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

Be kind… genuinely…

(From my archive of 2006…)

I don’t want to sound like I have done every good deed on this earth but just want to share this incident to give an idea of how many ways there are of giving respect to elders. At a family wedding last year I saw an elderly lady who seemed to be feeling very uncomfortably seated in a grand looking but uncomfortable sofa. I offered to take her accross the hall to some other seat. Since she couldn’t walk on her own I assissted her in the move, all the while thinking that if I have to cross that same distance ten times, it wouldn’t be any problem and look at this poor woman, how dificult it is for her. As I settled her into a soft, and comfortable sofa, i thanked Allah for giving me the strength and the softness of heart. She began to give me duas and I was about to turn back to return to my group of family and friends when I realized that there were no other people around that old lady to give her company, so I changed my mind and sat with her. She immediately knew what i was doing and protested that she was fine and I could go back but I said no I wanted to talk to her and listen to her experiences. She was soooooooooo happy that someone was interested in her!!

As she started telling me stories of the past, I realized in that moment of awareness that our idea of helping out these elderly people is limited to physical assistance only, whereas the thing they desire the most is that someone takes interest in them as a person. I felt so sorry for all those people out there who must have raised families and worked for them throughout their lives but are now made to feel an unwanted burden.

I believe that most of blessings I recieve in my life are due to the duas I get from people whom I have tried to honor in one way or the other.

The Tools we can Use…

In my previous post I mentioned some of the mistakes I made in my Hifz journey… due to which I am still wandering between forgetting and re-doing the memorized surahs, over and over again… but obviously there must be something good too… something that has kept me going all these years… despite all my weaknesses… 

So today I will be sharing some of those things that helped me…

  • The first thing is the strong realization I had after listening to the tafseer of the dua we make in every rakah of every salah… “ihdina-ssiratal-mustaqeem”… we ask Allah to guide us to the straight path. To Ask for Allah’s Tawfeeq is the first and foremost ingredient we need… The interesting thing is that to be on this path is all that matters… because if you are on the right way and you keep walking then obviously you are going to reach the destination… which by the way is not possible in this world… Jannah is in the other world… so in this world all we need is to come to the right way and stay there and keep walking… even if you keep slipping and falling… just get back up again and resume the journey… So with this lesson in my mind I kept coming back to my hifz even when due to the long gaps of becoming distracted and dishearted, I would forget all that I had learned… but then I started again and yet again… so that I remain in this struggle. Once I heard a scholar who said that if you die while struggling for Hifz, you will be counted as someone who actually did itJJ

  • The next thing is that I use all the strategies I can to motivate myself… One of them is to refuse to listen to any excuse from my spoiled nafs… My motto is that the same mental energy we use to make excuses can be used to find solutions… the only difference is in focus… and how much you want something… So establish this fact in your mind that you just have to have Quran in your heart… your heart cannot be happy without having it… so I keep listening to talks about hifz… or I read articles which others have written about their experiences… these are also a strong motivator… because it makes me think that if Allah made them do it then He can make me do it tooJ

  • Making planners and keeping a record of my progress is also a great tool for me… that is why shaitan makes it most difficult for us and keeps distracting us from writing… because he knows the power of pen and paper… I just wish we knew it too… it makes me so sad that so few of us actually make use of this greatest gift Allah gave us… the pen!

  • Listening to Quran has been one of my best investment of my time… the more we listen the more easily we can absorb and recall.

  • Since I have no one to recite to, I make use of the voice recorder of my phone. After doing my portion of the day, I recite without looking, and record it. Then I listen to the recording while looking at the Quran and see if I did it right or not… in case of mistakes, I repeat it again till I get it right.

  • Another way to check my hifz is that I recite it directly to Allah… in my salah… and the moment I make any mistake, I get an alarm in my heart, so I stop and go over it again till I get it right…

  • But I must admit that reciting in salah is not just for checking… but actually it is my biggest pleasure… and I think of it as a gift from Allah that I look forward to… I mean I make my “self” work at some surah by giving myself the motivation that if you do it well then you will be able to recite it in salah… what an “un-describable” pleasure it is to receive this gift… Alhamdulillah

  • After every ayah that I memorize, I give thanks to Allah for this great miracle… yes I keep reminding myself that it is no less than a miracle that one line of words that were completely unknown to me have become “mine”… by becoming a part of my heart… a part of me…

  • Doing Istighfar is also a great tool to open our ways to goodness, so I also do a lot of istighfar for not working as consistently as I should… for letting myself be distracted by weaknesses… for spoiling my heart with sins… for not remaining firm on my resolutions… for becoming overly confident… for wasting time in other less important, and non-beneficial activities… etc

  • I connect the ayaat with their meanings… focusing on the word for word translation… and the overall implication of the ayat with my day to day life… or the various things I have in my heart… so this connection makes it easy to remember the words of Allah because it becomes a conversation between Quran and your own thoughts.

I am sure there must be thousands of other strategies too… but the thing is that we should try our utmost to use whatever resources we have in the best possible way… because we should have the strongest conviction in the power of Allah’s blessings… He can put barakah in our efforts, in our abilities and so we should just have faith and make good intentions and work hard… may Allah make this journey easy for us and may He be pleased with us… Ameen