Sunday, September 27, 2009

Forgetting Ourselves

We all remember that one time we wanted to fit in to the “cool people” group/club and/or fell into peer pressure when we were younger. However, we’re still doing that to a lesser degree while we’re older, whether we are aware of it or not. We do so when we give into the fashion trends, give into what the companies tells us to wear, eat and do. Sometimes it may go against our values, morals, etc. to eat, drink and wear some of the things we wear. We give into these images of success as defined by companies, but who's to define what success is?

Also, these companies sell us what the standard of beauty is. Why are we letting companies define what beauty is? Beauty isn't a superficial outer beauty. We try so hard to fit into these images companies sell that are so unrealistic that we eventually lose our genuine nature and lose who we are. It's a harsh reality we need to face---not everyone's white, blonde, blue-eyed and has a skeleton for a body...not every guy is a bodybuilder. We place so much emphasis on outer beauty, that we often fail to see that inner beauty is someone's character, values, morals, etc. Look at our own marriage processes---there are girls who're turned down marriage for the sole reason of not being "white enough" or "she's not that skinny" There are guys who're turned down for the sole reason of being "too short" or "too dark", etc. etc. the list goes on and on.... We base beauty off of stupid superficial images sold by companies. Beauty as defined by companies is: white skin complexion, skeleton-esque body(or super jacked for guys), perfect hair, teeth, etc. Unfortunately, not all of us are any of the above---we're human for Godsake and we're different--ALHAMDULLILAH (that's the beauty of Allah's creation).I'm not saying that we at a personal level we can't have our own perception of beauty, that's totally fine, but when we let others define beauty to us that's where the problem lies. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. It's sad due to us buying into the lies of these companies that so many of us have unrealistic perceptions of what we want in a potential spouse and/or are disappointed by them.
I wonder if instead of white colonists and white slave traders if an African nation or any other nation/ethnicity had become the dominant superpower---our perception of beauty would have certainly been different today.

Now we come to the part of the Quran where it says:

And be not like those who forgot Allah (i.e. became disobedient to Allah) and He caused them to forget their ownselves. Those are the Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). (Surah 59:19)

From this we realize that we do forget Allah, we forget ourselves. How many of us have done this by buying into stuff that's in contradiction to Islam, Quran and Sunnah? So we may be thinking, “Psssssh, not me, I’m so much older, I’m not stupid and young….I don’t’ give into peer pressure.” I’m sorry…. but we do unfortunately. Let’s look at social situations we often find ourselves in. For example, when we’re amongst some friends who gossip, backbite, etc. we fall into the same trap without knowing it or being aware of it. When a friend says a inappropriate joke do we find ourselves laughing or finding it acceptable or do we say “No, I don’t think that’s appropriate.” Seriously, some brothers got to grow up---their humor is middle-school-esque humor that isn’t funny anymore, we’re in college, we’re older and hopefully more mature than middle school humor. Some sisters too…..

How many times do we let things slide and just let it be when it really shouldn’t be condoned or acceptable? I speak to myself first, because I’m responsible for this just as anyone is. The Prophet SAW never used to use bad language or say dirty/inappropriate jokes and neither should we. I could go on about the evils, trouble and sins of the tongue, but that’s not the point of this reminder. What I’m trying to focus on is the fact that when we forget Allah, we forget ourselves. Again as mentioned earlier, it says in the Quran:

And be not like those who forgot Allah (i.e. became disobedient to Allah) and He caused them to forget their ownselves. Those are the Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). (Surah 59:19)

And as we give into peer pressure and those around us we forget not only Allah, His commands and the Prophet SAW’s commands. We become so consumed by what others want us to be and try so hard to please people that we forget Allah and ultimately become something we’re not. We change our names, dress differently; bend our morals, ethics and values to please our friends, families, colleagues. We even dumb down our Islamic identity to fit in and climb up the corporate ladder and/or achieve our career goals. Are we so concerned about fitting in and not feeling like an outcast that we'll temporarily put aside our beliefs, morals and values to fit in? Is it really THAT important to please others? That is what it means when we "forget ourselves"---when you change yourself for others so much that you eventually forget who you were in the first place.

Look at some people when their non-Muslim friends ask them “Aren’t you Muslim aren’t you meant to not drink? Aren't you not met to do.....” It sort of hits you then when we realize just how far we’ve forgotten our identity and ourselves. And the most dangerous losses of identity can happen with the people closest to us, who we trust and are our friends and family. In a hadith the Prophet SAW said:

"A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look at whom you befriend."
(Abu Dawud)

The translation is deceiving, but “deen” is often translated into faith, yet it means “way of life” in this context. So if we find ourselves hanging out with friends who cuss or say inappropriate jokes it’s a real test of our character and imaan to make that decision to join in and laugh along or put your foot down and remind them of Allah and make sure that it’s not acceptable for that language to be used in front of you. To illustrate the point further, the Prophet SAW said:

"The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith's bellows. So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith's bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him."(Bukhari and Muslim)

So, if you hang out with the wrong people you’ll be affected directly or indirectly by them and/or if you hang out with good people, they’ll help you become a better person, a better Muslim, and a better believer indirectly or directly. How many times have we been in a group of friends and we’ve wanted to pray, but that certain group of friends was doing something else or really didn’t place emphasis on prayer at all? We’ve all done it to a certain degree. We’ve put aside our morals, beliefs, practices to please others and let the group have fun rather than bother them. “Oh man what will they think of me reminding them to pray, they’ll think I’m no fun and super religious” or “Oh I don’t want to bother them, we’re having fun/watching the game/eating/chilling, etc.” But on the other hand if you hang out with friends who emphasize prayer, good behavior, good language, etc. they will eventually help you boost your imaan and help you become a better Muslim and believer.

Also, unfortunately when we hang around a certain group of people we’re associated with them and sometimes it becomes an issue of guilt-by-association with some people. And as was said before your family and friends may make you forget yourself and Allah. In the Quran it says:

"And (remember) the Day when the wrong-doer will bite his hands and say: Woe to me! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger. Woe to me! If only I had not taken so- and-so as a friend! He has led me astray from this Reminder (the Qur'an) after it had come to me. And Satan is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need." [25:27-29]

We should be careful of the company we keep as they may bring our imaan down or may bring ourselves down to their spiritual level and ultimately lead us down the wrong road. So if we keep the company of those who remind us of Allah rather than those who make us forget Allah, we won’t forget ourselves inshallah.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where are the Brothers?

I think the topic of men/boys in Muslim ummah and their role and responsibilities is a topic that has been neglected for far too long in our community. We often stress the propriety and the rules of modesty, etc. upon the women/girls/sisters. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be modest or encourage modesty or even that we’re oppressive to women. Rather I’m saying that if we are just as adamant about stressing modesty and propriety on the sisters, why aren’t we stressing the same on the brothers?

We brothers get away with so much because we believe in our minds that we are not ordained by Allah or His Prophet SAW to dress a certain way, act a certain way, etc. We definitely do get away with a lot more than sisters. Brothers can easily dress a certain way and get away with it, but when a sister does it’s like “Oh man, I can’t believe she dressed like that” and then the talking/gossip ensues. Similarly a guy can do certain things if a girl were to do she’d be looked down upon by other as a “social butterfly” or “flirtatious.” This is obvious when we see guys talking to girls (all be it innocently), but people talk/gossip/slander them and say “oh he’s interested in her/she’s interested in him.” But, in that scenario who’s the one that’s the one blamed? It’s the girl. She’s seen as flirtatious and loose. The guy gets away clean and moves on. A girl’s image/character tarnishes so much more easily than a guy’s in my opinion. I could be wrong, but that’s what I see. I’m not saying that the sister may not be flirtatious or social, but I’m speaking about when talking is done innocently without any motives/intentions behind it, the girl is often seen as the perpetrator/criminal.

A guy has more freedom to talk to whom he wants, go where he wants, and do what he wants. A sister on the other hand, when she approaches a brother or talks to him, she’s seen as loose or flirtatious. But if a guy approaches a sister and talks to her, no blame is put on him. What the brothers forget is that while the sisters are required to wear hijab, they have to observe hijab as well. Not in the head-scarf term of speaking, rather hijab in their dress, adab (character), speech, etc. Funny that in the Quran it mentions the brothers are mentioned first before the sisters in regards to modesty, yet we always stress the modesty of women:

"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, that will make for greater purity for them¦ Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty O you believers! Turn you all together towards Allah that you may attain success." (Quran 24:30-31)

So brothers need to be modest in that respect in the sense of adaab, speech, dress, etc. Now we come to the treatment of sisters by the brothers. We often find the brothers amongst us as harsh with the sisters, yet soft with the non-Muslim girls (talking to them more freely and openly). We see them often put down the sisters verbally, emotionally, psychologically. This obviously is not the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW or the Quran. Rather the Quran says:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…” (Surah Nisa: 34)

Brother back home in Egypt, Pakistan, etc. act like dogs (yes DOGS) and harass covered from head to toe, sisters in hijab and abayas. They do unspeakable things that I don’t want to mention. Stuff that if it happened to your own biological sister or mother you’d turn red with anger. The Prophet SAW said:

"None but a noble man treats women in an honorable manner. And none but an ignoble treats women disgracefully"(At-Tirmithi)

If we aren’t respecting our own women, how is anyone meant to respect us? How do you expect non-Muslims to respect Islam if this is the way we treat our sisters? They say “Oh this is Islam since Muslim men are doing it.” How dare we treat our sisters like this. Shame on us brothers for neglecting our sisters when they’re in need, in trouble or are in harms way, may Allah forgive us for all the harm that could have been prevented by us, but we failed to act, Ameen. If we brothers remember our mothers, we wouldn’t dare to treat our sisters like we do now. Imagine treating your own mother the way we do. The same woman who went through pain to bear you, woman who raised you, stayed up at night when you were sick, fed and clothed you.

"O Messenger of Allah! Who is most deserving of my fine treatment?'' He (PBUH) said, "Your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father, then your nearest, then nearest"(Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

And another thing must be mentioned is when our sisters are in trouble and cry out for help, where are the so-called MEN of the ummah to stand up for them? Where are we to protect them? Where are we when they call out and are telling us their husbands are abusive, they need financial help, or are homeless/hungry? A man who places his hand on a woman, is not a man and deserves the utmost punishment of the law. A man who psychologically, emotionally and physically abuses his wife is not a man. We brothers are doing this knowingly or unknowingly to our sisters, it’s time for us to wake up to this problem and solve it. This whole image of Manhood (i.e. don’t show emotion, don’t show your feelings, etc.) is a thing of the past and is counter-productive. We need to get rid of this inferiority complex/insecurity of feeling inadequate and putting sisters down. You show no respect, you deserve none. You show no mercy, you deserve none. This is a wakeup call for all of us, this is reality. We’ve been neglecting the protection of our sisters from harm’s way and have neglected implementing Quran and Sunnah to ourselves. We are complacent being harsh on the sisters, but never on the brothers. We need to be modest just as badly as the sisters need to be modest. We need to step up and become the sources of strength and protection for the sisters. The Prophet SAW said:

"Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers." (From the last sermon of Prophet Mohammed SAW)

"The best of you are those who best treat their women with kindness"

(Narrated by Tirmidhi and graded as Saheeh by Albani)

It’s about time the brothers did some introspection and evaluated their treatment of the sisters and started applying the modesty which the push so hard on the sisters and started applying it to themselves. It's about time the brothers stepped up to the plate and learned their responsibilities to the sisters. People say "boys will be boys" because they're young but I say, boys will be boys, but let them be MEN!

Monday, September 7, 2009


In the Quran it says in a surah we all know well:

1. By Al-'Asr (the time).
2. Verily! Man is in loss,
3. Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth and recommend one another to patience. (Surah Al-Asr 103:1-3)

Imam Malik said that if this surah itself were revealed to Mankind it would be sufficient enough guidance for Man, because it essentially summarizes Man's condition. If we are to use this as we contine our discussion in prioritizing thing in our life it's simple: time is running out and it's working against us. Taking advantage of the moment you are in is crucial. In Islam, we know wastefulness is discouraged and forbidden in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet SAW.

We think we're young and will live forever, we can have fun now and get religious later. Who guarantees tomorrow? There are brothers I know who have died young. I know brothers who have been in accidents, good brothers who are now paralyzed, wishing they could walk again. Your life can end at the blink of an eye. But again, why are we so arrogant to think we'll live long into old age and even then who guarantees then we'll change or even have the time to repent for our wrong doings in our youth? This topic's been beaten to death, but seriously when will we change and realize the importance of time?

Now in relation to priorities how does time teach us to prioritize? Well it's simple we have challenges every day: do we wake up for fajr or do we sleep, do we pray dhuhr or do we watch the TV show, do we read Quran or do we go out at night and waste time with friends? We waste our time talking about the most useless and mundane things that have no benefit. Sad thing most of us are doing this during Ramadaan, a time where every second, minute and hour is blessed in which should be filled with ibaddah (worship), not idle talk and useless comments, jokes, etc.

We place such an emphasis on parties/hanging out and dress up for those occasions and are on time for those occasions. We go to Eid parties, MSA parties, parties with friends dressed up and looking nice, yet when we come to masjid or for jumuah we're dressed in street clothes. We give more respect and importance to parties and hanging out with our friends. We look nice for our friends, but we're standing in front of Allah SWT on the blessed day of Jumuah in street clothes. We don't even come on time to Jumuah, yet we come on time for our own parties/hang outs. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but think about how we treat our deen and the importance we give it and think about how much importance we give other things in our lives.

There is a sense of urgency we must show those who don't have it and remind them of Allah and our short time here on Earth. When we see our fellow brothers or sisters going down the wrong path, don't think twice about whether or not to help them, advise them in an intelligent and effective manner. Remind them of their short time here on Earth. Spread knowledge even if it's an ayah. Change yourself for the better and people will in turn change too.

We always complain about not having enough time, but when it's given to us we waste it. How many of us actually use that time wisely or productively? And then we have the gaul to complain about not having enough time in our "busy" lives to pray, read Quran, etc. Thing is, we put everything that doesn't involve Allah above our fard (obligatory) deeds that need to be done. We complacently say "Oh Allah will forgive us," who guarantess that forgiveness? If the Sahabah, the greatest of people after the Prophet SAW feared Hellfire as much as they did, then where does that put us with our complacency. Sometimes we stress Allah's Rahma (Mercy) so much, but forget His wrath and punishment. I don't mean to diminish Allah's mercy which is all encompassing, but it's a cop out for alot of us when we neglect fard deeds.

How many times have we asked our friends to pray with us and gotten the answer "We'll pray later." Who guarantees there will be a "later"? Your'e turning down a good deed to pray in jam'aah. We have so many deeds we turn down that are in front of us. We're young and we think we'll live forever, but no one guarantees tomorrow.

Ibn Abbas narrated that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:
"There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) health and free time for doing good." (Bukhari 8/421)