Fear (part I)

We fear so many things.  We forget to fear the most important thing we should fear and that is Allah.  Why is it so important to have our hearts quiver in His remembrance?

Image courtesy of Tim Jarosz

INFOCUS NEWS JULY 2010

written by Mariam Al-Kalby

Fear is an emotion lurking in each of us whenever we feel threatened. 

We fear of losing our jobs, our families, and our homes.

Scared of dying alone, of being paralyzed, of being ostracized.

But how many of us actually sincerely fear Allah and His punishments? 

As humans, we are created for fear because it prevents us from committing wrong actions or thoughts and it creates a barrier from approaching things that can hurt us.

We see evidence of this when we first took our wobbly steps.  We reached out for the teakettle and got our fingers licked with fire and from then we fear the heat.

As we got older, we feared losing the soccer game or getting our parents disappointed when we got a lesser grade then we had hoped for on our chemistry test.

Then there is the time to find someone to marry.  Our worries swallow that ticking clock, creating a ringing that time is escaping and all the marriageable types are taken.

And there is the time when we will have wrinkles of days, weeks, and years etched into our skin. 

Lips drooping at the sides of our mouth, wondering and fearing that we didn’t make enough money to make a big house for the grandkids, and that we didn’t hold the best Ramadan iftar.

These worries are tears for the dunya and not the akhirah.

Life is a sailboat floating to its destination towards the hereafter. 

This feeling of alarm and angst should be steered towards the punishments that come if we anger Allah.

“And fear the Fire, which has been prepared for the disbelievers.” (3:131)

Of course it is normal to feel fear of worldly situations and events but we have drenched all of our worries in this obsession and have forgotten to have fear in our hearts for the trials and the day we will be judged for our intentions and actions.

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Before the Sun Rises and Before it Sleeps (finale)

Before the Sun Rises and Before it Sleeps (part I)

This should encourage us to perform them because they differentiate us from the hypocrites and prove we are truly believers; to forgo our sleep and worldly affairs to press our heads on the floor in thanks is beneficial and loved by Allah (swt).

How lazy and unthankful we are if we think about it: we complain about cold water dripping from our faces, the sleepiness that blinds our eyes, and the aches in our body yearning to lie and rest, and we, as believers, need to be ashamed of ourselves.

Allah (swt) has all authority and power. 

He is the One that knows us the best. 

Yet, He has made things accessible and easy for us to accomplish and yet we still cry and moan about it.

He could have made Fajr prayer four and not two but that is not enough for the sons of Adam (pbuh).

We are willing to rush to our jobs at the crack of dawn, comfort our babies at all hours of darkness, stay up late to study but when it comes to prostrate to the One who has provided everything for us slaves, we are an ungrateful bunch of creations.

Allah is Ar-Rahim and Al-Ghaffur; we sometimes oversleep, or are too sick to make it on time and there are exceptions and Allah’s (swt) ultimate mercy.  But we overstep the bounds when we step all over our deen and regard our prayers as something to do when we have time.

How do we feel when we have appointments with others and people do not appear at their appointed time?  We feel that they are rude, lazy, or think that they did not take the meeting seriously. 

Sometimes we are stubborn enough to not forgive for this behavior.

Who are we to behave like this to Allah (swt), miss our appointed times to pray and disrespect Allah (swt) and His Messenger?

But we are lucky enough that Allah (swt) knows us, what is in our hearts, and forgives those He wants.

The irony of it all as believers is that Allah (swt) does need not anything and surely nothing from us.  We are reluctant and slow to praying and this act only benefits us and no one else.  Allah (swt) has ordered us to do good for our own benefit but we sometimes look the other way.

We are humans and we are weak, and Allah (swt) knows this.

Let us forsake our beds, sleep, and work and seek Allah’s (swt) pleasure into the gardens of Jannah.

Before the Sun Rises and Before it Sleeps (part I)

I have some new recipes coming up, so be on the look out!  For now I have posted an article and want you to think about what makes us do the things we do?  What motivates us?  What motivates you to pray on time?

Image courtesy of David Pasillas

Originally featured in IFN December 2010

Where the birds stir from their nests of twigs and yarn and fly out in search of filling their bellies, between the dawn and the rising of the sun kissing the sky, and where the careless burrow further beneath the covers of sleep and warmth, and where they work till their hands bleed, Fajr and Asr are the hours where the most pious congregate.

They are two of the most missed fard prayers that have swallowed our ummah.

This is unfortunate because these are prayers that separate a believer from a hypocrite.

What person awakens from their deep slumber to splash cold water to make ablution and perform a prayer whilst others sleep?

A devoted and strong believer.

Abu Zuhair ‘Umarah Ruwaibah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying: “He who performs Salat (prayers) before the rising of the sun and before its setting will not enter Hell.”
 (Muslim)

This does not mean that this is the only condition to enter Jannah.

One who dutifully cares and observes these particular important prayers (Fajr and Asr), demonstrates that the believer also practices in observing other religious obligations and follows the sunnah.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “There are angels who take turns in visiting you by night and by day, and they all assemble at the dawn (Fajr) and the afternoon (‘Asr) prayers. Those who have spent the night with you ascend to the heavens and their Rab, Who knows better about them, asks: ‘In what condition did you leave My slaves?’ They reply: ‘We left them while they were performing Salat and we went to them while they were performing Salat.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Praying these two specific prayers are important and when we are steadfast and reliable in performing them, they surely go unnoticed by the angels and Allah (swt).

How great is it to have angels scribbling and reporting away to our Creator that we are prostrating for Him every time the angels descend upon us?

Fajr and Asr prayers are important prayers because of their difficulty to maintain them and to do them in their short prescribed time is an accomplishment and a break for us from toiling away in work and play.

When The Doors Are Wide Open (finale)

When The Doors Are Wide Open (part I)

We are more focused and honest in our prayers because the daily distractions are put to rest.

The people who get out of bed and make the effort to pray at night are doing it for Allah’s sake and not for show.

Our words are more thoughtful and precise because we are supplicating and we are in need.

It protects us from sins.

The doors are opened from the sky as Allah (swt) wants to shower the answers to our duaas and supplications.

Abu Umama al-Bahili (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “Hold fast to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you, a way of drawing closer to your Lord, an expiation for wrong deeds, and a shield from sin.” [Tirmidhi, and others] In some narrations, there is an addition, “And it repels sickness from the body.”

Night prayers are a personal and relaxing time with our Lord.  It is where we can express all our concerns, worries, wishes, desires, anything without the fear of ridicule or humiliation.  It is the ultimate time to set free our burdens.  Allah (swt) has all the power and He can change and assist us in our woes.

Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) said, “The virtues of night prayer over day prayer is like the virtue of secret charity over open charity.” [Tabarani] The scholars explain that this refers to voluntary prayers.

Allah (swt) then believes that are our prayers are truly for His sake when we betray our beds for His guidance. Allah (swt) has praised those who wake up at night for His remembrance, supplication, and to seek forgiveness and entreat Him, saying,

 “They forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of what We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hid from them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.”[Qur’an, 32: 16-17]

Crying to Allah (swt) shows how weak and incapable we are as humans when we do not depend on Him.  But when we turn our hearts and our prostrations in His favor, Allah (swt) will cast out our burdens and replace them with an eagerness to meet Him the next night.

And, ‘[The (faithful) servants of the Merciful are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish one address them answer: Peace;] And who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing…’ [Qur’an, 25: 63-64]

Image courtesy of Naouriz Inoubli

When The Doors Are Wide Open (part I)

Image courtesy of David Pasillas

Originally published for IFN March 2011

Mariam Al-Kalby

It is with this sense of urgency I want the night to visit and befall on the house like a blanket over a sleeping child.  I want to feel reassurance, guidance, and answers to calm my fluttering heart.

I am in a rush to converse with my Lord.

Making wudu extinguishes any anger in my heart and I ardently rush to my corner of the house and pray.

Tahajjud is the night vigil prayer.

It is a blessed time with the Creator: people sleep and all is quiet in the world where the sounds of the ocean splashing across the sands can be heard in the depths of the darkness.

Life is most clear when all has died down and I submit to Allah (swt).

My focus is heightened and my concentration more intact than when I normally perform my daily prayers.  I am all for Allah (swt) and Allah (swt) is listening.

The closest time to be with Him is in the tahajjud prayer.

There is something powerful, sublime, and serene when prostrating during this time of night; a reassuring embrace sweeps my body and mind.  A warmth that seeps through the layers of skin and into my soul.  That is the power Allah (swt) can cast over us.

Allah Most High said, “Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of the night, and (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn is ever witnessed. And some part of the night awake for its recital, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised estate.” [Qur’an, 17: 78-79]

These specific prayers are respected and highly recommended.  This is where people give their mind and hearts sincerely to Allah (swt).  Reciting Qu’ran at that prescribed time is an act of sincerity and true submission.

No one is watching but Allah (swt) and His angels and this is when we want to have our actions recorded and acknowledged.  He witnesses our heart’s vulnerability and candor.

Our concentration is not challenged and we are not distracted by our daily activities.  It is not required to pray at this time of night but that is where some of the beauty lies.

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” [Muslim]

Why is the night prayer seen in high esteem?

Searching for Conversation

Image courtesy of Chris Weigand

As  living souls, we are all looking for a connection, a bond, something to get attached to, to seek comfort in.

This is how we are and that is how Allah has made us.  He has formed us this way in order for us to turn to Him and seek His guidance, help, and comfort.

But people lead different paths to find this connection and this sort of conversation to another higher power.

People may not think about it or intentionally seek this type of connection out but we all do in some way.

We have to whether we like it or not, no matter how we try to avoid it…or turn away.

Every single soul needs a connection and something to worship in order for it to survive and thrive in this dunya.

This is true because it is in our fitrah to seek something to fill the void of worship.

Everyone worships something but a lot of times people worship things without  realizing it or the wrong/superficial/fickle things.

Our bodies and our minds have been created to worship but to whom and where to direct this necessity is where people differ.

For some it may celebrities.

Others, money and fame temporarily takes over their being.

Many of our souls have stumbled and sucked into worshipping our work, our children, our spouses, our homes, our cars.

People worship their hobbies and interests.

But we have been created to supplicate and prostrate to Allah only.

“I created man and jinn for no other purpose than to worship Me only.” (Dhariyat 51:56)

He does not need anything from us but we need Him.

All the praying, fasting, and the accumulation of good deeds we try to hoard in our baskets, well, we do it for His sake but it helps us in the end.  It is for us.

Why would a Creator need anything from us?

It is the servants actually serving themselves when they embrace Allah and His commands.

When observing this photograph at  the Western Wall, a prayer, a request, or a personal wish stuffed into crevices, Jews desperately searching and trying to have a continual conversation with God, an eagerness, a heightened fervor to reach the ultimate Power…

As Muslims, we are always conversing with our Creator.

For us, there is a sense of calm and serenity because we know He is listening.  We are confident that He is there for us, even if at times our emaan is low, we know He is not far off.

The souls stuffing notes in the walls- they are seeking.  It is not confirmed as to whether or not it has been reached to God.

For us, it has been reached and there is never a hesitation that He did not hear us, He is As-Sami.

He heard us before we even formed the feelings and words in our hearts.

Our conversation and worship of Allah comes in all sorts of forms but what is amazing is we can essentially talk to Him at any time.

He is always there, ever watchful, and the best of listeners.

We do not have to go out of our way to have this continual communication.

Allah does not want to burden his servants so He creates worship in an effortless way.

“Allah intends for you ease, and does not want to make things difficult for you” (2:185).

As a Muslim, Allah makes it accessible to reach Him.

Whether it is through our daily prayers, du’ah, or just simply uttering words of praise in His favor, this is all considered our version of having this dialogue between the servant and His Creator.

Just the beating of our heart is enough to communicate our worldly fears and concerns to Him.

It is as simple as closing our eyes and listening to our heart and unshackling our words from the walls…

Allah is there.   He is listening.

When and where do you converse with your Creator?  Who and what do you worship?  Why?

Allah Owns the World (finale)

Image courtesy of Nora Elgalad

Allah Owns the World (part I)

Allah Owns the World (part III)

Why do we forget that Allah is our Master, our Higher authority, our Creator?  Because as man, we are weak and we forget or get consumed with our daily activities and trials.

Our inabilities are as fragile and powerless, as though we are ants trying to carry a mountain on its shoulders.

But again we fall into the trap that we are self-relying and tougher than the shield of a knight.

As Muslims, we need to remember Allah.

Whatever emotions and events play out in our lives, we need to remember how small we are in front of Allah.

The parts we play in this life are given to us from the Creator and no matter how lost and astray we go from the path, all of us must return to Him on the Last Day.

There we will fully comprehend how insignificant we are in comparison to Allah and His attributes and there we will be judged as to how much we acknowledged this inevitable truth.