Finding and repairing the cracks…

These days I have been thinking a lot about the concept that external problems or hurdles are not the real obstacle in the way of success… Rather it is our sins which have the most damaging effect on our lives. This reminded me of the countless times I have told others that I could not do such and such thing or could not complete the target I had in mind because of this problem or that hurdle… sometimes blaming people, other times crying over health problems… always a string of excuses which are nothing more than that… excuses! Because If I had truly wanted to do something and sincerely asked Allah, then why would he not let me do things which I want to do only for his sake? Surely there must be something wrong inside my own self?

I remember a few years ago I had gone to visit my parents. The next morning there was no water in the taps… very strange!!! Because the night before they had got the water tank refilled… so where did those gallons of water disappear? Plumbers were called and they began digging to find the leakage… the whole house was in an uproar, with people coming in and out… nothing else could be done because everything depends on water. Finally the broken pipe was discovered and repaired, the tank was filled again and life restored back to normal.

But when the same story happens with our tank of faith and knowledge; it never becomes an issue of concern. We fill our hearts and minds with the knowledge of Quran and Hadith… but the next day when we face any situation and open the tap, nothing comes out… no patience, no gratitude, no kindness with others… where did all the knowledge go? No body is worried… no one tries to find the leakage of the heart…

But we must realize that just as life stops if there is no water, similarly the soul dies if there is no faith… our very survival depends on it… so if the knowledge is not coming out in deeds then it means that there is some serious leakage problem. For me it remained a mystery for many years but Alhamdulillah I just found out that every sin for which we do not feel guilty nor do taubah nor correct it… then it creates a crack in our heart from where faith keeps trickling out and we don’t even realize it. So whenever we feel lack of motivation, lack of energy, then immediately we should pray to Allah to show us where we went wrong and then honestly and sincerely ask Allah for forgiveness. So as to mend the crack and ensure that our tank of faith remains full.

May Allah protect us from our self conceit and give us insight with which we might realize our mistakes and correct our ways. Because no one else can do it for us. Each one of us has to be responsible for his own life.

Just a Dream?

I was sitting with a couple of ladies who were talking about how bad things had become and how difficult it is to put up with all the trials of this life… and then one of them said: the only way to endure all this injustice around us is to understand that what we are living in is just a dream and one day we will wake up and see the reality… so what we face here will not matter to us so much…

This statement of her got me thinking that surely just as we wake up from a bad dream and see that whatever was hurting us was not real… we feel so relieved… so happy and so grateful. And then it also doesn’t matter in the morning what you were in your dreams at night… whether you were happy or sad… successful or loser… rich or poor… it just disappears…So that is why the true believers who live for the sake of Allah and have full conviction of the hereafter, do not become overly concerned with the worldly stuff… because they know that it is just a dream…

But then there is one huge difference between the dreams that we experience in our sleep and the dream of this worldly life… and that difference is of accountability… because when we are dreaming while asleep we are not at all in control of our actions and there is no responsibility either… it is merely something that we experience without being responsible or accountable for anything that happens in it…

But the dream of this worldly life will not fade away completely… because our thoughts and our words and our actions will determine our reality…

So even though we can take comfort from the thought that whatever wrong anyone does to us is just a dream… it will fade away sooner or later… whatever material success we got here will also fade away… but what we did and said is definitely going to stay forever… so we cannot be casual about our own behaviour and character…

Our problem is that we give the least thought to our thoughts, words or actions… and so we see that the precious trait of self awareness is becoming so rare… almost extinct… you can observe that even an average person can be so knowledgeable about the worldly stuff… there is so much awareness about what’s happening around us… but that same person will not know how he is making things difficult for others… Then there are people with so much religious knowledge… they might have memorized the whole Quran and know a lot of Hadith…yet they fail to realize how arrogantly they treat others whom they think less knowledgeable… or less religious… because they have never analysed their tone and choice of words…

So we all need to shift our focus from what is happening to us, to what we ourselves are doing to others… because everything in this world is temporary like a dream except our own actions… they are the only reality which we can never hide from…. whether we accept it or not… every single detail is being recorded… and preserved… forever!

Carve and Polish…

When I ponder on the Hadith of the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) in which He informed us about the importance of the first ten days of Zilhajj… there are three things that stand out…

  • These are the very best and most significant days.

  • The good deeds done in these days are most beloved to Allah.

  • So we should do plenty of tehleel… takbeer and tehmeed… (saying la ilaha illa-Allah… Allahu Akbar… and Alhamdulillah)

Although there can be so many activities through which we can earn the pleasure of Allah… and definitely we should strive to achieve as many good deeds as we can… BUT the question is why didn’t our Prophet (s.a.w) mention any other deed besides Allah’s Zikr? Obviously there must be something in this which we tend to overlook?

The fact is that we are more fascinated by things that we can see and often ignore the unseen… like we admire the building but never think about its foundation… and we are mesmerized by the trees but never visualize the roots… yet we all know that a building cannot stand without foundation, nor a tree can survive without its roots…

Similarly our religiousness, or righteousness cannot stand or survive unless we work on its foundation… which is our faith… and faith cannot survive without remembrance of Allah…

It is one thing to say that we believe in Allah… we believe that none can be worshipped except Allah… we believe He is the Greatest… We believe that all praise belongs to Him…

But living according to these beliefs in our day to day life is not possible without engraving these things in our heart and mind…

True faith is something that makes you feel so secure in the loving mercy of your Master… something that is constantly resonating in your talks… something that makes you do what is best… a guiding force that stops you from all that is harmful and thus forbidden…

And so our Prophet (s.a.w) made us focus on building this faith in these best days… because there can be nothing more important than making our hearts strong and pure through the constant remembrance of Allah… because it is not just the mindless and meaningless utterance of words… rather we should consciously repeat these beliefs like you are carving love and faith in your heart…

A friend of mine was sharing with me that her grandfather used to sit with the workers of his factory and worked with them while they carved walnut wood for furniture etc… and all the time he used to teach his workers that a plain piece of wood had no value as compared to the carved pieces… and so when you carve the wood imagine that it is your heart and you are carving your faith into it… you have to cut it again and again… it doesn’t happen in just one strike… you have to dig in again and again… and then you need to polish it… to make it shine… and these are your acts of worship and your good behavior with people… the more you do these two things, the more your heart will shine… and when it shines then your faith and good deeds will radiate into the whole environment…

So in these best days lets carve and polish our hearts through Allah’s Zikr and lets polish our characters with all the other good deeds… to the best of our abilities… inshaAllah…

May Allah give us tawfeeq… Ameen

Out of this world…

In Ramadan when the last ten nights come, I often feel like there is so much to do and so little time… somehow it feels like it is so important to do all that I want to do for Allah and yet I cannot quite give haq to it… and so this year when the last roza was announced that we wont have eid the next day so an extra day of Ramadan… I felt like a dying person who was given a whole lifetime to spend again… but still that day came and went by… and its unbelievable that two whole months have gone by…

And once again Allah has sent upon us such a blessed time… the best days of the world… the ten days about which Allah took oath… in surah Al-Fajr… 

Being immersed in the distractions of the world is like drowning in a sea of ghaflah… sinking in the quagmire of heedlessness… so far removed from the actual purpose of our existence… and so Allah sends us help in the form of these blessed times which are simply out of the world… I call them such because in these days our hearts can lift above the petty issues of life… and really get the ability and capacity to absorb the message of Allah in a profound way…

Isn’t it amazing how Allah has made these two times of the year so so so very special… one is the month of Ramadan and the lailat ul Qadr… in which began the revelation of Quran… and the second one is the month of Zilhajj… especially the 9th day of this month when Quran was completed… 

So all of us who wish to become the best in the eyes of Allah… all those who want to do the best deeds… all those who want the best level of success… Now is the time to make all these dreams come true… because Allah will give us the best Tawfeeq… the best motivation and the best ideas… in the best ten days… so take these as the best days of your entire life…

Make plans… use your best resources… make your best of the best duas… and sacrifice like Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) not just of the goat… because that came later… the real thing was his sacrifice of his most beloved son for the sake of OBEYING Allah’s command…

Fortunately we are not tested with such commands because Allah knows so well our weakness… our capacity… So he only commanded us to sacrifice our sleep when its time to wake up for Fajr… Am I willing to sacrifice even that much?

Am I willing to sacrifice my comfort for the sake of struggle that I need to do to learn, to follow and to spread Quran? We also claim to love Allah but the proof of love is in sacrifice… its not just a time of meat planning and cooking… rather these days should make us think and ponder on what we need to do…. how to really live the way we were supposed to… how to achieve the best life of the hereafter? 

The best days demand our best attention and its a well known saying that 

where attention goes… energy flows

and where energy flows… things grow

so what will you like to grow? 

Baby steps…

A page of my diary…written many years ago in Nov-2005

I was so depressed in the morning because lately I have felt that all my efforts, of self purification, seemed to take me backwards instead of forward. The more I tried to be good, the more BAD I saw of myself and victimized my near and dear ones with bad behaviour. And this morning I thought, “Well, that’s it…I am too tired. I can’t go on any more. If I am so bad then it’s no use and I will just go and sleep it off.”

Then all of a sudden in that quiet moment of extreme pain and despair these words rang in my mind as if someone was calling me from a far off place. The words were that ‘don’t let your nafs (self) control you and don’t be a slave of your moods. Control your mood instead.’ I thought that if I let myself be defeated this once, then it will be too late. So with a very heavy heart and stiff hands I got myself to open my diary and started writing. And as it has happened countless times in my life, the moment I started writing, there was a flow of ideas that was never there before. Before I used to think that it is a special talent I have, but now I know that Allah SWT never leaves us. He is always with us. His help is in the form of good friends or teachers and sometimes, in my case, there are unseen hands doing my work for me or unseen angels of mercy dictating to me words of wisdom and leading me out of my trouble. So I think this is a special gift that I have been given to share with others so that people who are “alone” need not feel alone and depressed at all.

I will now copy a little of what I wrote, or rather words that were “dictated” to me:

Solution to a ‘CONSISTENT’ Problem

Remember, gaps in our struggle to get to Jannah, however small and seemingly innocent and unintentional are the most cunning weapon of the devil. Through these gaps it deceives the Nafs (inner self)  to take hold of a person’s life. Today I truly understand the true meaning behind this hadith the gist of which is: “The best deed in Allah SWT’s Eyes is one that is consistent though small.”

Shaitaan is very clever. he knows the importance of consistent behavior better than us. So this is his favourite spot to hit. He has an edge here that the victim doesn’t even realize the damage that’s being done to him so there is no defense strategy in this area.

Alhamdulillah, Allah SWT has given me the clue to my repeated failure at self-improvement. Now all I have to do is hold on to it and see how it works in my life.

The defense plan is to make VERY small and easy time slots in which to do VERY important life-saving (rather iman-saving ) things in a VERY small amount. Stick to it for three consecutive days.

Three Day Program

1-   In the morning look at the sky and trees and talk to Allah SWT for 3 to 5 minutes. Talk to Him again at night before falling asleep (in these talks with Allah SWT try to feel His Presence and just let your heart come out, don’t be stiff and formal).

2-   Write 1 to 5 sentences in your daily journal. (it could be shukr to Allah or a tip that “comes” from Allah or any ayat that you love or a hadith or anything that you like. But it should not take you more than 10 minutes. Stop at this limit and don’t let the shaitaan get you carried away).

 3-   Memorize 1 to 2 ayat of the Quran daily. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.

 4-   Put some money in a sadaqah-box daily.

 5-   Share one ayat or hadith with your husband and each of your children, separately, taking not more than 5 to 10 minutes each.

 6-   Read one page out of any book (preferably one that you intended to read but left in between).

Important tip: Make a small table and list down all these tasks. Then write Alhamdulillah in front of the task instead of a “tick” where you have succeeded and Astaghfirullah instead of a “cross” if you should fail to accomplish the task.

Key points:

1-     Aim for consistency; work hard not to miss out even a single task or day

2-   Pray a lot for Allah SWT’s help

3-   If you succeed in it for three days then give yourself a treat like buying a new Qiraat tape or a book or going to meet a friend

4-   Report to a friend after three days (for a sense of immediate accountability)

5-   Share this experience with somebody

6-   Continue with the same program for another week before adding on to it

(Remember this three day program comprises of those things that are apart from your daily routine of  Ibadaat , zikr and learning activities; So it should be easy and not burdensome).

LAST but not least, remember that you are doing it for Allah SWT and no one else. You have just embarked upon a life-time program of self-purification and self-development. So think very carefully and add only those things which you feel that you can accomplish. This sense of achievement is the energy which will take you forward in your war against your self and the shaitaan and the rest of the negative forces of the world which stand in your way to Jannah . So don’t take it lightly. This process should be slow and steady. Learn to stay within the time slots you have assigned to your tasks. And ask for Allah SWT’s help all the way. 

The Instant Anti-Depressant…!!

I read an article about giving charity and it made me think that how often we run after things to get happiness…. we buy things, collect things and so on… but it doesn’t make us happy deep down inside our hearts… there remains an emptiness… why? because happiness is found only in giving things, the more I can give, it makes me happy, and the more I buy things, I get anxious where to put them, how best to use them, because mostly we buy more than what we really need and that surplus stuff makes one uneasy and restless just like if you over eat at a buffet….instead of the pleasure that you were seeking, it gives you heartburn and a bloated uncomfortable heaviness. So may be Allah made us like this…..we can digest only what we need, the rest just adds to our excess weight which we have to carry wherever we go….

Another thing that I discovered after making sadaqah a part of my life is that often when I am depressed or feeling dissatisfied with myself after I have made some mistake, I get this huge relief if I just give some sadaqah….believing that Innal hasanaatyuzhibnassiyyi’at (indeed the good deeds take away the bad deeds)

And by sadaqah I mean doing something for someone which they least expect….some happy surprise for someone and I feel happy in their happiness. It can be a small little gift for my maid, or a favourite snack for my children, a mail or phone call to someone I have not kept in touch with for a long time. Or if don’t have the energy then even putting a little amount into my sadaqah box……And this works every time!!

 This also makes me believe that if Allah has given me the ability or the capacity to make someone happy then it means He has not entirely given up on me.(cause that’s something I am really afraid of….that He might stop loving me because of my mistakes)

So use the gift of spending as an anti-depressant or an energy booster……with Yaqeen that Allah is going to fill your heart with happiness if you try and relieve the stress and misery of others…..

How to accomplish things?

When I read good books or listen to motivational speakers… it is my instant reaction that I want to do all those things that are talked about… My heart yearns to achieve those qualities which might bring me close to Allah and make me good in His eyes… BUT the inevitable question that arises after every such spiritual awakening… is HOW? 

Even yesterday when I posted the article about memorizing Quran… I got this question from a reader… on How to do Hifz because she said she is not good at memorizing? 

To answer all such questions I found the answer in one of my old articles… It is rather long but I tried to collect all the points in one place… It was written in the days when we used to read on Computers… so it was not stressful like reading the same things on the phone… so I suggest you copy and email it yourself and then read it comfortably on your laptop… 

HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE OUR GOALS??

The answer in one sentence is that We can make intentions, we can make plans, we can make duas, but we also need to have Allah’s “tawfeeq”: the key ingredient without which we cannot achieve anything in this life. 

What is tawfeeq?

Tawfeeq is the special acceptance and blessing of Allah with which He enables us to achieve our aims. It is His special help for the true believers who truly want to do something only for His pleasure.

Contrary to the traditional way of thinking, Allah’s tawfeeq is not something which will hit you by chance; rather, it is something you “acquire” by making conscious efforts towards it.

In this article, we will discuss some steps we can take to help us attain Allah’s tawfeeq, the key blessing which will open the doors of goodness and success for us, in sha Allah.

  1. Realize that you need Him

The first and foremost thing to start with on this topic is to recognize that only Allah has the power to do everything. Of course He has given us the power to choose the right path and make efforts to walk on this path, but this doesn’t mean that we can accomplish things alone; we need His help all the time.

Accordingly, we should recognize our need for Him and be humble and submissive to Him, not just before starting our work, but at every step of the way, even after we have accomplished our work successfully. We should realize that it was only because of His help that we did it, and so there is no reason for us to be filled with pride. We need to remember that it is through His tawfeeq that we made this good choice because it is He who gave us the power of choice. Allah says in the Qur’an:

And you do not will except that Allah wills – Lord of the worlds.” [Qur’an: Chapter 81, Verse 29]

  1. Fix your intentions

You need to make the conscious decision and sincere intention to make Allah’s pleasure your main objective in life, and then prove this intention through sincere efforts.

Action Tip:

In your day-to-day routine, ask yourself:

  • Why am I doing this [any act that you embark on doing]?

    • Is this act of mine intended to please Allah? Is it for His sake or for something else?

If Allah’s pleasure is our true goal, then surely we will not crave people’s praise and attention, and we will not be so worried about their criticism either.

  1. Seek Allah’s help repeatedly

Ask Allah to give you the desire and determination to accomplish good deeds. Make dua a part of your life. Make dua while sitting, standing, walking, cooking, and cleaning. Basically, make dua all the time. Keep asking Allah to give you tawfeeq to do things which He loves and which are of benefit to others.


  1. Engage sincerely with the Qur’an and hadith

Make the study of the Qur’an and hadith a part of your life, just like eating and drinking. In fact, the need for your heart to listen and absorb Allah’s words is far greater than the need of your body for food and drink. Our souls are starving while we are totally absorbed in feeding our bodies, so we must make efforts to balance this equation. As your heart will receive its nourishment (through studying and contemplating the Qur’an and hadith), it will become stronger and more able to absorb the guidance of Allah and be motivated to act on it, in sha Allah.

  1. Find ways to benefit others

Now this seems like working away from yourself, but in fact when you extend your efforts towards the benefit of other people, Allah’s mercy will shower upon you like rain, and the doors of goodness will open for you like never before.

Therefore, being unconditionally open-hearted, generous and forgiving is one big secret to getting Allah’s special tawfeeq to do amazing good deeds. The more you give others, the more you will be given.


Action Tip
:

We must ask ourselves those crucial questions:

  • Does my heart carry any good feelings for others or am I usually self-centered?

    • Do I want others to succeed as well, or do I want Paradise only for myself?

    • When I have to share something with others -especially those whom I don’t like – do I think of it as an opportunity to win Allah’s pleasure, or do I think of it as a burden?

    • Am I good to people only because they are good to me? Or do I love them and care for them for the sake of Allah?

  1. Work on your taqwa

Taqwa literally means to guard oneself against Allah’s displeasure. If we want to progress on the path of success, then it is absolutely essential that we live a conscious life and always be careful not to do things which might displease Allah.

Some might think that doing acts of goodness will automatically guard them against committing sins. However, the truth is we need to make efforts in both directions simultaneously. We need to do good while exerting the necessary effort to avoid the evil.

A very important thing to remember is not to fall into this trap: some people think that if they pray and read Qur’an then Allah will not be angry with them if they do a few sins here and there. This is a big mistake, and we must realize that no matter how pious we might appear to the world, Allah knows our reality. If we underestimate the sins we do in private, just because we might appear outwardly good to people, then we might not receive the tawfeeq of Allah to maintain the good deeds we’re doing and maintain our productivity.

Say, “Not equal are the evil and the good, although the abundance of evil might impress you.” So fear Allah, O you of understanding, that you may be successful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 5, Verse 100]


  1. Avoid useless activities

If someone really desires to be productive for the sake of Allah, then it is absolutely essential to spend time carefully and avoid all things that don’t bring any benefit.

Allah describes successful people as those who refrain from engaging in useless activities:

And they who turn away from ill speech” [Qur’an: Chapter 23, Verse 3]

The useless activities discussed here could be the superficial pleasures that most of us are involved in these days, which seem to have absorbed our time and hearts so much that we think we can’t live without them.

Can you identify those activities in your life?

It is a matter of choice. You can either be productive and use all your time and intellect for doing something positive with your time which will bring you benefit in this world and the next, or you can waste this time in useless temporary pleasures.


  1. Talk less, act more!

One useless activity that has taken over many people’s time in our society is talking too much without specific purpose or direction.

The fact is that if we don’t guard our speech, then we fall into the danger of indulging in backbiting, slandering, making fun of others or discussing others’ private matters, etc.

Even if you can somehow guard yourself against all this evil, you still lose precious time which cannot be brought back at any price. This creates a barrier between you and the opportunities of earning Allah’s tawfeeq and doing good deeds.

So, we should act on the following hadith of the Prophet:

He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” [Muslim]


  1. Seize opportunities that come your way

One big reason which keeps us behind in terms of good deeds is that when Allah gives us opportunities, sometimes, we don’t take them. Rather, we keep delaying things and think that we can do this or that later when it will be more convenient. This is because we have unrealistic hopes and we do not realize that our time is running out.

Therefore, one sure way to attain Allah’s tawfeeq is to always seize the opportunity whenever you get the chance to do a good deed. By doing that, you will be proving that you are grateful to Allah for giving you the opportunity to do something positive in your life. And Allah has promised that if we are grateful He will bless us even more:

‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]


  1. Get ready to work hard!

We might have dreams to reach the top of the mountain, but what will actually take us there is constant hard work!

Whoever wishes to win Allah’s pleasure and reach the higher levels of Paradise must be prepared to work hard.

Most of us dream of doing amazing things for the sake of Allah but we don’t get up to turn them into a reality.

Why? Because we don’t want to give up our comfort and pleasures, then we keep wondering why Allah is not listening to our duas.

Allah gives tawfeeq to those who really mean what they say, those who struggle to please Him, those who work hard to find the way to do things which He loves.

And those who strive for us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good” [Qur’an: Chapter 29, Verse 69]

It is up to us to decide how much we truly want to succeed in this test of life. May Allah help us earn the true desire and determination to make the best out of our short life journey, so that we can attain the glorious endless success of the Hereafter, Ameen!