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Progress.

 

For the past few weeks, we have started to do I’raab- grammatical analysis of verses from the Qur’an where Ustadh Adam would pick a passage from the Qur’an, highlight words or fragments and we would have to recognize the role that they played and break the ayaat down based on everything that we had learned so far. When we starting doing these exercises, it would take Ustadh some time to pick out what to highlight because we were barely starting to piece things together so in the span of a page of the Qur’an, there would be a handful of highlighted words. Just the other day, though, we were doing another practice set before our exam and I looked up at the screen and almost the whole page was highlighted in yellow and I was just stunned. It was like slowly starting to see some of the fruits of your efforts before your eyes and the feeling was incredible.

The journey here has not been totally smooth sailing. There are some weeks that were smooth, everything seemed to click and make sense but there have also been others week where it seems as if no matter how I tried, there were still slip ups here and there. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of nights before the exam where I wonder if I am even cut for this, moments of doubt, moments of disappointment at my own self but looking up at the screen full of so much yellow, there was a feeling of happiness and gratitude that filled me. I may still struggle and fall short many times and make mistakes but from Day 1 to now, step by step, I am progressing more than I have ever progressed in my entire life before this program, Alhamdulillah. Slowly, Allah is opening more and more of His Book for me. Slowly but surely, my mushaf is becoming more familiar, more recognizable and just that is worth every tear, every moment of exhaustion, and every second of effort. Because if there’s one thing that worth struggling a lifetime for- it’s this Book. It’s the Qur’an. It’s our Master’s words that are the key to our success in this world and our ultimate success in the Next.

May Allah keep us students of His Book as long as we are alive and help us unlock its treasures and raise us on the Day of Judgment as the People of the Qur’an, Ameen.

Practicing Patience.

Patience is a very strange thing. I realized that for most of my life, I never truly understood the definition of patience. For so long, patience was simply waiting in line, waiting to get picked up, controlling road rage- basically patience with others, but as I grow older, patience has become a different challenge and has taken different shapes and forms. Patience has become holding back, its become a battle of cluttered thoughts, it’s become an exercise in tawakkul, and it is an everyday struggle, more often with the self, rather than others. It no longer remains a theoretical concept but in reality, has become something that practically requires a redirection towards Allah, a conscious redirection of thoughts and a physical redirection of the limbs to submission in sujood. And this is not always easy.

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Teacher of a Teacher

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Musa is one of our greatest teachers. Allah SWT narrates his stories, and his words to us in the Quran more than any other prophet.

We learn in Surah Kahf, however, that even the the greatest of teachers are also students. Allah commands Musa AS to search for a man who will show him what he doesn’t know, a man who will teach him.

We can only imagine that the the status and knowledge of this man to whom Musa AS was sent to is immense. This great prophet of Allah, this leader of a nation, is told to trek across endless terrain just to find him.

Yet, when Allah SWT describes such an amazing and knowledge person, he does so by not only calling him a slave, but by calling him a slave from amongst slaves, the most humbling of monikers.

In this, we learn something profound. The more one increases in knowledge, the more humbled he should be. Knowledge increases one’s ranks, and the highest of ranks we may achieve before the Lord of the Worlds is slave.

Often times, in the present day, we think in opposite terms. As we come to understand more and more, we become fuller and fuller of ourselves, losing sight of the purpose of knowledge itself.

Knowledge is not a goal, rather a path. A path towards guidance. If we treat it as anything else it will consume and destroy us with self delusion. If such great men as Musa were humble before the Lord of the Worlds then it is certainly upon us to take that same attitude.

A Single Step.

One of my favorite parts of being at Bayyinah is a small 5 minute chunk of our day where we learn various Arabic expressions that are very short yet so eloquent and deep. In years past, students had to memorize almost 300+ expressions but this year, Alhamdulillah the list is much shorter. One of my favorite expressions that we’ve covered so far was on Day 2 and it’s still one that I reflect on from time to time. The expression is:

الفُ ميلٍ تبدأ بِخَطوةٍ

A thousand miles begins with a single step. 

Often times in the course of our life, we make plans, we set goals, we dream big, and rightfully so. But the destination, the goal, and the dream seem so distant and difficult…like a thousand miles away and the fear of failure intimidates us, it cripples us. As much as we want to attain it, thinking of the long tiring road ahead leaves us overwhelmed, unproductive, and still at stuck in the same position. But you have to start somewhere. You have to take the first step. And little by little, step by step, du’a by du’a, the daunting task, the long road starts to seem tangible, starts to seem even enjoyable. Its often the first step that’s the hardest because it’s surrounded by fear, insecurity, baggage, and doubt. Once you overcome that, the steps that follow become more familiar and more comfortable.

This can apply to almost every aspect of our life- education, career, relationships, personal development and even in our faith. In our journey to God, we often carry heavy baggage whether that’s in the form of our sins, our own doubts, our past, our fears and our pain and we let those things weigh us down. We feel like we’re too far, too bad, too messed up with too much baggage to start over, to become better. In our minds, the road to becoming closer to God seems to be “a thousand miles”, our perception of what it means to be a “good Muslim” seems to be such a far stretch but we just have to take the first step and Allah (swt) says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” [Hadith Qudsi]

We just have to take the first step. Instead of looking at the thousand miles ahead, instead of being overwhelmed and crippled, even with faith we have let go and start step by step. What can I do better today? What can I take away that is pulling me away from Allah? What can I do to get closer to Allah? And slowly but surely, when we start sincerely turning back to Allah, when we put in that effort, when we turn back through istighfar and tawbah, through salah and du’a, Allah will not let those efforts go to waste and He guides the hearts that are sincerely seeking Him. It all starts with a single step.

Allah Provides.

In Surah Baqarah, Allah (swt) says at the end of Ayah 3: وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

In a basic translation, we learn that Allah is teaching us that the muttaqeen, the people that have taqwa, have God-consciousness are those that spend out of what they have been given. But if you look a little deeper, the verb that describes the act of spending is actually at the very end, when normally it should be in the beginning and Allah providing is mentioned first, it’s emphasized first. This is abnormal sentence structure, but what exactly is the significance?

Allah (swt) is teaching us that the people of taqwa don’t just spend but they realize that everything comes from Allah; that what they are giving comes from Allah. There may be an individual that doesn’t want to give zakah or is very, very attached to their wealth or perhaps may be boasting about how much they give but this ayah is a reminder. Before Allah mentions us giving, He reminds us that He is the one that provides us with whatever we have, and from that, they spend. Even what you give, even that portion of zakah or sadaqa etc- it was never ours to begin with. It is all from Allah.

The Coverer

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We know that the creation around us from the green veins of a leaf to the stars that light the sky points to the divine. Allah has adorned our world with signs that hold subtle and profound messages for people of reflection and intellect.

Throughout his book he alludes, with varying explicitness, to these signs, one of the most frequent being the turning of night and day, the covering of light by darkness, and vice versa. These signs point to a creator, and often time symbolize his traits.

This ayah in Surah Zumar is a fitting example:

يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى أَلَا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ

He makes the night cover the day and makes the day cover the night, and He has made the sun and the moon subservient; each one runs on to an assigned term; now surely He is the Mighty, the great Forgiver.

Allah describes how he causes the day to cover the night and the night to cover the day as a sign of his glory. He adds to the mention of this sign by relating it directly to his relevant qualities, the mighty, and the forgiving.

The reason why his might is mentioned here is evident, but what about his forgiveness? Why would Allah mention that quality in specific relation to his control over the day and night?

The word غفار, which means forgiver, comes from the root غ ف ر, which means to cover. Just as Allah literally covers the night with the day, he also covers our sins.

When we see the night and the day gracefully passing over each other, we should remember Allah’s power to forgive, and it should serve as a persistent reminder to to never despair in his mercy.

The Steel Door.

Before I left my home town to start the Dream Program, I visited one of our community’s scholars to seek his advice before beginning this journey of seeking knowledge, of seeking to study the language of Allah’s Book. His advice was very interesting; he told me to remember three things, three pieces of advice:

1. Purify your intentions. Always, always remember that you are going for Allah, that’s it.

2. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give up.

3. And remember that Shaitan is at the steel door.

I looked very puzzled when he said this last point of advice but he paused and then continued to explain. He said that the beginning of the journey to study Arabic is like trying to get in a house that has a steel door at the front but the rest of the house is made up of twigs. The beginning is the most difficult part of studying the language and at that steel door is where shaitan is sitting. You have to push past, you have to struggle through that door, and you have to never give up. Once you get through that steel door, once you get through the initial hurdle, and keep going, everything will start to click and make sense. The beginning is the most difficult part. But once you get past that hurdle, its just like the rest of the structure which is made of twigs. It’s just come together smoothly. At which point this happens, depends from individual to individual. That overcoming of the hurdle could come a month in, it could come six months in, or perhaps even at the end, eight or nine months in. But remember Shaitan is at that door trying his best to prevent you from getting through. You have to keep going, you have to keep pushing and working and never, ever, ever give up.

It will all slowly start to make sense, piece by piece, twig by twig. You just have to get through the steel door.

Otherworldly

otherworldlyThe Quran often uses words with heavy imagery to solidify the point that it’s making. In Surah Tahrim, Allah consoles the Messenger with regards to a breach of trust among his wives. He shared a secret with one of them and later discovered that they spread it. Allah strongly reprimands the Prophet’s spouses and warns them that if they do not act righteously that he will replace them with women who are purer and better in conduct.

Describing these ideal women, Allah uses many poignant adjectives, of which is the word سَائِحَة, which roughly translates into one who is spiritual, or not interested/invested in the material world.

It comes from the root س ي ح ,which, when taken literally, means to flow, or to pass over, as a river flows over land. Interestingly, سياح, which also derives from this root, means traveler. This makes sense since a traveler only passes through places, and doesn’t stay long, just like the water of a flowing river.

So a سَائِحَة is someone, in this case a woman, whose heart is elsewhere and has no taste or passion for this material world, one who passes through it as a traveller, in accordance to the Hadith of the Prophet SAWS: “Be in this world as if you are a traveler.”

We ask Allah to prevent us from attaching to our temporary world, and to allow us to return home to Jannah safely after passing through the journey of this life.

Puzzle Pieces.

In Surah Taha, we learn extensively about Prophet Musa (as), how Allah spoke to him directly, how Musa (as) was given the mission to go back to the place that he ran away from, and the powerful du’a that he makes for Allah to facilitate this task, and this responsibility that has been given to him. What really captures me in Surah Taha is after these set of ayaat, in Ayahs 37-41, Allah reminds Musa (as) of all the different blessings that were conferred to him, teaching him that He has been there all along from the beginning.

Allah tells Musa (as) about his past, about how the soldiers were about to kill him, how Allah inspired Musa (as)’s mother to throw him in the river, how his sister ran after to watch him, how he ended in the Pharoh’s house but Allah returned and reunited him with his mother so her heart wouldn’t grieve and then he was tested in many ways, tested immensely from having to run away from his land, being homeless, without anything and then Allah says after mentioning all these things, Allah says: “…Then you came [here] at the decreed time, O Moses.”  [20:40]

Allah tells Musa (as) that you came here right on time. Everything was part of the plan. Allah was there all along, at every step, at every moment, Watching, Hearing, Present. All the puzzle pieces were slowly being put together and at that valley, where Allah is speaking to Musa (as), He reminds Musa (as), that you have came right on time. You are right where you are supposed to be. 

This ayah made me reflect- Over the years, as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that growing up isn’t as smooth sailing, isn’t as glamorous as my 8 year old self used to think. It’s tough, it’s responsibility, it’s a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty, and difficult decisions and there are moments of just utter confusion and moments where you just feel like there is no way out, where the pieces just don’t seem to be fitting. But there is so much comfort in reflecting on these ayahs because after all the difficulties and struggles that Musa (as) has gone through, Allah reminds him that it was all part of the plan, it was all to mold him, for Him.

And just like that, we go through moments of extreme difficulty, of extreme uncertainty, of closed door after closed door but they are all part of the process. Your experiences, your struggles, your moments of happiness, your smiles and your tears are all unique- they are all part of the Plan and slowly but surely, the puzzles pieces start to connect and come together. And there is a beautiful tranquility and peace that lies in knowing that, when you live for Allah alone, He takes care of you in the best of ways, connects the puzzle pieces in the most beautiful of ways. And in every moment, He is there, forever Present, closer to us than our jugular vein. الحمد لله

Eagle’s Nest

Blog CoverThere is no injustice greater, no crime worse than ignoring the signs of Allah after being reminded of them. This crime demonstrates the height of ingratitude, and is akin to carelessly discarding a sincere gift from someone who loves you. In fact, it’s even worse. This gift, guidance from Allah, is essential to our well being, so ignoring it is not only ungrateful, but foolish.

In Surah Kahf Allah addresses the horrifying result of those who commit this crime:

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ ذُكِّرَ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهَا وَنَسِيَ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ ۚ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَنْ يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا ۖ وَإِنْ تَدْعُهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَلَنْ يَهْتَدُوا إِذًا أَبَدًا

And who is more wrong than one who is reminded of the Signs of his Lord but turns away from them forgetting the deeds which his hands have sent forth? Verily We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this and over their ears a deafness. If you call them to guidance even then will they never accept it.

18:58

Since these people ignored guidance when it was given to them, Allah takes away their capacity to be guided in the future. Even if the Prophet SAWS himself, the best of callers, were to try and help them, they would never be guided.

The word أَكِنَّةً is used in the ayah to illustrate the inaccessibility of their hearts to guidance. Interestingly, أَكِنَّةً is also used to describe an eagle’s nest that is high up in the mountains beyond the reach of anyone, a place totally inaccessible. Imagining a heart that closed off should frighten any believer.

It is possible that these people might hear, or even understand guidance, but it will never truly penetrate their hearts, and they won’t be profoundly moved by it, deeming them spiritually decapacitated, paralyzed, and doomed.

Further, Allah says he places a وَقْرًا in their ears, which can be translate as a deafening object, but is more specifically used to describe the phenomenon of ears popping when climbing high. Continuing the imagery of a tall, unreachable mountain, the wording suggests that these people will hear things ,but won’t be able to comprehend or understand them clearly. They will stumble along lost, many times not even realizing it, as they assure themselves of their own righteousness.

What’s more is that the two senses, or faculties, which Allah blocks are the heart and the ears, both essential to guidance. The ear receives the speech of Allah, and the heart accepts and acts on it. With these senses blocked, these people are essentially left wandering blindly in a valley of wolves. Time is the only thing between them and eternal doom, and this is because when Allah graciously gave them guidance they recognized it, accepted it, but then justified turning away from it.

May Allah protect us. Ameen.

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