Oh my Test…!!

Have you ever wondered why it is that the ones who believe in Allah and those who don’t believe in Him, are not as different in their attitudes in their day to day life, as they should be…

I mean, shouldn’t our faith in Allah make us strong and determined to face anything that might come our way, because we know everything is in the control of Allah, and so He will make us cross whatever barriers that come our way… But if we are also panicking at every step and feeling so insecure… then what do we believe in?

The problem is that we have never quite studied the attributes of Allah, nor have we studied the Quran… we never sit down to contemplate on the clear message coming straight out of Allah’s own words…

On the contrary, all we listen to is the opinion of people… therefore our life revolves around the culture in which we grow up… and we keep doing what we see others doing… not thinking for ourselves… not using the intellect that Allah gave us to understand Him and His message… and thus we remain oblivious to the real purpose of our existence…

The basic theme of Surah Mulk is to wake us up from our spiritual slumber… to make us ponder on the greatness of Allah… and to remind us of the purpose of life… specially at night… when we can be free from all optical illusions that surround us… free to focus on the reality…

The first ayah made us aware of the awesome blessings of Allah, His utmost authority and Absolute Power. Now the next ayah describes the cycle of life and death…

Allah says that He is the one who created death and life… so that He may test us… to see who will do the best deeds.

The word used here is “ahsan amal” which can roughly be translated as the most beautiful or the most excellent acts…

What I had not known before, is that there are several definitions of what exactly is “ahsan amal” which will determine our success.

Mostly we tend to believe, that whatever I am doing is the best… and my way of doing things is the most excellent… but our judge is Allah and we have to be excellent by His standard, if we are to pass this test of life and death… we cannot mark our own papers and give ourselves an A-plus! So here are a number of guidelines for us to understand what our test is all about…

  • The first quality we must strive for is intelligence… because it will be seen who lives this life most intelligently… obviously the intelligent person would be the one who recognizes the Power and Authority of Allah… so he will strive to please Him above every other thing.

  • The best person would be the one who is most successful in removing the love of this worldly life from his heart… so while we use the gifts of this life, we must remind ourselves not to fall in love with these temporary things… because love of this world will make us weak and distracted from our real goal…

  • Then it will be seen who among us is most conscious of staying away from the things forbidden by Allah… and who is the most eager in striving to do acts of obedience to Allah?

  • Another criteria for being the best is being conscious of death… it will be seen who among us remembers that he is going to leave this world at his appointed time, about which he has no idea when it will come… and so he is doing everything to prepare for his departure…

  • And one of the most interesting definition of our test is, that who among us is the most aware of his own faults? And so he strives to improve himself constantly… surely this is only possible if we let go of other people’s faults and shift our focus to our own selves!

  • And finally our test is that who among us can be most satisfied with what Allah has planned for him? Being at peace with your destiny is the proof of your trust and faith in Allah’s wisdom, His knowledge and His right to decide what is good for you or not. So we are going to be judged for this too… how much grateful we are? Or how much full of resentment?

So you see this is the difference between a casual reading of Quran and going into the depth of its true meanings and implications…

But just understanding is not enough if don’t remember it… so it would be a good idea to make a checklist of all these points, to remind us daily of what our real test is…

The other thing to notice is that Allah will see the quality of our actions… not the quantity…

And good quality depends on our intentions and also the way we do things… we can be very sincere about making a good meal but if we are not bothered about cooking it properly… and just get it done mindlessly not caring whether it is burnt or undercooked… then this food cannot be acceptable…

The example I loved the most is that of a person at a job, doing all sorts of things from morning till evening… but everything is done in a poor fashion… so obviously his boss is not going to be pleased with him… and there will be no satisfaction in his heart because he feels the disapproval… and even if he is not fired from the job, he will certainly not get any promotion…

Same is the case with our worship of Allah… if we do not use our intellect, if we do not understand the requirements, and we are not bothered what we are saying when we pray… what Allah is saying when we recite the Quran… or why we are fasting in Ramadan… if we are just doing everything for the sake of doing it… mechanically like a robot… then how is it going to please Allah? And if he is not pleased with us then we cannot feel any satisfaction in our hearts too… and thus there is no “promotion” in our attitude or character… we remain the same after prayers, after reciting Quran, after Hajj after Ramadan… same as we were before it… why? Because we do only for the sake of doing… because we think that’s enough…

But from now on… we must think… we must evaluate… and we must become the best that we can be… in sha Allah… not just in religion but also in our worldly responsibilities… because for a true believer all actions become worship if done with Allah consciousness and sincerity…

May Allah enable us to do so…Ameen

 

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My precious Surah!!

The earliest memory I have of Surah al Mulk is about 20 years ago… a time when I was just entering into a phase of my life in which I was being pulled towards the idea that religion was more than the five time prayers I was observing… and that Quran was more than just a means of getting reward… It was at that time when my father gifted me with a couple of books related to Islam… and in one of them I read the hadith that our Prophet (s.a.w) used to read a Surah called “tabarak Allazi” daily at night… in fact he never went to sleep without reading it… moreover it said that this surah will save its reader from the horrors of the grave and will even intercede on his behalf on the day of judgement… This made me really excited because I have always been very afraid of darkness and the grave… So immediately I opened the Quran to find this surah… but I just couldn’t see it… so after flipping a lot of pages here and there, I finally went to the index page and ran my finger down the list… still I couldn’t see any surah with this name “tabarak Allazi”… and I did not have the least idea that it also had another name “al-Mulk”… Anyway… at this point I started to get real panic in my heart… as if I had lost something without which I could not live… Was my copy of the Quran not complete? How was I going to find out? And then I got the idea that maybe the index was not printed right… so page by page I began searching for this precious surah until I came to almost the end of Quran where Surah Mulk started with these words… Tabarak Allazi…

And so it became such a precious surah for me because I had “discovered” it with so much effort… few years later when I learned its meanings and tafseer, I became even more attached to it and so I memorized it by listening to its recitation over and over again…

But then it’s a strange thing with us that when something becomes a matter of routine, our hearts are not quite moved by it anymore… and specially because we don’t revive its importance by studying it or pondering upon its meanings… we think that just reading is enough… and that’s really a great irony that we keep doing something spiritual which doesn’t move or impact our souls…

Anyway the point is that finally after all these years I got the wonderful opportunity to study this great Surah in detail… And I must share some of its gems so that they become permanently imbedded in my heart… in sha Allah…

The first thing that I learned was that if someone ponders on the words of this great Surah while reading it before sleeping, then it will definitely move you to tears… because it contains such an awesome description of the magnificent attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala…

So it made me think when was the last time I cried while reciting al Mulk? And if my heart is not affected then how will it change? How will it improve me?

Therefore the first thing I need to do is to ask Allah to remove all useless thoughts from my heart so that I can contemplate on His words… His message…

The first word Tabaraka is like an ocean… so deep and so huge…

It means that Allah has the ultimate treasures of goodness… he is the sole owner of all the blessings… and whatever is associated with Allah also becomes blessed… like the book of Allah, the messengers of Allah, the house of Allah… are supremely blessed because they are directly related to Him…

And this makes us realize that whoever lives and works for the sake of Allah also becomes blessed… and becomes a source of spreading goodness and blessings to others too.

We all want our lives to be blessed… so the way to get this barakah is to be utmost sincere to Allah, being mindful of Him at all times… and in our dealings with people we should be constantly seeking to help them and share our blessings with them… the more we are sincere to Allah and beneficial for people… the more barakah we will have in our time, in our resources, in our health etc

The second important phrase is “ biyadihil Mulk” which means: In His hands is the Kingdom, dominion, authority, ownership… of the entire universe… of all the creation that we know and all that we don’t know… all that we can see and all that is unseen… everything belongs to Allah… even my own self and my own possessions… are also the property of Allah… we don’t own anything… He just gives us a few things as a test… to see how we use them…

Knowing and pondering on this fact can make us so very humble… there will be no pride… no possessiveness… no fear of losing anything because if the owner takes back any of his things, then why should we feel upset or resentful? It was not ours to begin with…

And also this fear that something might happen to me or my loved ones… it can really make life so difficult and miserable if you are constantly worried about these things… but when you remind yourself night after night that we are all under the direct authority and care of Allah then we can be at peace that He knows how to treat His creation… He is in full control… so why should I be so anxious?

The third attribute of Allah in this same ayah is “ wa huwa ala kulli shai’in Qadeer” this is something we are all so familiar with and we keep repeating these words too often… that He has power over all things… but do we really mean it? Because if we truly believed in these profound words then we would never blame others for all the petty things…

So think about “Qadeer”… He has absolute power and control… He has no weakness… He cannot be influenced by anything or anyone… He is absolutely free to do what he wants and when he wants…

Just think about it… its just one ayah so far… and just three attributes… but if we could only internalize what is in this one ayah then all our negative thinking, our worries, our complexes, and anxieties would come to an end… and we would find true peace that can only be achieved when you know you are truly being taken care of… by the ONE who has complete authority and complete power and has the treasures of blessings that you yearn for…  

How this knowledge can really shift your focus and your attitude and behavior with others… life will really become Allah-oriented… instead of being drowned in self-centeredness… which is the primary cause of all our emotional and psychological problems…

I wonder how deep will be our worship and duas… how much hope we will have… how much secure we will feel to be in the care of such a Lord who has no weakness… no shortage of anything… who doesn’t tire of giving!

There is so much more that can be said but in sha Allah that will come later… till then may Allah help me and you to act on what He has taught us and also to spread it to others… because learning is an act of worship… and sharing what we learn is also an act of worship… the more we do in this blessed month, the better for us… in sha Allah!!  

 

Fasting from desires…

My first four days of Ramadan feel just like four hours… which have just flown by like a breeze… and it makes me realize that this blessed month comes to teach us the reality of our entire existence in this world…

When we are small kids, we are too immature to realize this but do the adults around us ever ponder on the fact that the life span of these children is already diminishing with every passing day… we are too busy celebrating life that we don’t want to be reminded of its unpredictable end…

But then you see how time flies and at my age when I look back, I am so amazed that where did my life go? So if so many years went by so fast then what about a month? How can I treat it casually? How can I let moments and hours go by without doing anything worthwhile…? You would think that if I understand its value so much then I am being super productive with my time? Or that I am making every moment count?

This is what boggles me… that despite being “oh-so-passionate” about making my precious Ramadan into the best time of my life… I still found myself draining precious moments in “not-so-important” activities… and I can tell you that it really horrified me to see that… I mean I couldn’t believe it… that I was not using my time as I should… but why?

And then I understood that all the time before Ramadan I had this “great expectation” that this would be a month of my transformation… all my weaknesses will just disappear with the appearance of the new moon… and I will become the way I want to be…

But what I hadn’t realized is that even though it is an extraordinary month with miraculous effects… but to make these miracles happen I will still need to work hard…

Living without food and drink is not so difficult because Allah made it easy… by not giving us any choice…

But giving up time-wasting activities which are not haram… is another thing altogether…

The miracle of transformation will happen only when we fast not just from food and water… but also from those things that lead us away from our purpose… even if they are halal… we have to fast from all irrelevant things… in order to receive the revelation of Quran on our hearts…

And it is only when the hearts will receive the Quran… that its miraculous impact will be visible in our characters and our choices and in the way we spend our time…

May Allah make it easy for me and you and all of us to act on what He teaches us… Ameen

My beautiful Ramadan…

The greatest gift of Allah is that he gave us Imaan… which can be translated as faith and a deep conviction.

Due to this faith in Allah we are able to see and recognize all the magnificent blessings in and around us…

And we can also recognize the blessings that are hidden inside each and every act of worship that He has prescribed for us…

For a non-believer fasting would seem like a punishment… in which you are not allowed to eat and drink…

But for a believer this is actually a great gift…

Because we recognize the fact that Allah makes us free from the need of feeding our bodies, so that we can take care of an even greater need, which is to feed our souls with His remembrance, with His words, with Quran…

This is not a time of deprivation… rather it is a beautiful time of ultimate fulfillment… when you feel drenched to the core with the realization that Allah is showering upon you, His special love, mercy and blessings, because you have submitted to his call… because you have trusted in Him enough to leave aside your most basic needs for survival… food and water.

And through this Allah teaches you about your own strength… you will realize that you are not as dependent on things as you think… and you realize that it is not food or water that makes you strong… rather it is the faith in Allah that gives you the strength to give up things without which you thought you could not survive…

And so the month of Ramadan, is for me, a month of miracles…

The Quran… which is the biggest miracle of all times…was revealed in Ramadan… and through this miraculous book, Allah changed the destiny of the entire mankind…

And through the act of fasting, we realize that living without food and water for such long hours is also a miracle which Allah makes us witness within our own selves…

So imagine how many unbelievable things can take place in our lives, if we combine these two miracles… Quran and fasting!!

How many worries, sorrows and anxieties there are in the heart of any common person…

How many unfair things happened to us that we keep remembering unnecessarily…

How much negativity there is for other people… so much so that our relationships are devoid of real feeling…

How much loneliness there is all around us despite being among crowds of people…

How many things need to be put right… we would need a miracle to make everything alright… isn’t it?

Now is the time to make it all happen… if we fast consciously and use this opportunity to connect our hearts with Quran… then all this negativity can be wiped out from our hearts… and we can experience that transformation that we always yearn for…

Imagine how beautiful life can be if we can transform ourselves and give up all the bad thoughts, words and acts that are an obstacle in our way of success… it would surely be a miracle… and what a great chance we have to make all our dreams come true… in sha Allah

May Allah make this Ramadan the very best time of our lives… May Allah allow us to witness the miracle of real and permanent transformation that we all need… Ameen

Oh My Sha’baan…

If you want For the last few years whenever I heard the Ramadan preparation lectures which usually came near the end of shabaan… it made me think that there should be lectures before shabaan to tell us how we should be using this great month for the preparation of the even greater month after it…

With this thought in mind I did some planning in Rajab how I was going to spend shabaan… and felt rather pleased that in sha Allah I was going to be super ready for Ramadan this year…

But as it happened that just a few days after this month of preparation started… I woke up one morning to find that I was unable to get out of bed… the muscles and nerves of my lower back had become so stiff… that it felt like impossible to move even an inch… but I had experienced this last year too so I was not as scared as I had been at that time… I prayed to Allah for his help and gradually and slowly I managed to get up and take the first few painful steps… did wuzu and prayed fajar in the most awkward posture… all the time thinking how lightly we take all these blessings of the body and soul…

But then all I could do was to slide back in bed after taking some painkillers and wait for things to get better…

Whatever I went through my illness during the rest of the month of shabaan, is another story, but the thing is that all my plans for preparation became impossible to implement… and it made me really miserable how the days just kept slipping by without me being able to do anything…

I tried to reason with my crying heart that this was what I really needed… being in bed might not be the affliction… but an opportunity to think deeply and analyse my mistakes and do lots and lots of istighfaar and other duas… and actually it did help me to realize my sins and I began to thank Allah for making me do all this soul searching… because now I had the wonderful opportunity of Ramadan coming ahead in which I could get forgiveness for all that I have not done right… and also seek Allah’s help in removing all that is not good in my heart, in my attitude, in my speech and in my actions…

And then one day I came to know that my dearest teacher Dr Farhat Hashmi was going to do a lecture on welcoming Ramadan… but I could not go because of several reasons… one of them was that I could not even sit for more than a few minutes…

Although I tried hard not to feel bitter about it but my heart just wouldn’t stop crying… why cannot I go…? I just have to go… please please please… on and on like a stubborn child…

But what could I do except to pray… and again do istighfar… because sometimes it is only our sins that keep us deprived from going in the way of Allah… 😦

On the day of the lecture, my back was hurting even more and I was literally in tears, when I got a call from an old friend with whom I had almost lost touch for the last few years… so I was quite surprised…

But the real surprise came when she said that in her Ladies Club they were going to arrange a lecture on the welcoming of Ramadan… and she said if I could give this talk?

My first thought was “of course not!!”

I couldn’t even sit or stand… and more importantly I didn’t have any experience…

But then simultaneously I recognized this to be an answer to all my duas… I felt like this was Allah’s way of teaching me that the best way of preparing for Ramadan is to share with others what I wanted to do for myself… and if I say yes to His offer then it is all up to Him how he will make me do it…

And so I heard myself saying to her “yes in sha Allah I will do it” without saying even one word about my illness or any other excuse…

She was obviously very surprised and relieved that she didn’t have to persuade me or anything… and so the commitment was made… with me lying in the bed, not knowing how I was going to do anything about it at all…!!

The miracle of her sudden call, was followed by another miracle that suddenly I felt like my illness had gone… I got out of bed almost effortlessly and walked smoothly to the kitchen… so happy to find my energy back… and knowing it to be a gift from Allah, made it all so much sweeter… Alhamdulillah 

For the next two days I worked like crazy… researching and making notes as if the guidance of the whole world depended on this 30 minutes talk!!:) But in my heart I knew that this was for my own guidance and most especially a lesson of depending on Allah…

I was also so very scared that I would make mistakes due to being so inexperienced and forgetful… what if I offend people by my blunt and critical attitude? What if I become a cause of them going further away from religion instead of coming closer?

BUT all I could do was to pray to Allah to save me from my clumsiness… and  to work hard and keep my intentions purely for pleasing Allah… and not my own self…

Alhamdulillah, yesterday I went and with the help of Allah I was able to deliver His message to the ladies there… But instead of feeling that I was teaching anyone… I felt like I myself was the most in need of learning… and Alhamdulillah I learned so much… 

I learned that if you want to feel the pure faith in which nothing else matters except Allah… And to feel his eyes on what you are doing and why you are doing… And to feel your utter dependence and closeness to Allah…

You have to stand in a place where you can actually see that nothing can help you except Him…

You just have to get out of your comfort zone and you realize that the only one who can save you is Allah…

I pray that we all walk into the month of Ramadan with the ultimate level of faith and taqwa… so that not even one moment of that blessed month should go waste… may we all be successful in implementing our intentions… may all our dreams of serving Allah become a reality… Ameen

 

The First Key to Success… Power!

Yesterday I wrote about the reasons and cure for lack of energy and motivation. But then I thought that even if we apply those tips and get healed from this disease, we should also know ways and means to avoid falling into the same trap again… because once shaitan becomes aware of your weakness then he doesn’t let go of it… rather he will push you into the same corner again and again… because he knows it is the best way for him to beat you… and you don’t want that to happen… so what to do? We need to learn how to strengthen our souls so that they don’t become so devastated at the slightest disturbance as if it’s the end of the world…!!!

Often it happens that whenever I ask myself a question like this, my first thought is of intense longing… How I wish I could consult a scholar… but there is no one whom I can sit with or talk to… and so I start writing and with the help of Allah I get the answer… from some source or the other…

This time my solution came from Mirza Yawar Baig whose lecture I just randomly came across… the title says: seven keys to success…

Instead of listing down all seven of them, I will focus on just one at a time and take action on it and absorb it… and then go on to the next one.

So the first key is… Connecting to the source of power.

Because even if you have the best phone or the latest computer or whatever… you cannot get any benefit from it if it has no power… you need to charge the batteries!!

In our case we know that the source of all power is our Creator… our Master… Allah.

So how will we connect to Him?

  • Knowing Him… through his creation and through his Book…

  • Bowing to Him in complete obedience… with love and humbleness

Lets connect to our source of Power and become powerful against all negative thoughts and behavior… whether this negativity is generated from within us or from those around us…

What steps can you take? Today… now…

Well it could start with looking around and pondering on the creation of Allah… if you cannot go out for a walk, at least look out the window and see the sky, the trees and think of how and why Allah created all these things? The simple reason is that these are the signs through which we might recognize Him and love Him and fear His displeasure…

The second thing would be to reflect and ponder on some portion of the Quran…

Third is to read and understand one of Allah’s names

Fourth is to pray all five prayers on time and with concentration… and understand that He is our master and we are supposed to be his humble slaves… (most effective training for that bloated ego)

Fifth is to count his blessings and be truly appreciative and thankful… recognizing that none of it means that I am better than those who didn’t receive these blessings… rather it is purely Allah’s mercy that he granted me things which I didn’t work for and didn’t deserve…

And lastly to count my sins and recognize that if Allah doesn’t forgive me then there is no other force in this world which can wipe away my mistakes from my book of deeds… so no amount of istighfar is enough… and so I must thank Allah for this miracle of forgiveness without which I would be a total loser…

So lets get these done before we learn more… in sha Allah… because knowledge that is not translated into action is just an added burden for which we will be held accountable… may Allah forgive us… Ameen    

Clean up…

When your heart feels the significance of worshipping Allah and you want to do it with full energy and enthusiasm then there is nothing more depressing than to feel yourself getting weak and lethargic… unable to do what you want to do…

In fact this lack of energy and enthusiasm is like a disease which seems to eat away at your heart. As the clock keeps ticking on and on, and you see precious moments just slipping out of your hands… each moment a jewel… that was supposed to bring you closer to Allah, closer to success; but now these jewels are just being ruined because you are not “buying” anything with them…

Over and over your heart cries out and utters signals of desperation and urgency, but your limbs feel like they have been locked into inactivity… you try to move but there is a burden on your soul which doesn’t let you do anything…

Is this depression? You ask yourself… or is it some physical ailment? Should I see a doctor? Or a psychiatrist? Get some anti-depressants?

The answer from within comes in the form of a loud “NO”… because depression is not a disease, rather it is the symptom of a problem deep inside… your soul has been carrying a burden and has become too exhausted… and what you need to do is to take off that burden from your soul… so that it can regain its energy and enthusiasm…

The burden of the soul is mainly of two things:

  • The weight of sins

  • The weight of negative emotions

The problem is that sometimes we get so caught up with just making ourselves work, that getting things done becomes our main focus… and we don’t realize that the heart and soul which we use for all this activity, needs our attention too… And so we don’t delete the unnecessary files on our system… and they become a load on our souls which just makes us collapse…

As human beings we cannot be totally free from sins… so we need to detox after every mistake we make so that its burden doesn’t keep collecting on our souls… in this case salat-ut-taubah is a big way out…

Secondly we cannot assume that we will never feel any negativity in our hearts… it is not humanly possible not to feel hurt or angry… but the remedy is to channelize these emotions into positive actions… like dua…

Instead of letting yourself be drowned into complaining, focus on making dua… because no situation is too difficult for Allah to make it right… he can do anything and everything…

So in case you are too emotional and reactive… just take it as a gift from Allah… by transforming every wave of emotion into dua… and this way you will remain in a constant state of peace because Allah promised in the Quran that hearts can only find peace in Allah’s remembrance…

Just like the body needs to be washed and cleaned regularly

Similarly the soul needs this cleansing too…

A clean heart, a clean soul… will lead to a healthy heart and a healthy active body too… in-sha-Allah