The Old New Iman (Faith)

Thought I could never get here

My soul, it was always near

Never told it, “Please hear,

the words, clear

I have love.”

 

Allah gave me inner home,

This time I’ve been sharing alone

–Alone time with Him I find

Is so dear and so sublime

I found what I needed all along.

 

Told myself these lies

Repeat what they all repeat

I think it’s time to rewind and delete

Start fresh and find my own sweet

Sweetness

Faith it

Exists, quiet, settled peace

I’d never understand

Until inside my hands I finally had

Hands reaching for my phone

Then thought better of them drones in my head.

 

Like the leaves in the wind flutter,

My words never come in stutters

When I’m conversing with Him.

Feel the winter warm my body’s every limb.

 

And even on those lonesome days,

The times when I am tracing solo ways,

I find that I am calm

I never feel alarmed

Steady in my pace

Never stuck in a place.

Found love inside a hurricane,

These skies will turn real blue,

I’m finally feeling true,

I think I look downright brand new.

For the Newbie Awakened Hearts

Loving Advice:

Your faith is not to flaunt. It’s very common that when a person is gifted with an interest in reviving their faith, whether they had a low period, or were not raised to be religious, to fall into that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being enthusiastic; it’s a blessing, in fact! Having more energy and hope gives you a leg up to overcome initial social, personal, habitual, familial obstacles and a lack of knowledge of the religion and experience with its practice. Most importantly, self-knowledge is the greatest challenge, and that’s where everyone goes wrong at some point.

Think about this:

It’s important, therefore, to remember that not everyone is at the same wavelength as you, and you may not always have this high yourself. One of the most important lessons I have been taught as I learned more about my deen and what it meant for my life, is that the higher your highs are, the lower your lows will be and that is totally fine. It’s a good sign! If you live in the way that is right for you and your spiritual health, you might end up as a good example for others. Focus on yourself, for now. If you’re starting out; if you’re starting to establish your five daily prayers, take it easy. If you are still learning to commit to reading a small portion of the Quran daily and only just starting to learn the rights of others and yourself, take it easy.

Do you feel this way:

Part of trying to get others to improve too, comes from a feeling of wanting to improve yourself, and bring others up with you, perhaps due to a feeling of inadequacy and a need to catch up. It’s normal! Just remember that Allah is Merciful and there is mercy in this newfound guidance. And with every good thing, there is the possibility to multiply it, so go easy on yourself and others. Part of mercy is moderation too, though. So don’t go out of bounds. You’re trying to pray five times a day, and fast in Ramadan. On the other hand, don’t wait until Ramadan to practice fasting – it can get brutal for first-timers, so take advantage if you have time.

Ideas for Continuous Growth:

Always increase in increments, so if you’re not yet praying your five daily prayers as soon as possible when it’s time and with perfection of its words and movements, it’s really not time to start practicing the Sunnah of standing in prayer for the last bit of the night. You probably need to practice getting up for Fajr first, but hey, masha’Allah, it’s a good sign that you have an interest in praying Qiyam. Instead of rushing, enjoy this new inner experience, such beauty you hold! In the meantime, think of how you feel now, and look forward to the future, knowing that if you increase in good, Allah will increase you in even more things and in the best way. Despite intermittent, extra difficulty like the one Allah just relieved you of, if you’re making the effort to better yourself and taking the time to savor your iman when it increases, and nurse it in its decrease, it only gets better from here.

As always, avoid wallowing and drowning, or flying and losing direction and reality. Balance is key, and it keeps you well in every way.

Going Too Far

When a person wants to improve their religion, one of the best ways to advance is through gaining new knowledge and applying it. But the factor of sincerity plays a vital role in whether the benefit will stay and actually be fruitful to them on the Day of Judgment. If the heart is not receptive to such information, that information does not go through the process of becoming knowledge and then wisdom.

Information is data stripped to its most basic form. Knowledge is being aware of facts that are understood and learnt second-hand. Wisdom is where knowledge joins real-life experience and enlightened perspective. That’s the kind of religiosity we aim for as Muslims, and that’s how knowledge should impact us, because wisdom is knowledge that makes one a better human being.

The job of knowledge is not to make you capable of rattling off rulings, and be able to understand the difference between deviant sects, or why this shaykh is wrong or that student of knowledge is more guided than the other. While these are issues this blog is not here to address, the point to be made is that there is more to life than right and wrong and in between. There is the reason why. Understanding our purpose in this life is what so many of us are missing, and it’s not even just about your dead-end job at Walmart or the traditional (though hopefully dying) nine-to-five.

It’s about believing in the fact that in the next millisecond, you could freeze in the middle of reading this as you see the angel of death, and know that you did not live up to what you knew you were capable of. Now you have the experience that would have given you the wisdom to see past empty friendships, to try to understand what you could have done, how you could have lived with so much more peace and expectation of reward. But what good is it then?

Truthfully, how many of us are clear on who we want to be? ‘Coming into your own’ is such an elusive term, thrown in with ‘who I am,’ what is the meaning of life,’ and ‘can’t we just say what we really mean by all that?’ Just kidding about the last one. In all seriousness, it’s firstly about coming closer to being honest about what is getting in the way. You can’t figure out which way to go in the street if both your rear-view mirror and windshield are cracked and smudged and downright dirty.

It takes time. It takes sitting down with yourself – quite literally – and reflecting on what it is about your life that is stressing you out. Limit or eliminate. Reflect on what you’re grateful for. Increase and discover  more. Reflect on what’s bogging you down. Let go and lift off. This last one is hard, because it involves investigating painful experiences and the habitual self-infliction of pain, and vetting them from our world view. It could be anything from actual physical self-harm, to sabotaging relationships, to spending time doing sins or being around people who belittle or negatively influence you.

There’s more to this, but the final idea to share is that no one knows everything. Not everything can be fixed, not because it is impossible, but because not every problem can get attention. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. Sometimes no matter how much time we spend thinking, we do no connecting. So the missing ingredient is Allah Himself. He is the One judging on Judgment Day, He is the One Whom inspired this post, and will inspire you, too, if you speak up as you reach out and let him. Sometimes we don’t know what to ask, so we can suffice our need by saying, “Ya Allah, help!”

And really? That’s all it takes.

When You’re Stuck

It’s all well and beautiful to talk about all the things we can do to increase our iman, or come closer to our truest selves by listening to our fitrah and its voice. But sometimes the message gets garbled. Sometimes it seems like that inner voice is clawing at you, knawing at your insides for putting yourself through sin after sin, heartache after heartache, wasting moment after moment, without forgiveness, healing, or meaningful living.

You could wake up early and stay up all day.

You could pray five times a day, and perfect your wudu.

You could smile more, you could put yourself on the line for others constantly.

You could push yourself to stop caring what people think and try to say to yourself the words, “I am doing this sincerely,” but still feel rotten.

You could talk about it with your friends until your words don’t seem to string together into a sentence that even makes sense. The problem, which you can’t define in the first place, sounds different every time you bring it up.

And that’s okay.

It really is. You’re making the effort, but you see here is what is missing. Some of us create this noise in our heads, and a lot of is not even our own noise, but we create but letting it in.

So stop.

Just stop. It’s okay. Shh. No! No. Not another word. Just breathe.

Your coffee this morning was sweet and steamy just the way you like it. Its beans were picked up by someone who could never afford it, and it was sent in a truck to a facility where it was cleaned and then shipped to the freight plane. The freight plane landed in Canada, where the beans were inspected and processed, then packaged and sold to coffee shops. In Tim Hortons, they brewed the coffee just right with a recipe crafted and perfected over decades. You pay those three dollars from that job Allah gave you the intelligence, talent, health and opportunities to do, that you also love, and now you hold this cup which the cashier hands to you with a smile and a greeting warmer than the drink itself. Alhamdulillah.

Now do it again. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds. Let go, blowing out for four seconds. Now do this every time you speed up, every time you get a chance. It’s a start. Sometimes there’s nothing to do. Sometimes you just have to breathe and let it happen.

Trust Him. Remember how much He loves you, by looking at how he looked after you, put a roof over your head, fed you, clothed you, comforted you, gave you blankets for the cold nights and a bed on a flat earth that’s really round so it can give you light that will meet you come those early morning hours.

Have hope that He is the One Being that will stay, and never leave you, and that He will help you and give you every chance you need to get to Jannah before you die, so you still have time, right now.

Remember that you don’t want to disappoint him by leaving Him when he really just wants you to stay close and be with you. Let yourself. You may have committed a crime. Turn yourself in so you can go to heaven. Just say you’re sorry and do the next thing, whether it’s playing with the kids, washing the laundry or commuting to work or school. It’s okay. No more of that worrying, you hear me? Stop. Shh. Say astaghfirullah.

It’s okay. Slow down. And breathe. Say “Alhamdulillah,” say “Please, Ya Allah.” For now, you don’t even have to move. Just remember Him and that’s good enough until your heart says it’s ready for more. If you’re easing into that little world inside of yourself, if you’re leaning into your body’s, mind’s, soul’s and heart’s needs, that little voice will grow and you’ll just know what to do. Don’t try to figure it out. Just trust. Hasbunallah wa ni’mal wakeel.

 

Words and Actions Don’t Disappear (Even After They’re Done)

Life is not made up of conditions; it is made from consequence.

Many of us want to believe we had no part to play in the difficulties we face. Which girl would want to admit she lost her best friend because she talked behind her back, which man would ever admit to poaching a client from his business partner whn he wasn’t qualified for the job, causing the company lose its big break? Maybe it’s about holding on to our pride, avoiding the deflation of our ego, or maybe it’s just easier to hide from the truth: whatever you do, it will always turn around to rear its ugly head.

Or it might just smile with wonder and sunshine in the face of a new beginning you never expected after you transformed another person’s life with your purest sincerity, compassion and humility, giving them the tools to be their best selves.

I hope that if the people who have changed my life for the better read this, they will feel that warmth someday, because they have earned it.

What the Words “Yes, You Can,” Mean

Human beings are very incompetent at measuring things. Everything we think we know are just facts based on observations that will always be biased. Theories rigorously tested by the greatest minds of previous generations get debunked often, so it’s no surprise many of us don’t understand the phrase “Allah does not burden a soul with more than what it can bear.”

When faced with a new trial, we can be quick to judge the situation at face value and assume we can’t handle it. On the surface, it seems insurmountable and that the amount of will and skill we possess will not be enough to carry us through. And this is not even just about not trusting Allah’s plan. It’s about not trusting what he gave us along the way leading up to the ultimate trial we now face, and certainly the ones to come that will climb in their level of difficulty, will be enough.

So many people think they can’t manage because of two reasons,

  1. They have dealt with a predicament this severe before unsuccessfully — or poorly, for that matter, or
  2. They have never had to deal with a problem like the one they face at that point in their lives and they are afraid they never can.

What they don’t realize, however, is that people grow. They grow during hardship, before and after.

During hardship, we discover parts of ourselves we never thought existed. It’s not that we didn’t have the intelligence or strength before, it’s that we honed and strengthened what qualities we already have.

Before hardship, Allah puts things in our paths, as part of His divine plan that will supplement our learning and perspective, even if it’s just to remind us to be grateful of the ease we used to have before our predicament. Sometimes, that is actually the harder test. It takes making an effort to remember, to simply choose to look around and say “Alhamdulillah.” Many people simply, if they allow themselves to submit to what is happening in their lives, can eventually rise to the occasion and function at a higher wavelength than usual. And that’s where the real growth stems from.

It’s true, there is a sweetness when the hardship is over, a sense of relief. Some choose bitterness and start seeing opportunities for attracting similar hardship to themselves through their thoughts and behavior, or expect it at every turn.

There is also that elusive topic we all struggle with:

Choice.

Some believe they are so weak, so incapable of coping or achieving wonders because of, or at least in spite of their pain. But what eludes them is that human beings are powerful beyond measure, and anyone can change if they care to.  Allah Himself is The Most Powerful, and He has given human beings a power that no other creation but the Jinn have been given, and that is choice. Choice is more influential than a king on his throne. It is not more capable than Muhammad Ali’s wins in the ring, but it was the choice to  push through years of training, and even more so, the choice he made in his Greatest Fight.

Above all, there was the sacrifice of Ibrahim alayhis salam, a show of ultimate devotion that we can only dream to have, but must strive for. It was Muhammad pbuh‘s choice to leave his family and beloved city behind with the greatest House of God, the ka’bah, despite how much it broke his heart. What greatness came of such patience, commitment and trust in Allah! He is the One who knows better what will work out for the best, what needs to happen to prepare us for the worst so that we can be strong enough to earn Jannah, if we would only believe Allah when He told us:

baqarah 286.JPG

2:286. Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned.

“Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.”

It is common to find that in the Quran, we are given du’aa (prayers, supplications) as answers to the immediate questions we have, which serves as reassurance that there is help, that the help will originate from the most Powerful and Mighty, Allah SWT. It just goes to show that just as Al-Khaliq, the Creator of everything from the stars to the grains of dirt beneath our feet, from the love in our eyes and the tears that flow from them, to the nature of our psychology,  He unequivocally understands what it will take to give us comfort:

  1. The perfect Source, One who is not limited, Who is compassionate and Who is Aware of all that exists.
  2. The perfect words to express our need, and these are words from Allah Himself.

“Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.”

 

Dream in the Face of Fear

“Allah tests those whom He loves.”

It takes faith and a good amount of inner work to understand what this really means. We all have those moments, when tough times seem impossible to escape, work through or recover from. I wonder if that’s just because we lost our sense of what patience truly is, from the natural inclination we had as children. Learning to walk, practicing swinging on monkey bars, falling off a bike, over and over again until we learned and even still we will fall again, sometimes just as hard or harder.  A man who learned to bike marathons could get swept away in a gust of wind, hitting the pavement or worse, and through no error of his own. And it may have been his error, perhaps when some evil he engaged in came back his way.

More likely however, he needs that time in the hospital, as a test from Allah to prove himself as a faithful servant who would never abandon hope for Allah’s Mercy. The way Allah designed reality is that no reward can be had without opportunity to earn it. You can’t expect reward for claiming to choose patience. Truthfully, you only know you are patient when you need to be — and you are, and you only get to seek reward for a calamity if you are given the calamity — and you live in patience and perseverance. The Prophet pbuh went through some of the greatest trials, in fear for his life, in starvation, and in loss. But his gain was in trusting Allah, in being aware of the good that came from these experiences, as subtle as they were.

And actually, it’s the subtle things that make the biggest difference. The sensations and gifts we don’t notice right away are seeds for stronger foundations. That which comes and fades has little equilibrium and cannot be trusted to last as a support. When we learn a lesson about patience through a post like this, it is a good reminder, but it is nowhere near the level of going through test after test and staying well and patient to the best of one’s ability.

There’s really nothing like it.

Patience that is Dreaming in the Face of Fear

There is another, more nuanced idea about patience that is vital to grasp, and while we may not recognize it, we all grapple with it every day.

The man who fell off his bike was overworking himself at the office. With life-threatening injuries after getting hit by a car, he was awakened and began to ponder his current mission in life. Coping wasn’t about being patient in the conventionally understood way, he realized. It was purely about the perspective that his patience gave him, patience that Allah gave him to inherently possess, if he would only take heed and listen.

Allah wanted him to believe, but to believe is the bottom line, and deep down none of us enjoy settling for that.

Patience manifests itself even in how we pursue joy in our vocation of choice. It takes effort and courage to acknowledge that the choices we made to set up our lives when seeking Allah’s provision (think of the famous “tie your camel, and trust in Allah, both” hadith), aren’t satisfying. To look at your wife and say that you need to move away near a place where you can restart, when there is no need except an overwhelming drive to find and pursue what Allah created you to do, is unfathomable for most. Some people are blessed with spouses, parents and other family that support them in whatever they do, and this is a generous bounty from Allah ‘azza wa jal.

No one knows what is coming next. Tomorrow, you could return to God. You might be diagnosed with a debilitating disease, or with a brain tumor, wa-Allahu Musta’aan. It could be the loss of a loved one who was providing financial support in a time of need.

How can you, O forgetful human being, come to think that all you had to do was hope things would get better, go the extra mile briefly just to get by and think you would be happy? The worst I fear most for myself and my readers, is that we come to believe that Allah is not on our side.

Allah wants for you what you think you don’t want for yourself.

What does this have to do with patience? Allah may give what we think is bad for us due to the pain we experience. And yet, there are dreams we don’t pursue because we assume we wouldn’t find the heartache of failure before success to be worth it. Only because that is what we have done all our lives. As the saying goes, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try.

I know you’re scared. I know you have a lot on your plate. But give yourself that importance. Do you truly believe that you matter and that your existence was not purposeless? Join the few who have meant what they said when they looked in the mirror and silently said it. Join those who found Paradise here in the dunya, who found inner bliss and calm. And not only that, but adventure and the gift of having something to contribute.

To say that it is not possible to even consider dreaming big because of your circumstances, and that you are okay with that is simply lethargic and not true. And most definitely, it is not patience; rather, it is the height of dishonesty with oneself and shows that fear is taking over. We all have things we aspire to, goals we want to reach. But we put ourselves down, and the greatest critic that drags our Fitrah with it pulling at the ground, trying to hold on with its face in the dust, is ourselves, and we put it there.

It is a tragedy to lose one’s value for their own fulfillment. What good can come of stagnancy, when all our souls want to do is soar past what we have allowed to bound us, chained to our inhibitions–what greater cause for grief? Patience is chasing your dreams, but being okay with knowing it doesn’t happen overnight.

Patience is believing that if tomorrow comes, it brings light to guide a second, hundredth, or even thousandth chance at success. It is also believing that there is no way you will live to complete their mission, so you must never give up, and never tire of dreaming big, but planning small.

Whatever comes our way, there is in it what can be used to facilitate our way to Jannah.

It is our choice. A tortured existence without ever knowing why we feel so rotten, only because we gave up too easily — and only because failed to dream that we could succeed, or experience inner paradise.

Stuck

I stay in the path of my fears

I ventured forth

A barrier to my every chance’s door

I came to a pond in the field

Dreamed that inside I would go

Wet my feet and purify

Feeling the water; delight

And yet I

 

Stayed back

Worried my mother would find the mud stains

But I always sat frozen in that hail and rain

 

Knowing where I wanted to be

Caring for all but me

Abandoning my right to be free

To feel the grass under my feet

The birds are friends I used to meet

Oh! A child I used to be

Now look what maturity has done to me

 

I am aimless, wandering, how uncanny

They told me I’d be a doctor and that would make me happy

Nature continues to beckon me

But I chain myself to this chair.