Time for something better

“Everything is Islam. Islam is the spotless purity of the heart, it is a vast ocean. If God’s teaching is there, it is Islam. To act out the qualities of truth and embrace with true love, that is Islam. The tired hearts, the hurt ones, to embrace them with love, and give them the milk of love, embrace them face-to-face, heart-to-heart, in unity, that is Islam”

~ from The Illuminated Prayer: The Five-Times Prayer of the Sufis, by Coleman Barks & Michael Green

On the outside, I’ve been struggling a bit. I’ve been horribly sick with the flu for the past week, I’ve been worried over everything from my lousy job to whether my boyfriend and I will ever be able to marry (and what marriage even means to me), let alone have children (I’m 25 and the clock is ticking BIG TIME), trying to keep up with school and job and housework (two out of three ‘aint bad), and generally feeling, to quote Bilbo Baggins, “like butter scraped over too much bread”. On the inside, I’ve been struggling with harder things… questions about myself, about what I want out of life, about the kind of person I want to be – and overwhelmingly, about finding my way to God. I’ve been feeling somewhat discouraged in my journey, lately. Between the nasty comments here (of which there are several I elected not to publish) generally telling me not to bother learning about Islam, and the things people tell me about Islam that scare the #@!% out of me, the fact that I know absolutely no Muslims/Muslim converts outside the internet (my fault for being too wussy to enter a mosque), and I don’t currently have any close friends who are terribly religious… I realize this struggle is ultimately one only I can face, but I feel very alone. I am no less determined, but I am so, so tired.

So, its time for a bit of inspiration. I’m becoming quite fond of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, who inspired much of the book I quoted above. I decided to reread a little of it today to pick myself up and dust off the self-pity. He was a Sufi mystic from Sri Lanka who showed great wisdom and compassion for all those who came to him, regardless of religion or background. He’s been called a guru, a sheik, a holy man – whatever the name, he sought to bring unity to the faithful of all religions and beliefs. He was familiar with a wide range of beliefs and practices; Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. According to Bawa:

“You are a Cristian because you believe in Jesus, and you are a Jew because you believe in all the prophets including Moses. You are a Muslim because you believe in Muhammad as prophet, and you are a Sufi because you believe in the universal teaching of God’s love. You are really none of those, but you are all of those because you believe in God. Once you divide yourself off with religions, you are separated from your fellow man.”

And…

“Children of any religion who have true faith must realize that God is the only One who knows all of everything. Therefore, only God can judge whether a person has faith, certitude, and determination or not and whether a person lives with that purity that can be called Islam or not. No one else can give that judgment. Do not wave your religion like a banner and go out to capture others. Only one kind of war is permissible in the eyes of God: the war you wage within yourself to defeat the demonic forces of lust, anger, jealousy, desire for revenge, and other evil feelings and attributes that may exist within your heart. God has sent each of the prophets as witnesses to the grace of God and as supports to help us in this inner war. This is the reason for the Qur’an. It is to help the true Muslim fight this inner battle and win victory over his own base desire’s that God sent the Messenger with the Qur’an.”

What can I say? I’m impressed, I’m moved. Sufism is sounding more like what I need every day. I’ll end with what may be my favorite teaching from Bawa Muhaiyaddeen:

“For those who have come to grow, the whole world is a garden. For those who wish to remain in the dream, the whole world is a stage. For those who have come to learn, the whole world is a university. For those who have come to know God, the whole world is a prayer mat.”

Salaam to all my friends in blogland – may we all find what we’ve come for.

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47 responses to “Time for something better

  1. MashAllah, thank you for a beautiful post! I’m definitely leaning towards Sufism as well, and love the focus on the spiritual relationship with God. These passages are absolutely beautiful and really resonate with me, I’ll have to see if I can pick up that book myself.

    • I really liked the book, and the first and fourth quotes were from it. The third one is from “Islam and World Peace – Explanations of a Sufi” by Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.

  2. 125 People Embrace Islam at Pilipino Night of the 9thRamadan Forum

    Dubai, 28th August 2010
    The Pilipino night of the Ramadan Forum organized by Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing “DTCM” under the title “Gathering to Succeed” witnessed a great surprise to the audience and organizing committee. 122 ladies and 3 men embraced Islam after attending the lecture of Shaykh Omar Penalbar, Islamic propagator from Phillipines who spoke about the message of Islam, its tolerance and lenience pointing out that Islam is the last Heavenly message and its followers must believe in its Messengers and Prophets.

    Shaykh Omar Penalbar said: “About 99 people embraced Islam in one night after I gave a lecture in Philippines but tonight is the biggest achievement for me. I was asked by the ladies tent to talk more about Islam to fulfill the desire of some ladies in getting more acquainted to Islam. The lecture took more than 2 hours although it was supposed to be 45 minutes only. At the beginning of the lecture about 67 people wanted to embrace Islam but by the end of the night the number reached 125.

    http://hidaya.do.am/news/125_embrace_islam_in_one_night_of_ramadan_allahu_akbar/2010-08-29-53

  3. guide to islam.
    •Character
    •Preparation
    •Strangers•Believers 1
    •Believers 2
    •Nature
    •Fortitude
    •PositivismAl-Wala’u wa Al-Bara'(1)
    •Al-Wala’u wa Al-Bara ‘(2)
    •Lessons
    •Tribulations
    •Not working against Islamic teachings
    •The proper way to thank Allah>

    for details go to :
    http://www.muslimconverts.com/islam/newmuslimguide.htm

  4. Salam sister,
    Again…i was moved by your post again, may you pursue your heart to what you feel is right.
    7:179″And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.”
    So, use your ears and eyes to hear and see what’s around you, but you own heart to make your own choices. then faith comes in to Guide you to Him.
    I love how you quote the author,
    “You are a Cristian because you believe in Jesus, and you are a Jew because you believe in all the prophets including Moses. You are a Muslim because you believe in Muhammad as prophet, and you are a Sufi because you believe in the universal teaching of God’s love. You are really none of those, but you are all of those because you believe in God. Once you divide yourself off with religions, you are separated from your fellow man.”
    I find similarities in people of peace keep avoiding to label themselves, for instance Gandhi, even Buddha…i find it very interesting.
    I was in search by my own Truth, going through Bible, Buddha, Atheist you name it even though i was born a muslim. I had to scrap all my ‘traditional’ belief and asked myself a lot of question for my own sake, and directly to HIM. Message in the Quran, i feel is very personal because language is always mistranslated and misunderstood, thus; God’s message to those who are seeking differ accordingly to the level of experience and knowledge in life. So, go ahead and seek…insyaAllah by His guidance, you’ll find what you’re looking for..

    I read “The History of God” by Karen Armstrong, which is quite interesting although rather ‘on the surface’, Idries Shah’s book is also a good read. Beautiful poetry by RUMI is always soothing. I am more than happy to share interesting books that i have read, probably we can exchange a few suggestion. 🙂

    Seek and you will find.

    • Thank you Hajar.
      “God’s message to those who are seeking differ accordingly to the level of experience and knowledge in life.” I think that’s brilliant! I never thought of it like that, but it makes sense that God can only tell us what we are ready to hear.

      I am hoping to compile a list of favorite books on Islam, because their are some truly wonderful ones I’ve read.

  5. Really lovely and thought-provoking quotes! Great reminder that GOD is the one who knows each person and is the Judge. I’m glad you shared these with us.

    I hope you are quickly on the mend from the flu and your life worries. Hugs!

  6. Sophia, may you get healthy soon and stay strong in your islam.

  7. The earnestness of your quest is so pure!! The “Sought” can be no other than the ONE!
    “Longing is single-hearted. True praise belongs to the One who rules the heart, Al Hameed; The beloved, fully aware of the lover’s longing, Al Muhsi; the originator of the Divine spark of love, Al Mubdi.” —A perspective on the Signs of Al Quran.

    • O-M-G. I am having a fan-girl moment here! I just finish reading “A Perspective on the Signs of Al-Quran: Through the prism of the heart” – and it was an amazing book! Thank you so much for writing it, it was a wonderful read and something I’ll keep reading as I progress!

      I am flabbergasted. Seriously, I never thought this blog would mean I’d get a comment from an author of ANY book, let alone a really good one!

  8. salam dear Sophia 🙂
    do not take serious those nasty comments and glum type people , no matter of what you do, they will continue writting their comments.
    inshaallah this short period of being lonly and tired will pass and I am sure you will find what you want.
    Dear Sophia I am so happy that I have found you and can interact with you,in my idea cyberspace friendship can be as lovely,usefull and strong as physical friendship.
    my best wishes for you sister and good luck 🙂 🙂
    mariam-Iran

    • Thank you so much Mariam. Most of the time I can handle nasty comments, but lately I’ve been letting it get to me. It just makes me sad that people would spend their time being so uselessly negative, and it makes me wonder if I’m really such a threat to them that they think its worth it.

      You know, despite its popularity with my generation, I never used to interact much on the internet. I don’t even have a Facebook! But now I do see that such interactions CAN be meaningful, even though they’re virtual. Mariam, I’m happy you found me too and I hope we can be friends!

  9. I too gravitate towards Sufism 🙂 Good luck on your journey! I know how you feel, I was on my own with much of it also.

    • Yay! I’m glad I’m not the only one! I know its an internal journey so ultimately a personal one, but that can be scary sometimes. And I admit some of the isolation is my fault for not reaching out to local Muslims. Little steps, right? Maybe I’ll even find some local Sufi’s… for some reason I find them less intimidating.

  10. Salam Sophia,

    Don’t let the nutheads disturb you dear.
    These sorts would find fault in anybody and everybody, nobody is Muslim enough for their tastes, it’s their problem, not yours. Who are they to say whether Islam is for you or not?! Try to make them have the least effect on your journey. I also get very sad and depressed sometimes by reading hurtful things on the internet, even when they are not directed to me, it’s really tough to make them ineffective, I know …

    The quotes are beautiful 🙂

    And btw, I was listening to a recent lecture of Soroush, where he talks about hijab and Islamic identity (it’s quite long, I’m halfway through it now, and that is the title, but it’s not all about hijab). It’s quite interesting and actually not what I expected. It’s in Persian though, would let you know what I think of it if I can find time to write about it.

    • Salam Sara! Yes, most of the time I can tune out the hostility, but its hard to do that all the time. I mean, nobody wants to feel like they’re hated, even by strangers. But I need to remind myself that these people are mostly doing it because of their own emotional baggage, and I don’t need to carry it for them. I’m glad you enjoyed the quotes. 🙂

      I love Soroush! Some of his lectures get translated into English on his website, so I’ll keep an eye open for that one.

  11. I want to thank all of you for your kindness and support. I was very moved by all of you taking the time to post here, and I really can’t thank you enough – you guys really cheered me up. It reminds me of a KT Tunstall lyric: “Everybody sails alone, but we can travel side by side”.

    To update, I started feeling better as of yesterday, so I’m much more functional. Feeling physically in-charge tends to create a more positive attitude, I find. Also, I got a cute new haircut! I know its superficial, but sometimes little changes outside make the inside stuff easier. I went from super long hair to a shoulder-length bob – I love how much shorter my showers are! Also, much more importantly, I’m finally going to have health insurance soon! Its not great coverage, but it’s certainly better than none, and it means next time I get sick I can actually see someone instead of just muscling through it. In short, things are turning up!

  12. *HUGS* good news for you indeed, Alhamdulilah. I’m very happy for you. 🙂

  13. Beautiful post! I put that last quote as my Facebook status. Really meaningful.

    Don’t get discouraged about things. It’ll all come with time. I don’t have any real life Muslim friends either… I have my husband who has become a huge support recently, but before that one Muslim friend in real life who I am no longer friends with. But Islam is everywhere so even if you are not immersed in a culture that is very Islam-friendly, you can still find God. In a Christian, a Buddhist, an agnostic, anyone who respects the values that come from God.

    • Yes, I’m learning that your right, Islam is everywhere. I guess part of the problem is the stigma Islam carries in the US right now. I do know people who think all Muslims are either terrorists or mentally unbalanced. I defend Islam everytime (even before my recent interest), but defending myself is not something I want to feel obligated to do. Still, all things in their time.

  14. There are many Masjids (Mosque) and Islamic Centers in USA. I have included below a list of Masjids and Islamic Centers which Allah willing teach authentic Islam. I could have easily added 1000’s of Masjids / Islamic Centers but then I would be sinning by directing you to sects which have beliefs which are not based on the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

    I would advice brothers and sisters no matter were they live in USA to phone the Masjid / Islamic center from the list mentioned above(website), which is in the closest state to were you live. After that they will direct you to the closest Masjid or find you the closest Muslim contact to were you live.
    Just ask them to get you in contact with the nearest Masjid /Islamic center to were you live or give you the number of a good brother and sisters living in your area or near by areas.

    Please note. Not every Muslim is the same. Some Muslims do not practice Islam. Some have beliefs which are against Islamic monotheism due to their mind being polluted by Greek, Hindu and various other philosophies and their belief resembles more of pantheism than the Islamic monotheism.

  15. I think the comments about masjids are far afield from Sophia’s topic here, but that link to masjids is really incomplete. For my city (one of the largest cities in the US) it lists only one, the most conservative one, which is heavily funded by the Saudi-government and where women have to listen to the khutbah from a separate room and the imam is on a TV screen.

    • I really liked salatomatic.com, which has “quick facts” listing everything from how close they are to mass transit and how clean the bathrooms are, to whether women can have leadership positions or pray in the same room. You can also narrow searching by denomination (even Sufi!), see what languages the services are in, etc. I wish there was an all-women mosque in my area… maybe someday?

  16. NO2corruptCULTS

    Don’t jump feet first

    A) Priorities what you need to know first and what you need to do first. Don�t get dragged into debates. Some Muslims are passionate about Islam and so they should be. It is very easy to offend some one by saying the wrong thing when one has little knowledge. How true is the phrase �LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS VERY DANGEROUS�(UU and other CULTS) .There are things that one can say which can take a person out of Islam. And if you say it in front of other Muslims they may start getting very angry and declare you as a non-Muslim So please don�t play the scholar. That�s for people who have huge amounts of knowledge.

    • Thank you for the links and the offer of support, but a few thoughts for you to consider:

      Some non-Muslims are passionate about their personal beliefs too. Yes, it IS easy to get offended by saying the wrong thing when one has little knowledge: like when people call the Unitarian Universalist religion a cult. And if you say it in front of other compassionate human beings they may start getting very angry and declare you as a bigot. So please don’t play a comparative religion expert – that’s for people who have huge amounts of knowledge.

  17. NO2corruptCULTS

    If you are having difficulty dealing with the tests then you should immediately email MuslimConverts.com and I will InshaAllah give you some counseling. Alhamdulillah I have been able to help those converts brothers and sisters who had a difficult time coping.

    2 When you become a Muslim. There will be a lot to learn of Islam and a lot of things to unlearn from your previous culture and religion.
    Islam governs every aspect of a Muslims life and thus …………………..

    for NASEEHA , email support@muslimconverts.com

    • I am not joining any religion that automatically rejects my culture. There is nothing inherently evil about my culture, or my morality prior to learning of Islam.

      • well since u have pride in ur culture and morality saying there is nothing wrong with it and u are not sinning then i cant help u , infact no1 can unless Allah(swt) guides u …. of course ur culture is very vivid with all the night clubs , casinos , strip bars , short and transparent clothes , fornication , adultery and all the immoral things a person can think of , is not as adjusting as u think with the teachings of Islam since Muhammad(sws) warned us of all these things which can doom a person to hell.

        i think my stint here is over. I still pray u find the real Islam and not some sub religion formed by the likes of manji and the sort cause they are truly misguided and are misguiding others just for the desires of this life.

        This life is a huge testing room. The desires of man entice us but then it wouldnt be a test if we didnt fight these desires now would it? ….

        Ciao

  18. NO2corruptCULTS

    sister sophia.

    note:
    that website is not belongs to me.

  19. *hugs* Oh Sophia I feel you. Its a lot to take in. I really do recommend finding a local mosque or faith discussion group. It really helped me learn about Islam in practical fashion. To see Islam lived speaks volumes, you can only learn so much from books and the internet. I think it will help you.

    Remember to breathe. I feel you on the Must Get Married Now (I’m 26) but I remind myself everyday that its a huge commitment and I do not want to make a mistake like that. Same with religion, its a huge commitment. So breathe, learn, and discuss. You can do it 🙂

    BTW so happy to have found your blog!

    • Thanks LK! I really like your blog too! I need to get over my worries and just visit a mosque. I’m working on finding connections with the Muslim students at my college too. I don’t really know why its so intimidating…

  20. blackb3ard911, its been… enlightening? By the way, I didn’t say there was nothing wrong with my culture, just that my culture isn’t automatically evil. Do you really believe all Americans are strippers and gamblers? We aren’t all having random orgies all day! Life isn’t like a bad action movie – or a porno, for that matter – in America. Yes, those things exist here, but they don’t define even the majority of Americans. I am not a stripper, gambler, or even a slutty dresser! I am an American, however, and I don’t wish to write that part of me off. There will almost certainly be some major lifestyle changes if I convert, but I don’t think that includes trying to pretend I’m Arab.

    Best of luck to you in your future blogging adventures.

    • well isnt that part of the american culture? … isnt that what bill maher is always bragging about and is proud of? …. having a lady dance on some stage with dozens of men howling like wolves? ….. well yes not everyone follows the culture but then that would be un-american i guess.

      But then that is the culture of the US isnt it? … if im wrong then plz do tell me what ur culture is all about ….

      • I never really watch Bill Maher, so I couldn’t tell you much about what he says. Do you really believe that if American men aren’t pervs then they aren’t really American? I guess it follows then that if I’m an American woman I must also be a whore? Geez, blackb3ard911, how can you even stand talking to me if you think that of me?

        My culture, like any, is complex. It has its strengths and weaknesses, its good parts and its bad parts. I am not solely defined by it, nor am I entirely independent of it. But I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, as the saying goes – I am going to keep the good parts and try to leave the bad, not dismiss the entire culture! If you want to learn more about American culture, here is a place to start:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_culture

        You really need to stop making these blanket statements about groups of people. Judging an entire nation based on what Hollywood spews forth is just silly.

        By the way (and this is for everyone to make note of), I have published my comments policy and will be enforcing it.

  21. like i said , i dont generalize all the people. But the majority do believe in that culture.

    • Well, arguably the majority believes that people have the right to do those things, but I don’t think the majority actually “believes” in those things as a cultural imperative – as in, people’s goal in life isn’t to go to a strip club… its usually boring stuff involving raising a family or finding satisfaction in the workplace (stuff that usually doesn’t feature as heavily in the media because its so commonplace).

  22. I hope that you’re feeling better now 🙂
    I think many people are more comfortable with Sufism because Sufis tend to portray it in its original form, whereas “mainstream” Islam is usually portrayed as strict, conservative, oppressive, etc, even though it isn’t.
    I think meeting Muslims like you is the key.

    • Thanks, I’m feeling much better! I do get the feeling that Sufi’s are the West’s idea of “Muslim-lite”, and therefore easier to stomach. That said, I haven’t had one person identifying as a Sufi harass me or try to force conversion down my throat – I have had several people who identify themselves as orthodox Sunni or Shia play into their own stereotypes, however (mostly on BeliefNet). But you’re right that I need to meet Muslims in person.

  23. Hi Sophia,
    Farida Nur, here – grandmom to 3 darling rascals, lol.
    Just found your blog & truly can relate to your sincere & honest search to know & come closer to ‘things divine.’ Had the good fortune to meet & study with Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, may Allah be pleased with him, for about 15 years. As a feminist, working mom, teacher & dropout from organized religion, it was not easy to get beyond the wounds of my youth. Meeting such a pure sweet soul melted my heart & so have been able to accept Islam, in its essence – yet still struggle with some passages fr Qur’an & hadith. However, the living tree that was our beloved Bawa (ra) & its fruit of loving wisdom have impressed my heart to such a degree, that i can now finally feel some peace re the Beloved One and our journey home.

    A few years back, we made a ten-minute video re Bawa’s teachings on Forgiveness. Hope you don’t mind if i share it with you here. Wish you all the best,whichever road you choose to take or not take – along with a plenitude of blessings & a life filled with joy & wonder & the wealth of the 3 worlds, as Bawa (ra) liked to say. Anbu (heart love), salaams & hugs!

    Forgiveness- the Wisdom of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

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