The Muslim Meme

// January 3rd, 2007 // Blog

A.k.a, iMuslim's pathetic attempt at spirituality!

Virtually every blogger i visit these days has been “tagged” with one of those meme questionnaires. Although they can be quite informative in a “i didn't really want to know that” kind of way (e.g., one at Sumera's blog asks you to list six weird things about yourself), i'm not sure they are the best use of one's time [yeah, i'm only being all serious cos no-one thought to tag me – *sniffles*].

One day i thought to myself: Why don't I start my own meme; one that might be of real use to the tag-ee? I.e., it'll be boring, but better for you – a bit like low-fat mayonnaise.

So this is my idea…

Several paragraphs below you will find the first surah [chapter] of the Qur'an, called Al-Fatiha (The Opening).

Some background for the infidels – oops, i mean, “non-Muslims”:
This chapter consists of seven ayahs [verses]; these are called the oft-repeated verses because this chapter is recited in every unit of the salat prayer [see Glossary]. If a Muslim were to only pray the bare minimum number of units for each of the five daily, obligatory prayers, they would end up reciting this surah twenty times in one day!

During the salat, one is in direct communion with the Creator and so one must try to clear the mind of all distracting thoughts. This state of focus and spiritual connection with God is called khushoo. Most Muslims will admit that it is extremely difficult to attain khushoo, for as soon as we commence our prayer, a million and one irrelevant thought bubbles begin to balloon in our brains and it becomes a constant battle to keep focus on the task in hand.

There are several suggested methods for attaining khushoo; i find one of the best ones is to learn the meaning of the most commonly recited Qur'anic passages, which are in Arabic. The recitation of Al-Fatiha is a pillar of the salat, that is, if one was to omit it or recite it incorrectly, the prayer would not be accepted and would need to be repeated. Thus i propose that we take the time to go through each verse of this important surah and figure out what it really means to us. No need to consult the official tafseer [scholarly exegesis], just contemplate on your own feelings and ideas. This is not about fiqh; this is about developing a deeper connection with the Words of Allāh, and thus with Allāh, the Glorious, Himself.

Key to the meme: The line in italics is the Arabic transliteration of the verse, which is also a hyperlink for the recitation by Muhammad Ayoob. The line in bold is the English translation, as interpreted by Muhammad Asad. Below that are my own impressions of the verse. They are short and not very profound – in fact, i am really looking forward to reading other people's thoughts in order to gain a better, more personal, insight into this surah.

Al-Fatiha

1) Bismilla-hirahma-nirraheem
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:

Sorry to cheat on the first line, but please refer to verse 3 for my reflections on this ayah.

2) Alhamdu lillahi rabbil 'alameen
All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds

Muhammad Asad has translated “Rabbil 'alameen” as “Sustainer of all the worlds”, but i always think of the meaning as “Lord of all the worlds”. I suppose there is not a great deal of difference. When i recite this verse, i picture the universe, or at least what i know of the universe; endless numbers of planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies and beyond. I realise that every one of these is in submission to God. Not only that, but every single atom of every single body within the universe is also in submission to God. We are all under His care and none of us can escape Him.

3) Ar-rahma-nirraheem
The Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace,

Ar-Rahman & Ar-Raheem, two of the most beloved attributes of Allāh, are like a warm, soft blanket; i am wrapped in a cloak of Mercy as i recite them.

4) Maliki yawmid-deen
Lord of the Day of Judgment!

But before i get too comfortable, i am reminded of the terrors of the Day of Judgement. I stand in the prayer with my head bowed, just as i will stand on that Day before Allāh, the Judge, in abject humiliation over a life of misdeeds and missed opportunities to do good.

5) Iyyaka na' budu wa-iyyaka nasta'een
Thee alone do we worship; and unto Thee alone do we turn for aid.

This is my favourite ayah of the seven. It is sad to admit, but sometimes i rush through Al-Fatiha so quickly that i do not even have time to contemplate the first four verses – but for some reason i nearly always manage to gain concentration at this point. I think it is because it is the most “physical” verse. What i mean is, i actually visualise myself turning to Allāh for help in my mind. I especially connect with this verse when i pray Istikaraah (the prayer for guidance).

6) Ihdinas-siratal mustaqeem
Guide us to the straight way –

I see a long, straight road that many others have trodden before me; one that i desperately wish to tread myself.

7 i) Siratalatheena an'amta 'alayhim
The way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings,

These are meant to be the Prophets, As-Siddique, the martyrs and the righteous. I always feel a bit pathetic when i consider how low down the hierarchy i am compared to this blessed group.

7 ii) ghayril maghdoobi 'alayhim walad-dalleen
Not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray!

The word “astray” strikes a cord with me more than the word “condemned”. I am often confused by all the differences of opinion i encounter, and fear that my lack of understanding and good judgement will one day cause me to stray out of Islam; I sincerely seek refuge in Allāh from this. This is one of the reasons i am so keen to find a good husband; someone who will be my guide on the path to God [sorry to keep mentioning the “h”-word!!!].

***

Ok, so that's me done. To be honest, i am pretty sure this will never catch on as it does take a lot of effort to sit down and really think about such spiritual matters, then afterwards try to explain your thoughts without sounding weird and/or pretentious. I'm pretty sure i came across as both, astaghfirullah!

I would still really appreciate your comments and contributions as i think we can learn a lot from each other's perspectives, inshā’Allāh.

As always, all truth, wisdom and understanding is from Allāh, and all errors are from me.

12 Responses to “The Muslim Meme”

  1. Isha' says:

    Surah Al-Fatiha is one of my favourites too. It is perhaps the spirit of Islam.

    Surah al-Fatiha is one of the early Meccan Surahs. And I have felt revealations that came during that time were more subjective, spiritually oriented. (As the prophet moved to Medina and got involved in governing (and what a governor he was!) Allah started guiding him. Later surahs (For example Surah 2) are more objective.)

    Perhaps there are two paths to Islam. To practice it and slowly get involved and then find spirituality. The other one is to get attracted by the spirituality and then slowly you can’t help practicing it.

    All irrelevant talk.

    Whatever, I love surah al-Fatiha. It is guidance, it is assurance and a warning. It makes you Long for your Lord and to hear from Him.

  2. Isha' says:

    Surah Al-Fatiha is one of my favourites too. It is perhaps the spirit of Islam.

    Surah al-Fatiha is one of the early Meccan Surahs. And I have felt revealations that came during that time were more subjective, spiritually oriented. (As the prophet moved to Medina and got involved in governing (and what a governor he was!) Allah started guiding him. Later surahs (For example Surah 2) are more objective.)

    Perhaps there are two paths to Islam. To practice it and slowly get involved and then find spirituality. The other one is to get attracted by the spirituality and then slowly you can’t help practicing it.

    All irrelevant talk.

    Whatever, I love surah al-Fatiha. It is guidance, it is assurance and a warning. It makes you Long for your Lord and to hear from Him.

  3. AnonyMouse says:

    Oooooh, brilliant idea, masha’Allah!!! Especially since I’ve been feeling similarly lonely, beeing another of the un-tagged ones… ;) :P

    No time to really answer this right now, seeing as I’m supposed to be in bed right now (don’t ask why I’m not…), so insha’Allah I’ll answer either later, or in a blog post of my own! :)

  4. iMuslim says:

    Perhaps there are two paths to Islam. To practice it and slowly get involved and then find spirituality. The other one is to get attracted by the spirituality and then slowly you can’t help practicing it.

    Mashallah, that is an astute observation. I definitely fall into the first category! I am trying to develop my spiritual side more these days, as sometimes i feel my practise is quite shallow; i feel that i am simply “following orders” rather than nurturing my love for Allah, His Deen & His Messengers (peace be upon them all).

    Studying the Names and Attributes of Allah really helps in this aspect. I am in love with the name “Al-Wadood” – The Loving. It fills me with warm, fuzzy feelings!

  5. Lucyp says:

    Being the secretive type (CIA are everywhere) i usually say PFFTTT loudly and ignore the tag thing.
    This one i just don’t understand so i will respectfully slink back into obscurity with my secrets intact.

  6. iMuslim says:

    Aww Lucy… sorry, i tried to make the entry “infidel-friendly” but i obviously failed. I’ll do better next time, God-willing!

    I filled out enough e-mail questionaires when i first started out on the net, all those years ago. The CIA know it all already!

  7. AnonyMouse says:

    Okey dokes, I’m back! :)

    I’m afraid that, despite intense thinking in the shower (why is that being in the shower stimulates one’s mind in ways nothing else – pondering late at night, brainstorming with friends, and staring blankly at the computer screen, etc. – can accomplish?!), I don’t really have much to say… so please don’t expect anything all that deep and wise and whatnot! :S

    When I read Surah al-Fatihah, I have more of a general ‘feeling’ about the whole thing, rather than individual thoughts/reflections of each aayah… one thing I always remember when I read al-Fatihah is the Hadith I read in Ibn Kathir’s Tafseer of the surah – the Hadith that tells us when we are reading each aayah, Allah is actually responding to us… it’s like we’re having a direct conversation with the All-Mighty Himself! Subhan’Allah, I wonder if there’s any gift that He has granted us better than this particular surah….

    ‘Ar-Rahmaan, ar-Raheem’ – for some reason, those words seem to me like a spiritual hug… so warm and comforting and loving and dependable…

    The last half of the Surah makes me aware of my shortcomings, and how close I have gotten to being led astray myself, and Allah only knows how close I am to straying right at this moment – may He have mercy on us all and save us from that! Like you, I sometimes get confused by all the different opinions and ‘interpretations’ of various aspects of Islam, and it’s really scary not knowing if, by inclining towards one type of interpretation or whatever, I’m actually heading the wrong way… :S

    Ummm, yup, I think that’s about it for now…

    Your little sister in Islam,
    Mouse

  8. iMuslim says:

    the Hadith that tells us when we are reading each aayah, Allah is actually responding to us… it’s like we’re having a direct conversation with the All-Mighty Himself!

    Subhanallah! I completely forgot about that hadith. Yes, it is just the most amazing narration – jazakallah khair for the reminder, sweety!

  9. Isha' says:

    Mashallah, that is an astute observation.

    Maybe. But it’s not my original. People say so. :)

  10. Isha' says:

    Mashallah, that is an astute observation.

    Maybe. But it’s not my original. People say so. :)

  11. Farzeen says:

    Assalaamu’alaykum

    Masha’Allah, may Allah give you success with your efforts to come closer to Him, ameen.

    SubhanAllah. A shaykh in our community (well, an hour and a half drive away from me), once taught the tafseer of Surah Al Fatiha. It took about six or seven classes, about three or four hours per class. The first class was all about the basmala.

    The Quran is a treasure, and while we often say that it is a miracle, only those who seek it earnestly really come to understand what it means to call the book of God a miracle for mankind. This in itself is a great point of reflection, insha’Allah.

    May Allah preserve the righteous people and teachers, and guide us to sit at their feet in order to take beneficial knowledge from them which we can (and insha’Allah will) practice in our lives, ameen.

  12. iMuslim says:

    Wa ‘alaykum salam & welcome sister Farzeen!

    Ameen to all your duas.

    Yes, truly one could spend several life-times analysing the treasures within the Qur’an.

    Last year i attended a one-day class run by Sh. Sohaib Webb (the brother who did the “mothers of the believers” CDs which i NEED to listen to asap!) titled “Women of the Qur’an”. I thought it was going to be a simple talk about, well, women from the Qur’an (duh). It turned out to be an in-depth analysis of the stories of Hawa & the women of Musa (‘alayhis salam), as related in the Qur’an. It was the first proper tafseer session i had ever attended and my soul was buzzing from it! Really – i was in tears during some parts, and by the time i came home i was emotionally spent!

    Subhanallah, now i have the tafseer bug and have been wishing to attend a regular class for so long, but none of the ones i have come across take place at suitable times; sisters classes often take place during the day – as if all sisters are housewives! Pfft.

    Anyway, once i get this PhD out of the way (inshallah) i hope to dedicate many more hours to such studies, if Allah allows me to live till then!!

    Wa’salam

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