Tag Archives: Islam

Following Noah

I love to talk about Islam, and sometimes I just wish I could sit with a family member; my Mom, Dad, Sister, Grandpa, Aunt, anybody… and just have a nice deep, open discussion.

It’s hard sometimes you know, loving something your loved ones seem allergic to.

Something about which at least one has said, “this is our last conversation about this”.

But, that’s my situation.

I can’t talk about the thing I love most with the people I love. ūüė¶

I always have enjoyed a challenge. I also enjoy discussion.

You can talk to me about many things I may not agree with and I will either present my point and listen to yours, or ask questions to gain a better understanding. (I can’t promise I won’t get impassioned)

I don’t mind if someone comes to me and tells me I’m on the wrong path and is willing to explain why. I’m open to that and I try to listen.

It seems people are willing to say “I disagree” but not to elaborate. Not to discuss.

The end of many an attempt is, “We have to agree to disagree.”

But, I don’t understand why we have to worry about whether or not we agree… If they don’t agree with me that’s fine, it¬†doesn’t bother me. What’s wrong with learning? Understanding? Seeing things from one another’s perspective?

I do not get personally offended when people come to me and explain why they worship Jesus, or why they are atheist. I find other people’s beliefs and thought processes interesting.

But it seems, when it comes to Islam, it is as if the topic itself causes barriers to be set in place and people’s hair to raise on end.

My belief is that this reaction is linked with their lack of knowledge about Islam, yet the reaction forbids knowledge from being attained.

See the problem?

Although I love a discussion¬†and I don’t mind being challenged, I know others do not. I don’t really like to bother people, so…

On the one hand, I feel like suppressing every word.

Hiding my thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, I feel like I should keep trying, keep talking and not remain silent.

The prophet described in the Quran who comes to mind, is Noah.

Noah was telling his people about God for ages Рand boy, did they ever dislike listening to him!

They hated Noah and his message from the Creator so much, they used to cover up their ears and turn away from him. They got so fed up, they threatened to stone him to death!

They really ridiculed him when he was building a ship in the middle of the desert. He was a laughing stock and his followers were very few.

Even his son abandoned him.

But Noah was persistent, because his care for his people surpassed his care for his own self, in the respect that, rather than protecting himself from their hatred and ridicule, he persisted in giving them the message that could benefit them.

He didn’t give up in the face of so many obstacles and his goal wasn’t to fit in and just make the people happy with him. His goal was to please only his Creator, by trying to help his people understand.

I think about Noah and then I look at myself and I see that I’m so weak.

I have something that I know could benefit my family, even if only they were to gain a better understanding based on knowledge,

but I don’t talk about it, because they will¬†get annoyed with me.

Perhaps I am more fearful of displeasing them than I am my Lord?

I’m Dying

It’s definite, confirmed.

I’m Dying.

The most sure, undeniable thing about my life is that I am going to experience death.

I just don’t know when.

It could be today, in a week… anytime really.

My voice will no longer be heard. My hands will no longer touch the skin of my children, their hair.

My eyes will cease to gaze at the breathtaking sky, my nose will no longer smell the fresh air and my shoulders will no more feel the pleasure of embrace.

My life is only a road leading to that destination.

That inevitable moment where my body will become just an empty vessel that will be consumed by the earth.

Before my Islam, this realization was difficult to endure.

I realized I could leave my home to go somewhere and never arrive, or never return; that I could begin crossing the street and be smashed by a car; that virtually at any moment- my life could simply end… and that’s true for all of us.

The fragility of life begs many questions doesn’t it?

Do you ever wonder; Why?

I am a Mother. My husband and I have five adorable and sweet, little children.

I watch my youngest daughter, who is two, bouncing around the house, her cheeks like plump pillows or balloons when she smiles and laughs. So adorable, so precious,

But she too will have to die… my baby.

Doesn’t that make you think?

Think of your favorite actor or actress… or the most beautiful model you admire – they seem so eternal in their pictures, in their roles…

But they too are only traveling towards their deaths.

Doesn’t that bother you?

Of course it does, it should.

When we realize that life is temporary it necessitates that we search for it’s meaning,

Not ignore it!

I’m not saying¬†we should find meaning in our lives, like, “My purpose in life is to help others.” or, “my purpose in life is to make art.”

But the actual reason we are here; that we have been given life.

Often instead, we treat it like a freak accident when someone dies. We search for diets and health regimens as if they will protect us from life’s end –

But they won’t.

We say goodbye to our friends and coworkers as if we will definitely see them tomorrow.

We look at our treasured children and forget that their lives are finite.

We should be preparing them not just for college and marriage – but for true success and we can only do that if we are preparing ourselves.

We can only do that if we have sure knowledge and clear guidance.

How could you be here on earth, where there is illness and loss and earthquakes and fighting and death and birth and happiness and beauty and pain and uncertainty and pleasure and time…

Yet, your greatest purpose is to have fun and enjoy it?

Or to love and be kind?

How is loving people or being kind to people who are also going to die, an integral purpose?

The fact that these things are not completely satisfying should propel us further – one shouldn’t rest, until they are sure they’ve found the truth.

That’s right: truth.

Not blind faith, or something that makes you feel better.

Truth.

And there cannot be multiple truths about our existence.

Only one.

Then, upon finding the truth one must pursue knowledge and practice of it – that is by necessity.

Life is not a mystery left for us to wonder about for it’s extent.

Isn’t that good news?

It’s good news.

If you are someone who is truly seeking the truth and you are fully willing to submit to it once you discover it, then ask the One who created you for help, and He will surely guide you to it.

That is a fact.

So I don’t feel I need to push on you that Islam is the truth. I know it is and I know that if you are a genuine truth seeker, you will find Islam.

Being a Muslim doesn’t give anyone a free pass though, like I said the finder of truth must then seek knowledge of it and practice.

As a Muslim I know why I am here. I know why we are here, how we got here and where we are going. I only know this because the One who created all of it provided us that information.

I don’t ignore death or try to forget about it. I remember it often ¬†– the destroyer of life’s pleasures.

It’s not to be macabre or morbid, but as motivation to do good and avoid being lazy.

Because that is how we keep from being distracted by life from our true purpose. ¬†So we don’t get lost in pleasure and family and tasks and responsibilities. Or even sadness, depression or¬†anxiety.¬†

Death is not the calamity, but the hardening of our hearts and the denial of the One who gave us life, that is the real misfortune.

So we remember life is short and can end at any given moment, thus¬†we better use it wisely and stay focussed on the goal –¬†our ultimate reality.

My fear of death itself is replaced with concern for the manner in which I return to my Maker. Will I be one with whom He is pleased? Or will I die wronging myself and denying Him and His plan?

I can’t avert my death, but I can strive to return to my Lord in a good state – fulfilling the purpose for which I was created.

I can strive for the real life, that isn’t fraught with difficulty and displeasure, but filled with peace.

So while I am closer to my death with every breath I take, I try to also be closer to the One who owns everything, is of extreme Mercy and Who can grant me eternal life.

After I die.

 

And We did not create the heaven and earth and that between them in play.(Quran 21:16)

Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” (Quran 23:115)

Do you not see that (The One God) has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about (God) without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him].
And when it is said to them, “Follow what (God) has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that upon which we found our fathers.” Even if Satan was inviting them to the punishment of the Blaze?
And whoever submits his face to (God) while he is a doer of good Рthen he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to (God) will be the outcome of [all] matters.
And whoever has disbelieved – let not his disbelief grieve you. To Us is their return, and We will inform them of what they did. Indeed, (God)¬†is Knowing of that within the breasts.”
(Quran 31:20-23)

Unlocked

Islam is liberation.

Freedom.

Every person has the ability to be free through Islam if they choose.

Even if they are poor.
Even if they are oppressed.
Even if they are physically in chains-

In the bowels of a torturous prison.

Because Islam straddles every rift;

It’s able to encompass every one and every thing.

It’s kind of like this:

Think of a type of success; say, via business.

You want to be successful-

Rather, you need a successful form of sustenance.

So you decide to start a business.

But you don’t know what kind of business will be successful; how to start one, how to run it.

You know nothing about being an entrepreneur.

If you have to go through the process all alone and figure out every detail from knowing absolutely nothing,

it will surely be a struggle.

If your success and wellbeing depend entirely on running that business flawlessly, the process will no doubt be stressful.

Your lack of knowledge is a burden.

Let’s say you are receiving conflicting information about the correct way to run a business. It will be hard to decide which advice will be more beneficial. You may fail many times over.

You struggle everyday.

And then suddenly an experienced and highly successful business person comes along. They provide everything you need to make your business more than you even imagined it could be.

They give you the money, the knowhow, the contacts. They educate you on what to do every step of the way. They are entirely at your disposal.

Can you imagine the burden lifted? The relief?

That’s how Islam works.

The tools to surmount every obstacle are provided for you. Handed to you.

For free.

So naturally: implementing it is freeing.

The burden of not knowing is lifted.

Guidance is provided at every step.

You see and feel the results.

And it all has to do with the self, or the soul.

So, that self can adapt to be in the best state relative to its particular situation.

Contrary to what you might think, even wealth and comfort are tests in this life.

So someone seemingly living an easy life is also in need of guidance on how to reach true success.

Pitfalls exist in every situation. We need knowledge to avoid them.

Opportunities for benefit exist in every situation. We need knowledge to recognize them.

To be successful in the life we all have been given, we need knowledge from the One who gave life to us.

Naturally.

When you have that knowledge, it liberates you from the shackles of ignorance and the burdens of incorrect advice.

It’s like driving on a smoothly paved, straight road as opposed to an uneven ground covered in stones and obstacles.

Wouldn’t you feel free once you get off the rocky terrain onto that smooth road?

Woohoo! That’s the free life.

And I think whatever way someone might follow, the satisfaction can never compare to the complete satisfaction of living the way you are intended to live: Driving on that straight, clean road.

According to the guidance given by the manufacturer. Your manufacturer.

So one might ask how do we know which is the right set of instructions?

If you really want to know, it just takes a little dedication.

Truth stands out amongst falsehood.

If you want it, really want it, it will be shown to you. Given to you.

Handed to you with utmost Mercy.

That smooth road you were hoping for.
Comfort.
Peace.

Then if you choose it and put effort into following it:

Success.

Freedom.

 

 

“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.” (7:157)

“Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it; it is a revelation from the Most Wise, the Worthy of Praise.” (41:42)

I Was Born Muslim

 

 

Did you know everyone was born in a state of Islam?

 

It’s true.

 

I¬†didn’t choose my¬†gender… did you?

I¬†didn’t choose my¬†eye color or hair. I¬†didn’t choose my¬†country; my¬†family, my language.

I was born in submission. I was born a Muslim.

We all were.

But humans only remain in the state of natural Islam for a short time until our¬†free will kicks in; Then it’s up to us what we do¬†and what we believe.

You were taught to be a Christian, or a Jew, or an Atheist, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist or whatever you might have been as a child. 

I used to go to Catholic church, because my family is Catholic.

But we all have had a spiritual spark embedded in us. Kind of like a homing feature.

It’s our¬†intrinsic spiritual and moral disposition. In Arabic, it’s called the fitrah.

It is the reason why some  people search for truth. They know there is something more to this life.

 

Do you remember wondering?

You probably had all kinds of big questions, like: ¬† Why are we here? ¬† What’s the purpose of life? ¬† How do we know if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing? ¬† What happens when we die? ¬† Why is there suffering? ¬† What is reality?

Does God exist?

In some though, especially after time passes and questions go unanswered, that spark can be completely buried and forgotten.

There are other tools and evidence that support the fitrah though; if we are willing to look.

My unique fingerprint is a sign.

Snowflakes, fruits, the sun and the moon are all signs.

When I look in the mirror at the features I didn’t choose, I remember where I came from.

As I age and begin to notice, that¬†the lines on my face don’t disappear after I smile anymore;

I remember where I am going. 

Freely choosing to submit to the guidance provided by our Maker is like following the instruction manual for a machine. It doesn’t make any sense to use a¬†refrigerator as a bookshelf or a computer as a chair.

I would’t use my lawnmower on my hardwood floor¬†or my vacuum in my garden.

Following the guidance is like that. Using your existence for it’s purpose.

The sense of relief that comes with that is indescribable.

When you align¬†your will with¬†the supreme will of the one who designed us, you accept that you have curly hair, or brown eyes. You realize you couldn’t have been born to be a little taller or more attractive. You are supposed to be just how you are.

You then focus on the things you can control: choosing between good and bad actions, using your time wisely.

You can stop fighting what can’t be fought.

And the link between the two involuntary submissions: birth and death, is complete.

It’s the only way to make the¬†transition from one, to the other

in peace.

 

 

 

Why me?

I had always felt that the path that led me to Islam was somehow paved by me.

I thought it was my actions, my choices that prepared me and that it was I who discovered it.

I vetted it out. I did countless hours of research. I couldn’t deny it’s truth.

I.

me.

I would marvel at all the events and decisions that lined up so incredibly perfectly.

And I thought it was amazing how I did that.

Not long ago, however I began realizing fully, how truly blessed and indebted I really am.

I’ve always been grateful, but I had gained a deeper consciousness of what Islam really means to me and how empty life would have been without it – And I started to really wonder-

Why me?

Why did God bless me with His guidance? I wasn’t any great person before, just regular: not especially kind or righteous in any way, not inclined to religion at all

And then one day it hit me. I know why now.

I remember the moment.

I was the kind of person who loved going to the beach at night. I remember running along the shore, as fast as I could under the stars.

The stars.

I remember the exhilaration of looking out into the unfathomable night sky, enamored.

I remember laying in my bed on saturday mornings as a teenager and wishing I could know everything about the world. What happened before me, what would happen after me. I would imagine that I would be given a view of the Earth and I’d be able to just watch history unfold.

I asked a lot of questions. I found it exciting.

Especially when the answers seemed unknowable.

So, after all that wondering and all the marveling I did at leaves and insects and stones; after looking at the astonishingly beautiful stars so many times and trying to comprehend how little me, a speck of intricately formed insignificance, could be living on a spinning rock flying around a burning orb suspended in a gorgeous galaxy – merely a blip amongst the others.

How? Why?

I think subconsciously I knew the world; humanity, beauty, pain- They couldn’t have just popped out of nothing.

So one night…

I was a freshman – I was sitting in my dorm room window: a big, square window.

I was looking out at the sky.

And I said something.

I said to myself, there must be some force out there. There must be.

Then I spoke to that force, but not with my lips. Only in my heart, quietly. I asked to know.

I wanted knowledge. I wanted the truth.

Then I forgot about it. I went about my life after that, for four years.

But that force I had beseeched, had heard me. And gently, I was guided to get ready. To get ready for Islam.

 

I did the weirdest things.

I used to listen to music a lot. Somehow I completely stopped listening to music with words and switched to classical.

I won’t tell you what kinds of music I liked before, but let’s just say that was an unpredictable move. I did it as if it was perfectly normal. Natural.

Then after a while, I ditched classical and switched to ambient: you know, the music that’s not really music? It’s just some sounds, almost like an environment more than music.

At 18, I gave up TV. I forbid my roommates from having a TV in our common areas.
That was odd. I lost some roommates like that.

But what I had effectively done, or had been guided to do, was remove external influences. No one was chattering into my ear anymore, telling me what to think.

My mind was mine again! Or, you know what? That might’ve been the first time it was really my own.

I started pondering about holidays and birthdays and about saying “God bless you” when someone sneezed.

I stopped saying “bless you” when people sneezed.

I stopped, because I didn’t know what that meant.

It didn’t make any sense to me, so I’d say instead, “you okay?” or something equally awkward.

I stopped celebrating holidays. Nobody Liked that very much…

But I just didn’t understand who Jesus was and why I needed to celebrate his birthday with a tree and Santa. I didn’t get why I had to eat chocolate bunnies or what was so significant about turning one more day older.

I stopped doing things I didn’t understand.

Oh, except for the time I just had to travel to a war zone as an international observer so I could walk in front of tanks and M16’s. That was all gut.

That was also how I met the first Muslims I had ever seen, and how I heard the recitation of the Quran, for the first time.

The Quran that I had been reading a translation of for the previous year, because I was going to prove to the world that religions were all flawed and thus man made.

So the point is, I asked for this. I asked for guidance. I wanted answers and God, in His infinite Mercy, granted my wish, answered my request; answered all my questions.

Because in that moment, in that window, I believed in Him.

Even though I didn’t know anything about God at the time and I never would have used that word. Still, I was a believer in that moment. I realized my smallness, and His Greatness.

That was how it all began.

Islam: A Way Of Life

The word Islam is not just the name of a religion: It is a state of being and a way of life.

If you think about most other religions you know of, you will find that the name “Islam” is quite unique.

For example: Christianity is named after Christ. Judaism is named after the tribe of Judah. Hinduism is a word related to location.

Islam describes the state of being it entails. It can be translated as “surrender” or “submission” but really the arabic word Islam is too rich to translate into a single word.

Islam comes from a root word that denotes both peace and submission or surrender. In our context it means submission and surrender to God and His Will. It implies that one does so peacefully, in a peaceful state, as well as indicating that peace is attained through this submission.

A Muslim is one who does Islam. It’s the active form of the word. It could be translated as “one who submits to God” or “Submitter”.

So really when we say Muslim that’s what it means, we are just speaking arabic. Really in english I’m a submitter, but the word Muslim is common enough that I will continue to use it for my purposes here.

What we believe in Islam, is that God created the first humans, Adam and Eve. They were placed in paradise; The Garden of Eden. They were given a test: Everything in paradise was for them except one small thing. A single tree was forbidden to them.

Well, of course they made the mistake and disobeyed God, but that was merely the precursor for life on Earth. That mistake set the ball rolling, so to speak.

Adam and Eve were sent down to Earth where they were to live, reproduce, and die. But God did not leave them alone.

In their remorse over their disobedience, God Himself taught them how to ask forgiveness. He also promised not to leave them without guidance and told them:

“when guidance comes from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, they will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:38)

All that was setting the stage for a greater test: life on Earth.

Adam received revelation from God, and he submitted to that guidance and followed it. He was a submitter. He was a Muslim.

After Adam, God bestowed the prophethood on many, many more throughout the ages. Some of the names of God’s prophets and Messengers are mentioned in the Quran. Some of them are : Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Lot, Aaron, Moses, Solomon, David, Jonah, Jesus the Messiah.

Sound Familiar?

We are taught all of them were given guidance from God. Some were given revelation, such as the Torah which was given to Moses and the Gospel given to Jesus.

All of them taught people to follow God’s Guidance-to submit to it.

That’s Islam.

Every one of them was a Muslim and no one can say they weren’t – because a Muslim is simply one who submits themselves to God. One who follows God’s guidance for success in life.

So we are just continuing along the path set for us from the beginning. God promised to send us guidance. He gave us the solace of knowing that if we are to follow His guidance, we won’t have any fear, we won’t live in grief.

And that is truly the gift of Islam.