Saturday, September 30, 2006

So this is Ramadan...

Alhamdulillah Ramadan has been (for the most part) going well. Spending time in community, listening to the recitation of Qur'an in Tarawih prayer, the khutbahs... Alhamdulillah I learn so much and find myself being charged by those moments. So why is that I say Ramadan hasn't been UNBELIEVABLE!?!?
Maybe it is because I had such enormous expectations coming into Ramadan... everyone telling me what a spiritual time it is, how incredible it feels, that my expectations were totally unrealistic, (or maybe fully realistic but I seem to be failing to meet them). Alhamdulillah the moments I have mentioned are great, but where I feel like I am still waiting for Ramadan to really penetrate, is all of the moments when I am not in community, or at the mosque, or listening to the Imam recite the Holy Qur'an.
I want so badly to wake up and feel "this is Ramadan" spend all day in a state of dhikr, reading Qur'an and when I pray for my prayers to be more dedicated and focused then they ever have been. Instead I find my hours disrupted by the daily tasks that fill my time: school, work, life in general, and I still struggle for focus in prayers. I pray with full entirety that Allah (SWT) would bring me closer to Him, help me to draw nearer to Him-- That I would feel as though I am totally in His presence, but alas I am still struggling with my sinful nature. I am always in fear that I will be one of the people who despite my fast, prayers, and recitation will be left with no reward for Ramadan. That my focus, my intention, my desire will not be enough to get me the beautiful reward this month has to offer.
Oh... I am so afraid.

I ask myself if my actions, speech, modesty, and thoughts have changed at all. If they have, will they stay that way? I still have pride, envy, anger, frustrations... What is wrong with me that I can't give it all up and be among the pious? In all of history there have only been three women who had perfect faith-- I suppose it seems unrealistic to think I could ever be the fourth, but how I desire to be. Isn't that how we should be living? In pursuit of perfection of faith? To live as the Prophet (SAW) lived and instructed us to? Why does it seem so unattainable at times? Why do I feel so inadequate?
I am so aware of my wrongs and my sins, yet there are days I feel powerless to stop them. Now in this beautiful month will they cause me to fail at achieving my reward? Oh Allah (SWT) have mercy on me and help me.

I wish I could be surrounded by strong Muslims all of the time. People who would teach and strengthen me. Surrounded by those who can teach me all that I am lacking, help make me into a better Muslima. Alhamdulillah I have people in the community who are knowledgeable and encouraging, but I pray for people I could spend time with. Muslimas I could spend nights with that would have knowledge to share with me..

Oh Allah (SWT) I pray for your help, that you would send someone (or 'some-many') to help me, teach me, and hold me accountable everyday. To show me who I am and who I am not. To help me live like the Prophet (SAW) did... increasing my love for him with every breath. Allah, please make all of us like him, make us all among the pious. Accept our prayers, and please accept our Ramadan.... Ameen.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I am reluctant to use this picture with this post as I don't want to suggest that modesty is only for women, or in the same breath, that modesty = hijab. The latter of the two notions is actually what I wish to discuss this morning. More specifically how I struggle to remember the full definition of modesty and how to apply it in my life.

One of the elements that drew me towards Islam was the component of modesty. That women and men would guard themselves against explicitness or that which draws attention. I remember one instance when I walked into one of our local halal stores, a brother from the community who works there, greeted me, and asked if I needed assistance, all the while never making eye-contact with me. For some (especially in a North American society) this may sound like it would be something disrespectful. On that day however, let me assure you it was one of the times I felt most respected. Averting one's gaze, acting appropriately around others (especially when in the company of the opposite sex), and behaving in a manner that is humble with pure intention is what modesty is all about.

I looked the definition of modesty up in the dictionary this morning and here is what was written:
"Freedom from vanity, boastfulness etc. Regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress etc. Simplicity and moderation."

Now let me start by saying that although I can write about modesty and provide definitions and examples, I am the first to say that putting it into practice on a daily basis has been a continual struggle for me. Maybe my goal in writing this entry is to seek accountability-- as though if I write in encouragement to others, I must certainly be ever-striving to achieve modesty in its truest form in my life.

It is a daily frustration for me... I understand the concept of modesty in its entirety but submitting myself on a daily basis to feel as though I incorporate it properly into my actions is another story. Maybe it is due to the fact that I was raised in a fairly vocal and lively family. I am certainly an extrovert, who likes to talk and to lead, and I often have to consciously think about whether my actions and speech are modest. I find myself looking at my friends who have that naturally quiet manner about them, and at times wish I had been given that personality. (Alhamdulillah I am not complaining, Allah knows best, and who I am is who He made me to be.)

But I believe that if I was able to master modesty then other aspects of my faith would be elevated to an entirely new and more sincere level. Take for example the concept of intention. Those who are modest have that aspect of humility and humbleness about them such that they don't want to be in the spotlight or draw attention to themselves. Praise often makes them feel uncomfortable as because of that their actions never (or very rarely) are for the recognition by others. Imagine living in a way that all of your actions are never for gaining praise or attention of others. You would be living as we are called to live. With intention only to serve and to worship Allah (SWT). You would have mastered such a huge component of living the perfect faith.

It is that point that makes my failure to attain perfect modesty so devastating for me. I know that the more I fail to encompass modesty in all aspects of my life, the more I fail to perfect my faith. That my intention can never be as pure and devoted as it should be.

May Allah guide me, and make this easier for me... for all of us. May He increase our sense of modesty and take away our pride. May He show us the areas of our life where we fall short. Ameen.

If we submit fully to Allah (SWT) it is then that we will be living the religion as it should be.. after all Islam means submission.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Power of Prayer, PART II

This post is in response to a recent request I had by one of our brothers or sisters in Islam, who desired to know what my personal thoughts about prayer are... What goes through my mind as I perform the 5 obligatory prayers of the day.

I wish that I could say that nothing went through my mind except full submission to Allah (SWT) and that I had such intense focus and dedication that there was nothing I focused on except humbling myself before Allah (SWT). Unfortunately, it takes a conscious effort for me to submit at every position in my prayer. Even at the times I feel most connected during my salaat (prayers) I still question at times if I performed everything in its entirety as the Prophet (SAW) told us to. Alhamdulillah many days that agony, the agony of knowing how inadequate my prayers are in comparison to that of the Prophets (SAW) and his companions (RA) are what help me to submit. Some days I focus on that, that I fall short and am undeserving. In sujood I cry out to Allah (SWT) that He would accept my prayers and forgive me for my inadequacies. Everyday that I feel my mind wander in prayer or I have to motivate myself to get up and pray when I should be running to place my forehead on the ground in submission to our one true God, I am reminded of Allah's constant mercy... a mercy that I pray He will bestow upon me when my time comes. When I come to prayer, I am reminded about how inadequate I am in that even with something I perform 5 times a day regularly, I still don't do it as it should be done... in full submission and concentration.

But what do I try to focus on and think of when I pray? It is a different question for sure. Every day, at every time of salaat I try to remember that if not for the grace of Allah, I wouldn't even be reciting His precious words, and then bowing myself towards Him. I remember how only just over four short months ago, I didn't know the full beauty of Islam. I start there and try to make my prayers devoted worship to the one true God who saved me. That every position. Every bow and prostration would be lowering myself in thanks and humility to devote all that I am to the one who showed me His truth and Glory.
I recently read a Khutbah online by M. Waleed Kadous that discussed some of the main ideas that were highlighted in the comment that was just posted by "_._" (re:The Power of Prayer)
It begins with talking about understanding each of the postures we take while praying. Knowing what each position symbolizes, what each word means. That when I say Allahu Akbar as I start my prayer, I am stating that Allah is greater than anything and because He is so great I am going to solely devote that time to His greatness. Then when I recite Al-Fatihah I am asking Allah to keep me on the right path and save me from going astray.
When I bow I try to consciously think that "I will only bow to you Allah", that during my prayer it would be the only time I would EVER take a bowing position, because only Allah is worth that position, and on the day that I am standing before Allah (SWT) I pray that I will be flat on the ground as low as I can be before His glory and power.
When I prostrate and am in the lowest of the postures we are in when we pray I imagine Allah (SWT) being in the room with me. If I were to be successful in this thought I am sure I would never want to end my prayer.

There are times that I question my sincerity in my prayer and wonder if it is one that would be accepted by Allah (SWT) and if that thought is one that passes through my mind, then I know I am doing something wrong.
Alhamdulillah maybe that is part of the Takwah that we as Muslims are all seeking. That living with the respect and fear of Allah that we imagine He is physically present witnessing all that we do. I need to ask myself more often, "if I could see Allah here in the room with me would I have prayed the same way? Would I have done something different?" That is the kind of prayer I know I should be praying. One that I would feel would be worthy of being prayed in the presence of God. Why is it that I have the constant struggle to get to that point? Alhamdulillah Allah is merciful and we have Ramadaan, Umrah, Hajj and so many other things to give us the chance to redeem ourselves.

How do I feel about my prayer? That it will never suffice, but I constantly pray for Allah's help to make them better, more sincere, and that my concentration would be so intense I would be like the Sahabi who was struck with an arrow and knew if he was praying he would be focused enough it could be removed. Upon completion of his prayer he didn't even know it had been taken out... that is what I pray for.

May Allah (SWT) have mercy on us all and may He help those who want their prayers to be more dedicated and sincere to become that way. May He make us among the pious and constantly remind us that "Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their prayer with full solemnity and full submissiveness" 23:1-2.

The Power of Prayer... a Comment

There was recently a post on the comments about the "Power of Prayer" entry. I thought the comment itself was so powerful that it needed to be shared with everyone in case they don't regularly read the comments. To the brother or sister who posted it, I hope you don't mind my sharing it with the rest of our online Ummah. May Allah reward you for your faith, and sharing your Iman with us all. May He use it to strengthen everyone in this incredible month as we prepare ourselves for Ramadan. Jazak'Allah Khair

There are four moments in prayers that just completely blows me away. First when reciting Surah Al-Fateha (the opening surah) and according to the saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) [] that Allah Himself replies to the calling of the faithful. When i realize that if i concentrate hard enough and recite the Surah with enough sincerity and humbleness then Allah is actually replying to ME (little me, and the Glorious Allah) right at that moment as i say each verse, it just makes my shoulders go down and the weight of this realization makes me sooooo humble and i feel soooo connected to the Allmighty. And that I'm reciting the words that Allah himself said and wrote, then told to Jibra'eel, who said it to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and now im saying exactly the same words. What an honor.

Second when making Rukoo', my hands on my knees, realizing that one is now in front of a King, just as when in the courtyard of great kings, people bow, I see that Kings of all kings is on His throne and I am now in front of him, paying my respect and He is watching me, and maybe if i do it with enough humbleness and respect that is worthy of Him only, He may acknowledge me and accept this servant's praise. Just imagine that the Allmight King acknowledges your presence.. wow....And how Merciful He must be if He accepts my presence in His Courtyard, despite my countless shortcomings and mistakes.

And the best part, when in Sujood, my forehead on the ground Im on His feet, I imagine a mighty being in white, standing so tall that i can just make His Mighty presence and nothing else and Im at His feet, He is looking at me and if i praise Him with enough sincerity, and invoke him during this state and ask Him in all humbleness mybe He will grant me His Mercy. Sometimes I think as if my hands are around His Feet. I of course cant imagine being so near to Him, but i just want to grab His feet and beg for forgiveness, knowing that i cant do that, and yet i want to do that, and i praise him and ask for His forgiveness, since physically i cant move my hands it just makes me grab the ground more firmly.

Then lastly, while sitting and asking Allah to send His blessings on His beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), i know if i have enough love for the prophet, i will mean it with the bottom of my heart, and then i realize that maybe i'll never be able to meet him and the righteous, as they will be so far from me. Me being perhaps in hell, or even if I somehow make it only because of Allah's mercy alone, then i'll have such a low level and they will be so high. I want to sit with them and maybe share a glass of milk with them in the company of Prophet in a living room provided by Allah. (wow, the thought of this company just makes me cry, coz i know i dont deserve it, but maybe Allah will have mercy on me) Then i remind myself of the Prophet's saying that "You shall be(on that Day with whom you love" [] and when sending blessing on the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), I have to be sincere and what is sincerity without love. And it increases my love for His beloved Prophet Muhammad(peace and blessings be upon him)ofcourse these feelings occur when im high on emaan, and at other times prayers becomes just physical actions devoid of devotion and sincerity, i despise such days. For reading this is really very nice 33 ways to develop humility and submission during prayers html

Every day Islam makes me fall in love with itself, Allah, and His Prophet and the righteous. It simply rocks :)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Are You Ready for Ramadan?

Alhamdulillah this weekend the local Muslim Students Association put on a conference at one of the local universities. It was a weekend packed full of teaching lead by our local Imaam and a couple of mehsha'Allah very knowledgeable brothers in the community. It was exciting for me as it was the first time I would attend a conference since my conversion and I was very much looking forward to seeing the community together, learning, and bettering ourselves for the sake of Allah (SWT).

Alhamdulillah what an optimal time to attend a conference.... during the month of Sha'aban where we should all strive to do good deeds and get ourselves ready for Ramadan.
The conference was full of various presentations, covering topics like: the Quran, the biography of the Prophet (SAW), fiqh, Aqeedah, and "Manners and Etiquette". To make the package even more enticing, to attend was FREE and included lunch on both days, and dinner the final night.
Alhamdulillah what an incredible opportunity for the community!

After all of the preparation, and posters being put up, advertisements in the local MSA newsletter, and announcements at the masjid would you guess how many people showed up??? My approximation is 30 the first day and 20 the second day. Needless to say I am shocked.

Here it is, weeks before Ramadan and the community has a chance to learn, prepare and get themselves "in the zone", insha'Allah increasing their knowledge and faith in Islam and of 2000+ Muslims in our city 20-30 attend? I was so embarrassed!
Then when I mention it to people, excuses are made... "there weren't enough posters put up," "it wasn't advertised well enough"...
Either way, we as a community are responsible. If not enough publicity was done why not? Why weren't we promoting this? Personally I received two newsletters, saw 4 posters, and heard the announcement at the masjid. Is nobody else attending the mosque? Does nobody else have email?

Alhamdulillah Ramadan is a month where we as Muslims can shape up and look at ourselves in our faith, but it should not be the only time that happens. We as Muslims are called to seek knowledge and better ourselves. Weekends like this one are perfect opportunities for that. What is wrong with us when we feel like we don't need to support the local student association or increase our hikma? I have a hard time believing that all of the 2000+ Muslims were working this weekend.

We need to be sure that our faith isn't practiced only in one month. That we don't become Ramadan-Muslims. I know this is my first Ramadan and I am still a new Muslim, but I know that living like that-- trying to survive off of a "spiritual high" that lasts for a month, will leave you plummeting down from the top in the months to follow.

There are still two weeks before Ramadan... what are you going to do to get ready?? Ramadan aside, what are you going to do to show Allah (SWT) that you are committed to Him, His religion, and bettering yourself as a Muslim.

To those who put on the conference this weekend, Jazakum Allah Khair! Insha'Allah Allah will reward you for your efforts and service to Him. To the speakers, Alhamdulillah Allah has given you knowledge and the ability to communicate it to the community. I pray that we would all be eager to hear it.
May Allah have mercy on our souls, keep us in His deen and make us among the pious... ameen