Recipe for Success…!!

Since the day I came to know that Muaaz bin Jabal (r.a.) was the companion of the Prophet (s.a.w) who was very beloved to him… so much so that on one occasion the Prophet (s.a.w) held his hand and said “O Muaaz! Indeed I love you for the sake of Allah”… I became so eager to know what was so special about this companion which made him so special in the eyes of our Prophet (s.a.w).

Well today I heard a Hadith narrated by Muaaz bin Jabal (r.a.) which shows his wisdom and his truthfulness and sincerity to please Allah (s.w.t); and it made me think how much focused he was on the ultimate purpose of life:

Muaaz (r.a.) narrates: I said, “O messenger of Allah! inform me of that deed which will enter me into paradise and keep me far away from the fire?”

He (s.a.w) replied: “indeed you have asked me about something so great (in magnitude)! and indeed it will be easy upon whom Allah makes it easy… and it is that you worship Allah and not share His status with anything at all… And that you establish Salah… and give Zakah… and fast in Ramadan… and do Hajj.”

And then the Prophet (s.a.w) said: “should I not tell you about the doors of goodness? Fasting is a shield (from sins and from fire) and Sadaqah (charity) extinguishes mistakes/sins just like water extinguishes fire and the same goes for the prayer in the depths of the night… and then He (s.a.w) recited the following verses:

Their sides remain apart from their beds. They call their Lord with fear and hope, and spend (in charity) out of what We have given to them. So, no one knows the delight of eyes that has been reserved for them in secret, as a reward of what they used to do. (32:16, 17)

Then the Prophet (s.a.w) said: “Should I not inform you about the main thing and its central pillar and its peak?” I said “why not! O messenger of Allah…”

He (s.a.w) said: “the main thing is Islam, its central pillar is Prayer and its peak is Jihad (utmost struggle for the sake of Allah)”

Then the Prophet (s.a.w) said: “should I not inform you about that thing which will make you the owner of all these deeds?” I said, “why not! O messenger of Allah…”

Thereupon He (s.a.w) took hold of his tongue and said: “Hold this (restrict its use) upon yourself!”

I said: “O Prophet of Allah! are we indeed to be held accountable for what we say with our tongue?”

So the Prophet (s.a.w) said: “And what do you think will throw the people (into the fire) upon their faces or their noses except the harvest of their tongues??”

It seems to be a long conversation but in reality it could not have taken more than a couple of minutes… Just imagine! only a couple of minutes to define the whole outline of a successful life?

After pondering on the words of this Hadith, my heart is full of these comparisons between the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w) at that time; and His (so called) followers of today:

1- The companions of the Prophet (s.a.w) did not take Paradise as their birth-right, even though they were so righteous and following the Prophet (s.a.w) in every matter of life and even death…

As opposed to this, we as born muslims and belonging to this religion by chance, think that we can do what we like and Jannah is waiting for us.

2- They realized that to enter Jannah requires constant struggle and so they were not reluctant to ask the Prophet (s.a.w) how they could attain it?

We never ask such questions because are fully absorbed by the fantasy of this world… never thinking beyond it.

3- Their poverty and other hardships of life did not bother them so much because they had a bigger worry on their minds… i.e. How to save themselves from the fire??

We are so much disturbed by even the smallest loss… because the importance of the world has occupied our hearts and minds out of all proportion.

The great thing about studying Hadith is that it not only makes us aware of our problems but also gives us the solutions… intellectual as well as practical solutions!

1- the first thing is to develop and nurture the faith in the hereafter and to take the world as a place to work for Allah. The more we think of Allah as our Lord, the less we will be bothered by other things. And the more we think of our status in the hereafter the less we will be bothered about our status in this world.

2- on the practical side we must give due right to Allah’s worship… not just in rituals but also in giving him top place in our life, wherever we are and whatever the circumstances. There can be nothing equally or more important in our life than Allah (s.w.t)

3- the obligations, such as prayer, fasting, Zakah and Hajj are the basic structure of Islam… without these rituals we cannot be true muslims because disobedience and obedience must have opposite consequences

4- to develop love for Allah and His religion we must purify our hearts from the negative effects which enter it through the whispers of shaitan and also from indulging in the love of desires. Voluntary fasting, voluntary charity and voluntary prayer are the great weapons against shaitan and our distractions! Use them as frequently as possible.

5- last but not the least: become the owner of your tongue… and you can own all goodness! But if you let it go free then you cannot hope to have any discipline in your heart, nor in your life. It is the most difficult thing to control because it is so quick to move and probably the only muscle which never gets tired!! But if you learn to control it then you can control yourself and do ONLY which is beneficial… instead of just flowing along the tide… not knowing nor caring where it’s going to lead you…

May Allah help me and all of us to really follow the advice of our beloved Prophet (s.a.w) so that we can enter Jannah and be saved from the fire… ameen.

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Just keep on walking!

In the Quran Allah has made it absolutely clear that faith and guidance are His most precious gifts and so if someone is fortunate to have been blessed with these gifts then the biggest concern should be to protect these gifts from being lost. And we can only ensure their continuity by always following this guidance and never losing sight of our destination… the hereafter…

In Arabic this attitude of keeping in line with your focus and staying on the right direction is called “istaqamat” and this is what we pray for in every rakah of every salah… Ihdina-assirat-al-mustaqeem… Allah! guide us to the straight path…

Someone asked a scholar “How do we stay on the straight path?”

And the answer was “just keep walking on it… even if you take tiny little steps… and beware of the distractions because if you keep taking the wrong turns then you will waste a lot of time going in the wrong direction and then following your way back to the right path.”

Imagine two people going on a highway… one is going straight ahead with a moderate speed… and keeps going…

The other one is driving fast but stops at every rest area… and also wants to explore every town on the way… he just cannot control his desires… so he keeps wandering back and forth…

Who is going to reach the destination?

It is quite sad that we all know the end of this story and yet we keep on playing the role of the loser… why? Don’t we want to win this test of life? Do we lack conviction in the results? Or do we live in the illusion that we are going to win anyway?

Life seems like a long journey but the fact is that its going to be over in no time at all… so why give up everlasting and endless pleasures of the hereafter; for the tiny little, superficial pleasures of this world?

Because you see its not only ignorance or lack of faith… but the lack of seriousness and determination which keeps us behind in good deeds… But If we are serious enough for our safety and determined to win; then surely we will fight our desires and stay away from all the things which take us off the main road…

May Allah make us of those who realize this truth and stay on the road to success… Ameen

Transform weaknesses into opportunities…

Today I am going to share an amazing tip from the book “how to be a happy Muslim” by sister Sheima Salam Sumer.

In fact the same day when I posted a review on this book, I had to go out of town and during the drive once again had to confront my same old fear of accidents… the speed of the car was making me so anxious that I couldn’t even tell the driver to slow down. My best therapy at such times is to concentrate on Allah and do tasbeeh… as the words of zikr began to restore my heart to its normal peaceful state; I recalled the advice of the author to use your weaknesses and problems as a means of Allah’s worship. Like if you have some pain then glorify Allah that He does not have to suffer any pain… He is so great… He has no weakness.

And so I started whispering to Allah… “how great you are my Rabb that you don’t have any fear at all… SubhanAllah how perfectly strong and superior you are that you cannot be overwhelmed by anything.”…. As I said this, I looked up to the sky and imagined Him to be so far Above His creation… how small these things must be in front of His majesty? He who is the All-seeing… could see the whole universe in one glance… what is the size of this planet? And then this country? And this city and this car and this road and all the other traffic? Such tiny things… so if they are such small things in reality then why should I be bothered by them?

This proved to be a wonderful change in perspective because I began to see all my weaknesses and problems as opportunities to glorify Allah… suddenly my heart seemed to be full of such a joy that I cannot describe!

When we feel something in the heart it has an effect on all our actions… but even more effective than the emotion itself, is the act of expressing that feeling… so whenever I am irritated by my errors, I actually say to Allah: Ya Rabb, How perfect you are! You don’t have any errors… you are free from all deficiencies… Nothing is above you.

Remembrance of Allah is a great act of worship but it becomes alive when it has a personal touch and so we can really feel what we say. Such is the remembrance which brings peace and tranquility and contentment in the heart because you realize that you are being taken care of by such an all-powerful Lord who has no weakness and no problem at all.

Expressing gratitude is most beloved to Allah. So just imagine the rewards of a person who is grateful to Allah not only for the gifts of life but also for the problems because these problems make him remember the greatness and perfection of Allah.

May Allah enable us to be among these blessed people too… ameen

Want to get rid of backbiting?

Ok so lets get down right to the root of the problem… why do we do gheebat? I mean what comes out of the mouth in the form of words is just a demonstration… it’s just the smoke of what actually is burning deep inside the heart…

It could be the fire of anger… someone did an injustice to you or what you perceive it as an injustice… and you want to announce it to the whole world as a form of revenge…

OR… It could be the fire of insecurity… feeling inferior or let down by others and so you want to gain sympathy or approval or both… by expressing how bad others are…

OR… It could be the fire of pride and arrogance which makes you want to express how inferior others are so that you can retain that false image of being better than others…

OR… It could be just a desire to gossip… and you are among people who just love to talk about others and make fun of them behind their back… thinking that they are just entertaining themselves…

Whatever the case might be the things is that to treat this disease and uproot it from our system, we first need to find out the real motive… why we want to talk like this? What is the root cause?

What I think is most common is our desire to look better than others… to be the best…

Well there is nothing wrong with this desire… In fact Allah has himself put this urge inside us to excel and be on the top… but you know what… this quality was given to us so that we could strive to excel in good deeds and in being the best slaves of Allah…

So next time you want to look better than others remember that the key to be the best in Allah’s eyes and also in people’s eyes is to be humble and kind and appreciative about others… the more you admit other people’s good qualities the better you will look to Allah… and if Allah will love you then he will put love for you in the hearts of people too.

On the other hand the more negatively you speak about others the more disgusting you become in the eyes of Allah and what good can anyone achieve if Allah doesn’t like a person?

As a small exercise look into the mirror or tell someone to record your video as you talk badly about others… see how bitter your face becomes… and then take another look at yourself when you talk kindly about the same person… can you see the difference??

And now coming to the last question… very important question… how not to think bad about others specially when we have forgiven them for whatever mistakes they made?

Well the bad memories can be erased only when you replace them with good memories. Whatever good you do today will become a good memory to think back on. So think of ideas of how you can create good memories with people who have hurt you in any way… maybe you can give them a gift from time to time… and be genuinely happy in giving them happiness… invite them on a picnic… spend happy times together… help them whenever you can… talk good about them…

One good tip is to make a gratitude journal about the people in your life and dedicate a few pages for each person and write how grateful you are to Allah that He brought this person in your life because they have such and such great qualities… or they did so and so good things to you…

So don’t be a prisoner of bad thoughts… replace them with good ones and create happiness for yourself and others… all the while expecting your reward only from Allah… if people don’t appreciate or reciprocate just forgive them and move on with life… it is too short anyway… so make the most of it while you have it…

Time for a little exercise!

Many years ago my doctor advised me to watch my diet because I needed to lose weight… my immediate response came in the form of an instant protest… “ Oh but really I eat very little already!!”

He didn’t argue with me as one might expect; rather he offered me another simple advice…” okay then we just need to make a record of how little you eat… so from now on you will just make a note of what you eat… maintain this for the next few day and then we can decide how we need to proceed”

To my amazement when I started writing everything down I was faced with a reality which I had never seen before…that I really was eating too much… why couldn’t I detect my over-eating before? Because like most people I was also reluctant to put the blame on myself… in other words we don’t like to face the fact that the reason for our troubles is our own self.

The other reason for our self-deception is that we get used to our routine actions so much that we stop noticing… and if we don’t notice and we don’t analyse then how can we hope to have an accurate idea of exactly what we are doing? And so when we don’t know what we need to correct then how will we ever correct it?

All of these thoughts came to me when I was writing and thinking about the topic of taubah and I realized that taubah is not just a way to come closer to Allah rather it is a tool through which we are forced to look deeper into our actions and to analyse what we are doing wrong…

Because if we don’t even know our mistakes then what are we seeking forgiveness for?

And if I just pick one topic and that is gheebat… or backbiting… what will be the standard response? Most of us would say something like: “Oh yes we should not do it but really I don’t do it that much”

So what about maintaining a record for how much we talk about other people and their various shortcomings?

I did this exercise myself and I was horrified to see the result… I really thought that I was above and beyond this utterly unforgivable activity yet when I started putting black dots on a piece of paper that I hung up on my dressing mirror… I realized that there were enough to make me look so bad to Allah… especially when I got ready to go somewhere and I would check in the mirror to see if I looked alright, my eyes would go immediately to the black spots and I thought that if Allah put a spot on my face for everytime I spoke badly about someone, then what would I look like? And would I still dare to speak like that?

So maybe for the first time in my life I specially made wudhu and prayed just to seek forgiveness and do taubah for this habit… may Allah forgive us all and make us brave enough to face our reality before it comes before us on the day of judgement… ameen  

Having real Taqwa

It is a well known fact that human beings have been created as imperfect beings and they will always make mistakes and we also get a lot of comfort in the fact that Allah is most forgiving and so if we make any mistake then all we have to do is to feel the guilt and beg for his forgiveness. Make matters right with the person against whom we committed the sin and give some sadaqah to cleanse the soul. But if the Taubah was so sincere why do we keep falling into the same trap again and again. Since we know that the devil uses our weaknesses to lead us towards sins so that means that if we keep returning to the same error then the weakness which enables the shaitan to do his job is very much present in us. So we must analyse ourselves and find out that weakness in order to get rid of it… this is what Tazkiyah or character development is all about.

One common mistake which most of us are guilty of is to lose temper with people and talk to them in a manner which we would never like for our own self. Why do we do it? Even though some of us feel terribly guilty after talking like that but very soon find ourselves repeating the error somehow or the other… why is that?

Some might say that its in our nature and we really don’t think badly about others… but its just in talking to them in anger that we forget all the good articles we have read and the lectures we listen to…

If this excuse is true then why is it that we control our anger and our tone in front of people whom we are afraid of… when we fear that they will insult us if we say anything to them…

Or imagine yourself in front of a person whom you love and admire greatly and want to maintain an excellent relationship… how is it that we get the wisdom and the patience to control our temper and tongue in such situations?

It means that the real thing which leads to good behaviour is love and fear. Now since we do not and cannot love and fear all the people on the same level then our behaviour also keeps fluctuating. But if we can just remember one thing that all the people are the creation of Allah… that even if they cannot take revenge from us due to their specific nature or situation, Allah is watching over them and His revenge is greater than anything we can ever imagine… if we can remain conscious of this we can never degrade others… we can never be rough to others… we can never hurt others… no matter what they do to us, because we will know that their mistakes cannot neutralize our sins.

One way to do this is to keep repeating this in our talks that Allah has created this person and he knows what he or she is doing and he is enough to do justice. This thought will make us free from the urge to talk back… or to punish… or to make them realize how bad they are!!

The other thing is to cultivate a forgiving attitude. Stop the habit of thinking and talking negatively about people. If they appear as incompetent or foolish or deceptive or whatever… then maybe it is a trial for me through which Allah is testing my Taqwa? He is testing me whether I make the same concessions for them which I want for my own weaknesses?

Because today once again I realized that our Taqwa is best revealed in our attitude towards people who are weak and helpless…

Its interesting to note that we are sometimes very polite with poor and needy people and we think we have achieved Taqwa… but the real taqwa is when we can “maintain” that politeness with our servants… our children… with whom we live and are tested with their irritations or negative reactions.

No matter how much they spoil things or spoil our mood but we just don’t have the right to INSULT them or anyone else. We take it lightly because it has become such a common thing but still in Allah’s eyes it is a great sin. The honour of a person is as sacred as his life and his property. We think Zulm as killing or robbing people… but it is an equal zulm to kill the spirit of a person with our negative criticism and angry words.

A story from 2011…

I learned the meanings of Quran through the correspondence course at alhuda; and have really enjoyed studying at home, all alone… without any distractions, just me and my computer and the lovely voice of my teacher opening to me the wonderful meanings of Allah’s words and the profound wisdom of the message of Quran. Truly each and every moment spent in this self-education was a treasure in itself. But there was one point on which I used to get stuck… whenever the teacher focused on the need to study Quran in a group. She would always say that it is not possible to understand Quran just by listening to lectures at home. And I would be so confused because it was totally opposite to what I was experiencing. Then I would think that it is probably because most people don’t have any real motivation and determination for learning Quran, and so they need people as a support. But if that is the case then what they are doing is not for Allah but for people. So thank God that I have been blessed with so much genuine love and eagerness for Quran so I don’t need other people to lean on…
That is why even last Ramadan I did not make any effort to join any gathering for Daur-e-Quran. Instead I was happy to download the lessons one by one and did it alone, in the comfort of my bedroom, writing meticulous notes in a pretty little note book… everything purely for the pleasure of Allah… no show off… nothing to spoil my purity… (I wonder how I was so blind to my arrogance!!)
Anyway this year, Allah was even more kind to me that He didn’t let any of my plans for self education come true… in fact the more I tried to listen to some lectures the more I failed at completing my targets… I thought that since I was working at the children’s summer camp, so perhaps this new experience of going out of the house in Ramadan was making time management so impossible for me. But this worry of not spending enough quality time with Quran was constantly making me miserable and I was so scared that may be I had done something real bad that Allah is angry with me and so on…
Anyway as the summer camp ended on Friday I had the weekend to decide how to spend the rest of the Ramadan… My heart was amazed at even this need of deciding when it was so obvious what I wanted… naturally I was dying to take up my Quran, lock myself in my room and let my spirit fly in the fantastic world of Quran… But something told me that although this was what I “wanted” yet it was not what I “needed”. Finally on Monday morning I forced myself to get out of my bed and got ready to go to the Daur-e-Quran class being held at alhuda. My heart gave me so many excuses of not going but this time I didn’t listen to it because a voice inside me was telling me that I needed to get out of my shell and join the group on which Allah sends his special mercy… and I really need it…
When I got there the room was full and I got a space at the back (something that I don’t like at all) On top of that there were three kids who made such a noise and mess that I wished I could just get up and go back to my quiet house… why had I even come? But that same voice scolded me “keep sitting and if you don’t like it then it is all the better… enough pampering you have got… now get some sense too!!”
And so I held on… gradually all the discomforts seemed to dissolve and I began to be absorbed by the beauty of Quran. The words I specially loved came at the end of Surah Al-Hijr
And We already know that your heart is constrained by what they say.
So exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord and be of those who prostrate [to Him].
And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (death).
In discussion time I shared with the class an idea of making a “first aid box” so that in case someone breaks our heart, and we feel so sad and depressed, we can just go and open this box and repair our wounded hearts by the balm of Allah’s soothing words, the duas taught in the Quran and Hadith or simply by the beautiful words of Tasbih.

They all loved this idea and I felt so guilty in my heart that I had never actually acted on it even though I have thought of it for such a long time. And then there came to my mind many other things which I keep putting off… simply through poor time management and laziness.
when I came home I was filled with a new found determination to “do” something, instead of just making day dreams… and so I took out a box and filled it with sweet little dua cards, a pocket size Quran, a lovely Tasbeeh which someone had presented me, the small book about the Prophet (s.a.w) and the book of duas called “the fortress of the Muslim”.
I was also able to write my first article of this Ramadan, which I posted on the blog. And even felt enthusiastic in my house-work and was able to spend good quality time with family. Obviously all this was the barakah of Quran…
And so I learned the truth that even though it is a great treat to spend time alone with Allah and maybe I can understand Quran better in an environment which I love, But I did not come into this world to just satisfy my desires… It is more important that I share my knowledge with others too…. and look how Allah blessed me with something which I had not even dreamed of…. and that is the motivation to act on Quran.
Today when I showed my first aid box to the class they were all so excited and the teacher said that we should make such boxes and put on alhuda stall. Then we discussed on other ideas like “Shifa box”, “prayer box” and so on…
So I learned that even though I can get better understanding at home but the energy for application comes only when we work together in a group. We are all human beings… imperfect and incomplete… and Allah has made us like this so that we can find our perfection and completeness only when we join hands and be united in the way of Allah.
And Finally I also got rid of this misconception that in this way we will be doing things to look good to people… no… This is not “for” people, rather it is “with” people but “for” Allah…