Jeffrey Lang – From Atheism to Belief: A Journey to Islam in North America

I have had this video in my watch later list on YouTube for over a year. Finally had time to watch it. Please watch if you have time – its three hours long, but worth every second.

Three years ago I read one of his Dr Jeffrey Lang’s books and immediately ordered the other two he’s authored. I recommend the books as well:

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Fasting and its reward 

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hands my soul is’ The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”  Sahih al-Bukhari 1904

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Words and Phrases to Avoid

Communication is very important in every aspect of our life. Bad communication can result in all sorts of undesirable consequences. It is therefore important that we pay attention to what we convey with the words and phrases we choose in our everyday personal and professional speech and writing. Perhaps the most important aspect of our communication is our personal and family interactions, but let’s discuss that another day, in another blog entry. Today I want to focus on what not to say in the context of our professional work life.

Remove these phrases from conversations at work:

1. “That’s not my job.” It could also cost your job. While a task may not fit directly within your original job description, it’s for the greater good of the company that you lend a hand wherever and whenever possible.

2. “I’ll try.” Not only will you eliminate the trust of coworkers, you’ll also place doubt in the minds of your customers and clients. Replace “try” with “will” for better results.

3. “I dislike…” Avoid constant negativity and filter in more positivity. For instance, instead of saying you dislike meetings because they run too long, figure out a way to energize them or keep them short.

4. “I’m too busy.” Everyone’s really busy. Replace this phrase with something like, “Once I tackle this task, I’ll be happy to take a look at that.”


Avoid these phrases during an interview:

1. “I think…” This statement only shows self-doubt — something you can’t risk in an interview. Drop this phrase and replace it with something more confident like “In my experience…”

2. “To be honest…” Stating this before you answer a question may lead the interviewer to believe you weren’t being honest during the rest of your interview. This phrase does not add any value and it should be dropped from all conversations.

3. “We did something…we achieved something” When being asked to describe your contribution to a project or describe your experience, say what you did, what you were responsible for. Say “We” in this context leaves the interviewer thinking what did the candidate actually contribute and often they will ask you to specify.

4. “My previous employer was awful…” Badmouthing is never a good idea — it shows you’re untrustworthy or disloyal. If you’re badmouthing one person, you’ll badmouth others. Even if the previous employer was the worst anyone can imagine, leave the criticism aside.
Remove these phrases from your resume:

1. “Highly qualified.” Show, don’t tell. This simply sounds like a boastful statement and it is most often used by candidates who are not that highly qualified.

2. “Familiar with…” Once again, it’s essential to show an employer exactly how you’ve used technical programs or specific skills. Being familiar with something could mean you’ve heard of it or vaguely remember reading about it. You either know it or you don’t.

3. “Team player.” Rather than say this, share your team work achievement and accomplishments so the hiring managers can see that you are in fact a team player.

4. “Problem solver.” Rather share a problem-solving achievement that benefited your previous employer or client.

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Lessons from Surah Yusuf

The Quran is filled with wisdom and guidance for human beings. One of the ways that Allah explains His message is to illustrate it with stories that are easy to understand. The purpose of the stories is not so much to become detailed historical accounts of the various events. Allah in His infinite mercy wants to inform us through these stories the underlying lessons that are beneficial to us today and until the Day of Judgment. There are stories of some of the Prophets that Allah the Almighty sent to convey the message that He alone is to be worshipped and there is a Hereafter.

While each story is compelling and profoundly beneficial in its own right, one of the best of the stories is the story of the Prophet Yusuf (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) as related in the chapter called Surah Yusuf, the 12th chapter of the Quran. It is my most favorite chapter of the Quran without a doubt. Surah Yusuf took me a few days to memorize the summer of 2009. It was revealed to the Prophet (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) in the ‘Year of Sorrow’ when he lost both his beloved wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) and his Uncle and close ally Abu Taalib (who died without embracing Islam) among other calamities.

The Surah is an amazingly detailed account of the Prophet Yusuf’s life and the trials he faced in his very eventful life. It is a beloved story that my kids love very much as well. It is a great comfort giving Surah to read when you’re going through a particularly tough trial in life. It makes you cry (when the Prophet Yusuf’s father Prophet Yaqoob (peace be upon them both) goes blind, literally crying his eyes out in remembrance of his lost son) and marvel in amazement (at the account of the women cutting their hands seeing how handsome and ‘angel like’ Prophet Yusuf was) and smile and even laugh (for example: when the Yusuf’s brothers refer to him as someone who stole and then talk to him as ‘azeez’ or the privileged one in the next breath). The surah contains everything that makes for a great story: mystery, intrigue, suspense, love, revenge, trickery, mercy, mischief and dream interpretations to name a few. Everyone who listens to this story intently is sure to be mesmerized by the beauty, particularly if they understand the Arabic language.

Although the narrative value of the surah cannot be disputed, the main aim of the story of Prophet Yusuf, as with the rest of the Quran, is to deliver profound lessons to humanity. I have gathered a list of top ten major lessons, gleaning them from scholars’ lectures and commentary that I have read. There was a time in 2009, the same time I memorized Surah Yusuf, when I sought out every possible translation, explanation, lecture and interpretation of this amazing surah.

As it’s often the case with anything from the Quran, the lessons are endless. However, here are ten major ones:

1-Be steadfast in your faith in Allah even in the face of calamities (this is an over all theme throughout the Surah)

2-Always ask Allah for help as Prophets of Allah have shown us through the Quran

3-Never think that others are at fault – since everyone is a test placed by Allah for others – rather ask Allah for forgiveness for those that have wronged you (this one is a hard one, but our Prophet (pbuh) did this all the time as an example for us to follow, inshallah)

4-Dawah (or inviting to the religion of Allah) is an obligation on all of us at all times (see verse 108 of this chapter).

5-Taqwa (Fear of Allah’s wrath and Hope for Allah’s Mercy) and Patience is rewarded by Allah (verse 90).

6-Despair is for the disbelievers (verse 87)

7-Repentance is a virtue at any stage (verses 91-92).

8-The soul orders oneself to commit sins except those souls that have the Mercy of Allah (verse 53).

9-When a leadership opportunity presents itself where you know you have what it takes to do a good job, you should seek it (instead of shying away from it) for the benefit others will get from your skills (verse 55)

10-Prefer prison over disobeying Allah – this is another difficult one which one can only do with Allah’s help (verse 33)

It is apparent from these ten examples that the story of the Prophet Yusuf contains numerous beneficial lessons for humanity. There are many more lessons contained within the story that the reader is encouraged to explore on their own. This is in fact the case with every story in the Quran. It behooves us to take the time to read, understand and reflect upon these stories and apply the lessons learned in our daily lives.

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Life has a purpose and death is not the end

In a recent visit to Pakistan, I happened to attend the funeral of one of my uncles. I had gone to see him just the day before he passed away. His eyes lit up and as I entered the room he was in. He gestured for me to drink the coffee which was brought for me. He’d suffered a stroke a couple of months ago and was unable to speak or move or eat (he could move his left arm and blink and was being fed liquid food through a tube. He could hear and understand and would squeeze my hand with his left hand and blink to acknowledge it. It brought tears to my eyes.
What a life he had led: nine children all married and have had children of their own. As old as he was, he was mobile until the stroke. He was ready to meet Allah Subhanahu WaTaala. I informed him of the Hadith that when a believer is sick, he continues to get the reward of the good deeds he used to do when he was well even when he can’t do them while he’s sick. I asked him to pray constantly for the garden of paradise for himself, his family/friends and relatives. I asked him to seek forgiveness from Allah for himself, his family/friends and relatives to be protected from the hellfire. He squeezed my hand with surprising strength at everyone of these du’aas. It was as though he smiled when I told him that the old age and paralysis is only a test from Allah briefly and that in Jannah we’d all be young and be able to fly around as we wished. It was as though he cried when I told him that Allah is shy when a white bearded Muslim asks Allah for something – so ask Him for entry into Jannah and protection from Jahannam with persistence like a kid asks for candy. The next day he was gone. The janazah was serene with a masjid full of people in the neighborhood that knew him as Abdullah Sahib and in the masjid which he frequented daily for all his prayers. May Allah forgive his sins and admit him into his paradise and may we meet him there ameen!
Just two years ago, Abdullah Mamu’s younger brother Khalid Mamu had passed away (while he was being rushed to the hospital from the masjid). He was speaking to his daughter on the cell phone as he died. She’d reminded him to say the kalimah and he passed away saying “Laa ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasullullah”. What a way to die! Subhan Allah!
Life is a journey and death is not the end. No human being ever created will ever cease to exist: we were created for eternity. This life is brief, the next life is forever. Everything in life is a test. All our deeds, good or bad, will remain with us for eternity. The material possessions will remain in this world and be inherited by others who may fight over it after you’re gone. So let’s all prioritize our lives and chase after the akhirah and not the dunia. Although we live in this world and have to raise families and earn our livings, we shouldn’t get attached to this world and whatever it contains. Who in their right mind will build a house at a train station or an airport? It’s a journey, not a destination. The next life is eternal so we need to be ever more concerned about how we would be there: whether we’ll have a nice house in Jannah or not? Let us prepare ourselves for the ‘real life’ that is to come, without wasting a single day.
Share with your friends and family and let us be prepared for our deaths before it catches up with us when we are unaware.
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