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.

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...