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Knowing God Is Not Just For Celebrity Saints Of Past, by Yusuf AbdulRahman

Yusuf AbdulRahman reminds us that knowing God is not a distant state attained only by the celebrity saints of past, but rather the starting point of each and every one of us.

Your life is tailor-made by the All Merciful Creator entirely in your interests. Everything that has happened in your life, both the beautiful moments and the bitter, have been created to reveal to you something about yourself or your relationship with The One. Nothing has ever gone wrong. Every moment contains a secret, an embedded message from Him, which, if heeded, moves one forward towards awakening.

Awakening should not be considered a distant state attained only by the celebrity saints of the past. Rather, it is your primordial condition, your starting point. You were born a saint. You were born with clear vision. You saw Him in all things. You knew He was your ally, and that there was nothing to be fearful of. Existence was amazing. You were bedazzled by the rain, a toy train, the tablecloth. The universe is His Creation, and He is The Gently Loving and Kind. Hence, what can this world possibly do to you that is beyond His Mercy?

“But what about the pain?” you ask. “It hurts so much.”

Allah bless you and soothe your heart. The pain is the product of inaccurate perception, of misunderstanding the nature of the universe and your purpose within it. Imagine sitting in a dark room, and making out a black snake in the passing moonlight. The night would be spent in fear, anxiety, and vigilant stillness, lest the snake pounce from its place and sink its fangs into you. After the most frantic of nights, the sun rises, and the snake you feared is revealed to be a shoe lace. The pain, the angst, and the nausea were all caused by your misinterpretation of the situation. There was no need to be afraid. But you were.

The disbeliever considers the universe to be arbitrarily organised. He believes that the events of his life are random, and through his own ingenuity and labour, he can organise matters as he would wish them to be. However, things rarely turn out as he would choose, which gives rise to a permanent state of discontentment, and the resulting overwhelming stress. Life has no meaning to him. There are no lessons to be learnt, just painful failures. Success can only be found in the achievement of outcomes. Anything less is a waste of energy. He celebrates when things go his way, and is desperately distraught when the universe refuses to fall into line. The universe rarely falls into line, so his existence is defined by distrust and resentment.

Alternatively, the believer knows that every moment of her life is perfectly designed by He who knows all. She sees challenges as an opportunity to hone her perspective, and to draw her priorities into focus. The difficult moments remind her of her inherent human inability. When it begins to rain, she thanks Allah for her umbrella. She does not judge the moment she faces, but rather is inquisitive, saying ‘subhanAllah’ when things do not go to plan, rather than screaming in disgust. Sometimes, she laughs when others would cry, because the believer has a stoic sense of humour: “O Allah! What are you doing with me this time?” She focuses on her contribution to the universe, knowing that that is her only responsibility. She rarely gets angry, as she has learnt that anger at the universe is in reality anger at its Creator. She is deeply grateful, and sees the golden thread of meaning that weaves its way through her life, guiding her towards her end goal. Her target is Allah, not a large house. She is generous. “He has given before, He will give again.”

Gratitude seeps out of every one of her pores, as she cannot account for the myriad blessings that permeate her life. When she is given something, she gives thanks. When she loses something, she willingly hands it back to her Lord, knowing it was never hers in the first place. She is in a state of perpetual peace, as she knows that whatever she encounters in life is designed in her interests by The One, and that if she engages with that moment appropriately, she will take another step towards seeing Truth as Truth. She is rarely shaken, because her faith is her reality.

Islam is the vehicle by which one moves from disbelief to belief. It is now normative to consider our faith a cultural identity rather than a technology of transformation. Often, our spiritual practices are performed out of a sense of duty or fear. This neuters their transformative power, and limits them to empty shells rather than potent, rich, and profound tools for reawakening our primordial worldview. Islam, which is the culmination of the Divine Conversation with humanity, is the most perfect and holistic system of human awakening. By reducing it to a cultural identity, it becomes a club like any other. The extent to which one sees the world through the prism of disorder and randomness is the extent to which one experiences pain in it.

Despite billions having declared the faith upon the tongue and having intellectually accepted the tenets of our religion, rare is the man who lives in the state of Islam. The objective of Islam is to see things as they truly are. As one moves towards gratitude and trust, and begins to witness the shadow of the Divine Hand cast over all experiences, the pain begins to cease, one’s vision becomes more accurate, and the heart begins to heal. This movement is shif’a, the return to Reality.

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On Death and Dying, by Ustadh Salman Younas

With the current year drawing to a close, social media has come alight repeatedly with news of the passing of yet another celebrity. Ustadh Salman Younas shares some personal thoughts on an inevitable journey all of us will embark upon: death.

I have seen many people in my wider circle of friends/acquaintances express how death has seemed so much closer to us this year than previous ones. We have witnessed the passing of many a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, and child. Some of us directly suffered these losses; others suffered through seeing these losses endured by people they knew, such as friends; yet, other losses were so global and impactful that all of us were effected by them.
I was never particularly fearful of death until my daughter was born. After her birth, the fear kicked in. It was in most ways a worldly fear. I wanted to see my little one take her first steps, speak her first words, start school, become a rebellious teenager, go to college, and have a family. I wanted to live to see my child grow.
This all changed after my father passed away. I remember standing with some of my close friends after a Quran recital telling them about how the birth of my daughter led to an increased fear of death on my part. But my attitude had changed now. I knew my father had moved into another room that was out of my sight. But I was no longer afraid to have the door to that room opened for me because I knew that he would be there. It was the first time in a long time that I was not afraid to leave the room my daughter was in for the room my father had gone too.
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The Fear Factor

This taught me an important lesson. We often understand death in negative terms: we will be questioned, there is a thing called Hell, God will take us to account for everything, and so forth. The motivating factor in death for many is the fear factor. This is important, of course. Yet, the passing of my father taught me that it is also a motivator because of a love factor, a love and desire for reunion.
This was the perspective of Fatima (God be well-pleased with her). When the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was in his final illness “he said something secretly to Fatima and she wept. Then he said something secretly to her and she laughed.” [Bukhari] When asked later why she wept, she said it was because the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was moving to the next life. But when asked what made her smile, it was because she was told that she would join him in Paradise.
This was the perspective of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). In one of his final sermons, he mentioned how “God had given a slave the choice between immortality in this world or meeting his Lord, and he had chosen to meet his Lord.” He was speaking about himself. His last words according to A’isha were, “to the highest Companion!” He had chosen to move on and unite with God. [Bukhari]

A Beautiful Union

To all of my brothers and sisters who have lost someone, to those saddened by separation, and to those still grieving, do not forget the union that death brings. A union with a merciful and compassionate Lord. A union with a most beautiful and perfect Prophet who will not cease pleading to God until each and every one of his followers is in Paradise with him.
Remember that your loved ones from this community wait for you, and that you have the opportunity to be with them in a place where time has ceased, where there will be no separation, nor grief, nor sadness, nor pain. It is a place where all of you can be together in utter bliss, love, and happiness.
This is the hope and trust we place in our Lord. This is why we worship and engage in righteousness: so we can reunite with those whom we love – God, His Prophet, our parents, children, siblings, friends, and others. So, do not despair, do not lose sight of the bigger picture, and make your life a road to reunion.
We ask God to renuite us in the eternal garden with those we love in the company of our Prophet (blessings upon him) and all the righteous.