Tag Archives: revved for Ramadan

“I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you” How I came To Islam

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"the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible or yours.”

“The day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”

Guest post by: Jessenia Ortiz. She works as an editorial manager for a electronic publishing company. When she is not working she likes to spend time with her family, her 3yr old and her husband. Sister Jessie is pursuing hifdhs and spends most of her time memorizing the Quran. She enjoys traveling, and her last big trip was umrah. 

I read a novel entitled “If I should speak” by Umm Zakiyah. This book contains some ayahs of the Quran and Hadiths woven into the story. That novel led me to read the English translation of the Quran, which eventually led to me taking my shahada.

The author included the hadith that says:

“O evil soul, come out to the wrath and anger of Allaah.’ Then his soul disperses in his body and is dragged out like a skewer being pulled out of wet wool…”

This shook me to my core. For 3 days it was all I kept thinking about. I couldn’t believe my God could do something like that (although I did feel inside myself that it was true). After that, I told myself I have to find out what else is in that book, so started reading the Quran.

My journey towards “finding” Allah (the Arabic word for God) really started early around age 5. That was when my grandmother taught me how to pray.  I did include intermediaries in my prayers but I always wondered why I couldn’t pray to Allah directly. I never understood the 3 in 1 God. (Alhamdulillah).

I grew up going to Catholic school and attending church with my grandmother. I learned about the Prophets, perhaps because we were children we were not taught all the negative things that the Bible says about them. I still remember that when I was little, going to Catholic school, I wanted to grow up and be a nun. They seemed so close to Allah. I use to sit in church asking (God) Allah to help me love that religion, if it was the right one. I always wondered why do we say “Thank you God for your son our lord”; why not worship the one that created the “son”?

The first time I was exposed to Islam was actually in my global studies class in high school. Ironically, it was a Jewish teacher who told us about Islam. Alhamdulilah, he presented it clearly, he said Muslims face the Kabah 5 times a day and pray. He even told us how they prostrated on the floor to pray. I thought to myself, if there is anyway to pray to God that is the best way. Unbeknownst to me, while my teacher was telling us about Islam in school, my older sister was also learning about Islam. She would become Muslim that year; it would take me 13 more years to enter into Islam.

My sister did her best to explain Islam to me and in my mind I couldn’t see the difference from what I believed and what she believed. At that point, I had started praying to Allah directly. I still remember that I would say to Allah “I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you”.

As the years passed my sister and her husband would always try to give me dawah (invitation to Islam) but it always seemed that I would have to stop believing in all the prophets (peace be upon them) and believe in a new prophet–Muhammad (peace be upon him). I just couldn’t give them up. Yet, they tried their best but guidance is in the hands of Allah alone.

After some years my sister and her husband moved to MD and put their children in a school called Al Huda. When I asked them what the name of the school meant they said “guidance to the straight path.” After learning that, I always use to pray “Lord, guide me to the straight path“. It was during one of those visits to MD that I my oldest niece just gave me the new novel written by a sister from their community. She gave me the novel, and a copy of the Quran in English. She didn’t say much except “maybe you’ll find it interesting.” I read the novel and didn’t really feel connected, but when I got to hadith quoted within the story (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) it all changed. While the story was from the imagination of the author, the Hadith and the Quranic ayat were real. In my heart felt “this is the truth” so it led me to read the Quran.

I, then, started reading the English translation of the Quran. It was amazing. I couldn’t put it down. I had tried to read the Bible but every time I tried, I kept falling asleep (literally on the book). As I read the meaning of the Quran it just confirmed what I already believed. The Quran told the stories for all the prophets and told the stories of the most upright men in history including Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them).

When I use to read ayat that refer to the disbelievers I use to wonder who those people where. My sister broke the news to me that I was the disbeliever. Finally, I was getting ready to say the shahada but I was still weary. It was a couple years after 9/11 and I just didn’t want to be associated with people who could do something like that. My sister gave me the best advice. She said “the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”

 I took my shahada on October 3, 2004. It was the same night that Muhammad Alshareef (founder of Al Maghrib Institute) gave his farewell speech at Al Huda school. I still remember him saying “There is only one way towards God. Sometimes you stumble upon the truth. You have a choice you can take it or you can dust yourself off and walk away”. I called my sister after the lecture was over and I took my shahada over the phone with the whole family.

When I look back I think, Subhannallah, Allah is the best of planners. He planned out my path so perfectly. There were and are so many tiny details along the way from before Islam up until now. I always make dua that Allah let keeps me on the straight path and never lets me go astray. Ameen.

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Quranic Reflections: Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

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Quranic Reflections: Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

Guest Post by Salitah Qureshi. She has completed her master’s in bioethics. She currently working with research centers to help study and provide better health care to the south asian community of NYC. Her interests include traveling, playing sports including badminton and volleyball and creating artwork and calligraphy.

Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

حَتّٰٓى اِذَاۤ اَتَوۡا عَلٰى وَادِ النَّمۡلِۙ قَالَتۡ نَمۡلَةٌ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ ادۡخُلُوۡا مَسٰكِنَكُمۡۚ لَا يَحۡطِمَنَّكُمۡ سُلَيۡمٰنُ وَجُنُوۡدُهٗۙ وَهُمۡ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ.

Until, when they (Prophet Suleiman and his army of men, jinn, and birds) came to the valley of the ants, an ant said, “O ants! Enter your dwellings so that Suleiman and his hosts may not crush you while they do not perceive.”

We studied Surah Naml today, and this ayah was so amazing to understand. In this ayah, an ant is warning its fellow ants about Suleiman (A) and his army approaching, so that they may move out of the way and not get crushed. But the way Allah has said these ayahs is truly amazing. So much depth!

First, Quran is talking about how animals talk! There are so many people, companies, even scientists studying animal behavior, trying to figure out their language even teaching animals to talk. There was an article about how an ape was able to understand 450 words. For instance for the word pizza he would point at cheese, tomato and bread. I believe his name was Kanzi. There are talking dog collars, etc. So much time and money has been spent on these studies, experiments and devices just so we can ‘understand animals’. And here Allah has so simply shown us at least one animal/insect talking! This was 1300-1400 years ago! I found it amazing…it reminded me of when I was little and would feed the pigeons and pretend to talk to them and use my imagination on how they would reply. I can only imagine how this ant would have sounded!

Secondly, in this one ayah the ant was able to portray many emotions! The ant Felt, Called, Warned, Advised, Emphasized, Commanded, Clarified and Forbade! In the ayah instead of ‘ya naml’ the word ‘ya-ayuhanaml’ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ is used…the first one would have been fine to call the ants, but why use the longer word, instead? Because in Arabic increasing the letters in a word increases the meaning of the word, therefore by using this specific word it bring attention…like a flood warning on tv…ALERT! Big and Bold, so you don’t miss it…in this case so it grabs the attention of the ants and they don’t miss it.

Then there is the use of the word ادۡخُلُوۡا which is a masculine word. Masculine is used for things that are animate (not inanimate). Here it shows that animals are intelligent creatures. The ant is commanding the other ants to get into their own homes. You have seen an ant farm, with all its tunnels beneath the ground. Do you think 1300 years ago people knew how ants homes are like? From the top all you see is a hole. But each ant has its own home and knows where its home is! So the ant is advising the ants to go to their individual homes!

Then the ant says ‘they won’t perceive it‘ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ …if you were to step on an ant do you feel it? You don’t, unlike if you were to step on a cat or dog or mouse (please don’t step on animals). So the ant knows they would not be noticed and get stepped on. But that is not the only thing it knows….it is also aware of who is coming: Prophet Suleiman. And the ant just doesn’t say Suleiman (A) and an army are coming, it attributes the entire army to Suleiman (A) and says, Suleiman (A) and HIS army is coming. It shows the respect a tiny ant had for him.

The ayah was so amazing, so much brain leakage by just one ayah and that too about an ant! I remember when i was younger someone told me that the Prophet (saw) would watch where he was going and not step on any ants…I don’t know how true this is, but when I heard it I always tried my best to not step on a single ant. And now to read and understand even a little of this ayah about the ant made all the side stepping worth it.

Ants are very small and I would say humble creatures. In the big world they get trampled upon by people even if they don’t mean any harm. However, this ayah shows the ant to be wise. It is able to carry on its own (ants can carry 10-100- some even say 1000 times their body weight) and they even make a big impact on the ecosystem. So even in this big complicated world, there is always space for the small, humble people.

Revved2013 Ramadan Reflection: The Sliver Linings

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I’m writing this because I don’t want to ever forget. I don’t want to forget this moment. This second. This Ramadan in which I took a class you might have heard of called Revved for Ramadan.

I can’t explain precisely what Revved is, and when people ask I usually say it is a Quran class, because in my humble opinion that sounds pretty awesome within itself. At this point most people usually tell me, ‘Oh, interesting..’ but they’re not really interested and they don’t really want to know. They give me that patronizing look like, ‘are you really going to keep talking?’ and causally look around at the walls as if they’ll find a more interesting topic of discussion written on it’s panels.

So, here’s the more descriptive description:

Imagine settling in to take a trip, one of those super posh helicopter tours. You’re sitting with with nervous anticipation. You’re not sure what you’re going to see but you’re excited. Will you be able to stop at places on your trip? Are you prepared? Have you made all the proper accommodations? Who else is going with you?

And then the helicopter lifts off, you start and something amazing happens… and by the end of your trip you realize a very small price was paid for a journey so amazing that you can’t really put it into words. Sights you see leave you breathless gardens, canyons, caves, and oceans. If you stop for a moment, stick your hand out the window you can feel the breeze, taste the sweetness of the air in moments that can only be described as a miracle. Beautiful people surround you, they encourage and inspire you despite never having known you. They remember you and pray for you and wish you well. You quickly find out this isn’t just any ordinary helicopter, it functions also as a time machine. You watch the greatest moments in human history on the earth unfold. You watch Moses (Musa (A)) speak to Allah (SWT) for the first time, then prepare to face off the greatest Tyrant of all time. You watch Joseph (Yusuf (A)) wronged by his brothers rise to prominence in the Kingdom and reunite with his father. You watch young Maryam (A) place all her trust in Allah (SWT) and grow up to give birth to a miracle, Jesus (Isa (A)).

Essentially, it’s the feeling that you’ve won the lottery. And while you can’t really explain in words to those around you what you’ve gained except you realized one thing, Allah (SWT) answered your dua in the best of ways.

What was my dua? Well, that’s between me and Allah (SWT) and each day I see a beautifully crafted plan being laid out in front of me, and all those long commutes to university with my heart singing its deepest desires to Allah (SWT) are so rewarding…I can tear up just thinking about.

Now while I really wish I could share all the gems I’ve collected from Revved for Ramadan (better understood as: A Journey through the Quran). But I cannot. I have a beautiful 150 page notebook that is covered with these gems because I just had to write everything down. If you would like, you can most certainly come over and I will go through my notes with you. It’s a lot of fun! In fact I had made it a habit for going through my notes during tahajud with my family, and tweeting some gems (#revved2013) that you can find on Twitter.

These are the miracles, the magic moments, the silver linings.