Think Carefully!!

Many year ago I read in a book by Maulana Wahid ud Din khan, a statement…

“Most of our problems get started in our minds and that’s where they can be ended.”

I was reminded of this quote, when a few days back a friend said to me, “Do you know that we can create anything just by thinking about it?” I said of course everything begins with a thought… but surely that’s just a first step and it has to be followed with a lot of hard work and sacrifice… But she insisted that we are not using our power of thought in the right way… and this made me ponder on this idea and I had to admit that she was right.

It is so true that Allah has given a most powerful device with which we can do anything and everything… and that is our choice to think… in fact I even heard a very educated person saying… “Whatever you want to become… whatever you wish to achieve… just start thinking about it.” And the opposite is also true… “Whatever you keep thinking and keep saying… about yourself or about others… it will become a reality.”

So I began to realize how we have used or misused this power of thought and expression… Have you ever wondered why a person is so popular and loved among some people… and quite the opposite to some others? What’s the difference? The reason is that we tend to behave according to other people’s expectation and opinions about us… and so when we are among people who think we are good… and they appreciate us… then it sends us vibes of positive energy… and makes us feel enthusiastic and excited… and so we are extra nice to them.

But if we think negatively about someone then then that person will receive that negative energy and will not be genuinely sincere to us, even though outwardly the behavior might be very nice on both sides… there will be no happiness in such a relationship. Only a burden of having to present a good exterior…

In my research on this topic I even found that if you constantly say that you are feeling sick… weak and tired… exhausted… then this is how you will become. If you keep on repeating that you are getting old and incapable of doing things, then that is what’s going to happen to you… even forgetful people can stop forgetting things if they start saying that they have very good memory and they can remember everything!! Or if a person with high cholesterol keeps repeating that his cholesterol is normal then he will become normal.

Now this seems like you are denying the reality… but your intention is not to pretend or deceive… but to heal yourself with the medicine of positive statements…

Just like we take even the most bitter medicine… or we go through painful treatments… our intention is not to collect even more pain or bitterness… rather we know that it is just a bridge to cross… from sickness to health.

Similarly we can use positive thoughts and positive statements to create energetic and healthy bodies… healthy and flourishing relationships… wonderful productive lives… anything and everything…

And now I understand why Allah gave us so much to think about and so much to say, in all our rituals of worship… we begin the day by duas of gratitude… then we use water to purify us… then prayer… reciting Allah’s words… doing zikr… everything so perfect, so positive… to give us the right perspective and to fill us with the energy of His most profound words… so that when we go about our various tasks and deal with people, this energy should radiate to others too… and should make our environment vibrate with positivity and hope… with gratitude and appreciation… with gentleness and forgiveness…

But this will happen only when we think and ponder and believe… because Allah gave us power of thought… and things will affect us the way we think about them.

That is why the Quran begins with the surah Al Fatihah… which doesn’t tell us to do anything… rather it builds our foundation of positive thoughts of gratitude, obedience and responsibility of being accountable to Allah… because we cannot even follow Allah’s commands if our thoughts are not in the right direction.

Therefore at the end of surah Al Baqarah, Allah warns us that whether we express our thoughts or keep them hidden… Allah will hold us accountable for what we kept nurturing in our hearts…

لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَإِنْ تُبْدُوا مَا فِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُمْ بِهِ اللَّهُ ۖ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ {284}

Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allah’s; and whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it; then He will forgive whom He pleases and chastise whom He pleases, and Allah has power over all things.  

Love and Be Loved…

There is nothing in this world that can be compared with the blessings of paradise… except for one thing… and that is the delight of Allah’s love. Because this is the one and only gift that is complete and perfect… a joy that will never end.

All the rest of the things are imperfect, incomplete and temporary… and so they cannot give us the peace and happiness that we yearn for.

The light of Allah’s love is such a priceless blessing, that we must make it our topmost concern and desire to achieve it… and so we must strive to recognize Him… through His perfect names and attributes and by contemplating on His signs in the universe… and pondering on the Quran.

Because you know the reason why we are not able to remain steadfast on the right path? Its because we just start doing things mechanically… while our hearts are attached to other pleasures and desires. So the acts of goodness are perceived as barriers between us and our desires… and that’s why we pray salah so fast… because we want to get back into the life which we desire.

Now imagine how greatly uplifting it would be if we could enjoy our acts of worship!! We’d be yearning for our meeting with Allah if we truly loved Him…

So how can we achieve this goal? Is it even possible?

Of course it is… but we have to understand its value to be able to “want” it… and then to strive towards it.

The process can be long and hard but the fruits are worth the effort. So we should do all our acts of worship… whether prayers or fasting or giving sadaqah… or even serving people and fulfilling our worldly duties… with this intention and dua that Allah might give us His true love and desire.

On one hand we must exert our best efforts in all aspects of life… and on the other hand we must make constant duas to achieve this ultimate gift…

I will end this article with a quote from fiqh-ul-qulub

Obeying Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w) is apparently hard… but this hardship is like a drop… and the pleasures hidden behind it… are like an ocean.

Whereas following your hearts desires and ignoring the commands of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w) is apparently enjoyable… but this enjoyment is like a drop… and the torture and hardships hidden behind it… are like an ocean…

So what would be a better deal?

An ocean of enjoyment at the cost of a drop of hardship…

or a drop of pleasure at the cost of an ocean of hardship?

The time to choose is limited… but the results are irreversible and unlimited…

Understand the Need of your Heart…

If I believe with one hundred percent conviction… without any doubt… that my daily prayers are my connection to Allah… then why is it that my heart does not remain focused on Allah when I am standing before Him? And even though I understand the meanings of the words that I am uttering… and the meaning of all the postures during salah… yet why don’t I actively feel the impact of those words or actions?

The other question that keeps bothering me from time to time is that when we believe that everything is in the hands of Allah the All Mighty… then why do we blame people when things go wrong. Sometimes we cannot even prove that they harmed us intentionally, but still we think like they are the culprits behind every setback that we face in life… So where is our tawakkul? And our belief in Allah’s Taqdeer? Why is our heart more fearful of people and situations and does not fear the creator of those people and situations? Why is there no real love of Allah and His religion? Why are we so much in love with this temporary world, and not at all looking forward to our permanent home in those perfectly beautiful gardens where nothing can ever go wrong… where all our wishes will be fulfilled… we say we believe in that world of perfect beauty and endless pleasures… and yet we don’t yearn for it??

These are questions which go around the minds of most of the people… and in order to get the solution I started studying a book along with its audio lectures… but knowledge impacts us only if we discuss it… share it… so I thought I should write down a few points daily which are easy to read and easy to apply…

When it comes to application we often start thinking in terms of physical actions that are visible and quantifiable… but we forget that first we need to apply things on the heart… and to apply the knowledge on the heart means that you think and ponder about the various ideas which will open the eyes of the heart and make it alert and conscious… in sha Allah.

The name of the book is Fiqh-ul-Qulub… and I did study and write about it few years ago… but then I got disconnected after the first few lectures and so the gap became wider and wider with time… every time I wanted to re-connect with it, I just thought it was impossible to cover such a huge distance… but then recently I got a question by a reader… “Is there an English translation of this book?” And it put me to shame that why didn’t I do this… so I thought that even though it is not in my capacity to actually translate the whole book… at least I can write a few quotes from it daily…

Fiqh-ul-Qulub… the title of this book… means the understanding of the hearts. And we all know how important our hearts are… not just in the physical sense but also in the spiritual context. In fact if you think about it, all the questions that I asked in the beginning have the same answer… that we don’t get the outcome of our efforts because our hearts are not involved in it… and even those who seek knowledge, who attend lectures and courses… most of them do not have any goal in mind… so they do it just as absent-mindedly as we pray the fatihah in salah…

So the first thing that we need to understand is that just like we cannot make our bodies work unless we feed them with food and water… similarly our hearts can only work when we give them the food that they need…

The food of the heart is the understanding of Allah and His names and His attributes and His signs in His creation and His words that He revealed to His Prophet (s.a.w)… The more we focus on understanding all these things the greater will be the light in the heart by which it can see the reality… And the greater the light of the heart, the greater will be our focus and concentration in the prayer… and the more we pray with concentration, the more it will create in our hearts the true love of Allah… and awe of His Greatness and humbleness in front of His Power… thus we will love to obey Allah and we will hate to go against His Pleasure…

The light of faith and obedience is the nourishment of our hearts… and this need of our hearts is far greater than the need of our bodies… but sadly we keep on feeding the bodies, and we starve our hearts… thus we find an emptiness in our lives that we cannot fill even though we might be living in luxuries… because our hearts can only be satisfied when they feel Allah’s love and closeness to Him in worship and other good deeds.

The taste of this true love will lead to the true desire of pleasing Allah… thus a person who gets to taste even a glimpse of Allah’s nearness, will rush to do all the things that can give him more and more of this love… and so he will find obedience easy, and will get real delight of worship… Thus his prayer will become the coolness of his heart… and the more he strives to achieve this closeness to Allah, the more he is loved by Allah and this love fills his heart and his whole life becomes a struggle to attain the ultimate meeting with Allah in the gardens of eternity… the Jannah… And you know what was the best thing I learned?

“That to feel this yearning in your heart… and to be constantly in a struggle to reach this final moment of eternal bliss… is the only blessing in this life of ours that resembles the blessings of the paradise… all other things can give us material benefits, but the satisfaction and tranquility of the heart can only be achieved through this constant desire and the struggle to achieve it…”

May Allah really bless us with His true Recognition and the true desire for His Love… Ameen

Signs of Beneficial Knowledge

One of the biggest blessings of Allah on a person is that He opens his heart for the understanding of religion… So you become like a thirsty person who wants to fill his heart and soul with the rain of knowledge… but the purpose of this knowledge is not just to satisfy our soul, or to fill the emptiness of the heart… rather it should be the force to bring a positive change in our thoughts and actions.

But the difference is that water will be absorbed in our body automatically… just like food becomes digested without any effort from us… we just have to eat and drink and that’s all… after that our bodies know what to do and they do it naturally…

But when we attain knowledge then we have to consciously make it a part of our character… we have to work hard to implement it in our lives… and in doing so we have to strive against our laziness, against our desires, against distractions, against all the things that stand between us and our success and happiness…

Knowledge is like a gift… but we have to use it to get its real benefit. Just like the most expensive car… if it is just standing in your driveway… looks beautiful and impressive… and people might appreciate it and feel envious too… but unless you know how to drive it… and until you have a clear destination in your mind… it will do you no good except for making you arrogant that you have it… and you look down on others who don’t have it…

That is why we have been taught this dua by our Prophet (s.a.w):

Allahumma inni as’aluka ilman nafi’an

Wa rizqan tayyiban

Wa amalan mutaqabbala

Ya Allah I ask you for knowledge that is beneficial

And provisions that are pure and good

And actions that are accepted

When we think of beneficial knowledge… then we have to consider two things… firstly the knowledge should be pure and authentic… secondly we should check whether it is benefitting us or not? So here are a few signs of beneficial knowledge…

  • It should move our heart towards the recognition and awe of Allah… so that doing good deeds becomes easy and satisfying, and following ignorant practices becomes difficult and painful. In the words of a scholar… Beneficial knowledge is that constant voice in your heart that forces you to remain alert and conscious… it never leaves you alone… like a loyal friend and advisor… it manages your actions and your re-actions… knocking sense in your head… the moment you start going in the wrong direction, knowledge screams at you… what are you doing? Don’t you fear Allah? Where is your haya?

  • The second sign is that beneficial knowledge moves you towards immediate application… like you get news of a great sale, you waste no time in going to the mall… or you learn a new recipe and you immediately want to try it… That is how knowledge that moves the heart, makes you do something about it at once… because that is the very purpose of knowledge… to improve your life… to save yourself from loss and regret. As Hasan Basri (r.a.) said…

“when in the past any person used to seek knowledge, not any time would go by but you would see the effects of that knowledge in his eyes… in his speech… in his actions… upon his salah… upon his attitude… upon his minimalism and distance from worldly desires.”

Another quote in this regard is from Sufiyan ibn Uyainah… He said:

“If I was to spend my daylight hours acting like a foolish person;

And if I spend my night hours acting like an ignorant person;

Then what is the purpose of the knowledge that I am collecting?”

So we must ensure it before and during our journey of knowledge that it becomes beneficial to us and to those around us…

Otherwise our hearts can become even harder… our attitudes arrogant and painful… and our desires overwhelm us from all sides… and nobody will listen to us if we call them towards the right path…

That is why we must also make this dua:

Allahumma inni a’uzubika min ilmin la yanfa’u

Wa min qalbin la yakhsha’u

Wa min nafsin la tashba’u

Wa min da’watin la yustajabu laha

Ya Allah I seek your protection from knowledge that does not benefit me

And From a heart that does not fear you

And from a desire that never fills

And from duas that are not answered

May Allah protect us from ignorance and arrogance… may He make us truly knowledgeable… and beneficial for ourselves and for the whole world… Ameen

The Fear of Failure…

After writing the last two articles I felt like someone had woken me up from sleep… a kind of half sleep state in which you think like you are awake but in truth you are not quite aware of what’s going on… until some sound shakes you up… Well in my case this sound is usually the sound of the words that I listen in various lectures… and even more aloud is the sound of words that I write…

So my last two articles not only woke me but also made me sit up… and I asked myself why I was not doing things that are really important? What about all the things that I keep thinking (and saying) that I want to do them… but have not been doing for so long? Most probably the reason is that I find those tasks difficult… or I think I don’t have the capability… so I have not even tried to do it…

The answer came from the Quran when I pondered over the dua of Musa (a.s.) when he was commanded to go to Firoun… He said the famous words that we hear in almost all lectures… “Rabb-Ishrah li Sadri… Wa Yassir li Amri…” These two ayat are only half of his dua but they were enough to give me the motivation I needed… a simple translation is “My Master open up my chest and make my task easy for me”

So it means that even if the task we are about to do is as difficult as talking to Firoun… even then our hearts must have the positive feeling that we can do it if Allah helps us… so we should pray to Allah that He removes all the fears and negative thoughts… so that there is enthusiasm and positive energy for the things that we want to do… to improve ourselves and to become beneficial for others too… inshaAllah

Having Tawakkul…

When we say we believe in Allah then obviously we believe in His Power, His authority, His complete control over each and everything, His wisdom, His love and compassion for us, His extreme affection and in His constant and never ending mercy and blessings… so why is it that we are mostly so caught up in sadness and anxiety? Why do the affairs of our life burden us so much? Why do we feel empty and alone and helpless?

Does it mean we don’t believe in Allah? Or do we have any doubt about His attributes? The thing is that even though we believe in the unseen, yet the things that we can see… the problems that we have to face… appear to be so overwhelming that we feel so burdened by them. And that is because our focus is more on the SEEN… and so little on the UNSEEN…

So many times in the Quran I have come across the command of Allah to do tawakkul on Him… and I used to think that it is an automatic consequence of faith… when I believe in Allah then obviously I trust Him. But the fact is that tawakkul cannot be done until I focus on Allah’s power… and Allah’s compassion and His loving support… so that in every problem or situation my heart remains hopeful that Allah will make things easy for me… He will help me…

Does it mean that I don’t need to make any effort? Or use my resources? The truth is that our utmost efforts and reliance on Allah are both important to complete our tawakkul… It doesn’t matter how little our resources are… we just need to do our best and then pray to the best of our ability… and then put everything in the care of Allah… the Most Caring and Compassionate.

Imagine the condition of Prophet Ayyub (A.S.) who had been so ill for forty long painful years… and after that Allah commanded him to kick the earth so that a spring of water will come out which will cure and purify him… imagine how weak he must have been… probably he couldn’t even stand straight… so what strength would his kick have? But still he was commanded to do it although Allah had all the power to bring forth the water without him moving an inch… but it is a lesson for us that we have to do our part and then Allah will help us… Just like Prophet Musa (A.S.) was told to hit the ocean with his stick so it parted and made a way for him and his nation to cross it…

But it all begins with having the right mind set… Tawakkul is that you believe without any doubt that Allah cares for you and that He will help you… but you have to do your best too… work hard and pray with focus and sincerity and have tawakkul… because Allah wants us to remain peaceful and calm… even while facing all kinds of storms and troubles of life… because we have the certainty and conviction that nothing is bigger than Allah… and this certainty is attained by keeping our hearts busy in the remembrance of Allah… through salah… through Quran… through duas… and azkaar…   

No Excuses Please!

I was reading an article on how to do Hifz of Quran in our busy lives with so many distractions and commitments… and the very first tip made me sit up straight and to look at my whole life in a totally new way. The article began with a short simple statement… “Stop making excuses”.

Normally such topics begin with having the right intention. And that is true. Because if you think about it, our intentions cannot be “right” if we begin making excuses for why we cannot do this or that. We have to have the belief that if this thing is beneficial for me then I must focus my attention and my efforts and my duas on this specific task… and Allah will help me to achieve it if He wills.

Many years ago when I started learning about Islam, I would naturally seek the company of the seemingly religious people. And often I used to hear this statement that we cannot do anything. Only Allah gives tawfeeq and makes us do what He wants.

This and other similar statements left me bewildered that if we have no control over our actions then why should we be held accountable?

But I was very fortunate that my parents had instilled in me the belief in the hereafter from a very young age… so that there was no doubt in my mind that we will be responsible for how we spent our lives… so if we are responsible then surely we have been given some control over how we think and act. That is why we are going to be asked about it… even though this control is not ours… but an amanah from Allah.

Just like Allah provides us food… now He has given us control over how we use it… whether we eat it… throw it… waste it… or share with others too?

We know that we do everything with Allah’s help… His tawfeeq is the most important thing we need for all the good things which we want to do in life… but we should stop making excuses… because the first and foremost thing we have been given is the ability to think… If we think we can do anything with Allah’s help then Allah will help us to solidify our intentions… And then if we use our abilities in that particular direction then Allah will help us to work on it… And if we pray for his help and tawfeeq, then Allah will surely give us the tawfeeq…

And the reason why we are often regretting that we couldn’t do this or that in life is that first of all we don’t think positively… instead of believing in Allah’s power, we start focusing on people’s help and other such resources… Instead of thinking that we really need to do this thing… we make excuses that it is not in our ability to do it or we don’t have the resources to do it… And the third thing is that instead of working in a focused way, we keep falling into distraction of desires. And instead of making duas and talking to Allah, we keep talking to people and keep telling them stories of our unfortunate circumstances…

If this is our state then what can be the outcome except regret and loss?

So let’s reverse the equation and “use” the blessings of Allah… How much power he has given us to think and dream and believe…How many talents and capabilities He has blessed us with… and How great is the door that He has kept open for us always and forever… and that is the door of duas…

May Allah give us tawfeeq to use these blessings without making excuses… Ameen