Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dear Readers

Salamualaykum! I just want to take a moment to say thank you for everything! Thank you to all my followers who have been reading my blog since I first started it and to those that have recently started reading my blog. I really do appreciate it. While I primarily started this blog for myself as a form of self expression, I also now try to aim my posts towards your interests through topics that are beneficial to you all. I appreciate all the comments and the emails. You guys are so caring and I love that you're from different parts of the world and have diverse backgrounds. I would love to get to know all of you and learn about your lives, struggles, concerns, and thoughts. I'm in no way an expert, but if you have any questions or comments feel free to email me at beautyofislam1@yahoo.com or leave me a comment anonymous or not. InshAllah I'll post the answers to your questions and concerns here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why do people have to leave each other? Part II

Read Part I Here

Leaving is hard. Losing is harder. So a few weeks ago I asked the question, ‘why do people have to leave each other?’ The answer took me into some of my life’s deepest realizations and struggles. But it has also led me to wonder: After people leave, do they ever return? After something we love is taken from us, does it ever come back? Is loss permanent—or just a means for a higher purpose? Is loss the End itself, or a temporary cure for our heart’s ailments?
There’s something amazing about this life. The very same worldly attribute that causes us pain is also what gives us relief: Nothing here lasts. What does that mean? It means that the breathtakingly beautiful rose in my vase will wither tomorrow. It means that my youth will neglect me. But it also means that the sadness I feel today will change tomorrow. My pain will die. My laughter won’t last forever—but neither will my tears. We say this life isn’t perfect. And it isn’t. It isn’t perfectly good. But, it also isn’t perfectly bad, either.
Allah (glorified is He) tells us in a very profound ayah (verse): “Verily with hardship comes ease.” (Qur’an, 94:5). Growing up I think I understood this ayah wrongly. I used to think it meant: after hardship comes ease. In other words, I thought life was made up of good times and bad times. After the bad times, come the good times. I thought this as if life was either all good or all bad. But that is not what the ayah is saying. The ayah is saying WITH hardship comes ease. The ease is at the same time as the hardship. This means that nothing in this life is ever all bad (or all good). In every bad situation we’re in, there is always something to be grateful for. With hardship, Allah also gives us the strength and patience to bear it.
If we study the difficult times in our lives, we will see that they were also filled with much good. The question is – which do we chose to focus on? I think the trap we fall into is rooted in this false belief that this life can be perfect—perfectly good or perfectly bad. But that’s not the nature of dunya (this life). That’s the nature of the hereafter. The hereafter is saved for the perfection of things. Jannah (paradise) is perfectly and completely good. There is no bad in it. And Jahannam (hell – may Allah protect us) is perfectly and completely bad. There is no good in it.
By not truly understanding this reality, I myself would become consumed by the momentary circumstances of my life (whether good or bad). I experienced each situation in its’ full intensity—as if it was ultimate or would never end. The way I was feeling at the moment transformed the whole world and everything in it. If I was happy in that moment, past and present, near and far, the entire universe was good for that moment. As if perfection could exist here. And the same happened with bad things. A negative state consumed everything. It became the whole world, past and present, the entire universe was bad for that moment. Because it became my entire universe, I could see nothing outside of it. Nothing else existed for that moment. If you wronged me today, it was because you no longer cared about me—not because this was one moment of a string of infinite moments which happened to be tinted that way, or because you and I and this life just aren’t perfect. What I was experiencing or feelings at that instant replaced context, because it replaced my entire vision of the world.
I think in our experiential nature, some of us may be especially susceptible to this. Perhaps that is the reason we can fall prey to the “I’ve never seen good from you” phenomenon which the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) referred to in his hadith. Perhaps some of us say or feel this way because at that moment, experientially we really haven’t seen good, because our feeling at that instant replaces, defines and becomes everything. Past and present becomes rolled up into one experiential moment.
But, the true realization that nothing is complete in this life transforms our experience of it. We suddenly stop being consumed by moments. In the understanding that nothing is limitless here, that nothing here is kamil (perfect, complete), Allah enables us to step outside of moments and see them for what they are: not universes, not Reality, past and present, just that—a single moment in a string of infinite moments…and that they too shall pass.
When I cry or lose or bruise, so long as I am still alive, nothing is ultimate. So long as there is still a tomorrow, a next moment, there is hope, there is change, there is redemption. What is lost, is not lost forever.
So in answering the question of whether what is lost comes back, I study the most beautiful examples.  Did Yusuf return to his father? Did Musa return to his mother? Did Hajar return to Ibrahim? Did health, wealth and children return to Ayoub? From these stories we learn a powerful and beautiful lesson: what is taken by Allah is never lost. In fact, it is only what is with Allah that remains. Everything else vanishes. Allah (swt) says, “What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will endure. And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions.” (Quran 16:96)
So, all that is with Allah, is never lost. In fact the Prophet ﷺ has said: “You will never give up a thing for the sake of Allah (swt), but that Allah will replace it for you with something that is better for you than it.” (Ahmad) Did not Allah take the husband of Umm Salimah, only to replace him with the Prophet ﷺ?
Sometimes Allah takes in order to give. But, it’s crucial to understand that His giving is not always in the form we think we want. He knows best what is best. Allah says: “… But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows, and you know not.” (Quran 2:216)
But if something is going to be returned in one form or another, why is it taken at all? Subhan’Allah. It is in the process of ‘losing’ that we are given.
Allah gives us gifts. But then we often become dependent on those gifts, instead of Him. When He gives us money, we depend on the money—not Him. When He gives us people, we depend on people—not Him. When He gives us status or power, we depend on, and become distracted by these things. When Allah gives us health, we become deceived. We think we will never die.
Allah gives us gifts, but then we come to love them as we should only love Him. We take those gifts and inject them into our hearts, until they take over. Soon we cannot live without them. Every waking moment is spent in contemplation of them, in submission and worship to them. The mind and the heart that was created by Allah, for Allah, becomes the property of someone or something else. And then the fear comes. The fear of loss begins to cripple us. The gift—that should have remained in our hands—takes over our heart, so the fear of losing it consumes us. Soon, what was once a gift becomes a weapon of torture and a prison of our own making. How can we be freed of this? At times, in His infinite mercy, Allah frees us…by taking it away.
As a result of it being taken, we turn to Allah wholeheartedly. In that desperation and need, we ask, we beg, we pray. Through the loss, we reach a level of sincerity and humility and dependence on Him which we would otherwise not reach—had it not been taken from us. Through the loss, our hearts turn entirely to face Him.
What happens when you first give a child a toy or the new video game he’s always wanted? He becomes consumed by it. Soon he wants to do nothing else. He sees nothing else. He doesn’t want to do his work or even eat. He’s hypnotized to his own detriment. So what do you do, as a loving parent? Do you leave him to drown in his addiction and complete loss of focus and balance? No.
You take it away.
Then, once the child has regained focus of his priorities, regained sanity and balance, once things are put in their proper place in his heart and mind and life, what happens? You give the gift back. Or perhaps something better. But this time, the gift is no longer in his heart. It is in its proper place. It is in his hand.
Yet in that process of taking, the most important thing happened. The losing and regaining of the gift is inconsequential. The taking of your heedlessness, your dependence and focus on other than Him, and the replacing it with remembrance, dependence and focus only on Him was the real gift. Allah withholds to give.
And so sometimes, the ‘something better’ is the greatest gift: nearnesss to Him. Allah took the daughter of Malik Ibn Dinar in order to save him. He took his daughter, but replaced her with protection from the hell-fire and salvation from a painful life of sin and distance from Him. Through the loss of his daughter, Malik ibn Dinar was blessed with a life spent in nearness to Allah. And even that which was taken (his daughter) would remain with Malik ibn Dinar forever in Jannah.
Ibn ul Qayyim (may Allah be pleased with him) speaks about this phenomenon in his book, Madarij Al Salikin. He says: “The divine decree related to the believer is always a bounty, even if it is in the form of withholding (something that is desired); and it is a blessing, even if it appears to be a trial and an affliction that has befallen him; it is in reality a cure, even though it appears to be a disease!”
So to the question, ‘once something is lost, does it return?’ the answer is yes. It returns. Sometimes here, sometime there, sometimes in a different, better form. But the greatest gift lies beneath the taking and the returning. Allah tells us: “Say, ‘In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they hoard.’” (Quran, 10:58)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Every Soul Shall Taste Death"

I can't imagine having to make a decision like this man did and I hope I never have to. I found the last statement he mentioned to be inspirational. "Live simply so other people can simply live." 

Change of Heart [Short Film]

"Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." ---Oscar Wilde 
I honestly get upset when I see people who won't forgive others for their past, when Allah forgave them for their sins. We all sin, some more then others, but regardless we are all sinners. It's sad when I see people that are mashAllah so pious now, but are still remembered by their past. I've met people that have committed major sins for most of their lives, but you would never know that by looking at them now. Why don't we let Allah be the judge of them and love them for who they are now, rather then who they were. 
            "Even God doesn't plan to judge a man until the end of his days. why should you or I?"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fall Semester 2011's Best Moments

Fall Semester 2011 is officially over and I am so thankful for that. This is my Junior year of college and Fall made for an interesting semester that brought me both ups and downs. I want to take a walk down memory lane and reflect on the moments that brought me smiles this semester and helped me grow.
Maryland  ICNA Youth Conference
              I enjoyed this event a lot and benefited from speakers such as 
   Nouman Ali Khan and Sheikh Omar Suleiman. I blogged about my experience. 
Read all about it here!  
Morgan took her shahada
       One of the most exciting moments from this semester 
     was when my friend Morgan took her shahada. I've known 
    Morgan since the beginning of college and I was so surprised/ecstatic when I heard she wanted to take her shahada. I was so happy that I was there when she spoke "la ilaha ilala Allah" for the first time. May Allah preserve her and continue to strengthen her imaan, especially during difficult times.
I ran my first 5k marathon
        This was one of my favorite moments from this semester. I've always wanted to run in a marathon, so the Relay for Life 5k for life was an amazing opportunity. Me and two of my friends got up at 6 a.m., bundled up, and joined in the efforts to raise money to fight against cancer.
Signed up for Quran Program
This is one of the most beneficial changes I made this semester. My friend and I signed up together for Quran tutoring classes through QuranReading, a very reliable website. I found the tutoring program to be affordable and I've benefited so much alhamdulilah. I advise you all to sign up for online classes too if you  want to begin memorizing more chapters of the Quran or just practicing your reading. 
Held our first Sisters Halaqa of the school year
I was so excited to have gotten the opportunity to lead the first sisters halaqa of the school year! This was something the sisters on campus and I have been wanting to do for a while, and we're so glad to have finally held our first structured halaqa. We held two more since then and inshAllah I will document future halaqas and post them on Beauty of Islam. The clip I posted is only a small portion of what we discussed, so if you want to find out what else we discussed click here.
Source: Ultimate Spring
Got Deans List
I'm so grateful alhamdulilah!!! I just found out my final grades and I am really surprised. I worked hard all semester and remained focused, but the last two nights of preparing for finals was so difficult for me. I pulled two all nighters and was unhappy with my performance on my Islamic Civ final and I barely made it through two papers for another class. I felt like a failure at the end of finals week. I'm so happy that my grades ended up being even better then I imagined, and all of that is because of Allah swt. I couldn't have done any of this without Him. 

He is Near

 A good friend sister of mine wrote this letter to me. I thought I would share it with you all. It brought tears to my eyes and InshAllah it will bring some sort of benefit to someone out there. This sister was there from day one of my transition towards truly embracing Islam. As I mentioned in my story under Who I Am, alhamdulilah I was born a Muslim, but like most young people living in the West, I didn't love/practice my deen the way I should have. This sister was there for me from the very beginning and I remember her telling me one day that no matter what happens in college, she always wanted me to be able to come to her if I ever needed anything. At the time, I felt intimidated by people that appeared "religious" to me, especially hijabis lol. I feared that they would judge me. This sister proved to me the complete opposite, and we quickly grew close. In this letter, she reflects on the defining moment I mentioned in my "Who I Am" story where I took my first step towards Allah swt.

 "Take one Step Towards Him walking, and He’ll come to you running.
Subhan`Allah this hadith reminded me of you. I remember when you first became inspired. I remember when we all prayed in jama`a (congregation) in the Virginia Hall lobby on a Friday night with the special guests who came to visit (it was either Maghrib or Ishaa), [because we ended the night praying in jama`a, Allah SWT put some type of barakah (blessings) into that night.] We prayed, while background noises consisted of heels and excited freshmen girls, getting ready to party and go about their casual nightlife plans. We went on, prayed our salah and conversed with our Lord. A friend told us about the odd stares we received that night while we prayed. (We didn’t notice because we were engaged in our salah). How amazing, that as we put our noses and foreheads on the ground in prostration, everything around us seemed so adverse to what we were doing. Subhan`Allah. Allah SWT put something in your heart that night.
   I remember how in awe how you felt that night, and how inspired you were. Despite what everyone else was doing, we fulfilled our obligation to Allah SWT. I remember walking into your room the following morning and seeing the Google search on your screen ‘How to pray the right way in Islam.’ I remember you updating your Facebook status to ‘Last night changed everything for me.’ I remember that ever since that day, by the mercy of Allah SWT, you became consistent in your 5 daily prayers. I remember you taking one step towards Allah SWT, and beautifully, I remember Allah SWT running to you with His mercy. I remember you deciding to wear the hijab almost a month after your commitment of salah. I remember Allah SWT honoring you as a beautiful role model and representative to Muslimahs all over the globe as a newly defined Riham Osman.
I am a witness to this hadith qudsi that if you come to Allah SWT walking, He will come to you running.
   Allah SWT says; “If you come to Me walking, I will come to you running.”
All we have to do is take that one step. "

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Accepting Our Creator's Qadr

   Among the most difficult realizations we must come to in life is realizing that we really don't have control over our fate. We go about our lives and everything seems to be going fine...then all of a sudden, life takes a left turn. This is what life is all about. No matter how great of a person we are, we will be tested and things will seem like they're going really bad and will never get better. That's where faith steps in. We have to trust in Allah and know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, He has a greater plan for us. Allah loves us more than our own parents and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows every decision we're going to make before we even think about it. He therefore knows the future and although in the moment, something seems so perfect for us, it won't be best for us later on in life.

   Allah tests those whom He loves. When we feel like we are truly being tested, we shouldn't shut down and feel like the world has turned their back on us. We must be patient and accept Allah's qadr. This is one of those moments in life where we can do nothing but leave everything up to Allah swt. We don't know what's right or what is wrong for us. Only He does, so in realizing that, we will God Willing feel content with what ever decision He has made for us. There's a sense of peace that comes with understanding that our fate is not in our hands, but in Allah's hands. 

Keep firm in prayer and remain steadfast in patience because inshAllah, in the end, everything will work out even better than we had imagined

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Dependable [Al-Wakil]

Photo Credit: Me
"If you depend on Allah with due reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it the birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with a full belly at dusk." [Tirmidhi]
Allah swt has 99 names and subhanAllah, one of His names is The Trustee/The Dependable. Allah is the One you can go to with all your troubles, fears, doubts, complaints, etc. Whatever it may be, Allah knows and He is The All-Hearing. He doesn't simply listen to our complaints, He truly hears them. When we feel lost in all our problems, remember that Allah will help us get through them if we just go to Him. Allah is the only one who will help us through whatever we're going through, even if at the time the situation seems hopeless.
"Your Lord says, 'Call on Me; I will respond to you.'" (al-Mu'min: 60)
If it is so easy to call on Allah for help, then why do we hesitate to seek Him? At times, we place our dependence on others besides Allah. We forget that if any hardship is intended upon us, it won't happen without the Will of Allah and if any relief is intended up on us, it also won't happen without the Will of Allah. Just like the hadith states, if we place our trust in Allah swt like the birds, Allah will take care of us and all our needs. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rick Perry, Man of Faith

What do you guys think about this?
I would like to ask Mr. Perry if he would allow Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. to also openly pray in schools. If the answer is yes, then I am with him, but if not then I can't agree with his plan. If Christians are allowed to pray in school and openly celebrate Christmas , then every other student should be allowed to do the same, regardless of his/her religion. I think we have a crisis in America where people are so afraid to openly discuss religion in institutions. I think if we truly allow religious freedom in school, then as a nation we would be much stronger. True coexistence would be more attainable. If we all live by "To you be your religion, and to me my religion," [Quran: 109:6] imagine the possibilities.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tips & Tricks for Maintaining High Imaan

We've all gone through periods in our lives where we feel we have no time for ourselves, our family, friends, and even sadly for Allah swt. Life is all about balance and no matter what we're going through, the most important factor in our life should always be our Creator. Allah swt created us to worship Him. 

[And I (Allâh) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).] Quran 51:56

If our main purpose in life is to worship Allah, then every time we decide to skip a prayer or two, we are not fulfilling our purpose in life. This makes me question, where are our priorities. If Allah is not our top priority, then we have issues. Without Allah we simply would not exist, so we owe it to ourselves and to our Creator to fulfill our responsibilities towards Him. I came up with five tips that will inshAllah make it easier for us to maintain our imaan no matter if we're at school, with our families, or behind a desk at work.

1) Increase your remembrance of Allah

Whenever you are in line at the grocery store, walking to or from class, or just relaxing make dhikr (remembrance). Say Bismillah, Alhamdulilah, SubhanAllah, or AstakhfaraAllah. Remembering Allah is such an easy task. You don't need to pull out your prayer beads to make dhikr. It really is very simple and you're gonna be thankful later. On the Day of Judgement when you have all these hasanats (rewards) coming in inshAllah, you're gonna wonder where they came from and you're gonna be glad you spent your free time making remembrance . 

If you have an ipod, fill it up with Quran and Islamic lectures. Click this link for Amazing Lectures! Whenever you have free time simply press play and you will instantly remember Allah. Remembering Allah makes it easier to stay away from haram. Think about it this way. If you were to say Bismillah before everything you do, do you think you would commit as many sins. Imagine saying Bismillah then stealing. It's not likely you would do that. Remembering Allah at all times during the day keeps shaytan away and it keeps you focused on the end goal, which is jannat inshAllah. 

2) Don't miss your prayers

"Don't forget to pray today because Allah didn't forget to wake you up this morning." 

This quote is a great motivator whenever you feel lazy or negligent of your prayers. It was reported in a hadith that, "The difference between a believer and non-believer is prayer." Not only is prayer an obligation upon every Muslim, but it is also beneficial to us. It helps keep us focused and it draws us closer to Allah. When you're life is getting really hectic, prayer is the best thing to do. "The shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor." Imagine if you had an exam or if you were having family problems. That duaa you made after your prayer could make all your problems go away. SubhanAllah, Allah is The Allah Hearing. He loves to answer our prayers. All we have to do is ask. Everything you want from this duniya that is halal and good for you, seek it through Allah and He inshAllah will make it happen if it's best for you. 

3) Increase your khushu (concentration) during Prayer

Life can get busy and hectic, but the last thing we should do is bring that craziness into our salat (prayers). When it's time to pray, that time is for Allah and no one else. We shouldn't rush through our prayers or think about what we're gonna do after we're done. A good way to increase your concentration is to begin focusing before you say "Allahu Akbar." When you're washing for prayer, focus on the task at hand. Afterwards, try to not talk, just focus and begin your prayer. 

-     4) Surround yourself with good company

In an authentic hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: "A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend." 
If your friends don't remind you of Allah, then it's going to be very difficult to increase your imaan or faith. Especially in places where temptation is everywhere, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to have good friends. We need friends that are going to encourage us to pray and to stay away from the things Allah has made forbidden to us. If we choose those that are misguided as our friends then that will just give shaytan easy access to us. 

5) Remember death often

For many people, in particular the youth, it's normal to not remember death often or at all. We're taught to think about death later on in life and to enjoy the present and live it up to the fullest. That's not the way a Muslim should think. A Muslim should remember death often because that is their ultimate destination. 
In sourat al Ankaboot (the spider) verse 57, Allah says: "Everyone shall taste death. Then unto Us you shall be returned." If it is clear that we will all die eventually, then why do we live our lives as though we're going to live forever?