Don’t Waste your Energy…

A couple of days back a friend called me and began to talk about how difficult life had become when everybody had become so selfish and neglectful of their duties. She is very very intelligent and so can analyse deeply about different issues… But lately I had been feeling that excessive criticism leads you to permanent irritation and the mind gets so negative that you can’t even appreciate any goodness at all… Shaitan is so clever that he uses our intelligence in excessive analysis about others to such an extent that we forget our own accountability which should be our main concern. So today I decided to caution my dear freind. I told her very politely that her attitude is damaging her own self and her energy is being wasted in non-productive complaints about things which will not change simply because you are angry at them. I told her to imagine she is in the akhirah, will Allah ask her about how good or bad any other person is and why is he the way he is? What if Allah asks you, what did you do to stop it? How you tried to change the situation? And if we are actually taking any steps to create a positive change then that is the only thing which should concern us…only when we shift our energy and observation to our own responsibility then we will be able to see how and where we can help. Otherwise just saying everyone is bad is of no use at all. Well she went very quiet (which is against her usual attitude) and I thought maybe she had been hurt by my open truth…I began to feel bad but then I thought maybe it will do some good…my intention was good and I had tried to remain as polite as possible and light and cheerful (normally I tend to get very angry too but that day Allah gave me some better sense!!)

Anyway it was such a pleasant surprise, that just two days after this episode, she called me to ask if she could come over…it is a miracle because for more than two years she has been living in the same city and had not found time to visit me even though I had gone a couple of times to her place…but now just when I was thinking that I had lost a friend, there she was in my house and the affection and courtesy in her attitude was amazing.

The lesson of the story is that we have this logic that if someone is told the truth then he will be hurt or annoyed… instead I learned that it doesn’t matter what you say but actually HOW we say it… so if you criticize in a pleasant way, this can be very beneficial… especially if you do it in 101% sincerity and helpfulness and in no way make the other feel that you are trying to act superior.

She said that my sentences had been inscribed in her mind and she had started applying it in all aspects…when someone annoys her she thinks that she is responsible only for her own deeds…. although she knew it before but had never really implemented it before….

So we must keep reminding and helping others, while remembering that we are also in need of such help… so if someone points out some flaw in me then I should also take it positively… after all it is in my benefit to accept my mistakes now when I have the chance to repent and make corrections… instead of finding out the truth when it is too late… May Allah save us from such a regret… Ameen

Exercise your Ears!!

Back in the days when I was learning Tafseer of Quran at home, I didn’t have anyone to discuss my thoughts with… I wanted so much for someone to guide me through the times when my heart would fill up with confusion… and so I started writing letters to my own self… and Allah showed me the miracle of the pen… because things would come out on the paper which I had never realized before… I saved some of those “letters”… here is one of them…

Have you ever cried tears of gratitude for the gift of ears?

Isn’t it peculiar that these amazing receptors of sound, are never really noticed… maybe because they are placed in such a position that unless they are protruding or have an unusual shape or form… we hardly ever notice them. And since we hardly ever think about their presence, so we hardly ever notice their ability and that is to hear sound and record its implication on the mind forever. Words of praise, words of encouragement, and words of love…one remembers forever. Its imprint is seen on the positive outlook of a person. On the contrary, hostile words, sneering and jeering tones, cruel words, rude words, humiliating words… they also leave an effect that is hard to erase.

We have been hearing these words, even before we were conscious of their meaning and since life is nothing but a test… so there is always a mixture of good and bad in it for everyone.

But some people are more sensitive than others… they have the potential to excel beyond the average lot, but at the same time they can be a victim of their own heightened sensitivity.

Now if you keep hearing about the importance of this world and see people running after its temporary success, and keep listening to their never ending excuses about not following the religion, ranging from apologetic excuses to outright aggressiveness against the religion and religious people………….then you can’t expect yourself to be free from its effects.

Even if your own heart believes in Allah and His religion… yet the echoes of other people’s doubts keep rotating in your mind. Sometimes when your Imaan is high and the heart is filled with joyous tones of hope and optimism then the negative voices or whispers are subsided, but when Imaan is down………you have not heard enough Quran through your own recitation, nor from any other Qari……..you have not paid attention to the presence of Allah in your prayers then these whispers become a loud noise which you can no longer ignore.

The best remedy begins with self-awareness and an acceptance of the fact that we are all weak unless Allah makes us strong. We can never be strong on our own. So the best solution that follows this diagnosis is to get up and pray when no one is around. If only two rakah but try to concentrate on Allah’s power to heal your heart… and then tell Allah what is bothering you and ask Him to clean your heart. Let the tears come out and don’t force yourself into anything unnatural. Just be yourself.

Constantly pray to Allah for the good company of positive and sincere people… Because when you are in a really bad state then you cannot get up on your own. You need a friend to remind you of Allah’s power. This works wonders.

And use your power of listening as much as you can. The more you listen to Ayat about the hereafter, the more faith you will develop in it. Listen to good lectures then discuss it, share it with whoever you can. I love talking about Jannat to my washing maid who listens with joy sparking in her dark eyes. Since she believes what I tell her, it strengthens my belief in what Allah tells me in the Quran. Also your own voice talking about heaven and hell has a strange effect on your heart. So talk about the day of Akhirah, the paradise, the honour for the righteous people as much as you can.

A good thing to remember is that the influences which we gathered during our childhood or before understanding the Quran were without our choice. Whatever we saw or heard is beyond our control now. But what we can control is the present. The choice that Allah has given us can be utilized in letting the good sounds enter our ears. Make the most of your listening abilities by listening to Qirat, your own recitation, your duas and Zikr which you should preferably do in an exclusive time slot (however short it might be due to other commitments). Stay out of bad company, listen to positive ideas, listen to your own voice while you talk lovingly and soothingly to your children and other people and see its effects on your life.

Also remember that whatever you do, it can only be effective if Allah wills……..so keep working for the sake of Allah, with a smile on your face and love in your heart…  and surely He will respond in a way than we cannot even imagine.

Time to wake up!

Today I read a Hadith of our beloved Prophet (s.a.w) which really shook me from inside… just look at how in such simple and few words He has given us a criteria to see the reality of our own hearts…

The Prophet (s.a.w) said: “I have not seen anything like the (hell) fire that anyone who wants to run away from it in fear, should remain asleep… and neither anything like Jannah that anyone yearning for it should remain asleep.”

It’s a reality check for all of us… if we really believe in the torture of the hell fire then its fear will shorten our sleep… and we will be worshipping Allah in the depths of the night asking his forgiveness for all our sins…

Similarly if we really have a passionate desire for the paradise then how can we relax and spend so much time in sleeping? We cannot rest until we have achieved it.

This might seem too extreme in case of the hereafter but if you apply the same formula to the worldly fears and desires then it seems perfectly normal to not be able to sleep when you have an important interview the next day… or you have a flight to catch and you fear that you would miss it… what is the state of our heart when the earthquake jolts us out of our relaxed state and we fear that there will be aftershocks too… can we just go to sleep?

Therefore the question which we must ask ourselves is this:

Do I really fear the hell fire? Then how come it doesn’t make me more alert and conscious of where my time is going… because you see sleep is not just physical… when we are spending precious minutes and hours of our life in front of our computers doing useless stuff then we might think that we are awake but really our hearts are asleep…

And do I really have a desire to live a life of eternal pleasure in the Paradise? Then why am I so busy running after the illusionary pleasures of this world? Why am I asleep from the reality?

May Allah help us to wake up from our mental slumber so that we may put in our best struggle to be saved from the hell fire and enter the Jannah… ameen

Keep going!!

The article I posted yesterday (you can read it by clicking here)  made me think a lot about the value of real struggle that emits from real passion… and it reminded me of another article I had written in the winters of 2014… 

It was all about a lady whom I have known for a long time… she is very keen to work in the way of Allah but her family is not in favour of her going out to spread the religion and so she feels quite frustrated at this restriction. She often talks to me about this dilemma in her life and shares her deep concern at what is going to become of her if she dies without fulfilling this right of Allah??

On one hand she wants to give the right of her husband and obey him because it is the command of Allah but then Allah has also commanded us not to obey someone if they force you to do things against the religion. So when she thinks on these lines and goes out despite knowing that her husband is going to be cross with her, then she has to face two problems. One is the discomfort of knowing that her family life is in distress because of her and the other is that maybe Allah is also going to be angry with her that why didn’t she convince her family before going out?

So she starts convincing again… but then despite all her efforts to change the opinion of her family, she remains unsuccessful and has to stay home in order to maintain her relationships. But all the time she is blaming herself for giving more priority to her husband while it is definitely Allah who has the most right upon her. So what should she do? Will Allah be happy if her family is not happy with her? Will Allah be angry if she stays home and does not fulfil her duty of doing dawah?

Quite a tough question to answer… but finally I found the answer when I forced myself out of bed for an early morning walk. I used to feel such a pleasure in this activity during summers but since the weather has turned cold it is extremely painful to bear the harshness of the freezing cold wind on my face… something I used to love before having this strange disease called celiac, in which the body’s resistance to temperatures becomes weak, and so even a slight cold can feel devastating. So I stopped going… but since a few days I have been feeling that my eyes were becoming weak and I went to see the doctor. I was afraid that he will recommend me to start wearing glasses but to my good luck he announced that my eye sight was quite alright… only the muscles of the eyes had gone weak due to remaining indoors and not focusing on distant objects. This made me start the walk regime even if it meant fighting the cold because surely my eyes are more important to me than my comfort.

So this morning when I went out in the cold and misty morning, I got something which I had not expected at all… the long awaited answer to that lady’s problem. And in getting that answer I felt like someone had put a comforting hand on my heart because it is an answer which solves all such problems in which we are being obstructed by other people… or so we think!!

Initially all I could feel was the sting of the cold air but slowly as the face became accustomed to this painful feeling, I started to look around and thanked Allah for giving me such a peaceful spot to walk around. Thanked him for the views and the eyes that can see… thanked him for waking me in this hour while so many people who don’t pray are still asleep… thanked him for making me aware of the responsibility to pray fajr… thanked him for so many other things and also for the heart which can feel and express the thanks that is due to Him.

As I looked at the scattered clouds, I thought to myself that it was going to be a cold day because there would be no sun… but after a couple of rounds when I sat down on a bench I saw with amazement that he sun was beginning to peep through a very small opening in the clouds… and sure enough, as the sun got brighter, the dull grey morning was transformed into a bright and cheerful day… by the will of my Lord… the Lord of the heavens and the earth!!

This made me think of the difference between our attitude and the sun… when there are clouds in our life we tend to take them as permanent obstructions and so we stop shining and start complaining against the clouds. But the clouds are there by the will of Allah… not to stop us, but to test our obedience and perseverance.

What did the sun do? It woke up at the same time which was commanded by Allah. It didn’t say that what’s the use of burning when its light isn’t going to pass through the clouds…?? It kept burning anyway because its job is to burn and to produce the heat and light… whether that light reaches us or not; that is the decision of our Lord…

And then the sun didn’t just burn and stay in one spot… it kept moving on its path which was commanded by Allah and that is how it reached the open passage in the clouds… it didn’t wait for the clouds to disappear before moving on… it didn’t change its path either… just kept moving as commanded by Allah because its job is to move and to obey.

My heart became so full of gratitude and wonder at Allah’s way of giving me this lesson that I forgot all about the cold air… it seemed as if the warmth of my heart to experience this moment of inspiration reached to each and every cell of my body… made me so very optimistic that if we continue to obey Allah and keep our passion alive to spread his message in the world then he will make a way for us no matter what the obstruction might be.

So we should not be angry with the obstructions but focus on our own level of obedience and good character. If that lady is forced to stay home then she should take it as an opportunity to serve her family in the most beautiful manner… with the aim to please Allah… that she is obeying Allah by being a good wife and mother. At the same time she should use her time and talents in the way of Allah. There are so many examples where people work from home for worldly jobs; so why can’t she do the same for spreading the message of Allah?

The fact is that our real problem is not the opposition of people (clouds) but the problem is of our own ego… we want things to be the way we like them to be. We don’t want to bear the burden of hard work and consistency. We want immediate results while in fact our job is to obey Allah in whatever situation he places us in. Obstacles are a test from Allah in which he allows us to see our true picture and make corrections where needed. To go out and work with people one needs a lot of patience and forbearance. If it cannot be practised with a handful of individuals at home then how can we expect to be generous and forgiving with others?

Therefore keep alive the sparks of passion and keep moving ahead in terms of acquiring good habits and developing the character of a true believer. The opportunities of doing good work are abundant… May Allah give us barakah in our insight and eyesight so that we can use both to please our Lord… the Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them…

Be Practical…

Once upon a time we didn’t have computers… so our brains were more sharp at retaining knowledge… and that’s why the lessons we learned in those days are still very much alive in our hearts… because we didn’t read them on lifeless screens, rather they were collected from real books… or from real people… 

I remember the day when we were having our farewell party at school… and when it was time to say the final goodbyes, most of my class mates were in tears… for a fourteen year old girl the end of her school life meant a lot… emotions were real… friendships were not fake… relationships were so precious…

But emotions are also good when they are kept within limits… otherwise they can be pretty harmful… so our class teacher brought us back to reality by giving us a lecture of one minute in which she said just two sentences…

“It’s natural to be sad when you leave your beloved places and friends, but it is also the start of a new beginning… so look at it that way and “be grateful and be practical!!”

I admit that I didn’t really act on this advice in my life but I wrote it down in my heart… so that one day maybe I will have the ability and the wisdom to act on it…  just like I used to note down good baking recipes even though I didn’t have an oven at that time… but in the hope that if I do get an oven one day then I will make it:)

I was reminded of this story and its lesson, while I was reading Quran this morning and realized that I was not giving any time to the revision of tafseer… for a moment my eyes got blurred with tears… because I felt such a pain of regret and loss…

But when I prayed to Allah to guide me… this thought suddenly came in my mind… as if an answer to my tears and my dua… a voice inside me said exactly those two phrases… Be Grateful and Be Practical !!

I understood that emotions do have a value… because if I don’t feel this loss, then how and why will I do anything about it? But to actually benefit from this emotion, I must make duas and then get ready to plan and work hard… be grateful for all that Allah has given me tawfeeq to do up till now… and be practical for all that I must do from now onward… Therefore whatever emotion we feel, it must be replaced with gratitude; and if our emotion is true then it must propel us to do better things… to use our time most wisely and productively… because our actions are the true indicators of our “real” emotions…

So be truthful, be grateful and be practical… 

Change your “point” of view…

A friend of mine sent me some photos today which were taken “from the sky”. As I looked through the brilliant scenes taken from up above… over some magnificent places, I was reminded of a time about three years ago. We had gone out for dinner and someone’s behavior was quite unfair and unpleasant and it hurt me very much. I felt totally alone in my misery… and I repeatedly thought that no one knows what I am going through. Just then this thought flashed in my mind that there is someone who knows and that is Allah. He is all the time looking at me from up above…

And then I thought that how different must be the view from the top… what if I could go up somewhere and see these people and their behaviors from that height… So in my imagination I climbed a ladder and looked down at the dining place…it seemed so small and the people looked like tiny toys. Then I thought why should these tiny people and their insignificant hurts matter so much to me? And so I climbed higher on that imaginary ladder and the people and places looked smaller and smaller until I could see them no more. Then I realized that Allah can see each one of them even from that unimaginable height of His Great Throne… And so I looked up in the skies and was mesmerised by the awesome greatness of the vast canopy…..this is just the sky of the world…what about the “sab’a samawatin tibaaqa”? (the seven skies) And then the arsh of Allah (His throne) …what are we in comparison? Is there anyone more deserving of my love and attention than Allah?

And so with a light heart I went down the ladder and back to my place among people. I looked at them with new eyes…these are the people whose rights I must fulfil and treat them with excellence because Allah will be pleased with me if I am successful in doing that. And I should not worry whether they reciprocate my feelings or not. This life is a test and none of us are alone. We have Allah looking at each one of us and He knows what we all are doing and what is being done to us. We keep counting the hurts which people inflict on us but on the day of recompense Allah will ask me only about my own behavior… I will be answerable for my own mistakes…

So from that day it has become my habit to always go up and view things from the sky so that the tests of life appear to be smaller and I can see the greatness of Allah far better from that point:):)

How to avoid Heartburn…

The following article was written about nine years back… A time when I was learning a lot but still there were a lot of questions going on inside me… My method of resolving those issues was to write them down… And as I would start writing, I always got answers… as if they were hidden in some part of my heart, and now they were becoming visible to me, in the form of written words… Here is one such example of Q&A…

I was always telling people that just as you need food daily and at different time intervals, similarly you need spiritual food for your soul in the form of Knowledge and understanding of Quran and Hadith. It keeps your soul alive just as the food keeps you alive. But lately I have been focusing a lot on why is knowledge not making me into the kind of person that I want to be?

This morning I got the answer while I was having breakfast!!  I thought about the various effects of food and related it to spiritual food. The first thing about food is that it makes us feel good just by looking at it. And here I am talking about a person who is hungry and has desire for food. The same way if you are really craving for knowledge it makes you feel so good just by looking at a book. As soon as you start eating, you feel two things… the fragrance and the flavour… and it gives you pleasure even before satisfying your hunger. Then bit by bit you feel satiated and feel so comfortable and satisfied that you are now full… But this contentment is not the objective or purpose of food. You eat to get energy for work. If you don’t work with that energy, and just eat and go to sleep… what do you get? Heartburn and stuffiness…

Same is the case with knowledge. You enjoy its taste and the feeling of getting filled up with information which touches your intellect. It is a great feeling when after the completion of a course you feel so “full” of good beneficial knowledge and you feel that Allah must love you so much now that you have sacrificed your time and life in acquiring knowledge of His book and about His Prophet (s.a.w) but this contentment and pleasure is not the purpose of the studies. The objective was to get knowledge to be able to work in the right direction and do good deeds for the sake of Allah with the correct understanding and spirit. But if you just sleep on it, the heart will get hard and you will feel a burden and stiffness in your soul…

Why? Because accumulated knowledge is as harmful as accumulated food. Both should be used in positive work. The more you work the more your food will be digested and will be converted into solid strength of your muscles and bones. Proper circulation will improve the condition of your heart making it more flexible and strong. Just the same way, knowledge if worked upon will get absorbed into your personality and character and the more you exert yourself in acting upon it and sharing it with others, the more it will give strength and determination to your soul. A strong body will be able to resist against diseases and a strong soul will be able to withstand the attacks of the shaitan.

So if your heart feels hard and you feel like your knowledge is not giving you the kind of character which you had envisioned then take a look at your way of doing things… are you satisfied with just being content or are you making efforts to use your resources in the best possible way?

Whatever you do just be careful that don’t go to sleep after being full… make yourself work and digest your intake and use the energy for your benefit as well as the benefit of all mankind. This is the only way to avoid heartburn!