Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Building on the Good Gained in Ramadhan

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is transcript of discourse delivered by Mawlana Waffie Mohammed, on Thursday, 23rd August 2013

After the Blessed month of Ramadhan, we pray that Allah (s.w.t.) would have Blessed us tremendously for all our efforts made in the Blessed month; and today we would have been much better as a believer, both morally and spiritually.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Established a law regarding His Connection with the believers and how we can get closer to Him.  He Says good erases evil.  We have a good example of the application of this in the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) regarding the month of Ramadhan where he is reported to have said, “Whoever fasts Ramadhan with faith and seeking the Reward of Allah will have his past sins Forgiven.”  So, good removes evil.  What is important for us to keep in mind all the time is that faith does not stay static.  Nothing in this world is static.  Even Allah (s.w.t.) Says about Himself:

… every day in (new) Splendour doth He (Shine)! (Surah ar-Rahman:29)

So, nothing remains stagnant; even our faith.  Our faith can increase or decrease.  In connection with this, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is reported to have said, “Iman increases or decreases.”  Ramadhan is that occasion where Allah (s.w.t.) Allowed the believers to increase their faith tremendously through the fast, extra worship and trying to be careful of thoughts and actions for His Sake.  Our reason for doing all of this is to get closer to Allah (s.w.t.).

When Allah (s.w.t.) Wanted to Show mankind how they can get closer to Him, He invited Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) into His Divine Presence on the night of the Mi’raj.  And he, being our model and that one who demonstrated real success in this life, if we were to follow him and engage in much of the actions that he used to do we would, insha’Allah, also increase our faith and gain closeness to our Lord.  But if after the blessed is over, we fall back into some thoughts and actions that would bring about dark spots on our heart we would be reducing our faith.  It all depends on the individual and their intention, their desire and their activity.  The reason for saying this is because Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Holy Qur’an that those who try to keep their soul bright and shinning are the real successful ones.

“It is those who believe and mix not their beliefs with wrong ― that are (truly) in security, for they are on (right) guidance.” (Surah al-An’am:82)

Scholars are of the opinion that at the time of doing a wrong deed, our faith is not strong because at that time, we are not mindful that Allah (s.w.t.) is with us.  This does not mean to say that we are free from faults and mistakes.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

If Allah were to Punish men for their wrongdoing, He would not leave, on the (earth), a single living creature ... (Surah an-Nahl:61)

What does this ayat tell us?  That we do a lot of wrong, knowingly and unknowingly.  However, Allah (s.w.t.) has Given us this Great Blessing, that even if we falter, we can wipe out the blemishes through repentance and engaging in good deeds.  The point is that we have a good head start coming out of the month of Ramadhan, therefore, we must not lose it and keep building on it.  Some people cannot understand life so they behave like the spider.  They invest all their efforts and recourses to build a big “web” paying no heed to returning to their Lord and without warning it can all come crashing down leaving them destitute and back at square one.  For us, it is a simple reality; if when we exhale and the oxygen does not go back in that is it, all our work and aspirations come to an end.  And what next?  What about the meeting with our Lord?  And this is the message of life.  We must be careful all the times.  We want that when our last breath comes out our soul will be transported to a beautiful place and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) is reported to have said, “The soul of the believer is in a bird hanging from a tree in Paradise until Allah Returns it to his body on the day He Resurrects him.”

We must work for it.  We must try our utmost to have good intentions and not harbour hate and malice.  Islam wants us to be part of the beautiful universal family.  Let us try our best, so our faith will continue to grow and our personality would become brighter and brighter.  So, as we have started back on this program, we try our best and work hard against the baser desires as Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) told his companions, “I have returned from the lesser jihad, jihad al-aswghar, to the greater jihad, jihad al-akbar.”

The swahabah enquired, “What is the greater jihad?”

Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Jihad an-nafs,” meaning the struggle against the inner desires.

One mistake can destroy all our life’s work just as a married couple can destroy their loving relationship through one moment of ill treatment.  This is why we engage in dzikr and try to culture our spiritual stations to resound “Allah.”  If we have Allah (s.w.t.) in our heart, Satan cannot come and whisper to divert our intentions and emotions.  We beg Allah (s.w.t.) to Forgive us for our mistakes, Wipe out our evils and Cover up our faults.  We keep conscious of our responsibilities and duties, and guard our faith so that when we leave this world, we will have no room for regrets.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Forgive us, Bless us, Guide us and Protect us all, insha’Allah.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Man: The Special Creation

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is a transcript of a talk by Mawlana Waffie Mohammed, on the 05th August 2013.

Human beings are special because their origin is different from the rest of Creation.  First of all, when Allah (s.w.t.) decided to Create the universe, He Gave a Divine Command, “Be,” and the universe began as a single cell, which grew until it burst open forming the skies and the earth.  Man was not a part of what became the skies and the earth.  Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about this in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an.  He Says:

Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We Clove them asunder?  We Made from water every living thing.  Will they not then believe? (Surah al-Anbiya’:30)

The cosmos and the earth were perfected in six periods called ‘days’ in the Holy Qur’an.  The length of these ‘days’ varied greatly.  When the earth was Perfected, and all the plants and animals were already Created, Allah (s.w.t.) Created Adam.  The Creation of Man is therefore different from the Creation of the rest of the creatures on the earth, as they were all Created from water, but Man from clay.  He Says:

He Who has Made everything which He has Created most Good.  He began the Creation of Man with (nothing more than) clay.  And Made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised: But He Fashioned him in due proportion, and Breathed into him something of His Spirit.  And He Gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks do ye give! (Surah as-Sajdah:7-9)

The soul is refined light.  Man is a combination of a physical element, the body; and a non-physical element, the soul Created from a very form of refined light not available in the universe.  As a result, it is very difficult to know much about the nature and capacity of the light of the soul.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

They ask thee concerning the spirit (of inspiration).  Say: “The Spirit (cometh) by Command of my Lord.  Of knowledge, it is only a little that is communicated to you (O men!)” (Surah al-Isra’:85)

All other forms of light were Created as part of the universe.  Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about this in the following verse:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Praise be to Allah, Who Created the heavens and the earth, and Made the darkness and the light … (Surah al-An’am:1)

Perhaps, the light of the earth began when Allah (s.w.t.) Created the solar system.  He Says:

Allah is He Who Raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; then He Established Himself on the Throne (of authority); He has Subjected the Sun and the Moon (to His law)!  Each one runs (its course) for a term appointed ... (Surah ar-Ra’ad:2)

Regarding the soul of Man, it was only when Adam (a.s.) was Created and Perfected physically, that a special spark of refined light was Created and Commanded to enter into the chest of Adam (a.s.).  Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about this in the following verse:

“When I have Fashioned him (in due proportion) and Breathed into him of My Spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.” (Surah al-Hijr:29)

With the entry of the soul into Adam (a.s.), Man became a unit with two dimensions in his personality; a physical and a spiritual.  Some people believe that the physical man cannot access the spiritual world, except through a particular channel, but Islam teaches that in every human being both the physical and spiritual are so Created that they can work together for upholding the mission for which Man was Sent on earth.  As a result, there is no need for an intermediary to get to God.  Allah (s.w.t.) tells us about this in the Holy Qur’an in many places.  For example, He Says:

... And He is with you wheresoever ye may be ... (Surah al-Hadid:4)

When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed Close (to them); I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me ... (Surah al-Baqarah:186)

The physical body is like a vehicle for the soul.  It can impact upon it in a negative way, by doing what is prohibited; or in a positive way by doing what is permissible.  It can keep the soul bright and shinning, or it can put stains on the soul, thereby preventing its light from penetrating the cells of the body.  When the light of the soul reaches all the cells of the body, and that person dies, he or she will be Resurrected on Judgement Day with a brightened countenance.

Allah (s.w.t.) has Given Man a tremendous capacity and capability, as His Representative on earth; and has Made available for his use and benefit, all that is in the skies and the earth.  He Says:

It is Allah Who hath Created the heavens and the earth and Sendeth down rain from the skies and with it bringeth out fruits wherewith to feed you; it is He Who hath Made the ships subject to you that they may sail through the sea by His Command; and the rivers (also) hath He Made subject to you.  And He hath Made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses: and the night and the day hath He (also) Made subject to you.  And He Giveth you of all that ye ask for.  But if ye count the Favours of Allah never will ye be able to number them ... (Surah Ibrahim:32-34)

Regarding the spiritual dimension of the personality, if properly managed and maintained, Man can ascend as a person above the skies and can have experiences of what has been described in the Holy Qur’an as the ‘unseen’.  Every single person can have religious experiences of the ‘unseen’ if he or she lives a righteous life.

Allah (s.w.t.) appointed Man as His khalifah, vicegerent, on the earth.  He is supposed to always keep in mind that he is a traveler here, as the earth is not his permanent abode.  One needs to constantly remind himself that he is on a journey back to his Lord.  Muslims says this very often.  It is Mentioned in the Qur’an in the following verse:

Who say: when afflicted with calamity, “To Allah we Belong and to Him is our Return.” (Surah al-Baqarah:156)

While on earth, Man has been Given certain responsibilities.  The most important is to acknowledge the fact that we are all creatures and there is only one Creator.  And the creatures are not in any way like the Creator.  Allah (s.w.t.) tells us about this in a very simple statement He Made in the Holy Qur’an.  He Says:

And there is none like unto Him. (Surah al-Ikhlasw:4)

Even though we are creatures and cannot be like the Creator, we can behave like Him in some ways.  He Says:

So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the faith: (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has Made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard religion: but most among mankind understand not. (Surah ar-Rum:30)

The best of the Lord’s representative that have passed through the earth was Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about this in the Holy Qur’an.  He Says:

Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) desire. (Surah an-Najm:3)

Ye have indeed, in the Messenger of Allah, a beautiful pattern (of conduct) ... (Surah al-Ahzab:21)

And as one who invites to Allah’s (Grace) by His leave, and as a lamp spreading light. (Surah al-Ahzab:46)

If one should follow the example given to us by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) he would become a friend of the Lord and an asset in society.  He will spread peace in the earth; he will demonstrate love and compassion; he will be a trustworthy, sincere person, he will not be a hypocrite; and will not harbor hate, malice, jealousy, selfishness, greed.  He will Receive from his Lord special guidance in all his undertakings.  Muslims are specially Blessed as they have the opportunity to read and recite the unadulterated Words of the Lord, in the form of the Holy Qur’an.

A truly successful person in this world is one who can be defined as a blessed tree; that is a person who is able to ascend close to the Lord; is able to provide shade to passers-by; and is able to supply juicy, delicious fruits to the hungry.

Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about such a person in the form of a parable in the Holy Qur’an.  He Says:

Seest thou not how Allah Sets forth a parable? ― A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens ― It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord.  So Allah Sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. (Surah Ibrahim:24-25)

Every human being should try to be a goodly tree that is capable to provide help to the weary, thirsty, hungry, tired passer-by; and at the same time observing high moral principles.

Fasting in Ramadhan is one of the institutions in Islam that is designed to nurture and cultivate the qualities that will make a person fit to stand happily in the presence of the Lord on one hand, and to become a useful, sincere and truthful member of society on the other.  It impacts upon the individuals through what is called tazkiyyah an-nafs, by trimming out all the unwanted qualities and desires in the individuals; in other words, by pruning our trees, so that we can grow and bear sweet juicy fruits.  Tazkiyyah has a physical, moral and spiritual programme for making the individual a true and reliable representative of the Lord here on the earth.

In addition, it is one of the opportunities to have all of one’s past sins forgiven, and it also helps the individuals to ascend higher on the way back to the Lord.  Perhaps, this is one of the reasons for celebrating ‘Iyd, as the believer who kept the fast and did extra worship feels elevated in the Sight of Allah(s.w.t.).

Allah (s.w.t.) has Given us a beautiful example of how we should conduct ourselves in this life, even if the environment is harsh and oppressive.  He Says:

And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive Sign.  From what is within their bodies, between excretions and blood, We Produce for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it. (Surah an-Nahl:66)

Let us endeavour to continue to improve our lives, through submission and worship on one hand; and by dedicated service to humanity on the other.  When this is done, we all will become beautiful blessed trees in this world, and very important persons in the next, as we all will enter Paradise by a special gate called Rayyan, reserved for all those who kept the fast sincerely for the sake of Allah (s.w.t.).  And let us all this day make a firm resolution that we will keep our milk pure by doing what is good and staying away from the evil.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Forgive us for our past mistakes and Guide and Protect us for the remainder of our lives.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Rebecca Quinn: Beginning My Spiritual Journey

The following is Rebecca Quinn’s story and how she found Islam.

“I stood next to a playground, just outside a large apartment block.  It was late at night and I had just gotten off the train from Kuala Lumpur.  I could not get a taxi to take me from the train station to this Woodlands address I had scribbled on a piece of paper so I finally got a bus, but alighted too early and to make an insignificant story shorter, I finally made it to my destination.  But I only had a block number, not an apartment number so I did not know where to go from there.

Just then a group of teens that were hanging out in the playground took an interest. ‘Hello’, one of them said.  They asked a few questions about where I had come from and we got chatting a bit about travel in general.  I threw my huge backpack down and took a seat near them.  Finally, one of them asked what I was actually doing sitting by the playground so late at night.

I explained to them about the concept and website ‘couchsurfing’.  I explained that instead of staying in a hotel when you visit a country, you can request to stay at somebody’s place.  There is a network of travelers in almost all countries around the world that offer a free bed to like minded travelers.  It is not about free accommodation though; it’s about meeting people who live in that country and getting to know the country from a more local perspective.  ‘So’, I said, ‘I’m supposed to be couchsurfing tonight but I don’t know the apartment number and my host is still at work and I don’t have a phone, so I’m not sure what to do.’

‘My cousin does that couchsurfing thing’, one of them chirped.  ‘Are you staying with Shafiq?  His mum will be upstairs.  I’ll take you up there!’

My host was Shafiq so I followed him up.  A woman answered the door and they rambled some stuff in Malay and he left.  The woman was all smiles and invited me in.  Little did I know that stepping through that front door would change my life forever.

She offered me a drink, a towel, a shower and some conversation.  It was obvious that Shafiq had not told her to expect me.  I sat in the lounge room and told her about a pink milk drink, I had had near the train station.  It was disgusting.  She said it was bandung and she liked it.  She showed me a picture of her late husband and talked a little about him as I took in the surrounds.  The house was immaculate and there were some beautiful pictures on the wall.  One was of a building with some minarets in the background a cube in centre.  Another was some writing in Arabic.  I did not really understand what these were or what they meant but with my limited knowledge I associated them with that Middle Eastern religion, Islam.

It was ages before Shafiq got home.  I was in the bedroom and I heard him at the front door so I came out to meet him.  I remember, to this day, standing in that room with him.  He apologised for being so late but I did not mind… I was quite taken aback by his gentleness and quiet speech.  A calmness radiated from him.

The next day as he showed me around town, I thought about the Islam thing.  As much as I disliked religion in general, I always knew that Islam must have been grossly misunderstood.  Having said that, I still believed it to be somewhat violent.  Was not all religion?  Religion seemed to cause so many wars and so much suffering in this world.  I did not doubt the existence of God but definitely questioned these man-made ‘religions’.  But these people were the opposite of what I would have expected.  His mother had invited a total stranger into her home.  His brother was a cheeky and jovial mischief maker, something you would expect from the average Australian guy and Shafiq was the calmest and laid back person I think I had ever met.  He was not spending his time, big noting himself and trying to impress me.  He was so humble and different.  He eventually told me how he had started ‘getting back in touch’ with his religion after rebelling for so long.

Fast forward a year and Shafiq and I had been dating for six months.  I did not think we were wasting our time, since I was under the impression that, if it ever came to that, a Muslim man can marry a ‘Christian’ woman.  Even though I was agnostic by heart, I was born a Christian.  Shafiq had just moved back to Singapore and I was still living in Vietnam.  I had just been offered a job in Singapore and was about to move countries. Then came the phone call.  I was told that there had been some confusion and that it was actually required that a Muslim man marry only a Muslim woman.  I was shocked.  And angry.  And I had just resigned from a job I loved, and moved out of a house I loved.  How could he confuse something like this?  I decided to get on the plane anyway since I had a job there now and not in Vietnam. 

I pushed the whole conversion thing to the back of my mind for a while since marriage seemed such a long way off and a ridiculous thing to be talking about after six months of dating anyway.  I decided to take a class at the Convert’s Centre, just to understand what the religion was about.  I wanted to challenge my beloved and make him re-think why he was following this religion… Was he not a Muslim simply because his parent’s were?

I have to say I was quite surprised by what I was learning at the classes.  Everything I thought I knew about religion was being broken.  These people were not serious, angry ‘don’t do anything wrong or you’ll go to hell’ kind of people.  They were pleasant, forgiving and genuinely happy people.   I learnt the difference between religion and culture and I think that was one of the biggest things for me.  I learnt that the very, very basis of being a Muslim meant belief that there was only one God and that Muhammad (s.a.w.) was the last of the prophets.  I learnt that praying five times a day was not an extreme behaviour but rather a means to step outside from the stress and hustle and bustle of daily life, to slow down, to do some active meditation, to keep a perspective on things… to remind yourself of the big picture.

I learnt that the Qur’an gave women the right to make decisions, own property and run her own business.  To choose to have a career and / or have a family.  It gave women the rights to do this 1,400 years ago.  Not 60 years ago as did our ‘liberated’ Western countries.  I learnt that the word ‘Islam’ meant ‘submission’ or ‘to surrender’ and that it came from the root word ‘Salam’ which meant peace… Islam essentially meant ‘to be at peace with’ or ‘peace through submission to the will of God’.  I learnt not to judge Islam by the behaviour of Muslims, as I should not judge Hinduism by the behaviour of Hindus and so forth.  I also learnt that a Muslim man can marry a Christian woman in almost all parts of the world, except Singapore.

There was not a huge shift in my basic beliefs.  I considered myself agnostic.  I already very much believed in God.  This world and what was beyond it was too huge and too mind boggling to be a mere accident.  And I had no doubt that these ‘prophets’ existed, though I originally saw them more as incredibly forward thinking, highly influential men of their time.  There was a shift however in the way I viewed religion and Islam in particular.  To be honest, I am still troubled by some things that occur under the name of religion, be it any religion.  But I also started to see that there was more to it than unhappy kill joys trying to make people’s lives difficult.  There was a beautiful, inner spiritual aspect to it as well.

Having a background in Christianity, many things in Islam made more sense to me such as the fact that babies are born pure, even if it is out of wedlock.  Also, that contraception is allowed if it is not a suitable time to fall pregnant, the imam of the mosque is allowed to marry and that they do not act on behalf of God - they do not forgive our sins, only God does that.

After months of classes, I had started toying with the idea of converting but I stressed about my family and how upset they would be.  It would be extremely difficult to try to explain.  Shafiq had been working overseas for several months so he was absent for a lot of this struggle.  Besides it was something I had to do on my own.  I was convinced that my strict Catholic aunts and cousins would disown me and that my agnostic and possibly atheist friends and family would be disgusted.  And there are times when you should care about what people think… I love my family to death and I cared about what they thought!

Amidst this struggle, I went to a talk by an American convert called Usama Canon.  He spoke about his conversion and how his family reacted.  It was hilarious and tragic at the same time but had a happy ending.  That talk was the catalyst for my conversion.  I left that night thinking ‘I’m going to convert and see if it doesn’t kill me.  Seriously what is the worst that could happen?’  And so I converted on my birthday on the last day of March in 2011.

Overall people have taken it well.  My immediate family does not ask too many questions.  I think this is their way of saying, ‘We’re cool with it’, or their way of avoiding arguments of things they do not believe in.  I wish though sometimes that they would ask me.  I wish they would say ‘So what’s this about four wives?’, ‘And what about the burqa?’  I assume that they assume that these are aspects of the religion that they could never understand and it is best not to go there, rather than realising that there is a very plausible explanation for these seemingly bizarre behaviour.

The one comment I remember most was from my father.  The only thing he said to me was, ‘I watched your grandmother (his mother) struggle as a woman in her generation and then I watched your mother gain strength and rights through the 70s and then I watched you grow up and become the most independent, strong minded woman I have ever met… and I just don’t want that taken from you’.  While that meant a lot to me and I appreciated him saying it, I smiled and knew that it was only time, that they would come around and understand.  Later, when they finally met Shafiq, I think all concerns of this were forgotten and my father gave Shafiq, his graces to marry me.

I think the most difficult thing with my family is that, had I been wayward in the past and Islam bought me into line and I started respecting my parents, or became a happy person than they might have been thankful, but my family did not need or want me to change.  They liked that I was a drinker.  They liked that I swore.  They liked that I would run about on the beach in a bikini without caring what other people thought.  They loved me just the way I was.  Luckily, they still do.  And they always know that I will always walk to the beat of my own drum. 

I did not tell my Australian friends at first.  I waited until I saw them in person to tell them.  Many people, I still have not told.  I had to make the decision about whether to make a big announcement ‘I’m a Muslim everybody!’  or to just casually drop it in at some stage so there is not a big thing made out of it.  So many of my friends I have not seen in years because of my travels so it did not make sense to me to make the big announcement.  I figure they will slowly get it over time, what with Facebook and social media.  For the people I did tell, I know I did not always explain it in the best way, but rather in the way that I thought they would want to hear.  For example, I originally told my cousin and best friend that I mostly did it for Shafiq and marriage.  At the time, I was fraught with anxiety about my family’s reactions and I thought that was the explanation that she would accept the easiest.  There is, of course, no denying that I probably would never have converted without meeting or wanting to continue a relationship with him.  However, I also like to think that he forced me to open my mind.  I always thought that religious people were close minded and stuck inside their ‘box’.  But what if I was stuck in a box?  The ‘religion is evil’ box?  I also know that if something happened to us in the future, that I would stay within the religion.  I would of course, have to make a particular effort in making sure I kept a community of people around me who were practicing.  Although I regret the way I explained it to her initially, I think we have all moved past though initial awkward moments.

The only people we have deliberately not told were my grandparents.  They are staunch Catholics in their late 80’s and 90’s, and they adore me.  They are too old to understand.  It would break their hearts and they would spend their final years stressing over me burning in hell for being a Muslim.  They know Shafiq is a Muslim and they like him very much so at least it has been an eye opener for them. 

Islam certainly is a life long journey in pursuit of knowledge.  It has not been an easy journey.  Six months after converting, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery went terribly wrong and I spent the following 15 months in and out of hospital trying to correct the damage done in the first operation.  At first, I did not connect the two events but after things went wrong for me, time and time and time again, I started to question if I was being punished for becoming a Muslim.  I would then push thoughts like that away, thinking they were ridiculous.  Looking back, I wish that I had used my spirituality more to help me through that time.  There were two reasons that I did not.  One, I found it difficult, being in a small town in Australia where there is not a lot of influence around you to keep practicing particularly being so new.  I stopped doing my prayers and while I would spend some time reading and learning about the religion, it was mostly only on Sheikh Google.  One book that my husband sent me that did help was Yasmin Mogahed’s ‘Reclaim Your Heart’.  The other reason is because I delved right into health and cancer and most of my days were spent learning about that instead. 

This year, I have been spending more time on my learning and spirituality.  I still constantly ask questions and criticise until I get answers that make sense.  I am also very aware of who I take answers from.  Right now I am particularly interested in gaining inner spiritual strength and working on getting genuine meaning out of my prayers every day.   I am also very interested in women’s issues in Islam and of course, the controversial issues.  I suppose it is probably natural for an Australian convert to be interested in this.  All the while, I try not to get too bogged down in this stuff as it can be suffocating but I do want to be able to give solid answers to my friend’s and family’s questions if and when they arise.

It has been a bit of a joke over time that as Shafiq, my husband, started to get back in touch with Islam, he started praying for a pious wife that would teach him about his religion.  Then I turned up on his door step!  And I certainly was not the Malay, hijabied, pious woman he was looking for.  But without a doubt I taught him about his religion and I also forced him to choose Islam, and not just follow it because that is what he was born into.

I have slowly found that as I surround myself with the right people, I become stronger and stronger in my spirituality and more settled in my religion.  I am also constantly learning.  as I said this is a life long journey of gaining knowledge.  The people whose stories or knowledge I have found particularly important and inspiring in this journey have been Usama Canon, Mustafa Davis and his Jordan Richter story, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Walead Mosaad.  Unfortunately, I have never had to opportunity to listen to any prominent women.  I hope that will change in the future!

To sum up: The struggle?  My anxieties over what my loved ones thought.  Just be a good ambassador for the religion and know that they will come around.  The challenge?  Staying in touch with the religion through difficult times or when you are living in non-Muslim surrounds.  The lesson learnt?  Be picky with your teachers and stay inspired!”

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Bee

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from a transcript of a lecture given by Mawlana Waffie Mohammed

We all know that Allah (s.w.t.) is The Greatest, and He has Demonstrated His Greatness through His Creation and in our individual bodies.  Today, we will look at just one of the creatures of Allah (s.w.t.) that demonstrates His Greatness.  This creature is the bee, which is also the name of one of the chapters in the Holy Qur’an.  The bee is a startling creature with regards to its organisation and management of its recourses.  They are so well organised that each one has a duty that contributes to the overall sustenance of the hive.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

And thy Lord Taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations; (Surah an-Nahl:68)

The bees structure and divide their labour to such a remarkable extent that, for example, when they find another source of nectar in another tree, they return to their hive and fly in a particular vector to announce to the others where the alternative source of nectar is.  Each member of the hive has its own duty and responsibility, and one bee does not aspire to take over management responsibilities from the others.  And through their organisation and work they produce one of the best and natural drinks available, which illustrate the greatness of Allah (s.w.t.).  The bees digest nectar and regurgitate it to produce honey.  Such a sweet and sort after drink is produced in such a mind boggling manner.

Even though, they are such tiny creatures we can take pattern from them with regard to their management structure, unity and specialisation.  Because of their unity, look at what they can produce.  If we are united and work for the greater good what we can achieve.  And this is what Islam came to do; unite mankind to work together on the path of Swirath al-Mustaqim.  This is possibly one reason why Allah (s.w.t.) gave us the story of the bees.  We are to take on the responsibilities of working for this world and the next; and manage our time and resources properly and correctly in order to succeed.

May Allah (s.w.t.) Enable us to adopt the organisational and unification methods practiced by His creatures and may He Continuously Grant us the ability to reflect and ponder over His Greatness and recognise it in our everyday lives.

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Night of Gifts

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from Ghunyat ath-Thalibi Thariq al-Haqq.

Regarding the ‘Iyd al-Fithr, the Messenger of Allah ( said, “When the month of Ramadhan is over, and the night of ‘Iyd al-Fithr has arrived, that night is called the Night of Gifts.

Then, in the early morning of ‘Iyd al-Fithr, Allah (s.w.t.) will Send His angels forth to visit all the towns and cities on the earth below.  Once they have made their descent, they will position themselves at the entrances to all the streets and alleys.  There, in a voice that is audible to every being Created by Allah (s.w.t.), apart from the jinn and humankind, they will issue a proclamation saying, ‘O Community of Muhammad (s.a.w.), come forth into the presence of a Noble and Generous Lord Who will Grant you gifts in abundance and Forgive your terrible sin!’

Then when the believers have emerged and presented themselves at their place of prayer, Allah (s.w.t.) will Say to His angels, ‘O My angels, what is the recompense of the hired labourer, once he has done his job?’

The angels will reply, ‘Our Lord and our Master, You will Pay him his wages in full!’

So Allah (s.w.t.) will Say, ‘I now Call upon you to bear witness, O My angels, that I have Conferred My Acceptance and My Forgiveness as the reward for their fasting and night vigil during the month of Ramadhan.’

Allah (s.w.t.) will then Say, ‘O My servants, put your requests to Me now, for this I Swear by My Might and My Majesty, you will not ask Me this day, in this gathering of yours for anything connected with your life hereafter, without My Granting it to you; nor for anything connected with your life in this lower world, without My Attending to your need.  By My Might and My Majesty, I will not put you to shame, nor will I expose you to disgrace amongst those who are faithfully committed to observing the shari’ah.  Now you may depart, knowing that you have been Forgiven.  You have won My Approval, and I am Well Pleased with you.’”

Thursday, 8 August 2013

'Ali ibn Abi Thalib’s (k.w.) Sermon for 'Iyd al-Fithr

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

From Nahj al-Balaghah, is this sermon from ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.).

On the day of ‘Iyd al-Fithr, he delivered a sermon as follows: “O people!  Verily this day of yours is the day when the righteous are awarded and the wretched are losers.  It is a day which is similar to the one on which you shall be standing.  Therefore, when you come out of your homes to go to places of your prayer, remind yourselves about the day when you shall come out of your bodies to go to your Lord.  When you stand on places of your prayer, remind yourselves of your standing in the Presence of your Lord.  And when you return to your homes, remind yourselves about your returning to your homes in Paradise.  O Servants of Allah!  Verily the minimum reward for those men and women who fasted, is an angel, who calls out to them on the last day of the month of Ramadhan, ‘O Servants of Allah!  Rejoice the Glad Tiding that all your previous sins have been forgiven.’”