Quran Quest

Bismillah,

With Ramadan now behind us, there is an easy way to continue the act of Khatm al-Quran (Completing a Quranic recitation). The prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “The most beloved deeds to Allah are those that are consistent even if they be small.” If we spread the this out over 6 months or a year, whichever would be easier for us, we can successfully add a tremendous amount of good deeds and benefit from the momentum of Ramadan. Download the calendar I made from June 2020 to May 2021 which includes a tip on the bottom about how many pages to read depending on which copy of the Quran you are using! The suggested amount will give you a buffer for each period (6 months or a year) so that if you miss some days, you will still be able to complete it within this time frame! Allah bless and accept!

The Quran: What it is & what it does

Bismillah,

These are notes from a live session I did for the community on 3/22/2020 about the Quran. You can find the video of the live session at: https://www.facebook.com/RoswellMasjid/videos/206357967344022/

The Quran defined

  • The miraculous speech of Allah
  • Revealed to the final prophet, Muhammad (saw)
  • Through the angel Jibreel
  • Transmitted through tawatur (mass transmission)
  • Its recitation is worship
  • It begins with Surah Al-Fatiha
  • It ends with Surah Al-Naas
  • The shortest chapter, or portion, is a challenge to mankind to produce something similar

Expectations

We may have our own expectations of the Quran and we need to be careful about them. Let the Quran speak for itself and what you should expect. There are two major expectations we can look forward to with the Quran.

  1. Connection – The Quran is authored by our Creator. It provides us an opportunity to fill a void inside and nurture us spiritually. It is food for our soul.
  2. Guidance – it is the best consultant. It contains the experience of mankind spanning centuries coupled with clear guidance from mankind’s Creator. It tells you the best course to take in life and what pitfalls to avoid.

Some verses about the Quran

  1. And thus We have revealed to you a ROOH (soul/spirit) of Our command. You did not know what is the Book or [what is] faith, but We have made it a light by which We guide whom We will of Our servants. And indeed, [O Muhammad], you guide to a straight path (https://quran.com/42/52)
    • That which gives life to your spirituality
  2. And the Messenger has said, “O my Lord, indeed my people have taken this Qur’an as [a thing] abandoned.” (https://quran.com/25/30)
    • A warning to not abandon the Quran by not engaging with it and using it as a source for our spiritual and material upliftment

Some prophetic narrations about the Quran

  1. Be happy! One end of this Quran is in the hands of Allah while the other is in your hands. Hold on to it for you will not be ruined nor go astray by it. (Mujam Al-Tabarani)
  2. Do not turn your houses into graveyards! Indeed, Shaytan flees from a house in which surah Al-Baqarah is recited. (Saheeh Muslim)

The revelationS of the Quran

  1. Placed in Al-Lahw Al-Mahfooz – the preserved tablet. This is the creation of Allah that contains all commands of what is, was and will be.
  2. 1st decent to Bayt Al-Izzah – the Ka’bah for the angels.
  3. 2nd decent from Bayt Al-Izzah to the prophet (saw) via the angel Jibreel (as) over a period of 23 years.

Ways to approach the Quran

  1. Reading it
    1. If one isn’t engaging at all with the Quran, the minimum they can do is to read and recite it
  2. Understanding and acting upon its teachings
    1. The Quran has a higher goal and that is for people to not just recite it for barakah, but to act on it and change their lives
  3. As a healing and protection
    1. The Quran is a shifaa (healing) for physical ailments but there it serves as a healing from something bigger: the diseases of the heart. A book I recommend for further reading is Purification of the Heart by Hamza Yusuf (https://www.amazon.com/Purification-Heart-Symptoms-Spiritual-Diseases/dp/098556590X). It also serves as a protection from Shayateen but there is a bigger danger to mankind, the Hellfire and it is meant to show us how to navigate life to avoid that danger.

Major goals of the Quran

  1. Teaching the creation about Allah: His nature and attributes
    1. Recommended reading: Essentials of Islamic Faith by Imam Suhaib Webb (https://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Islamic-Faith-Parents-Teens/dp/1976217741/)
  2. Showing the creation the path that is pleasing to Allah
  3. Forming a complete and balanced Islamic individual
  4. Bringing about an Islamic society
  5. Guiding Muslims in their ongoing struggle against forces that work against them

You can find the video of the live session at: https://www.facebook.com/RoswellMasjid/videos/206357967344022/

Cutting Hair and Trimming Nails

Can I Cut My Hair and Trim My Nails in Dhul Hijjah?

Bismillah

I have received this question at the beginning of this month and I wanted to write briefly on it to give everyone an overview of this issue. The issue arises from the hadith of the prophet (saw):

“When the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah have begun and any of you intended to slaughter, then he should not touch (take away) anything from his hair or skin (and nails).” (Narrated by Muslim)

The different schools of Islamic law have understood the ruling differently. The Hanafis and Malikis did not consider this to be a sunnah. The Shafiees considered it to be Makrooh (disliked) which means if one abides by the hadith they are rewarded but if they don’t abide by it are not necessarily sinful since it doesn’t translate into an obligation. The Hanbalis considered it haram (prohibited) to do so while considering the ruling on slaughtering to be a Sunnah (preferred but not required). Even within the Hanbali school, however, some scholars took the view that it was Makrooh and not haram.

Ibn Qudama, the great Hanbali jurist, said, “The apparent (ruling) is prohibition (haram) of cutting the hair and it is the view of some of our scholars… and a group of our scholars said it is disliked (makrooh), not prohibited (haram).” (Al-Mughni)

Even with the ruling of the Hanbalis, that it is haram to do so for one who intends to slaughter, the slaughtering will still be acceptable while the person would incur sin for disobeying the ruling of cutting hair and trimming nails. The logic of the Hanbali scholars is not at all strange. There are acts that are entirely optional but in order for them to be fulfilled certain things are mandatory. If one offers extra prayers (nafl), they must do wudu (ablution) for those prayers to be accepted. They also take the apparent meaning of the hadith to be a command and not an encouraged action, something which is very common in legal theory. The other schools, for other reasons and supporting evidences, do not take that apparent meaning.

In my personal opinion, I find it difficult to adopt the ruling that cutting hair and trimming nails is prohibited because the majority opinion, including the dissenting opinion within the Hanbali school, sees it otherwise. Rulings regarding obligations, for me personally, should at least be supported by a wide range of scholars over the different schools or across the board on at least one madhhab. I agree with the position that it is Makrooh (disliked). Meaning, it should not be avoided but it does not amount to something that is haram.

I encourage those that will be financing the slaughter to abide by the hadith, however, for there will be reward in intending to follow the teaching of the prophet (saw).

Anything correct in what I have said is from Allah and any mistakes are but my own.

Beautiful Places, Disturbing Reasons

Bismillah,

I’m off to join my cohort on the final of 4 workshops that we were selected for by the Carter Center’s conflict resolution program to be a part of. The past three took me across the ocean to the breath-taking land of Switzerland. This trip will take me to the beautiful coast of Tunisia. Though I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel to these wonderful locations, it is a bittersweet moment as I travel to address violent extremism throughout the world (not just Muslim perpetrated violence).

It is in these workshops we have learned from research how recruiting happens, what the faces look like, how people on the ground in various countries are responding from a human rights perspective, and also what Islamophobia looks like both in western nations as well as dominantly Muslim nations which also, if you don’t already know, mistake religious adherence and non-conformity to government standards suspect behavior.

We have also met with a former white supremacist and seen the reality of hate groups rising in the US. This has most recently manifested with yet another shooting at a place of worship, a synagogue in Poway, CA, resulting in the murder of a 60 year old woman and others injured including an 8 year old child. The murderer left a manifesto filled with anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic hate in which he quotes the Bible. Earlier, a man ran over pedestrians because he thought they were Muslim while on his way to a Bible study group.

These attacks are real reminders that for Americans the biggest threat in the form of violent extremism comes from homegrown hate groups, not Muslim radicals. Though there is no denying that groups, political and otherwise, exist that justify their violence through their Islamic faith, they undoubtedly get more time on the news (something they actively seek) and the Muslim community is expected to recognize, speak out, and even consider as suspect their own brothers and sisters in faith. Many hate-crimes and real threats of hate groups and far-right militias go unreported and even ignored.

This is our reality. What is our response? For my fellow Muslim Americans, I suggest the following:

  1. Align with civil-rights defenders. As the Quranic advice goes, “Ask the people of knowledge if you yourself do not know.” We are not expected to be experts on this, or any other socio-political issue. However, we should be smart enough to realize the reality of violent extremism at home that targets minorities. Getting to know some basics will give you the ability to speak out in support of groups and activists that are working on the ground.
  2. Stand up and speak out. Whenever a hate-crime happens, ensure your community is represented in standing up for victims if it happens on your watch. There may be hate groups organizing and spreading their views in your communities. Organizing a united response to demonstrate that their hate won’t be tolerated can send powerful messages. Speaking out and standing with victims also helps build strong community bonds that go a long way in protecting everyone’s rights.
  3. Sincere prayers. As before, I list this third but it is the most important component for the Muslim community. With Ramadan around the corner, we should actively be including the reality of what we are facing as a nation and as a faith community in our prayers. Prayers alone however are never enough. Prayers coupled with action and effort is were you will see progress over time.

So as I sit here, waiting for my next flight and awaiting the beauty I will get to see. I have to take in the reality of why I am here. Understanding how hate works, how to resist, as well as understanding that treating entire communities as suspect and denying them their basic rights only serves to agitate the problem. On the other hand, if everything was perfect there would be nothing to work righteously for. Allah bless.

Ramadan: Yay or Meh?

Bismillah,

We are a week and few days away from a time of the year that some can’t wait for and some can’t wait for it to be over with! We have to face a dark reality that can exist even in the best of people who really want to make the most of Ramadan and that is the feeling that says, “When will this be over?”

It is very important to understand that it is OK to be honest about this feeling. Fasting is a challenge. It is meant to be a challenge. The eleven other months most of us are eating more than our fill daily. When your body goes through sudden changes of diet and routine, it starts to question itself. I may dare to say that this is a point you are supposed to be pushed to in this month to face the question, “Why do I even go through with this?” It is times like these when you are faced with these questions that your decision to continue and push forward makes a powerful statement.

If you’ve ever felt this way but powered through and finished the month of fasting, praying, reading Quran (at least the fasting part) then you should actually feel incredibly proud of yourself. You passed the test! You were at a point where you were questioning your obedience and faith to your Creator and you chose faith over any other option. Here are the three things you need in these situations:

  1. Reassurance that all of this is for a higher purpose beyond the hunger and the thirst. Fasting is a way to show yourself that if you really want to, you can make a lot of serious changes in your life and you can do them faster than you think! It is all a matter of will. You willingly make a change and you willingly stick with it. Its as simple as that! Want to make changes to your diet? Want to change bad habits? Want to take care of that anger? Depression? Well you can! And not just magically by thinking you can … but by taking the proper steps.While fasting, you’re not just giving up food, you’re making smarter choices about what you eat in the early morning and in the evening. You’re avoiding things that will bring hunger to your mind. As you prep and execute for fasting, so can you prep and execute for the other issues you face in life. As you ask the scholars for the rules and regulations of fasting, so can you ask the experts in their respective fields about how you can make better choices about your lifestyle. Change the way you look at Ramadan and it will give you the reassurance to keep going!
  2. CompanyMake it a habit to come to the masjid even if it is for part of the Taraweeh prayer. GO to that community potluck! Sit in and listen to that halaqah/dars/talk at the masjid by that Ustadha, Imam, brother, sister, uncle, auntie or whoever! You need the company of those who are (silently) in the same situation you are in! The prophet (saw) said, “Allah’s support is with the congregation!” This is, by the way, why we are encouraged to pray in congregation. We are social beings and we need social interaction. You will find the energy and the will to go on because you never know what you might experience or hear that will motivate you through the roof.
  3. Dua (Prayer). Listed third, this is the absolute first and foremost thing you really need to guide you in looking for reassurance and in seeking good company. Dua is an extremely powerful thing and especially so in Ramadan.

So… What’ll it be? The choice is yours! “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” (Can you guess who said that?)

Ingredients of Influence

Bismillah,

During the ISNA ED forum this past weekend I was able to share with educators, administrators, and board members of Islamic schools the value of developing the individuals on the ground interfacing with our Muslim student body. I will talk a bit about what I shared over the next few posts regarding influence. There are many great books written by modern authors on this topic. They take into consideration the human experience of successfully influential individuals and figure out what components are found within them. Among the most famous authors in this regard is John C. Maxwell who talks about the five levels of leadership (book).

Other researchers and authors have additionally identified components that include emotion, expertise, and non-verbal signals in addition to Maxwell’s position, his first level. It is important to understand that as an educator you are at a different level of influence with each student, parent, co-worker, administrator, board member, and community member that you come across. It is equally important to win as much positive influence over each one as you can. With the art of influence, however, comes great responsibility. We take this responsibility from the teachings of our faith to ensure that what we are passing on and encouraging falls within the guidelines of what Allah & His messenger have conveyed to us.

In looking at these components we understand that position is just the starting point. You as the teacher waive certain influence because you are in that position. Utilizing your expertise, passion, and soft skills you can move up to the next levels that Maxwell mentions. For this purpose we will only talk about the 2nd and 3rd levels and they are permission and production. As an educator, you want to move beyond the, “because I told you so,” phase that only allows you lead with a position. You want to get your stake holders to respect you and give you their implicit “permission” to be a person of influence and leadership. This will allow you to “produce” results which will only further your ability to promote good work.

How is this done? We will talk about this in the next post when we cover HOW to be a positive influence on others in the way that you behave with them!

The art of influence

Today I am honored to present (in just a couple of hours) at the 20th Annual ISNA Education Forum to Islamic Studies teachers and hopefully school administrators and board members about the art of influence. One of the areas being presented on this weekend is curriculum. I have a lot to say on that!

Many parents and school boards look at curriculum as a set of books. When it comes to Islamic Studies, however, how many schools, parents, boards, or even teachers actually have  specific and realistic goal in mind? Some schools may “promise” teaching Islamic character and ethics. Some will say, “Your child will be a good Muslim!” Yet understanding our faith, can we actually guarantee hidaya for anyone? After all the best teacher was our prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and yet Allah says to him:

The Messenger’s duty is but to proclaim the message (Quran 5:99)

The one thing we can do for sure is follow the prophetic guidelines for connecting people to the faith. This doesn’t rely on books, although they are a great resource for teachers. It does rely on the Islamic Studies teacher (and all other teachers and admins and board and parents and and and!) How does one influence? Well that will be talked about at my session and I hope I can share these tips and tricks grounded first in our faith tradition but also in the human experience over the next few days!