Seeking Change in 2017

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These Are 8 Habits From The Quran To Achieve Greatness

Greatness! We seek it, but often times in the wrong places.

 

God tells us in the Quran, “When guidance in revelation comes to you from Me, as it certainly will, there will be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor will they grieve.” 2:38

 

To transform ourselves in 2017, let’s take inspiration from these 8 habits from the Quran to achieve success and greatness in our lives.

 

  1. Spend time consciously listing what you are grateful for in your life

 

“Remember that your Lord promised, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you.” 14:7

 

It’s that simple. If what you seek is more of something, then consciously thank God for what you already have. Make a daily list of 3 things you are grateful for in your day.

 

  1. Stay focused on your target and race towards it

 

“Race toward your Lord’s forgiveness and a Garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for those who believed in God and His messengers. That is God’s bounty which He bestows to whomever He pleases. God’s bounty is infinite.” 57:21

 

In more than one place in the Quran, God reminds us to race and be among the first towards doing good. To be a competitor in any race, one must have a target and a direct path towards it.

 

Make it a habit to take immediate action toward your goals, rather than delaying and procrastinating.

 

  1. Find your burning desire and motivation

 

“God does not change the condition of a people (for the worse) unless they change what is in themselves.” 13:11

 

We procrastinate or struggle with consistency when there is a lack of burning desire and motivation to achieve a goal. The more passion for a goal, the more persistent we should be.

 

Seek what excites you, take the steps, have a sense of self-responsibility, and God will magnify your results.  

 

  1. Ask God for every need, no matter how miniscule

 

“I am near. I respond to those who call Me” 2:186

 

Muhammad the Messenger taught us to ask God for our every need, even for salt or for a sandal strap when it breaks.

 

We should convert our goals, milestones, and resolutions into supplications and prayers. Let’s ask God to help us achieve our dreams and greatest desires.

 

  1. Ask God for good in both this world and the next

 

“There are some who pray, ‘Our Lord give us good in this world’ and they will have no share in the Hereafter: others pray, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’ “2:201

 

God teaches us to ask for goodness of both this world and the Hereafter. It is encouraged to ask for worldly needs (like career, marriage, health, or even leisure), so long as we are also asking for success in the next life.

 

  1. Structure and plan your day around the five daily prescribed ritual devotions

 

“When the prescribed ritual devotion has ended, disperse in the land and seek out God’s bounty. Remember God often so you may prosper.” 62:10

 

Our first priority of the day is to perform the five daily prescribed ritual devotions on time. This will first, ground us and increase blessings in our day, and second, result in productivity and consciousness of time.

 

  1. Sleep early and start your day at dawn

 

“Did they not see that We gave them the night for rest, and the day for light? There truly are signs in this for those who believe.” 27:86

 

“Perform the prescribed ritual devotion (formal prayers) in the period from the time the sun is past its zenith till the darkness of the night, and recite the Quran at dawn. Dawn recitation is always witnessed (by the angels).” 17:78

 

Even the most successful people in the business and academic world, start their day at dawn. Seek blessings from the words of God by reading from the Quran soon after your dawn prescribed ritual. You will find that your most productive work is in the morning, and your most restful sleep is at night.

 

  1. Stop and smell the flowers

 

“Those who remember God while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides. Who reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth: ‘Our Lord! You have not created this without purpose–You are far above that!– Protect us from the punishment of the Fire.’ ” 3:191

 

“In the creation of the heavens and earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the great ships that sail the seas with goods for people; in the water which God sends down from the sky to give life to the earth when it has been baren, scattering all kinds of creatures over it; in the changing of the winds and clouds that run their appointed courses between the sky and earth; there are signs in all these for those who use their minds.” 2:164

 

“It is He who spread out the earth, placed firm mountains and rivers on it; and made two of every kind of fruit; He causes night to cover the day. There truly are signs for people who reflect.” 13:3

 

It’s a busy, hectic world we live in. Make sure to take time out for self-care and reflection. Pause and reflect on your direction and purpose in life, while seeking inspiration from nature and scripture.
God bless you and grant you success.

Who is John the Baptist in Islam?

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The Biblical and Quranic narrative of John the Baptist have some similarities and variations. In Islam, we know John as Yahya, a unique name give to him by God Himself.

Relationship to Jesus

 

Jesus1

Conception and Birth

 

Zechariah was an aging Israelite priest reaching his 90s without having fathered any children. He lived in a time when religious leaders diluted and altered the Law of Moses. The spirit of the religion was quickly disappearing, and he feared who would take his place after his death.

 

As the patron and caretaker of the orphaned Mary, he checked on her in her chamber of worship where she remained for days without seeing a soul. Each time he entered, he found with her fresh food. Surprised, he asked, “From where has this come to you?”

 

She replied, “It is from God. Indeed, God provides for whom He wills without account.”

 

This was the reminder Zechariah needed to call upon God, the Provider of all things, for righteous offspring.

 

“My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white, and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy. And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing to You.”

 

And indeed, God did respond, sending angels with the good news of a son named Yahya (John).

 

Zechariah, despite his supplication, was surprised with the news. He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel replied, “Such is God; He does what He wills.”

 

Upon asking for a sign, he was informed, “Your sign is that you will not be able to speak to the people for three days except by gesture. And remember your Lord much and exalt Him with praise in the evening and the morning.”

 

The Given Name of “Yahya”

 

When God gave Zechariah the good news of a boy, God stated that his name will be Yahya, a name not given to anyone before. The meaning of Yahya is “to come alive”; whereas the meaning of John is “God is Gracious.”

 

Yahya is not a direct equivalence to John in meaning. Yahya was also known as Yuhannan (in Arabic), which is the exact translation of John (Johanan in English Old Testament and Yochanan in the original Hebrew).

 

There is no direct Biblical translation of Yahya, a unique name given by God Himself.

Parallels of John and Jesus

 

John was wise from a young age, kind to his parents and affectionate towards plants and animals. He was sent to renew the spirit of the religion and support Jesus in his teachings.

 

John Jesus
Their surprise conception and their parents’ dialogue
He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel said, “Such is Allah ; He does what He wills.”

3:40

She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.

3:47

John came to confirm and support Jesus
“Indeed, God gives you good tidings of John, confirming a Word from God and [who will be] honourable, chaste, and a prophet from among the righteous.”

3:39

“O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to God].

3:45

Knowledge and application of the Scripture
God said, “O John, take the Scripture with determination.” And We gave him judgement [while yet] a boy and affection from Us and purity, and he was fearing of God.

19:12-13

[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.

19:30-31

Dutiful to their parents
And dutiful to his parents, and he was not a disobedient tyrant.

19:14

And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.

19:32

Peace surrounded them both
And peace be upon him the day he was born and the day he dies and the day he is raised alive.

19:15

And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.

19:33

 

Baptism in Islam?

 

Islam is silent on the concept of baptism. There is nothing in Quran and narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) confirming or denying the ritual of baptism or that John performed anything similar.

 

Therefore, we acknowledge baptism as a possible ritual of a previous law sanctioned by God that we cannot confirm nor deny. If such a ritual was sanctioned, it is no longer valid in the final Law of God as taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Death of John

John, Jesus and Zechariah (peace be upon them) faced intense resistance from their own people and the Judean Kingdom within the Roman Empire. The Jewish King Herod sought the assassination of both John and Jesus for threatening his power and stability in the region.

 

He attempted to crucify Jesus and was successful in assassinating John. Zechariah was also killed by the Israelites.

 

The Lifesaver and the Deep End

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Golden Advice for Every Muslim, New or Otherwise
– Written by Lindsay

It was like diving into the deep end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool

…and I didn’t know how to swim.

I had a sense of euphoria the day I accepted Islam, barely getting the words of the Shahada out. Just like a dream, I only remember parts of what followed: the hugs, the congrats, the men yelling something out I didn’t understand at the time, the gifts and many, many pieces of advice that went way over my head.

I was finally happy. And because I felt grateful to this warm community that welcomed me as one of their own, their sister, I was all too happy to oblige to the advice that came my way.

The advice pretty much surrounded topics of:

  • Hijab and clothing
  • How to pray and what to say
  • Memorizing Arabic prayers
  • Halal meat and gelatin
  • Name change
  • A lot about what I should start doing and what I should stop doing

My first year of Islam was like running before learning to walk, or diving into the deep-end without learning to swim. I was just going with the flow, learning without understanding. By the end of the year, I couldn’t even recognize myself.

Who am I? What am I doing? More importantly… WHY am I doing it?!

Then one day, I met a sister who recognized the internal conflict I was having. It turns out this happens to many, even born-Muslims and non-Muslims, who take on too much too quickly.

They call it burnout.

She gave me lifesaver golden advice. This is what I now pass on to any Muslim, new or otherwise, to help them stay grounded.

  1. Slow and steady wins the race.

Islam offers a vast ocean of knowledge and no one has ever reached the end of it. There will always be something to learn, so take it easy and learn one thing at a time. Begin with learning about God which is the most important subject and slowly move on from one level to the next. Take your time. There’s no rush.

  1. Focus on your connection with God first and foremost.

When you first focus on spirituality, your love and connection with God, and talking to Him through prayer regularly everything else falls into place.

Then comes the meaning of the prescribed ritual worship.

It’s like laying the foundation to your house. Putting up walls and floor panels before the foundation is doing it the wrong way.  

When you know why you perform the prescribed ritual worship, learning how to do it becomes something you crave to do. The secondary issues of meat and clothing will eventually come when you’re ready. There is no recommended timeline because each person grows in their own time.

  1. God wants ease for you, not difficulty.

One of the things I was scared of was committing to 5 daily ritual prayers, fasting 30 days of Ramadan, and some other Do’s and Don’ts. When we look at Islam as a set of rules, we’re putting on the wrong pair of lenses. We should get to know the Law Giver who gave us Islam.

God has made Islam easy and a guideline to leading a successful life.

My daughter used to cry when I moved her away from the hot pot she wanted to touch. I did that to protect her from getting hurt; I did that because I loved her.

There is nobody in your life that has your best interest than God. There is ease in Islam and with the right pair of lenses you will find it.

  1. Islam does come with some lifestyle changes, but never with personality changes.

No doubt, accepting Islam does come with some changes. But it does not mean you become someone else. I love my family, they are the ones who raised me after all. Islam does not tell me to cut ties with them. Rather, Islam teaches me to honor them, to serve them and to treat them kindly.

It’s been 6 years since I accepted Islam, and I still meet up with some of my childhood friends for coffee, I still enjoy the same genres of books and movies as I always did, and I still go by the name Lindsay… and that will never change.

 

Ashura

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Islam traces its history back to the first human Adam, and the Way of Life of every messenger of God throughout history. Hence, we are taught to follow the guidance and example of all the messengers of God who all taught to ‘worship God and to follow His commandments’. In so doing Muslims have a stronger claim to the messenger of God than others who claim to follow them, yet have adulterated and corrupted their teachings.

 

The messenger Muhammed is quoted to have said, ‘We are more deserving of Moses than them’ ‘I am more deserving of Jesus’. These statements took place on different occasions. Muhammad’s claim to these great messengers of God is manifest in following in their tradition in worshiping the same God that they did and to correct the false doctrines that people attribute to these great men of God.

 

The most oft repeated story in the Quran is that of Moses and his people. Moses is from the Israelites, the family and offspring of Jacob the messenger of God, who had migrated to Egypt during the time of Joseph and settled there as nobility due to the status of their kin in Egypt. However, several generations would pass and conditions would change as the Israelites assimilated more into Egyptian society, and they lost the edge they had in devotion and dedication to God. The biggest change however was that the King of Egypt felt threatened by them and started persecuting them, turning them into the lowest class in society and killing their male children out of his fear and paranoia. Moses was born in this environment and is spared the fate of other male children by a miracle of God which resulted in him being raised in the house of Pharaoh from infancy. As a young adult he left Egypt in a long self-imposed exile that led to his commission by God to be a Messenger to the Israelites and to confront Pharaoh. Upon his return to Egypt God gave him many miracles and gave Pharaoh many chances. The final chapter was God commanding Moses to take the Israelites out of Egypt to the Land of their ancestors, the Holy Land. When Pharaoh found out, he was not having it and decided to mobilize his army to capture the Israelites. God showed the Israelites a great miracle by splitting the sea for them to pass unharmed. When Pharaoh and his army also tried to cross, God made them drown.

 

The greatest event in that story was the day God saved Moses and the Israelites from the tyrannical king of Egypt, the Pharaoh and his army. This event is known in the Bible as Exodus which is also the name of the second book in the Old Testament. The version of the story in the Quran is powerful.

See Quran, 20:9-82, 26:10-66, 28:3-44, 40:23-46, 44:17-33, 7:103-137, 10:75-93, 17:101-104, 51:38-40,

 

“Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you…. Remember when We saved you from Pharaoh’s people, who subjected you to terrible torment, slaughtering your sons and sparing only your women-this was a great trial from your Lord- and when We parted the sea for you, so saving you and drowning Pharaoh’s people right before your eyes.”

 

In Islam, we are told that Moses and his followers fasted to God in gratitude for having saved them that day. The Jewish community at the time of the revelation of the Quran used to consider this day a day of celebration. Muhammed the messenger of God taught his followers that we are more deserving of Moses than others who falsely claim to follow him and that we should fast to God in gratitude as Moses and the believers with him did.

 

The event took place on the 10th Day of the first lunar month of the Islamic calendar, called Muharram, hence the name Ashura (The Tenth). It is recommended for us to fast this day by refraining from food, drink and intimate relations from dawn till sunrise. The reward we are promised and the incentive for fasting it is expiation for the sins of the past year. If one is also able to, it would be best to fast a day before the 10th to follow the statement of the messenger Muhammed in being different than those of other traditions. This year this day will correspond with the 11th of October.

 

It should be noted that the month of Muharram is one of the four sacred months in Islam. This month is called God’s Sacred Moth. It is highly recommended to fast voluntarily throughout this month as it is beloved to God to do so.

 

We should make sure that we are connected to sacred history and to the tradition of the messengers of God by fasting on this day. Let’s plan to learn about the stories of the messengers of God in the Quran and keep their legacy, ‘worship God and follow His commandments’.

 

For more on the story of Moses in Islam please see

 

http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/3366/viewall/story-of-moses/

Day Of Sacrifice

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Day of Sacrifice[1]

The tenth day of the Month of the Pilgrimage [2], is the second Islamic holiday of the year. Muslims around the world celebrate it just as they did a few months ago after the completion of Ramadan. This year this day will correspond with Monday the 12th of September.

The history of the Day of Sacrifice goes back to the time of Abraham.  The annual celebration commemorates the great event when God commanded Abraham in a dream to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience. 37:102

As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had been fulfilled.  He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others, that he would make any sacrifice in order to submit to God.  A different version of the same story also appears in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Some people are confused as to why God asked Abraham to slaughter his own son.  The purpose was not for Abraham to kill his son; rather it was to sacrifice the attachment to his son from his heart so all love belonged to God alone.

Thus, it is a part of our tradition that during the blessed Ten Days of the Month of Pilgrimage and on the Day of Sacrifice we remember the sacrifice of Abraham by reflecting over the story and reliving some of the rites.  We reflect on what made him such a strong believer, one who was beloved to God, someone God blessed and made a leader and example for all the nations that were to follow.

Sacrificing one’s son was a test of Abraham’s faith.  To commemorate and remember Abraham’s trials, Muslims slaughter an animal such as a sheep, goat, cow, or camel.  The practice is often misunderstood by those outside of the faith.  Therefore, several points must be understood here:

 

 

  1. The animal sacrifice is not a pagan ritual as some may assume. It is nothing like pagan rituals as there is no use of the spilled blood to rub on objects or icons as a blood ritual. There are no superstitious beliefs. There is also no false belief that the blood or meat goes to feed a god or is used to avert such false god’s anger as pagans believe.

Quite the contrary as the One True God tells us the point behind the sacrifice.

“We have made sacrificial animals (camels/cows) part of God’s sacred rites for you. There is much good in them for you , so mention God’s name over them as they are lined up for sacrifice, then, when they have fallen down dead, feed yourselves and those who do not ask, as well as those who do. We have subjected them to you in this way so that you may be thankful. It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches God but your piety. He has subjected them to you in this way so that you may glorify God for having guided you. Prophet, give good news to those who do good.” 22:36-37

Performing this ritual sacrifice in the name of God is a sign of obedience to God, piety. After the blood is drained and discarded, the meat of the animal is to be distributed to the poor, one’s family and friends.

  1. There are no special rituals involved, other than the animal meeting certain requirements.  The animal is slaughtered in the same way it is slaughtered any other time in the year to be lawful to consume.  The only difference is in the intention.  For regular slaughter, the intention is to consume the meat or feed it to others, but for this occasion, it is to worship God by commemorating Abraham’s trial and in obedience to God.
  2. God’s Name is pronounced since God has given us power over animals and made them subservient to us. He allowed us to consume their meat, but only in His Name.  By saying the Name of God at the time of slaughter, we remind ourselves that even the life of an animal is sacred and we can only take away its life in the Name of the One who gave it in the first place.
  3. Good acts atone for one’s sins.  Offering the animal sacrifice is a ritual of devotion that also expiates one’s sins.  Muhammad the messenger of God taught that the most beloved deed on this day is offering the sacrifice and that it will bear witness for the devotee on the Day of Resurrection.

 

 

 

Regulations related to the Sacrificial Animal

  • Type of Animal

The only animals which are allowed to be sacrificed are those mentioned in the Quran as cattle and livestock lawful for consumption, namely camels, cows, goats and sheep. A single sheep can be offered as a sacrifice for a single person or a family.  At the time of the Messenger of God, a man would sacrifice a sheep on behalf of himself and the members of his household, and they would eat from it and give some to others. A camel or cow is sufficient for seven people.

  •   Age of Animal

The animal should be of a certain age to be fit for sacrifice.  The minimum ages are:

  1. a) 6 months for a lamb or sheep.
  2. b) 1 year for a goat.
  3. c) 2 years for a cow.
  4. d) 5 years for a camel.
  • Characteristics of the Animal

It should be free of any faults or defects as one should choose the best offering to gift to God. The blind or one eyed animal, a sick animal, a lame animal, and an emaciated animal will not qualify for the sacrifice.

There are milder defects that do not disqualify an animal, but it is disliked to sacrifice such animals, like an animal with a horn or ear missing, or with slits in its ears, etc.

  • Time of Sacrifice

The animal should be sacrificed at the specified time which starts after the congregational service (prayer and sermon) on the Day of Sacrifice has concluded and lasts until before sunset of the 13th day of the Month of Sacrifice. The three days following the Day of Sacrifice are called the Days of Sunrise.[3]

The meat from the sacrifice is eaten by family and relatives, given away to friends and neighbors, and donated to the poor.  We recognize that all blessings come from God, and we should open our hearts and share with others.

 

Advice for the Day of Sacrifice

  1. Take the day of off from work or school, if possible. If you cannot, try to make arrangements for time off to try to attend the congregational service if it is close by.
  2. Make arrangements for the sacrificial animal ahead of time. You can go with local Muslims to a ranch or a slaughter house or go by yourself if you have prior experience. It will be an experience you will not forget! You may want to slaughter the animal yourself or you can have a fellow Muslim do it for you. If no Muslim is available, a Jew or a Christian may do it as long as they slaughter the animal properly by cutting the jugular veins and letting the animal bleed out. You can also transfer money to an Islamic charity to do it on your behalf and they will distribute the meat to the poor. For millions of poor Muslims around the world it is the only time in the year they get to eat meat.

If you do not live in an area with a Muslim community, it is recommended that you donate money to a charity to do the sacrifice on your behalf and to feed poor Muslims through one of the online Islamic relief organizations.  Costs of doing the sacrifice will vary based on the country you want it to be performed in. A few organizations are listed below, you can find many more online:

http://www.islamic-relief.org/category/seasonal/seasonalcampaignqurbani/

http://irusa.org/udhiyahqurbani/?gclid=CL-llYOA-c4CFQpsfgod1A8Cfg

http://umrelief.org/qurbani/

  1. Connect with your local mosque or Islamic center at least a week before to find out the time and place where the congregational prayer will be held. After the prayer, sweets and light refreshments are usually served. Most mosques will hold Eid dinners either in the evening or within the next few days. Find out when and where they are and try to attend them.
  2. Do not get lonely or feel isolated. Make arrangements with your Muslim friends or families ahead of time to visit them for Eid. Invite Muslim friends and cook for them. If you can’t cook, eat out with them. Try to involve your non-Muslim family members by taking them to the Eid prayer with you or have them visit you for dinner with your Muslim friends. It will take some planning. Do it ahead of time. You have four days to celebrate!
  3. Families give gifts to children on Eid. Prophet Muhammad said: “Exchange gifts with each other, you will love each other.” You may like to give gifts to your non-Muslim and Muslim family members and friends.
  4. Volunteer on Eid day at your local mosque. They will need volunteers for parking, food set-up, clean up, children’s activities, and more.
  5. Dress up for Eid. Buy some new clothes and be in ‘celebration’ mode!

To sum up the proceeding…

On this day, a Muslim who is not performing the Hajj pilgrimage engages in the same activities one normally does on the Day of Breaking Fast[4], with the exception of paying the charity of breaking fast, which applies only after Ramadan.

A distinctive feature in this Celebration is the slaughtering of a sacrificial animal, which is considered to be a highly recommended act of worship for those who can afford it financially.

Another feature is the extension of the feast for several days. The Day of Arafa, the Day of Sacrifice and the three Days of Sunrise are five consecutive days of celebration which come around annually, hence the name Eid[5]. These days are designated to be a time to ‘eat, drink, joy, and remembrance/devotion to God’ as the messenger Muhammad taught. The Day of Sacrifice along with the three days after it are days that are forbidden to fast as they are days of celebration.

A sacrificial animal refers to any of the pastoral animals (sheep, goats, cows or camels) that are slaughtered during the Festival of Sacrifice with the intention of seeking closeness to God.

Slaughtering a sacrificial animal during the Festival of Sacrifice is a practice which the messenger Muhammad regularly did and encouraged for those who can afford to do so. The head of the household may offer a sacrifice for himself and on behalf of his dependents.

It is not lawful to offer a sacrifice of any animal or bird except pastoral animals, namely sheep, cows or camels.

One sheep or goat would suffice for a household, and seven different households may share in sacrificing a cow or a camel.

The sacrificial animal must be of the right age. A sheep must be at least six months, a goat one year old, a cow two years old, and a camel five years old. It should also be free from apparent defects.

What Should Be Done with the Sacrificial Animal?

It is forbidden to sell any part of the sacrificial animal.

It is recommended to divide it into three parts: one part for personal consumption/eating, one third to be given as gifts and one third to be given in charity to the poor and the needy.

It is permissible to delegate someone to slaughter a sacrificial animal on one’s behalf, such as trustworthy charitable organization that undertake the slaughter of sacrificial animals and distribute them to the needy.

It is, of course, permissible to slaughter more than one animal on behalf of a single household or person as it would count as extra good deeds.

May God bless you and accept your worship and sacrifice.

[1] Day of ‘Adha’ Sacrifice

[2] Thul Hijjah

[3] Days of ‘Tashreeq’ Sunrise as people would have the meat from their offerings dried under the sun during these days.

[4] Day of ‘Fitr’ Breaking Fast

[5] Eid means a recurring and repeated event

God’s Best Day of the Year

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From sunrise on the ninth day of the Month of Pilgrimage, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, pilgrims begin arriving in droves to the plain of Arafat which is east of Mecca. They are on a mission to perform the greatest task and rite of the whole pilgrimage after they spent the night in the Mina Valley the day before. This is the legacy which Abraham left to humanity and the same location where events from his life transpired long ago.

Muslims throughout the world who are not on pilgrimage can also gain favor with God on this special day by taking advantage of it in ritual worship and devotional acts.

The Day of Arafa is one of the special Days of God which He has sanctified and honored with many different virtues.

  1.     It is one of the days of the four sacred months. 9:39
  2.     It is one of the days of the Pilgrimage months. 2:197
  3.     It is one of the identified special ten days of the year. 22:28
  4.     It is one of the ten days which God swore by to signify their importance. 89:2 Good deeds are multiplied many fold in these ten days, more than any other time of the year.
  5.     It is the best day of the whole year where God Almighty is proud of His servants who have come to Him in a most humble way with repentance and devotion.
  6.     It is the day that God designated as a completion of the rituals of Islam at the time of the completion of the Quran’s revelation and the end of the messenger’s life and mission. 5:3
    The Muslims were finally able to perform their first pilgrimage and this is how they were able to apply Islam in full. In that event the pilgrimage was restored to the way of Abraham pure and unadulterated. All changes which were introduced by the pagans to the way of Abraham throughout the ages were eliminated. Polytheism and idolatry came to an end in Arabia. Pagans were no longer allowed to desecrate the House of God which Abraham had dedicated for the pure worship and service of the One True God.
  7.     The completion of God’s favor takes place through forgiveness. No favor is greater than God’s forgiveness. 48:2
  8.     It is a festival and a day of celebration which returns annually.
  9.     Fasting on this day expiates one’s sins and inadequacies for two years, the current and the future year.
  10.     It is a day where God frees people from the fire of Hell and expiates and forgives their sins. He shows pride in His righteous servants who have repented.

Some acts of devotion which are recommended on this day in the tradition of the messenger Muhammad.

  1.  Fasting by refraining from food, drink and sexual intimacy  along with anything that diminishes the fast from dawn to sunset on this day.
  2.  Increasing in mentioning God’s names and praises through litany, reciting the Quran and glorifying the name of God who is greater than everything.
  3.   Praying and supplication to God.
  4.  Performing extra ritual devotion (Salah).
  5.  Charity and service.
  6.  Feeding the poor.

Trials of Abraham, Pilgrimage and Sacrifice

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Abraham has a very important status to many people in the world, especially Jews, Christians and Muslims. Many claim Abraham to themselves but God says, “Abraham was neither a Jew nor Christian. Rather he was upright and devoted to God in submission (Islam), never an idolater.” 3:67

Abraham’s journey to God is full of trials from the very beginning. The Quran recounts the story of Abraham finding God and dedicating himself to Him against all odds at a very young age. He then migrates in the land to have the ability to worship God. Once he has a family of his own, the trials continue and his family also experiences these trials. As a believing family they go through God’s tests and pass them.

Many of us may be familiar with the Biblical accounts of the story, however, the Quran sets the record straight and sheds light on what truly transpired long ago without dramatization.

Abraham’s experience shows the importance of faith and dedication to the One True God.

Abraham at a very old age asks God for a child who will inherit the responsibility of inviting people to God and following His commandments. His prayers are answered and he is blessed with his first child, Ishmael. Shortly after, he must face the trial of separation and abandonment, which will take Hagar and their child, Ishmael, to a barren land and a dead Valley.

Having left Hagar and Ishmael, in the middle of the dessert with a skin of water and leather bag full of dates and walking away. Hagar became anxious as to what was happening. Abraham did not look back.  Hagar chased him, ‘O Abraham, where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we can enjoy, nor is there anything here?’

Abraham hurried his pace.  Finally, Hagar asked, ‘Has God asked you to do so?’

Suddenly, Abraham stopped, turned back and said, ‘Yes!’

Feeling a degree of comfort in this answer, Hagar asked, ‘O Abraham, to whom are you leaving us?’

‘I am leaving you to God’s care,’ Abraham replied.

Hagar submitted to her Lord, ‘I am satisfied to be with God!’

As he leaves, Abraham prays to God and asks for His aid in caring for his family, stating that his intention in leaving his family was obedience and dedication to God. 14:37

Abraham passes the test and so does Hagar and God cares for the young family in Abraham’s absence.

Several years after this abandonment in the desert Abraham was to undergo another trial: God asked him to sacrifice his firstborn son, Ishmael.

During these trials, beyond his human grief and in fact through that very grief, Abraham develops a relationship with God based on faithfulness, reconciliation, peace, and trust. God tries him but is always speaking to him, inspiring him and strewing his path with signs that calm and reassure him.

The Islamic tradition is that God asks Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael; in the Bible, the tradition is that Abraham is asked to sacrifice his first son, however the name that is placed there is Isaac.

This is how the Quran recounts the story:

Lord grant me a righteous son, so We gave him the good news that he would have a patient son. When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said, ‘My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?’ He said, ‘Father, do as you are commanded and , God willing, you will find me steadfast.’ When they had both submitted to God, and he had laid his son down on the side of his face, We called out to him, ‘Abraham, you have fulfilled the dream.’ This is how We reward those who do good- it was a test to prove their true characters. We ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice, and We let him be praised by succeeding generations: ‘Protection and wellbeing be upon Abraham! 37:100-109

The trial is one we can not conceive the difficulty of: for the sake of his love and faith in God, Abraham must sacrifice his son, despite his fatherly love. The trial of faith is expressed here in this tension between the two loves.

Abraham consults Ishmael, and it is his own son, the object of sacrifice, whose comforting words to his father are like a confirming sign: ‘Father, do as you are commanded and , God willing, you will find me steadfast.’ 37:102

Their love for each other did not overtake their love for God. Truly this is where success lies.

Abraham and his son pass the test. A ransom was granted by the grace of God and the tradition of an animal sacrifice to the One True God is commemorated by believers on the Feast of Sacrifice on specific days of the Month of Pilgrimage annually.

Later in life, Abraham and his son Ishmael were commanded to construct a temple and a house of worship dedicated exclusively to the One True God. They completed building the cube structure (Kaba) together and prayed for acceptance. 2:127

God then ordered Abraham to call out for people to perform pilgrimage to it. God says, “Proclaim the Pilgrimage to all people. They will come to you on foot and on every kind of lean camel; emerging from every distant pass.” 22:28

Abraham asked, “My Lord, how can the message reach the people when my call would not reach them?”

God said, “Call them, and I will relay the message.”

Abraham then stood near the Kaba and proclaimed, “People! Your Lord has taken this as His House so perform a pilgrimage to it!” And to this day, any pilgrim who visits Mecca is answering his call.

Abandonment of comfort and ease is commemorated in the Pilgrimage. People continue to answer the call of Abraham and travel to the house which Abraham and Ishmael built. They dedicate themselves to model the rites of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael from long ago with the same objective and the intention to please the Lord of the Universe.

A Woman’s Faith, Dedication and Strength

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To be a Muslim, one has to believe in, respect, honor and accept all the messengers that God has sent to humanity. In the Quran God tells us about many of these role models and their stories. Unfortunately, for many of us familiar with the Biblical report of Abraham’s story, Ishmael and his mother Hagar do not get much attention. In fact, they are mentioned briefly in a negative light. Likewise followers of the Bible never give them the honor which they deserve.

 

Islam and its scripture the Quran, set the record straight on this and other historical matters which people have lost or ignored. The 12th month of the Islamic year is the Month of the Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage is the 5th pillar of action in Islam along with the Feast of Sacrifice are Divinely mandated celebrations and a commemoration of the lives of Abraham, Hagar and their son Ishmael.

 

Some of the main highlights of Abraham’s story in Islam are: the trial of separation from family in Arabia to test dedication to God, vision of sacrificing the firstborn son Ishmael to test his love of God, then having the ransom ram out of God’s grace, building the cube structure (Kaba) in Mecca along with his son Ishmael, dedicating it as the first house of worship for the One True God, and inviting humanity to the Pilgrimage in obedience to God’s command.

 

Hagar was Abraham’s partner in much of the story. She cared for Ishmael in infancy in the barren valley for what would later become Mecca. She trusted that her son would build the Sacred House with his father when things looked so bleak in the early days. She gave the blessed special spring of water it’s name. She raised her son to be dedicated and obedient to God and to honor his father which would manifest in him accepting to be sacrificed.

 

She was an absolute trim tabber, which is the small wheel in large titanic ships that needs to turn in order for the bigger wheel to turn and for the whole ship to move. She was an essential component and the behind the scenes figure in Abraham’s story. Without her, fundamental quantum leaps and changes in the world could not have taken place. That’s how critical her role was.

 

Lessons to take from Hagar’s Amazing Story:

  1. Hagar was placed with Abraham by God as a key support system and a righteous partner. She bore Abraham his first child, Ishmael.
  2. Once she was blessed with a son, God tested her and Abraham shortly thereafter. Often when we want something so badly, we let it consume us not realizing that we’re so engrossed in the gift that we have forgotten the giver.
  3. She had total submission and amazing belief in God. When she was tested, She asked Abraham, “has God commanded you to leave us here?” He nodded his head. So immediately she was calm. This is solid, unflustered belief in God.
  4. Hagar was an example of fine belief. She never questioned or doubted. The person that is able to leave their matters to God in such a way, is a truly happy believer. One may ask…“Why me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do? Why do believers have to suffer while those who are less religious or religionless have everything they want? What’s the point? Where is the wisdom? Where is the mercy?” So many questions go through people’s minds when they’re facing a difficulty. But God doesn’t leave our questions unanswered.
  5. To be pleased with God no matter what the outcome. The person who championed this was Hagar.
  6. When she was being tested, she decided to take the means, without doubting God. To take the means is to do what is in your control. Yet to put your complete trust in God and not in the means.
  7. This woman faced her difficulty saying “God will not neglect us”; she went through physical struggle, emotional struggle, psychological, spiritual and even existential struggle… She could have doubted the words of faith she uttered at the beginning. But she remained steadfast. The relief eventually came with an angel repeating her same words “God will never neglect His people”. This is a live embodiment of the saying of Muhammad the Messenger of God who said, “God the Exalted says: ‘I am as my slave expects Me to be”
  8. God loved Hagar for her faith and trust in God, so He sent her help through Angel Gabriel. As a result, a spring of water was gifted to all of humanity. This is known as the well of Zamzam. She had good expectations of God. God didn’t only meet her expectations, but He gave her beyond what she imagined or prayed for.
  9. The place that was barren became the honorable location of the House of God where millions upon millions of people gravitate towards year after year until the end of time.
  10. The moments of faith, patience and hard work experienced by Hagar became a fundamental part of a faith followed by billions of people. She initiated one of the main rites of the Pilgrimage which is walking between Safa and Marwa. This rite is a fundamental part of the Pilgrimage. A pillar of Islam won’t be complete without following this woman. This is not merely in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense of trusting God in the hardest of moments, continuing to pursue Him and having hope in Him despite everything that we may be facing.

 

Our Islamic heritage is rich with a plethora of females that shook the world. Many target Islam as oppressive to women when in fact it calls to submission to God equally for both men and women. All are equal in their ability to gain favor with God and achieve high levels of spiritual rank. Many women may have influenced the world. However, true and everlasting influence is that which God praises and asks His servants to commemorate. Hagar is a figure which God himself has honored.

 

This is the story of Hagar in a nutshell.

Keeping Faith: 10 pieces of advice for New Muslims

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Accepting Islam is just the beginning. A New Muslim’s journey is paved with many tests, but it’s also marked with many blessings. Answering the call of God by way of embracing and practicing Islam is the path that is the most worthy of being tread.

Having some valuable advice from others who have gone on this path before you, can help in navigating through it with ease.We’ve worked with many new Muslims and always come across great pieces of advice they share from their experiences. There are some that really stick out, and we wanted to share with all those New Muslims who are probably going through similar challenges.  Here are 10 pieces of valuable advice they would like to share with you.

10. Breaking the News:. Accepting Islam may be at odds with your family’s religious beliefs.  NMA students advised taking it gradually, slowly easing them into the news. Some suggested inviting them to dinner or taking them to an Islamic event.

9. Reconciling Differences: Non-Muslim family and friends may start to debate with you over your choice. NMA students advised not to engage in heated debates, rather address them respectfully and avoid arguing.

8. Bridging the Gap: It’s important to show you have not lost your identity by becoming Muslim. Although, you may not be able to participate in certain events you used to, attendance of these events does not define you as a person. These issues will continue to arise. NMA students advised to be confident in explaining your decisions and values. Don’t be apologetic about your Islamic values. Refrain from criticizing and having a judgemental tone when speaking to family about their values and decisions.

7. The New Muslim Colleague: With a new set of practices and values like prescribed ritual worship and fasting it may be difficult to keep your conversion private. NMA students advised, letting your co-workers know through a friendly conversation, and maybe starting with your boss.

6. Destination Paradise: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said whoever treads a path in search of knowledge, God will ease the way to paradise for him”. NMA students advised New Muslims to begin studying by utilizing NMA and seeking NMA teachers’ guidance in reading Islamic books, attending events, and taking online classes.

5. The Starting point:  Having a good foundation will help while on the path of seeking knowledge. NMA students advised starting with a general understanding of beliefs followed by major practises of Islam. Some suggested learning commonly used Islamic terms and phrases.

4. Taking the Best Route: Treading the path of knowledge means learning the ins and outs of Islam. Many advised first finding a reliable source of learning, followed by seeking a mentor or a supportive community.

3. Slow Down: Immersed in a vast amount of knowledge and desire to implement can be an overwhelming and confusing experience. Don’t take on too much too soon.Take things on gradually, you don’t have to do everything in one day. Try a Muslim buddy system, where you can keep in touch and check up on each other.

2.  Roadblocks and Open Roads: It’s natural for new Muslims to have questions and concerns about the knowledge they are acquiring and implementing. Please ask NMA teachers or other qualified and properly trained teachers for guidance about your religious concerns.

1.Crossing Borders: New Muslims can find themselves entering a foreign community with its own language, cultures and unique dynamics. NMA students advised to attend Islamic events and gatherings with more seasoned Muslims who can show you around. Slowly get involved in local programs, by volunteering in order to better acquaint yourself, and also developing your own confidence and skills.

Want to read more, get our free e-book:  http://newmuslimacademy.org/ebook/

Charity of Breaking Fast

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Dear NMA family,

We wanted to remind you about the obligatory Charity of Breaking Fast (Zakat Al Fitr) which is due on Muslims and to be given at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan. Many New Muslims are not aware of this regulation although it is something that completes the ritual of fasting as it was prescribed by God.

This charity is to be given before the day of the Feast of Breaking Fast (Eid Al Fitr). It serves as a form of gratitude for the ability to serve God during the month, expiation of sins committed during the month and a way of showing compassion to those Muslims in need, so they enjoy he holiday like everyone else.

It’s significance:

1. It purifies the person who fasted Ramadan and cleanses him/her of indecent behavior and minor sins committed during Ramadan.

2. The Feast of Breaking Fast is a day of eating and drinking, as the month prior to it was one of fasting. This charity ensures that even the poorest of Muslims will partake in this outward show of festivity.

This charity is required of every Muslim who has a the means to a full day of food. You may offer it one or two days before Eid to insure that it is delivered to the poor in due time.

Who to Give It To? It is given to a fellow Muslim with limited financial means.

This offering manifests the importance of the social cohesion and well fare of the Muslim community. Due to the fact that many of us, New Muslims, are not in a close proximity to any local Muslim community where we can give this charity to the needy, it is best to designate a charity organization to give on your behalf.

One resource for you to donate online is Islamic Relief.

http://www.islamic-relief.org/zakat/zakat-al-fitr/

For further reading, the following two articles shed more light on the subject

http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-240-4649.htm

http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-376-3325.htm

May God accept your good deeds during this month.

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