Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why Doesn't Istikhara Always Seem to Work?

disclaimer: These are my own thoughts on the nature of istikhara, I'm not a scholar. 

Istikhara is an acknowledgement that we as humans have limited knowledge and ability and don't know what's best for us and a request for Allah (SWT) to guide us.  

Here is the istikhara dua (from Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 263):

"O Allah! I seek goodness from Your Knowledge and with Your Power (and Might) I seek strength, and I ask from You Your Great Blessings, because You have the Power and I do not have the power. You Know everything and I do not know, and You have knowledge of the unseen. Oh Allah! If in Your Knowledge this action ------------------------------------------------ (which I intend to do) is better for my religion and faith, for my life and end (death), for here (in this world) and the hereafter then make it destined for me and make it easy for me and then add blessings (baraka') in it, for me. O Allah! In Your Knowledge if this action is bad for me, bad for my religion and faith, for my life and end (death), for here (in this world) and the hereafter then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and whatever is better for me, ordain (destine) that for me and then make me satisfied with it."

Now let's break it down:

"O Allah! I seek goodness from Your Knowledge and with Your Power (and Might) I seek strength, and I ask from You Your Great Blessings, because You have the Power and I do not have the power."

This is an admission of weakness. That we are not capable and we need God to help us. 

You Know everything and I do not know, and You have knowledge of the unseen.

This is another admission of weakness: that we do not have perfect knowledge of all things, even our own situations. It is also a praise, stating that we know Allah (SWT) knows everything, seen and unseen. This includes past, present, and future, all possible outcomes of any situation, everyone's actions everywhere and how they have or can interact. It's a MIND BOGGLING amount of information that we could never comprehend. We CANNOT and DO NOT know everything Allah (SWT) knows. Remember this. 

Oh Allah! If in Your Knowledge this action ------------------------------------------------ (which I intend to do) is better for my religion and faith...

"Better for my religion and faith" encompasses outcomes including but not limited to:
- increasing you in faith 
- helping you practice your faith
- not going against your faith
- not decreasing you in faith
- avoiding things that may decrease your faith

[better]...for my life and end (death)...

encompasses outcomes including but not limited to:
- making your life (and death) easier 
- making your life (and death) better
- avoiding things that may make either worse

[better]...for here (in this world) and the hereafter...

encompasses outcomes including but not limited to:
- making your quality of life better
- making your quality of life less worse
- making your afterlife better
- making your afterlife less worse (hey, take what you can get!)
- avoiding things that may decrease quality of life or afterlife

...then make it destined for me and make it easy for me and then add blessings (baraka') in it, for me.

The end of the first request: asking for the action/outcome, asking that achieving the outcome or performing the action is easy, and that the action/outcome has blessings in it (that good things will come from it). 

O Allah! In Your Knowledge if this action is bad for me, bad for my religion and faith, for my life and end (death), for here (in this world) and the hereafter... 

Now the converse of the request, encompassing outcomes that include:
- harming you, your health, your faith, and all the things connected to those
- worsening your quality of life, your afterlife, your life, your death and all things connected to those

...then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and whatever is better for me, ordain (destine) that for me and then make me satisfied with it.

The end of the converse of the request: asking for the action/outcome to appear undesirable, or be made unattainable, and to instead be turned toward something better and to be made pleased with it. 

After making the dua, it is recommended that you obtain as much knowledge on your decision as possible, in line with the "Trust in Allah, but tether your camel" way of thinking, then do what you wholeheartedly believe is the right choice. 

But...what if you do all this, and it turns out your decision was a bad one? You take the job, buy the car, go back to college, or whatever, and everything is awful? 

For instance: 
-The job is awful, you're miserable every day, it wasn't what you expected at all.
-The car ends up costing you hundreds of dollars every month in repairs, it's uncomfortable, it's hard to drive, just being in it raises your blood pressure. 
-You spend thousands on tuition, end up hating the coursework in the second year, and just wish you could drop out. 

Did Allah (SWT) reject your istikhara? You asked for a good outcome and this is NOT GOOD AT ALL. What's going on? 

Istikhara works. It always works. Your outcome IS always the best outcome, it may just not look like it because you have limited knowledge. By getting frustrated with the outcome of istikhara, you are essentially saying that you don't believe Allah (SWT) chose the best for you. Remember, we only have a tiny fraction of knowledge, whereas Allah (SWT) has all of it. 

Think bigger:

- Maybe that bad job WAS the best of the available options and you just need to stick it out until MORE options become available at which point Allah (SWT) will turn you away from it and ordain something better for you.
- Maybe without the car you would have been late to work and been fired.
- Maybe the experience with this car will shape future purchases resulting in more money saved in the long run. 
- Maybe sitting in this awful vehicle for 30 minutes each day is building your tolerance for discomfort prepping you for another situation you'll face in 2 years. 
- Maybe you needed to attend these courses to interact with certain people who will expand your mind in certain ways that will improve your faith or ability to do your job in 10 years. 
- Maybe you need to be at this job because Allah (SWT) thinks you could benefit from practicing some patience, or dealing with difficult personalities. Then in 4 years you'll be able to use this experience in another situation resulting in a good outcome.
- Maybe even just the stories from the place will earn you good friends and respect. 

These are all 'maybe's of course, because no one can know for sure until the time comes, and even then we can only guess at the connections. 

Or maybe you don't want to consider the million possible reasons why you had a bad outcome. That's fine, it doesn't change the fact that you still have limited knowledge. If you're looking for a quick and easy explanation, every bad situation has a few things in common: 

- they teach patience (a key aspect of the muslim personality)
- "With every difficulty there is relief." Quran 94:5
- there's a good story to be told later. 

Bearing a bad situation with patience is one of the best things a Muslim can do. 

Narrated by Abu Dawood, 3090; (classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in as-Silsilah as-Saheehah, no. 2599. )

"It was narrated from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Great reward comes with great trials. When Allah loves a people, He tests them, and whoever accepts it attains His pleasure, whereas whoever shows discontent with it incurs His wrath.”"

This goes hand in hand with the second commonality:

Narrated and classed as hasan by at-Tirmidhi (2396); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in as-Silsilah as-Saheehah, no. 146 
The two reasons are mentioned together in the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), according to which the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Nothing befalls a believer, a (prick of a) thorn or more than that, but Allaah will raise him one degree in status thereby, or erase a bad deed.”

Finally, the best stories are the ones where you overcame a difficulty. Maybe your story will inspire someone else, gain you a friend, get you a job, who knows. Allah (SWT) knows, but we do not. 

It's arrogant to assume that we are so special that doing istikhara will always result in the outcome that we like and we'll never experience any hardship if we do istikhara. Istikhara doesn't ask for the outcome that makes us content immediately. It asks for the outcomes that are better for our deen and dunya as a whole and across our entire life and into our afterlife. And even if it did ask for an immediate, positive outcome, Allah (SWT) always answers, but sometimes the answer is "No", and the dua gets banked. As always, Allah (SWT) knows best. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

e-Supp Supplication App for iOS.

A colleague of mine released an app a little while ago call e-Supplications (e-Supp) on the iOS App Store. 

They were frustrated with the supplication app they had been using and how:
a) it hadn't been updated in YEARS, 
b) it didn't have the option to search for supplications, and
c) it didn't have the option to save favourites. 

He checked the app store and found a nice looking app, but upon trying it was HORRIFIED to discover his supplications were interrupted (at random) by pop up ads. The first one was for McDonalds. I'm not kidding. A supplication app, he thought, should NOT have ads. Either charge a price for it to recoup the cost of making it/donate all proceeds to charity, or make it free. 

So, he did just that. 

The app can be found here, please give it a try and leave a review! He asks that if you like the app, give a small donation in his name to the charity or masjid of your choice! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On Atheism

The following reflects my own personal thoughts and not the thoughts of all muslims everywhere. 

This is obviously a discussion that will take much longer than a single blog post to cover, but I'd like to just share my thoughts on the issue. 

Atheism as I understand it, is the denial of the existence of God. Islam is the complete opposite: the belief in the existence of (one) God, and all the rest that follows from that belief. 

A common argument from Atheists is that God must not exist because we haven't proven God exists. We can smash atoms, and find the edges of the Universe, but we haven't yet found any (at least to them, satisfactorily) empirical evidence that God exists. This is the most arrogant thing I have ever heard. It implies that we, humans, know all there is to know about everything and have every available means, right now, today, to detect and test everything. Rubbish, we haven't "detected" God, because we don't have the technology, simple as that. Keep working, and one day we might, but this opens up a whole new can of worms from the theist side about God allowing that to happen, and so on. We are muslims, we believe in Allah (SWT), the Angels, and the Jinns, so we believe they have mass and energy and other attributes and it is therefore only natural to assume that there is SOME way of measuring and detecting them. Of course, we may NEVER reach the level of technological advancement to do so before Judgement Day hits. 

The next argument Atheists like to throw around is the usual "What kind of just and merciful God creates diseases and poverty and hunger, and lets children die and the corrupt flourish, etc." More arrogance. Yes, these, to us, in our little bubble, are all very horrible things. It certainly does seem that God isn't being kind and merciful, but there we go again assuming we know everything. The simplest explanations include 

a) God is MUCH smarter than we are, it's foolish to pretend we can fully understand everything He does, 
b) these hardships ARE a mercy because they're a mere slap on the wrist compared to the punishment in the afterlife, 
c) if the (seemingly) innocent are punished then we can probably be sure they're are going to have a VERY easy trial on judgement day, and 
d) the corrupt sometimes flourish because this life might be all they're getting. 

Humans have a history of rejecting things they don't understand. Didn't they reject the notion that the Earth was round at one point? Didn't they reject the notion that all humans are created equal? And we're STILL rejecting things, like climate change. We are not as clever as we like to think we are. 

Finally, belief is the name of the game. OF COURSE God can prove He exists: He is able to do all things, but then the game would be over. He Himself said that:

And they say: "Why has not an angel been sent down to him?" Had We sent down an angel, the matter would have been judged at once, and no respite would be granted to them. (Quran 6:8)

The challenge is to believe without seeing, without repeatable and measurable evidence, with just a handful of Holy Books and a list of Prophets and Messengers, with some prayers answered and some not, with a great mish-mash of good and wicked people flourishing and being punished, with all the mixed messages and mystery. That's why it's called faith. 

To summarize: a) we haven't "proven" God exists with technology because our technology isn't advanced enough, b) God is smarter than we are and does things we may not understand, and c) God isn't going to send an angel or just appear to us because that will end the trial; the point is to believe. d) if you are wondering what the point of the trial is see b). 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Brief Guide on How Muslims Get Married

So, I'm getting married (yay!) and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. The internet surprisingly wasn't much help though, as no one seemed to have a clear and concise guide to what MUST happen for two muslims to be considered married. No one quoted anything, and all some websites would mix in cultural practices. The other thing I was a little depressed to see was the number of people who were asking how to get married would ask how to get married in secret because their parents didn't agree with their choice of spouse, or the fact that they were in school, or something or the other: a topic for another time though. 

Here's what I found, and of course, if in doubt, consult your local Imam. 

Step 1: Find someone you want to marry and who wants to marry you, and who is not engaged to someone else, and who's waiting period (if she has been recently divorced) is over. Also, make sure you are both getting married for the right reasons (love, children, chastity, worship, self improvement, and so on). Have the right intention, make sure you CAN marry them. I'm not going into more detail here, because this should all be obvious stuff. This guide is basically assuming everything else is in order: there's no reason why you CAN'T be married.

I'm just going to briefly touch on the topic of the governments requirements. Every state and province has it's own requirements for marriage. You can be married according to the government but not the religion, and vice versa. In Canada, nearly all marriages are carried out by an Officiant, who will act as a representative of the government to make the marriage legal by submitting the marriage document to them after the ceremony. Saskatchewan, for example, has a list of officiants, and you call them to book an appointment (i.e the wedding day). Some areas have officiants who are also Imams, which is convenient because then you can take care of the khutba and the officiating with one person. Okay, now that you know you need to make sure you meet your state/provincial marriage requirements, back to the important part. 

You are going to need:

1. Permission of the brides guardian that the groom can marry her and she him (cover all bases).

According to Imam Ghazali (
) the permission of the brides guardian is required in order for the marriage to be valid. 

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: The marriage of a woman who marries without the consent of her guardians is void. (He said these words) three times. If there is cohabitation, she gets her dower for the intercourse her husband has had. If there is a dispute, the sultan (man in authority) is the guardian of one who has none.  (Sunan Abudawud, Book #11, Hadith #2078)

I would imagine that if she has no guardians, the "sultan" referred to would probably be the officiant acting on behalf of the government.

2. Consent from the bride that she WANTS to marry the groom.

There are no forced marriages in Islam. Consent is to be given freely and willingly, with no coercion, blackmailing, etc.  

Narrated Abu Haraira: Allah's Apostle said, "A lady slave should not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a virgin should not be given in marriage until her permission is granted." The people said, "How will she express her permission?" The Prophet said, "By keeping silent (when asked her consent)."(Sahih Bukhari Book #86, Hadith #100)

I believe "keeping silent" implies that she would voice her objection if she didn't want to marry and doesn't exclude "agreeing happily" as a form of consent.

Narrated Al-Qasim: A woman from the offspring of Ja'far was afraid lest her guardian marry her (to somebody) against her will. So she sent for two elderly men from the Ansar, 'AbdurRahman and Mujammi', the two sons of Jariya, and they said to her, "Don't be afraid, for Khansa' bint Khidam was given by her father in marriage against her will, then the Prophet cancelled that marriage." (See Hadith No. 78)  (Sahih Bukhari Book #86, Hadith#99)

3. The equivalent of two male witnesses of good character, sound in mind, able to hear the offer and the acceptance, and of legal age (i.e over puberty). 

The Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said: "There is no marriage without a wali (guardian) and two witnesses." (It is a saheeh hadith because of corroborating reports: Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, no. 1858).

The Quran also mentions the requirement for witnesses when writing contracts: 

"O you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things." (Quran 2:282)

4. A request or offer, and an acceptance.

This can be done 2 ways:

i. The groom asks the guardian for the bride and the guardian accepts.
ii. The guardian offers the bride to the groom, and the groom accepts.

In each case, it has to be very clear about who is offering and accepting who. Do not use the word "daughter" if the guardian has more than one for example. It's really just best to address her by full name:

Guardian to Groom: “Praise be to God and blessings upon the Mes­senger of God. I give you my daughter, so and so, in marriage”; 
Groom to Guardian: “Praise be to God and blessings upon the Messenger of God. I accept her in marriage upon this dowry (sadaq).”


Groom to Guardian: "Please give so-and-so in marriage to me for this agreed upon dowry."
Guardian to Groom: "Yes, I give so-and-so in marriage to you."

5. A dowry from the groom to the bride. 

It doesn't have to be much, even just a ring:

Narrated Sahl bin Sad: A lady came to the Prophet and declared that she had decided to offer herself to Allah and His Apostle. The Prophet said, "I am not in need of women." A man said (to the Prophet) "Please marry her to me." The Prophet said (to him), "Give her a garment." The man said, "I cannot afford it." The Prophet said, "Give her anything, even if it were an iron ring." The man apologized again. The Prophet then asked him, "What do you know by heart of the Qur'an?" He replied, "I know such-and-such portion of the Qur'an (by heart)." The Prophet said, "Then I marry her to you for that much of the Qur'an which you know by heart."  (Sahih Bukhari, Book #61, Hadith #547)

("And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any harm (as Allah has made it lawful)." Quran 4:4)

Also, it's a gift, not a purchasing price. 

6. An Audience

This part basically fulfills the "announcement" part of the wedding. The point of a wedding is to let everyone know that these two people are off the market and in a lawful relationship, and so on. Everyone in the audience acts as witnesses (in addition to the two primary witnesses). 

The Hadith I keep finding is "Make the marriage well-known and announce it.", by no one mentions which book of Hadith it's from. There's a weaker version of it that includes holding the marriage in the masjid, but I'm not going to include it here. The closest I can find is this:

"It was narrated from 'Aisha: that the Prophet said: “Announce this marriage, and beat the sieve for it.”Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol 3, book 9, hadith 1895. (

7. A meal

The Prophet (ﷺ) saw the traces of Sufra (yellow perfume) on `Abdur-Rahman bin `Auf and said, "What is this?" `Abdur-Rahman, said, "I have married a woman and have paid gold equal to the weight of a datestone (as her Mahr). The Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, "May Allah bless you: Offer a wedding banquet even with one sheep." (Sahih Bukhari 5155, Book 67, Hadith 90)

That's it! Do all that and you should be good to go! Combining the religious marriage with the civil marriage has the added benefit of a written agreement too, not that it's necessary. 

A much more in-depth look at marriage can be found here:


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kindness and Humility

An interesting event happened to me earlier today. I was on my way to a wedding when a rather scruffy looking man greeted my party at the door of the hotel. He had a bouquet of red roses, bright vivid ones and he was selling each rose for $6.00 each, asking the people entering the hotel to buy one to help out the homeless. He didn't plead or beg but seemed to be happy being a little industrious so as to help himself get by than to merely rely on the sympathy of strangers and do nothing. He said it with what I felt was a genuine sincerity and enthusiasm.

My party moved inside the building without purchasing any roses and made our way to the convention area. It struck me as incredibly heartbreaking that there was a man, poorly dressed, who was forced to sell single roses in front of a hotel where several rich people who probably thought very little of him strolled by. Had it not been for the fact that the people entering the hotel were dressed in formal suits and lavish dresses and this man standing out front was dressed in worn out clothes, there was no other difference. At the end of the day, that man was just as human as you and I, and in his own small way, he was trying to meet his needs in probably the only way he knew how or could given these difficult times. I went downstairs again to look for him again but he was nowhere to be seen. I truly regret not stopping at the entrance and doing something right then and there. I regret not helping him and treating him with dignity and decency. Except for my fancy clothes, there was no difference between he or I in the eyes of God.

This experience helped me appreciate once more something I already knew: the importance of never losing our humility. Our wealth, just as our hard times, are both tests for us. I have always felt that the mark of a person's character was revealed in how he/she treated someone who didn't need to be treated well and this meant all the poor people, the elderly, the children, everyone who in society's hierarchy would be considered below you. If the Prophet (PBUH) who is the greatest of all men could have a meal with his servants, who are we to treat anyone poorly, no matter what their situation in life?

My advice to everyone and a rule that I too shall strive to follow: treat every person who is down on his luck with dignity. Talk to them, listen to their story. At the end of the day, if the roles were reversed, you and I would wish that someone would treat us in this way too. These souls are oftentimes braver and have been tested far more than many of us who have been blessed by Allah (SWT). Never be harsh or condescending in either your words or the way you say your words and your actions and the manner in which you do them. After all, they are also your brothers and sisters in humanity and it is our duty to look after them. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Eid Mubarak to all!

We here at Islam-Hacks would just like to wish you Eid Mubarak! Ramadan is already over but the lessons learned do not have to be forgotten simply because one no longer has to fast. May the benefits that you achieved during Ramadan carry onto the year ahead and may Allah (SWT) accept our fasts. Ameen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

As Ramadan draws to an close...

As Ramadan draws to a close, it is worthwhile remembering the reasons why we fast in the first place. Long after the days of fasting have passed us by, the lessons we learned during this month should stay with us.

As cliched as it may sound, Ramadan really and truly is the one month that you can somewhat experience what life for a poor person may be like. Oftentimes when we are faced with difficulties, we tend to think that we have the worst lot on the planet and that other people have it so much better. Even though you may have heard it multiple times before, it really is true that there are millions more people who have it worse than you.

Here in Canada, we are blessed with plentiful access to fresh water. We can run our faucets for as long as we would like without any real regard for how much we use. Halfway around the world or even in your own neighbourhood, there is a person who would love this same luxury of not having to worry about the quantity of water available to him/her. In the same way, when we break our fast, many of us scarf down tremendous amounts of food to make up for the long fasting hours. For some people, Iftaar is a luxury they can not have.

I came across this randomly while surfing the web but it should paint a picture of the reality we in North America may never see: 'A leading Mufti in Saudi Arabia was brought to tears on live tv when he received a question from Somalia: “Is my fast accepted if we have no Suhoor or Iftaar?”'

Unfortunately, this is the reality of far too many people in this world. This is why even though the fasts may have been hard, it is important to remain mindful of the misery of the poor who can not even seek an escape from their difficulties. Most of us, regardless of what our problems may be, have the opportunity for a change and hope. The enormous difficulties facing other people all around the world and even within your own city can seem insurmountable and it can be difficult not to slip into despair about a change ever coming. Even if your circumstances right now seem challenging, if you have the opportunity for change, be grateful for it. For a lot of people in this world, even the hope of change can be a dream they may never realize. 

So even after Ramadan ends, let not the humility it brought you leave in the months to come. Be aware of your fellow man. Be conscious of the suffering in this world and let it soften your heart and make you grateful for all the blessings you have been given, no matter what your situation in life is.