Let Us Be People of Impact in 2016


In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

I heard an amazing talk by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan of Bayyinah Institute at the recently held MAS-ICNA Conference in Chicago. I wanted to summarize the excellent points he made in this post, all the while acknowledging that these words here do not even begin to do justice to the eloquence of the speech Ustadh Nouman gave.

He began his talk speaking about our American Declaration of Independence, which mentioned certain unalienable Rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Yet, the pursuit of Happiness is perhaps the easiest one to achieve. For many people, eating a piece of chocolate can make them happy (including yours truly). There are other pursuits that are “higher” and take more work to achieve.

There is a pursuit for “Cool.” People pursue “being cool,” doing whatever the “cool kids” are doing so he or she can be like them. The song “Cool Kids” by Echosmith taps into this age-old pursuit on the part of many young people.

Others wish to pursue Popularity. They will do whatever to be the center of attention, to get the most “likes” on Facebook or the most “retweets” on Twitter. They thrive on being in the limelight all the time.

Others strive to pursue Prestige. They want to wear the nicest clothes; drive the fanciest cars; live in the most exclusive zip codes; and be counted among the most elite of people.

Still others work to pursue Money. They will do whatever it takes to make more and more money, to accumulate more and more wealth. They may look like paupers, but they are in fact worth millions. They could care less about anything else…except money.

Then there are those who pursue Excellence. They want to be the very best of the best; they are the ones who are not happy with a “B+,” but only want and expect an “A+” of themselves. They are those students, we all know who they are, who ruined the curve for the rest of us and would argue over the one point they missed on the exam.

Finally, over and above these, are those who pursue Impact. These people want to make a difference in the world around them. They want to make wherever they set foot a better place.

Of course, there are other pursuits that are not mentioned here. Nevertheless, these seven pursuits form a sort of pyramid, with each level requiring more and more work and containing fewer and fewer numbers of people.

Ustadh said that we should strive to be people of impact. We should strive to have an impact in the world around us, to make wherever we are a better place. This is the spirit of this hadith, which was reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad:

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”

Clearly, the person in the hadith will not see the sapling become a tree, but the Prophet (pbuh) still said to plant the sapling anyway.

In fact, that is the challenge of being people of impact: it is very likely we will not see the results of our work. Yet, that is not the point: the point is the effort itself, and God the Beloved will see that effort to its end. And, with His will, He will reward us handsomely for it.

Remember the prayer of Abraham (pbuh):

O our Lord: Behold, I have settled some of my offspring in a valley in which there is no arable land, close to Your sanctified Temple, so that, Our Lord, they might devote themselves to prayer. Cause Thous, therefore, people’s hearts to incline towards them and grand them fruitful sustenance, to that they might have cause to be grateful. (14:37)

He made this prayer when Mecca was empty desert. Look at Mecca now. Did Abraham see the fruits of his efforts? No. But he made them anyway.

The very mission of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was also the result of the prayer of Abraham, made at the very same time when Mecca was desert:

O our Lord! Raise up from the midst of our offspring an apostle from among themselves, who shall convey unto them Your messages and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom, and cause them to grow in purity: for, verily, You along are Almighty, Truly Wise (2:129)

The Prophet (pbuh) came centuries later, and again, Abraham never lived to see the fruits of his efforts. He still made them anyway. So should it be with us.

Whatever it is that we can do: writing, speaking, volunteering, supporting financially, etc., we should use the talent God gave us and try to make a positive impact on the world around us. No effort is too small because, when we do the work and ask God for His help, the results will be both blessed and amazing.

Moreover, the pursuit of Impact will give us amazing byproducts. It will necessarily make us people of Excellence. And, God willing, He will make the earth and whatever is in it subservient to us during our quest to make this earth a better place. It is truly a win-win situation for all.

And so, as we mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, let us resolve to make 2016 the year when we begin on the path of the pursuit of Impact. And may the Beautiful, Beloved Lord our God bless our path on that pursuit and make our impact on this world as amazing as it could be.

A very Happy, Blessed, and Prosperous New Year to you and your family.

How Can Islam Be “Inspired by Satan” When It Honors Jesus So Much?


In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

“Make no mistake about it,” he said from the pulpit in downtown Dallas, “Islam is just not another way to approach God. Islam is a false religion and it is inspired by Satan himself.”

These are the words of Rev. Robert Jeffress, who is pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. This church is one of the largest and most influential members of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he uttered those words on the Sunday after the ISIS attacks in Paris. He received a standing ovation at the end of the sermon.

At first, this disturbs me deeply because, if such words were uttered at a mosque anywhere in this country about Christianity or Judaism, it would be (rightly so) condemned vociferously. It is not befitting a house of worship to attack another faith as “inspired by Satan.”

On the other hand, however, such comments also baffle me because, as a Christian Pastor, Rev. Jeffress should know that Islam greatly honors Jesus and his mother Mary.

Take this passage from the third chapter of the Qur’an:

O my Lord! Behold, to You do I vow [the child] that is in my womb, to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, You alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!

But when she had given birth to the child, she said: “O my Lord! Behold, I have given birth to a female”— while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to, and [fully aware] that no male child [she might have hoped for] could ever have been like this female — and I have named her Mary. And verily, I seek Your protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the accursed.

And thereupon her Lord accepted the girl-child with goodly acceptance, and caused her to grow up in goodly growth… (3:35-37).

These verses are full of praise for the Virgin Mary, where God says that no male child that the mother of Mary may have hoped for could ever be like this female Mary.

Does this sound like a faith “inspired by Satan himself”?

In another passage of the Qur’an, God sets forth none other than the Virgin Mary as the best example a believer can follow:

And [We have propounded yet another parable of God-consciousness in the story of] Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], and who accepted the truth of her Lord’s words—and [thus] of His revelations—and was one of the truly devout (66:12).

In fact, the Virgin Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an.

Does this sound like a faith “inspired by Satan himself”?

The Qur’an has even more praise about her son, Jesus Christ.

The story of Jesus’s birth is told twice in the Qur’an (3:42-27 and 19:16-33). The Qur’an recounts the miracle of Jesus speaking in his infancy (3:46 and 19:29-33) and of Jesus healing the blind, curing lepers and raising the dead (5:110). The Qur’an also talks about how Jesus used to fashion birds out of clay and breathe life into them, by the permission of God (3:49). There may even be a reference to the Last Supper in the Qur’an as well (5:112-116).

Could this be from a faith that is “inspired by Satan himself”?

Jesus in the Qur’an is “honored in the world and the hereafter, and one of the intimates of God” (3:45). Jesus in the Qur’an is “in the ranks of the righteous” (6:85). Jesus in the Qur’an is described as a “word, from God, which God sent down to Mary [and] a spirit from Him” (4:171). The Qur’an even says that Jesus was strengthened with the “Holy Spirit” (2:253, 5:110), although classical commentators have interpreted “Holy Spirit” to mean the Angel Gabriel or divine inspiration.

Could all this praise for Jesus Christ be “inspired by Satan himself”?

No, Muslims do not believe that Jesus is divine or that he is part of the Godhood. Neither do Jews. But, how can this then mean that Islam is “inspired by Satan himself”?

If more people, especially some in the Christian community, would just learn more about Islam – from real, unbiased sources – they would see how much honor and praise Islam has for Christ and his mother. They would see how much more Islam and Christianity has in common, the disagreement about Jesus notwithstanding.

If more people knew the truth about Islam, they would see that Muslims are not “the enemy,” but rather brothers and sisters under the very same God who love Jesus and his mother so very much. If only more people knew the truth…

Let’s Start the New Year With Excellence


In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring 

“Can the reward for excellence be anything but excellence?” 

Such is the rhetorical question asked by God in surah Al Rahman (55:60). It comes after a beautiful passage describing the richness of the reward of paradise, with its gardens, and waterfalls, and fruits, and spouses, and unimaginable splendor. While God knows best, I suspect that He placed the question there as a motivator for us: that if we do good, God will reward us with good in return. 

And so, in this Islamic New Year that started this month, we should each ask ourselves the question: is it too much to demand excellence of ourselves? Is it too much to demand that we conduct ourselves in the most excellent manner? 

Is it too much to demand of ourselves to be the best employees possible; to come to work on time and do as excellent a job as we can; and to not cheat or steal? If we are employers ourselves, is it too much to demand of ourselves to treat our employees as the dignified human beings they are; to not cheat them out of their fair wages; and to not cheat our customers by selling them substandard goods at premium prices? 

Is it too much to demand of ourselves to be the best citizens possible; to not cheat the government out of its fair share of taxes; to not lie on immigration or customs forms; and to truly uphold the laws of our country? It is too much to demand of ourselves to be the best neighbors possible; to treat our neighbors with kindness and compassion; and to not block their driveway or the entrance to their business simply because it will save us 10 feet of walking to the mosque on Friday? 

Is it too much to demand of ourselves to be the best Muslims possible; to commit ourselves to not only the letter of our faith, but its spirit as well; to treat each other with brotherhood and sisterhood; and to greet each other with a smile on our face? 

Is it too much to demand of the so-called “Muslim World” to start acting like true Muslims; to stop fighting and killing each other over power politics; to take in more Syrian refugees – who are their brothers and sisters in faith – and not wait for the West to come to the rescue? 

Is it too much to ask? I think not. 

Now, I do not mean to say that Muslims in general are bad employees, or bad employers, or bad citizens, or bad believers. Not in the least. But we all know of examples of Muslims who have fallen short of the Divine standards of excellence outlined in our faith. Not only do these “bad apples” tarnish the image of our faith, but they also run the risk of making the rest of us cynical and conclude that demanding excellence of ourselves is a “pipe dream.” 

But it is not a “pipe dream.” It is our job as Muslims, in fact, to do our best to remain steadfast to that Divine standard of excellence, and not because it is good “public relations” or even good “da’wah.” Rather, it is because our Lord demands excellence of us; our faith demands excellence of us; our Messenger (pbuh) demanded excellence of us. And as the verse in surah Al Rahman promises us, we shall be handsomely rewarded for it. 

Charleston Attack Was Nothing Less Than Satanic


In the Name of God: The Extremely, Eternally, and Everlastingly Loving and Caring

This was first published in the Muslim Observer.

There was a deep pit in my stomach when I learned of the horrific terrorist attack on the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. I took the attack personally, even though I am neither African-American nor Christian. When anyone attacks a house of worship with such brutality, then all people of faith should take offense. After all, the Qur’an says:

“For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which Gods name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed [before now].” (22:40)

A house of worship is sacred ground, and no matter the faith, it should not be the subject of vicious violence such as we witnessed.

It is clear that this young man was filled with racist rage, and what he did was an act of terrorism. Yet, more than just this, what Dylann Roof is accused of doing was satanic in nature. Not because of how evil it was, although that is indeed true. Rather, it is satanic because it was Satan himself who introduced us to the whole notion of racism.

In the Qur’an, which we commemorate by our fasts and vigils in this month of Ramadan, God ordered the angels to bow in prostration to our father Adam. Satan arrogantly refused:

“[And God] said: ‘What has kept you from prostrating yourself when I commanded you?’ Answered [Satan]: ‘I am better than he: You have created me out of fire, whereas him You have created out of clay.’” (7:12)

“Said He: ‘O [Satan]! What has kept you from prostrating yourself before that [being] which I have created with My hands? Are you too proud [to bow down before another created being], or are you of those who think [only] of themselves as high?’ Answered [Satan]: ‘I am better than he: Thou hast created me out of fire, whereas him You have created out of clay.’” (38:75-76)

“AND LO! We said unto the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam’-whereupon they all prostrated themselves, save [Satan]. Said he: ‘Shall I prostrate myself before one whom You have created out of clay?’” (17:61)

It was Satan who was the first racist. Satan refused to bow to Adam because he felt superior to him, since Satan was created out of fire and Adam out of clay. This is racism, plain and simple.

And the human race has been plagued with the scourge of racism ever since. Satan has whispered to countless people throughout the ages that they are better than others because of the color of their skin, or the tongue they speak, or the land from which they hail. So much evil has been wrought because of racism: Slavery, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, among many, many others. Rivers of blood have been spilled throughout our history because of the stain of racism.

Yet, all of us are from Adam, and Adam was from dust, as our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us. The Qur’an tells us that no one of us is better than another, except in piety and God-consciousness. You would think that people of faith, especially those of the Abrahamic tradition, would understand this the best and be saved from the effects of racism.

Yet, sadly, the virus of racism has infected many communities of faith, even in the Muslim community as well. But it is never too late. God Himself said in the Qur’an,

“(And yet), behold, you [Satan] shall have no power over [such of] My servants [as place their trust in Me]: for none is as worthy of trust as your Lord.” (17:65)

We are never doomed to fall victim to the whispers of Satan. We can resist whatever feelings of racial or ethnic superiority that may come into our hearts. Although too many have fallen – and will continue to fall –  into Satan’s trap of racist hatred, we should at least recognize from where this ugliness came in the first instance. Maybe this will help us rid whatever feelings may stray into our hearts and prevent those feelings from turning into any vile action.

Islam Teaches Patience In The Face of Bigotry


In the Name of God: The Extremely, Eternally, Everlastingly Loving and Caring

This was first published in the Muslim Observer.

I had no idea that this gathering about drawing the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even existed. That is, until news of the shootings surfaced. Now, authorities have identified the gunmen, Elton Simpson and his roommate Nadir Soofi. These “holy warriors” were killed by police as soon as they opened fire as the event was ending.

What continues to boggle the mind about the criminals who undertake such actions to “defend the Prophet (pbuh)” is how brazenly they neglect the Qur’an. This is not the first – and most certainly will not be the last – time that the Prophet (pbuh) has been insulted. In fact, because of an act such as this shooting, it will guarantee that other such events mocking the Prophet (pbuh) will be held in the future.

But, again, what does the Qur’an say about facing the mockery of the Prophet (pbuh)? Plenty, actually:

“And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine writ that whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things – or else, verily, you will become like them. Behold, together with those who deny the truth God will gather in hell the hypocrites.” (4:140)

“Now, whenever thou meet such as indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn thy back upon them until they begin to talk of other things and if Satan should ever cause thee to forget [thyself], remain not, after recollection, in the company of such evildoing folk.” (6:68)

Two revelations, revealed years apart, saying the same thing: walk away from those who mock the signs of God. Nowhere does it say that these people should be attacked, harmed, or killed.
People will mock the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), just like other Prophets were mocked before. The Qur’an says so, in fact, multiple times:

“Mocked were (many) apostles before thee; but their scoffers were hemmed in by the thing that they mocked.” (6:10)

“Mocked were (many) apostles before thee: but I granted respite to the unbelievers, and finally I punished them: Then how (terrible) was my requital!” (13:32)

“Mocked were (many) apostle before thee; But their scoffers were hemmed in by the thing that they mocked.” (21:41)

Again, God said that He took care of those who mocked His Messengers, and no where does it say attack and kill those that mock. This is a satanic delusion of some criminals who are Muslim and think they are doing “good.” They are not doing good, but a tremendous evil.

What’s more, the Qur’an comforted the Prophet (pbuh) with regards to the mockery he faced:

“And well do We know that thy bosom is constricted by the [blasphemous] things that they say.” (15:97)

And what does the next verse say to do? Kill them? Attack them? Absolutely not:

“But extol thou thy Sustainer’s limitless glory and praise Him, and be of those who prostrate themselves [before Him] in adoration, and worship thy Lord till death comes to thee.” (15:98-99)

The Qur’an is clear: leave those who mock and malign, and God will take care of them, just like He has in the past.

That is why it is quite clear that people such as Simpson and Soofi have absolutely no knowledge of Islam and the Qur’an. If they did, they would have known better not to engage in acts of criminality that will only do harm to Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and the larger Muslim community, which will certainly face an unjust and unjustifiable backlash.

Criminals such as Simpson and Soofi, like the criminals behind the attach on Charlie Hebdo, do not represent Islam, and they do not defend the Prophet in the way he should be defended, no matter how much those who hate Islam may say so.

Thank God that Simpson and Soofi were stopped before they could commit worse crimes, and may God protect us all from criminal deviants such as these from ever striking again.

“Go And Cling To Her Feet, Because Paradise Is There”


In the Name of God: The Eternally, Extremely, and Everlastingly Loving and Caring 

The title of this post is the response of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to a man who expressed a desire to perform jihad in the path of God. It is likely that this man was thinking about a military battle. The Prophet (pbuh) instead asked him, “Is your mother alive?” When the man replied in the affirmative, the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Go and cling to her feet, because Paradise is there.”

The duty we have to our parents in general, but to our mothers in particular, is enormous in Islam. The Qur’an is full of references to the duty we have to our parents:

For your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto [your] parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in your care, never say [even] “Ugh” to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech and spread over them humbly the wings of your tenderness, and say: “O my Lord! Bestow Your grace upon them, even as they cherished and reared me when I was a child!” (17:23-24)Now [among the best of righteous deeds which] We have enjoined upon humanity [is] goodness towards parents…(29:8)

AND WORSHIP God [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. And do good unto your parents…(4:36)

Say: “Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: “Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents…(6:151)



Read more:  http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord#ixzz3ZeQrXItA



In The Cradle of God’s Mercy


In the Name of God: The Extremely, Eternally, Infinitely, and Perpetually Mericful 

This was first published in The Muslim Observer 

Photo credit: photodune

By Hesham Hassaballa

For many years, I have written and preached about the fact that the love of God can be read in and inferred from many verses in the Qur’an. Yet, after I was exposed to the classes at Bayyinah Institute, I realized that – despite my being a native Arabic speaker – I really did not understand the book of God. For all these years, I was staring at the love of God in the Qur’an and had absolutely no idea.

In the first chapter of the Qur’an, Al Fatihah (“The Opening”), God introduces Himself to the world:

“All Praise and Thanks belong to God, The Lord and Master of all nations of people
The Extremely, Eternally, Perpetually? and Infinitely Merciful
Master and King of the Day of Judgment”

This chapter was the first one revealed in totality to the Prophet, and in it, God describes Himself in terms of love and mercy. The root of the words, Al Rahman and Al Raheem, is “rhm,” which denotes love, care, and mercy. From it comes the word for mother’s womb, which is the ultimate manifestation of love and care.

And the words themselves are deeply profound in meaning. Al Rahman has three elements of mercy: first, it is extreme in nature; second, it is immediate; and third, it is temporary, meaning that something can take it away. Al Raheem has two qualities: first, it is eternal and perpetual; and second, it is not necessarily occurring right at this second.

Thus, with the two being paired together, it has the meaning which is roughly translated at “The Extremely, Eternally, Perpetually and Infinitely Merciful.” His Mercy is extreme and occurs right at this second, when we need it most, and it is there perpetually and eternally when we need it later.

And within those two words are God’s love for us. For more than two decades of my life, I was reciting in the prayer these words and had no idea that God was telling me, directly, that He loves me. For too many times in my life, I have had preachers and Imams focus on God’s wrath, and punishment, and anger, and power.

Indeed, He has all of these things. And we all pray that He never shows us those things. Yet, when He chose to introduce Himself to the world, and introduce Himself to those who seek guidance in His Word, He chose to focus on His love and mercy; His beauty and goodness; His care and benevolence. Out of all His infinite qualities, He chose to tell us that He is Al Rahman, Al Raheem.

Now, of course, whenever one has a benevolent master, employer, or manager, those in his responsibility are liable to take advantage of this benevolence. There is a risk that, knowing that our God is a loving and merciful Lord, we may take advantage of this fact and willfully sin against Him saying, “He is Merciful.” That is why He said that He is “Master and King of the Day of Judgment.” There will be a day when we will face Him and be taken to account for all that we have done.

Yet, still, despite this, the first thing He said about Himself is that He is Al Rahman, Al Raheem. This means that His mercy is extreme, immediate, eternal, and perpetual. And this is because He loves us more than we will ever know. I never knew that this amazing chapter told me this from the very beginning. And I am so very grateful to my Lord that I now do.