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Islam means "submission to God in peace". Islam teaches there is only One God, whose primary name is "Allah" in the Arabic language. Islam is the same essential message given to all the prophets, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally to the Last Prophet, Muhammad, (peace be upon them all). They all proclaimed the same basic Divine message: worship only God, stop worshipping human beings and other created things There's a different between Islam and Muslims!! What's the purpose of life? What Do You Know About Islam? Not what you have heard about Islam, not what you have seen in the actions of some Muslims, but what do you really know about Islam?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Islam Story and Reasons for Islam

My name is Ruba Qewar, I was born in Denmark year 1981, then came with the family to Jordan in 1985, my father became a pastor of the church after my grandfather who was a pastor too. My uncle is a pastor and my cousin is married to a pastor as well. We are a very religious family.

I stayed in Jordan from 1985 – 2002 and studied in mostly Islamic schools. I moved then to the United States as an immigrant, and my father died in 2003. At that time I started to move away from Christianity – after I was a very devoted Christian, serving the Lord in the church – and had a cultural shock.

Islam Story and Reasons for Islam:

There are four reasons blew my mind and made me seriously thinking to convert to Islam and become a Muslim:

Bible Study: I met a group of youth people in the school. One of them asked me: “Where did Jesus say in the Bible that he’s God?” I answered him from the Bible: “Jesus said: The father and I are one! Whoever saw me saw the father!” He replied: “That doesn’t prove that the Christ is God! God talked to Moses in the Old Testament and said to him frankly that HE is the Only God that worthy to be worshipped. Jesus never said: I am God in the New Testament!”
I went home and and started to read the Bible, I was astonished when I read through to find the Truth. I couldn’t find one verse Jesus says about himself that he’s God or “The God Son!” I have read the four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and I started to be worry when I reached to the end of John because I couldn’t find one verse proves the divinity of Jesus!
I closed the Bible, looked at the book and asked myself: “why am I worshipping Jesus if he never said that he’s God? Where did I get my information from about the theology of the Christ?” I remembered when I was studying the History of the Bible, the British Professor said: “I have gone to the museum of the manuscripts of the Bible. I found that most of these Greek manuscripts are lost, destroyed and wiped out!” I asked myself: “If God is Perfect, then why His book is imperfect?” Finally a verse at the end of John enlightened in front of my eyes which made me think deep and change my view about the Christ. Jesus says in John 17 : 3 “This is the Eternal Life; is to know You – the Father - as the only true one God and Jesus Christ who you have sent!” it’s like Jesus is saying that there is only one God worthy to be worshipped and Jesus Christ is a Messenger of God! This what made the correct Fitrah (The correct faith that God put in our heart from the day we are born) to grow again in my heart. Since then I left the church and I started to seek for another monotheist church!

Reading the Qura’an: I went to many other churches to seek the Truth, I asked my Uncle – who is a pastor in the Baptist Church – and I debated with my mother so many times about the divinity of Jesus! I went to Buddhist temple and talked to the monks, I entered the Sikhs holy places and watched them while they’re worshipping their God!
Finally! I decided to read the Qura’an, not to seek for the Truth but to prove to the Muslims that they are wrong and I am right! I wanted to find the mistakes in the Qura’an and attack them! I have learnt in the church that the Qura’an is only a written book from someone who calls himself a prophet! I never thought that this may be the Truth since I well experienced the treatment of the so called Muslims! I never thought that Islam would be a way of the salvation!
I didn’t have a Qura’an at home, so I opened ‬‪ and started with the first chapter – Alfatihah, Albaqarah, Al-Imran, etc.
The first thing Jesus said when he was still a baby: “I am the slave – servant – of God!” Also Allaah says in the Qura’an: “certainly the people have committed blasphemy who say that God is Three gods!” that was an answer for me about the Trinity! Even the way of reading the Qura’an is totally different than the Bible. I wanted to search the bible to find prophesies about the Qura’an and the Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings be upon him – in the Bible.
Finally I reached to Surat Al-Ma’edah verse 82 where Allaah says: “82. Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": because amongst these are men devoted to learning (pastors) and men who have renounced the world (monks), and they are not arrogant.”This verse grabbed my attention and started to read thoroughly – since I am from a family full of pastors and religious people, then continued: “83. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth:” I started to cry because I knew this is the Truth and I knew that Jesus Christ has prophesied about the Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him in John 16. Then I read: “they pray: "Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses” I said: “Oh Lord, I have believed!” Then the Qura’an says: “"What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?"”

I immediately went to my friends and said: “I bare witness that there is no God worthy to be worshipped but Allah, and I bare witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Identity crises: I was suffering all the time from the way people looked at me as Jordanian Arab CHRISTIAN female. I was one of the minorities in the Arab world, and I was taught as a minority that I had no rights in my country and I was being persecuted! When I moved to the USA, this did not change because I was one of the minorities in the US; I was a foreign Christian Arab female! I had to identify myself in the society. This feeling started with me when I was in the 10th grade.

The Political Events: One of the most influential events in my life was September 11th then the Abu-Ghareeb prison. I asked myself: what made people attack Islam and Muslims all the time? I had the belief – before Islam that Christians are the ones who are persecuted all the time! However after I saw what’s happening in the world I found that Islam is the one being hijacked! This is how the world treats the Truth all the time! So I was assured that Islam is the right religion. Before I say my witness statement, I was driving my car towards my friends – who I called and I haven’t seen them for at least two months – I said to myself: “24 years living as a lost person! 24 years of my life serving a religion that is built on theories and myths that are not exist in the Bible” I was so scared of the reaction of my family when they know that I will become a Muslim! I was afraid of the reaction of the society! Finally I saw my friends while I am crying and said: “I bare witness that there is no God but Allah and I bare witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”

I felt a great happiness to the limit that I wanted to stand on a high place and say: “I am a Muslim!” I didn’t care about anything

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Flow, Fasting and Falaah (part 1 of 2)

Description: How to achieve profound happiness and satisfaction or ‘flow’.  Part 1: What are the ingredients that lead to ‘flow’.

I am covered in sweat and my heart rate has gone through the roof.  I could walk, and my body is telling me to sit down, or at least walk, but I crank the peddles, powering my mountain bike up the stony piece of single track.  I can’t get enough air into my lungs to feed my burning legs, but I keep going.

No one is forcing me up this mountain.  It’s not some cruel punishment meted out by a tyrant for misdemeanours.  I choose to do this.  Why?  Is it because of the descent that follows the painful climb?  Partly, but then that has its own madness, hurtling down a hill over rocks and roots at speeds where a crash might well result in serious injury or worse, but the smile it leaves on my face when I reach the bottom remains in my heart long after it has left my face.  So again: Why?  After I ride my mountain bike, having made it up grueling climbs and technical descents I feel a profound sense of happiness that can only come from having accomplished something worthwhile.  That paradox is that in order to feel that I needed to suffer.  In fact the harder that task, the more the suffering the more profound and longer lasting the sense of accomplishment.  Is this is why some women manage to have large numbers of children despite the enormous pain and hardship it entails, not only in carrying and delivering that child, but in bringing it up, because of the profound sense of achievement that undeniably is connected with that activity?

This sense of profound happiness and satisfaction is what has come to be known as optimal experience, and what is commonly referred to as a state of flow.  It is most intense when a person is so completely absorbed in an activity, when body and mind are one and everything is just “happening.” It is most commonly experienced during sports, but in fact it can be achieved during a huge range of physical as well as mental activities, but they all share some common traits.  This state of optimal experience or “flow” is only reached under certain conditions which have been identified.

Firstly the activity must be neither too difficult or too easy.  If it is too hard, a person is demotivated, too easy they are bored.  Ideally it should be on the very edge of one’s abilities, pushing the limits and out of the comfort zone.  The reason for this, is that although the task itself maybe be hard, or even unpleasant, the end result is the knowledge that one has improved oneself.  It is this feeling of having improved that is the key, because it is connected to person’s feeling of self worth.  This is enhanced when one can add to that the knowledge that one has in addition contributed, even in some small way to the betterment of humanity.

Secondly the activity should be defined, in the sense of a specific goal and provide immediate feedback.

Thirdly, another important dimension is that the activity must be autotelic.  This means the activity is done for itself, as opposed to doing it for some external factor.  Some people have autotelic personalities.   These are people who are internally driven, and as such may exhibit a sense of purpose and curiosity.  This determination is an exclusive difference from being externally driven, where things such as comfort, money, power, or fame are the motivating force, as  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, writes in his book Finding Flow: The Psychology of
Engagement with Everyday Life

“An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding.  Because such persons experience flow in work, in family life, when interacting with people, when eating, even when alone with nothing to do, they are less dependent on the external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life composed of routines.  They are more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with threats or rewards from the outside.  At the same time, they are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life.”

These are the people who have embraced the inner struggle on the path to true happiness.

Again and again in survey after survey people are asked what do they think is most important key to happiness and the response is always the same: Money.  If not money it is some external thing connected to it.  People imagine that relaxing, watching a movie, listening to music, drinking alcohol or taking drugs or having sex are the activities that make one happy, and it certainly is true that whilst one is involved in them they do result in enhanced states.  In fact research shows that when people are actually asked to rate those experiences while and after they are involved in them they actually rate them low in the happiness stakes.  The things that people actually rate the highest in the happiness stakes are the “flow” experiences.  Perhaps happiness is not even the right word to describe this state, since it is more profound and lasting.  The point being is that most of us think that happiness lies in the material things, and we exert huge amounts of time and effort in trying to acquire a bigger house, faster car, more fashionable clothes, sexier partner, but the joy we get from these things fades very quickly.  It’s called hedonistic entropy.  Soon enough we become familiar and bored with those things and we aspire to something newer, faster, sexier, bigger, better, which if and when we get it we are soon bored of that.  It’s the dream of the pursuit of this happiness through externalities that drives the consumer society.  It’s a dream that is of course a lie.  Things don’t make people happy.  Happiness is an inner condition.  It is achieved by exerting effort, by struggling to gain mastery and control of oneself, and by then applying oneself to achieving what is worthwhile.

One could hardly find two different ideas of happiness.  One is about self indulgence, and the other is about self discipline and controlling one’s whims and desires, yet it is becoming increasingly clear and the evidence is stacking up as to which one actually makes humans happy.

It is a paradox.  In order to feel true happiness one needs to struggle.  The more noble the struggle the greater, more long lasting and profound the sense of happiness.  It is clear to see then in the context of this why religious people live happier lives.  All organised religions, by virtue of being organised, lend themselves towards optimal experiences and development of autotelic personalities.  Why is the dimension of being organised so important?  This is simply connected with self discipline and the ordering of consciousness.  It is through regular prayer, devotions, fasting, charity etc...that a person learns self control and discipline.  They are not only doing these things when they feel like it they do it irrespective of the feelings they might have.  These are simple lessons in self mastery.
The narrative that we all too often hear is how we are all victims of our genes and upbringing and circumstance.  It is as if we were helpless puppets in the hands of fate.  We often hear the complaint that “my parents made me like this”, or “the trauma she suffered made her like that”, and as well “that’s just the way I am.”  Of course significant emotional events do impact on our behaviour, but we are not helpless victims.  We can change.

Flow, Fasting and Falaah

(part 2 of 2)

Description: How to achieve profound happiness and satisfaction or ‘flow’.  Part 2: The ingredients of flow are present in almost all forms of Islamic worship.  Flow-producing activities require an initial investment and self discipline. 

Let us take fasting as an example.  At some point when a person fasts they begin to feel thirsty and hungry.  What we call hunger and thirst are basic biological processes that cause signals to be sent to our brain, which basically tell us “eat”, “drink”, but we consciously choose to over ride these signals, to reject basic biological functions and commands because we have consciously chosen that there is a more important objective.  The factors that motivate us are very important, since the more they are connected with basic needs the less positive effect it will have and less optimal the experience will be.  For example, a person who fasts out of fear of getting caught eating or drinking, or for health reasons, will not benefit on the same level as one who, for example, does it completely with the intention to please God.  The former reasons are based on externalities, where as the latter is autotelic.  Even so, whatever the reason, fasting teaches us we can override our impulses, that we are not complete “victims” of our biology.  The fasting Muslim is given an added interesting dimension, in that the time for fasting is prescribed, from dawn to sunset, and that not delaying in eating and drinking or breaking the fast is also part of the discipline.  The fast is defined.  One is encouraged to break the fast with others, and provide food and drink for the fasting person.  The fasting Muslim, then has in the fast all the ingredients for flow.  The action is defined, not too easy or too difficult, it is autotelic and one feels that one has improved as a person and participated in or contributed to the group.  These conditions actually also apply to the five regular daily prayers, the obligatory charity and the pilgrimage to Mecca, indeed almost any act of worship.

The key to success in the inner struggle is intention.  It is intention that gives focus to consciousness, and whatever the consciousness, or mind is occupied with is the direction one will inevitable go.  What we think about we become.
This can act as positive loop or downward spiral.  If, for example, when you focus constantly on negative things, one’s consciousness becomes preoccupied with that, and then one focuses more on those negative things, which itself makes one more negative and more depressed.  The opposite is also true.

Intention is the firm resolve to do something.  It is a decision.  These intentions are very important, and key to controlling consciousness, and directing oneself in the way one needs to go.  It is here that the key to self control and self discipline lies.  It is also important to understand that we have limited mental energy.  It gets depleted like anything else.  Also we get distracted away from those things we intend.  We may be trying to set ourselves resolutely on a path but become distracted with doubts and worries.  These drain our energy, weaken our determination and can sometimes completely divert our attention.  Flow experiences actually increase our mental energy.  Why then do people often leave optimal experience for experiences that do little if anything to enhance the quality of one’s life? For example, U.S.  teenagers experience flow about 13 percent of the time that they spend watching television, 34 percent of the time they do hobbies, and 44 percent of the time they are involved in sports and games.  Yet these same teenagers spend at least four times more of their free hours watching TV than doing hobbies or sports.  Similar ratios are true for adults.  Why would we spend four times more of our free time doing something that has less than half the chance of making us feel good?

Flow-producing activities require an initial investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable.  If a person is too tired, anxious, or lacks the discipline to overcome that initial obstacle, he or she will have to settle for something that, although less enjoyable, is more accessible.  Many avoid them and instead involve themselves in passive experiences like sitting around and watching TV, because of the initial effort required to do flow activities.

People with self discipline learn to be resolute in their decisions and act on them, and then find ways to get optimal experience from those actions.  They will overcome this initial reservation and bring flow into their lives.

One of the most useful things in this regard are the five daily ritual prayers that a Muslim must make.  There is a tradition that states that if anyone prays two units of the ritual prayer, or salah, and thinks of nothing except Allah (God) all their sins will be forgiven.  This is in fact very difficult.  It is probably easier to climb mount Everest! This is because it is very hard to keep out random mental activity, unless one trains oneself to have focus.  This is the difference between the prayer of a person who makes the movements and says the words and one who prays properly, with understanding, attentiveness, awe and humility.

One can understand the saying of Prophet Mohammed when he said: “It may be that all a fasting person gets from his fast is hunger and thirst, and it may be that all a person who prays at night gets from his prayer is sleeplessness.”[1]
This inner struggle is called “jihad bil nafs” in the Islamic tradition and a great deal has been written about it.  It is said to be the best jihad, or the best struggle and that is fighting against one’s desires and passions for the sake of God.  It is more than interesting that much of what modern psychologist have come to understand about the human condition has already been expounded upon by Muslim scholars.  Indeed anyone familiar with the spiritual tradition in Islam who reads some of the writings on psychology would imagine that these psychologists had cut and pasted from the Islamic writings.

Flow can be experienced in negative and destructive things also.  It is also not enough merely to link lots of optimal experiences together, if your life as a whole has no meaning, no objective.

It is fascinating then that the Quran teaches that God, Allah, the Creator has made life a test and that He has created us in toil and struggle.  The successful ones are those who’s intention is most pure and action most correct.  It is our intentions, the state of our hearts that God looks at, not our outer appearance such as the colour of our skin, or wealth or status.  Purifying this heart, directing our minds towards the most noble goal of serving God, is the key to success (falaah), and indeed the very purpose of life.  Serving God of course does not just mean prayer, glorification and remembrance of God, but also caring for the needs of His creatures.  Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said:

“Verily, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, would say on the Day of Resurrection: “O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me.”
He would say: “O my Lord; how could I visit Thee whereas Thou art the Lord of the worlds?”

Thereupon Allah would say: “Didn’t you know that such and such servant of Mine was sick but you did not visit him and were you not aware of this that if you had visited him, you would have found Me by him? O son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me.”

He would say: “My Lord, how could I feed Thee whereas Thou art the Lord of the worlds?”

Allah will say: “Didn’t you know that such and such servant of Mine asked food from you but you did not feed him, and were you not aware that if you had fed him you would have found him by My side? (The Lord would again say): O son of Adam, I asked drink from you but you did not provide Me.”

He would say: “My Lord, how could I provide Thee whereas Thou art the Lord of the worlds?”

Thereupon Allah would say: “Such and such of servant of Mine asked you for a drink but you did not provide him, and had you provided him drink you would have found him near Me.””[2]

The paradox of happiness is that once you start to look for it, it will escape you.  It is only by embracing the inner struggle that we can find ourselves on the road to true happiness.
Watch out for my forthcoming book (inshallah – God Willing): “Embracing the Inner Struggle on the Path to True Happiness”.


[1] Narrated by Ahmad (8693); classed as Saheeh by Ibn Hibbaan (8/257) and by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb (1/262).
2] Sahih Muslim

By Abdurraheem