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.

Reflections: A Quarantined Ramadan

Now that we are all well into self-isolation / quarantine / social distancing or whatever else you want to call this lifestyle, I’ve been trying to reflect on how this time is inevitably connected to our imaan and Islam as a whole. As this is the first time for us to experience a pandemic, it can almost seem like this is the first time something to this degree has ever happened in the history of the world. However, we know this isn’t true, unfortunately. Having more free & alone time has lead me to start thinking about how I should spend these days in the best way. It has also made me think: has anyone in Islamic history ever had to go through such a situation where they were completely alone/closed off to society and “regular” life for an extended period of time?

There are actually countless instances throughout the history of Islam that emphasize times of complete self-isolation & the virtues that can come from it. We learn numerous facts about our prophet Muhammad (SAW) & his life, it’s almost so obvious that it’s easy to forget that he was in self-isolation during such crucial points of Islamic history. The very first revelation of Qur’an that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) received was while he was in complete seclusion in the cave of Hira. It was in a time like this – so removed from society & the distraction of the worldly life, that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was able to not only begin his revolutionary journey as the Messenger of Allah (SWT), but also to reflect and find true reliance on Al Wahid & Al Ahad (the One & Only). It was only in pure solitude that he was able to find true peace in He who created certainty.

A story that many of us can connect with on some level is that of Maryam (AS). Allah (SWT) revealed her struggles in the Qur’an as she was ostracized by people & removed herself from society with prophet Isa (AS). She truly had no one to rely on or to speak to except for Allah (SWT). Although she had trust in Allah (SWT), we learn that even Maryam (AS) shares the same humanity as us. Even she had a moment of weakness in all of this despair and loneliness, so much so, that she had the thought of, “I wish I had died before this, and been a thing long forgotten,” [19:23]. However, in all of her despair & sadness she still remained with Allah (SWT) and eventually gave birth to prophet Isa (AS), who ended up not only being a great strength & relief for her, but for all of mankind to come.

These are only two (great) examples of how solitude reminds us to turn to Allah (SWT) and remember that He is in control of everything. These instances, as well as all of the chaos the world is going through right now, remind us that Allah (SWT) is indeed Al Awwal (The First) & Al Aakhir (The Last). It is inevitable for us to feel stuck or bored given the current circumstances and the fact that our lives have predominantly always revolved around “contributing to society” and being “productive” in the greater cause for the economy. However, we now really do not have a choice, but to place our energy and focus elsewhere (i.e. on Allah!).

What a unique time we have been blessed with this Ramadan. The physical portion, in every aspect whether it’s food or community, is truly taken away from us, and we are left to focus on nurturing our spirituality and mental wellness. Insha’Allah we all reap immense benefits from this month as well as beyond this time, and may we all re-connect with the Qur’an & Allah (SWT) in a beautiful way.

Ameen & Ramadan Mubarak!

The Key To Getting Through Hardship

The past few months have been trying for me. The past few months have indeed been trying, but alhamdulillah for it all. I kind of took a pause on writing simply due to the fact that I felt like I just didn’t have it in me. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and defeated. I started a new job the first day of Ramadan. On the second day of Ramadan, my family and I lost someone very dear to us (may Allah SWT forgive her and bring her family peace, ameen). Throughout everything, I’ve also been going through an immense amount of heartache for various other personal reasons. The feeling of being so overwhelmed by grief, sadness, confusion, and anxiety has really, truly been such a challenge for me. However, I’m still here, alhamdulillah. If you’re going through tough times and you’re reading this, I wish I could help make them better. There are two pivotal mental/spiritual actions that have really been helping me cope and find my balance again, and they are: #1 – remembering that Allah (SWT) is with me and #2 – truly thinking about every single blessing (big and small) that I have.

We all have fluctuations in our iman (faith), and that is perfectly normal and okay. The key is to keep pushing through the phases where you feel the most distant from your faith and Allah (SWT) – keep pushing yourself to pray salah or to read an ayah from the Qur’an or to make a simple dua’a even. By doing this, you will never go too astray. During my times of stress and difficulty, I’ve been reflecting on one particular ayah from Surah Ash-Shu’ara. The ayah actually is a record of Prophet Musa (AS) saying, “Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me” (26:62). This statement is abrupt, short, simple, but very powerful and reassuring. When I think about this ayah, I truly remember Allah (SWT) and feel His assurance, peace, and might. I feel so lost and alone at times, but this ayah is a strong reminder that Allah (SWT) really does have me; He is quite literally with me and will guide me so long as I seek Him out, even during my lows. He is the best protector and friend there is. This ayah also reminds me that this dunya (worldly life) and all of its worshippers are just not the ones to be losing my mind over. People are guaranteed to bring inconsistencies and disappointment.

I’ve never experienced someone close to me passing away. I had never been to a janazah or a burial until this past Ramadan. The burial process absolutely shook me to the core. It has been almost three months now and I am still in complete awe. From everyone reciting Surah Al-Fatiha, and continuous recitations of “La Ilaha Illallah,” over the grave and then finally the complete closure of the body deep into the ground. SubhanAllah. This was such a stark reminder for me. It was a reminder for me to step up my game with my Creator, the One, Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim, Allah (SWT).

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. To Him we belong and to Him we shall return. He is our one and only return. These worldly pleasures and stresses aren’t the ones to be worshipped or to waste our time over. Our hearts and souls are with Allah (SWT) and He is forever with us. We must constantly seek Him out in our times of peace and in our times of need. It’s absolutely easier said than done, especially when we have so many accessible distractions surrounding us. However, this is the ultimate test. Honestly, no matter what, Allah (SWT) is the only source that can bring true contentment and peace of mind. He is constant, while this world and everyone that is in it, are not at all.

In times of sadness, anger, and impatience with certain situations in my personal life, I’ve recently learned to look at all that Allah (SWT) has given me in my life, all that His boundless mercy encompasses. Actively seeing the beauty and love that He has surrounded me with, automatically removes that frustration that often grows within me. I never realized how easily and how often I really overlook such blessings in my life. It’s only when I lose it, that I remember how great I had it – whatever ‘it’ is. I am ungrateful and forgetful, but I am trying to work on this. I find myself to be in much more of a pleasant state when I step back and see what I am blessed with, whether it be something such as the flowers I see outside or a restful night’s sleep, remembering these “little” aspects of life really puts everything into perspective and forces you to see that these are the blessings that truly do end up being the “big things.” Our mind just becomes too enveloped within the demands of this dunya that we so quickly are able to forget the reality that is around us and that Allah (SWT) has destined for us.

If you’re going through difficult circumstances right now, know that you are blessed and that Allah (SWT) is with you, closer to you than your jugular vein.

“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.” Surah Al-Qaf (50:16)

Even though it’s hard to remember and sometimes to even fathom, keep in mind that having good thoughts of Allah (SWT) is an act of worship and an obligation of tawheed. You are never truly alone in your hardships.

Ramadan Mubarak: Remembering Allah (SWT)

I don’t know if this holds true for anyone else, but lately, I’ve been really going through it with life. These past few months of 2019 have been so trying, so unpredictable and such a whirlwind, I feel like I’ve had to face so many challenges and go through so many changes all at once, especially pertaining to my ability to stand up for myself, create boundaries, as well as having to make major decisions regarding my career. It’s so easy to become consumed by everything and to let the stress of continuous decision-making take you away from remembering your purpose.

So much constant change and “adult-ing” can really exhaust the soul and take a serious toll on your overall mood and personality. We never stop to think about how everything affects our hearts and our relationship with Allah (SWT). When we forget Allah and become too consumed in this life to remember our purpose and our Creator, life becomes bitter and draining and we begin to feel this looming sense of vacancy within us. It’s far too easy to forget how simple the remedy for feeling so overwhelmed, sad, or stressed can be. We live in an era where everything is so accessible, the knowledge truly is at our fingertips and the will to seek it out and implement it is within us.

So how can we really restore our faith and start remembering Allah on a constant basis again? Going back to basics here, but an under consumption of salah (daily mandatory Islamic prayers) and reading and/or recitation of Qur’an is guaranteed to take a real big toll on your spirit. Allah (SWT) reminds us of this reality in the Qur’an:

“And whoever turns away from My remembrance, indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” [Surah Taha 20:124]

With the month of Ramadan at our doorstep, there’s no better time than now to actively try and refresh our faith by taking heed in the mandatory aspects of Islam such as salah and dhikr. Just by practicing these two acts alone with sincerity and patience, we are promised to see and feel a significant difference in our daily lives. What also helps me is by simply looking outside and seeing the life around us. Everything is in motion, has life because of Allah. Allah (SWT) is sufficient enough for us in whatever our needs are and in whatever problems we come to face. He is always with us, we just have to remember Him and it will get easier. Allah (SWT) reminds us:

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:152]

Who wouldn’t want to be remembered by Allah? I think one of the most important facts to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel “good” enough, Allah does not ask perfection of us, He only asks remembrance and in exchange for this, He will heal the broken parts of you with His light and in ways that nothing in this world can. You don’t have to be the most righteous person to call upon Him or to make sujood, you just need to be humble and sincere in your connection. We all constantly need Allah (SWT), so we’re kind of already designed to be in the perfect state of receiving His all-embracing mercy and His immediate help and superior compassion. Thinking positively and greatly of Allah (SWT) is so key in changing your entire outlook of life. Once you see Allah (SWT) in the best possible light, you will feel so much more secure, confident, and content.

As we enter into Ramadan, let’s remember to remember that Allah (SWT) is near and that He is the ultimate Protector, Helper, and Friend. Reflecting upon some of Allah (SWT)’s 99 Names can also prove to be highly beneficial in re-connecting your faith and finding a balance between this life and your spiritual self.

Some of the 99 names of Allah include:

Ar Rahman (الرحمن) The Beneficent 

Ar Raheem (الرحيم) The Most Merciful

Al Ghaffaar (الغفار) The Ever Forgiving

As Sabur (الصبور) The Patient

The pursuit in knowing Allah and his true greatness will allow us to better our own flaws and thus increase our taq’wah and actions. Don’t be too hard on yourself when life gets tough, we are only human and our emotions and faith fluctuates throughout time. Be patient and kind with yourself and others, and it will get better insha’Allah.

 

Do Muslims Celebrate Christmas?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – allegedly. In western countries, Christmas is more than just a passing holiday; it’s an entire season and a lifestyle within itself. For some Muslims living in the west, this time of year can often feel like a drag, almost as if you’re third-wheeling on some weird date, but for others, it’s become just as joyous as it is for those who actively celebrate it. Continue reading “Do Muslims Celebrate Christmas?”

Reflections: Focusing During Prayer

I feel like one of the most common struggles that many Muslims face in their faith is concentrating when they are performing their five daily prayers. Continue reading “Reflections: Focusing During Prayer”

Her Name Was Nabra Hassanen #JusticeForNabra

Nabra Hassanen. Don’t forget her name. A 17-year old Muslim girl who was brutally assaulted and murdered. All murders are senseless, but Nabra’s life was taken for no reason other than the fact that she was Muslim. Because she was visibly Muslim in her beautifully draped hijab. This was not about a parking dispute or any other junk excuse the media and police are attempting to label it as. This was an Islamophobic motivated hate crime. This was a terrorist attack.

I get it. A lot of people are too privileged to see, let alone care, about how people in power, public figures, and the media constantly demonize marginalized groups.  I’m sick and tired of having to cater to their ignorance. Why is their ignorance costing us the lives of our brothers and sisters? Why do the lives of white Christians and Catholics seem to get way more airtime and global concern while Muslims are being persecuted right beside them and not even getting the least bit of respect? I am never one to compare tragedies, ever, but this is just feeding into the cycle of systemic injustice and oppression. I saw the outrage and heartbreak of my white coworkers when the Manchester attack happened recently. I saw newspapers stacked at the front desk sympathizing and “standing with” the people of London. Do people even realize the immense horror that just occurred in our own country? I don’t care if my coworkers know who Nabra is. I care about why they have a selective sensitivity and humanity towards only a certain group of people. This is a learned action. The media teaches us how we should think and feel, and this gravely skews our stances on justice and injustice. This was not about a traffic or parking dispute. How many times are the media and the police going to use that same excuse when Muslims are violently murdered in America? Whoever actually believes it had nothing to do with the fact that she was a visibly Muslim woman, really needs to wake up. It’s never about a parking dispute.

I am truly heartbroken. I sobbed upon hearing the news concerning my sister Nabra, who lost her life in this blessed month of Ramadan. Although I never knew her, it feels like I did. Nabra was my sister in Islam. A young Muslimah, a believing 17-year old girl in a world that is so against her. Muslim. Black. Woman. Much like many of my fellow Muslim women, her very existence was a political statement, a defiance against what most people in the West are seemingly “comfortable” with. I keep telling myself that I wish I were with her before she was attacked outside of the masjid. As if I could have done something. I wish I could have saved her. My heart goes out deeply to all of the people suffering in the world and my duas are forever with them, but this, this hits home on entirely other level. The fact that this has happened, let alone in the month of Ramadan, is exceptionally upsetting.

She was one of us. She was probably getting ready for these last few days of Ramadan and making plans for Eid. She had her whole life in front of her. To my fellow Muslim sisters, please be careful and be hyper-aware wherever you are. People have sick, evil, selfish intentions and unfortunately we are the ones who suffer the most from it. Especially my sisters who observe the hijab. I can’t even begin to try to think as awfully as the oppressors and attackers do when they act upon their violent thoughts.

Let’s take the very last few days of this blessed month of Ramadan to sincerely make dua for Nabra and her family. May she be granted Jannah al firdous, and may her family and friends find peace, justice, comfort, and sabr through Allah (SWT). May He replace the trauma of those who were with her that night with tranquility. Let’s also take time to reflect on this world that we live in, the state of this ummah, and the state of our own iman (faith). Keep this ummah in your duas every day, and try your best to renew your intentions and your iman each day, as if it was your last. Allah (SWT) Knows best and is the Most-Merciful.

There are many wonderful donations/charities being set up for Nabra and in her name. If you’d like to help support, here are a few:

https://www.piousprojects.org/campaign?id=394

https://www.launchgood.com/project/for_nabra#/

May Allah (SWT) protect all of my sisters in this world. May He grant us courage and steadfastness in our deen and may He bring peace to this hateful world. Ameen.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun. To Him we belong and to Him we return.

10 Tips for the Last 10 Days of Ramadan

We are winding down to the last few days of Ramadan. The last ten nights are said to be the most abundant in blessings, so naturally we should all strive to make the most out of them. Continue reading “10 Tips for the Last 10 Days of Ramadan”