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...

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