It’s True: The End Is Very Very Near

bostonI remember growing up in the midwest in the 80’s. I was a teenager ready to experience everything. Listening to KAEZ radio, discovering music and literature, fine dining and dance. I was an 80’s baby for sure and simply could not digest my parents decision to raise us in the middle of nowhere. Cows, horses, farmland what was a teenager to do.

I always looked forward, always believed that something grand and amazing was so close that I only need stretch my hand out just a little further and I would be apart of brillance. My parents of course were guarded, protective and heartbroken when I packed up and made my way to the big city.

I always knew that life was good. That it was some type of special gift bestowed on us by a loving, generous Lord. As a matter of fact, most people who know me describe me as always smiling, happy and positive no matter what the circumstances. I never bought into the naysayers agenda or chicken littles insistance that the sky was indeed falling. I would often scrunch up nose and look funny when folks would start down that path of “the end is near”.

Over the years I have known triumph and sadness. Had amazing success and failures so intense the guilt still haunts me. But today, as I sit and watch what is unfolding in Boston I realize I am tired. I am so very tired of the constant and unending violence. The daily assaults on people, on our morals and values. The need to exploit every possible corner of innocence. I am sad to witness the loss of my own innocence. I know I am too old to still think of myself as innocent. But I just always wanted to believe in the good of my fellow man. Because it was knowing that we all were good that confirmed no matter what I did there was still good in me.

As a muslim I firmly believe that no man can know the day or time. But the truth is that we do not have much time. I’m not even sure we have time to come back from all of it to any quantifiable degree. There is so much work to be done and with each new battle, each bombing, each mass murder, each new law that infringes on my right to live a moral lifestyle, with each kidnapped child, abused woman, drug addicted genius, I lose a little more hope for us all.

In this age where so many defend the desire to own assault weapons, or the desire for same sex marriage, no one wants to hear about the history of other civilizations that also blindly and blatently defied our Lord.  We dont talk about Sodom and Gomorrah anymore. The truth is that once a people becomes so arrogant as to believe they know better than Allah (swt) what is best for His creation then the countdown has begun.

My first inclination is to run. To lock my doors, close my blinds, shut my eyes and wait for it to all be over. But that is not the answer either. The only answer is Allah (swt). Turning to Him, seeking His pleasure, living a life that is solely focused on drawing nearer to Him. He is our only salvation, our only hope and it is only His Mercy that can save us. So on this, yet another day of heartache and tragedy, lets take a moment and pray. Not only for those who were lost and wounded but for all of us.

The Lotus Tree Blog

Me and MaryamI cannot stress enough beloveds, the importance of strong families. Never neglect family ties, regardless of what religion family members have. Don’t even play around with it when it comes to strengthening and preserving the family. “O Mankind! Fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allaah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allaah is ever, over you, an Observer”[1].When communities fall short, become fragmented, or fail, the religion can be preserved on the family by holding onto and passing down the values and teachings of faith to the next generation. and the next after that.  When you invest in the family, what you end up with, in sha Allah is, generation after generation of eemaan. You can’t buy that at a halal store…

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The Lotus Tree Blog

Johnny Haram was his name and making things haram was his game. Our story begins in a non-descript, one bedroom cottage on the west side, the light is dim (because it’s candlelight) Johnny had haramed electricity years ago, and there was no furniture in sight, except a simple cot in the middle of the floor, and there lay Johnny Haram. He was the chosen one, as he says. Chosen for the task of rooting out all the haram he can find in the Muslim ummah. Johnny was special; he didn’t go after the clear haram things like people selling drugs or abusing their families, or homosexuality, and lewd behavior. Johnny liked to go after the hidden haram in things; he believed that there is some haram in everything that American Muslims do, and that it was his job, his destiny, to find it, and haram it.

In the corner was a stack of books, Johnny was fond…

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The Lotus Tree Blog

Today’s scholars, are faced with a task, that scholars of previous times, did not have to reckon with; before the age of globalization, scholars would render religious edicts (fataawa), about their own people, and their own cultural affairs, and their own countries and lifestyle, about which they were uniquely familiar.  Today, scholars face, and sometimes simply take upon themselves, the colossal assignment of electronically rendering religious edicts, about people, places, and cultures, sometimes thousands of miles away, where they have not lived, do not have an intimate working knowledge of, and are woefully unfamiliar with.

Fatwas, that apply to well-known, and necessary matters of worship, aqeeda, theology, and religious practices, can be applied globally, across all nations and people. With regard to such issues, all Muslims are the same, and they all have the same obligations, and responsibilities. For example, in issues of salat, fasting, inheritance, and the like, all…

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The Lotus Tree Blog

Dear beloveds, these are tough times that we live in. many families are in turmoil. Drug abuse, incarceration, spousal abuse, family and moral dysfunction, ignorance of religion, wanton violence and killing, fanaticism, marital discord, social instability, emotional baggage, juvenile delinquency, and hardened hearts are plaguing our communities in the United States.  Many of these things are signs of the last days, and there will be in the coming years, many spiritual casualties. Below are seventy-seven principles, from the Quran and from the sunna of our Prophet (SAWS) that will aid the Muslim in restoring and maintaining steadiness in his or her life. If you are experiencing instability in your life; then practicing these principles will help you in sha Allah.

  1. If at all possible, be married not single
  2. Honor your parents
  3. Teach your children the right way to behave.
  4. Always speak the truth, even if it is bitter
  5. Establish prayer

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Bitter Fruit

When was the last time you found the perfect apple in the bag.  You know the one I mean, that bright red skin, not a blemish on it.  No soft spots or brown corners it even smells like a dream.  You can’t wait to bite into it.  Taste that sweet goodness on the tip of your tongue and dance that little jig we all do when the first bite of something is everything we imagine it will be. Knowing that the juice will splash around to the back of your tongue and then dip forward for just a second to see the smile it gave you before sliding down and bringing equal amounts of goodness to the rest of your body. So you dive in, take the bite and suddenly your mouth is full of bitterness.

So what causes an otherwise divine fruit to be bitter? The primary reason given is often that the fruit has not been allowed to ripen properly.  As fruit ripens the amount of sugar it contains increases which then increases its overall sweetness. Ripening is a complicated process that is controlled by hormones that interact with the growing environment and other natural occurring events to create the sweetness in the fruit. Ripening is dependent on the chemical process and also on timing.  The right amount of time necessary for each piece of fruit differs as does the effect of various environments.  Some grow best if housed in a closed-in shelter while many need to be in as much sunlight as possible.  There are still others that need to be held up their entire lives, either growing along sturdy walls or the foundations created to act as supports by loving caretakers. If any part of this process is interrupted it can interrupt the maturing process of the fruit including stunting  its growth and causing the fruit to be bitter, even if on the outside the fruit appears to be perfect in every way.

Consider that, women too, are a divine fruit.  And just like fruit there is a process and a time for maturing.  A time when the conditions of environment and interaction with others causes a maturing of the inner woman.  Given the right amount of time, love, protection and care taking a woman grows to become a refreshing, palatable, nourishing being.  One that is sought after for both the comfort she lends and the health she promotes in those whom she impacts. A maturing that begins slowly, heightens to near perfection, decreases a bit but continues throughout her life. Not every womans maturing time is the same nor does it ever really end completely.  The amount of sweet goodness ebbs and flows determined by the conditions encountered by this precious creation.

Unlike fresh fruit however, much of a womans maturing is within her own control.  And for each of us there comes a time in our maturing and development when we are one hundred percent responsible for the effect that ripening has on us.  Either consciously or unconsciously we decide if we will be sweet to the taste or twisted and inedible to those we attempt to be nourished by us.

We often miss the first sign that we are in control of our own flavor, particularly if there is not a fully matured, incredibly sweet woman available to nurture our growth. Fruit begets the same fruit so a bitter apple is hard pressed to give sweet fruit from its tree. That first sign almost always comes in the form of an unrequited, unimaginable, never gonna love this way again why is that white horse trampling on my roses kinda romance.  It is in that moment we decide we are not princesses, there are no Prince Charmings and horses can be very scary when too close to your heart. So instead of ensuring the lighting is right to better nurture our fruit, we often add shutters to keep out the pruning that is so necessary to grow sweet, health fruit.

In that moment we relinquish our control. Sometimes to a man, sometimes to an image of beauty, and sometimes we just relinquish and give up. Being more willing to allow our fruit vines and trees to be covered over than to risk being hurt again.  We begin to become bitter. We call course, harsh speeches independence, unattractive, aggressive attitudes strength. These are not the characteristics any of us wanted.  We wanted to be independent with a purpose, strong with a direction. We wanted to share in that secret something special, that sly glance that passed between lovers when they thought we weren’t watching, that elusive feeling of safety when hang gliding, the trust that the pruner of our leaves is also the lover of our fruit.

But I venture to say that it is never too late to save our fruit.  Much like we continue to water, to feed, to talk to, to coax our vines to produce ruby-red berries and our trees to smile the sweet smile of blooming blood oranges so to can we sweeten our inner woman.  It is never to late to nurture her.  It is never to late to tell her how beautiful she is.  It is never to late to stop begging strangers to tend to our gardens.  After all, no one wants to be bitter fruit.

An Easy Path

From the moment I took shahada 17 years ago I have been reminded over and over that this religion called Islam was made easy.

Yet I struggled to learn how to properly offer salat.  Initially finding it nearly impossible to remember the number of Fard rakats or Sunnah rakats, the appropriate time to make each. Or the subtle nuances of proper annunciation of the arabic recitation. Whether I should or shouldn’t learn the transliteration, and the dua’a’s to be made.  Learning salat was not easy.

And then there was my first Ramadan.  Rising even earlier than Fajr to eat a filling and hearty breakfast (suhoor) and drinking a lot of water and then nothing. No food, no water, no gum, no toothpaste, for hours. Fasting my first Ramadan was not easy.

Then of course there were the lifestyle changes.  Accepting that my moral/religious beliefs could not be in contradiction with my political beliefs.  Throwing off what I had always been taught was beautiful and replacing it with modest clothing. Wearing hijab. Changing my life was not easy.

Finding someone to share my life with, without dating and getting to know each other.  Spending only “chaperoned” time together.  No intimate contact, no kissing, no holding hands, not even sitting too close together at dinner. Getting married was not easy.

I often hear myself telling new Muslims what I was told, “Alhamdullah, Allah has made our religion easy” and I realize now I should qualify that statement.  The ease of the religion of Islam is conditional.  It requires something from us.

For many who come into Islam it is with all the joy and expectation of a small child who comes in from school to smell fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. We know this is going to be good. We can almost envision how wonderful our lives will now be.  We see ourselves attending Arabic classes at our local masjid, or becoming entrepreneurs with booths at the next big conference.  Expending our knowledge and having spirited debates about schools of thought, figh or fatwa’s. Better yet we envision a life of harmony with our Creator, speared on with the burgeoning knowledge that this Ummah is one brotherhood, that people will now see me and rush from across a crowded parking lot just to give me the salaams. We are Muslims.

But this knowledge, I humbly submit, is not what makes our religion easy. Nor is our religion made easy by strict adherence to the five pillars, or works of charity, or hours spent offering dawah. All things we strive for as Muslims but not what makes our religion easy.  So what is it, what has prompted our Lord and Creator to deem a religion that requires much, easy.  The answer is so simple and yet of such great significance I am cautious to say it.

The answer is submission.

Now I know that is obvious, “of course we have to be submitted”, will come back the reply. But I am not talking about the value found in the submission to offer our prayers, pay zakat, fast during the month of Ramadan or make Hajj. I am talking about the type of submission that causes every thought, every action, every emotion to begin and end with Allah subhana wa ta alla honestly. And of course many of us believe that when we take shahada we are in fact submitting.  But I challenge you to consider the following.

Submission is not a singular act. It is not something we accomplish once and then move on to the next step.  It is not something we achieve or possess. Submission is an interactive movement.  One for which we must constantly and continually be in training. It must precede everything we do, say and feel. Submission to Allah (swt) must be the single driving force for every accomplishment, the motivation from every failure, the sought after feeling of every emotion.

Submission to our Lord means that EVERYTHING is about Allah (swt). How I style my hair, where I spend my time, the words I chose to express my discontent. When I speak to someone it is with the conscious knowledge that I will answer for every word I utter and not only will I answer for the words but I will answer for the condition of my heart and the intention behind each word as well. When I dress in the morning to leave the house, I am far more concerned with what Allah will say on the day of judgement about my clothing than what anyone who sees me will think.

Submission to Allah (swt) means that I am supremely cautious when discussing someone who is not present, lest anything I say or feel be deemed fitna (not to the ones I’m talking to but to Allah). It means that my heart is always filled with joy at the sight and/or thought of my husband not because of what he provides but because he was provided to me by Allah (swt). And if by chance an event, a person or circumstance leaves me less then joyful it is my submission that is a refuge for me because with submission comes trust, comes faith, comes unbridled love.

And who can deny that when you are in love everything seems easy.