Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Recipients of Da'wah

Click for Photo CreditI mentioned in my previous post, 12 Characteristics of the Da'ee, that there are essentially three pillars of da'wah. Da'wah is of course defined as three stages which are conveying the message of Islam, teaching Islam to the people, and helping them to implement it in their lives. The three pillars are first the da'ee, or person calling and inviting to Islam, second the mad'oo, or people being called to Islam, and thirdly the actual object of the da'wah which is of course Islam.

When discussing the recipients of da'wah (the mad'oo) as I have titled this post, it's useful to understand both the categories of people, and their rights. While there is a specific breakdown into difference groups of people we must first understand that this pillar of da'wah, the recipients of the da'wah, comprises all human beings. Every person fits in somewhere. I don't say that to pronounce judgment on anyone, but to drive home the point that everybody can and should receive da'wah, and that there is no class of people who should be exempt.

The two main categories of people are obviously Muslims and non-Muslims, which are both then further categorized. It is useful to understand these classifications because it is a requirement of a successful salesperson to "know the customer." And we can use here the analogy of da'wah to sales, whereby there is a salesperson, a customer, and a product. The salesperson is the da'ee who is conveying or teaching Islam, while the customer is the one being called to Islam, and Islam itself is the product of that transaction. So the salesperson, in order to be a good salesperson, must understand who his customer is, and what they are looking for, and also the most appropriate way to approach them.

When the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) sent Mu'adh to Yemen, he instructed him to first call the people to laa ilaaha illAllah, Muhammad ar-Rasoolullah, and if they accepted that then to call them to establish the salaat, and if they accepted that then to call them to pay the zakaat. The people in Yemen of course were Christians, and this was the approach suggested by the Prophet Muhammad (saws) in dealing with them.

So let me start with the categories of non-Muslims, who make up 4 primary groups.

  1. Atheists: The first group of non-Muslims is atheists, who are those with no belief in God at all.
  2. Idol Worshippers: In Arabic, mushrikeen, this group is referring to people who worship any kind of idol, or associate any partner in their worship of God.
  3. People of the Book: This category is significant, referring to people who received the message (of Islam) before, and then changed it so they are now misguided. An extra note on this group is that the people will be in the hellfire if they reject Muhammad (saaws) who was the Messenger for all of mankind. And on the other hand, the people of the book of course have a special status in fiqh.
  4. Hypocrites: The last category of people are the munafiqoon in Arabic, who are those people pretending to be Muslims while they in fact do not believe. They first appeared in Medina, and will be in the lowest level (most tortured) in hellfire for their actions.
The Da'ee must know and understand the non-Muslims like a physician must know his patients in order to treat them.

Muslims are also categorized, which I stress again to point out that Muslims also are in need of da'wah and should be included among the recipients of da'wah. So we classify them into three levels. And even though it might seem like common sense, all three are listed because da'wah should be given to all three groups, to either improve (2 & 3) or to maintain (1) their adherence and righteousness.
  1. The first describes those who are always at the highest level of righteousness. At this level the da'wah should be primarily to encourage the person to maintain his level of righteousness, and to guide him towards extra (nawafil) acts by which he can draw even nearer to Allah.
  2. The second is the lowest level, describing those who are Muslims but are not adherent. If we recall again the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) to Muadh, we understand that guidance occurs slowly, one pillar at a time. First the da'ee guides to laa ilaaha illAllah, but for the Muslims who accept that, the da'ee will guide to salaat first, then zakaat, then siyaam, then hajj, and not try to overwhelm a person by having them implement all these things at once. It is also important for the da'ee to remind the people to repent, and ask forgiveness.
  3. And the third is those who are between the first and second. For this person who is between the two levels, the da'wah should focus on fulfilling the obligations on Muslims, and avoiding the major sins. For a person who does that, he should be guided towards the voluntary acts to draw nearer to Allah.
I gave the previous analogy of the da'ee being like a physician who must know his patients, and it is crucial that a da'ee is able to understand the people to whom he is giving da'wah, before he calls them. Here is another example: suppose there is a person who is dealing in haraam activities, perhaps his income his haraam, so he won't go on hajj. The Shaytaan comes and tells him that his hajj wouldn't be accepted so he might as well not go. And tells him that his prayer won't be accepted so he might as well not pray. The da'wah should focus on guiding this person towards ibaadah (worship). The imam gave another analogy here, describing good deeds and bad deeds like deposits and withdrawals into a bank. If the account is empty, you need to make deposits before you can make withdrawals. In that way, just encourage people to follow bad deeds with good ones, and just go step by step.

The first portion of the class I saved for the last in this post, since I considered it the most profound and significant message, and this is the rights of the recipients of da'wah. While they do have a responsibility, according to the author, to actually accept the truth in the message and open their heart, it seems to me to be better to focus on what the responsibilities are of the da'ee to ensure that the rights of the mad'oo are respected.

Now there are basically two rights, the first of which is simply the right that the person actually receives the da'wah. This is like a right of a customer to actually receive a salesperson to explain the product to him. If a customer walks into a store and no salesperson comes to help him out, then this demonstrates poor salesmanship. And in our case, it would be poor da'wah, but since all human beings are the recipients of da'wah, there shouldn't be any waiting for the people to come to us to start our da'wah. Regardless of whether they come or not, they still have the right to hear from a da'ee.

The second right is a responsibility of the da'ee, and it is that the da'ee makes the time and effort to actually give the person the da'wah. The imam gave us the example here of the blind man who came to Muhammad (saaws) to hear some verses of the Qur'an, while Muhammad (saaws) was busy trying to give da'wah to a member (or a group) of the elite in Meccan society. Muhammad chose then to ignore the blind man, and because of that some verses (Abasa 80:1-10) were revealed admonishing him for his mistake. The message here is that every single person has an equal right to receive da'wah.

To give da'wah is to be on the sabeel or way of the Prophet Muhammad (saaws), as Allah SWT says in the Qur'an

Say, "This is my way; I invite to Allah with insight, I and those who follow me. And exalted is Allah ; and I am not of those who associate others with Him."

So May Allah make us among those who follow this Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (saaws) and increase in those attributes where we are weak.This post is based on my notes from a class with the imam on da'wah, but the commentary is pretty much my own words--so please forgive me for any mistakes as they are my own, while anything good is from Allah SWT and all praise is for Him.

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How I came to Islam (part 1)

Click for Photo CreditBecause I've been asked a few times in the last several days this question which comes up pretty often, I realized that I hadn't actually addressed the issue on my blog... and maybe people wondered!

I have been Muslim now for about 3 years, and my "journey" to Islam I roughly categorize into two basic parts--before I said shahadah (3-4 months) and after I said shahadah (6-8 months). The whole process took about 9 months to a year, but by the end I considered myself a practicing Muslimah without question. Although since saying shahadah is usually the point at which a convert will say he or she was actually a Muslim, I felt like I said shahadah far too early for me to consider even myself a Muslim, but I continued accepting Islam for a while afterwards--which is why I break up my story into two parts. So inshaaAllah I'll break up the post into two parts to cover both segments in detail.

Like many other converts, my story begins with me being an average, not especially religious person, who happened to meet some average, not especially religious Muslims. At the time I had just turned 21 and joined a sorority and had moved into a far more social and extravagant atmosphere than the more homely modest lifestyle I grew up in. I basically just started going out with my new swarm of girlfriends (the sisters of my professional/social engineering sorority), and meeting lots of new people. Among the people I met--a Muslim! Fancy that, from Morocco. No, I didn't really like him all that much but just getting to know him at all made me curious to study Islam.

Until then, I hadn't realized that my own knowledge and understanding of any religion (even my own) was very weak. So I began to research Islam on the internet through some wonderful websites devoted to that purpose--teaching Islam to people. I researched Islam and learned some very basic things--that Muslims believe in the "prophets" of the Bible (Old Testament specifically) and that they believed in Jesus as well but as a prophet instead of the son of God. I learned about the Qur'an, that Muslims actually believed it to be the word of God, revealed, exactly, in Arabic. It was a very interesting concept. I wasn't interested or converting or anything, I just found the entire religion very fascinating, and very... complete. Or comprehensive. Even the religious law was at the time very comforting to me since I struggled as a Christian to understand what was "God's Law" versus what was merely "Man's Law." Overall, to me, Islam seemed like a relatively benign and peaceful faith.

So while I was intrigued by Islam, and at the same time learning more about my own faith, Newsweek published something about the Qur'an being desecrated in Guantanamo Bay Prison. The big stink about it locally was that a church pastor actually fixed the sign outside his church to say, "The Koran needs to be flushed." So on the local radio news station that I listened to, there were a flurry of debates on the subject, with locals calling in to inform the audience of the evil hateful language of the Qur'an, and that it was instructing Muslims to kill everyone.

Now, since I had spent this little bit of time studying Islam, that claim seemed to me to be rather fanciful, but I decided that I wouldn't be able to find unbiased answers to the question, so I decided to just read the Qur'an for myself. Sure, the whole thing, why not? It was all available online anyway! So that's what I did. I just read it. And as I began to read I started to have some questions and I wanted to talk it out a little, so I joined a webforum I found of Muslims, and asked a few questions, and had them answered.

By the time I had joined, however, I didn't think I could consider myself a Christian. And that's because as I was reading the Qur'an I just found it so powerful, and one ayah in particular actually tugged my heart, resonated so strongly that even though I wasn't fully convinced of Islam, that one ayah pulled me out of Christianity. In case you're wondering which ayah, it's this one:

O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.
So I started to really question my long-held Christian beliefs, and when I joined the whyislam forum, I had other people questioning my beliefs as well. And then with a very short questionaire, one actually convinced me that I pretty much already did believe in Islam, and encouraged me to go ahead and say shahadah. This person is still very close to me, even though I do feel like I was somewhat pressured and rushed into accepting Islam.

So, on June 9, 2005 (or thereabouts... if memory serves) I said shahadah, and became a Muslim. At the time I had read most of the Qur'an (the first 50-60 surahs plus a few of the last ones) and I did believe it was the word of God, but still had many doubts about Islam, especially about the hijab and some ahadith. But there I was, late on a Thursday night, in tears on the phone, with no Muslims among my acquaintances here in Raleigh, and nobody to talk to about my situation, and not sure how to proceed.

To be continued...

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

Monday, July 28, 2008

More on Missionaries

I recently made a post about a website I had come across that was geared towards explaining Islam for Christian (Protestant) missionaries. It was interesting in that at least regarding Islam it attempted to be balanced and informative instead of tilted to breed hatred towards Muslims.

What happened though, in the last couple days, is some missionary must have discovered my blog, most likely thanks to that post. And he/she left a few very odd comments on some various older posts of mine--not really comments, actually, but pasted articles mostly from a noted anti-islam website (which I will not link.) I deleted them pretty quickly since I don't have any need for that sort of thing on my blog (and it is very rude to copy/paste articles as comments, I think!)

But it was kind of amusing--in case any of you are wondering what sorts of things a missionary might post on a Muslim convert's blog, I thought I'd share a few bits.

(1) On When is a good time to let go? the comment began with what I think was the poster's own, "Jesus is so different!" she wrote. (I'll call the person a she just because I have a suspicion, that's all.) Different from what? I was feeling actually quite desperate about some events in my life, and very troubled. But by material things. Spiritually, I was actually quite on a high and I had tremendous hope in the mercy of Allah (SWT.) I think my visitor thought I must have been considering leaving Islam, which, couldn't have been further from the truth. Alhamdulillah. Anyway, what followed was a very convoluted conversion story by "sister grace." Now, sister grace described herself as, "a convert to Islam, who has rediscovered Jesus, and returned to Him." So basically she was born a Christian and decided to try Islam because she kind of liked it, I suppose. And then she met an Indian Christian family who apparently exceeded her prowess at religious debate, and they were praying for her, so she concluded that God in the Qur'an was "distant" and "far."

This is a claim that many Christians make about Islam, but it's totally unfounded. Muslims understand Allah to be Great, Almighty, Lord of the World, but also Gentle, Forgiving, and Loving. He says in the Qur'an that He is nearer to man than his jugular vein! You see, Christians want Muslims to think that "Jesus" (not the real Jesus, but their distorted perception of him) is close to them and that without him, God is far away. But in fact, we can see they don't understand Islam in the first place, because God is not far or distant in Islam.

Now, this poor convert person already admits to having a bad opinion of Islam while as a Muslim, and then went on, she says, to find the same aforementioned (non-linked) anti-Islam website which apparently cleared it all up for her. And then... magically, or mystically, she had a dream! Yes, a dream, and then she went back to Christianity. Overall, it's a pretty unremarkable story, I think. It might even be true. Basically this person thinks that Muslims have reason and logic and sense but no emotion and apparently don't really love their faith. Weird impression, I'll say, but anyway. Allah is the One Who Guides. :-) May He guide us and keep us firm on His deen.

(2) Now, the second post she left on my blog, for my post "The Bachelorette" was another story. She must have thought that marriage in Islam is something totally wacky, like what this story portrays--you'll see. What I found so amusing about this one is that I had read it before! You see, I have actually visited this anti-Islam website I keep mentioning, in fact before I embraced Islam I made a point to read all the converted-out-of-Islam stories. And I found them to be so bizarre it actually increased my faith in Islam. Subhanallah. This is one of those bizarre ones. Again, the poor girl is a Christian woman who converted to Islam, apparently because it was cool (she doesn't really say why) and then "soon things began to fall apart in my life." Indeed, what happened?

Well, she writes that she "belligerant to my co-workers and was soon fired." I can't figure out how Islam is related here. Muslims aren't supposed to be belligerent or anything of the sort, but gentle and merciful. Then we read that her Imam told her that she "had to return to my parents home since Islam forbids single women from living alone." Fancy that? Back to living with her parents? Okay okay, I'll keep going. Back in with her parents, she points out that they didn't like her wearing the "traditional Muslim garb" (her words, not mine... lol) and tried to forbid her. And then her friends didn't want to be around her (probably because her own bad attitude, which she's described) and she would only spend time around Muslims. Then the story really takes off...

She writes that a month after moving in with her parents again, she was "introduced" to her "future husband." Introduced? This sounds fishy... read on: "I was simply led into a room and told that he was the man that I was supposed to marry and I had no choice in the matter." I'm sorry... I really couldn't help cracking up at this point. Anything in the story which might have otherwise seemed true was pretty much blown out of the water by this shockingly bizarre development. Led into a room? By whom? Who has the authority to set her up with someone without her permission? Yeah right... somebody didn't do their homework. No choice? Give me a break.

Well anyway, since she didn't run for the hills at that craziness, she married the guy and then, as she says, "soon entered hell." She wasn't allowed to leave the apartment without permission, and never allowed to run the air conditioner, in 100-degree summer heat. And that apparently caused her to get a heat rash and heat exhaustion. And then her husband, whose name we learn is Mohammed (go figure, right?) makes her give her car back to her parents so she would really be "stuck at home." Not to mention her husband is some kind of slacker who doesn't come home much and won't take her out. Then she learns music is forbidden and her husband hits her.

You might not have thought it possible, but this story gets even worse... apparently, we learn her husband would often starve her--not leave her with anything to eat. So she asked a friend of his to bring her food which enraged her husband and resulted in extensive beatings and physical damage. So then her crazy abusive husband goes to Morocco, and eventually lets her get a job and eat, and even have her car back. Sorry... I'm rolling... So anyway, she eventually begins to see that Islam = abusive men, and oppressed women. What she called before the "traditional Muslim garb" became "heavy oppressive clothing." She had some more bad experiences with Muslims, cried, prayed, her husband left her (said he didn't care what she did!), she got a divorce, and went back to church!!

Now, I don't mean to belittle anyone's suffering, but doesn't this tale seem a little far-fetched for anyone to take seriously? It's just one stereotype after another. Like someone made up this girl, put her through all the experiences they could imagine to portray Islam badly (wife beating, hijab in the heat, not allowed to leave home or drive, forced marriage) trying to justify those activities in Islam (when of course we, the Muslims, know none of this is allowed.) Ultimately it's a story designed to give a woman (in particular a woman) doubts about the treatment of women in Islam, by telling this story of a woman who experiences all the basic stereotypes, plus some extras for added suspense.

Anyway, what's the moral of the story? That Muslim men are bad abusive hypocrites who treat their wives like trash--according to Christian missionaries. At least, pretending that they are makes for good stories and propaganda to try to lead poor confused Muslim women away from Islam. Especially those who might have converted from Christianity. A lot of women do, I think that is the target audience for stories like these. Anyway... I'm somewhat untrusting I suppose, but I really just have a hard time actually believing this one.

(3) The third exciting comment she left on my post 12 Characteristics of an Effective Da'ee was an article written by a known anti-Islam writer featured on aforemented (non-linked) site. And basically it pulls some ayaat out of the Qur'an, out of context, and attempts to prove that the Qur'an calls Allah (SWT!) a liar. A'udhubillah. It was pretty much garbage and I won't even bother summarizing it since I really don't see any benefits or lessons to learn from it.

That aside, given the nature of my blog, I found it pretty amusing someone would have the audacity to post such drivel here. But the conversion stories were especially funny--to me anyway. I don't mean to make fun of anyone here--and I seriously hope that nobody actually experienced the events in the second story. But I expect we will all find our Recompense in the Hereafter, and believe that Allah Almight is The Just.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Free Publicity

Well, I had meant to post this a few days ago as it was developing but now it's really picking up speed, I've noticed. You might notice a link on my blog to the ' Forum' where I frequently post (and occasionally function in an admin role), which is basically a discussion board to talk about Islam, geared towards non-Muslims who might have questions.

My own decision to embrace Islam came after talking to volunteers on the forum, so I have a lot of respect for those who post there and operate that forum. I think it's a great organization, operated by knowledgeable and sincere volunteers who are trying to earn the pleasure of Allah SWT. So I was pretty excited when I got an email asking me to donate to a new Whyislam project--subway ads! I thought it was a neat campaign and told a few of my friends about it.

A few days later I heard that the New York Post had run an article (Training Day for Jihadists, it said!) attacking the campaign, the ads, the organization, and even Imam Siraj Wahhaj who had tried to drum up support for the project! They tried to smear the campaign with associations to terrorism. But if you read the article, you'll notice that they of course give the phone number and website to which the ad directs! So basically... directing more people to the whyislam volunteers!

That New York Post article caused other news outlets to take notice, like this one at FOX, where you even get to see the ad (including the direction to the whyislam hotline and website), this one from NBC, and even these two at CNN!Why do they even have a story? Because they are linking the ads with who they call a "controversial imam" Siraj Wahhaj. Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Imam Siraj Wahhaj knows better, that this is a man who has tried his hardest to improve the conditions of American Muslims. For such a respected persona to have his reputation tarnished is troubling, yes.

However, please stop to consider the following. Because Imam Siraj Wahhaj promoted the campaign, the media was able to pick up on him and develop a story in an attempt to smear the entire ad campaign. But in fact, all they have done is provide free publicity for a campaign that is still trying to raise money to sponsor subway ads!

How many more Muslims are now aware of the campaign thanks to the media coverage, and likely to donate? How many more Non-Muslims have now been exposed to the campaign that will visit the whyislam website and hotline to learn about Islam! While the whyislam volunteers were still struggling to reach their subway audience, Allah SWT spread their message across the country!! This is really a blessing--and it goes to show that Allah is going to help those who are sincere in their da'wah.

If you want to learn more about the subway project, to donate, and to see the ads, you can visit its website at

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Missionaries Targeting Muslims

I was browsing through a list of "referrals" for my blog, as I sometimes do when I'm bored to see if anyone is writing about me... lol. Anyway, a neat feature is if someone found me through a google search, I can see their search query. And today I saw someone had visited my blog who was looking for "witnessing to muslim women." In fact, there is a whole book devoted to that topic, which I actually started a (now rather defunct and rarely updated) blog to address.

Nonetheless, I was curious to see what this person's (I imagine a woman) search would reveal, and I found a website that was a brief overview of Islam for Christians who were intent on 'witnessing' to Muslims. By the way, in case you're wondering what this 'witnessing' thing is, let me explain. That's the Christian way of giving da'wah so to speak. Telling you their story (witnessing) of finding Christ (pbuh) and trying to guide you towards Christianity--what they call a personal relationship with Jesus. I find this more among Protestants than Catholics though, just as a point. Anyway, I don't mean to mock at all--the Christian missionaries tend to be rather nice, polite, and sometimes well-informed (about Islam, I mean.) They take their religion seriously on a spiritual level and sincerely try to emulate Jesus (pbuh) in their behavior. And for what it's worth, I think they tend to be pretty genuine as well, in wanting the blessings they get from their spirituality for all their brothers and sisters (in humanity).

Contrast them with some other aggressive "missionary-types" like you might find on a Catholic web forum--armed with Spencer-style bigotry to launch at Muslims, they are actually happy when a person chooses atheism over Islam. So their goal is to get people to abandon living a righteous, spiritual life--not to lead people towards the beauty of Christianity or the Church or anything, but just to get them away from Islam, and I really think some of them would prefer a person just leave Islam than find Christianity.

Now, I don't mean this to classify Protestant missionaries and Catholic missionaries as two different groups--in fact, there are polite well-intended missionaries in both, and aggressive islamophobes in both.

Overall, after dealing with some people who really have to smear Islam by slandering the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions, seriously twisting and distorting historical facts, and demonizing modern-day Muslims, it was really refreshing to see a site that was devoted to preaching to Muslims, but by providing them with a relatively balanced and informed view of Islam. Seriously, they made an effort to go to some English sources written by Muslims about Islam, which is kind of impressive. At least, I was impressed until I stumbled across some of the conversion stories (Muslims to Christianity) which included Jesus (pbuh) driving a bus at hajj, a man who had a seizure upon hearing the beginning of the book of John and converted while unconscious, and a boy who saw visions of Jesus and could predict the future for his friends.

Something I love about being a Muslim is that the Muslims I know who are committed to Islam all at some point embarked on a search for truth, they rationally analyzed the religious and spiritual options in front of them. They approached the Qur'an with questions... and found their questions answered. Their conversion wasn't based on bizarre supernatural phenomena, visions, or dreams... but prayers for guidance, reasoning, and logic. It's just an interesting distinction between converts on both sides, I suppose.

A simple blessing

Yesterday after I work, I was looking forward to spending an evening pretty much by myself, taking care of some chores around the house. Among the tasks waiting for me were a pile of dishes in the sink, at least two loads of laundry, sorting the mail, vacuuming the floors and possibly scrubbing my bathroom sink. I also intended to spend some time on the treadmill, and reheat some haleem for dinner which I had made the previous night. None of it happened.

Once I got home I brought in the day's mail, and a dripping wet bagged local newspaper. The next day was trash day so I took some trash that had been left in my car and put it in the trash bin. It was late in the afternoon but the sun was still out so when I walked in to the house I didn't immediately notice a problem. In fact, I didn't realize it until I tried to open the garage door... and found the device unresponsive. First I panicked thinking it had broken or died somehow. Then I came back in the house and upon looking at the clock on the oven (which was blank), I realized that the power in the whole house was out. And then my stomach sank.

I tried to figure out why--I was worried if perhaps I hadn't informed the house's owner of a power bill and the power had been shut off? That seemed unlikely. Or maybe it was just the bad storm which had knocked out the power--we do get brief thunderstorms here almost every day which are widely scattered and occasionally severe. A power flicker isn't rare, but for it to be out entirely? It would be out on the whole street I figured--but as it was in the afternoon, I couldn't determine if any other house had power, or just their lights weren't on (lights weren't really necessary at that time of day.) Listening to some neighbors conversing outside, I concluded that other houses were also in the dark, so to speak, and that being the case I knew I wouldn't have to worry about calling the power company myself (since I don't even know what company to call!)

So since I had no power, I wouldn't be able to do any of the chores I'd scheduled. I couldn't even eat dinner! So I picked up a salad in a drive-thru and went to visit my parents for the evening, informing them of the latest goings-on in my life. I figured that by the time I had returned, the power would be back on.

As it happens... the power was still off. But in the dark, it was obvious that the first section of the street had power, my section did not, and then past my section there was power again. But since the whole strip of road--both sides of the street, a total of maybe 10 houses--was completely dark, I saw that the power was still out but knew for sure that I wasn't alone. So I pulled in, stumbled my way inside trying to get around in a house that I haven't even lived in for a month.

The house has many windows, so mostly I was okay getting around once my eyes got used to it I guess. It was a cloudy night--and clouds reflect the city lights at night so that there was some ambient light from outside--not enough to see anything clearly, but enough to avoid walking in to things. It was hardest in the bathroom though, where there was no light at all giving the sensation of blindness. So I made wudu in the dark, and prayed in the dark... and went to sleep... still in the dark. The other unpleasant thing is that the A/C was off, as well as the fans, so it was a little warmer than comfortable.

Alhamdulillah, we don't really realize sometimes how many blessings we have. Just the fact that we have this power is a huge blessing. Think about it--if you want to do anything at night, you need lights. (I didn't know the location of a lighter to light any candles, btw.) If you want to take a shower, your water heater will heat the water for you. To clean your clothes you have an automatic washing machine and a dryer--all driven by this precious utility. Hot water to wash dishes. Power to the treadmill to turn it on. Power to keep the freezer and fridge cool, to power the stove and microwave to heat food. We're so dependent on it, in our lives--it makes everything so much easier, and without it we would have to drastically change our lifestyles.

How easy Allah has made it for us--are we really grateful?

Alhamdulillah, the power came back on at or before fajr time (it was on when I woke up). And alhamdulillah that it provided me an opportunity to thank Allah for one of the many blessings that I had not, prior to then, actually given much consideration.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Eating Like a Believer

I don't think it is mere coincidence that three times in a 2-day period, from three different sources, I came across the exactly same hadith:

He also said: “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls, to keep him going. If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1381), Ibn Maajah (3349); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (2265).
The first time was Sunday, at the blog, and it was mentioned describing that it was a Sunnah of Muhammad (saaws) as well as his intructions to his companions, for the believer to not eat too much food, and that doing so was harmful.

It was strong enough the first time to make me seriously consider starting my own weight-loss blog... which I kind of don't want to do since I already have a blog. Plus, even though I have been trying to improve my health and lose weight (by eating better and exercising more) for a couple weeks now, it's still, for me, a private matter between me and my "coach." So maybe after more time has passed I will start including my updates on my blog as well.

The second time was on Sunday night, in a lecture on diseases of the heart delivered by Sheikh Muhammad Salah, from Huda TV--he was visiting town this weekend and gave a short talk at my masjid, and he mentioned this same hadith as well. He gave it in the context that eating too much was a disease of the heart. He also offered a way of sitting that makes it impossible to fill your stomach (anatomically) and said that the Prophet (saaws) used to sit that way to eat. I'd never heard that before, but it was interesting, and several people there apparently knew that way of sitting already.

The third time was Monday night, when I was listening to a live Bayyinah Tajweed class on the phone, taught by Br. Wisam Sharieff. He mentioned it while talking about students of knowledge, saying that eating a heavy meal and filling the stomach requires more blood to be devoted to digestion, making the mind work slower, so it would be better for students of knowledge especially to eat very little.

So, subhanallah, that was the message that seemed to be driven home to me over the last couple days--the importance of not eating too much food! So I figure the responsibility is now on me to apply it in my life. I know it's bad--but you know, when you're used to eating a lot of food, it almost seems to go unnoticed the immediate bad effects, until it builds up over time, leaving a person with high blood pressure, excess fat, high cholesterol and other ills making it more difficult for the body to function properly. If you've been eating little for a longer time--I had been eating several small "meals" throughout the day for about a week and a half before I splurged a bit while eating out at an Indian restaraunt with a buffet--and I really felt it afterwards, that I had just eaten too much. It made me uncomfortable for the rest of the night--and before you think maybe the food just didn't agree with me, that wasn't the problem. It was just too much.

So anyway, now there are three good and different deen-related reasons to eat less. First, that it's a sunnah, second that eating too much is a disease of the heart, and third that it is not befitting a student of knowledge. So this is a reminder to myself first of all, and for anyone else interested, to not fill the stomach.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

12 Characteristics of an Effective Da'ee

When Muslims talk about Islamic Da'wah, or inviting people to the way of Islam, they are basically talking about three different stages of promoting Islam. The first (of three) is inviting people to Islam by conveying the message. That is only one stage, which is followed by teaching Islam to the people who accept the message. And the third stage is actually helping people to implement Islam in their lives. So when I talk about da'wah in this post, I am referring to all three of these stages collectively, and not only the first (as many people perceive.) Therefore da'wah is not directed only to non-Muslims but to Muslims as well, at various levels of knowledge and iman.

Now basically there are three pillars of da'wah. Just like there are pillars of Islam (5), pillars of iman (6), and even pillars of salaat, there are pillars of da'wah, and they are three (3). This almost seems like a common sense breakdown, but is useful when trying to understand and analyze the concept of da'wah and methods of it. Of the three pillars of da'wah, the first is the caller to Islaam, or the da'ee. The second pillar is the audience of the message, the people who are being called to Islam. And the third pillar is the message itself, what the da'ee is calling to--Islam. Although I'm reluctant to use this analogy, the pillars of da'wah can be likened to sales, where there exists a salesman, a buyer, and a product being sold. It's a useful analogy, but I don't like thinking of Islam as being literally 'sold,' especially as salesmen (analogous to the da'ees) are often considered to be liars in this culture. Or maybe it's just that I have a bad experience with salesmen. Anyway, these are the three essential pillars of da'wah.

Now, as was mentioned above, the da'ee is the person who is basically calling people to Islam, conveying the message, and trying to teach the people and help them to apply Islam. The first da'ee or messenger was Nuh (i.e., Noah, pbuh), and the first da'ee in our ummah was Muhammad, saaws. Because the da'ee is calling to Allah SWT, he is in the highest and most honorable role, and is promised a great reward. But in order to be an effective da'ee, there are essential characteristics, even required attributes which a person must possess--they have been summarized here into 12, the 12 characteristics (or requirements) of an effective da'ee.

1. Iman - The first essential characteristic mentioned is to have a strong faith or belief in what the da'ee is calling to, which is Islam.

2. Good Relationship with Allah - The second characteristic is to have a good relationship with the One to whom the da'ee is calling, Allah SWT. This characteristic can be broken down into two parts: sincerity, and love.
  • Ikhlaas means sincerity, and the da'ee must be pure in his intentions. He should be worshiping Allah SWT with sincerity and purity, and not be maintaing what could be called merely a superficial relationship. It should be sincere.
  • Love for Allah SWT is the second part, and a da'ee should love Allah SWt in his heart in order to be an effective da'ee or even a strong Muslim. There are ways to cultivate love for Allah SWT which can be reviewed in my post entitled Loving Allah.
3. Knowledge - A person calling to Islam should also have strong, solid knowledge of what he is calling to, which means the da'ee should know Islam, and also know why Islam is better than any alternative paths.

4. Application - The da'ee must also implement what he calls for, as it is not appropriate to call people to do what he himself cannot apply in his own life. Sometimes this is called 'practicing what you preach.' It is very important for the da'ee to implement Islam in his own life before calling others to it.

5. Awareness - The da'ee should have awareness of basically three principles:
  • Awareness of the reality of da'wah in his lifetime and place, such that he knows the means of giving da'wah in his particular circumstances and time.
  • Awareness of the reality of the condition of the people he is calling to Islam, such that he understands their experience and their options.
  • Awareness of his personal capabilities, as a person cannot give da'wah beyond his capabilities so he should be aware of his own limits.
6. Wisdom - Wisdom in the way of da'wah means that a da'ee can give the message gradually, at the level which people are able to understand. Giving them more information than they can grasp will lead to more confusion and fitnah, so it is better to give people only what they are capable of understanding. We can see of course that the message of Islam was delivered gradually, for over two decades, as the people were able to progress in their understanding and iman.

7. Good Manners - While good manners attract people, poor manners repel them, and manners attract people much more than speech, so it is essential that the da'ee has good manners. The most important of the good manners is patience, as Muhammad (saaws) was advised to have patience as the messengers before him had patience.

8. Giving Muslims the Benefit of the Doubt - The da'ee should give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt, and respect, because if he doesn't, people will always have the worst interpretation of a person's actions. The da'ee needs to show respect so that people will open their hearts.

9. Covering the Faults of People - When a doctor treats a patient, there is a strict rule of confidentiality, which is essential for a patient to be able to trust his physician. He needs to trust that the doctor will not reveal the person's shortcomings and weaknesses to others. Similarly, the da'ee should cover people's shortcomings so that they are able to trust him, not fearing that he will reveal their flaws to their friends or community.

10. Mixing and Isolating Appropriately - This characteristic means that the da'ee mixes with the people when it is best to mix with them, which is when he can help them. But at the same time, it means he refrains from mixing with them, or isolates himself, when mixing with them would be harmful. It is good to mix with the people, but isolation is preferred if the mixing would allow the group to bring down the da'ee.

11. Giving Due Respect - This implies that the da'ee gives everyone the respect which is due to their position, which means respect the scholars, the elderly, and people who have been given authority. This way the disrespect will not block the haqq from reaching their minds. We have an example of this behavior in the Prophet (saaws) who at the conquest of Mecca said that anyone inside the Haram or staying in their homes would be safe, as well as anyone staying in the House of Abu Sufyan--this showed respect to Abu Sufyan.

12. Cooperating with other Da'ees - This final characteristic is that the da'ee should cooperate with others who are calling to Islam (plural is du'aat by the way) and this is because they are working for the same objective, and working for the same ilaah. So they should help each other, give each other advice, and make consultation, instead of competing and trying to defeat each other.

Now it's important to note that just because a person might not have all of these characteristics doesn't mean he cannot be a da'ee, it just means that he won't be as effective, and perhaps that he is not giving da'wah correctly. So what a da'ee should do if he finds himself lacking in any of these attributes, is to improve himself. If he has bad manners, he should improve his manners. If he lacks knowledge, he should acquire knowledge. And if he has been accusing Muslims instead of covering their faults then he should try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

To give da'wah is to be on the sabeel or way of the Prophet Muhammad (saaws), as Allah SWT says in the Qur'an

Say, "This is my way; I invite to Allah with insight, I and those who follow me. And exalted is Allah ; and I am not of those who associate others with Him." (12:108)

So May Allah make us among those who follow this Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (saaws) and increase in those attributes where we are weak.

This post is based on my notes from a class with the imam on da'wah, but the commentary is pretty much my own words--so please forgive me for any mistakes as they are my own, while anything good is from Allah SWT and all praise is for Him.

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Better Muslims?

I recently came across a forum made up largely of Muslim converts where a number of members have espoused their opinion that converts are better Muslims somehow than those born into Islam. I'm afraid that I might have shared that view at one point, although now I find such an opinion to be a little strange. Just because a person's path started outside of Islam, and now they are Muslim, does not make them any more guided than someone who started on the path of Islam and has consistently maintained it, right? Everyone has challenges to overcome.

Some will say that they are glad they found Islam before they ever really got to know many Muslims, suggesting that 'born' Muslims are somehow inferior than the convert in their understanding and application of Islam. And maybe some are, but I don't think that should make a general rule, just like there are converts who know very little about Islam and yet declare their views as if they were backed up by some authoritative scholarship. I would rather turn to a real scholar, one who has spent his entire life trying to be a better Muslim, and learn from him. I don't hold every single Muslim I meet to that same standard, but I also don't see the point in categorizing people as such. In fact, I think there might also be some people on the other side of the spectrum who think that a convert couldn't possibly know anything about Islam, and isn't nearly as good a Muslim as someone who is only nominally practicing but was at least born in the faith. But doesn't that sound more like some built-in prejudice anyway? (For the record, I don't know many Muslims with that opinion.)

Yet I know some converts who have taken it upon themselves to try to reform Islam and Muslims, as if Islam needed reforming, as if it were deficient without being seen through the eyes of a Westerner. Perhaps they see some Muslims of the past as being poor stewards of the deen, and it's up to them, now, who know better--having the perspective of their enlightened non-Muslim path--to fix all the ills. I'm being somewhat sarcastic here but even as I type it I bristle a little bit, since I'm afraid that some people really think this way. Wouldn't it be better to just join together as a single community, and establish for ourselves the same Islam which has been bequeathed to us by our noble Prophet saaws?

Sometimes with my friends, those who were born Muslim, we'll talk about the differences in our backgrounds. I know what happened to me without Islam--you don't, you reading this blog. You don't know how much I wish I had found Islam years, even months sooner than I did, or why. I look at them as being blessed to grow up with Shari'ah to sort of protect them, at least having it even if they didn't understand it. And then they think I have some greater appreciation for Islam just because I had to embrace it from something else.

In some ways the idea of differences between converted and born Muslims reminds me of the distinctions between the Ansar and the Muhajireen. They had differences but overall they were united as Muslims. When I first embraced Islam, I really felt like a convert. In everything I did I felt like I was somehow outside the rest of the Muslims. I was just "different." I don't feel like that anymore. I no longer identify myself as being a "convert" or somehow outside of the general Muslim community, and I certainly haven't been excluded by the Muslims as being inferior or unworthy. I am a convert, of course, but I don't feel like I'm some sort of special anomalous Muslim because of it. I feel like I have pretty much the same problems that any other Muslim might have, trying to live a life that is righteous before God, while balancing my concerns of this world. And hey, maybe I'm just complaining about nothing.

Alhamdulillah, Allah did choose me to be a Muslim, and He SWT guided me to Islam. No doubt about that. But how can a person be a Muslim, a Mu'min, unless Allah SWT is guiding them as well? There's no way for me to know, as Allah SWT alone knows what is in the hearts.
The wandering Arabs say: We believe. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Ye believe not, but rather say "We submit," for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts. Yet, if ye obey Allah and His messenger, He will not withhold from you aught of (the reward of) your deeds. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (49:14)
So, I mean to say that guidance is not unique to converts--sure, they have a different experience than those who were raised on the foundation of Islam, but we're all going to the same place. And we all ask Allah SWT for guidance--17 times a day in fact. Iman is not reserved for those who embraced Islam from something else. And Muslims the world around are not merely empty vessels devoid of spirituality. We are all Muslims, some at more advanced stages than others, but all of us striving for the pleasure of Allah SWT, hoping for His mercy and reward while fearing His punishment and wrath. None of us better than the other except in our piety or taqwa.

So I guess we should just all ask our Lord to increase us in understanding, and increase us in faith, and make us among the righteous believers. And this du'a from the Qur'an also comes to mind:

Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower. (3:8)

Calendar Feature!

I was playing around with the Google Calendar features last week and realized that I could very easily embed my Google calendar onto my blog! Super cool, huh!? By the way, I'm thinking I'd like to redesign my blog, so if anyone has any suggestions... or offers... yeah.

Anyway, my first encounter with the embedded google calendar was when I asked the people who run the masjid's website to keep a calendar on the website of all the upcoming events. They made a calendar in google and put it on the website. Unfortunately it's not very up-to-date, but that's partly I think because they are working on redesigning their site. And maintaining the old one is something of a lower priority.

But I decided to go ahead and try including this feature since I think it's kind of neat--and for the people who know me, if they want to know if I'm planning to attend something, maybe they can check my blog, right? :-) Overall I think it's cool, so if you scroll down it's at the bottom of the sidebar right now. And I've included in this post a slightly bigger version just because... I can.

And right now it probably looks like all I ever do is go to the masjid, since lately I don't have many plans in the near future except for the few recurring classes I attend. Any thoughts?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Label Cloud Feature

How did I get the label cloud?

From here:

It includes notes on how to add and adapt a label cloud in blogger.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mushroom Hunting

Suppose that someone calls you up, and asks you if you want to go take pictures of mushrooms... would you say yes? I probably would come up with some sort of excuse. But it was an elderly lady who called me (maashaaAllah, she is a Muslimah who converted to Islam at age 58!) and what went through my head was the following hadith:

He is not one of us who does not show mercy to our young ones and esteem to our elderly. (At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad.)
So lately I've been trying to do a better job of showing respect to my elders. And honestly, I know this lady wouldn't have called me as a first choice but somewhere pretty far down the line (I didn't even think she had my phone number.) She is one of the ladies I've been trying to walk with in the mornings, and before calling me she probably would have called all the rest of them who she knows better. So I think by calling me that was a sign that everyone else had already turned her down.

But more to the point, I didn't actually have any plans after my Bayyinah Tajweed Follow-Up Conference Call, so I said, "Sure, I'll go." After my tajweed class of course, though. And she called around 11:30am, the class was at 12, so we hooked up at the lake around 2:30. She wanted to take pictures of the mushrooms which had sprouted up the night before along their walking path. Unfortunately by the time we arrived, a lot of them had been knocked down and trampled on. She had anticipated that however, and warned me that we might be going "off the beaten path" to find the mushrooms. I thought that meant going in to the woods a little ways.

Well it turned out that the batteries in her camera were dead or dying right as we got started, so we didn't get very far before turning around and driving to a convenience store to replace them. So maybe it was around 3pm before we really got started. And she took pictures of all the interesting looking ones she could find--she looked on one side of the path while I kept my eyes peeled on the other.

I really had no idea there were so many varieties of mushroom. That could spring up over night. Around the same lake. There were some really bright yellow mushrooms, some white-stemmed mushrooms with a bright orange top that looked like an easter egg, some that looked like a prickly sort of snowball. If you just stop to look at them it's pretty amazing. There were some colonies of really tiny ones, some colonies of big ones, dark silver ones, red ones. A lot were just ordinary brown kinds, but it was kind of interesting. The ones in the picture are some really large white ones that were beside the road actually.

So we kept going along the path we walk in the mornings, I let her tell me about the different kinds of mushrooms and things going on in her building. She talked to me about growing up in the mountains and games she used to play with her brothers. Eventually we came to this long bridge, which is usually where we stop walking when we come in the mornings. But she wanted to keep going--off the beaten path, you know?

And since we weren't going really all that fast, we were especially tired by that point--the only problem was that we didn't know for sure where the path led back to! But she wanted to try that way anyway and I wasn't going to argue. Oh, and the reason she wanted someone to come with her? Mostly for safety--in case she fell or something (we were in the woods) and nobody was around, and that she couldn't hear people coming up behind her all that well.

So we kept going, not knowing where, as the path now instead of being soft dirt (and mulch) was clay and rocks, and instead of being flat was now going up and down. We finally came to a sort of cross paths with two options--to go down a very steep hill where the path had been labeled that bicycles weren't allowed, or a wider path that was similar to where we had come from. There was also a map but it wasn't exactly clear on how to get us back to where we had parked, at the boathouse. So we took the path that seemed easier, only to run in to some people who had passed us while we were photographing mushrooms. Alhamdulillah--I don't know how much further we'd have gone down that route unless they had stopped us. They didn't know the way out either, but informed us that our current path was pretty much a dead end. So we went back and then were left with the option to take the steep path, which was pretty much unknown to us, or to turn back and take a couple of hills, then the flat, soft path we had taken in the first place.

I let her decide. Looking into the woods at that point did not encourage me to take that path, although another couple came by and assured us that this was the faster, shorter path. Maybe it was shorter... but it wasn't worth it! We were going up and down very steep hills, trekking over unearthed roots, rocks, down the trunk of a tree, and through a stream. Everytime we encountered somone (which was pretty rare, maybe happened 3 or 4 times), she would ask how much further it was. Not far, they said, not far. My companion was by then severly exhausted, thirsty, with very sore feet. (I felt about the same, by the way!) We finally came to the end of this path, to the street and another parking lot. It was not, however, the parking lot we had parked at, but it was simply another entrance (on the other side of the street) to the walking trail which circled another park of the lake. From that point, we had about another half mile (or maybe something less) to the boathouse, taking this walking trail (which was paved) to the bridge, and then the boathouse. It was about 6pm by the time we got to the boathouse, eagerly stepping up to the water fountain!

So yes, it took three hours of walking--the last two hours of which were intense, navigating through hills and trees and such. But alhamdulillah we made it, neither of us passed out, although sitting down in my car felt almost euphoric.

All for some mushrooms! Most of which had been tramped anyway. And we did find some interesting ones on the second part of the path, in the woods, although we weren't really looking for them then, and only the bigger ones stood out. I wonder now how many smaller interesting ones we might have overlooked, just trying to get out of there. But I think she got some nice pictures. I only took the one so I could blog about it if I chose.

So in the end, was it worth it? I think about it this way:

If a young man honors an elderly on account of his age, Allah appoints someone to honor him in his old age. (At-Tirmidhi)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Bachelorette

Over the past few weeks, I happened to read a few different articles or blogs of women complaining about the dearth of available men who fit their criteria for marriage--which was basically a high education and commitment to Islam. After finding themselves set up with some variety of men who failed in either department they were a little frustrated with their predicament.

Now seeing my own engagement kind of go up in smoke (poof!), I'm a little more sympathetic. I still think maybe people's standards are too high. But then again, I don't know them or their situations so it's not really my place to say.

Although, I do know what women are supposed to be looking for in a Muslim spouse. And it might surprise some people, but it's actually not a PhD. Or an MD for that matter, or any assortment of abbreviations which one might append to his name. Okay maybe that's not surprising. It's also not cash in the bank or a ripped set of abs. But two things, only, namely his Islam, and his manners. I actually have notes somewhere with a hadith to this effect, but since the move I haven't found a lot of my stuff.

I remember a few years ago, about a year or so after I officially converted to Islam, I finally admitted (for the first time) that I was willing to get married. Before Islam, marriage was not really a high priority for me (in fact it's not a priority for a lot of girls that age). I was focused on school, and career, and then if I got married it was supposed to fit into that mold somehow. Some of you might know I had a rough go of things for the first few months after converting and wasn't even interested in practicing Islam. In fact, I was on the hadith-rejection path and really didn't have much true respect for our Prophet (saaws). So it was pretty remarkable that after a year I not only admitted that I kinda sorta wanted to get married, but that if I did marry, it would have to be to someone who truly and sincerely wanted to emulate the Prophet (saaws).

Even then, I could see that the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (saaws) treated his wives the best, and that any good man, who would be a good husband, would want to be like him in all respects--not just marriage.

I have, personally, had some bad experiences with Muslim men, and I know others who have as well. I realized that just because a man said he was a Muslim, Islam didn't necessarily have any part in his life. Imagine a Muslim man, for example, who thinks that it's actually okay Islamically for him to sleep around with women, as long as they aren't Muslim women. Twisted, right? I started seeing that yeah, some Muslim men do have a really low opinion of women... but alhamdulillah, I also could see that it wasn't because of Islam, but really a lack of faith in Islam in the first place.

At that time in my life, when I did finally admit that marriage was an option, I knew that a man had to be a good Muslim, and that it meant trying to follow the model of the Prophet (saaws). Because there are even some well-intended Muslims who don't act properly. What was shocking at the time was that I wouldn't consider a man who seemed more liberal or lenient on matters of Islam. There are some of those too--who don't want to be too quickly identified as Muslims, maybe they don't really like the hijaab. But for me, if someone wanted to change Islam at all, if he wasn't happy with it just the way it was revealed, then that was a red flag.

So basically I was looking for these two things--strength in deen, and good manners. The first is demonstrated by taqwa, consciousness of Allah and trying to keep what Allah has commanded and avoid what He has forbidden. The second is through following the example of Muhammad--who said he came to perfect good conduct.

I know of so many brothers who are having such a hard time finding a wife--and they want a Muslim wife!--so they end up marrying a non-Muslim. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are women who are marrying already-married men! I just can't help but think the guys are getting the short stick on this marriage thing. Why all this trouble? I really wonder.

I haven't really given this particular issue too much thought from a personal standpoint, but now I guess I need to. So I ask Allah SWT to make this easy for me, as He has made so many other things easy for me, alhamdulillah.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Lesson of the Chair

Chairs - Click for Photo CreditWhen Imam Malik was a child and went to go learn Islam, his mother dressed him in his finest clothes and took him to sit in the circle of Rabi'a Ar-Ra'y, and she told him to learn the man's adab before learning his knowledge--isn't that interesting? Adab, by the way, means comportment, or putting everything in its proper place. In this context, it means good manners and etiquette. So Imam Malik was told by his mother to learn the scholar's adab first.

I love my imam, I have so much respect for his knowledge and manners, the patience he has when dealing with people even when they are rude, and how gentle he is with children. MaashaaAllah, tabaarakAllah, this community is really blessed to have him here. I try to learn not just his knowledge and what he teaches, but how he teaches it and how he interacts with the people.

Some weeks ago, I was sitting in the sisters' portion of the musallah, which is a segmented section behind the main prayer hall, with half of a wall for sisters to sit behind if they wish. I was sitting against the wall waiting for the adhaan for maghrib, if I remember correctly, so I could see the brothers walking around and such. Now, dressed in a very smart white thowb, the imam had come in to the main prayer hall and was looking for a chair. Once he found one, he moved it to where he wanted to sit (presumably to also wait for the adhaan) and right before he sat down he looked down at the seat, somewhat surprised, and wouldn't sit.

He picked up the chair and carried it back towards me to show it to me. Why me? It wasn't particularly out of the way, and I was the only sister sitting in the section. He just came close enough to show me the seat of the chair--which was pretty filthy. He explained that someone, while eating in the kitchen (we have a kitchen/restaraunt outside the musallah as a part of the masjid), must have spilled something on the chair to make it dirty. Having helped set up numerous da'wah events and classes, I know that many of the masjid's folding chairs are dirty. By the way, they are the metal folding chairs with an upholstered cushion attached at the seat, and back pieces--so they aren't really easy to clean.

Now, back to the lesson, he explained to me that this chair was dirty and that if someone were wearing some light-colored clothes it would likely leave a dirty mark. At that point, I wasn't sure what to do. Was he asking me to help him replace any dirty chairs with clean ones? He didn't really ask me to do anything, just explained more or less what he was doing, and why. I really want to know why he stopped to tell me that, though, and what I should learn from it.

He went ahead after that and took the dirty chair outside the musallah toward the kitchen, and found himself another, clean chair. Now whenever I am setting out chairs for the small classes we have after maghrib (like last night) I make a point to ensure that the chairs I set out are all clean, even if that means removing dirty chairs that have already been set out. And of course I make sure his chair is clean as well. When our older brothers and sisters (aunties and uncles) need to sit in a chair for their salaat, I guess the least we can do is make sure that there are chairs available, and that the ones inside the musallah for sure are clean.

Any other lessons to take away? I'm asking you, my readers, to help me glean even more from this lesson, because I was so touched that he made a point to tell me what he was doing, I want to benefit from it as much as possible. So, any ideas?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Hmm... okay, so I decided to do one too. It basically works like this:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into a mosaic maker

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

I find it kind of interesting that a photo of an egret showed up three or four times. So I picked the egret photos because of that... maybe that makes my mosaic boring but I think it's interesting.


Credits: 1. One, 2. Two, 3. Three, 4. Four, 5. Five, 6. Six, 7. Seven, 8. Eight, 9. Nine, 10. Ten, 11. Eleven, 12. Twelve

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My Life Goal

MoonSo do you think that you know me pretty well? Either you know me in person or you read my blog--what is it I'm looking for? Maybe you know... maybe you don't. I'll tell you, in one word: knowledge. 'Ilm, precisely, Islamic knowledge. Every smaller goal in my life only serves this greater goal, which is to learn more about Islam, to learn more about my Lord, and to better serve Him.

It's a serious business, and very important to have the right intention. Related by Bukhari and Muslim, 'Umar bin Al-Khattab narrated that the Prophet (saaws) said:

Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he
Moreover, Abu Dawud related that Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (saaws) said:

He who does not acquire knowledge with the sole intention of seeking the Pleasure of Allah but for worldly gain, will not smell the fragrance of Jannah on the Day of Resurrection.
In fact, we know of another hadith reported by Muslim from Abu Hurayrah that among the first people who will be judged on the Day of Judgment is a martyr who fought only to be called brave, so he will be thrown into hell, and a person who gave charity only to be called generous so he will be thrown into hell, and a person who learned and studied Islam only so that he would be called a scholar. So I reiterate that it is important, absolutely necessary to have the right intention in acquiring knowledge, which means solely for the pleasure of Allah.

So why would I want to acquire knowledge in the first place, instead of just trying to do a lot of worship? First of all, I have Allah alone to thank for guiding me to Islam--and yet this is only one of the many blessings the Most Merciful has given me. And yet, Allah says in the Qur'an (35:28) what means:
Only those fear Allah , from among His servants, who have knowledge.
So it takes knowledge to be a true servant of Allah, who sincerely fears Allah. And if we are to be between hope and fear, then knowledge is essential to cultivate a true understanding. Allah also says in the Qur'an (39:9) what means:
Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding.
This ayah is just full of the value of knowledge... I really can't say any words to better describe it than these so I won't even try. Knowledge is also a means of gaining reward in the Hereafter, since Allah has also said (58:11) what means:
Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees.
And He told His Messenger Muhammad to say, this du'a (20:114):
My Lord, increase me in knowledge.
Rabbee zidnee 'ilma.

So we can ask now, is knowledge a blessing? And yes, of course it is. Bukhari and Muslim have reported that Mu'awiyah narrated that the Prophet (saaws) said:
When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of
And what about just searching for knowledge, since it does not come handed to us on a silver platter? Is the path for knowledge blessed? Yes! Searching for knowledge is a way to find Jannah. Muslim reported from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (saaws) said:
Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.
Similar hadith reported by At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud tell us that the angels lower their wings over a person seeking knowledge, and that the inhabitants of the earth from an ant in its hole to the fish in the sea, supplicate for that person's forgiveness. In fact, searching for knowledge is a kind of jihad in its own right. At-Tirmidhi reported from Anas that the Prophet (saaws) said:
He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the Cause of Allah until he returns.
But the truly beautiful hadith, the one that constantly compels me to seek knowledge, is the one which compares the worshiper to the person of knowledge. From Abud-Darda, reported by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (saaws) said:
The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars.
So the devout worshipper--the person who serves his Lord and offers prayer at night, and charity, this person is like one of the stars in the sky, and there are plenty of stars. But the person who has learned knowledge for the sake of Allah, who we know truly understands and fears Allah, that person is like the full moon in brightness among a sea of stars.

Rabbee zidnee 'ilma! My Lord, increase me in knowledge!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What to say to Hadith Rejecters?

Once upon a time, I thought it was okay to be a Qur'an-only Muslim. My 3-yr shahadah anniversary passed just last month, so about 3 years ago I was in the "I am not sure I want to be a Muslim" stage. Shortly after that I moved into a Qur'an-only mentality, since I accepted the Qur'an but didn't understand some of the stickier aspects of Shari'ah and Fiqh. I just didn't want to accept the Sunnah as a source of Islam.

It might be a position that might be unfamiliar to many born'n'raised Muslims, since they have grown up hearing stories about the Prophet Muhammad (saaws), hearing his sayings which directed them towards righteousness and good manners. On the other hand, Muslims who convert (like me) might be exposed to anti-Muslim websites that take ahadith out of context and really try to smear the character of our noble prophet (saaws.) So even though a hadith rejecter might accept the Qur'an and the prophethood of Muhammad (saaws), he might be faced with statements from him which seem, through some twisting while out of context, to be contradictory to Islam.

One tactic of a hadith rejecter is to say that Muhammad (saaws) forbid his Companions (raa) from writing down his sayings. This is true--but of course, where do they find this information? Of course, it's a hadith. So that line of reasoning is flawed to begin with, but I want to try to respond to it anyway in case anyone else has wondered about this. I have heard from several sources that even though Muhammad (saaws) did forbid his Companions (raa) from writing down his sayings, he did later allow them. I haven't found a specific reference for it, though. They also explain the reason for the prohibition--it was not so that the sayings of Muhammad (saaws) wouldn't be preserved, but rather so that they would not be confused or mixed in with the Qur'an, so that the Qur'an would remain pure in their writing of it. And we know that once this was assured, the Companions (raa) were allowed to write down hadith as well.

I think the best way to start to respond to anyone who wants to reject hadith, however, is with the Qur'an, the Noble Book and Speech of Allah Almighty, Lord of the Worlds. When the Lord of the Worlds has bestowed on us revelation, how can we argue with it? And glorified and exalted be He, He has bestowed on us such revelation.

The Lord of the Worlds has said what can be translated as:

4:59 O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result..

4:60 Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to Taghut, while they were commanded to reject it; and Satan wishes to lead them far astray

4:61 And when it is said to them, "Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger," you see the hypocrites turning away from you in aversion.

4:62 So how [will it be] when disaster strikes them because of what their hands have put forth and then they come to you swearing by Allah , "We intended nothing but good conduct and accommodation."

4:63 Those are the ones of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts, so turn away from them but admonish them and speak to them a far-reaching word.

4:64 And We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah. And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

4:65 But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.

I pasted the entire passage just to show the whole context. In this passage we see that Allah has told us to obey Allah, and to obey the messenger (i.e., Muhammad saaws;) to refer our judgments to Allah and to His messenger. And then Allah describes the Hypocrites, who instead of turning to Allah and the messenger they turn to other things which they find more important. They are told to come to what Allah has revealed (i.e., the Qur'an), and to the Messenger. Why to the Messenger...?

But then Allah describes them as hypocrites, the people who turn away from the Messenger. And then Allah reminds us that He sent Messengers to be obeyed! Not just revelation, not just scriptures sent down from the heavens, but Allah (SWT) sent us Messengers as well. Then He (SWT) tells us that true belief and submission is to make Muhammad, the final messenger, who was sent to all of mankind, a judge over their matters.

I ask Allah (SWT) to make us not among the hypocrites, but to be among those who submit to His will, who obey His messenger, and to be counted among the believers. I think this is the better way to begin a discussion with a hadith rejecter: with the Qur'an. And in the Qur'an our Lord has commanded us to obey the Messenger.

A+ Civics

This morning I decided to take the mock citizenship test on msnbc. I'm thinking that since this week is the Fourth of July--the day we celebrate our national independence, the day we decided that we don't want to be ruled by a foreign government that doesn't have our interests at heart--there have been extra articles and stuff online about patriotism and American-ness.

I surprised myself by getting all 20 questions correct. Most of them I will say I flatly knew, and a few I was pretty sure about, and on one I just made a good guess. And of course they were all multiple choice which made it decidedly easier. For passing the test, I got a message at the end which read:
Welcome to the United States! (And, truth be told, you know more about this great land than most Americans.)
So a test that is required to become a citizen, most Americans couldn't pass? So being a good American doesn't hinge on knowing trivia like how many amendments there have been to the constitution or the line of presidential succession? What does it take to be a good American these days? (Just in case anyone wants to be called such, that is.)

I ask because a while ago I remember listening for only a few minutes (couldn't stand any longer) to Sean Hannity's radio program, while his call in guest informed him that he, Hannity, was a great American. To which Hannity replied to the caller, "You're a great American." Why all this patting on the back? What makes them such great Americans? I can sum up in three basic points.

1) "Support the troops"
2) "Support Bush"
3) "Support Israel"

In other words, be a blind neo-con who gets violently angry at any criticism of the government, the military, or Israel.

What I think is sad though, is that there was a time in this country when God came first. All this blustering about patriotism (Obama's speech got waaaay too much press) just makes me wonder when Americans started worshiping their country instead of God? Now it seems like everyone just wants to outdo the crowd in their love of country. I think it's a kind of radical extremism bound to land America, all its proud wealth and democracy, in the toilet.

So what will I be doing on the Fourth of July? Just like the rest of the Muslims all over the world, I'm going to jummu'ah. InshaaAllaah.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Don't Say If

This is a reminder for me first, but I thought I'd share it here as well. It is reported in Saheeh Muslim, in Kitab ul-Qadr (The Book of Destiny), chapter 8. It seems really appropriate to my situation.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:

A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don't say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your "if" opens the (gate) for the Shaytaan.

When is a good time to let go?