Monday, April 23, 2012

Islamic History: Expand your Definition


When did Islamic history begin? Most people would probably say that Islamic history started with the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (saws), or with the beginning of the Quran's revelation, but Prophet Muhammad (saws) wasn't the founder of Islam, despite what your ninth grade global history textbook may have led you to believe. Muhammad (saws) was the FINAL messenger of God, the last in a long line of prophets teaching, living, and experiencing Islam. So you might be better off saying that Islamic history begins with the first prophet, Adam (as). After all, he was the first Muslim, right? Well, he was the first Muslim PERSON, but not the first Muslim. The angels existed before Adam (as), and there were even jinns worshipping Allah. We too often forget that humans are not the only Muslims. The plants, the animals, the mountains, the sky, all of creation is Muslim, all of creation worships and submits to Allah. So I guess you could say that Islamic history began at the moment of creation, because as long as there has been creation, there has been Islam. So learn about the Prophet (saws) and his companions, but also spend time learning what you can about the prophets that came before, Moses, Jesus, Abraham, David, Solomon (as). And don't just study the prophets. Learn about everything, from the beginning, from the formation of the planets and the stars, to the rise and fall of civilizations, to what's happening here and now, because all of history is Islamic history. Wassalaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullah.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why So Many Religions?

What of I told you that all the religions in the world originated from a single way of life sent by God to humanity over and over throughout the ages? What if I told you that, over time, people altered and changed what they had been originally taught by the prophets, creating new religions that were partly from God and partly from man.  What if I told you that that original way of life was Islam? See, Islam is not a new religion by any means. God has been sending prophets to teach it to us for as long as there have been people. However, just because God sends a prophet doesn't mean everything is guaranteed to go perfectly. For one, not all people accepted the prophets that were sent to them. Other times, prophets were accepted by their people, but after time went by, changes crept into the religion. Whether by a deliberate attempt to alter the teachings or through a sincere but misguided effort to do good, or even by knowledge simply being lost or forgotten or confused over time, parts of the religion were discarded and new foreign practices were added in, to the point that this was no longer the same religion. Even if new prophets were sent to correct these deviations, they may not have been believed by their people. Most of the major religions in the world today probably originated, at least in part, from a true prophet of God teaching this simple message of submission to God, the message of Islam. However, as changes and deviations occurred, and outside influences became dominant, over time it became so different, so removed from the original that new religions were formed. So when we look at the religions of the world today, we don't say all religions are all wrong except for Islam. Rather, we recognize the truth that exists in all religions from their origins, but see that Islam is the full truth, the universal message of God, and the only way to truly and completely live for God on His terms.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What are Prophets?

As we discussed in previous post, being a Muslim means living your life according to God's will, but we were left with the question, how can we know what God wants from us? Well, at the very least everyone is born with what we call fitra, sort of like your conscience or an innate morality. We all have a natural sense of right and wrong and an inclination towards the divine, but that alone isn't enough to provide sound, comprehensive guidance for every aspect of our lives. That's where prophets come in. So what exactly is a prophet? It's a valid question. Even those who have an understanding of religion are often fuzzy on exactly what it means to be a prophet. Thankfully, Islam provides the necessary clarification. Simply put, prophets are people chosen by God to communicate with humanity on His behalf. Prophets teach us how to live the way God wants us to live and call us back to God's path when we have gone astray. God communicates with his Prophets through divine revelation. Since the beginning of humanity, every society on earth has received prophets who delivered the message of submission to God, and throughout history there have been thousands upon thousands prophets, including many well known prophets mentioned in the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, peace be upon them. Among the Prophets there are a some who have the special title of Messenger. Messengers are the prophets who bring new revealed scriptures. While the basic message of Islam is always the same, each new messenger brings a divinely updated version of the message tailored to the time and the place. Prophets who are not messengers simply remind us to follow what we have already been sent and correct us where necessary, which leads us into another question: If God sent all of these prophets always teaching the same way of life, why are there so many religions? You'll just have to wait until next time to find out inshaAllah. For this time, thanks for reading. Peace be upon you. Assalaamu alaikum. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Islam is like water


I think Islam is like water. Everyone in the world needs it. There are sources of it all around the earth. It's a little different everywhere you go. It's natural.

Some people have polluted their water supply to the point that it causes them harm, but they drink it anyway. Some people have no water at all. These people I want to help. I will do what I can to provide them with clean water to drink.

Some people are so obsessed with making water "pure" that they distill it to the point that all of the natural minerals are gone and it has no flavor. They insist that this how water is supposed to be, but in reality, water is never naturally like this.

Others want to import their water from overseas. They insist that this water is the best water and they force it on their children, when in reality that water is no better than others. In fact, the local water may even be cleaner.

Some think it doesn't matter what we drink, that we should just relax and drink from the tap like everybody else, when in reality that water has chemicals that we should be smart enough to avoid.

My advice? Don't be too strict or too loose, but take moderate approach. Don't limit yourself to only a certain kind of water, but be open to new sources, and don't obsess over its purity, but definitely put it through a filter. Most of all, remember that water is a blessing from the Divine, so be thankful that you have it and share it with those who need it.

(PS- Click the photo)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who is a Muslim?

When most people picture a Muslim, they don't picture somebody who looks like me. I mean, let's be honest. If I asked you what does a Muslim look like, there's a good chance that your first thoughts would be: tan skin, long beard, frowning face, funny hat. While that might be the popular image of a Muslim, it's far from accurate. In reality, Muslims come in all colors shapes and sizes. A Muslim is just someone who believes in and practices Islam, someone who does their best every day to live the way God wants them to live. That's it. Anyone can be a Muslim. You don't have to be Arab or Pakistani or have a name like Ahmed or Hamza. Muslims are from all over. We come from places like Malaysia and Ecuador and Ireland and America. We have names like Priya and Lisa and Minkailu and Peter. Some of us are raised in Muslim families, and some of us embrace Islam later in life. Yet even with such diversity, all Muslims around the world are part of one Ummah, or community, and we see each other as brothers and sisters in Islam. There are over a billion Muslims on earth, but if any two meet each other, they will exchange the same greeting: assalaamu 'alaikum (peace be upon you). Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, with new people becoming Muslim daily, and I can attest to this, as I get messages every week from people telling me that they're falling in love with Islam and that they want to become Muslim. So why are so many people looking to embrace Islam as a way of life? Well, you'll just have to continue following this series to find out. Thanks for reading, and until next time, peace be upon you. Assalaamu 'alaikum.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Which Do You Love Best?"

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Ever Merciful.

The messenger  of Allah (saws) was such an amazing individual, it was impossible for him to say anything except the truth. He was asked by his wife Aisha (raa), "Which of your wives do you love best?" Now, if you know much about the life of the Prophet (saws), then you know how much he loved Aisha. He once said to his daughter Fatima (raa), "Don't you love what I love?" She responded, "Yes." He said, "Then love Aisha." He had an incredibly strong love for Aisha, and yet when she asked him,  "Which of your wives do you love best?" what did he say (saws)? He said, "Khadijah." Who was Khadijah? Khadijah was his first wife. She was the one he was married to for years before he even became the messenger of Allah (saws). She was the one who comforted and consoled him on the night of his first revelation from the Divine, when he ran to her crying in a state of fear and shock, saying to her, "cover me up." She was the first to believe in him and accept Islam. So when Aisha (raa) asked him, "Which of your wives do you love best?" he (saws) said, "Khadijah." And Aisha (raa) said, Why do you love Khadijah better? She's long dead, and I'm younger..." and this and that, and the Prophet (saws) became upset, and he said, "Khadijah was with me when everybody had abandoned me. She gave me wealth and supported me…" Subhanallah, think about this. What normal man would say that to the wife that he was going to be living with now, about the previous wife. You'd except him to say, no I prefer you. But the Prophet (saws) was not a normal man. She asked him, and he told her the truth. This was the exceptional character of the messenger of Allah (saws).

"And indeed, you [O Muhammad] are of tremendous character" (Qur'an 68:4)

Friday, January 20, 2012

What is Islam?

While most religions are named after a person or a group of people, the word Islam actually describes the spiritual state of the believer. The word Islam means Submission, Submission to the will of God, and a Muslim is a person who strives to live in a state of Islam, to live life in a way that is pleasing to God. If you think about it, that's pretty much the goal of all religions, which is interesting, because Islam is seen by Muslims as being the original religion given by God to humanity.

Islam is understood to be the natural state of human existence. At birth, we are in a completely pure and natural state, aware of God and in sync with God's will. This innate nature we possess is known as our Fitra. This is why, according to Islamic belief, we are all born as Muslims. Though we learn a particular tradition as we grow up, that Fitra remains within us. Whether we call it our conscience, or moral intuition, it's the reason we all know deep down that God exists, that we recognize basic right and wrong. For this reason, when someone who was not raised as a Muslim decides to embrace Islam, they are referred to not as a convert but as a revert, because they are returning the natural state in which they were born, recognizing and embracing their Fitra.

Islam is not a part-time religion, something you do once a week or only on holidays. Islam is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Islam influences everything we do, every choice we make, the way we interact with others, even the way we appreciate the world around us. So Islam is much more than just a religion. It is a complete deen, which is an Arabic word often translated as religion, but which truly means "way of life."

Now you might be asking yourself, "If Islam is Submission to God's will, how can I know that I'm living my life the way God wants me to live?" InshaAllah, God willing, we'll address that in the upcoming post on "Prophets."

"This day I have perfected for you your religion, completed My favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion."
(Qur'an 5:3)