The Grasses

The same wind that uproots the trees, makes the grasses shine.

The lordly wind loves the weakness and the lowliness of the grasses.

The axe doesnt worry how thick the branches are.  It cuts them to pieces… but not the leaves.  It leaves the leaves alone.

The motion of the body, the inhaling and exhaling, comes from the spirit… now angry… now peaceful.  Wind destroys and wind protects.

“There is no reality but God”  says the completely surrendered sheikh, who is an ocean for all beings.  The levels of creation are straws in that ocean.

The movement of the straws comes from agitation in the water.  When the ocean wants the straws calm, it sends them close to shore,  When it wants them back in the deep surge, it does with them as the wind does with the grasses.


Active Agents of Good

Beautiful advice from Imam Zaid Shakir :
Know that Almighty God is in control of the affairs of the creation and has promised good to the people of goodness. Therefore, do not allow the climate of hatred being fostered by some to cause you to despair. Your love and mercy are greater than their hatred.  Also, know that if you are an active agent of good you will see unexpected positive consequences result from your actions. 
God mentions in the Qur’an,
“Good and evil are not equal. Respond to evil with what is best. Unexpectedly, you will see one between whom you and him was great enmity become like an intimate friend. This is only realized by those who patiently persevere; this is only realized by one possessing a lofty spiritual station (41:34-35).”
I have often been told that I am too sympathetic with people.  I feel a need to give anything people may ask of me, because I know all too well what it means to be in need and I don’t wish that struggle on anyone, not even those who have been against or hurt me.  A friend of mine once joked that if someone came to me naked, I would give them shirt off of my own back.  When I see kids dancing on the subway for money, or the guy who gives away peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for anyone who is hungry, I always give whatever few dollars i have in my pocket, even though I too may not have more than that at the moment.  But at least I know –or at least have hope–that more will come, Inshallah.
Last year, I had a couple renting a room in my flat.  The woman was pregnant and her husband, whom she said was suffering from depression, just decided one day that he did not want to work.  So all he did all day was sleep, drink, hang out at the coffee playing cards and watch television.  When the following month came, they could not pay their rent on time… And the month after that, not at all.   This was an incredibly stressful period for me because financially, I could barely manage to support– in addition to my son and myself — two grown adults, twice my age.  I tried to find him jobs, but no avail, he just had no interest in working.  Months went by and it came to the point where I just could not handle it any longer.  My son needed a new pair of shoes and I could hardly afford to buy them, even though I was working 12 hour days, 6 days a week.
My friends, neighbors and even my landlord got involved in the situation… All of the asking me why I hadn’t kicked them out months ago and all offering to do it for me know by force.  The problem however was not that I felt sorry for the husband who refused to work and support his family, but for the woman and her soon to be born child– who was of no fault in this situation.  Her predicament was a little too familiar for me to brush off.
Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, my ex, who never wanted kids, tried to force me into having an abortion.  When I refused to go to the clinic, he tried to physically inflict one on me with the help of his brother.  I still thank god everyday I look upon my son’s beautiful face because it is by his grace alone that that misguided man was not successful and I was able to bring him into this world.  After that, having no where to go, being thousands of miles away from my family, with no money of my own and nothing but the clothes on my back, I experienced what it is like to truly have nothing or no one to turn to. During this time, my family had no idea what was going on because I couldnt even bring myself to call them to say hello because I knew my mother would ask how I was doing and I didn’t want to have to lie to her and tell her I was doing fine.  I felt so stupid, so ashamed and loathed myself for the mess I had gotten myself into.  Never the type of person to ask help from anyone, I didnt.
I lived like that for about 2 months, sleeping in random places… walking several miles to work each morning… arriving an hour early to change so no one would notice I was wearing the same clothes as the day before… and the only food I ate was what I had while I was there.  Eventually, an older woman I worked with figured it out. She didn’t ask me any questions, she just stopped me one day when I was about to leave after my shift and told  me that she was coming to pick me up the next morning and asked where she would be able to find me.
I stayed with her in a tiny apartment for about 3 months. During that time, she took care of me and made sure my health was in order.  She was tough with me when i needed it and gave me a shoulder to cry on when I needed that too.  And the most important thing that she taught me was to have respect for myself, and that I was not to blame for the actions of my ex no matter how much he tried to tell me I was.  It was because of her that I was able to finally stand on my own two feet and get my life back in order. I saved enough money working to get my own apartment and was able to eventually hire a lawyer to start petitioning for support.
Not a day passes that I don’t thank God for bringing that woman into my life, and I pray that Allah will always keep her and bless her with happiness and comfort in this Dunya and she will see Jannah in the next.
As for the couple living in my flat, they eventually moved out.  I found them a temporary place to stay with another family nearby and a month after that they moved back to Morocco, where they have family, a house and proper jobs, which I think was for the best.  Do I think that they took advantage of me for months? Yes.  Do I regret my decision to let them continue to stay? No. Simply because I often wonder if I had not been give that small kindness, what would I have went through instead and what would my life be like today? The act of one person made such a profound difference in my life, so if I am capable of doing something for someone, how can I refuse, even if I can’t see the difference it makes if any?
I am just thankful for what I have been given and the things that I have achieved by his grace in this dunya.  I pray that i never forget that what the Lord giveth, he may also take away at any moment.

O Allah, master of the kingdom. You give kingdom to whomsoever You like and take away the kingdom from whosoever You like. You exalt whomsoever you like and abases whomsoever You like; in Your hand is the good; verily You have the power over all things. You cause the night to pass into the day, and You cause the day to pass into the night; You bring forth the living from the dead, and You bring forth the dead from the living, and You give sustenance to whom You like, without measure.

 The problem, however, with many people today is that they see kindness as a form of weakness and an opportunity to take advantage. Since when has selfishness and lack of empathy become a virtue?  If we do not help others in their times of need — how can we for one second think that we are deserving of God’s aid and mercy in our own times of need? Astaghfirullah.
Have faith in God and His promise and never despair. Good is more powerful than evil; do all in your power to ensure that you are a force for good in the world. Patience is a great virtue; patiently persevere in doing all of the good things you are currently doing and God will bless you in many wonderful ways.
-Wael Abdel Gawad
May Peace and The Compassion and Blesssings of God Be Upon Us All.
– Shams Al-Ghayeb

A Sin That Humbles You

“Perhaps a sin that humbles you is better than a good deed that makes you arrogant.”

– Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

While I was on the subway today on my way to work there was an homeless man who entered the train at one point and made his way to sit on the bench in the middle of the car.  As I sat there with my headphones on listening to Azam Ali, I watched as many of the other passengers got up and went to move to the other end… some even moving to the next car to get away from him.  I remembered a story I once heard.

One day a seeker of knowledge in Yemen walked along the streets beautifully dressed with his shawl, turban and clean impeccable set of robes. The student passed by an old man carrying a cart full of waste upon his shoulder and a thought of disgust occurred in the mind of the student.  The man turned to him and said, “Verily! this is nothing compared to that thought you harbor in your mind!”

Imagine– If whatever ill-thoughts and intentions we hold inside our hearts were manifested upon our faces and bodies?  How would we appear to the others?  Just some food for thought… chew on that.

Our Lord! You truly know all that we may hide in our hearts,  as well as all that we bring into the open,  for nothing whatever,  be it on earth or in heaven,  remains hidden from Allah

رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ تَعْلَمُ مَا نُخْفِي وَمَا نُعْلِنُ وَمَا يَخْفَى عَلَى اللّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ فَي الأَرْضِ وَلاَ فِي السَّمَاء

Surat al-Ibrahim 38

– Shams Al-Ghayeb

What Kind Of Heart Do You Have?

Dear Lord … I seek refuge from the evil of my own self.

If you want to know what kind of heart you have — reflect on these three questions:

What makes you happy?  What makes you sad?  What makes you angry?

I reflected on what makes me happy, and I found that it was, being given.  I saw that I am selfish.   I reflected on what makes me sad, and I found that it was, being deprived.   I saw that I am needy and dependent.   I reflected on what makes me angry, and I found that it was, being insulted.   I saw that I am arrogant.  Astaghfir Allah.

Harithah Ibn Wahb Al-Khuzai tells how he heard the Prophet say,

“Have I not taught you how the inhabitants of Paradise will be all the humble and the weak, whose oaths God will accept when they swear to be faithful? Have I not taught you how the inhabitants of Hell will be all the cruel beings, strong of body and arrogant ?”

Sahih Al-Bukhari

– Shams Al-Ghayeb


The Global Prayer

Our Lord! Place us not among the people who have been guilty of evildoing.

رَبَّنَا لاَ تَجْعَلْنَا مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

-Surat al-Araf

It’s Friday, the most blessed day of the week! Let’s all pray for the people of Syria and the oppressed around the world.  Last week a campaign was held to organize an official Global Day of Prayer on February 10th, 1012 for the plight of the Syrian people.  It was amazing to see how many people participated and prayed in support of our fellow brothers and sisters.

However, while that one day was a nice gesture, we cannot pretend to feel good about our efforts if we push them from our minds afterward.  Last week all I heard and read everywhere was constant chatter about how much we love Syria as if it were the hottest new trend… and this week– nothing…. and we have moved to more interesting topics.  Ya haram! We need to ask God everyday to deliver them from this tragedy.

Woe to those who do not heed their prayers and make good deeds just for show, yet refuse to give even the small kindnesses

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ  الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاؤُونَ  وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ  

-Surat al-Ma`oun

You don’t have to Muslim to empathize for Syria– remember Syrians are Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.  We all bow in prayer– and will one day all stand in judgment– before the same One True God.  Please do not forsake your sisters and brothers.  So take a moment out of your day today to remember Syria … and participate in the global prayer everyday.

With Peace…

– Shams Al-Ghayeb

O My Dear Son, Be Steadfast !

A Spanish man, Samuel Aranda, has won the World Press Photo of the Year award for his picture, taken on October 15, 2011, in Sana, Yemen after an anti-Saleh demonstration. Here, a veiled woman, comforts an injured relative in her arms.

In a statement released by World Press Photo, Nina Berman, one of the jury members, commented on the revealing nature of the moment.

“In the Western media, we seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment. It is as if all of the events of the Arab Spring resulted in this single moment – in moments like this.”

While on assignment in Yemen, photographic journalist Samuel Aranda found the pair at the entrance to a mosque that had been converted into a hospital.  A thin man rests his head on the shoulder of a burqa-clad woman, the pair collapsed together against a wall. You cannot seen the expression on her face… But her body language – with her right arm wrapped tightly around his neck and left hand clinging to his arm – is enough to reveal everything her expression cannot.

After seeing Aranda’s photo, a friend of mine, commented that the image reminded her of La Pieta.  And indeed it does bear a striking resemblance to the form of “La Pieta” or “the Pity” which is a famous Renaissance theme, depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus, the Christ after the crucifixion.

Aranda commented on his photo,

“ This woman is not just crying. It was something more. You can feel that the woman is really strong.”

He also mentions that while conversations might revolve around composition and form of his photograph, the real emphasis should be about how to help the people of Yemen.  Ameen to that.  May God keep and deliver Yemen safetly through this time of revolution….  Inshallah.

O my dear son! Be steadfast in prayer. You must advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and remain steadfast in the face of adversity and hardships.  Surely, this is of those matters which require great courage.

يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

– Surat al-Luqman, verse 17

Thank you Samuel Aranda for your courage and inspiration in the face of adversity.  May God be with you always.

-Shams Al-Ghayeb.

On The Palm Of Fate We Walk

No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by God’s decree. If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from you it cannot flee.

-Umar ibn al Khattab

Recently someone that I loved very much was suddenly torn from my life.

A little while back i was engaged to be married to a man I thought was the epitome of ideal husband material. Well educated, stable, a successful business man, family orientated, handsome… what more could a girl ask for? Everything was going perfectly, and everyone talked about what an extraordinary match we were.  We thought alike, shared the same ideologies, goals and interests, and had the same personality type.  We were two birds of the same feather.  We were in love and I thought he was my soul mate.  Then one day someone in his family decided that he must instead marry a girl from their village back in the balad.  Perhaps a family member prayed Istikhara and interpreted a negative result, or perhaps a family member decided that a girl like me wasn’t acceptable.  Maybe it was the fact that I was of a different nationality, or maybe it had to do with the fact that I was already a mother… or maybe the fact that I was an orphan with no roots or impressive geneology to speak of … whatever the reasons I will never know. Whatever the reason was, I was deemed unfitting. The worst part was that I didn’t even find out from them, I had to hear it from a friend of the family.  Afterward, he still came to me to tell me how much he loved and wanted to marry me and have children with me.  I told him that if he loved me he should have fought for me. He talked about marrying me as a second wife — an offer I refused.

As a result of this I went through a very dark period in my life overcome by an intense depression.  I cried all the time – when i woke up in the morning, I cried wishing next time I just wouldn’t wake up anymore… I cried throughout the day as all the places I passed, all the people I saw, the songs i heard on the radio reminded me of him. I saw his face and heard his voice everywhere… and I cried at night sitting in my empty home and hearing my sobs echoing through the seemingly immense void that was left inside my heart.  I often couldn’t find sleep at night, stopped eating and starved myself for weeks, became physically sick to the point I had to be admitted to the hospital several times and when I was well, I found excuses not to go to work or out with friends because I couldn’t even bare to face myself in the mirror, let alone face others.

I kept asking God, “Why? Why did this happen to me? What have I done to displease you so much? How can I bring my love back? What can I do to change his family’s mind?”  But these were all the wrong questions.

A few nights ago — its been almost 3 months since my breakup — I woke up to pray Fajr and at the end of my prayers, instead of asking God once again, “Why?” I asked God instead to help me through this situation, to guide me through my despair and begged forgiveness. I began sobbing uncontrollably and banging my head on the ground, I dont know how long I stayed there like that, but i eventually cried myself to sleep right there, on my sajadah.

When I woke up there, hours later, that morning I remembered verse 216 of Surat al-Baqarah:

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you.  And Allah knows, while you know not.”

As I reflected on those words, I felt an incredible sense of calm come over me and so finally there came the point I was able to say, “Al-Hamdulillah.  All praise belongs to God.  Thank You God for removing this person from my life, and even though I am incapable of understanding now your reasons, I will not questions this because I realize that the answer may not be important for me to know at this time in my life and only You know what is best.  This person could have brought me harm or hurt me in way that was worse than what i am feeling now.  Thank You God, for it could have been worse.”  They say that without darkness — there would be no light … without sorrow — no joy.  So thank you God for putting me through this trial, because you may be preparing me for something or someone far greater — something or someone that I may have otherwise taken for granted.

Today for the first time since this began, I woke up with a smile on my face.  I have finally understood that there is nothing wrong with me — I am smart. I am beautiful in my way. And I have been sincere in my intentions — and that is what matters the most.  I finally accepted that this union, even though I had wanted it so much, was never meant to be and nothing I could have done differently would have changed the outcome.   I do not know what my Naseeb holds… but I do know that so long as I keep God first in my heart above all else in this Dunya… whatever it is will be beautiful, Inshallah.

على كف القدر نمشي ولا ندري عن المكتوب

“On the palm of fate we walk, and we do not know what is written”

Allahu Allam.  God alone knows.

-Shams Al-Ghayeb.