Greetings of Peace! In my introduction to the last halaqa (Surah 9: Al Tawbah, Day 5), I shared part of a "Notes to Self" journal that I created for myself back in 2006. It was amazing to have recently come upon this journal again, which appeared amidst the (never-ending!) unpacking of boxes of papers and archives from our move from California to Ohio! At the time I created the journal back in 2006, I had been a Muslim for twelve years. It sounds like a long time, but from my memory and the contents of this journal, I was deep in my journey of grappling with fundamentals - trying to internalize the reminders I set for myself on these pages, the fundamentals of character, empowerment, and liberation that I was seeking in becoming Muslim.
I have always felt that I was extremely blessed that God saved me by allowing me to become Muslim. Then, God gave me the incredible gift of marrying a scholar who was not only invested in my journey and the Muslim that I would become, but who could guide me to the beautiful, ethical, elevated version of Islam that we have all been learning through Project Illumine. As a convert, it matters very much who you encounter at the beginning of your journey and which version of Islam you are exposed to early on - and which version you ultimately choose to follow. But I believe that so much of one's ability to choose the beautiful path of Islam also depends on what resides within oneself. For me, as a convert, choosing Islam was only the first mountain I had to climb. Once I became a Muslim, being able to develop, grow, and work to internalize and try to embody the beautiful ethics and values of Islam - the hard every day work of transforming one's being into something much better - became a much bigger, more challenging, and harder mountain climb -- with many more peaks, valleys and plateaus. It is the lifelong journey that IS the pursuit of the divine path. There is nothing more difficult, and nothing more worthwhile in my opinion.
In the book, The Prophet's Pulpit, Dr. Abou El Fadl talks about the importance of "cleaning your vessel" to be able to receive the divine light of the Qur'anic message. This journal was one of the tools I used to remind myself what I needed to do to "clean my vessel" and work on myself, my attitude, and my outlook in order to appreciate light - and give light to others. In my introduction, I read through a number of these journal pages, sharing what I thought might be helpful for others who might be on a similar journey. Several people wrote to me to say that what I shared was valuable and asked that I make those prompts available. So, for whatever it is worth, here they are!
1. Humble Yourself
2. Help Others Be Happy
3. Make Their Lives Easier
4. Serve Others
5. Do not perpetuate the Darkness, Depression, Anxiety and Ugliness of the past
6. Do not make excuses. Do it yourself. Get it done. Don't ask others to serve you.
7. Be Solid, Moral, Decent. Be a Real Person.
9. Refuse the chains, shackles, and assumptions of the past.
10. Be Free.
11. Have Your Life as it should be. Ask God for forgiveness. Ask God for help. Respect God.
12. Do not conveniently "forget" what matters most.
13. Never feel comfortable that you have it "beat": It is a daily, minute-to-minute struggle.
14. Take yourself seriously.
15. Be Light. Not chained. Not dark. Not ugly. Not anxious. Be Free.
16. Feel free to be passionate about God.
17. Make your home a wonderful place to be. Love your home. Love your babies. Bless your home.
18. Love your God.
19. Love your Prophet.
20. Read Qur'an every day. Even one page.
21. Think in terms of acts of kindness. What have you done today?
22. Take care of others instead of wanting them to take care of you.
23. Excel in what really matters.
24. It is your choice to be either A) Rude, jealous, annoyed, depressed, anxious, angry, self-pitying; or B ) Happy, thankful, cheerful, pleasant, agreeable, forgiving
25. What have you accomplished? What have you left behind? How have you served Islam and become a better Muslim?
26. You are what you construct yourself to be.
27. You are not a victim. Don't Think, Act, Speak, Be, Feel that you are one.
May God guide all of us to the best way always and allow us to become vessels of light that shine light with great beauty!