Aggregator

IOK Ramadan: The Power of Prayer | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep29]

Muslim Matters - 9 April, 2024 - 17:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17 Juz 18 Juz 19 Juz 20 Juz 21 Juz 22 Juz 23 Juz 24 Juz 25 Juz 26 Juz 27 Juz 28

[Transcript unavailable]

The post IOK Ramadan: The Power of Prayer | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep29] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

IOK Ramadan: The Weight of the Qur’an | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep28]

Muslim Matters - 9 April, 2024 - 11:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17 Juz 18 Juz 19 Juz 20 Juz 21 Juz 22 Juz 23 Juz 24 Juz 25 Juz 26 Juz 27

[Transcript unavailable]

The post IOK Ramadan: The Weight of the Qur’an | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep28] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

IOK Ramadan: Families of Faith | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep27]

Muslim Matters - 9 April, 2024 - 06:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17 Juz 18 Juz 19 Juz 20 Juz 21 Juz 22 Juz 23 Juz 24 Juz 25 Juz 26

[Transcript unavailable]

The post IOK Ramadan: Families of Faith | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep27] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 29] Preparing For Trials And Loss

Muslim Matters - 9 April, 2024 - 04:22

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters reached out to our regular (and not-so-regular) crew of writers asking them to share their reflections on various ayahs/surahs of the Quran, ideally with a focus on a specific juz – those that may have impacted them in some specific way or have influenced how they approach both life and deen. While some contributors are well-versed in at least part of the Quranic Sciences, not all necessarily are, but reflect on their choices as a way of illustrating that our Holy Book is approachable from various human perspectives.

Introducing, A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series

***

Preparing For Trials And Loss

by Waleed S. Ahmed

The twenty-ninth Juz of the Quran starts with a poignant declaration of one of the fundamental purposes of creation. It states,

“Blessed be He in Whose hands is Dominion, and He over all things hath Power;”

“He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving” [Surah Mulk: 67;1-2].

We are reminded in these verses of one of the main reasons we were sent to this world: to be tried and tested. Similarly, in other places in the Quran we are told:

“He is the One who created the heavens and the earth in six days -while His Throne was on water- so that He might test you as to who among you is better in deed…” [Surah Hud: 11;7].

“We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits…” [Surah Al Baqarah: 2;155].

These verses make it clear to us that we are living in the abode of tribulation; that difficulties and hardships are a part of this life. The ‘problem of evil’ thus doesn’t arise for the believer as he is aware that adversity is present in this world by design – and that our ultimate goal is to reach the world of eternal bliss where no tribulation, injustice, or suffering exists. One day is for you and one day is against you – that is the nature of this world.

Reflecting on these verses, a question naturally arises: if tribulations are bound to come our way, then what are we doing to prepare for them? We spend days and weeks stressing over an exam for school and getting ready for it. What then of the trials that the Quran warns us about?

Instead of gleefully going through life hoping that nothing bad ever happens, a more prudent approach is to be prepared for calamity before it strikes. We might be tried with poor health, the loss of employment and wealth, the injury or death of a loved one, heartbreak and the loss of a relationship, a natural disaster, an act of injustice, a war, a sudden accident, an entanglement in an unruly affair such as a legal battle or a toxic work environment; any of these incidents can overnight shatter our worlds and throw us into survival mode. It could happen to any of us.

So, what are we doing to prepare? While there are no simple solutions, this essay hopes to explore some wisdoms from our tradition to be better prepared for the challenging days before they arrive.

Having the Right Mindset

Premodern people were very aware of the notion of living in ‘peacetime’ or ‘wartime’. Peacetime was seen as a temporary period that was to end upon the onset of war, and it was used to train for wartime. This mindset is unfortunately lost upon those of us living in places that have enjoyed a prolonged period of peace, and many of us go through life under the illusion that peacetime is to last forever. More worrisome, is the belief that we are entitled to well-being and any misfortune in life is met with the ‘why me?’ attitude, often accompanied by anger, disillusionment, and complaints.

trials and prayer

Patience and prayer [PC: Visual Karsa (unsplash)]

However, as already alluded to earlier, the Quran reminds us that we are living in the abode of tribulation and that we will certainly be tried with hardships in our earthly life. For those of us fortunate enough to be living in places away from violent battlefields, wartime for us will entail personal battles and crises that we ought to be ready for. This awareness will ensure that when calamity strikes, our response isn’t ‘Why me?’, but rather one of submission to divine decree and turning to God.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us how to live during peacetime so that we are prepared for trials. He said:

“Acquaint yourself with Allah in comfortable circumstances, He will acknowledge you in severe difficulty. Know that what has missed you was never going to befall you and what has befallen you was never going to miss you. Know that help is with patience, deliverance is with distress and that with difficulty there is ease” [Ahmed]. In another narration, he mentions, “The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried” [Tirmidi]. [Hadith 19, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi]

This hadith highlights one of the keys to ensuring we are prepared for calamitous times: remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and being connected with Him during times of ease. Ibn Rajab al Hanbali in his commentary on this hadith says, “When the slave has taqwa of Allah, guards His limits, takes care of His rights when he is in comfortable circumstances, then he has made himself known to Allah by that and there comes into existence between him and his Lord a special recognition ‘ma’rifa’, so that his Lord will acknowledge him when he is in severe difficulty and will take care of him” [Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam].

Having the right mindset also entails rejecting the commonly held ‘why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people’ attitude.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us that the most difficult trials are those of the righteous. He said, “The people who face the most difficult tests are the prophets, then the righteous, then those following them in degree. A person is tried according to his religion. So if there is firmness in his religion, then the trial is increased, and if there is a weakness, then it is lightened. Verily a trial remains with a servant until he walks the earth having no sin left upon him.” [Sunan Ibn Majah 4023]

The great scholar Abdul Qadir al Jilani explained that the reason for the tribulation is evidenced by the response one has to it: impatience and complaint is a clue that the hardship is a punishment for the individual, patience and obedience is a sign of expiation from sins, and contentment is a sign that the trial is to raise one’s rank with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) life is a lesson in dealing with extreme difficulties and hardships. He was an orphan who buried his spouse and five of his six children. He was rejected by his own people and driven from his land. From dealing with wars to poverty, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) showed us how to patiently handle calamities when they strike. Reflection on the tribulations in the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) life is thus one of the main ways of coping with difficulties in our own personal lives.

Understanding the Dunya and Detaching Oneself from It   

One of the main causes of severe heartache when experiencing loss is an attachment to this fleeting world and the heedlessness of God. Ibn Ashir in his famous poem states:

“Know that the root of all blight is love of leadership and rejection of the afterlife, and the chief of all faults is love of this world” [Murshid al Mu’een].

Our love and attachment to this world comes from a poor understanding of its nature. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us that, “This dunya is cursed and what is in it is cursed, except the remembrance of Allah (dhikr) and what is conducive to that, or one who has knowledge or who acquires knowledge” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2322].

trials

Shackled to life. [PC: Grianghraf (unsplash)]

Early Muslims like Abu Sulayman al-Darani defined dunya as “whatever busies you from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)”. When used in a blameworthy sense, dunya refers to worldliness, and sages like Abu Hamid al Ghazali warned that “dunya is at enmity with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and it is at enmity with the awliya of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), because it cuts off the path [to Him] for the servants of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)” [Ihya ulum al-din].

The great gnostic Imam al-Junayd said, “I have taken as an axiom that has enabled me since then to never be disturbed by what afflicts me from this world. And it is this: that the abode of this world is an abode of stress, despondency, tribulation, and strife. And this world—all of it—is wanting (sharr). Its nature is such that it will confront me with everything I detest, and should it meet me with what I love, it is simply abundant grace. And if not, its nature is as was stated.”

Ibn Ata’ Allah in his famous Hikam warns us of the dangers of forming attachments. He states: “You do not love something except that you become its slave and He does not love that you be a slave to other than Him”. He also cautions that, “Whoever does not draw near to God as a result of the caresses of love is shackled to Him with the chains of misfortune.”

Detachment from this temporary world (zuhd) and attachment to the Eternal is therefore one of the best ways to prepare for calamities. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) advised us to “be in this world as if you were a stranger or traversing a way” [Bukhari]. Ibn Rajab in his commentary explains that the believer should imagine himself to be in a foreign land and this would ensure that “his heart is unattached to the foreign country but on the contrary, his heart attaches itself to the homeland to which he is returning, and so he is only resident in the world to finish the repair of his equipment to return to his homeland” [Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam].

Build a Fortress of Strength and Stability

In order to deal with the chaos in the outside world, one must have stability at home. In addition to having the right belief system and core values, one should also take pragmatic steps during ‘peacetime’ to build strength in all key aspects of life: physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual. Training actively to strengthen these areas is extremely important as it is well known that under pressure we perform at the level of our base training.

In his book Real Life: Preparing for the 7 Most Challenging Days of Your Life, Dr. Phil McGraw discusses the idea of an ‘adaptability breakdown’ during a crisis. Your adaptability is your ability to handle the demands of your life without falling apart. During a crisis you lose this ability, become overwhelmed, and have difficulty managing the simplest aspects of life. Thus, the stronger you are physically and emotionally, the better you will be at handling a breakdown during adversity.

One of the key ways to building emotional health and avoiding an adaptability breakdown, according to this work, is to reduce ‘stressors’ in one’s day-to-day life. Stressors are things in your daily life that drain you out and put pressure on you mentally and physically. Examples of these include: a long commute, being stuck in daily traffic, noisy neighbors, bickering with your children or spouse, working long hours, and lack of sleep.

This barrage of daily demands that are constantly pecking at you is what leads to stress i.e. the mind and body’s reaction to stressors. The more stressors you have in your life, the more chronically drained your body will be, and the more likely you are to collapse in crises mode. Identifying and eliminating stressors is thus key in ensuring you are in a healthy state before challenging days come your way.

Building healthy relationships, particularly with family, is also an important part of having stability at home. This is one of the reasons families in traditional societies would live close to each other, often in one big house. Strong familial ties serve as a vital coping mechanism in times of distress. Being alone in a crisis is one of the worst situations to be in. Nurturing ties of kinship thus not only serves to fulfill a religious duty for the believer, but also helps strengthen him in this worldly life.

The importance of being spiritually strong and having a connection to God during times of ease was discussed earlier. The primary way of achieving this is by establishing religious routines (wird) and observing them consistently. This has been discussed in more detail in a previous post on purification of the heart.

Seek Help with Prayer and Patience

After warning us about the trials that await us in this life, the Quran immediately tells us of the response of the believer to afflictions:

“Give glad tidings to the patient—those who, when affliction befalls them, say,

“Truly we are God’s and unto Him we return.”

“They are those upon whom come the blessings from their Lord, and compassion, and they are those who are rightly guided” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;156–157].

We are taught here that the correct response in any circumstance is turning to God: we are to turn to Him in gratitude in times of ease, and we are to turn to Him with patience in times of distress. We are also reminded to “seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;153].

Circumstances are often completely out of one’s control during challenging times which can lead to a sense of complete powerlessness. Focusing on actionable items in one’s realm of control is thus an important coping strategy and prayer should certainly be on top of that list. While it is best to consult a knowledgeable teacher who could advice based on one’s circumstances, following are a few prayers that are suitable to recite for anyone experiencing hardships:

1) Salatul Hajjah: The prayer of need
2) حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ [Surah ‘Ali-Imran 3;173]
3)  رب اشرح لي صدري، ويسر لي أمري [Surah Taha: 20;25]
4) Surah al-Inshirah [Surah 94]
5)  اللَّهُمَّ لَا سَهْلَ إلاَّ مَا جَعَلْتَهُ سَهْلاً، وأنْتَ تَجْعَلُ الحَزْنَ إذَا شِئْتَ سَهْلاً
6) لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ [Surah Al-Anbiya: 21;87]
7) اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى سَيِّدِنَا مَحَمَّدٍ النٌَبِىِّ الأُمِّىِّ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحبِهِ وَسَلِّم

In summary, trials and tribulations are at the heart of the human experience, and it is our responsibility to ensure we respond to them in a fashion congruent with Prophetic teachings. It is also important this foreknowledge of tribulations does not become a reason for us to have a dismal outlook on life. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was always positive, encouraged us to pray for well-being (afiya), and reminded us that God is as the servant thinks of Him. We are also taught to recite every night the last two verses of Surah Baqarah where we ask “ Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make mistakes. Lord, do not burden us as You burdened those before us. Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear ” [2;285].

The believer thus should always be full of hope, never despair, and always turn back to God. It is appropriate to mention here, in closing this essay, words from the great gnostic Ibn Ata’ Allah:

Let the pain of tribulation be lightened for you by knowing that it is He Most Glorious who is making trial of you.

 

Related:

When Problems Have No Solutions: Making Peace With Endless Trials

The Bigger Picture: Understanding Loss, Sacrifice, and Purpose in Dhul Hijjah

The post A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 29] Preparing For Trials And Loss appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

IOK Ramadan: Humility in Front of the Messenger | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep26]

Muslim Matters - 9 April, 2024 - 04:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17 Juz 18 Juz 19 Juz 20 Juz 21 Juz 22 Juz 23 Juz 24 Juz 25

[Transcript unavailable]

The post IOK Ramadan: Humility in Front of the Messenger | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep26] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

So much for “war on the NIMBYs”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 8 April, 2024 - 00:50
A picture of the back of a four-storey block of flats with large windows and balconies with two small gardens immediately behind and a small tree in each, and a lawn in the foreground with cycle racks on the white wall to the left.The proposed new block of flats in Riddlesdown Road, Purley (source: Polaris Passivhaus)

Last week Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South, a wealthy district on the southern edge of London where suburban streets rise up into the North Downs, posted a blog entry and an accompanying Tweet about the new Tory council’s refusal to allow a small block of flats to be built on the space of what he calls a “family home” on Riddlesdown Road, one of the aforementioned downside suburban streets. He calls the proposed building ‘ugly’ and says of the decision that it is “a welcome further example of the new approach to planning being taken by the Conservative-run planning committee – by contrast to the previous Labour-run committee which used to wave every application through”. In a similar blog post from this past January, he welcomed the refusal to allow a number of garages in another street in his constituency to be converted into semi-detached houses. In every such post, his rhetoric is the same: of course new houses (or flats) are needed, but let’s build them where they “fit in” and not in nice green suburbs like ours. Flats, he says, should be built in “Croydon town centre, central London and brownfield sites – not green suburbs like ours”. Not in his back yard, in other words.

In 2011, when the Tories were first returned to power in coalition, the rhetoric was of “war on the NIMBYs” and getting new houses built over objections from incumbents who were upset that their views might be changed or that they might just not like their new neighbours, though they often discovered an interest in whatever rare species might be impacted. It seems Croydon’s planning policy is to favour incumbents over the need for new homes. It’s likely that the developers will appeal to the planning ombudsman and win, because this development is not ugly or huge — it’s a four-storey building, not a stereotypical tower block, and as it is on a hill, only one storey will be visible from the road — and the building intended to be demolished is nothing but a run-down white box with a flat roof, very rare in the UK including that area, and an upper storey with no street-facing windows — in fact, the new building would be much more in keeping with local architecture than the current building. The new building is intended to meet Passivhaus standards according to its architects, meaning it would be highly energy-efficient. Looking at other houses in the surrounding streets, they do seem to be mostly detached houses with a few semis, mostly Mock Tudor with a few more modern examples, possibly built in place of houses damaged by bombing during World War II; there is no distinct architectural ‘character’ to the area. The only thing he can mean is that the new flats will change the human make-up of the area; that different types of people will live in them than live in the detached houses that make up most of the area, possibly people who are less likely to vote for him.

An aerial photo of a small white house with a flat roof. There are small windows on the ground floor and none on the storey above. The front garden has a black saloon car in it but its front and rear gardens are in a poor condition.The current building at 79 Riddlesdown Road. (Source: Polaris Passivhaus)

I also dispute his claim that the place for flats isn’t in a nice neighbourhood like his. All kinds of people are needed in a neighbourhood; the people who care for the elderly residents of some of these houses, the people who work in the shops, the teachers in local schools all have to live somewhere and none of them earn the kind of money that would buy you a four-bedroom house in Riddlesdown nowadays. Should they be expected to live in Croydon’s increasingly run-down town centre, or more than ten miles away in central London, to save wealthy homeowners what they might consider an eyesore? He talks about preserving “family homes for families” as if no family lives in a flat, and suggests that the flats be built on “brownfield sites”, as if that meant old factories which used to provide jobs, rather than any used plot of land, like this one. And as for the views, about the views people might enjoy from their flat windows: do “the sort of people who live in flats” have a right to no better view than roads, railways and concrete buildings? Maybe that floats some people’s boats but some might want to enjoy beautiful downland scenery, the same as or better than from the windows of some of the detached houses, and maybe they would like the cleaner air that comes with living closer to the countryside rather than breathing in the car fumes of Wellesley Road.

79 Riddlesdown Road is only one building; it is not intended to be social housing and will not solve the housing crisis or the climate crisis. However, it’s an interesting and innovative design and does actually fit in fairly well with the local architecture. Of course, most local responses are against; doubtless most people don’t want a big building project on their street and trucks coming up and down the road every day for the next couple of years. Philp’s ridiculous objection to this scheme is no more than pandering to NIMBYism, maybe in the hope of shoring up his wealthy voter base in the run-up to the general election. It’s a case of opposing change for the sake of it.

Possibly Related Posts:


We Are Not Numbers x MuslimMatters – Faith Is Our Way Of Resistance

Muslim Matters - 7 April, 2024 - 15:00

by Dima Shamaly

[Connie Charles, mentor]

 

March 19, 2024

When we see the crescent moon

   As you know, every year we are aware that Ramadan is approaching by the sighting of the crescent moon. When the crescent moon appears, children’s voices become louder in the streets, and decorations fill every street and every house. 

   Each of us goes to the markets and malls to buy delicious food and necessities for the month of Ramadan. We seek out the foods that distinguish Ramadan from other months. Dates, for example, qatayef, and many other things. 

   The days of Ramadan are filled with remembrance of God, prayer, reading the Qur’an, and then preparing food for Iftar. After sundown, we eat only when the family gathers around one table, filled with all kinds of foods. 

  You hear the sounds of Tarawih prayer while sitting in your home, a fragrant recitation from an imam who has a golden voice in reading the Qur’an. Your heart is filled with humility and reassurance in every rak’ah you perform. Once you stand before your Creator, you feel that the whole world is nothingness and that you want to spend the whole night praying.

This is what I wrote during the month of Ramadan last year to my friend who lives in New York. She was feeling consumed by exile, and wanted reminders of the atmosphere of Ramadan in Gaza so that she would feel a little reassured and could return home in her mind.

This year is different

This year, on March 3, she sent me a message asking whether my family and I were alive or not. She wanted details about how we would keep the month of Ramadan. I remained silent and did not respond. I did not know how to tell her that I had lost my ability to speak. I could not tell her any details. I was unable to say a word. How could I talk to her about all that I was experiencing? I had no words.

Spending Ramadan this year, in the Gaza Strip, is like being in the desert for a long time without enough food or drink. Each of us spends the day without doing anything, with no work to distract us, without study to be preoccupied with. We do nothing. Our faces show the bottomless fear and worry that each of us is feeling.

This year, we spend every day waiting for it to end, just to be over. At Iftar, the food for a family of no less than seven people is two cans of cooked beans or peas, tasteless and odorless, as if you were eating air. Canned food is the only thing available, that an individual in the Gaza Strip can find to buy. Other foods are for sale in local markets, but no one can afford them. 

Lack of control over sellers has made the prices of all goods in Gaza rise dramatically. I may go to the market carrying a hundred shekels—a good amount of money in normal circumstances, enough to buy a large amount of food—and all I can buy with it is a small bag of vegetables, enough for one salad plate, four bottles of water, and a box of dates.

Yet, we persist

Along with this situation beyond our control are the sounds of continuous bombing that come to our ears instead of the music of the call to prayer or the cannons, and along with Iftar this year there is the stench of the phosphorus bombs being dropped on us.

The thing that reassures us all is our unshakeable faith. With everything that happens, you will still find every family gathering in front of their tent to pray Tarawih prayers together. When those prayers are finished, everyone prays to God to be relieved of this horror we are living through. Every tent has its own supplication, and all tents have a common supplication. Any thought that God would abandon us or leave us without hope disappears simply by praying.

Even the elements are against us

On the seventh day of Ramadan this year, the weather in the city of Rafah, to which I have been displaced, changed from summer and sunny to continuous winter and bitter cold. Being cold in our tents seems to be the final way to make us feel pain, and it becomes worse when you have nothing to wear or to cover yourself with.

We are all bearing up, but we never thought it would get so bad. And now, the sound of the wind hitting the nylon of the tent is more difficult to endure than even the sound of continuous bombing, and there has been rain pouring on us in the night making us even more miserable. Yet we were able to sleep through the night, and were satisfied that it was God testing us.

Then, just a half hour before suhoor. I woke to the sound of my mother screaming, “The tent has fallen! Ya Allah, please have mercy on us.” I thought she was exaggerating, but opening my eyes and trying to sit up, I realized that wood and nylon were on top of us. 

We left the tent and spent the rest of the night out in the cold. My mother never complained or expressed doubt in God’s rule. She prayed till dawn, imploring God with all her strength to save us from the crisis we were in. I was amazed by my mother’s strong faith and firm belief in everything. 

I also prayed, asking God to reduce the affliction on us, or to get us out of this situation, to at least return us to our home. My 14-year-old sister, Farah, prayed too, saying, “Ya Rab, bring us back to our home and we will be satisfied with anything else. Bring us back to our home, and let them continue their war. Let them kill us, but while we are at home.”

Our faith gives us all we need

When morning came, I wanted to reach out to my friend in New York, but I knew I couldn’t say all of this to her. Something inside me prevented me from calling her, even though she was one of my closest friends. 

To my surprise, I found a message from her saying, “There is something in common between you and homeless cats. You are all in God’s care and protected in His eyes.”

Receiving this message was like a refreshing rain in the desert in which I had been without food or water for a long time. I realized that I was in God’s care and protection, and that my mother’s strong faith was not in vain. My sister’s prayers came out of her deep pain and her great hope in God. 

Faith is the strongest and the most enduring thing we have. Through all of our pain and suffering, we have faith. Whenever life gets tough and nothing makes sense, we have a refuge in Allah. We know that Allah is with us. Allah sees all that is happening and will never stop being with us and for us. Faith is the best thing my people have, and we are famous for it.

 

Related:

We Are Not Numbers x MuslimMatters – MuslimMatters.org

The post We Are Not Numbers x MuslimMatters – Faith Is Our Way Of Resistance appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

We Are Not Numbers x MuslimMatters

Muslim Matters - 7 April, 2024 - 10:33
The Witnesses Of We Are Not Numbers

 

Introduction

by Ruth Nasrallah

Survivors of genocide have traditionally borne witness only after the atrocities end. In the case of the current tragedy in Gaza, witnesses are working in real-time. Because of the prevalence of journalists, photographers, and videographers on the ground using social media to livestream conditions there, millions can quite literally see the horror.

Whether you turn away from the worst of it – the images that are gruesome enough or provocative enough to merit a platform to blur them out – or you take every detail in, you can’t avoid the breathtaking violence, deprivation, and oppression.

Watching it happen on social media is traumatic and hard to absorb. It is a powerful motivator to action but arguably it’s only a first step into really understanding the depth of the calamity. There is a difference between a video and a written narrative. I would argue that the latter gives depth to our understanding of what we see happening in Gaza. And understanding the genocide from a more nuanced perspective guides us in our actions as well.

With that in mind, we introduce you to a group of young Palestinian writers who are distilling their experiences in real-time, in essays, in poetry, and in reporting. These are the writers of We Are Not Numbers, a youth-led Palestinian nonprofit project in Gaza. Writers accepted into a WANN cohort are paired with mentors who are professional journalists from around the world. The idea for WANN was conceived in 2014 by the American journalist Pam Bailey. In 2015, in collaboration with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, it became a reality.

The WANN writers have always focused on their lives and perspectives as Palestinians, whether in Gaza or in the Palestinian diaspora. In the last five months, they have taken on the critical role of witnessing their homeland’s genocide. Through poetry, essays, personal accounts, and reflections, they tell the story of post-October 7 Gaza. In their writing, they have described the flour massacres, the images of people on the ground covered with blood clutching a bag of flour. They have shared the sweet, simple story of a birthday “cake” made from the ingredients of deprivation. They have reflected on the arc of adjusting life to accommodate the constant threat of death.

And, sadly, they have lamented their sorrow at losing their professor and mentor Dr. Refaat Alareer, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December.

I discovered We Are Not Numbers about six years ago and have been supporting them since. When I made my first donation, the incentive gift was my name in Arabic calligraphy. I was emailed a photo of “Ruth Nasrullah” written in Arabic on a sheet of paper held up against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. I cherish that photo.

I encourage you to read the work of the We Are Not Numbers writers, to share their writing, and to support it. In doing so, you help ensure that the world knows what individual Gazans experience, what they have survived, and what they have lost. By sharing their work, you are a kind of witness too.

The post We Are Not Numbers x MuslimMatters appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 27] Surat Al Waqiah Paid My Tuition Twice

Muslim Matters - 7 April, 2024 - 09:56

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters reached out to our regular (and not-so-regular) crew of writers asking them to share their reflections on various ayahs/surahs of the Quran, ideally with a focus on a specific juz – those that may have impacted them in some specific way or have influenced how they approach both life and deen. While some contributors are well-versed in at least part of the Quranic Sciences, not all necessarily are, but reflect on their choices as a way of illustrating that our Holy Book is approachable from various human perspectives.

Introducing, A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series

***

The Surah That Paid My Tuition Twice

by Meena Malik

 

When I was in my second year of college, I heard an amazing anecdote that I decided to put all my faith in. It was the spring of 2011 and I had just decided to take a year off from college after being accepted into a year-long Arabic immersion program. But I had a huge problem. I secured over half the funds needed when I emptied my savings and my parents pitched in, but how would I come up with the remaining $5,000 that I needed? 

The program management advised me to try to fundraise the money on my own, seeking funds from my community. Their logic was that when I came back after a year of study, the community’s investment would pay off when I would teach free Arabic classes. So I began fundraising and actually raised much more than I had imagined. But I was still a few thousand dollars short. I had a worst-case backup plan up my sleeve: I’d take a part-time job while doing the Arabic program. I had been working part-time and commuting to college full-time all year. I could manage. 

But another solution came unexpectedly to me–and I knew it was my last hope for a miracle. 

[Please note: The author denounces the organization that she studied Arabic through due to ethical concerns about the CEO being a perpetrator and engaging in spiritual abuse.]

The Inspiring Story about Surat al Waqiah

At the time, there was a Muslim radio station called One Legacy Radio in Irvine, California and one of the brothers from my MSA hosted a show. It seems so silly to me now, but even then in the decently segregated MSU at UC Irvine, the sisters who would be hanging out and doing homework together on campus would always tune in online. Someone would open up her laptop and play the show out loud for everyone to hear. In a fateful episode, DJ Halal told a story about how he started reading Surat Al Waqiah every day to alleviate the financial burden he was experiencing. It had to do something with losing a job or somewhere along those lines. He mentioned a hadith that supported this practice and how reading the surah every night miraculously resolved his financial trouble at the time. 

Something clicked in my mind. The Arabic program marketed itself as a quick way to “learn Classical Arabic to understand the Quran” and thus what could be more logical than to read a magical surah from the Quran every single night to get to that goal? I use the word magical without trying to disrespect the Quran–because to me, I had to believe in the miracle that the hadith promised with full conviction for it to work. I had already been reading Surat Al Mulk every night for four years to protect myself from punishment from the grave–so why not try something that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to do that results in benefit in this life, too?

Starting the Ritual

That night, I opened up my dear mushaf which I lovingly nicknamed “Q” and pulled up a recitation from YouTube at the same time. At 20 years old I was mostly confident that I could read a surah new to me without any major issues because I had invested over a year in seriously-needed tajweed and Quran reading, but I wanted to listen with a reciter just in case anyway. I listened along a second time with the old faithful Yusuf Ali translation in the margins of “Q” and I thought to myself, this surah is all about people being sorted into groups on the Day of Judgment and dying. What does this have to do with getting money? 

I told my Quran teacher at the time that I needed to learn Surat Al Waqiah properly with her. I told her the reason why and she was very supportive of my dream of learning to understand the Quran. She helped me over the next month. (Huge props to that amazing woman!) I read the surah every night and slowly committed it to memory. Although it was the longest surah I had yet attempted to memorize and was a bit nervous to try, it was one of the easiest ones I have ever memorized. 

Why I Love Surat Al Waqiah

The reasons why this surah was so easy for me to memorize are the thematic elements in the surah and the way the surah is organized into neat sections. I split the surah up into five sections: the introduction which sets up the three categories of people, the forerunners or sabiqoon, the people of the right hand or ashabul yameen, the people of the left hand or ashabul shimaal, signs of the Divine in worldly creation, and the conclusion which connects the Quran as revelation nicely with the previous four sections. To me, the surah makes well-connected jumps from section to section while also staying on topic within each section without wandering around too much. In addition to this, phrases and sentence structures repeat themselves and echo throughout the surah, which I find very helpful. These reasons made it very easy for me to memorize. 

As I memorized and read the surah every night, it quickly became one of my favorites to recite and remains my favorite surah to recite today. This is because of the way the surah sounds to me. Many of the verses in the very beginning are short and have a lovely cadence to them with long “a” endings. Moving into the next three sections, the verses’ rhythms group themselves in sets of similar lengths with similar-sounding endings. In the fourth section, we get a series of rhetorical questions. I always love reciting questions because of the slight difference in inflections that you can stylistically choose to recite with. One of the other things I love about the questions is the repetitive sounds that come from the conjugations of words from the second-person verb to the third-person plural noun. For example in verse 59, did you create (verb: takhluqoona) it, or are We the Creators (noun: khaaliqoon)? This pattern repeats itself multiple times throughout the fourth section and it was exciting to me because I could tell the roots of the words were the same without yet understanding how to conjugate them since I had not studied sarf. Lastly, I like the punctuated sound throughout this surah with its frequent flow disrupters: many qalqalahs, haa with sukoons, and raa with sukoons. I had barely begun to dabble in listening to alternate recitations, but eventually when I studied the Asharah Qira’aat my favorite recitations were the ones with extra pauses, or saktah. There is just something I find so musically satisfying about reciting this surah and that’s honestly why I love reciting it! 

The First Miracle

The spring of 2011 turned to summer and I kept chugging along with my shameless (in hindsight) fundraising efforts, many of my fellow MSU-ers pitching in five or fifteen bucks to get me closer to my goal. I kept working part-time at the masjid and cut back all discretionary spending. And most importantly, I kept reading Surat Al Waqiah every night. 

Right before I left Southern California for Dallas, I experienced the last Ramadan in which I stood in Taraweeh and ached to understand what was being recited. I had met with my Quran teacher earlier in the day and she told me to find her after the khatam that night at the masjid. After Taraweeh ended, I roamed around the brightly lit parking lot with a plate of baklava and mithai in my hand, looking for my beloved Quran teacher. 

We saw each other and she walked up to me with a huge smile. “I have something for you, Meena,” she said to me. “I know how hard you have been working since you came to me last year to learn how to read the Quran properly. I know how hard you have been working to find a way to learn how to understand the Quran.” She then handed me a nondescript white envelope which I discovered to be very thickly packed with cash. “Here is the last of the money you need for your Arabic program.” It was the remaining $2,000 I needed.

I burst into tears. “No, I can’t take this money from you,” I protested. I was in complete shock. 

“This is not my money. I fundraised it for you. Keep the donors in your prayers,” she told me. 

I hugged my Quran teacher and wept freely. I thanked Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in my heart and I knew what was responsible for the miracle–Surat Al Waqiah! I ran to find my mom and my sisters. “I got the money, I got the money!” I screamed at their confused faces. 

Needless to say, I happily went off to my Arabic program, knowing that Surat Al Waqiah had paid my tuition and I didn’t need to worry about money while I was studying. 

The Grad School Miracle

A few years later, I got married to a graduate student in 2014 and we spent our newlywed years happy and broke, surviving off of his $25,000 a-year PhD stipend and my substitute teaching money. (If you’re wondering, of course, I never felt as broke as we actually were because of the blessings of the surah.) I had kept up with reading the surah every night–how could I not when I had experienced a miracle because of it? And it helped that I liked it, too. Little did I know that Surat Al Waqiah would come in clutch again when I decided to go to graduate school. 

In the winter of 2016, I applied to a Master’s in Education program which would also help me get my high school English teaching license. I got accepted. My husband and I had already made plans to go to Hajj that summer–it was something that we had decided to do before we got married. We agreed that we wouldn’t go for a glamorous honeymoon or any other vacation so that we could save up for Hajj. Once we had enough money, we’d go right away without having to worry about kids, since we didn’t have or want any that early in our marriage. Over two years of scraping and pinching, we finally had the money saved up. It was time to go. 

But to go for Hajj, we had emptied pretty much everything from our savings. How in the world was I going to find $6,000 a semester for three semesters in a row? I was vehemently against taking interest-bearing loans and the awesome organization A Continuous Charity was relatively new and unknown to me. The pressure to enter the program which would ensure I had a job after “wasting my time in undergrad” studying Comparative Literature and Creative Writing (the words of many and my thoughts over a decade later, frankly) was immense. I started feeling the stress of my financial situation physically with gastrointestinal problems from the GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) I started developing. I cut back on acidic and spicy foods and I switched to drinking decaf chai because my stomach would burn and cramp so much from the constant worrying about where I was going to get thousands of dollars from. I was regularly seeing the doctor and even ended up in the ER once. But one thought never crossed our mind–and perhaps that was another source of blessings. Taking our Hajj money which would have covered my full tuition and delaying our Hajj for another three years (until I finished grad school and worked for a year) was something that we didn’t consider sacrificing. 

Lo and behold, Surat Al Waqiah brought me the miracle I was waiting for–again! I ended up scraping together enough money for one semester of graduate school by continuing the hellish job of substitute teaching, through a few side hustles, and a very generous group of friends (the same ones from the Arabic program) who entered into a money lending pool with me (which my Pakistani mother calls a “committee” and from whom I got the idea.) I worked hard before and during grad school and my husband made concerted efforts with our budget trying to tie things over as best as we could to pay for school without going into debt. 

But what about the other semester-and-a-half of tuition? Without getting into too many details, let’s just say that a windfall of money in an untapped education fund presented itself to me from a distant relative. There was enough money to cover my entire tuition if I wanted to use it! I tried my best to dip into the fund as little as possible by making as much money on the side and being as frugal as I could, but it was the fountain that was there for me to run to whenever I needed it, alhamdulillah

Continuing Reading Surat Al Waqiah Today

The ahadeeth that mention the virtues of Surat Al Waqiah specifically protecting a person from falling into poverty are ones that I have firm belief in even today. There are a handful of other financial situations that I have gotten through because of reading the surah every night. I think it also deeply impacts my mindset when it comes to understanding my finances and the ebbs and flows in rizq that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given me. Somehow we’ve always had decent housing, even in strange situations. When a car has died, a relative coincidentally is getting a newer car and seems to magically gift us their old car–that’s happened twice. It is also the reason why seven of the eight jobs I’ve had over the past 15 years have literally fallen into my lap without me looking for work or applying to any jobs. I’ve also been able to walk away from jobs much easier than others, I think, when life gets crazy and I need to step away. Whenever I have left a job, rizq comes unexpectedly from somewhere else, or somehow our money stretches enough. Surat Al Waqiah is the safety net that never lets me truly despair over my current or future financial situation. I know that it will all work out somehow because I’m putting in the spiritual means by reading the surah every night and trying my hand with the worldly means simultaneously.

The last reason I’m grateful for hearing of this nightly ritual and adopting it into my own life is that it ensured I read the Quran every single day for the past 13 years. If I am happy or sad or experiencing debilitating anxiety, I read it before I sleep. If I am feeling healthy or literally in the hospital, I at the very least listen to it sometime at night. If I have spent my day doing good or have spent it racking up sins, I lay there in bed unable to sleep until I read it. If I am feeling confident in my faith or have a doubt nagging at my soul, I still read it. I stick to the surah because I have seen how it has worked miracle after miracle in my life. The thought of leaving it seems as idiotic to me as taking all the money out of my bank account and storing it for safekeeping as cash under my doormat instead. I’m grateful that reading the surah has given me so much in this life and I’m grateful that it has cemented something in my religious practice that I believe I can and never will stop. I hope to follow through with another hadith that mentions its virtues and teach it to my children once they are old enough, inshaAllah!

 

Related:

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 19] Of Plans, Parenting And Genocide

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 16] What Endures? Reflections on Surat Taha

 

The post A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 27] Surat Al Waqiah Paid My Tuition Twice appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

IOK Ramadan: Who Responds to the One in Distress? | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep20]

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2024 - 17:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17 Juz 18 Juz 19

Juzʾ 20: Who Responds to the One in Distress?

In verses 59-66 of Sūrah al-Naml, Allah ﷻ reminds us about all of these amazing signs, proofs, and evidence spread throughout the universe that prove the existence, oneness, might, majesty, power, magnificence, and glory of Allah ﷻ. We are asked to look towards the Heavens above us, the world all around us, ourselves, and then asked to reflect on the reality of creation. It is an amazing, powerful, profound, and beautiful passage that highlights the existence, oneness, might, power, glory, and magnificence of Allah ﷻ spread throughout the universe. It is a very beautiful, eloquent, and powerful passage designed to stir people’s hearts and minds and connect them to their Lord and Creator. It is a passage centered around the concept of faith, īmān, firm unshakeable belief in the existence and oneness of Allah. It is a passage that asks us to contemplate and reflect upon what we see all around us and also what is within ourselves. It makes us realize that it is impossible for this universe to exist without us acknowledging the existence of the Creator.

In this passage Allah ﷻ asks a series of questions, one after the other. Who created the heavens and the earth? Who brought rain from the skies to bring forth pleasant gardens? Who has stabilized the earth, caused rivers to run through it, placed mountains on it, and a barrier between seas? Who responds to a supplicant praying in desperation and removes harm? Who causes human succession on earth? Who guides you in the darkness on land and at sea? Who sends the wind bringing His grace? Who originates and repeats creation? Who provides sustenance for you from the heavens and the earth? Time after time they are hammered with the question: can there be another deity alongside God? The answer to this series of questions is obvious: no, there can be no other deity along with Allah. These verses give us a very good introduction and understanding of who Allah ﷻ truly is.

Verse 62: Or, who is it that responds to the one in distress when he calls out to Him, and who removes the ill, and makes you inherit the earth? Could there be any deity alongside God? Little do they reflect!

Allah ﷻ again is posing the same rhetorical question aiming directly at the hearts and minds of those who either don’t believe in Him or associate partners with Him. Is it better to worship idols, statues, wealth, or anything else that can’t cause harm or benefit, or the One who responds to those in distress when they call out to Him, and who removes evil, and makes mankind vicegerents of the Earth? Allah ﷻ starts by describing Himself as the One who responds to and answers the one in distress when they call upon Him. This is a very powerful and profound description of Allah ﷻ. When we as human beings find ourselves in real distress, in a situation that seems hopeless, helpless, and desperate, we instinctively turn towards Allah ﷻ, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Even those who don’t believe in God, who stubbornly refuse to accept the existence of an Almighty Being, when they find themselves in a hopeless situation, they call out to Allah ﷻ.

The person is being described as a mudtar; someone in a hopeless, helpless, and desperate situation. Who is coerced and compelled to turn towards Allah. Syed Quṭb beautifully writes, “This is especially so when the distress is too much to cope with; when the help one had been expecting from friends and relatives fails to materialize; when one looks around only to find oneself in a hopeless situation with no means of escape; when no power, not even one’s own, is able to do much to relieve one’s distress; when whatever one has prepared for hard times proves useless. In such a situation human nature wakes up and appeals to the only power that can provide help and support. Man then appeals to God, even though he had forgotten Him in times of ease and plenty.” In situations like that it is Allah and Allah alone who responds and assists the one in distress.

That is why Allah ﷻ then says, “and removes the evil.” Allah ﷻ alone is the One who responds and removes the evil, ill, or hardship. He alone removes the illness, poverty, financial difficulty, fear, or whatever difficulty or hardship there was. Allah ﷻ then continues to direct our attention towards undeniable truths and realities. “And makes you inherit the Earth.” Another translation reads, “and Who make you vicegerents of the Earth?” Allah ﷻ is reminding us that He is the One who has placed us on this Earth and made us its caretakers. He has placed us in charge of the Earth and we are responsible for looking after it. He has placed us here and makes us succeed one another, generation after generation. 

After reminding us of all of these undeniable truths and realities Allah ﷻ asks again, “Could there be any deity alongside God?” Once again, the answer is obvious. But Allah ﷻ tells us, “Little do you reflect!” Unfortunately, human beings don’t use their minds to reflect and ponder over these absolute truths and realities. They become preoccupied and distracted by the life of this world and deceived by their own limited minds and abilities.

The post IOK Ramadan: Who Responds to the One in Distress? | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep20] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

IOK Ramadan: Abandoning the Qur’an | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep19]

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2024 - 11:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17 Juz 18

Juzʾ 19: Abandoning the Quran?

“And the Messenger will say, “O my Lord! Truly my people have taken this Qur’ān as something to be discarded!”

This is a very powerful complaint from the Prophet ﷺ. He’s expressing his sorrow and sadness at the Quraysh’s attitude towards the Qur’ān and revelation. The Prophet ﷺ will say that they have abandoned the Qur’ān, which Allah revealed to His Messenger to warn and explain to them what lies ahead for mankind. They refused to listen to it because they feared they would be attracted to its message. Stubbornly, they refused to consider its message which would have guided them to the truth and given them light. When the Prophet ﷺ would recite the Qur’ān to the people of Quraysh they would ignore him, walk away and even put their fingers in their ears. Others would distract people and make them stop listening to the Qur’ān.

As a matter of fact, the leadership of Quraysh and those that opposed the Prophet ﷺ tried everything they could to stop people from listening to the Qur’ān. As we’ve covered before, they would make all types of false claims and accusations. They would say that he composed these words himself, or that he composed them with the help of others. They would say that the Qur’ān is a compilation of old tales. They would say that these are the words of a poet, magician, sorcerer, fortuneteller or a madman. So the Prophet ﷺ will say, “O my Lord! Truly my people have taken this Qur’ān as something to be discarded!”

Some commentators mention that although this verse is referring to the non-believers of his time, it could also be referring to us as Muslims. That the Prophet ﷺ is going to complain about us, his followers, who abandoned the Qur’ān and took as something to be discarded. ibn Taymiyyah (r) said, “Whoever doesn’t recite the Quran has abandoned it. Whoever recites the Quran but doesn’t reflect upon it has abandoned it. Whoever recited the Quran, reflects upon it but doesn’t act upon it has abandoned it.”

The post IOK Ramadan: Abandoning the Qur’an | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep19] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

5 Years Of Studying Emotions In The Quran: A Therapist’s Findings

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2024 - 10:59

After starting grad school to become a therapist, I learned that much of what we do as therapists is help people understand and navigate through their emotions. It sparked my curiosity, to see what the Quran has to say about people and emotions, so that very first Ramadan while I was studying in my program, I decided to put post-it flags in my mushaf every time I saw a word describing an emotion in the Quran. I did not realize then that this idea would turn into a 5-year endeavor. 

Here I am, 399 post-its, 2 years of graduate school, and 4 years post-graduation later, and I’m still learning about what the Quran has to say about humans and their emotions. I am still knee-deep in this study, so I have in no way arrived at the end of this journey— I am only just at the beginning. I hope that I approached the subject with humility, and opened my heart to what the Quran has to say, rather than what I want it to. What follows are some of my findings and reflections that I came across while on this journey. 

On Fear and Sadness

The first emotions Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions in His book (7 pages in) are the emotions of fear and sadness (خوف & حزن). Researchers define fear as a high-alert emotion that we experience in response to a perceived threat, whereas sadness is defined as a low-alert emotion experienced in response to perceived loss or suffering. The first mention of fear and sadness appears in Surah Al-Baqarah, where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

“We said [to the children of Israel], “Descend all of you! Then when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows it, there will be no fear for them, nor will they feel sorrow.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;38]

Fear and sadness are also the two emotions mentioned most (fear was the most mentioned, at 113 times, followed by sadness, mentioned 41 times). I found it interesting that they are the very two emotions that are at the root of the two most prevalent mental health diagnoses diagnosed today: depression and anxiety. These are also the ones that I see most often in my therapy room. 

It also made me consider, that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knew that the difficulties of this life will naturally bring about sadness and fear within us, and that perhaps He was bringing it to our attention in His book: that when ignored, these human emotions can develop into chronic conditions that keep us from successfully fulfilling our ultimate pursuit in this life: the worship of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). It’s also worth noting the number of times that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) provides reassurance to us right after mentioning either of the two emotions: fear or sadness – a sign of His Mercy that He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not intend for us to be in constant pain in this life. 

On Regret emotions

Emotions {PC: Francisco Gonzalez ) unsplash]

A few years ago, I made a choice that I deeply regretted. It was the kind of regret that keeps you up at night, tossing and turning as your mind goes through an endless replay loop of should-haves and could-haves. That summer, I poured my heart into researching the phenomenon of “regret,” and discovered countless researchers who dedicated their entire lives to studying this emotion. The majority of their findings revealed that up until our mid-twenties, most of our experiences of regret stem from an action that we took, whereas on the other hand, the regrets we experience later in life (after the mid-twenties mark) are related to a lack of action, or “inaction” as Daniel Pink1 calls it. 

So after gathering my findings from the research, I searched through the places in the Qur’an where regret was mentioned to see what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has to tell us about regret (ندم). What I found was that regret is only ever mentioned when describing the experience of humans in the afterlife, as they reflect on their time on the earth. Take the ayah in Surah Yunus as an example, where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

“And if every wrongdoer were to possess everything in the world, they would surely ransom themselves with it. They will hide ˹their˺ regret when they see the torment. And they will be judged in all fairness, and none will be wronged.” [Surah Yunus: 10;54].

There are also numerous places where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the believers experiencing regret in the afterlife, wishing that they could go back in time to do more good. Action and inaction aside, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is telling us that no amount of regret ever felt in this Dunya is even worth mentioning, compared to the regret one will feel in the next life when reflecting upon this life (either in wishing that they could have done more good, or wishing that they would have chosen the righteous path). This discovery made me put my own experience of regret into perspective.

On Panic and Dread

 Similarly, the emotion of فزع, or panic and dread, is only ever mentioned in the context of the Day of Judgment. Perhaps it is that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is highlighting that whatever panic or dread experienced in this world will seem like nothing in comparison to what we will feel on the Day of Judgement. This observation made me reflect upon my reactions to the unexpected, and my one-too-many moments of panic that I often experience on a regular basis: a misunderstanding that I may have caused; a social situation in which I did not show up at my best; a therapy session that seemingly took a left turn and did not go as expected. It made me wonder, if my one-too-many moments of panic would fall more into perspective if I were to remember this a little more. If my heart would beat a little slower and if my racing thoughts would become a little calmer. 

In Surah An-Naml, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

“Whoever comes with a good deed will be rewarded with what is better, and they will be secure from the panic of that Day.” [Surah An-Naml: 27;89].

May we be among those who come with enough good that day, and may we be among those who are protected from the experience of panic – a type of security that can only be granted by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). May we be able to seek some of that security in this life from Him subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

On the Familial Emotional Journey

One of my grad school professors told our class once, that he doesn’t believe in people –  he believes in families. This became a foundation of our studies: whatever mental illness an individual experiences does not develop in isolation. It is always connected to a complex system of relational and family dysfunction. Families, it turns out, are at the root of most mental health issues we see today. 

When I turned to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Book, I was curious to see what I would find about families and emotions. I chose to look at Surah Yusuf, as it is the only Surah in the Quran that tells a family’s story in its entirety. Curious thing that the one surah that includes a full family story in the Quran, includes the emotions of fear, sadness, بأس, hopelessness, and اسف. Even though the surah is infused with joyous moments as well (such as the tender moment where Prophet Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) tells his father about his dream), I was fascinated to notice that the named emotions were those mentioned above. It’s as if Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) set the tone for us: yes, family is meant to be the birthplace of tranquility and connection, but it inevitably also becomes the birthplace of sorrow, grief, and the lowest of emotions. And both can exist at once. 

On Emotions As a Whole  Emotions in the quran

Emotions in the Quran [PC: Ashkan Forouzani (unsplash)]

Looking back, I believe I approached my endeavor with as much humility as possible, opening my heart to what I might find in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Book. Although I hope that I did achieve this humility (and continue to do so), I will admit that I did go into this endeavor with one bias: I had the expectation that I would find His subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) book rich in its discussion of emotions… and I did. 

This was in strong contrast to what we find in the real world today. Despite the outward wokeness of our society, we continue to be an emotionally constipated one. Outwardly, “therapy” and “talking about emotions” are trendy, and it seems that many of us are jumping onto the bandwagon. Yet despite that, we continue to be as disconnected from our emotional experiences as we ever have. (Just think back to how many times you heard an argument end with: “You’re being emotional!”) 

Walking into this, I knew that I wouldn’t find the same constraint in the book of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). I knew that the One who created us would not address this fundamental aspect of our humanity. And what I found confirmed my biases. However, even if I hadn’t had the expectations that I did, my findings would have been the same. In the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) uses 27 different words to describe human emotions, appearing in about 413 places in the Quran. Our Creator has always known that we are emotional beings, but in our ignorance, we denied this very core aspect of our existence.

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Knowledge and Wisdom are endless. After all, isn’t it He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) who said that if the oceans were ink for His Knowledge, the ink would run out before His Wisdom does [Surah Kahf: 18;109]?  Even after studying the Qur’an for five consecutive years, thoroughly going through the mushaf word by word in an attempt to understand Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) discourse on emotions, I will still stumble upon a new word or a verse that I had missed. Truly, there is something to be said about the vastness of Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Book: one can never be done studying the Qur’an or reaping its benefits. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) designed His book to be this way, to keep us returning to it, while our own understanding grows over the years.

For me, this is only the beginning. I will be returning to my Post-it flags and my mushaf year after year, hoping to understand something new about my humanity that I didn’t before. As we approach the end of Ramadan, I invite you to do the same too. 

 

Related:

Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change

Cultivating Mental Well-Being in the Muslim Community [Part I]: Debunking Myths, Steps Toward Seeking Support

 

1    PINK, D. H. (2022). Power of regret: How looking backward moves us forward. Riverhead Books.

The post 5 Years Of Studying Emotions In The Quran: A Therapist’s Findings appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

IOK Ramadan: 7 Qualities of Highly Effective Believers | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep18]

Muslim Matters - 6 April, 2024 - 06:00

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters is pleased to host the Institute Of Knowledge‘s daily Ramadan series: Keys to the Divine Compass. Through this series, each day we will spend time connecting with the Qur’an on a deeper, more spiritual, uplifting level.

Previous in the series: Juz 1 Juz 2 Juz 3 Juz 4 Juz 5 Juz 6 Juz 7 Juz 8 Juz 9 Juz 10 Juz 11 Juz 12 Juz 13 Juz 14 Juz 15 Juz 16 Juz 17

Juzʾ 18: Seven Qualities of Highly Effective Believers

ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (ra) narrated: “When revelation came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, one could hear what sounded like the buzz of bees near his face.

كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِذَا نَزَلَ عَلَيْهِ الْوَحْىُ سُمِعَ عِنْدَ وَجْهِهِ كَدَوِيِّ النَّحْلِ

One day revelation came to him so we waited a moment until it stopped. He faced the qiblah, raised his hands, and said, ‘O Allah! Increase us, do not diminish us. Honor us, do not disgrace us, give us and don’t withhold from us, favor us and don’t choose others over us, make us pleased and be pleased with us.’

فَأُنْزِلَ عَلَيْهِ يَوْمًا فَمَكَثْنَا سَاعَةً فَسُرِّيَ عَنْهُ فَاسْتَقْبَلَ الْقِبْلَةَ وَرَفَعَ يَدَيْهِ وَقَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ زِدْنَا وَلاَ تَنْقُصْنَا وَأَكْرِمْنَا وَلاَ تُهِنَّا وَأَعْطِنَا وَلاَ تَحْرِمْنَا وَآثِرْنَا وَلاَ تُؤْثِرْ عَلَيْنَا وَأَرْضِنَا وَارْضَ عَنَّا ‏”‏ ‏.

He ﷺ then said, ‘Ten verses were revealed to me, whoever abides by them shall enter Paradise (and they are), ‘Successful indeed are the believers…’ until he completed the ten verses (23:1-10).”

ثُمَّ قَالَ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أُنْزِلَ عَلَىَّ عَشْرُ آيَاتٍ مَنْ أَقَامَهُنَّ دَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ ‏:‏ ‏(‏ قدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ ‏)‏ حَتَّى خَتَمَ عَشْرَ آيَاتٍ ‏.

This is a very beautiful, powerful, profound, and inspiring narration designed to enhance our engagement and connection with the opening passage of this sūrah. The Prophet ﷺ is telling us that if we try our best to nurture and develop these seven qualities within ourselves we are guaranteed Paradise. These verses provide a roadmap that leads directly toward success in this life and salvation in the next.

This isn’t something the Prophet ﷺ simply said or advised us to do. He ﷺ showed us how to do implement the guidance and teachings of these verses practically. Once ʿĀ’isha (ra) was asked about the character of the Prophet ﷺ. She said, “His character was the Quran.” She then recited the first nine verses of this sūrah and said, “That’s how the character of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was.” That’s a very profound statement from ʿĀ’ishah (ra) describing the character of the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ was a physical manifestation of the teachings and guidance of the Quran.

The sūrah starts with a very powerful and emphatic statement that guarantees happiness and success for the believers.

 

Verse 1

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ١

Successful indeed are the believers

 

Allah ﷻ opens the sūrah by emphatically declaring that the believers are successful. This is a very interesting statement both grammatically and in terms of meaning. The word “qad” is a particle used in the Arabic language to give the meaning of emphasis and affirmation. It’s usually translated as indeed, surely, or truly. Allah ﷻ then uses the past tense of the verb “to succeed.” The literal translation of the verse would be “Indeed/surely/truly the believers have succeeded.” Using the past tense to describe an event in the future is a literary device used in the Quran to show certainty. Often, Allah ﷻ will use the past tense to describe future events to show that they will happen without a doubt. Allah ﷻ is telling us that those who believe in Him, His last and final messenger, and the last day will definitely be successful both in this world and the next. This is an absolute guarantee and certainty; there’s no doubt about it whatsoever. The success promised by Allah ﷻ for the believers is both for us as individuals and for us as a community, as an Ummah. It includes all forms of goodness, help, assistance, blessings, victory, honor, dignity, respect, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Anas (ra) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “When Allah ﷻ created Paradise He said, ‘Speak.’ Paradise said, ‘Truly the believers have prospered (are successful).’”

Who exactly are these believers that have been promised and guaranteed success both in this world and the next? Allah ﷻ describes them to us with seven specific characteristics or qualities. He paints a complete picture of how belief expresses itself and manifests in the actions and speech of an individual. We can refer to these as the seven qualities of highly successful believers.

The post IOK Ramadan: 7 Qualities of Highly Effective Believers | Keys To The Divine Compass [Ep18] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 7] – You Are Not Alone

Muslim Matters - 5 April, 2024 - 23:25

This special video installment of the MuslimMatters Ramadan Qur’an Journal series comes from Ustadha Samia Mubarak. Ustadha Samia shares powerful reflections from Surah al-An’aam, which was revealed to provide comfort and reassurance to RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) during a time of great struggle and grief. “You are not alone” is a message from Allah to RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and to all believers who recite the words of Surah al-An’am.

Related:

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 13] Bringing Oppressors To Justice

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 22] Manifesting The Prophetic Mission

The post A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 7] – You Are Not Alone appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

New York pays $17.5m to settle suit after police forced women to remove hijabs

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 April, 2024 - 19:00

Class-action settlement covers people required to take off religious attire by NYPD after Muslim women said their rights were violated

New York City agreed to pay $17.5m to settle a lawsuit by two Muslim women who said the police violated their rights after arresting them, by forcing them to remove their hijabs before being photographed.

The preliminary class action settlement covers men and women required to remove religious attire before being photographed. It was filed on Friday in Manhattan federal court, and requires approval by the US district judge Analisa Torres.

Continue reading...

Pages