Friday, May 29, 2009

Bad Habits

For reasons varying from being unhealthy to being haraam, it's good to eliminate bad habits, and also because they can sabotage us in the end. We pay a price in this life and in the Hereafter when we choose to engage in these unhealthy habits. It might be a financial cost (buying cigarettes, for instance, or related medical costs), it might be a social cost (gossip might make you popular at first but can quickly destroy friendships), or health costs (overeating and smoking can rob your body of health by increasing fat, decreasing energy, or damaging vital organs.)

I think it's interesting, then, to find this particular tip on a Self-Development site that is not at all related to Islam. It indicates that these bad habits are non-productive from even a non-religious point of view--and our religion tells us to avoid them, so we should be doubly aware!

Starting with overeating, we have the following hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (saws) to discourage us, and at the same time to give us a better habit regarding what we eat.
No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath. [Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa'I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]
To learn about the dangers of overeating and the Islamic perspective, check out Obesity and Eating in Islam. Clearly overeating is a bad habit from which Muslims should abstain.

Secondly, it is common now to see fatawa indicating that smoking is prohibited in Islam. (What does Islam say about Smoking?, Ruling on Smoking) Evidence to support that view includes that smoking is harmful to the smoker and everyone around him who might be forced to inhale the toxins associated with it. So for Islamic reasons smoking is another bad habit which Muslims should give up.

And lastly, gossip is something clearly despicable in Islam, condemned in the Qur'an. At the very least bordering on vain talk, gossip might also fall under the category of backbiting or slander, two behaviors which are condemned in the Qur'an (Surat al Humazah) and counted among major sins in Islam, those which will land a person in hellfire. (Five Misconceptions of Backbiting.)

The Prophet Muhammad (saws) gave us good advice on this account also, in a hadith collected among Imam an-Nawawi's 40 Hadith (#15):
Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent.
So if we don't have something that is good and decent to say, then the solution is to keep quiet.

Ultimately, for our own good, and for the good of the Muslim ummah, we should try to overcome any bad habits we might have, especially those which have been prohibited by Islam. Remember that Allah prohibited what is bad for us, though we might not always be able to see the wisdom behind it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Course Correction

Lately I've been listening to a CD set of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki's Lives of the Prophets, which I recommend for anyone who has the chance. To really maximize the experience, I suggest you read the section of Stories of the Prophets by Ibn Kathir (which is available in English) before listening to the story as told by the imam. That's because when you can listen to the imam you get not just the story of that particular prophet, but usually several lessons which might be learned from his story as presented in the Qur'an (and sometimes in the sunnah also.) Familiarity with the story beforehand will make it easier for you to focus on understanding the lessons.

This morning I finished Vol.1 (or rather, I came to the end, as I did not start at the beginning so can't really say I "finished") which describes the story of the Prophet Yunus, as, called Jonah in English. Jonah is the prophet who stopped making da'wah to his people out of frustration, and left them, so Allah punished him by having him be swallowed by a fish.
And [mention] the man of the fish, when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him. And he called out within the darknesses, "There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers." 21:87
From the darkness of the belly of the fish, in the darkness of the sea, in the darkness of the night, Jonah called out to His Lord with this du'a. And Allah tells us in the Qur'an (37:144) that Jonah would have remained in the belly of the fish until the Day of Resurrection had he not been of those who glorified Allah.

So when we make mistakes, we should first turn back to Allah, and put things back in focus--that Allah is the only ilah, the only one to worship (we say this in salaah daily: Iyyaka na'budu, and laa ilaaha illAllaah), and that our lives should be worship of Him, glorifying Him. (We also glorify Him in salaah: subhana rabbiyal-'adheem, subhaana rabbiyal-a'la) So we need to admit when we are wrong, and understand how and why we were wrong.

And also, understanding our mistakes is a way to avoid them later on. That's why it's interesting to point out that after Jonah turned back to Allah, Allah granted him success in his da'wah--his people believed, and so Allah did not punish them. (10:98)

By Rote

Every now and again I hear people debate the merits of memorizing things. Over the last few years I think I have refined my own opinion on the matter. Those proponents of memorization point out that it serves as a foundation of readily accessible information, while the opponents of it encourage developing knowledge at higher levels and so find memorization unnecessary.

When I think of memorization, there are basically two experiences I recall from high school, from two of the best teachers I had in high school. My math teacher, who taught me in 9th and 10th grades (Geometry and Algebra II), actively encouraged memorization, especially in Geometry. Before high school, geometry always seemed like fun--"We get to draw circles and triangles!"--and I never realized what the point of a whole class on the subject was about, until I realized that the point of the class was more to learn how to logically prove things. And proofs required a handy arsenal of theorems and postulates and corollaries, which would do you absolutely no good unless you had them memorized. So we had them drummed into our head by the teacher yelling the name of the theorem or what have you, then she would slap someone's desk with a yard stick. (Louder and scarier than a ruler.) And the class, terrified by the yelling and slapping, would shout back the statement of the theorem requested. It really was terrifying, but we sure memorized those things pretty quick. And we needed to--because without actually knowing them, we couldn't go about proving much of anything.

On the other hand, my English teacher, who taught me in 10th and 11th grades (World and American literature), would say that memorization is the lowest level of knowledge, or education. In that class we were not trying to memorize verbatim what she taught, but to take it in and ruminate on it, and then arrive at some conclusion piecing together lots of different kinds of information. I guess that was supposed to be a more sophisticated learning process, getting the mind to explore new directions and ideas.

But both philosophies have merit--both methods of teaching were useful. And I think they actually support each other. First of all, memorization is important--it has been downplayed in recent years, even decades perhaps, because basic information is so readily available: in textbooks or the internet. So we can all be geniuses if we have Google handy, right? And that's why independent thought is also important--to siphon through all that information, to process it and from it derive a conclusion.

In a different discipline--like learning Islam--I think both philosophies still have merit. And isn't it true that if we look at the Scholars of Islam, we see that they both had prepared an adequate arsenal of knowledge, but that they were also able to determine the meaning in the information at hand, and to arrive at new conclusions from the evidence at hand?

So it's nice that we can have thousands of ahadith available in a searchable database, but it's not the same as having it immediately accessible in the brain. That database cannot replace an actual scholar, even if he hasn't memorized all those ahadith! What a scholar can do is take an hadith that might be different in subject matter from what a questioner is looking for, and derive from it principles necessary to answer the question. A search engine can't do that.

And I read something recently written, I think, by Hamza Yusuf, who was describing the difference between people called "daytime scholars," and "nighttime scholars." In the daytime, books and references would be available, so a person who had not memorized all those texts could still access them and thus impart knowledge and wisdom from them. But in the nighttime, without his sources available to him, he wasn't much of a scholar at all. The nighttime scholar, on the other hand, is the scholar worth being: the one who has memorized the books so that when asked a question, regardless of the situation (i.e., day or night,) he can still answer the question.

It seemed to me a compelling reason to try at least to memorize some Islamic knowledge, rather than leaving it in books. If it's in books, and someone asks you, you can refer them to a book. But if you memorize, then you can replace the book, right? And if you have memorized and learned deduction, then you can actually start answering.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This House?

Thanks to MuslimMatters, yesterday I watched (or listened to, more like) a good video/lecture (maashaaAllaah) about the traps of Shaytan. I've heard a similar lecture before, but it was a good reminder, and I think that anyone should go and have a listen, especially if they don't already know the traps of Shaytan. Muhammad Alshareef's lecture like it is called 'When Wolves Become Shepherds: the Devil's Da'wah Techniques.'

But there was an interesting side point that caught my attention, and that's what I'm sharing with you. The shaykh mentioned a story about a boy who noticed an uncle making du'a to the Ka'ba: not just in front of the Ka'ba, but actually asking the Ka'ba for something. Of course, that is shirk, right? Associating partners with Allah? And that's something we are not allowed to do.

Now, the boy wanted to correct the uncle without embarrassing him, so he used an interesting technique--something that youth (ourselves) should try to implement when speaking to our elders. So the boy asked the uncle if he could correct his recitation of Qur'an, to which the uncle agreed, and then the boy proceeded to recite Surah Quraysh. But this is what he recited:

Li-eelafi quraysh
Eelafihim rihlata ashshita-iwassayf
FalyaAAbudoo hadha albayt...

And so the uncle stopped him to correct him. Because he made a mistake--see it? The uncle, who was a Muslim and knew this short and common surah from the Qur'an tells the boy, 'No, you need to say, "FalyaAAbudoo rabba hadha albayt."' That is, in English, "So let them worship the Lord of this house." The 'house' in this surah is the Ka'ba, but if the word Rabb is left out, then the ayah talks about worshiping the Ka'ba. The boy says ok, and he starts to recite again:

Li-eelafi quraysh
Eelafihim rihlata ashshita-iwassayf
FalyaAAbudoo hadha albayt...

And the uncle stops him again, for the same mistake, and tells him he needs to say "FalyaAAbudoo rabba hadha albayt." And the boy says okay, rabba hadha albayt, (i.e., "Lord of this house") and then starts to recite again:

Li-eelafi quraysh
Eelafihim rihlata ashshita-iwassayf
FalyaAAbudoo hadha albayt...

And then the uncle catches on, sees what the boy is trying to tell him, that he should worship the Lord of this Ka'ba, and not the Ka'ba itself. Du'a is worship--remember that.

In reciting al-Fatihah we say that we worship only Allah, and that we seek help only from Allah, (iyyaka na'budu, wa iyyaka nasta'een). As Muslims, we do not worship the Ka'ba--we worship the Lord of the Ka'ba, the Lord of the 'Alameen, and Him alone.

Li-eelafi quraysh
Eelafihim rihlata ashshita-iwassayf
FalyaAAbudoo rabba hadha albayt
Allathee atAAamahum min jooAAinwaamanahum min khawf

For the accustomed security of the Quraysh -
Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer -
Let them worship the Lord of this House,
(He) Who has fed them against hunger, and has made them safe from fear. (Quraysh 1-4)

What kind of Arabic?

So I've been trying to learn Arabic for a while now. Specifically, I've been trying to learn Qur'anic Arabic--to understand the Qur'an, obviously. Spoken Arabic has been for me something of a lower priority. Mind, I still try to pronounce Arabic properly--something that learning tajweed really helped with--but I haven't tried to use it for conversation, nor do I have the vocabulary for conversation. I'm getting better at understanding the Qur'an when reading it or listening to it, but listening to speech? I just can't make out most of the words, and if you ask me what I ate for dinner I would probably just look at you with an eyebrow half-raised.

And that's why I'm kind of frustrated that the Qur'anic Arabic class I've been taking for the last few weeks decided to adopt a few minutes for conversation at the beginning of the class.

Many of the students welcome the challenge and opportunity, and while I probably should also, I can't help but get irritated that in order to "prepare" for a dialogue session I would need to spend probably hours studying vocabulary that isn't related to the Qur'an at all, when the point of the class is to learn the Qur'anic language. So it would take away from the time I use to study Qur'anic Arabic.

Am I right to be upset? Should I grin and bear it? Is there any real benefit to 5 minutes of Arabic conversation twice a week to learning Qur'an?

Friday, May 22, 2009

How to be a Fox News Anchor

Lately I've been going to a gym a few times a week, and they've got about 8 different TVs on two levels. At least two TV stations are always tuned to FOX, so if I look in the right direction I can see what's on, though I hardly ever listen or even pay much attention.

What has been catching my notice, however, are the news anchors, and some surprising similarities between them. Now, other networks are almost as bad as FOX, but it seems that FOX is definitely the worst in this regard. You see, what you find on "news" channels is no longer equivalent to "current events." What you find is entertainment spun around current events, rather than the facts of the matter or serious reporting about those facts. In short, it's flashy pictures which manipulate your mind. I guess one key objective when creating the brainwashing media is getting you to "tune in." If you're flipping channels, what is it that will grab your attention and make you watch one particular channel instead of something else?

I have a thought.

That's how I came up with this post.

How to be a Fox News Anchor:

(1) Be a male. This is for the regular viewers--the male anchor is someone who men can relate to, and who they can trust. So that the viewers believe the garbled nonsense that comes out of his mouth.

OR, if you want to be a Fox News Anchor, and you aren't a male, hope is not lost. If you are non-male, then if you fit the following criteria, you might still have a chance!

(2) Be white.
(3) Have long hair.
(4) Preferably long blonde hair.
(5) Have a dazzlingly white smile.
(6) Be thin.
(7) Be no older than 35.
(8) Modeling background is a plus.

In short, look like a bimbo. In writing this post I realized I'm not the first to notice the FOX preference for female anchors who fit this standard of attractiveness--what people tend to find as attractive. And I guess it's working for FOX, when a google search on 'female fox news reporters' is not only a common search, but yields such hits as Ten Hottest Female Fox News Anchors, which pretty much proves my point, I think. At the very least, it shows that Fox News is selecting anchors that people do find attractive. So I think it's a tool to get people to watch. Or, not people necessarily, but boys.

And I'll say again, it's not like other TV channels are much better in this regard.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Licensed Hijabi

Every now and then I hear a report about a Muslim woman who faced some discrimination at the DMV when she wanted to get or renew her driver's license.

I'm glad to say that I did not face anything of the sort. I had to renew my license just recently and the DMV clerk handed me a form to fill out, which I had to sign, indicating whether I was wearing a headscarf because it was either obligatory due to my religious beliefs, or for a medical reason on orders of a doctor.

So I did have to fill out that kind of a waiver--as in general, head covering of any sort are not permitted in driving license photographs--but after that I didn't face any problems. Alhamdulillah.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Adapting to Change

ChangeWhen I was a kid, my grandparents had a little trailer in Kitty Hawk, NC, which had a huge impact on my interests as a child. In case you didn't know, Kitty Hawk is the location of man's first powered aircraft flight, in December 1903. (Does it seem only fitting that I would be born 80 years later?) Now there is a local museum and a monument erected for tourists to visit. And since we'd visit the beach every summer, it wasn't really out of the way! The track that the brothers used to run their Flyer on before it lifted off was still there to see. The museum even had a wind tunnel to explain how the brothers figured out the "science" of flight and wing warping. The picture above is the Wright brothers flying their Flyer at Kitty Hawk, which is the windiest place in the country (and why they chose that site.)

Do they not see the birds held (flying) in the midst of the sky? None holds them but Allah [none gave them the ability to fly but Allah]. Verily, in this are clear proofs and signs for people who believe (in the Oneness of Allah). 16:79

Some people might take the wrong meaning from this ayah, perhaps, and find it contradictory to the science of flight. But when I read it the first time, as someone who had studied aerodynamics (my original major at college was aerospace engineering) and even piloted a small aircraft, I found it to be an amazing description of flight, and even more amazing of gliding--when you see birds circling around in the air without flapping their wings or anything. Without even powering themselves, they just float along on air that is rising--because hot air rises. So a bird can glide by drifting along air that's rising. And none holds them but Allah. Allah who made the air, controls the sky (including the flow of air)air, and who made the birds to find and use those drafts.

AirfoilFor the uninitiated, flight of airplanes basically works by putting a shape called an airfoil into a stream of air. The airfoil is the cross-section of a wing, by the way. If you start to angle the airfoil upwards, then an area of low pressure appears above it, with an area of high pressure appearing below it. That's what causes the airfoil to rise. This is an easy concept to experiment with--hold your hand out of the car while driving. You can hold your hand straight, and parallel to the ground, then start to angle it upwards.

And then, try curving your hand slightly, and notice the increased effect of the pressure change. I.e., there's more pressure building in the curve of your hand, pushing your hand up. That's "wing warping." If you ever get the chance, observe the shape of a bird's wing, how it is curved slightly underneath.

The other thing that the Wright Brothers were able to do was power their glider, to make it actually fly instead of just glide, and they did that by using propellers (which were known for use under water, on ships) that were adapted for the air, to basically propel the aircraft forward. The motion of the aircraft caused the wings to be moving through the air, and then the buildup of pressure below the wing with a pressure drop above the wing, which allowed the aircraft to take flight.

A century later, I sat in the pilot's seat of a small aircraft using pretty much the same technology--albeit of different materials. A propeller was driving the aircraft forward, and the wings of the craft had pieces on the wings used to effectively "warp" them by changing their shape (or the way air flows over.)

What made me want to use this photograph for this quote is knowing that it must take some serious guts to get up on a fragile piece of wood and fabric that is supposed to all on its own lift off from the ground. If you're the pilot, you can't go up being afraid of failing, even though you don't exactly have flight experience to count on. You have to try it out, and when you come down...? Then you're a pilot!

A Book of Signs

Click for photo creditSubhanallah.

Surah Yunus begins thus:

Alif. Laam. Raa. Tilka ayatu alkitabi alHakeem.

I don't know very much Arabic, but I know every word in this sentence above. It starts with three miracle letters, the meaning of which is with Allah alone, then it says what means "These are the ayaat of the wise book." Ayaat is one of those beautiful words associated with the Qur'an that I prefer to use, rather than its common faulty translations. All the translation I looked up for this ayah translated the word ayaat (which is, btw, the plural of ayah) to mean "verses."

The Qur'an is divided into 114 chapters called suwar-->the plural of surah, though I'll just say surahs from now on. Each surah is further divided into enumerated ayaat. In a poem, that might be called verses, but as the Qur'an is not poetry the word does not quite apply. Another mean of the word ayah (or plural ayaat) is a sign (signs.)

So would it not also be correct to translate the ayah as "These are the signs of the wise book?" I don't know--I'm NOT by any standard whatsoever qualified to translate the Qur'an. I just love that every single "verse" (poor translation of the Qur'an) is actually a "sign."

So the Qur'an is a book filled with signs. One after another, after another filling pages upon pages and preserved in the hearts and memories of the Muslims. I love that. Sometimes I mention to people that there was really a single ayah in the Qur'an that took me out of Christianity--it was the sign for me that pointed me towards Islam. The guidance. One ayah.

I tell people that ayah all the time (especially Christians) but it certainly doesn't have the same effect as it did for me. Not that it has to. But when I hear about Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet Muhammad saws) embracing Islam after hearing the Qur'an--even just a little bit of it--it doesn't shock me. Because the Qur'an is a book of guidance, is it not?
This is the Book (the Quran), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun. 2:2
So the Qur'an is guidance.
We have indeed sent down (in this Quran) manifest Ayaat. And Allah guides whom He wills to a Straight Path. 24:46
And the Qur'an is signs. Muhsin Khan in his translation after the word "Ayaat" writes in parentheses: proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, lawful and unlawful things, and the set boundries of Islamic religion, etc. that make things clear showing the Right Path of Allah. So many meanings encompassed by the word Ayaat. So beautiful.

I mean to say, if I could summarize so far, that the Qur'an is a book of signs, and guidance from Allah.

I was reminded of this simple but amazing fact when listening to a conversion story a few days ago. (Part 1, Part 2) The brother explains how he was reading the Qur'an and stopped to ask Allah for a sign. Then he mentions that the next verse he read was directed at people, or describing the people who ask for signs. I couldn't find what verse specifically he was talking about (and I'm not the first to ask) but we know that the Qur'an mentions people who ask about signs, and it also mentions the signs obvious for anyone to see--but which are really only signs for the people of knowledge.

Sometimes people will desire to increase their faith, their iman, and the answer for that seems pretty clear--study the proofs, study the signs, study the Qur'an.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I know sometimes when I am faced with a huge obstacle, I recently tended to just turn away from it, and give up--sometimes before even starting. I totally lost my drive, my motivation. I would turn my back on something because I thought it was just too hard, and so I'd fail without ever even starting.

So this quote says a lot to me--that I should try because I could succeed. It's worth noting however that success is from Allah. When thinking of an example, what came to my mind was the story of Moses talking to Pharaoh--it is probably the most oft-told story about Moses, that he led the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Amazing. And if you look at the beginning (as in Surah Taha) of his task, when faced with the command from Allah to go to Pharaoh, he starts off by asking for help from Allah.

Here is his du'a (Muhsin Khan translation):

[Musa (Moses)] said: "O my Lord! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness).
And ease my task for me;
And make loose the knot (the defect) from my tongue, (i.e. remove the incorrectness from my speech)
That they understand my speech,
And appoint for me a helper from my family,
Harun (Aaron), my brother;
Increase my strength with him,
And let him share my task (of conveying Allah's Message and Prophethood),
That we may glorify You much,
And remember You much,
Verily! You are of us Ever a Well-Seer." (Taha 25-35)
This is one beautiful du'a that any da'ee should know, and even pray before going out to talk to people about Islam. It starts by asking for confidence--which seems to be the first requirement for a person going out on a mission. Not to be confused with arrogance, a certain amount of confidence is necessary to overcome prior despondency and rouse the person to action. And then Moses asks for the task, which in his case is going to talk to Pharaoh, be made easy. Remember that Allah will not try us with something greater than we can bear, but I guess we learn from this du'a that we can also ask Allah to make certain things easy for us. I recall asking Allah to make Islam easy for me very often, especially after wearing hijab and I feared that it would become too difficult. But it didn't--it was easy.

Then Moses asks Allah to be able to speak clearly, which we understand was because of some speech impediment. But since any of us can become "tongue-tied" when speaking about anything, including Islam, it's especially worthwhile to ask Allah to make it easy for us to be understood by our audience.

And then Moses asks for even more help--that his brother can go with him and help him!

Moses didn't say here that this task was just too hard, and he didn't make excuses either, before Allah. He acknowledged his own weaknesses and asked Allah for help. Beautifully the du'a ends by showing the purpose of striving for the objective in the first place, the reason for asking Allah for help and for obeying Allah, which is to glorify Allah and remember Allah. So Allah answered his du'a. The next ayah reads: Allah said: "You are granted your request, O Musa (Moses)! (Taha 36.) And Allah helped him, and what might have seemed a tremendous challenge became what we can call a truly great success of Moses, because he was helped by Allah.

Another example that came to my mind, about fierce enemies becoming strong allies was the example of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. A man who even harbored murderous intentions toward the Prophet (saws) after reading the Qur'an (according to reports, by reading from Surah Taha which I was just talking about) became softened towards Islam and became one of its strongest supporters.

So what can we learn from this? Don't make excuses--Moses did not make excuses--but try to find a way to accomplish the objective, by seeking help with Allah. Instead of viewing obstacles as dead ends, find a solution and ask Allah for help. Like Moses did not see his speech impediment as a reason to abandon the responsibility Allah had given him, he just asked Allah for help. And that's exactly what we should do.

Anything good is from Allah. Mistakes are my own, so any corrections are appreciated.

Friday, May 08, 2009


The quote on top of the image is from a site I found with tips for "Self-Development." As Muslims we should all be striving to better ourselves, and that means in our deen and as a part of society. It's especially important now that we tackle the responsibilities facing us as an ummah, and rise to meet the challenges that await us.

I'm trying to work on improving myself, so inshaaAllaah I will be reading different materials on leadership and development and also on Islam, and trying to relate them. As part of my process of learning and internalizing what I've learned, I will try inshaaAllaah to share these things on my blog, under the tag Personal Development, of which this is the first post. (I would call it 'Self-Development' but I don't want it to sound like the suggestion is to develop a person's nafs. If anyone has a better idea for a tag, please let me know.)

The first post, then, is about balance.

It's popular today for people to talk about balance--achieving balance between all their aspirations and obligations so they don't fail in either.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigour, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can't do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night". [Al-Bukhari].

Following a middle course is what balance means. Islam does not mean that we observe only our spiritual obligations and totally neglect our worldly lives. We live in this world, while striving for the next world, so we need to be aware of the rights that others have over us--the rights of our Lord, the rights of our families, the rights of our bodies--and respect those rights.

In the Seerah class I took a couple months ago, we learned a little bit about Abraham, and were able to draw a lesson about balance from it. In fact, we can learn priorities from his story in the Qur'an. First we can look at people today and see what their priorities tend to be--self first, then family, and then religion. Right? Sometimes people even say "number one" when talking about themselves, indicating that even the society understands that a person prioritizes himself above all--and then he might place his family. Maybe if the person is married or children, these goals will be intertwined, but last of all comes the religion, and obligations before God.

In Islam, the priorities are that the deen comes first, the worship of Allah. Then comes families, followed by our physical needs. You can look at the du'a made by Abraham in the Qur'an, in Surah Ibraheem (14):
35 And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) said: "O my Lord! Make this city (Makkah) one of peace and security, and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols.

36 "O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind. But whoso follows me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeys me, - still You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

37 "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka'bah at Makkah); in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.

There is another similar du'a in Surat al-Baqarah, (2:126-129) which is the du'a made when Abraham is leaving his wife and child in the valley--it's interesting because the request for provision is mentioned before belief, but Abraham is actually only requesting the provision for those who believe in the first place. The du'a quoted above is after Ishmael has grown up and Abraham has visited him again in Makkah. (Chronology determined by the statement "make this a safe city" vs. "make this city safe," a subtle difference implying that in the latter case the city has been established.) The city has been established and so Abraham requests that he and his progeny be protected from shirk.

So we can get an idea for priorities here, but also understand that everything needs to be in balance.

To close, I will quote a statement from the instructor of that seminar on the Seerah, that loosely paraphrases a hadith recorded by Ibn Majah, at-Tabarani, and al-Bayhaqi, which can be read here.

Whoever's concern is the dunya, Allah will make his affairs disperse and will put poverty between his eyes. And nothing will come from the dunya except what Allah has written for him. But whoever's concern is the hereafter, Allah will gather all his affairs--put barakah (blessing) in his time, he can be focused--and will enrich his heart, that he will feel rich, content and not poor, and the dunya will come whether looking for it or not.

So the point of this post is that we need to have balance in our daily lives, which comes from prioritizing our efforts for the Hereafter. And the beauty of Islam is that it is balanced, and attending to the rights of others on us is prescribed as is attending the rights of Allah.

If there are any mistakes in this post, they are my own, and I pray that someone will correct them.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Socks and Shoes

Did you know that you might be able to wipe over your socks or shoes in wudu' instead of washing the whole foot?

If you put the socks/shoes on while you had wudu' in the first place, and if they aren't impure in the first place, and if you haven't been wiping over them for more than a day (or three days if you're traveling), and they aren't so thin that you can see the color of the skin beneath them, and you're supposed to wipe the top, not the bottom.

(If you're not sure about the rulings on wiping over socks, has plenty of answers about it, if you do a search on "socks." Usually all the fatwas are backed up with proof.)

Now, picture a child, maybe 10-12 years old, making wudu' beside you. The child is wearing flip-flops. Not socks, or shoes, but flip-flops. And when it comes time to wash the feet, the child instead of washing the foot, she just touches the bottom of the flip-flop sole with a finger.

Does that seem like an acceptable way to make wudu'? I didn't think so.

So I mentioned this to her, explaining that she should wash her feet. And she countered by saying that it was permissible to wipe over shoes and socks which is what she was doing. So I replied that it is permissible of course to wipe over socks or shoes if one has wudu' but she wasn't wearing socks or shoes, she was wearing flip-flops that completely exposed her foot, so she couldn't just wipe her flip-flop sole to avoid the laborious process of wiping her feet.

Anyway, the whole event kind of made me wonder who taught her how to make wudu' in the first place, and why she thought that it would be okay to tap the back of her flip-flop. She had learned that it was permissible to wipe over the socks, but hadn't learned the rulings about it to apply them properly.

I wonder how many of us have this problem--that we've only learned something partially and so we implement it incorrectly? This is why it is important to study our deen, even if we think we know it, even if we think we learned it as children. We might be making little mistakes that go unnoticed.

And I'll recommend if anyone has questions about rulings on wiping over the socks.

Miss me?

Everybody has the same number of hours in a day. The same number of minutes. The difference is how we choose to use those minutes.

I could choose to meander around the web, browsing semi-interesting articles on subjects I find fascinating, I could sit on the sofa playing computer games or watching TV, I could walk to the park to fly a kite, and I could focus intently on schoolwork, for once.

Over the last few weeks, I decided to focus on schoolwork. It was incredibly stressful, so while I was studying I didn't devote any time to blogging, or even reading blogs. (My Google reader log has expanded to over 150 unread posts.)

And I guess I got a lot done. But I still have a lot left to do, including finishing a project well past its deadline. And there's a lot I didn't get done--my grandfather passed away just two weeks ago (inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon), and I wasn't able to attend the funeral. He was 91, and I've seen him only once in 8 years. And I think that has been a blessing, that I didn't see him deterioate with Alzheimer's until he couldn't recognize anyone, that I didn't see him go blind, or wither away as he did in the last few months.

And as I sit here thinking about it, I feel the necessity of da'wah bearing down upon me. At times I know it's hard enough just worrying about myself, and what I will be held to account for on the Day of Judgment. But when I remember that the Prophet (saws) was not allowed to pray for his uncle, or for his mother... I just don't know what I'll be able to feel about my own parents when their time is up, knowing as I do what might be waiting for them.

Twenty-four hours. One thousand four hundred forty minutes. Time keeps ticking, and I have no shortage of worries to fill it with.