Sunday, December 26, 2010

To Make An International Impact, Look No Further Than Your Own Backyard

“This great increase of the quantity of work which, in consequence of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances; first to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776)

It has been many years since I’ve read Adam Smith, but amidst prying open my 43rd plastic zip-lock bag, inserting my 43rd packet of Ceralite, and handing it over to the girl next to me so she could contribute her 43rd bottle of hand sanitizer (before handing the bag off to the girls in charge of soap, etc), I looked up for a brief second and saw before me a sight that would have made Mr. Smith proud: over 50 Muslims and Muslimahs lined up along four long tables working in an assembly line fashion, quickly grabbing a bag from their predecessor, inserting their respective piece, and handing it over to the next worker, and so on. The final product was a complete hygiene kit that would soon travel across the Bahamas and wind up in the hands of our long awaiting consumer: a brother or sister in Haiti who was at risk of contracting the deadly disease known as cholera.  
Although not capitalistic in nature, our goals were very much like those of any other company: to produce the greatest amount of product while pressed for time. We had 4,000 kits to make and the speed with which cholera was (and still is) spreading made our mission all the more urgent. 

But unlike the workers of a company, working for several hours in a day to produce a product that is far removed from them, for a cause that is completely irrelevant, for the satisfaction of their $13 per hour pay check plus benefits, I was part of a system that would have shocked any laissez fare economist. The Muslims around me who were toiling away were consumed by an entirely different and more important purpose—one that was larger than any of us. It is the duty of a Muslim to treat his neighbors with kindness: “And serve Allah and do not associate any thing with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful;” (Surat An-Nisā, Verse 36)

I am sad to say that many of my neighbors in Haiti have so far died. Two hundred-thirty thousand died from the earthquake almost a year ago, and almost 3,000 have died from the more recent cholera epidemic. Over a million of my brothers and sisters in Haiti are currently homeless, making them extremely susceptible to the deadly disease brought about by the lack of such a basic requirement as hygiene. 

That Sunday, amongst the laughter, the secret competitions that arose among workers (“How many bags has your table made? Ha! Look at our box!”), aside from the pizza we enjoyed, the prayer we held in jamaat, the time we spent with our friends; a silent cognizance was continuously present in everyone’s mind. We were doing this for our neighbors across the Bahamas who may never get a chance to enjoy the luxuries of friends, family, and peace of mind that we all enjoyed that evening. For each grin that blossomed into laugher in that room, tears of pain and loss followed throughout the world. Brother Shafi, founder of Muslims Without Borders, talked about his experiences in Haiti and made us realize our own blessings. He made us realize just how desperate a people’s situation can become. We soon realized that, much in our Prophet’s (p.b.u.h.) example, we were obligated to extend our blessings to those whose situation vastly contrasted our own…which reminds me of another quote:

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” (Smith, Wealth of Nations).

Yes, I think Mr. Smith would have indeed been proud.  

Adeeba Khan
University of South Florida
Muslim Youth for Truth Contributer

Editor's Note:  The event Ms. Khan is referring to occurred on Sunday, December 19th,  2010. Muslims Without Borders Tampa Bay Chapter teamed up with Muslim Aid Australia, the Muslim Student Association at University of South Florida, Sisters United Muslim Association, Project Downtown, MAS Youth, and other student volunteers in Tampa, FL for a local "Day of Action". Volunteers met at the Islamic Community of Tampa (Peace House) at 4:00pm to assemble thousands of hygiene kits that will be distributed at schools and survivor camps in Haiti over the winter holidays, in an effort to help stop the spread of cholera. They hope that wide-scale distribution and education initiatives will produce a shift in hygiene standards and general awareness among the local Haitian population.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I wrote this a while ago, but I heard something about someone very dear to me that broke my heart. I figured it was time I threw some of these thoughts out there for you to digest if it relates to you, because recently, I've had several people bring up their insecurities with wearing hijab ...

Let’s just say, this isn’t preaching because that’s not me, nor am I anywhere near any level to preach even if I wanted to lol. If you know me well enough , then you know I’m a pretty outspoken person, with an “I call them as I see them” mentality- the last person to judge, the first to care and give advice.

So, as of lately, a lot of girls around me who wear hijab have been saying that it makes them feel not as pretty, less confident, and like they don’t fit in. Or they wish they didn’t wear it, and perhaps waited more before putting it on, or some are even considering taking it off....

Some have taken it off, and I’ve heard many reasons ranging from “I was never ready”, to “I did it for someone else not Allah”, to “my hijab is making me go bald so the doctor told me not to wear it”. I’ve heard it all, however, all the reasons you give people don’t matter ,because hijab was never something between you and other people.

But it is something between you and Allah...

As I said, I don’t judge, I don’t really care if you wear hijab, if you don’t, if you took it off, whatever. It doesn’t affect my life ,and I'll never be in your shoes to experience what you go through from your perspective . I’ll never know why you do what you do, hence why I don’t judge, and don’t care.

Then what’s my point ?

I just want to get down to some issues that some girls wearing hijab encounter... People sometimes don’t want to talk about them because they feel guilty for questioning a decision they already made, but I mean if you don’t talk about it ,how are you ever going to find ways to amend your insecurities? Now mind you, mashaAllah, you may be reading this and feel like "well I never think about those things, I don’t feel like that, I’m perfectly content, and I never have a doubt" . Then more power to you my friend, Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala has blessed you in this particular aspect more than some of the rest of us.

Here you are, a young college girl in America wearing hijab. Most of my friends are in Florida, and we're constantly surrounded by girls in really short shorts, and low-cut tops. The thoughts that cross your mind are...

1. "Wearing hijab makes me feel less pretty; I'm so much prettier with my hair out, and so much better looking than the rest of those chicks people are flipping out over"

Well ya duhhhhh, that’s what hijab is for, to conceal your beauty. To leave you humble and modest, so people will not judge you based on your physical appearance. We sometimes over look this nifty little fact, only remembering the "hijab is mandatory" part ,and don’t think about why. Let us be honest now, this is all vanity and human nature to compete and want to be the best [looking, in this case] .

2. "Wearing hijab makes me less confident"

This relates to point number one, when you’re saying this, you really feel that because hijab doesn’t show off your physical beauty as much(making you feel ugly) , you’re not as not confident . Refer back to #1, in order to amend the "I feel ugly" thought ,and then let me spin your perspective on this whole confidence thing anyways.... Who is more confident? The brunette in shorts who walks into class late, but no one even gives her a second glance cause she blends in, or the hijabi who walks in a few minutes after her? You see the heads turn towards her because she’s different. Let’s face it, she sticks out, and not necessarily in a bad way. A girl who wears hijab definitely isn’t dressed just like any other girl when its 100 degrees outside. People look, and they usually even remember you. Do you know how many times I’ve met people in classes and they’ve said to me "oh ya I’ve seen you around, I saw you walk in late the other day"... You ,my dear little hijabis, should feel confident because you’re not just a dime a dozen, and it always takes more confidence to stand out than to blend in—that’s just a fact of life. Use it to your advantage, not to make you feel isolated or belittled. At one point you chose to wear hijab because you knew it was right, so do not let the struggles or your vanity make you question your morals or decisions.

Furthermore, on the topic of confidence, if wearing hijab makes you feel less confident—then you’re never going to be truly confident, even without hijab. If it’s not one thing it’s another. If it’s not hijab covering your hair and body, then tomorrow it’s going to be your nose, face, stomach, height, and it’s always going to be something. This feeling of “ having no confidence because you wear hijab”, stems from a need to gain approval from others . It also stems from comparing yourself to others, which will still happen ,with or without hijab. There’s always going be someone prettier, taller, cuter, nicer, whatever-er, and that’s life . There’s also always someone uglier, meaner, fatter, etc lol .

3. "Hijab makes me feel like I don’t fit in"

I’ve heard girls say this before ,and sweetie, this is all how you choose to look at it .It is not hijab that makes you feel that way, it’s either your lack of confidence ,or because you’re trying to fit in somewhere you shouldn’t be. For example, do not complain that hijab makes you feel like you don’t fit in if you’re at the club ,grinding up on some random dude with a drink in your hand lol .... But seriously, there are some hijabis that are very abrasive, especially to non-Muslims ,and even towards Muslims.

And I don't understand why.

Yes as a hijabi ,you should behave with a certain manner, but you don’t have to sit there with a scowl on your face ,making people not want to approach you just ask a simple question. I have even had non-Muslim girls ask me why other hijabis they have encountered are so un-approachable, I’m just like “well that's just her personality, the rest of us have normal personalities” lol. Once you talk to people and they talk to you, you will start to see that hijab does serve its purpose, and you can get your point across without worrying that your looks are pushing you forward, or holding you back. Most people, especially people in college, are accepting, and if they aren’t, then they shouldn’t be people you care about fitting in with anyways...

4. "Mid- Hijab Crisis"

My last point, which maybe should have been my first, is what I've seen some girls go through and what I like to call a"mid-hijab crisis". Everyone knows what a mid-life crisis is, so you should be able to deduce what I'm implying. Many girls started covering when they were obligated to (i.e. when they reached puberty, or even slightly before). That means these girls started covering at the age of about oh say 12-ish.I don’t know about you guys, but at age 12 ,I had no concept of beauty ,vanity, wanting to look pretty, or any thoughts like that. Maybe I was slightly tom-boyish, and, quite possibly, this younger generation may start to think about these things earlier. Either way, I'm pretty sure that most girls my age who started covering when they were about 12, were like me, not concerned with how they dressed or looked or if they wore make up or did their hair and all that jazz. So, putting on hijab wasn’t even a big deal, other than that it making us a little hotter in the summers.... But, then you grow up, and your self-esteem hits the floor, making you realize that you want to look pretty, you want to do your hair, and you want to wear that short sleeved shirt! If nothing else you just want the EASINESS of not having to put on an undershirt or a jacket over everything because you get lazy or it’s too hard to match lol. Who hasn't walked into a store and been like “ I wish I could wear that?!” . You turn the corner just to see that other girl with her hair down looking so pretty ,and you know you could look just as good as her, maybe even better. If only you had your hair down too! This ,my friends, is your mid-hijab crisis. You've been wearing hijab for several years, and suddenly, you find yourself questioning it for silly vanity reasons. Once again, those reasons you suddenly give yourself, and that desire to impress others and outdo others are all just your need to win acceptance from other than Allah. Are you really willing to defy Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala’s commands for other people? At the end of the day, at the very end of the day, who do you really want acceptance from? Sarah, Jim, Bob, and Sally?

Or Allah?

Never regret a decision you've made that is pleasing to Allah, even if you struggle to fulfill it. Remember that Allah compensates us for every struggle we encounter.

“Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him. And in it there is an emptiness that can not be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.” — Ibn al-Qayyim

Reem Akel
Barry University
Muslim Youth For Truth Contributor

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Flirt, Or Not To Flirt: That Is The Question

Flirting with the opposite gender is becoming a common practice in our community, even amongst the most “religious” brothers and sisters. We have all witnessed some degree of flirting, whether it is a scene in a movie, at the library, or even while buying something at a store. Defined straight from the dictionary, the word “flirt” means: to behave or act amorously without emotional commitment; toy or play with another's affections. In addition to describing what flirting is, we will also explore how to avoid it, as well as how to stop if we are already engaging in it. Please note that any advice I give is a reminder to myself before anyone else.

There are Muslims who choose to stay away from the “flirting frenzy” , while avoiding interacting with the opposite gender ( unless it is strictly for business reasons. And, if this person chooses to talk with the opposite gender , he/she does so with a business-like attitude, keeping in mind the example of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when talking to non-mahrams) . It is so easy for these Muslims to look at all of our “flirting” brothers and sisters as sinful , but has anyone tried to advise them in a kind way? Or do they just over look the issue , and say “ At least they are not touching each other”, or “ it could be worse, they are not committing a really big sin anyways”. While these statements may have a tiny bit of truth to them, we cannot ignore the problems this type of logic leads to. This is a trick of shaytan , which leads a Muslim to commit larger and larger sins. We need to stop the lower levels of Zina before they escalate.

In surat Al Israa, ayat 32, Allah Subanahu wa Ta’Ala says : "And come not near to unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is a great sin and an evil way." .Zina is unlawful sexual intercourse, and anything that leads to unlawful sexual intercourse is a lesser type of zina. We all have heard the story of Barsees, a man among The Children of Israel, who was a close servant to Allah Ta’Ala , who worshiped Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’Ala for over 60 years. During those 60 years, Shaytan was unable to misguide Barsees. Four brothers came to Barsees, asking him to watch over their sister while they fought in the war. Barsees finally agreed to let the girl stay in a tent in the back of his house. Step by step, shaytan started to tempt Barsees to come in contact with the girl. And, in order to cut a really long story short, Barsees eventually commits zina with the sister of the four brothers . Not only does shaytan convince Barsees to commit zina, but he also convinces Barsees to commit murder, and shirk. Barsees spent his whole life worshipping Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala ,and died committing shirk. SubhanAllah, what a great importance there is in ending small sins and immediately repenting to Allah Ta’Ala.

We have already defined flirting, but what exactly is it? I will provide some examples of business-like communication, and examples of communication infused with flirting. For example, You are a sister who wants to know the date of a certain event in the Muslim community, and decide to ask a brother. Here is an example of communication infused with flirting.

Sister: “ Salams, What day is the event? I am looking forward to you organizing a great event, cause you always do ;) MASHA’ALLAH =]”

Brother: “ Wa Salams, the event is on the 31st. Stop making me blush, we all know the events are only successful because of devoted volunteers like yourself, MashaAllah” .

Sister: “ I am not trying to make you blush, because you know it’s true. You are the best community organizer ever, alhamdulilah. I would also like to volunteer for this event, can you let me know what you need me to do ? =)”

Brother: “ Of course sister, here is my number 813-000-0000, and meet me at the library before every one else gets there so we can get in some extra planning in for this event”

Sister: “ Sounds like a great idea! , count me in, inshaAllah”

Here is an example of a conversation with a business-like attitude:

Sister: “Salams, what day is the event? InshaAllah all goes well with your planning”

Brother: “Wa salams, the event is on the 31st , and InshaAllah all goes well”

Sister: “ I would like to volunteer for this event, so please let me know how I could help out”.

Brother: “ Jazaki Allahu Khair, it is much appreciated. You could help us by cleaning up at the event. Here is Sr.Sisters number813-000-0000, please contact her first if you have any questions. If she cannot answer them, I would be able to answer your questions inshaAllah, at 813-000-0000 “.

Sister: “ Jazak Allahu Khair for your help, inshaAllah I will be able to volunteer, and I am sure Sr.Sister will be able to answer all of my questions inshaAllah”.

Do we notice the difference between the first conversation and the second conversation? In the first conversation, the “friendliness” has no boundaries, and could lead to something that is haram. In the second conversation, the brother and sister have respect for each other, saying only what needs to be said, while being nice and formal.

The best way to avoid flirting with the opposite gender is to avoid talking to the opposite gender unless it is absolutely necessary. I cannot stress this enough. What is cute and simple can turn into something bad . Real Quick. This is our deen we are talking about—and it certainly is not something to risk. So how exactly do we do this? If we know that there are 2 brothers and 7 sisters volunteering for an event, and we want information about it, we can contact the gender that matches our own, thus avoiding talking to the opposite gender. We are not suggesting that we never speak to the opposite gender and all become hermits. Eww. Haha.

What I am suggesting, however, is that we try to avoid that which can lead to harm. It is the best way to prevent something from happening.

So, now that we have a general idea of what flirting really is, how do we avoid engaging in it? There is a simple formula that can be used to stop anything we want to change:

What are we getting out of what we are doing?

• As stated by Dr.Phil, “ People do what works”. If we engage in the same behavior over and over again, we better believe it is for a reason. We would not do something if it did not work for us.

• What does this mean? It means that even though we know we are doing something wrong, we still continue to do it because we are getting something out of it . Even though we know that flirting with the opposite gender could lead to something extremely haram, we still do so because it helps us to feel better about ourselves. Or maybe we do it to get attention, or to feel loved.

 Once we know why we are doing what we are doing, we can create a plan to slowly( I cannot stress the SLOWLY enough=])end this behavior. The companions of the Prophet SAW memorized 10 ayat of Quran at a time, then implemented what they memorized into their lives.

• I do not know what level everyone is at when it comes to this issue, however, I will use a generic example to explain what I mean.

• Let us say that a girl or guy tends to flirt with everyone he/she talks to. Maybe the first step to ending this issue would be to flirt with two less people at a time. If the girl or guy flirts with 20 people a day, then decrease it to 18 people a day.

• The following steps would be to keep decreasing it until it reaches to as low of a number as possible.

 While we are making these changes, we must find a way to get the same “ payoff” as Dr.Phil says, for the better behavior as we did for the old behavior. If we flirt with someone to feel “special”, then we must realize that there are other ways to feel that way that do not involve doing something haram. We can feel special by writing a poem, running a mile, reading a book, laughing with our family, and, most importantly, worshipping Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala .

 Even though this should be obvious, I will point it out anyhow

• Make Duaa, and ask Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala to help us all to stay away from those things which displease him. Read the Quran often, and reflect upon its meaning.

• Make your intention to change only for Allah Ta’Ala, because if you are changing for your friend who you want to impress, your future husband or future wife, then you will stop when you think they are not looking. The change will have meant nothing if you only do it when people are watching you.

• Keep your tongue in constant remembrance of Allah Ta’Ala. The world is full of Masha’Allahs and SubhanAllahs. Just go outside one night and gaze at the stars. Run through freshly cut grass. Drink ice cold water. Talk a walk with your family. And do not forget to say Alhamdulilah =)

   We live in a place and time where people tell us what is right, and what is wrong. Advertisements set the standard for what is normal. We think something is okay if “everyone is doing it”. We spend so much time doing meaningless tasks that we forget about the things that really matter. It is time for us to start paying attention to things that matter, even if they are as small as “flirting”. There will come a day when a mother will forget her child. When our tongues and limbs will speak on our behalf. Let us remember this day.

                                                    And prepare for it. Daily.

“Your souls are precious, and can only be equal to the price of Paradise. Therefore, sell them only at that price.”

— Ali ibn Abi Talib

Anonymous Contributor

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Everyone has a story: My Experiences in Pakistan

Badshahi Masjid

The first time I went to Pakistan is something I will never forget.

It was my first time going on a plane, and my mom had not visited Pakistan for nearly 14 years. When we arrived, we were greeted by 20 or more family members. They all knew exactly who I was ,while I was completely unaware of who most of them were. I had no idea I had so many relatives.

While we were heading back to the house ,I saw donkey carts, small Suzuki vehicles—and of course— many Pakistanis. I was not used to seeing so many Pakistanis because I grew up in Oregon where everyone was either White or Mexican. When we arrived home, I was amazed to see an enormous house with a gate surrounding it. It was even nicer from the inside; the ceilings were nearly 15 feet high, and there was a bathroom in every bedroom. All the walls and floors were made out of marble. I went upstairs and stood on the roof looking at everything below. In the distance I saw countless numbers of mosques . The athan was called for every prayer –and it was loud enough for the whole country to hear.

When I went downstairs I was greeted by even more people, and all I could think to myself was do I really have this many relatives? Yes, I have a huge family mashaAllah, and till this day I still do not know all of their names. Everyone had on Shalvar Camise – a kimono looking clothing which is the traditional attire in Pakistan .People do wear shirt and pants sometimes—but it is not worn often. I had a good first impression of Pakistan. The day I had to leave was a sad one. I stayed from April 4th to July 21st 2004. I really wanted to stay longer because I had so much fun.

Six years later, I returned to my beloved country on July 2nd 2010. The day before my plane arrived in Lahore, Pakistan, a bomb blew up near my grandmother’s house. When I was younger, my country was much safer and the economy was “better.” Life in Pakistan is not the same as I remembered it. It is not safe to leave your house at night. It is not safe to be alone anywhere. It is not safe to have your head uncovered.

People are desperate, and the living conditions here are saddening . While everyone needs help , some need it more than others. Alhumdulillah my family is not poor and we are not living on the streets, but we do not have much money either. My first night here, I tried to fall asleep in the blistering 120 degree heat and all of a sudden I heard a whistle near my house. I sprang up out of bed and my eight year old brother grabbed a hold of my arm and reassured me that it was nothing—only a guard warding off burglars. Every time we go out, our car is encircled by beggars. Beggars include old people who cannot make money any other way, mothers holding an infant, people who are disabled, and children. It breaks my heart to see that this as the only way of income for the less fortunate in Pakistan. I give them money here and there but I cannot help every poor soul.

Building with the Pakistani flag

You are probably wondering, why on earth would I ever come here to begin with?. And my answer is: for a little vacation from America. I was becoming too engulfed in not-so-important- every- day- problems. Coming here made me more appreciative of everything I have. All I see here are people praying. When I returned in the habit of praying 5 times a day, I wondered why I kept finding excuses not to pray. It is not as difficult as I was making it out to be. But in America it was “Oh it is prayer time… **continues to watch television**. I find myself bored at times, but it gives me time to think about things. All we really have in this world , is God. When nothing is around, you always have Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala to turn to. Religion is everything here, and people are constantly reminded to be fearful of God. Try living in a place that once you turn on the news it is about another city being bombed . All you can think is, “uh oh, again?”—Flips channel—. Being bombed is normal? What an awful thing to get used to. I then realized that the only reason why I am in this world is for Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala. THAT thought alone helps me go on with my day.

 Random Guy making wudhu in the canal , MashaAllah

America is home to me, and lately,  I have been extremely homesick; In America, I was never bored. Even when I was home alone with nothing to do—I had T.V, movies, friends, video games, my yard, and my dog. I had something, and here it seems like I am just waiting for the day to end just to begin the next one. Days seem long and endless . At the end of the day, at approximately 2am, I fall asleep only to wake up and do the same thing I did yesterday. Days seem long and endless, but, according to my relatives, there is a lot more to Pakistan that I have yet to see.

McDonald's in Pakistan

When I was talking to my cousins they said that there is everything here. You name it. It has bowling alleys, arcades, indoor ski resorts, parks, HUGE shopping malls, beaches, and the list goes on and on. But apparently they are hidden, and you only know where they are located if you are a true Pakistani. I am (unfortunately), an A.B.C.D., an American Born Confused Desi, and I do not yet know where everything is . I have 3-5 months left in my stay , and I have plenty of time to experience the fun activities, inshaAllah.

Please remember to keep me and Pakistan in your Duaa. People here are suffering every day. And it is up to us to do something about it. May Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala ease the pains of every person enduring hardship around the world . Ameen.

Anonymous Contributor
*Please note that all pictures were taken by the contributor herself .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Burn A Qur'an Day: How We As A Community Should React

I'm sure you've all heard of the Pastor Terry Jones threatening to wreak havoc on the entire world by burning around 200 copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. Yes, he came out and said he would never do something like that again alhamdulilah , but Allahua’lam where this ends up.

When you hear of someone wanting to do something that inflammatory....something so blasphemous and despicable, it's natural to feel angry. Reallyyy angry. This is the QURAN we're taking about. The book of Allah (SWT). I mean, how could someone leading a congregation of a place named "Dove 'peace' Church" do something that hurtful...and just plain wrong?

But the trick is, how to do we deal with this anger? On my recent drive back to Tampa, I had a lot of time to think about my last few weeks in Gainesville and how the Muslim community there has been reacting to all this controversy. The world's eyes would be looking and critically evaluating our every move. As someone who’s worked in the media from the inside and knows what damage they can do if we even made one mistake, I can tell you, it's a creepy thought.

SubhanAllah, guys. This tiny Muslim community has so much to teach our broken Muslim ummah. And if we cared to learn, one could only imagine how far a few simple lessons could take us.

It could all really be summed up into one short sentence:

Practice what you preach.

Let me elaborate more about what I mean exactly.... Here we go:

One of the first things that crosses our minds when we hear of something going on that we don't agree with that we want to speak out against is, "Where are the picket signs? We need to plan a protest for this thing!"

But have you ever just stepped back for a second and wondered how effective you were really being? Sure, you might have let go of some steam you were bottling up inside. There'll probably be a 30 second spot about it on the evening news. Then what? Business as usual and people go about their lives like nothing ever happened. End of story.

Want to know something that surprised me while I was there? Not a single protest about this issue. By the Muslims at least...I know the International Club for the Resurgence of the Socialist Party was planning a few lol.

What did they do instead? Exactly what Islam teaches us to do. A particular ayah from the Qur'an comes to mind:

"And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best , when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend....And none are made to receive it but those who are patient, and none are made to receive it but those who have a mighty fortune" (Surat Fussilat: 34,35)

It's easy to become provoked in tense times like these. But is letting your emotions get the best of you going to help the situation? You can yell at the top of your lungs saying that those maniacs committing brutal acts in Allah's (swt) name aren't practicing Islam the way it was meant to be practiced, but when all is said and done, your words will fall on deaf ears. Because they're just that: words.

"....Repel (the evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend"

I saw that particular part of the ayah in action. The community made a pact when this all started to become part of the national spotlight that they would NOT plan demonstrations. Instead, they would use all their time and energy to start something called the Gainesville Muslim Initiative, a series of planned events targeted at letting the community get to know their Muslim neighbors and teach them what Islam is really about. It also involves encouraging Muslims to get more involved in their community as a whole.

You could almost see the transformation happening in front of you. People would randomly stop to tell you that they’re 'in solidarity' with the Muslim community and asking if there was any way they could help. Professors would stop class just to condemn the Pastor's actions. Questions about Islam were flooding the IOC (the UF version of MSA). A movement was begun.

The ball is on our court everyone. We're on fourth down in the in-zone. Top of the ninth inning.Stoppage time on the field. I don't know what the sport reference you prefer is , but I hope you get the idea. We cannot afford to waste any more time. What can YOU do?

If you see trash on the street when walking to class, pick it up...cleanliness is half our faith after all. Smile while dealing with's charity. Ask about your neighbors, they have a right on us. When a friend doesn't show up to class, ask if they're okay. Start up a conversation with the person behind you while standing in line at Publix. If you see a janitor cleaning up a public restroom, let them know that you appreciate their services. Open the door for the person behind you. If an older person enters the room, offer them your seat. Be kind and understanding to the disabled. Say 'thank you' when someone does something nice for you. Do you catch my drift...?

None of these is essentially life altering. They all have to do with how we deal with the people we interact with every day. The best dawah we can do is the kind we do makes us better people and doesn't make others feel like we’re preaching to them. SubhanAllah, Islam first spread across the Middle East and Asia when people started to notice the conduct of Muslim traders who visited their region. Their honesty and politeness were uncommon, and the more they learned, the more interested they became.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: A bedouin urinated in the mosque and some people rushed to beat him up. The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Leave him alone and pour a bucket of water over it. You have been sent to make things easy and not to make them difficult.'' [Al-Bukhari].

The best way to get people to understand Islam is to lead by EXAMPLE. Only once we as Muslims start fully embracing Islam into our lives do we have any chance of showing others that their assumptions are wrong. Actions speak much louder than words, my friends. People are more likely to listen if you SHOW rather than TELL. Okay, I'm gonna stop with the clichés...

Don't get me wrong...I know it isn't easy being a young Muslim in this country. Pressure to give into the social norms is suffocating. Temptations are everywhere. Falling into the hole of disobedience to Allah (swt) is becoming easier by the day...

But remember, the more difficult times become, the more good deeds we get for adhering to Allah's commands. We need to be in a constant state of self re-evaluation to correct ourselves whenever we go astray, and to make sure that when we are on the right path inshaAllah, we're on it for all the right reasons.

Something from the book Agenda to Change Our Condition is ingrained in my mind: "Struggle with the self is the means by which we purify our hearts of false deities. It is the ancient way of the Prophets. It is to walk towards a realized state of submission to the will of Allah."

The battle with ourselves and our desires will never be over. But may Allah (swt) make it easy on us and make us fit to deliver His message. Ameen.

Don't forget...make dua'a for you, make dua'a for me, make dua'a for our parents, make dua'a for our teachers, make dua'a for our scholars, make dua'a for peace, make dua'a for the victims of world hunger, make dua'a for the ummah and just keep making dua'a for everything and anyone that may need it! We could all use the power of Allah’s (swt) Mercy in our lives.

Anything I said was meant to be first and foremost a reminder to myself before anyone else. Feel free to share your own thoughts as well :) Jazakum Allahu khair for reading.

Take care,

Sarah Kassem
University of Florida
Muslim Youth for Truth Co-Founder

PS: A dua'a the Prophet used to say every morning...let's make it a goal for us to say it too inshaAllah:

Allahumainny Aa3uthu bika min al-ham walhazen, wal 3ajl walkasal, waljubn wal bukhol, wa a3uthubika min ghalabet al- daynwakahr al-reejal.

O Allah, I seek refuge from you from grief and anxiety, impotence and indolence, cowardice and greed, and from being overcome by debt and overpowered by men.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Penny For Your Thoughts: My Reflections—And Hopefully Yours—On The Words of Allah

SubhanAllah, Ramadan has come and gone once again, for the 20th time in my life. It’s actually kind of hard to comprehend. Twenty years of blessed life—at least eight of which I was conscious of my thoughts and actions, at least to some extent (as if I wield more wisdom now or something)—and I really can’t claim to be confident in being questioned about their contents. I’ve been given—unlike so many others—the chance to win Allah’s Mercy over and over again, but have I capitalized on that opportunity? Did I strive to ensure that my sins were forgiven every time I witnessed this blessed month? Or did I win myself a place among those whom our Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said are cursed—the ones upon whom Ramadan enters and exits, but who do not receive its blessing?
I find myself scared to face these questions as I type them—but I find solace in Allah’s promise of Mercy. As Imam Ash-Shafi’ee once said, “When my heart was hardened, and my courses constrained; I made my hope a stairway to Your forgiveness. My sins burdened me heavily, but when I measured it by Your forgiveness, Lord, Your forgiveness was the greater.” But since I can guarantee that Imam Ash-Shafi’ee’s shortcomings pale in comparison to mine, I think I might need a little more reassurance. 
Here, I’d like to make mention of one of Allah’s ultimate favors upon us: In these last ten days of Ramadan, Allah promises to save his devout servants from the torments of the Hellfire. Allah—Glorified is He—gives us a golden opportunity, a chance to avoid the worst of fates. You’re thinking, “Yeah…I heard that in the khutba last year…and the year before that…and the year before that…so is Eid on Thursday or Friday?” But let’s pump the proverbial brakes for a second—what exactly are we talking about here? Should we be grateful for this chance? Is it even a big deal? I mean, should we really be worried about whether or not we’ve secured Allah’s pardon in these nights?
The other day I was reading a short Hadith in Riyadh-us-Saliheen, in the Book of Tawbah (i.e Repentance), which read: "Ibn Abbas and Anas ibn Malik (radiy Allahu 'anhumaa) reported: the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, 'If a son of Adam were to own a valley full of gold, he would desire to have two. Nothing can fill his mouth except the earth (of the grave). Allah turns with mercy to him who turns to Him in repentance.'"

The value and meaning(s) of this Hadith aside (for now), it was a note in the Arabic commentary that really caught my attention. In explaining the Arabic phrase for "Nothing can fill his mouth except dirt", the author said "i.e. the Son of Adam is never satisfied until he dies and finds himself under the dirt/earth, and this same person is just like Jahannam (bear with the comparison for a second <-- my comment), in that as much as is thrown into it, it says, 'Are there any more to come?!' "

This is referring to an Ayah in Surat Qaf, and here begins my "reflection". The Ayah reads: "One Day We will ask Hell, 'Art thou filled to the full?' It will say, 'Are there any more (to come)?!' SubhanAllah, whenever I hear this Ayah, and the ones before it, I cannot help but become overwhelmed with humble fear—and if it's in Salah, the closest thing to true khushoo' that I have yet to experience.
“[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” [Quran: 38: 29]

The passage from Surat Qaf (Ayahs 16-30) reads:
16. And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein

17. When the two receivers receive, seated on the right and on the left.
18. Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record].
19. And the intoxication of death will bring the truth; that is what you were trying to avoid.

20. And the Horn will be blown. That is the Day of [carrying out] the threat.
21. And every soul will come, with it a driver and a witness.
22. [It will be said], "You were certainly in unmindfulness of this, and We have removed from you your cover, so your sight, this Day, is sharp."
23. And his companion, [the angel], will say, "This [record] is what is with me, prepared."
24. (The sentence will be) "Throw into Hell every contumacious Rejector (of God)

25. Preventer of good, aggressor, and doubter
26. Who made [as equal] with Allah another deity; then throw him into the severe punishment."
27. His [devil] companion will say, "Our Lord, I did not make him transgress, but he [himself] was in extreme error."
28. [ Allah ] will say, "Do not dispute before Me, while I had already presented to you the warning.
29. The word will not be changed with Me, and never will I be unjust to the servants."
30. On the Day We will say to Hell, "Have you been filled?" and it will say, "Are there more (to come)?!"

These Ayahs bear many messages, but I'd like to quickly highlight a few points, and then I'm done; please note that all "advices" are directed at me first:

  • Allah knows us and our natures with omniscience; we should always remember this when our trust in Him begins to waver—the times when we prefer our desires and intellectual exercises to His Orders.
  • We are all to meet death. This is known, and this is unavoidable. However, all of us—perhaps myself especially—often live as though this is a distant reality. Ayah 19 affirms this illusion of ours. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) advised us to remember the "destroyer of pleasures" (i.e. death) often—because when we do, we give ourselves a pointed reminder; we awaken, if only momentarily, from our state of heedlessness ("ghaflah"), and realize that everything we're currently pursuing is temporary and worthless when compared to the eternity that we should be working for. Life loses that addictive flavor that we get caught up in—a blandness we need every now and then.
  • We will experience Yaqeen (certainty of knowledge in its utmost form) of the Akhira no matter what, because on the Day of Judgment no one will be able to deny its Truth; might as well work towards establishing that Yaqeen NOW, so that it doesn't haunt us when Ayah 22 becomes manifest.
  • No one will bear our sins for us. We must own up to our mistakes, and do all that we can to avoid them. Part of this is avoiding those who encourage us to do wrong, however slight it may be. You don't want Ayah 27 happening to you. Allah also says in Surat-ul-Baqarah that, on the Day when evil "leaders" claim nothing to do with their followers, those followers will wish that they had but just ONE CHANCE to go back to the dunya and change things.
  • Allah is Ultimately Just; He will never wrong any of His servants, and so we must understand that the fruits of our actions—ripe or rotten—are ours to bear. 
  • Hellfire doesn't have a maximum capacity. Don't get caught up in relative determinism. Don't assume that, simply because we are living in a society that is being rapidly consumed by fasaad and jahiliyyah, we are "good enough" or that we will be ok as we are. The standard for Allah's Pleasure is still the same as it was during times of antiquity. Make sure you don't fall for Shaitan's whisperings that you are among the "saved".
  • However, Paradise is just as vast. Never give up on the Mercy of Allah. He (subhanahu wa ta’ala) addresses His servants in the Quran, explicitly urging those of us who wrong our own souls to never lose hope in the Mercy of Allah. Strive to be among the steadfast, and Allah will provide for you a path.

So is salvation from the Hellfire something to be thankful for? I’d say so. In Surat Ibraheem Allah mentions that, no matter how hard we can try to enumerate His blessings upon us, there is no way we’d encompass them all. One more to add to the list I guess. But it’s definitely one we should shed tears of gratefulness for. Allah only knows how many nights we fall asleep soundly, content in our sinfulness, when we should actually be gripped with the fear of our inadequacies. Let the tranquility of Allah’s Mercy wash over you, but never take it for granted. Alhamdulillah, we have the Quran to remind us—and verily, it is the best of reminders.

That's all I have for now. Please keep me in your duaa. Anything beneficial in this post is from Allah, and anything incorrect is from me. 
Jazakum Allahu khairan, wassalamu alaikum.
Pee Ess I’d definitely like to hear your thoughts. Please share, so that we can all benefit.

Anonymous Contributor
Tampa, FL