Archive for the ‘Hagar’ 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.

Happy Eid-ul-Adhha

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Eid Mubarak to all fellow Muslims around the world. Today is the feast of sacrifice, commemorating the ultimate willingness to surrender to God by prophets Abraham and Ishmael and Lady Haajar (Hagar), peace be upon them. They all teach us the lesson that surrender to God, which is what the word Islam means, is the gateway to peace, prosperity and longevity.

Hijr-Ismail

Tawaaf around the Ka`ba

Her prayers have not been answered

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

When I was younger, God did help me when I called out to Him. Overall, He has blessed me with good things in this life. Recently that has changed.

Having the good things in life is what most people think is God’s blessings. But Islam teaches us that the good things in life are a contingent blessing! That is, if one thanks God for them by being good and faithful, then they are a blessing indeed. But, if one becomes occupied with them or does not thank God for them and starts to think that he deserves them, then they are a curse and not a blessing. Why? Because “the Hereafter is the life, if they only knew” (29:64). Thus, anything that does not improve our chances for Paradise is not a good thing even if it looks like a very good thing.

Likewise is hardship! Even hardship is contingent. If one endures it with faith in God that He will alleviate it, then it was a blessing in disguise! If one cannot bear them out and starts to feel discontentment or resentment, then it was a punishment. A test of faith they failed in.

I recently went through a very, very terrible heartbreak. My soul has not healed, and because I am grieving so badly my soul is still not healing. I am dealing with many losses.

Heartbreaks can be as wrenching as the loss of a loved one. When my father died, may God bless his and my mother’s souls, I honestly didn’t know how any day could pass. I felt constant torment and time wasn’t moving. Grief is legitimate and weeping for loss is allowed. But endurance and acceptance are the lessons to be learned from loss and hardship. The longer it takes for those lessons to be learned, the longer it takes the soul to heal.

People tell me to keep praying and things will turn around for me. I believe that, but at the same time I’ve never known it to happen to others. Its like I am looking for water in a desert.

Perhaps you are. Your grief is legitimate but it has put you in a box. You have predefined what God’s answer should be! If, on the other hand, you are confident that He has already answered your prayers, then you have freed yourself from that box. God’s answer is not always obvious.

Why doesn’t God answer my friend’s prayers? After all of her suffering and loneliness, why couldn’t God give her a nice husband and children, instead of a bad car accident and more loneliness?

Now you’re predefining what God’s answer should be for other people too. God does not forget anyone. He gives everybody what is best for them. We will see it all in detail and finally understand it on the Day of Settlement.

I ask myself…am I being unrealistic in praying for my own Zamzam (water well that sprung under Ishmael’s feet), so to speak? I have prayed for over 10 years for my Zamzam…a loving husband…healthy babies…joy in my life…

Not if you will recognize your Zamzam when it comes to you. This, of course, is easier said than done. That’s why faith, as Islam defines it, is not easy. It’s a balance between trust in God, acceptance of what He gives us, and working hard to achieve our goals. All are required!

and for a few brief months at age 39 I CAME CLOSE but it all fell apart. Has God given me my answer?

Not necessarily. One pitfall people fall into a lot is that they interpret things as God’s will and stop trying. Everything is by God’s will, and part of His will is that things follow the earthly laws He created and set in motion.

What I am having a harder time with is, if God did not want to answer my prayers, then why did He not give me peace in my heart, instead of a broken heart? And now that I have a broken heart and a terrible sense of grief over lost love and the lost opportunity to have a family of my own, why isn’t God repairing my broken heart so that I am content with what I don’t have?

It works the other way around! First, you accept and be content, then God grants you peace of mind. “He knew what is in their hearts, so He sent down tranquility upon them, and granted them a near opening” (48:18)

God answered your prayers, but you can’t see the answer just yet. You will in time.

What do you mean, by grief has put me in a box?
So should I accept that God has given me His answer — if so, doesn’t that mean that to obtain peace in my heart I have to stop praying for what (and for whom) my heart desires?

I mean that you are unable to think beyond the loss. That’s understandable for the time being. But if you start thinking beyond the loss, you’ll gradually accept it, open up other opportunities for yourself and get the wisdom of what happened. It takes time but it also takes initiative.

What is perplexing me is that I should accept that certain joys will bypass me, and instead I should wait patiently for death. But dying alone and unloved is a hard, bitter pill to swallow, especially when you are 40 and have (potentially) another 30 years to go!

No. That’s not it at all. You should see the bigger picture. How do you know that the marriage you didn’t get would not have been a curse that would ruin the rest of your life? Only God truly sees the whole picture.

My post was not an advice for you to wait! It was an advice for you to accept and be content, then move on. When you do that, the world opens up and you start to see what you couldn’t see before. Other opportunities start coming your way and, which is the best part, you actually see them when they come.

What do you mean, God answered my prayers? I just don’t know how to interpret that! When you say that I will see the answer in time….again this goes back to my heartrenchign question…do you mean, I will see the answer upon my death?

I mean that the answer has arrived though you cannot identify it just yet. You can’t in your current state of sorrow and confusion. However, if you start thinking that way, it will start to become clearer to you. That is an important ingredient of faith.

Am I presumptious in thinking that God will hold me as dear as the wife of Abraham, and grant me what I desire?

Are you as faithful as Haajar (Hagar), peace be upon her? When her husband left her and her baby in the middle of an arid, uninhabited desert of a foreign land, what did she say? She asked him, “Did God order this?” When he said yes, she replied, “Then He will not leave us!” Do you have the same level of faith? That God did not and will not leave you?

Did you work hard to achieve your goal? Haajar walked and ran seven times between the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwa looking for water or people or an oasis. Have you exhausted all lawful means available to you to achieve your goal?

If the answer is yes to both questions, then God holds you as dear as Haajar and your Zamzam will spring out when you don’t expect it!

Do I ACCEPT that the Zamzam I want is unattainable and instead focus on alternatives?

Not unattainable but may not be attained. Big difference. The former is despair from God’s mercy and the latter is pragmatic.

Is this a contradiction in the Quran?

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

The Quran states that the family of Pharaoh has been cursed and are going to Hell. But it also says that Pharaoh’s wife, Asia, was a role model for believing women. Is that a contradiction, or an exception?

The Quran does not condemn the family of Pharaoh, it condemns “Aal” of Pharaoh. The difference is that the word Aal, which is often translated as “family of” or “house of”, actually means “followers of”. Asia was not one of those. She was a believer and a follower of Moses, not of Pharaoh. Thus, while she was from the family of Pharaoh, she was not from his Aal.

In each prayer, we Muslims acknowledge that God has blessed Aal of Abraham. We do that a minimum of nine times everyday! But we know that Abraham’s father is declared in the Quran as “an enemy to God!” (9:114) Therefore, he cannot be from Aal of Abraham! Sarah, Haajar, Isaac, Ishmael, etc. are.

This is further confirmed by the story of Noah (PBUH) and his son. Noah thought that his son would be saved from the Flood, but God explained to him that Noah’s son “is not from his family!” See verses 11:40-49.

I read this poem on another forum and thought it articulated this concept quite well,
The Aal of the Prophet are the followers of his religion,
Be they foreign or Arab.
If his Aal were only his kinsmen,
We would be praying for his tyrant uncle Abu-Lahab!

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.

Who was the sacrificial son?

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Muslims believe that the son who was to be slaughtered by Abraham, by command from God, was Ishmael, but the Jews and the Christians believe it was Isaac. Who is right? What is the reason for the discrepancy?

The reason is simple: The Jews edited the Torah. They were jealous that the honor of the sacrifice was given to the child of Hagar, whom they viewed as an illiterate slave, and not to themselves, and they viewed themselves to be educated and privileged.  So, they simply changed words to ensure that the name Ishmael gets less attention, even though in their tradition the first born son has tremendous advantages.

In their editing of the Torah, they overlooked one place! There is a verse there where God tells Abraham, peace be upon him, that He wants him to slaughter his only son. It is established by most scholars of the Bible that Ishmael was 13 years older than his brother Isaac, peace be upon them, and therefore, Isaac was never Abraham’s only son!

Realizing this, the Jews had to come up with an explanation, so they explained that obvious verse away by claiming that Ishmael was not a legitimate son because, they claimed, Hagar was a slave and not a wife. Hagar was Abraham’s legitimate wife. In fact, she was Sarah’s maid and when Sarah saw how sad her husband was that he did not have children, it was she who suggested to him to marry Hagar, so he can have children. I firmly believe that it was because of this selfless love for her husband that God rewarded her with her own son, Isaac, at an age no woman can normally conceive. Praise the Lord, and may peace be upon the house of Abraham.

Was Sarah jealous of Hagar?

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Sarah, the first wife of Abraham, peace be upon him, has been accused of being jealous of Hagar, his second wife, (Haajar in Arabic) and that is why she had Abraham send her away and her son, Ishmael, peace be upon him.

If Sarah was such a terrible person then why would God tell us in 11:73 in the story of the angels visiting her house and giving her the good news that she will be pregnant with Isaac and then give her and her husband the wonderful greeting, “The mercy of God and His blessings are upon you, people of the house. He is Praiseworthy and Glorious.”?

Far from it. Sarah was a virtuous, believing woman and the wife of the patriarch of the prophets. When she saw how much her husband wanted a son and she knew she couldn’t give him one, she did a most generous and unselfish thing that only a few wives will ever consider: She gave him her maid to marry! She picked a virtuous, believing woman because that’s what her husband deserved. May God have been pleased with Sarah. I strongly believe that it’s precisely because Sarah was so unselfish, compassionate and loving to her husband that God rewarded her with her own son.

In every prayer, during Tashahhud, all Muslims say this, “O God, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You have blessed Abraham and the family of Abraham.” How many confirmations have Muslims made so far that Sarah was blessed? Trillions!

I find it infinitely amusing that the evidence that Ishmael was the sacrificial son comes from the Torah and not from the Quran! The Quran seems to be deliberate in not telling us the name of the sacrificial son while the Torah states that God instructed Abraham to slaughter his only son. Isaac was never Abraham’s only son since he was younger than Ishmael by all accounts. Thirteen years difference in their ages seems to be the consensus. In fact, the entire story of the sacrifice may have taken place before Isaac was even born.

Don’t believe any talk of mad jealousy between Sarah and Haajar. It’s an attempt from religious agitators to sew the seeds of hatred between Muslims and Jews. Muslims and the authentic Jews are not only cousins in blood line, they are also cousins in faith.