On Community

When they fall, do not turn your face and scoff. Help them up.

When they mess up, do not speak about them behind their backs. Help them get back on the right track.
And when times get tough for them, do not walk out of their lives. Stay. Help them through it.
DEFEND them, they are YOUR people, YOUR nation.
CRY for them, PRAY for them.
When the night conceals your sincerity from everyone except The One, raise your hands for them.
And when daylight vows to carry freedom cries, raise your voice for them.
Be an inspiration for the young, an aid for the old.
Be a bright future, a comfort, to dimming souls, closing eyes, and fading breath.
Be an authority, a confidant, an older sibling, to those still full to the brim with childhood.
Be the shining face that says to one:
“InshaAllah, we got this. Thank you for all of this, thank you for your struggle. Thank you for crossing an ocean and leaving your home for us, for enduring their racism and degradation so that we could stand on equal footing to them. May Allah SWT reward your efforts.”
Be the leader that says to another:
“I know it’s hard, it’s tough. But inshaAllah we got this. We’re in this together and no one gets left behind.  I know sometimes it’ll seem like the sun hasn’t shone for months and sometimes it’ll seem like the heat of the sun is unbearable. But inshaAllah, it’ll pay off in the end. “
This is the struggle called life. But every battle ends, and likewise winners and losers emerge.
You’ll have to work to join your predecessors on the Day of Judgement: faces glowing, basking in the ultimate victory.
And they figured this out- community: the stronghold of the weak, the path that leads to every masjid.
When Umar RA found out that his friend, the esteemed Syrian, had become a drunkard, he did not cut relations with him, shun him, or denounce him. Instead, he sent him a letter with verse 2 of Surah Al-Mu’min in it:  “the One who forgives sins and accepts repentance, the One who is severe in punishment, the One who is the source of all power. There is no god but He. To Him is the ultimate return.” The Syrian was so deeply affected by this letter that he made taubah (asked Allah SWT for forgiveness), left alcohol forever, and completely changed his ways. If we knew the true meaning of community, we would approach each other in this manner.
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On Disappointment and Frustration.

What is one to do when the heart is saddened and the mind is frustrated?

There are times when things do not go the way we want them to. A bad grade after studying for months, not getting a job you felt you were well qualified for, the possibilities are truly endless. When the heart is saddened, when the mind is frustrated- those are our weakest, most vulnerable moments. When we find it difficult to trek through the lows no matter how many times we have encouraged others to soldier through their storms- that is when shaytaan is by our sides, ready to take us down. The second being a Muslim, a mu’min, becomes hard, the second you’re on the “losing” side- that is when it’s most important to believe and act like victory is just up ahead. When we struggle to keep our heads up and our backs bend and our knees ache with life’s burdens- that is when we must ignore the pain and look to sun and remember Allah SWT’s mercy. When it feels like the world is crashing down on us and we’re drowning in anxiety- that is when we must be optimistic. When  your eyes are surrounded by dark circles and smiling is arduous- that is the time to remind yourself that better days will come. This is only temporary. Pain and hardship are only temporary. This dunya is only temporary. Yet Allah SWT gives glad tidings to the believers of a paradise that is eternal, that will long outlast any grief or frustration felt in this life.

“American”

One time somebody told me my name doesn’t sound “American,”

but I guess that somebody doesn’t know that I’m as American as it gets.

My blood cannot be confined to the boundaries of just one country.

I am the child of a culture that is rugged, yet poetic,

unrelenting, yet yeilding.

My skin is suffused with scrolls

filled with enough stories to roll out over seas-

sagas from generations past:

epics of war and peace, loss and love, trial and triumph, defeat and honor.

Yet I am a daughter of the American dream and a dollar,

Familiar with the fact that with every hardship there is ease,

that sometimes people purposely put themselves forth to be refined

and willingly volunteer to be shattered, splintered

in hopes that they, too, can one day, someday, be purified of all vices.

I have been born into a tradition of sleepless nights and textbook print swimming behind eyelids,

of giving your all when you feel like giving up.

And despite everyone who blindly asserts that you can’t be Muslim and America, or American and Muslim,

let them know that I am a part of the revolutionary generation:

the kids who know that Allah SWT can raise prodigies from the most crumbling of foundations,

that He makes flowers grow in deserts and diamonds in dirt.

-AN

 

On Contentment

We are kaleidescopes of experiences. Our minds are mazes echoing with distant and proximate memories- like halls reverberating with the sounds of laughter and tears. And encoded between the bricks are our tales of defeat and triumph. Engrained in the most hidden chambers of our heart are our worst fears, our most ambitious hopes. Multi-faceted and intricate, we are the products of divine work, each of us instilled with unmeasurable potential. Our bodies are super machines, the harmonious results of the cooperation and integration of billions of tiny components. We have all been bestowed with brains that can think, reason, and effortlessly translate thoughts into words and action. We have been gifted hearts that beat non-stop till the day we die- never taking a rest, never ceasing, even when we feel as though we cannot go any further. The master artistry displayed in our physical beings- in everything from our eyes to our hands to our feet- is awe-inspiring. Yet, we so often unjustly and cruelly slap onto ourselves harsh categorizations:

“Ugly, fat, stupid, awkward, slow.”
Spitting insults at our own reflections.
Where did our parents go wrong? Why were we never taught to love ourselves? Why do we hate ourselves with a contempt that crosses the line into unhealthy territory? Why, when Allah SWT says He has created us in the best of forms, do we still struggle to believe it, to believe that we’re beautiful? Why do we only concentrate on what we don’t like when we look into the mirror? We can we only see that “my nose is too big, my skin is too splotchy, my thighs are ginormous, my stomach sticks out.” Why are we not content with what have been given? Why do we, at the slightest affliction, the tiniest amount of stress, begin to complain and wail? How can we so easily forget the mercy we have all been showered in? How come the two happiest people in my life are two individuals who cannot even speak: one man has muscular dytrophy and the other is paralyzed from the neck down.
The first man is an old family friend whose younger brother used to be in my class when I was in early elementary school. Whyen I was a little girl, we’d often spend time at their house, and I’d see him nearly everyday at school, next to his mother. I never saw him not confined to a wheelchair or with the use of his fine- or gross- motor skills. He could not speak, eat on his own, make a fist, catch a ball, run, or make sajdah. Yet, I have never seen anyone happier than him. When I think of him, I always see his cheerful smile. Wallahi, I have never seen anyone else in my entire life smile like that. He would make sounds that allowed others to distinguished between syllables and words merely by the tone/volume of his voice (nevertheless, his extremely loving family always seemed to know exactly what he wanted to say), and the most common sound he made was one that signified laughter. And despite the fact that entire parts of his brain were declared “dead” by the doctors, he graduated as the validictorian of his class. And when asked by Make-A-Wish foundation what his dream was, he chose to visit the Ka’bah with his family. Despite how arduous it was for him, everytime the adhaan went off, this boy promptly proceeded to pray along with the rest of the family.Everytime we complain, we should remember that a boy who cannot even use the bathroom without the help of an aid is a much better person than any of us can ever be.  His smile will always stay with me, a clear reminder from Allah SWT that we should be thankful for even the smallest of things and strive to make the best of our situations.
The second man is a person many Muslims have heard of: Robert Davilla. I remember hearing about brother Robert’s story, around midnight on a night when I was swamped with school work. I was looking for a break from my studying, and I happened upon the video on youtube. I listened to Ustadh Nouman’s narration, and sure enough, tears began to well in my eyes. I had been going through a sort of imaan stagnation- not a low, but definately a period when I wasn’t doing much to make any progress in terms of Islam. Instead, I was trying to find a way to cope with the stresses of school and extra curriculars. The story of this remarkable individual who, I believe, is a blessing from Allah SWT to our ummah, made me realize just how much we take for granted. Rendered incapacitated in his early twenties, he spent much of his life in a bed as the only young person in a nursing home. However, after seeing Rasulullah SAW in a dream and hearing a refutation of the worshipping of ‘Eesa AS as God’s son, he decided to do more research about Islam, Eventually, he took the shahadah and became a Muslim. However, the only masjid near him was about an hour’s drive away, and he, with the intention of making it to jummuah Salah, endured a grueling ride there which later caused him to become bed-ridden for the next 6 weeks. And after all that pain and struggle, brother Robert confided to Ustadh Nouman that he would, indeed, do it all over again as soon as he healed. While we make excuses for ourselves and wallow in self-pity, focusing on what we feel we have been deprived of rather than everything we have surely been blessed with, brother Robert, like my family friend, overlooked his situation as something trivial and made his main focus getting closer to Allah SWT. Robert Davilla’s story gave me newfound enthusiasm and motivation to continue bettering myself as a Muslim, at a time when I was struggling to get myself in school every morning.