Do You Smile?

January 4, 2010

I used to visit a specific masjid and for a bit of time I did not look forward to attending that masjid.  I didn’t know anyone there and very few people there made an effort to reach out.  I would see brothers that I would see every day and they wouldn’t smile at me and so I didn’t feel as welcome as I should have.  Maybe it was because they were stingy with their smiles or maybe I wasn’t a member of their click (maybe I wasn’t tablighi enough for the Pakistanis or salafi enough for the Saudis or Arab enough for the Palestinians or convert enough for the blacks (bad generalizations on purpose) etc etc).  In reality, if I wasn’t stubborn enough, there is a good chance I would have stopped going to that masjid because of the uncomfortable environment. 

Muslims are supposed to be welcoming, cheerful people, especially around other Muslims.  We know from the hadith that smiling for your brother is a charity, yet many of us decide we don’t have enough smiles to give out or we decide we only want to smile to those we know.  For those that cannot smile for their fellow Muslim brother, this is a completely moronic and idiotic train of thought that comes from nationalism, miserliness or ignorance.

If you look at the kuffar and the environment they’ve produced around us here in the West, you will notice that these people will make an effort.  They will make eye contact with you.  They will smile in your face and ask you how your day is going.  They will make small talk.  What is wrong with us (the Muslims) when we cannot do this amongst ourselves?

For those that want the scientific benefits of smiling (though the Sunnah should be enough for us), Dr. Mark Stibich (via about.com) notes ten reasons to smile:

1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive:
We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away — but a smile draws them in.

2. Smiling Changes Our Mood:
Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There’s a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

3. Smiling Is Contagious:
When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.

4. Smiling Relieves Stress:
Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.

5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System:
Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.

6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure:
When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?

7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin:
Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.

8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger:
The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day — you’ll look younger and feel better.

9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful:
Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.

10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive:
Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.

Therefore, O Muslim, smile, it’s the sunnah!  So I ask you, do you smile?
Related: Do You Miswak? and Do You Adhan?

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The Fiqh of Priorities

September 1, 2009

It is a sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAW) to shorten the dhuhr and asr prayers to two rakat instead of four during the time of Hajj. However, Uthman (the caliph at the time) thought the sunnah was to pray the full four rakat. Ibn Masood , who had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten his prayers during Hajj, approached Uthman to tell him of the correct opinion. However, Uthman held firm to what he believed was correct and led the prayer in full. Ibn Masood prayed behind Uthman the full prayer.

Afterwards, a group of Muslims came to Ibn Masood and asked him why he prayed the full four rakat behind Uthman when he could have waited for the prayer to be over and then prayed the shortened prayer by himself. After all, Ibn Masood had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten the prayer himself and knew it to be the correct opinion. Ibn Masood responded that to shorten the prayers during Hajj is a sunnah, however, to follow the imam is an obligation.

Here we are given a glimpse into the Fiqh of Priorities. We are to give precedence to that which is more important. So next time you want to become a fitnah in your community and raise a ruckus about whether the Taraweeh prayers should be eight or twenty rakat, ask yourself, “Is this what the companions of the Prophet (SAW) would do?” After all, the true sunnah here is to pray what the imam has prayed as Abu Dharr said the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer” (Tirmidhi).

For a lecture on the Fiqh of Priorities, check out Yasir Fazaqa’s lecture available on AudioIslam here (it’s the 22nd lecture listed).

How to Prepare for Ramadan

August 16, 2009

A lot of us yearn to prepare for Ramadan, but we have no idea how to start. Below are a few tips to insha’Allah help prepare our minds and hearts for this upcoming Month of Mercy.

1. Making the Intention

Simple to do and has a powerful impact. Maybe you want to prepare for Ramadan, but between school, work, family, and any other activities, you just have no idea how to fit in ‘Preparing for Ramadan’ time. Instead of making ‘preparing for Ramadan’ something separate from your daily activities, MAKE your daily activities a means of preparation for Ramadan.

For example, perhaps your mom asked you to pick up your brother from school on the day you finally had time to read a few extra pages of Qur’an. Instead of feeling upset and feeling like you have lost a great preparation for Ramadan opportunity, make the intention that you are picking up your brother to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and prepare for Ramadan by obeying your mother, helping your family members, building ties of kinship… and the list continues.

The point is that preparing for Ramadan does not have to be some magnificent, enormous, extra-special thing that needs to be done at a certain time of the day. Many of your daily actions can be turned into Ramadan preparation actions with a sincere intention, insha’Allah.

2. Do these easy-to-reap-reward actions:

Asking Allah to forgive your brothers and sisters. “Whoever seeks forgiveness for believing men and believing woman, Allah will write for him a good deed for each believing man and believing woman.” [at-Tabarani, classed as hasan by al-Albani]

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (r.a) said “The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Whoever says subhanAllah wa bi hamdih (praise and glory be to Allah) 100 times, morning and evening, his sins will be erased even if they are like the foam on the sea.” Narrated by al-Bukhari, 6042; Muslim 2691

If a person says “SubhanAllah” (glory be to Allah) 100 times, a thousand good deeds are recorded for him and a thousand bad deeds are wiped away. Narrated by Muslim 2073

Remember Allah when you go shopping : “Whoever enters a market and says: “Laa ilaha illallah wahdahu la shareeka lah, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu yuhyi wa yumeetu wa huwa hayyun laa yamoot, bi yadihil khair, wa huwa ‘ala kulli shayin qadeer’[there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, alone without partner, to Him belongs dominion and praise, He causes life and death and He is the Living and does not die. In His Hand is all the good, and He is over all things competent]Allah will write for him/her a million good deeds and erase a million bad deeds and raise him a million levels.” [at-Tirmidhi, classed as hasan by al-Albani]

3. Up your worship

To help condition your heart for this blessed month, intensify your worship before Ramadan begins. Just a small, consistent amount is enough. The Prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam told us:
“The deeds most loved by Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small.”

For example, if I always pray 2 rakats of sunnah after ishaa, from this day until Ramadan begins- and even through Ramadan, let me make the intention that I will now pray 2 extra rakats of sunnah after ishaa. And every time I pray these extra 2 rakats, which are more than what I normally pray, let me remember that I am doing these with the intention of asking Allah to help me be prepared to strive and exert my utmost effort during Ramadan.

4. Make a duaa list today

This is THE MONTH to ask for EVERYTHING, both related to this life and the Next. Let us not wait until the last 10 nights to make special duaas, and then once Eid passes realize that we had completely forgotten about fifty other things we needed to make duaa for. Let us start making our lists now, and add to it as more things come our way. Insha’Allah this should help us remember to make constant duaa in this month where duaa is accepted, and help our hearts pour out to the One Who can make those duaas happen, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

5. Write out your objectives for Ramadan

Praying all of your fard prayers? Praying all of your sunnahs? Reading the entire Qur’an? Giving $1 charity a day? Making itikaaf in the masjid? Leaving one serious sin that you’ve been trying to get away from for some time now? Sincerely turning completely back to Allah?
Write out a list, put them somewhere you will see them, and make duaa for your success in fulfilling these objectives.

6. Make a plan!

Look at your objectives, and try to make a plan on how to actualize those objectives in this month.

For example, perhaps you are really struggling to pray your sunnah prayers. In this month, realize the enormity of the ajr of praying the sunnah prayers… think that perhaps these sunnahs will be the deeds that will be so heavy on your scale of good deeds when you are intense need of them- on yowm al qiyamah. Therefore, fight to keep doing them all throughout Ramadan. If you can’t pray your 2 rakats after dhur right away, make sure to do them as soon as you get a chance.

Thus, your plan might look something like this:
Objective: Pray all of my fard prayers.
Method: Envision myself on the day of judgment seeing the insha’Allah weight of praying my sunnah consistently during this month. Make sure to pray sunnah salah immediately after salah. If I cannot, do it as soon as the opportunity arises… don’t let myself put it off!

Another example is that of finishing the Qur’an:
Objective: Finishing the entire Qur’an in this month.
Method: Read 4 pages of the Qur’an after every salah. 5 prayers X 4 pages = 20 pages. 20 pages= about 1 juz. 1 juz X 30= the entire Qur’an.
——-
So many Muslims have passed away since last month. So many people have not made it to Ramadan this year. Last year was their very last Ramadan. Will you make it to this Ramadan? Will this be your last Ramadan?

Aim to strive in this Ramadan. With a very small amount of effort, such as just making a small intention, or adding a few extra acts of worship, we pray that Allah will help our hearts soften and honor us with making it easy to turn to Him and open up to Him.

May Allah make us of the successful in Ramadan, and make it easy for us to turn to Him completely and perpetually. Ameen

(Written by Sr. Maryam from www.suhaibwebb.com)

Do You Miswak?

May 2, 2009

I used to get a couple of cavities a year in my visits to the local dentist.  Then, however, I discovered miswak, the Sunnah toothbrush.  Subhan’Allah, for the last couple of years, I’ve been cavity-free.  I don’t use the miswak too often, maybe a couple seconds here or there after making wudhu or before the prayer.  However, the fact of the matter is that the Sunnah toothbruth is an effective tool for not only keeping your teeth fresh and clean, but also gaining the pleasure of our Lord, insh’Allah.  The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, “Siwaak cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord” (Bukhari).

The Prophet (SAW) highly recommended the use of the siwak as he said, “Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make things too hard for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak at every time of prayer” (Bukhari).

The miswak is a confirmed Sunnah and it is something we all should try to implement into our daily lives, not just for the sake of the cleanliness of our teeth, but also for the sake of implementing a beautiful Sunnah. 

So I ask you, do you miswak?

A Good Night’s Sleep

April 13, 2009

By Shaykh Salman al-Oadah

It might seem funny to devote an article to sleeping. But think about it. The average person spends around eight hours of a 24-hour day asleep. That is a third of a person’s lifetime.

Allah describes sleep as a blessing from Him. He says in the Qur’an:

“And We made your sleep a rest for you.” [Surah al-Naba’: 9]

“And remember when He made slumber fall upon you as a reassurance from Him.” [Surah al-Anfal: 11]

“It is Allah who has made the night for you, that you may rest therein, and the days as that which helps you to see. Verily Allah is full of grace and bounty to humanity, yet most people give no thanks.” [Surah Ghafir: 61]

Sleep is not only described as a blessing bestowed upon the people, but also as a testament to Allah’s creative ability. Consider where Allah says:

“He it is who gathers up your souls at night and knows all that you do by day. Then He raises you up again, so that the term appointed for you (on Earth) may be accomplished. And afterward unto Him is your return. Then He will proclaim to you what you used to do.” [Surah al-An`am: 60]

“Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, as well as (the souls of) those who die not, during their sleep. Then He withholds those on whom He has passed the decree of death and sends the others back until an appointed term. Most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” [Surah al-Zumar: 42]

Yes, sleep is His creation, and it has its marvels. A sleeping person drifts away from his consciousness and reason, only to be fully restored to his rational faculties upon waking, refreshed and revitalized.

A sleeping person can see the strangest and most amazing things, things that a waking person could never possibly see. Our ability to dream is another of Allah’s blessings, and another sign of His greatness.

We can appreciate the importance of sleep if we consider that Allah guided His Messenger (peace be upon him) regarding the etiquettes of sleeping, like being in a state of purity and lying on his right side. (As for facing the qiblah, this is actually not established by the Sunnah.)

Likewise, a number of remembrances and supplications are prescribed for sleeping. The Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed `Ali b. Abi Talib and Fatimah to say “Subhan Allah” 33 times, “al-Hamdu Lillah” 33 times, and “Allah Akbar” 33 times. He informed them that doing so will remove their fatigue and revitalize them, and said: “It is better than having a servant.” [Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

Our generation is sometimes accused of being “the sleeping generation”. Most of us certainly do not need to sleep more than we already do. Nevertheless, we must respect our need to sleep by observing the etiquettes and approaches to sleep that will maximise the benefit that we get from it. This, in turn, helps us manage stress and makes our waking hours more productive.

It is a mistake to dismiss the importance of sleep. We all need it, and we all get our daily quota of sleep. Therefore, it is wrong that we make light of the subject of sleep and disdain reading or speaking about it, as if it were something superfluous.

In order to sleep better, we should first relax a bit. We need to unwind from the pressures, worries, and distresses of the day. We need to end the day on a note of forgiveness and with a few moments of tenderness with our families. We need to recite our remembrances of Allah and rid our hearts of all our animosities. We should not lay our heads down on our pillows with resentfulness in our hearts and angry thoughts in our minds. We should make our last thoughts of the day positive ones.

Source:  www.islamtoday.com

Ibn Qayyim on the Present

February 1, 2009

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah [rahimahullah] said:

Your life in the present moment is in between the past and the future. So what has preceded [gone before] can be rectified by

  • Tawbah [repentance], Nadam [regret], and Istighfar [seeking Allaah’s forgiveness]
  • This is something that will neither tire you nor will cause you to toil as you would with strenuous [exhausting] labor. 
  • It is [just] an action of the heart.

Then as regards the future [then it can be corrected] by withholding yourself from sins; by merely leaving of something and to be at ease from them.

  •  This also is not an action of the limbs that requires you to strive and toil.
  • It is a firm resolve and intention of the heart – which will give rest to your body, heart, and thoughts.

Neither of the two mentioned above involves any hardship or exertion of the limbs.

But then your attention must be directed to your life in the present – i.e. the time between the two times.

  • If you waste it, then you have wasted the opportunity to be of the fortunate and saved ones.
  • If you look after it, having rectified the two times – what is before and after it, you will be successful and achieve rest, delight and ever-lasting bliss.
  • Looking after it is harder than that which comes before and after it.
  • Guarding it involves keeping to that which is most befitting and beneficial for your soul, and that which will bring it success and well-being.

(Source: www.islaam.com)

Residual Ajr

January 24, 2009

Subhan’Allah, how people chase after money in this world and attempt to set-up residual incomes for themselves and their families.  However, how many of us attempt to set-up residual hassanah (reward) for our hereafter?  Just reflect on the follow hadith:

Jarir bin ‘Abdullah al-Bajali narrated that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever introduces some good practice in Islam will have the reward of it, as well as the reward of those who act on it after him, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And whoever introduces some evil practice in Islam will bear the burden of it as well as the burden of those who act on it after him, without theirs being diminished in any respect.” (Bukhari)

How can we take advantage of such ‘residual ajr’?  Subhan’Allah, there are multiple ways as Rasoolullah (SAW) said, “When a human dies, his good deeds stop, except three: a sadaqa jariyya (continuous charity), a beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child that prays for him” (Muslim).

One way is through our wealth by giving in a cause that will work for us continuously, insh’Allah.  These projects could include the building of a masjid or a school.  We can also donate to a dawah project or buy books and  donate them to a library amongst many different things.

Another way is through knowledge.  We can teach at a weekend school little children how to read the Quran.  We can give dawah (to Muslims and non-Muslims).  We can teach a new Muslim how to pray.  We can establish a weekly-halaqa in our community.  We can set-up a dawah project at our MSAs that will continue to run even after we’ve graduated.

And another way is through righteous children.  We can raise on children upon the truth.  We can help them in memorizing the Book of Allah.  We can give them a proper Islamc education and upbringing and insh’Allah everytime they do good b/c our actions, we will see the fruit of it in the Hereafter.  May Allah (SWT) bless us all with beautiful, pious children.  Ameen.