The essence of ummah

The word Ummah is defined in English as community.  This Arabic word is given to the community of believers.  He considers Muslims to be a community of believers.  In this same respect consider how the word convert or revert is not mentioned.

I myself am a revert or convert if you wish to use that title.  This will be my second Ramada soon as a matter of fact.  I’ve been blessed recently to see how many reverts there are and some of the stories they share are so inspiring.  Yet many imparted a story that seemed sad as well.  Often there is an undertone of loneliness and family abandonment, so I find myself asking them the same question I had during my first year in Islam, “Who is there for you?”.  Often I received the same answer I gave when I was asked.  “Nobody knows I’m a Muslim.”  That’s when it occurred to me why Allah never used the word convert or revert in mention to the Ummah; if you know the brother you pray with and truly care for him he won’t feel like a revert.  It’s a duty of a believer to know his fellow brother.  That’s one of the reasons why brothers and sisters give Salaams as they enter the masjid.  Often the prayer As Salaam Alaykum is used as a simple greeting, but its meaning is so much more than that.  The connection between the smile and the heart is something that cannot be understated.  The action, if genuine warms the soul of those who great each other with a smile and follow it with a greeting and prayer of peace “As Salaam Alaykum”.  

 

I will never forget a group of sisters that were speaking so negatively towards a recent convert.  The convert sister was trying to get used to wearing the hijab and it just so happened I knew her.  I walked up to the ladies, introduced myself, and asked, “Are you talking about that sister?”  They fell silent.  I continued, “No it’s ok, I just thought you all may like to know that she’s a recent convert.  Her family is not too supportive on her wearing a hijab.  They take a huge offense to her wearing it.  She told me that she feels at peace wearing it, but likes to pray alone because she feels like she’s being judged at home and at the masjid! She said in prayer alone she finds the most peace.  There’s no one judging her and she can have her tears to herself.  You ladies have to realize the level of conviction that it takes to wear it.  She’s not born into a family that is used to the hijab so the last thing she needs is someone else tearing her down.”  I left it at that and walked away.  The next week out of the blue I saw the convert sister at Walmart and she seemed so happy.  I chatted with her and she told me, “I don’t know what happened, but after prayer a sister invited me to her home and she just wanted to know me.  I told her my story and she cried.  She and I got to be so close…..wait there she is!”  I looked up and of course it had been a sister that mocked her at first.  I looked at her and said, “Thank you for spreading Islam.”  

 

That incident proved to me that no matter your race, your color, or what brought you to Islam, you share a unique story.  It’s a story only you can tell.  Allah wants us to share those stories so we can gain a deeper appreciation for those we pray with.   In the process we gain an ability to show Allah’s grace to the world by portraying aspects of Allah’s names.

 

Allah has ninety nine names and those new to the faith may not understand why Allah is He who possess this many names.  Yet if we understand why He possess this many names, then we understand the essence of the Ummah.  A text I read defines this correlation perfectly, “As humans in a worldly society we depend on each other.  We need emotional support and human love, and society cannot function well to maintain human life unless every member contributes.  But the true Sustainer, the true Beloved, is always God.  Everything else, the institutions of society, the way in which human beings support and bless and exhort and protect each other, is really nothing but the play of His Names in the field of this world.”  As one can see, the Ummah should reflect parts of Allah’s names.

It’s difficult to institute these esteemed qualities because as people we have flaws.  For instance one of Allah’s names is Al-Nur,“The Light”.  We as humans can never become the light, yet we can spread the light of Islam.  The same way the sister came away from darkness to shed light to the recent convert to bring her from her dark corner of loneliness.  Or for instance one of Allah’s name is Al-Hakim, “The Wise”.  If we wish to truly be wise, we have to develop our character so that we can recognize Allah’s signs.  It’s difficult to walk in the light of Islam but Allah gives us opportunities each day to strengthen our bonds in the Ummah.  He grants us this occasion by allowing us to say, “As Salaam Alykum” a prayer for all those around us.  I want us all to take time and know our fellow brothers and sisters, don’t let the convert story be such a heavy burden to bare.

 

Pillars of Promise and Commitment

“The word love in the Quran appears in over 90 places. But Allah doesn’t define the word love, but He speaks about the very first consequence of love; commitment.  Islam talks about commitment, if you truly love something or someone, you commit.  If you do not, then your claim of real love is not real at all.”  This statement by Shaykh Yassir Fazaqa speaks volumes about character and commitment.  True character shows itself in the mirror, alone as you gaze at your true self.  The worth of a man is judged by his character, how he values his word and commitment to those he cares about.  There are pillars to this commitment and hopefully this short piece helps us understand how much promise and commitment matters in our lives.  My mother told me, “The true nature of commitment shows in adversity.  Are you willing to put everything on the line for what you believe?  Are you willing to take your promise, your word, everything you believe and live by it?”

  • A man who keeps his promises is committed to honoring his faith through worship and prayer.  He has committed to worshiping his Lord from Fajr to Isha by performing the actions and deeds that will please God, no matter how small the deed is.

     

  • A true believer takes it upon himself to maintain the ties of kinship with his brothers.  He understands that practicing faith means he has to love his brother and want for him what he desires for himself.

     

  • A real man is committed to trying to uphold the principles of his faith by building his spiritual character.

     

  • A real man is real a father, a father who lets God be his guide as he builds a strong marriage and practices love and faith is his household.  He knows marriage is faith and commitment equaling maturity.

     

  • A good man tries to keep his heart connected to the house of prayer.  He knows to love his faith and his Lord, he has to visit his Lord’s home.  He supports his Lord’s house by taking his children there, teaching them the value of prayer, and by interacting with his fellow brothers there.   He knows the souls there in the masjid feel contentment within its walls.

     

  • A man of promise is committed to bridging the racial divide by demonstrating compassion and understanding with the community.  He is a multi-cultural bridge builder helping families in his community achieve stability and happiness.

     

  • Lastly a man of promise is committed to being a positive light in the community he serves.  He strives to be a positive role model through his efforts in the community and at home.  He begins each morning and ends each evening by making a pledge to be a man of character.

In conclusion the word commitment stirs emotions for me because to me it means dedication and action to a purpose or cause.  Things and people will let you down, that’s why the first pillar of commitment is laid and erected with faith in God.  This commitment will be your passion. It will drive you. It will create action because commitment is an action word, such as love is an action word.  It you are committed to something you will give it your all.  When tired you go on, when confronted you do not give up, when afraid you stand.

As Sadaq

“How can we define Honesty and Trust?”  That’s the question I asked as I faced the morning assembly.  I saw perplexed faces as I glanced over the children before me.  They seemed to be still exhausted after a long weekend so I said, “You know my father used to tell us….As a man your word is the most powerful thing you’re going to carry with you.  Growing up I didn’t know the strength behind that statement.  However I believe in Islam I found it.”  One student asked, “How is that Brother Brian?” 

I paused for a second and said, “Good question.  I believe two words point to that answer; As Sadaq and Al Ameen.  These two words encompass the roots of being trust worthy and honesty.  Can anyone tell me what qualities are part of As Sadaq and Al Ameen?”  I saw blank stares and responded, “Ok so it’s good Brother Brian had his morning coffee!  The qualities encompassed in these words are; Courage, Trust, Morality, Truthfulness, Honesty, Upright, and Respectful.  All these qualities are part of being honest and trustworthy.  This is the reason I love the word As Sadaq in Arabic.  To nurture As Sadaq you have to cultivate companionship, strengthen camaraderie with your close friends and family, and more than anything develop trust.”

For us to be honest we must be genuine in our actions.  I’ve always believed that genuine spirit should flow from the heart naturally.  In order for us to be honest we have to possess honest character, and that’s not something that happens overnight.  Honesty and trust are long term attributes and as believers it’s those qualities in ‘As Sadaq’ that should be a part of our nature.  Those who know us very well should be able to speak about us being consistently honest and consistently truthful because being consistent is the key to possessing all the qualities of ‘As Sadaq’.  You have to walk the walk and not just talk. As a man you have to try your hardest to complete the goals and task you set out to do.  Being consistent and caring towards your fellow brother in this ummah builds your report and shows you in the best positive light.

I told the students, “If you are honest during the week and then dishonest on the weekend, is that consistent?”  They immediately responded, “No”.  “People have to know that they can trust you and that you are an honest person every day.  If you are entrusted with something people have to know you will be trustworthy.  If you are given a task, you have to perform it with the best of your ability.  When you give your word, you have to honor it.  You have to autograph your words and your actions with excellence!”  These qualities become a part of us over time and shape our daily actions.  I told the students, “This is why even the smallest good deed performed with a sound heart is blessed by Allah.  Because those small deeds mold our character and shape our hearts into a better believer and a person who truly embodies the qualities of ‘As Sadaq’. 

A Mother's Prayer

Prayer is one of the greatest forms of peace we can use to cope with life.  I had the opportunity to help my mother conceptualize this the other day.  She was having a down day so I told her, “Truly in remembrance of Allah do our hearts find rest.” She asked, “Why would I care about some Arabic words right now?  People don’t care about you in life.  You work a job, you get paid, people and family use you, and then you pass!  Life taught me a lesson!” 

I thought for a second as I held the phone.  I could feel her pain through the speaker and as I was searching my thoughts to find a response my words found me, “In Islam your way of life is called a “Sunnah”.  Your wealth, titles, possessions, even your esteem, none of those travel with you when you pass. The only thing you leave behind are your deeds.  Your deeds were defined by the life you lived and the actions you performed while here in the world.  You taught us a very key principle growing up that I think you’ve forgotten somehow.  You taught us to be good and do well and you taught us to pray.”  She paused for a second and I could hear crying on the other end of the phone.  I let her shed her tears for a second and then she finally said, “I really believe at times all that is a lie.  It feels like you do good at times and nothing happens.”   I told her, “Life doesn’t have to give you roses all the time.  You will be tested throughout life.  But all test provide you a way to pass them, you just need to seek the maker and find relief.  Do you remember teaching us to pray?  How you used to say, whenever we feel like we are fed up we should kneel down? When is the last time you prayed?”  She said, “Brian I have no idea.”  I told her, “Pray”. 

At times we let life bog us down with stress and difficulties and we forget that Allah doesn’t promise us a smooth ride but He promises a safe landing.  Life is not a smooth journey, and it is not designed to be.  I think many of us are just trying to live and trying to set a good example.  But out of all our deeds, the most important is prayer.  Rumi has said, “When the world pushes you to your knees you are in the perfect position to pray.”  When we pray, we go to a source of strength greater than our own.  I remember when I explained this to my mother she said, “But what if you can’t find words?”  I responded, “At times I don’t know what to say either.  However when those moments occur I know to pray from my heart.  I ask that He searches my heart and finds the prayer that I can’t form into words.  And honestly mamma, those are the prayers that bring me to tears.  Whenever I cry in my prayers I know He has heard my silent words and He knows what has burdened my spirit.  Finding that peace and relief in my prayers truly does give me the greatest moment of rest I could possibly attain.”

If we want salaam in our lives, we have to hold fast to our prayers.  When we pray we should have our children with us, to show them we are not perfect and super.  It shows them that Mom and Dad go through so much and when they need guidance they turn to God.  Teach your children to pray and set the sunnah for them to follow, show them prayer is the fundamental tool that is an absolute necessity for us to practice.  Our children study our actions so let them study you in prayer so they can develop an appreciation for the power of prayer.  Give them a positive sunnah to follow so that when you may need a reminder they can remind you. It’s when we feel like breaking that many of us feel like giving in, but actually this is the moment to turn to Him.  If Allah becomes our heart’s shelter we can truly find peace. 

A Letter to my pastor: Surah As-Salah The Daily Bread

Long before I accepted Islam and started my path on this deen, I sought guidance.  Throughout that search there was always one prayer, one scripture that always stood out to me, “The Lord’s Prayer”. Although I never possessed strong memorization skills, Prophet Isa’s words gave me an others an example to follow.  He showed us how we should approach God in prayer.  It is believed that Prophet Isa stated:

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespass, as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

This prayer taught me something about the nature of how we should approach God, or how we should ask from God.  The nature of patience and guidance is so great that we have to ask for it every day.  This prayer became a vital part of my life.  When I came to Islam I learned a prayer so powerful that it became woven into the fabric of my life.  Surah Al Fatiha is a chapter that is recited in every prayer that I perform each day as a Muslim.  It’s a surah that within itself lays the foundation of patience and steadfastness that keeps me rightly guided. 

In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.  Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.  The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.  You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.  Guide us on the straight path, the path of those who have received your grace; not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.  Amen

In Islam we believe that all the prophets, blessings and peace be upon them all, set an example for us to follow.  They were the perfection of role models and in their truest scriptures they taught the importance of patience through prayer.  Prophet Isa in scripture refers to God as ‘Our Father,’ and the reason for this is simple. There is a hadith that proclaims, ‘All the creation are the children of God.’ Therefore we must have faith and perform good deeds if we wish to gain God’s mercy in our lives.  This is why the prayer starts with “In the name of God Most Gracious, Most Merciful”.  Throughout our daily lives we barely get a chance to stop and think about the mercies God gives us on a regular basis.  We get tied up in our work, our kids, our lives and we forget the only being capable to keep us going is God.  Though we commit sins, become absentminded, careless and forget to seek His help, God still blesses us.  Our lives are living proof that being human is not easy.  Hardships arise, friends come and go, days turn to nights in a flash, yet the only constant is God.  He provides us with the nourishment we require every day, the guidance our souls long for from the very second we wake.  The prayers the Prophets taught show supplications, the nature of which become our greatest means of communicating with our Lord. 

In these two prayers in particular we seek our daily guidance, our daily bread.  There is a significance to this, because we are in this world as travelers.  Our stay is but a moment, yet in the race of life we seek to gain materials that may not benefit our stay.  I believe the birds show us a great sign and they are God’s reminder that He is Father watching over all his children, all His creation. A hadith states, “If you all depend on God with true reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it to birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with a full belly at dusk.” They receive their ‘daily bread’.  Our body and spirt requires nourishment every day, each morning we seek that fulfillment.  If we truly depend on God for our soul’s needs, we see He provides the nourishment of our daily bread.  Prophet Isa was teaching how to rely on God for our needs.  He didn’t say ask for monthly bread, or seek a full course dinner from God but ask for your daily needs.  To put it simply, look to God for what is required each day.  As humans we may over store in the good times and essentially “stock up” seeking to save for a rainy day, but…….what happens when that stock spoils?  The lesson Isa taught was how to rely on God, this was a lesson of faith.  Ultimately our prayers for guidance in the Fatiha teach us faith, ask for daily guidance and you shall receive your provision.

What is Islam taught me through Isa’s teachings is that if we have forgotten our total reliance upon God, then we are drained to try to depend upon other people’s attention to us.  Instead of paying devotion to God, we crave for the attention of others.  We become locked in a race to constantly trying to make them either pity us, love us, or hold us in high esteem.  But this is not real human kinship.  This is the very nature of idolatry that the Prophets sought to free us from.   Granted as believers in a worldly society we do depend on each other.  We need emotional support, compassion, love, and we can’t function well to preserve human life unless we all contribute.  But the true Sustainer, the true Merciful, is always God.  We depend on Him for our needs. Everything else, the foundations of society, how we support and encourage and shelter each other, is nothing but the performance of His Names in the ground of this world.

The Final Sermon - The Essence of The Message

Character is the tree, personality is it’s shadow – Sarah Heider

The Prophetic message has always been a message of strength, faith, conviction, and a message of reform.  The character of the prophets is shown by their level of dedication to their faith.  These men God chose were not blank sheets of paper that God chose to write scripture upon, rather they were men with a story.  They were men chosen because of their character and their desire to follow the straight path.  If we look at the essence of their mission throughout all the Holy Books we see their ultimate purpose was to take divine revelation and all the scriptures written upon their hearts and speak this message to their people.  They served to warn the people of their society so they could turn to the straight path.  If we study religious text we see that we can trace our roots back to our very souls, and learn to live as best we can.  Their message can be traced because the message was designed to teach us how to be human.  They left a form of guidance to the people so that those following them can educate others by setting an example through their own lives. 

In Islam we often remember the hadith of want for your brother what you would want for yourself.  To do this though, you have to be connected to your brother.  The connection we have with our brothers and sisters comes from our desire to reach out and grow that connection.  This means we have to look across our communities and reach out, speak, and truly interact with our brothers and sisters.  Show our compassion to see them as human, as they are, allow them to share their story as we listen with our hearts.  Their stories are data with a soul.  This becomes vital data to keep with us as we keep them in our prayers and start to heal our communities.  This is something we as Muslims, but more than that, we as people can learn from this message that was soulfully a part of each prophet’s mission. 

The final Prophet Muhammad PBUH left an excellent bookend that truly can be considered the purest form of the Prophetic message.  The final sermon was a genuine and profound message that embodied God’s revelations through His prophets.  God tells us that we as humans are one. We are all connected and the only thing that separates us are our deeds.  We are advised to see the message and break away from our cultural differences and see our spiritual character.  Our cultures are present so that we can learn from one another and know each other, a fact that God tells us through His revelation.  The essence of the sermon serves as a conclusion of God’s teachings and wisdom He relayed through His final messenger.  This sermon should be seen as the purest message of the Prophet pbuh because it embodies the essence of Islam, and it was literally this message that God Himself approved by revealing,  “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” – Surah Al Ma’idah

The character of the Prophets is a tree that stands firm in faith and the essence of their personalities and teachings is a shadow this is shown by the Final Sermon of the Final Prophet.  The human was created and then taught; taught by the pen to be eloquent. The first order given to the Final prophet was to “Read”.  For this reason I’m placing here the Final sermon so anyone reading this message can read the sermon.  May God’s blessings and peace be unto you.

“O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again.  Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today. O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.  Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners.

Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.  Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds.  God has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived.  Your capital, however, is yours to keep.  You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.  God has Judged that there shall be no interest, and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn Abd’al Muttalib shall henceforth be waived... Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion.  He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things. O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you.  Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission.  If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness.  Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.  And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste. O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, perform your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and offer Zakat.  Perform Hajj if you have the means. All mankind is from Adam and Eve.  An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action.  Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.  Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.  Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds.  So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born.  Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you.  I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and it may be that the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.  Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”

It was then as the Prophet closed his sermon this message was revealed, “…This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My Grace upon you, and have chosen Islam for you as your religion…” (Quran 5:3)