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Allahumma salli ‘ala sayyidina Muhammadin wa alihi wa sallim

And they say, “What is this messenger that eats food and walks in the markets? Why was there not sent down to him an angel so he would be with him a warner?” (25.7)

If you know me or have read through my posts, you know I am obsessed with the idea of where, how, and when history and transcendence meet. This is the billion dollar question in religion – who authentically speaks on behalf of God. As a Muslim, I obviously believe that the life of the Prophet Muhammad was paradigmatic, upon him and his family blessings and peace. To believe in him as a Messenger from God is central to what Islam is all about. He was not just “a historical figure” – he was a bridge between the world that is empirical, and the much more real world that is unseen. And as a Sunni, I believe that the lives of the Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be well pleased with all of them) are paradigmatic as well, although they were not infallible nor sinless. In previous posts I have reflected on the legacy of Abu Bakr, ‘Uthman, and Abu Hurayra in particular. I reiterate here what I said already: “The primary reason I am a Sunni is because I believe that Ali, ‘Uthman, Umar, and Abu Bakr were all more beloved to Allah than myself.”

But one has to bring the past into the present. I have given all of my intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy to this task, and this is where I am at currently. Only God knows if I am guided or deluded, and may God save me from delusion! I believe in transparency, because if something is truly good and right, it holds up under fair scrutiny – too many false dogmas and oppressive hierarchies flourish under the rubrics of “mysteries,” “gnosis/ma’rifa,” and “secret doctrine/ta’lim.” So here is where my understanding of Islam in history meets the search for transcendence in contemporary Islam. It is a list of people, and the organizations they represent. It comes out of a recognition that religion requires leadership, and I am most interested in being a follower of a follower of a follower. This is not exhaustive by any means, nor is it meant to denigrate anyone else, nor to even say that these are the best that are out there. It it just to say that this is where my Islam moves beyond words on a computer screen and enters the real life of David Coolidge trying to follow the Prophet Muhammad (upon him peace) in 21st century America.

I openly affiliate myself with them and their organizations (such as by liking their pages on Facebook, posting videos in support, etc.), but most importantly, I give the bulk of my zakat and sadaqa to them, as a means of hoping that Allah will be pleased with me. There is nothing that quite gets to the heart of hoping in the reality of transcendence like giving your money to someone for the sake of God, and I give to the aforementioned organizations because I cannot give directly to the Prophet (upon him peace) or his representative. But I put the people’s names first because Allah does not judge organizations, which are abstractions – Allah judges flesh and blood human beings. Most assuredly, these people and the organizations they represent are not above constructive criticism, but they are people who have helped me worship my Lord in palpable ways. I ask Allah to grant them all success (tawfiq) and facilitation (taysir) in their noble work, and to count me amongst their followers, ameen. Please keep them all in your duas!

Most importantly, as the end of Ramadan looms, when our thinking is clearest and our hopes highest, my prayer is that after the struggles of this world have passed, we will all be together in Paradise by the mercy of Allah, and be granted the blessings of visiting with the Prophets of God who walked this earth, upon them peace, and their righteous followers, may Allah have mercy on them. What stories our blessed predecessors must have to tell us in the course of eternity!

Islamic Knowledge and Guidance

Zaid Shakir (Zaytuna College and Ta’leef Collective)

Abdullah bin Hamid Ali (Lamppost Productions and Zaytuna College)

 

Community Building and Da’wah

Khalid Latif (Islamic Center at New York University and Honest Chops)

Usama Canon (Ta’leef Collective)

 

Domestic Social Justice

Rami Nashashibi (Inner City Muslim Action Network)

Salim Patel (Zakat Inspired)

 

International Social Justice

Nadia Alawa (NuDay Syria)

Hatem Bazian (American Muslims for Palestine and Zaytuna College)

 

And those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts any resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful.” (59.10)

 

āmīn yā Rabb!

Allahumma salli ‘ala sayyidina Muhammadin wa alihi wa sallim

still waiting

i am still waiting at the shore of Your sea

and You have always been

and always will be

my source of hope

The Most Merciful of those who show mercy

 

how many sins i have done!

i know You forgive all sins except one

but have You forgiven my sins

that i do not know

 

they swirl around me like frightful demons

biting and gnashing and screaming

but You are Light

and can drive them all away

evaporated instantly with Your Love

 

i need that

i need that more than anything

i need that more than the air i breath

and the water i drink

which are also Your Mercy!

 

how can i ever love and fear You as You deserve to be loved and feared?!

i am utterly incapable of reaching the rank of being anything other than Your slave, with whom You will do what You will

i have no rights except the right you grant to me out of Your Justice and Your Mercy

i am simply a beggar and a pleader, clothed in the signs of Your Grace, fed by the manifestations of Your Kindness

 

You are sovereign over every human breath, of which mine are only a drop in the ocean

one day soon, i long to meet You, al-Raḥmān bi’l-ghayb

and i only ask that until that time, You bless me to sell myself – my body and everything i have – for You alone

 

stained by sin

all I have is a drink of water to give a thirsty dog

but most importantly

hope

It is related in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace) once told a story to illustrate the importance of sincerity: “The first person judged on Resurrection Day will be a man martyred in battle. He will be brought forth, Allah will reacquaint him with His blessings upon him and the man will acknowledge them, whereupon Allah will say, ‘What have you done with them?’ to which the man will respond, ‘I fought to the death for You.’ Allah will reply, ‘You lie. You fought in order to be called a hero, and it has already been said.’ Then he will be sentenced and dragged away on his face and flung into the fire. Then a man will be brought forward who learned Sacred Knowledge, taught it to others, and who recited the Qur’an. Allah will remind him of His gifts to him and the man will acknowledge them, and then Allah will say, ‘What have you done with them?’ The man will answer, ‘I acquired Sacred Knowledge, taught it, and recited the Qur’an, for Your sake.’ Allah will say, ‘You lie. You learned so as to be called a scholar, and read the Qur’an so as to be called a reciter, and it has already been said.’ Then the man will be sentenced and dragged away on his face to be flung in the fire. Then a man will be brought forward whom Allah generously provided for, giving him various kinds of wealth, and Allah will recall to him the benefits given, and the man will acknowledge them, to which Allah will say, ‘And what have you done with them?’ The man will answer, ‘I have not left a single kind of expenditure You love to see made, except that I have spent on it for Your sake.’ Allah will say, ‘You lie. You did it so as to be called generous, and it has already been said.’ Then he will be sentenced and dragged away on his face to be flung into the fire.”

This is one of the most spiritually challenging hadiths that I know of. We are presented with three archetypes of people who devote their life to religious matters in an outward fashion. One has sacrificed their life, one has sacrificed their time, and the other has sacrificed their wealth. Each of them has made an extraordinary effort, and yet they have failed to reach the desired goal. This is because while their bodies were apparently with Allah, their hearts were with people.

What does it mean to do something purely for the sake of Allah? This question is as important for all of us to ask as it is difficult to answer. In the Qu’ran it states: “Say: Surely, I am but a human being like you; it is revealed to me that your God is One God. So the one who hopes to meet his Lord must do righteous deeds and not associate anyone in the worship of their Lord.” (Sūrah al-Kahf, verse 110)

We attend the Friday prayer out of a belief that it constitutes a “righteous deed,” but our worship is not complete until it is for God alone. We could ask ourselves a variety of introspective questions: Do we pray so that we feel like a good person? To tell our parents or our spouse that we attend jumu’ah regularly? To reaffirm our Muslim identity? To see a friend, or someone that we are romantically interested in? To get a mental break from our daily schedule? Thinking about such questions helps us to understand why we do what we do. These other motives are not inherently bad; for example, there is nothing wrong with being excited about meeting up with friends at jumu’ah. But we should have a clarity in our hearts about our primary reason for attending jumu’ah, or engaging in any other communal act of worship. We must tell ourselves that we would still come to pray even if our friends chose not to.

Saying the phrase “lā ilāha ill Allāh,” whether out loud or silently, is a powerful means to increasing our sincerity. It is a sword by which we cut through the various delusions that make us think that there is anything more deserving of our attention than Allah. Are governments to be feared? lā ilāha ill Allāh. Are beautiful people to be desired? lā ilāha ill Allāh. Is money to be sought after? lā ilāha ill Allāh. Is our well-being ultimately in the hands of a doctor? lā ilāha ill Allāh. As the Qur’an states: “Say: Will you worship other than Allah that which has no power to benefit or harm you, while Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing?!” (Sūrah al-Mā’ida, verse 76)

Reflecting on this verse helps us to realize that everything we want, in this world and the next, is with Allah. This does not mean that we negate the “asbāb” (the proper means that are taken in order to attain a certain goal), such as going to a doctor in order be cured. But the doctor is not the one who cures; it is Allah who ultimately cures, by means of the doctor. And the more we realize this truth, the more we turn to Allah with sincerity, knowing that only Allah can give and take away.

We fear so many things. We fear getting cancer, we fear being harassed at the airport, we fear being alone, we fear saying the wrong thing – but it is only Allah who is truly deserving of our fear (khawf). We hope in so many things. We hope in our family, we hope in our friends, we hope in our careers, we hope in our religious leaders – but it is only Allah who is truly deserving of our hope (rajā’). If Allah is pleased with us, then there is nothing in the world to fear, and no need to hope for anything else. Allah has said, “Behold! Truly, on the friends of Allah there shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (10.62)

This is an exalted level, and it is to this height that we are climbing. We must strive for righteous deeds, we must try to manifest sincerity, we must turn to Allah alone and ask for every noble quality. Along the way, we will begin to discover what little control we have over our own lives. Each step on the path will lead us further and further into Allah’s embrace, and further and further away from our own selves and our attachment to this world. We will begin to understand why we say, when someone passes away, innā li’llāhi wa innā ilayhi rājiʿun (to God we belong and to Him we are returning). We will willingly embrace the reality of our life and our inevitable death. And as we progress, we will begin to see that when we thought in the past that we had been sincere, we were actually far from sincerity. There is no fooling the One who knows every secret we have ever hid from others, and even the secrets we try to hide from our own selves.

As is stated in a well-known ḥadīth, Allah does not look at our outward forms. In our spiritual path, it ultimately does not matter whether we are a male or a female, an Arab or an ʿajam (non-Arab), well-dressed or simply attired. What matters is the state of our hearts, which is known as “amīr al-badan,” the commander of the body, and the actions that reflect the states of our hearts. And since even impressive outward actions, such as those mentioned at the beginning, are no guarantee that one is on the straight path, we must get real with our selves in the presence of our Lord. In many instances, sincerity simply means that we admit to ourselves that which Allah already knows. It is only after we see ourselves more clearly that we can walk more sincerely towards Allah. If I look within, and see doubt, then at the very least I can ask Allah to strengthen my faith. If I look within and see a desire to sin, then at the very least I can ask Allah to fill my heart with repentance. If I look within, and see a desire to be praised by people, then at the very least I can ask Allah for the inspiration to worship Him alone. But if I am veiled from the realities of my own soul, from what is actually going on inside me, then I am lost. I might end up doing the outward actions of the people of Paradise, but have a heart that is leading me to the Fire. May Allah save all of us, and our loved ones, from such a fate, āmīn.

“To God belongs everything that is in the heavens and everything that is on the earth. Whether you disclose what is in yourselves or hide it, God will call it to account. And He will forgive whomsoever He wills and punish whomsoever He wills, and God is powerful over all things.” (Sūrah al-Baqara, verse 284)

longing

What do I know of shawq?!

How many nights have I stayed awake,

ceaselessly crying?!

How many days have I labored,

endlessly yearning?!

Simply for a glimpse of Your Face.

Instead I remain distracted,

in a world of forms,

obsessed with small gifts,

that You give or withhold with perfect wisdom.

Would that I looked a little further,

to the horizon of nearness,

and lost all concern for whatever lies between.

The petty joys – children, lovers, homes, achievements – that we delight in,

make me so sad

when I see their place in my heart,

for they mean I am a liar.

Yet You remain patiently waiting

for us

to begin to notice You.

One day

You will show us

how beautiful You always were

and our hearts will break

over and over again

remembering every moment we spent

longing for anything

or anyone

other than You.

Eid Night

no one will know the secrets of my heart

no one will taste the wind on my lips

no one will see the weaves of destiny through my eyes

no one will understand

except You

Master of Orchestra

Architect of Narrative

Fashioner of Scene

Designer of Wardrobe

 

Greatest Love

Who has written me into Your magical story

لا إله إلا الله

If one asked, “What is Islam?”, I would say to read: Submission, Faith, Beauty: The Religion of Islam

If one asked, “What is the Qur’an?”, I would say to read: The Qur’an: A New Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

If one asked, “Who is Muhammad?”, I would say to read: Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources

If one asked, “Is the Qur’an accurately preserved?”, I would say to read: The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation

If one asked, “Are the hadith (statements of and stories about Muhammad) accurately preserved?”, I would say to read: Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development and Special Features

If one asked, “What happens when I die?”, I would say to read: The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife

and God knows better (wa Allahu a’lam)

Time to start reading…

IMG_20140223_061031061

Unity

On this day, trusting in the decree of Allah, I think of the unity that was lost. I think of the man who was the husband of two of the daughters of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. I think of the man who gave all of his wealth not once, but twice, for the sake of Allah. I think of Uthman, may Allah be well pleased with him. He was our Caliph, and if he were to walk this Earth today, I would leave everything behind to see him and listen to him speak. If he were to command, I would obey. But he lies buried in al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, and we remain here on the surface.

I once listened to a lecture in which the shaykh said that the question of what to do with the Muslim who does not pray was not even brought up until later generations. In the era of Uthman, it was impossible to think that someone would be a Muslim and not pray. How far we have fallen! Now we think that if someone prays all five prayers on time, they are a “practicing Muslim,” as if it were an option. We seek refuge in Allah from being deluded by the delusions of this age, ameen!

In days gone by, tens of thousands of Muslims working together changed the course of history. In our time, it is hard to get a couple dozen to sit down and figure out how to make something happen. It is as if no one feels that they owe anything to anyone else. It is as if we have forgotten what we once were. It is as if when Uthman’s sacred blood hit the pages of the Qur’an, all bets were off and it was each Muslim for himself, down to the present day.

But I will hold onto the dreams of yesterday, for they will repel the nightmares of today. If I pledge allegiance to Uthman in my heart, then perhaps Allah will save me from the trials that beset a leaderless nation.

O Possessor of All Sovereignty, it was Your decree that has deprived us of the physical company of Uthman, and we are content with Your decree.

Grant us that his memory may be alive in our hearts, that we may meet him in our dreams, and enjoy his company in gardens underneath which rivers flow.

Inspire within us knowledge like his, righteousness like his, charisma like his, and steadfastness like his.

Help us to stand steady in ranks with each other, like those who marched together under Uthman’s command.

Please send Uthman the rewards of every letter of Qur’an that I have ever recited myself, heard recited, or read from a page, for it was through him that the Qur’an reached me intact.

Forgive us our sins and magnify our good actions, O Most Merciful of Those Who Show Mercy! Which of our deeds can we hope will compare with being the faithful and kind husband of the daughters of Your Messenger! Which of our projects can we hope will equal the compilation of the Qur’an or the conquest of Tripoli, whose rewards continue to multiply over 1300 years after the fact!

We are the servants of Your servants of Your servants, Ya Allah, and we know that no matter how lost we feel sometimes, You are always with us and wishing us well. On this day, wish the whole Muslim ummah well. The Sunnis, the Shi’is, the Salafis, and the Sufis. The Rich, the Poor, the Powerful and the Weak. The Right, the Left, the Straight, and the Crooked. The Intelligent, the Dim, the Righteous, and the Evildoers. Bless them all, Ya Allah, bless them all.

I am simply one of them, one of Uthman’s subjects.

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