entire Facebook Live video of such a violent act. He not only wanted to inflict fear, terror, and violence in that masjid, but he wanted the world to fall into fear and compliancy. This fear is the kind that pushes people towards compliancy. Compliancy of forsaking everything that makes you different in order to be more “acceptable” and palatable. Forsaking the most precious things that we have: our iman, faith, and Muslim identity.

I’ve been seeing so many posts flooding all social platforms today, all understandably fueled by anger, sadness, and confusion. Some speak to how we should remove our hijabs and not go to the masjid or “look” openly Muslim, in order to remain safe, while others are ready to physically put up a fight against the Islamophobia. It’s a slippery slope with social media because it’s so easy to get consumed and influenced by other people’s opinions, so much so that we lose sight and density of the real issues at hand.

On this Friday, let us just take a moment to not be so reactive with our hurt, but to reflect on not only the Muslim lives that were taken as a direct result of ignorance, irresponsibility and racism from powerful world leaders as well as western mainstream media, but let’s also remember how fleeting this dunya and our lives really are. It has been about 18 years since 9/11 happened, and Islamophobia does not indicate slowing down in the slightest. When events like this occur, it’s easy and almost innate to become fearful by default, but let us not let go of our faith and purpose so easily. Yes, we are targets, but we must not become consumed within a cycle of fear, that either results in us catering to what they want or becoming just like them. Additionally, let us not forget that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions endured so much violence for believing and spreading the truth of Islam, however they never backed down in their faith. If we look closer, we’ll see that the ones, who remained strong in their faith and worship, were always the most successful.

Let us also not forget that Allah is with us, closer than we can imagine. He is always watching, he is the All-Knowing and has a superior wisdom that we cannot comprehend.

Remember to take time out of your day to remember Him greatly, and appreciate those closest to you.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 9.23.53 PM.png

“Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah ‘ and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.'” Al-Quran [41:30]