I looked up from the fruit that I was cutting in preparation for Iftar, and glanced into the masjid. Momentarily, my heart stopped. An all too familiar face appeared in the distance - he was chatting quietly with a brother in the prayer area. I only saw hair and eyes, as the rest of his face was blocked by the man seated in front of him. It wasn't him, in the end, but my reaction and surprise indicated to me that everything is still so fresh in my heart, and it all could just as well have happened yesterday. I pray to Allah about these feelings with my hands held open and flat before me. This Ramadan, I want to heal, by any means Allah chooses.
|An unforgettable sunset over a farewell tea at the University Quays in Colchester, Essex, England.|
Often Muslims are described by the media and the public as extremists. When in fact extremism in any form is strongly discouraged in Islam. The faith is meant to be practical and reasonable and moderate. Islam provides spiritual guidance and endless number of prayers for every moment of one's life. Prayers for waking, for leaving the house, for entering and exiting the mosque, for after prayers, for before and after meals, for entering and leaving the bathroom, for sneezing, for before sexual intercourse, for sleeping, and the list goes on. Not to mention prayers for the remembrance of Allah, which are best recited one hundred times daily. But part of the beauty of Islam is that every individual and family and community strives to find the most reasonable way to incorporate such guidance into our daily lives, without becoming ostracized or losing touch with the surrounding culture.
Consider the following Hadith:
Narrated Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him): Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "The deeds of anyone of you will not save you [from the (Hell) Fire]." They said, "Even you (will not be saved by your deeds), O Allah's Messenger?" He said, "No, even I (will not be saved) unless and until Allah bestows His Mercy on me and protects me with His Grace. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the middle of the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target (Paradise)." [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 8/6463]
Maybe I'm inclined now to mention this, because I am aware that the audience here may feel a bit overwhelmed by the religious language I'm using to describe this spiritual experience. Plus, some of the language is reminiscent of Christian lingo that we've heard in the past. It's true that many beliefs and concepts are similar, which is part of the reason Islam has allowed me to incorporate aspects of my Christian experience that I had lost. It's been a sort of 'coming home' to become Muslim. Ultimately, the Muslim's objective is to practice the religion wholeheartedly, sincerely, and in moderation.
Last night at the mosque a young woman said Shahada and converted to Islam. She was surrounded by sisters in Islam, and everyone hugged and greeted her by saying 'Asalaam aleikum' (peace be on us) at the conclusion.
Also during Tarawih prayers yesterday evening, we were told that during the Quran recitation of the prayer, we would make sujood (bow touching the forehead to the floor) at a moment when we normally remain standing. After the prayer, I inquired further and learned that there are 15 points in the Quran, when Muslims are compelled to prostrate themselves [perform Sajdat al-Tilaawah (Prostration of Recitation)] at the recitation of those particular ayat (verses) whenever reading or hearing the Quran in Arabic. We encountered one of those ayat during the recitation of Surah Al-Hajj:
“See you not that to Allaah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is one the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and al-dawaab (moving living creatures, beasts, etc.), and many of mankind? But there are many (men) on whom the punishment is justified. And whomsoever Allaah disgraces, none can honour him. Verily! Allaah does what He wills.”
I was told that one reason for Sajdat al-Tilaawah is for the Muslim to contrast the behaviour of Iblis (Satan), who was unwilling to prostrate before Adam (peace be upon him) when Allah commanded Iblis to do so. The Muslim demonstrates complete and willing submission to Allah through Sajdat al-Tilaawah. I have yet to verify this explanation with Hadith. Nonetheless, I am happy to have learned something new!