Motivation to learn and serve Islam

To learn Islam and to serve Islam is to love Islam. The most precious thing we have as Muslims is the religion of Islam. It is every Muslim’s duty to learn Islam as much as they possibly can. And after learning it, to serve the religion in any capacity they can. To really thank Allah for the ultimate blessing of guidance to the faith of Islam, we as Muslims must serve Islam any which way we can. The religion of Islam has been misrepresented by so-called Muslims of late and the press has had a lot of opportunity to intentionally or unintentionally portray Islam in a negative light. Therefore, there is an even greater need for Muslims to step up and serve the religion by being good Muslims and examples of the character of the Prophet (ﷺ) for others to see and learn from.

To serve Islam could be to teach other Muslims about various aspects of Islam, to teach the Quran and Hadith to others, to implement Islam into our daily lives and behave like true Muslims for everyone to see, to write about Islam for everyone to read, to answer questions people have about Islam, to dispel misconceptions about Islam in any way possible, to learn and teach Arabic to non-Arabs solely for the purpose of understanding the Quran and, last but not least, to invite non-Muslims into Islam.

I often wonder what I ever did to deserve such a huge blessing? I also wonder if I hadn’t been born Muslim, would I have found Islam coming from another religion, say Hinduism. Hinduism was most likely my ancestors’ religion before Islam was introduced to Southern India where my ancestors are originally from. Therefore I am totally grateful to Allah for guiding my ancestors to Islam from whom I have come to inherit it. And I would love to meet and hug that one ancestor who first accepted Islam way back when. I’d tell him or her how I love them so for leaving Hinduism and embracing Islam for it must have been a challenge to switch religions.

And Allah knows best.

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How to write effectively about Islamic Topics

As students of knowledge, we are necessarily callers to the deen of Allah. And one of the key techniques for dawah is to write about Islamic topics clearly and concisely. Our writings need to be backed by proper research and authentication. Writing effectively about Islamic topics is one of the more valuable skills for effective Dawah. And it is one of the ways to ensure continuous reward for ourselves until the Day of Judgement for as long as our writings continue to be read and people benefit from them.

Research thoroughly: This goes without saying. You have to make sure what you’re writing about is accurate. When in doubt, consult a scholar. Read and re-read the primary sources directly whenever possible to get the most accurate information.

Provide references: This is often neglected even when there is research to back up the work. It is unacceptable to leave out the references. Do not leave it out. And do not accept work others have written when/if they omit references.

Ask the right questions: This is partly wisdom and partly experience. Asking the wrong questions can lead you down the wrong path and waste time. Asking the right questions can simplify the task greatly.

Avoid writing opinions alone: This cannot be stressed enough. Writing opinion alone is very tempting indeed but since we are writing about the religion of Allah, we must be vigilant and not write whatever we feel like writing rather it must have its sources in either the Quran or the Sunnah.

Do not be apologetic: Writing about Islam in an age when the religion of Allah under the wrong kind of spotlight, writers may feel the need to be somewhat apologetic. This is unacceptable and does not serve any good purpose.

Do not feel the need to explain: When writing about Islam, writers may feel the need to explain away miracles or try to justify an event or belief so it aligns better with people’s thinking nowadays. This is wrong on so many levels.

Do not criticize others: It never benefits anyone to criticize the beliefs of others. We may not agree with them, but we don’t need to talk badly about anyone.

Do put forth the Islamic way: The best Dawah is to present Islam as-is. Do not compare and contrast with other beliefs.

Make Istighfar: This goes without saying. We all make mistakes. And we will make mistakes when writing about Islam as well. Seek forgiveness daily for our shortcomings.

Check and Re-check intentions: Our intentions for writing about Islam need to be purely for Allah alone. We should not be doing this for any worldly benefit such as recognition or wealth or the like.

Stay humble if you succeed: If our writings are successful and become popular and influence many others, stay humble, it is from Allah alone. Do not feel proud or be boastful.

Don’t despair if you don’t succeed: If our writings are not successful and no matter how hard we worked, nobody seems to be benefiting from them, do not despair. After all, we are doing this to please Allah. Do our best and leave the rest to Allah.

Make Duaa for acceptance: Making Dawah in any form is a great way to worship. If we call people toward Allah with our writings and people turn toward Allah, it will benefit our akhirah. Therefore, make dua for Allah to cleanse our intentions and to accept this work in our scale of good deeds.

And Allah knows best.

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Why is Dawah Our Responsibility?

Allah sent numerous Prophets and Messengers (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them) throughout human history in various locations around the earth. Some of these Prophets are mentioned in the Quran. Among those that are mentioned in the Quran include (not in chronological order) Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, Solomon, Jacob, Job, Jonah, Joseph, Zacharia, John, Moses, Aaron, Salih, Hud, Shoaib, Idrees, Jesus and the final Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Each of these Prophets or Messengers were sent to their own people or nation. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was sent for all of mankind (and the Jinn), not just in Arabia but all over the world.

Since Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was the last one of these Prophets & Messengers, Allah has commanded his ummah (his followers) to call people to Allah. So the responsibility of calling people to the religion of Islam has shifted from the Prophets & Messengers to the people of the last Prophet (ﷺ). This is evident from the Quran, the Sunnah (recorded in the Hadith) as well as the understanding of the Sahabah (the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) as they continued to call people to Islam after his life. Therefore, the work of Dawah (calling people to Islam) is an obligation for Muslims, Allah knows best.

The work of calling people to Islam is one of the highest virtues and one of the most rewardable of good deeds. This is because the reward of the good deeds of any and all people that
we call to Islam will be added to our accounts of good deeds. If anyone come to Islam (or Muslims that change their ways back to Islam after having forgotten their way), their who life’s work and anyone they call to Islam and their good deeds are all in our accounts until the Day of Judgment.

And Allah knows best.

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Make Dawah or Accept Dawah

Allah (ﷻ) is our Creator, Sustainer, the One & Only God. He sent numerous Messengers and Prophets (may the peace & blessings of Allah be upon all of them) throughout human history to various nations on earth in order to guide them to the correct path. Muhammad (ﷺ) was the last one in a long chain of the Messengers & Prophets. He was sent as a mercy to mankind for through him Allah sent the final guidance to mankind and preserved it in the Quran & Sunnah. The guidance brought by the final Messenger (ﷺ) was preserved and the responsibility of ensuring the guidance reaches everyone was given to every Muslim until the Day of Judgment through Dawah.

Dawah is an invitation to Allah and His religion Islam. The way human beings behave, we either affect others (with our words and actions) or we are affected by others (because of their words and actions). Either we give Dawah to others or we receive the Dawah from others. This is because if we are not actively seeking to convey the message of guidance and salvation to others, we are receiving messages of whatever the world has to offer. To be beacons of the light of guidance is to be safest from the darkness of misguidance.

Islam is essentially a way of life. Therefore the best invitation to Islam is through actions, not through words. When people see Muslims living Islam, they will be attracted towards it. Words alone are not enough to invite people to Islam, especially if they see a contradiction between our words and our actions. Therefore the best form of Dawah is through our own practice of Islam in every aspect from worship (which is our relationship with Allah), to dealing with individuals & societies (which are our relationships with other human beings). These dealings include both in our interpersonal relationships and our business dealings.

If our worship and our relationships with human beings are both sound, then our Dawah is in line with the teachings of Islam and is effective. Otherwise, our Dawah is deficient and not very effective.

And Allah knows best.

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How to Get Our Hearts at Peaceful Rest

We all cherish peace of mind. Indeed we all need it. And when we are not at peace with whatever, we crave that peace of mind with all of our body and soul. We have such a big need for it as human beings. So it is only natural that our Creator, Sustainer God has given us precise instructions of how to get this peace and tranquility that our hearts desire so much. We find these instructions in the Quran and the Sunnah.

The Quran tells us that the real peace that our hearts desire is found in the remembrance of Allah. Not meaningless utterances of remembrance but conscious, meaningful remembrance of Allah. Our hearts do indeed find peaceful rest in Allah’s remembrance. Allah explains this in the Quran in this famous verse:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

Saheeh International Translation: Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.

Obviously, a pre-requisite to all this is to have full faith in Allah alone. In order to have proper faith in Allah, learn about Allah and remember Allah with the proper etiquette. The remembrance of Allah is in the five daily prayers, the recitation of the Quran with meaning, the many duaa and zikr that have been related to us by the Prophet (ﷺ) during his life and recorded by his companions. These remembrances are readily available in authentic books of Azkaar and Duaa. Read them after learning their meanings. Read them daily during the mornings and during the evenings. Pray the five daily prayers on time. Recite the Quran daily even if just a little bit, with understanding. Once we establish a connection with our Lord, we will definitely have discovered the peace that our hearts so desire.

Without this peace of mind, peace of heart, peace in general, we feel that queasy feeling of being disturbed to our core. This feeling has nothing to do with material possessions, health or even family. This is much deeper than that. We could have all the wealth in the world, be healthy and have a loving family around us, we would still not be at peace in our core if we don’t have the guidance to have faith in Allah. This might be hard to imagine for some but it is the God honest truth.

And Allah knows best.

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How do I start learning the Quran?

The Quran is a divinely revealed book containing the speech of Allah as revealed to the Prophet (ﷺ) by the angel Gabriel (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is a special book. Every Muslim should aspire to learn and make it their most important project in life. Learning the Quran is a lifelong journey. Everything you learn in your journey toward learning to read and understand the Quran for the purpose of getting closer to Allah and understanding the religion of Islam is rewardable. There are numerous rewards, but that’s a different blog post. For this post, I’m outlining what I believe to be the essential steps for learning the Quran. Start from the very beginning, in the following order:

1-The Arabic Alphabet – learn the names, shapes & how to pronounce each alphabet properly. Apart from the individual letters, learn how to join the letters with vowels to form complete words. This will be very handy to have done early in your journey as everything will build on top of this. Make sure you get it right the first time, with as good a teacher as you can possibly find. This will be the foundation. Consider this successfully completed if you can read the Quran.

2-The Tajweed Rules – learn the rules of Tajweed to truly understand proper pronunciation of the letters correctly when reciting the Quran. Simply learning to read is not enough, learning to read with the rules of Tajweed is mandatory for properly reciting the book of Allah. Tajweed rules should be learned with the help of a qualified teacher.

3-The Arabic Language – learn enough Arabic to be able to understand the Quran in its original language instead of relying on translations. It isn’t hard, ANYONE can do it if they put enough effort into it. There are courses available for this, so it’s a great idea to enroll in one of those and learn it properly.

4-Tafseer – learn the meanings of the Quran by studying from a basic Tafseer, something like the popular Tafseer of Ibn Katheer. A well written Tafseer relies on the authentic Hadith and the Quran itself to explain the Quran. Tafseer that doesn’t rely on Quran & Hadith should be avoided. Ideally this should be read in its original Arabic but if that’s not possible, there are translations available in English, Urdu and possibly other languages as well.

5-Bringing it all together – Once you have learned to read with Tajweed, have learned enough Arabic to know the meanings of what you’re reciting, have invested enough time to study from a reliable work of Tafseer, then you are truly on the path to understanding Islam inshaaAllah. You still need to refer to the Hadith, Sunnah and the works of the Seerah (the recorded works contain authentic descriptions, actions and sayings of the Prophet (ﷺ)  as well as his blessed life to bring it all together.

May you find the journey of Quran studies be an easy and fruitful one. Ameen.

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Learning Arabic for the Quran

The Quran is the word of Allah, the Creator of everything. The Quran contains guidance for everyone. And for all times. And it is in the Arabic language. This means that in order for anyone to get guidance the first and foremost thing that they must do is learn the Arabic language. It would seem very unfair if the language of the Quran, the book of guidance for all of humanity, was a difficult language to learn. Arabic itself is a very complex language, but the language used in the Quran is made simple by Allah for everyone to learn. This is very important to know because a lot of Muslims dismiss the idea of learning the Arabic language and simply rely on translations to understand the Quran.

The Quran is a miraculous text. It is unlike any other book. It does not read like any other book. It is not a book that you read from cover to cover to understand a narrative. It does not contain every detail of every narrative that it contains, often omitting dates and names just to get to the real purpose of the message. It talks about the purpose of life, the reason Allah created us, the way that life should be lived in order to attain success in this life and success in the next life which is everlasting. Allah has explained a lot of things for us to understand the reality of life. It is for us to read and find out on our own. There is an element of belief in the religion of Islam also: we have not seen Allah yet we believe in Him because of the signs that Allah has given us including our own intellect.

The Quran uses the Arabic language to convey the Message of Islam to all of humanity for all time. It uses vocabulary that is easy to understand once someone puts the required effort to learn it. The vocabulary of the Quran can be easily understood by anyone within a few months of learning. There are tons of resources available for learning Arabic. Make the investment in time and effort in order to understand the Quran.

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Staying on the Straight Path

Being born into the religion of Allah, Islam, is a blessing. However, to be truly guided to Islam, to consciously acknowledge the truth of Islam, to live our lives according to Islam and to stay on Islam until the day we die is the ultimate success. The real challenge is to believe and then persevere with our belief and our actions throughout our lives. For such a life results in eternal bliss in the hereafter.

Every Muslim should work hard to ensure that they are firmly rooted in Islam so they stay on the straight path throughout their lives. This is not to say that they should close their minds or be rigid in their thinking. On the contrary, Islam does want us all to ponder upon the deep questions regarding our existence and the purpose of life itself. Although the Quran spells out the answers to these life questions, it does implore us to use our minds and think.

Our faith is strengthened by our actions. Doing good, speaking the truth, upholding ties of kinship, keeping promises, being kind and sincere, helping the poor, visiting the sick, fasting, giving charity, performing the hajj and praying regularly on time are good deeds that help strengthen our Imaan (our faith). Just saying I’m a Muslim and I believe in Allah is not enough. We also have to back up our words with actions that are consistent with our words.

Living a life knowing its purpose and being sure of it with certainty is a fulfilled life. Living a life not knowing why we’re here or not being sure is not a fulfilled life. Guidance is awarded to people who sincerely seek to be guided. May we be guided and rooted firmly in that guidance until the day we die.

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Start with my own example

We all want to see improvements in the society around us. We all want clean water, fresh air, beautiful vegetation, garbage free surroundings and a pleasant safe and secure environment. We all want to live in a better world. We all want our families to feel safe and sound. We all want the good things in life. In an ideal world, people would come together and resolve societal issues together as a loving community. There would be systems in place to safeguard the environment, fresh water and clean air would be the norm and garbage would be recycled responsibly. And the whole world would be safe and secure for everyone.

However, since we don’t live in an ideal world, it is on our shoulders to come up with ways to fix the problems one by one. We could try to get everyone to do the right thing but fail miserably because we can’t tell people what to do or what not to do. We should be the change that we want to see in the world. If we ourselves change for the better and everyday live our life with the goal of making the world a better place for everyone to live, we would inspire individuals, one by one, slowly but surely to also do the same. First make the intention and a concerted effort to do the right thing ourselves and do it often and in plain sight for others to see and learn from. Good habits can also be contagious if they are done with this mindset. Infect others with the desire to make our environment better in every way we possibly can. Do not be disheartened by people who don’t wish to change and have no concern for the environment. Keep at it sincerely and it will catch on. InshaaAllah!

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