A Post-Eclipse Reflection
By Fayez Khwaja
On August 21st 2017, millions of people came out of their homes, schools, office buildings and comfort zones to view the eclipse. Some had traveled hundreds of miles, to be in the path of totality. The amount of effort, expense and time for some people were very high. The result, however, depended upon what each viewer was looking for.
I went out of my office at 2:15 pm where a good-sized group was already gathered. As we waited, some of my co-workers were talking about how strange it felt, that it was getting darker, despite the time of day and the fact that the sun was directly above us. Things were not normal. Although it was daytime, the growing darkness thrust us into the night for a few moments: reminding us that the change between day and night, something we take for granted, is a great sign for those who choose to ponder. Allah reminds us of this in the Qur’an:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ ﴿١٩٠﴾
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.”
Surah Ale-Imran, 3:190
By 3:00 PM, all of us had gone back inside. While I continued to ponder what I just saw moments before, a co-worker joked, “Do you feel enlightened?” While he chuckled, the amazing effect the eclipse had on me could not be diminished.
The eclipse also gave us the opportunity to reflect on the deep meaning in the opening verses of Surah Al-Mulk, 67: 1-4:
تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿١﴾ الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ﴿٢﴾ الَّذِي خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ طِبَاقًا ۖ مَّا تَرَىٰ فِي خَلْقِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ مِن تَفَاوُتٍ ۖ فَارْجِعِ الْبَصَرَ هَلْ تَرَىٰ مِن فُطُورٍ ﴿٣﴾ ثُمَّ ارْجِعِ الْبَصَرَ كَرَّتَيْنِ يَنقَلِبْ إِلَيْكَ الْبَصَرُ خَاسِئًا وَهُوَ حَسِيرٌ ﴿٤
“Blessed is He in Whose hand is the kingdom, and He has power over all things, Who created death and life that He may try you– which of you is best in deeds; and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving, Who created the seven heavens one above another; you see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent Allah; then look again, can you see any disorder? Then turn back the eye again and again; your look shall come back to you confused while it is fatigued.”
Among those who witnessed the eclipse were those who reflected on the Majesty of our Lord. They are the believers, who were outside remembering the One who brought the event as a sign and they are those who gathered in the masajid offering prayers to the Creator. They witnessed a miracle of Allah(swt), but also gained some reward while doing exactly what everyone else was doing.
Just as we are grateful for the opportunity to witness the eclipse and understand the above verses with greater appreciation, we are also grateful for these blessed ten days of Dhul Hijjah. For in these days, Allah has provided opportunities for us to not only worship Him through individual acts such as prayer and fasting, but also through acts that serve His creation, such as charity and community service.
As we head into the days of Hajj, let us all take the time and spend the effort to gain the vast rewards that Allah(swt) and His Messenger (saws) have promised us. We will be doing the same deeds and going to the same places that we always do and that many others do. Yet, the difference will be the intention and desire for a reward for performing good deeds in the special days that we are in.
Many times we waste precious time looking for beneficial actions to perform, when in reality the opportunities are right there in front of us. Here are 5 easy, but very fruitful actions to get you some major reward in Dhul Hijjah:
1. Thikr/duaa. This is one the easiest forms of worship. It requires no money, no special status, no special location, and can be done in private or in public.
2. Smile. It’s sunnah, and it’s a sadaqa!
3. Charitable giving. Speaking of sadaqa, even $1 with the right intention gives you tons of reward.
4. Ties of kinship. Picking up the phone and checking on your close and not so close relatives pleases Allah swt.
5. Parental care. Take 1, 2, 3, and 4 and apply them to your parents: Call/visit them, smile at them, gift them, and make duaa for them as they have raised you from when you were just itty bitty.
As Muslims, it is never a good time for us to be isolated from our larger community. As the United States is facing a period of social unrest, it is important that we understand the facts and stand against oppression and racism and that we are champions of social justice. If you are able to join and help in these causes, including calling elected officials or partaking in marches, do so. If you can’t join physically, use the power of your words. Share relevant information on social media, talk to your community about what is going on, and always look for facts. Last but not least, never normalize oppression and racism, always reject it in your heart, and make duaa for those who are oppressed at home here in the US and all over the world- oppression is oppression, no matter what language the oppressor speaks.