9/11 – More Than a Decade Later

decade

The Past: Soon after the September 11, 2011 tragedy

By Tasneem Vali, Chicago

I was working at Children’s Memorial Hospital in an elite part of Chicago. A bunch of us would frequent several places for lunch. Our favorite was a Greek restaurant – excellent salads and ambience – that is, until 9/11. The week after that cataclysmic event, Margie and I went to lunch and a customer said: “Go back to where you came from.”

 

Even worse than the hurtful comment was the fact that the proprietor, ‘a friend’, didn’t even bat an eyelid. We left, never to return. That left a scar. I decided I would ‘look’ Muslim and started wearing the Hijab. Maybe this was Allah’s (swt) way to make me realize that my education and other privileges have given me a responsibility. I must be a totem for Muslim women everywhere. The way I behave ‘does’ impact what people think of Islam – it is my responsibility to educate myself and make Islam my Deen.

 

Amir Reza has a similar story. The son of Iranian parents who migrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution, Amir and his siblings were born and raised in Central California in a small, agriculturally-dominated town. He believes 9/11 impacted him when he was at college.

 

“I felt I had to be an advocate for the Muslims when people jokingly used the word ‘terrorist’,” Reza said: “I had to be ready with accurate answers and not let such comments slide.

 

“Another way in which 9/11affected me was during travel. Ironically, I grew a large beard in college, so getting through any airport was a challenge. It felt like for two years, I was always pulled out of line to be searched individually or asked a few more questions than most. But, once they heard me speak, they would lose interest and let me go. However, it was interesting to watch my dad (notoriously paranoid) become worried going through security lines. He would say: ‘With a name like Ali Reza, who knows what they could do.’ I would tell him, that this is no reason for them to do anything – and, of course, we have nothing to hide.”

 

The Present: Life in America Today

 

By J. Samia Mair, Maryland

 

Unfortunately, more than a decade later, Muslims in America face the same kind of fear, misconceptions and prejudice that they had experienced shortly after 9/11. In some ways, it is worse. For example, it has become politically acceptable, even advantageous, for some politicians to make openly prejudicial statements about Islam and the Muslims. A one-time candidate and frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential election said on several occasions that he would not hire Muslims in his administration. Another frontrunner, known for his anti-Muslim statements, described Palestinians as an “invented” people and “terrorists.”

 

Corporate actions concerned with profits also provide a glimpse into the public psyche. Lowe’s, a national home improvement store, recently pulled its advertising for a reality show on American Muslims, because the founder and sole employee of a fringe organization faulted the show for portraying Muslims as ordinary Americans, not terrorists.

 

But the most disturbing and potentially far-reaching impact of 9/11 on Muslims are the new laws that have been adopted to counter terrorism, such as the USA Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act, which, among other things, allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism and the transfer of US citizens to foreign authorities, a process known as rendition. So, what we have now is an intrusive and anti-democratic legal system in place that can be utilized against Muslims at any time. What would it take to trigger these measures? Many believe that another attack like 9/11 would do it.

 

In some ways, though, conditions for Muslims have improved since 9/11. People have returned to their daily lives and most do not live fearing an imminent terrorist attack. Many non-Muslims have defended Islam and the rights of Muslims. More people are learning about Islam, and Muslims across the country are speaking out, spreading the truth about our Deen. It is an exciting yet uncertain time for American Muslims. We face both challenges and opportunities. And we have learned over the past decade that we cannot sit idly by and hope for justice and sanity to prevail.

 

The Future: Beyond Those Three Digits

 

By Kiran Ansari, Chicago

 

What happened nearly eleven years ago was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Amid the grief and devastation felt by the American people, Muslims worldwide were also adversely affected in one way or the other. From visa issues and airport security to deportation, arrests and hate crimes, everyone has a story to tell.

 

However, it is time to move on. We cannot remain apologetic for something that we had nothing to do with. American Muslims, in fact, Muslims everywhere around the world need to take an active part in the community, so the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is blurred without any compromise in our beliefs. From volunteering at your child’s school and visiting a sick neighbour to running for public office, if we plan on living in the United States, we have to be involved. As the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, said: “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.”

 

If we think that we have it hard, reading a few pages of the Seerah will show us that our trials are nothing in comparison to what the early Muslims had to go through.

 

Some of us may be parents of U.S. citizens; others may send their kids off to college or vacation in America. So, whether we like it or not, America does play a role in the lives of millions across the globe. We cannot change the past, but it is in our power to mould the future. We cannot change the perceptions of every Islamophobe, but we can at least do our part in changing the way our co-workers, friends and neighbours think of Muslims.

 

“They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:134)

 

As Muslims in America and elsewhere, we cannot risk being lost in a melting pot, where everything simmers into one sauce. We have to be proud of our identity like ingredients in a salad. Even when ‘tossed’ in adversity, each and every one of us should work together while retaining our unique taste, texture and colour.

 

The Past: Soon after the September 11, 2011 tragedy

By Tasneem Vali, Chicago

I was working at Children’s Memorial Hospital in an elite part of Chicago. A bunch of us would frequent several places for lunch. Our favorite was a Greek restaurant – excellent salads and ambience – that is, until 9/11. The week after that cataclysmic event, Margie and I went to lunch and a customer said: “Go back to where you came from.”

Even worse than the hurtful comment was the fact that the proprietor, ‘a friend’, didn’t even bat an eyelid. We left, never to return. That left a scar. I decided I would ‘look’ Muslim and started wearing the Hijab. Maybe this was Allah’s (swt) way to make me realize that my education and other privileges have given me a responsibility. I must be a totem for Muslim women everywhere. The way I behave ‘does’ impact what people think of Islam – it is my responsibility to educate myself and make Islam my Deen.

Amir Reza has a similar story. The son of Iranian parents who migrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution, Amir and his siblings were born and raised in Central California in a small, agriculturally-dominated town. He believes 9/11 impacted him when he was at college.

“I felt I had to be an advocate for the Muslims when people jokingly used the word ‘terrorist’,” Reza said: “I had to be ready with accurate answers and not let such comments slide.

“Another way in which 9/11affected me was during travel. Ironically, I grew a large beard in college, so getting through any airport was a challenge. It felt like for two years, I was always pulled out of line to be searched individually or asked a few more questions than most. But, once they heard me speak, they would lose interest and let me go. However, it was interesting to watch my dad (notoriously paranoid) become worried going through security lines. He would say: ‘With a name like Ali Reza, who knows what they could do.’ I would tell him, that this is no reason for them to do anything – and, of course, we have nothing to hide.”

The Present: Life in America Today

By J. Samia Mair, Maryland

Unfortunately, more than a decade later, Muslims in America face the same kind of fear, misconceptions and prejudice that they had experienced shortly after 9/11. In some ways, it is worse. For example, it has become politically acceptable, even advantageous, for some politicians to make openly prejudicial statements about Islam and the Muslims. A one-time candidate and frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential election said on several occasions that he would not hire Muslims in his administration. Another frontrunner, known for his anti-Muslim statements, described Palestinians as an “invented” people and “terrorists.”

Corporate actions concerned with profits also provide a glimpse into the public psyche. Lowe’s, a national home improvement store, recently pulled its advertising for a reality show on American Muslims, because the founder and sole employee of a fringe organization faulted the show for portraying Muslims as ordinary Americans, not terrorists.

But the most disturbing and potentially far-reaching impact of 9/11 on Muslims are the new laws that have been adopted to counter terrorism, such as the USA Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act, which, among other things, allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism and the transfer of US citizens to foreign authorities, a process known as rendition. So, what we have now is an intrusive and anti-democratic legal system in place that can be utilized against Muslims at any time. What would it take to trigger these measures? Many believe that another attack like 9/11 would do it.

In some ways, though, conditions for Muslims have improved since 9/11. People have returned to their daily lives and most do not live fearing an imminent terrorist attack. Many non-Muslims have defended Islam and the rights of Muslims. More people are learning about Islam, and Muslims across the country are speaking out, spreading the truth about our Deen. It is an exciting yet uncertain time for American Muslims. We face both challenges and opportunities. And we have learned over the past decade that we cannot sit idly by and hope for justice and sanity to prevail.

The Future: Beyond Those Three Digits

By Kiran Ansari, Chicago

What happened nearly eleven years ago was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Amid the grief and devastation felt by the American people, Muslims worldwide were also adversely affected in one way or the other. From visa issues and airport security to deportation, arrests and hate crimes, everyone has a story to tell.

However, it is time to move on. We cannot remain apologetic for something that we had nothing to do with. American Muslims, in fact, Muslims everywhere around the world need to take an active part in the community, so the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is blurred without any compromise in our beliefs. From volunteering at your child’s school and visiting a sick neighbour to running for public office, if we plan on living in the United States, we have to be involved. As the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, said: “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.”

If we think that we have it hard, reading a few pages of the Seerah will show us that our trials are nothing in comparison to what the early Muslims had to go through.

Some of us may be parents of U.S. citizens; others may send their kids off to college or vacation in America. So, whether we like it or not, America does play a role in the lives of millions across the globe. We cannot change the past, but it is in our power to mould the future. We cannot change the perceptions of every Islamophobe, but we can at least do our part in changing the way our co-workers, friends and neighbours think of Muslims.

“They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:134)

As Muslims in America and elsewhere, we cannot risk being lost in a melting pot, where everything simmers into one sauce. We have to be proud of our identity like ingredients in a salad. Even when ‘tossed’ in adversity, each and every one of us should work together while retaining our unique taste, texture and colour.

Hope After 9/11 – Globally

By Fiza Fatima Asar

London-based social media marketer for the non-profit sector

Every year, my friend and I put up flyers before Ramadan, inviting others in our college in California to join us for Iftar. We hoped and expected to be contacted by Muslim girls excited at the opportunity of breaking their fasts with other Muslims. Instead, who we found were perhaps far more special – a Japanese student who decided it was crucial for her to learn Arabic in order to understand the Quran better (she later transferred to Al-Azhar to follow her aspirations), and a young seventeen–year-old Mexican girl, who had been hiding her desire to convert to Islam from her parents for three years and wanted to keep her first fast with us.

At a time post 9/11, when Islam was under intense scrutiny throughout the world and especially in the West, it was heart-warming yet mind-boggling how it still attracted young women with such vigour. Adding to the paradox, as political Islamophobia radically increased in Europe, Islam continued to be the fastest growing religion in the same region. Racist nationalistic governments or political parties in countries like France, Norway and Switzerland initiated steps to remove Islamic “symbols”. Niqab was officially banned in France and they wanted to eliminate Halal food options in school canteens. But these steps across a range of countries have not been able to halt the interest towards Islam. In fact, it keeps bouncing back with more intensity. It was no less than a miracle that Daniel Streich, the man responsible for initiating the successful campaign for banning minarets in Switzerland, not only converted to Islam but vowed to make the biggest, most beautiful mosque in Europe to counter his past hatred for the religion.

However, the most interesting aspect of the conversions to Islam is that although the West accuses Islam of suppressing women’s liberties, a large proportion of those embracing Islam happen to be Western women. Camilla Leyland, a 32-year-old single mother embraced Islam in her mid-20s for ‘intellectual and feminist reasons’. She explains: “I know people will be surprised to hear the words ‘feminism’ and ‘Islam’ in the same breath, but, in fact, the teachings of the Quran give equality to women, and at the time the religion was born, the teachings went against the grain of a misogynistic society.”

A new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests that the real figure of conversions to Islam in the UK alone could be as high as 100,000 with as many as 5000 conversions in one year alone. The same study suggested that the conversion rate was more in females, and that the average age of converts was twenty-seven. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, admitted that this report was the best intellectual “guesstimate” but added that “either way few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.”

Mughal attributed this increase in converts to the prominence of Islam in the public domain and the subsequent public curiosity it provoked. Batool Al-Toma, a 25-year-old Irish born convert to Islam, agrees: “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of converts in recent years. The media often tries to pinpoint specifics but the reasons are as varied as the converts themselves.” Islam’s latest convert that surprised the UK was Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. Broadcaster and journalist Booth, 43, recalls the day she decided to become a Muslim: “It was a Tuesday evening, and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.”

Another celebrity convert, London-based Kristiane Backer, is a former MTV presenter. Kristiane says: “In the West, we are stressed for super­ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system. Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realized how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one God makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.”

According to Kevin Brice from ­Swansea University, who carried this research out for Faith Matters, the female converts to Islam, “seek spirituality, a higher meaning and tend to be deep thinkers.” The depth of their thought rings true to me. Yuki had told me that when her sister committed suicide for no apparent reason in Japan, it provoked her family to seek the meaning of life, which is what led her to Islam. Her parents were ecstatic that she had found an answer. My much younger Mexican friend bewildered me with her very deep paintings, depicting souls in trouble seeking peace and light in the midst of trouble.

Kristiane Backer, who has written a book on her own spiritual journey (“From MTV to Mecca”), believes that women who were born Muslims became disillusioned and rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against but the culture. The treasures of the true Islam lead so many to embrace it, despite the steps taken to demoralize its followers and mar the faith. It’s a jewel that those born in Islam perhaps take for granted. The image that can never leave my mind is when my young friend in California took out a beautiful wooden box from her drawer to show me, where she cherishingly saved her most price-less possessions: “Her book on how to pray Salah, her silk scarf and her Quran.”

Learning to Lead

Learning to Lead

In the Light of the Quran and the Sunnah

By Binte Aqueel, Hina Jamal, J. Samia Mair and Sadaf Farooqi

While Muslims often complain about having a crisis of leadership, paradoxically, there seems to be no dearth of self-proclaimed leaders – people, who think they have everything required to lead the community and are ready to fight for it.

Today, countries, groups, organisations and Masajid have become mired in an ugly struggle for power. Often, a person stands up to fill an essential leadership void in the community, considering himself/herself best fit for the role. Campaigning, electioneering and lobbying are often followed by dirty politics, mudslinging and rivalry. Soon, all those involved in the noble bid to provide a good leadership seem to have lost their goal somewhere in the fight for power. All that matters now is their or their party’s winning at any cost.

Sounds familiar? Sadly, this is the dilemma many countries and organisations face. The quest for good leadership often brings out greed and lust for power not only in country politics but also in the college and work life groups. Everyone wants a leadership position, and they are prepared to go to any lengths to acquire it.

Seeking Leadership

Interestingly, Islam discourages the practice of seeking leadership. In Islam, leadership is an Amanah (trust) and a huge responsibility. The early Muslims used to cry, when they were given a position of authority, out of fear of not being able to discharge it properly.

The Prophet (sa) is reported to have said that anyone, who seeks leadership, is not fit to assume it. Once, two men entered upon the Prophet (sa). One of them said: “O, Allah’s Apostle! Appoint me as governor,” and so did the second. The Prophet (sa) said: “We do not assign the authority of ruling to those who ask for it, nor to those who are keen to have it.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “You people will be keen to have the authority of ruling, which will be a thing of regret for you on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) advised Abdur Rahman Ibn Samurah (rta): “Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand, you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking for it, then you will be helped (by Allah) in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then do what is better and make expiation for your oath.” (Bukhari)

This is not to say, however, that taking up a leadership role is wrong or discouraged. Indeed, the Prophet (sa) encouraged his followers to take up a responsibility, when it was entrusted to them. He said: “Whoever is given responsibility of some matter of the Muslims but withdraws himself, while they are in dire need and poverty, Allah will withdraw Himself from him, while he is in dire need and poverty on the Day of Requital.” (Abu Dawood)

It is discouraged to seek a leadership position out of greed and desire for power. Actions are based on intentions, and we must not doubt anyone’s intentions.

Empowerment and Delegation

Life is an ongoing cycle of events, one of which is that all leaders are eventually replaced. For such transitions to be as smooth as possible, a leader should prepare his subordinates to be able to efficiently take on leadership roles in the future, which bring added responsibilities, require the ability to make critical decisions, and need excellent interpersonal skills to win over hearts of people.

Some leaders tend to follow autocratic and dictatorial leadership styles, thinking that these cast greater awe over a workforce and thus attain better performance.

Clearly, this methodology is in clear contradiction to the style of leadership of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who was an exemplary leader. He was humble, mild-mannered, friendly, approachable and easy to talk to. Moreover, he empowered his close companions to be capable enough to carry on his mission after his demise.

I would like to elaborate on his style of ‘Empowerment and Delegation’ in the light of Ahadeeth regarding the appointment of Muadh Bin Jabal (rta) as the governor of Yemen.

Ibn Abbas has narrated: “The Prophet sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Invite the people to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and I am Allah’s Apostle, and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night (in twenty-four hours), and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakat from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to their poor.’” (Bukhari)

According to another narration: “When Allah’s Messenger (sa) sent Muadh to Yemen, he went out with him whilst Muadh (rta) rode his riding beast and Allah’s Messenger walked beside him giving instructions. When he finished, he said: ‘Perhaps, Muadh, you may not meet me after this year, but perhaps, you may pass this Masjid of mine and my grave.’ Muadh wept from grief over the departure of Allah’s Messenger. The Prophet then turned facing Madinah and said: ‘Those nearest to me are the pious, whoever they are and whenever they are.’” (Mishkat)

These Ahadeeth make the following points clear:

  1. When a delegation is going off on a long journey, the leader should personally see them off.
  2. The leader should give simple, concise and role-related instructions to the delegate during their final meeting, as reminders of what work lies ahead for the delegate and its importance.
  3. The leader is humble, i.e., he does not mind walking or standing at a lower level than his delegate.
  4. The leader must be honest, when expressing his emotions to his subordinate.
  5. The leader should console his subordinate, when the latter is expressing grief.
  6. There should be love and compassion between a leader and his subordinates, especially in careers related to Dawah and religious instruction.

We can see how perfectly our Prophet (sa) combined the delegation of a leadership role to a subordinate with human compassion, empowering a future leader while simultaneously expressing his love and humility as a leader. He was, perhaps, the only man in history, who brought about the greatest of change in mankind in the shortest time period.

Best Religious Leaders – Close to People

Have you ever tried to contact a qualified, respected Islamic scholar or religious authority figure for some personal issue? These scholars have busy schedules of delivering talks and lectures in institutions and homes, travelling abroad often for conferences and, hence, are often hard to reach. When the common man endeavours to get in touch with them, more often than not, it is an uphill task involving numerous phone calls and/or unanswered emails. Private counsel with them is elusive – no more than a fleeting Salam or handshake following their Dars, before they hurriedly whiz off to their next engagement.

We must remember that a religious leader is a human being just like us. He or she needs time to rest, relax, leisurely hang out with family, sleep, attend to personal errands, read, study, respond to correspondence, plan itineraries and meet relatives. If they were to give private counsel to anyone, who wants to talk to them at any time during the day, they would be constantly pre-empted. Moreover, idleness and over-socialization is common in our culture. People tend to linger to chat about useless topics long after having discussed the required issue. If a religious leader were to give in to every lay-person’s demands on their time, it would not be long before they would not be able to continue their Dawah work.

It is, therefore, all about maintaining a critical balance between work and human compassion. Could it be that religious organizations’ leaders today have allowed themselves to become so overburdened with commitments, that they do not have time for even genuine requests for a sympathetic ear? Is this not against the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa)?

I find this food for thought. Why do our leaders move around with entourages and employ assistants for trivial personal tasks such as ironing clothes, whereas the best leaders of our Ummah, who had to juggle many more balls in the air, such as planning battle strategies, meeting foreign dignitaries and catering to multiple spouses/children, never hired personal assistants?

The proof of the Sahabas’ humility is the way they’d roam the streets at night alone, in their positions as Ameer-ul-Mumineen, to see what was going on at ground level. Prophet Muhammad (sa) never sat at a level higher than his company, except to ascend the pulpit for a sermon. His clothes made him indistinguishable from his companions to a newcomer, who set eyes on him for the first time.

Is this not something worth pondering over?

Here are a few tips that might restore the Sunnah of compassion for laymen for our leaders:

  1. Gain knowledge of the Prophet’s (sa) life and how he handled situations.
  2. Cut down on commitments, so that you have a few days a week with nothing on the agenda.
  3. Spend time with your family – every day.
  4. Play and converse with children randomly.

 

Our Prophet (sa) and those of his companions, who later became leaders, were always accessible to the common man, even poor old women or slaves, who stopped them in their tracks with personal complains. Let us endeavour to emulate their example, when and if we ever occupy a leadership role in our lives, because they were the best of our Ummah.

Leaders in the Business World

The unfortunate situation arising in the United States – and I suspect in other non-Muslim populated countries as well – is that when given the choice between conducting a transaction with a business run by a Muslim and a business run by a non-Muslim, many Muslims (and others) choose the non-Muslim business. And even when there may not be a choice – such as a Halal food store – it is only out of necessity that Muslims frequent it. Why are Muslim-run businesses not always the first choice? In one word-leadership.

A good leader runs a business that has courteous, hard working employees, quality products and services and satisfied customers. The leader sets the tone for those underneath him or her. If the leader is hardworking, ethical and fair and expects the same from the employees, the business will have a good reputation. If the leader does not demonstrate these qualities, or if the leader does have them, but does not require the same of employees, the business will not.

There is no excuse for a Muslim not to be a good leader in business. The Quran and Sunnah give ample guidance on what constitutes a good leader. And unlike many other systems of belief, Islam sets forth what is ethical, responsible and Islamically acceptable in the business context. For example, a multitude of Ahadeeth provides guidance on this issue, including these few:

“The merchants will be raised up on the day of resurrection as evildoers, except those who fear God, are honest and speak the truth.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi and Baihaqi)

“God show mercy to a man, who is kindly when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim.” (Bukhari)

“If anyone sells a defective article without drawing attention to it, he will remain under God’s anger.” (Ibn Majah)

“If anyone keeps goods till the price rises, he is a sinner.” (Muslim)

More generally, as Muslims we are expected to exhibit excellence in everything we do -“Allah has made excellence obligatory for everything.” (Muslim) Our businesses should set forth the paradigm of business practices. Business schools should teach case studies on Muslim-run businesses to their students. Our business leaders should be highly sought after for advice. Indeed, Allah (swt) tells us that we set the example for others: “Thus, We have made you a just nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:143)

The sad reality is that many of us, in the business context and elsewhere, do not rise near to the level of conduct that Allah (swt) expects from us. Even worse, many of us do not even try. And by not doing so, we miss a great opportunity for Dawah – something that is incumbent upon all of us.

Despite some popular misconceptions, Islam was spread by Muslims, who followed the Sunnah and the guidance of Allah (swt) – those, who showed what it truly means to be human. Their exemplary and just conduct as merchants in the market-place set forth a brilliant example for the non-Muslims of the time. In a world so preoccupied with international commerce and making money, business affords us an incredible opportunity not only to better ourselves but to pass the Message onto others.

May Allah (swt) guide the Muslim community and its leaders towards what is right, Ameen.

Islam’s Secret to Contentment

Jan 11 - Islam's Secret to contentment

By J. Samia Mair

“Consider well contentment, for it is a treasure without end.” (Al-Tabarani)

I am not sure anything satisfies me more than those rare occasions, when I experience a sudden intellectual breakthrough and spiritual advancement. This recently happened to me, when I was rereading a passage from one of my favourite books on Islam: “Those, who learn the lesson being taught by the Quran, understand that there is nothing they can do about their worldly lot, so they put their effort into improving their lot in the next world.”

I was immediately reminded of the following Hadeeth: “God has preordained five things for every man He has created: his period of life, his action, his lying down, his moving about and his provision.” (Ahmad) I thought about how different my aspirations are now that I am a Muslim.

Growing up, I was taught that God did not exist and religious people were fools. My parents wanted me to get a good job, make a lot of money, live in a big house and be happy. But what is happiness? Recently, I was visiting a Muslim sister, who said: “religion should be easy and make you happy in this life.” I disagreed. We obey Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) for the next world and eternal bliss. Submission is not always easy nor does it always make us happy – but it can make us content.

Our beloved Prophet (sa) taught us how to be content: “When one of you looks at someone who is superior to him in property and appearance, he should look at someone who is inferior to him.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Our provision, appearance and lot in life have already been decreed. We should be content and grateful with what Allah (swt) has provided us. He (swt) knows what is best and what will lead us to Paradise.

If anyone would have told me growing up that I would someday be a Muslim, wear a Hijab and cherish learning about Allah (swt) and how to obey Him (swt), I would have laughed out loud. I do not have most of what my parents had wished for me: I stay home raising my girls; I occasionally earn some money by writing; and I live in a two-bedroom apartment. But as it turns out, I am happier than they are, and more than I could have imagined.

Every day, I try to thank Allah (swt) for bringing me to Islam. Faith is a gift, and I did nothing special to deserve it. In fact, I could name many others, who appear far more deserving of this blessing than me. I am truly content with Allah (swt) as the Lord, Islam as the religion and with Muhammad (sa) as the Prophet and the Messenger.

The Vanity Affair

Oct 10 - The Vanity AffairBy J. Samia Mair

Raising children to be knowledgeable, practicing Muslims poses many challenges. The Internet, television, movies and the iPod inundate children with visual and auditory messages, often competing and being contrary to Islamic values.

Technology alone, however, cannot be blamed. Long before this communication revolution, Muslim children were learning un-Islamic values. Since the time of our beloved Prophet (sa), may Allah (swt) bless him and grant him peace, cultural beliefs and practices have seeped into the Deen, often masquerading as authentic teachings.

No one should be surprised that purity of belief and practice is deteriorating, and holding onto the Deen is becoming increasingly difficult. The Prophet (sa) stated: “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” (Muslim)

“You are in a time when, whoever abandons a tenth of what he has been ordered, he is ruined. Then, there will come a time in which whoever does a tenth of what he has been ordered shall be saved.” (At-Tirmidhi)

One of the areas, where this is evident, is the emphasis placed on beauty. Worldwide, the beauty industry accounts for$500 billion of revenues a year. It has been forecasted that the global market for cosmetic surgery will reach $40 billion by 2013. Plastic surgery in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has skyrocketed over the past decade. An Associated Press article (August, 2009) noted that there are thirty-five plastic surgery centres in Riyadh alone. The most popular surgeries among women are liposuction, breast augmentations and nose jobs, while men opt for hair implants and nose jobs.

Plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons presents a problem. Despite reported Fatwahs drawing the line between Islamically acceptable and unacceptable surgeries, it is hard to deny where things are heading.

But one does not need a cosmetic surgery to become infected with the beauty pandemic. A look at some Muslim fashion magazines and Islamic clothing websites tells its own story. Although the models have properly covered their Awrah, some are breathtakingly beautiful and stylish, completely defeating the purpose of not drawing attention to one’s beauty publicly.

Advertisements for marriage reveal the inordinate emphasis placed on fair skin. A few representative examples are copied below:

“Attractive well-established South Asian Sunni Muslim guy seeks a light-skinned South Asian Sunni Muslim girl…”

“…I am 34, single and never married, graduate [Kashmiri female]…5 ft 5.5 inches tall, very slim and very fair, considered to be very attractive by most people…”

While equating fair skin with beauty is not exclusive to Muslim cultures, the emphasis on fair-skinned mates raises issues in Islam. The Prophet (saw) reminded us in his farewell sermon:

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black, nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.”

It is reasonable to pay special attention to what our beloved Prophet (saw) chose to emphasize in his farewell sermon. Judging someone by their skin tone is clearly discouraged.

This does not mean that physical appearance is not a consideration when choosing a mate. Both Bukhari and Muslim report similar versions of the following Hadeeth:

“A woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, her rank, her beauty and her religion; so get the one who is religious and prosper.”

Thus, beauty is a legitimate consideration, but certainly does not take precedence. The Quran and Sunnah repeatedly stress that one’s inner beauty is what ultimately counts. For example, the Prophet (sa) has stated: “Verily, Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth, but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.” (Muslim)

And this is where parental responsibility comes in. Muslim parents need to teach their children that while it is okay to appreciate physical beauty, stress should be placed on a person’s character.

To this end, drawing attention and comparing children’s looks should be avoided. It would be highly inappropriate, for example, to discuss with another parent, especially in the presence of a child, that you think a particular child is so cute, while another child is unattractive. Parents should teach their children not to identify others by appearance, avoiding such words as dark, fat, ugly, etc. And the first step in this lesson is for parents to practice what they preach.

Pick up almost any book on child rearing, and experts will stress that children should not be labelled. When children are repeatedly called ugly, stupid or clumsy, they come to believe it with hurtful and destructive consequences. A child, who believes that he or she is stupid, will give up on intellectual efforts, and a child, who thinks of himself as clumsy, may avoid activities that require agility. A child identified as ugly is likely to develop low self-esteem, possibly leading to permanent emotional and physical trauma and potentially life-threatening behaviour.

Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Ugly Duckling” concerns a homely, young bird that matures into a graceful, beautiful swan. It is a tale of personal transformation – a transformation resulting from nature, not effort. By contrast, the human story of “The Ugly Duckling” entails personal struggle with one’s base desires or ‘the greater Jihad’ as a famous Hadeeth states.

“An old woman came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, pray for me that I will enter Paradise.’ He replied [jokingly]: ‘O mother of so-and-so, old women will not enter Paradise.’ The woman turned to go, weeping, but then the Prophet (sa) recited: ‘We have created them in new creation and made them virgins; faithful lovers, equal in age.’ (Al-Waqiah 56:35-37).” (At-Tirmidhi)

Islam teaches us the difference between ephemeral and eternal beauty. It teaches us that we are all ugly ducklings with the potential to become magnificent swans.

Don’t Confuse Liberal with Tolerant!

Jul 10 - Don't confuse liberal with tolerant

By J. Samia Mair

It’s a beautiful, sunny and crisp fall day. My twin daughters and I are meeting two of my friends and their girls at a local farm for a hay ride, corn maze and whatever else the farm offers. My girls and I arrive first. They jump out of the minivan and run to the entrance.

We decide to wait for our friends inside. I pay, we enter and then I notice something very odd. I am the lone visible Muslim (I wear a Hijab) in an otherwise orthodox Jewish crowd. Needless to say, I stand out and am drawing some attention. My girls, however, run off to play in an enormous tractor tire filled with dried corn.

Finally, after what seems like a very long time, our friends arrive. One of my friends is Jewish and she has a big smile on her face as she approaches. As it turns out, the farm is having a fundraiser for a local synagogue. She whispers to me that she really dislikes this synagogue because they are “militant and hate everybody”. “Me, for instance?” I ask. “You in particular,” she replies. “So, I am probably not welcome here?” “I suspect not at all!”

She begins a small, quiet tirade about this group’s reputation for widespread intolerance. She confesses that it pleases her tremendously that my presence is likely to disturb their otherwise beautiful day. I look to our other friend, who is a Catholic, and gauge her opinion on the situation and whether it is prudent to stay. She says: “Don’t ask me; I don’t know anything about this stuff.” Before the adults decide what to do, our four girls run by us, screaming and holding hands – they are heading straight towards the unsuspecting sheep. Issue resolved. We are clearly staying.

We proceed to follow our girls around the farm from one activity to the next. To my surprise, I find myself engaging in typical, friendly conversation with the other parents. It occurs to me once again – I must stop confusing liberal with tolerant.

In fact, my friends, who embraced my conversion to Islam the most, are my practicing Catholic friends – the very ones, whom I was most reluctant to tell. They were simply happy for me that I had found spirituality and God.

By contrast, many of my friends and colleagues, who I thought would be fairly indifferent to my conversion, actually had some strong, negative opinions on the matter. At the time, I was working in a research university on the East Coast – very liberal, very progressive and, oh yes as it turns out, selectively intolerant. I recall that it was completely inappropriate to belittle anyone, except for three special categories: republicans, ‘hicks’ (country folk) and religious people.

I remember a comment my boss made to me, when I had complained about a computer programme that our team used. “Stop your Jihad against WordPerfect!” he warned me. Legally actionable – I doubt it. Poor taste – unquestionably.

Of course, I would be as narrow-minded as those whom I accuse of narrow-mindedness, if I made a sweeping statement that all liberals are intolerant of religion. I do know self-described liberals, who are not openly hostile to religion, and even a few, who are devout. But my anecdotal, unscientific observations have led me to the conclusion that liberal and tolerant are not synonyms, and I should never assume that a person’s political and social bent will predict his or her outlook on Islam or Muslims.

What perplexes me still, though, is how my belief in Allah (swt) I actually engender disdain in so many people, a significant portion of whom are the champions of the oppressed and disenfranchised. I want to tell them: “Forget about protecting freedom of speech, if you suffocate freedom of thought.”

My experience in this regard has also revealed to me that I suffer from the same narrow-mindedness. I should have known not to ‘judge a book by its cover’ or, in this case, a man by his side locks.

I remind myself of the perfect words of Allah (swt): “O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” (Al-Hujurat 49:13) My friend turns to me and says: “You’re like a peacemaker, making friends everywhere you go. That’s what we need to end this craziness – one person talking to another person, one on one. It should be as simple as that.” If only it were – if only it could be.

Connecting with the Quran

Vol 6 - Issue 4 Connecting with the QuranBy J. Samia Mair

I have read several different English translations of the Quran. Although I get immense pleasure and spiritual growth reading a translation, I always feel that I am missing so much, because I cannot read Arabic. The Quran cannot be translated properly because of the depth of the Arabic language. In addition, there are spiritual benefits associated with reciting the Quran, even without understanding.

Despite knowing that reciting and memorizing the Quran has many virtues, for a long time the thought of learning Tajweed was extremely intimidating to me. I would pick up a copy of the Quran, see a page full of unrecognizable symbols, and view the task as impossible. I did not have much trouble memorizing the shorter Surahs for prayers, but I feared that I would never move much beyond that point. I was wrong.

The Quran is accessible even for non-Arabic speakers. I have turned to the Quran in many different ways over the years. Now, I have a study programme that seems to be working. A few suggestions are below:

  1. Make reading the Quran a priority. We all have busy lives, family responsibilities and a million other things to do. However, put Quranic study at the top of the list.
  2. Focus first on learning to read and recite the Quran and then understanding. Having spent about $200 on Arabic books,I realized that I need to rethink my goals. My goal was to learn to read and recite the Quran, even if I did not understand it. Learning the Arabic language was slowing me down.
  3. Set realistic short-term goals. You know yourself better than anyone else. Set short-term goals that are realistic for you. For example, if you do not know the Arabic alphabet, give yourself enough time to learn it well. Meanwhile, continue to memorize shorter Surahs, even if it is just one Ayah a week.
  4. Have good intentions. According to many scholars, several Ahadeeth suggest that if you intend to do something good – e.g., memorize the Quran – and die before completing it, that intention will be completed in the grave. Thus, when you stand in front of Allah (swt), you will have memorized the Quran.
  5. Develop a study plan and be consistent. “The best deed (act of worship) in the sight of Allah (swt) is that, which is done regularly.” (Bukhari) I try to read the Quran, memorize a little and read the translation and accompanying commentary every day.
  6. Choose study materials carefully. The following are the best materials that I have found for beginners. The CD set Ahlul Quran Gear (by Haroon Baqai) is wonderful for learning the last half of the 30th Juz. Shaykh Baqai recites the Surahs slowly, verse by verse, leaving time for the listener to repeat after him. In addition, I use a textbook Juz Amma: 30 (by Abidullah Ghazi). Each Surah has a Latin transliteration and is broken down into its Arabic vocabulary.
  7. Find a Tajweed teacher. It is essential to have someone check your pronunciation and teach you how to read the Quran properly. If I could afford it, I would constantly be enrolled in a Tajweed class.
  8. Make Dua for success. Nothing is accomplished without Allah’s (swt) Will. Have sincere intentions and ask Allah (swt) to help you in this most noble endeavour.

Although I have a long way to go, before I can read the Quran fluently, I am no longer intimated by the task. Now, I enjoy the process and look forward to that special time during the day, when I feel even closer to Allah (swt).

Survivor’s Guilt

By J. Samia Mair

It was the first time my mother was attending a sisters’ Halaqah. Although she was not openly hostile to my reversion to Islam, she was not particularly thrilled either.

I don’t remember the topic of discussion on that day, but I will never forget my mother’s question at the end: “What does that mean for me as a Christian?” The Imam replied: “It means you are going to the Hellfire.”

I am not sure, if the world stopped for anyone else in the room, but I braced myself, waiting for my mother to react. Surprisingly, she responded with a pleasant ‘oh’. The Imam explained that it was his duty to tell her the truth about the Kuffar, and he elaborated on the unpleasant fate of all non-Muslims in the life-to-come.

I thought: “Are all my relatives going to the Hellfire?” I remembered my grandmother, who grew up in a small town, far removed from the teachings of Islam. She never complained about her life. She helped her neighbours and brought much joy to everybody. I thought about all her life and started feeling ‘survivor’s guilt’.

Survivor’s guilt has been defined as “a deep feeling of guilt experienced by those, who have survived some catastrophe that took the lives of others; derives in part from a feeling that they did not do enough to save the perished ones and in part from feelings of being unworthy.” That is basically how I felt. I could not understand, why I had been blessed with the light of Islam, but so many others had not.

I did not want to accept the Imam’s verdict on my mother’s fate and decided to find out other opinions about the topic. I found different responses from warnings of eternal suffering to promises of Paradise. An eleventh century scholar wrote that to be considered a Kafir, you need to be exposed to Islam and reject it. I felt like the Grim Reaper, bringing death to my family and friends by having exposed them to the Deen.

Eventually, I came across one of the clearest discussions by Shaikh Hamza Yusuf. Basing his discussion on some of the greatest Islamic scholars, he describes different types of disbelievers mentioned in the Quran, touching upon the difference between idolaters and disbelievers. Yusuf explains why only some disbelievers will remain in the Fire forever.

The operative phrase here is “those who have no excuse for their disbelief.” Imam Al-Ghazali indicates that those, who were truly unaware, may spend some time in the Hellfire, but they will eventually be showered in divine grace. The Quran refers to disbelief accompanied by certain characteristics that indicate the vile nature of those who knowingly and willfully reject the message. (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in “Who are the Disbelievers?” Seasons 2008 (Spring), Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 31-50)

I believe the Imam’s assessment of my mother’s destiny is not as certain as he had made us believe. I still worry about her and other non-Muslims. I cannot entirely shake off the feeling that if I were a better Muslim, they might revert as well.

Over the years, strong feelings of survivor’s guilt have subsided under the immense gratitude I feel for being brought to Islam. Instead of wondering why I am so blessed, I try to be a better Muslim and make Dua that those, whom I love, will also receive the same blessing.

May you and your loved ones all live in Islam and die in faith, and may you all meet Allah (swt) with a sound heart. Ameen.

The Gift of Faith

By J. Samia Mair

Silence. I remember lying on the sofa, enjoying the sound of nothingness. No shouting, no slamming doors, no awful names poisoning the air. The rest of my family had left, and I welcomed the lull in fighting. I was a happy child, but I was not raised in a happy home.

As I started to drift to sleep, a cool, gentle breeze passed over me. I felt an immediate sense of relief. It was as if every burden had been lifted, every worry comforted, every bad memory erased. Words cannot adequately describe the few seconds of peace that I felt that afternoon. But then, as now, I believed it was from another world.

After that day and for many years to come, I would lay down on the same sofa, around the same time, hoping that the breeze would return. I never experienced it again. But I know it exists.

In many ways, I was a typical, well-adjusted American girl. I had friends, did well in school and wanted those things most other teenagers wanted. But I felt different as well. I was raised in a primarily atheist home. Religion was viewed as a crutch for the weak, and the religious were deemed acceptable objects of scorn. But I always believed there must be something else beyond the apparent. I wondered: “Where do I come from? Why I am here? What should I do, while I am here? And where am I going?” I remember a friend telling me that he never pondered over the questions that occupied my thoughts. I envied him. I envied all my friends, who journeyed through life content with the seen. I felt cursed for wanting answers to questions many others did not even think to ask. I felt cursed for wanting to know the unseen. I felt cursed, until the moment I knew I was blessed.

In earnest, my spiritual consciousness awoke in Brazil, while working with a non-profit organization promoting indigenous rights. I lived at a school, where I studied Portuguese with Christian missionaries from all over the world. These missionaries did not try to convert anyone. They sought only to help others in desperate need. I started to rethink my views on religion. How could religion be so horrible, if it produces people, who spend their lives in the service of others?

When I returned to the United States, I began attending a liberal Catholic church. It was wonderful, except for one thing – I did not believe the basic theological foundation of Christianity. I believed Jesus (as) was a prophet, not God. Somehow, I was able to overlook this major theological difference for quite some time. Then, a good Jewish friend attended service with me one Sunday and said that she never understood, why priests talked so much about Jesus in their sermons and so little about God. Her seemingly innocuous observation changed my life. I could no longer sit comfortably in the pews and pretend that I belonged. In many ways, my Jewish friend led me to Islam.

I started to research different religions – not so much to convert but to see, what else was out there. At the same time, my mother gave me several books written by a well-known, self-proclaimed Sufi. His discussion of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) and Islam enthralled me. Eventually, I came to believe that this particular author was a charlatan, but he inspired in me love for the Prophet (sa) and respect for Islam. This author wrote that people should not convert to Islam, take on Islamic practices, or read from traditional texts. He suggested that only his work held the key to spiritual excellence in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, his writings encouraged me to read more about Islam from other sources. In one of his books, I believe he quotes the saying “leave your donkey at the door.” So, once again, I was led to Islam by an unlikely source.

I have often remarked that I did not choose Islam; Islam chose me. As soon as I read its teachings, I felt home. I could not believe that a religion existed, in which many of my beliefs were established creeds. Still, I did not feel the need to convert. But Allah (swt) has a plan for each of us. A classmate in graduate school gave me a translation of the Quran. It sat on the corner of my desk for months. One day, I decided to read it. As soon as I read Surah Al-Fatihah, I knew I was going to convert. It was the prayer I had been trying to write all my life.

As I continued to read, I started to fall asleep. I found myself looking up at the sky. The sky was bright gold. Arabic letters in bronze moved slowly across it. It looked as if an enormous scroll was unfolding above me. The colours in this dream – if I can call it a dream – were amazing. They glowed but unlike anything I had ever seen before. Such words as ‘brilliant’, ‘radiant’, ‘incandescent’ and ‘luminous’ fail to capture what I experienced. The dream was so powerful that I became scared and woke myself up. Since that time, I have had only two other dreams with amazing indescribable colours. Like the breeze I experienced as a child, I believe now as I did then, that these colours were from another world.

Shortly thereafter, I took my Shahadah. The Imam gave me a few books. One of the books made me gasp. On the cover was a picture of an open Quran. The pages were bright gold and the script was in bronze – just like in my dream! At that moment, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.

Ironically, what almost led me away from Islam were its followers. Someone once told me not to judge Islam by Muslims. I wish I had heard that advice, when I first converted. About a year after I took the Shahadah, I felt alone in the religion. I could not find a community, where I fit in. I was told many beliefs about Islam that did not seem right. I found it difficult to untangle what was Islam and what was cultural. I wondered, if a westerner could truly be a Muslim.

I prayed to Allah (swt) for guidance. He (swt) led me to the German author Murad Wilfried Hofmann. Among his many achievements, Mr. Hofmann was an ambassador to Morocco, who converted to Islam. Like me, he was also an attorney. I read his books and realized that there was a place for someone like me in Islam. Allah (swt) also sent me many beautiful sisters, who continue to travel with me on this wondrous path.

As I look back on my life, I wonder why I was so blessed to be called to Islam. I did nothing to deserve it. I know many non-Muslims who seem far more worthy than I. I wonder: “Why me and not them?”

Faith is the most beautiful gift. Each day, I try to thank Allah (swt) for guiding me to Islam, knowing that my gratitude is wholly insufficient. I try to be obedient, but I worry, because I often fail. I find comfort in the belief that Allah (swt), Most Merciful and Most Forgiving, continues to guide and forgive me, as He does with all believers. Between hope and fear, I journey on.

Selection of Duas

Vol 5 - Issue 3 Selection of DuasBy J. Samia Mair

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The Jews were divided into seventy-one sects, one of which is in Paradise, and seventy are in the Fire. The Christians were divided into seventy-two sects, seventy-one of which are in the Fire, and one is in Paradise. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, my Ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects, one of which will be in Paradise, and seventy-two will be in the Fire.” It was said: “Messenger of Allah, who are they?” He said: “Al-Jamah.” (Awf Ibn Malik)

I usually keep quiet, when a brother tells me something incorrect about Islam. I have learned through experience that silence is often the best answer.

Because of my status as a convert and a woman, my words are less credible to some. But this day I could not keep quiet. I could not let his interpretation of the Holy Quran go unchallenged. I could not risk my silence implied that I agreed.

“Brother,” I said at one point in the conversation, “how can you be so sure that you are in the one sect that follows the straight path?”

Perhaps, I should not have been so surprised, when he told me that he was sure. But I was surprised. How can anyone be sure? Indeed, how can any of us be confident that our worship is sincere, correct and accepted? I suggest that if you have not worried about your status on the path, then this fact itself should make you worry.

Allah (swt) says: “And I (Allah) created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Allah (swt) instructed the Prophet (sa) to tell us: “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): ‘If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ Say (O Muhammad (sa)): ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)).’ But if they turn away, Allah does not like disbelievers.” (Al-Imran 3:31-32)

Scholars tell us that our goal is to become beloved by our Creator, so that we may spend eternity in His (swt) Divine Presence. To be loved by Allah (swt), we must obey Him. Obedience means following the Quran and the Sunnah. To know, what the Quran and the Sunnah require from us, we must turn to people of knowledge. This is exactly where the problem lays. Who are the people of knowledge?

At a recent lecture, Imam Zaid, scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, referred to ‘Sheikh Google’ – a humorous but painfully accurate description of the current state of Islamic scholarship in the West. Let’s face it – the spiritual leadership in many Masjids is abysmal. Very few Imams are scholars and many lack any significant Islamic education. They freely issue Fatwahs, forgetting that it is best to remain silent, when one does not know the answer. I do not question the sincerity of these Imams, but clearly many are not qualified to teach and unwittingly lead other Muslims astray.

What is the average Muslim to do? I try to learn from a variety of sources, what different scholars say on a particular topic. Then I make an educated decision about my practice. This approach is not wholly satisfying. I find scholars, whose writings I trust, and my friends turn to others. Sometimes our scholars disagree on important issues, and so it seems extremely difficult to know, who is right. I believe the answer is to pray. Only Allah (swt) can lead us to the straight path, only with His (swt) mercy and compassion are we rightly guided.

The Fatihah is my favorite Dua, when asking for knowledge. The first time I read the translation, I knew I was going to convert. The seven verses said exactly what I had wanted from Allah, but could not find the words myself.

Other Duas that I say regularly are below. I have collected them from various books and lectures. I always start with a Dua asking for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness. Allahu A’lam.

O Allah, You are my Lord; there is no God but You. You created me and I am Your servant. And Your covenant and promise I uphold to the best of my ability. And I seek refuge in You from the evil of whatever I have done. I acknowledge that all my blessings are from You. And to You I bring my sins, so forgive me, because no one can forgive sins but You. (Bukhari)

O Possessor of Majesty and Generosity, whoever You guide cannot be led astray; whoever You lead astray cannot be guided. Please, let me my family and the believing men and women be among those rightly guided. Increase our knowledge, cure the diseases in our hearts and make what is pleasurable to you pleasurable to us, and what is displeasurable to you displeasurable to us. Let us live in Islam and die in faith. Let our graves be spacious. Give us light, shade and water on the Day of Doom. Build us a home in the highest level of Paradise in the company of our Master Muhammad (sa) and in Thy Presence (swt). (An assorted Dua I put together myself.)

O Allah, save us from the torture of the grave, grant us wisdom and unite us with the righteous.

O Allah, I ask You for the good of this day, its openings, victories, lights, blessings and right-guidance.

O Allah, make my inward better than my outward and make my outward virtuous.

O Allah, place a light in my heart, my family’s heart, the believing men and women’s hearts, in our ears, our eyes, and our mouth; on our right, on our left, before us, behind us, above, below us. Give us light and make us light. (Muslim)

O Lord Allah, we ask You by the Light of Your Face and by Your right over Yourself to grant us a good ending at the time of death – for us, our loved ones and for all the Muslims, O Most Merciful of the Merciful. Lord, allow not our hearts to swerve after You have guided us; grant us Your Mercy, You are the Bestower. Lord, make us patient, and take us to You as Muslims surrendering with sound hearts.

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the straight path and increase our knowledge, Ameen.