Category Archives: Umm Zakiyyaah
Internationally acclaimed author of the trilogy: If I Should Speak, A Voice, and Footsteps. Author of latest novel Realities of Submission.
‘This Ramadan, seek the good—in yourself and others. It’s only natural, and certainly necessary, to be aware of your sins and faults so that you can ask forgiveness and struggle against your weaknesses. But it’s also necessary to know what you’re doing right so that you have hope beyond the fear. So much emphasis is put on “eradicating evil” that we forget that “commanding the good” is also part of our faith. In fact, focusing on the good comes before rooting out evil. So during this Blessed Month, search for the good, and if you don’t find it, plant it there—in the soil of your life and someone else’s.’
—from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah
May Allah accept your fasting and prayers, and may He write you down amongst those saved from the Fire and admitted into Paradise without account.
“I can’t believe you let Maryam have internet in her room,” Joanne said. She gripped the steering wheel of her car with her left hand as she lifted a can of diet cola from the cup holder and took a sip. She shook her head as she held the can inches from her mouth. “I swear that’s the one thing that makes me really uncomfortable when Samira comes over.”
In her peripheral vision, Joanne could see Basma turn to look at her, Basma’s narrowed eyes visible through the slit in the black face veil, but Joanne kept her eyes on the road. She already knew what her friend was thinking. It was what most Muslims thought when they heard her views on teens and internet usage. It was the same frustration she’d faced in Saudi Arabia. If you didn’t wear a face veil and you listened to music, you forfeited all rights to being taken seriously for any moral boundaries you set for yourself and your family. And fact that Joanne was an American convert to Islam made her case even worse.
“Really, Joanne,” Basma said, shaking her head, “I’m surprised you feel that way.”
“Why? Because I’m a bad Muslim and should just go all the way?” Joanne chuckled and shook her head before taking another sip of cola.
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to.”
Joanne returned the can to its place and smiled at Basma.
“Don’t worry,” Joanne said. “I don’t blame you for it. I’m used to people thinking I’m a hypocrite.”
“Oh, Joanne, for God’s sake. Can we talk about something else?”
“I didn’t bring this up to bicker, Basma. I’m really worried about my daughter.”
“And you don’t think I’d treat her like my own?”
Joanne slowed the car to a stop behind a line of vehicles at a red light. “Honestly, Basma,” she said quietly. “That’s what I don’t want you to do.”
Joanne frowned apologetically as she met Basma’s shocked gaze. “I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m being judgmental, but—”
“If anyone should be worried,” Basma said, “it should be me.”
Joanne’s eyes widened as she chuckled. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you’re not the only one worried about her daughter.”
“So you believe Samira will corrupt your innocent little girl?” Joanne rolled her eyes and smirked. “I should’ve known this is what you’d think after I asked if our daughters could be friends. To you, this whole thing is a one-sided charity case.”
“Well, Faris and I are sacrificing a lot to help you.”
Joanne drew her eyebrows together. “You and Faris? What does your husband have to do with anything?”
“Oh my God. You can’t be serious, Joanne. Did you think I’d just invite some girl over to spend hours alone with our daughter and not ask his permission?”
“His permission?” Joanne looked at her friend, hands gripping the steering wheel. “You mean letting my daughter come over requires some major family deliberation?”
“Well, actually, it does.”
Speechless, Joanne stared at Basma. It was only the sound of a beeping horn that prompted Joanne to blink and shake her head. She lifted her foot from the brake and rested it on the gas pedal, guiding the car past the green light.
“In an Islamic household,” Basma said, her voice authoritative despite the soft tone. “that’s how it should be.”
“In an Islamic household?” Joanne contorted her face. “So what does that make my household?”
“Joanne, don’t be unreasonable. I just want you to know it’s not personal.”
“But it is personal, Basma. It’s very personal.”
Joanne squinted her eyes as she glanced at her friend. “Think about it. Do you have to get permission every time Maryam’s cousins want to drop by?”
“They’re family, Joanne. That’s different. We have to keep ti—”
“In Islam,” Joanne said, her emphasis on the word intentionally sarcastic, “cousins aren’t family. Otherwise, how did you and Faris get married?”
“Wh…” Basma’s eyes widened, but Joanne could tell Basma didn’t know what to say.
“And isn’t it true,” Joanne said, “your husband can forbid family from visiting if he thinks they’ll cause harm?”
“But nothing, Basma. So it’s personal. Period. There’s no need to lie about it.” Joanne’s nose flared. She shook her head. “And Islam forbids lying last time I checked.”
Basma sighed, and Joanne sensed her friend wasn’t in the mood to argue.
Joanne felt a tinge of guilt pinching her, but she found it difficult to let go of her offense. How could Basma think she was corrupt?
Joanne huffed. Was this what her life would forever be as a Muslim? Other Muslims holding her at arm’s length? Admiring because she’s American, but distrusting for the same reason?
Shaking her head, Joanne propped her left elbow on the seal of the window next to her as her right hand steered the car. Oh how she’d believed all that universal brotherhood rhetoric when she first accepted Islam. But now…what was left for her? Not even the marriage she’d thrown her heart into sustaining. She now lived an ocean apart from her youngest children. The two boys she loved more than life itself were with their father in Saudi Arabia.
Joanne was tired of hearing how Islam is perfect and Muslims are imperfect or how she shouldn’t judge Islam by the actions of Muslims.
“Oh please,” an American convert had said once, rolling her eyes. “That’s just what they say so they can keep living culture and ignoring Islam.”
At the time, Joanne had been infuriated. She was personally offended because she was married into one of the very cultures the woman was criticizing. “I swear to God these Black people are impossible,” Joanne had said to Riaz later that day. “People bend over backwards to treat them equal, but it’s never enough.” Riaz had laughed in agreement as she continued venting. “They’re a bunch of ungrateful leeches if you ask me. Always got their hands out, but then they complain that even the people who help them are racist!”
These were the words that hung in Joanne’s mind as she pulled the car to a stop in front of the Muslim high school where the girls were finishing a placement exam.
Joanne felt the beginning of a headache. She was beginning to see the world with the very eyes she’d scorned for so long.
“Oh, sweetheart, don’t blame yourself,” Riaz had said when he’d sat her down to explain his reasons for divorce. “It’s not your fault. It’s just that this has been really hard for my family.”
What the—? Joanne had thought at the time. Was he kidding? You’re just going to throw away a marriage of fifteen years because your wife doesn’t “fit in” the family? You knew I couldn’t speak Urdu or cook biryani when you married me!
“Joanne,” Basma’s soft voice drifted to Joanne as if from a distance, “are you okay?”
Joanne’s heart beat had slowed to a normal rate, but the tightening in her chest had not loosened.
It’s not personal, Joanne.
Such simple, sincere words Basma had spoken. Yet they were eerily similar to the ones Riaz had used to break apart an entire family.
Yes, I know it’s not personal, Basma, Joanne thought as she turned the keys to shut off the engine. My problem is one I can’t control.
The keys jingled as she pulled them out the ignition.
Adapted from A Friendship Promise by Ruby Moore
Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost. She is now writing juvenile fiction stories under the name Ruby Moore. To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.
Copyright © 2013 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.
WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG
O My Beloved Student:
Assalaamu’alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh
Make Allah’s Pleasure Your Priority
My first advice to you is to make Allah’s pleasure your priority in everything, from personal friendships to your Islamic studies. This means spending each night reflecting on the events, thoughts, words, and deeds of your day. As one of the Companions advised, “Take account of your deeds before they are taken to account for you.”
This also means making sincere Istikhaarah your “best friend” before embarking on any decision, especially that which does not have a clear Islamic ruling. This includes everything from where you plan to study, whom you study with, the madhhab you choose to follow, and most especially the taking of a position in which there is disagreement amongst scholars.
Stick to the Sunnah
My second advice is to stick firmly to the authentic Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam. This may, on the surface, appear as a given. But in today’s world where knowledge is little and ignorance is great, living in actuality of this advice is tremendously difficult as we sift through claims of truth and discover that much of it is falsehood. Know too that falsehood does not come only from insincere, “bad” people. It can come from the kindest, most sincere, and well-meaning of people—and it can even come from those who are regarded as “scholars.” Therefore, this reality necessitates your having an open heart and mind when turning to Allah for guidance. Pray:
“O Allah, I ask you for beneficial knowledge, a submitting heart, truthful conviction, and a tongue that is in constant remembrance of You!”
The Prophet and His Companions Knew Islam Best
My third advice is to stick firmly to understanding Islam as it was understood by the Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam and his Companions. For Allah says to them,
“You are the best people ever raised for mankind…” (Aali-‘Imraan, 3:110)
Since they are the best of us, they are our “measuring stick” in our practice and understanding of Islam.
Truth Is Not in a Label
The Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam said, “The best of my nation is my generation then those who follow them and then those who follow them” (Bukhari). Thus, the first three generations of Muslims are our example in our practice and understanding of Islam. However, your concern should never be the word or claim of following the earliest generations; rather, your concern should be the reality of understanding and practicing Islam as it was revealed.
Learn from Scholars Who Teach the Sunnah
The Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam said, “Indeed, the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets, for the prophets do not leave behind a dinar or a dirham for inheritance, but rather, they leave behind knowledge. So whoever takes hold of it has acquired a large share” (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi).
In other words, the scholars most deserving of being followed are those who teach what they “inherited” from the knowledge of the Prophet—the Qur’an and Sunnah, where all authentic Islamic sciences, rulings and schools of fiqh are derived. However, our focus should never be on a particular scholar or school of thought more than the truth we are obligated to follow.
You’ll Answer for Your Deeds & Taqleed Is No Excuse
Know too that, especially for the student of knowledge on the path to being a scholar, there is no taqleed (blind following) to any scholar or school of thought except in that which you know (based on clear proofs) to be from Allah or the Prophet sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam.
Know of a surety you will be called to account for your deeds and your thinking, and no one but you can answer for them. So do not think that it is ever excusable to throw away your mind when following scholars of Islam. We throw away our thinking only when our thoughts conflict with something clearly established in the Qur’an or Sunnah, not when we’re differentiating right from wrong amongst the opinions of scholars. For all scholars of the Sunnah advised: never, ever follow a scholar’s opinion when it goes against the Sunnah. If you do, then the blame is on you, not on them, as they advised you otherwise.
Quotes from the Early Scholars
”It is not permitted for anyone to accept our views if they do not know from where we got them from.” —Imam Abu Hanifah
“Indeed I am only a human: I make mistakes [sometimes] and I am correct [sometimes]. Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it.” —Imam Malik Ibn Anas
”For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet, sallallahu’alayhi wa sallam, contrary to my saying, then the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu’alayhi wa sallam, comes first, therefore do not [do] taqleed of my opinion.” —Imam Muḥammad Ibn Idris al-Shafi’ee
” Do not follow my opinion; neither follow the opinion of Malik, nor Shafi’ee, nor Awza’i, nor Thawri, but take from where they took.” —Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal
Knowledge Is Beneficial Only If Your Foundation Is Correct
Know this and know it well: There is a tremendous amount of knowledge in this world, and there are many, many scholars. But knowledge is of no benefit if one’s foundational knowledge is incorrect. This includes the knowledge of normal people and the knowledge of scholars. And this includes knowledge of worldly matters and knowledge of religion.
Know too that knowledge itself is of two types: beneficial and non-beneficial. Beneficial knowledge is that which can help your affairs in worldly matters and that which can help your affair in the Hereafter. Of the non-beneficial knowledge, there are two subcategories: useless knowledge and harmful knowledge. Useless knowledge could be your knowing something as simple as what your neighbor is eating for dinner (if there is no reason for you to know this). And harmful knowledge is learning anything that can lead to disbelief, religious innovation, or sin.
Tazkiyyah Is Islam Itself
In Islam, tazkiyyah (purification of the soul) is the religion of Islam itself. Anything you do that fulfills the following two conditions results in tazkiyyah:
1. It is done seeking the pleasure of Allah alone.
2. It is done according to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam.
Thus, any act that is claimed to be tazkiyyah, know my dear student, that it must fit both of these conditions; otherwise the claim is false or mistaken.
There’s No ‘Bridge’ to the Sunnah
Know too that just as there is Tawheed (the Oneness of Allah) and its opposite Shirk (setting up partners or intermediaries with Him), there is, too, Sunnah and its opposite Bid’ah (innovation in religion). Those who commit shirk claim to do it in order to draw closer to Allah. And those who do bid’ah claim to do it in order to draw closer to the Sunnah.
In truth, there is no Shirk that is a “bridge” to Tawheed. Tawheed is both a means and an end: It your starting point, your bridge, and your goal. Similarly, there is no Bid’ah, in fact no act at all, that is a “bridge” to the Sunnah. Like Tawheed, the Sunnah is both a means and an end: The Sunnah is your starting point, your bridge, and your goal.
So any path that claims otherwise, know that it is, surely, a path to your loss in this world and in the Hereafter.
Be Merciful and Forgiving
On a personal note, I advise you to be ever forgiving of your Muslim brothers and sisters, be they friends, classmates, family or even people you barely know. This is the path to Paradise.
Forgiving, making excuses, and overlooking faults are basic parts in our religion, and anyone who wishes to call others to Islam or become a student of knowledge or a scholar must have an especially merciful heart and forgiving nature, and he or she must constantly make excuses for others, searching for explanations that protect a person’s honor and reputation.
May Allah Have Mercy on You
May Allah have mercy on you and your family. May He increase you in beneficial knowledge, guide you on the Sunnah of His Messenger sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam. May He show you what is right and make you follow it, and may He show you what is wrong and keep you far from it. And may your last days be your best days, your last deeds your best deeds, and your best day the Day you meet Ar-Rahmaan.
Please keep me in your prayers.
By Umm Zakiyyah on 03 February 2013.
By Andrea Umm Abdullah and Umm Zahrah
I MAY not know you. I may not know your name, where you come from, or where you live. But I know what you’re going through.
I’ve been there. I know you just want to be happy. You just want your marriage, your husband, your home life to be…better. Happier. Easier.
I know you are tired of being sad. Tired of being unfulfilled. Tired of settling. Tired of wanting more. Tired of trying to make yourself stop caring.
I know sometimes you look up and wonder, “What happened to the ME I used to be?” You’ve bent, suppressed, and given up so much of yourself. Sometimes you wonder, “What am I doing here? What’s the point? Maybe my life would be better if/when/there…”
I know you feel unnoticed and unappreciated. You can’t get rid of the headaches, your eyes are tired, your hair needs attention, your hands are rough, your body is sore, your feet are cracked but most importantly, your heart feels empty.
But you know what? It’s going to be okay.
You know how you start to compare your then and now? You wonder why you were happier and why you felt your iman back then? You wonder, “What happened? What changed?” Yeah, your situation changed…You had that thing, the issues were different, etc. but you changed too. You let your circumstances determine your happiness.
And if you keep doing that, you’ll always be up and down, because that’s how life is. But I don’t want that for you. I want you to get to a place where you can say, “You know what? It’s ok. It’s not worth the arguing, the pain, the tears, and the inner turmoil.”
We think happiness is always when and if. We think happiness is somewhere outside of us…somewhere outside of our current situation. But that’s not true. Your happiness is up to you.
You can “choose” happiness. You don’t have to wait until someone or something makes you happy. Instead of waiting for that one big change to bring joy and sunshine into your life, pay attention to the small drops of delight that abound throughout your day.
Everything will never be exactly the way you want. And if it is, it won’t last long. That’s just how life is. And that’s ok. We have ups and we have downs. The good thing about the downs is that they tell us to slow down. To pray. To be grateful. To feel empathy for those who have it worse.
I saw a quote the other day…”When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” And that’s what you have to do sometimes.
You just hold on.
I know what it’s like to reach that point where you feel like you’re going to break. You’re tired of going through the motions and you know you can’t keep living like this. It’s scary. It’s scary because you don’t know what’s going to happen or what to do next but you know something has to change. And sooner or later, you realize, it’s you. It’s you that has to change. Because at this point, you know that nothing external will make it better. Getting a maid won’t make it better. Having more money or even getting that divorce. You would still be unhappy. And that’s how you know it’s your heart. And so you give in. And you throw in the towel and turn back to where you should’ve been the whole time…with Allah.
You know, your marriage isn’t the center of your life. The reality is you won’t always feel the love, the happiness and fulfillment. I know you didn’t get married to have a roommate and sometimes you feel like your marriage isn’t benefitting you the way it’s supposed to.
But don’t spend too much time being sad. And don’t let anyone stand in between you and your relationship with Allah. Not even your own self. You couldn’t read Quran because you were just too upset. You couldn’t pray because you couldn’t concentrate. Or you couldn’t sit and do your adhkar because your mind was everywhere.
But you know how you feel better after you take that first step back to Allah? That time you decided to pick up the Quran, maybe because you figured it’s been a while. That time you couldn’t stop crying in prayer. And then when you finished, you felt lighter. Well this time, keep going.
Remember the last time YOU did something and it made YOU feel happy? Or the other day when you laughed out loud, for a pretty long time, and you thought, “Wow, I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that.” Go do it again. Go make a nice cake, or put on some makeup and nice clothes, and do your hair. Play with your kids or go help someone. Do it for you. And then smile at yourself. Smile because it’s going to be okay. You may not have everything you want and your relationship with your husband may not be where you want it to be, but Allah sees you. Allah knows your trying.
And one more thing, don’t lose yourself in your marriage, trying to morph yourself into the perfect wife. Keep a little bit of yourself just for you. Because you need YOU.
And remember, you’re not alone
By Umm Zakiyyah on 23 July 2012
BUT I don’t trust God,” the man said.
He was a neighbor of ours in America and had just learned that his wife was terminally ill. Though the man was Christian, my husband had advised him to turn to God in prayer and to place his trust in Him…
“You cannot even begin to understand the depths of confusion caused by believing that God is a man” my father had once said while reflecting on his former life as a Christian.
It was these words that came to mind when I watched a 1997 interview with the famous actor Bill Cosby after his son was killed, and he said, “God can’t control everything.” And even the interviewer couldn’t conceal being taken aback by his words…
“You don’t trust God?” my husband asked our neighbor.
The man averted his gaze. “No,” he said, unveiling frustration right then. “No, I don’t.”
Many Muslims may find such sacrilegious statements incomprehensible. It’s difficult to imagine how a person can live a life ostensibly believing in God yet neither trusting Him nor believing He controls all affairs.
That’s because they don’t believe in God in the right way, we may conclude.
And that’s true. When people do not know their Creator in the proper sense, this ignorance disrupts their relationship with God.
“They [the Jews and Christians] took their rabbis and monks to be their lords besides Allaah and [they also took as their Lord] Christ, the son of Mary. Yet they were commanded to worship one God… ” (Al-Tawbah, 9:31)
Naturally, the religious teachings of humans influence far more than what is deemed lawful and prohibited or the manner one worships God. These flawed teachings further influence the role God plays in followers’ lives…and whether or not they trust Him or believe He controls all affairs.
“Make du’aa for me this Ramadan,” the woman said to me.
“Of course,” I said. “And make du’aa for me too.”
A shy smile toyed at her lips. “No,” she said quietly. “You’re a better Muslim than me. I think Allaah will answer your prayers. I’m not a good Muslim.”
I’m often at a loss for words when Muslims speak like this. If having our prayers answered depended entirely on “being a good Muslim,” then certainly I myself wouldn’t be inclined to raise my hands in supplication.
“Put your trust in Allaah, ukhti. He hears and answers prayers.”
She averted her gaze. “Yeah, okay…”
But her hesitance conveyed sentiments similar to those our neighbor expressed in America…
So where did our lessons about God go wrong? Why do we have the Qur’an and Sunnah yet still hold on to a flawed view of the Creator? Where did we learn that struggling with human faults and sins makes us unworthy of Allaah’s love and forgiveness?
“Say, O My slaves who have wronged their souls! Despair not of the mercy of Allaah. Verily, Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Zumar, 39:53)
He also tells us,
“O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.”—Qudsi hadith (Al-Tirmidhi and Ahmad, authenticated by Al-Albani)
Yes, it is true that our sins put us at risk of not having our prayers answered. But it is also true that no human is without sin.
The Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, said, “All of the children of Adam sin, and the best of those who sin are those who constantly repent” (Bukhari).
When Muslims fall into despair and depression due to their sins, they aren’t too different from those who don’t trust God or who believe that God can’t control everything.
After all, if we trust Allaah, we know He hears and answers our prayers, and if we believe Allaah is All-Powerful, then we know He has control over all affairs…
And we know it is not beyond Allaah’s capacity to forgive us, no matter how numerous or major our sins.
Often it is the words of people or the whispers of Shaytaan that cripple us in our weakest moments. Thus, we imagine that even a month as blessed as Ramadan and a Mercy as vast as that bestowed from Al-Raheem—the Most Merciful—is beyond our reach.
At these moments, we become dangerously similar to the followers of innovated religions who trust the views of mortal beings over that of the Creator…
And sometimes that mortal view is our own.
We may think of how weak and “bad” we are in comparison to “good Muslims,” or we may believe the harsh words of someone who made us feel like a “bad Muslim,” and we somehow imagine these views reflect our fate more than that of Allaah’s promise of mercy and forgiveness.
And this imagination may even block our inspiration to participate fully in the month of Ramadan….because we think its blessings and promises of Paradise are for “somebody else.”
Yet the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, said,“In every day and every night, during the month of Ramadan, there are people to whom Allaah grants freedom from the Fire, and there is for every Muslim a supplication which he can make and will be granted” (al-Bazzaar, Ahmad and Ibn Majah; Sahih).
So rest assured, O child of Adam, that inshaaAllaah one of those Muslims is you.
How do I know?
So I trust Allaah.