9/11 — The day when I became a Muslim

Updated 11 January 2013

9/11 — The day when I became a Muslim

NINE September is a day of reflection for me for several reasons.
On 9/11, I found out that: 1. I really was a Marine; 2. I was willing to die for my country; and 3. Islam is in fact not only a religion of peace, but the truth.
Most people have no problem with 1 and 2 when I ordinarily re-tell this story, but number 3 is always met with hostility. Without going into the story again as I have a thousand times, I just want to cover the main points.
1. When I joined the Marine Corps in 1998 it was a different world per se. Most of my peers joined the military as an alternative to staying home or not going to college. Many like me joined the Marine Corps simply to be part of the best military organization on the planet (sorry Army). However, that was it in a nutshell. There were no dreams of war and combat no matter how much warrior training I had. It was good stuff to know, it felt good to know I could if I wanted to, but I was content behind my desk and flying with (former) President Clinton to the Harley David factory in Pennsylvania or to South Beach, Miami. That was the extent of my career until 9/11. That day, I found out that I truly was a Marine, that day the warrior in me came alive and I wanted nothing more than to fight the scum that dared attack the USA the greatest nation on Earth!. That day I found out that even a bunch of spoiled, presidential, airwingers, were still Marines and we were ready to go and do what Marines do. That day that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor took over and the true warrior that I didn’t even know existed came alive. That day more than any other day, I was a Marine!
2. Given the gravity of the day, I knew something had to be done. I didn’t know what, but I knew it had to be something. I began to think of all the medal of honor winners who gave their lives in the service of others. I never truly understood that, but on 9/11 something came over me. I knew that if fanatical killers were willing to do this, than I had to be equally willing to do whatever it took to defeat them. I didn’t know what to think, but I knew one thing, if I had to die, I wanted it to be in the service of my country. I never felt that way before, on 9/10, I wore a uniform, but it was just a “job” to a degree, but on 9/11 I swore by that uniform and what Marines have lived and died for and was ready to join their ranks if need be. I remember around 10 a.m. before the base phones shut down calling my mother and she answered crying, the most I could muster was “Mom I love you, tell everyone I love them, but now I have to do what I get paid to do” right there out of nowhere in one line I told my mother that our conversation may have been the last, and in that moment of clarity there was peace. I knew what had to be done and I truly didn’t care about the costs, as long as America won.
3. This has always been the most difficult thing to explain and it still is. On 9/11, we were on “standby” for more than 14 hours. We didn’t see any “action” and we just hurried up and waited, and waited, and waited, and then it was 9/12. As things started to develop and get sorted out after that horrible day, I began to reflect. Mostly about 1 and 2, but then I began to ask myself questions: Who were these people that did this? Why would they do this? Are their beliefs that crazy that they are willing to kill themselves and many others for it? I asked myself these questions over and over. My only solution was research. I wanted to know my enemy so that I may be better prepared to kill them. As a devout Christian, lay leader, bible study leader, etc. I wanted to see this murderous book for myself so that I may be able to inform my friends, group, and congregation. I never met a Muslim in my life all I knew was the church, so I decided to go straight to the horses mouth…the Qur’an.
As things were eased on the base in the following days, I decided to go to the bookstore and I bought it a Qur’an. My first one, it was in complete English; no Arabic in sight. So with a scornful look and disdain in my heart I began to read…The very first thing I read was: The Opening (Al-Fatiha)
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:
Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe.
The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
King of the Day of Judgment.
You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help
Guide us to the straight way;
The way of those whom you have blessed, not of those who have deserved anger, nor of those who stray.
In the name of God, the Most Gracious and Merciful! What in the world! I thought I’m supposed to be reading about killing Christians in the name of some other god or something. Where’s all the violence and advocating of such against America? This opening, sounded much like my prayers, so I began to read on…

To be continued next week
- www.whyislam.com


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.