Our dear Nabra, why do bad things happen to good people?

#Nabra

“Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”

In the face of tragedy, it is this question that burns in many a heart. The youth are especially vulnerable, and find that it is all too easy for their faith to crack under the strain of the world’s heartaches.

You see, that same God gave us a precious gift of free will. It’s the same free will that led Nabra to choose to be a giver, a helper, one who fed her friends and spent her nights praying to her lord. And it’s the same free that her murderer used to make the choice to take her precious life.

These tragedies are consequences of our free will.

The angels understood this, for when they heard from Allah that He would create generations of humans on earth, they immediately questioned why He would create beings that would sow seeds of corruption and shed innocent blood. So it has been a given that we would misuse this free will.

But what did Allah say?

He said, “I know that which you do not know.”

You see, He knew that for every human that used their free will to cheat, steal, maim, and kill, there would be many more humans of beauty and faith. There would be humans like Nabra, who would use their free will to fast by day, feed her friends, and pray by night.

Without that opportunity for us to actively choose to do good, our free will would be a farce.

But Allah doesn’t just leave us here on this earth to fight it out, kill and be killed, suffer and toil, and have that be an end of it.

He’s “maaliki yawmid-deen.” The Master of the Day of Judgment. The word “deen” means that it is a day of recompense. A day where justice is served. A day where the evil ones will get only the amount of punishment that is justly due to them, not an ounce more, but where the good ones will get a reward that is infinitely beyond their deserving.

Not only does he amply recompense and care for those victims like Nabra, but his mercy is so gloriously vast that every second of pain her loved ones feel will also be recompensed. Every tear of her mother. Every ache of her father. Every fear, sorrow, and hardship of her friends and community will all be recompensed on that Day.

His Mercy is so vast. We are grieving, we are weeping as we reap the consequences of a world in which humans have been given free rein to make choices that can build or destroy.

Don’t think that He has left her, that He has left us.

وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ اللّهَ غَافِلاً عَمَّا يَعْمَلُ الظَّالِمُونَ

“Do not think that Allah is unaware of what the evildoers do” (Surah Ibrahim: 42).

وَلَدَيْنَا كِتَابٌ يَنطِقُ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

“And with us is a record that speaks the truth; and none shall be wronged.” (Surah Muminoon: 62)

Dear Nabra, may Allah give you a reward that will erase every second of your pain. May He give your family and community ease and healing. May you be now rejoicing in peace in His Gardens of bliss. Aameen, ya rabb.

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my Lord–my dear, dear Lord

After reading Surah al-Anbiyaa, I noticed The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) as well as other prophets quoted as saying, ربي “Rabbee” (my lord) in their prayers. It’s such a simple yet lovely phrase: My Lord. ربي Rabbee. Here in this moment, it is just me and You. You are *my* caretaker, nourisher, supporter, sustainer. I love you so much that I call You mine. A deep, enduring, touching phrase we can take and use in our own private munajaat–discourse– with Allah.

Podcast–The Ramadan Intention Multiplier Machine

Before Ramadan, we had a small halaqah where we (the adults and kids present) discussed the idea of intentions for fasting. My husband pointed out that one way to maximize rewards in Ramadan is to stack up your intentions. So a person intends to fast because Allah ordered it, and because he seeks Bab ar-Rayyan, and because she wishes to distance herself from the fire, and, and….

The next day, I asked the kids: what if we could create an Intention Multiplier Machine? You take a simple intention: “I am fasting,” and then add on any number of variations.

20170502_145914You do have to be careful not to have conflicting intentions. So for example: “I am praying for Allah,” and, “I am praying because I want others to think I’m a good Muslim.”

The discussion about rewards came up: what if you are promised a reward like some money for fasting or for completing Qur’an reading?

That led to me to discuss my concerns with the idea of rewards–I dislike them for this very reason: that they lead divided intentions and can detract from iklaas (sincerity).

The recording of our discussion can be accessed here at this link: Intention Multiplier Machine Podcast.

This is a good example of a type of discussion I will have with my kids after we have learned some material. A first session would include the discussion of the topic using the relevant verses from the Qur’an or statements of the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam). After that, we will have a session like this one where we mind-map the concept or come up with some other graphic organizer for the content.

In an activity and discussion like this, I am looking for:

  • the ability to use what they have learned in the past and apply it to novel situations
  • the ability to synthesize their knowledge and come up with ways to organize it and relate it to other areas
  • the ability to “think outside the box” and expand their thinking on a subject

I was touched by how my son came up with the point in the bottom of the picture. He was reflecting on the fact that I could not fast due to my health, and so he said that one intention he could make was to be grateful for the ability to fast, since others could not do so. So the actual act of fasting in itself is done out of gratitude and appreciation for one’s health.

Do you have any other ideas for intentions to add to the list? If your kids listen to the discussion, please share their feedback!

Qur’anic Literacy

Our Arabic teacher in Jordan used to say about our class that we had a good “thaqaafah Qur’aaniyyah,” or “Qur’anic Literacy.” In other words, when discussing an issue, we were able to pull a Qur’anic verse as reference for the subject at hand. He said that he found that this was a rare skill for Muslims from Western countries.
 
20170522_133430.jpgI’m working on this with the kids right now, and I’ll share this as an example of some of the verses we go through. I am going through notes from a class I took many years ago with a teacher where we went through basic Islamic principles with their proofs. As I go through it with the kids, I go over the Qur’anic verses associated with each concept and they copy them in their class notes.
 
Then, they copy them separately in their Arabic notebooks as copywork for several days to allow the verses to sink in.
 
So in this example, the first verse was discussed in the context of subtle forms of shirk. The second verse was when we discussed major shirk, and the third verse was in the context of love of Allah as a condition of the shahadah.
 
Children need to learn these “anchor points” for their Islamic knowledge so that they are practicing their faith based on a reference point from Allah or his Messenger (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam). It’s no longer just “this stuff my parents said,” but a living, breathing relationship with the Divine speech.
 
I cannot stress this Qur’anic literacy enough. I see so many children who have memorized pages and pages of Qur’an but you see in their eyes the complete lack of understanding when it comes to basic points of the deen. We cannot afford to have them treat the Qur’an as a mystical song with no meaning or value for their every day life.
 
If they can memorize Juz Amma, they can memorize a handful of verses that will give them a grounding in their deen. It will also serve to help them learn Arabic.
 
Adults can do this as well! I have a Qur’an commonplace book as well as a note system. I’ll be doing some videos on this soon so stay tuned. This was how I built up my own Qur’anic literacy over the years. Ramadan is a perfect time to start this. Start interacting with the text and marking important verses, and see if you too can improve your own thaqaafah Qur’aaniyyah.

Qur’anic Gems 3: The Qur’an Reads Your Mind



“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” Al-Baqarah 2:245

Here, we are asked to “loan” to Allah (i.e. donate for his cause) a “goodly loan” (i.e. spend it out of goodness of heart—Tafseer al Jalaalayn).

What is our natural reaction when asked to part with our wealth, something we work so hard to earn, and something that we guard so carefully?

Hesitation.
Uncertainty.
Worry.

“Will there be enough left to pay the bills? Save for college? Save for retirement?” The questions come swiftly, holding off our more noble desires to spend for a good cause.

But the Qur’an reads our mind and responds quickly: “And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” Just as quickly as our mind formulates the questions and worries, the Qur’an dispels them: spend without fear, O servant of God, for your spending for Allah’s sake will not decrease your wealth. The Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) emphasized this further when he said, “Wealth is not decreased by charity.”*

Allah encourages us to give without fear, for He is the only one who can cause our wealth to increase or decrease.* When we spend for his sake, more avenues will open up for our own wealth to increase in quantity and quality (blessings).

He also tells us: “And to Him you will be returned.” What is the big deal if our money goes to the One to whom we are all going? The imagery of a “loan” is invoked precisely for this reason: when we give our money in Allah’s cause, we are not throwing it to the wind. Rather, we are putting on hold, putting it as savings with the One who will protect it the most.* Then, when we return to Him, we will be repaid not in kind, but manifold times more than our original principal.

A person will be completely unable to grasp this reality of money and will be unable to take the necessary shift in paradigm unless they are firmly grounded in yaqeen—certainty.* “And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” Without firm, unwavering, unshakeable certitude in this statement, a person will be unable to muster the courage and faith needed to spend in Allah’s way.

With the true faith in this statement, a person’s hands will open freely, remembering Allah’s promise: loan to me, and I shall repay you many times over. Do we really believe Allah’s promise?

* Points with an asterisk are adapted from the Tafseer lessons of Dr. Farhat Hashmi “Taleem-ul-Qur’an” found here. The remaining points are from myself or other sources as noted.

Qur’anic Gem #1: Be Like the Squirrel

Al-Baqarah: 110 “And whatsoever you put forth of good for yourselves, you shall find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-seeing over what you do.”

When is hoarding a virtue? When it comes to good deeds. Be like the squirrel, who takes every opportunity to tuck away food stores that it may come later and find it stored and ready for him to feast upon. Every good deed that we do, no matter how small, will be noted and tucked away for us as a reward in the hereafter. And what better reward can there be but the reward that is with Allah?

Qur’anic Gems Project

In an effort to help me review my Tafseer lessons from my AlHuda Institute Taleem-ul-Qur’an course, I will–Insha’Allah, God willing–be posting short comments from the meanings of various verses in the Qur’an. I hope these points will also be of benefit to others. For those who are not familiar with the program, the Taleem-ul-Qur’an course is a course that takes the student through the whole Qur’an word-by-word, verse-by-verse. By the end of the course, one must be able to understand the Qur’an word-for-word as well as know the Arabic roots of each word. A general tafseer is also given of the verses.

One learns the connections between the various words and their ayat on the micro-level, and on a more macro-level, one learns the connections between the themes within each surah as well as the relationships between each of the surahs themselves. The course does not produce scholars, it’s goal is more humble and yet no less important–it is to help each student develop an intimate connection to the Qur’an, such that she understands it in its own language, and such that she understands the messages it contains for her as an individual.

I had met a few students of this course before joining myself, and each managed to convey this almost ethereal connection that they had developed to the Qur’an, and they had an incredibly humble feeling of transformation in their life after immersing themselves in the beauties of the Noble Book. They are the ones who encouraged me to begin on this journey of study, and I am utterly grateful to them for setting such a beautiful example. I can only hope that by passing on a few morsels of knowledge in writing here I am able to continue igniting the passion for knowledge, if only in one person.