The Quest for Love and Mercy

by Huraira Maneer

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ مَوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.

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Implicit Irony

by Humza Asad

Language is a wonderful tool. Its continual evolving and developmental nature creates a rich diversity of discussion amongst its users, but just like any tool it can easily be misused. It is said that a wise man can learn more from a foolish man’s question then a foolish man can learn from a wise man’s answer, and in some cases, this could not be closer to the truth.

The problem stems from the way we interact with language around us. It is commonly thought that every question has an answer. And thus, using this to spearhead our logic, many of us fervently search until we can find the ‘correct’ answer which wholly satisfies the question posed to us. Yet what we have misunderstood is, not all questions necessitate answers. In other words, we should be questioning the question, rather than continually questioning the validity of our own answers.

What am I trying to get at here? For many of us, we don’t have the Islamic knowledge to answer seemingly tough questions directed towards us. And, in a desperate attempt to regain that strong iman and taqwa we once had, we haphazardly search online to find a ‘satisfying enough’ answer. But the problem is, many a times we don’t find exactly what we are looking for. Subsequently a drop in iman follows and that firm ‘yaqeen’ we once had now seems to just disappear.

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The Highly Effective Muslim

by Anonymous

One of the most common, funny and at times quite frustrating assumption people not from the Indian-subcontinent make is that our curries have nothing but oil in it. That all the meat you see in the bowl is floating in litres of oil. And it’s really unhealthy to have this curry, for how can one live after having so much oil in one meal!

This logic is flawed on so many levels. For starters, they don’t realise that if what they think of our curries is true, then our diet consists up of drinking spicy oil with boiled meat at least twice a day for our whole lives, which is quite silly. But I digress. This isn’t supposed to be an article supporting particular food or food habits. On the contrary, there is a lot we can learn from this way of thinking and attitude that people have.

You see, in actual Indian curries the oil you see on top is just there, on the top. It doesn’t have any depth, so to say. The rest consists up of gravy, spices, vegetables, stalk…the usual. Generally speaking, the total amount of oil used in cooking a curry is not even 5% of its total contents. And still it is judged unhealthy by many without even trying it. Reason: it LOOKS unhealthy.

This is what I want to highlight. You might see just the oil at first glance, but in reality it is a layer only a few millimetres deep floating on top.

And is this not how we perceive things in life, in general? The moment we observe some quality, an incident, a habit, a reaction, lack or excess of something, some lifestyle, a good deed or a sin we judge it on its face value sub-consciously, spontaneously. It can’t be helped as it is an inherent human tendency. Of course it goes without saying that passing judgements in such a manner is not an acceptable trait, especially for a Muslim.

So what about when someone’s actions are actually wrong? Should we not judge people on what they do?

Let’s delve into another facet of this discussion to understand different perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely have feelings or opinions against something specific. Let’s take the same example: Judging the curry to be unhealthy by seeing so much oil in it and not eating it is quite different than having an aversion to curries simply because they’re really hot and spicy, and it’s not your thing; the first part is being judgmental without knowing anything about the curry and latter a disapproval because you don’t particularly like that food, which is perfectly acceptable! Personally, I find a lot of habits and qualities around here quite unacceptable and have strong feelings against them (I mean, at least add some garlic to your rice!!!). But that does not mean I judge them!

The point I want to make: we can’t judge something on its apparent qualities or effects, although we are completely allowed to disapprove or approve the same thing as a standalone occurrence based on our preferences, inclinations and especially context; irrespective of its significance in the bigger picture.

So next time you happen to have a curry on your table, try to look past the layer of oil you see. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up liking what you taste!

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A Lesson From The Life of Musa (as)

by Anonymous

The day of Ashura was an absolutely beautiful day. The rites of rising early, depriving oneself of desire, and speaking only good, are made even more beautiful by an acute sense of moving clouds against a blue sky. This aspiration for proximity to the Almighty makes you soar with the clouds, moving rhythmically with them as they brush by. But the day would not be complete without a lesson from the life of Musa Alayhi assalam (Moses, may peace be upon him).

In the story of Musa, I find a parallel with the Sunnah of Allah (swt). The Sunnah of Allah (swt) concerns two matters: 1) His creation (e.g. how the sun rises), and 2) His commands. One of Allah’s ways is that good is always recompensed with good. It can never be that somebody is recompensed unjustly. In the story of Musa, I found a Sunnah of Allah’s way.

Let’s briefly outline this one moment of his life. Nobody tells it better than Allah (swt) so please refer to Surah Qassas (28). Musa flees his land running for his life after having accidently killed a man. Home was no longer safe. He arrived in Madyan, believing “It may be that my Lord guides me to the Right Way.” Upon arrival, he noticed men surrounding a water hole with their flocks, not leaving any openings. You can imagine water holes are rare in the desert (see Planet Earth II :P) and shepherds are hurrying to water their animals, crowding the source. Musa noticed two women standing apart from this crowd, holding their flock back from rushing to the water. He wondered what could be the matter, so he approached them and asked. They informed him that they were waiting for the water hole, and that they were responsible for the animals as their father was elderly. Upon hearing this, Musa AS took their flock and watered them. Only then did he retreat to take rest in the shade, but not without beseeching Allah (swt) for help. His own situation was still no better — he had no home, no income, no direction.

The du’a he made under the shade was: “My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!”

And how was that Du’a answered? Musa got a job, a place to call home, a family, a community… Everything. In one sweep.

Now I invite you to examine this story a little closer with me.

Musa AS had just arrived in this new place after a long and weary journey. He is likely to be thirsty, hungry, and both emotionally and physically exhausted. His first thought upon noticing the water should have been himself. Or at the very least, he could have sat down in the shade for a while. But he chose to assist the women first. Assisting people when you have free time and energy is one thing, but doing so when you are tired and running late is another. Next time you think you don’t have the energy to catch up with someone carrying groceries, just take a deep breath and run. If you think you don’t have time to give someone way on the road because you’re running late, just make your intention for Allah and invite them to go.

Keep your intention for Him and see what happens in your life. Musa AS did not do what he did because he thought it would get him a home, a new community, a family, even a job. He did what he did purely for Allah’s pleasure. And what was that good deed? Being compassionate to women. Out of all his deeds, that is the one Allah swt chose to reward him for with all this. He got a stable income. A family to love. A place to call home when his own home had become inhabitable. A place for his soul to find contentment. All because of Allah’s mercy due to his deeds. He did not pass up the opportunity to do a good deed despite his exhaustion.

These rewards are the general things concerning us now. You’re either asking for: a job; a degree; a spouse; a nice house; a nice car, or all of the aforementioned. When I was reading the surah, it was a profound lesson for me that put my heart at ease. It showed me that I don’t need to worry or take any action. I just need to focus on pleasing Allah (swt) and never pass up the opportunity to do good, and the good will come to me by itself through Allah’s favour. There is so much sakina (peace) in that thought.

Whatever it is you are wishing for and working towards. Whatever good you are in need of, just as Musa was. No matter how dusty and tired you are from your journey. Do good, and good will come to you. Not because you or I deserve it, but because that is the Sunnah of Allah.

I will contrast this story with a modern-day alternative. I attended an Islamic class at a new venue for the first time. During the break, I headed towards the table with tea and biscuits. A crowd of young men surrounded it, so I stood at some distance but with clear intent. I stood for quite some time, wondering if the men would notice and allow me through. None did. It was as if I was invisible. I felt quite sheepish yet determined for a cup of tea, and so continued to stand there, my feet burning a hole into the ground.

After what felt like an eternity (probably 90 seconds), one of the young men behind the table noticed me. He asked if I would like some tea. I smiled with relief and answered in the affirmative. He made me tea and handed it to me, and then politely informed me that if I wanted more, the table for ladies’ refreshments was on the floor below.

…I had been wondering where all the women were!

He did not ignore me. He anticipated my need and fulfilled it. Just as Musa AS did for those women he saw. I wonder what good will come to him. May Allah provide a way out for him from every hardship.

Be compassionate. Even when you are weary.

هَلْ جَزَاءُ الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ

“Is there any reward for good other than good?” (Surah Rahman, Ayah 60)

May Allah grant us the ability to do good and accept it from us.

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Climing Mount Snowdon

by Ummi A Bello

When you push and seek out all your reserve energy in order to keep going, but still feel like your body is failing you. It takes your mind and soul working together to conquer it all.

My knees felt like they were about to give up on me and I felt like calling it quits. The sweat dripping down my face and back was being soaked up by every single layer of clothing I had on. My eyes were glued to the floor, staring at the different shaped and colored stones as I stepped on them and painfully pushed myself forward. Every once in a while, I would pause and look back at the steep trail and scene I had finally left behind just so that I can see how far I had walked and use that as motivation to keep moving. Why was I putting my body and mind to the test? I could be home right now, sipping on my cup of tea, watching a movie or writing a paper like the rest of my peers. I’d given that up for a greater cause. This walk was for the Syrian refugees. If this is how I felt, after only about 5 hours of walking, how do these refugees feel after days, weeks, even months on their feet? And unlike me, they don’t have the certainty of getting to the finish line in a few hours. They don’t have the water, food, and resources I had stored away in my rucksack ready to be consumed at any moment in time. They don’t have the luxury of the thought that home is just a bus ride away. A home that is safe, free of tyranny, bombs, blood, violence, and pain. They don’t have the access to four walls, a long hot shower and a warm, soft bed in a well-heated room. They do not have certainty of any of that. All they want is to find someplace safer than the reincarnation of hell that they had left behind or at least trying to leave behind. An escape from the suffering, the pain, the loss and heartache that was once home. All they want is a new opportunity and a shot at happiness and peace. Although their obstacles and difficulties are unimaginable and unsettling to even think about, they keep on pushing. For what else does someone who escapes with their life today have if not hope for a better tomorrow?

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Build People, Not Buildings – Lessons From Al Andalus

by Thaqib Moosa

The USIC trip to Andalusia was genuinely epic. It is quite an interesting part of the world. A place where Muslims ruled for 800 years, survived successive attempts to unseat them, requiring North African back up to help them expel the Christian armies from the North, and then 200 odd years later, they were expelled anyways.

The Andalusian example is one of those examples where we had more soldiers than the enemy, but our divided armies and little kingdoms and bits of treachery couldn’t stand up to a united enemy. Simply put: Divided, we fell. It was quite painful to pray in the fairly small mosque in Granada, the first mosque to give adhaan from a minaret after 511 Gregorian years (in 2003, after the fall of Gharnata in 1492). Thinking about how the weakness and disunity had resulted in the gradual collapse of a bastion of Islam.

These were not people who gave up on the religion. Even in the Alhambra, which was built right after a major defeat as a show of power, closer to the end of Muslim rule in Spain. Even at this time their relationship with the Qur’an was clearly apparent.

The symbolism from the Qur’an is everywhere. 8 pillars supporting a roof with a jewel representing the throne of Allah in the centre. Eight because the Qur’an says wa ya7milu 3arsha rabbula fauqahum yauma2idhin thamaaniya. The most notable example of their understanding of the Qur’an was writing laa ilaaha illallah and muhammadurrasoolallah on pillars at the entrance to a particularly spectacular garden. The symbolism being that belief in Allah and the last messenger will get you into paradise. It is the key. The gardens themselves were gardens with rivers flowing through them and underneath them, the inspiration from the Qur’an was clearly there. Yet despite all of this, when it came to action, when it came time to defend tenets of faith and give up these luxuries, they seem to have flopped.

They built buildings, not people. We remember sa7aaba and every aspect of their lives and their students, we remember the buildings and only remember the leaders through the buildings they built. If they had focused on the people perhaps they would have fought more bravely. One of the attendees was mentioning how scared they felt if all the masaajid in the UK were left and we were forced to leave. One of the things Rasulallah warned us against was Wahn, when the companions asked what Wahn is, He (SAW) replied: Love of the Dunya and fear of death.

May Allah protect us from Wahn and save us from the “death, exile, or conversion” choice which our brothers and sisters faced years ago. Perhaps the ruins of their buildings have only been preserved by Allah (SWT) for us to take lessons from.

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A Vision To Change Lives

By Mevish Rauf

Spain. What goes through your mind when you think of Spain? For some it might be beaches, scenery and good weather – a perfect holiday destination. For others, like myself, that might be half of the story. If acquainted with the history of Spain you’d recall the 700 year old rule of the Moors in South Spain called Andalusia and how they shaped education, language and culture. That is all I knew. Although this prior knowledge did not surprise me much when our tour guide, Abu Bakr, told us the history of Andalusia, I was, however, completely mind-blown by the rest of the information.

In the Andalusian tour we explored three cities: We visited Al Cázar in Seville; cathedral, Calahorra tower and an Andalusian house in Córdoba; and the Alhambra palace in Granada. We also visited villages in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada. I learnt much from these places which has influenced my thinking.

From my personal reflections, the most wonderful part of the whole trip was the realisation that not only was Andalusia mighty but also how wonderful the people were. They were God fearing people who had a vision to change and better lives. They relied on God to help them accomplish what they did. They incorporated Islam in their daily lives as well as architectural designs. It was a reminder that it does not matter who you are and where you come from. But what matters most is how much you rely on God. This vision and reliance on God can help the Muslims of today to stand back on their feet and bring back the glory of our past.

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