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“As you struggle with whatever you’re struggling with, understand that the opening will come. The darkest part of the night is just before the dawn. Never despair, never lose hope, be patient, the opening will come, just as it came for the Prophet ﷺ and for his community” ~ Imam Zaid Shakir

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Iphotography at Magrib time, 20 Ramadan 2014

“….It’s because we are reminded that our hearts have this temporal yearning which is not to last forever, but only for this life. And through this yearning He is truly found.

He puts destiny in our way whilst we are in pursuit of happiness. What joy would happiness be without our hearts being challenged, moved and even broken if every pursuit, be it trivial or life threatening was quickly achieved?

God willing, hearts move on, new journeys are begun and current episodes become part of ones life encounters where lessons and reflections are gained. Live on and know your destiny awaits you, no one can take it from you because He has already ordained it for you. Don’t blame yourself for any of this, it was never in your control because destiny has its own way…..”  

 (Reflections by a dear friend, mentor and teacher)

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The Bosphorus, Istanbul at sunset (Dec 2009)

 

 

Embracing the Prophet  ﷺ After Embracing Islam: A Converts Reflection

By Ibrahim J. Long

We were sitting together in a circle in the masjid and today’s talk was about the Prophet Muhammadﷺ. Young men and women, many of whom not born Muslim, moved to sit with us after performing the ‘asr prayer. We had come together to speak about the man whose life was dedicated to teaching us our religion.

One of the young men among us, Jacob, had only embraced Islam a few months earlier and had become immediately passionate about his new faith. As we all sat together Jacob revealed a secret: “I remember when I first embraced Islam,” he said, “I didn’t know that much at all about the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. And, I would see all these people around me just in love with him… I loved Islam… but I did not know why people were so obsessed with him?”

A few other attendees nodded their head in agreement, and a few others cracked a smile. “I know what you mean,” said Nancy, “at first I wondered the same thing.” Nancy, also a convert to Islam, had embraced the religion only a few months prior to Jacob. Having always been interested in religion, she had become interested in Islam after meeting some Muslims, and became open to learning more. Like Jacob she had found in Islam a religion that she could embrace. She liked the dignity that Islam afforded women, the emphasis upon prayer, and the direction that it gave her life; though, like Jacob, at the time of her conversion she knew very little about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Although I was asked to lead them in the discussion, I was no different from them. When I embraced Islam it was due to the beauty and depth of the Qur’an, which nothing but a light placed in my heart had convinced me to firmly believe to have a divine origin. And, like Jacob and Nancy, I had only known initially that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the one to whom the Qur’an was revealed, and perhaps a few stories about his blessed life.

As we sat there together and continued to share our stories, I realized something I had not before: In each of our personal stories, including my own, the example of the Prophet ﷺ had increasingly taken on a more critical role in our daily lives and in the strength of our faith. Though we did not know that much about him initially, when we were going through a trial a Muslim friend would relate to us a story about Muhammad ﷺ going through a more difficult trial, and so we would try harder to be patient. When we were having difficulties with friends or family, someone would inform us about how the Prophet ﷺ treated other people and we would try harder to be like him. And, as we were learning how to properly worship God, we realized how perfectly the Prophet ﷺ worshiped Him.

Though we each had known little about the Messenger ﷺ when we first embraced Islam, by following Islam his example became increasingly important at each step along the way; and so did our love for him ﷺ. In fact, his life and example taught us, and still teaches us, how to follow the faith we had been moved by God to embrace. While we had known little about the Prophet ﷺ, by embracing Islam we had come to discover–through our striving to achieve (as close as possible) a resemblance to his exalted level of character–that he truly is the one worthy of praise and emulation.

May the peace and blessings of God be upon him and his folk.

© Ibrahim J. Long, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/January 2012

Reflections On My Beloved

By Abd-Allah Friedman

 

And once again I sit in a state of disillusionment from this world, this life, this sensual reality that defines my existence.  It seems that I am forever at a loss in my search for beauty.  I am imprisoned by the requirement to exist within the confines of time and space.  My search for beauty is not confined to this realm; it is no longer fixated on the superficial reality I once held so dear.  The fascination of a transient rose without the adoration of its creator seems insolence.  However, the absence of appreciation for this rose is equally ungrateful.

The physical exists only in so far as to testify to the eternal, and the eternal is intellectual and ethereal, unbound by a corporal reality.  An ephemeral existence is, by its very nature, contingent and cannot be an absolute reality. But an ephemeral existence can and does testify to a higher and absolute truth, one that is not contingent upon the existence of the physical. 

This is the primordial milieu that gives birth to my search; I aspire to arrive at a physical reality that testifies to the Eternal Truth.  The search exposes one truth: that the greatest manifestations of these realities, these ‘signs’, that navigate one to the Sublime are inextricably intertwined with beauty, and so as if by inspiration it dawns on me that ‘The Divine’ is merely a synonym for ‘The Beautiful’.

What subsequently ensues is an appreciation for the Artist who is by definition the creator of the ‘beautiful’.  The main aim of art has always been to conceal the artist while revealing the art and so my sight permeates the objects in my line of vision and settles on their Creator.  I drift through the physical realm attempting to translate His impressions, attempting to identify the signature of the Artist.

And this becomes my existence, blindly wondering through the cascade gazing at the diversity within the celestial spheres.  Each instance allows me to attain a brief glimpse of the Divine. However, each glimpse is veiled and so I am left longing for unity with the Creator.   What I desire most is a physical manifestation that facilitates this union by incinerating the veils.

And so in my helpless state I stumble upon my beloved, as if a gift from the realm of the spiritual; the masterpiece of the artist, without doubt His greatest creation.  At this instance the physical reality dissipates into insignificance, and all that remains is my beloved, carrying the signature of the Artist in every instance of his existence, al-Mustafa.

I am reminded of the moment of creation when the Divine breathed into man His own breath and thus endowed him with the potential to truly reflect Him.  And so my beloved exists, the actualisation of that potential, the crowning endorsement of the Divine’s command to the angels to prostrate to man. 

I am asked who this beloved is that I speak of, I pause and reflect.  My soul recollects the statement of the Divine addressing my beloved: “If not for you, I would neither have created the Heavens nor the Earth”.  And so I close my eyes and the perfume of my beloved immerses my soul, I am emancipated, transported to a transcendental reality.  I am in the presence of my beloved, a dust particle in his light, and he addresses me, “I am the messenger of God without boasting.  I shall bear the banner of praise on the Day of Resurrection.  I am the first to intercede and the first whose intercession will be granted.  I am the first to move the knocker at the gate of Paradise.  It will be opened by the Divine and I will enter along with the poor among the faithful.  Thus, I am the most honoured among the leaders of the earlier and the later days.”

But alas, I am hesitantly drawn back from this state of primordial adoration to my material reality, and I respond with a whisper, ‘The Divine was a hidden treasure and desired to be known, and thus He created the light of my beloved. This lantern was lit from the flame of the Divine, nurun ala-nur, and predates The Preserved Tablet, The Pen, the Heavens and the Earth.  An understanding of his true stature is beyond the ability of mortals as his praise originates in the realm of the Divine and is bequeathed in the Divine Book.  He is the simorgh that elucidates the path to an audience with the Divine’.

Deliberating on his status delivers me once more to the realm of imagination, in which I exist merely as an unworthy visitor attempting to observe with the mind’s eye.  I stand, silently, engulfed in the mist of dawn in front of the lote tree. The point that demarcates the limit of even the angelic beings, where the intellect surrenders itself to the translucent heart, and I find my beloved beyond this limit.  He approaches the Divine, at a distance of ‘two bows’ length or even nearer’ and so I realise that this proximity leaves upon him the Divine ‘seal’, an imprint that allows him to crystallise the characteristics of the Divine.

And so the reality that my beloved was a prophet even when Adam was between water and Clay, no longer seems fanciful. He was present when Adam was brought down from the garden, and when Noah boarded his ark and when Abraham was thrown into Nimrod’s fire. Even before all this he was the most perfect and complete of creation.

My beloved is not merely the cup bearer who offered the world the wine of Divine wisdom, but is the vessel through which this wine was offered.  And so is it any wonder that to commemorate his entrance into this world, the skies were decorated and the angels moved about in continuous processions.  And upon his birth radiance illuminated the horizon so much so that the castles of Damascus were visible from as far as the Sacred Sanctuary.

The ‘shining light’ of my beloved is not in rejecting the transient world, but rather transcending it by the establishment of a harmony founded upon the quest of the Absolute.  The nucleus of this existence is the appreciation that ‘All that exists dissipates, save the face of The Lord’.  The culmination of his status rests not with his intimate discourse with the Absolute, but with his return to beautify the corporeal world.

Upon his return he is adorned with the greatest attribute of the Divine, His mercy.  It permeates into his very essence and becomes his defining characteristic. The Divine Himself bears testimony to this trait and designates him a “mercy to all of the worlds”.

This eternal flame which is the symbiosis of the light of the Divine refracted through my beloved has illuminated the world.  This light is encapsulated by his interaction with the corporeal world and penetrates his every moment.  His compassion and benevolence to the orphans and the poor becomes the validation of his mission, and so it is that he is adorned by humility. The trivial instances are more indicative of the authenticity of this reality that any grand gestures could ever pay homage to.  The enduring of a bitter taste so as not to the hurt the feelings of a poor man or accepting the criticism from a departing old lady while quietly carrying her bags.  Or maybe even refraining a father from collecting his children to avoid highlighting a father’s absence to the orphans present.  If all the oceans were made into ink and all the trees were made into pen, I could not do justice to the praise that is due to my beloved, the ‘perfect model’.  He is praised by the Divine Himself outside the realm of time.  And so I persist through time intoxicated with love, testifying that my beloved is indeed the ‘best of creation’.

Reflecting on any instant of his being attests to this mercy, the quality that penetrates to the core of his very existence.  This is the incandescent light that emanates from my beloved; the niche wherein is the lamp.  This lamp is the vessel that is able to contain the Divine, when the heavens and earth acquiesce.  His heart is the lamp that is encased in a glass, that which reflects the light of the Divine, as if it were a star shining like a pearl.  A radiant candle encircled by innumerable souls like spellbound moths.  I accompany these souls in the hope of tasting the ecstasy of annihilation, a moment of coalescing with the apex of creation, to be set ablaze, to finally be emancipated.

And so I now reside in this new reality that is ameliorated by his luminosity.  My solitude in this ephemeral existence no longer causes me any distress.  I view creation merely as a reflection, allowing me to transpose everything onto the creator.  I seemingly exist in a dream-like state which intermittently recollects remnants belonging to another dimension.  My beloved has become my soul’s sanctuary. So I struggle with the distractions that constitute my engagement with the corporeal reality.  Nothing equals a blissful moment engulfed in adoration of my beloved and I realise that my extensive agitation is merely the result of longing.  So I retrace my steps and once again begin circumambulating my beloved.  His fragrance envelops me and I return to my serene silence, my state of tranquility.  It begins to permeate my being and liberates my soul, and once more I am at peace.

© Abd-Allah Friedman, January 2012

 

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