Muslim blogs

The End of Every Matter is Better

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 22/07/2014 - 13:00

From Tareq Al-Suwaidan | Translated by Jinan Bastaki

Tareq Al-Suwaidan shared the following:

(قال الله تعالى (وللآخرة خير لك من الأولى
!! إن أول ما يخطر على أذهاننا في تفسير الآية أن الدار الأخرة خير لنا من الدنيا

.
..ولكن الآية تحمل معنى أوسع يقول : عاقبة كل أمر لك خير لك من أوله
ولذلك فإن بقية السورة كلها تأكيد لهذا المعنى
ألم يجدك يتيما) هذا أول الأمر (فآوى) هذا آخره)
ووجدك ضالا) هذا أوله (فهدى) هذا آخره)
ووجدك عائلا) هذا أوله)
،،فأغنى) هذا آخره)
.
, فذكر نفسك دائما أنك تتعامل مع رب كريم
من أوصافه سبحانه وتعالى أنه يختبر العبد بأول الضيق ثم لابد أن يفرّج وينتهي الأمر بالسعة
.
..لابد أن تكون الآخرة خير من الأولى في كل أقدار الله وتكون الآخرة خير من الأولى لمن رضي عن ال
(من احمد الهاشمي فرج الله عنه)

Translation:

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says:

“And verily the latter portion (al-aakhira) will be better for you than the former (al-oola).” [Qur'an 93:4]

The first thing that comes to mind is that the Hereafter is better than the dunya (this life).

But this verse carries another wider meaning: what comes after every matter is better than its beginning.

And that is why the rest of the surah (chapter) affirms this meaning:

“Did He not find you an orphan…”—that is the beginning of the matter—”and give [you] refuge?” and that is the end of it.
“And He found you lost…”—this is its beginning—”…and guided [you]” and this its end.
“And He found you poor…”—this is the beginning—”and made [you] self-sufficient” is its end. [Qur'an 93:6-8]

So remind yourself always that you are dealing with a generous Lord. One of His characteristics (swt) is that He tests His slave in the beginning with constriction and then it ends with an opening.

There is no doubt that the latter portion will be better than the beginning in all of what Allah has decreed, and the end will be better than the beginning for those who are content with Allah.

[From Ahmad al-Hashimi]

Categories: Muslim blogs

Give Peace a Chance

The Platform - Mon, 21/07/2014 - 21:20

Our search for peace should be paramount in the month of Ramadan and positive interfaith initiatives have paved the way towards this

“The number of months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s Book, the day when He created the heavens and the earth. Of these, four are sacred. That is the upright religion. So do not wrong yourselves during them.” The Qur’an 9: 36

“Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God.” Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:9

I was keen to write on the subject of peace, because Ramadan inspired me to consider the centrality of it at this time of year. In the midst of national and international tensions, thinking about peace takes us to the heart of our traditions and the outworking of what we believe, especially during times of communal turning towards God.

It can be superficial, or unhelpfully competitive, to compare the Christian seasons of Lent (before Easter) and Advent (before Christmas) with Ramadan. However, there are similarities and all have repentance at their core; with repentance comes seeking God and God’s peace for ourselves and others, rather than extremism, violence, terrorism and war.

This is why we must challenge strongly the assertions that religion is behind the majority of conflicts, or that Islam specifically is a dangerous religion. With that in mind, two years ago, also during Ramadan, we produced this statement highlighting the significance of peace in opposition to acts of violence, stating, “Peace with God and our fellow human beings is at the heart of Christianity and Islam. We acknowledge that believers do not always make clear that they are for peace and against violence.”

This year, three peaceful Ramadan initiatives have caught my attention:

1. Sarah Ager’s (@saritaagerman) Interfaith Ramadan blog series highlights the creativity and personal experiences of people of other faiths engaging with Ramadan, as well as Muslim openness to other faiths. The counter-intuitive message of this campaigning blog is its gentle emphasis that Ramadan is for everyone.

2. The Ramadan Tent project at SOAS University takes Ramadan – prayers and iftar – into the public space and the open air, with the same harmonious message. This is heightened with the setting of an outdoor central London location, sharing seating space on the grass with others, many of whom are non-Muslims. One particular feature of Ramadan Tent is that non-Muslim speakers, mostly interfaith activists, are asked to share their experience of Ramadan, which is both a sign and a fruit of real peace.

3. Similarly, the Big Iftar, this year with government funding (a welcome investment in the Muslim community), has been encouraging not only mosques, but also churches and synagogues to host iftars. Social media has treated us to the hugely peaceful sight, against the backdrop of renewed hostilities between Israel and Gaza, of Jews and Muslims sharing iftar at a synagogue in Golders Green. The event was so controversially peace-building that both Jews and Muslims commented that it was unfortunate that it took place during a time of appalling conflict and loss of life elsewhere. This is a reminder of how vital it is to work for peace, and express fully the significance of our most meaningful religious observances.

It could be coincidence, but positive messages in the media about Muslims working and praying for peace have been very noticeable during Ramadan (shared on Twitter using hashtag #RamadanPeace), emphasising spirituality and non-violence. This includes the Muslim Council of Britain’s statement on ISIS and Iraq, Muslims praying for peace in Nigeria and an open letter from Imams encouraging people to stay away from Syria.

Most recently, Christians and Muslims, actively involved in building good relations between both their faiths, were invited for iftar by Archbishop Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace. It is a sign of Ramadan coming of age in the UK that this first specifically Ramadan-related initiative was at the centre of the Church of England. The Archbishop spoke of the importance of friendship between Christians and Muslims and of reconciliation. He was followed by another man of peace, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, challenging us to see the real meaning of Ramadan as more than just fasting, but rather, spiritual refreshment and reconnection to God. Both led us in heartfelt prayers for peace, forgiveness and strengthening of relationships between people of both faiths.

As a friend of Islam, I echo that message of the great potential of Ramadan. As a Christian engaging with Muslims, I decided over 10 years ago that I could not do this work without becoming familiar with the Qur’an and investing time and energy into reading it, both to myself and within the masjid (mosque). To reiterate what I told the audience at the Ramadan Tent at the beginning of this Ramadan, I had spent a couple of days engaging in i’tikaf (retreat) in Nottingham. During a very intense first night, the last sixth of the Qur’an was recited for about six hours, and that experience of extended concentration on scripture has remained with me.

Ramadan gives time and space for focusing on the Qur’an, God willing, rather than boning up on “a manual of hate” as some have said, with a yearning for peace and harmony, and avoidance of fitna (dissension, unrest), a frequent Qur’anic injunction. What better time than Ramadan, which is nearing its end, to talk about peace and give it the profile it deserves, acknowledging that people of faith, for a large part, have not done enough or said enough about it.

Peace!

Image from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/ramadan-2014-photos_n_5543326.html
Categories: Muslim blogs

Henri Matisse: Between Clay and Paint

The Platform - Mon, 21/07/2014 - 02:00

Much like music and dance, Henri Matisse’s cut-outs show layers of motion at the Tate Modern exhibition

 

As an innovative 20th century painter, Matisse now has works adorning many a living room with a youthfulness and luminosity reflecting the environment in which he worked. In the last 17 years of his life he turned to an entirely new approach – cutting shapes from painted paper – a technique that is explored in this latest exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Extending over 14 rooms, the exhibition shows the journey of Henri Matisse using cut-outs. Whilst working on a painting, he would make sketches exploring alternative viewpoints or versions of the composition, and then use the cut-outs to explore how the objects within the painting could be combined differently. Allowing his imagination to reshuffle the shapes, Matisse found he could evoke a movement and dynamism to the work. As you move through the exhibition, the cut-outs start to take a life of their own, developing an increasing sense of motion. This reflects Matisse’s fascination with dance and, in fact, several of the artworks shown here display close links to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich which also involves strong movement. In 1937, he began to design the scenery and costumes for a ballet choreographed to Shostakovich’s Symphony #1.

Another purpose for Matisse layering cut-outs on top of each other was to convey something of a three-dimensionality and texture in the figures he was depicting. In the work, ‘Jazz’, where he uses this to full effect, the cut-outs gain real depth, moving from what could almost be seen as tools to help build his main art, to stand-alone works in their own right. What the exhibition conveys clearly is the way Matisse must have likened the paper he worked with to something of a cross between paint on a canvas and the clay of a sculpture. This notion comes across particularly in ‘Blue Nudes’, one of his best known cut-outs. He describes the process as “cutting into colour” in which the scissors carve out both an outline and the contours of something more solid.

The shapes then become an integral part of Matisse’s own environment as demonstrated by later rooms in the exhibition, where his cut-outs were stuck on and, effectively, became a wall paper in the outline of birds, fish, coral and leaves which adorned his Paris apartment and his home and studio in Vence, Southern France. They increased in scale, often nearly reaching from floor to ceiling and overwhelming the space.

For Matisse, though, it seemed important to also use shapes to give his environment a fluidity, so he would move the cut-outs around by pinning them to the wall in one position and then shifting them as the ideas behind his clusters altered. Today, these same shapes have been traced and glued to their final positions, preserving something of the concept that must have lain in his head.

The exhibition reveals what his bedroom and studio would have looked like, a space he turned into a replica of the Dominican Chapel at Vence, where he was once asked to advise on the design on a stained glass window. The airy atmosphere he managed to create suggests a lightness the artist must have had throughout his life, even to the very end, creating designs that could draw breath from everything he experienced, past and present; nature, people, dance, objects, Moorish mosaics and religious expression, but without becoming over-burdened with any subject.

While the exhibition depicts a prolific artist who had a wide-eyed absorption of the world, it nonetheless leaves the viewer with a feeling of art that never went particularly deep. Instead, you are left inspired to decorate your own space with cut-outs by Matisse that would inevitably bestow an optimistic joyousness to your own surroundings.

The exhibition continues at the Tate Modern until 7 September 2014. 

Image: Jean-Claude Planchet / Henri Matisse's "The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown," 1943-44, currently on view at the Tate Modern.
Categories: Muslim blogs

Stand for Gaza [Video]

Imam Suhaib Webb - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 20:15

Imam John “Yahya” Ederer explains the history of Zionism, its effect and its propaganda machine. He says the tide is turning, and it is time to act and stand for justice.

Stopping the Evil of Zionism – What We Can Do

Categories: Muslim blogs

Palestine’s Mountains of Blood and Shattered Bones

The Platform - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 17:08

Civilian casualties mount in Palestine from Israeli aggression, as western politicians and the press neglect the facts on the ground

 

Palestine has been faced with one of its worst attacks since 2012, with bombs pounding across the Gaza strip consecutively since the 8th of July, and a ground offensive since the 17th. Gaza is one of the densest cities in the world with a population of 1.7 million. The death toll now stands at over 400, with over 2500 injured. Many of those murdered are children, including four boys who were shelled to death on Gaza’s beaches in view of world media. The numbers are ever-growing into mountains of blood and shattered bones. Medical supplies are running low due to the vast number of casualties, homes are reduced to ashes and survivors are faced with psychological damage as a result of the constant fear of death.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comments that this is a war against Hamas and they are not bombing civilian territories. His words contradict the UN report which confirms that almost 80 per cent of the deaths in Palestine are of civilian citizens. A startlingly large number of the victims are children being slaughtered like lambs to feed Israel’s sadistic hunger for control of Palestinian land. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says, “Israel must go all the way… A full takeover of the Gaza strip is Israel’s only course forward.”

Israeli politicians propagate a warped definition of what it means to be violent extremists, and their actions openly violate international humanitarian law. Since when did schools, homes, refugee camps and even disability centres stop being civilian territories? When did infants, barely able to walk, become terrorists? This is collective punishment – and the only real risk Netanyahu and his supporters face is the risk of drowning in all the blood they are spilling.

While Palestinian children are constant victims of Israeli aggression, Israeli children are encouraged to visit the Armoured Corps Memorial in Latrun and envision themselves killing Arabs. This provides a perfect example of how hatred and racism is consciously taught, damning numerous Israeli children to a life devoid of compassion for their Palestinian peers. The extensive control that Israel enforces across its occupied territories hardens young Israeli hearts to resemble the rubble to which they reduce Palestinian homes.

Unfortunately, much of our most respected media outlets are complicit in Israel’s crimes against Palestine. The BBC, along with many others, have taken a pro-Israeli bias in reporting the current massacre in Gaza, misleadingly portraying the conflict between Israel and Palestine as an equal struggle. They have also failed to cover the mammoth protest outside the Israeli Embassy on the 11th of July, where ten thousand people of various backgrounds took to the streets of London in an effort to provide Palestine with justice. The BBC continues to have sympathetic ears solely for Israel’s 66-year-long reign of terror, exemplified in former emails from the newly-appointed Middle East online editor, Raffi Berg, which have shown a careful effort to downplay Israeli violence. Feet stomped against asphalt, fists ripped into the air and throats roared with cries for Palestine’s freedom, as flags of red, black, white and green danced in the wind. It is united campaigns, such as this, that restore hope for humanity every time Zionists so viciously crush it, but still, the shouts for freedom are static noise to the BBC, even when the protest on 15 July took place on their doorstep.

There have also been protests in many other cities in the UK and abroad, including Paris, Hong Kong, Karachi, South Korea, Netherlands and across the US. Some protests faced violent crackdown: Indian troops fired into a pro-Palestinian protest in Kashmir, killing a teenager. Nevertheless, mainstream news has overlooked the determined unity for Palestine, and France has become the only western country to ban pro-Palestinian protests.

Tragically, David Cameron has echoed BBC prejudice after a Downing Street spokeswoman stated that Cameron “reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel”. The prime minister also recently remarked that “Israel has a right to defend itself”, a statement uncannily similar to one made by President Obama. Amnesty International is now calling on the UK government to halt the supply of arms to Israel, which amounted to £6.3 million last year alone.

Further ignorance has ensued in the claims by some that the popular expression “Freedom for Palestine” is code for “Kill the Jews”, a false and deceiving assertion. Orthodox Jewish rabbis attended the London protests, declaring that they wish to see Palestine free, while waving Palestinian flags and quoting the Torah in Palestine’s defence. One rabbi made a speech against Israel’s violent actions, as the rest joined with the crowd declaring, “Israel is a terrorist state”.  These men, high authorities of their faith, could not possibly be wishing death upon their own people.

Yesterday, an estimated 100,000 participated in protests in London to increase pressure on David Cameron with regards to his alliances. It was an opportunity for people from all over Britain to come together, put their foot down and demand justice. BBC, surprisingly, produced a small online article on the event, but not without offering Israel’s excuse for its ground attack in Gaza. Palestine will be heard through the voice of thousands here in the UK, regardless of and the silence of our politicians.

It truly is a heart-breaking time for humankind when hundreds of protests must take place to spread the simple message that it is wrong to kill children.

Image from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/19/gaza-london-protest-pictures_n_5601766.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
Categories: Muslim blogs

Starting Anew—Al-`Afuww

Imam Suhaib Webb - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 13:00

Photo: Paul Oka

Names of Allah Series:  Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX Part XX Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXIXPart XXX | Part XXXI | Part XXXII | Part XXXIII

This article was originally posted on August 15, 2012 and has been modified.

Sometimes we make a mistake or commit a wrong that other people know about. We may have given up the sin, or it may have been a one-off, but we just wish that we could erase the memory of that mistake from the minds of those other people. Similarly, when we commit a sin only Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), knows about, even when we repent and hope for His forgiveness, we wish we never committed the wrong to begin with. We wish it would just disappear. Allah (swt), who is closer to us than our jugular vein, knows this. And so He has given us way of starting anew, insha’Allah (God willing).

The Last Ten and Pardoning

Subhan’Allah (glory be to God)—the last 10 days of Ramadan have begun. One of these nights will be Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power) insha’Allah—a time for intensified reflection, worship and giving. Aisha radi allahu `anha (may God be pleased with her), realizing the magnanimity of this time, asked the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him): “O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?” He said: “Say:

اللهمإنكعفوتحبالعفوفاعفعني

Allahumma innaka `afuwwun, tuhib al-`afwa fa`fu `anny

O Allah, You are the One who pardons, and You love to pardon, so pardon me.” (Bukhari)

 

Out of all of the things the Prophet ﷺcould have advised, he taught us to ask for ‘afw. ‘Afw is sometimes translated as ‘forgiveness,’ but so is maghfira [i.e. when we say astgahfirullah, I seek forgiveness from God]. Unfortunately, there is something that is lost in translation, because ‘afw is more expansive than maghfira—and here we will see why.

Meaning

One of the meanings ‘afw is the complete removal of something—removing its traces. For example,

هذهأرضٌ عَفْو

“This is a land with no traces on it, i.e. it is untouched.”

So what does this have to do with the du’a (supplication), “O Allah you are ‘afw, and You love al-’afw, so have ‘afw on me”?

When we ask for maghfira, we are asking for Allah(swt) to cover up our sin for us and to protect us from the effects of our sin. We ask Allah (swt) that even though we committed that sin, that He not punish us for it. When we ask for ‘afw, we are asking Allah (swt) to completely erase the sin, such that its traces are also removed. This means that our slate is literally wiped clean—there will be no questioning for those sins on the Day of Judgment insha’Allah. 

The Prophet ﷺteaches us about this difference in two ahadeeth (narrations). In the first hadith, the Prophet ﷺtells us about a person who is questioned by Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgment. Allah tells His servant, “O my servant, do you remember when you did such and such a sin?” and the servant will lower his head in shame, nodding, thinking that surely he will be of the people punished. Then Allah (swt) tells him, “I concealed these sins from people in dunya (world), and I will not shame you here. I have forgiven you (ghafartu lak).” (Ahmad)

That is maghfira.

In the second hadith, the Prophet ﷺis told that 70,000 of his ummah (global community of Muslim believers) will enter jannah (paradise) without reckoning because:

عفا الله عنهم

“Allah has pardoned them.”

And then the Prophet ﷺasks for more, so with every thousand people of those pardoned, Allah will pardon 70,000 more. And Allah is Al-’Afuww’- He name Himself this to let you know that indeed He is the One that completely erases your sin. He knows everything we do, yet He chooses to wipe our slate clean.

Laylat al-Qadr and ‘afw

Sufyan ath-Thawri said, “During this night [i.e. Laylat al-Qadr] the most beloved thing for me to ask for is what the Prophet ﷺtold us to ask for.”

This is a night of ambition. We don’t simply ask for forgiveness, but for removing even the traces of our sin. We ask for a clean slate. The Prophet ﷺtells us of a person who goes to the Eid prayer after Ramadan and he does not have one sin in his book—it was all pardoned.

When Allah (swt) tells us about ‘afw in the Qur’an, it is usually with something major—as if to tell us, there is no sin too great. It can all be wiped away.

When the Children of Israel worshipped the calf, Allah (swt) tells us:

“And [recall] when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights. Then you took [for worship] the calf after him, while you were wrongdoers. Then We forgave [pardoned/'afawna] you after that so perhaps you would be grateful.” (Qur’an 2:51-52)

Allah pardoned, wiped away the greatest sin—the sin of shirk (polytheism). So if you come to Allah (swt) sincerely in these last 10 nights, if you come to the One who loves to pardon, then insha’Allah He will erase that sin you are so worried about, and those many sins for you.

O Allah! You are the One who pardons, and You love to pardon, so pardon us!

Source: Lecture by Amr Khaled

Categories: Muslim blogs

In the Shade of Ramadan

Imam Suhaib Webb - Sat, 19/07/2014 - 13:00

In the Shade of Ramadan is an annual online video series produced by MAS Youth during the month of Ramadan. ISR is a series of educational and motivational reflections featuring various speakers across the country. This year’s ISR season is a continuation of last year’s, reflecting on the Forty Hadith of Imam Nawawi, and will feature 27 episodes (an episode every day).

Epsiode 1: Shaikh Jamaal Diwan introduces Season 7 of In the Shade of Ramadan with an explanation of hadith (narration) #2 from Imam Nawawi’s 40 hadith.

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Episode 9

Episode 10

Episode 11

Episode 12

Episode 13

Episode 14

Episode 15

Episode 16

Episode 17

Episode 18

Episode 19

Episode 20

Categories: Muslim blogs

Website Blackout: #LiftTheSiege

Imam Suhaib Webb - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 23:25

On Friday, July 18, SuhaibWebb.com joined a host of other Muslim websites in an online blackout in support of Gaza. Our press release, explaining the online protest, is below.

Prominent American-Muslim Websites Initiate Online Blackout
Internet Protest to Call Attention to Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

(7/18/2014) – Today, five of the largest American-Muslim websites are simultaneously participating in an online blackout to raise awareness about the ongoing Israeli incursion in Gaza that has claimed more than 200 Palestinian lives–most of them civilian according to the United Nations–and one Israeli life. The websites have shut down for 24 hours, and redirected viewers to a message prompting them to take action around the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

SEE: Four Out of Every Five Palestinians Killed in Gaza Have Been Civilians, UN Reports

The first-of-its-kind online protest organized by American-Muslims aims to mobilize community members to advocate for Palestinian human rights. The daily estimated audience of the websites is more than 80,000.

What: Onlineblackout to raise awareness about the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza
When: July 18, 2014
Participating Organizations(in alphabetical order):
HalalTube.com  | IdealMuslimah.com | MuslimMatters.org | QuranWeekly.com  | SuhaibWebb.com

The group of websites is calling for an immediate ceasefire to prevent the further loss of innocent lives, and advocating for a just, comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It condemns the violence that has led to trauma on both sides. Visitors to the sites are being urged to contact their local representatives in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in order to express their concerns over the growing humanitarian crisis.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Ex Nihilo – From Nothing

Imam Suhaib Webb - Thu, 17/07/2014 - 13:00

Photo: Jason Mrachina

By Zaheen Uddin

 

Sitting here, waiting, waiting for epiphany to strike.

Thinking in reflection, sinking in perplexion

Mind winds up, thoughts line up, time winds down understanding hikes

Sensation is in elation, reverberation in air particles’ perception

Suddenly everything is in slow motion.

Because logic, reasoning and problem-solving ability

Are clearer than a summer sky that knows no notion

Of a straggling cloud in the celestial sea of tranquility

Abstract materializes, realizes the vices

Of the hidden within that were veiled before

Synesthesia of the mind makes sounds dance in colorful silence

Violet vox, turquoise trills, lavender lore

Black and white are dark as the day, bright as the night

When shadows are cast behind and the eye of the night outshines the rest

And dark distinguishes danger from delight

With an inner eye that foresees beyond light of the West

Because the evanescent sun extracts the last tracks of day

In between gone and here it is a phantasmagoric sphere

Giving a clear criterion of what is on land and what remains at bay

Beyond which an unconscious ocean is near, so clear

Pristine it appears, but here, not a ray of light shines down

Complex in its contents, deep in darkness

Creatures deep within it are fatefully bound

By the confines of the abysmal harness

Deeper and deeper I plunge within

Pressure strengthens as complex composition concentrates

Steeper and steeper I delve into sin

Wetter, better yet more fettered as it palpitates

Blind now, deaf of sound and unable to comprehend

Light seems impossible in a place where hope dies

Empty, yet so heavy, there seems to be no end

To the evil, the deception, the ineptness, the lies

I crawl myself out with no known avail

It’s too damp and too dark to try

If only I had never set out to subconsciously sail!

At this point it’s so damp I can’t even cry

Too much thinking, too deep, abstract

The window of opportunity is long past gone

I’m lost, I lost black, I’m trapped

The perceptive lights that were once bright are no longer on.

I close my eyes to my impending doom.

I give up, forfeit, let the tides take me

Out of the ocean, out of the sky I zoom

Into the singularity of my soul, and it breaks me.

 

Silence, solitude, severance and sadness

Nothing, null, nada, naked

I’m left alone in the centroid of madness

Rotten, forgotten, hated, forsaken.

 

“Awaken,”  I hear a voiceless voice say

Within me, around me, surrounds me, intimately

Eyes flash open, body is frozen; I lay

On the bay. I once was in close proximity, infinitely

Ecstatic, erratic, emphatic tears wet my face

Once drier than the most monochromatic and mundane

Who brought me here, where was that place?

And how did I get back to the higher plane?

I knew the answer, yet I didn’t.

Closer to me than my jugular vein,

I felt my pulse, it beat to the rhythm

Of the universe’s call inside the walls of my brain.

Within me, about me, without me, intricately

Designing and planning a masterful plan

Refining and aligning, as I am so insolently

Denying, lying, and crying towards my hands

“Truth was made clear and falsification has left,”

Said once a noble amongst mankind

And the same I say after once being bereft

Of the blessing that was graced by the divine.

That man, that mercy, that messenger, that martyr,

Was a part of my heart, from end, from start

I remember his message, from a life that was harder

Than the toils upon which any one of us embark.

His message was this:  “Whatever is willed is never to miss

And whatever misses you was never to hit.”

And “Glad tidings to the righteous of perpetual bliss”,

And “Whatever wrong is against your soul, and good is merit.”

I remember this, and the ember’s hiss also known as desire

Dies down until the illumination of what surrounds

Stops flashing about and what was once furious fire

Is now doused by the waters to douse what’s aroused

Arise from the mist, determined, clenched fist

I realize my purpose in earnest and my wish

And the voice that was voiceless yet I so dearly missed…

Was one I always knew, true as the sea’s blue; I know this.

It wasn’t far, it was always near.

I just couldn’t hear, with my fingers in my ears

So close, so great, so compassionate, so dear

In my darkest moments, do You truly appear.

 

And so I want to remember You

Wherever I am, if I’m planning a plan You are planning too

With love unmatched I cry tears true

Because of fear, love, trust and weakness of man

You are the Friend I never knew

But always there, for eternity

No matter how dark it is, I can still see You

God, my God, you are always sought internally

 

Today though… everywhere…

will I look for You.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Space Travellers and Code Breakers of the 2014 Big Screen

The Platform - Thu, 17/07/2014 - 01:04

Five of the most anticipated and intriguing films of 2014 set to make an appearance on the big screen

 

Making a selection of films is always arbitrary, and perhaps never more so than when we think about the number of films produced across the globe that are not widely distributed. The summer of sport is almost over and the second semester of the year is nearly upon us. So in keeping with the festivals that took place this year, and the release dates, here is a timely preview of some of the most anticipated films of 2014. (There is a prevalence here of English-language films, as these are five you might find in your local cinemas.)

Along with the five listed below, it’s also worth mentioning Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Langage) in 3D, the 117th film by Jean-Luc Godard and winner of the Prix du Jury (Jury Prize) at Cannes Film Festival. Despite being widely reviewed in the UK, the release date of Goodbye to Language remains unknown.

Another one to look out for is Clouds of Sils Maria, a Swiss-German-French international co-production directed by Olivier Assayas, featuring Juliette Binoche as the protagonist and American actresses, Kristin Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz. Clouds of Sils Maria has been screened at a number of important festivals and selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Also look out for Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner which portrays the life of the British painter JMW Turner, played by Timothy Spall.

1. Boyhood

Richard Linklater, USA

Starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Marco Perella, Boyhood is the result of an experimental project by the American director, Richard Linklater, who is known for films such as Fast Food Nation, Before Sunset and Waking Life. Since 2002, Linklater has filmed leading actor, Ellar Coltrane, to narrate the growth process of Manson Jr from childhood through to college. The film has received enormous attention from film magazines and cinephiles, and thus heads the top of my selection of most anticipated films of 2014.

2. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan, USA and UK

This sci-fi epic by British director Christopher Nolan, who also directed critically acclaimed Memento, as well as blockbusters such as Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy, centres on a team of space travellers’ interstellar voyage to explore a newly discovered wormhole. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn and Michael Caine, Nolan’s Interstellar has already generated a lot of Oscar-buzz, making this intergalactic travel a key film of 2014.

3. A Most Wanted Man

Anton Corbijn, UK, USA and Germany

Known as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final film role (although his final big screen appearance will be in the forthcoming Hunger Games sequel), A Most Wanted Man is based on the novel of the same name by British writer John le Carré (who also authored the gripping spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Along with the late Oscar winner, this espionage-thriller features an impressive cast which includes Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss. Set in Hamburg, Germany, A Most Wanted Man is about a German counter-terrorist, played by the late star, who is trying to capture a half-Chechen half-Russian immigrant. The reception of A Most Wanted Man at the Sundance Film Festival and its frequent association with Seymour’s legacy are indicative of its potential success.

4. Two Days, One Night  (Deux Jours, une nuit)

Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne Belgium, Italy and France

The Belgian Dardenne brothers directed this festival favourite starring Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione. Cotillard plays Sandra, a mother of two who, after a period away from her work at a solar-panel company, tries to return to her job. As an attempt to downsize the work force, the company lets Sandra’s co-workers choose between a 1000 euro annual bonus and Sandra’s permanence at work. The plot allows an exploration of issues pertaining to the Belgium workplace as Sandra begs each co-worker to renounce their bonus to save her job. This decisive situation poses ethical questions while leaving space for identification with different perspectives than that of the protagonist. The impressive critical reception of this film was a decisive element for its feature in this list.

5. The Imitation Game

Morten Tyldum UK, USA

The Imitation Game is the English-language debut film by Norwegian film director, Morten Tyldum. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, this historical drama is about the British pioneering computer scientist and World War II code-breaker, Alan Turing. Although the film has not been released and little has been written in terms of criticism, the film trailer and actors’ interviews, combined with the fact that it is a biopic of a fascinating figure of the 20th century, The Imitation Game is bound to be an imminent success.

Image from: http://geektyrant.com/news/trailer-for-christopher-nolans-interstellar-is-coming-december
Categories: Muslim blogs

Through Thick and Thin

Imam Suhaib Webb - Wed, 16/07/2014 - 13:00

 

Photo: Brandice Schnabel

Glimpses of Marital Bliss: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IVPart V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI

Every person has a different marriage experience and sometimes, it may turn sour. When words of divorce are spoken, it can often lead to incredibly painful emotions. In this narrative, a woman describes the way she grappled with her emotions through patience and prayer, and what she realized about her husband, and her marriage, in the end.

“Leave…Go away…I have no feelings towards you! I am just waiting for the right time to divorce you!”

These were the words my husband spoke to me which sliced through my heart like a dagger.

We had a beautiful relationship and two sweet kids… What made him say this? Yes, life was not all too smooth. There had been many hitches… but did that lead to this?! I was shattered, my world shrunk, my soul constricted.

A thousand thoughts crossed my mind, searching for reasons, wanting answers… What he had said didn’t sound good enough. I was not convinced and I was not leaving. Anyway he had just threatened it, not actually divorced me. I didn’t have to leave. It was still my choice, and I chose to stay.

Over the days, I would ponder what caused this indifference. Not finding any answers, I would cry myself to sleep.

Meanwhile he was distant, uncompromising, never ever glancing towards me, so lost in his own devices. In a different world.

Days turned to weeks then to months and then years. I held on, reproached him, approached him, pleaded, distanced myself, shut out all emotions, prayed, lived mechanically.

Slowly the answers tumbled out: “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m in deep trouble, something which I can’t even discuss, something from which there’s no way out, at least from where I see it… I want you to be safe, the kids to be safe and happy and live.”

In the dead of the night, turning in prayer to his Lord, he would plant a kiss on my forehead not knowing I was aware, awake, that his every waking moment would stir me. He wanted me there as much as he wanted me to go away. But he could not think of any better solution. He felt there was no way out. Where he was headed towards seemed to be a one-way road.

Then it dawned so clear—this was the truth behind the facade. He actually loved me, loved the kids more than I could even imagine. So much so that he was willing to separate himself from us for our safety, our happiness, our lives. He knew I would not leave him, not abandon him out of fear, and hence chose to distance me, separate me.

AlhamdulilLah (praise be to God) my Lord is He who has power over all things.

I stayed on, held on, du`a’ (prayer) kept me going. AlhamdulilLah I got to experience that unflinching love, that selfless love of my hubby. I did not know what a marriage was when I got married. From my better half, I learned that it was all about taking responsibility and putting family first, against all odds.”

*If you would like share sweet glimpses from your marriage with hopes of spreading awareness of positive relationships in the Muslim community, please email Maryam@SuhaibWebb.com with a short narrative. Your submission may be featured anonymously in this mini-series of Glimpses of Marital Bliss.

 

Categories: Muslim blogs

World War I and the Arab Revolts

The Platform - Tue, 15/07/2014 - 19:02

In an interview with The Platform, author and veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson discusses Lawrence of Arabia and explains how the structural ramifications of World War I continue to determine geopolitics in the Middle East one hundred years on

 

It’s been 100 years since World War I. In your view, what have been the defining moments of the last 100 years and the key shifts in power?

What is very striking when you study World War I is how it set into motion virtually all the major historical shifts that followed over the next 100 years, and that still shape our world today. The clearest follow-on is World War II, of course, that due to the “unfinished” nature of World War I – ending with an armistice or ceasefire rather than an outright military victory for one side or another – it created the groundwork for the rise of a man like Hitler in Germany and for a very similar war to occur all over again. From that conflict, however, we can also trace the final collapse of the old European empires, the rise of anti-colonial and pro-independence movements throughout the developing world, as well as the titanic struggle between the “new empires” of the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Nowhere is the legacy of World War I more apparent than in the events of the Middle East today. By dividing the region into imperial spheres of control or influence at the end of the war, which also meant ignoring the desire of the Arab world for independence and the creation of artificial borders, the European imperial powers – specifically Great Britain and France – laid the seeds for the turmoil we see today. You can’t place all the blame on the European powers, but they certainly got the destructive process started.

What made you study the life of Lawrence of Arabia?

I’ve spent a lot of time reporting from the Middle East, and in every detailed conversation I’ve had with someone in the region, no matter their political or religious affiliation, they’ve always traced the roots of the region’s problems back to the “peace” that was imposed on it at the end of World War I. As I really didn’t know much about that period of history, it was always my idea to go back and gain an understanding of it. What added to my curiosity was knowing that TE Lawrence had played a pivotal role in that history, and I had always been intrigued by trying to get to the bottom of what was true and what was fiction about this very enigmatic figure. So I’d say I came to Lawrence because I wanted to gain a better understanding of the area I had spent so much time covering journalistically, rather than starting out with the idea of studying Lawrence himself.

How did a painfully shy UK graduate go on to join a Muslim rebel army?

Lawrence was one of those unusual cases of a rather ordinary man who, through an improbable sequence of events, found himself thrust into a unique situation where he could affect – and in fact, cause – history-changing events. Prior to the war, he had spent four years working on an archaeological site in northern Syria where he came to a deep appreciation of Arab society and how its clan and tribal structure worked, which was crucial to his success once he started working with the rebels in the Hejaz. What’s more, at Oxford he had studied medieval European military history, and the way war was fought in early twentieth century Arabia looked an awful lot like the battlefields of fourteenth century Europe. All of this was knowledge that a conventionally trained European military officer at the time wouldn’t have had a clue about, so it was Lawrence’s very lack of conventional training that made him so effective.

Did Lawrence inadvertently pave the way for the Sykes-Picot Agreement, even though it was anathema to his vision?

No, I don’t think you can say that. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was forged in secret in early 1916, and at the senior levels of the French and British government. Because of his position with British military intelligence in Cairo, Lawrence learned about the Agreement – and was appalled by it – but he played no role in its creation. Also, Sykes-Picot was already in place prior to the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in the summer of 1916, and long before Lawrence’s involvement in that revolt.

What would Lawrence say about the make-up of the Middle East today, including Egypt and Iraq as of July 2014? Would he join a cause, do you think, and whose?

I’m often asked what Lawrence would say of the Middle East today, and the answer that immediately comes to mind is, “I told you so.” Lawrence foresaw disaster if the Europeans tried to impose their imperial rule in the Middle East, and worked energetically to try and derail it. He did so both because he wished to uphold the wartime promise the British government had made to the Arabs regarding independence, but also because he saw how badly trying to extend its colonial rule into the region was going to backfire on the British. He was clearly right.

How does Lawrence contend with other influential contemporaries?

After spending five years studying this whole period of history, I can really only identify three historical figures who were truly “self-made” – that is, they weren’t kings or prime ministers or generals, but rather ‘commoners’ who, through their sheer brilliance or endurance or luck or some combination of the three, were able to impose their will on the world. Those three are Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), Karl Marx and TE Lawrence.

Do you think there is a risk of an excessive focus on Lawrence – a western male – as a political agent in the region at the time, at the risk of neglecting local forces?

Yes, I think there is a very great risk in that, and I think there is a quite understandable resentment of Lawrence in much of the Arab world for the degree to which he always occupies “centre stage” in the narrative of the Arab Revolt. There is undoubtedly an element of cultural chauvinism at work here, in much the same way that most any Hollywood movie about Africa, for example, usually has a white American character at its centre. That said, Lawrence was the absolute crucial liaison between the Arab rebels in the Hejaz and their British military suppliers and advisors in Cairo; without Lawrence, it’s highly doubtful that pipeline would have been sustained – which also means that the Arab Revolt would have foundered. Also, historians naturally have to rely on the written record; the British archives of World War I in the Middle East are vast, whereas there is virtually no surviving records from their Arab rebel allies.

What have been the most memorable moments of your war correspondent career and did this influence your outlook on Lawrence?

It’s hard to pinpoint specific moments that were most memorable, but I would say that after covering some dozen wars around the world, I think I have a greater appreciation of the psychic exhaustion Lawrence clearly experienced as a result of his wartime ordeals, the desire to just go off and be alone and removed from the world. In reading of Lawrence’s post-war life – which, frankly, was a rather sad and dreary one – I probably saw traces of things that I’ve sought to avoid in my own.

Tell us what’s more satisfying: writing fiction or non-fiction? Are the experiences really that different?

They actually are very different, and hard to compare. One thing I love about writing fiction is that I get to create my own little universe and live inside my own head. If I do that for too long, however, I start to yearn for the “real” world again! I will say that I find writing nonfiction a bit easier in a way. Since you have the external guideposts of real events you’re moving along in an established stream, whereas with fiction the only guideposts are those of your own creation, so it’s more like a lake – or a swamp!

What next for you?

I’m nosing around about doing a nonfiction book on the early years of the Cold War, that period from about 1945 to 1956 when the world chessboard was still quite unsettled and a lot of skulduggery went on. I haven’t totally figured out the narrative yet, though; I think I’m still a bit exhausted from “Lawrence.”

Scott Anderson’s new book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Atlantic Books: 2014) is available to purchase here

Image from: http://www.cliohistory.org/thomas-lawrence/
Categories: Muslim blogs

Zakat Starts at Home

The Platform - Tue, 15/07/2014 - 16:35

British Muslims display a spike in charitable giving in Ramadan, much of which is spent abroad rather than locally

 

For the past two weeks, British Muslims have been fasting the long days between dawn and dusk. Ramadan is a month of intense private worship and spiritual growth. And, as the charity portal JustGiving discovered through a survey conducted with the Institute of Commercial Management, it is also a month where Muslims donate a considerable amount to charity. Last year JustGiving reported a boom in online donations during Ramadan. They also found that zakat was a significant contributor. In 2012 alone, zakat money raised £200,000 for a number of British charities.

So what is zakat? For Muslims, it is an extremely important religious obligation. So long as a Muslim meets the minimum wealth criteria, they must give a certain amount of their savings away. This is 2.5 per cent of their total assets. The purpose, in part, is to free the individual from the potential negative effects of wealth accumulation and materialism. Some Muslims use Ramadan as an annual marker for paying the zakat, believing that it is the best time of the year for charitable actions.

There are no rules stipulating where exactly the zakat money should be spent, however Islam has a long tradition of spending zakat locally. Despite this, a survey done by the National Zakat Foundation in 2013 found that 81 per cent of 600 zakat-givers were donating overseas. With emergencies breaking out all over the world, including Syria, Iraq, Central Africa and Gaza, it is no surprise that the urge to give abroad is greater.

However, Muslim scholarly organisations insist that a balance needs to be maintained between spending abroad and spending at home, in line with Islamic tradition. Unlike other forms of charity, zakat money is spent exclusively on the Muslim community. There are eight categories of needy people whom zakat can benefit. But contrary to what many Muslims think, there are significant socio-economic problems facing Muslims in Britain.

Such problems include a lack of support for Muslim reverts*. More often than is comfortable to hear, new Muslims talk about the lack of support they receive after embracing Islam. Many also suffer the financial difficulties of crushing debts, divorces, or being cut off from family. Homelessness is another huge problem. The circumstances that lead to a person becoming homeless are numerous—it may be an asylum seeker whose application has been delayed, a prison leaver with nowhere to go, or a person on the brink of eviction. Some of the most vulnerable people, according to case studies, include immigrants living in the UK on student visas or spouse visas, whose legal statuses mean they have no support from the government.

Domestic violence is a threateningly silent issue in the Muslim community. It is estimated that one in four women in the UK experience domestic abuse, however this figure may not reflect minorities who are reluctant to speak out. There is an unfortunate link between domestic violence and cultural practices, and often the shame attributed to the victims prevents them from speaking out. But the psychical and psychological consequences of domestic violence can lead to other forms of helplessness, including homelessness.

British Muslim ex-offenders are another hushed concern. A Youth Justice Board report from December 2012 reveals that one in five males (20 per cent) in young offender institutions were Muslims. Often, families don’t want to accept offenders back, so they are left alone to try and re-adjust to life outside of prison. As the National Zakat Foundation found, ex-offenders who are homeless and destitute are far more likely to re-offend.

Struggling single parent families are another major cause of concern. It is not uncommon to hear about wives who have come from abroad to be abandoned by their husbands, or faced with the death of their husband and breadwinner. With children to look after, no family, and no skills to work, these women can find themselves in extremely difficult financial situations. Sadly, the Muslim community can isolate and ostracises single parents who they believe are less ‘deserving’. This makes it even harder for them to gain support.

There are a number of local Muslim charities in Britain running zakat appeals to address these problems. In Manchester, the charity Peace Trail has appealed for people to donate their zakat money to a housing project for female reverts in need. In London and Birmingham, the NZF has created shelters to temporarily accommodate homeless Muslim women while they try to get their lives back on track. It encourages Muslims to donate directly to needy individuals through their website. London based Nour DV helps support British Muslims in abusive relationships. A charity based in Nottingham is working to support ex-offenders re-adjust to life outside prison through counselling, housing, welfare benefits, employment and health support. They emphasise the need for support to come locally.

Interestingly, when respondents of the NZF survey were told about the problems the charity deals with and asked if they would be willing to spend their zakat money on eligible British Muslims, 88 per cent said yes. This shows that a clearer understanding of zakat’s purpose and its role in tackling the socio-economic problems of Muslims in Britain is needed. Hopefully this Ramadan British Muslims will take a further step towards greater awareness of local needs eligible for zakat.

*Muslims use the term ‘reverts’ rather than ‘converts’ because they believe that everybody is born a ‘Muslim’ in that they all believe in one God. Hence you ‘revert’ back to that belief rather than convert.

Image from: http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=IC0212-1797#sthash.hKaK6rNv.dpbs
Categories: Muslim blogs

The Parable of The Prostitute

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 15/07/2014 - 13:00

Photo: Giulio Nesi

As provocative as the title sounds, the following narration is one that constantly inspires me and expands my mind. I relate to you the following:

Abu Huraira radi allahu `anhu (may God have mercy on him) reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (peace be upon him) as saying: “There was a dog moving around a well whom thirst would have killed. Suddenly a prostitute from the prostitutes of Bani Isra’il [Children of Israel] happened to see it and she drew water in her shoe and made it drink, and she was pardoned because of this.” (Sahih Muslim, 2245 b)

In another narration:

Narrated Abu Huraira (ra): The Prophet ﷺ said, “While a dog was going round a well and was about to die of thirst, an Israeli prostitute saw it and took off her shoe and watered it. So Allah forgave her because of that good deed.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3467)

Let that sink in.

Where do I begin with this amazing narration? Within it is a tale of animal rights, female empowerment, and the beautiful ability of our Lord to forgive, regardless of the person or the sin.

We must ask ourselves: how would we treat a woman whom we knew was a sex worker in this day and age? Indeed, these women are greatly looked down upon in our societies. The elephants in the room, they usually shoulder the majority of the blame and stigmatization, regardless of the countless males who fund and take advantage of their line of work.

In Muslim communities in particular, there is a huge (and in my opinion, rather unhealthy) emphasis placed on the chastity and “purity” of a woman. If anything at all, even if it be a rumor, compromises a woman’s reputation or puts her in a tight situation, she is typically isolated, looked down upon, abused, and in extreme instances, even murdered, regardless of whether she was sexually assaulted, taken advantage of, or sells her own body out of a desperate attempt at survival.

This classification and shaming of women within both our greater communities, and specifically our Muslim communities does nothing more than further isolate and abhor women who are already disenfranchised. Rather than considering their context, circumstances, and stories, many people assume, judge, and label. Symbolically and literally disposing of women who, for whatever reason, have already put their bodies out there for disposal.

Is this the Islamic way? No. Is this the human way? No. Take another look at the narrations above.

Firstly, the Prophet ﷺ relates to those around him the story of this woman. We learn that this was a woman of the former people—the Children of Israel. In doing so, he has given voice to a person that may have been perceived by the generations as being unworthy of mention.

Secondly, we must ask ourselves: why does he ﷺ do this? What is it about this woman that made her mention so great and worthy of our time? So much so that I am sitting here today relating it hundreds of years later?

It was what she did—her act. An act that stemmed from a place of selflessness, a place of mercy.

She used the means she had—in this case, her shoe—to nourish a thirsty dog that was on the verge of death. Clearly this was an unsolicited act; the dog did not ask her, nor was she asking for anything in return from it. Instead, she put in the effort to extend the dog mercy, compassion, and life. This is amazing, considering that human beings may have possibly denied her these things due to her “profession”. She gave to an animal what others could not or would not give to her.

And what did this earn her? Forgiveness from her Lord. Paradise. Regardless of the fact that she was a prostitute, it was this act alone that elevated her from amongst her people.

From this story, I derive five major points:

1. Do not belittle deeds

I wonder how many people had walked past that dog ignoring it completely. Maybe they viewed it as unworthy of their time or help. Yet she was able to identify its need and take part in a seemingly small act which led to a mighty reward. We should never overlook the small deeds like picking up litter or smiling at your neighbor. What we view as small may be great in the sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exhalted is He).

2. His mercy encompasses your sins

She was a prostitute engaged in a major sin in the eyes of Allah (swt). And yet He forgave her, just like that. This is easy for Allah (swt). Don’t ever lose hope in the mercy of Allah: He is Ar-Rahman (the Merciful), after all! Yes, your sins may be great, but his mercy is far greater. Indeed:

Narrated Abu Huraira (ra): The Prophet ﷺ said, “When Allah created the Creation, He wrote in His Book—and He wrote (that) about Himself, and it is placed with Him on the Throne–’Verily My Mercy overcomes My Anger.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 7404)

Subhan’Allah (glory to God).

3. Stop judging others negatively

This speaks for itself. We never know the rank that someone has in the sight of Allah (swt). Our problem is that we judge based on the exterior; we lack the ability to peer into another’s soul. But He can. And that’s why when we see our brother and sister, whether in faith or humanity, engaged in some type of sin, we make excuses for them, pray for them, and BE there for them. Besides, who are we to judge others just because they sin differently from ourselves? Leave the judging to The Judge.

4. The Standard of Allah (swt)

Last weekend one of my shuyukh (religious scholars) mentioned something very interesting: he said that it is scary to consider that on the Day of Judgment, Allah (swt) will reward/punish us according to His own standard. That is, the deeds that we were very pleased with in this life may mean very little in the next. Likewise, the deeds that we neglected or brushed off as unimportant may very well be the ones that mean the most. Reflect on this and prioritize.

5. The importance of animal rights in Islam

Another reason why I love this narration is because it highlights a very important aspect that we Muslims often neglect or belittle: animal rights. Now, this could be due to our culture and/or upbringing; indeed, in many societies, animals are greatly looked down upon or not even noticed at all! We need to change this way of thinking. We need to honor animals, for they, too, are a creation of Allah (swt). They do not deserve our abuse and neglect. They have feelings; they know.

I hope this reflection has opened your minds in new ways. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your sin is, do not ever forget that your Lord is ever watching and considering. Do not ever forget that your deeds, both good and bad, are being recorded and that one day, you will be judged according to them.

And lastly do not ever forget to be human. Extend your humanity to all people and all animals. For it is from this extension of your humanity that you may find the forgiveness and mercy that matters the most, His.

And Allah (swt) knows best.

Aside: May Allah (swt) be pleased with Abu Hurayra; through my research for this piece, I kept finding ahadith (narrations) that were narrated by him. And fittingly, his nickname is “Abu Hurayra” or “Father of the Kitten” because he used to keep a kitten in his sleeve. An animal activist from among the Companions, may Allah (swt) be pleased with them all.

Categories: Muslim blogs

The Copa das Copas of World Cup Memes

The Platform - Tue, 15/07/2014 - 01:54

As we have now watched the sun set over the Maracana stadium and witnessed the new champions lifting up the World Cup, we can look back at a truly special tournament

 

The football has been positive, the goals have been explosive, and Thierry Henry sporting immaculate cardigans while on BBC pundit duty was most welcome. Yet, it’s the very global nature in which we can react and consume the thrills and sighs that has made this a World Cup to relish. There were more than 300m tweets related to this World Cup during the group stages, and the fact that we can gauge the reactions from fans in Algeria to Australia, and can see where in the world footballers such as Özil and Neymar are trending is incredible.

Granted, reaction on social media sometimes looked like this:

TL be like pic.twitter.com/DDTR93Yd5L

— Teju Cole (@tejucole) June 16, 2014

But throughout the tournament we’ve been treated to a feast of creative gifs, vines and lol-some memes that never failed to make me chuckle. Here are the top ten:
 
 
1. The flying dutchman 

Robin van Persie’s spectacular acrobatic header against Spain is a contender for goal of the tournament. It was sheer brilliance. Yet what made it all the more delicious were the ridiculous memes and the #persieing trend online, which involved people posting photos of themselves landing face down in the grass. 

Robin van Persie: The Flying Dutchman pic.twitter.com/EpuV9F2dY9

— ESPN (@espn) June 13, 2014

OK Internet, here's my contribution to the Robin van Persie meme: http://t.co/W3K5YXO7EG #ned #vanpersie @kicktv pic.twitter.com/hL2vq5uJv4

— Daniel Boniface (@danielboniface) June 14, 2014

 
2. Why always me?

Who else would fill in the entire Italian side in the World Cup sticker album with stickers of himself? Mario Balotelli of course, who posted this hilarious photo on his Facebook wall.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Post by Mario Balotelli – Official.

 
3. Biting Suarez

Suarez taking a bite out of the Apple logo, Suarez as Jaws and Suarez as Hannibal Lecter, were just some of the memes reacting to the 27-year-old Uruguayan striker biting Italian player Giorgio Chiellini. But this Suarez’s birthday gif is the best one – it’s absurd and doesn’t even make any sense.

 

4. World Cup of beards

Long gone are the Robbie Savage-esque curling locks and Alice bands that footballers used to wear. This has been a tournament of hipster sleeve-tatoos, military haircuts and full beardage. It wasn’t just team Algeria who had beards to be proud of – fellow internet commentators observed that USA goalkeeper, Tim Howard, had a proper salafi beard.

Rais M'Bolhi is in superb form for #ALG against #GER and is making a big case to be the ultimate Beard of Brazil! pic.twitter.com/O0nfKHjvDJ

— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) June 30, 2014

 

5. Louis van Gaal walking into the dressing room

After the reigning champions, Spain, were utterly humiliated by the Netherlands’ 5-1 win, we could truly appreciate the tactical genius of the Dutch coach Louis van Gaal. But then, the slow realisation came that he would be just as smug when managing Manchester United next season. Fans of all other Premier League teams are holding their breath.

BREAKING: Louis Van Gaal walking into the dressing room. pic.twitter.com/1reK7yKjSP

— BBC Sporf (@BBCSporf) June 13, 2014

 

6. Giant locust

Everyone freaked out when a giant locust of Amazonian proportions perched on the arm of Columbian striker, James Rodriguez, just as he was about to take his penalty against Brazil. As the 22-year old cooly shot the ball into the back of the net, he celebrated by kissing his wrist – while everyone spotted that there was a ginormous insect on him, which eventually flew away, beating its pterodactyl-like wings.

 

7. Watermelon Man

The atmosphere in the Brazilian stadiums looked extraordinary from the average humble living-room in London, and that’s down to the fans. From the way the Brazilian fans belted out the second chorus of their national anthem each game, to the way they chanted olé when their hapless team was obliterated by Germany. But special homage goes to Watermelon Man here:
 

 

8. 1-7 (seven)

How was that a semi-final score? When Brazil lost 2-1 on home soil to Uruguay in 1950, the country was left in traumatic silence. They cast-off their white strip after the Maracanazo and the goalkeeper, Moacir Barbosa, was left destitute. Perhaps it is highly unlikely that the current Brazil team will bury the iconic canary yellow strips they currently wear, but it may cause these reactions:

Christ the Redeemer right now. #BRA pic.twitter.com/2cS5Mk6o8G

— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) July 8, 2014

FACT: Pele as of last night. pic.twitter.com/y49XBzbgxG

— BBC Sporf (@BBCSporf) July 9, 2014

 

9. Arm-folding

Gone are the days of a simple mugshot. As the line-up for the match was announced, each player was introduced on the screen by turning towards the camera and simultaneously folding their arms. It seems as though the most innocuous of tasks such as arm-folding can actually be quite tough to nail. Do you tuck your hands in, or clasp your biceps? Do you smile, raise an eyebrow or just nod? And what about the timing?
 

 

10. The referee’s magic spray

In 50 years’ time we’ll be telling our grandchildren that the World Cup was great and all, but nobody was more excited than when the referee used his magic spray.

 

And much to the disdain of some players:

Categories: Muslim blogs

Survival and Sustenance in Ramadan

The Platform - Sun, 13/07/2014 - 04:41

The best nutrients to consume in the short nightly hours 

 

Striking a balance has always been a tough feat for those fasting the month of Ramadan, and this year has been no exception. With the month of Ramadan falling within the long summer days of July this year, particularly long in Britain, it can be hard to know and prioritise the most-required nutrients for our bodies.

It is reported that the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) advised: “It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.”

The challenge for Muslims, is not only to survive Ramadan, but to consume healthy, wholesome food to stay alert and focused through times of worship, without feeling sluggish and lethargic.

So, how is this possible with only four to five hours between sunset and dawn in which to eat and drink?

 

Hydration

Keeping well hydrated is the most important thing we can do this Ramadan. Aim to drink between 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid between iftar (meal at the time of breaking fast) and the end of suhur (the pre-dawn meal). The best fluid is plain water, but you can also drink squash, fruit juice and milk to hydrate. Avoid caffeinated drinks for their diuretic effects. Our kidneys can only absorb a limited amount of fluid at a time, so it is best to constantly sip water rather than gulp down large amounts at a time, as it can stress out your kidneys and most of it will not be absorbed.

 

Main meal

By the time iftar arrives, you will have fasted up to 19 hours. Our body enters into a fasting state eight hours after our last meal, which is how long it takes for our gut to finish absorbing nutrients from that meal. The body then starts to use stored glucose for energy, and then stored fat. The meal at iftar should be a replacement for what we have used up during the fast, to prevent the body from using protein from muscle as a source of energy.

The Iftar meal should be a good balance of all food groups, and should look like the ‘eat well’ plate from the FSA below:

                  

Specifically, iftar can consist of:

Dates and other fresh fruits: Dates are high in glucose, so are ideal as a first source of replenishing the stored glucose used during the fast. They also are high in a host of vitamins and minerals including potassium, sodium, calcium and iron. Additionally, they are high in fibre and have a laxative effect helpful for those suffering fasting-induced constipation.

Nuts: Nuts are packed with protein, essential fats and fibre and are a great source of energy, ideal for breaking the fast. The nuts should be unsalted. A 30g portion of mixed nuts can contribute a valuable source of vitamins and minerals from a single food source.

Complex carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates like barley, wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour and basmati rice should be the staple of the meal. They provide energy, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals, as well as being filling. Fibre-rich foods are digested slowly and, therefore, are better than simple carbohydrates like sugary desserts, as they provide more stable and sustained energy release which means stable levels of blood glucose.

Meat, fish and poultry: These provide protein for replenishing lost muscle, and also some fat. The meat should be lean, and grilled or baked where possible.

Dairy products: The best dairy product for Ramadan is live yoghurt as it helps with digestion, and can be made into a filling smoothie with fruits and oats.

As the recommended prayer of Tarawih so closely follows the iftar meal this Ramadan, it is best to control portions. Being too full will affect our ability to pray properly. During Tarawih we should keep well-hydrated.

 

Suhur

The meal at suhur should look similar to the iftar meal, but with the aim of consuming foods that are slow-burning to help maintain energy levels for the upcoming fast.

Specifically, suhur can include:

Fluids: It is important to consume enough fluid before the fast starts.

Food: Oats (porridge) with chopped fruit and nuts is an excellent suhur food. As it is a complex carbohydrate, it is slow burning and will provide a constant source of energy for many hours. Dates, milk and live yoghurt are also good to have.

The key message here is to not break the fast with a feast. After all, the spirit of Ramadan is about self-control and discipline. Our Ramadan meal choices should be smart, focusing on the quality of the food over the quantity.

Image from: http://www.thaqafnafsak.com
Categories: Muslim blogs

Unearthing the Mass Graves of Srebrenica

The Platform - Sat, 12/07/2014 - 17:19

Four mass graves discovered in Srebrenica as survivors retrace their footsteps

 

Nineteen years after the massacre, the family of Beganović have buried their youngest member Senad, aged 14. He was killed along with his father, Ramo, in the genocide committed by the Bosnian Serb military forces against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The body of this 14-year-old boy was found amid four mass graves in eastern Bosnia – the first of his body parts in 2000, others in 2007, and the rest with the recent opening of mass graves in the Srebrenica area. Senad is one of 8,372 victims of the Srebrenica genocide. The victims were mainly men and boys, aged 12 to 70 years. All were killed in the period between 11 to 18 July 1995.

One of the most tragic facts of the massacre is that it occurred within the supposed safe haven established by the United Nations. A battalion of the Dutch army was working within the UN to ensure this. However, the Dutch only completed one mission in the years of their stay in Srebrenica – to demilitarise the army forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which until then, defended the city from the attacks of Serbian army.

When the Serbian forces began an offensive on the city on 6 July 1995, the Bosnian army were left with no weapons of defence. The fighting lasted for five days. These were named the “July Days of Hell”. Srebrenica fell into the hands of Serbian Army on 11 July.

Women and children searched for shelter in the Dutch base at Potocari, where today you’ll find a memorial and cemetery of those killed in the genocide. Male members of the community decided to try and make their way towards the free territory. They attempted to get to the city of Tuzla, which was under the control of legal forces of Bosnian government. They formed a column not far from Srebrenica and started the 60-mile march. Where there were 15,000, less than 7,000 emerged onto the free territory. The rest were killed.

In memory of those who failed to cross the free territory an annual peace march was established in 2005. Participants start from village Nezuk, a place near Tuzla where survivors of Srebrenica came to freedom in July 1995, and end in Potocari, where the victims are buried.

During my first march in 2006, I met Mirsad, survivor of July 1995. We marched together towards Potocari. On this three-day trip, Mirsad told me a multitude of stories about the events of July 1995. With each story I noticed tears in his eyes. In the march he lost his father and he survived the inferno himself.

“If I could turn back the clock, I don’t know if I would stay with my mother at Potocari, or if I would do the same again and go with my father and my brother through the woods. Given all that I had seen, maybe I would stay in Potocari. I don’t know what it was like back there, but here I survived through seven days of hell,” says Mirsad.

Mirsad is now 33. At the time of the genocide, he was also 14 years old, just like Senad from the beginning of this story, whose bones were buried today in Potocari. Mirsad helps to bury his compatriots every year. He cries for his peers who didn’t cross to freedom, he cries for his father who he barely remembers, and for his compatriots who were killed just because they were of another creed.

The victims of genocide, in addition to searching for their missing, are still seeking justice. Only a small number of perpetrators of the crime were brought before the court. Several Serbian generals were convicted for genocide in Srebrenica before The Hague in a tribunal that was established specifically for crimes in former Yugoslavia. The case against Serbian military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, is still in process. The glorification of war criminals by Serbian right-wing organisations and individual politicians, as well as the denial of genocide, serves as an insult to victims and the fight for justice.

Image from: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/srebrenica-buries-175-genocide-victims
Categories: Muslim blogs

Staying Physically Energized During Ramadan

Imam Suhaib Webb - Wed, 09/07/2014 - 13:00

By Noor Hani Salem

With Ramadan in the midst of summer this year, we need nothing more than hydration and good eating habits to keep us going. However, Ramadan is not only about omitting food and drink from sunrise to sunset. It’s not about sleeping all day and waking up an hour before sunset to prepare a meal. It’s not about indulging all night and sleeping all day. No, Ramadan is a spiritual car wash for our souls. It’s a time to check in on ourselves, omitting desires, and focusing on what we were initially created for: worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).

While we focus on our spiritual upbringing, we also need to focus on our physical well-being. Instead of praying Maghrib and rushing to eat, set your intention to eat to nourish your body so that you can stand and pray. In this case, you make eating an act of worship and get rewarded for it, Allah (swt) willing. Set your intention to eat suhoor (the meal before sunrise) to worship and have energy all day. Set your intention to eat iftar (the meal after sunset) to worship and pray during the night. Now, let me share a few tips on what to eat to stay hydrated, energized, and motivated all day long.

1)     Eat dates.

  • I personally don’t question any food that was eaten by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) or recommended by him.
    • Anas Ibn Malik radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him) narrated: “The messenger of Allah ﷺ  used to break his fast before praying with some fresh dates, but if there were no fresh dates, he had a few dry dates, and if there were no dry dates, he took some mouthfuls of water.” [Sunan Abu Dawud]
  • Fasting all day means facing difficulties reaching the required daily value for many essential vitamins and nutrients. Dates are known to provide many of these nutrients with just a few pieces:
    • Dates have immense health benefits, including high fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, and B vitamins.
    • Dates are known to regulate blood sugar, weight loss, blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis. Dates also aid in facilitating oxygen to the brain and the formation of healthy skin.
  • Tip: Eat three or more dates at suhoor to give you energy all day. Break your fast on dates and pray Maghrib. This regulates your blood sugar and causes you to not overeat at iftar.

2)     DON’T skip out on suhoor.

  • Yes, it’s 4 a.m. and yes it’s going to be difficult, but my number one piece of advice is don’t skip out on suhoor. The Prophet ﷺ advised us to eat suhoor and promised barakah (blessings) in it. Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing.’” [Sunan Al- Nasa’i]
  • Eating a meal before sunrise will give you energy to keep going during the long day ahead of you.
  • If you skip out on suhoor, you are putting your body in starvation mode and actually only going to cause yourself to overindulge at iftar.
  • So, EAT SUHOOR!
  • Tip: Eat a light but nutritious, breakfast-like meal:
    • Try a zatar  or cheese pie with some cucumbers. Tomatoes and a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice are also excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients.
    • Have nutrient-dense whole-grain toast with almond butter, cashew butter, or all-natural peanut butter. Top with berries or banana slices.
    • Try some quinoa with almond milk, raisins, cinnamon, raw honey, and bananas. It will definitely give you fuel for the day.
    • A bowl of steel cut oats or whole grain cereal and organic milk/almond milk are also great.
    • Don’t forget the dates.

3)     Eat hydrating foods like watermelon, cucumbers, citrus fruit, and tomatoes.

  • It’s not only summer time, but we are fasting 17+ hours. Many of us have work and others are taking summer courses. We are going to lack energy and need as much nutrients as we can get from the food we eat. Hydrating ourselves with water-dense foods will keep our bodies from dehydrating in the heat.
  • Tip: Other foods with high water content include: lettuce, pineapple, berries, citrus fruit, and spinach.

4)     Drink plenty of water between iftar and suhoor

  • Water is the most purifying drink;  it cleans out toxins from your body and prevents you from getting headaches (especially when you’re not drinking or eating all day).
  • Tip: Skip the soda! Drinking soda with your iftar will only make you thirstier, and dehydrate your body more than it already is. Drink water with your meal and keep it at hand throughout the night.  Break your coffee and tea addiction.
  • If possible, regulate your body to get rid of your caffeine addiction before Ramadan starts. If you are drinking 3-4 cups of coffee daily, and on the first day of Ramadan you don’t drink any, you may get headaches and lack energy.
  • Tip: If you really need energy, opt for dates instead. Coffee and tea are known to dehydrate the body even more.

I hope that you find these eating tips helpful! I assure you that making these small changes in your Ramadan and even regular diet, will substantially improve your overall health and fitness.

Categories: Muslim blogs

I Want to Fast, But I’m Anemic

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 08/07/2014 - 13:00

Photo: Stefano Curso

By Dr. Nisha AbdulCader

Question:

I am a sister who is anemic, and fasting is pretty difficult for me. Sometimes, I have a tough time getting out of bed, and I often feel dizzy when I get up. I think I have low blood pressure too, and I feel weak and light-headed sometimes. I want to keep fasting, and don’t feel like my condition is that extreme to break my fast. Do you have any tips for how I can have a healthy Ramadan this year?

Answer:

Many sisters face the additional challenges of anemia and low blood pressure when observing the fast of Ramadan. It is important to differentiate anemia and low blood pressure, although the symptoms can be the same and both can be exacerbated by fasting.

Anemia is low red blood cells or hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying “metalloprotein” of our blood. Our body needs oxygen as a fuel, so if we are anemic, our blood has difficulty delivering oxygen. With low oxygen, we can feel weak and light-headed. Menstruating women are more at risk for having anemia. Other issues such as low iron in the diet, genetic conditions, or other diseases can also cause anemia.

Low blood pressure means that the blood is flowing through our body at a less than ideal pressure. Therefore, not only does oxygen transport suffer, but so do the transportation of nutrients and organ function as well.

Thus, both anemia and low blood pressure can make us feel weak. Both conditions are exacerbated by fasting, since dehydration and low blood sugar also affect how well our bodies and brains function.

It is important to stay very well hydrated and drink plenty of fluids—mostly simple water. Remember, caffeinated products like tea and coffee can act as diuretics, which actually promote fluid loss. Some people who drink caffeinated products regularly can have rebound headaches, which may be worsened by anemia and low blood pressure. It is best to wean off caffeinated products one to two weeks before fasting.

Avoid simple sugars, which cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar. Always eat a pre-fast meal (suhoor) with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.

In some cases, anemia may be a medical reason not to fast. Your physician or medical provider can help you to make that decision. It is not the intention of the fast to cause or worsen illness.

The Qur’an says: “…So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (2:185)

Dr. Nisha AbdulCader is a pediatrician in San Luis Obispo, California.  She is the medical director for Child Abuse Services for San Luis Obispo County and was one of the founders of the UMMA Community Clinic.

Categories: Muslim blogs

How Can I Enjoy Listening to the Qur’an in Taraweeh When I Don’t Understand What is Being Recited?

Imam Suhaib Webb - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 13:00

The Qur’an Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

Originally posted in August 2012

During Ramadan, many of us attend taraweeh (night prayers) at the masjid. Some of us stay until the Imam leads us in witr (a final supplementary prayer). For many of us, this can amount to over two hours of prayer time and for many of us, we understand almost nothing.

Sometimes, during the recitation of the Qur’an we hear the people around us crying profusely and we wish we could understand what could be so powerful that those around us are reduced to such tears. We can sometimes make out a specific word, but within a moment, we are back to indistinguishable meanings and simply wishing we knew what was going on.

I used to have no idea what was going on in the prayer. I remember standing for lengthy time periods behind the Imam, trying to make my mind focus but finding it constantly drift off; it’s very, very hard to concentrate when the mind has nothing to contextualize. I eventually would settle on trying to think of anything for which I could possibly be grateful. But taraweeh prayers are long; without understanding, my heart would simply get bored and my limbs would always fidget. Thoughts of my day, my concerns, my hopes and my food cravings after a day of fasting would all filter through my conscious while I shifted around. It’s hard to keep still for that long when one is mentally checked out and physically disengaged.

However, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala  (exalted is He) guided me to an action which changed my life and revolutionized my prayer and du`a (supplication) experience ever since. It’s simple, but it takes long-term dedication. The results, for me, were powerful and transformational. The common-sense solution that worked miracles in my life by Allah’s blessings: reading a translation.

Every single day, for a number of years, I would sit and read five pages of the Qur’an in the English translation. I would do this while both reciting and listening to the Arabic recitation, allowing my ears to become accustomed to the Arabic words associated with the English.

After a few months of this practice, the first Ramadan came. In my hometown masjid, the Imam would lead twenty rakahs (units of prayer). So I would pray eight rakahs and then sit in the back and read the translation of the verses for the next twelve. I continued this throughout Ramadan and was extremely consistent with this practice for the next year. Soon, my awareness of Arabic words increased; I realized that the Qur’an uses many of the same words over and over and I was able to recognize them. I was also becoming more familiar with the surahs (chapters); I had an introductory understanding of what themes were being discussed in certain portions of the Qur’an due to keywords and a general awareness of what the surah entailed.

By the second Ramadan, I was praying with purpose. While I still had no idea what every word meant, I had begun to comprehend general meanings of many of the chapters and I was able to grasp the overarching messages of some of the verses. I kept up my practice of praying eight and reading the translation. I even had a few emotional moments. I started looking forward to certain verses that were my favorites. I was finally beginning to understand and I was actually enjoying it; the sweetness of the Qur’an had penetrated my heart and taken hold of my body. Praying taraweeh in Ramadan became a means of nourishment for my soul and tranquility for my limbs.

I also began memorizing the Qur’an and the more I memorized, the more my vocabulary expanded. After four years of reading the translation consistently and memorizing the Qur`an, I was enthralled with the idea of praying for hours behind the Imam. I could not wait for Ramadan; all year I waited for the last ten nights specifically, when the Imam would recite the Qur’an for an even longer period of time. My character, my life’s purpose, my Ramadan experience completely changed because I finally grasped a general understanding of the Qur’an.

Six years after I began reading the translation consistently and memorizing portions of the Qur’an, I moved to Egypt to learn Arabic. When I started, I took a practice test and was placed in an intermediary level. However, when I met my teacher for the first time, barely able to communicate a few sentences, she was shocked. “Your vocabulary is so expansive,” she told me, “but you clearly are a beginner!” Needless to say, I was re-placed as a beginner. Throughout our lessons, my Arabic teacher would express her surprise at my ability to understand certain words in depth simply because they appeared in the Qur’an, while others I struggled with at great lengths. Eventually, she told me that my Qur’anic preparation was what helped me actually grasp the language and is what had originally placed me at a level far higher than I really was.

Focusing on learning Arabic in Egypt, even at a basic level, allowed me to come to appreciate the incredible linguistic miracles of the Qur’an. The grammar, the syntax, the rhetoric, use of specific words—an appreciation for the deeper linguistic mechanisms did not happen simply because I had read the translation for an extended period of time. However, by Allah’s blessings, my self-training had laid the groundwork and with it, I was able to appreciate the Qur`an, prayer, and du`a’ at levels far beyond what I had even imagined before making the commitment to seek understanding.

The lesson in this personal experience is that taking time to learn Arabic as a language, studying the grammar, syntax and rhetoric are very important, but not absolutely necessary for a meaningful relationship with understanding the messages of the Qur’an.  Studying Arabic can help create a more cumulative appreciation of the mind-blowing power of the Qur’an, but none of us needs to grasp onto a future hope or past failed attempts of being fluent in Arabic in order to emotionally and intellectually become attached to the Qur’an. Such a relationship can begin simply by dedicating oneself to understanding the general translation of the words of the Qur’an in our native languages, and that can take place at any place and time. It is one that requires commitment and time, but if a person is serious and dedicated, God willing, they will eventually see the benefits of their toil and they will begin to understand and fulfill their purpose with greater perfection and zeal.

Here is a suggested plan of action that should be fit to a person’s individual situation. This is what worked for me, and it will differ from one individual to another. If a person begins this Ramadan, taking advantage of the blessings of this month, with their own plan of action, insha’Allah (God willing) by next Ramadan, they will notice a marked difference in their taraweeh and Qur’anic experience. This is the month to make a commitment to act; this is the month of success.

  1. Read the Qur`an in translation every single day. Choose a chunk to read in translation daily (ie: five pages) and couple it with reading it in Arabic and/or listening to it in Arabic.
  2. During Ramadan specifically, choose to pray a certain number of rakahs for taraweeh, but also make it a point to sit down and follow the recitation with the English translation. What is of more benefit? Praying for hours without understanding and hoping to get rewards (insha’Allah) or sitting, reading and understanding, finding oneself captivated by the incredible power of the Qur’an and actually feeling oneself coming closer to Allah (swt) and changing one’s life to maintain that relationship with Him? Long term, in this life and the next, insha’Allah there are rewards for both. But for the one who strives, there is much more reward for a person who actually lives the Qur’an instead of standing for a period of time, completely tuned out because of a lack of understanding.
  3. For Ramadan especially, try to read the translation of the surah that will be covered in that night’s prayer. That way, even if one is not able understand what is recited specifically, one will know the general meaning of the verses and one’s mind can focus on those general lessons and messages.
  4. Hone in on key words and use them to focus on salah (prayer). For example, when familiar with the different words which indicate “Paradise,” imagine Paradise. Imagine standing in Paradise, with its breathtaking beauty…and suddenly finding someone covering your vision with their hands! When you turn around, imagine who you would want to see most in that moment. Your mom? Your dad? Your grandparent? Your sibling? Your spouse? Your child? Your best friend? Imagine. You haven’t seen this person in possibly decades, centuries—you’ve gone through life without them or death came to you first and you had been in the grave for some time. Then you made it through the Day of Judgment. You finally have entered Paradise—you passed the test! And suddenly, you are with the person who you loved and missed the most. How would you feel in that moment? Allow your heart to FEEL the verses talking about Paradise as they apply to you. Use keywords to help your mind and heart interact with the Qur’an’s message to you.
  5. Listen to the Qur’an and its translation constantly; while stuck in frustrating traffic, while cooking and cleaning, while walking from one end of campus to another; allow the recitation of the Qur’an to penetrate the soul and the translation of the Qur’an to crack the hardened heart. The more one listens to the Arabic recitation and translation, the more familiar one will become with understanding the Qur’an.
  6. Study the meanings of Qur’anic words specifically over time. Here is a suggested resource to begin: http://abdurrahman.org/qurantafseer/learnquran.pdf
  7. Throughout the year, work on tajweed  (correct recitation of the Qur`an in Arabic) and memorization. Over time, this will significantly aid in a special working relationship with the Qur’an, God willing.

Many of us complain about our inability to understand what is being recited of the Qur’an and to maintain focus or enjoyment in prayer due to this reason. I know the feelings of boredom, frustration and helplessness. I know what it means to blame our lack of “experiencing” the “Ramadan feeling” on our lack of understanding of what is being recited.

However, we have the capability to revolutionize this experience, with Allah’s Help. We can become of those who truly understand, whose hearts are captivated and whose limbs are calmly in awe, whose minds are blown away at what we are listening to of the Qur’an. The methods are there and the tools are available. The real question is: Are we willing to make the time and dedicate the effort?

Many of us have tried different methods to wake our hearts up in Ramadan and help them focus on the prayer when we do not understand what is being said. What tips do you have which have worked in your life? Please share them so we all benefit insha’Allah.

Categories: Muslim blogs
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