In the Name of Almighty God, The Merciful, The Compassionate

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)! I hope you may gain some insight from my work here. Remember, I'm not a scholar and don't claim to be. I only claim to be a person who has a passion for both Islam and this great republic in which I live and wish to share my thoughts with others. Remember that anything good you find in this blog is from Allah, and anything wrong or bad is from my own flawed self.

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The Holy Ka'aba

The Holy Ka'aba
The House of God built by Abraham (peace be upon him)

The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance
take out the 9th line, and it would be haram (forbidden) to say this.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In this life, and especially in the materialistic world that we live in, everyone, Muslims included, always seem to be trying to find "happiness". Happiness at work, happiness at home, happiness here and happiness there. I once heard from one of the great American imams of our day, Imam Suraj Wahaj, that one day about ten years ago, a woman had come to him in his office and asked him "imam, do I have the right to be happy?". It's amazing really. Most of us don't ever think about this issue in those terms. "Do I have the right to be happy". Most of us ask questions like "Am I happy?" or "How can I be happier". However, this sister, whoever she was, had enough humility to ask the question, "do I have the right to be happy?". Now in the story I heard related by the Imam he said that this sister then proceeded to tell him about the many struggles that she faced in her life. It was obvious by the imams somber expression that this sister had truly faced some difficult times. Many of us, at one time or another, have faced difficult times, and if we haven't, we could almost bet, that someday in some way or another we will.
If I can I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the very beginning of our creation, when we were in the wombs of our mothers. When we were there, Allah sent an angel down to us and instructed that angel to write down several things that will determine our life on this earth including the kind of work that we will do, how long we will live and, one of these two words "sa'eedun or shaqee'un"; Happy, or Miserable. You see, it doesn't matter how much money you have or don't have. It doesn't matter whether you've been with your spouse for fifty years, or have been divorced more times than you can count. It doesn't matter your social status, your good or bad looks, your education or anything. Whether or not you will generally be happy or miserable in this life is determined right there in your mother's womb, from the very beginning. This is a small part of Allah's Qadr or "Pre-destination", one of the arkaan sitaa' ul iman or the "six pillars of faith".
We know that every human being is born with a pure fitra or "original nature". We all start in jennah. We all start pure, as pure servants and creatures of Allah. But somewhere along the line, sooner or later, we have an encounter with who? Iblis! The devil, cursed Shaitan who refused to bow to our father Adam (as) by Allah's command, because of his wicked arrogance and pride. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur'an, in Surah Ta-Ha verse 116, "And remember when we said to the angels 'prostrate yourselves to Adam' They prostrated themselves; all except Iblis. He refused." Then Allah continues, "Then we said 'Oh Adam, verily this is an enemy to you and your wife. So do not let him lead you out of Paradise, or you will be miserable".
So you see Allah said to Adam, DO NOT allow Iblis to misguide you and drive you and your wife out of Paradise, because if you allow him to do that, you WILL be miserable. Then, listen to what Allah tells him right after that. He says, "Verily you have a promise that you will never be hungry or naked therein. And you will not suffer form thirst there, nor from the sun's heat." This is what Adam and Hawa (Eve) could have had if they had kept away from the whispers of Shaitan, but then listen to what Allah says happened. It goes on saying, "Then Shaitan whispered to him 'Oh Adam, shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that will never waste away?'" Then they both ate of the tree, and so their private parts became manifest to them, and they began to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise. This did Adam disobey his Lord and went astray."
Right now, today, in countless places all over Allah's earth, there are millions of people who die because they can't find enough bread to eat or water to drink. There are people who die from different types of exposure because they don't have proper clothing or shelter to shield them from the elements. There are people who sweat and toil and work their fingers to the bone day in and day out, everyday of their lives, and still barely have enough to get by. Why? Allah tells us right there in the Qur'an, as he told our father Adam (as), that outside the Paradise, we will undoubtedly be miserable.
So now, let us ask OURSELVES that question, "Do we have the right to be happy?" Some 230 years ago, the author of the United States Declaration of Independence said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"; The "pursuit" of happiness. He didn't say "life, liberty, and happiness". He said "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Why did he say pursuit? It's because in this life, in this dunya, happiness is not something that is ever truly and completely realized. That's just the nature of this life and of this world. We will never truly know complete and utter happiness until we, insha'Allah, reach that ultimate destination, Jennah or Paradise.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Allah completely deprives us of happiness in this life. If anything, we deprive ourselves. We deprive ourselves by doing what? Evil. Disobeying Allah (swt). Not living up to the responsibilities that we have to our Lord. To the covenant we made when we declared "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadun Rasoolullah". Make no mistake that statement is not just a statement. It is a pact that you make with Allah (swt). By making that pact, we have an immense responsibility; to live our lives according to Allah's will, on his terms, and not our own. To pray when He and his messenger told us to pray, not when we feel like it. To fast, not initially because of any benefit to us, but because our Lord commanded us to do so. To accept the fact that the Creator knows much more about the creation than the creation knows about itself, and that the creation must ultimately accept the hikmah or wisdom that comes to it through the Creator's messengers like Muhammad (sws), like Jesus Christ (as), like Musa (as) and like Ibrahim (as). There is a famous quote, and I'm not sure who said it, but it says, " No man chooses evil because it is evil. He only mistakes it for happiness". Eric Hoffer an American social writer and philosopher said, " The search for happiness, is one of the chief sources of unhappiness". This is oh so true.
Many people think that they will find happiness by being successful in their work. Leaving a legacy at their company or organization. Many people think that having a great deal of wealth, and never having to worry about money will make them happy. Still some others might say that they'll be happy when they find that special someone who will love them forever and ever and ever. The truth is that true, complete and utter happiness does not lie in ANY of these things. The only real happiness in this world, the only REAL happiness, is always keeping ourselves ready to leave this world, hopeful of attaining Paradise. By doing what? Peacefully, sincerely, and obediently submitting our own will, to the will of Allah (swt).
We do have the opportunity to catch glimpses of true happiness in this life. We can catch glimpses of it when we get married and enjoy those first precious days with our new spouse. We catch a glimpse of it when we hold our newborn child in our arms for the first time. We catch glimpses of it when we spend quality time with our parents and relatives. We glimpse it when we see people we love enter into the fold of Islam. These are all glimpses of happiness.
But, how can we truly be happy, when marriages end in divorce. Many of us face burying our children, just as our beloved prophet Muhammad did with his son Ibrahim. Our parents die, our relatives die. Those blessed brothers and sisters that we seen embrace Islam, sometimes leave it just as quickly.
Happiness in this life is fleeting as they say. It comes and it goes. The absolute only way to guarantee true happiness in this life and/or the next is to always obey Allah in every way that you can, and when you make a mistake, sincerely make tawbah (repentence) and strive to avoid that mistake again. And remember that Allah (swt) said, as per a hadith qudsi that his mercy prevails over his wrath. And if you are a person who obeys Allah in this life as much as you possibly can, and you still are very unhappy, your still facing tough times, then take comfort in the fact that Allah rewards those who are patient in hardship, just as is illustrated in the story of Ayub (as) (Job) in the Qur'an.
I'd like to conclude with another story I had heard from Imam Siraj Wahaj. The story was about an incident back in 1972 when a bomb was exploded aboard a commercial jetliner, while it was cruising at 32,000 feet. The plane was full of people, and everyone on that plane died, except for one 22 year old woman. Now can you imagine falling to earth from 32,000 feet in a piece of a blown up plane, hitting the ground, opening your eyes and realizing you were still alive? When people talk about these types of stories they often say they "cheated death". If you've ever seen the Final Destination movies, those films are all about "cheating death". But this is a very wrong choice of words. No one ever cheats death. That woman on that plane didn't die because Allah had not written for her to die in that place, in that time. No soul can die without the permission of Allah. Your life cannot be taken by someone else except by the permission of Allah. You cannot even take your own life, except by the permission of Allah. Just like this A.U. student just a few weeks ago, who plummeted to her death just outside of where we meet for Jummah. People were asking the questions "why would she do such a thing?" and "how could this happen?". It happened because that is what Allah had written for her. Just as Allah had written for that woman on the plane that she would not day that day.
Like I said before this is a part of Allah's Qadr. We cannot escape Allah's sovereignty over us, whether we like it or not. Allah is the Lord of all creation. He is even the God and Lord of the atheist. Whether someone believes in Allah or not is of no consequence. Whether someone really wants to obey Allah or not is of no consequence at least not to Allah. But, if we really care about happiness, then we need to stop investing so much time and resources into things in this life that wont accompany us to the next life. We need to stop running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find true happiness in this world, because that is nothing but a wild goose chase. We need to take care of business in this world. We need to take care of our families. We need to do a lot of things in this world. However, we must never, EVER, allow those things to distract us from what really matters, which is our relationship to Allah. We must keep our eye on that ultimate goal of Paradise, so that someday, insha'Allah, we might finally realize true happiness.
...And Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Season of Giving

بسم لله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God (Allah in Arabic), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise be to God, the Lord of all creation. We give him our praise, we seek his guidance, and we seek refuge in Him from the evil Satan, and the evil within ourselves and in our deeds. I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God without partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Yesterday, families across the United States came together around dinner tables, in front of TV broadcasts of football games and passed out on couches from the tryptophan in roasted turkeys. Yes yesterday was Thanksgiving. It is a celebratory feast that has taken place in this country since the very first immigrants landed in the little known, mysterious wilderness known as North America. It has been a day of giving thanks to Almighty God for the bountiful blessing of having reached the "new world", a world of promise, opportunity, and freedom. We as Muslims also have much to give thanks to Allah for. For many of us, having arrived in this land meant being given the tremendous opportunity to make better lives for ourselves then our ancestors had. For others, we have the opportunity to celebrate the progress we've made, having elected the first African American president this year, while there are people alive today who's grandparents were slaves or possibly slave owners. For all of us, we give thanks to Allah to be able to live and thrive in a place where we can raise our families in relative peace, security and dignity. Many of our brothers and sisters around the world aren't so fortunate.
Tonight, insha'Allah (God willing), we will begin the month of Dhul Hijja. It is a month of great significance because this is the month of the Hajj, the great pilgrimage to Allah's house in Mecca. It is also the month of the Eid ul Adha, or the festival of Sacrifice, commemorating the willingness of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him), to sacrifice his son Isma'il (Ishmael, peace be upon him) by the command of Allah. This season of worship, represented in this holy month, commemorates the beginning of the great Abrahamic tradition extending into Judaism and the Children of Israel and prophets like Musa (Moses), Sulaiman (Solomon), and Dawood (David) to name a few; then leading to Christianity, stemming from the teaching of prophet Isa al Mesih ibn Maryam (Jesus Christ, Son of Mary); and culminating in the final revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and the establishment of Al-Islam.
The first ten days of Dhul Hijja are so profound that Allah swore by them in Surat al Fajr, when He said "By the dawn, and the ten nights", thus indicating the tremendous importance of them.
The prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days." (meaning the first ten days of Dhul Hijja) The people asked, "Not even Jihad (striving spiritually and defending the Muslims from those that seek to harm them) for the sake of Allah?" He said, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight, giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing." (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
Just as Christians remember the holiday season, including Advent and Christmas, as a time for charity and giving, so should we remember to think of our fellow human beings who are struggling. If these first ten days are so highly regarded by Allah than we should strive to perform the deeds most loved by Allah.
Allah says, "Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveler, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Prayers and give the obligatory charity; and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous." (2:177)
During these first ten days of Dhul Hijja, seek the pleasure of mercy of Allah not just by fasting, doing extra prayers or other forms of worship, but by reaching out to those in need. We are now in the midst of not only a national, but a worldwide financial crisis, afflicting people across the spectrum of race, social status and field of work. People are loosing their jobs. They are loosing their homes. They are being overwhelmed by debt and other financial hardships. We've seen it right here in our own community. We've seen the closing of a major factory here in just the past few months, and other major industrial employers here in Ashland are struggling, and workers' futures are uncertain. Even people at Ashland University have lost jobs. Perhaps this year's holiday season, there are more people than ever (in recent history) in need of sadaqah (charity).
Charity, more so than almost anything else, is the essence of faith and piety. Allah says in his Qur'an, "By no means shall you attain righteousness, unless you give of that which you love." (3:92)
"That which you love" refers of course to your wealth and your possessions; things that often give us a false sense of security. Abu Zar Ghifari, a companion of the Prophet, reported that the Prophet, while sitting in the shade of the Kabah wall once said, "They are the losers." Abu Zar enquired, "who are they, O Messenger of God?" The Prophet replied: "Those who pile up heaps of wealth and (pointing in all directions with his hands) do not spend like this and this." (Bukhari and Muslim) Hording wealth is one of the most despicable of human acts, and it isn't just hording money in bank. For example, it can be buying a $500 Iphone, when you could buy a $50 cell phone that functions just as well and give the $450 you just saved in charity. Look around you; at your possessions. Your car, things in your home, your clothes, your various other things, and ask yourself, "do I really need to have to these things? Or, can I live just as well with less?" If you can, then I suspect you are more than capable of giving.
Now of course there are two fundamental types of charity in Islamic doctrine; obligatory, known as Zakat (one of the five pillars of Islam), and optional, known as Sadaqah. Zakat is only due on those who have accumulated a certain degree of wealth. They must, pay 2.5% of their accumulated wealth to the poor. Make no mistake, to neglect this obligation is a severe sin, and to deny the obligation is an act of kufr (disbelief/to cover the truth), and subsequently takes one out of Islam all together. Now many of you as students, may not have any substantial wealth of your own, so Zakat may not apply to you. However, the lessons taught to us by Allah in his Qur'an, and by Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), in the hadith, in regards to giving Sadaqah, are numerous. So all of us, whether we are eligible to give Zakat or not, should remember that we all can and should give charity, no matter how poor we may seem.
A common misconception is that a person who has little to no money isn't capable of giving charity. This is absolutely not true. Even if you are truly incapable of giving money, there are other ways to give charity. The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "It is imperative on every one to render acts of charity every single day that sun shines in the sky in order to express gratitude to Allah for every single joint or faculty in his body. It is charity to restore peace between two people with strained relations, it is charity to give a stranded person a ride on his mount or lift his load onto it, it is charity to utter a good word, every step one takes towards the mosque for prayer is charity, to remove litter or objectionable things from people's path is charity." Charity, as we see here, is not only giving money, but even the virtue of helping one's fellow man, notice it says nothing about just helping "Muslims", but it applies to not only our brothers and sisters in Islam, but also our brothers and sisters in humanity. The prophet, peace be upon him, on another occasion even said, "even smiling at someone is a charity". This is why charity is such an important concept to us as Muslims, because it's not just about writing a check or dropping a bill into the donation box, it's about truly and whole-heartedly care and loving our fellow human beings. It's about seeing the orphans in the more desperate places on our planet, and feeling real pain in our hearts, whether anyone is watching or not. It is about seeing people who have been oppressed and sincerely praying to Allah that they might be avenged and that their oppressors would face justice. It is about joining people of all backgrounds, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Atheists and Agnostics, hand in hand, to lift up the downtrodden and deprived. Don't allow the bounty of Allah to pass you buy because you were too "busy" or "poor" or whatever other excuse people find not to give charity. Allah says in the Qur'an,
The parable of those who spendof their substance in the way of Allahis that of a grain of corn:It grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains.Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases;And Allah cares for all and He knows all things. (2:261)
Many of you have most likely seen the events unfolding in Mumbai, India this past week. According to reports, a group calling itself the Deccan Mujihadeen, claimed responsibility for these attacks. When I read that a group by this name had claimed responsibility, in made me feel sick to my stomach. I can't imagine a person who believes in Allah, who believes in Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, could ever do such a thing as point an AK-47 into a crowded train station and just randomly pull the trigger. I don't care how oppressed Muslims may be in parts of India; I don't care what beef these people may have had with American, Great Britain, or Israel. There is NO JUSTIFACATION for committing these types of atrocities. Not Islamically or otherwise. And, the fact that they would call themselves "mujihadeen". These people are anything BUT mujihadeen. Mujihadeen are people who strive in the cause of Allah against the evil that confronts them. Mujihadeen are people who defend the weak, their faith from those who seek to destroy it, and above all OBEY the teachings of Allah and His messenger, including the command to NOT EVER target non-combatants, and to never take military jihad in their own hands and judgment. These people are not mujihadeen, they are nothing more than terrorists, monsters and murderers, and may Allah curse them in this life and the next.
As the holiday season starts for people all over the world, we all, Muslims and otherwise, need to focus on coming to the aid of people in need and to remember the immense importance of charity in our faith. These events in India show us that as Muslims we are not doing enough to get this message across to our brothers and sisters across the sea. We have a lot of work to do, and we need to not only preach this message of love towards humanity, but we need to be examples of it. So please, for the sake of Allah, take advantage of these holy days in the month of Dhul Hijja, to be that example to our community, to our country, and to humanity. Let's not let those images of India this past week, be the image we as Muslims leave the world with this holiday season.
...And Allah Knows Best...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Qur'an: The Incomprehensible's Communication with Man

بسم لله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise be to God, the Lord of all that exists. We give him our praise, we seek his guidance, we seek his forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and in our deeds. No one whom the Almighty gives His divine guidance, can be misguided, and no one whom the Lord allows to go astray, will be guided (except by his grace). I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God alone, without partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the slave and messenger of Almighty God.
Today Scientists spend a lot of time pondering the wonders of the universe and the origins of all that "is". Millions of dollars have been spent in the pursuit of the quote "truth" of our existence, and the origins of the universe and all that is in it. While doing this no doubt brings about countless amazing discoveries about us as a people, and the world around us, they have never, and can never "scientifically" know the answer to that most fundamental question, "What is the origin of all of "this".
When the word "God" is mentioned to many of these people, many of them will smile, offer an anecdotal "could be", and write off whatever else you say as "legend", "myth", or maybe even "superstition". The fact is that someone with a "scientific" mind (i.e. one that deals with tangible and testable evidence) often times cannot except the simple fact that there are just some things that the human mind is incapable of comprehending.
Civilizations and religions of the past have come up with many ways to explain the unexplainable. Most people's of the Earth have always recognized the existence of a "supreme being", that was ultimately incomprehensive to humans. So, in order to bring the incomprehensive into comprehension, they developed intercessors between them and that supreme being; thus idol worship was born. People would view these intercessors as earthly representations of that incomprehensible supreme being. The Hindus of India have intercessors such as Shiva, and Krishna. The Buddhists have Guatama Buddha, The Mayans had Chac and Yum Cimil, and the Christians have Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. People throughout time have developed these intercessors because the incomprehensible, inconceivable supreme being was to them, too lofty of a concept to grasp in worship. Even the Children of Israel, who, with us, are one of the only true monotheistic faiths, at one time feel into this trap, with the famous story of the Golden Calf. However, that inconceivable incomprehensible supreme being (which in Arabic translates as Allah) has continually, since the first man, communicated with a select few human beings known as prophets, so that mankind might be reminded of the real source of all that "is". While many of these communications have since been distorted, altered, or even lost forever, the last of these communications, sent to a 7th century Arab whom We know as the beloved prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, has miraculously survived the ages, through the protection that the Almighty, Allah, promised in the communication itself.
Allah teaches us in this communication, the perfect prayer, in the very first chapter, Al Fatihah or "The Opening". In it, it says,

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds
The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
Master of the Day of Recompense
You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help
The path of those whom You have favored
Not the path of those who have earned Your anger
or those who have gone astray.
Then, in the beginning of the very next chapter, known as Al Baqarah or "The Cow", He answers this pray when He says,
This is the book wherein there is NO DOUBT,
A guidance to those who seek Allah's favor.
This communication, known as Al Qur'an Kareem, or in English the Holy Recitation, is a book in which there truly is no doubt. It confirms and at the same time corrects previous communications, and unlike manmade works, flows seemlessly without contradiction or flaw. It is through this book that we see, in the words of Allah Himself, how to truly understand who He is.
In the famous verse known as Ayat ul Kursi, or the "Verse of the Throne", Allah, the Almighty, provides us with an emaculate describtion of Himself, that we might be able to start to understand His incomprehensiveness. It says...
Allah! There is none worthy of worship except Him, the Ever Living, the One who sustains all that is. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs all that is in the Heavens and the Earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him except by His permission. He knows what happens to his creatures in this world, and what will happen to them in the next, and they will never encompass any knowledge except by His permission. His Throne extends over the Heavens and the Earth and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them, and He is the Most High, the Most Great.
In this verse Al Hayyul Qiyuum means "The Ever Living, The One who Sustains all that is". This very concept is beyond our comprehension. We are not able to comprehend something "ever living" because everything in our world has a beginning and an end. We live in a finite world, and as the great French philosepher René Descartes said, "the finite is incapable of understanding the infinite".
Also the verse says "neither slumber nor sleep overtakes him". This is also beyond our comprehension because everything in our world rests and awakes periodically. Even the Earth itself does. Finally it also reminds us that we will never attain any knowledge, except what He, Allah, permits us to attain.
This final communication from Allah, the supreme incomprehensible, inconceivable creator also reveals to us another scientifically unanswerable question, that is the creation of the universe and our planet; the Heavens and the Earth. Allah says in the Qur'an,
Have not those who disbelieve known that the Heavens and the Earth were joined together as one unit, then we cleaved them? And we have made every living thing from water. Will they not then believe?
These are things that science only recently has discovered, and as Allah says, "will they not then believe?" This is the guidance from that one inconceivable, unimaginable God.
This glorious revelation in addition to being divine guidance, is also divine protection. It is recorded in the authentic hadith collection of Imam Bukhari, that once the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had ordered Abu Harairah, may Allah be pleased with him, to guard the Ramadan charity stockpiles. That night a man came by and tried to steal from the stock. Abu Harairah caught him and said "I'm going to take you to rasoolullah (messenger of God)." The man replied saying, "Please don't take me to rasoolullah! If you don't I'll tell you something by which you will benefit." The thief went on saying, " If you recite Ayat ul Kursi at night before you sleep, it will serve as a guard against the Devil, and he will not be able to come close to you till morning". Later, Abu Harairah related the story to the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the prophet replied by saying, "indeed what the thief said was truth, although he is a liar. He was the Devil."
This story shows us the emmense power that this recitation has. If you've ever seen an Islamic exorcism, you'd see this power. When someone has been possessed by a Jinn or Demon, the Ayat ul Kursi is often used as a most effective weapon. When the verse is recited it often burns the Jinn or Demon so severely that they throw the human being they are possessing into harsh and often violent convulsions. This is because this holy verse reminds then that no matter how powerful they may seem to a human being, they are nothing compared to Allah, and they are no match for a true believing human or jinn who has the words and commands of Allah in their arsenal. All praise be to He, who gives us, his servants this emaculate and divine guidance and this most powerful of weapons against the evils we face in this dunya (present life).
We often forget about the truly miraculous nature of the Holy Qur'an. The Holy Qur'an is so much more than words on a page, or utterances in our prayers. It is a code of conduct; an owner's manual for our lives as human beings. It's a sword, mightier than any one made of steel. It is a medicine for any sickness. It is a comfort for sorrow, a celebration in times of joy. During Ramadan we are often reminded of the importance of the keeping the Qur'an, but it is also important to do so the whole year. We go to work and class day after day, week after week, where we read countless things that benefit either our job or our degrees, but how much time do we make for reflecting on this most glorious of books? The best of guidance and the key to Jennah (Paradise/Heaven). This khutbah (sermon) today is nothing more than a reminder firstly to myself, and to all of you to keep this holy book near and dear to our hearts every day of our lives.
...And Allah Knows Best...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall in Ohio: A Time to be Reconnected with the Land

بسم لله الرحمن الرحيم

This time of year is, in my opinion, a very magical time of year. There is something about the colors of the leaves, the crispness in the air, and all the wonderful traditions that surround this season that somehow invigorates the senses and inspires the soul. It seems that in almost every agricultural culture across the world, people during this time of year, feel a sense of connection with the land and the Earth then they do other times of the year. Perhaps it's because for most people around the world, Fall is the time of the harvest, when the crops from summer are harvested, and for people in cooler climates, it is when communities traditionally come together to stock pile foods and other necessary supplies for winter. For people of European descent, there are many traditions that surround this season. The Halloween holiday, while itself having some pagan origins, many of the traditions that surround the “holiday” like trick or treating, bobbing for apples, hay rides and carving pumpkins were originally not necessarily pagan rituals, but were simply celebrations of the season. The season of Fall, in any case, brings people back to their origins, the Earth itself.
Allah tells us in the Qur'an, "He created man (Adam) from sounding clay like the clay of pottery." (Chapter 55:Quran).
It is narrated that the prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "Allah created Adam (the first human being) from soil from different lands of the Earth, so the children of Adam have been created according to the composition of the land. Thus, from mankind we have white, red, black and yellow ones. We have good and evil, ease and sorrow, and all that comes in between."
If you ask any scientist, what materials primarily make up the human body, what will they say? They will most likely say, "carbon and water". This is true we are carbon based life forms as they say, and wouldn't you know it, the Earth too, as far as the soil, is primarily composed of carbon, and this is why ash and soot can be used to increase the agricultural productivity of soil, such as the natural effect of forest fires. So these scientific facts confirm these miraculous signs from Allah (swt).
So what about the other primary element we are created from, water?
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an, And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (21:30)
These verses confirm what scientists are only recently finding out, that we as human beings are absolutely, fundamentally joined and attached to the Earth. Without the Earth, we would simply perish. All of the fundamental things we need to survive, ultimately come from the Earth.
Allah (swt) says again in the Qur'an, "And the Earth has been put down for the creatures. Therein are fruits, date palms producing sheathed fruit stalks. And also corn, with leaves and stalks for fodder, and sweet smelling plants."
This verse, once again points to our utter reliance on the products of the Earth.

While we are undoubtedly tied directly to the Earth, what is our purpose to it? If we are tied to the Earth, is the Earth tied to us? Well yes and no. The Earth existed before there were human beings on it and certain types of plants and animals thrived on it before Adam (as).
However Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an "And He has sent down generations (after generations) of vice-generates on the Earth". The word khalaa'if is used in Arabic which means "vice-generate", but what does vice-generate really mean? Sometimes we think of a khaleefa as ruler or king, but really this is not the true spirit of the word. The truer spirit of the word is someone who is a trustee, or in other words, someone who is entrusted with looking after a particular post. So just as the khaleefa of the Muslim Ummah (nation) is someone "entrusted" by Allah and the Muslim people to look after Muslim affairs, we, mankind, as khulayfa (plural of khaleefa) of the Earth, are "trustees" and "custodians" of this magnificent planet. We are entrusted by Allah (swt) to take care of the Earth, and to preserve the delicate balance that Allah (swt) has set up for this Earth. Allah says in the Qur'an, "And observe weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient". (55:9)
This is one of the primary areas where we as the khulayfa of the Earth have come up far short of the goal. Today, experts in the field of meteorology are increasingly more and more convinced that our own misconduct in regards to the environment is contributing to the destabilization of the Earth's balance. We see it everywhere. Snow in the Middle Eastern deserts. Increasingly stronger and deadly hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Shorter Falls and Springs. The Melting of polar ice caps, and the recession of the worlds major glaciers. All of these things are making it more and more obvious that we are failing as trustees and custodians of this Earth, and we, the Muslims of the world, are not only among the one's contributing to the problem, but even the issue is hardly raised in Muslim countries, where trash lined streets are common place.
We, the Muslims of the world, with our guidance in the Holy Qur'an from the Lord, Creator, and Sustainer of the Earth, should be leading the charge to combat the degradation of our planet, and the squandering of our precious resources. Most of the biggest fossil fuel producing countries in the world are Muslim countries. The burning of these fossil fuels has been proven to reek havoc on our environment; to the point where it is no longer a scientific or even political issue, it is a direct moral issue. However, unfortunately greed and blind lust for wealth has replaced the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of our prophet Muhammad in these oil rich countries. We need to all do our part to stop all injustice including the injustice that is being committed against the very Earth that allows us to thrive. The prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "When one sees munker (wrong/injustice) they should stop it with their hand, and if they cannot stop it with their hand, they should stop it with their tongue, and if they can't stop it with their tongue, then they should hold hatred for it in their hearts, and that is the least of faith". My brothers and sisters in Islam, this is not something beyond our grasp. We CAN stop it with our hands simply by picking up pieces of trash that we see on our way to class or work, or carpooling to save gas and cut emissions. We can stop it with our tongues by voicing our opinions to politicians and others in a position to regulate and change environmental policies, and for all the rest we CAN, at least, hold hatred in our hearts against those who are too dumb and blind to realize that they are destroying the very planet that brings them life.
Now moving away from the doom and gloom of global warming and climate change, we can and should refresh ourselves with the beauty of the Earth that we can experience in our every day lives; even right here in Ashland, OH. When European settlers first laid eyes on the land that is now Ohio, they said that a squirrel could travel from Lake Erie all the way to the Ohio river, without touching the ground. Ohio was once a lush, thick, and beautiful forest land.
The native tribes that once lived here including the Shawnee, the Iroquois, and the Delaware to name a few, saw this land as not only beautiful but also sacred. You see they understood who Allah (swt) was. They referred to Him as "The Great Spirit", and they were not only well aware of their connection to the Earth, they're entire lives revolved around honoring, keeping, and protecting the Earth. Europeans eventually came and settled the land, and while some Europeans equally treasured the land and the crops it produced, many squandered it's resources to the point where today northern Ohio would no longer be recognizable to those native peoples who lived here so many years ago.
We are instructed by Allah (swt) and our prophet (sws) to stay connected to land, and all that is in it. Why do you think it's important for a Muslim to actually slaughter their own sacrifice on Eid ul Adha, or for Aqeeqahs, as opposed to having someone else do it for them? Because it keeps that Muslim connected with that which nourishes him. Why is it the Sunnah of Muhammad (sws) to eat with the fingers of our right hand, as opposed to using utensils? Because it keeps us connected with the Earth. The prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity." Given this hadith imagine the reward you might get if you were a farmer, but unfortunately we don't see many Muslim farmers here in the US. But why do we receive reward for planting a crop? Because it keeps us connected with the land. He, the prophet (sws) also said, "For charity shown to each creature with a wet heart, there is a reward". And, Allah tells us in the Qur'an, "There is not an animal in the earth, nor a creature flying on two wings, but they are nations like you." (6:38) So this reminds us that we, humans and animals, are in this together. We serve each other. They serve us by providing meat, milk, labor, protection, etc. We serve them by ensuring their survival and prosperity, and respecting them as the noble creatures of Allah that they are. I'm reminded of two stories about two different women. In one story, A women who was generally regarded as a pious woman had left a cat locked away with no access to food or water, until it eventually died. The prophet (sws) said that Allah will punish her and throw her into the fire of hell on the Day of Judgment. In the other story, the prophet (sws) related that a prostitute had seen a dog nearly dying of thirst, so out of kindness, she drew water from a well to quench it's thirst. The prophet (sws) said that on the Day of Judgment, this women's sins will be forgiven. All because of this simple act of kindness shown to a dog.
There were animal rights in Islam, long before that concept was ever conceived in the West or most other parts of the world. The prophet (sws) forbade overloading beasts of burden such as camels, horses, oxen and the like. He forbade the killing of animals for sport. He ordered that when you slaughter an animal, to put the animal at ease, not allowing other animals to see the slaughter, and making sure the knife is as sharp as it can be, for the sake of causing the least amount of suffering. And, when hunting an animal, using the sharpest of spears or the most effective bullets to also ensure that the animal has a minimal amount of suffering. All of this is because we and animals are both in this together. We both share this world, and as Allah's vice-generates on this Earth, it is our responsibility watch over and treat all of its creatures with the utmost respect and dignity.
There is so much reward in "experiencing nature". For those living in larger cities, it is becoming increasingly harder to view and appreciate nature. However, we in this small rural community, have the unique opportunity to experience the wonders of Allah's Earth first hand. We can stroll through the countless nature preserves and parks that dot the countryside. We can buy fresh produce grown at the very farms that we drive past on a daily basis. We can hunt wild game for fresh meat, and fish in nearby lakes and ponds. So the next time you feel bored in our sleepy little town because there aren't as many "man made" attractions as we may be used to, try appreciating the numerous attractions that Allah (swt) has made available to you, for the sake of remembering His power and majesty and mercy, and for the sake of gaining the reward of being part of the very Earth from which we all come.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Last Ten Days of Ramadan: The Home Stretch!

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to God, the lord and cherisher of all that exists. We praise Him, we seek His guidance, we seek His forgiveness and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and the evil within our deeds. No one whom God guides can be misguided, and no one whom God allows to go astray can be guided. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Almighty God, without equal or partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
My brothers and sisters in Islam, starting tonight, after the sun has disappeared below the horizon, we will officially begin the last ten days of this holy month of Ramadan. The whole of the month of Ramadan is indeed holy and magnificent, but these last ten days, hold special significance.
It is recorded in the collections of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, on the authority of Aisha (ra), that during these last ten days of Ramadan, the prophet Muhammad (sws), used to spend the whole of the night in constant prayer and worship of Allah (swt). He would also wake his wives to do the same.
Also the prophet (sws) performed itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. Secluding himself in the masjid in a form of spiritual retreat, retreating from the world for the sake of spending every waking hour in worship of Allah (swt). This is actually similar to what he did even before receiving the very first revelations from Allah (swt) the cave on Mount Hira.
Now here for us, we don't have a masjid to perform itikaf in, however we can learn from that example of how to spend these last ten days of Ramadan. You could say that these last ten days are the home stretch of the holy month. That last leg of the race where you push yourself hard, harder than you think you can handle, to try to reach that finish line in good standing.
Another important and maybe the most important part of these last ten days, is the coming of Laylat ul Qadr. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an,
Indeed We sent it down on the night of Qadr;
And what will make you comprehend what is
the night of Qadr?
The night of Qadr is better than a thousand
The angels and the Spirit descend within it
with the permission of their Lord on every
Peace it is until the break of dawn.

This night, Laylat ul Qadr, is the absolute most important night of the whole year. And here Allah (swt) is telling us that to worship Him in this night is not only extra special because of it being Ramadan, but it is so special that He compares it to a thousand months. That's approximately 83 years! Many of us may not live to be that old. Allahu 'Alim (God knows). Any Muslim man or woman who would rather be busy with the affairs of their dunya (daily life) during that night is nothing short of a fool. This is a night that could easily mean a big difference when your good deeds are weighed against your bad deeds on Yawm ul Qiyyama (Day of Judgment). However, remember that it is not known with any certainty what night of these last ten it is, but it is reported that the prophet (sws) said to look for it in the odd numbered nights. So, it could be the 21st, the 23rd, the 25th, the 27th, or the 29th, only Allah knows for sure. So it is important to spend each of these nights worshipping Allah (swt) as much as you possibly can.
This is the night that the holy Qur'an descended from Allah (swt). Many times we may forget or take for granted how truly magnificent this book is. It is not the first nor the only revelation from Allah (swt), but it is the only one that was literally the very speech of Allah. My brothers and sisters remember when you look at this text, in it's Arabiyyah (Arabic), and when these marks and dots turn into a sound in your mind, remember that that is not just the words of a book, that it's not just beautiful poetry, but that this is the very speech of Allah (swt). When you hear me, or Dr. Iyad, or Dr. Firas, or anyone else reciting the Qur'an in salat, that this is not our words. These are words that are far beyond the conceptualization and creativity of any man or jinn who has ever lived, including the prophet Muhammad (sws). Many people read through the Qur'an hastily as if they were reading any other kind of book. There is a hadith, although I'm not sure of it's authenticity, but it says that the prophet (sws) said that "anyone who does not sing or recite the Qur'an in a beautiful voice, is not from us". This is not like any other book in any language that we will read. These are the literal words of Allah (swt), to be revered, to be shown the utmost respect, and to held in esteem far beyond any other book. During these last ten days, recite the Qur'an frequently. You can't recite it too much. But, don't only recite it but reflect upon it. We know that on Yawm ul Qiyyama (Day of Judgment), one of the types of people who will be blessed with shade from the heat on that day, will be those who remember Allah to such an extent that they cry. Reflect on the Qur'an until you cry, and if you that your just not a crier, than reflect harder. Because when you truly TRULY reflect on those words of Allah (swt) and really apply them deep within yourself, there is not a human being alive who would not cry. There is not a human being alive who would not cry at the beauty of Allah (swt). There is not a human being alive who would not cry at the mercy of Allah (swt). There is not one who would not cry at the majesty, and bountifulness of Allah (swt), and there is not one alive who would not cry at the thought of tasting even one millisecond of the punishment of Allah (swt).
Brothers and sisters in Islam. As I said, we are in the home stretch. Attendance has been waning at congregational tarawih for many of us, myself included. Please if you haven't attended tarawih during this month, please try to attend in these next few days. Not for our sake but for your sake in seeking the bounty of Allah (swt). Strive to share the blessings of this holy month with your families, whether they be Muslims or not. If you do not pray tarawih here with us, be sure to stand in Qiyam during these nights worshipping Allah (swt). Remember the obligation of Zakat ul Fitr as well and insha'Allah let us really push ourselves, both individually and as a community, through these ten days, all the way into the Eid ul Fitr (Festival of the fast breaking) insha'Allah.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise be to God, the lord of all that exists. We give him our praise, we seek His guidance, we seek his forgiveness, and we seek refuge in him from the evil within ourselves and within our deeds. No one whom the Almighty guides can be misguided, and no one who He allows to go astray can be guided. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Alhamdulillah, we are now in the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the most blessed time of the year. We should all thank Allah (swt) for the opportunity to live to see this Ramadan, and we should all put fourth our best effort to take advantage of all the blessings and opportunities for forgiveness that this month offers.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an, "O those who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as were enjoined upon those before so that you be Al Muttaqun" . Now this word here Muttaqun means "ones who have taqwa". What is taqwa? Taqwa is a word that we hear often in Islamic discourse. Often times it is translated as having fear of God. However these translations often cause a great deal of confusion. In some versions of the English translation of this verse, they translate Al Muttaqun as "self restraint". Some translate it as "God fearing". Some translate it as "the pious". All of these translations give a piece of the puzzle so to speak, to the meaning of taqwa, but none of them truly embody the meaning of this word. Like many words that Allah (swt) uses in the Qur'an, the word taqwa is a very difficult word to render into English. However Allah (swt) makes it clear in this verse that the whole point of fasting, is to create this taqwa. So it is imperative that we come to a clear understanding of it, and know how to more accurately explain it.
Firstly let's take the most common translation of the word taqwa, "fear of God". This often creates a lot of confusion for native speakers of the English language because the word "fear", indicates a sense of terror, and apprehension. Most people associate "fear" with negative things, such as the fear of being attacked, or the fear of an enemy, or maybe the fear of disaster or the fear of failure. So when taqwa is translated in this way, it tends to put a negative connotation in people's minds. This is not really what the word taqwa means. It can be related to fearing the punishment of Allah for our sins; this is true. We should fear for our akhirah that we do not taste the punishment of the hellfire. However this still does not truly embody the meaning of the word taqwa.
Let us look to other passages of the Qur'an that refer to taqwa. In Surat Al ‘Imran Allah (swt) says, in the English translation, “And march forward in the way which leads to forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who have taqwa, Those who spend what Allah gives them both in prosperity and in adversity. Who repress anger, and who show forgiveness to their fellow man. Verily Allah loves those who do good.” In another place, in Surat al Baqarah Allah (swt) also says,
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the east or to the west, but righteousness is the one who believes in Allah, the last day, the angels, the book, the prophets, and gives wealth in spite of their love for it, to their family, to the orphans, and to the poor, and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to free the slaves. It is the one who performs regular prayer, and gives the Zakat, and who fulfill their oaths when they make them, and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment and at the time of battle. Such are the people of the truth and they are Al Muttaqun”.
These verses clearly tell us what it is to have taqwa. But notice that Allah (swt) says that it is not righteousness, or in other words it is not taqwa, that you turn your face to the east or the west. It is not taqwa that you dress a certain way, or that you talk a certain way. A person who has taqwa, as these verses tell us, is one who prays regularly. They are those who keep promises they make no matter how inconvenient. They are those who spend their wealth on those who need it, and they give regardless of whether or not they are in a time of prosperity or adversity. They are those who have patience when facing poverty, or when facing disease, or when facing the enemy on the field of battle.
Taqwa as we see here is not only our deeds; it is not only in the rituals that we perform; it is not only the beliefs that we hold in our heart; it is in fact all of these things put together.
People who have taqwa first and foremost, obey what Allah (swt) orders of them, and they avoid whatever Allah forbids them. The lack taqwa in today’s world is very evident. There are so many issues that Muslims today try to question. Many Muslims today spend a lot of time trying to find loop holes in Allah’s commands in the Qur’an, and to try and find ways to make some of the evil influences of the secular world, permissible in Islam.
One example of this is the issue of the hijab. Allah (swt) is very clear in the Qur’an, “walyudhribna khumurihinna ‘alaa juyubihinna”, or as it means in English, “draw their headcoverings over their upper torso”. This verse is very clear and explicit as to what Allah (swt) orders of the Muslim women, yet today there are countless people who try to pick apart every little detail and nuance of the verses of the Qur’an to try to find a way that it can be interpreted differently in order to fit modern and secular ideas of women’s dress. We should remember the extent of the taqwa of the sahabah, where in this particular case, Aisha (ra) said in an authentic hadith that when these verses were revealed, that the sahaba women tore pieces off their garments to cover their head, neck, and upper torso. In fact many of them, in their sense of taqwa, covered themselves completely. They obeyed the words of Allah immediately, and without question. This is true taqwa.
The verses that I quoted earlier also make a lot of references to how someone with taqwa spends of their wealth. This is also important because someone with true taqwa realizes that nothing that they have as far as wealth, really belongs to them. It is only in their possession by the permission of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) is the Lord of all that exists, and that includes your house, your car, all of your possessions. All that any of us have, belongs to Allah. The one who has true taqwa, is always aware of this, and this is why they spend from their wealth on those who don't have as much, not only out of kindness, but because this is what Allah (swt) orders them to do.
Taqwa is also that you treat others as Allah tells you to treat them. In one of the verses I quoted earlier Allah (swt) says that those who have taqwa, “repress anger, and show forgiveness to their fellow man”. I heard it said once that to serve God, one must serve humanity. This verse makes it clear that having taqwa is not just about your relationship with Allah (swt), but it is also about your relationship to your spouse, to your children, to your parents, to your brothers and sisters in Islam, and to all human kind, the children of Adam. We as servants and slaves of Allah (swt) are called to be a shining light of peace, love, mercy, and justice to all peoples of the world. We are called to defend those who are oppressed even if they may be our theological or spiritual enemy, and even if the oppressors are fellow Muslims. We are called to enjoin good and forbid evil. In one verse of the Qur’an Allah (swt) tells us that we are not forbidden from showing kindness to those who do not do us wrong. As I have said in many previous khutbahs, the best form of da’wah that any of us do, is simply by being a good and upright example of the deen of Islam. Taqwa in addition to our worship and our firmly held beliefs, is also rooted in how we treat others. This is another area where the Muslim Ummah has fallen far short of the standard. Today Muslims around the world oppress others, insult the beliefs of others, deface the symbols of others peoples, and yet we act so shocked and surprised when someone insults us or our religion. We demand people respect our faith yet we have no respect for theirs. We demand to be treated as equals in society but often times Christians, Jews, and other religious groups in Muslim countries are harassed and abused, and in many countries aren't allowed to practice their religion at all. Many Muslim countries don't allow Christian missionaries and other people like this because they don't want them poisoning the minds of Muslims and leading them away from Islam. However, if the leaders of these countries had true taqwa, and enjoined on their people true taqwa, the words of these missionaries would have no effect. In fact, most likely, it would be the missionaries who would see the truth and beauty of Islam, and embrace it, and take it back to the countries they came from.
In all reality, the best definition of taqwa that I can come up with is to be in a constant state of "God consciousness". It is to be constantly aware of your being a slave and servant of Allah (swt). Taqwa, is seeing Allah's will in everything we do from the most menial things like mowing the grass or using the bathroom, to the most profound things like making Hajj. Why do we pray five times a day? The prophet (sws) compared the five daily salaat to bathing five times a day. If you took a shower five times a day, would you ever be dirty? No. But what the five daily salaat really do, is that they don't allow us to forget about Allah (swt). If you are praying five times a day, you don't have time to forget about Allah. One of the first verses in the Qur'an related to alcohol, khamr, was that Allah said, "Do not approach the prayer when you are drunk". Well if you are praying five times a day it doesn't leave a whole lot of time to get drunk. So you see, the five daily prayers create taqwa in us, because they keep us constantly reminded of our position as slaves of Allah (swt). Likewise, the Zakat creates taqwa by insuring that always remember that our wealth first and foremost belongs to Allah. The Hajj certainly creates taqwa by reminding us of our past as the human race, our present state as a nation, and our future in the akhirah, where we will stand before Allah without any of our worldly possessions to be of any benefit to us; this of course represented by the state of ihram that we enter upon making Hajj or Umrah. Also, fasting definitely creates taqwa. Just like the five daily prayers don't allow you to forget about Allah, fasting does the same thing, but on an even higher level, because in this case it's not only when it's time to pray that you remember your servanthood to Allah, but you remember every time you feel a hunger pain, or struggle to maintain wetness in your mouth. Fasting keeps us in an even bigger state of God consciousness, or taqwa.
To conclude, I'd like to end with an excerpt from our beloved prophet's first khutbah in Medina (sws). Prophet Muhammad (sws) said,
"Whoever obeys Allah and His messenger is wise and whoever disobeys them is astray, wasted, and has lost his way far from the true path. I advise you to fear Allah and be conscious of Him. Be conscious of what Allah warned you of Himself. There is no better advice than that or a better reminder. It is a shield for those who follow this advice carefully and cautiously and it is an aid, and the truth that will get you what you aspire for on the Day of Judgment. Whosoever establishes a good relationship between him and Allah, secretly and openly, only to seek the pleasure of Allah, will benefit in this life and be saved in the afterlife when he will be in dire need of the good deeds he earned before death. Man will then wish that there were a great distance between him and anything else other than taqwa."
And Allah Knows Best...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fasting: A Common Tradition

To our Christian and Jewish friends...
بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum, peace and blessings be upon you. This week, we in the Muslim community, welcome our holy month of Ramadan. It is a holy, and blessed month in which we as Muslims devote ourselves to continuous worship and reflection of Almighty God. One of the most recognized and primary elements of Ramadan is fasting. Muslims abstain from all food and drink during the daylight hours throughout the month. In the Holy Qur'an, God says, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may increase in your consciousness of the Almighty". (Surah Baqarah vs. 183). The Qur'an makes it clear that fasting is not just for Muslims, but also for the "people of the book", Jews and Christians. In Judaism, Jews are given the command by God to fast or "afflict" themselves, on their most holy day of "Yom Kippur". In Leviticus 23:26, it says, "Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord". Fasting is also a fundamental part of Christian tradition, as in the story in Jesus' fasting for 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus Christ, peace and blessings be upon him, is quoted in Mathew 6:16 as saying, "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Lord who is in secret. And your Lord who sees in secret will reward you." It is important that people who fast whether they be Muslim, Christian or Jewish fast for the sake of God, and not to be seen as "righteous" by others, and this is a fundamental part of what it means to be "truly" a person of faith. It means praying and worshipping God whether anyone is there or not. It means standing up for what is right and just because it is right and just, not because it may or may not be popular. A true person of faith, any faith, lives there life in what I call a "constant state of God consciousness". This is the result of fasting. Every time you feel a hunger pain, you remember God. Every time you see someone drinking that ice cold soda, or eating your favorite dish, you remember your devotion to the Almighty. Fasting isn't just about starving yourself, it is about focusing on your relationship with God. The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him said, "He who does not give up uttering falsehood and evil behavior, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and his drink." So, for us it is also important that we strive to fundamentally be better people, and in the spirit of that we offer our prayers for all the Ashland community, and would like to commend the efforts by local churches to revive the spiritual nature of our community including mass worship services at Community Stadium, and tent revivals. Our hope is that we as Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the community can learn from each other, and share with each other our common belief in the Almighty God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all, and that we can combine our strengths to combat the evils of our society, and promote peace and brotherhood amongst all humanity. Peace, and God Bless.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shahadah: A New Beginning

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise be to God, the Lord and Cherisher of all creation. We praise Him, we seek His guidance, we seek his forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and the evil in our deeds. Whomever God Almighty guides, cannot be misguided and whomever God Almighty allows to go astray will not be guided, except by God's mercy. I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God; alone with no partners, and I testify that Muhammad was the servant and messenger of Almighty God.
It is said these days that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the western world. Studies have shown that as many as 20,000 Americans embrace Islam each year. In Europe many community churches are becoming masajid (mosques). Indeed people have been entering the fold of Islam in droves since the time of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Islam historically has proven to be one of the fastest spreading ideologies in the history of human civilization, and today the "west", is ultimately just the next step in that evolution.
God Almighty says in the Qur'an, "When there comes to you the help of Allah, the conquest, and you see that the people are entering the religion of Allah in droves; So glorify the praises of your Lord and ask for his forgiveness. Verily, He is the one who accepts repentance and who forgives". (Surat An Nasr).
As we see these people entering Islam, by the thousands each year, what does it mean to us who are already Muslims? What does it say to us about this deen? And, what exactly are these people excepting? Are they excepting to be a Sunni or Shia? In most cases no. Are they excepting to be a Sufi or a Salafi? No. Are they excepting to become an Arab? or a Pakistani? or an African? No. By excepting Islam, do they agree with the politics of say the royal family of Saudi Arabia, or the president of Egypt, or say the Taliban of Afghanistan? No they are excepting "Islam". But what is Islam and how does it differ with all the different people, cultures, groups and ideologies I just listed? It seems like ultimately a very simple question, but the realities of the Muslim world today prove that most in our Ummah (nation) truly do not know the difference.
Many times when people learn about Islam, and they begin to consider the idea of being a Muslim, they usually find many things that they like about it. However, there are also often things that they may be apprehensive about. But, what's interesting is that many times, the things that they are apprehensive about are really not issues related to Islam. Rather, they are issues related to the cultures of the Muslims of the world. Without a doubt one of the hardest things to do when becoming a new Muslim, is navigating your way through all of the cultural fog that we find in our masajid (mosques) and in our Muslim communities. So it is imperative that when we have someone who is a new shahadah in our community, we take care and be mindful of our own cultural influences and remember what Islam really is at its fundamental core.
Of course the most fundamental belief in Islam is tawheed, or absolute monotheism. That absolutely nothing else in all that exists is worthy of worship except God Almighty, known in the Arabic of the Qur'an as Allah, and it matters not the name people call him by in different languages. In Spanish He is Dios, in German He is Gott, in Hebrew He is Elohim. All of these names refer to the same Lord, Creator, and Sustainer of all that exists, Allah, subhana wa ta'ala (God, the glorified, most high). The most fundamental principal of Islam is tawheed; to believe that only God is worthy of worship. Surprisingly not all Muslims understand this. You can find Muslims the world over who pray to and invoke their so called "saints". Who make pilgrimages to their shrines. But, nonetheless, this concept of absolute monotheism is paramount and the absolute most fundamental principle of Islam.
When someone embraces Islam, they do so by proclaiming the Shahadah or testimony of faith. That is to say, "I bear witness there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God". But, what does it truly mean to make this statement? It truly is more than a simple sentence. By saying this statement, your are actually signing a contract with God. But, just as with any contract, there is always fine print, and it's absolutely essentially that one understands every point of that fine print before signing the contract.
1. You are testifying with all your mind heart and Soul that God is the creator of the earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, trees, birds, animals, jinn (supernatural spirits), men, women, and everything that exists. That He is the organizer of all these things, and that He provides them the means to exist in the way that they do. That He is the one who provides life and death, and that only He can cause us or prevent us from harm or success. This is called Tawheed ul Rububiya (Oneness of Lordship).
2. You are testifying with all your mind heart and soul that God is the only thing worthy of worship or ibadah. That He is the only one to whom one should pray, invoke, bow, prostrate, or glorify. Nothing else not a physical form (idol), not a person, not an animal, not a place, not a celestial body, and not even an idea or one's self is worthy of any kind of worship. This is called Tawheed al Uluhiyah (Oneness of Worship).
3. You are testifying that God is the epitome of all his qualities mentioned in the Qur'an and/or in the Sunnah (example) of prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. This is to say the so called "99 names of Allah". That He is Al Rahman (The Most Compassionate), Al Hafiz (The preserver), Al Hakim (Perfectly Wise), Al Mubdi (The Originator), Al Awwal (The First), Al Akhir (The Last), and Al Baqi (The Everlasting). All of these and many more are the attributes of God. God is the absolute form of every good and righteous quality. This is called Tawheed al Asma wa Sifat (Oneness of the Names and Attributes).
4. You are testifying that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was the last and final messenger of God. By testifying this you agree to the message of the Qur'an given through prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. So obeying the Qur'an is obligatory on you. Also, God says in the Qur'an, "Say (Muhammad),'If you really love Allah, then follow me". So also then, in obeying the Qur'an, one must also obey the prophet, peace be upon him, as the two go hand in hand. So, following the Sunnah, or what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is the sayings and deeds of prophet Muhammad, is obligatory with the accepting of this contract.
Most of the time when people become Muslims, other people who are raised Muslim expect that any bad habit they had as a non-Muslim should simply disappear. Often times new Muslims may have a hard time quiting drinking, or quiting being with girls/guys, many times new sisters have a very hard time with wearing the hijab, and then other Muslims are appalled by this and say, " Don't they understand this is haram???" or "Don't they understand that they have to do this and that". We forget that Islam did not come all at once. It came over the course of 23 years. It was between 10 and 12 years before the Salat (5 daily prayers) was instituted and ordered upon the Muslims. It was more than 15 years before alcohol was prohibited. At least the same amount of time for the hijab to be ordered on the Muslim women. So those of us who are with new Muslims and also those of us who are new Muslims, it is important that we understand what is minimally important to understand.
The following hadith relates what the prophet said of the basics of the Islamic faith. On the authority of Abu 'Abd al-Rahman 'Abdullah bin 'Umar bin al-Khattab, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, say: "Islam has been built upon five things - on testifying that there is no god save Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salah; on giving the zakah; on Hajj to the House; and on fasting during Ramadhan." Al-Bukhari & Muslim.
In another famous hadith, a man came to the prophet, peace be upon him, and asked him, "If I testify the Shahadah, that there is nothing worthy of worship except God, and that you (Muhammad) are the messenger of God, and I pray the 5 daily prayers, I pay Zakat (obligatory charity), I fast in the month of Ramadan, and make or have the sincere intention to make the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca); I do these things nothing more and nothing less, will I be successful?". To that, the prophet, peace be upon him replied, "Yes, if you do these things, you will be successful".
So from this we can know what someone looking to take shahadah "must" know.
Islam is to believe that there is none worthy of worship except God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God, and this first pillar is inclusive of the six pillars of faith: Believe in God, Believe in the Prophets, Believe in the Books of God, Believe in the Angels, Believe in the Day of Judgment, and to believe in Qadr (divine pre-ordainment). It is to pray the obligatory 5 daily prayers. It is to pay the Zakat (annual wealth tax to the poor), it is to fast during the month of Ramadan, and it is to make or have the sincere intention to make the Hajj. These are the things that every new Muslim needs to know and be willing to do. We as Muslims trying to help them, must realize that outside of these five things, adjusting one's life to the deen (way) of Islam is a process, and we should not become disheartened when they trip up during their journey through this life. Allah knows that all of us do too, even those of us who have been Muslim our whole lives. God Almighty says in the Qur'an in Surat Wal Asr, "By Time, Verily mankind is in loss. Except those who believe, and do righteous good deeds, and remind each other to the truth, and remind each other to have patience". We must always remind each other of the truth of this way, and help to teach each other that which we don't know, and remind each other of what we do, and most of all, we must do so in patience, and remember that God is As Sabur (The Patient One).
We must also remember that we as the Muslim ummah, do not have anything to be proud of when it comes to the rapid spread of Islam. It is truly a miracle of God Almighty that Islam is spreading so quickly, because the Muslims of the world today (as a whole) are definitely not doing anything to help it. Islam is not spreading because of the Muslims, it is spreading despite the Muslims. Allah, subhana wa ta'ala (God, glorified and most high), tells us in the Qur'an, "And you see the people coming to the way of Allah in droves. So, glorify the praises of your Lord, and ask his forgiveness. Verily He is the one who accepts repentance and who forgives". I've heard many times Muslims boasting about how many Muslims there are. You can see them bragging to non-Muslims how there are 8 million Muslims in America, or how in the world 1 and 4 people are Muslim. We see Muslims boasting about this all the time, but they ought to remember that they have nothing to do with it, and the Lord that is responsible for that is the same Lord responsible for those who are not Muslim. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter whether Islam is the fastest growing religion, or the fastest shrinking religion. God says in the Qur'an, "Let there be no compulsion in religion, TRUTH STANDS OUT CLEAR FROM FALSEHOOD". It wouldn't matter if the Muslims in this room were the only Muslims in the world, because the truth is the truth. We must do nothing except praise our Lord, and beg his forgiveness for what little we do as an ummah (people i.e. Muslims) to help in the rapid spread of Islam.
As many of you know we are quickly approaching the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a time of purifying ourselves, and bringing ourselves closer to being the best Muslims we can be. On December 31st many people make new year resolutions, well I am asking all of you to make Ramadan resolutions. If you don't pray regularly everyday, make a resolution to pray every single prayer on time every day for the entire month. Make a resolution not to watch smutty movies, or listen to profane music. Make a resolution to visit or call your parents and relatives on a regular basis. Make a resolution to do things to help in your community. Make a resolution to make friends with your neighbors and expose them to the beauty of this blessed month. Make a resolution to be as good a Muslim as you can be, and insha'Allah (God willing) if you can do it for a month you can do it for the rest of the year too. The devils and the shayateen are about to be chained for one whole month people! Let's start to get ready to gobble up as much ajar (reward) and barakah (blessings) as we can. And, let us start by getting back to the basics of this deen, and today let us all be new shahadas.
...And Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

God's Prophet's Series: #2 Idris and Nuh (Enoch and Noah)

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise be to God, the lord and cherisher of all creation. We give him our praise, we seek his guidance, and we ask his forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and in our deeds. No one whom God guides can be misguided, and no one whom God allows to go astray can be guided. I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the slave and messenger of God.
In my last sermon, I began my God's Prophets series by talking about our father, prophet Adam, peace be upon him. This week, insha'Allah, I will continue with the next two prophets, prophet Idris, and prophet Nuh (also known in English as Enoch, and Noah), peace be upon them both.
Not much is known about prophet Idris, from the Qur'an and Sunnah. We know he came several generations after Adam, peace be upon him. He is only mentioned in four ayahs or verses from the Qur'an. Allah (swt) mentions him in Suraat Al Maryam or the Chapter of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. In verses 56 and 57, Allah says, " And mention in the Book, Idris, verily, he was a man of truth, and a prophet". Then Allah (swt) mentions him again in Suraat Al Anbiya or the Chapter of The Prophets. In verses 85 and 86 Allah (swt) says, "And remember Isma'il, Idris and Dhul Kifl. All were from among the patient. And we admitted them to our mercy. Verily they were of the righteous." Also there are a couple hadiths that refer to Idris (as). It is narrated by Abbas bin Malik in the collection of Bukhari, that the prophet, in describing Al Miraj, or his miraculous ascent into the heavens, said, "The gate was opened, and when I went over the fourth heaven, there I saw Idris. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is Idris; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet." Not much can be understood thru these sources alone about exactly who Idris or what he did, however there are traditions that relate some information about him. According to the work of Sheikh Ibn Kathir, Idris was born in Babylon or present day Iraq, and that he was of the 5th generation after Adam, peace be upon him. He was believer in tawheed, or the absolute oneness of God. He called his people to the way of Allah, but most didn't listen to him. At some point, Idris moved to Egypt where he continued his mission. There he called the people to Allah, instructing them to pray, fast, give from there wealth to the poor. This was most likely right around the very beginning of the Egyptian civilization. It is also said that he was the first to develop written language.
In some other traditions it is said that he made an ascension to Heaven, similar to Al Miraj of prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and that the area where he returned to Earth was in Giza, where the great pyramids now stand. We can speculate a lot about nabi Idris (as), but what we can be fairly sure of is he called people to Allah and most of them did not listen. The fact that this happened only 5 generations after Adam (as) illustrates how easily people can be led astray from the path of righteousness, Siraatul Mustaqeem. As Allah says he was righteous man, and was chosen by Allah to be among His Anbiya, or prophets.
A few generations after prophet Idris (as), came another great prophet of God. This one we know much more about. He is so well known amongst not only Muslims but also the ahl al kitab, or the people of the Book, that there have even been movies made about him. This of course is prophet Nuh, or Noah, peace be upon him. It is related in the collection of Bukhari that the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that between Adam and Nuh, was ten centuries, or in other words 1,000 years. In his day, the people of Nuh worshipped many gods. Idolatry was in full swing by this time in human history. Allah even mentions the names of their idols in the Qur'an. They were Waddan, Suwa'an, Yaghutha, Ya'auga, and Nasran. Originally these were actually people who lived among them. They were considered to be great men of their society. They were the George Washingtons, and Benjamin Franklins, and Abraham Lincolns of their day and nation. After they had died, statues were erected in their honor. Later on however, people began to actually worship these statues, and as many generations passed, they even forgot the "reality" of who these people were; all they knew was their parents prayed to them and invoked them, so they did the same.
This was the foundation of shirk, or idolatry. Originally the intention behind making those statues was relatively innocent, but shaitan had his ways of deceiving them into invoking these statues and remembering them instead of Allah (swt).
Nuh, was a man living amongst these people, who did not fall for the farce. It is said that he was an excellent speaker and a very patient man. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an, "Indeed We sent Noah to his people (he said): "I have come to you as a plain Warner that you worship none but Allah, surely, I fear for you the torment of a painful Day." the chiefs of the disbelievers among his people said: "We see you but a man like ourselves, nor do we see any follow you but the meanest among us and they too followed you without thinking. And we do not see in you any merit above us, in fact we think you are liars." (CH 11:25-27).
This was a to become a trend amongst all the prophets that would come throughout history, that the leaders of their people would not only reject his warnings, but mock him and accuse him of lying.
Eventually the disbelievers tried to negotiate with him. They pointed out the fact that the majority of Noah's believers were poor and meek. They insisted that Noah dismiss them, as they did not feel that it was proper for people of their status to associate with such people. They insisted that no faith could include them both as equals. Noah, being the patient man that he was, responded in a gentle, but firm manner, and Allah (swt) relates what he said in the Qur'an. It says, "O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but Allah. I am not going to drive away those who have believed. Surely, they are going to meet their Lord, but I see that you are a people that are ignorant. O my people! Who will help me against Allah, if I drove them away? Will you not then give a thought? And I do not say to you that with me are the Treasures of Allah nor that I know the unseen, nor do I say I am an angel, and I do not say of those whom your eyes look down upon that Allah will not bestow any good on them. Allah knows what is in their inner selves (regards to Belief). In that case, I should, indeed be one of the Zalimeen (wrongdoers, oppressors etc)."
(Ch 11:29-31 Quran)
Allah (swt) also then relates the reaction of the kufar in the Qur'an. "They said: "O Noah! You have disputed with us and much have you prolonged the dispute with us, now bring upon us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful." He said: "Only Allah will bring it (the punishment)on you, if He will, and then you will escape not. And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you counsel, if Allah's Will is to keep you astray. He is your Lord! And to Him you shall return."
(Ch 11:32-34 Quran)
The war of ideologies continued for some time. Noah kept patient, calling them to the path of Allah. But, it was no use. The mere mention of the name of Allah, made their skin crawl and they would stuff their fingers in their hears when they heard Noah's preaching. Allah (swt) relates a dua that Noah made, in the Qur'an. Noah said, "O my Lord! Verily, I have called my people night and day (secretly and openly to accept the doctrine of Islamic Monotheism), but all my calling added nothing but to their flight from the truth. Verily! Every time I called unto them that You might forgive them, they thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, and persisted (in their refusal), and magnified themselves in pride. Then verily, I called to them openly (aloud); then verily, I proclaimed to them in public, and I have appealed to them in private, I said to them: 'Ask forgiveness from your Lord, Verily, He is Oft Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance, and give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers."
Noah continued on this mission for 950 years. Allah says in the Qur’an "Indeed We sent Noah to his people and he stayed among them a thousand less fifty years (inviting them to believe in the Oneness of Allah (Monotheism) and discard the false gods and other deities)."
(Ch 29:14 Qumran)
Eventually, Allah (swt) revealed to Noah, that no more would believe. And then Noah invoked Allah, "My Lord! Leave not one of the disbelievers on the earth. If you leave them, they will mislead Your slaves and they will beget none but wicked disbelievers." (Ch 71:27 Quran)
It was then that Allah (swt) revealed to Noah, the news of the flood; that all of the kafiroon, or disbelievers were going to be drown in a massive flood. Allah then commanded Noah to build a ship. Allah (swt) said, "And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our Inspiration and address Me not on behalf of those who did wrong; they are surely to be drowned."
(Ch 11:37 Quran)
Noah began collecting tools and wood, and chose a spot outside the city to start building. The people walked by and laughed and mocked at Noah. Allah (swt) relates in the Qur'an, "As he was constructing the ship, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they made a mockery of him. He said : "If you mock at us, so do we mock at you likewise for your mocking. And you will know who it is on whom will come a torment that will cover him with disgrace and on whom will fall a lasting torment." (Ch 11:38-39 Quran)
After completing the ship, Noah sat and waited for Allah's command. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an, "So it was till then there came Our Command and the oven gushed forth (water like fountains from the earth). We said: "Embark therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your family, except him against whom the Word has already gone forth, and those who believe." And none believed him except a few." (Ch 11:40 Quran)
Soon the water began to rush forth, starting from the oven in Noah's house. The water poured from the skies and gushed from every crack in the Earth. Allah (swt) relates the story in the Qur'an in these words, "He (Noah) said: "Embark therein, in the Name of Allah will be its moving course and its resting anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft Forgiving, most Merciful." so it (the ship) sailed with them amidst the waves like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart), "O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers." The son replied, "I will betake myself to a mountain, it will save me from the water." Noah said: "This day there is no savior from the Decree of Allah except him on whom He has mercy." And a wave came in between them so he (the son) was among the drowned.
It was (then) said: "O Earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withhold (your rain)." The water was diminished (made to subside) and the Decree (of Allah) was fulfilled (the destruction of the people of Noah). And it (the ship) rested on Mount Judi, and it was said: "Away with the people who are Zalimeen (polytheists, and wrongdoing)!"
Noah called upon his Lord and said, "O my Lord! Verily, my son is of my family! Certainly, Your Promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges." HE said: "O Noah! Surely, he is not of your family; verily, his work is unrighteous, so ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge! I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorant."
Noah said: "O my Lord! I seek refuge with You from asking You that of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have Mercy on me, I would indeed be one of the losers."
It was said: "O Noah! Come down (from the ship) with peace from Us and blessings on you and on the people who are with you(and on some of their offspring), but (there will be other) people to whom We shall grant their pleasures (for a time), but in the end a painful torment will reach them from Us." (Ch 11:41-48 Quran)

And so, this was the destruction of the people of Nuh. These verse really indicate how truly evil idolatry is. For all of us, our families are probably the dearest things to us in this world, and no doubt, Allah (swt) has made it clear throughout the Qur'an that one of our primary duties in this life is to serve our families. However these verses show us how truly horrible shirk is. When Noah pleaded for his some to Allah, Allah responded by saying that, "He is not your son!". No doubt Noah was heartbroken, like any of us would be, but none the less shirk is unforgivable.
So, what can we learn from these prophets, Idris and Nuh, (ahs)? I would say that the stories of these two prophets are perfect illustrations of the nature, beginnings, and severity of shirk. Their stories show us where shirk came from and how people gradually but swiftly moved away from tawheed, or pure monotheism very early in our history. Their stories show us how easily shirk can creep into our lives. How it comes to us through seemingly innocent things, like statues, or pictures, or science, or tombs al khabool, or charms and amulets. Like I always say, shaitan is evil, not stupid. The stories of these prophets show us how truly helpless we really are without Allah. Before his death, prophet Noah, peace be upon him, gave some advise to his sons, the progeny that would repopulate the Earth; advise that I feel is the best words to end with. It is recorded in the collection of Bukhari, that Abdullah ibn Amru ibn Al narrated that the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said, "When the death of the Messenger of Allah Noah approached, he admonished his sons: 'Indeed I would give you far reaching advice, commanding you to do 2 things, and warning you against doing 2 things as well. I charge you to believe that there is no god but Allah and that if the seven heavens and the seven earths were put on one side of a scale and the words "there is no god but Allah" were put on the other, the latter would outweigh the former. I warn you against associating partners with Allah and against pride."
...And Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God's Prophets Series: #1 Adam

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of Almighty God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to God, the Lord of all worlds. We give Him our praise, we seek his guidance, we seek forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and the evil within our deeds. No one whom He guides can be misguided, and no one whom He allows to go astray, can be guided. I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship except almighty God, and I testify that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is his slave and messenger.
Allah (swt) has told us in the holy Qur'an, that He has sent many prophets to mankind. He has said that to every nation, there were prophets, who taught the message of "La ilaha illa Allah", or "there is none worthy of worship except Almighty God". Allah (swt) tells us that these prophets were sent from amongst us, to tell us, and maybe more importantly to show us how to live according to Allah's will. It is not known how many prophets there were exactly, but Allah (swt) mentions 25 of them by name in the Qur'an. Insha'Allah I will be talking about many of them in coming khutbahs, but today I will start with the first prophet of Allah, our primordial father Adam, peace be upon him.
Adam (as) is unique from all other prophets in that he did not come to any "nation" or "tribe", as there were no nations or tribes yet. But it was him, and his family that would set the stage for the creation of all of those nations and tribes. Allah (swt) relates the story of Adam's creation in Surat Al Baqarah verses 30-39. Allah (swt) says, "Remember when your Lord said to the angels: 'Verily, I am going to place mankind generations after generations on earth.' They said: 'Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, while we glorify You with praises and thanks (exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You.' Allah said: 'I know that which you do not know.'
Allah taught Adam all the names of everything, then He showed them to the angels and said: "Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful." They (angels) said: "Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise."
He said: "O Adam! Inform them of their names," and when he had informed them of their names, He said: "Did I not tell you that I know the unseen in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been hiding?"
Remember when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourself before Adam" They prostrated except Iblis, he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers(disobedient to Allah)."
We said: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimeen (wrongdoers)."
Then the Satan made them slip there from (the Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. We said: "Get you down all with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment for a time."
Then Adam received from his Lord Words. His Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the most Merciful.
We said: "Get down all of you from this place (the Paradise), then whenever there comes to you Guidance from Me, and whoever follows My Guidance there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. But those who disbelieve and belie Our Ayah (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, and signs and revelations, etc) such are the dwellers of the Fire, they shall abide therein forever."
This is the story of our beginning. How human beings came to be the inheritors of the Earth. These verses from the Holy Qur'an also demonstrate to us the beginning of our war with Shaitan, Iblis. Allah (swt) relates the same story in Surat Al A'raaf verses 11-25 in more detail. It reads, "And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being), then We told the angels, "Prostrate to Adam", and they prostrated, except Iblis, he refused to be those who prostrate.
Allah said: "What prevented you (O Iblis) that you did not prostrate when I commanded you?"
Iblis said: "I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire and him You created from clay."
Allah said: "O Iblis get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out for you are of those humiliated and disgraced."
Iblis said: "Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (Day of Resurrection)."
Allah said: "You are of those allowed respite."
Iblis said: "Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path. Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (they will not be dutiful to You)."
Allah said: "Get out from Paradise, disgraced and expelled. Whoever of them (mankind) will follow you, then surely I will fill Hell with you all."
"And O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise, and eat thereof as you both wish, but approach not this tree otherwise you both will be of the Zalimeen (unjust and wrongdoers)."
Then Satan whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts before, he said:" Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals." Satan swore by Allah to them both saying: "Verily I am one of the sincere well wishers for you both."
So he misled them with deception. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame (private parts) became manifest to them and they began to stick together the leaves of Paradise over themselves (in order to cover their shame). Their Lord called out to them saying "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you, Verily Satan is an open enemy unto you?"
They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers." Allah said: "Get down one of you an enemy to the other (i.e. Adam, Eve, and Satan etc). On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment, for a time." He said: "therein you shall live, and therein you shall die, and from it you shall be brought out (resurrected)."

From these immortal words of our Lord, we see that from the beginning, what an evil enemy we have in Iblis, Al Shaitan. We see that Iblis made a solemn oath to Allah (swt) to be a constant distraction to us as human beings along the path of righteousness. He said he would "sit in wait against them or your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, and from their left and from their right".
This is probably one of the most important lessons we can take away from the story of our father Adam. That Iblis, Shaitan, Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, Diablo, whatever you call him, is the sworn enemy of our race. We must make no mistake about it. The fruits of his labor exist all around us. Everywhere we look we see them. On TV, in books, in our communities, in our families and even in ourselves. We must always remember that Shaitan is evil, but by no means stupid. Shaitan is more clever than any of us realize. The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said in his final sermon, "Shaitan has given up on deceiving you in bigger things (i.e. worshipping statues, and the like), so beware of the smaller things". We must constantly be aware of Shaitan's influence in our lives and let this story of Sayyidina Adam being an illustration and reminder to that.
Another important lesson we see from this story is that of the Angels place with Allah (swt). We see at first, the Angels to some extent questioned God's decision to create Adam, as he and thus his progeny would have the ability to disobey God. Angels don't have this ability. They are created with the sole purpose of carrying out Allah's command. Allah told the Angels, "I know that which you do not know", meaning that Allah knew what human beings were capable of, and therein lies the lesson. We as human beings have the potential to even greater in the sight of Allah, then the Angels. Because, we have the ability to disobey, yet some "choose" to obey; something that the Angels don't have. This fact is illustrated in that the Angels and all in the Heavens were ordered to prostrate themselves to Adam, not in worship of course because all worship is strictly for Allah, but in respect and admiration. This was Allah's way of demonstrating to them and to us through the telling of the story in the Qur'an, how truly esteemed we are in the sight of Allah, as a creation. At our best, we have the ability to surpass the Angels, however at the same time, at our worst, we are lower than animals. Allah (swt) also created all the different animals of the Earth, but they are given instinct, or built in instructions on how to survive and multiply. They are programmed if you will. They do not have the ability to override that programming. We as human beings also have that same programming but we have extra components such as reason, love, and lusts that can allow us to override that programming either for good or bad. We have the ability to behave in ways that make us lower than those animals. For example, if a dog tries to take a bear's fish, the bear will do whatever it can to try to ward of the dog before getting the fish. However, if the dog makes off with the fish, the bear isn't going to hunt down that bear years later and try to kill him. Human beings, however will do that. So in short this part of the story of prophet Adam (as) demonstrates to us the unique and esteemed position we as human beings hold in the spectrum of Allah's creations.
It is also documented in the Sahih al Bukhari on the authority of Abi Musa Sha'arai that the prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "Allah created Adam from a handful of dust (dirt) taken from different lands, so the children of Adam (human beings) have been created according to the composition of the land. Therefore from mankind we have white, red, black and yellow ones; good and evil, ease and sorrow, and all that comes between." So another lesson that can be deduced from the addition of this hadith is that the nature of our creation, is what lead to the variety of our colors. If you travel the Earth, you will many different kinds of soil. Indeed there are places where the soil appears red; there are places where the soil appears black, and there are places where the soil appears light brown and sometimes almost white, but regardless of the color, all of this soil is basically the same; made primarily of carbon and water. So it is also with human beings, and also we are made primarily of carbon and water. This goes to show how truly equal we are. There are no races amongst us as human beings, we are all one race, the human race.
It is almost impossible to talk about Adam, without talking about his wife Hawa, or as she is known in English, Eve. Allah talks briefly about her creation in the Qur'an. He says in the first verse of Surat An Nisa "O Mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from Him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women." Allah (swt) also says in Surat Al A'raaf verse 189, "It is he Who has created you from a single person (Adam) and then He created from him his wife (Eve), in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her." These verses from Allah's book show us that with the creation of Hawa, men and women were eternally linked as partners. In the Biblical tradition it was supposedly Hawa who was deceived by the serpent (i.e. Iblis), and that she fed some of it to Adam. This misrepresentation has led to centuries of persecution and dehumanization of women within both the Jewish and Christian traditions. Many Christians even up to today believe that the woman's menstrual cycle is "punishment" for their disobedience to God in the beginning. Also the Biblical story implies that Adam was unaware that the fruit he was eating was that of the forbidden tree and therefore their fall from Eden, or Paradise, was entirely her fault. Because of that mentality women have been subjugated and abused constantly throughout Biblical history. The Qur'an sets the record straight that they were BOTH equally responsible for disobeying Allah (swt); that Adam was just as guilty as Hawa, and this is the foundation of the role of the Male and the Female according to the deen of Islam.
Adam (as) was the original father. He and Hawa bore many children. Of which two named Cain and Abel became very famous. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an in Surat al Ma'idah verses 27-31, "And (O Muhammad) recite to them (the Jews) the story of the two sons of Adam (Abel and Cain) in truth; when each offered a sacrifice to Allah, it was accepted from the one but not from the other. The latter said to the former; "I will surely kill you."
the former said: "Verily Allah accepts only from those who are Al Muttaqeen (the pious). If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the Alameen (mankind, jinn, and all that exists). Verily I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours then you will be one of the dwellers of the Fire, and that is the recompense of the Zalimeen (polytheists, and wrongdoers)."
So the self of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers. Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: "Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother?" Then he became one of those who regretted."
This event, the first murder, set the stage for the long history of humanity to come. Bloodshed has definitely been a chief characteristic of human beings, just as the Angels had feared. But through it all; despite all the droves of evil, misguided men and women their have been, there have always been those who heeded the message of Allah (swt) revealed through his many prophets. Noah, Moses, Abraham, Solomon, Jesus, and ending with Muhammad; all of them calling to the same basic and fundamental principal; "La ilaha illa Allah", "There is none worthy of worship except Almighty God". Let us all reflect on the story of Sayyidina Adam, peace be upon him, as a lesson to us about who we are, where we have come from, and where we aught to be moving into the future, towards the inevitable judgment day that awaits.
...And Allah Knows Best...