Archive for the ‘Mecca’ Category

When you escape a dire straight, don’t revisit it!

Monday, June 10th, 2013

I am in, as the cliche aptly states, dire straights. It is dark outside. This naturally intensifies the feeling of isolation. And the example of Hajar is an excellent source of strength. Her situation captures all our fears. Thus, we have to really rely on the inner source. When we use the expression digging deep it sums her dilemma.

Yet, it is during trials like this that we have to dig deep. It does not make one a welcome guest at a party. The need for reflection and contemplation overrides the need for social activity. Sometimes social activity takes too much energy that is better spent to dig deeper.

I am looking for balance. My path at the moment is very steep. I am looking for the moss between a rock and a hard place; to rest for a minute.

Please understand that there is no negativity in what I am writing. I am not a negative person. This is a learning curve.

Yes, the inner journey is difficult. It seems that Satan is very busy with one on that path. And our hearts betray us constantly. The journey is riddled with struggles. It often seems that the other path is so much easier.

One of the reasons why the Prophet (PBUH) experienced dire straights was to teach the rest of us what to do when we are in a similar situation. We follow the Prophet’s example. What did he do?

He had just lost his only remaining physical protector, his uncle Abu-Taalib and the one person in this world whom he loved the most, his wife Khadeeja, may God have been pleased with her. The polytheists of Mecca had cornered the believers in a ghetto for three years: No trading, no contact. Muslims had to eat leaves to survive. Those economic sanctions were probably what killed Khadeeja and Abu-Taalib.

During that tough period, God had not revealed any Quran to the Prophet (PBUH), so even the spiritual joy and reassurance was withheld, to the point that the polytheists of Mecca mocked the Prophet (PBUH) saying, “Muhammad’s Lord has abandoned him!”

Anyone would have given up at that point, consoling himself that he had done all he could but it didn’t work out. Not Muhammad ibn Abdullah! He figured that Mecca may be a lost cause, so let him try At-Taa’if. He traveled to it, on foot, and when he got there he called them to God. No one gave him the time of day. They even let loose their kids and slaves to make fun of him, throw stones at him and force him out of the city. Some of the stones hit him and he started bleeding from his feet.

Can things get worse for someone? As he was leaving that wretched town, he paused and made the most beautiful supplication to God that was ever made! (If you don’t know it, ask me and I’ll include it in my reply). God’s response was immediate and flooding. Quran revelation resumed, with the reassuring Chapter 93, God sent Gabriel down to let the Prophet (PBUH) retaliate against the people of At-Taa’if. As you know, he chose not to. God sent the Jinn to listen to the Quran for the first time, recited by the Prophet (as mentioned in Chapter 72) and when the Prophet (PBUH) arrived in Mecca, he experienced the grandest and most reassuring miracle of all: Israa’ and Mi`raaj.

No matter how dire your straights, how deep your path, or how dark it seems outside, you know, by the example of the Prophet (PBUH), what to do.

I’m glad you reassured me that you’re not a negative person. That said, may I advise you not to disengage socially? The Prophet and his fellows were sociable and active in their communities, each in his own way. Sometimes, your social effort will be appreciated and other times it won’t be. Don’t let that sway you. The reward of God, not of people, is what you’re after.

Wisdom does not come easy. In retrospect it is simple…but that journey is a mini-hajj.

I am looking forward to moving back home. I love the peace there. I have a little community that needs some life. I have made much dua. InshaAllah, I will be able to move there soon. The other day, I took the Quran and asked Allah subhana wa taala to give me a little hope. I randomly opened the Quran. And the ayats were Musa (ra) going to the Madyan people. InshaAllah, my move home is imminent.

I do not wish to complain. I am not unhappy. I am growing ten-fold in faith daily. The reliance on Allah subhana wa taala totally is a reality.

You know Sura 93 is one of my favorites. It is reassuring. I love the words of not being displeased. It is a strong sura.

I am familiar with the dua of the Prophet (swas) at Al-Taa’if. Those are words of courage.

I’m a fan of Muhammad Ali. I bring that up because even in the ring there is a respite. I need a break.

It is also a difficulty process for the ordinary human being to understand that Allah subhana wa taala loves you enough to test you. In the world of sports there is always a period of training for an event. In the world of spirituality the event provides the need for us to seek guidance. The seeking of the guidance is the discipline needed to overcome the obstacles of the individual tests.

I wish to be of those that Allah is well pleased; I have a long way to go but the intention is there.

If I may ask I am assuming you have undergone some trials that have given you the knowledge to provide such words of compassion. I ask this not to pry. Rather, to gain understanding that the seeker of knowledge undergoes ego transformations in the process. The no pain no gain cliche.

When a believer passes a test of faith, it means two things; (a) that God is pleased with him and (b) that his character needed a boost. Thus, passing a trial means it had served its purpose and a believer should not dwell on it. Revisiting it means revisiting the pain, emotional and spiritual, which God has already delivered him from.

Excellent response. I am serious. What I see in the therapeutic milieu here ( our culture) is the very fact that recovery is dependent upon revisiting the pain. In a sense you have to go back and destroy the wall brick by brick, that has impeded your growth. Whereas, in Islam we overcome the wall by guidance.
Islam also demands that we do not purge our emotions. So difficult. Simple example would be anger. Many modalities of treatment for psychological illnesses suggest the patients take the time to examine the emotions and relive them. You always hear the: you have the right to be angry slogan. A persons spiritual health is dictated by an emotional balance. In Islam it seems that we have to get beyond the emotional balance to a spiritual balance that holds the reigns to direct the emotions.

It seems to make sense that wise persons are naturally quiet. A believer’s vision changes after a trial. It seems that we humans really do not have a place for anger.

Fascinating angle. The therapy method you describe may very well work, but I venture to guess that it will leave a spiritual void in the person. One can treat an emotional scar or a spiritual wound in a number of ways, including pharmaceutical, but that may not heal it. The person may find himself or herself resentful, cynical, grieving, regretful, less self-confident, less joyful. Sure the wound is no longer on the surface; it went deeper – into dangerous territory.

Only the connection with God can heal. The Prophet (PBUH) always said this in his ruqyas, “O God, heal. You are the Healer. There is no healing but Yours; a healing that leaves behind no ailment.” (Narrated by `Aa’isha, RA, and reported by Muslim). That is healing!

About anger, God says in the holy Quran, in praise, “And those who suppress frustration and the pardoners of people. And God loves the benevolent.” (3:134). It is their benevolence that earned them God’s love and it is God’s love that gives them the tranquility they seek.

Facing up to a Pharaoh

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

I just discovered first hand that reading the Quran is a journey. Some of the passages are so powerful that I actually slept all day one day.

I know I am going through a tough time but this time reading the Quran has been a drastically different experience.

Musa (ra) (Moses) had a staff. He had his brother (ra)…What staff can I hold onto?

What did Hagar hold on to? Her husband, Abraham (PBUH), told her he’s been commanded by God to leave her and their only son, Ishmael, who was still a baby, in a desert in the middle of nowhere. Her reply was, “God ordered you? Then He will not abandon us.”

I know you may be thinking that Hagar, peace be upon her, was in a completely different league than the rest of us. True, but she reached that plateau only because of her faith. She was an ordinary woman, a maid, with no material means. Because of what she did next, God sprang the Zamzam Well and that arid, vacant desert became Mecca. Since her time, millions of people have echoed her footsteps every year (during the pilgrimage).

I sure hope that you do not have to face a pharaoh anytime soon. Also remember that Aaron was not always very helpful to his brother.

One of the ways the Prophet (PBUH) described the Quran was, “Its wonders never cease.” Indeed, if you read the Quran and you get the feeling that you’re reading it for the first time, then rejoice, for God is bringing you closer to Him by giving you new insight into His word.

Funny thing I just saw a video on Hagar. I have always admired her faith.

What I have also experienced are the immediacies of receiving blessings. I see that Allah subhana wa taala does not hold back. When we ask He gives.

I am always about the inner journey. And the section of the Path that I am walking upon demands that I spend time on the quest. In a sense I am learning that we are always exactly where He wants us to be, at any given moment. Maybe that realization is the fountain of youth. It takes the stressors and anxieties away.

I do not think I will meet a pharaoh anytime soon, Besides, it is not the meeting that is momentous. It is the gathering of the faith leading to the meeting. On a deeper level don’t we meet mini-pharoah’s every day. They may not be as powerful but the sheer arrogance of their personalities and their inability to prostrate to the Lord of the Universe and persistence in sinning ways.

(May Allah subhana wa taala reward you immensely. Your words are always a source of strength and comfort)

The journey is indeed inner more than it is outer. The outer journey is perhaps easier because it is aided by other people. We are encouraged by parents, teachers and preachers to pray, fast, be charitable, exercise good manners and say and do good. We see immediately the effect of the good we do to others and it makes us happy and fulfilled. The reward is felt right away.

But the inner journey we make alone. And it is an arduous journey. God says in the holy Quran, “O man, you are toiling toward your Lord then meeting Him!” (84:6) The journey is hard because Satan and our desire keep interfering with it.

Answers to quizzes 11-18

Friday, April 5th, 2013

You had enough time to figure out the answers to quizzes 11-18, haven’t you? 🙂 Here they are:

11. Friday and Saturday. Friday is mentioned in verse 62:9 and it has the honor of also being the name of Chapter 62. Saturday is mentioned five times! In verses 2:65, 4:47, 4:154, 7:163 and 16:124.

12. Ramadan, the fasting month, the 9th month of the Hijri (lunar) year. It has the special honor that the revelation of the Quran was started in it.

13. Mary. She is mentioned ten times in the Quran: in verses 3:36, 3:37, 3:42-45, 4:156, 19:16, 19:27, and 66:12 and 21 other times in the identification of Jesus. She has the special honor of being the only woman mentioned in the Quran by name and that Chapter 19 is named after her.

14. Luqmaan, Goliath, King Saul, Haman and Zayd. Luqman is mentioned in verses 31:12-13 and Chapter 31 is named after him. Goliath is mentioned in verse 2:251. King Saul, called in Arabic Taaloot, is mentioned in verses 2:247 and 2:249. Haman, Pharaoh’s minister is mentioned in verses 28:6, 28:8, 28:38, 29:39, 40:24 and 40:36. Zayd ibn Haaritha is mentioned by his first name in verse 33:37.

15. Gabriel, Michael, Haaroot and Maaroot. Gabriel, who transmitted the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was mentioned in verses 2:98 and 66:4. He is mentioned by title many other times. Michael is mentioned in verse 2:98. Haaroot and Maaroot, who taught people some secrets of magic at the time of Solomon, were mentioned in verse 2:102.

16. Egypt, Babylon and Rome. Egypt was mentioned four times: in verses 10:87, 12:21, 12:99 and 43:51. Babylon was mentioned in verse 2:102. Rome is mentioned in verse 30:2 and is the name of Chapter 30.

17. Mecca, Medina and Midyan. Mecca is mentioned by that name in verse 48:25 and by its old name Baca in verse 3:96. Medina is mentioned by that name in four verses: 9:101, 9:120, 33:60 and 63:8 and by its old name Yathrib in verse 33:13. Midyan is mentioned in nine verses: 7:85, 9:70, 11:84, 20:40, 22:44, 28:22-23, 28:45 and 29:36.

18. The Children of Israel, Quraysh, `Aad and Thamood. The Children of Israel were mentioned in the Quran 40 times! Quraysh, the Prophet’s tribe is named in verse 106:1 and is the name of Chapter 106. `Aad is mentioned 19 times and Thamood 25 times.

I’ve been praying in the wrong direction

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

I’ve recently found out that, for years, I’ve been praying in the wrong direction! What’s the ruling on that? Would I have to repeat all my salats (prayers)?

You did not do it on purpose, did you? Then it will be accepted, insha-Allah (God willing). The scholars have agreed that sins are not counted if done by mistake, forgetfulness or coercion. By the same token, one would conclude that good deeds will not be discounted if they haven’t been done correctly because of a mistake, forgetfulness or coercion. We know, for instance, that if you’re fasting in Ramadhaan and you eat something without thinking, then remember that you were fasting, that you do not have to compensate for that day and can continue the fast.

I follow the Shaafi`i school of thought, and I looked up his ruling on this matter. I found out that he had two different rulings: one says that the prayer direction must be as accurately determined as can be, and another that says that the important thing is to face the Ka`ba in Mecca and not turn your back to it.

If you have a means to accurately determine the Qibla (prayer direction), then you should. But if you don’t, then your best estimate is sufficient. The scholars have ruled that a traveler who cannot determine the Qibla may estimate the direction to the best of his ability. Remember that the verses that mandate facing the Sacrosanct Mosque all say to face “the half where the mosque is”, e.g., 2:144 and 2:149-150.

Why are non-Muslims barred from Mecca?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

How do we answer the statement “we will allow a mosque near ground zero, when a church or synagogue is allowed in mecca.”

People try to use the fact that non-muslims aren’t allowed in makkah as evidence that we as muslims are intolerant of other faiths.

If that were true, then there wouldn’t be Christians and Jews in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, …etc. There wouldn’t be Hindus in India when it was ruled by Muslims and there wouldn’t be Buddhists in Indonesia and Malaysia.

And the answer to the argument “we will allow a mosque near ground zero, when a church or synagogue is allowed in mecca” is that the analogy fails and with it fails the argument. New York is not holy to Christians, but Mecca is holy to Muslims. You must compare apples to apples.

That said, Imaam Abu-Haneefa, rahimahullah, opined that people of the Book may enter Al-Masjid Al-Haraam. His argument was that verse 9:28 forbids only the polytheists, but that the people of the Book are not polytheist. The majority, however, disagreed.

Questions from a Christian

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I read the Quran over three years ago and I’ve asked these questions about Islam before and did not get an answer. Maybe you can answer them?

  • Why is Mohammed called a Prophet when he has apparently not prophesied anything?

The Quran has plenty of prophesies. Did you actually read it, or did you just skim through it?

  • Why is the Quran such a small book after 23 years of revelation?

Teachings that guide humanity to truth and justice are simple. They do not take up many pages. What takes up pages is the correction of false doctrines that people keep developing, which lead them astray from the straight path.

  • WHY, do Muslims think they need to pray to Mecca when God is everywhere and actually the earliest discovered mosques were directed towards Palestine?

Muslims don’t think that; God told them that they must. Mecca is the direction of prayer commanded to all the Prophets. Jews and Christians who prayed toward Jerusalem did that in violation of God’s orders. God never ordered any people to direct their prayers toward Jerusalem. One of the primary objectives of the Quran is to restore the laws of God which people keep changing.

If a Muslim cannot tell which direction is Mecca, he is allowed to pray in the direction he thinks it is, precisely because God is everywhere. The uniformity of the direction is intended symbolism to unite Muslims toward the One True God.

  • Why do Muslims and many other religious people think the enemy is other people?

Most Muslims don’t think so. The enemy is people who fight us. Everybody else is a brother or sister in humanity, which the Quran instructs us to get to know.

  • What NEW Wisdom (no scientific knowledge is not the same as wisdom so) is in the Quran that was not already in the holy bible?

The New Testament reversed many teachings of the Torah and added blasphemous dogma. The Quran came, in part, to restore the original teachings of the Torah and the Gospel which the Jews and the Christians changed.

  • WHY is the Koran supposed to be only beautiful in Arabic?

Because any translation is a human effort, while the Quran is divine providence.

  • WHY IS Mohammed not in the line from Noah down through Solomon to Jesus not from the same line as any other prophet?

He is from the same line. He is a descendant of Ishmael and Abraham, who trace back to Shem, Noah and Adam.

But what if he wasn’t? What difference does that make? A prophet is not respected because of his lineage, but rather because of his message.

  • WHY, when the Bible is apparently a complete Book about this eternity and this universe and the whole history of life did we even need an extra book?

Because the Bible contains a mix of what God revealed and what people changed, added and deleted. The Quran confirms what was from God and corrects what was from people.

Please tell the story of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raaj (The Night and Ascension Journey)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raaj (The Night and Ascension Journey)

Stated by the Quran (17:1 and 53:13-18), Islam’s holy scripture, and by the authentic Hadeeth (quotes of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), the Night Journey, Al-Israa’ and the Ascension journey (Al-Mi`raaj) are the two parts of a journey that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took in one night around the year 621. While some Muslims consider it a spiritual journey made in a vision, the majority believes it was a physical journey, evidenced by the fact that the Prophet named all the caravans that were travelling between Mecca and Jersulam that night and he described Jerusalem accurately though he had never been there.

After reaching Jerusalem, the Prophet met with and lead in prayer, at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, all the other Prophets and Messengers of God, from Adam to Jesus, peace be upon them. Hadeeths report that he described some of the prophets. He said that he looked a lot like Abraham, that Adam had a dark skin and that Jesus had very oily hair.

Starting off on a rock in the site of the Dome of the Rock, the Prophet was ascended to heaven. He was accompanied by archangel Gabriel. As he visited each heaven, he would see sites and people and would ask Gabriel about them and Gabriel would tell him what the sites mean.

Then, at the last heaven, Gabriel said to Muhammad, “You can ascend farther up but if I try, I’d burn.” No creature has ever been there before. The Prophet ascended up and saw God. God greeted the Prophet, blessed him and gave him the mandate of the formal, ritual prayers of Islam.

Scholars have offered several purposes for that miraculous journey. Some said it was consolation for the Prophet, who in that year had lost his beloved wife, Khadeeja and his uncle Abu-Taalib, who was his protection from the violent opposition of his tribe, Quraysh, and his mistreatment at At-Taa’if, a close-by city he went to calling them to Islam. Others said the purpose of the trip was to highlight the paramount importance of prayer and to give all Muslims a chance to have a similar experience to that of the Prophet. Several scholars have described prayer as the “ascension of the believer.”

The event is commemorated each year on the eve of the 27th of the seventh lunar month, Rajab. It is regarded as one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar. Though not required, many Muslims bring their children to the mosques, where the children are told the story, pray with the adults, and then afterward food and treats are served.

In a sermon I attended recently, the imam (preacher) mentioned three more lessons we can learn from that wonderful event,

  • No matter how hard times are, there is good news reserved for us from God. Good times ahead.
  • The connection between Mecca and Jerusalem is solid and was never severed as many Jews claim when they said that Hagar and her son Ishmael were “outcast” to the desert. Even today, Islamophobes and adversaries of Islam keep trying to isolate and alienate Islam and reject that it is part of the family of monotheist religions and Muhammad (PBUH) is part of the family of Prophets.
  • The quick move from Mecca to Jerusalem is a good omen to Muslims that Islam will reach Jerusalem and will spread fast and wide.

Do we know anything about the burak, the vehicle of the  journey, which I’ve read somewhere described as a winged horse? Is that true, or is it a wrong translation?

I found only one reference to Al-Buraaq in Al-Albaani’s book which he rated Hasan (OK). It describes it as a white, tall beast of burden. That’s all. All other references are either weak or fabricated.

I can’t find any authentic mention of it anywhere in the six acknowledged books of Hadeeth. If someone can, please reply.

The word Buraaq comes from the Arabic verb برق (bariqa) which means to appear suddenly and brightly and quickly disappear, like the English verb to flash. That is why lightning is called Al-Barq in Arabic.

Why do Muslims circle the Kaba seven times?

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Why do Muslims circle the Kaba (in Mecca), and why seven times?

It’s symbolic. Muslims lives revolve around God. God is the center of our lives. The Kaba is metaphorically called the house of God.

The seven times is because the prophet peace be upon him circled seven times and he said, “Take your rituals from me.”

Is the shrine at Mecca an idol?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Isn’t the Muslim prayer toward the shrine in Mecca (Al-Ka`ba) a form of idolatry?

Idol worship means the belief that the idol has power. That’s not what most Christians believe when they pray toward a cross or a crucifix. By the same token, Muslims do not believe that the black stone or the Ka`ba has any power. Muslims pray toward the Ka`ba because God says so.

Why did God change the prayer direction?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Why did God change the direction of prayer (Qibla)? Did He just change His mind?

God can do anything He wants. “Change mind” is something that applies to creatures only, not God. When God orders you to do something then orders you to stop doing it and do something else, He’s not changing His mind; He’s testing your obedience. This is exactly the reason God gives in the Quran, “And We did not let the direction (Qibla) that you used to face but to know who would follow the messenger and who would turn his back.” (2:143)

Plain and simple. No need to be confused. God further adds, “It is a big matter except for those whom God has guided.” (2:143) It was indeed a big event, a tough test of faith.

That said, there is no evidence that the facing of Jerusalem in prayer was by order from God. It was simply the choice of the people of Medina and the Prophet (PBUH) did like them when he migrated from Mecca to Medina. There was no specific direction of prayer until about eighteen months later when the order was revealed in 2:144.

I also find it fascinating that the main detractors were the Jews of Medina. It’s understandable that they would be upset that Jerusalem was no longer the direction of prayer, but God tells us that they knew from the Torah that the direction of prayer is Mecca,
“And verily those who have been given the Book know that it is the truth from their Lord. God is not unaware of what they do.” (2:144)