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July 20, 2013

Day 11 – A Blessed Companion

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Among Allah’s servants are people who are neither Prophets nor martyrs, but whom the Prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.”

They asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Tell us who they are.”

He said: “They are people who loved each other for Allah’s sake, without being related to one another or being tied to one another by the exchange of wealth. By Allah, their faces will be luminous and they will be upon light. They will feel no fear when the people will be feeling fear and they will feel no grief when the people will be grieving.”

Then he read the verse: “Behold, on the friends of Allah there shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Abu Dawud)

The friends that you make solely for the sake of Allah are beyond special people and there is no time easier to make that friend than Ramadan or Hajj. Perhaps it could be through sitting with someone you never really connected to before at the time of iftar, doing I’itikaf with someone in the last 10 nights, someone who is with you on some Ramadan committee, etc. But Ramadan definitely provides a unique opportunity to make new friends for the sake of Allah.

The reason this is crucial is that many of use discovered religion later on in life and were forced to either let go of other friends, or make some of our previous affiliations tolerable. But rarely do we actually make and maintain bonds solely for the sake of Allah. Friendship is meant to provide a certain sense of relief and comfort. When that “relief” and “comfort” is none other than Allah, then guess what happens:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah will ask on the Day of Judgment: ‘Where are those who loved each other my sake? Today, on a day when there is no shade but mine, I shall shade them with My shade.” (Muslim)

In essence, we form bonds of friendship to “shade” us from the inherent “heat” of the world’s unpleasant nature. For the believers, we form those bonds under the shade of Allah to shade us in this world from the world itself. And so on the Day of Judgment, the shade of Allah which protected those friends from corruption and disobedience will once again protect them, but this time from the greater trials of that day itself.

So try to scout someone this Ramadan that you’d love to have as a friend for Allah, OR if you’ve already got that person, reaffirm and strengthen those ties with them.

July 21, 2013

Day 12 – Force a Tear

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) informed us in various narrations that the eye that sheds a tear for Allah will never be touched by the fire and its owner will be in the shade of Allah on the day of judgment.

Abu Bakr As-Sideeq (may Allah be pleased with him) was well known for many things. Amongst them was his frequent crying. Every time he prayed he cried, and in fact it was difficult for people praying behind him to hear his recitation because he was always crying.

Despite that, once during his rule a group of non-Muslim men came from Yemen and asked to hear the recitation of the Quran. As the recitation began, the men immediately broke down into tears and Abu Bakr cried at their crying and said “this is how we used to be before our hearts became hard.”

What was Abu Bakr talking about? He was still known for his tears until the day of his death! But its only natural that as time goes on, the emotions you have towards faith start to fade.

Imagine the first time you took shahada, the first time the Quran really impacted you, the first time you really sincerely repented, the first time you lost someone you loved, the first time you ALMOST experienced death, etc.

Now what if you’re trying to cry but finding yourself unable to, Abu Bakr (ra) said then make your face as if you’re crying until you actually start to cry. In other words, fake it till you make it. Not in front of people as a form of showing off, but in solitude.

Find that verse that really gets to you, try to feed off of the emotion of the Imam or the people around you in taraweeh, think deeply about paradise and hellfire, make a dua from the bottom of your heart, and force just ONE tear out of your eyes. And that one tear might be the one accepted deed on the day of judgment that saves you.

Oh and one more VERY important thing, DONT TELL ANYONE ABOUT THAT TEAR so that it can remain solely for the sake of Allah.

July 22, 2013

Day 13 – A Worthy Exchange

When we hear about charity in a khutbah/lecture, it’s almost ALWAYS attached to a fundraiser. As a result, people fail to understand that charity is a matter of tazkiya and personal spiritual development. No this is not a fundraiser, so read it all the way through.

“You will not attain the reward of piety until you spend out of that which you love…” (3:92)

Most people only give their spare change, unused clothes, and whatever else is convenient to give. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) however demands that we spend from what is most beloved to us. Unfortunately, we’ve limited the scope of charity to money.

When this verse was revealed, a great companion by the name of Abu Talha (RA) came to the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) to give his favorite garden named Bairuha, which was almost like a mini resort behind the masjid, in charity. It was a beautiful garden with springs and palm trees that the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) used to enjoy basking in. The idea was that if I want the gardens of the hereafter, I should give my most precious possession, the gardens of this world, in charity.

Abdullah Ibn Omar (RA) was also once riding his favorite and most beloved camel. And in the midst of admiring it, he decided to stop over on the side of the road and give it to a poor old man.

We give charity because we no longer want or need certain things; the companions on the other hand gave what they wanted most as a proof of their faith to Allah.

This form of charity is a wonderful tazkiya exercise and so as a challenge to you and I: Think of something REALLY precious to you and give it away seeking Allah’s reward. It could be your favorite clothes, jewelry, etc. But use it as a means of seeking jannah instead of whatever temporary pleasure it yields you in this world.

July 23, 2013

Day 14 – The Daily Death

Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi rajioon. Today I woke up to a heartbreaking text message. The son in law of our beloved Imam Farooq in Baton Rouge, Akbar Raqeeb, died in his sleep last night. He was a husband and father, only in his 40s, who just last night prayed taraweeh behind his hafidh son. I ask Allah to have mercy upon him, enter him into al firdaws, grant his family steadfastness, and bestow upon them all tranquility. Ameen

Every single night, Allah takes our souls and we have no idea whether or not they will be returned to see another day of this world. Imagine how much better we would be as people if we treated sleep like death? The news this morning caused me to reflect on three key resolutions:

1. Observing all of the bedtime sunnahs of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam). Amongst them are:
a) Making wudu before sleeping
b) Reading Surah Al Mulk (protection from the punishment of the grave) and Al Sajda
c) Laying on your right side
d) Reading the sunnah adhkar (remembrances): http://www.islamawareness.net/Dua/Fortress/028.html Its amazing that if you die in your sleep having recited these words, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said that you die in a state of pure tawheed and are guaranteed Jannah

2. Making sure we do not go to sleep while being upset with family/friends or making them upset. Losing a loved one is painful enough. I can’t imagine what its like to lose someone you love in the midst of a dispute.

3. Finally, the most important lesson to take from this is that its absolutely essential to ask yourself every night if you’re ready to meet your Creator. This nightly self-questioning will surely lead you to abandon habitual sin and increase the quality of your good deeds.

I ask Allah to take us all when He is most pleased with us. ameen

July 24, 2013

Day 15 – Inspired Driving

One of the easiest wasted opportunities to please Allah is while driving. Most will listen to radio news, music, make random phone calls, or just vent to themselves about traffic. But in reality, driving provides a unique opportunity for reflection and switching out your music CDs (yes even halal nasheeds) and NPR time with Quran and Islamic lectures can have an immense effect on you. Remember, Ramadan is about taking idle time and making it useful. By getting yourself used to listening to the Quran/Islamic lectures, you’re turning your driving experience into an act of worship! Not only do the commutes become easier, they actually become greatly rewarding experiences.

Think about it, in this day and age, what other time of the day do we really get to spend time in solitude? Not only that, but how many people die in car accidents on a daily basis? What better way to meet Allah than with the Quran in your ears, heart, and upon your tongue?

You’d be surprised how much easier it is to also really become emotionally impacted by the Quran and/or a good lecture while driving as opposed to while at home in front of your computer (Ref. Ramadan Resolution Day 12). You know why? Because you don’t have all of those other distractions that often hinder your ability to reflect.

Make this a permanent Ramadan change and you’ll thank me later inshaAllah.

And by the way, if you still have a cassette player like I do, get a hold of some of those old Imam Siraaj Wahhaj and Sh. Abdullah Hakim Quick tapes!

July 25, 2013

Day 16 – Driving Safe for Allah

SubhanAllah, i realized that after i posted the inspired driving resolution yesterday which emphasized that people die daily in car accidents and we should strive to meet Allah while in a state of worship, the news of Br. Najib and his family being killed by a drunk driver after taraweeh shocked the Dallas community. In essence, he was hit from behind which caused his car to derail and find its way in the path of a truck.

Then this morning as I was driving on the highway, A car violently was riding my bumper and ran me out of the lane causing a near collision with the car in the next lane. I looked over at the driver and to my dismay, it was a brother with a long beard wearing a thobe and a kufi. Imagine if I was a Non-Muslim and that would’ve happened to me. What impression has that brother just given me of Islam?

But the issue is far greater than reckless driving being terrible dawah. Many times we fail to realize that we belong to a faith that is all encompassing. So with no ambiguity let me say this clearly: driving recklessly is Haram (prohibited). Yes I used the “H word”. In fact, some contemporary scholars (including Sh. Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahullah) and Dr. Yusuf Al Qaradawi) have stated that even if you unintentionally cause the death of someone because of your reckless driving, you have committed murder. They further went on to say that if you die because of your reckless driving, you have committed suicide. My Shaykh also held this opinion. This is on the basis of a principle in Islamic jurisprudence that recklessness is judged by its end. What that means is that just because the drunk driver didn’t intend to kill anyone that night, he is fully responsible because he chose to drive drunk.

Even if you disagree with this opinion (probably because you’re guilty of this yourself), what if those scholars MIGHT be right? Would you really want to meet Allah having committed suicide or murder?

It’s just not worth it. Even if you’re late to prayer, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “When prayer has already started, do not walk quickly to join in. Proceed calmly and with ease; then join in whichever part you catch, and complete whichever part you missed” [Bukhari]

I personally can remember two incidents in which kids were run over in a masjid parking lot because of someone rushing to prayer.

If we are told to proceed slowly and with caution to the single most important act of worship for which we were created, then what excuse do we have to rush for anything else in life?

I hope this message will reach the young and old alike. Drive safely for the sake of Allah.

July 26, 2013

Day 17 – Winning by Losing

It’s very easy to forgive when you yourself have your own share of transgressions, or to say, “I don’t want to argue” when you know you’re losing the argument anyway. But it is EXTREMELY hard to stop arguing when you’re winning. Why? Because it’s a boost to your pride and it feels good to win, especially if you don’t really like the other party. It’s your chance to humiliate that person and put him in his place. Now listen to this hadeeth:

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: “I guarantee a home in paradise for the one who leaves off arguing even when he’s right…” (Abu Dawud)

Now obviously this isn’t talking about dawah. This is when you are having a personal dispute or argument and despite knowing that you’re right, you leave it off for the sake of Allah.

You do this out of humility hoping that on the Day of Judgment Allah will not humiliate you. No one of us wants to argue with the Creator in the hereafter, so make it a habit to leave off arguing with the creation in this world.

Imagine if someone paid you a million dollars to lose an argument, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) is promising you a home in Paradise which is so much sweeter.

That’s called winning by losing.

July 27, 2013

Day 18 – Make Every Night Count

In getting ready for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, I wanted to share a few tips to make the most of them:

1. Do not be like the majority of people who wait for the 27th to spend a night in worship. The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) stayed in I’itikaf (seclusion) for all 10 nights seeking Allahs pleasure. We have no guarantee that laylatul qadr will be the 27th night and in fact with moon sighting issues (yes im bringing it back up :)), we don’t even know for a fact which night is the 27th. So seek laylatul qadr every night and you will certainly catch it. Not only that, but you would have spent the other 9 nights conversing with your Creator, receiving His mercy, and elevating your status.

2. Catch Fajr and Isha in congregation. `Uthman bin `Affan (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying: “One who performs `Isha’ prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat for half of the night. And one who performs the Fajr prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat the whole night.”[Muslim]

3. Pray the entire set of taraweeh with the Imam. Taraweeh is qiyaamul layl. Yes its permissible to pray as little or as much of it as you want on any given day. But the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said that whoever prays with the Imam “until he leaves” would receive the full reward of qiyaamul layl for the whole night. No one of us will be able to spend the entire night praying so this, along with tip 3, is a good way to ensure that you get the entire credit.

4. Spend the night in different forms of worship so that you don’t get bored. You don’t have to spend the whole night in prayer. Instead you can take breaks and just make dua. You can also specify a certain number of chapters of the Quran you want to ready every night. You can also read a translation of Quran or some ahadeeth as a break between prayers. Just keep yourself engaged. It’s also good to give charity and perform any extra good deeds in these nights. 5. Plan your duas. This is the night in which the entire next year will be decreed. So choose your duas wisely and make sure that you make them with a clean heart. Here is a tafseer that I did of Suratul Qadr last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Oam2qJz0y8

July 28, 2013

Day 19 – Internet Adab

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: “I was only sent to perfect noble character,” [Ahmad]

He also said: “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character.” [Tirmidhi]

We, starting with me, should all be striving to achieve better character in this month in particular. Character can be measured through many channels, the way you conduct yourself online is one of them.

So here are a few tips I hope we can implement to improve our Internet character:

1. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say behind a keyboard. Some of the sweetest people I’ve met in person are not so sweet online. In person they’d give you a hug, online they’d give you a cyber slap. So the question is: which one is REALLY representative of their character? Only Allah knows. But seriously, whenever you type especially something personal. Read it out loud and ask yourself if you would say that to that person. Especially when you are dealing with someone who is older than you.

2. With all of the heated discussions that take place online, passions are bound to be enflamed. It is a trying time for the ummah and all of us feel very strongly about certain things. If you are unable to hold yourself back from personally insulting people while holding your strong views, you jeopardize your fasting and Ramadan. So it’s best to not type anything if you can’t be civil. Just hold your fingers and your tongue.

3. Political commentary is one thing, dua is another. If you spend more time typing about the issues of the ummah than making dua for the wellbeing of it, now is a good time to shift your focus.

4. When it comes to dealing with the opposite gender online, be modest in the way you address them. Al hamdulila we are one ummah and we collectively should care for one another, but observe the limits even when typing because an expression is still an expression even when written and shouldn’t come off as immodest.

5. Don’t type when you’re angry with a particular person! You’re bound then to do some serious, and sometimes irreparable, damage to your relationship with that person. Remember, haste is from the shaytan.

6. Finally, when someone personally insults you, don’t respond but instead seek the reward from Allah. Lets face it, sometimes it hurts just as much when written as it does in person and Allah is aware of that. You can also respond with a joke or something more light-hearted to shift the tone of the conversation.

I hope all of us, starting with me, can start to make these changes and hopefully spare ourselves from unknowingly adding extra sins to our slates that we cant afford to have.

July 29, 2013

Day 20 – Amnesty

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) taught us that the most frequent and beloved dua to be said on the last nights is: Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuh’ibul ‘afwa fa’ffu ‘Anni (O Allah, You are the Pardoner and You love to pardon, so pardon me).

The word ‘Awfa’ is beyond Maghfira (forgiveness) in the Arabic language. It is an even greater sense of forgiveness. It is complete amnesty and pardon.

But one of the most insincere forms of tawba (repentance) is one that lacks a sense of regret or even acknowledgment of the sin. That’s why Imam Sufyan Al Thawri (ra) taught that you should actually try to sit and remember your sins, cry for them, and then seek forgiveness from Allah for them. This remembrance is not done in a way that brings about self-hatred or despair because you immediately remember that Allah is far greater than your sin! That’s the beauty of the part of the dua “You love to pardon”, it shows how confident you are that Allah will pardon you despite how bad it might be.

This exercise not only ensures that you’ve met the conditions of tawba, it also induces those stubborn tears, deals a blow to your pride, and brings you closer to your compassionate Sustainer.

So try to make this dua sincere and frequent and when you find yourself silent during these last ten nights, say this dua so that you are never idle. But reflect while saying it and you may achieve something even greater than the guaranteed amnesty.