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 clich├ęs...

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