With Hardship is Ease

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When we’re inside a dark room, no matter how small the room is and how bright the day is on the other side of the wall, we feel that the entire universe is as dark as our eyes can see.

We, poor limited creatures, seldom realize that going out to the light sometimes requires going through dark rooms. It could be the only way out; we just do not and cannot see the full map when we’re down there, right in the middle of it!

So with hardship there is ease; truly with hardship there is ease” Quran, 94:5-6

Don’t dwell on the tragedy of being inside this dark and cold spot right now, instead, know that the sun is shining just a few steps away from you. With Allah as the Master of your life, you’re on your right path, just make sure you keep moving forward, and don’t you stand still, so your stay in the Dark Room won’t be unnecessarily prolonged!

Optimism and the Law of Attraction in Islam

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Have ever wondered why some people are so successful and happy in life, while others are not? Have you ever noticed that good things seem to happen to happy people, while bad things happen to angry and pessimistic people?

Not long ago, a book was published, which had a great success, and it was entitled: “The Secret”. It tries to give an answer to the previous questions, and it claims that the secret of happy and successful people lies in what is called, “the Law of Attraction.”

So what is the Law of Attraction, and do we have it anywhere in the teachings of our religion? I will tell you what the secret and what the Law of Attraction are, then I will explain that the belief in this so-called secret, which was told about by our Prophet and revealed in the Quran in the most simple and expressive ways, is in fact essential for a true Islamic life-style. It is essential for the inner life of a true Muslim and believer.

We need to remember that a Muslim is not a Muslim only by how she or he looks and what she or he does. Yes actions are very important, but only when they have a spiritual foundation. That’s why intention is so important in Islam. Intention can make all the difference between two identical acts. Consider the act of praying. The act is the very same. But when we pray to God, we are blessed, while those who pray to be seen by people as righteous and devout believers are doomed hypocrites.

“Woe to those who pray, those who are unmindful of their prayers, who pray but to be seen”. Quran 107:4-6

Therefore we need to focus on and take care of our inner world, because it makes all the difference. Our inner world is formed of beliefs and feelings, of images and memories, of hopes, wishes, expectations, fears, etc. All those things are the elements of this inner world which we need to pay attention to and adapt to the teachings of Islam. We need to be Muslims, to fully submit to our Creator, from the inside out. We can’t fully do that until we take control of our inner life.

Please keep that in mind while I am telling you what the Law of Attraction is. It’s very simple: you attract what you think of, you get what you expect. This is the secret. This is why some people are so successful and others aren’t. And indeed this is so clearly stated throughout the Quran, the teachings and the example of the Prophet.

According to the Law of Attraction, if you’re pessimistic, bad things will happen to you. If you do everything in a spirit of fear and despair, you won’t get any positive results.

So what’s our religion say about that? The prophet mentioned that God says: “I give what my servant is expecting from me.” There is the whole Law of Attraction! It explains the real force behind this law. It’s not the universe that gives you what you expect, it’s a divine law. If you have hope in God, if you are certain that He will give you what’s good, then this is what He indeed will give you. But if you don’t, it’s like you’re saying to Him: I don’t trust You. God is the Generous, if you don’t have hope in His bounties, it only means that you don’t even believe He is really Generous. Do you realize how serious this is?! Now consider all of God’s names and attributes, He is the Forgiving, The Giver, The Provider, The Light, the Generous, the Merciful, The Opener, The Just, the Patient, the Thankful, the Loving, the Enricher, the Guide. Think that, if you fear poverty, you don’t believe He is really the Enricher, the Generous and the Provider. If you fear that your efforts will be fruitless, you don’t believe that He is the Opener and the Grateful, He opens doors and opportunities for you and He rewards you for every good you do,

“We don’t waste the reward of those who do good” Quran 18:30

If you fear injustice, you forget that He is the Just. If you are confused and you don’t think you’ll find your way, you forget that He is the Guide.

Remember that the reason to mention all that is to prove that a Muslim should be positive and focus on the positive; it’s how we Muslims should build our mind and our inner world.

Consider this beautiful verse from surat Al-Baqara:

“Satan promises you poverty and encourages evil doing, and God promises you forgiveness from Him and abundance” Quran 2:268

Did you read that? Poverty is the promise of Satan, while forgiveness and abundance are God’s promise. Which promise are we to believe!?

Remember that poverty is not only lack of money, which is only a manifestation; poverty is first of all a state of mind. Those who live in this state of mind are following and believing Satan instead of God. The poverty state of mind is what leads to being a miser. One can be poor while having tons of money, whereas those who truly believe in God don’t hesitate to give, even if they are not so rich; it’s because they don’t have this poverty state of mind. That also explains why the Prophet used to give so much that his companions said he used to give in the manner of a person who fears no poverty; this is the example of the Prophet who wasn’t really rich as we know.

Let’s also look at some other indications of this Law of Optimism in Islam. The Prophet says “Ask God with firm conviction that He will answer your prayer.” Now imagine the state of mind of a person believing this saying of the Prophet. Imagine that you pray to God and ask Him for good and Halal things, then you go about in life certain that God’s mercy and generosity will give you what you wish. Imagine how much power this will give you, how much enthusiasm and how much hope! It’s true that God will not answer your prayer on the spot, not immediately, but you know He will, and your worries disappear.

Imagine that you have a problem, then you get to meet the President himself and he gives you good promises, how would you be feeling when you leave him? Wouldn’t you be happy and hopeful and full of energy? Well it shouldn’t be any less when you pray to God and ask Him for something too!

I’d also like to share with you a thought about an interesting verse in surat Al-Israa (chapter 11) where God says:

“Man prays for evil just as he prays for good; and Man is ever hasty.”

This verse truly caught my attention, do we humans ask for evil or bad things the way we ask and pray for good things? I think this verse confirms the same idea of the Law of Attraction. I see prayer here as meaning expectation: when you expect the bad, when you are pessimistic, it’s like you’re asking for it. The verse also links this attitude of asking for the bad to being hasty, notice that pessimism is usually connected to impatience as well; a pessimist loses hope as soon as he is challenged, whereas hope can’t be there without patience, because you don’t really expect the good to happen overnight. Reasonable and hopeful people realize that, so they are not hasty and impatient to have what they want.

We also know of the story of a very difficult time that the Prophet and his companions faced, during the battle of the Trench, when Muslims were in Medina expecting a huge coalition of armies coming to attack them. They were outnumbered and by no means were they in a position to defend themselves. The companion Salman Al-Faresi suggested the idea of building a trench around the city. They left their wives and children back in the city and instructed them to remain in their homes and defend themselves if the men get defeated and killed. A very hard time!

Now look at something very interesting and powerful that the Prophet did. While he was hitting a stone, he saw something in the sparks, and he told his companions that they would indeed conquer the great powers of their time, like Persia. This sounded like a huge impossibility. But think of what it did, it created high expectations and high hope in the spirit of those fighters, because they believed that their Prophet would never lie. They needed this hope to keep them moving and trying. This is a very practical indication of how the Prophet actually used the Law of Attraction, of hope and good expectation in order to raise the spirits and inspire power in his followers’ hearts. Eventually his predictions happened after his death, but just think of the attitude of those who listened and firmly believed him, they continued their lives and work confident that they will move from a state of weakness to a state of power.

I will conclude with another beautiful example of how believers keep their hope and optimism. In the story of the Prophet Jacob, in surat Yusuf, we learn how Jacob lost his most beloved son Joseph when he was a kid. Yusuf/Joseph must have been away from his father for at least 20 years, if not 25 or even 30 years. But then what happens when Jacob, after all those years, now that he was even an older man, and he loses yet his second beloved son, Joseph’s brother? Listen to what he says to his other sons as a response to the new and terrible news of losing the second son:

“Oh Sons, go and enquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope in Allah’s mercy, truly none despairs of Allah’s spirit except those who have no faith.” Quran 12:87

In this verse lies the whole story of optimism in Islam. You can hope for the seemingly impossible, but then you’ll have to work for it. In this verse, Jacob asks his sons to go and search, with hope in God’s mercy, even though it seems so unreal to search for Joseph after all those years or decades, but this is the hope of the true believers. And it comes with active action.

Hope induces action and productivity, while pessimism leads to inaction. We need to focus on that from the inside out, we need to train ourselves to have permanent, unfailing hope in God’s mercy and bounty, a hope that will keep us active and working for the good of ourselves and of Mankind, so that we can perform the duty of Man as a deputy and agent of God on earth.

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What We Should and Can Regarding The Burqa Ban!

France banned the Burqa, and women there are deprived from the right of covering their faces! Some are happy to be finally able to see the faces of these mysterious women by the power of law. Others are unhappy about forcing people to give up parts of their life-style which, after all, is no one’s business - as long as these women don’t object to uncovering their faces when needed.

I personally dislike the burqa, very much. I wouldn’t marry a women covering her face in public, because I know it’s not an Islamic requirement, because I don’t like it, and because, according to my own understanding of my religion, I even believe it to be un-Islamic. Another man might not want to marry a woman who doesn’t wear a burqa, because he thinks it’s un essential manifestation of chastity, or because he lived in Saudi Arabia long enough to actually believe it’s an Islamic requirement! Me and him are free to choose our wives, and our own likes and dislikes are no one’s business but ourselves. Me and him shouldn’t dictate our opinion on women either! Women choose their cloths and their husbands as they wish; while men choose their wives and their beliefs about women’s cloths as they wish too. Simple, isn’t it?! Not really, because we, the human race, insist on complicating the simplicity of life!

I guess we’ll have to live with that, while striving to simplify things as we complicate them. That’s what being human is about: creating problems, then doing our best to fix them!

It’s probably clear, from the above statements, what my personal position is regarding this ban: I do not support any form of forcing people to do or not do (in this case wear or not wear) anything, no matter how much I personally dislike what they’re doing (or wearing, or not wearing!), as long as their choice doesn’t in any way threaten the rights, safety and freedom of others. Period. That’s my universal rule and I apply it to any and every form of human behavior (or so I hope!).

The point I want to make is, in many cases, or most cases when it comes to governments and laws and nations, our personal opinion isn’t the issue, not that it won’t matter in shaping reality, that’s already clear, but it’s not even the issue on a personal level!

We need to be clear, with ourselves, on the many levels of the problem or piece of news we’re dealing with. We need to put it in its context, that is.

One level is our personal conviction and opinion; this has to be clear to start with. We need to know what to think, to decide why we believe what we believe, and to be consistent with all of our values and other beliefs. In my case, I did clarify, clearly (in my opinion!), what that is!

But the context is more complicated. I will throw in some thoughts that put this ban in some context, in order to help us decide how we can and should react to this ban.

1. Most Islamic scholars agree that covering the face is not required. Most agree, based on one hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) that the proper Islamic dress for women means uncovering the face and two hands. While some argue that even this most widely accepted interpretation is not accurate because it’s not clearly mentioned in the Quran (which is true), therefore even covering the hair is not required.

2. The ban, based on #1, does not forbid Muslims from doing anything essential to the practice of their religion, even though it does interfere with the freedom of the women who want to dress this way. Therefore we should be clear that, if we disagree with the ban, it should be based more on civil freedoms than on “defending Islam”.

3. We, and this is very important, should be just as critical of forcing women to uncover their face as we are of forcing them to cover it. Otherwise we would be practicing what we, Muslims, sometimes blame the West of doing (rightfully, at times): double standards! If we’re angry that a Christian European country forbids our Muslim women to dress according to their beliefs, we should as well be angry at Muslim countries forbidding non-Muslims to dress according to their beliefs. If you happen to believe that it’s ok for a Muslim country to require non-Muslims to respect its traditions, then you should also believe that it’s ok for France to require Muslims to respect its traditions too. Consistency is all I’m asking for!

4. It’s ok for Muslims and non-Muslims to fight and speak against this ban, as long as it’s done in the context of a consistent effort of defending the rights of everyone, and especially as long as it is done in a proper, peaceful and calm manner.

5. it’s the duty of Muslims living in France to respect the laws of the land they’re living in. This is an Islamic rule. Muslims should encourage women affected by this ban to obey the law, while working against it according to the rules and laws and democratic tools of their society. Any senseless ranting and expressions of anger should be clearly condemned.

6. And finally, we Muslims should get our priorities straightened up!

A Muslim leader in Libya or Yemen who is killing his people and depriving them from their basic human rights and freedoms is more dangerous to Islam and Humanity than any ban in France!

The fact that hundreds of millions of Muslims are illiterate, live under the poverty line and don’t have any voice in their own homelands should be far more alarming to us than a ban on a burqa!

Where am I?!!

Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, started more than two weeks ago. We stop eating and drinking from dawn to sunset. It might sound too harsh, and hard, for you who are not used to it. But we can handle it pretty well! This is our digestive system yearly break (or so it should be, except for our fellow Muslims who break their fast with massive meals, followed by traditional desserts and drinks!). Fasting is not only about our digestive system for sure, but that’s not today’s topic.

I have made a promise before Ramadan to Helen, a reader who found this blog, took the time to read most of my posts and left me many questions and remarks. Since she took the time to go back and read my old posts, I owe her thorough answers to her questions and comments. And I thank her for pulling me out of my writing laziness and giving me lots of blogging assignments to come :)  I also had the good fortune to get to know new online friends who have lots of curiosity about Islam as well. It seems that this blog is intended to see some lively action soon!

As you may already you, fulfilling one’s promises is required in Islam:

“The hypocrite has three signs: when he is entrusted, he betrays the trust; when he speaks, he lies; and when he promises, he doesn’t fulfill his promise”

Said Prophet Muhammad, hypocrisy being one of the major sins and personality traits leading to Hell according to the Quran. Anyone who has one of those signs, has one share of hypocrisy to work on eliminating!

All that being said, I’m just writing to let my friend Helen know that I didn’t forget my promise to her, and ask that she kindly be patient with me. The low energy due to fasting, and the fact that I’m also moving into another apartment by the end of this month, left me with very little clarity of mind to write anything meaningful! So hopefully after my move is done I will get going next month!


Thank You for Making a Mistake!

The biggest mistake anyone can make is not to make any mistakes!

If we don’t have the freedom to make mistakes, we won’t have the chance to make achievements.

That was a fact of life. It’s also an Islamic rule, a prophetic promise: “If you try and succeed, your reward is double; but if you try and fail, you get a single reward”, so said the Prophet of Islam.

The intellectual struggle to try and distinguish what is right and beneficial was called “ijtihad”. You can think about a problem and come up with a conclusion or a solution that proves wrong after testing. Don’t worry; you still get the reward of trying with a sincere intention to do good. That was the spirit that caused early Muslims to build one of history’s leading civilizations.

Life always brings us something new. The problems we’re facing today are different from what our ancestors faced. Our grandchildren are sure to face challenges that we have no clue about. In Islam, deciding which way to go that is compatible with the Islamic values, once we face such unprecedented challenges, is our necessary and never ending task of ijtihad. Once we gave it up, once we became less tolerant of errors, this civilization collapsed!

If the word “ijtihad” sounds somewhat similar to “jihad” to you, you’re absolutely right. The two words have one linguistic root. As you already know, jihad means struggle (this has been repeated thousands of times, it’s “their” problem if they still don’t get it!). Ijtihad consists in making an effort in order to achieve something. In the scholarly context, the effort is intellectual, aiming at finding new solutions to new problems, while remaining loyal to the core values.

Muslim scholars have summarized the purpose of Islamic Law in two endeavors: eliminating that which is harmful, and doing that which is beneficial to people. The rest is details! That’s where ijtihad comes in. One simplistic example is television, which didn’t exist at the time of the Quran and the Prophet. What’s our religion’s say about it? Ijtihad will easily conclude that if you watch porn, television is haram, religiously forbidden. If you watch it for knowledge or entertainment, it’s permissible.

Imagine if some Muslims come and tell you that whatever the Quran and the Prophet made lawful is what we’re allowed to do, and whatever they named as forbidden we can’t do? Gosh, but the Quran and the Prophet said nothing about cars, planes, cell phones, and the Internet! What should we do now?! You get the idea!

Something similar actually happened. Some Muslims decided that the ijtihad of our ancestors who passed a few centuries after the time of Prophet Muhammad is the best that can be done, and all we need now is read and re-read their books and do what they told us to do. Anyone who tries to engage in ijtihad after them is erring from the straight path. For some reason, those Muslims gave themselves the authority to disable the prophetic good news of those who try and fail getting a single reward. They decided that instead, those who try at all are actually sinning. I don’t know how they made the rewarded intellectual efforts into punishable sins, and why anyone believed them! (Well, I might have some clue: getting the masses into a state of acceptance of the status quo was, and will always be, the best dream of despotic rulers!).

Muslims have been living a grossly misguided time of low mistake tolerance. Interestingly, the less you tolerate mistakes and allow trial and error, the more mistakes will occur and aggravate!

If you look at some of the stories of how Prophet Muhammad dealt with sinners, you’ll see the gap between his example and the harsh ways of some so called religious people. Once a man came to him confessing that he fornicated and asking to be punished, Muhammad told him to pray first then discuss the matter. The man prayed with them and went back to the Prophet for the punishment, Muhammad simply told him to go away, because his prayer erased his sin. The Prophet basically tricked the sinner out of punishment!  Jesus also asked us to throw stones at sinners… if we can be certain we’re free of sins!

Not only the self-righteous are harsh on sinners, they’re also harsh on “intellectual sinners” if you will. If your ideas are not what they like, you’re anywhere from misguided to infidel. Their understanding of religion is God’s understanding Himself, so there is no room for arguing with God!

Until we tolerate mistakes and allow trial and error with open minds and hearts, we will continue downhill… and may be even down in Hell!

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