Friday, 18 June 2010

Dear You- A Letter to my Readers as we've reached the End

Asalamu aliakuam wa rahmat Allah wa barkatoo and Helloooo,

REMEMBER how I started this blog? I started it off by a letter I had written to myself 4 years ago. Now, I’m writing to you.

Thank you, each and person who has read this blog and shared this journey with me. When I joined, I said that I was wondering “what the heck I’d gotten myself into” (yeah, and then I proceeded to welcome you in, lol), but I really had no idea. I didn’t expect to meet so many great people in such a short time.
I didn’t expect to get 1,000 views of this blog.

I had a lot of fun and it has been quite the adventure!



I would like to thank you, Naz, oldie goldie, Susanne, Rebecca, Moonsmile, Xenia, Jaime, Rand, Rene, heart &soul, forever learning lessons, Pancake, Texan in UAE, Sundus, athoofa,Ms.Chutkus, ummafraz, Noor, Zaiynab, UmmRania,Jonie, Carmon, Umm Yusuf,Jaz, Fatimah, Umm Hamza, MissMishMish, Amira, Hasnur, and many many more....


Thank you.

There would have been no blog without your encouragement, reflections and thoughts.

Thank you anon, as well! Each of you! Hehe!

Thank you for those who didn't comment but still took time out of their day to read what this little girl had to say :)

Thank you for those who chose to 'follow' me! You'll never know how happy you made me and how honored I was.

And now.....for my last post, I decided since I had begun with a letter  I had written 4 years ago, I would share a short anecdote I wrote about 5 years ago.

It's funny because again I think I'd forgotten the lesson, myself.

Just a Few Centimeters

My father’s delicate health (my laptop) lays balanced on my lap as my fingers score goal after goal on the keyboard. I’m sitting on my bed in my small room. I am aware that it is dim in the room but I can’t leave the keyboard and turn on the light. If I do, total chaos may result and I cannot be responsible for that! I mean, I may lose 60 seconds of my precious time…and besides, I am too busy responding to questions, posts, e-mails, and forwards. With each sentence that I type, I grow farther and farther away from my room, and closer and closer to saving the world. Somehow, I feel that if I don’t respond immediately to something…it will be gone forever. No! I don’t feel it. I know it.

My younger brother enters the room. I know this without taking my eyes off the hypnotizing computer screen. It is his tiny little duckling footsteps that give him away. “Oh, Honey bunny, since you’re in here, could you turn on the lights for me?” I flash him one of those “I’m your big sister and you’re my darling little baby,” smiles reserved only for younger siblings. And then he is gone. Not out of the room but gone from my thoughts….

A few seconds later, I see his fingers touch the button and brightness floods the room. I am startled. I blink a few times…how long have I been staring at this screen? Suddenly, as I see my little brother standing near the light, I am reminded of a time long ago….it is me: 4 and a half years ago, and I am still sitting on my bed. I am listening to the sounds of tiny little grunts. My brother is trying to do what I have asked him to do: turn on the light but it is a bit higher than he is. How silly of me to ask him! I forgot that he is a tiny miniature little human…a 5 year old. He stands in front of me, attempting to climb Mount Everest. His eyes are focused above. His tiny feet are pointing up as he attempts to stand on tipey toes. His fingers move up and up…they almost touch the button. They fail! Five minutes later and there still isn’t light in the room. I am almost tempted to tell him to forget it, but his face- his silhouette- is so deeply absorbed in this impossible task that I know it is now, or never. In fact, my adrenaline begins to run… “Can he do it?” I feel myself rooting for him with all my being. Suddenly, nothing matters but this moment. He stands again, his hands first clenched in defiance, and then slowly, he raises his chubby fingers up….

My sister enters the room at this moment. “Oh, here, let me help you!” She is about to turn on the light, without so much as stretching her finger, but my shout stops her. “NO! He can do it!”

He looks at me then. I stare back, confident in his ability…confident in him. My sister is staring too….only she is staring at me, wondering if I have lost my mind. And then, she realizes what is going on. And suddenly, she is cheering for our little brother too.

One more time. He stands up. Sweat lines his brows. His eyes are scrunched. He raises his arms....As high as he can. His fingers miss by an inch. Again and again…missing it by a centimeter…a millimeter…and then, suddenly the light is on…the room is bright. But nothing as bright as my brother’s triumphant smile and our mirroring ones.

He did it!

As the memory fades, I get up and turn off my laptop. I grab my now 9 and a half year old brother in a huge embrace. Today, I don’t really have the time to save the world. I’m too busy loving my brother.




The secret is out :D

Thursday, 17 June 2010

For my Single Girls...laughter is the best medicine

Me again! Thought there hasn't been much humor here lately ;)

This is the last guest piece to appear here written by my twin and it's for all my fellow single girlies :D



The Simple Truth 

      I have finally discovered the secret! It's taken me some time, but I have finally come to the conclusion that all matchmakers (mothers and "aunties" in the community) speak the same lingua as real estate agents, which, in turn, is the same lingua used by marketers. Now, when somebody begins to tell me about someone just "perfect" for me, I no longer begin to dream of my Prince Charming. Instead, I flip to "translation" mode and begin deciphering what they have to say.
    • "Is expecting a promotion": Has a very low salary but expects that he will eventually be given a promotion just like every other person in his company
    • "His parents are really eager to get him married and want to pay for all the expenses": This can mean either three things, all of which are scary.
    1) His parents are beginning to get worried about his lifestyle and believe that he may be thinking of engaging in inappropriate behavior.
    2) He doesn't have enough money to pay for the wedding and any expenses.
    3) His parents have begun to despair of him ever being accepted as a groom and are willing to pay as much as possible to buy off a bride.
    • "Loves his family": Will be expected to live with his parents and will always take his parents' side
    • "Has already bought a cozy apartment": Has bought an apartment so tiny that it is not possible to move without touching the walls
    • "Has a knack of fixing things": Whereas before I would have thought this was something positive and meant the potential groom was independent, now that I've accepted reality, I understand that this can only have two meanings:
    1. He's very clumsy and breaks things easily and thus, has been forced to learn how to fix things.
    1. He is cheap and does not like to spend any money on fixing things.
      "Is very proud of his Arabic heritage": Does not speak English and does not believe one should
      "Loves to talk": That is, loves to hear the sound of his own voice and has fallen in love with his own ideas
      "Thinks that women should work": Believes that women should have to pay for their own personal expenses
      "Is interested in someone very active in her community": Does not want someone who will expect him to want to do things together- would prefer that they live their own separate lives
      "Is very popular and sociable": Has added hundreds of people he doesn't know to his Facebook account
      "Is into the latest gadgets": Has no idea of how to balance a checkbook and is obsessed with having the latest modal (this is particularly dangerous since it could signal wavering eyes)
      "Is very active and sporty": Enjoys playing videogames every day
      "Is very culturally aware": Watches a LOT of TV
      "Is always the first to apologize": Gets into many arguments over trivial things
      "Has a very good build": Is overweight and unwilling to change his diet
      And of, course, the last one: "You might be wondering why he didn't get married already. It's simply because he hasn't found the right person yet": Is looking for an idealized version of women (a cross between Martha Stewart and Salma Hayeck), which does not exist. Would like his all-in-one: personal maid, chef, dry cleaner, and Barbie, etc.
            These are just some examples of how matchmakers twist their words. I really don't know why they can't just say it like it is. I mean I'm always very honest. All I say is "Sure, I have some faults, but really they're nothing. I'm just plain amazing"….just the plain simple truth.  
  ----



And one last one from me--





The Good Habits
By Dr. Sarira

  1. Procrastinate- this habit will get you out of many tiresome chores. For example: your mother calls you to come clean the table, but you are surfing the internet. Simply answer her, "in five minutes." Let five minutes pass. She might ask you again. Ask for a few more minutes. She might nag you about them, but just ignore her. And then, let a few more minutes pass. Then, a couple more. Keep postponing it for later until your mother gives up on you and does it herself or asks your sister to do it. This habit is also very important to use when it comes to studying for a test. If you don't master this skill of procrastination, some other student will; therefore, all your studying will go to waste, anyways. 

  1. Think of yourself first. Although it is difficult to always put your needs above everybody else's, this is a very important habit. If you develop this habit and nurture it from a young age, your siblings will never bother to ask you again for a piece of your chocolate cake. Also, if you manage to fully engrain this habit in your personality, you will find that standing in long queues, or driving in traffic will no longer seem so long and boring. So good at this you'll get (thinking of yourself first), pretty soon you'll be able to reach some mall before an ambulance can reach an emergency hospital! Literally. (All you have to do is always remember the Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you would like others to do for you.)

  1. Always work in teams. That is, whenever an assignment is due, stick yourself to some smart student and "work together as a team". You know what way I mean, right? Teamwork is all about one person doing all the work and the other one being part of the team.

  1. Blame everybody but yourself. If you want to be a President or "anybody" for that matter, your best hope is to blame everybody but yourself whenever a mistake arises. This is because you will make a mistake at some point in time. However, why let that get you down? I'm sure there is somebody in your past that bullied you, spoiled you, lied to you or etc. that you can simply blame the mistake on.

  1. Never be flexible. Remember to keep your schedule just the way you want it to be. If others need to talk to you or work with you, they can change their schedule. This habit will earn you lots of respect as others will soon see that you aren't a pushover. If you're hesitant to take up this habit, refer back to habit #2.

  1. Know how to read something written satirically in the right way. It could save you a lot of trouble.




 P.S.: Attention single Muslimahs! I just learned about Practimate's latest training available for free! It's called "How to Get Laser-Clarity on What You Could Offer to Your (future) Husband in Clear and Tangible Terms." It comes with other trainings and a private members area, masha'Allah.

You should get the training Implementation Mastery

Does that Make Me an Extremist? My Definition of Religious

Asalamu aliakuam wa rahmat Allah wa barkatoo and Hellooo!

We're on day 49 :)


Anyways, we're living in a time when many people don't want to be 'considered religious', and that's mainly because many people confuse 'what being religoius means'. I thought I would...come to the rescue and offer my definition (which is completely based on Islamic texts/traditions).



 

Being religious means being gentle to your parents, treating your neighbors good, having a connection with the Supreme Creator, the Compassionate and the Just.

Being religious means understanding your purpose on this Earth is to worship the One who created you, created the stars, the universe, the Earth.


Being religious means being peaceful, it means honoring your promises, it means treating people like brothers and sisters, it means not harming yourself or harming others, it means calling your friends with names that they like, not talking about people behind their back .

Being religious means trusting in Allah. It means loving Allah and taking Him as a Protector, and a Victor: He will bring you victory.

Being religious does not mean acting better than those who are not as knowledgable as you in religion (in terms of rules, etc.). Allah hates those who brag. Being religious does not mean judging people: you never know. Who ever you judge and deem as stupid and worthless, might be loved by Allah.

Being religoius does'nt mean 'knowing theoretical rules of religion and the hadiths' but going around bragging , acting superior to everyone, turning your back on others. That would be irreligious!
Being religious means fighting a war with Shaitan everyday against temptation. It means fighting ignorance and the dark.

Being religious means following these two ayas:"Allah commands you to do justice, kindness and give charity to relatives and forbids you from all acts of lewdness, evil, and rebellion." "(Men and women of Allah) Control their anger, and forgive people; Allah likes righteous people."
Being religious means giving charity; caressing the head of an orphan, forgiving people, and not accusing people of things they have not committed. It is not lying, it is saying the truth, it is not being racist. A white is not better than a black, and a Arab is not better than a foreigner and a foreigner is not better than an Arab except in taqwa (piety).

 
Being religious is striving to live the way Allah has ordained. It's repenting when making a mistake. It's giving the da'awa kindly and correcting mistakes gently. It's turning to Allah always, and always...
 
 
:)
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P.S. If you're wondering what jihad is, you can see anonymous's question in the Islam 101 post and my answer :)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

I loves....

Asalamu aliakam wa rahmat Allah wa barkatoo and HelloOo!

This post is gonna be a bunch of videos that I love ..
.
Warning: A tissue box might be handy ;)




This video shows how the world population would be if it was converted to 100. Very eye-opening and designed very well,  I guarantee you that when you close this video, you will be a different person. It's quite short, as well :)


2.  Think you've fallen down and you can't get up? Yes, YOU CAN.
[Start from 1:00 if you don't 'listen to music'],


3. Ummah Films- 'Arrogance'. I just love this one :) This guy's got a great sense of humor and a good message :D His short videos have been translated into several languages!



4. Jason, an Autistic basketball player, has the game of his life :)




5. [For my Muslim readers] Just one of the miracles of the Qur'an...




5. Romancing the Soul- Absolutely BRILLIANT...and they say we are the lost generation ;)




6. Besa is  a "code of honor" best exemplified in the lives of righteous, non-Jews helped Jews during the Holocaust. Muslims, Besa , and the Jews during World War II.





I hope you enjoyed these videos. Please share with me some of your favorites.
However, before I go, I would also like to request that everyone keep the Uzbek Muslims in their thoughts and prayers. A dear friend of mine has sent me a personal letter highlighting bits of what is going on. I asked her permission to share but gmail isn't opening for me. For now, you can read a bit about it here:

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/06/2010615144818317294.html



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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Underdog

The Underdog!

I’m watching the World Cup games and as usual, I’m cheering for the ‘underdog’ team to win. I always cheer the underdog.

And whenever I see an underdog team win, I remember. ..

Let me take you with me back to 2001.

I had just moved to a new school (the international one I was telling you guys about) and I was supposed to be starting 7th grade.

That meant, that I would be taking 7th grade Arabic. In the school that I had attended previously, I had studied Arabic but the majority of the students had not, and it had been regarded as ‘an extra, minor subject”.
The new school I enrolled in…saw it much more differently.

In fact, it turned out that Arabic had the same amount of credit points as ‘Math”, “English”, “Science”. That meant, it counted.

Very seriously.

[The language that was considered ‘a minor subject’ was French. We all had to take it, but it didn’t really count much. And yeah, when I joined, I knew zero French! But that’s another story ;)]

I remember looking around me in my Arabic class and realizing that that in terms of the skills of reading, writing, speaking I was – how to put this lightly- far behind the other students.

That was not very good for the self-esteem of a *teacher-proclaimed perfectionist*.

I was used to getting straight A’s in all/most of my subjects, but man,
I could tell I would not be getting an in A in that Arabic class!

In fact, it was obvious to me and everyone, that I was one of ‘the worst’ in the class.

I also still remember the very first test we had in that class and the way I studied for it for hours. I memorized all the vocabulary words, their meanings, went over the questions that we covered in class again and again, etc.

The day of the test I was ready.

When I saw the test paper,
I wanted to cry.

The first question was a ‘comprehension passage’. One of the questions he had asked us was for us to read passage, understand its context, and provide the antonym for a selected word.

I understood the passage. I understood the meaning of that selected word in that context. But I could not for the life of me remember the Arabic antonym of it. I just didn’t have that vocabulary ‘at my disposal’.

Another question he asked was ‘provide the singular or plural’ form of the following word (I can’t remember which). In English, this would be a ridiculous question since plurals are formed by adding an ‘s’. Not so, in Arabic. Although we have 2 ‘obvious patterns’, we also have one form known as the ‘Broken Plural”, sorta like the English exceptions. I knew the teacher wasn’t trying to be hard but again, I had no idea what the answer was.

There were several other questions, as well. They were all ‘basic’ questions, things that were meant to raise your grade not lower your grade, but they really weren’t helping mine!

I still remember my grade. I ended up getting a 23 out of 30.

Basically a C+.

The funny thing was that my teacher was so impressed with that. 

Yeah, you could tell he didn’t think I was going to do to good in that class, either.

I mean, I remember him actually suggesting that if I was able to get that, the other students should have done really well, too. [He said that because by then he knew that I hadn’t studied Arabic the way they had and that unlike many of them, English was my native language, so he wasn’t trying to be offensive. Unlike me, they had messed up on the stuff that we had gone over in class, lol.]

Anyways, I could not accept getting a C in my report card. It wasn’t about the grade. It was that I knew in my heart, I could do better. I could!

And this has always been one of the rules I have lived by: if you can do better, than do better. No excuses. Even if means a lot more work, a lot more time, do it. Give the world the best you’ve got. That’s the standard that we should try to reach—our own best.

So I tackled Arabic.
We wrestled…

I didn’t get a C,
And I didn’t get an A.

I got a B.

Definitely not bad—my teacher was thrilled, ecstatic, lol.

But me?

I still knew I could do better.

My next goal was to just get an A.

I was able to barely reach that goal.

Slowly, I was starting to be considered one of the good students in Arabic class, although to be honest, I was still very hesitant and shy to ‘speak Arabic’. I also barely volunteered to read aloud in class. The other students still sounded ‘better than me’, and besides our book did not have the ‘harkaat’ or small vowels that are supposed to appear on the letters- I knew I would read it all wrong.

It was 2006, though, that was the ‘sweetest’ year.

I was in 12th grade then. We were mostly taking Arabic poetry and our teacher obviously expected us to read the poetry aloud. One day, we were reading one of the poems and to my surprise the teacher said she wanted us to read with ‘passion/really let the words come alive’.

To my shock, she called on me.

I think the whole class was stunned because deep down inside, I am pretty sure no one thought of me as a ‘reader’ (not in Arabic, at least).

Then came time for the final final Arabic exam. That exam was not written by my own Arabic teacher. It was written by a group of teachers outside of our school and was given to all schools across the country by the Ministry of Education.

That meant that I was being tested the same as students all over the country [private school students].

I took the test.
We finished school.

It was time for the graduation ceremony.


May 29, 2006.

As I stood there on the stage, the announcer began to speak of the students who had excelled in certain subjects. They passed out an award to the senior who did best in physics, math, English, etc.
And then…
They said “Arabic”,
And they called on me.

And I ,
Who had started out back in 2001 as the underdog,
Went
And collected my award.





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Sunday, 13 June 2010

Salvation in Islam...


Alrighty! Now time for the Islamic perspective on Salvation. In order to understand this concept in Islam, I believe it is completely necessary to understand Islam’s view on:
1.      the 'nature of man'; the concept of original purity (vs. Christian belief of original sin).
2. God's attributes,
3. how 'deeds' and rewards have been 'decided' and how that relates to God's attributes.
4.  We have to take a look at it all, together, as one single equation
.
Ready? Let’s start!
To begin with, in Islam we believe that every single individual is born pure.  That is, Islam does not believe in original sin; instead, in Islam, we believe that every person is born free of sin. Allah, the Most Merciful and Most Just, lets us each begin on a ‘clean slate’, so to speak. In fact, He does more than that. He engraves/programs in each of us a compass guiding us to Him. Yes, we believe that every person is born on the ‘fitra’, which is ‘awareness of God and His Oneness’ and is also an innate disposition that guides us to the right way to God. Think of our consciences and how we ‘instantly’ know that some things are wrong without having to be told. Also, you can consider the fact that our bodies physiologically protest when we lie, although lying is an activity that has nothing to do with our physical bodies (meaning we make up the lie using our mind, but it is our bodies that naturally go against us when we do so, with our heart rate increasing, blood pressure acting up, respiratory rates changing, etc!).
Actually, you should know that we say that the moment a person is born, s/he is born a “Muslim”. That is why many converts to Islam call themselves ‘reverts’, because they feel that they have ‘reverted’ or ‘gone back’ to their original state ..
Therefore, it should be obvious that we reject the notion of original sin completely. We do not believe that Adam and Eve’s sin was hereditary or that it is what actually made us imperfect or that it even resulted in us ‘wanting to sin’. We do however believe that every person has been naturally endowed with the inclination to do good as well as the inclination to do bad. So yeah, we may want to sin, but this has nothing to do with Adam and Eve’s sin. We were simply created that way. The test of life, thus, is to rise above the inclination to do bad, follow our innate disposition and put God’s commandments and desires above our own.
And [by] the sky and He who constructed it (5) And [by] the earth and He who spread it (6) And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it (7) And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, (8) He has succeeded who purifies it, (9) And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]. (Surah or ‘Chapter’ As Shams)
The fact that we ‘can do both good’ or ‘evil’ relates to the fact that we, unlike the angels, have been given ‘free will’. In fact, we believe that when Allah told the angels of His ‘decision’ to create us [with free wil], the angels were very surprised.
And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif (vicegerent), they said: What! wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know.
Therefore, Allah  knew, (like the angels said), that by giving us free will, we would sin, but above that, He also knew (that despite our sins), there would be a be a people who would love Him, put Him above their own selves, and try to draw near Him.
Most importantly, we believe because He knew that we would sin, and because He knew we were created ‘weak’, He never expected perfection from us in the first place. He alone is Perfect. He does not ‘expect’ from us that we should not sin at all, but that we should repent and ask for His forgiveness. This is what He asks from us. Therefore, we do not believe in ‘a redeemer’ to ‘rescue us’, so to speak or God sacrificing Himself (Jesus) to forgive us.  Instead, part of being human is making mistakes.
“To err is human,
And to forgive is Divine.”
Speaking of “Divine”, let’s now talk about the Divine. How do Muslims view Him? What are His attributes that are relevant to this question on ‘salvation’?
We Muslims take the analogy of a mother her  baby when we think of God with us (as Exalted and Beyond Compare as He is) .
Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) relates that some prisoners were brought before Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and amongst them was a woman who was frantically searching for someone in the crowd. When she found a baby amongst the prisoners, she took it in her arms, cradled it next to her chest and suckled it. So Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: "Do you think that this woman would ever throw her child into the fire?" We said: 'By Allah, Never!' So he said: "Allah is more merciful to His believing servants than that mother could ever be to her child."
Allah did not create us simply to cast us into Hell. Instead, He essentially created us for Paradise and to be Merciful to us: “Except for him on whom your Lord bestowed His Mercy; and for that did He create them…” [Quran, Surat Hud]..
You might know that we believe that Allah has 99 Names or attributes. We need to understand a few of these in order to fully understand the topic of salvation. That is because we believe that Allah Alone is:
Ar-Rashid: The One who guides. Allah guides all the creatures to the proper means of living and performing their role in the worldly life, and He also guides people to the Path of jannah (paradise).  Hence, guidance is not restricted to man, but it embraces all the creatures in the universe
Al-Hadi: The One whom with His Guidance His believers were guided, and with His Guidance the living beings have been guided to what is beneficial for them and protected from what is harmful to them.
We realize that God alone can guide us and that we are spiritually and physically lost without Him. For this reason, we ask Him at least 17 times a day to guide us to His Way, the Straight Path (when we recite Surat Al Fatiha in our prayers.) So say I pray dhuhr (the noon prayer), I recite this surah in ever rakah, asking God to guide me. 3 hours later, when it is asr time, I do it again, asking Him to guide me.  Two or three hours later, I do it again in the maghrib prayer. One hour and a half later, I do it again in the Isha prayer. Then, I do it at fajr, the dawn prayer, then dhuhr again… is a never ending cycle because we are always always in need of guidance and HE alone can guide us.
Al-Waliyy: The Supporter, the Ever Patron. Linguistically, waliyy (patron) is a relative or someone close who takes care of you, “Did He not find you an orphan, so He gave (you) an abode,” (93:6), or someone loving who supports you; a patron is the first person you go to with a problem. Allah is not just a supporter but The supporter. The story of Joseph in Islam is used to explain this. Allah made the travellers need water so they would rescue him from the well, He made the Egyptian nobleman childless so he would adopt him, He made the King of Egypt need him to interpret his dream so he would release him from jail, He made Egypt in need of food so he would became a nobleman of Egypt…etc.
Al-Mujib: The One who answers the one in need if he asks Him and rescues the yearner if he calls upon Him
Al-Ghafoor: The most Forgiving. This name occurs in the Qur’an more than seventy times. There are other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar. The meaning of the “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse”, “to pardon”, “to remit” and “to forgive”. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does all these things. The only thing that He does not forgive is Shirk (without repentance) – which is associating partners with Him.

Al-’Afuw: This has another aspect of forgiveness. Some have translated this name to means “to release us from the burden of punishment due to our sins and mistakes”, “to restore our honor after we have dishonored ourselves by committing sins and making mistakes.” Others have also translated it to mean “The One Who Blots out Sins”, which means that not only does He forgive your sins but He erases them from the records completely. He doesn’t even ask you about them (when you repent). A dua (or prayer) we say is: Oh Allah, You are the Afuw, You love to forgive, so forgive me”.

Al-Tawwab:
The Acceptor of repentance. The word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning” which means that Allah again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accept us and gives us another chance. Day and night, He stretches out His hands, waiting for us to return to Him.
When we read this Name, we must realize that as At-Tawab, He is the One who out of His Mercy taught us the words to ask for Forgiveness. We could never have done this by ourselves.
Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of forgiveness and his Lord turned toward him, for He is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful. (2:37) They said, "Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and if you forgive us not, and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall be losers. (7:23)


Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Allah, the Exalted, will continue to stretch out His Hand in the night so that the sinners of the day may repent, and continue to stretch His Hand in the daytime so that the sinners of the night may repent, until the sun rises from the west”. [Muslim]

Al-Haleem: The Clement. This means that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is not quick to judgment. He gives time. He forebears and is patient to see His servant to return to Him.
Not only is He not quick to Judgment, He has commanded the angels ‘to take their time’ when it comes to recording our bad deeds.
Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “The angel of the left raises [and holds] his pen for six hours from the Muslim servant of Allah who has wronged or committed a mistake. So if he regrets and seeks Allah’s forgiveness from it he returns it back, and if that is not the case then it is written as one.” [Mu'jam al Kabeer, Hasan according to Albani]
Al-Rahman and al-Rahim: The most Merciful and Compassionate. These names are the most frequent in the Qur’an. Al-Rahman indicates that Allah’s mercy is abundant and plenty and al-Raheem indicates that this is always the case with Allah. He is full of love and mercy and He is ever Merciful.

Hadith Qudsi 1:

When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my wrath.
Ash-Shakur: The One who is Ever Appreciative. He is the One Who appreciates your deeds, however small they are, and doubles the rewards for you in this world and in the hereafter
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that." 
Allah said: 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.

Now, a few more general hadiths:

Hadith Qudsi 34:

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.
Hadith Qudsi 31:
A man said: By Allah, Allah will not forgive So-and-so. At this Allah the Almighty said: Who is he who swears by Me that I will not forgive So-and-so? Verily I have forgiven So-and-so and have nullified your [own good] deeds (1) (or as he said [it]).
 Hadith Qudsi 35:
Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night (in a way befitting Him) to the earth's sky when there remains the final third of the night, and He says: Who is saying a prayer to Me that I may answer it? Who is asking something of Me that I may give it him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him? 


Now that we’ve read a little about who Allah is and how He has chosen for His Mercy to prevail His Wrath, let’s talk about ‘deeds’ in Islam.
First of all, deeds in Islam are by intention, as I said before. We can see that clearly here:

Hadith Qudsi 16:

On the authority of son of Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both), from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), among the sayings he related from his Lord (glorified and exalted be He) is that He said:
Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones. Then He explained it [by saying that] he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed. 
As well as here:





On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say:
The first of people against whom judgment will be pronounced on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who died a martyr. He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them. [ The Almighty] will say: And what did you do about them? He will say: I fought for you until I died a martyr. He will say: You have lied - you did but fight that it might be said [of you]: He is courageous. And so it was said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire…..[I’ve previously mentioned this long hadith before.]





Taken together what that means is that ‘what may appear to be a good deed’ may reap nothing if it is not intended for Allah’s sake alone. On the other hand, what may ‘not be considered a good deed’ can actually count as one, if our intention is for Allah.




That’s right . We believe by our intentions we can turn simple habits into acts of worship. If we eat healthy because we want to take care of the bodies our Lord has trusted us with, we are actually worshipping Him! Our intention changed it into an act of worship. If we sleep early for example so that we can wake up to pray the dawn prayer (fajr), our sleep would be considered worship. The whole time we’re sleeping, we are actually worshipping Him and ‘gaining good deeds’. 



So, as you can see, Allah is so Merciful. He has chosen the most Merciful way to record our deeds (10-700 or more = good deed, 1=bad deed). He is Forgiving, the Clement, the Afu, the Appreciative. He has allowed simple habits to be turned into acts of worship so that we could be worshipping Him 24/7!  

Not only that, but when we realize that good deeds may not be ‘good’ if our heart is not in the right place, we realize that the essential thing Allah looks at is our hearts.



Okay, Sarira, you haven’t answered the real question here, which is, do Muslims think that their good deeds earn them heaven?



No, we could never ever earn heaven by our own deeds alone. We in fact, believe that we can never repay Him for what He has already so Graciously and Generously granted us. Let me paraphrase one hadith: on the Day of Judgment, God will say, let this servant enter heaven through My Mercy, and the servant who had devoted (I remember it being) 80 full years of worship to Allah will say “No, my Lord, through my worship”. Then Allah will say, let us measure your worship with the gift of eye sight that I gave you- and the gift of eye sight when placed on the scale will far outweigh the  servant’s worship.
So not only are we all sinners, we are already all in debt for all that Allah has given us, every breath of life, every chance to draw near Him.
Our very existence is a gift He has so graciously given us. We cannot even pay back for that, let alone, for heaven. In fact, we as Muslims believe that every act of worship we do could never be 100% ‘right’. We could never even worship God completely properly/praise Him as He deserves. We have that we can recite in our prayers: 
O Allah, I seek protection in Your pleasure from Your anger, and I seek protection in Your forgiveness from Your punishment. I seek protection in You from You. I cannot count Your praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.
However, although we cannot ‘earn’ heaven, the primary key to entering heaven then lies in the previous hadith. It is first and foremost through God’s Mercy that we can enter heaven. We see Prophet Mohammed sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam explicitly stating that here:
"Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and rejoice, for no one's good deeds will put him in Paradise." The Companions asked, "Not even you O Messenger of Allah?" He replied. "Not even me unless Allah bestows His pardon and mercy on me."”
This hadith clearly shows that Allah’s Mercy comes first.
When we think of all that we’ve discussed we realize that we are number one saved through His Mercy, which is exemplified in the fact that He lovingly accepts our Repentance, the fact that He opened the door to us for forgiveness, the fact that He taught how to ask for forgiveness, the fact that He created us with a compass in us guiding us to Him, the fact that He created a Conscience in us, the fact that  He created our bodies ‘naturally detesting lying’, fact that He lovingly put such a ‘low’ standard for us and appreciates what little work we do, even accepts our ‘very fallible deeds’, the fact that he sent us prophets to show us the way, Revealed the Qur’an to teach us, etc.…
This is also why believe it is necessary at the moment one is dying to believe in Allah’s Mercy and to hope for it.
However, as the above hadith also shows, we do believe in the importance of doing deeds. This does not contradict believing in Allah’s Mercy and hoping for it. I like how Ayha.org explains it:
The example of a slave's hope in Allah's Mercy and Forgiveness can be explained by the example of a farmer. If the farmer searches for fertile soil, then sows it with good and healthy seeds, giving to the seeds what they need at the appropriate time, removing from around them the weeds and anything else that may hinder or ruin their growth and then hopes in Allah for His Favor with regards to keeping away violent storms and other harmful elements, until the seeds have fully ripened and grown - then this type of expectation can truly be described as hope. However, if the farmer sows the seeds in hard and barren soil, too high up for water to reach it, and he does not take care or protect the seed from harm, and expects a good harvest, then this expectation is not called hope, it is only wishful thinking.

Similarly, if the servant sows the seeds of Eemaan (faith), and waters them with acts of obedience to Allah, and protects himself from committing sins and seeks Allah's Forgiveness, then he is truly hoping in the Mercy of Allah.

Yahyaa Ibn Muaadh said: "In my view, the worst kind of self-delusion is to greatly sin, yet hope for forgiveness without feeling any regret; and to hope to draw close to Allah - the Most High - without obedience to Him; and to await the fruits of Paradise, by planting the seeds for Hell-Fire; and to seek the abode of the obedient ones, by doing acts of disobedience; and to expect a reward, without doing any worthy action; and to hope in Allah - the Mighty and Majestic - after overstepping the bounds." "You hope for salvation but do not tread its path. A ship never sails upon dry land." [Related by Ibn Hibbaan in Rawdatul-'Uqalaa (p.284), from the poetry of Abul-'Atiyyah]

Again, as Muslims we believe that none of us deserves heaven and none of us can earn heaven without God’s Mercy, including Prophet Mohammed. It is out of His Mercy, that He appreciates any ‘willingness’ we demonstrate that we truly desire to be near Him.

Our willingness is demonstrate d through our actions-

Faith= input, Good deeds= output.

Those who are truly eager to meet God and love Him will ‘race’ to meet Him by doing good deeds.
Input + Output + God’s Mercy (which is in the first place needed for us to have faith and to do good deeds)= going to heaven. 
One last way to think of it is this:  Islam is submission to God! Even Shaytan (or Satan) believed in God and had no doubt of his existence. Is he granted paradise? NO, because he refused to submit to God. He refused to follow God’s commandments, which essentially shows that he did not truly believe in Allah’s Power and Might.
 However, we need to realize that there also could be no Islam without Iman (faith). The two are connected and that is why they are always mentioned together in the Qur’an. Also, the heaviest thing in the scales is the sincere belief of 'la illah illah Allah', there is no God worthy of worship but God.
Let’s wrap this all up with one last ‘interesting hadith’:
“There was among the people who came before you a man who killed ninety-nine people.  Then he asked about the most knowledgeable person on earth, and was directed to a hermit, so he went to him, told him that he had killed ninety-nine people, and asked if he could be forgiven.  The hermit said, ‘No,’ so he killed him, thus completing one hundred.  Then he asked about the most knowledgeable person on earth and was directed to a scholar.  He told him that he had killed one hundred people, and asked whether he could be forgiven.  The scholar said, ‘Yes, what could possibly come between you and repentance? Go to such-and-such a town, for in it there are people who worship God.  Go and worship with them, and do not go back to your own town, for it is a bad place.” So the man set off, but when he was halfway there, the angel of death came to him, and the angels of mercy and the angels of wrath began to argue over him.  The angels of mercy said: ‘He had repented and was seeking God.’ The angels of wrath said: ‘He never did any good thing.’ An angel in human form came to them, and they asked him to decide the matter.  He said, ‘Measure the distance between the two lands (his hometown and the town he was headed for), and whichever of the two he is closest to is the one to which he belongs.’ So they measured the distance, and found that he was closer to the town for which he had been headed, so the angels of mercy took him.”
According to yet another version, God commanded the righteous town to draw closer and the evil town to move away, and He said, ’Measure the distance between them,’ and he was found to be closer to (the righteous town) by a hand span, so he was forgiven.

Alright, I know this was really long, but I hope it clears things up a bit on the Islamic perspective of things. If I said something wrong, I ask Allah to forgive me and my sisters here to correct me. Jazakum Allah koli khair.

P.S I honestly did not type up the Names myself but chose/modified the ones I wanted from Amr Khaled’s site, http://amrkhaled.net/acategories/categories192.html, and http://www.islamawareness.net/Salvation/forgiveness.html ).
PS.S I did not include the ‘list of transmitters’ in some of the ahadith because they took up an incredible amount of space and I didn’t want to confuse the non-Muslim readers. You can find most of them here:    http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/hadithqudsi.html




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The "I" Word! (Islam 101)


Asalamu aliakuam wa rahmat Allah wa barkatoo and Hello!
How is everyone? Well, recently, I’ve been asked a few questions about Islam. One was about ‘our Scripture’ and another was about our concept of salvation.  


I thought I would answer by first, giving a tiny little intro on Islam. And then, I would make a new post dealing with the concept of salvation.
Ready?
1.      What does Islam mean? Islam comes from the Arabic root word ‘salama’ which linguistically it means to submit or yield to. In essence Islam is all about submitting to God. It’s surrendering the white flag to Him, following His path, putting Him above everything, including your own self. Islam also derives from the Arabic word meaning peace. It is the way to [inner] peace and its essence is peace [between you and God, between you and others, etc.]. You can also think of it as ‘peaceful submission’ to God, meaning that you voluntarily submit to God.

2.      Who is Allah? Many people do not realize that the word Allah is the Arabic word that literally means “The God”. In fact, Arab Christians use the word “Allah” to refer to God.  It’s similar to the Hebrew “El” or “Elah”,  and you can think of it as the English word ‘God”. However, it should be noted that Allah is a bit more specific because the word is grammatically unique. It can NOT be made into a masculine or feminine form and it cannot be made into a plural. Therefore, it signifies the One and Only. The Magnificent whom there is None Like. The Perfect God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all.


3.      What are our Scriptures? Well, since Islam goes back to Prophet Adam and has existed all through history (has been the Message of God since Adam’s time), we sincerely believe that the Torah and the Bible were Divinely Inspired and were Scriptures of Islam; however, the Book that we use today/follow today is the Qur’an. This is because we believe it is the only Scripture that has remained completely intact and has not been changed. It is God’s ultimate and final message to mankind. The Qur’an in fact remains completely unaltered in its original Arabic text. The other thing that we look at are the ‘hadiths’ of the Prophet. These are his teachings, his sayings, and ‘reactions’. Everything he did was carefully recorded and memorized by his Companions who actually witnessed and heard them themselves. (They did this because we believe that he was the best example for all of mankind). It is important to note that every hadith has two parts- the text and list of narrators or transmitters. (Whenever we ‘accept a hadith’ a rigorous study is undertaken to determine  whether this ‘list of transmitters truly did meet and whether the whole chain of narrators is known to be completely sound and reliable.)

I'm keeping this post short because the next one will be long. Heheh. However, You can read more about what we believe in here:






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