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Wrenched From Her Hands

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

For so long, she had clasped tightly onto what was never meant to be.

Tricked by the expectations of love, acceptance and belonging, she found herself clinging to the formless. A mirage that, for so long, had been the fortress of her desires and dreams.

Like a rose shielded by thorns, she silenced her inner heart against contempt and strove to pull near to the fleeting.

Eventually, her hands bled as she squeezed and tightened her grasp along the crumbling walls of her reality.

Blood trickled past her hands and into her soul – livening the beating of her inner heart – as her mind sprinted to make sense of the struggle at hand.

With a violent jerk, that which she had held onto for so long was stripped from her palms, leaving her hands bare.

Her eyes fell upon what once was a naked grasp. One that had been fuelled by fear, not love.

Wrenched from her hands was her fortress.

And as they lay bare before her, she raised them.

Realizing the One who had wrenched everything from her grip, had done so to replace her bare hands with truth.

And so she stood, struggling to clasp onto the truth with some reverence.

Sometimes mourning the fortress of deceit that was – so lovingly – wrenched from her hands.

[31:22]

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah

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RE-POST: What is Islamic Spirituality?

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

I am currently studying spirituality and religion in the context of psychotherapy, as well as the overlaps and differences between them.

I’m sure you’ve often heard, “I’m spiritual, but not religious” , or the reduction of spirituality to Sufism. I couldn’t help but wonder how spirituality related to Islam, and after a discussion with a dear friend today and some quick research, I came across this brief yet poignant article by Brother Hamza Tzortis.

I really like how he focused on the concept of “taqwa” (i.e. God consciousness, fear/awareness of God) and how it is, as he says, an essential element to Islamic spiritual practice. Check out the article below:

Islam doesn’t view ‘spirituality’ separately from everyday activities. In Islam everything is ‘spiritual’ because all actions must be in accordance with God’s pleasure. This view comes from the Islamic creed and the Muslim’s understanding of tawhid (the oneness of God).

‘There is no deity worthy of worship except God’ this conviction creates a world view, a perspective and a unique behaviour. It essential means that all actions – from having a shower to picking up litter from the floor – should be referred to the Creator. This establishes a constant awareness, mindfulness and consciousness of God in everything that the Muslim says or does.

The understanding of spirituality in Islam is unlike the secular understanding. It is the constant reference to God and ensuring that everything he or she does is in accordance with God’s pleasure.

This consciousness is not static, it is dynamic. The level of God consciousness is dependent upon how close the Muslim is with His Lord. This personal relationship is established and strengthened by following a unique programme of activities that have been prescribed by God Himself. This ‘spiritual’ programme is also an effective means to change the negative traits and habits of the Muslim. Some of these activities include remembrance of God, prayer, giving charity, fasting, reflecting on creation, meditation, reading and reflecting upon the Qur’an, memorising the Qur’an and daily supplications.

The Prophet Muhammad emphasized on developing a good character by engaging a constant practice of prayer, meditation, remembrance of God and other activities, as these actions change the heart and thereby bring one closer to God.

“Verily in the body there is a piece of flesh. If it is sound, the body is all sound. If it is corrupt, the body is all corrupt. Verily, it is the heart.”

God consciousness is an essential element in Islamic spiritual practice, without it, the Muslim’s behaviour and attitude are corrupted. The benefits of God consciousness as derived from the Qur’an are:

  • Guidance: because of His words “guidance for the muttaqeen (the people of God consciousness)”
  • Help: because of His words “Truly, Allah is with the people who have taqwa (God consciousness)”
  • Closeness with God: because of His words, ”Allah is the close friend of the muttaqeen”
  • Love: because of His words, “Truly Allah loves the muttaqeen”
  • A way out from unhappiness, and provision from where one does not expect because of His words, “Whoever has taqwa of Allah He will make a way out for him and provide him from where he does not expect”
  • Facilitation of affairs because of His words, “Whoever has taqwa of Allah He will make ease for him in his affair”
  • Full covering over of wrong actions and magnification of rewards because of His words, “Whoever has taqwa of God He will cover over his wrong actions and magnify a reward for him”

Islam has a unique view on spirituality as it encompasses all aspects of the Muslim’s life. All actions that are referred to God are spiritual, and these actions include the supplications we utter before we go to bed to the type of bank account we hold. God has prescribed certain actions that develop positive characters as well as bringing the Muslim closer to God thereby attain God consciousness. This state achieves many things including God’s love, closeness and divine assistance.

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah

Source: http://www.hamzatzortzis.com/q-a/what-is-islamic-spirituality/

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Family STUFF

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

SubhanAllah.

I can’t help but reflect on how we’d all wish to have the perfect family: every member a God-conscious force to be reckoned with. Parents fulfilling the rights of their children and vice-versa. Harmony between siblings. A marriage with very few conflicts and loads of happy moments, and delightfully obedient children. Indeed, I doubt that such a family exists on this planet, yet it cannot be denied that there are some families whose happiness radiates wherever they may be; those with strong connections of love and affection. May Allah (SWT) preserve such families – ameen. The truth is, however, that most of us have conflict and strife within our families; with our parents, siblings, cousins, spouses, children in-laws, etc. Some of this conflict is minor, while some of it has left stains of trauma and wreaked havoc in the lives of so many. Where I find stability and contentment, however, is in the realization of three important things:

1. Every family has their issues.

2. Pure happiness and contentment with one another is reserved for Paradise, and not the life of this world.

3. Even within our own Islamic tradition, we find countless examples of great people who dealt with tons of stuff.

Consider the following examples:

Parent Issues

  • Ibraheem (Abraham) (AS), the great man that he was, was threatened by his own father when he brought to him the message of Islam. Not only did his community deny him, but his own father did too. Imagine the pain.

Sibling/Children Issues

  • Qabil (Cain) grew jealous of his brother Habil (Abel) and eventually slew him. These were the first sons of our common ancestor, Adam (AS) – imagine the turmoil of murder within a family, and the loss of a child for Adam (AS) and Hawa (AS).
  • The brothers of Yusuf (Joseph) (AS) conspired to get rid of him completely. For years, his father Ya’qoob (Jacob) grieved the loss of his son, and upon his eventual return, Yusuf’s brothers were filled with regret for what they had done. Imagine a grief that causes you blindness, as it did to Ya’qoob (AS). Not only that, but Yusuf (AS) was from a line of prophets (Yusuf bin Ya’qoob bin Ishaaq bin Ibraheem (AS)) and was still not immune to such a trial.
  • Musa (Moses) (AS) was furious at his brother Haroon (Aaron) (AS) when he returned to find the Children of Israel worshiping a calf – he even dragged him by his head (see: quran.com/7/150)!
  • Maryam (Mary) (AS) brought Isa (Jesus) (AS) into this world alone and with no communal and spousal support. Imagine how we treat such mothers today.

Spousal Issues

  • Both Ibraheem (AS) and his wife Sara, along with Zakariyya (AS) and his wife had trouble conceiving a child. As well, Aasiya the wife of the greatest tyrant Fir’awn (Pharaoh) brought Musa (AS) into her home after not being able to have her own child.
  • Both Lut (Lot) (AS) and Nuh (Noah) (AS) were betrayed and left unsupported by their wives. They were prophets and still, they had issues in their marriages.
  • Aasiya was severely abused and persecuted by her own husband for merely proclaiming her belief in the God of Musa (AS).
  • In Surat Al Kahf, we learn from the story of Musa (AS) and Al-Khidr that Al-Khidr was divinely inspired to take the life of a child because they may have been a fitnah to the righteous parents. Clearly, their righteousness led them not to a simple easy family life, but through one of the hardest trials they could go through as parents and as a couple.

Our Greatest Example

  • The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) lost his beloved uncle Abu Taalib before he accepted Islam.
  • He also lost many of his children.
  • He lost his dearly beloved wife, Khadijah, and mourned her death deeply.

These are just a tiny fraction of the examples of family stuff that we can draw from our own Islamic tradition. Indeed, what is even more incredible is that those mentioned above were far more pious and sincere to Allah (SWT) than we could ever be, despite their hardships.

Notice that their piety did not mean a life of ease and perfection – no! Instead they were tried with things that today, might bring you and I to our knees. Because Allah (SWT) tells us that He does not burden a soul with more than they can bear, by testing them with such trials, The Almighty knew that they were capable of coming out purified and forgiven for their sins, inshaAllah.

Now, what about you and I?

I say, family issues are inevitable. Don’t look to the lives of others to escape your own problems – realize that Allah (SWT) has placed you in the circumstance you are in because He (SWT), in His supreme knowledge, knows you can handle it.

For me, I’ve come to see family strife as bound to occur. Although not easy in the least, my main concern has been managing it as gracefully as I can when it does happen.

Our spiritual growth and purification is tied to the moments we want to talk back but don’t, or have been betrayed by a family member and don’t seek revenge.

It’s certainly not easy, especially when we have depictions of the perfect family life crossing our sights at every moment; from the television, advertisements, social media and so forth, we are inundated with (often times) false realities of perfect, happy families.

The truth is, we all deal with stuff. The greatest individuals who came before us did
and we certainly are not immune.

The key then is, how do you deal with your stuff? With grace, or harshness? With acceptance or bitterness? With resolve or chaos? Consider the following verse:

“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?” (Surat Al-Ankabut, 29:2)

The choice is ours – let’s figure this stuff out.

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah

(Share your experiences/thoughts below, and any further examples we can derive inspiration from.)

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On Our Ways Out

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

The weather here has been sporadic (anyone who lives here knows it as the truth!). It was only a little over a week ago that we had a fresh snowfall a few days after the first day of spring. Today, the sidewalks were clear of any snow, and the sun shone down its glorious rays upon us (bi’ithnillah). I spent quite some time outside, heading from campus to the downtown area. I sat and observed my surroundings: children playing, a father scolding his son for standing in the path of an oncoming truck, a couple sitting not too far from me, a pair of police officers strolling by – everything was so animated.

What stunned me the most, however, was the transient nature of the weather today. The morning was cool and sunny, followed by a warm and breezy afternoon, and topped off with a powerful windstorm and rain in the evening. As I lived in today’s weather, I realized what a clear and powerful sign, or ayah, it was from Allah (SWT). For me, the transient and turbulent nature of the weather I had witnessed today was a metaphor for life and death.

As I inhaled the crisp air and became immersed in the beauty that surrounded me, I couldn’t help but become acutely aware of how all of the moments unfurling before me were to pass. Just like every moment from the past, this too, would become a memory. And one day, so would I.

Lately, I’ve been having this acute awareness of the limited nature of my life. Watching the cold winter reluctantly transform into a soggy spring has had a deep, spiritual effect on me.

Everyone and everything seems so much more alive and yet, the reality is that every soul will taste death.

Yet still, we live as if this isn’t the case. We indulge in this temporary, transient life and swim in a state of heedlessness. Indeed, Allah (SWT) says:

“[The time of] their account has approached for the people, while they are in heedlessness turning away.” (Surat Al-Anbiya, 21:1)

SubhanAllah. Take a moment to consider the fact that this verse was revealed over 1400 years ago. If the Day Of Judgement was being referred to in such present terms at that time, how about today? How much closer is it now? Indeed, we are in the end times – the signs are clear.

It may strike you as odd that the beauty that I mentioned earlier has illicited such (seemingly) morbid thoughts from me, but the truth is, I believe that being unable to see past the fleeting beauty of this life is the ultimate tragedy. Becoming absorbed and consumed by what is essentially a mirage, and losing the opportunity to strive for the next – real – life is devastating.

For so long, I was in a state of spiritual heedlessness. I took this life for face-value. I made investments in it without attaching the intention of having a higher spiritual purpose. By His grace, I was awakened. My eyes – those of my soul, my heart – were opened. And now, I see this life differently. I try to do everything with purpose. Although I may fall into heedlessness, I recognize the power of God to remove me from it.

Just like the next season, we’re on our ways out.

If I were to draw this life, it’d consist of a long line-up of every person on this earth, child and elderly alike, single file before an empty grave. One by one, each person stepping in – only to enter the next life.

The truth? We are all members of this line-up. Although some of us may be farther up the queue than others, we are in the line and on our ways out, nonetheless.

So if we are soon leaving, why cling to the temporary? Should we not cling to the Eternal, and strive for the everlasting?

And Allah (SWT) knows best.

~ ubah