for the people of the land of the sun (just recompense)

a few words next to nothing for our brothers and sisters.

May Allah be with them and grant them steadfastness and relief from oppression.


I bled this lead poem

from a third eye

from the dark side of an eclipsed solar disc

knowing it would shine again because an eclipse cannot last

i bled this lead poem
and scribbled on the walls of the 69th cell in permanent red ink
like the author of the Algerian National Anthem before he escaped
and this was hurled and heard like mangled pieces of invisible shrapnel
but it ain’t just recompense

I don’t consider this just recompense
for brethren picking through mounds of rubble that used to be a home before missiles hit
in search of a baby sister
while the world watched did nothing for reasons that don’t make sense to me
hidden in plain view by
Mr. Sinister behind the podium standing at the center of his winter solstice
trying to steal the sun from its land
telling the world with the forked thing between his jaws that he is not the maestro of a crazed Coliseum
with the forked thing between his jaws with a taste of blood for his own people

oh people of the land of the sun
an eclipse don’t last forever

I don’t consider this just recompense
because stories were distorted by the headlines to help fit them on one line to speed across the bottom of television screens
in order to make room for some photoshopped face celebrity latest break-up story
to appease devastated attention spans and boost ratings
in order to feed hypnotic conditions

so by the time I caught ear of it

the victims were somehow the villains
and the sky wasn’t falling
and the one who’d sold the fangs to the fox in the first place was made to be the hero

What could be just recompense
for children missing for months
seized by shadows and
when they finally were sent home -the fingernails extracted from their fingers
came home wiser to the ways of the world than old men
came home with the lights in their eyes dimmed like
flashlights on the verge of burning out
and the worst of their wounds from
invisible shrapnel that hit them and they bled lead poems
that no one would ever see or hear

how could this bear witness
for one man from the land of the sun
that lay dying from shrapnel
who witnessed the event
of an unknown man in white– bright as the winter sun he had to squint
descending on him with glad tidings
that the eclipse would end
and the sun would shine again
and prophecy cannot be undone
enough to make that witness that lay dying smile

the witnesses of the witness testify he was squinting
like one staring into the eye of the sun
and he was smiling.

oh people of the land of the sun
an eclipse cannot last forever.

© askia nasir bilal 2012

For more pieces like this, check out Askia’s blog.

Why Does Evil Exist: Hardships and Struggle on the Path to Allah (with Sr. Yasmin Mogahed)

For your listening convenience, download the audio of this halaqa here:

NOTES from the Halaqa (Thanks to Sarah Abe!) 

Why Does Evil Exist?

–   Jannah is infinite

  • We are only on this Earth to worship Allah for a limited time, yet the payback is infinite
  • There is a price to get to Jannah, but it is not equivalent to what we’re getting
    • Imagine you found something normally $1000 on sale for only a penny – you’d think it’s a pretty good deal, right? And Jannah is INFINITE
    • The greatest reward of Jannah is seeing Allah
      • “After the people of the Garden have entered the Garden, He Who is Blessed and Exalted shall ask: “Do you wish Me to give you anything more?” And they will reply: “Have You not brightened our faces? Have You not made us enter the Garden and saved us from the Fire?” He will then remove the veil, and nothing they were ever given will have been dearer to them than the vision of their Lord, the High, the Majestic.” -Hadith
      • The most painful punishment of the Hellfire is the veil between you and Allah

–   “Do you think that you will enter the Garden without such trials as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried ‘When will come the help of Allah?’ Verily, the help of Allah is always near!” (Quran 2:214)

  • Take comfort: our hardships have happened to others before us
  • This ayah is reassurance – you are not alone. Those who came before us were shaken (this word in the Quran comes from the same root as earthquake) – so will we be, those around us, and others after us

–   “Be sure that We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss of goods, lives, and the fruits of your toil. But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere (have sabr).” (Quran 2:155)

  • Who are these people? Next ayah: “Those who, when afflicted with calamity, say ‘to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.’” (2:156)
    • This is more than a statement – it’s an attitude
      • Begins with knowing Who you and everything you own really belong to
      • Everything here is a loan – so when Allah takes it back, am I in any position to complain?

–   Your health is not yours, nor your wealth, nor your limbs, etc.

–   Analogy: If your friend lets you borrow his car for years and then asks for it back, what should you do? You would only be upset if you have forgotten who the car really belongs to

–   Next ayah: “On them will descend blessings from Allah, and mercy, and they are those who will receive guidance.” (2:157)

  • These things are absolutely priceless
  • They will come with the proper response to mercy
    • This means the affliction itself is a mercy, a gift – anything that brings us closer to Allah is good for us, even if it hurts

–   Even ease is a test – you were given Islam. What are you going to do with it?

  • Ease can be a harder test – if you’re in ease, it is easier to forget Allah
    • Ex. One who is rich and thinks he deserves all he has

–   Why do “bad” things happen to “good” people? The definition is flawed – only good things happen to good people

–   “Life is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the disbeliever.” -Hadith

  • This doesn’t mean you should be miserable, and it doesn’t mean you have to suffer in this life. What is a prison? A prisoner does his time and goes home. And it being a paradise for the disbeliever means that this is the best it gets.

–   Given trials in order to learn “humility”

  • The word in this ayah is more than humility – it refers to a person who has lost everything and turns to Allah. Imagine someone in the middle of a storm, they’ve lost their lifeboat, life jacket, flares are gone…the only place they have left to turn is Allah.
    • Imagine the humility and the nearness of the servant to Allah at this point
    • The storm makes you return to Allah – these are the times when you feel nearest to Him.
      • Allah sends us hardship in order to return to Him

–   A lot of times, we run after things of this world for solutions – but Allah sends us hardship so that we run after HIM

  • “Do not lose heart nor fall into despair, for you will gain mastery if you are true believers.” (3:139)
    • If you follow the guidance of Allah, there will be no fear on you nor grief

–   If we have Allah, nothing can harm us

–   Ibn Taymiyyah: “What can they do to me? My Paradise is in my heart.”

  • Allah’s tests are not like those of a professor – He doesn’t give them to you and then just watch how you do. He doesn’t expect us to shoulder the tasks alone.
    • Dua of the Prophet: “Do not leave me to myself for the blink of an eye.”
    • If we think we’re strong and can do it on our own, we will fall – we can’t even stand without the help of Allah

–   The whole purpose of Allah’s test is for us to turn to HIM.

Gems of Islam

(This was a sisters only Halaqa that took place 2/17/2012)

–   Asiyah is set example in the Quran for all people, men and women, throughout time (66:11)

–   4 perfect women:

  • Asiyah – abused to the point of torture, married to Pharoah
  • Maryam – a single mother
  • Fatima
  • Khadeeja

–   Asiyah

  • Married to a man and tyrant who tortured and killed those who believed
  • Imagine the risk she took for her faith
  • As she was being tortured, she asked for a house in Paradise – and Allah showed it to her
    • She smiled at this as she was being tortured
    • If we keep jannah in our hearts, even the hardest situation can be made light – smile through hardship

–   Situations are not objectively difficult; how difficult something is depends on how much divine help you have

  • Patience is a gift from Allah – if He gives you patience in any situation, you can handle it
  • Don’t fear situations, fear that you’ll be in a situation without Allah
    • The problem is not the affliction, the problem is the lack of provision
      • When you get hungry, the issue is not hunger; the issue is not having food. When you get cold, the difficulty lies in not having a blanket.
      • Similarly, difficulty doesn’t lie in the situation – difficulty lies in not having the provision, which is Allah.
  • If you depend on something not meant to hold you up, you will fall
    • If you use a twig to pull you up and it breaks, nobody blames the twig – it was never created to hold you. Nothing of creation is meant to hold your weight. If you grasp something weak, it will break.
    • “One who has grasped a firm handhold” (2:256) refers to one who believes in Allah, who has grasped a handhold that will never break
  • Worldly things are just tools sent by Allah. Our problem is that we don’t see Allah.
    • “We see the gift, but we don’t see the Giver. We’re so lost in the reflection, we don’t see the light.” –Yasmin Mogahed
    • “Allah is the real source – everything else is a tool.” –Yasmin Mogahed

¨     If Allah wills medicine not to work, no amount of medicine will save you

  • “When we seek something that is itself weak, then we become weak.” –Yasmin Mogahed

¨     Make your happiness lie in something constant; the only constant is Allah.

–   Maryam

  • Had she depended on her own means to solve the problem, it wouldn’t have had any effect – Allah took care of her
    • Nothing she could have done would have been as effective as her child speaking from the cradle
    • Seek your provision, but count on Allah
      • Do the deeds because this is why we were created, but don’t think for a moment that we deserve jannah because of our deeds
      • Work with your limbs, but leave your heart facing Allah
        • Accept and be content with what those limbs are able to make

–   Hajar did not just sit – she trusted Allah, but she ran between Safa and Marwa seven times

  • She wasn’t trying different things – she tried the same thing, over and over and over again. She was doing her part, but in the end, no amount of running would make water spring from the middle of the desert – it was from the power of Allah
  • Another example: Musa striking the sea with his staff in order to part it. How many times have you slapped the sea with a stick and seen it rise up and split? This couldn’t have happened without the power of Allah
    • Similarly, Allah did not need Hajar’s running or Musa’s strike in order to bring water from the desert or split the sea
      • Take the means, perform the actions, but leave your hope in Allah

–   Role of mother, wife – these are means, not ends

  • Marriage is just another means to reach our destination
  • What completes you is your relationship with Allah – not your role as mother/wife
    • Marriage is just another provision
    • Use provisions as vehicles to take us to our purpose
      • Everything you have, every situation, is a vehicle to reach Allah
        • Often we act the opposite – we set a worldly goal and then ask Allah to get us there. But our final destination is Allah, and everything in this world is another means to get us to Him

–   Back when the polytheists would worship statues – “Why do you worship them? They cannot help or hurt you.”

  • Everything in creation is like a statue – only Allah can help or harm you
    • Everything in His hands is a tool
    • Allah can help you through using tools of His creation, whether those be objects or people

–   Sometimes, someone hurting us can be of benefit – forgive, and Allah will forgive you

  • Thank them for giving you another means to attain Allah’s forgiveness
  • Even psychologists recognize the power of forgiveness – it’s always the first step to healing. It’s essential to your well-being – you have to forgive in order to be able to heal yourself

–   Anger comes from a loss of control

  • Realize that you can’t actually control anything

–   Sometimes, we get so hasty to do the sunnah we forget the fard – do the fard. Those things that are obligatory are those most beloved to Allah.

Overthrowing the Tyrants of our Hearts

As-salaamu ‘Alaykum

Beginning in the Name of our Lord, Allah, The Creator of all things, we testify to His Oneness and we seek proximity to Him. We pray that our Lord send peace and blessings upon our noble and beloved Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace. We pray that those peace and blessings extend to the Prophet’s noble and pure family as well as his companions in their entirety and unto you and I with them through God’s Gentleness and Mercy.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been approached by a few friends inquiring about the political developments around the globe. Some were wondering about how my family was doing, others were concerned about their families, and yet others were concerned for the global community of believers, our umma, and mankind more broadly. We pray that God’s sends tranquility upon the hearts of all of our loved ones here and abroad. We pray that God lifts the burden of the oppressed and those in need and that He gives us light to become the means through which His creation is aided and helped in Gentleness and ease.

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said that if a man hears about someone being killed unjustly in another part of the globe and is not disapproving of that then he shares in the sin. He also, Allah bless him and grant him peace, reminded us that we are one community, one body, we aid one another as we can and we feel each other’s pain. The Qur’an describes the brotherhood of the companions and those who followed as being loving and caring to one another as being individuals who prayed for one another even in each other’s absence. In fact the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said that the individual who does not have concern for the community is not one of “us.” We pray the we are all included in that “us” with the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, because I could not think of a more wretched end than to be distant from the best of creation and ultimately his Creator and ours.

That all being said we are a community of values and priorities. Where you were born and what God has given you is not by coincidence. Similarly one cannot give that which one does not have. We often are moved and driven by ego rather than by principle. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is described as having never gotten angry for himself, and when he was angered he was angered for God and no one could quell that anger. We must be careful to differentiate between that which we are driven to by ego or simple nationalistic pride and that which we are driven to by real concern through God for humanity. A good barometer is to ask ourselves why we are only concerned for certain peoples and not others. If the estimates are true about our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity in the Congo then we have sat idly by as millions have been killed. What also needs to be asked is why we are driven to be concerned about conflicts abroad when individuals in towns adjacent to ours and sometimes down the street from us are gravely oppressed and in need.

Of course none of this is a zero sum game. In other words it is not either or. The point is not to get individuals to stop being involved in the helping and aid of their brothers and sisters abroad but rather to start seeing past just simple family or nationalistic affiliations and start seeing humanity in a more holistic fashion. Even more importantly we hope to be a community that sets its priorities. Does it make sense to send millions of dollars to organizations you are not sure will be using them properly or spend night and day working for organizations you are uncertain of their ultimate aim or is there a better means to use your wealth and effort? If we can use those same millions to help people in own own town go to sleep on a full stomach or help the homeless get off of the street or empower young men and women to fend for themselves all while we are there exerting our own energy to aid in that struggle, shouldn’t we take part in such blessing?

I challenge my brothers and sisters not to pick one or the other but rather to start seeing that if we really want to aid those in need we don’t need to look too far. Also to remind them and myself that we cannot begin to help unless we are committed to not just overthrow tyrants and oppressive systems from without but rather we are committed to overthrow the tyrants found deep within our own hearts. Our worst enemy the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) informed us is our own ego. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said that a man will be written as a tyrant and he has control over nothing apart from his own family. If our ultimate goal is knowledge of God, proximity to Him, the companionship of our Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, we need to ask if our actions are taking us along that path. There are many organizations, national government bodies, movements, ideologies, calling you to join their ranks… will you heed their call or will we heed the call of their Creator and yours?

What separates the belief structure we hold tightly to from good works attributed to any other meaning or deity? If our true aim is God then it should reflect in our intentions and actions. If the global community of Muslims returns to its rightful place as vanguards of transformative spiritual change who are committed to the care, concern, and service of humanity then perhaps God’s Mercy and Gentleness will descend upon our community to rid us of the evils from within. However if we maintain that our life is about tribe, nation, pride, ego, power then just as we have relied on ourselves and this world God will leave us to rely on our selves. Are we turning to our Lord or are we turning to our own weak selves? As the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said, those who are in the aid of others God will be in their aid and those who rely on Him, He will be their reliance and Victor.

Finally we are a community that should support and encourage diversity. Not everyone will be working on the same project. We aren’t seeking uniformity. We are however seeking the spiritual and emotional support of the group for one another. While some will be working hard in this field and that and others struggling for this cause and that we should all maintain that we see each other’s work as priceless and remain always supportive. Similarly we should be constantly gathering together in prayer for Divine acceptance of the little that we do and for those in need here and abroad. Nothing reminds us of our Creator like prayer since it is an ultimate form of the expression of poverty and weakness before The Powerful, The Merciful, The Generous.  I seek your forgiveness and remind you and myself to recommit to our Covenant with God.

I leave you in God’s care,

Mohammed Tayssir

ASB Reflections: A New Meaning

Bismillah El-Rahman El-Rahim,

We begin in the Name of God, The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful:

The 2012 MSA ASB trip has offered a lot of new perspective for all the organizers and participants, and I can speak to this personally. A few weeks back, I gave a short Khatira (religious talk) after a Mini-Quiyam to the Brothers and Sisters that were present. My talk highlighted two Hadiths from the Most Beloved (PBUH) that say:

“Allah fi ‘own el ‘abd, ma daam el ‘abd fi ‘owne akheeh”

Roughly translated to:“Allah will be there to help his servant, as long as his servant is there for his brother”

“Man kaana fi hajati akheehe, kaana Allah fi hajatihi youm el qiyama”

Roughly translated to: “Who so ever is there to help with the need of his brother, Allah will be there to help with his need on the day of judgement”’

Reflecting on these Hadiths now, we can see that serving humanity can directly bring us closer to The Divine (SWT). In both Hadiths we can see how helping one another can translate into self-betterment and benefit. The first Hadith teaches us whether it is becoming a better student, or your desire to be the very best like no one ever was, that helping one another translates directly into Allah helping us in every single journey that we embark on. The Second Hadith shows that fulfilling the needs of one another, whether your Brother or Sister needs a ride across town or something as simple as a hug, if we are able to be there for one another, Allah will be there to help us in our most needed time (The Day of Judgment)

So let us ask The Most Generous to make us from those that will be there for their Brothers and Sisters in humanity, as well as those who always try to be there for their Brothers and Sisters’ needs so that we may attain His Love and Approval such that we can enter His Jannah without judgment.

Ameen thumma Ameen, Walhamdulillahi Rab El-‘Alameen

-Humam Malas

The whole group with Natalie from the Blackhawk Manor (HOME location). ASB Day 3

ASB Service Reflection: Y’all Are Great!

“Y’all are great!” she said as we posed to take a picture with her broad, authentic smile. We crouched and posed around her wheel-chair stricken figure. Exiting from her humble, warm home, we were greeted by a feeling of wellness. Happiness for her: happiness in the fact that we left her in a better state than we found her. We felt a deeper connection with our innate human emotions. Of empathy and compassion.

Mrs. Daisy (yes, this is her name) is an elderly African-American woman, a double-leg amputee and a cheerful mother of five. We were invited into her home through our partnering ASB organization, Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (HOME). Our task was a simple one: weatherize her home by putting plastic insulation on her windows. We completed our task together quickly. However, beyond weatherizing the windows in her home, we got to know Mrs. Daisy and her family on a more personal level. Her family appreciated the work we did inside her home and we appreciated their opening up their home to us.

Beyond that, we gained an invaluable experience. None of us had weatherized windows before; a few of us (including me) even learned how to properly position our hands to use a broom; and we learned how to interact with a homeowner when volunteering within their home. My high school counselor used to echo a single phrase: “What are we more than aggregations of our life experiences?”

Our lives are made up of our experiences; things we’ve seen, felt, and done. I am proud to have MSA-ASB 2012 as one of those invaluable and unique life experiences.

-Hussein Sheikh-Aden

Monday Night Reflection: Re-enacting our responsibilities at home

We concluded our last night in Chicago together by reflecting upon the entirety of our trip. In order to prolong the great experiences and emotions tied to helping others we discussed the importance of devoting a small amount of time to others and doing so consistently. Enlightened by Mufti Kamani who emphasized the value of serving others, and how that service positive impacts ourselves, he explained that essentially it results in them serving you by keeping you in good memory and duaa. This ASB trip has enabled us to serve others, ourselves and present Islam in a positive light; inshAllah we are provided with the will, time, and heath to continue to do so.

Our discussion on the final night happened in a Baskin-Robbins, where we inhaled  and consumed sweetness, literally and figuratively. It consisted of inspiring ideas to keep us consistently involved in our efforts to humble ourselves by being thankful for what we have. “Those who aren’t thankful to people are not thankful to Allah SWT,” thus, constantly surrounding ourselves with those who are less fortunate reminds us of how much we take for granted and our duties towards others. Simple things like caring for your neighbors via considerate messages or treats to take to their door present an easy way for us to pave our path to paradise. Carving out time to help those within our academic community by structuring a tutoring system in which those who have already taken a course can provide assistance for an allotted amount of time to those struggling in that course–once again preventing us from taking our own knowledge for granted and instead educating others with what we have been blessed with. Another idea that can inspire acts of service towards others could be to involve each MSA member by making them responsible for completing a minimum set number of hours of volunteering. Doing so provides an opportunity to easily help a great number of people, a means of da’wa, and also keep members not only engaged with MSA, but also the responsibility that our deen places upon us to care for the people and world around us.

May Allah (swt) purify our intentions and provide us with the ease to implement our ideas consistently–for actions speak louder than words and good, consistent acts are valued more than inconsistent great ones. Ameen.

-Sahar Aggour & Afrah Aslam

Sunday, Feb. 26 Reflection (ASB Day 2)

Hussa/ein squared. Mufti Hussain Kamani with our Hussein and Khalid.

Sunday night, we headed to the Islamic Center of Chicago to listen to Mufti Hussein Kamani.  In a room normally used to teach children about Islam. Mufti Kamani shared stories from his childhood and his mother’s life. While he shared a number of stories, one stuck out. He spoke of a time when he was a boy studying abroad and his mother came to visit. She wanted to buy him lunch and as they walked, they came across a poor woman lying on the floor. As they walked closer they saw that this woman was on her last juncture of life. Hussein’s mother knelt beside her and asked how they could comfort her. The woman said that all she wanted before she died is one last meal.  Hussein’s mother then gave her son a choice: We can eat, or she can. He agreed to go get the poor woman food.  They fed the poor woman and she was grateful and in her last moments, she held up her hands and made du’a for Mufti Kamani and his mother.

Mufti Kamani’s talk provoked us to do a bit of soul searching of our own and remember our own personal experiences and what our family has taught us.  Our relationship with our family is integral to our religion.  As the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said, “One will not enter paradise if he/she cuts off relations with relatives”.  Even though school can get busy, we always have to remember what our parents and family have done for us.  In doing so, we need to always show them how grateful we are.  We reminded each other to call our parents frequently and not let them have to call us.  We also reflected on the concept of love for one another and how we love each other for the sake of Allah SWT.  Humam Malas mentioned how the very concept of love involves humility because when you love someone, you make yourself vulnerable to rejection.

A lot was said and when we split into groups, we shared our own stories and perspectives.  Many shared the sentiment that the culture we live in today places more emphasis on independence than family ties.  Perhaps most importantly, we remembered our family, lost ones, and how much we owe to them.  We remembered our sister Betul’s father, who passed away recently, and then made du’a for him and all of our lost ones.

We hope that our reflection Sunday night helped us remember how important keeping ties with our kin is and gave us additional perspective on its value and relationship with our deen.  For most of us, we’ll be going back to our family during spring break and should be free from the stress of school and work.  Inshallah, we’ll be able to show them how much they mean to us and spend some quality time with them.

-Yazan Kherallah & Khalid Sarsour

Sunday Morning Reflection – Working at the Natalie Salomon House

Today we spent the morning volunteering at one of HOME’s elderly shared living spaces. Once again, the sentiment of gratitude was overwhelming as the owner, Ms. Judi, was so welcoming to our group of 24 volunteers, masha’Allah! There were various maintenance and cleaning tasks and basically divide and conquer was our motto for the day. From rearranging and moving furniture, cleaning windows and scrubbing floors, and even receiving “I love yous” from little children at the center, MSA-ASB’s day two in Chi-town is off to a rewarding start. As the team finished working way ahead of schedule, Miss Judi suggested we check out the sights and splendors Chicago has to offer! Next stop, Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue.

-Reham Khan