Friday, May 24, 2013

As salaamu alaikum,

There is no metaphor I know that can exactly describe memorizing Qur'an. It's more crunchy and sweet than a box of chocolates, and more time and energy consuming than a marathon. It is a way of life. It is a thing that fills the whole soul, thoughts, and aspirations of a person before one knows it. It is a correcting lens that gives perspective to the physical and spiritual eye. It is a soothing balm that covers and heals the bruises and suffering of the heart. It is the friend who always knows just what to say even when one doesn't want to hear it. It is conversation with Allah Almighty. Read it. Know it. Well.

Friday, May 25, 2012

As salaamu alaikum,

Just wanted to share some insights on modesty from Master Yoda.

There is a lot to talk about regarding the spiritual side of modesty, so I'll try to keep it brief.

1. Modesty is an expression for one's love for Allah and seeking his forgiveness:
In the Quran, Allah instructs the Prophet to tell us "if you love Allah then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive your sins."
One of the greatest traits of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was his remarkable level of modesty. By following his example, we establish our love for Allah and open ourselves to receiving His love and forgiveness.

2. We draw nearer to Allah through ascending through levels of modesty:
When we talk about modesty, we must understand that there are levels. There is the obligatory level, which is the most beloved to Allah, because all of the other levels build upon that level. Allah says in a hadith Qudsi: "The most beloved thing to Me that a person can do to draw nearer to me is doing that which I have made obligatory upon him."
The obligatory level consists of being modest in public by concealing one's 'Awra (the legally-defined private areas of the body) and refraining from all forms of sexual deviance. The higher levels of modesty consists of being modest in private, in your own household with your family and even with yourself. The Prophet's modesty at home was at such a high level that, although they had healthy marital relationships, his wives didn't look at his private parts. nor did he expose himself in such a way. This is narrated in a hadith of 'Aisha: "I never looked at the Prophet's private parts and never saw them."
Then, the levels of modesty continue to strengthen until we become modest with the Jinn and the angels. This modesty can strengthen so much that, as one scholar said, "the unseen will become like the seen," such that you become so aware of the angels' presence that it will be as if you see them plainly.
A person can become so conscious of his modesty with the angels that the angels will become shy of him! This is a level the companion Uthman b. 'Affan reached.
The Prophet encourages us to observe this level of modesty in a hadith: The Prophet said, "Didn't I forbid you from nakedness? Didn't I forbid you from nakedness? There are beings [angels] that never leave you in the day or night, except when you are engaged with your spouse or when you are using the bathroom, so lo, be modest with them, and lo, be honorable with them."

We are even advised to be modest with the jinn as well, even though we generally don't see them. This is achieved by creating a spiritual veil between us and them when taking our clothes off by saying, "bismillah aladhi la ilaha illa hu", as indicated in hadith. The translation of it is: "In the Name of whom there is no god other than Him."

And finally, and most importantly, the highest level is being in a constant station of modesty with Allah at all times, even when we are asleep, and even in our dreams.
This level is affirmed in a hadith, when, one day, the Prophet told the people to cover their 'Awrah (legally-defined private areas of the body) from everyone except their spouses, they asked, "what if we are alone, o Messenger?" He replied, 'Allah is more deserving of your modesty than the people."

3. The more modesty and shyness we have with Allah, the more shyness Allah will have with us. He will refrain from punishing us because of this. We know this because the Prophet mentioned a man who was shy with Allah, and hence Allah was shy with him. And Allah's shyness is manifested by saving us from his punishment and answering dua.

4. Hence, modesty and faith are linked. As believers, we cannot increase our faith without increasing our modesty. If one increases the other increases.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Modesty and faith are linked, if one of them increases the other will increase."
Similarly, if our modesty decreases our faith will decrease. Hence the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "Modesty and faith are linked, once one of them is taken away, the other will follow."

Modesty is such an important part of Islam that Islam is almost defined by it. Hence, the hadith, "Every religion has a outstanding attribute, and the attribute of Islam is modesty."

5. In light of this, it must be said that the hijab is only one part of the multi-dimentional state of modesty.
Moreover, hijab is only a partial, yet fundamental, part of the spiritual station of modesty. In a broad sense, modesty encompasses our speech, our eyes, our movements, even our thoughts, as well as our dress. Yet, we must note here that without practicing physical modesty, spiritual modesty can not increase. Hence, outward modesty is vital to one's spiritual growth.
This is why the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Whoever doesn't have modesty with Allah in public will not have modesty with Allah in private."
And regarding the topic of the hijab, it is said that the Prophet said, "A woman that removes her veil outside of her home has removed the veil [of modesty] between her and Allah."
So the hijab, in all of its components, is a vital part of a woman's relationship with Allah. It serves as a doorway that leads to many spiritual openings and secrets. In fact, it plays such a profound role in a woman's relationship with Allah that Allah explicitly mentions that the Virgin Mary's adorning of the hijab was a prelude for the immediate arrival of Prophet Jesus, peace and blessings be upon them both.

Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.

She took up a Hijab (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God."

He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.

These are just some of the spiritual aspects of modesty. As with all spiritual stations, they can only truly be realized by experience. Words can't do justice to these realities.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Closing Statements

As salaamu alaikum,

Yesterday morning I finished Ali Imran. It was an expanding experience. I had a conversation with Master Yoda which I was never previously able to engage in. Not only did I gain a better understanding of sura Baqara, but I also learned about how and who can interpret Qur'an, the place of Christians and Jews in Islam, lineage of the prophets, Saint Maryum (Mary) God's peace be upon her, and so much more.

I feel like I've entered a peaceful room. Ali Imran has satiated my thirst for a cool drink of water and created a stream of knowledge to my heart. I hope I continue to be illuminated by the endless knowledge Allah has revealed to us in this sura. May Allah firmly establish it in our hearts.

Let's see. Maybe we can summarize some of it's awesomeness.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tha-moon? What's that?

As salaamu alaikum,

Do you know what a thumun is? What about a nisf? A rubu'? Yeah I didn't either. But these are all divisions of the hizb which is 1/2 of a juz. There are 30 ajzaa' (juz plural) in the Qur'an so there are 60 ahzab (hizb plural I think) in the Qur'an. When taking a memorization approach to the Qur'an it is the hizb that serves as the main marker of progress, not the juz. For me it seems to make it easier to get through more of the Qur'an faster. While the divisions of the hizb make it easier to revise and maintain the memorization.

A hizb is divided three ways. First is in half, simple enough. One half hizb is one quarter juz, easy. This is called a nisf. Next is the rubu' one quarter of a hizb or 1/8 of a juz. Followed by the smallest division, a thumun, one eighth of a hizb or 1/16 of a juz.

I had to learn this because in order to memorize Qur'an I must have structure and form, both of which I must struggle to attain. But isn't that what Islam is? To train the self in the inner and outer forms of worship? Which brings me to the new Qur'an schedule: a thumun a day five to six days a week. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Pray... for me.

It used to be that I could not sit for two hours and read Qur'an non-stop. But now that I am able to do that (ALLAHU AKBAR) I must move on to the next stage, which is to be able to sit and read three or more ajza' nonstop, from memory, without being distracted. This is hard. Oh My!!! This is hard.

It's more intense than Master Yoda's training in the art of using the force. I have to free my mind from everything around me and concentrate fully on Allah and His last message to humanity. Then suddenly I'll hear the kettle whistling in the kitchen and I'll start thinking about peppermint tea with cream and honey. "No, no! Focus, concentrate." I tell my self. Then the phone rings. Then I have to use the bathroom. Then I can't remember my place so I have to go back to the last aya I remember reciting and continue on from there. Then My stomach starts talking to me, and I take a few sips of water to quiet it because it's not not for a smoothie break yet. and on, and on and on...

Trying to control my thoughts is like being on the battle field with Satan, sword in my hand, and he keeps throwing spit balls at me. I'm so annoyed from the slime hitting my face and sides (wham, whAM, SPLASH) that I cannot get close enough to cut him down at last. But that's the battle. And as long as I remain on the field of Qur'an, I will win it eventually.

Master Yoda once told me that if a person dies while in pursuit of memorizing the Qur'an, she/he gets the reward of completing it. That is a comforting thought.

Friday, September 10, 2010

As salaamu alaikum

Ramadan Mubarak to all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ali 'Imran: Ayah 7

As salaamu alaikum,

Ramadan Mubarak.

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.

So finally we have reached aya 7. Praise God!!! And there is much contained within this verse. We also get more examples of the link between Ali 'Imran and Suratul-Baqara, but I'm not going to go into that just yet.

This aya explains the types of verses that are found in the Qur'an, and what our approach to understanding each should be. There are at least two types of ayaat: the fundamental verses of established meaning, which are the basis of the book, and the allegorical -open to interpretation- verses, the others.

Since Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, has given us verses that are open to interpretation, He has also given us clear guidelines, based on the fundamental verses, whereby we may interpret the allegorical verses. In other words the allegorical verses can only be interpreted into a meaning that is supported by the clear verses of the Qur'an.

In the dictionary allegory means: a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. This definition further clarifies my intended meaning, in that a hidden meanings in the Qur'an can become apparent to anyone but those meanings must be supported by the established verses of the Qur'an in order to be valid. The difference, however, is that these verses go beyond the mere interpretability indicated in the definition, rather Allah has intended with them more than one meaning, and we diminish our understanding of the Qur'an if we try to suppress some of its meanings for any reason.

A good example of this is in sura Al-Baqara aya 228:

And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses

Is the meaning of "three courses" three menstrual cycles or three cycles of purity? The answer is both. Both meanings are intended and both are used. One of the wisdoms I see in this is the lenience and mercy of Allah to us. He gives us different ways to do the same thing so that everyone can practice at least one thing easily.

Then aya 7 says:

But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings

My first impulse from reading the english interpretation of this aya is that it must be bad to "follow the part that is allegorical," but is that what Allah is saying? Reading the verse in arabic as Allah revealed it, (with the help of master Yoda of course) I see that "following the part that is allegorical" is connected to something else "seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings." And all of that together is the attribute of one with a perverse heart. And that leads to my next question

What does it mean to have a perverse heart and to seek discord? I'm thinking hard now, because there is much from the Qur'an that we use to divide ourselves. Could an example of this perversity be in those who want to practice homosexuality and claim that it is not a sin by twisting and reshaping the words of Qur'anic interpretations? Or could an example of this be some of our sisters who don't want to cover their hair and they twist the words of the Qur'an stating that it is only necessary to cover the "bosom." Hmmm...

I wonder what can be at the root of all this? The common threads I keep returning to are a lack of submission and a lack of knowledge. The Qur'an is clear and everything that is unclear is explained in detail in the hadith. So what's the problem? I hope the end of this aya can explain this for us.

"but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge..."

In the Qur'an there is no punctuation so let me show you another meaning of this aya without the punctuation.

"but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge"

Here Allah shows us the qualification for one to interpret the Qur'an: a firm grounding in knowledge. The Prophet interpreted the Qur'an and gave some of his companions the ability to do this as well. The best example I can think of is Ibn Abbas.

Back to that point about submission. How can we submit to Allah if we don't know what He has commanded us to submit to? This part of the aya demonstrates to us who has the right to interpret the Qur'an: those firmly grounded in knowledge. Like the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. And those among the companions who were given permission to interpret the Qur'an like ibn Abbas, and the scholars of the past who systematically categorized knowledge so that the later generations would have access to it.

يقولون (They) "say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding."

I believe in the book the whole of it is from Allah, and I pray He makes us people of understanding.

Yes I know those last two paragraphs are redundant. But I couldn't figure out a better way to say it. hmmm.................hmmm........... nope....
I got nothing

Monday, May 3, 2010

The End of My Challenge

As salaamu alaikum,

May 1, 2010 was my deadline for the challenge. No I didn't win and complete the sura, but I made it to aya 43 (yaay!!!) and that was a challenge indeed. How did you do? Did you get at least 1 aya? If you did alhamdulillah. If you didn't alhamdulillah.

But I tell ya... Even though I completely bummed out, I didn't make it halfway to my goal :( , I surely am excited. Even though I can still, just audibly, hear the creeping whispers of shaitan trying to discourage me from moving forward, I am mightily excited indeed. I'm sure you're wondering why I am so excited even though I didn't complete the sura. So I'll tell you.

The reason I am memorizing Qur'an is not only to finish it and be able to know that I memorized the book of Allah, but it is so that I can be purified, completed, and perfected by the book of Allah. Any progress I make towards that goal is mightily exciting indeed.

The only thing I am disappointed about is that I failed to keep you posted as I progressed through the signs of Allah. I got stuck on aya 7, and just couldn't seem to get passed that blockage. But with the help of Allah, anything is possible. So Bismillah (in the name of God) on with the show!