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Struggling to Pray

Chubby babies. What?

Anyway, I wanted to touch upon the internal struggle many of us face; establishing our prayers. I could quote Qur’an and Hadiths all day long, but let’s face it, at some point we begin to tune those things out after a while because we end up placing them in the cliche category. I’d rather approach this as a simple brother taking a logical, real world approach.

Most of us already know what our spiritual obligations are. It’s not like if I quote an ayah from the Qur’an about prayer you’d be like, “What?! I had no idea we had to pray.” I receive many emails from folks all around the globe asking for help in regards to establishing their prayers. The thing is, they’re not asking me how to perform them. They already know that. I believe they are just looking for someone to talk to and simply seeking motivation and inspiration.

Many of us have abandoned our prayers. I’ve struggled with establishing them for a long time. It’s not like I didn’t want to. I did, but wasn’t able to for a few reasons. You may be able to relate.

  1. You’re at work or school and you get busy and miss a prayer.
  2. You missed Fajr and then think, “What’s the point of praying the rest of the prayers today, since I didn’t even start my day off properly.”
  3. You commit a sin and feel so guilty, you miss one prayer, which eventually leads to two, three, four and ultimately all five.
  4. You are worried about praying in public because of what others may think of you.
  5. You don’t know what you are reciting, so you’re not really benefiting as you should and end up abandoning the prayer because it feels like a chore.

There are more, but those are my top five. Sound familiar? I thought so.

Here’s the thing, there is no magic pill. Establishing our prayers requires dedication. It’s a habit, like biting your fingernails or feeling the need to squeeze the cheeks of every chubby baby you encounter. Guilty.

Let’s think logically for a moment. Will abandoning the prayer actually help us become better Muslims or will it lead to a decline in our faith and ultimately land us in a place where there’s no air condition? We obviously know the answer. So, getting that out of the way, we have to understand that this system has been designed by Allah for His servants. Prayers are there to benefit us, not Him. We all know that our primary purpose in life is to worship Allah. It’s right there in the Qur’an {51:56}. That being said, if you have a pen that no longer possesses ink, what will you do with it? If you work for a company and don’t fulfill your obligations, what will your manager do to you?

We have to understand that our hearts are very fragile. If we do not continuously seek to increase our faith, it will decrease. It’s forever fluctuating, never steady.

So, let’s do this. Let’s make the intention that the moment you finish reading this post, you will do your absolute best to pray the very next prayer. Here are a few things that may help in establishing those prayers, as they did help me.

  • Make a pure and clear intention to pray.
  • Say your prayers NO MATTER WHAT. Even if you sin all day long, pray. Ask for forgiveness. Even if you miss one, make it up. Don’t go to bed without praying all five. This is a habit that must be established and that means you will need to work very hard at it. Before you know it, it will become as routine as drinking your cup of coffee in the morning. It will become a part and parcel of who you are.
  • Even if you only know two Surahs, understand what you are saying. Look the verses up and comprehend their meanings. Reflect upon every word as you recite. Feel it. Mean it.
  • Learn more about Islam. Watch or listen to Islamic lectures, listen to the Qur’an and read the Qur’an every single day. Even if just for a few moments.
  • Ask Allah for assistance. He will make it easy for you if your intent is pure and sincere.
  • If you know you are going out, plan where you are going to pray ahead of time. For instance, if you are going to be at the mall and don’t feel comfortable praying there or whatever, and know you will be there during Maghrib, find a Masjid nearby and pray before or after. Of course, you can always pretend you’re going to purchase a clothing item and head for the Fitting Room. However, if the walls don’t extend to the bottom, you may be mistaken for a perv. Masjid for the win.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Befriend those who remind you of Allah and want to become better Muslims. They say that people who go on diets with friends, are more likely to lose weight and maintain their weight-loss. I believe the same logic applies to increasing faith and decreasing self-doubt.

After some time, you will find that your sins will decrease and your good deeds will increase. You will become a happier person because you have chosen to starve the ego and feed the soul. You will find that your actions will begin to mirror your words more and more. Look, we all sin. Nobody is perfect. I struggle and strive just like everyone else, but what I won’t do, is give up. I’ve tried that and it didn’t help. It actually made me feel worse. I’ve experienced it all and know what some folks are going through. Pray that today is the day you begin to pray.

May Allah guide us, help us, forgive us and bless us all with chubby babies. Ameen.

 
18 Comments

Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Advice, Reflection

 

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A Muslim who Preys

So, this will be a short blog post. I received an email from a sister with an urgent concern. She has evidence of a certain brother who uses the internet to prey on innocent women. I have not personally seen the evidence so I will not be sharing any names although I do believe the sister and what she says. Nevertheless, it is an important topic that cannot be ignored. We are on Twitter throughout the day and come into contact with many individuals of the opposite sex. For the most part, it seems to be cordial and beneficial.

Sisters need to be especially vigilant. Many innocent women want to change for the better (like men), and follow people who provide beneficial Islamic reminders that may come in handy during their day as a source of good. That’s well and dandy but we need to be aware of our surroundings. Just because Twitter is a virtual social media platform, doesn’t mean that it is OK to let our guard down.

If a brother who looks the part, and you know what I mean, but doesn’t act the part then I think it’s safe to say he isn’t legit. You see, these smooth talkers who hide behind religion and use it to prey on women are cowards and most likely losers in their “real” lives. They sit behind a computer screen hoping to catch their next big fish. Don’t take the bait. If this “religious” brother asks you to become his friend on Facebook to check out his love of photography, be careful. If he then asks you to chat with him on Skype, reject it. What these kinds of people do, is slowly but methodically lure you into their trap. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting in front of your computer screen in the nude for his sick viewing pleasure.

Don’t let yourself go down this path. They will trick you into thinking they are seeking marriage and it is “Halal” for them to see ALL of you. If the brother is truly a religious person, he won’t ask you for pictures of yourself in the first place. Believe me, if they are doing this with you, they are doing this with many other innocent women.

Besides, if you are truly seeking marriage, you want a brother who prays, not one who preys.

 
27 Comments

Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Advice, Reflection

 

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Advice: I Love Him, I Love Him Not…

I am a regular follower of your tweets and views. Mashallah, they are a source of great guidance to people in general and Muslims in particular , all over the world. Now, straight to the question. I am 25 years old. My concern is of that marriage plans. My parents are in hurry to get me married and they wish to do so after a couple of years. Even I am not. I wish to achieve more professional growth first.

But my problem lies with this person, I like and it has been almost two years of our relationship. However, lately I have been reading a lot of Hadith and Quran translation (English), which has made me very strict about my preferences.

If I abide by my religion, then this person is not the right one for me , because he does not pray and he has been into a lot of relationships with girls. Though ever since, he met me he stopped all that to some extent , but he is not religious. Now that I am getting very very particular about following Islam , I think he might not really fit the bill. I have tried talking to him and convincing him that he needs to practice Islam more strictly, he overlooks this.

At the very same time, I am having a hard time trying to forget him and I keep repeating the same mistake of overlooking his flaws, especially when it comes to religion.

I am in a dillema brother, and i want an honest advice from you on this.

All praise is to Allah alone. We seek His guidance and His Mercy. First, I want to thank you for the very kind words. May Allah accept all of our efforts. Ameen.

Here is the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) advice regarding what to seek in a spouse. Although he mentions women, it can also be applied to men because the end result and goal is the same.

The Prophet (PBUH) encouraged marrying women who are religiously committed, as he said: “Women may be married for four things: their wealth, their lineage, their beauty and their religious commitment. Choose the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may your prosper).” {Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5090; Muslim, 1466.}

‘Abd al-‘Azeem Abaadi (ra) said:

What this means is that a man who is religiously committed and of noble character should make religion his focus in all things, especially with regard to long-term matters. So the Prophet (PBUH) enjoined finding a wife who is religiously committed, which is the ultimate goal.

Now, for starers you sound a little conflicted to me. It sounds like you have a history with him, which means you do have feelings for him. Also, you’re seeking to leverage your occupation as a reason not to marry him, albeit, becoming more religious all at the same time. I know family pressure can be some of the toughest pressure we can face. It’s not easy living as a Muslim woman these days, especially in households that hold culture more important than religion. I have the utmost respect for anyone who is striving and struggling to establish their relationship with Allah. Nowadays, parents seem to want one thing and their children seem to want something completely different and they both claim they know what’s best.

The truth is, Allah knows best. My honest and sincere advice would be to give him an ultimatum. He can attempt to establish his prayer and reconnect with Allah and in the meantime, you can continue your pursuit of your career. This will give you both a chance to make things work. If he is not willing to or is making excuses why he can’t, drop him like a bad habit. It may be a bit harsh but you don’t have to sign up for something that will hold you back. If he doesn’t want to practice, that is between him and Allah. Bringing you into the picture will almost certainly affect your level of faith. He has to not only prove it to Allah, but has to prove it to you as it is your right to know what type of life you are going to lead.

You see, during the lifetime of the Prophet (PBUH), the woman’s primary role was caretaker. There were no careers for them to pursue and no universities to attend. It was in their best interest to get married young as their child bearing years were at a premium since the expected life span (in general) was shorter. Times have certainly changed, and if you honestly want to continue your work until you are ready, nobody can force you to marry someone you do not want to so as long as you are able to stay away from any type of inappropriate relationship.

Forcing a chaste woman to marry someone she doesn’t want to is prohibited in Islam.

“A virgin cannot be married until her consent has been sought…” {Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5136; Muslim, 1419}

However, you have to be true to yourself. Is it because of work that you don’t want to marry him, or is it his past, or is it because you are now practicing? Heck, it could very well be all of the above and they are all justifiable, but I would be most concerned over his practice of the religion of Islam. In the end, you can disobey your parents if they attempt to force you to marry someone who is not of noble character, or who you feel will not be able to assist you in reaching a higher level of God consciousness.

Allah (SWT) says,

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” {30:21}

However, we do know that we cannot find true peace and tranquility without remembering Allah much.

الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ أَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ “Verily! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts truly find rest.” {13:28}

Now, you simply have to ask yourself, will this individual help me remember Allah so that I can achieve peace or will he be an obstacle in the path towards righteousness?

If the answer is obstacle, then end it. I wouldn’t use the excuse of your career to your parents though. They don’t really let things like that fly. Just tell them you are now a practicing Muslimah and would prefer someone who is committed to his faith.

May Allah make it easy and help you find that special someone who will aid you in reaching true contentment. Ameen.

And Allah knows best.

Need advice? Email me at bonsaisky@gmail.com

 
14 Comments

Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Advice

 

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Advice: Muslims Have Fun? No Way!

I discovered your twitter page yesterday and I decided to email you because I’ve recently decided I want to devote my all to God. Your tweets are inspiring and comforting, since I am a little scared of devoting myself to God. It’s so hard, staghfarallah. I’ll have to step away from all temptations and I’m scared I’ll just end up lonely and life will become boring. How do you enjoy life? I know you don’t have to upset God to enjoy life and I know it will feel great to connect with God and live my life to please HIM but I just do not know how to get started and how to not be scared of this change.

I just needed someone to ask these questions to and I decided why not you since your tweets caught my attention and inspired me. They also make the idea of devoting yourself to God seem very simple and fun. I hope I did not bother you with this email.

All praise is to Allah alone. We seek His guidance and His Mercy. First, I want to thank you for the very kind words. May Allah accept all of our efforts. Ameen.

I know what it is like to delay the inevitable. I, like you, had to make a decision in my life. I was fully aware of what I had to do, but delayed doing it because I thought it meant I could no longer have fun. Whatever that means. I realized that all I had to do was redefine what fun meant. After all, it is a relative word. After reading the biography of the Prophet and many Hadith, I began to unravel the sense of humor that both the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Companions had.

A man came to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) to ask him to give him a beast to ride. The Prophet jokingly told him, “I will give you the offspring of a she-camel to ride.” He said, “O Messenger of Allah , what will I do with the offspring of a she-camel?” The Prophet said: “Are riding-camels born except from she-camels?” [Reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi, with a Sahih isnad.]

In al-Adab al-Mufrad, Imam Bukhari reports from Bakr ibn ‘Abdillah who said:

“The Companions of the Prophet used to throw melon-rinds at one another, but when the matter was serious, they were the only true men.”

One of the ahadith that reflects the Prophet’s (PBUH) sense of humor and enjoyment of fun is the report that Imam Ahmad gives from ‘A’ishah who said:

“I went out with the Prophet on a journey. At that time I was a young girl and was quite slender. The Prophet told the people, ‘Go on ahead,’ so they went ahead, then he said to me, ‘Come, let us have a race.’ So I raced with him, and I won. He let the matter rest until I had gained weight. Later, I accompanied him on another journey. He told the people, ‘Go on ahead,’ so they went ahead. He said to me, ‘Come, let us have a race.’ So I raced with him, and he won. He began to laugh, and said, ‘This is for that.”‘

It is reported that the Prophet was asked by his companions:

“You are joking with us.” He said, “But I never say anything but the truth.” [Sahih Bukhari]

This is a balanced, moderate, and Islamically acceptable form of humor, which does not go beyond the bounds of truth, or lessen the gravitas or manhood of an individual. Rather, it serves its purpose of refreshing hearts and minds.

There is nothing wrong with having a little fun. We should just be wary of it becoming our goal in life; to simply be entertained. There are plenty more examples, but this should give you a little insight into how the Prophet (PBUH) and the Companions lived. They were lighthearted when the time was right, and were serious when it called for them to be.

Furthermore, there has to be a balance. I cannot emphasize this enough. I certainly cannot be serious all the time, nor do I want to be. Heck, I don’t even think its physically possible! There is a time for this and a time for that. The only problem is many of us only give time for that.

We cannot forget the purpose of our creation.

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ  “And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” {51:56}

Moreover, no matter what entertainment we seek for pleasure, know that the void it fills is temporary. In order to find true lasting peace, we have to remember Him much.

الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ أَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ “Truly, it is by the Remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.” {Qur’an, 13.28}

The true Muslim needs to strike a balance in his or her life, for if we were to lean too much in either direction, the scales would tip, which would become unhealthy, both mentally and spiritually.

Anas said, “Three people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to ask about how the Prophet worshiped. When they were told, it was as if they thought it was little and said, ‘Where are we in relation to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who has been forgiven his past and future wrong actions?'” He said, “One of them said, ‘I will pray all of every night.’ Another said, ‘I will fast all the time and not break the fast.’ The other said, “I will withdraw from women and never marry.’ The Messenger of Allah came to them and said, ‘Are you the ones who said such-and-such? By Allah, I am the one among you with the most fear and awareness of Allah, but I fast and break the fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. Whoever disdains my Sunnah is not with me.'” [Agreed upon]

Change can be a a scary thought, but it’s the anticipation of that change that is more frightening than the actual change itself. Ultimately, it is your choice. We all have decisions to make, but I can assure you, you won’t feel lonely when you decide to take Allah as your friend.

And Allah knows best.

 
15 Comments

Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Advice

 

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Perks of Being a Muslim!

So, I’ll keep this story short and sweet. Anyway, my wife and I were driving home on New Year’s eve, last year. We happened to come across a sobriety checkpoint. You know, the one where you suddenly come across some traffic when you least expect it.

So, we were at the end of the line when we noticed Police activity. They were checking for drunk drivers, which I totally support. Those bastards! So selfish.

But I digress. We watched a bunch of cars make quick u-turns where it is obviously not permitted, and then watched cops on motorcycles chase them down. Can you be any MORE guilty?

Of course, being Muslim and prohibited from drinking alcohol, we were just enjoying the view of red and blue lights. The Police were thoroughly checking each vehicle and making people come out of their cars so that they can search their vehicles while other officers gave them breathalyzer tests if they perceived it as warranted.

After some time, it was our turn. I don’t know why I felt nervous. Police officers always make me feel as though I’ve done something wrong. I turned to my wife and said, “Quick, hide the beer!” For a second, she was like, “What?!” I then started laughing. She punched me in the shoulder, and it hurt. She has a killer right hook :)

So anyway, the cop came to my window while another walked around with a flashlight around the passenger side peering through the windows. The officer took one look at my beard and one look at my wife’s Hijab and said, “Muslims don’t drink, and I’m not even going to ask. Have a safe night!”.

That’s it? We were in and out of that checkpoint in about 30 seconds. We didn’t have to get out of our vehicle, nor did they search it.

Ah, the perks of being a Muslim may be few these days, but they DO exist!

 
16 Comments

Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Reflection

 

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Advice: Hopelessly and Helplessly Worried

Presently, am going through some hard times financially and emotionally. I made some bad investments earlier in the year that am just trying to sort out, may Allah help me. Also, am 28 and unmarried and am having difficulty getting a man with deen that would encourage me more. I was born a muslim but early this year I took my shahadah again and became more devoted IA though am not totally there yet but am striving and I pray not to backslide. All these things get me hopelessly n helplessly worried and I pray day and night but I also think I need a good muslim to talk to. I need advice and special dua. Pls assist me. Would appreciate ur response. I feel spiritually down often especially wen I do nothing more than to observe the five daily obligatory prayers. I want to be a good muslimah. JazakAllah Khairan!

Peace be unto you. All praise is to Allah alone. We seek His guidance and seek His forgiveness.

What you are going through is, what many of us go through on a daily basis. One of the greatest tricks of the Sheytan is making you think you are alone, and the only one experiencing what you are. I have news for you, you’re not.

I’m sure many brothers and sisters can relate. Your ability to reach out for help is a sign of faith, or imaan. It means you want to become better in your practice of this beautiful faith.

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

SAY: “[Thus speaks God:] ‘O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dis­penser of grace!’ ” (39:53)

We should leave the past in the past. Forget past mistakes. Forget past sins. Forget bad investments. Leave them in the past. Start anew, starting today.

We all feel like hypocrites from time to time. You should begin to worry when you don’t feel like one.

It is inhuman and impossible to retain a high level of spirituality, faith and awareness of Allah and these things will naturally fluctuate in a person. The reason the heart is called ‘qalb‘ in Arabic is because qalb means ‘to flip and change’ and the condition of the heart is constantly flipping and changing. Even the Companions felt like this on occasions as is illustrated by an incident reported by Imam Muslim.

Once Sayyiduna Hanzalah رضى الله عنه was in the company of Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم, but when he left and returned home he became preoccupied with his family. He thought he had become a hypocrite so he went to complain of his condition to Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم. On the way he was shouting ”Hanzalah has become a munafiq (hypocrite), Hanzalah has become a munafiq.” He met Sayyiduna Abu Bakr رضى الله عنه to whom he related that when he was with Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم it was as though Jannat and Jahannam were before him, but the moment he returned home he became preoccupied with his family, thus he feared hypocrisy for himself. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr رضى الله عنه replied that he also felt the same way so they both approached Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم who comforted and informed them that such levels of imaan and spirituality are momentary and they do not last and that if they were to last the angels would have descended from the heavens and met them.

This incident illustrates that the level of faith in a person constantly fluctuates. When a low level of faith, or imaan, is experienced or one feels an attack on one’s spirituality and faith by Sheytan and other influences a person shouldn’t withdraw, but rather seek the remedy by adopting good company or entering into a pious environment where mention is made of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). Even if this is not possible, one can listen to a talk at home or watch a lesson online. As a consequence, due to the blessings, one’s heart and faith will be strengthened, God willing.

Even the Prophet (PBUH) would constantly pray, “O Transformer of the hearts, make my heart steadfast upon Your deen.” [Reported by Tirmidhi].

Moreover, backsliding is part of human nature. If it happened to the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), it can happen to all of us. Work on understanding what you are reciting during your prayers. While in total submission and in Sujud, ask Allah to assist and guide your affairs. Put total trust in Him and be consistent.

Focus on establishing your prayers and praying them on time. You are waging Jihad against your desires. You should expect the Sheytan to buckle up and try to deviate you from the Straight path. Be stubborn. Be steadfast. Be ready.

And finally, regarding your issues with seeking marriage, don’t worry about it. Allah doesn’t always answer our pleas immediately. Sometimes, He tries you to see if you are sincere in your request. Be patient. Your future husband is out there right now. Stop looking for him, and perhaps, he will come find you.

And Allah knows best.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Advice

 

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Why THEY Hate Us

So, one day I was visiting the Dome of the Rock in Palestine. I have a few family members left who reside there and had traveled with my father. After praying Asr one day, I quietly soaked everything in. The people. The smell. The vibrant sun. Everything, including the bullet holes I happened to see on the outside wall of the Masjid.

I ran my fingers through the holes. Evidently, there was a crazy man who murdered Muslim worshipers while they prayed in the Masjid some time before. Either way, I was just fixated.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an old man staring at me. I tried to ignore him but he persisted. He must have noticed I wasn’t from around there because I was wearing American clothes and a baseball cap, flipped backwards. Ok, so I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I asked him, “Can I help you with something?”

He replied, “Come with me.”

Now, I was confused. Nothing new there! There’s a 75 year old looking dude who wanted me to follow him. In Palestine. Random.

I figured if he jumped me, I could take him, so I went with him. Yes, that really crossed my mind. Anyway, we walked back into the Masjid and into a back room. It was kind of creepy but whatever. I let him lead the way. Why did he single me out? Why did he want me to follow him?

We went into a room that was full of boxes and old items. He brought a plastic container towards me and set it on a table.

He asked me, “Do you know why we hate America?” I didn’t respond, and wasn’t going to say, “Because you hate our freedom?”

He looked at me with deep blue eyes that have seen too much. He proceeded to open the lid of the container. In this box were shells. No, not the ones you find at the beach on a warm, sunny day.

These were bullet shells, and on them said, “Made in the USA”.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Reflection

 

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