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.

 

Exploring Allah’s 99 Names: Ar-Rahman

Most Muslims say this name multiple times throughout our daily lives: before we eat, when we pray, when we’re scared or worried, and countless other times. There’s even a whole surah in the Qur’an dedicated to this name. So, how much do we really understand the meaning of one of Allah’s most well-known names? How much do we really know about, Ar-Rahman? Or has it been so normalized, so watered down from our daily habits that its divine meaning has gotten a bit blurred? What truly matters is that we actively seek out knowledge and forgiveness any time we catch ourselves slipping and becoming forgetful or stagnant in practicing our deen. When we do our best to comprehend Allah’s divine attributes, we truly do begin to feel closer to Him in unexplainable ways.

Many of us have come to know that Ar-Rahman is a name associated with Allah’s great, unmatched and intense mercy. What does this mean to us and why is this significant to our lives on Earth? If you think about it, mercy is a characteristic that enables all other qualities. It embraces all other attributes. For example, you can’t love without having mercy, nor can you help someone if you don’t have mercy. However it’s important to remember how all encompassing, ultimate and superior Allah’s mercy is over any other. We can see Allah’s mercy everywhere, starting from our own lives, our very own existence, and then pondering the planet in which He created sustenance for us to live on.

The Qur’an mentions Ar-Rahman 57 times and there is an entire chapter named after it. In Surah Ar-Rahman (55), Allah speaks to us about all of His creations. From the sun and the moon, to mankind and jinn – Allah has placed mercy in these creations in diverse ways, and has undying mercy for it all. What this surah is most known for is its repetition and the intensity it builds through this literary element. Allah repeats the ayah:

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Fabi ayyi aalaaa’i Rabbikumaa tukazzibaan / So which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

This repeating ayah heightens the power and message of not only the surah, but also the meaning behind Ar-Rahman. It’s even interesting to reflect upon the structure of the entire surah from beginning to end. This surah is intense, there’s no doubt about that, but if we look closely, it’s noteworthy to see how the surah evolves and softens up as Allah begins to describe to us what Jannah is like and the people of Jannah, whom also embody a different level of mercy in order to have earned a place there. This surah is so beautiful in its reminder to us all. Allah (SWT) has placed His bountiful mercy all around us and He is always with us, showing us mercy in ways that we don’t even think of most of the time or can even comprehend. From being able to feel refreshed from drinking water, to being able to express our emotions through language, to witnessing the sunrise and sunsets and to even being able to have the capability to read and comprehend this very post. All of this is from Allah and His mercy. All of these activities didn’t have to be enjoyable for us, but everyone, both believers and nonbelievers, are able to enjoy even the tiniest things in life, due to Allah’s mercy.

I recently had a conversation with someone and they wholeheartedly believed that “all religions have one thing in common: if you sin, you will be punished, point blank.” How could this be a concrete truth if Allah is Ar-Rahman? The thing is – Islam has more depth than the aforementioned opinion. Islam is different and teaches us about who Allah really is. Islam does not teach us that if we make a mistake, Allah hates us and punishes us and that’s that. As humans, we are highly critical creatures, and often times very unforgiving of ourselves and of each other. However, it’s extremely important to know that Allah does not embody human characteristics. Allah’s mercy surpasses our intellect and our own capacity to forgive. Allah is waiting for us to ask for help, and waiting for us to seek forgiveness and comfort within Him. Just knowing that is a mercy within of its self.

All of these mercies from Him are so wonderful, so blessed, but far too often overlooked and forgotten. As mentioned earlier, we are only human and it is within our nature to be forgetful as we try to maintain the balance between dunya (worldly life) and deen (religion/faith). This will always be one of our greatest tests. In these times of forgetfulness or hopelessness, it’s key to remember that no matter how many times we sin or walk away from our faith, when we come back searching for answers, He will always be waiting for us and rushing towards us – vast mercy and all. When we are seeking forgiveness, call out for Ar-Rahman, the Most Merciful.

As always, it’s easier said than done, but if you think about it, there is beauty and peace in knowing that you are not as invincible as you might think or hope to be. There is a much greater power that is responsible for it all – your health, your knowledge, your trials, and your blessings. Knowing that it all lies within the care of Ar-Rahman, is a mercy on its own, an ease on our minds when we believe wholeheartedly.

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.

They’ve made it difficult for people not to be attracted to Christmas. By “they,” I mean the capitalist regime that profit off of the masses being so utterly consumed by this holiday. With all of the pretty lights, stories, and overall coziness attributed to Christmas, in this day and age, if you deny liking it even a little bit, you’re kind of deemed a weirdo, or a “Grinch.” While there are still a fair amount of people who preach, “Keep the Christ in Christmas!” many stand by the modern notion that Christmas is no longer truly a religious holiday, but more cultural, if anything. This is a very slippery slope, especially for Muslims living in the west. Christmas, even today, can easily be seen and linked back to pagan beliefs and practices. The very essence of Christmas directly conflicts with the truth of Islam. Even if you find yourself having the intentions to solely celebrate it in the most “non-religious” way possible, we cannot sit here and pretend that there is no reason why we don’t celebrate this holiday in Islam. We cannot sit here and senselessly “celebrate” a holiday built around not only a highly capitalist agenda, but also idolization of entities other than Allah (SWT). Spoiler alert, but just because a majority of people are enjoining in a certain practice, doesn’t mean it’s right or that you should mindlessly participate and embrace it with them.

I truly am sympathetic to the Muslim diaspora and how painfully difficult it is to balance two worlds that always seem to be in conflict with one another, but it is not impossible. I feel that every year I witness more Muslims falling into the “Christmas trap.” Excuses such as, “But I’m not partaking in anything religious, it’s just for fun!” and “But Isa is a prophet that we recognize too, so technically…” and “It’s more cultural than anything else,” run rampant and cause much divide within our community. Every year, I am saddened by the fact that my Muslim brothers and sisters are sinking so deeply into a celebration of something that, at its core, is completely un-Islamic.

I get it, I really do. I was born and raised in America, and I have witnessed how “special” this time of year is made out to be. With all of the jolly Christmas music blaring in every single store, glistening décor, and the overall cheerful mood everyone seems to be in, one could easily ask, “How could anyone hate Christmas?” I’ve also seen many Muslims pull out the excuse that “It’s all about giving” during the Christmas season, so it’s okay to participate. In my humble opinion, I don’t think we should reserve being charitable and kind to just a few weeks at the end of the year. We should be carrying these actions and habits constantly throughout the year and all throughout our lives. I feel that many people fail to delve into deeper thought about the subject. I’m talking way passed the surface level of candy canes and reindeer. It has to do more with the fact that regardless of what angle you look at it from, it still is a holiday based on shirk, one that attacks the most important and fundamental aspect of Islam. It’s the first thing we are taught as Muslims, our existence revolves around this very truth: “La illaha illallah.” There is no God, but Allah. He is the One and only. When you’re actively choosing to participate in Christmas, whether your intention is to just, “have fun” and “be in the spirit” and doesn’t have to directly do with the “religious aspect,” it still is a pagan holiday nonetheless that derives from celebrating Jesus’ “birthday.” I understand that it is seen and celebrated in a more cultural way now, but if it’s so cultural now, why is it even called, “Christmas?” If it’s so cultural now, why are all these statues of Santa Claus and Maryam (RA), so heavily prominent across all decorations and stories about Christmas? Why is a tree involved? Why do people even exchange gifts with one another? If it’s so cultural now, why do most people still go to Church during this time? What is the significance behind it all? I’ve seen Muslims display all types of Christmas themed décor around their house, including a tree. Where is the limit? We may recognize prophet Isa for all of his miraculous characteristics and noble attributes, he is a beloved prophet to us and a very important figure in Islam, but we can never agree that he is “the son of God” nor is he God in any way. This is directly contradicting not only to the aforementioned first pillar of Islam, but it also counters what the Qur’an teaches us. One of the first surah’s we learn is Surah Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity), which reads:

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Qul huwal laahu ahad / Say: He is Allah [who is the One]

Allah hus-samad / Allah the Eternal Refuge

Lam yalid wa lam yoolad / He neither begets nor is born.

Wa lam yakul-lahu kufuwan ahad / Nor is there to Him any equivalent.

These are the basics of Islam, and to celebrate anything that even comes remotely close to disputing this is a disgrace and disrespect to Allah (SWT), even if it is masked underneath pretty colorful lights and music.

We cannot sit here and senselessly “celebrate” a holiday built around not only a highly capitalist agenda, but also idolization of entities other than Allah (SWT).

The prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the perfect example for us to follow in terms of lifestyle and character. He did not engage in any frivolous holidays and taught us not do so especially because they cause us to become distracted from worshipping Allah (SWT) and derive from a place and time of true ignorance. I think the thing is that as Muslims, we kind of fail to truly educate each other and ourselves in a proper way about Christmas and holidays in general, especially living in the west. We end up portraying ourselves to be a part of this strict, extreme religion that doesn’t allow any fun or enjoyment whatsoever. I’m no scholar, but I feel like that type of atmosphere and mentality almost pushes some (especially the youth) away from the true Islam. Who would want to learn more about a religion when all they’ve been told about it are the restrictions and “punishments?” Additionally, I have come across many people who claim that we need to “innovate” Islam to “progress” and be more assimilated with modern society. This is yet another ridiculous excuse to partake in irrelevant practices and beliefs such as Christmas. Why would Islam need any innovation at all when the All-Knowing, the Most Wise, created it in all of its perfection? Islam and the Qur’an have proven to remain relevant and timeless throughout history – it does not need to be molded or influenced by the creation to fit society’s weak standards or trends. We need to understand that humans literally cannot know and understand everything; we have not been created with that type of mental capacity, we are not the wisest beings to exist. Only Allah (SWT) withholds the reasoning behind every single thing. Understanding that truly puts everything into perspective.

We should be putting more of an emphasis on the blessed Islamic holidays that we have been given. We should engage our families and friends in celebrating Ramadan and Eid (both of them!) in a way that is even more beautiful than Christmas. We have Ramadan, such a blessed time that is quite honestly a month-long holiday in itself, and we also have not one, but two Eid’s in one year! Beautify these holidays and decorate your homes when Ramadan and Eid come around. Make special foods, wear your best clothes, visit your family, friends, neighbors, and of course, your masjid. When we begin to practice and understand the beauty that is in what Allah (SWT) has ordained for us, then we truly will not feel the need to want to participate in other holidays such as Christmas. Sure, maybe the whole entire world won’t be celebrating along with us with decorations and exclusive blowout sales, but that makes it even more special. It’s something just for us and it’s not completely stripped of its significance because it’s not being as commoditized as Christmas is. Just because our blessed holidays have not been integrated with the capitalist agenda, does not make them any less special, in fact it actually makes them that much more great.

Christmas is aesthetically pleasing, I won’t deny that, but it’s not worth celebrating if it means I’m defying Allah (SWT) in any way, intentional or unintentional. We can live without Christmas. It all really leads back to proper education on a variety of subjects, but most importantly the fundamentals of our faith. My intentions are not to sound like a grumpy, salty, extremist, but to underline the reality of what we are choosing to celebrate. It all just comesback to our devotion to Allah (SWT).

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”

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan Mubarak! The month we all wait for every year is finally here. Ramadan is a great time to set goals and learn new things. There are things you should do and of course, there are things you shouldn’t, we hope that this list helps! Continue reading “Ramadan Mubarak”