Tag Archives: religion

Unsettling

Qur'an

So I’m really into this Dr. Jeffrey Lang book lately.  I think I am just mostly excited to be reading about Islam again, especially from a convert’s perspective.  Something happened recently at work that felt unsettling, and this book addressed that very issue.

This co-worker and I were talking about religion.  After discussing various topics, she stated that all religions at a base level depended on faith.  That because there is no scientific proof of any particular religion, it all comes down to an individual having faith, just believing it to be true.

But that just didn’t sit right with me.

When it comes to Islam, I feel so sure of its authenticity, so convinced of the Qur’an being the final message to humanity, that it’s hard to accept her concept of faith directed at my particular belief system.

The book pointed out that Muslims don’t particularly identify with this specific concept of faith, because Islam makes no division between the secular and the sacred.  In other words, “…when a Muslim is asked to relate his or her experience of belief, he or she is being asked to do something unfamiliar, to dissect and think about faith in a way that is outside of the Islamic perspective.”  Further still, the author points out that the Qur’an places a strong emphasis on “the extreme importance of reason and contemplative thought in the attainment of faith.”  The author goes on to point out all the ways in which the Qur’an presses us to use reason and rational thought when it comes to our beliefs.

Reading those passages helped me to identify the reasons why her comment left me feeling unsettled.

You see, my father raised all four of us girls to think for ourselves.  He pushed us to challenge the status quo and to question and to look for answers, to stick by those answers even if they didn’t quite fit within the social norms.  In this type of environment, I had an understanding of people’s differences and accepted those differences with an open mind.

I have and will always have respect for other people’s beliefs.  But I’ve also changed in that I now believe that my way is the right way.  If I didn’t believe that then I wouldn’t follow Islam.

I remember my sister pointing this out to me years ago.  She said she is amazed (and baffled) by my conviction of Islam.  She imagined that it must feel very reassuring to believe in something so strongly that you believe it to be true above anything and everything else, because she never found that to be the case in her religious experience.

See, it is hard for them (my sisters and family) to understand what makes me so committed to Islam.  Because in the past, my attitude was that religion was all just a matter of choice and none had more importance than another.  Even though I believed in Catholicism, I didn’t believe it was for everyone.  But when I came upon Islam, it was different.

I always tell people:  “Islam chose me.  I didn’t choose it.”  When I first read the Qur’an, I immediately knew there was something to it.  I believe I knew in my heart right then and there that I was a Muslim.  But I just wouldn’t acknowledge it.  I questioned the Qur’an from every angle I could come up with.  I tried to find fault in it.  I tried to deny it.  I struggled within myself for a long time.  But in the end, I knew I had to accept it.  I knew I believed that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the final messenger.

I felt that that book had been put down on paper some 1400 years ago and hadn’t been changed for that entire time, and it spoke to me like it knew me.  Like it had looked into my soul and saw all of the frustrations and anger and curiosity and concern and it provided me with definitive answers to the questions I had been asking for years.

In fact, it was so spot on that it scared me.  I was actually spooked the first time I read it.  Because it was so direct.  One passage in particular that really got to me was:

2:170  “When they are asked to follow that which Allah has revealed, they say, “no! We would rather follow the path that we found our forefathers pursuing.”

I was forced to ask myself why I followed Catholicism.  Was it because it made sense to me?  Was it because I believed in it with my whole heart?  Or was it because it had been passed down to me?

I learned from the Qur’an that Jesus was a prophet and was never meant to be worshipped.  It completely threw me off my rocker when I read the following passage :

O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only a messenger of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector. (Surah 4:171 – Shakir)

Or this one:

Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (Surah 112:1-4)

I felt like I had finally been told the truth, something I believed all along – that we are to worship God and God alone.

Well, I certainly hadn’t started this post with the intention of explaining my entire belief system and all the experiences I had as a result – I only wanted to emphasize that for me, defining my spiritual transformation solely on the basis of faith would be inaccurate.

I emphasized to this co-worker that I am a Muslim because I believe (and am positive) that Islam is the one and only religion that God has delivered to us over the entire course of human existence.  I believe that most other religions are deviations of the messengers’ original messages, and that Islam and the Qur’an is meant for every soul on earth to follow.

I also think that everyone with sound reasoning and logical thinking skills should read the Qur’an and insha’allah they will discover this truth for themselves.  As much as I tried to deny it, I could not turn away from it.

 “Verily, Allah sends astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills.” [Faatir, 35:8]

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“Thank You, God.”

Last night I was talking to my son about God.  (I know that the proper name for God is Allah, but for some reason, I feel more comfortable referring to Our Creator as “God.”)  We were reading a Curious George book about the Dinosaur Museum.  George goes with The-Man-With-The-Yellow-Hat to a digging site and while George is getting into mischief, he creates a rockslide and accidentally uncovers a collection of dinosaur bones.

At the end of the book, there is a picture of the dinosaur bones all linked together to represent the dinosaur, with a photo of the actual dinosaur named “Georgosaurus.”

We looked at that picture, and Kareem asked me what those “holes” were in the skull, which led me to explain to him that our bodies are made up of bones, that these are our ribs, this is your leg bone, these are the bones in your fingers, in your hands, and even your head has its own bone – the skull.  He asked if our ears have bones and if his neck had bones, and we talked about how muscles are attached to the bones, and if we didn’t have bones, we’d be a big lump of jello pudding.

Then I explained that God made our bodies – our skin and our bones and our muscles.  At that point, he said “we should thank God.”  I said, “You’re absolutely right, we should thank God.  Go ahead, tell God thank you.”  He said, “How?” and I said, “You just say it.  God will hear you.”  “Out loud?” he asked.  “Yes,” I told him.

He said, “Thank you, God.”  We talked a little more about how God is everywhere and He sees everything.  How he is close to us, very, very close.  That He doesn’t sleep because He never gets tired.

We’ve never talked like this before about God.  I’ve mentioned God to him, but we never discussed the idea of God this in depth.  For a moment I worried it’s  confusing for him, the concept of an all-powerful Creator.  But something tells me he gets it.

Thinking

We waste so much time in this life.  Sometimes I watch the clock ticking away and I realize that each second that goes by is time when we could be fulfilling our duties to Allah.  And if you are amongst the ones who are praying, wearing hijab, paying your zakat, and living in the path of Allah, then you are using your time in the dunya correctly.  But if you are like me – not praying, not wearing hijab, not paying your zakat, then things don’t feel so good.

You see every time I do my prayers, I feel so much better.  But my emaan goes down and I stop doing my prayers, and that’s when things go downhill.

You see when you’re praying, it’s not just to please Allah.  It also benefits us.  It’s good for my mental health.  To live my life around the prayers gives me structure.  The prayer itself gives me a moment of meditation, when the world disappears and I focus only on the one Creator.  These moments help ground me, stabilize me, keep my feet on the floor and upright, prostrating in the direction of the Kabah, bowing down to the Most Merciful.  These are the motions of the true believers.

I’m sad for myself.  Sad that I have strayed from the straight path.  Sad that I’m not 100% me.  But I have to keep praying to Allah to straighten me.  Help me stand tall and worship Him the way we are meant to worship.  I love Allah, I thank Him daily for the blessings he has given me – my two beautiful sons, my wonderful husband, my loving family.  Nothing in this world makes me more grateful to Allah.

Sigh.  Insha’allah khair.

The Pen

Surah 68.  The Pen.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim:  In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Nun.  By the Pen and by the (Record) which (men) write, –
You are not, by the grace of your Lord, mad or possessed.
Nay, verily for you is a Reward unfailing:
And you (stand) on an exalted standard of character.
Soon will you see, and they will see,
Which of you is afflicted with madness.

Verily, it is your Lord that knows best, which (amongst men) have strayed from His Path:  And He knows best those who receive (true) guidance.

Surah 68:  1:7

This surah was written for Prophet Mohammed (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).
It brought me peace when I read it because recently with some of the mental illness issues I have had, along with my recent decision to put on hijab, some may see me as crazy.  Crazy or “afflicted with madness” for following a religion so different from the one I had known my whole life – Catholicism.  For putting myself out there as a Muslim – visible and real for what feels like the first time since taking shahada (the oath one recites to become Muslim.)

Now, I would never mean to literally compare myself to what the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) went through (THAT certainly would be crazy!) but there are significant similarities in that those of us who choose Islam in our lives, those of us who have “reverted” to Islam or “converted” to Islam (whichever term you use) as a new muslim, must realize that it is not always going to be easy.  We will confront some who reject us, some who will always deny the truth, because Allah only leads who he chooses.

I thank Allah for choosing me.

Right now I am living in tiny compartments of time.  I pray Fajr, and then I ask Allah to help me get to the next prayer.  To keep me alive, breathing, healthy, to survive to the next prayer, Dhuhr.  And when the noon-time prayer is over, I pray to Allah to help me to the next.

And in this way, I am making it.  I am making it through this mental illness I have – bipolar disorder, call it what you want – this chemical imbalance, this soul-gripping depression that sometimes arises out of nowhere and catches me by the throat with a tight grip that won’t let go.  I ask Allah for help, to help me to keep upright, to stay out of bed, out from under the hidden covers.  And I thank Allah for my blessings – my kids, my healthy, happy, beautiful children.  How lucky I am to have them in my life.  I thank Allah for my husband, for the food in our fridge, for our life together.  I thank Allah for helping me find a therapist who I trust.  Who I will go see at 2 pm today.

Thank you Allah for the gift of the Pen, for my talent for writing.  For my many, many blessings.  Insha’allah khair.*

*God-willing, it will be “all good,” as in “it’s all good.”

Importance of Prayer

One of the fundamental basics of our religion is prayer. We observe the five prayers, for no other reason except that Allah SWT has commanded us to. It is important to recognize that Allah SWT has told us to pray and explains to us why we should do so:

 

 

 

“Surely I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance”  (Qur’an 20.14)

 

“Verily, the prayer keeps one away from the great sins and evil deeds.” (Qur’an 29:45)

 

“The first matter that the servant will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” (At-Tabarani)

 

“If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?”

The people said: “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said :

“That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

7 Things Non-Muslims Should Know About Islam

Sources for Information: There are two main sources I will be using. One of them is a book by Suzanne Haneef called “What Everyone Should Know about Islam and Muslims.” The other is from a short essay off of a website called http://www.rahmana4.piczo.com.  This website has been updated (to a more clear, readable version) at  http://www.taqwa.co.uk/index.html. All of this is in my own words, except for when I specifically designate it as a quote (or if it’s italicized).

The creator of the website I mentioned above compiled a list called : “10 THINGS NON MUSLIMS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ISLAM.” In Section One, I am going to use a few of his examples that I think are most important.

1. Allah is God
2. The biggest sin is Islam is shirk: “associating partners with God.”
3. Translations of the Qur’an are not the Qur’an.
4. Not all Muslims are Arabs; not all Arabs are Muslims.
5. Culture is not religion
6. Jihad does not mean “holy war.”
7. Islam does not promote, sponsor, condone or encourage terrorism or murder.

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