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Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new year, a new beginning

New year's are happy things, like new school books; blank and ready to be filled with our writing and numbers. They hold great promise. I used to make a long string of resolutions, which if carried out correctly would make me practically perfect in every way. Needless to say, those resolutions would hold for a week or so and then would fade away, even before I got used to writing the new date instead of the old. This year I got a different idea, which is not new or original at all, but older than when people had diaries and wrote resolutions in them, older than the start of this way of calculating years.

As I was listening to the Juma khutba yesterday, the Imam reminded us that the first thing we will be asked about on the Day of Judgement will be our five daily prayers. He went on to say that if the condition of our prayers would be good, the rest of our questioning shall be easy. This means that if we try our best to observe the five daily prayers, the rest of our lives will naturally reap the blessings of that devotion and mindfulness. All our affairs will be blessed as we will be aimed for the straight path. If we don't pray, or pray without being mindful, then the very first thing we account for and that we are responsible for, will be a big flop and the rest will come crashing down after it. May Allah protect us from that.

Our prayer is really a little resolution and accountability session in itself, if we choose to think about it that way. When we stand before Allah at various times during the day, we are in different states. In the morning, fajr is like the start of a new year, a new day, a fresh page. We have a chance to ask for guidance for the entire day, and to resolve to do what is right. After the entire morning, usually devoted to work or school, we stand for Zuhr. We have a chance to think about the direction in which our day is going. If we are not doing what we aimed for, we can change the direction with Allah's help, asking for His guidance. The same is true for Asr and Maghrib. Isha is like the final station for our train before it rests for the night. We are tired and sleepy by now, the day is almost done. We have a chance to ask forgiveness for the mistakes we made, to check in and make sure our souls are still on track. What a beautiful way to be accountable for our lives, to live a life of great purpose!

So I don't think I shall sit down with a diary for this years resolutions. I have just one. One thing I can attend to, put my focus and energy on and it will help regulate and improve the rest of my life. It feels much simpler than before. Surely I can honor this one resolution? Well, if I forget, I shall have five chances every day to get it right!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What kind of interpretation?

Muslims come in all shapes and sizes. I have met many with a 'liberal' outlook, many with extremely strict views, and many in between. It was while sitting yesterday in the mosque, that I began to wonder, which category do I belong to. Do I need to belong to a category? It got me thinking ...

Often, when I listen to a view point different than my own, I am tempted to dismiss it outright, to shrug it off by labeling it as 'too liberal' or 'too strict', but I fear that this attitude may be unwise, if it is not based on sound knowledge. The Quran admonishes those who do not think for themselves, who follow their elders or the ways of society without reflecting upon them, and who do not accept guidance from Allah when it comes to them. To me, that means that if I learn or hear something that does not match with my ideas, that bothers me, as possibly being to one extreme or the other, I need to gain adequate knowledge before I pass judgement on it. My feelings alone should not guide the way. I might be rejecting a concept simply because it is new to me, or because I personally find something difficult or unattractive.

The Quran guides us on this and every matter. Allah tells us to look beyond our likes and dislikes and search for wisdom and goodness. Allah knows well our human nature, that we might like something while it is harmful for us and we might dislike something that is good for us. So what to do?

Learn. Find knowledge from its source: The Quran and Hadith, bearing in mind that the Quran is far superior to the hadith. Since the hadith contain knowledge and guidance of our blessed Prophet Muhammad, we revere them, yet hadith are not infallible. If we cannot reconcile a hadith with the Quran, we must lay it aside and give preference to the Quran. While understanding the Quran, we must remember that one part of the Quran does not contradict another part. One portion of the Quran explains another and so forth. If we keep these basic rules in mind and humbly submit and pray to Allah, we are likely to find true guidance in every affair. We need not limit ourselves to a certain approach in all matters. It is best to keep our minds open, listen willingly to any logical argument and certainly be not the first to reject a matter simply based on our feelings.

Humble submission and prayer. May Allah the most Mighty and Wise, guide us on the paths that lead to Him. May we never turn away from guidance in any form. Ameen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do we need a dress code?

Most school districts have a dress code, or uniform. Sadly, in our part of the world, the dress code is not enforced. Kids come to school in clothes that are too short, tight, and revealing. Unfortunately our modern world has accepted this behavior as acceptable. Does that mean we should do the same? Does modern life demand of us to expose our bodies instead of concealing them decently?

The more I think about it, the more wisdom I see in the dress code Allah has given us out of his Infinite Mercy. If and when we abandon it, we will see the consequences, as every evil deed leaves its imprint on the soul, on society. When we get dressed we are thinking about how we want to present ourselves to the world, to our family. It is a statement that announces our personality without us uttering a word. We cannot claim to dress in a revealing manner and think our hearts and minds and those of others will remain pure. On the other hand, when a boy or girl, man or woman dresses up in modest clothes, making sure the body is covered appropriately, taking special care to cover the hair and chest in the case of the women, he or she affirms faith by doing so. It is a great opportunity to translate faith into action, to turn a simple ordinary act into obedience and gratefulness to the Creator. It gives us a chance to honor our bodies, to strengthen our souls, to affirm that we are much more than a body, a shape, a size.

And yet this dress code seems like a burden, oppression to so many. It is only when we dress at the calling of our nafs, our lower self, that modesty is a burden.

If we dress to please people instead of our Creator, can we truly say we love Him?
Modesty has its own style, is a fashion statement based on faith. If we think we can choose how we dress without following the clear guidelines of Allah, does this mean we know better?

The problem in abandoning the Islamic dress code is that every person will have a different idea of modesty and without any limits or standards, our standards will fall like the people of other faiths around us.

Do we really want their problems?
Not really.
But if we follow their footsteps, what can we expect?