Archive for the ‘Spirit’ Category

The dark night of the soul

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

I now have insight into why I could not pray. InshaAllah (God willing), you will be able to give me Quran verses and hadeeth quotes to verify my insight.

I have been tested. I was blessed with a test that was life-changing. Trust me brother, I have broken down and called out to Allah swt. A common theme in these times of despondency is the alienation from the duyna (this world).

We are human beings. Part of the human condition is the social condition. In times of tests our world is narrowed. Shytan (Satan) promises us poverty. He can be very demonstrative. Accompanying poverty is social disgrace. He promises us a world of fear and want.

We are fragile. When the stressors of want explode into fear our bodies can break down. When fear reigns the soul, Shytan is pleased, the want is our physical existence. We need to protect it. We yield to base instinct for survival. We get sick.

In sickness our soul gets neglected. Our perception of the world and our state of want to survive are the overriding factors. Our physical pain is a mirror of the state of our spiritual state. The soul is in agony. Sabr (endurance) is a most difficult construct. Why am I going through this much pain. The what did I do to deserve this. When is this going to end. As the pain swells hope fades. The pain is both physical and emotional, thereby compounding the sense of hopelessness. This is the trick of Shytan.

The intellect alleviates the sense of hopelessness. This is simply turning the sense of loss into the hope. It is counting the blessings of Allah swt. It is taking the anguish of pain and transforming it into a moment of joy; of acknowledging the blessing of pain as being the expiation of sin. Furthermore, pain increases our dependence on Allah swt.

When the body can not cope the intellect has to make the decision. Enlightenment comes from the union of the body and intellect in acknowledging the Divine Presence. At that moment want turns into abundance. And the best moment of union is prayer.

I hope this makes sense.

May God keep being with you in your tribulations.

Very profound essay. I can hardly add to it.

Count yourself among those God may be pleased with. You keep bouncing back to God and thus escaping the traps of Satan. That bounce back is what entitled David, Solomon and Job to the label of Awwaab, which God praises them with in Chapter 38. The word means one who keeps coming back to God. A child instinctively runs to mom. A believer finds herself running to God.

It was profound only in the sense that the depth of the experience is difficult to capture in words. Hence, I used the word insight. I had to contemplate. There is that fine line in illness. Susan Sontag wrote a wonderful book she entitled, “Illness as Metaphor”. She did not develop the religious themes. Much of traditional psychoanalysis attempts to understand the relationship between illness and rebirth process. St. John of the Cross discusses the dark night of the soul. The Persian scholar, Sadr, had a metamorphosis.

I am blessed. But the letting go process is not easy. There seems to be a strong physical component to spiritual growth. It is a process of emptying oneself of a lifetime of false desires. And some are stuck like white on rice.

Many Eastern philosophies and religions have long postulated that there is a mutually exclusive relationship between the body and the spirit. That, in order for the soul to reach enlightenment, the body needs to be deprived. That the food for the soul is the lack of food for the body.

Islam does not agree. Islam does say that there is a relationship between the body and the spirit, the union of which is the self. If the body fasts, it has a chance to heal itself, and it also gives the “heart” a chance to cultivate the spirit. This is analogous to the Eastern philosophies but is fundamentally distinct from it. It’s not the hunger and thirst that is nourishing the spirit. Rather, it is the attention a believer can give to his spirit now that his attention is not busy with food and drink. Illness can work in a similar way. A patient may use the time he suddenly has to shift his focus to his spirituality, knowing that God is with him. It’s not the illness that is doing this; it’s the focus afforded by the illness.

Put another way, it is quite possible in Islam to nourish the body and the spirit at the same time without sacrificing either one. All the believer has to do is remain mindful of God and of what’s important and lasting. The Prophet (PBUH) once ate a rich delicious dinner he was invited to and still woke up for Tahajjud (vigil) in the middle of the night.

And by the reverse token, one can deprive both his body and his spirit at the same time, sacrificing both! That can happen when one stops eating and drinking and seeks enlightenment at all the wrong places.

And the physical movements of prayer are healing. I have read how the positions correspond to the chakras. Could we say Islam allows us to have the best of both worlds. Our body is the theater of revelation which is nourishing to the soul. Simply put without the body the soul could not receive the benefit of prayer. And, naturally vice versa.

Nicely put. However, any resemblance between the movements in a Muslim prayer and the chakras is a mere coincidence, unless it can be shown that chakras originated from God.

Tests of faith are healing and guidance

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

I am on an adventure that I know has been sanctioned by Allah swt. My learning curve is off the charts.

I hold on to the precept after difficulties comes ease.

It would be good to address, yet again, how fortunate are the ones that Allah swt tests.

We often forget that our testing is a way to stay alive. We are kept young. We become resourceful. Often in our monotonous lives we become ungrateful of the favors of our Creator. We take things for granted. When the rug is pulled under our feet we become alive again.

We commence on a deeper esoteric journey. When it gets tough it seems the only door open is the door of the Mercy of Allah swt. The example of Yunus (Jonah) becomes alive. He was alone in the belly of the whale at the bottom of the sea. Not even a candle to give some light. Yet, the test was for him to call upon Allah swt.

We overlook the healing process after the ejection from the whale. Once the internal, the soul, is rescued then the body can recover.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

I am blessed too, as Allah has provided me with Believers that I can share my spiritual journey with

You bring up a very important point: that tests of life are nudges along the Straight Path. Picture a father teaching his son to ride a bike. We cannot be steady in life without God’s constant guidance and occasional nudges, because Satan would then have a field day with us. And the only way to avail ourselves of that infinite source of guidance and redirection is correct, true faith in God, recognition of His correction to us, acceptance of His tests of us and doing good deeds.

It is then that we got it. Only then do we understand why we’re here, what we’re supposed to do and not do.

This relates to the question I had regarding ridha. Trust me the term tranquil acceptance is not mine. I was listening to the Imam of Cambridge college. He is a revert. Brilliant mind. One who can think and be clear and precise. Here is a link: http://cambridgekhutbasetc.blogspot.com/.

It seems to be the case, and it is a difficult pill to swallow, that often the guidance of Allah comes at His Pace. When He guides us and wishes for us to purify our souls, for the fragile human ego it is a difficult period. Any metamorphosis requires a degree of what can be described as growing pains. Who wants to yield the warm bottle of milk and the comfort of mothers lap.

Yes, I understand that part of the tests are we give up our misconceptions and notions of what ought to be in a perfect world for ourselves. However, it is not our world. We are participants in His Creation. What I have come to understand is the Truth of the Quran. It is absolute. There is not one lie in it.

This is an earth-shattering experience. It is scary. When we read Allah is sufficient unto me…we have to believe in that 100%. He has told us so. And we are tested to understand the meaning of that. One of the blessings of the test is the ridha. But, in the midst of the chaos of the test we have to stop and count our blessings. This is where we need the strength of community. Almost a reinforcement of enjoining good and forbidding evil.

As life is a new experience each day, is that not a definition of striving, we are in constant change.

Maybe, I am blessed.

He is indeed successful who “gets” the Quran before they die, because back to its author they are going.

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.

Losing weight

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know three things: (a) That the way to do it is simple and well known, albeit easier said than done, (b) that it requires discipline and self control and (c) that when it succeeds, you feel unencumbered and happy. You know you’ve done the right thing for yourself. The same can be said about stopping any addiction, such as smoking or gambling. Even spring cleaning is the same way.

And so is soul cleaning. The Prophet (PBUH) commented one day on verse 83:14 of the holy Quran. The verse said, “Nay! Rather, what they have been earning [of sin] has formed a stain on their hearts.” (83:14). He said, “A person’s heart gets blotted every time he sins. If he repents, it is polished out. If he does it again, the blot gets bigger. Until his heart is blocked. That is the stain.”, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by At-Tirmizhi who rated it soundly authentic.

Cleaning of the heart is probably the hardest component of soul cleaning. It all starts with cleaning of the faith, such that no hint of “shirk” (associating others with God in worship) taints it. Then comes mind cleaning: cleaning of thoughts, such that you assume good until you see otherwise and when you do you forgive. Change negative thoughts to positive ones promptly and seek refuge in God from the whispers of Satan. Think twice before saying or doing things. Never act impulsively or on negative emotions. Stay away from negative people. Keep up prayer, supplication and charity. Read the Quran and reflect on it. Say good words and do good wherever you go and to whomever you meet. Clean your attitude, such that you deal with all with equal respect and courtesy.

When you boycott sin, it works for your soul like boycotting cigarettes works on your lungs and boycotting gambling works on your pocket book. The more you practice, and ask God to help and strengthen you, the easier it will get and the more likely it will be to succeed.

Is euthenasia allowed in Islam?

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

When my mother was in the hospital she was declared brain dead and was only being supported by the oxygen machine. When the doctor told us there was nothing they can do my father decided to remove the life support and let her go. The rest of us however refused to do so. A day after she died naturally. Is removing the life support considered euthanasia and if its allowed in Islam?

May God have mercy on your mother.

Since removing life support escalates removal of life and keeping it slows that down, it is euthanasia. Euthanasia is a euphemism for “mercy” killing. That means it’s a killing. So, the question is “is killing a brain dead person allowed in Islam?”

To answer that question, one needs to understand when Islam allows killing. God says in the holy Quran, “And do not kill the soul which God has made sacrosanct except in truth.” (6:151). What does “in truth” mean? The Quran answers that. There are only three situations that the Quran has allowed killing: (i) self defense, which includes war, (ii) as punishment for first degree murder and (iii) as punishment for terrorism. Clearly euthanasia does not qualify.

Even calling it mercy killing is a euphemism, because in many situations the act is not done out of compassion for the sick, who may be in a coma, but in order to spare his loved ones the pain of watching him die slowly. It’s understandable why they are in pain, but that is no excuse for killing. Otherwise, suicide would be acceptable but of course it is totally forbidden.

There is a difference between deadening and killing. Deadening is when the soul departs the body naturally and that can only be done by the angel of death authorized by God. Killing is when the soul is forced out of the body. It preempts deadening and therefore it’s an infringement on God’s authority.

Dua is really powerful

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Eid Mubarak (Blessed feast) to you and yours.

This Ramadan was significant to me. It would take a pot of coffee to explain everything. Alas, you are spared the details. I was tested. I was thoroughly tested. I came to the conclusion that was my blessing. I am at a point where I know everything will be ok. Dua is answered and it can happen in the blink of an eye.

You need to preach that message. In the twinkling of an eye Allah subhana wa taala (may He be sanctified and exalted) can change the course of your life to His Purpose when you beseech him. What apperears to be many insurmountable impasses disappear with dua.

I had to make supplication as never before. I had to make decisions and they came so easily. He, in His Infinite Mercy made the path wide open for me. Simple example, I was on the road a lot. I supplicated make this journey easy and quick. Brother, on one of the most deadly highways in the US I had no traffic. The temperature was perfect and it was cloudy. My son could not believe the progress we made on the road.

The words of one of the prophets of Allah subhana wa taala is etched in my heart and carried me through: “O Allah, I am in distress and You are the most merciful of those who have mercy.” Them some powerful words.

May Allah reward you for your Love of Him.

InshaAllah, I will hear from you. Please keep me in your dua.

Eid Mubarak to you, sister, and to your loved ones. Many happy returns in-shaa-Allah (God willing). It is heart warming to hear that Ramadhaan has been a spiritually fulfilling experience for you. That is what it is for, “So that you may watch out [for him]” (2:183).

Rumi once wrote,

“Be watchful — the grace of God appears suddenly. It comes without warning to an open heart.”

The catch is how to open the heart 🙂 That is where acts of worship come in. When done with sincerity and longing, they bring us closer to the Source of all. Once the heart is open, there is no telling what power befalls a believer.

God says in a holy hadeeth, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari in his authentic collection, “As My worshiper keeps seeking closeness to Me with voluntary acts of worship, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he reaches and his legs with which he walks. And if he asks Me, I most certainly will give him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I most certainly will give him refuge.”

Imagine having that power! How can one fear or worry then? This is perhaps what Rumi meant when he said, “For those who cleaned their hearts, things hidden and things future are plain to them!”

But I remind myself before you: Closeness to God is only maintained with righteousness; sin turns it to a distance, causing uncertainty, apprehension, confusion and insecurity. The struggle against our dark sides is as constant as our breath.

BTW, the prophet who said the supplication you quoted was Ayyoob (Job), peace be upon him. And wouldn’t you know it? God immediately gave him a prescription to heal him from his illness: a jog in and a drink from the Jordan river.

Ensuring a sincere fast

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Ramadan starts on Monday. Ramadan Mubarak. How do we see to it that our fasting is sincere?

Ramadhaan Mubaarak (Blessed Ramadhaan) to you and your loved ones. May God enable us to fast, pray, give charity and recite the Quran in a way that pleases Him.

This is a particularly interesting question, because fasting is a private matter between man and God. You can claim to fast, while sneaking out at times to eat the wash your mouth and come back and no one would be the wiser! You can’t fake fasting.

So, asking about sincerity of fasting is a very valid and relevant question. Indeed, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “There may be a fasting person who gets nothing out of his fast but hunger and thirst!” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra, Ibn Umar and many other and reported by Al-Munzhiri, Ibn `Asaakir and others and rated between sound and authentic)

That’s a person who did not get the purpose of fasting. The Prophet (PBUH) tells us how to make our fasting sincere. He said,

“Whoever does not leave the utterance and acting of falsehood, then God has no need of him leaving his food and drink!” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari)

Our fast is insincere if we say or do falsehood.

The Prophet (PBUH) also said,

“If one of you is fasting, let him not do profane or offensive things. And if someone offends him, let him say, “I’m fasting. I’m fasting” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Muslim).

Our fast is insincere if we succumb to our natural instincts, such as to defend ourselves against insults.

The effect of a sincere fast is immeasurable. Your spirit feels it. Your soul is fed while your body is deprived of food! When Ramadhaan ends, not only do you lose weight, regulate your digestive system and feel clean, but you also feel lighter, happier and closer to God. Such are the ones who got the wisdom and benefit of fasting, may God make us among them. And if that’s not your goal from fasting, this may be: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadhaan out of faith and expectation of reward, his past sins are forgiven!” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and Ibn Abbaas and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Al-Albaani).

I came across this blog post that itemizes things one can do to ensure a sincere fast. Each one of them helps.

Why do we have to pray 5 times a day?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

God doesn’t need our prayers, right? So, why did He order us to pray to Him 5 times everyday? What is the significance of prayer?

Have you ever reflected on the words you say near the end of every prayer? They are (translated into English):

“Greetings to God, and prayers and all good things.”
“Peace is upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of God and His blessings.”
“Peace be upon us, and upon all righteous worshipers of God. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His worshiper and Messenger.”

It is called At-Tashahhud, as you know. It sounds like a conversation, doesn’t it? I read a long time ago that it is the conversation that took place between the Prophet (PBUH) and God, when God invited him up above the Seventh Heaven and before His Throne during the Night and Ascension journey (Al-Israa’ wal-Mi`raaj).

Whoa! When we pray, we are in an ascension toward God. Does that answer your question about significance? 🙂 No wonder many of the Salaf (Muslim predecessors), such as An-Naysapoori and As-Suyooti, have described prayer as “the ascension of the believer”.

Prayer is so important that it is the only mandate in Islam that was made directly by God to the Prophet (PBUH) on the Ascension journey. Everything else was conveyed by Gabriel as Quran or in inspirations as Hadeeth.

One Qudsi (holy) Hadeeth, narrated by Abu-Qataada and reported by Ibn Maajah and Abu-Daawood, states that prayer is “the covenant between God and the believers. If they keep it, God will fulfill His Covenant with them by admitting them to Paradise. If they don’t keep it, they have no covenant!”

Prayer, therefore, is the most important tool we have to keep our covenant with God.

Why do we have to pray? Do you need to eat and drink everyday to stay alive? That’s the food for the body. The food for the soul is the company of God. Prayer gives us that. God does not need our prayers. We do. Our souls would die without it.

One of the fascinating verses in the Quran to me is this,
“So, endure what they say and sanctify with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night sanctify [God] and at the ends of the day, that you may be contented.” (20:130)

Did you notice that? “so that you may be contented“. We are the beneficiaries of prayer. That verse also answers the question, “why five times?” Because our soul needs its food that often, much like our bodies need to eat and drink three or more times everyday. The spreading of prayer times over the waking hours also serves to make each one lighter to do and leaves no period without the remembrance of God, which we all need to stay focused on what’s really important.

Do you take a bath frequently to keep clean? The Prophet (PBUH) gave that parable about the prayer. He said to his fellows, “See you if there was a river by the door of one of you, in which he bathes five times a day; does that leave out of his dirt anything?” They answered, “That would not leave out of his dirt anything.” He replied, “That is the parable of the five prayers: God erases with them the sins.” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari who rated it authentic.

With every prayer, you have audience with the King of kings, where you can ask Him for anything and stay with Him as long as you want. How many kings come close to that Grace?

Questions from my Christian brother-in-law

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

My brother in law is Christian. I am Muslim. We were talking religion and a number of questions were asked. Can you shed light on them? Thanks.

1. Where did Jesus get his blood from? Meaning his DNA? A woman who bears a child needs a certain chromosome to produce a child, and that other chromosome is found In a male.

How did Adam and Eve get their chromosomes? God is able to create without limitation. He is the maker of the laws of genetics and can overrule them at will.

2. Does the Quran teach to hate the Hebrew people or shall I say Israel?”

Neither. The Quran tells us that of the people of Moses are a large community that guide with the truth and with it they judge (7:159). It also tells us that God’s choice of the Hebrews to receive His Message was deliberate (44:32). That privilege was not because of their race or lineage, as they have come to believe, but was because of their potential for executing His commands. To the extent they complied with His Message, He blessed them (32:24). When they rebelled, violated their Covenant, edited the Torah and started killing the prophets and rejected Jesus (PBUH), He cursed them (4:155).

Muslims do not hate the Jews and never did. Muslims and Jews lived peacefully for 1300 years.

3. Adam & the Angels were once called the Son or Sons of Yahweh.

Not in Islam. Everybody is a creature and worshiper of God. God has no sons, literally nor figuratively.

4. Yahweh is Spirit

No. God is above and beyond spirit. He is the creator of spirit. The Quran tells us that “like His simile is nothing” (42:11)

5. The serpent in the garden was Satan (meaning he had to inhabit a body to do his bidding)

Not in Islam. There is no mention of a serpent in the story of Adam and Eve in the Quran.

6. Yahweh sent his Word in the form of Flesh which was and is Yeshua.

Jesus is the word of God, because he was created with one word: Be. He is not a flesh representation of God; he is a creature of God like everybody else.

7. Messiah was to be born in bethlehem: OT Micah 5:2 NT Matthew 2:1-6 & Luke 2:1-20

Messiah was to be born of a virgin: OT Isaiah 7:14….. Matthew 1:18-25 & Luke 1:26-38

Jesus is indeed the Messiah promised to the Jews. Messiah simply means an anointed one. He was so nicknamed because he had very oily hair that looked like it was always dripping. It is a sign for the Jews to recognize him when he came.

8. Messiah was to be a prophet like Moses: OT Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19 ….

These verses do not talk about the Messiah; they talk about the final Prophet, whom Jesus foretold. You may remember a scene form the movie “The Passion of Christ” where Jesus tells the disciples about the comforter (Paraclete) who will come after him whose name in Aramaic is HMD? Only one man fits the description: Muhammad, peace be upon him. For more details, refer to a booklet by ISNA called “What the Bible says about Muhammad (PBUH)”.

When, if ever, is abortion allowed in Islam?

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

With all this talk about health care I wanted to ask a question about abortion. Since Islamically “Ruh” (spirit)  is blown into the embryo after four months of being in the womb, do you think it is ok for couples to have abortion before the 4th month? What about the case of rape or incest?

As horrible as rape and incest are, the child is innocent and therefore cannot be penalized with the capital punishment! The only justified abortion after 120 days of pregnancy (not a trimester) is when the fetus threatens the life of its mother. This turns the issue from murder into self defense and preservation of the mother’s life.

BTW, the hadeeth that states that the spirit is blown into the fetus after 120 days is authentic and was narrated by Ibn Mas`ood, may God have been pleased with him, and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Ibn Maajah.