Tag Archives: muhammad

No Matter What They Say

 

Was the murderer – who brutally killed 84 people, injuring hundreds more in Nice, France, a practicing Muslim? Or, was he, as reports indicate, a depressed, lonely man with mental health problems, a propensity for using drugs and alcohol, and a criminal history – the very antithesis of a practicing Muslim? The answers to these questions don’t seem to matter to everyone. Several politicians, TV personalities and pundits, set out to form public sentiment surrounding the attack within the very first hours after it occurred. Before any details were available, the branding of this attack as a radical “Islamic” terror attack had already begun.

I heard the terms “Islamic terrorism” and “radical Islamic terrorism” repeated over and over again. I heard people insist that these attacks won’t stop until we “call it what it really is” and dutifully attach the word “Islam” to every single terror instigating crime we witness. High profile people such as Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich– and a slew of far right-wing politicians and networks framed this attack as a sign of a clash of civilizations – clear as day – a war between Islam and the west. Gingrich went so far as to say, “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of Muslim background and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

I believe in Shariah, which is the same thing as believing in Islam.

Do they know that being kind to your family is part of the Shariah, along with prayer, charity, being honest, oh – and don’t forget – obeying the laws of the land in which we live? Do they care? For American Muslims, being good citizens is literally mandated by the Shariah. I don’t know where Mr Gingrich would like to send me. My great grandparents were born here in the USA. There are American Muslims whose ancestry dates way further back in America than mine – some can trace back centuries, some all the way to the Mayflower, and some American Muslims trace their heritage straight back to the Native Americans. If the Native Americans who are now Muslims could be deported back in time… that would be interesting, because there’d be no sign of Gingrich’s ancestors or Trump’s on American soil.

Imagine, all this vitriol, all this certainty, all this “educating” went on before any information whatsoever, aside from the rising death toll, had been uncovered. Clearly, this notion of testing and deporting Muslims isn’t tenable – but what all these hateful statements did, was perpetuate the notion that Muslims are foreign – period. This divisive view of our world – us vs. them; paints a black and white, and very frightening picture for vulnerable Americans. The more people see a polarized world, the more they feel obliged and compelled to take a side.

They are training us to instinctively see all horrific incidents as being tied to Islam. Whether they really are or not is beside the point. This helps to advance the positions and agendas of powerful politicians and corporations – but tears our society apart, and that does matter.

SMH and Complain?

I can get upset and shake my finger at this irresponsible use of fame and ability to reach millions of people’s brains. I can fight every troll on the Internet and argue about just how anti-Islam these crimes really are. Yes, the facts prove the islamophobes and everyone else trying to force a war down our throats, utterly wrong – but the truth alone cannot alter the toxic atmosphere being systematically created. So what’s a Muslim to do?

The Heat is On

One of the effects of being constantly suspect is that the one under suspicion begins to feel guilty – even if he or she is totally innocent. Dalia Mogahed explained how she felt after 9/11 saying,  “Not only had my country been attacked, but in a flash, somebody else’s actions had turned me from a citizen to a suspect… for the first time in my life, [I was] afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim.”

This is reinforced by a few, very loud voices claiming that we are all suspect. After the Nice attacks, Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist from the UK’s Sun newspaper wrote a controversial column questioning why a “young woman wearing a hijab” had been allowed to report on the attack in Nice. He was appalled that the reporter, Fatima Manji was visibly Muslim. He asked. “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

Avoiding the Herd Mentality

More than 1/3 of the dead, killed by the attacker in Nice, were Muslims. If it’s offensive for a Muslim to report the attack on television, is it also offensive for us to mourn our dead? We have to reject this idea and think critically: Is it wrong for white Christians to report news about attacks committed by white Christians? To suggest so is clearly, easily and immediately recognized as preposterous.

In the face of this monumental and growing problem, I refuse to allow others to determine how I feel about myself. We have to be the leaders of our own thoughts – to employ reasoning, and thoughtfully listen and consider the facts and points of view before settling on our position. The Quran differentiates between those who think rationally and those who are unthinking and sheep-like, following the rest without intelligent thought: “Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are more astray in [their] way.” (Quran 25:44)

Fighting Doubts

The Prophet Muhammad said, “The people will see a time of patience in which someone adhering to his religion will be as if he were grasping a hot coal.” (Tirmidhi)

Yeah, Islam is kind of like a hot coal right now. This is certainly one of those times. In light of this terrorism epidemic and the mounting negative public opinion towards Islam and Muslims, some of us may feel like giving up. It’s exhausting constantly being under scrutiny, guilt-tripped, cursed at, ridiculed, and hated. Maybe this would all be easier if we just took our headscarves off, shaved our beards and changed our names to Moe.

The thing is, the solution is in the same statement – the crux of the issue, is that we Muslims adhere to our faith. By doing so, we will become better people, who manifest the best of character and manners, we will increase in patience and follow this guidance: “Repel [evil] by that which is better; and thereupon the one who between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Quran 41:34)

Why should I?

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? … Yes! Certainly, the Help of God is near!” (Quran 2:214)

The truth is – according to Islam, all of this life is intended to be a test. If it weren’t this, it would be something else. So, as a Muslim, I remember the advice of Prophet Jacob to his sons, “Despair not of relief from God. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from God except the disbelieving people.” (Quran 12:87)

This is how we avoid despair and strive to become even better people. These difficulties can be good for us. They remind us to get back to the basics, to assess our lives, and reorient our priorities. We remember that we can’t achieve any success without the aid of the Owner of the heavens and the Earth. The answers lie in the Quran and in our prayers – in our Islam

So, I encourage my fellow Muslims to spend less time obsessing over the latest news and step away from the bickering and argumentation – To look into the eyes of our loved ones – To take a moment to step outdoors and observe the beauty of God’s signs in His creation – To help one another more, give back to our communities. And most of all, to spend more time with the Quran. Turn off the TV. Sign out of Facebook and Twitter. Open the Quran, read it and understand it.

“So be patient.  Indeed, the promise of God is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.

Indeed, those who dispute concerning God’s signs without authority having come to them – there is not within their hearts except pride, [the extent of] which they cannot reach. So seek refuge in God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran 40:55-56)

 

In this book, I find solace, I find hope, I find peace. No matter what they say.

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The Male Is Not Like the Female

Muslim women who are scientists, doctors, engineers, police officers, firefighters, American soldiers, lawyers and even Judges,  exemplify the diversity of Muslim women in the world.

These examples demonstrate the fact that Muslim women can – and do – follow their dreams and strive for achievements outside the home. Such pursuits undertaken by modern Muslim women are not foreign or new. In the time of the prophet Muhammad, Muslim women assumed many roles; they were entrepreneurs, scholars, poets and more.

But, part of the beauty of Islam is the way women are valued. Our worth does not stem from what we accomplish in terms of careers, or how we stack up against men –  rather our femininity itself is valued and we elevate ourselves via piety.

In our modern society, women who are”housewives” or “stay at home moms”  often feel a sense of inadequacy. No doubt when asked the question, “What do you do?” they often answer with dread, and are met with awkwardly incredulous, blank stares. The questioner often is not sure if they should express sympathy for the homemaker or provide encouragement that they can be so much more.

Muslim women however, have no reason to feel deficient. We’ve been created female and don’t need to try to be like men to prove anything! In Islam, a “housewife” is not considered inadequate, instead her inherent value is acknowledged and appreciated.

In Islam, it’s made clear that it is no accident that humans come in two forms. Although distinct, males and females are equal in the sight of God as He explained in several places throughout the Quran. For example:

“Never will I allow the work of [any] worker among you to be lost, whether male or female; you are of one another.” (Quran 3:195)
In nature, we see creatures in pairs, from plants to animals.  Reproduction of most species occurs via two mates. Human beings have also been made in pairs, like halves that complete a whole. This completion is possible, due to the differences between the male and female.

Men and women are complimentary, physiologically and functionally.

While one might argue that men have certain advantages over females, and much of the last century (take a look at the feminist movement) has been in large part about proving women can do whatever men can do – the fact remains that women are the ones who can do what men cannot.

I personally don’t understand how this has been overlooked. The female’s unique qualities have been all but utterly disdained by feminists who often forsake marriage and motherhood in favor of corporate advancement, for example.

In Islam, due to the special, divinely endowed nature of women, special status is afforded to females. Take a look at one example from the Quran:

“O mankind! Reverence your Lord, who created you from a single person – created, of like nature, its mate, and from them both, dispersed many men and women;- reverence God, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for God ever watches over you.” (Quran 4:1)
It is made clear here that men and women are of like nature, but women are singled out in this verse for reverence. This is because it is through women both males and females come into the world.

When Mary, the mother of Jesus was born, God said regarding her:

“The female is not like the male.”(Quran 3:36)

Because, Jesus the messiah , one of God’s chosen messengers was to be developed in her womb, born through her labor and pain, raised in her enveloping care, and fostered with her wisdom and piety – all without any male intervention or contribution.

God could have informed us about Jesus without mentioning his mother, but instead, an entire chapter is named after her (chapter 19). She was not merely a vessel for delivery of the Messiah. Her lofty character was a critical part of the birth and development of Jesus Christ.

We see the importance of motherhood in this and many other examples from the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. A mother is not deficient if she is primarily a mother, wife and daughter. In Islam she is continuously revered.

The prophet Muhammad said that mothers are most deserving of their grown children’s companionship. Even caring for her in her old age is an honor, rather than a burden.

Mothers lovingly struggle  to bring generations into the world. Mothers nourish and nurse future leaders, inventors, heros. Mothers comfort, reassure and support the best of humanity. Mothers are the backbone of the human race.

But women are not only valued as mothers.

Islam honors women as daughters and affords great status to parents who raise their daughters well.

Women are also highly regarded for being wives. Spouses are described in the Quran as garments for one another. (Quran 2:187) This description represents the closeness, protection, intimacy, shielding and adornment spouses provide one another. No one feels complete without his or her clothing. Husbands and wives fulfill each other’s vital needs and provide a sense of wholeness and satisfaction that is difficult to attain in any other way. Marriage is described in the Quran as follows:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)

 

In my life, it was Islam that enabled me to truly appreciate being a female, and it brought out my femininity in many ways.

I love knowing now that I am meant to be a woman. That my Maker does not discriminate between men and women. That I have equal opportunity to achieve success, and that I am not held to standards I am not made for.

I don’t feel pressured to prove my worth to anyone. I don’t feel inadequate or inferior. And I will strive to endow my daughters with this knowledge, appreciation and sense of worth, so they can grow up confident and comfortable in their own skin.

 

Walking With Diamonds

My family and I, we don’t have to be subjected to the reactive anti Muslim hatred boiling up.

I could easily take off my scarf and blend right in. My husband could easily shave his beard and go unnoticed.

But we don’t. And, by God’s Mercy, we never will.

We stand tall and walk with confidence. The way you would if you knew you had the earth’s largest diamond, or the next world changing invention, or a bank account with a few billion dollars.

Because, the Islam we’ve been given is better than every last bit of good the world has to offer all together.

It’s why we are here… And this struggle?

People before us went through worse.

When you see us I want you to wonder… Wonder and ask yourself what is so good about Islam that we stand up tall with confidence and a smile, even when the whole world seems to be against us.

What the Hate Rallies Against Islam Mean To Me

“Mom!” My kids were bursting at the seams, impatient to tell me the news when I picked them up yesterday. “School’s closed tomorrow because people might be coming with guns! The teachers said they only want to scare us, but it’s because they don’t like Islam or something!” Their faces incredulous, eyes bulging. I had to stop the flurry of curious questions and worries flying through the car, with the assurance that I would explain everything.

I felt a tinge of sadness at the idea that my children have to experience this – their fellow Americans coming to our beloved sanctuaries,  in order to display a livid, venomous kind of hatred for us. I knew at the same time, that opportunities for much good often lie in ominous looking situations.

The concept of people opposing, hating and actively working to destroy Islam, is not new, nor is it shocking. Throughout the Quran we are told of people who opposed Islam, from the people of Noah, to the People of Abraham and Lot, the people of Pharaoh in the time of Moses, and also Jesus was hated such that his people wanted to Murder him and torture him in the most humiliating method of the times. At the time of Muhammad, he and his followers were persecuted in nearly every way possible for many years.

What really doesn’t sit right with me now though, is that these people, this so called “Global Rally for Humanity” doesn’t even seem to know what they are protesting against. Their shirts say F*#@K Islam, yet when they speak, they don’t even seem to know what Islam is…

Their contradictions are too plentiful to list but to highlight the most apparent:

  1. The rallies are said to be a response to a march by Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam which is not related to mainstream Islam and defies too many of the texts of Islam to be taken seriously as an Islamic movement (why associate the rest of the American Muslims with Farrakhan, when most don’t even consider the nation of Islam to be within the parameters of Islam?)
  2. The fact that they claim patriotism and the exercising of “constitutional rights” while freedom of religion is part and parcel of our constitutional rights.
  3. The name of their group, claims they are rallying for “humanity” while more than 1.5 billion humans are Muslim and that number is only growing. How can rallying for humanity involve hating nearly a quarter of that humanity?
  4. They cite acts of violence as reasons to oppose Islam and Muslims, yet openly advocate that their supporters bring their weapons as a display of hostility and hopeful provocation. ‘We oppose violence by appearing violent..’ Someone didn’t think that one over too well.

These contradictions are apparent enough to anyone with a will to see objectively. Their ignorance so plentiful, that even my little children feel pity for them. So how are we to deal with these people and the potential harm they present?

My husband wrote an excellent piece directing all Muslims to refer to Islam, as we should in all matters, to learn how to react internally and externally to these rallies of hate. Please check out his advice to the Muslims for some insight on what the shariah says, here: http://www.shakielhumayun.com/rallies-of-hate-at-your-mosque/

So, knowing that we are facing no more than ignorance and bigotry, more than sorrow for myself, or my children, or the rest of the American Muslims, I feel pity for all the hateful people, who hate before knowing. And yet, I feel hopeful for them, because these rallies may bring the protesters closer than they ever have been to actual Muslims, and some of their hearts may be softened at being faced with the humanity and kindness of living, breathing Muslims.

One of Islam’s greatest historical leaders and highly regarded companions of the prophet Muhammad, Umar ibn al-Khattab was similarly intent to rid his land of the “Muslim problem”, yet upon actually interacting intimately with Muslims (his sister had become one) and hearing the Quran, he himself became one of the most devout followers of Muhammad. So, as Muslims we know that potential lies within every human being for change and goodness. As humans we cannot judge what is within anyone’s heart. We can only hope and pray to God to open their eyes and ears and hearts,  even if via events and actions that are apparently malicious.

There are indeed many problems and confusions in our world, but hate is  never the right answer. It’s no solution. These incidents show us the importance of education, both for ourselves and our neighbors.

As American Muslims I know we must do more to express the reality of what Islam is to those around us. This can be an awakening that  strengthens and solidifies our faith and commitment to our communities, and also an awakening for the millions of Americans who truly do not know what Islam is, to find out from the people who study, practice and teach it.

My Husband’s Standard for the Treatment of Women

The owner of the company was a man, maybe in his fifties; white hair, but still youthful. He came over to give us an estimate for some work we need done. He seemed nice enough. He smiled, greeted our children, and appeared to have our best interests in mind.

While we were walking him through the job, his cell phone began ringing.

“Probably my wife.” He said, slightly shaking his head as he silenced the phone.

Within several minutes the phone rang twice more. We assured him we didn’t mind if he answered the call.

“Hello? I’m still on a job estimate.” He paused and listened.

His lips tightened and his voice hardened. “I told you, they’re in the back.” he said, somewhat exasperated.

He wrapped up the call. To me, he had not done anything out of the ordinary. He completed the rest of the estimate kindly and left.

But, as I would learn later, my husband was disturbed by what he witnessed.

In fact, my husband chose another company, in spite of getting the lowest estimate from this man, simply because he didn’t like the way he had spoken to his wife.

My husband grew up in a Muslim family. When he reached college, his interest in Islam and religions intensified. He began studying Islam as well as Christianity and comparative religion. After completing his bachelor’s, he travelled overseas to study Islam and the Arabic language. While away, he benefitted from many scholars of Islam. Upon returning, he has been dedicated to teaching Islam to Muslims, founding several institutions to that end.

His days and nights are usually spent studying, teaching or working for Islam.

He’s also gentle and even tempered.

I often insist on asking him, “Are you mad?” and he always responds, “Do I ever get mad?”

The truth is, my husband implements the teachings of Islam and follows the prophet Muhammad who was asked repeatedly by a man for advice and responded each time simply, “Do not get angry.” (Narrated in Sahih Bukhari)

This is the power of Islam, to overcome even strong emotions such as anger. In fact, as indicated in the advice of the prophet Muhammad above, Islam has the power to prevent those emotions from boiling up in the first place. When it is the guidance for everyday life, the results are beautiful.

I’m so fortunate and grateful to have a companion who is concerned with living in a way pleasing to his Maker, and that my Creator has guided His creation to “Be kind to women.” as explained and emphasised by His last messenger, Muhammad.

For My Mom – I Remember

Dear Mom,

I remember you digging in the garden and pulling up the weeds.  The summer heat was heavy and enveloping. Cicadas sang behind you in the woods. I remember your clothes and your limbs and the profile of your face as you worked.

I remember you standing in front of the stove at dusk, the light of the hood illuminating you as you cut onions. I stood nearby watching.

You made raw potatoes and burnt pasta and baby bell peppers so special, and you often called us to taste them, or to test the pasta as it boiled.

I remember you rubbing my back at night to help me fall asleep. How did you find the time?

I remember how you made my tummy feel better when it ached. When I was sick, you soothed me, bringing me soup, and crackers, and apple juice in my favorite cup.

I remember how tolerant you were of me when I wanted to stay home with you, so I feigned illness, for a little too many days –

and how tolerant you were on so many occasions, and in so many moments in which, I realize now, must have really tried your patience… but I was so blind.

You picked me up, you dropped me off. You fed my friends and you drove them too.

Your food was always the best.

You arranged parties, and baked cakes, and you sewed costumes for us that were exactly what we wanted.

You prepared fruit and sandwiches and lemonade in the early morning, when the sun had barely risen – to take all four of us on the ferry to play on the beach all day. You’d call us to eat, handing us plums and pouring our drinks and watching us every time we called you,”look mommy!”

I remember you calling us to a colander filled with juicy strawberries. Sometimes you added a tub of delightful cream for us to slather them in, before we gobbled them up and ran off… back to our ‘important business’ of having fun.

And the days when you called us, because you had cut open the most delicious pear. I remember the juices running down your beautiful, tanned wrists. You cut and you cut, and you shared that pear.

You gave away the most ripe, delectable pear… to us.

After we devoured its sweetness, we ran off to our important business… not realizing there was nothing more important than you…

I remember how whatever I wanted, managed to appear in my life. How you stayed awake until the wee hours of morning, wrapping, and preparing so many different things on so many nights. For us.

I remember coming downstairs and breakfast was ready. An egg in a special cup, or pancakes shaped like our names. You were there at the stove and I remember just sitting down and eating,

telling you my dreams.

Every joy, accomplishment, or fantasy I shared with you, even if I had brushed my teeth and they were so smooth I had to show you, or I finished a book and wanted to tell you all about it,

you always listened.

You made me feel what I did was great, that I was great. You always made me feel good about myself and what I did. I don’t remember you ever stopping me short, or seeming uninterested or annoyed, even though I am sure now, that you were at times… but you never, ever showed it.

I remember how you wanted to give me every opportunity.

The beautiful memories seem endless.

And before all that, you had held me in your arms when I knew nothing but your scent, and you carried me and you comforted me when I cried. You got up in the middle of the night so often, but you weren’t even counting.

Even when you were sick you still cared for me. I don’t think I ever heard you complain of your pain… You never even asked for help.

And before all that, you nurtured and nourished me in your womb.

For that alone, I am forever indebted.

My religion teaches me that if I want paradise, it lies at your feet…

But I know I am undeserving,

inadequate in my appreciation, my love, my respect and honor for you. I’ve never done enough.

Please forgive me,

for every time I turned away, barely noticing your love and care.

For every time I didn’t thank you. For every selfish desire I fulfilled, even if it meant disobeying you. For every worried moment you ever had because of me. For the times I came home late, for the times I didn’t call.

For the time my classmate disrespected you and I was embarrassed of you, when I should have been ashamed of him.

For not putting YOU first, Because you deserve to be first.

No one on earth is more worthy of my love and companionship and honor than you. Yet even still, now that I know this, I still fall short.

So I pray that God guides me and helps me be the daughter you deserve. I pray that somehow, I can provide you with some happiness and joy even more than all the happiness and joy I have been able to have, because of you.

I pray that I can be the one to help make your life easier and that when you get older, I can be the one to be there to care for you.  I pray for God’s Mercy on you and His Love, as you were so merciful and loving towards me, when I was small, and as you are now.

I pray I can be even a fraction of the woman you are.

May God accept my prayers. Ameen!

Yours Always,

Danielle

New Day, New Life: The Balance Between Fear and Hope

When the end of a year nears, it’s as if our minds are suddenly turned on, we realize a year has passed.

We reflect.

We turn; hopeful, towards the future.

We resolve to improve our lives, to get healthy, drop bad habits, avoid negativity.

What if you were to do that, nearly every moment throughout your life?

What if you added to those thoughts, the possibility that you might not be there to see another year, or even another day?

Imagine that for a moment.

Would you change?

Would your resolutions be more likely to be successful?  Would you show more appreciation to the people in your life?

Would you begin to think about the source of life, and perhaps wake up more grateful every new day you’ve been given?

In Islam, we are encouraged to remember constantly, the fragility of life; while at the same time, being hopeful for the future.

Islam teaches us to always stay balanced between fear and hope.

We remember that this life is given to us and will one day be taken away. When we look back at our lives, we look for areas that need improvement, and like your New Year’s resolutions, we should choose and make efforts to be better in the future.

But the future is always now.

Islam is kind of like living on the cusp of a new year. It’s never a bad time to reflect and start anew. We all make mistakes, get lazy, and sin. It is human nature to falter. Islam encourages all good things, but inevitably we will fall into sin. Thankfully, that’s no reason to despair, because the Prophet Muhammad said,

“The best of those who sin, are those who repent.”  (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi)

So while we feel remorse for our transgression and mistakes, we know we only need to turn in repentance to our Most Merciful Creator and then try to be better in the future. Just our intention and willingness to do that is enough of a start. Knowing we will not be taken to account for our mistakes that we have rectified, gives us the strength to move forward with confidence.

So, while you might not see many Muslims ringing in the New Year with you, remember that we see every new day as a chance for a new life.

I’m a Muslim, but I Never Miss Christmas

The holiday season has a certain something that brings joy to people of all ages. The excitement of gifts and gift giving, great food and delicacies that only appear once a year, family gatherings, shopping, decorating; the list goes on and on.

It’s many people’s favorite time of year. It used to be mine too.

I know most people are really living it up and enjoying themselves this time of year. Some may be wondering, “Don’t you miss Christmas?”

My sister said to me recently, while she was in the midst of decorating bliss, “I don’t know how you don’t do this, it’s so much fun!”

If you take a look at the things that really give meaning to Christmas, we can find similarities in Islam, but 365 days out of the year.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Gift giving. Giving, sharing and showing care are all great things. The prophet Muhammad said, “Give gifts.” Because they increase the love between people. No special occasion needed.

2. Charity. Charity is an integral part of Islam. Once  every year Muslims must pay an amount from their saved wealth, and charity is encouraged every day, by both the Quran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. We should always try give something, even if it as little as a smile. We are taught that we are not truly believers, if we do not love for our fellow human being what we love for ourselves. That throws covetousness out the window and makes us want to raise others up, as we would like to be helped, especially in times of need.

3. Family. Family is the most important structure in society. Islam has all sorts of ways of helping families stay together and encourages giving your company primarily to your family, especially parents. Eating together, consulting one another, and being there for each other in all circumstances, are all values we are taught in the Quran and by the prophet Muhammad.

4. Jesus. Muslims love Jesus. In the Quran, the story of Jesus begins even before his mother Mary was born. We see God’s wisdom in choosing the best of women, Mary, who was utterly devoted to the worship of the Creator, and who was a perfect vessel to carry and rear the very special Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus’ virgin birth and in the many miracles Jesus did by God’s will. His story and the story of his mother in the Quran, bring tears to our eyes and move our hearts every time we read them. The chapter named Mary in the Quran, is beyond beautiful. Whenever I read it, I just wish I could share it with my Christian friends and family. We love Jesus so much, but we don’t worship him, we follow him: Jesus did not decorate trees, nor did he teach children about an omnipotent man with flying reindeer who lives in the North Pole. He did not tell anyone to celebrate his birthday. He did not celebrate Christmas, so neither do we.

5. Fun. To some of you, Muslims might seem a bit boring. Most of us are not found out and about, seeking thrills all too often. The reason for that though, is that we feel very satisfied. We know what our purpose is and strive to stay on track towards successfully completing our goal. So on the one hand, we are already quite content and don’t feel the need to go out seeking pleasure and happiness. (Although, there is nothing wrong with having some good clean fun!)  And on the other hand, we are busy trying to please our Maker. We’d rather not waste time away from remembering Him. Worshipping Him. In Islam, worship is very comprehensive, so everything that God is pleased with, can be an act of worship. A smile can be an act of worship. Intimacy with one’s spouse is also an act of worship in Islam, because it is enjoying that pleasure in the right way, in a marriage, as opposed to in extramarital relationships. So, for Muslims, worship is also fun!

Islam has all the best parts of life built in.

That’s why, I never miss Christmas.

Eleven Past Nine: 9/11 and Islam

The clock reads 9:11 and you remember that painful day. The day our innocent people were attacked and murdered within our own borders by a foreign entity. The terrible day that brought vulnerability most of us had previously never imagined, into the realm of stark reality.

I lived in Brooklyn at that time. When it happened, I was on the fifth floor, looking out over the water at the World Trade Center. I was wondering what had caused the huge fire in the first tower, then I watched in horror as the second plane slammed into the other.

Every time I stepped outside after that, I was forced to smell the stench of burning and death. It remained like that for months.

9/11 invoked the same anger, fear and emotions in me, that it did in most Americans. It also provoked me to learn more about American foreign policy and other things that impact our safety at home. I learned quite a bit I had not known before that day.

One of the things I went on to learn about in the following years, was Islam. I found that Islam does not encourage, in any terms, the killing or harm of non-combatants – even during legitimate war, in fact the killing of non-combatants, as well as women, children and the elderly is forbidden.

I learned that some people – both those who call themselves Muslims, as well as those diametrically opposed to Islam – use verses from the Quran and other sources of Islam out of context. They twist them to fit their own causes, in the most manipulative of ways.

Islam itself – the word “Islam” – connotes peace. Historically, Islam brought stability and peace to lands that implemented it correctly. Peace and security for both the Muslims as well as those who were not, living under the protection of Muslim rule.

To find out about war, fighting, manners and behaviors sanctioned and encouraged in Islam, we look to the life and example of the final Messenger, Muhammad. The Quran was not revealed in a vacuum and the actions of Muhammad give us further explanation and context:

After the prophet Muhammad announced his prophethood which was bestowed on him at the age of forty, he and his followers were tortured for years and many were killed. They were persecuted, because they believed there is nothing worthy of worship except the One God who created everything. They suffered injustice and oppression to the extent that they had to flee their homes in Mecca and became refugees.

Years later, when the prophet Muhammad and his followers had gained the upper hand and had garnered power and momentum, they were able to return to the city of Mecca – this time as conquerors.

Did Muhammad slaughter and lay waste to the very people who had tortured him and who had driven the Muslims from their own homes?

Not at all.

The prophet Muhammad entered Mecca bowing his head down in humility before God. The Meccans, who had tortured and harmed him and the Muslims for so long, waited expectantly, knowing their now weak position.

His statement to them, was a verse from the Quran, a statement the prophet Joseph made to his brothers who had wronged him. He said:

“There shall be no blame upon you this day. God forgive you; He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Quran Joseph 12:92)

He then said to them, “Go, you are free.”

This account is recorded in: Sunan Al-Kubra Al-Bayhaqi 17714, graded Sahih/Authentic.

let that sink in:

“Go, you are free.”

If Islam is meant to breed bloodthirsty, angry people, or people who are willing to blow up thousands of innocent people to make a statement, don’t you think this behavior would be evident in the example of the last prophet of Islam, Muhammad?

Don’t you think he would have been most savage or violent at the time when he entered Mecca as conqueror? Mecca – his homeland from which he had fled, due to the persecution of him and the Muslims? He had witnessed torture and the most vile of oppression at the hands of those people for over a decade, yet his victorious entrance was made in humility, with his head bowed.

He proclaimed forgiveness and freedom for his oppressors, not vengeance.

I urge you to read for yourself. Read the Quran (the whole thing) and read about the life of the prophet Muhammad from authentic sources. When you have completed the big picture, you will find that Islam is in fact, peace and that it’s final messenger, Muhammad was only extreme in two ways:

extremely merciful and extremely devoted to God.

There seem to be a lot of people out there committing evil in the name of Islam and there are still more people who like to propagate those incidents and spread them and exaggerate them. This is true to the extent that the public consciousness has begun to associate those abhorrent acts and behaviors with Islam, as if the two are one and the same.

The only way to combat this is with seeking knowledge and by suspending judgement about things we have no knowledge about.

Islam and acts of terror such as that on 9/11 do not go hand in hand as some would have you believe. The proof is in the facts, the texts and in that Islam continues to bring peace to the hearts of millions of people across the globe. One of those hearts, is mine.

Islam brings utmost beauty, peace, purpose, surety and contentment, previously never imagined, into the realm of reality.

The Meaning Of Breakfast

It’s the month of Ramadan – the month in which the Quran was revealed and the month in which we have been bound to fast for the entirety of it.

Don’t worry, we don’t fast non-stop the whole month – just from dawn to sunset.

Have you ever tried going a day without food?

Years before I chose Islam, I tried a juice fast one day (where all you consume is fresh juice – no solid food).

I couldn’t make it through half the day! I never tried it again.

But things that are difficult outside Islam, become easier within it. Like giving up bad habits, or in this case, fasting.

In reality, everyone fasts… but throughout the night, while they sleep.

That’s why breakfast is break-fast!

That’s almost exactly what fasting is in Islam, except in Islam it is done during the waking hours – the consciousness is an important part of the experience. As is developing willpower over one’s desires, gratefulness toward the Provider of our sustenance as well as appreciation and mercy towards those who struggle to survive against famine and poverty.

So, while you may fast every night and break your fast in the morning, you are missing out on the many benefits you could be reaping had you fasted instead throughout the day!

When fasting, one abstains from what is not only lawful (halal) but also necessary for survival – food and drink.

The benefits are many, but I will list a few here for you to consider, to give you a glimpse and hopefully an appreciation you may not have had before.

First, fasting in Islam is an act of worship – and it’s nothing new or strange. It has long been a part of the way of life laid out by our Maker practiced and taught by previous prophets such as Moses and Zacharia:

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become of the righteous (those who have taqwa) -“ (Quran 2:183)

Let me explain to you what worship means, because the definition of worship in Islam is broader than you might think. Worship isn’t just rituals; it encompasses every aspect of life. Worship in Islam is doing anything that is pleasing to God (which we can only know via His revelation to us; His relating and describing to us what is acceptable and pleasing to Him) and abstaining from that which He has forbidden – that which is not pleasing to him of our actions.

So in Islam, smiling at a person is an act of worship. Not lying is an act of worship. In this case – the case of Ramadan, fasting is an act of worship.

As with all acts of worship in Islam, the benefits are plentiful and manifold.

The main reason for fasting, as God explained for humanity in the Quran, is to attain taqwa – which is an arabic word with a rich meaning that entails God consciousness (remembering God and aligning one’s actions with the purpose of life on earth- remembering God in every action). This acts as a shield for the person who has it, that protects them from the harmful pitfalls and diversions of life.

So we do it to gain greater consciousness of God, which helps us live better, more successful lives.

Ramadan is like a leg-up. Throughout the year, we might be progressing slowly, or even backtracking, but Ramadan helps the individual who takes advantage of it, make a leap of progress in a relatively short time.

By no means is it merely abstaining from food and drink, by which one can attain this spiritual benefit and increased closeness to our Creator – The prophet Muhammad reminded us that God is not in need of our fasting and that it is virtually pointless if we do not also abstain from false talk and other bad behavior. (Bukhari,Muslim)

He also said: “Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except fatigue” (Darimi).

And so we are warned not to be of those who only get hunger and thirst out of fasting, but to strive for broad self discipline and that greater God-consciousness.

There is the spiritual side, the self-discipline side of it, and believe it or not, there is also a physiologically beneficial side to fasting as well!

Scientific studies in animals and humans show that fasting is largely beneficial to physical health. It promotes stem-cell regeneration, boosts immunity and helps slow the proliferation of cancer. There are many articles you can research on this but here are two for you to take a look at if you are interested:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/fasting-may-improve-immune-system-health-during-aging-process-chemotherapy-patients-may-also-benefit

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/06/14/intermittent-fasting-longevity.aspx

So next time you eat breakfast in the morning, think about those of us who break our fasts at sundown.

What do you think it would be like for you if you were not to eat or drink all day?