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, 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...