Having Tawakkul…

When we say we believe in Allah then obviously we believe in His Power, His authority, His complete control over each and everything, His wisdom, His love and compassion for us, His extreme affection and in His constant and never ending mercy and blessings… so why is it that we are mostly so caught up in sadness and anxiety? Why do the affairs of our life burden us so much? Why do we feel empty and alone and helpless?

Does it mean we don’t believe in Allah? Or do we have any doubt about His attributes? The thing is that even though we believe in the unseen, yet the things that we can see… the problems that we have to face… appear to be so overwhelming that we feel so burdened by them. And that is because our focus is more on the SEEN… and so little on the UNSEEN…

So many times in the Quran I have come across the command of Allah to do tawakkul on Him… and I used to think that it is an automatic consequence of faith… when I believe in Allah then obviously I trust Him. But the fact is that tawakkul cannot be done until I focus on Allah’s power… and Allah’s compassion and His loving support… so that in every problem or situation my heart remains hopeful that Allah will make things easy for me… He will help me…

Does it mean that I don’t need to make any effort? Or use my resources? The truth is that our utmost efforts and reliance on Allah are both important to complete our tawakkul… It doesn’t matter how little our resources are… we just need to do our best and then pray to the best of our ability… and then put everything in the care of Allah… the Most Caring and Compassionate.

Imagine the condition of Prophet Ayyub (A.S.) who had been so ill for forty long painful years… and after that Allah commanded him to kick the earth so that a spring of water will come out which will cure and purify him… imagine how weak he must have been… probably he couldn’t even stand straight… so what strength would his kick have? But still he was commanded to do it although Allah had all the power to bring forth the water without him moving an inch… but it is a lesson for us that we have to do our part and then Allah will help us… Just like Prophet Musa (A.S.) was told to hit the ocean with his stick so it parted and made a way for him and his nation to cross it…

But it all begins with having the right mind set… Tawakkul is that you believe without any doubt that Allah cares for you and that He will help you… but you have to do your best too… work hard and pray with focus and sincerity and have tawakkul… because Allah wants us to remain peaceful and calm… even while facing all kinds of storms and troubles of life… because we have the certainty and conviction that nothing is bigger than Allah… and this certainty is attained by keeping our hearts busy in the remembrance of Allah… through salah… through Quran… through duas… and azkaar…   

No Excuses Please!

I was reading an article on how to do Hifz of Quran in our busy lives with so many distractions and commitments… and the very first tip made me sit up straight and to look at my whole life in a totally new way. The article began with a short simple statement… “Stop making excuses”.

Normally such topics begin with having the right intention. And that is true. Because if you think about it, our intentions cannot be “right” if we begin making excuses for why we cannot do this or that. We have to have the belief that if this thing is beneficial for me then I must focus my attention and my efforts and my duas on this specific task… and Allah will help me to achieve it if He wills.

Many years ago when I started learning about Islam, I would naturally seek the company of the seemingly religious people. And often I used to hear this statement that we cannot do anything. Only Allah gives tawfeeq and makes us do what He wants.

This and other similar statements left me bewildered that if we have no control over our actions then why should we be held accountable?

But I was very fortunate that my parents had instilled in me the belief in the hereafter from a very young age… so that there was no doubt in my mind that we will be responsible for how we spent our lives… so if we are responsible then surely we have been given some control over how we think and act. That is why we are going to be asked about it… even though this control is not ours… but an amanah from Allah.

Just like Allah provides us food… now He has given us control over how we use it… whether we eat it… throw it… waste it… or share with others too?

We know that we do everything with Allah’s help… His tawfeeq is the most important thing we need for all the good things which we want to do in life… but we should stop making excuses… because the first and foremost thing we have been given is the ability to think… If we think we can do anything with Allah’s help then Allah will help us to solidify our intentions… And then if we use our abilities in that particular direction then Allah will help us to work on it… And if we pray for his help and tawfeeq, then Allah will surely give us the tawfeeq…

And the reason why we are often regretting that we couldn’t do this or that in life is that first of all we don’t think positively… instead of believing in Allah’s power, we start focusing on people’s help and other such resources… Instead of thinking that we really need to do this thing… we make excuses that it is not in our ability to do it or we don’t have the resources to do it… And the third thing is that instead of working in a focused way, we keep falling into distraction of desires. And instead of making duas and talking to Allah, we keep talking to people and keep telling them stories of our unfortunate circumstances…

If this is our state then what can be the outcome except regret and loss?

So let’s reverse the equation and “use” the blessings of Allah… How much power he has given us to think and dream and believe…How many talents and capabilities He has blessed us with… and How great is the door that He has kept open for us always and forever… and that is the door of duas…

May Allah give us tawfeeq to use these blessings without making excuses… Ameen

Be kind… genuinely…

(From my archive of 2006…)

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

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

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

The Tools we can Use…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beautiful Gifts…

Another beautiful memory of my life is from the year 2001, when I heard a beautiful recitation of Surah Al-Waqiah, in the voice of Qari Abdullah Basfar… along with its English translation by Ibrahim Walk… It captivated me so much that I listened to it repeatedly for many days… until it became engraved in my heart… I loved it so much that I began to re-learn the other forgotten surahs too (which I had memorized in 1989)… Ar-Rahman and Yaseen…

But these were done purely by listening… I didn’t have any conscious intention of memorization…

That came later in 2006 when I heard a lecture in which the scholar read a Hadith, that on the day of judgement, the person who learns Quran will be told to recite Quran and climb higher and higher on the levels of Paradise… until he reaches the last ayah that he can recite. So it meant that we can go as high as the number of ayahs we can recite by heart… That really made me sit up… I opened a diary and recorded how many ayahs I knew till then… and then I made a conscious intention to add more and more to this collection…

But having an intention… a strong passion… a yearning to do something… is not enough until we make a solid plan… and even a plan won’t help us reach the destination until we act on it… and it takes a lot of discipline and hard work to do it… which we find difficult in the areas where there is apparently no instant gratification…

That is why it is so important to join a class or at least have a friend to work together. But if you cannot find these, then what to do?

Make a commitment with a virtual teacher… yes that is what I did… in those days we didn’t have smart phones and apps… my only tool was my desktop computer… I downloaded the program of hifz of the 30th Juz, from the website www.imaanstar.com and started doing it step by step, beginning from the last surah and working my way backwards…

But my speed was too slow… and in the last 12 years I have wasted more time in forgetting rather than learning… and this meant spending more time in re-learning the forgotten surahs instead of learning new ones… I take one step forward and go back two steps… why?

Mistakes:

  • Confusing wishful thinking with true intention…

I thought that just because I wished to memorize so much then it will be an automatic thing to take up this activity day after day… But I have realized that wishes can become intentions only after you make a firm commitment… this commitment gives us the ultimate motivation where we don’t take even a single day off… like praying five times a day or keeping the fasts of Ramadan… we just keep doing it no matter what… because we know for sure that it just has to be done…  we don’t even give ourselves any options… so we get things done!!

  • Not sticking to the same time and place…

The problem is that the mind works best only when things are done in a regular pattern. So it is extremely important to stick to the same place, the same mushaf, the same recitor, and same pattern of memorization. Jumping from one thing to the other cannot lead to any worthwhile accomplishment. So we need to fix ourselves in some time slot which cannot be disturbed by any other thing… like the hour before or after fajr…

  • Not doing enough repetition…

The short term memory works fast so we think that we have learned an ayah… but it will not be retained for long term, if we don’t follow up with a lot of repetition.

  • Not giving enough time for revision…

Since it is more enjoyable to learn new ayaat and feels quite tough to revise the previous day’s lesson, I made the mistake of not planning for revision properly.

  • Sleeping after fajr…

I have heard, read, written and discussed this topic so much… that it would seem like I’d be the last person to fall into this mistake… but really this has been one of my greatest weakness. And if I had the chance to re-live my life once more, I would never ever let myself get into this damaging habit. Because to sleep after fajr is to lose all the positive energy which Allah gives to all those who remain awake to receive it… and they use this time for their most important tasks like memorizing, revising and contemplating on the Quran…

The Quran is the greatest blessing of Allah… through its words we seek the pleasure and closeness to Allah… such pleasure and closeness that cannot be had by any other thing… a pleasure that fills the heart and soul with the utmost satisfaction… a shield that protects us from the irritations of life… a soothing balm that heals the wounds of our hearts… a nourishment that makes our souls strong and healthy…

But these blessings of Allah come to us only if we recognize their true worth… and we give up all those things that come in the way… and we plan and work hard to prove our sincerity… May Allah make us worthy of it all… Ameen  

 

My Most favorite Memory…

I wrote an article few days back in which I shared some tips for memorizing Quran… (you can read it here) But those were just a collection from online sources. Later I felt that I should also share my personal experiences… but before I give you a summary of all the plus and minus points of my journey, I want to share another article that I wrote even before I started this blog… in fact this was a letter to my teacher as I embarked upon Surah Al-Waqiah in my course of taleem ul Quran… words that just poured out of my heart… one cold evening in the winters of 2005… 

When I was 20 and my daughter was a few month old, there came on my doorstep a “Madrassa boy” who was holding a few books and asked for charity. I gave him some money and he gave me a small red book. I was not interested but he insisted so I just took it and without looking put it aside. A couple of days afterwards my husband had to go out of town for a week and I was left all alone. I was very afraid of the dark and at night when my daughter was asleep I began to feel terrified that I will die if I go to sleep and what will become of my child. So I just sat on the sofa and tried to pass the time when I saw the same book. I picked it up thinking that it might help. I saw that there were a lot of wazeefas in it and then there were a few Surahs. The first one was Surah Yaseen. I started reading it hoping to dispel my fear. Suddenly I had an idea that if I memorize it then I can read it whenever I feel afraid. So I began to learn 4 Ayat daily along with the translation. It used to give me so much pleasure to try to match the words with their meaning. I couldn’t really comprehend what was behind these words but nevertheless it had a very soothing effect on me. So I decided to continue my HOBBY and learned the next Surah as well which was Surah Rahman. This was also a familiar name. After this there was a new name WAQIA. I had never heard of it so I turned a few pages to see if I could discover a familiar name but there was none that I recognized. So I decided to do Surah Waqiah. As soon as I read the first few lines it had a miraculous effect on me. The scene of the akhirat seemed so real and the way people were being categorized into three parts was awesome. You must understand that I had never heard any tafseer or translation whatsoever. I had always thought that Quran would be just a list of instructions but this was amazing. But the most wonderful Ayat came the next day “WASSABIQOON ASSABIQOON” and I felt like there was someone urging me forward. But I was alone in my excitement even then. And did not know what to do. I was just at the end of this Surah when I had to move out of town for a couple of months. I tried to maintain my routine there but someone told me that I should not memorize the Quran like this without a teacher and when I asked where I will find a teacher I was told to come out of my dreams and live in reality. After all what more do you want? You have a family life. You are well provided for. Look after the house and just have a good time. Meet people make friends. Attend parties, arrange parties, say your prayer once a week and that’s quite enough. And so little by little the passion died away and was replaced by an unknown anxiety and dissatisfaction. I tried to fit in with my lifestyle but could only pretend at the most. I felt like an alien whose language no one understood. I learnt their language but no one spoke mine. At times I remembered that I had memorized three Sarah’s and forgotten them so Allah will punish me for committing this sin.

And then it was the year 2001 when I got a computer and Purely by chance found the recitation of Surah WAQIA by Abdullah basfer and translated in the voice of  Ibrahim Walk. I need not say that I was like a thirsty person in a desert who at last found a stream of cold crystal clear water. I just soaked in the words and listened to it day and night. I re-learned it and even when I was walking or cooking or just sitting in a waiting room or trying to sleep (by that time I had aquired a number of diseases including lack of sleep) I would recite this beautiful Surah. I didn’t even know the word “Tajweed” but because I had copied it so well I was following the rules of Tajweed even without knowing!! One day I thought that maybe I will learn other Surahs too so I wrote an oath to myself in my diary that from now on I am going to learn the Quran and see what Allah has said to us. So from page one I started to spend some time daily trying to match word to word. I made notes and felt really good that at last I was doing something worthwhile. A couple of days later a friend came and asked why I was looking so preoccupied. I told her about my plan and she said that she had some cassettes which she would lend me. So she sent me the set of fahm-ul-quran. When first I listened to these lectures I had a hard time adjusting to it because I came to know for the first time that Quran is not only about enjoying beautiful words and beautiful sounds , rather it is based on commitment and hard work. The standards of a grateful person, A Mohsin, A muttaqi, seemed so far away but then I realized that the sabiqoon are not just pretty people speaking in beautiful accents. And I wanted nothing less than that so I forced myself to do the lessons daily. And here I am today, still a very imperfect person but trying to be good …….. Khurram Murad has so rightly said: “Islam is not a state of being. Rather it’s a state of becoming”

How can I be really Beautiful?

Just like we become favorites of people due to some qualities which they like… and sometimes we spend a lifetime to achieve those qualities for the sake of getting love and appreciation from people. Similarly I found that for achieving the love and appreciation of Allah we need one big quality which seems so simple in words but requires a lot of discipline and conscious effort to implement in our daily lives… and that is ehsaan. Unconditional goodness are just two words but it seems like we need a whole lifetime to learn to apply it. Why is it so difficult? Because we have been programmed into thinking that we will do to people as they deserve… and secondly we have been taught to believe that no one can be better than us… so with these two misconceptions the result that follows is that we don’t think anyone deserves anything better than us… this has caused us to be extremely self centered and over critical about others. We will spare no chance to express our dislike of others and we take every opportunity to sing praises of our own self. With these thoughts deeply engraved in our heart and mind how can we even think of being Muhsinin? Do we think that putting in a few dollars in charity is a big ehsaan on the poor people? Or is feeding our servant the left over food, an ehsaan? 

The fact is that ehsaan is actually the beauty of thoughts… pure and free from all vanity, pure from grudges… And then the deeds which sprout from these thoughts will be truly beautiful and worthy of being appreciated.

But then how will I cure my polluted heart? When will it become free of all contamination? The solution is in making the intention of self purification and then praying to Allah for guiding the heart. It should be our first and foremost dua, that we become pure and sincere slaves of Allah… doing the best that we can… always to win Allah’s appreciation and wanting for other people the same things which we want for our own self…if we want love then we should start loving others. If we want to be respected then we should give others the same respect. If we want our faults to be hidden and forgiven then we should do the same for our servants, children and other people around us. Easier said than done but then what is life but a never ending struggle? So what are we waiting for… lets start now!!