Month: February 2016

Souls Like Birds

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When we look to the sky we see birds soaring above our heads with grace. We tend to overlook the Allah’s signs within these magnificent creations, the same signs that he points us towards in the Quran.

In Surah Noor, Allah groups the worship that the birds do with our worship of him, striking an interesting parrallel by using the word من to refer to both creations at the same time, and كل to categorize to both groups as one in Ayah 41 of the Surah. He makes the same comparison even more explicitly in Surah Anaam Poiting to the birds and describing how they are grouped into communities just like humans:

“And there is no creature on the earth or bird that flies with its wings except that they are communities like you”

وما من دابة في الارض ولا طائر يطير بجناحيه الا امم امثالكم ما فرطنا في الكتاب من شيء ثم الى ربهم يحشرون

Of all creatures and creations, why does he specifically choose the bird to draw a similarity with?

To understand this, we must understand exactly who we are as humans from both a physical and spiritual perspective.

In the daytime, when we are awake and going about our lives, our souls reside within our bodies and upon the earth, but at night, as Allah also says in Surah Anaam, he takes our souls and they travel to the skies, in essence making us creatures of both the sky and the earth.

The spiritual element of us, the part that praises and worships God, our soul, comes from the sky, which makes it fitting for Allah to liken us with birds, creatures of the sky, when discussing how both creations worship and glorify god.

When Allah asks us to ponder the creation of the bird he is not only hilighitng the wonder of its physical creation, but also of its spiritual reality.

By indirectly comparing us with birds Allah reminds us that a part of us, our souls, belongs in the heavens. Like the bird, we are part sky and part earth so to speak.

In the Ayah after this Allah immediatley says:

“And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination”

 ولله ملك السماوات والارض والى الله المصير

No matter if we are in the sky or on the earth, no matter how high we or the birds ascend, no matter where we travel, we will always be within his kingdom. There is not a moment of time, nor a foot of space, that is outside the kingdom of Allah, and it for this very reason that we should be constantly remembering and glorifying our lord, just as the birds do.

If we do so, then we may hope that our souls are returned home, to a higher place, Jannah.



A few weeks ago before we started class for the day, one of our teachers had asked us to take a few minutes and reflect back to before we came to the program- where we were, how we left, why were we coming here, leaving our families and homes behind and coming to an unfamiliar place, what was our thought process like? I rewinded back 5 months and vividly remembered the day I had packed my car up the brim, swallowed back tears, and left heavy hearted- excited, anxious, overwhelmed with gratitude, a bit afraid of the upcoming responsibility- so many thoughts running through my head. I had never left home for more than 30 days and leaving home, leaving my family, my community, all the bonds and memories that were made- I wondered if I could find the same comfort, the same feeling of family and love in a new place.

I remember the first few weeks being full of introductions and reserved conversations as a room full of strangers, who came from all across the country, slowly started to get to know one another. A few weeks passed and then a couple more. Day in and day out, we pushed through beginning nahw,  trying to squeeze as much as we could into our brains. More weeks passed with lots of late nights, tears shed on each other shoulders, studying till we were loopy, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, and we made it to Sarf. We went to sleep whispering sarf charts to ourselves, shared our sarf nightmares with each other, sarfed in the car rides, woke up sarfing some days and realized we had officially gone over the edge, stayed on campus way too late before the Sarf final, cried our way through it, and thanked Allah once we made it through.

Five in a half months later, we’re finally in Advanced Nahw and one thing that strikes me the most at this point is that I don’t know when it happened or how it happened, but at some point in this journey, the people that I am sharing this journey with became my family. I walk in now some days and I look at the sisters around me and I can’t help but wonder how such a strong bond can form in such a short amount of time. Relationships sometimes take years to develop and grow and strengthen but within such a short amount of time, my classmates and teachers became like a part of me. Their moments of happiness became mine just like their pain became my pain too. We’ve pushed each other through the lows, been cheerleaders for each other through the days where our brain just couldn’t take anymore, and celebrated the little successes, and cried together and held each others hands through the tough times.

For the past several weeks, one of my classmates had to return home and has been in and out of the hospital because of a severe illness and we could all feel a part of the pain. She was hurting and our hearts hurt for her too. (Please keep her in your duas, may Allah grant her a complete healing and elevate her through this difficulty). Some of our classmates have lost loved ones in the past months, some of them have been battling emotional battles, some have started new journeys in life and just like a family, we feel together. But why? How?

It’s the power of Allah, of His Book, of sacred knowledge. We all came here with one purpose, we came for Allah. 6 days a week, we sit together trying and struggling to get closer to His Book, trying to change ourselves, yearning for Allah’s pleasure with whatever little we are able to do and that unified goal- it connects hearts on such a deep level. It’s a transcendent type of love…a love fueled by Allah, for Allah. Looking around at the people I’m surrounded by here, I’m constantly inspired by their dedication, their sacrifices, their work ethic and character and so so grateful that Allah wrote them as part of my provision in this world.

Along with the Arabic, it’s the relationships built in this environment, founded and fueled by a common goal that really makes this experience unlike anything else. It’s the random gems, the experiences that my classmates have shared, their stories of resilience and overcoming, the wisdom shared by our teachers  that have helped me grow in ways that I could’ve never imagined before coming to the program. It’s a family away from family. And I can never thank Allah enough for each and every one of them.

Shining Lamp


In the Quran we find the messenger SAWS described as سراج منير, a shining lamp. What’s interesting is that the only other context this phrase is found is when Allah uses it to describe the sun.

This parallel description is no coincidence, and in fact holds within it a powerful metaphor.

The indirect comparison of the prophet to the sun, which is the source of light, aptly represents the role of the messenger in relation to his nation.

The mention of سراج منير, with reference to the sun, is proceeded by a description of the moon which reflects the original light of the sun.

The messenger brings divine light and guidance, and it is the responsibility of his nation, the moon, to reflect this guidance in their lives.

Whereas the sun knows no phases and gleams with perpetual perfection, the moon has phases, ups and downs, where it becomes weaker and stronger, yet it never loses its connection and reliance on the sun.

Our Ummah will pass through rough times, but it should always look to the light and guidance of our messenger for a way out, for hope.

Struggling with Spirituality.

Often times in life, we associate spirituality with certain milestones. “I’ll become more religious when [x,y,z] happens.” “I’ll work on my relationship with Allah when I graduate or get married or get so and so job, etc.” We start to think that somehow in some form, certain moments or events could magically perfect our relationship with Allah- quick fix and done- but in reality, there is really no magic pill, no permanent bandaid, no solution that doesn’t require consistent effort.

Coming to Bayyinah, coming to spend 9 months day in and day out spending time with the book of Allah- I was ignorant and felt as if spirituality would be the least of my worries. I was going to be learning the Qur’an after all, it was going to be the perfect solution, the magic pill to get closer to Allah but I soon realized how wrong I was. One of my biggest struggles coming here, ironically, was trying to maintain my personal relationship with Allah. And it feels so vulnerable to even admit that. To be a student of the Qur’an and to feel distant from Allah- how could that even be a thing? Why?

Slowly, I started to realize what the root cause to this dilemma was. I was getting so caught up in the routine of things that my personal time, my “me” time with Allah was gradually disappearing. Amongst the rush of waking up, getting to class, staying on top of homework and vocabulary and reading and exams, I was living in such a mechanical way, going from one thing to the next on my to do list to the point that even salah was becoming mechanical. As much time as we were spending trying to study the language of the Qur’an, I wasn’t spending nearly enough time actually reflecting and personally connecting with the Qur’an. And thus, even though we were spending 8 hours a day in class plus another couple of hours studying outside of class- I felt so distant, so painfully distant.

Over the weeks, I’ve come to realize that just being here is not enough to better my relationship with Allah. No amount of drills or homework or grammatical analysis can replace taking time to sit down with the Qur’an and think, reflect, and really try to personally connect with what Allah is telling me. No amount of “studying” could really replace the nearness to Allah that came with sujood, with just sitting and talking to Allah, with just savoring solitude and peace in those moments where it was just me and my Master. Nothing can replace that.

All of the learning and studying and memorizing helps- they are all tools but at the end of the day, the information has to result in application- and that application happens in the quiet moments. That application happens on the heart first before anything else. That application happens on the quality of my salah, the willingness of my heart to call out and speak to Allah, and on my character.  It doesn’t matter whether I am here studying the Qur’an, it doesn’t matter if someone has spend decades studying Islam, it doesn’t matter what you do or where you are in your journey- every single person has to consistently work on their heart. Every single person has to take care of their personal relationship with Allah, no matter what is going on around them.

Sometimes as we go through the motions in life, pushing ourselves to our limits, trying our best to do right by our responsibilities and commitments, we can get so caught up in them that we forget that the spiritual state of our hearts is also a responsibility. It’s also something that we have to take care of, if not one of the most important things to take care of because it keeps us going, it keeps us pushing forward. Amongst all the hustle and bustle- even 5 or 10 minutes of sitting in solitude after salah or just some time alone with the Qur’an, away from everything else, can be the perfect fuel. With some introspection- you can gradually realize what are the things that do and do not get you closer to Allah because there are some key things that are consistent across the board but there are some things can be very unique from individual to individual. Look deeply, create a list , and slowly develop consistent habits that work into your own schedule that can help you inch forward, closer and closer to Allah.

May Allah make us people that constantly remember Him no matter what is going on around us. May Allah grant life to our hearts and purify them and keep them striving for Him alone and make us people that consistently work towards cultivating our faith and make us people that He is pleased with. Ameen.

The Real Goal.

Every day at Bayyinah, between our group sessions, we break to pray Dhuhr and then resume back with the rest of the periods of the day. A few weeks ago, as we were lining up for Dhuhr prayer, taking off our shoes by the shelves, one of our Ustadhas commented on how the shoes were lined up so neatly and she said something that really struck me. She said- “Your knowledge is showing its effects on you.” It took me a second to understand what she meant but then I realized that even though it was just a neat row of shoes, on a bigger scale, it was a reflection of character, which is something our teachers had been stressing since Day 1.

We were all here to learn the book of Allah. Day in and day out, week after week, we unfold and go through another concept, another set of homeworks and quizzes and exams, another piece of the puzzle that is put in place as we strive to understand the Qur’an but at the end of the day, all of this is to make us better people, to make us more pleasing to Allah. The more we learn, the greater the responsibility becomes, and the higher the standard of character is. Our teachers often remind us how knowledge can either be a witness for us or against us and sacred knowledge isn’t just information. Rather, It’s transformation. It’s meant to better our relationship with Allah first and foremost, but also better our interactions with people, our parents, and loved ones. It’s meant to humble us and make us more compassionate, merciful, and ethical people in all aspects of life even down to the way we line up our shoes before we pray, subhanAllah.

This thought always lingers in the back on mind as we go through the program and becomes heaviest every time I go back home for break, back to my family and community. Between the span of each break, how has that knowledge improved me? With each time I return home again, am I a kinder individual? Am I more willing to help? Am I able to stay calmer when provoked? Am I am able to better manage my anger? Am I better to my parents, more willing to serve them? Is the transformation happening? The questions are endless. And there’s always more work to be done. Always.

May Allah allow knowledge to constantly transform us for the better and make us people who constantly strive to embody the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet (sws) in our attitudes, character, and interactions, Ameen.

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