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The Not-so-Average Joes

Written for

Umar. Abu Hurayrah. A’isha. Abu Bakr. These are among the giants of our Ummah (community). We’ve been hearing their names and stories since we were children and they still continue to inspire us.

But there are others – the seemingly “average Joes” so-to-speak. Some whose names only Allah (swt) knows, whose legacy remains unappreciated. Quantity-wise, they may not have contributed to the level of the well-known companions. Yet the fact that Allah (swt) has preserved their stories for us show the quality of their work. The common attribute of the three examples in this article is that of relevancy. They each saw a need in the community and did what was within their capacity to help, sometimes without even being asked.

In today’s culture, we are often pushed into what is known as the “founder mentality”. The idea that you have to be the first, the CEO of an empire, invent the latest technology, write a bestselling book. Society expects a tangible legacy from us. Yet in rushing to be the first, we often compromise on quality. Programs, websites, and institutes are started with enthusiasm and soon they are no longer doing any work. The emphasis on simply building does not give equal importance to sustaining yourself and your work. The focus becomes success, as defined by society, and not on doing significant, relevant, and quality work.

Instead of focusing on becoming a “founder”, look to the example of these seemingly “average Joes”. They had something to offer and Allah rewarded them for their sincerity and for their quality. Oftentimes we hear a story of an unknown Muslim who did something extraordinary that we now remember them for – perhaps it was the man who secretly cleaned the masjid at night which was only realized after he passed away. Or perhaps a brother or sister provided a safe space when the community really needed it. We know these stories and they make us feel good, but do they inspire us to produce quality work?

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Prophetic Narrations You Probably Have Never Heard - Part II


Last year, I shared a short compilation of Prophetic narrations that were unheard of in our English-speaking circles.

Alhamdulillah (praise belongs to God), a few of our readers asked that I continue sharing these narrations. I’ve compiled here, for the second time, a few narrations that resonated with me. The purpose of this compilation is to inspire you – as they have inspired me – to continue learning from the life, tradition and sayings of the one God has chosen as the best role model ﷺ (peace be upon him).

Before sharing them, I feel that it is necessary to add a disclaimer. While reading Prophetic traditions is one of the ways we can learn about our Messenger ﷺ and grow in love for him, it is important that we do not limit learning about him to only reading ahadith (Prophet’s teachings). We should not reduce hadith to “enlightening quotes” we read that give us a tingly-feeling and then forget. In addition to these readings, we should be actively learning about his life (sirah) as well as the context and meanings of these narrations.

Sirah has unfortunately become a kind of textbook science – we learn dates and events but forget to think about the actual human experience. He is the final and esteemed Messenger of God, but we forget that we can relate to him ﷺ. Do we talk about how the Prophet ﷺ was a single father after his beloved wife Khadija radi Allahu `anha (may Allah be pleased with her) died? Do we think of how the strong backlash against the Prophet ﷺ in the early days of the message affected his young daughters? Do we know how strong a relationship he ﷺ had with his uncle, Abu Talib, and how his death hurt him so? How much of the Qur’an was sent down to console the Prophet ﷺ during times of sadness and grief? He is the Messenger of Allah, but first and foremost, he is a human with human emotions and experiences. While the early people of Quraysh used the fact that he was a “simple human” as an excuse to not believe in the message, we see this as a blessing of Allah and a sign of the Prophet’s ﷺ humanity as well as a reminder that ultimate perfection belongs to Allah Alone.

There are so many narrations about so many topics related from the Prophet ﷺ. For this reason we read narrations which at first glace seem contradictory, such as the many examples we find of what constitutes “the best charity”. These narrations are not contradictory, rather they point to the many routes to good that one can take based on one’s situation, ability, intention and even personality. The main lesson we take away is that our religion teaches us not only spiritual purification, but also purification of our relationships, means of livelihood, communal obligations, and manners of speaking and actions. Islam would not be Islam if it taught us to only focus on our hearts while other aspects of our lives are corrupted1 .

  • Rabe’ah b. Kab, a poor companion, used to prepare water for the Prophet’s ﷺ wudu (cleansing before prayer) and would spend the night praying with him in the masjid. One night, the Messenger ﷺ said to him, “Ask me for anything.” Rabe’ah immediately responded, “I want to be with you in Paradise.” The Prophet ﷺ asked him, “is there anything else you would like?” He said, “That is all.” Then the Prophet ﷺ told him, “Then help me to fulfill your wish by prostrating often.” (Muslim)
  • No one has three daughters or three sisters and is good to them but that he will enter Paradise. (ibn Abi Shaibah)
  • Keep from harming and treating others poorly. That is a charity which you bestow on yourself. (Bukhari)
  • Helping someone with family or small children (is among the best actions). (Bukhari)
  • Shall I not tell you of an action that is a degree better than prayer, fasting and charity? To put things right between each other. Discord and hatred wears away one’s religion. (Abu Dawud)

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Beautiful Muslim Women in History

What comes to your mind when I say, “A beautiful Muslim woman”? Many of us may think of a woman in hijab (headscarf) or modest attire. Hijab is indeed beautiful, but by thinking Islamic beauty is only because of hijab, we are perpetuating the idea that beauty exclusively applies to an image.

While our religion teaches us to take care of our bodies and to maintain a pleasant physical appearance, it also emphasizes the need for every individual to develop an inward beauty: a beauty that comes with knowing Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala(exalted is He) and obeying Him, and that transcends the mere image of a person.  This inward beauty can actually become so radiant that it manifests in a person’s external appearance. It is for this reason that some of the righteous people of the past would comment on the physical beauty of those who prayed during the night or performed other righteous deeds.  Our Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) mentioned again and again the beauty of he or she who embodies good character. He ﷺ also emphasized to those seeking marriage to look for the one who is beautiful as a result of their character and religion. In this way, Islam defines beauty as something more profound than just the physical.

Our history is filled with beautiful women, women who were devout in their service to God and who lived lives of purpose and meaning.  Their beauty is so much more than physical appearance; we see in them the beauty of character, morals, deeds, speech and lifestyle.

While there are multitudes of incredible women to select from in our tradition, I have specifically chosen not as well known women who will shatter our narrow perceptions of beauty and break the stereotypes of how a “righteous Muslim woman” should or should not be. Here is a brief glimpse into their lives.

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Luminosity: Lessons from the Full Moon

In the summer of 2010, my friends and I went camping during a full-moon in the famous White Desert. As the sun began to set, we made camp and had dinner under the stars. It wasn’t until later in the night that we really saw the full-moon. For all the full-moons we’ve seen, nothing compared to the one we were lying under—away from the city lights and unobstructed by skyscrapers. It was one of the few things in this world whose beauty can only truly be appreciated in complete darkness.

The moon, and specifically the full-moon, has a significance in our religion. Our calendar relies on the cycles of the moon. It is a Prophetic tradition to fast the three “white days”, or the full-moon days of every month. There even is an authentically narrated Prophetic supplication to be said upon seeing the new crescent.

That night, I noticed three specific facets of the moon:

Beauty: I have not seen anything more beautiful than the full-moon on that night. I do not mean ‘beauty’ in the standard sort of way. It was a uniquely mesmerizing, captivating, and soothing beauty…A kind of beauty that leaves you speechless.

It was at that point that I understood why companion after companion compared the Prophet’s ﷺ  (peace be upon him) beauty to the full-moon.

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Prophetic Narrations You Probably Have Never Heard


As I became more advanced in my Arabic studies, I immersed myself in reading hadith (prophetic narrations) in the language spoken by our Messenger ﷺ (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). The more I read, the more I realized how many narrations we—as the English-speaking community—have never read or heard of before. I began to mark and translate these narrations, in hopes of reminding myself and sharing them with others.

Reading the words of the Prophet ﷺ is like hearing them from his blessed lips. I feel the weight of his words and I reflect on his wisdom. Each of God’s Prophets had a special gift, and one of the gifts of our Messenger was “jawami’ al-kalam,” concise speech. He ﷺ was able to say something with so much meaning in only a few words. His words still carry great meaning even after translation.

Unfortunately, it seems we have lost respect for hadith. We say, “The Prophet ﷺ said such-and-such,” yet his words do not impact us as they should. In order to gain this respect for hadith, we should remind ourselves of who it was who said these words. We should get in a mind-set of reverence and love for him while reading his words (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him).

Reading hadith also gives us a chance to spend time with our Messenger ﷺ. He is not here with us physically but his words and actions, by God’s Blessings, have been recorded for us by the scholars of the past. In a famous incident, the scholar ibn al-Mubarak was known to leave his study circle immediately after it was completed and go straight home alone. One day, his friends asked him, “Don’t you get lonely?” He replied, “How can I be lonely when I am spending time with the Messenger and His Companions?”

While there are many narrations that are not well-known in English, I have chosen a few that have impacted me. I hope that you benefit from them as I have (all narrations have been graded “authentic” or “good”.)

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Ya Ebaadi: My Servants


When Allah azza wa jal address His servants, He subhanahu wa ta’ala will say “‘ebaadi” - My servants. Sometimes the ‘yaa’ pronoun (yaa al-mutakalim, meaning “my”) will be there and sometimes it be omitted, while still retaining the meaning of “my”. Why this change?

Get ready to dive into the beauty of the Qur’an :)

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Learn Ilm

قال معاذ بن جبل رضي الله عنه : (تعلموا العلم ـ فإن تعلُّمه لله خشية، وطلبه عبادة، ومدارسته تسبيح، والبحث عنه جهاد، وتعليمه صدقة، وبذله لأهله قربة وهو الأنيس في الوحدة، والصاحب في الخلوة، والدليل على الدين، والنصير في السرَّاء والضراء، والوزير عند الإخلاء, والقريـب عند القرباء، هو منـار سبيل الجنة، يرفـع الله به أقواماً يجعلهم في الخير قادة وسادة، يُقتدى بهم، يدل على الخير، وتقتفى به آثاره، يجعلك مع الملائكة والمُقَرَّبين، يسبِّح لك كل رَطْبٍ ويابس، تستغفر لك حتى الحيتان في البحر، وهوامُّ السِباع في البَر، به يطاع الله عزَّ وجل ـ بالعلم يطاع الله عز وجل، كيف تطيعه إن لم تعلم ما أمره وما نهيه ؟ ـ وبه يُعْبَد الله عزَّ وجل، وبه يوحَّد الله عزَّ وجل، وبه يُمَجَّد الله عزَّ وجل، وبه يتورَّع الإنسان ـ يكون ورعاً ـ وبه توصل الأرحام، وبه يُعرف الحلال والحرام. هو إمام العمل يلهمه السُعداء ويحرم منه الأشقياء).

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Ramadan Supplication Series: Deen, Dunya and Akhirah


The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) had a special gift known as “jawami’ al-kalam” which means concise speech. He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was able to say something with so much meaning in only a few words. As we continue learning supplications from the sunnah, we see more and more how the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) combined so many benefits in one short supplication.

In today’s du’aa, we will see yet another example of his concise speech. In a narration recorded in Sahih Muslim, Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) used to supplicate:

اللَّهُمَّ أَصْلِحْ لِي دِينِي الَّذِي هُوَ عِصْمَةُ أَمْرِي ، وَأَصْلِحْ لِي دُنْيَايَ الَّتِي فِيهَا مَعَاشِي ، وَأَصْلِحْ لِي آخِرَتِي الَّتِي فِيهَا مَعَادِي

وَاجْعَلِ الْحَيَاةَ زِيَادَةً لِي فِي كُلِّ خَيْرٍ وَاجْعَلِ الْمَوْتَ رَاحَةً لِي مِنْ كُلِّ شَرٍّ

Allahumma aṣliḥ lī dīn al-lathi huwa ‘iṣmatu amrī, wa aṣliḥ lī dunya-ya al-lati fīhā ma’āshī, wa aṣlih lī ākhirati al-lati fīhā ma’ādī, wa-ja’al al-ḥayāta ziyādatan lī fī kuli khayr, wa-ja’al al-mawta rāḥatan lī min kuli sharr

O Allah, set right for me my religion which is the safeguard of my affairs. And set right for me the affairs of my world wherein is my living. And set right for me my Hereafter to which is my return. And make the life for me (a source) of abundance for every good and make my death a source of comfort for me protecting me against every evil.

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Dhikr in Jannah


The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said about the people of Jannah, “They will be inspired with tasbeeh (saying “subhanAllah”) and takbeer (saying “Allahu Akbar”) as they are inspired with breathing.” (Muslim)

“The analogy of breathing is used because it is something man does with no conscious effort. Their breathing will become tasbeeh, and the reason for this is that their hearts will be illuminated with the knowledge of their Lord, may He be glorified, and filled with love for Him, and whoever loves a thing remembers it frequently.” -Fathul Baari, Ibn Hajar rahimahullah

Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullah stated that this tasbeeh and takbeer will be one of the pleasures enjoyed by the people of Paradise. He said, “This is not the kind of obligatory work that is done for the sake of a specific reward. It is the same as the kind of deeds that people do for pleasure and enjoyment.” Majmoo’ al-Fataawa

-Taken from “Paradise and Hell” by shaykh Umar al-Ashqar hafidhahullah, pg 304.

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Eyes Protected from the Fire


It’s reported that Abu Rayhana (radi Allahu anhu) said, ‘The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which wept out of the Fear and Awe of Allah. Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which stayed awake and vigilant (through the night) in the Way of Allah. Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which looked away from that which has been forbidden by Allah.” [Narrated in Hakim, authentic according to Shaykh al-Albani]

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