“Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
Ran my fingers across the whole world
Where does it hurt?
– Warsan Shire
“Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
Ran my fingers across the whole world
Where does it hurt?
– Warsan Shire
24 was a splendid year alhumdulillah. New beginnings, personal growth, and a heightened sense of excitement for life people only read about in novels. :)
The themes for the past year were many but I wanted to document a few that I hope will carry on through the next several years inshaAllah.
Al Akhir: I thought of Allah’s name Al Akhir a lot over the last few months. When we turn to Allah (swa) for something specific, and He is SO generous in blessing us and answering our call, it is incumbent upon us to intensify our du’as and shukr after seeing Allah’s response. Sometimes we make du’a for something and if for some reason Allah had a different plan, we feel our du’as are not working, but we fail to realize that Allah (swa) is not just our means, but Allah is the end. Our nearness to Allah (swa) is the ultimate goal and by either granting us what we asked for or preventing it from us, Allah is making known to us His encompassing knowledge and wisdom.
Creativity: Having so much time off over summer proved to be exactly what I needed. It’s amazing the kinds of things you realize you can do when you have free time and health. I got into writing, painting, mixed media art, read a lot more, executed complicated recipes. It was a wonderful summer with an even more wonderful culmination alhumdulillah. Making time for creativity is essential and I’m glad I’ve opened that door for myself to make it a weekly habit. My perfectionism still gets the best of me at times but I’m trying hard to quiet the doubts that prevent me from initiating art or any other form of creativity. When my paintbrush finally gets moving or my pen makes that first imprint of ink, there is a pure sense of rejuvenation and catharsis that comes from starting from scratch.
Husn ad-Dhann Billah: There has never been a person who relied on Allah and had a good opinion of Him, subhanahu wata’ala but was left disappointed. When we think well of Allah and see His rahmah in every situation He places us in, our tawakkul increases, our heart softens, and we realize our own limitations, thereby making Allah (swa) our source of ease and comfort .. not seeking it out through worldly means. There is no one more truthful, sincere, compassionate, and loving than Allah (swa) so why turn to anyone else? I thought of how Allah (swa) brought me up over the past years. We grow physically, mentally, homes change, families change, ups and downs, laughs and tears. Allah sees us through all of this, He supports us, makes things easy for us :) Seeing positive intentions and having a good opinion of Allah (swa) should not just be limited to Allah, but we should try to see these positive traits in others as well especially when there are apparent differences over any kind of issue.
Balance: This is probably the most important theme and one that will always be a work in progress. I was at my alma mater two days ago and walked by the same study areas where friends and I spent hours laboring away on assignments just a few years back. Little had changed – the same buzzing of fluorescent lights in the JC, students chatting away about every topic imaginable, MSA students heading to the musalla for salah. Being back there reminded me of a lot of things I gained while in school but also of how imbalanced my life was at that point .. or perhaps, it was balanced for that time and place. I’ve always had a tendency to outstretch myself but this year I made an intentional effort to give every part of life its due right.
Patience: The fruits of patience make a person wish they were never impatient in the first place! I told a dear friend about some great news and a recent visit to Canada and she looked back in awe .. “Asma the only place I’ve heard you talk about for the last year was Canada! See.. Allah listened!” :) One of my favorite quotes on patience: “Patience means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.” – Elif Shafak
Salawat: Among the many lessons we learned from Umrah was the importance of making consistent salawat upon the Prophet (saw). There are many virtues of sending Salwat and among them, I’m especially motivated by knowing the Messenger of Allah (saw) returns our greeting and naturally, our love for him increases. Allahumma Salli’ala Muhammad <3. Such an easy thing to do throughout the day.
I’ve been experimenting with a new form of creative writing tied into a new art journal as seen below.. It felt kind of cool writing about myself like a literary character. After writing this, I found myself being more observant of my students the next day as I tried to describe their story in third person. Neat way to look at the world. :)
Alhumdulillah, it’s a blessing and a privilege to teach young adult students who are consistent in their Islamic studies and can engage in higher level thought.
We talked yesterday about the words Ja’far (radhiAllahu ‘anh) when he went to speak with Najashi.
“O King, we were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshiping idols and eating the flesh of dead animals, committing all sorts of abomination and shameful deeds, breaking the ties of kinship, treating guests badly and the strong among us exploited the weak. We remained in this state until Allah sent us a Prophet, one of our own people whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity were well-known to us. He called us to worship Allah alone and to renounce the stones and the idols which we and our ancestors used to worship besides Allah. He commanded us to speak the truth, to honor our promises, to be kind to our family, to be helpful to our neighbors, to cease all forbidden acts, to abstain from bloodshed, to avoid obscenities and false witness, not to appropriate an orphan’s property nor slander chaste women. He ordered us to worship Allah alone and not to associate anything with him, to uphold Salat, to give Zakat and fast in the month of Ramadan. We believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah and we follow him in what he has asked us to do and we keep away from what he forbade us from doing. Thereupon, O King, our people attacked us, visited the severest punishment on us to make us renounce our religion and take us back to the old immorality and the worship of idols. They oppressed us, made life intolerable for us and obstructed us from observing our religion. So we left for your country, choosing you before anyone else, desiring your protection and hoping to live in Justice and in peace in your midst.”
SubhanAllah, even a cursory reflection on this famous speech shows us the utmost importance of ethics in our deen. Our Ummah today has many who fast and pray, give charity, and make Hajj/Umrah alhumdulillah, but when it comes to human relations and dealings, we seem to have have serious ethical issues. From large-scale problems like corruption, warfare, and public slander, to interpersonal issues like dishonesty and gossip, etc., there is a disconnect in our understanding of what our Rabb expects from us across all aspects of our life and dealings if we isolate morals from ethics.
Another lesson we can gain from this part of the Seerah is that for the Sahaba (radhiAllahu ‘anhum), the Qur’an was their language. When Najashi asked him to share something from the Qur’an, Ja’far (radhiaAllahu ‘anhu) immediately began reciting from Surah Maryam, moving Najashi to tears. He had the foresight and wisdom to select a part of the Qur’an that would not only interest his listener, but one that would supplement the listeners’ understanding of what he already knew about Maryam and ‘Esa (alayhis salaam), given his Christian background. Making the Qur’an the language of our conversations is a goal each of us should have.
When the early Sahaba travelled to Abyssinia, their purpose kept them grounded and determined to give da’wah to a majority Christian society. They did not forsake their purpose and values by assimilating into the Abyssinian culture in ways that would have deviated them from their mission. Today, we live in very confusing times where some who came from their countries decades ago to settle in the west, but for one reason or another, had challenges in conveying the deen to their children. Consequently, some Muslim children are growing up in assimilation to values contrary to Islam, whereas our predecessors demonstrated so clearly that it is possible to live in a society, benefit from it, and bring benefit to it, without compromising your values.
May Allah (swa) be pleased with Ja’far (radhiAllahu ‘anh) and grant us the strength of character and Iman he had, ameen. The sense of responsibility in his tone, clarity in speech, humility in his expression provide many lessons to learn and implement.
Allahummaj’al fi qalbi nuura, wa fi lisaani nuura, wa fi sam’i nuura, wa fi basari nuuran…”
“O Allah, place light in my heart, and place light on my tongue, and place light in my ears, and place light in my sight..”
In one of the talks by Sh. Saleh Al Maghamsi, he says that some of the greatest qualities Allah has praised his pious servants of possessing are three. When the ayaat of Allah are recited, they feel: (1) Fear and humbleness in their hearts (2) creeping of the skin (3) dropping of tears. Surah Al Haqqah has a way of causing one to experience all three.
With my students, I’m making a habit for us to listen to selected ayaat (most Makki Surahs) with concentration and reflection on the meanings. They leave each week with gems and action items from what we heard together in class. I’ve chosen Makki surahs since more of the ayaat are muhkamaat and easier for students to understand. They’re also perfect for young adults in strengthening their core beliefs and aqeedah. Seeing as how Rasulullah (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) spent 13 years in Makkah, I’ve been meaning to ask someone of knowledge if these years have any bearing on how much time is needed for people to develop firm yaqeen and Iman? .. Food for thought.
It makes a lot of sense psychologically, if young people are introduced to Islam and more specifically, to Qur’an study, in the same chronological format the Qur’an was revealed because by the time they have a clear understanding of what they believe and why (which is the focus of Makki ayaat), inshaAllah they will have fewer issues when it comes to submitting to Allah’s commands and suppressing the nafs and ego when it’s most hardest to do so. When we study current data on behavior change, it’s almost like it’s taken directly from Allah’s methodology. We learn that behavior change is a gradual process that begins with a person coming to the conclusion that they need to change and this need is so urgent that if they don’t change their ways, something serious will happen. Once that urgency is developed, assessing the person’s desire, ability, and reasons for change help with creating an action plan and step-by-step process of letting go of the bad and creating room for new, more positive behaviors.
Surah Al Haqqah is one of those surahs that forces us to recognize the urgency in changing our ways. It gives a prelude as to which behaviors will lead to which destination, and Allah shows his love for us in this Surah by giving us a kind of preview of the Last Day, that only He ‘azzawajal can give. The imagery in this Surah is beyond words. What’s also interesting to note is the mention of a specific measurement when it comes to the chain that will be used to bind the criminals. One of my teachers shared that by Allah (swa) stating this measurement, we learn that everything in Jannah and Jahannum is calculated. What is calculated in Jahannum? The levels, the number of people, the temperature, etc. It’s extremely scary thought but it’s important to understand why Allah presents the kind of imagery and examples that He does, subhanahu wata’alah. Ayaat such as these also make us more cognizant and increase our zeal for da’wah inshaAllah.
اللهم إني أعوذ بك من العجز والكسل والجبن والهرم، والبخل، وأعوذ بك من عذاب القبر، وأعوذ بك من فتنة المحيا والمم
Allahumma inni a’udhu bika minal-ajzi wal- kasali, wal-jubni wal-harami, wal-bukhli, wa a’udhu bika min ‘adhabil- qabri, wa a’udhu bika min fitnatil-mahya wal-mamat
O Allah, I seek refuge in You from helplessness (to do good), indolence, cowardice, senility, and miserliness; and I seek Your protection against the torment of the grave and the trials of life and death.
There is a beautiful juxtaposition between grace, beauty, and fire Allah has placed within horses. They have a way of making the heart race and calm down at the same time. I’ve always loved seeing them and find myself lingering much longer near horses than other animals whenever I get a chance to go to local farms.
I had an opportunity to hear one of the most uplifting and soothing recitations of Surah Al ‘Adiyat last week, and it reconnected me with the stunning example Allah ‘azzawajal presents in this surah depicting a scene of horses moving with extreme speed and energy.
By the racers, panting,
And the producers of sparks [when] striking
And the chargers at dawn,
Stirring up thereby [clouds of] dust,
Arriving thereby in the center collectively,
These horses are trained to be at the disposal of their riders by exhausting themselves in obedience. Without an ounce of hesitation, they aggressively, intentionally, and swiftly move forward into battle causing sparks to fly. You can visualize their strikes and the dust that rises as they gallop, with loyalty and clarity of purpose. They find themselves right in the middle of their opponents but they persist with limitless sincerity and devotion. Allah ‘azzawajal highlights the loyalty of these horses, followed by the most poignant comparison with the nature of human beings, and their lack of loyalty to their Rabb. SubhanAllah..
Indeed mankind, to his Lord, is ungrateful.
The number of days and moments we have let pass without genuine shukr to Allah, and yet He still provides, covers our sins, and has patience with us, ‘azzawajal. This world belongs to Allah and it’s worthless to Him, subhanahu watala’ala. The things Allah has given us from His dunya are not even ours and yet we exhaust ourselves in collecting them despite knowing they will perish. Allahumma la taj’alidduna akbara hammina..
May Allah (swa) help us recognize His ni’am, those that are apparent and hidden, and be consistent in thanking Him, subhanahu wata’ala. I myself have been presented with so many blessings and I ask Allah to help me in being among the shakireen. I wish I could re-live last week.. minus my deer-in-headlights look lol. I’m in awe of how Allah (swa) blesses us in ways we could have never imagined. Allah knows the whispers of our hearts and He can provide for us even before we ask. :)
اللهم ارزقنا بكل حرف من القرآن حلاوة.. وبكل كلمة كرامة.. وبكل أية سعادة.. وبكل سورة سلامة.. وبكل جزء جزاءا.
O Allah, bestow on us, by every letter of the Qur’an (that we have read) a sweetness, and by every word (from its pages) magnanimity and generosity, and by every verse happiness and joy, and by every chapter peace and security, and by every section reward.
Allahummarzuqna bi kulli harfim-minal Qur’ani halawah, wa bi kulli kalimatin karamah, wa bi kulli suratin salamah, wa bi kulli juz-in jazaa-a.
– Source: Dream notes
The start of the school year feels like a marathon on many levels. Two weeks of hard core preparation, setting down milestones till the finish line, and then visualizing the sweet victory at the end. :) InshaAllah everything goes as smoothly as possible. This year I have two school roles .. one is of course my actual work, and the second is Saturday school. It’s been a couple years since I’ve been in the classroom so I spent a good portion of the weekend creating lesson plans and activities. The leadership this year is excellent and they’ve given me a lot of latitude in structuring the class and curriculum as I see fit. My focus with the Level 4 students (ages 14+) will be:
1. Increase their love for Allah (swa) and the Prophet (saw) through a special focus on Asma-ul-Husna and the Shama’il of the Prophet (saw)
2. Focus on refining their sense of self by presenting Islamic studies in a relevant way to help them reflect on and navigate their environment (school, home community).
3. Increase their confidence in learning and studying the Qur’an. Will be referencing the Abdul Haleem translation .. one of the best I’ve come across.
4. Develop their leadership capabilities.
5. Increase their critical thinking skills through meaningful activities and discussion
6. Help them connect with their community through services hours and volunteer work
With these goals in mind for each class, I plan to hit on some special topics including social media (using Fiqh of Social Media handbook by Omar Usman), diseases of the heart (Ustadh Abdul Rahman Murphy’s “The Good Life”), review of halal trade vs. riba (I want to touch on this since many of the students are thinking about college and student loans. Joe Bradford has great resources on this), and definitely plan to incorporate the Inspiration series. Season 2 episode 1 went way beyond my expectations.
I think now more than ever, we are at a very critical time when it comes to our youth. Some of the things I see in the school just boggles my mind, and it’s scary to think many parents are unaware or oblivious of the kinds of things our youth are exposed to on a regular basis. I commend parents for enrolling their kids in weekend programs because at the very least, they can benefit from an Islamic environment, but it’s certainly not sufficient. I met some of the parents yesterday and highly encouraged them to be engaged with their student’s learning by staying up to date with their studies so we can all work together in supporting their growth and education. They can’t do it alone and it’s critical for us to have active discussions about these issues.
One thing I’ve noticed more often ever since it was mentioned in a Ramadan khatira this year, is that when it comes to education, you almost always see that the child’s mother will come instead of the father. I see this a lot at work, and sometimes when I do see the father show up for a meeting, I get confused lol because I’m so used to seeing the mother coming to inquire about their child’s progress or challenges. Even in our parent orientation for Saturday school yesterday, I counted 3 fathers and the rest were all mothers who accompanied their kids. It makes sense on one level since moms’ typically fall into the nurturing role, but if you look at the Qur’an .. it is filled with examples of involved fathers who were at the front lines when it came to the education and tarbiya of their kids. In my third lesson this year, I plan to do an in-depth study of the advice Luqman gave to his son and then have the class derive lessons for themselves .. and in addition, I would like to really emphasize Luqman’s role as a father and his proactivity in counseling his son from a young age. Just in reading that passage, you can feel the intimate bond he had with his son and the progression of his advice is so beautiful, intentional, and age-appropriate. Screen shot below. At a societal level, I think we have a serious epidemic of un-involved fathers and single parent homes mostly run by mothers. More on this in another post inshaAllah, but suffice it to say there is tons of research on the mental, emotional, academic, and even developmental impact on children when one or both parents are absent.
For all of us working with youth, it’s a great reminder that we need to be active, involved, observant, kind, compassionate and give 110% to our students every single day. We should see our work as an amanah from Allah and “tread softly” on their dreams, in the words of W.B. Yeats.
May Allah (swa) make it a successful year for all students and help us in helping them reach their potential. Ameen.
اَللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمًا نَافِعًا , وَ رِزْقًا طَيَّبًا , وَ عَمَلاً مُتَقَبَّلاً
Allahumma inni as’aluka ‘Ilman naafi’an, wa rizqan tayyiban, wa ‘amalan mutaqabbalan
O Allah, I ask You for knowledge that is of benefit, a good provision and deeds that will be accepted. Ameen