Your Perceptions Define Your Experiences (Gems from Soul Food with Ustadh Amjad Tarsin)

The Muslim Chaplaincy at U of T runs an amazing weekly discussion circle called Soul Food.  Below are notes from one of the sessions this term. Alhamdullilah for spaces to grow and learn with others!

  • A true sense of hope is hoping for God’s mercy and working for it.
  • When you see a sunset, why do you enjoy it? When you’re with family, what is your response? The response should be thankfulness
  • Take advantage of every moment as an advantage of drawing close to God. We are sowing seeds for the akhira (afterlife)
  • What is your purpose? Tip: Spend 5 minutes at the end of the day and sit and reflect. Engage in dhikr and quiet. 
  • Death is around the corner. Allah and eternal bliss is what we should strive for. Death gives you immediacy. Contemplating death allows you to ask the question, where am I going? I’m going somewhere based on what I do here. How do I achieve the goals I have in the best way possible?
  • Don’t be attached to results, be attached to God.
  • Companions weren’t morbid, they were content with death. Natural to have a fear of the unknown but if have yaqeen, better able to handle things.
  • Is what I’m doing, what I’m intending, something I will be glad that I did?
  • Seek greater goals. Then everything you do becomes an act of worship.
  • A righteous person, funeral is like a wedding. Your perceptions define your experiences.
  • Really important to reflect on life. Where are you going? What are we attached to? What are our lives about? People who have a strong sense of this strive to do the most amount of good. Their hearts are full of the things that really matter.
  • As attachments to the world decrease, arguments, grudges, backbiting decrease.
  • We shouldn’t be small minded people, we should look at the big picture.
  • We tend to have shallow communications. We hang out with people, but don’t have deep communications. 
  • Chicken soup to a neighbour, the greatest act to change the world. Mutual acts of caring performed often forge a sense of belonging. Try to reignite the role of neighbours.

 

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Make Gratitude Your Banner (and other Jum’ah Reminders by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin)

Alhamdullilah for Jum’ah! Whenever I’m able to attend, it’s lovely to benefit from the lessons of teachers, and to fuel up with their reminders for the week ahead. Below are a few reminders I took away from today’s Khutbah by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at the University of Toronto. Duas that your Ramadan is going well! All mistakes in recall are my own.

1) This is a month of connection and reconnection. Reconnecting with God, reconnecting with family, reconnecting with community. Do not be of those who break family ties. And invite people. There are people in our community who may be international students far from home, or converts fasting on their own, or people who cannot afford iftar. Invite them over and feed them, and benefit from the tremendous reward.

2) Gratitude leads to increase. Make gratitude your banner.

3) The scholars say that Ramadan is a school. Take time to assess yourself honestly and ask yourself, what grade would I give myself? If you haven’t felt the sweetness of Ramadan yet, it’s not too late.

4) Security and safety are blessings. And it’s a blessing we cannot take for granted. We may all know people who do not enjoy this blessing, or are suffering from hardship or illness. But duas work. Take time every night, whether it’s one minute, or 5 minutes, or whatever you can do, to remember those who are suffering in other parts of the world.

5)  The last ten nights are coming, and in them a night is hidden that is better than 80 years of worship. Better than a thousand months. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was more active in these days than he was the rest of the month.

The Divine Wisdom of Green and Environmental Stewardship (Gems from Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at ISNA Canada)

 On the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, we were blessed with a wonderful lecture by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin that was a reminder to be people of gentleness who are embodiments of mercy on earth, and who understand that honouring the connection between ourselves and the rest of creation is an integral part of our faith, not simply a  ‘good thing to do.” Ustadh Amjad reminded us that our faith is one of mercy, and when we learn something that contradicts mercy, we need to re-evaluate our understanding of what we’re learning. He also told us beautiful stories of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and brought joy to our hearts by sharing how all of creation loves the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. This is more than just “community service” he told us, “All of creation deserves our respect and reverence because everything worships and praises its Lord.”

Finally, Ustadh Amjad ended his talk by giving us practical ways to become stewards of the earth, and his reminder to eat halal, good, wholesome, pure food is the one that resonated most with me. Ustadh Amjad’s lecture gave us practical ways to do this in our daily life. Notes from the lecture are below.

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Gems from Sidi Amjad Tarsin’s Khutbah “Where is the Love?”

Every time I listen to content from the Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto, my heart fills with joy, and I wonder why I don’t visit their SoundCloud page more often. Masha’Allah, the Chaplaincy content is relevant, practical and full of mercy, and I’m so glad it’s accessible to people like myself who live outside the Toronto area. (To sustain the Muslim Chaplaincy, you can learn more here) Below, my notes from their Feb 7th Khutba titled “Where is the Love.”

  • Be mindful of Allah. Every blessing we have is a manifestation of His generosity. And every blessing we have, and every luxury we enjoy should be used in His service and gratitude.
  • To proceed, one of the most important responsibilities we have as an ummah, as a community of believers is mutual love and concern for one another.
  • As the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said:  “None of you truly believes until you love for brother and sister what you love for yourself”. That extends to a brother or sister in humanity, and the rights we owe brothers and sisters in faith is even greater. The sincere concern we should express for one another is even greater.
  • Allah says in the Qu’ran: Indeed the believers, are brothers and sisters.” The bond of faith is greater than an intellectual agreement. It goes deeper than that. Our bond is rooted in the Real. We owe one another rights and we owe one another love. We owe it to love one another.
  • Sometimes we hear this and think it applies to someone else. Very easy for nafs to say other people are falling short. But we need to talk about I can improve, how we can improve. When we improve, the benefit will spread by Allah’s Grace.
  • Need to ask ourselves: How much love, how much sincere concern do I have for my brothers and sisters? And this is a duty. This is a duty we have to Allah and His Messenger and to one another, to have love for one another. We have to ask ourselves, how much love and concern am I showing?
  • The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him when he would sit with his companions, he would ask about people, he would notice when people were missing. When someone was sick, the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him would say, lets go visit them. It was a community that was built upon love and reverence of Allah, and it permeated and translated into the way that they treated one another. Which is why we are still benefiting from the fruits of their love and reverence 1400 years later in Canada. We have a responsibility to live that way, to care for one another and have that sincere love for one another.
  • We have to have that sincere concern for everyone, for people we don’t agree with, for people who may be falling short. It’s easy to show love to people who show goodness to us, who agree with us.
  • There was a companion that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him pointed out as a person who was granted Paradise. He didn’t perform extraordinary acts of worship, but when asked what he did for the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him to have pointed him out in this way, he responded saying, “I can’t think of anything special, but every night before bed I forgive everyone who has wronged me. “

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Gems from Embodied Light, Class 2 with Sidi Amjad Tarsin (Part 1)

In the second session of the class Embodied Light with Sidi Amjad Tarsin from the Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto, the physical description of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him was discussed. (The subject of the first session was the Prophet as light and the names of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him). Below, notes from the first half of the class. What I love about this class so far is that even listening from afar, learning about the Prophet creates a happiness in the heart. There was a moment in the class where the teacher described a story where the Prophet wore a red garment, and hearing that story really does make you long to see the beauty and light of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. What a gift to have teachers who make you want to be a better person and be someone who is loved by the Beloved! To learn more about supporting this mubarak class and other excellent programming, please see here.

  • What is love? How does love manifest itself, express itself in human interaction? Some ways:
  1. Doing things that make the person you love happy.
  2. Want to know everything about that person. You want to immerse yourself in that person.
  3. Want to emulate that person.
  • People around the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, were lovers.
  • The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, was physically the most beautiful person, even more beautiful than the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him. No one before him or after him was given that appearance, peace and blessings be upon him. He was neither exceedingly tall or short. He was in between, but inclined to tallness. His hair was neither fine nor coarse. His skin was neither white to the point of paleness nor was he dark, peace and blessings be upon him.
  •  One of the miracles of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was that everything about him was moderate.
  • When he brushed his hair it would part and also curl.
  • Allah has told us in the Qur’an, “We have made you a middle nation”. If you look at Islam, one of the amazing things about it is that everything is in moderation. Extremes in the religion are to be avoided. If you look at Islam, you have rules and you have spirituality.
  • The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had thick hands and feet. Prophet was manly, peace and blessings be upon him and was the most beautiful expression of manliness you can find.  One of the plights we have today is that men are not manly. The Prophet,peace and blessings be upon him, exuded strength.
  • He had a large head, but not exceedingly large. He had big limbs and bones. He was sturdy, peace and blessings be upon him. He had light hair on his chest in a line to his navel, peace and blessings be upon him.
  • When he walked, his whole body was involved in the process of walking. When you saw the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, knew that he was not a lazy person, peace and blessings be upon him. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, never dragged his feet. The Prophet’s actions and habits have wisdom. There is always something to do. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had determination in his life. He had things to do. And if you look at his life, in the span of 23 yeras, the Arabian Peninsula and the Quraysh went from being unknown to being world powers on a global scale. And of course the point of Islam isn’t to become a world power, but it goes to show how the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, transformed people. He did this (with the attitude)  that I don’t have time to waste. Nowadays we have people playing videogames into their thirties, have people watching movies all day long, but we should say, I don’t have time for that. I’ve got to change the world. I’ve got to connect people with Allah. I’ve got stuff to do. That’s how the Prophet was, peace and blessings be upon him. They say that when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was walking and had something to do, just get out of the way. Nobody could stay in his way, sallallahu alayhi wasalaam.

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Gems from Embodied Light, Class 1 with Sidi Amjad Tarsin (Part 2)

Below is a continuation of my notes from the first session of a series about the character of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him called Embodied Light. The series is taught by Sidi Amjad Tarsin of the Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto  (for more information on how to get involved please see here) and it’s a wonderful, heart softening listen so far. I’m so excited about the rest of the series!  The first part of my notes can be found here.  As always, the notes aren’t complete, but you can find the audio of the class here.

  • Even the mountains know the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. How do the mountains know the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him? What is the proof? Allah says, We sent you as a mercy to the Worlds.” Not just human beings. Not just a mercy to those who speak languages. A mercy to everything. And there is an interconnectedness between everything in creation. Everything in creation glorifies Allah. And the creation knows the beloved of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him.To the mountains, he is Abdul Khaliq. The slave of the Creator.
  • To the lands, the valleys and the deserts, he is Abdul Qadir. The slave of the most Able. The most Powerful.
  • In the sea, he is Abdul Muhaymin. The servant of the One who controls all things.
  • For the fish, he is Abdul Quddus. The servant of the most Holy.
  • One of the things that people don’t appreciate in the modern world is Islam is not just do this, don’t do that. Islam is not just halal and haram. Don’t listen to music, grow a beard, cover your hair, and that’s it. That that is as deep as Islam gets. No. This is deep. This is the truth sent from the One above the lofty thrones. This is the transformative reality sent from Allah for all humankind to become greater than angels. When ALlah tells Jibril, and Mikail and Israfil to bow down to Adam, what is that all about?  Is it just about don’t do this and don’t do that, and khalas, that’s it?  I’m not saying the rules don’t matter, the rules matter.
  • This is about Allah sending a truth and a light to your hearts to transform the world and to connect people with the One most high. It’s not child’s play.  It’s not a game and it’s not something that can be controlled by the egos of human beings.  You have to do this for Allah. When you study the greatness of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, what you really should understand is the greatness of Allah who ennobled him. And gave him all of that for us. For us to understand. So when Allah has a name for every single creature regarding the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, it is a sign of the magnificence and power of Allah. We should realize that this isn’t just something small, this is the greatest message. The Prophets, who used to commune with Allah wished they could be from the ummah of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him. They wished they could be in your shoes and my shoes because of the  greatness of what Allah has in store for his ummah. So we have to reflect upon this. We have to think about what is really going on. What do we have? When we look at people who don’t have what we have, and the thought crosses our mind that I wish I could have that, subhanAllah do we know what we have already?

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Gems from Embodied Light, Class 1 with Sidi Amjad Tarsin (Part 1)

One of my goals for Rabi al Awwal is to follow a series about the character of the Prophet called Embodied Light. The series is taught by Sidi Amjad Tarsin of the Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto (for more information on how to get involved please see here) and from what I’ve listened to so far, is a beautiful class. This is the first part of my notes from the first session. As always, the notes aren’t complete, but you can find the audio of the class here.

Why is this the title of the course?

  • Allah describes the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as a light. The thing about light is that we appreciate it on so many levels. In the material world, it helps us see, helps things grow, gives us warmth. Light is an extremely important quality in the material world. And then Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. One of the Names of Allah is al-Nur, the Light. There is a whole other dimension of what light is. So we have light in the physical world, spiritual light and Allah is the Ultimate Light.
  • Allah describes the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him as a light. That is why this is the title of the course because even on a physical level, the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him was light. Was one of his qualities and miracles. Allah says in the Qur’an, “There has come to you from Allah a light and a manifest book. (5:15)
  • Different interpretations of this verse but many people say the light is the Prophet, and the book is the Book.
  • The Prophet also has a beautiful dua: O Allah place light in my heart, and in my hearing light and light in my sight and light on my right and light above me and light below me; place light in my sinew, in my flesh, in my blood, in my hair and in my skin; place light in my soul and make light abundant for me; make me light and grant me light, and light behind me..and make me a light.
  • We know that the Prophet’s dua is answered. We should make this dua. It’s a dua that highlights this light, this luminosity, this nur.
  • 33:45-46  from the Qur’an: “O Prophet! Truly We have sent thee as a witness, a bearer of glad tidings, and warner.  And as one who invites to Allah’s grace by His leave, and as a lamp spreading light. Then give the glad tidings to the Believers that they shall have from Allah a very great bounty.”
  • A luminous lamp – this is the title Allah gave the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him. The beautiful thing about a siraaj (lamp) is that it is an object that gives light in and of itself.  The sun is a lamp. The light the sun gives off is intrinsic to itself. The light the moon gives off is a reflection. So when Allah describes the Prophet as a lamp, He is saying the Prophet’s light is intrinsic.
  • Qadi Iyad: The Prophet was called a luminous lamp because of the clarity of his cause and the illumination he brings to the hearts of believers.
  • So when we say embodied light, this is from the way Allah describes the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him.
  • How did the Companions of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him describe him? Hadith when Abu Hurarira said ” I never saw anything more beautiful than the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. Was as if the sun was running its course through his face.”
  • Companions said every time we saw the Prophet, was like seeing the sun rise. As if the sun was running its course through his face.
  • Story related by Sayyidna Aisha where she relates that she was sewing and it was dark, and the needle fell. She kept looking for it and couldn’t find it because it was dark. Then the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him walked into the room and the light from his face, made her see. His face was so luminous, peace and blessings be upon him that she could see. So she picked up the needle and started laughing. Then the Prophet said, O my beloved young one, what makes you laugh? And she said, I was looking for the needle and you walked in and I could see. And the Prophet said “woe to (waylun, waylun, waylun), to the one who doesn’t see my face on the Face of Judgement!” And she said O Messenger of Allah, who doesn’t see your face? And he said, “the miserly one.” And she said, who is miserly? And he replied, someone who when my name is mentioned doesn’t send peace and blessings upon him.”
  • There is a physical light to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him’s face.
  • Another companion was walking with the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him when it was a full moon (reminder: this is before pollution, no city light). And this companion is looking up at the full moon, and he is looking at the face of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, he is looking up at the full moon, and looking at the face of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him . And he said, “I swear by Allah, his face was more luminious than the full moon. More light was shining from the face of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him than the full moon.
  • Great grandson of Sayyidna Yasir and Sumaiya (first martyrs of Islam). He was asking an older women to describe the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. And she said, “my son, if you saw him, you saw the sun rising.”
  •  The light of the Prophet was visible in his father even before he was born.
  • So embodied light is chosen as the title of the course because that is what he was, peace and blessings be upon him. He was a light of guidance but he also had this luminosity. We also believe as Muslims that certain people have light in their face. And all of that is from following the one who was described by Allah as a light and a luminous lamp.

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