Forgive to be Forgiven

“How could you do this to me?”

“I will never forgive you.”

There must be a time when we’ve been hurt by someone. Whether it’s the words that wound the heart or the action that wound the body, it’s  part of life. Nevertheless, these wounds can leave us with lasting feelings of anger and bitterness — even vengeance.

But, wait. Those ill feelings, are they really worth it?

Calm down. Firstly, life is short. Let us not waste our energy on being angry at our adversaries and seeking revenge against them. If we can gradually minimise our spite every day, then soon we will cease to bear hatred or malice in our hearts.

Know what? There is a direct correlation between the way we treat others and how Allah treats us. We all know the Prophet’s hadith: 

Have mercy on those on the Earth, and the One in heaven will have mercy on you” [Tirmidhi].

 Of course, Allah is incomparably greater and more merciful than us. Therefore, whatever we do to and for others, Allah will multiply it for us. If we are sincere in wanting Allah to forgive us for our many mistakes and sins, we should be prepared to do the same for others.

Yes, there will be situations in life that will make you angry or rattled. But our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that true strength is when you can overcome your anger. He said,

“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger” [Sahih al Bukhari].

Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) was so kind and forgiving with all, no matter if he is a believer or non-believer. We have so many inspiring examples from the Prophet (peace be upon him) about his forgiving others and showing kindness to even those who were so rude to him. Cool, right?

It is said: “To err is human and to forgive is divine.” Both parts of this statement are true. As human beings we ought to be responsible for what we have done, but we ourselves do also make mistakes and are constantly in need of forgiveness.

Here is a simple question to ask yourself. Don’t you want forgiveness from Allah? If forgiveness from Allah is what you’re looking for, let us rush into forgiving others. We only give forgiveness that is finite and what Allah can give us in exchange is infinite, as His mercy and forgiveness are infinite. What a beautiful exchange!  So, it’s your choice: either your anger weighs more or your love for forgiveness from Allah weighs more!

We cannot change the past, but we can certainly use it to empower ourselves and become a better person going forward. Let’s forgive to be forgiven!

Going to the Masjid (Part 2): A First-Time Guide for Reverts

Yeay! You’re finally going to the Masjid (mosque) for the first time. There are things you need to know about how visitors are expected to conduct themselves upon entering and while being in the mosque: 

1. You have to take off your shoes

Please note that you have to take off your shoes before entering the mosque. There have been  many cases where new Muslims, or interested non-Muslims, accidentally entered the mosque without taking off their shoes. This is especially true of visitors from non-Asian countries where taking off shoes and leaving them outside the door is not part of their culture.

The reason for requiring visitors to take off shoes before entering the mosque is hygiene, an aspect which is much emphasised in Islam, especially for a holy place such as the mosque. This is how the floor of the mosque is kept clean, especially for prayers, such that you can even sit and sleep on it.

2. There are separate areas for men and women 

Don’t go to the wrong entrance! There are separate areas for men and women in the mosque. Muslims pray shoulder to shoulder in line but within the same gender group, not intermixed. They either have an entirely separate area between the sexes, or in the case of a very big prayer hall, a shared but divided space to prevent free mixing of males and females. Please beware of which area you’re going to. 

3. Attire inside the mosque

If you’re a non-Muslim, or a newly reverted Muslim, please note that you must dress properly while in the mosque. The mosque is a holy place for Muslims to perform their sacred rituals. Females must cover their heads and wear full length, all body-covering, and non-body hugging attire. Likewise, guys ought to dress decently. 

Going to the Masjid (Part 1): Knowing the Masjid

You’re a new Muslim and you’re going to a Masjid? Yeay! It’s going to be fun. You’re going to meet new friends, you’re going to learn more on Islam, and maybe there’s even free food there. LOL. But wait a minute. Before you go, please take note of several things. Now, let’s go to the Masjid!    

As a new Muslim revert, there are so many things you will learn and do for the first time. And these first-time things in your new beautiful religion will always stick in your memories. 

You’ll always remember how your heart raced the moment you said Shahadah (your declaration of belief in the oneness of God and on Muhammad as his final Prophet) for the first time. 

You’ll always remember the moment you raised your hands and said the Takbiratul Ihram in your solat (prayer) for the first time. 

You’ll always remember the satisfaction of  withstanding the hunger and hardship in completing your Ramadhan fast for the first time, or how hard it was to memorise the al-Fatihah verses for the first time.

But how about your experience of going to the mosque for the first time? 

It may be easy to visualise in your mind about the mosque if you are a born Muslim. You may have been there since the time you learned to walk.  But as reverts, non-Muslims and those who have never been inside a mosque, have you ever imagined what the mosque is like?

Reverts going to the mosque for the first time have varied experiences. Some are fun and exciting experiences, some enlightening,  and some even awkward. Before any untoward experience happens to you, it is advisable that you get to know some basic things about the mosque. 

What is a mosque?

If you have been in a typical  Muslim country, you must have heard a loud calling for prayers five times a day. The sound comes from the mosque (masjid), as a sign that the praying time has come.

The Arabic term masjid simply means “place of prostration”. A mosque is a building in which Muslims worship Allah by performing the congregational (jama’ah) prayers . It is also a local  community centre for Muslims. 

The role of the mosque has frequently been misconceived as a place for spedific worship rituals only. Ideally, a mosque should also be a centre of Muslim development, knowledge and welfare. 

It is a symbol of unity and strength of the Muslim community. Muslims praying in neat rows (saff), shoulder to shoulder, regardless of rich or poor, old or young, black or white, signify  that everyone is equal before Allah.

What do mosques look like?

Mosques come in all shapes and sizes, based on the density of the Muslim population in a certain area. A distinct feature common to most mosques is the minaret, a slim tower  normally used to make the daily call (adhan) to prayers. Some mosques have more than one minaret.

Other features common to mosques are a dome, a mihrab (an indention in the wall for the imam who leads the prayer, and marks the direction of qiblah (the Holy Mosque in Mecca),  and a mimbar (a raised platform on which the khutbah or speeches are delivered).

What does the interior of the mosque look like?

The most significant area inside a mosque is of course the praying hall. This is where the Muslims pray. Depending on the size of the mosque, and the number of people in the local Muslim community, some mosques do have a big and vast praying hall, while some others have a smaller one. At the front side of the praying hall is where the mihrab is, which indicates the direction of qiblah

A qiblah refers to the direction faced by Muslims performing prayers. Muslims are instructed to face in the direction of the Kaabah in Mecca while praying. One important aspect to be understood here is that  Muslims do not worship the Kaabah. Rather, the Muslims direct their worship only to Allah. The Kaabah is merely a symbolic unifying focal point for the entire Muslim world:    

To Allah belongs the East and the West. Wherever you turn, there is the presence of Allah. For Allah is all-Pervading, all-Knowing” (Quran 2:115)

So, basically no matter where the mosque is, it will always face toward the qiblah, as a symbol of universal unity among Muslims in worshiping one God. Thus, a qiblah in London will face to the south east and a qiblah in Kuala Lumpur will face to the west. 

Another thing you’ll see inside the mosque is the ablution area. Muslims are commanded to make ablution (wudhu’) as a part of preparation to pray. In some mosques , a separate space for ablution is set in a restroom or washroom. In others, the place for ablution is a fountain-like structure along a wall or in a courtyard.

Smile, it’s a charity!

Want to spread good vibes to those around you and making others feel at ease just by looking at you? Smile. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s free! 

It is distressing to note that some of our scholars have been depicted as angry, unsmiling men who often scold and frown when Islam is known to put much emphasis on friendliness, peace, serenity and kindness. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had set the example of always smiling in his interactions with his Companions to the extent that Abdullah ibn Al-Harith ibn Hazm said,

“I have never seen anyone who smiles more than the Prophet does.”

(At-Tirmidhi)

So, let’s  follow the Prophet’s tradition – don’t forget to smile!

And remind, for indeed, reminders may benefit believers

Have you ever suddenly come across reminders on social media, by the sidewalk, or anywhere, which you feel are exactly what you need at the moment?

Be grateful! Because those reminders you receive may actually come from Allah. 

O Allah, give us the chance to perform Hajj! Ameen.

As Allah is the Most Merciful, He has always given reminders to His servants through any medium including YOU! We, humans are always forgetful. Thus, it’s our obligation to constantly remind each other about the deen, using whatever medium we can access.

Allah has charged believers with the task of enjoining the good, forbidding the wrong and reminding of the truth. Therefore, each reminder a believer receives is important. The Qur’an advises people to enjoin good and forbid evil and to remind one another of their responsibilities.

Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is a communal obligation; if some people do it, the rest are absolved of blame; but if all of them fail to do it, then each one who was able to do it but did not, with no reasonable excuse or fear, is guilty of sin! 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah, His angels, and the inhabitants of heaven and earth, even the ant in its hole and even the fish, send blessings – i.e., pray for good – upon the one who teaches the people good.”

(Tirmidhi).

Giving a good reminder is a great gift we can give to others. Yet, we sometimes run into trouble because of the way we offer it. Not all people are born with the ability to give advice tactfully, or offer constructive criticism effectively. Most people forget that the point of giving advice is to help others be successful and not to demean or belittle their worth or abilities.

Dispensing advice improperly, particularly to a close family member or friend, may jeopardise a valued relationship. The ability to give advice in a positive and beneficial way is an art. Avoid being judgmental. Do not attack the other party’s character. An advice that is perceived as being harsh or judgmental is likely to offend the person hearing it.

And for those who are lucky enough to receive good reminders from someone, take it seriously into your heart. As reminders may benefit the believers, try to make ourselves as part of those who take reminders from others as a gift. 

“Who could do greater wrong than someone who is reminded of the Signs of his Lord and then turns away from them, forgetting all that he has done before? We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. Though you call them to guidance, they will, nonetheless, never be guided.”

(Surat al-Kahf: 57)

Still, remind others, as reminders may benefit the believers!


Be Grateful for Everything

If you are grateful, I will give you more

(Ibrahim: 7)

That seems like a very memorable and nice moment for the revert, right?

When we are given favors by someone, we always show our appreciation for them. And the one who is most deserving of thanks and praise from people is Allah S.W.T because of the great favours and blessings that He has bestowed upon His servants in both spiritual and worldly terms. Allah has commanded us to give thanks to Him for those blessings.

As we open the Quran, the very first chapter (Surah al-Fatihah) starts with ‘Alhamdulillah’ which is generally translated as “all praise is for God.” In reality, the word Alhamdulillah signifies gratitude and thankfulness in our daily life. Hence, when someone asks how we are, Muslims often respond with, “Alhamdulillah.”

Gratitude is going beyond words into actions. We can see this in the example of our beloved prophet. It was narrated that Aishah said:

 “When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) performed the solats, he would stand for so long that his feet would become swollen. ‘Aishah said: O Messenger of Allah, Why are you doing this when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins? He said: “O ‘Aishah, should I not be a thankful servant?”

(Bukhari and Muslim) 

The immutable fact is we were created from nothing, and then given everything that we have today such that there is no way we can calculate all the blessings Allah has given us:

“Is, then, He Who creates comparable to any that cannot create? Will you not, then, take heed? For, should you try to count Allah’s blessings, you could never compute them”

(An-Nahl 16:17-19).

Everything that happens to us – including those negative ones such as natural disasters or even events that we may consider to be personal afflictions – are from Allah. They may yet bring some good for us if we know how to perceive and respond to it appropriately. 

The Prophet said:

 “How wonderful is the case of a Believer! There is good for him in whatever happens to him – and none, apart from him, enjoys this blessing. If he receives some bounty, he is grateful to Allah and this bounty brings good to him. And if some adversity befalls him, he is patient, and this affliction, too, brings good to him”

(Muslim).

Being grateful to Allah may do wonders, even if you may not discern them readily. For instance, you may be in the middle of a problem and not having the least bit of knowledge about what to do about it, and what would happen next; then suddenly the solution dawns upon you.

Thankfulness liberates the heart from greed, conceit, jealousy and envy. When we are thankful to Allah, we remain mindful of Him and His continuous Mercy on us, and this in turn humbles us and improves our characters.

May Allah allow us to truly acknowledge His constant blessings and favours, so that we could forever be conscious of expressing gratitude and thankfulness to Him.

Be Kind

We often forget that we are all connected. That is to say the joy you spread will eventually find its way back to you. Life is a chain reaction. Everyone has the potential to help eradicate poverty, hunger, disease and wars by causing a ripple effect with one small and selfless deed. Which simply means, if each one of us can be a little kind and spread love to one another, many grave problems in this world may start to diminish.

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Be Humble.

When we find ourselves in a position where we are more fortunate than others, sometimes it is easy to lose sight of our humility. Learn from the mistakes of Iblis. It was this same trap that he fell into. Iblis was once so pious that he was allowed to worship with the angels. But due to his arrogance he openly disobeyed Allah’s order to bow to Adam. He was cast out and became the accursed.

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Eid al-Fitr: A Time for Gratitude and Generosity

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslim families and friends get together to celebrate. The day usually begins with the whole family enjoying a small breakfast. This is the first daytime meal they have after a month-long fasting. Muslims then gather outside or at a mosque to pray together and to listen to the Eid al-Fitr khutbah. There may then also be parades, processions, and other outdoor celebrations. They will then greet each other with “Taqabbala Allahulahu minna wa minkum”, which literally means May Allah accept (the fast and worships) from us, and from you.

Throughout  the day, Muslims rejoice by visiting friends and relatives, hosting food parties and sharing delicious desserts. Usually, children receive new clothes and shoes. Some families also give cash gifts to their elders and relatives.

The celebratory mood, however,may often be accompanied by bittersweet sentiments. Negative feelings of nostalgia may creep in and mar the serenity, spiritual blessings and rewards that come with Ramadan and the act of fasting itself. 

Be that as it may, the Eid al-Fitr serves as another occasion to be grateful to Allah for all that He has blessed us with. The day should encourage us to remember Allah and His kindness and mercy upon us.

Indeed, the holy Eid al-Fitr day allows Muslims to introspect and reflect upon their inner character. Ramadan serves as a character challenge for individuals as it brings out the best and the worst in them. They are brought to a reality check of  their sense of self , their strengths and weaknesses following which they may want subsequently to work upon improving what needs to be improved. The vital gift of Ramadan is self-awareness which is the first step in making an intrinsic change for the better.

It must also be highlighted that Eid al-Fitr enjoins individuals to give portions of their wealth in charity and help those in need. After experiencing personally – by means of the act of fasting in Ramadan – what the poor and needy go through, Muslims are expected to have gained  a greater sense of empathy and community-consciousness, and be encouraged to help those who are not as fortunate as themselves, including those servants living under their roofs.

Eid al Fitr is a rejoiceful day for Muslims as it signifies the fruits of their labour and sacrifice that took place during the observance of Ramadan.  What is even more wonderful is the sense of community and unity that Eid brings forth.