Friday, December 31, 2010

When we stand before Allah...

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

What is it that makes some people think themselves better than others? What is it that makes the younger or more physically attractive people think they are more beautiful or appealing? What is it that makes the sister all in black in a head abaya with gloves and niqaab or the brother with the thobe up to his shins and beard down to his chest think they are more pious than others who dress differently? Why does the one who gets perfect scores on her Arabic tests or Memorization and Recitation classes feel better than those who struggle? Kibr. Prideful arrogance.

Sometimes, if I know that a person isn't obeying Allah, I feel that I am being more obedient and am earning Allah's pleasure while they are not. Sometimes I speculate that I am thinner, look younger, have more knowledge in certain areas, or more discipline about certain things. These are facts, and as long as I acknowledge them as just facts without thinking I'm better, then inshaa'Allah they will not ruin me.

An outlook that is very helpful when I want to avoid the "I'm better in that" syndrome, is to always look at others and think how much better they are in other things. I admire their way of conducting themselves, their patience and beautiful approach to their children and husband, their memorization of Quran, their knowledge of Islam, and their beautiful attributes. I think of my inferiority rather than my superiority. There is always the knowledge that others have qualities that I don't and, most surely, some of those qualities are more loved by Allah.

Our beloved Prophet, salla Alalhu alayhi wa sallam, married  Sawdah (radhi Allahu anhaa) after the death of Khadijah. We know he was suffering great grief over Khadijah's death. "According to a report by a Companion, she was very dark in complexion, slow and fat. In spite of her being slow and fat, she was amiable and humorous, dispelling the Prophet's worries with her light joking, which was an essential and effective timely remedy." (quote from the book Women around the Messenger

When we see people who are very disobedient to Allah, or appear to have weak knowledge and implementation of their Islam, we may think they are in a sad state. However, shaytaan is always whispering and we often don't know the reality of them and their journey through life. What we think, may not be the true case. Never forget the story of Musa (alayhi salaam) and Khidr in Surat al Kahf. Khidr did things that Musa deemed heinous crimes, but they were actually commands from Allah and were righteous acts.

Most Muslims have been through different processes, including many mistakes and different developmental stages. Who is to say that the person who isn't praying today, won't be the one who wakes up and sniffs the Quran tomorrow and becomes the most pious of us? Who is to say that the person who wears a jilbab and shayla/hijab won't have a stellar account with Allah because she never hurt another human being by hand or tongue? Who is to say that the out-of-shape sister or brother, whose face shows all the signs of their hard life, isn't one of Al-Muqarrabeen (those nearest to Allah in the Aakihrah) because they have always put others before themselves?

When we stand before Allah, it is our hearts and our deeds that will count, not whether we were the best looking, wore the most pious clothes, had great intelligence, had the most Islamic information, or memorized the most Quran. There is no benefit in a fit body, beautiful face, immaculate presentation, or extensive knowledge unless they are TOTALLY for the sake of Allah and seeking His Pleasure. May Allah protect us from all forms of kibr (pride and arrogance), riyaa (showing off), and  guide us to His Pleasure in our every action - ameen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Don't Want to Live that Long...

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I was reading a post about the Day of Judgment today and I was reminded of something that has been lurking in the back of my mind for some time.  The signs of the Day of Judgment include some truly horrific things. Aside from the coming of the Dajjaal, one of the things that disturbs me the most is that we are told that the Kaaba will be demolished and the Qur'an will be removed from the hearts and also the Masaahif (printed copies of the Qur'an). No Qibla and no Book of Guidance. Audhu B'Illahi!

I cannot tell you how much I have begged Allah to increase me in knowledge and open up the Quran to me and fill my heart with it. Over this past two months, Allah - azza wa jaal - has answered my dua' mashaa'Allah. Now I'm moving through my Qur'an memorization with understanding, wa al hamdul'Illahi Rabb il aal ameen! Recitation with understanding has opened up something totally amazing in me. I cannot contain my smile when I read of Allah's Mercy and Rewards, my fear of His punishment. Mashaa'Allah, I am totally in love with the words and the message Allah has sent down to us!

So, to have this finally open up, to be given that gift and to think that I could wake up one morning and have nothing, not a single remembrance of it, is like torture. I don't wish to ever live to that day. I pray that I die with the Qur'an in my heart and on my lips...that I die with a smile on my face from the promise and perfection of those indescribable words. I don't want my children to face that either...or their children, or their children. It is enough to make one wish for an early death, for surely it is a test beyond imagination and a horrific prospect for future generations. May we all die upon tawheed and may Allah protect all His faithful servants on that dreaded day - ameen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Polygyny - Why Sacrifice?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

My thoughts are developing, based on my own experiences and through reading and responding to others facing polygyny. Something came to my mind that is very important - the sacrifice that women and the children of polgyny have to make, and why.

When a man enters into polygyny, even when he is in the search process, the existing wife has to give up some of her time with him. He may spend hours searching, then "communicating," then preparing, and then dividing up the time between the existing family and the new wife. The children also have to give up some time, some involvement. There is no comparison between the time invested in the children in one household, and the time invested between two, especially as there will be more children to divide time between. He will also be dividing his money between two households. He took your pie and cut it in half, or thirds, or even quarters, giving the other half to another woman/women.

Many beautiful sisters out there have the right mindset and intentions and accept polygyny, desiring their husbands happiness, to successfully implement a Sunnah, and the pleasure of Allah. However, there will be times when they will stare at it and see a stark reality that they are sacrificing a lot for the sake of their husband and his desires. At times it will appear, with the help of shaytaan, that the husband is getting a really good deal because he gets what he wants but the existing wife is left with loss, pain, insecurity, and shaytaan happily and firmly attached to her ear.

Often we wives sacrifice to safeguard the husband's Islam, to prevent him from haraam, because he is driven to pursue his desires or cannot be satisfied with what he has.  When I look at it from a certain light, it seems that we women who sacrifice so much to support their husbands in polygyny, out of love, are much stronger. After all, we don't turn their lives upside down chasing after our desires and finding solutions to our weaknesses. We sacrifice because we look at the greater goal of Jennah; we see it as yet another test. For the polygyny chasing men, they get caught up with the dunya, by way of their desires and urges for the zeena of this life - women, children, wealth, etc. - and they must satisfy much of that desire to be able to get past it and focus on Jennah.

So where does that leave us wives? I believe that polgyny is sent to very special women; those that Allah wants to test strongly in order to increase their emaan, taqwa, tawakkal, and ibadah and purify their hearts. I believe that it is sent as a means to raise their ranks in Jennah and as an opportunity to be amongst the muqarraboon, the forerunners closest to Allah, in the aakhirah. We know that Allah tests those He loves, and for such a great test, there must be great love.

Jâbir b. `Abd Allah al-Ansârî relates that he heard Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said three days before his death: "None of you should ever die except while assuming the best about Allah." [Sahîh Muslim (5125)]
Ibn al-Qayyim says: There can be no doubt that assuming the best about Allah only comes as a result of righteous conduct. It is the righteous person who assumes the best about his Lord, since he knows that Allah will reward him for his good deeds and will never break His promise.
I want to be with the muqarraboon, and I begged Allah many years ago to make me an excellent person, so I take the tests and know with certainty that Allah is sending them to make me even more beloved to Him. No question, the tests are very difficult at times, but greatly blessed!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Think you're smart?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Check out these scenarios.

- Muslim Child is in a bad mood and decides to join the prayer late, stand out of the line, fidget excessively, delay moving after the Imam, huff and puff in annoyance, etc.  Muslim Child is reprimanded after the prayer and responds with a slightly smug smile that implies, "Oh good, I succeeded in annoying you!"

- Muslim Wife is annoyed with husband over something he has done that she does not like. Muslim Wife decides she will punish husband by withholding his marital rights or even by teasing him first and then withholding his rights...leaving him hanging and frustrated. Muslim Wife smiles smugly, thinking she well and truly got him back.

- Muslim Sister finds herself in a plural marriage and is overcome by jealousy. At a gathering where she knows the co-wife will be, Muslim Sister wears something that exposes her best physical features, in detail. She brings great food, sports a love-bite, and talks in a condescending way to co-wife to show who's best and that there is no competition.

Muslim Child, Muslim Wife, and Muslim Sister think they are smart. They think they've gotten one over on their "opponent" and won, in some way. Muslim Child, Muslim Wife, and Muslim Sister are sadly mistaken.

Muslim Child did not pray to Allah. Muslim Child stood and went through the motions of prayer all the while focusing on disrupting the prayer and khushoo of those around them.

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
"The first of one's works that he shall be called to account for on the Day of Judgment is the Prayer. If he performed it well, he will be prosperous. Otherwise, he will be loser.” At-Tirmidhi

'Ubadah Ibn As-Aumit related, the Prophet (pbuh) said,
"Whoever makes ablution properly and performs properly the integrals of Prayer: bowing, prostration and recitation therein, the Prayer says, "May Allah preserve you as you preserve me.” Then the Prayer is risen up skyward enveloped with light. When approaching the heaven 's gates, it will find it opened. So it keeps on rising up until it reaches Allah. There, it intercedes for the one who performed it. But if he does not perform (its integral) properly: bowing, prostration or recitation therein, the Prayer says, "May Allah neglect you as you neglected me..” Then, the Prayer is risen up skyward enveloped with darkness. Approaching the gates of heaven, it will find it closed. Then, it will be folded as an old cloth and kicked back to the doer's face.” Al-Haythami

So tell me, Muslim Child, who did you hurt in the end?

As for Muslim Wife, she has not fulfilled her covenant with Allah; she hasn't guarded her husband's chastity.

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: 
“The Messenger of Allaah (peace  and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘When a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and he went to sleep angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.’” Al-Bukhari, 3065; Muslim, 1436

Ibn ' Abbas also related that the Prophet (pbuh) said,
"There are three people whom Allah cursed: Whoever leads a group of people in Prayer who dislike him, a woman whose husband spends the night angry with her and whoever heard the call to Prayer but he does not answer.” At-Tirmidhi

So tell me Muslim Wife, who will really suffer from your spiteful actions?

And finally for Muslim Sister, her jealousy is her worse enemy.

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
"Once a man was walking along in a new set of clothes, with a swagger to his step, pleased with himself, Allah caused the earth to swallow him and he will keep sinking until the Last Day.”Al-Bukhari

"Tyrants and the arrogant will be raised on the last Day as grain strewn under feet that the people will walk upon.”Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi
Arrogance, as early Muslims said, was the first fault against Allah.

Allah, the Almighty, says,
{And behold, we said to the angels: bow down to Adam: and they bowed down: not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: he was of those who reject Faith} (AI-Baqarah: 34)
Therefore, Faith is of no avail if arrogance exists, as is Iblis.

The Messenger (pbuh) said, "Arrogance is belittling to admit the truth and considering people inferior.” Muslim

"No one with the slightest particle of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” Al-Bukhari

Do you have the upper hand now, Muslim Sister?

This is a reminder and warning to every Muslim Child, Muslim Wife, and Muslim Sister that may reside in us:

Don't think you're smart. 

I've let shaytaan fool me in the past, but by Allah's Grace and Mercy, I realized that I would have to answer for my actions. Allah is not going to ask you about what others did, He will ask you about what YOU did. Don't fool yourself into thinking that doing something out of spite is smart, because the saying, "What goes around comes around." is very true in Islam. Every soul will be recompensed as per its intention and there is no fooling Allah, subhaana wa taala.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reasons to Welcome Polygyny

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh

Women are flowers: all different with varying smells, colors, shapes, and properties. 
All are beautiful; all are uniquely special. 
Men like bouquets.

What would you prefer? A peaceful life with a pleasant, loving husband who is satisfied and happy, or a life with a man who is dissatisfied and looking at women surreptitiously with yearning? Even worse, perhaps taking out his resentment and frustrations on you and the family?

Seven years ago, when my husband told me he wanted to marry because he couldn't lower his gaze, I was disgusted. I didn't want to know that he was such a weak person and I felt it a personal hurt, because I had just had our first baby. He explained that he wasn't trying to hurt me; that it was all about him. I went through a whole self-critique, acknowledging my faults and my strengths and in the end I acknowledged that it really was his own issue. This past year, I finally wrote a post about not taking it personally, which puts that into perspective.

After that, I picked up on his glances in the rearview mirror at uncovered women we passed on the street. They didn't have anything different from me, aside from the fact that their bodies were on display for all to see and mine was under an abaya. I knew, without a doubt that it doesn't matter if you are a supermodel, most men will never be satisfied. Allah told us in Suran Ali Imran:

(Beautified for men is the love of things they covet; women, children, vaulted hoards of gold...) [3:14].  

How true Allah's words are! So, my viewpoint became one of "let him covet."

When I thought about it more, I realized that there were three things that are much more important to me than the life adjustments that polygyny entails.

One: I would rather he do something halal than bring haram into our home and lives. That would just be a spiral to hell, literally. I won't invite shaytaan into my home, and to keep him away I have to strive to get rid of all fitna. If that means encouraging him to take another wife so he will not be inclined to commit zina, then so be it.That is what I call Real Love.

Two: I cannot stand living with someone who is unhappy, resentful, and unsatisfied. That equates to moodiness, nit-picking, and fitna-filled atmospheres that thrill shaytaan. That has a negative effect on our whole family and the peace in our home. If taking on another wife, household, set of bills, and marital communications would make him a pleasure to be with on a daily basis, then "Wife number 2, come on down!" Of course, this also means praying for a good one, so we won't face fitnah. It also means praying for it to happen in a halal way, pleasing to Allah, so the union will be blessed and there won't be a drawn out waiting period or the fitna and haraam elements of searching.

Three: If I support my husband in getting what he wants in a halal way, while trusting in Allah and aiming to please him, I will be a better wife and he will appreciate me more.

In a nutshell, I want him to go ahead and "fulfill his dream" if it is necessary for the children and I to continue to have a peaceful, happy life pleasing to Allah, not shaytaan.

As for the confidence aspect, although it does tend to make us feel like there is something wrong with us, I know that it isn't me. I have confidence in myself, in regards to obeying my Rabb and in my person. In that regard, I wrote the post "Where does our confidence come from?" My husband does not define my worth, nor is he able to make me happy. Only Allah (subhaana wa taala) and I, through my actions, can do those things. Do I feel worthless or insignificant in his life? No. We have gone through this past 8 years, accomplishing a great deal and growing closer to Allah and each other through our struggles. We have established something that won't simply disappear if, or when, he gets a different model.

As for worrying about whether the subsequent wife will be a source of goodness or fitnah, truly if I am obedient to my Rabb and put all my trust in Him, I will never worry about such things. If a prospect comes up and I'm informed about it, I say alhamdul'Illah. I know that if it is good for us, Allah will facilitate it and if it isn't, He won't. Currently, we are monogamous again. We have come a long way, and much has changed due to our past experiences and spiritual growth, Qadr Allah. But if polygyny comes along again, it will simply be part of Allah's Perfect Plan. Something to draw us closer to Him, and to trust in Him totally about.

No Backbiting Disclaimer: I talked with my husband prior to writing this post. He knows what I am disclosing about him, has confirmed it is fine, and is not offended.  He also reads my blog ; D

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Polygyny: Love for who?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

The most popular hadith quoted, when the topic of polygyny comes up, seems to be this:
Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
It is usually a reminder to the women, the existing wife/wives and the new wife so they will be kind and generous with each other...and with the sharing of their husband.  I am a big proponent of this concept, mashaa'Allah, so please don't misunderstand what I write next.

The hadith is for everyone, men and women alike. So, what happened to the brothers? 

Consider the man with a plate full of food and a man beside him, hungry with no food. Is reaching out and taking another plate of food, leaving the man beside him without, loving for his brother what he loves for himself? What, then, of wives? When there are so many brothers looking for good wives, don't the discerning ones who are looking for second, third, or fourth wives ever think that if the woman meets their criteria for marriage, that she probably meets the criteria of a single brother? Do they consider that in recommending those prospective wives to unmarried brothers, they are removing a stress and discomfort from their brother? They have the chance to facilitate for their brother what they already have, the other half of their deen and a guarding of their private parts. Wouldn't that reap a huge reward? Isn't that putting the hadith into real practice?

In addition, for those men with daughters of marriageable age, are they eager for them to enter polygyny? Do they believe it is a better and more pleasant life than monogamy? No question, there are wonderful advantages to being in polgyny. However, most would agree that polygyny is a test and shaytaan's favorite workplace - not easy and often painful. Is marrying a daughter into that (rather than to another suitable, unmarried man) loving the best for her? Perhaps, sometimes. More often though, the answer will be no.

Before I am attacked with a load of scenarios which don't fit this mold, let me say that I know it isn't a one-size-fits-all viewpoint. I am not making a blanket statement, just reminding of a certain aspect. There are many situations where taking an additional wife is the option warranted by Allah; it is a beautiful Sunnah. Certainly, some women are better suited to be in polygynous marriages or don't find single men in their age group or community to marry. However, in polygyny the loving for your brother what you love for yourself needs to be considered and implemented by both sisters and brothers. 

May Allah be the Governing Force behind all our intentions and actions - ameen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's Ahead of You?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Lately I've been mentioning to the children the importance of every action. I have been telling them that it is extremely relevant what we are doing when we die. I also make it clear to them that life isn't something to take for granted. So often, when we go to Masjid an Nabawi, we have the honor of praying janazah for someone, and at least 50% of the time, we are praying for a child. These are wonderful moments to make it real to them that children, just like them, die.  So, I remind them to think about what they are doing and if it is beneficial or pleasing to Allah. I ask them to consider in their activities, deeds, and words, whether they are pleasing Allah or shaytaan.

Subhaan Allah. I do this for my children, but it is something that we adults desperately need to think about every waking moment. Are we realistic and objective enough about what we do and say? Do we ask those critical questions: "Who am I pleasing - Allah or shaytaan?" and "Will this help me get to Jennah?" Better to ask ourselves now, before it is too late.

"Oh you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is all aware of what you do." Al-Hashr, ayah 18
Some peoples' perspective is that they have their whole life ahead of them; others are always conscious that death is near. Both are true, but the latter is the absolute reality.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My therapist

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

(This is dedicated to Umm Tareq, with great love - fee sabeel Allah.)

I used to find it amusing to hear that people went to therapists, mainly because it was almost a fashionable epidemic. Just about everyone had a therapist, whether a psychoanalyst, a psychiatrist, a focus group, or a special social worker/mentor. So many problems, so many experts. So, I thought to myself, "Mai, you've got things bothering you. Why don't you get yourself a therapist?" That's when he subcutaneous part of my psyche spoke up and said, "You have a therapist; always had one, always will." Well, my psyche surely spoke the truth.

All day long, whatever is going on, I have a running commentary going on with my therapist. I have divulged my innermost thoughts, fears, struggles, and problems to Him. I don't even have to say the words out loud, although I sometimes do, because He hears me anyway. He Knows. I never feel like there is a huge stress sitting inside me ready to explode because I have nobody to talk to. I have the perfect therapist to talk to. He gives me perfect solutions, perfect guidance, and perfect soothing comfort.  My Creator, my Sustainer, my Nurturer, my Developer, my Guide, my Solace, and my Perfect Love - Allah, subhaana wa taala - my 24/7 therapist.

Allah says: “Call upon Me. I will answer you.” [Sûrah Ghâfir: 60]

Trudging or Skipping?

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Truly the life of this world (dunya) is a test and a trial for the believer. 

Hmm. Sounds like something that we should be trudging through, struggling to make our way with so many obstacles.

Consider the scenario where you are going somewhere you don't like...perhaps the dentist, to clean up a dirty mess, to meet someone you don't enjoy the company of, or to take a test you aren't prepared for.  You may move slowly, or find it hard to be cheerful and sincerely optimistic. When people have difficulties and hardships, they tend to trudge through life miserably, unsmiling.

Now consider when you are looking forward to something...perhaps going to the park, seeing a good friend, or attending a fun gathering. You probably walk quickly, with spring in your step, and find it easy to be cheerful and optimistic.  When people have pleasant things to look forward to, they tend to sail through life happily, smiling.
`Abdullah ibn `Umar, radhiallahu `anhu, said: "The life of this world is Paradise for a disbeliever and a prison for a believer. When a believer dies and departs from this world, he feels himself like a prisoner who was released to go freely on the spacious earth."
Well, aren't you looking forward to seeing Allah, subhaana wa Taala? Aren't you filled with awe at His never ending Mercy and Blessings? Aren't you filled with hope that He will be pleased with you and you will be elevated to those high places in Jennah where His Countenance will be seen?

On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say: Allah the Almighty said:
O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.
(at-Tirmidhi & also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal)
What bigger hope?

On the authority of Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
Allah will say to the inhabitant of Paradise: O inhabitants of Paradise! They will say: O our Lord, we present ourselves and are at Your pleasure, and goodness rests in Your hands. Then He will say: Are you contented? And they will say: And how should we not be contented, O Lord, when You have given to us that which You have given to no one else of Your creation? Then He will say: Would not like Me to give you something better than that? And they will say: O Lord and what thing is better than that? And He will say: I shall cause My favor to descend upon you and thereafter shall never be displeased with you.
(al-Bukhari, Muslim, and at-Tirmidhi)
 What greater anticipation?

On the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet (PBUH) said: Allah the Almighty said: I am as My servant thinks I am (or expects Me to be). 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 assembly 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.
(Bukhari, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, and Ibn-Majah).

I'm not just walking with a spring in my step, I'm skipping, jumping, and running to Allah, subhaana wa taala! Come on, skip with me!