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my first book

Alhamdulillah, I have published my first book. It is entitled The Beautiful Surrender: Islam as a Path to be Walked and is available in paperback ($4.99) and on Kindle ($1.99).

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The reason I started writing it was because a friend asked me if I could recommend a book on Islam to her sister’s non-Muslim fiancé, in hopes that he might choose Islam for himself. I could not, and so I felt obliged to write something in response.

In the process of writing, I came to realize that I was also articulating something fundamental about my own faith. We all wonder how it is that some people choose Islam and others do not. We know Allah is the Only Guide (al-Hadi), but we also realize that there are causes (asbab) in the created realm by which Allah guides people. For many in the United States, for example, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is one of those causes. For me, the fundamental cause was the translation of the Qur’an I had bought in the summer of 1997.

I received further clarity as I was writing by means of a lecture from Imam Zaid Shakir in which he made a distinction between “real da’wah” and “false da’wah.” He described the former as the process by which Muslims call those of other worldviews to Islam, whereas the latter is the attempt by Muslims to call other Muslims to their understandings of Islam.

And so my intention became to write a book that is meant to call people to Islam in a way that is true to my experience of being a Muslim. I wrote it in a way that is authentic to how I think and feel, while also trying to make it as accessible as possible (in terms of content, size and price). Lastly, I choose to publish it in this holy month of Ramadan because it was the Qur’an that brought me to Islam, it is the Qur’an that is still the foundation of my faith, and it is the Qur’an that forms the centerpiece of this book.

May God accept.

my Lord

what can i do to earn Your Love

 

everywhere i look

human beings claim to be “winning”

which implies that others are losing

but i contend that we are all losers

every single one of us

from the first to the last

losers

for the beauty of the beautiful

is Your Beauty

and the power of the powerful

is Your Power

and the independence of the independent

is Your Independence from all that is

لا إله إلا أنت

this is the Truth that i want to shout from the rooftops

this is the Reality i want to infect the false hierarchy

so that it comes crashing down

and You save us

“from imagining any meanness in someone who is destitute

or imagining any superiority in someone who possesses wealth

for the noble is he whom obedience to Thee has ennobled

and the exalted is he whom worship of Thee has exalted!”

 

my Lord

what can i do to earn Your Love

when i am such a loser

pathetic

bechara

with nothing to offer

and You are Layla

the Most Beautiful of those with beauty

the Most Powerful of those with power

the Most Independent of those with indepedence

there is nothing that i have ever wanted like You

and after You, there is nothing that i could ever want

 

my Lord

what can i do to earn Your Love

 

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله

 

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THANK YOU!!!

I would like to thank the 32 donors who contributed a total of $10,548.47 to the Rohingya matching challenge! May Allah reward you all abundantly. I have completed my end of the bargain.Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 4.22.35 PM

 

I remember the days after the lunar month of Ramadan in the solar year 2013. My eyes were glued to my computer as I watched the massacre of civilians in Cairo. It was the moment I began to realize that something was horribly wrong with the Muslim community.

We do not choose the moments when God lifts the veils from our eyes. One could justly critique me for not realizing this sooner. I pray that God does not judge me for years spent in hopeful ignorance.

From that moment on, the best way to describe my spiritual state was repeated experiences of the tajalliyat (manifestations) of Justice. God is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy, but God is also al-‘Adl (Justice). God has created this entire world for everyone to enjoy, and God loves to shower blessings on the creation in this life and even more so in the next, but God has also created Hellfire for those who oppress others and oppress their own selves.

Many Muslims are vexed by the tide of social injustices in our time. They witness the repeated murders of black people in the United States without any real accountability for the murderers, the millions of Syrian refugees struggling to survive, the starvation of Yemen, the lynching of Muslims in India, the denial of the right to worship by Uyghurs in China, and so much more. It is hard for any Muslim to not have the veil ripped off from their eyes today.

But I believe that one situation in particular is the greatest sign of the current moral failing of the Ummah of Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. Keep in mind there are no incontrovertible proofs for this claim – at the end of the day, it is simply my reasoned opinion (ijtihad) in regards to complex matters of social justice. And in no way does it detract from the importance of everything else that is going on. But we need to have priorities, and above all we need to care about what is happening to the Rohingya people.

I have written about this issue here and here if you need more context.

Know this: were you to give everything you have to help the Rohingya, it would not be enough. You could be the most selfless and giving person in the world, and it would still be a drop in the ocean of righting the wrongs that the Rohingya have faced. There is nothing you can really do to solve this problem. It will only be solved in its fullness on the Day of Judgement.

But this is also true: God will ask you about what you did once you knew. Once you knew about all the gang rapes, all the slit throats, all the bullets holes in the forehead, all the burned villages, all the refugee camps, all the denial of aid, all the IDP prisons, all the sorrow, all the tears, all the pain, all the utter devastation. Once you saw evil manifest before your very eyes, did you doubt God’s Promise or did you doubt your own humanity?

One Rohingya told me, “They took everything from us, and then they tried to take Allah from us, and we would not let them.” Don’t worry about the faith of the Rohingya – what would crush your faith the Rohingya have endured 100 times over. Worry about your own standing before Allah and being asked about all the blessings you take for granted everyday.

What has happened to the Rohingya has only happened because we have let it happen. We have allowed and continue to allow so many to endure so much. So much. Truly unspeakable things.

And so, as a mean to motivate you and myself, I am pledging to donate up to $10,000 in matching funds for Khalid Latif’s fundraising campaign for the Rohingya. If all you can give is $5, then do so, and it will become $10. If you can give $100, then give $100 and it will become $200. Post a comment on this blog with your donation information, or send me a private message at rdavidcoolidge@gmail.com, and I will match the total up to $10,000 insha’Allah.

Why? Because let’s be real. You are not going to go the refugee camps in Bangladesh in person to help out. You are not going to go to Chicago to volunteer with the Rohingya Culture Center. You are not going to devote yourself to lobbying Congress or convincing multinational corporations to punish the Myanmar military for their crimes. There are people who do these things, but you are not them. The best you can do is give some money (when so much more than you could ever give is needed) and post this to Facebook.

And that is something real, and perhaps something that can save you from being judged justly. For if it is truly the case that there is so much you can’t do, than Allah will bless you in what you can do. You can make du’a. You can give a small amount of money. You can spread the word. Allah does not judge you for what is out of your control. You cannot liberate the Rohingya people from their oppressors. You cannot grant them citizenship with the wave of a hand. You cannot build them all sturdy dwellings to make it through the upcoming monsoons.

But you can do something, so do it.

If it is not this, then do something that you think is better.

May God save you and I from the Fire.

Bismillah.

judge-1

when, like me, you face the reality of your shortcomings in the middle of the month of Ramadan, then perhaps you will feel what i felt when i read this prayer a friend sent me:

 

My God, if You do not forgive in this honored month anyone except the one who sincerely purified himself for You, in his fasting and his prayers, then who will be there for the negligent sinner, when he drowns in the sea of his sins

My God, if You do not have mercy on any except the obedient, then who will be there for the disobedient

And if You do not accept from anyone except the performers of good actions, then who will be there for those who fall short

My God, those who fast have profited, those who stay up in the prayer have won, and those who are sincere have succeeded

but we are Your sinful servants

so be kind to us through Your Mercy

and save us from the Fire through Your Forgiveness

O Gracious, O Most Merciful of those who show mercy

 

begging

An important Islamic belief is believing in the Barzakh, the realm where everyone who has ever died is currently existing.

It is mentioned in the Qur’an:

When death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord! Take me back, that I may act righteously in what I have left behind.’ ‘By no means! These are mere words that he says.’ And ahead of them is a barrier (barzakh) until the day they will be resurrected.

Commenting on the Barzakh in his book entitled Sabīl al-Iddikār, a widely respected Sunni scholar Shaykh Abdullah al-Haddad رحمة الله عليه remarks:

The Intermediate Realm is the abode which lies between the world and the life-to-come. It has more affinity with the latter, and is in fact a part of it. It is a place where spirits and spiritual things are predominant, which physical bodies are secondary but share with the spirits in their experiences, whether felicity and joy, or torment and grief.

In another book entitled Manāzil al-Ākhirah, the widely respected Shī‘ī scholar Shaykh Abbas al-Qummi رحمة الله عليه states:

A question may arise in the minds of people as to where does such a vast event of Barzakh take place. A human’s intellect is beyond its understanding. In narrations this universe is compared to the mother’s womb, and the state of Barzakh to the expansive world outside it. If a child in the mother’s womb is informed about a vast and expansive world outside, it will be difficult for it to grasp it. In the same manner human intellect cannot understand the state of the expansive Barzakh.

As we grow spiritually, we find our minds and hearts returning to the Barzakh. Why? Because it is the place where our deeds become manifest. Fasting in the month of Ramadan, praying obligatory prayers, avoiding what has been forbidden by God – these actions are not only meant for the Day of Judgement. They are also ways of seeking mercy in the Barzakh.

It is often said in the Islamic tradition:

الدنيا دار عمل والآخرة دار الجزاء

This world is the realm of action, and the next world is the realm of recompense.

When we finally reach the Barzakh – something that we all will face – there will be nothing that we can do to save ourselves then. All that we can hope in, after the mercy of God, are the deeds that we did for God’s sake while we were still alive.

Billions upon billions of individuals exist in the Barzakh. Anyone specific that you know who lived and died on Earth – Einstein, Paul of Tarsus, Joan of Arc, al-Ghazali, Mulla Sadra, and so on an so forth – is there now. Every Muslim on earth says in their prayers

السلام عليك أيها النبي و رحمة الله و بركاته

Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of God and His blessings

Where does that greeting go? Our belief is that it goes to the Barzakh, to be heard by the Messenger of God, blessings upon him and his family. Practically speaking, one scholar has put it this way: “You don’t have to be in Madinah for the Prophet to hear you!”

There are innumerable stories about the barzakh in our Muslim literary heritage. In the aforementioned Manāzil al-Ākhirah it states

During my days in Najaf, there broke a severe famine. I left my house leaving behind my children who were crying with hunger and thirst so as to search some sustenance for them. I passed through Wadi-us Salaam [a famous graveyard in Najaf] and entered there in with the intention of reciting Fatiha for the departed souls, as this act would pacify me and make me forget my sorrow. I saw some people in the graveyard with a bier, and they requested me to join them in the funeral. Being an act of great reward I accompanied them. They carried the bier and suddenly we entered into a vast garden. They took the bier in a huge and beautiful place therein, which had all the amenities of luxury. I entered through the door and saw a handsome youth wearing splendid attires seated on a golden throne. As soon as he saw me, he addressed me by my name and saluted me. He signaled me to go near him and I replied in the negative. He said “I am the same person whose funeral you are attending. I am a native of so and so town and the people you saw in my funeral were the blessed Angels, who brought me from my town to this Paradise for the intermediate (Barzakh) period.” When I heard these words from the lips of the person, I forgot my sorrow and started adoring the beauties of the garden. When I came out of the garden, I saw some other places, and when I observed carefully I saw my departed parents and relatives standing at the doors. When they saw me, they invited me to enter in. I entered therein and they invited me for food, which was very delicious. While eating I suddenly remembered my wife and children who were dying of hunger and thirst and my face turned pale. My (father) understood and said, “O my son Mahdi! What is the reason for your sorrow”? I replied, “O father! While eating, I suddenly remembered that my wife and children are dying of hunger at home, and that made me sad.” He pointed towards a stock of rice and told me to take as much as I desired. I spread out my cloak and filled it to the full. And as soon as I got up, I found myself standing in the same place in Wadi-us-Salaam. With my cloak filled with rice, I hurried towards my house and we ate to our full. Quite some time passed, but the stock never got over. One day my wife asked me as to where I had got it from. She forced me to tell her, and I had to narrate the whole incident to her. She got up in excitement to take some rice from it so as to eat it, but it had disappeared.

These stories give comfort to our souls. They help us imagine a place that is literally beyond our dreams. It is important for all of us to cultivate a connection with the Barzakh. One can do so by visiting graves, giving charity on behalf of those in the Barzakh, and many other means.

It is reported that when the Messenger of God, blessings upon him and his family, would visit the graveyard he would say to the people in the Barzakh, “You have gone on ahead of us and we will follow you.”

How undeniably true.

We are all on our way there right now.

 

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O Allah,

You Who have clothed us,

Your weak servants,

with the dress of existence

through Your grace and favor and pure mercy and generosity,

prior to any service and worship on our part,

and without needing our worshipping and servitude.

You have bestowed upon us diverse kinds of spiritual and corporeal favors,

and different sorts of internal and external mercies,

although our non-existence causes no flaw

in Your power and strength,

nor our existence adds anything

to Your greatness and prestige.

Now that the headspring of Your beneficence gushed forth,

and the sun of Your Beautiful Beauty effulged,

drowning us in the seas of mercy

and illuminating us with the lights of Your Beauty,

make up for our shortcomings,

sins

and failures

with the light of internal success

and Your secret help and guidance,

and relieve our fully attached hearts from mundane attachments,

and make them cling to Your Holy Might.

 

(Prayer at the end of Ādāb aṣ-Ṣalāt: The Disciplines of the Prayer)

Rouhollah_Khomeini_in_exile,_Najaf,_Pilgrimage_the_shrine_of_Imam_Ali_(6)

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