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A short note on Fikr and Zhikr Meditation

I was asked recently about the types of meditation in Islam. I felt my response to the question might be useful for others, so I include it here as a quick Q& A with appropriate Usool (references):

Q: I want to learn more about the Islamic meditative practices supported in the Sunnah. Can you explain them to me?

A: I will share with you a little on our meditations. They are rooted in the methodology of “Knowing Oneself, Knowing Allah” (based on the hadith: “If the servant knows himself, he knows his Rabb” or: man ‘arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbahu (as-Suyuti, Mawardi, Al-Jarrahi; also attributed to Yahya b. Mu’adh ar-Razi.).

As I said, core Islamic meditation inculcates the two practices of: Fikr on the one hand, and Zhikr on the other.

In the domain of Fikr, our greatest Fikr is to come to know our own selves. With this in mind, the learned Shuyook have come to understand the human being to be made of seven components: 1. Brain (repository of all sensory memory and ‘learned understanding’ 2. the Heart (the CPU of the human and ‘steering wheel’ toward good or evil actions’ 3. Nafs (the ego, the extract of the material world) 4. the Rooh (the soul, the breath from Allah which seeks to return to its Rabb) 5. The sheytan (the encourager of ill will and bad deeds who seeks to draw you to remoteness) 6. The angel ( the encourager of good deeds and who seeks to draw you near to Allah; and finally 7. The spiritual nourishments of the Soul (which are specific Ibadaat that increase your Iman, purify and enlighten your heart, and refine your Rooh).

The heart is a battlefield wherein Sheytan and the Angel fight for control over your decisions. (Surahtul Nass illustrates the actions of Sheytan and there are ayats regarding how the angels interact with us (one such verse being 13:11) and Imam Ghazzali mentioned that with the increase of good deeds and submission to Allah, angels gather and alight on the heart of the believer. Thus by increasing our zhikr and fikr, the angels begin to predominate on our hearts, and through Ghaffla, pride, consumption of haram; the devils predominate. Proof of the battle that rages in the heart of man is that sometimes a generally good person will go and ‘do something stupid’ and why sometimes an overall bad person will sometimes do something merciful.

Now, it is our understanding from a hadith of Abu Hurayra (ra) that: “One minute of fikr is equivalent to a year of worship, and one hour of Fikr competes with 60 years of worship.” With this in mind, we seek to deeply study the components of ourselves and how to gain mastery over these components to orient ourselves toward the Creator in the sincere hope of drawing near to him.

Another Fikr I recommend, is to look and observe the spring as it begins to arrive and develop around you. Notice how the earth has been dead and frozen for so long, and how the trees begin budding, the birds begin returning and singing, and the flowers slowly burst forth. Allah talks alot about the rejuvenation of the land in the Qur’an and relates it to the resurrection (see sura Ya Sin). As we practice these methods, we will begin to see a resurrection within our own hearts, inshAllah.

Q. Brother, you’ve well-introduced the need for Fikr as a practice and its purpose and benefits. Can you please explain the zhikr side of meditation?

A. Zhikr as a practice is designed to draw you nearer to the One whom you are remembering per the ayat:

“Remember Me and I will remember you” (2:152)

and also the Hadith Qudsi:

“I am as My servant thinks I am (1). I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.”

Zhikr is the foundational practice that Prophet Muhammad (saw) left us in his sunnah as a means of purifying our inner (our hearts) and drawing near to our Rabb (Lord).

Before getting more deep into specific zhikr meditations, I recommend anyone to start out lightly with some common ones that all Muslims know and which are excellent in cultivating our inner focus. I would recommend a light mix of two for daily recitation: la-illaha ill Allah and Astaghfirullah.

The Usool for this simple practice is founded on the following:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Renew your faith!” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), who do we renew our faith?”
He replied (Allah bless him and give him peace), “By saying la ilaha ill Allah (‘There is no god but God’) a lot” [Ahmad and Hakim]

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said: “When a servant of Allah utters the words la ilaha illallah (there is no god except Allah) sincerely, the doors of heaven open up for these words until they reach the Throne of Allah, so long as its utterer keeps away from the major sins.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi)

Jabir reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The best remembrance of Allah is to repeat la ilaha illallah.”

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying.” By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 75 Hadith 319

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle salallahu alaihi wasallam said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: “Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 21 Hadith 246

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “When Allah created the creations, He wrote with Him on His Throne: ‘My Mercy has preceded My Anger.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 93 Hadith 545

Narrated by Anas ibn Malik
Anas heard the Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam say: Allah, the Exalted, has said: “O son of Adam! Certainly I shall continue to pardon thee so long as thou supplicatest Me and hopest (for My forgiveness), whatever may be thy faults and sins, I don’t care. O son of Adam, even if thy sins pile up as high as the sky, and thou askest for My forgiveness, I will forgive thee. O son of Adam, if thou comest to Me with an earthful of defaults and meetest Me, not associating anything with Me, I will come to thee, with an earthful of forgiveness.”
Al-Tirmidhi – Hadith 442

Dear brother or sister, jazakAllah Khayr for spending the time to read this short post and pray that Allah gives you insight into His ayats and makes your tests easy on you, AMIN


With Hardship is Ease

Woods trail 2

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

Chicago DT12

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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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!


The Real Reasons God is Unhappy with “US”!

Is God happy with the world? With “us”? Believers from all religions might be wondering. Many of them nowadays are sure that He is really unhappy with us!

Interestingly, followers of every religion have their own (contradicting) explanations of God’s unhappiness with our world today. There is some agreement on some details, but mostly, every group has a different understanding of the real reasons of this Divine Unhappiness.

Here is the problem: We don’t realize that God is really unhappy with our explanations of why He is unhappy!

Well, to summarize, every group thinks that God is unhappy because their own faith/religion didn’t take over the world, yet! Not only that, He’s unhappy because we didn’t give Him this Mosque or that Temple! As if God really cared about the Mosque or the Temple or the Church more than He cared about His children, His creation: People!

Jews and Christians think that God will be unhappy until they give Him the Temple and the Land that He always wanted! Muslims think that God will be unhappy until they give Him the Aqsa Mosque back and free Jerusalem! Well, people, let’s face it: we really are having some very offending ideas about God! We’re not giving Him His deserved Dignity and Power and Wisdom and Mercy. Do we really think that an All Wise Lord will care about some buildings more than about humans?!

But wait, it gets even darker! It gets as scary as thinking that God is unhappy until all the prophecies of the End of Days come true!The Jews need to build the Temple and have control over the Holy Land. The Christians join in this goal, not because they love Judaism, but because once the Temple is built and Jesus comes back, the good Jews will convert to Christianity, and the bad Jews will remain Jews, therefore will be cursed and destroyed! And of course Muslims have one role: get out of there. But wait, Muslims too need to purify the Aqsa Mosque, fight the Jews (and kill them for sure)…they too are eagerly waiting for Armageddon!

So that’s the miserable state of groups of believers now: they’re all waiting for a Global War, Armageddon, to finally make God really happy with them!

But it gets even more dull! Not only some “believers” are impatiently waiting for Armageddon, they actually wish to proactively make it happen, FAST! Why wait for the Mosque to be removed by a Divine accident, let’s just take care of the removing ourselves! They wish to be part of the distinguished group who will fight the “others”, the bad ones!

What’s funny is that everyone of us can be the good one and the bad one at the exact same moment, it only depends who’s looking at you! And of course, God agrees with our own judgment, He agrees that those whom we think are the bad ones are really so, while those whom we think are the good ones are really so as well - mostly us and those who will convert to our Religious Brand!

We even had some American presidents (most notably Reagan) who wholeheartedly believed that they will witness this blessedEnd of Days! Being a Western democracy doesn’t make you immune to having presidents who wish for it to happen, fast! After all, we have to go through the Rapture and Armageddon before we get to the Millennium! We have to have the Awaited rightly guided one (Almahdi Almuntazar) to finally be real Muslims!

Wait, be patient! I’m not making fun of your beliefs (hey, I’m a believing Muslim, so I’m included in all that, let’s just make fun of ourselves! We all deserve it!). I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t believe in the Prophecies. Of course we each believe that our religion is true and that God will bring victory to the Truth. That’s fine. But the way we deal with it is totally NOT fine! And many times the way we define “truth” is also very untrue!

I will not argue that many of the prophecies are not crystal clear in all the Scriptures. So the interpretations, in many cases, are just that: interpretations. No, that’s not even my point.

I started by suggesting that God is actually unhappy with our very reasoning of why He is unhappy with the world. It’s not because of buildings or lands; God is beyond and above any building, no matter how sacred it is. He is worshiped and honored any and everywhere, in the hearts of believers. The hearts of believers will remain forever, because Man is eternal, however all the buildings of the Earth will one day vanish, forever. That’s the real point: what’s more important to God, the temporary or the eternal? Buildings and lands or humans?

Instead of seeking God’s pleasure with us by wishing to be part of the End of Days prophecies, why not seek His pleasure by delaying them?! Pay attention please, I’m not saying “preventing” them, I’m saying “delaying” them, I know the prophecies, the true ones at least (only God knows those ones!) cannot be prevented.

Do we honestly think that God will be happier with any of us who tries to make the Prophecies happen one way or the other than with the ones who try to delay them?

Let’s see. Those who wish to prepare for the Prophecies to take place have to make sure a Global War should happen soon! They also need to make sure that the Children of Abraham’s animosities will grow and get worse and more serious! Do you see Godly activities here?!!!

However those who wish to delay the Prophecies need to work on creating cooperation and mutual understanding, on promoting peace between all people of different religions and of no religion. Are you telling me those are the wicked ones?!!!

Why not, instead of meeting our Lord as the generation of a global destructive war of His creation, meet Him as the generation who delayed this insanity? The generation that delayed Armageddon for centuries because we created peace, justice and forgiveness in the Holy Land, we focused on the problems that are common to all of us, on the billions of people who live under the poverty line, the thousands of children who die every day because of malnutrition, the destruction of the resources of our Earth, the abuse of the weak by the powerful, the absoulte dictatorships that destroy the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of fellow humans, etc. Aren’t those things that are  making God really unhappy with us because we let them happen?!

Do we really think that God is more pleased with us when we insult believers of other faiths, than when we speak to them in kind words and remind them and ourselves that we have much more in common?

How did we get to a point where we believe that God loves hostility and harm more than kindness and harmony?!

Children of Abraham, let’s wake up to the Truth of our Lord!

Final note: I’m not making generalizations, I know people are not the same! If you’re upset, try to focus on the real purpose and the main message!


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