Saturday, April 9, 2016

Looking for love from a servant?

 بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

We seem to be obsessed.

The approval of others fills us with glee and pride. 

Admiration makes us feel like our lives have purpose.

Criticism cuts our heart and makes us ask ourselves "What am I doing wrong?"

Why do we chain ourselves to the opinions of others? Why do we enslave ourselves to other human beings when Allah has created us free? Why do we allow our thoughts to be consumed to the point of madness by the Dunya and it's minuscule inhabitants, when they bring us benefit in nothing?
We and forget all about our Lord. We forget the moments of seclusion, the moments of serenity when the only thought in our minds is worshiping Allah.
And what is more beautiful in this world than sitting alone
with your Lord and forgetting all about this world?
When we are alone with thoughts only on Allah, we forget about this world so easily. 

Why do you care? Why do you care so much, about what others think about you, about how you dress, how you look, how many people liked your picture on facebook?

Ask yourself this: If you had the approval and praise of everyone in the world: What have you gained?

And if you have lost the approval of Allah, what have you lost? You have lost the only thing that really matters. 

In some cases we may find ourselves willing to sacrifice our standards, not to please the whole world; but just one person. We put that person so high that we start to place pleasing them over pleasing Allah, and even when we are pleasing Allah, we never know who are intentions are really for.

Does is really matter if everyone likes you if you don't like yourself? At the end of the day we will be left only with our own conscious to fill us with guilt and our limbs to testify to our actions; if we used our lives to please those around us or if we used our lives to worship Allah and gain His approval.
Of course, making others happy can be a form of pleasing Allah as well, but not when it becomes detrimental to yourself. And not when it doesn't come with the sincere intention to please Allah first above everyone else. 

If you place your hopes your happiness, your self confidence on others, you will only be happy for as long as those compliments, approval and praise are flowing. And eventually the stream will dry up-nothing is constant. No matter how much someone loves you their affection will never be constant, it will never be enough to content you- Because another human being was never meant to carry your happiness on their shoulders, when you put all your weight on a twig and it breaks, is it the twigs fault or is it your fault for holding onto it in the first place? If we don't learn to get that happiness from the source it was meant to come from: From Allah, it will always be fleeting, always be temporary. Lao Tzo says "Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner."
Mother Theresa : "If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are."

A man came to the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ and said: “O Messenger of God, direct me to an act, which if I do, God will love me and people will love me.” He said: “Detach yourself from the world, and God will love you. Detach yourself from what is with the people, and the people will love you.”  [Ibn Majah]

عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ سَعْدٍ السَّاعِدِيِّ قَالَ أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رَجُلٌ فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ دُلَّنِي عَلَى عَمَلٍ إِذَا أَنَا عَمِلْتُهُ أَحَبَّنِي اللَّهُ وَأَحَبَّنِي النَّاسُ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ازْهَدْ فِي الدُّنْيَا يُحِبَّكَ اللَّهُ وَازْهَدْ فِيمَا فِي أَيْدِي النَّاسِ يُحِبُّوكَ

There is nothing more exhausting to the soul than constantly chasing the approval of others.
Does it matter if everyone is pleased with you if Allah is not pleased with you?
The main reason we chase people is because the main thing most of us want is simple: we all want love.

"But at the heart of what makes us run after the creation, is simply love. The need to give and receive love. This need has been put in us by the Creator. And every need created by God, has been created for a purpose. The need to give and receive love was created as a driver. A driver that pushes us back to God. You see, we began with God, and God wants us to come back to Him in this life—even before we come back to Him in the next. So He puts inside us, drivers intended to bring us back. Intended to bring us back Home." -Yasmin Mogahed

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ لَنْ يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ ۖ وَإِنْ يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَا يَسْتَنْقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ ۚ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَالْمَطْلُوبُ
 O mankind! Here is an example for your understanding, so listen to it carefully. Those beings whom you call besides Allah, cannot create a single fly, even if they all combined their forces, rather, if a fly snatches away anything from them they cannot even get it back; how feebleminded are the suppliants and how powerless are those whom they supplicate

The problem lies when we no longer experience ourselves as dependent on Allah, we become dependent upon each other for our very feeling of existence. We have forgotten our dependency upon Allah. We have forgotten that no matter how well people think of us, if we don’t have the approval of God, our time has been wasted. 

Let's ask ourselves from now on in regard to our actions: Am I doing this to please Allah or am I doing this to please human beings? Am I using my energy and efforts to please others in actions I know are displeasing to Allah?  
Try to refocus all the energy we put into this world and thinking about others, and instead replace that energy towards what will benefit us in this life and in the afterlife : Pleasing Allah and worshiping Him in the best way. 
Detach your thoughts from this world and practice solitude: remove everything from your mind so that it is only you and Allah alone. One of the seven people who are promised shade on the Day of Judgement is "the one who remembers Allah in solitude so that his eyes overflow with tears."

Remember that at the end of the day, the people you wish to please are nothing more than servants of Allah. And who would distress themselves pleasing servants when they have to please the King?

     اللهم لا تجعل الدنيا اكبر همنا

All correct and beneficial knowledge is from the mercy and guidance of Allah, and all incorrect information is an unintentional error only from myself. And Allah knows best. والله أعلمُ بالـصـواب

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why isn't my iman constant?

Our health, wealth, fortunes, and destiny, all rise and fall according to the will of Allah. And just like all of those things, our iman is no exception. Iman is not
exempt from rising and falling with the tides of our lives. It rises and falls according to Allah's will, and according to our deeds, which may aid it in rising, or
speed up it's detrimental fall. This, like all that resides in Allah's hands, is in His wisdom. Because if our iman was constant, like the one who has a constant
flow of wealth without having to lift a finger and work for it, we would not have to work, and strive, and pray for Allah's guidance. We would not be as grateful for Allah's blessing in bestowing Iman upon us, and we would not fear committing sins which will diminish the Iman in our hearts.

The nature of the Dunya is such that nothing is ever constant. It takes you up, down, and around, throws you back on the ground. Nothing remains, everything fades, and what you once thought was lasting will soon turn to dust.
We know our bodies will decay, our bones turned to fine powder, but we know what remains: Our souls. So how can we live IN this Dunya, without letting the forces of the Dunya penetrate our hearts, minds, and souls? How can we, in this ever changing world, find consistency and find constant Iman, that is not afflicted to the roller-coaster ups and downs that comes with everything in this life?

Anything accelerating at a constant rate will eventually have to stop. When you reach the top of the hill, you have to go back down. We know from the law of gravity that anything that goes up must also come back down.
Is this also true in terms of Iman? Why does Iman not stay constant? Why does it fluctuate with constant highs and lows? How can I get off this roller coaster of disappointment and keep going uphill?
Is Iman, like the apple that falls out of the tree, destined to eventually fall to the ground?
That’s where we’re wrong. Iman is not the apple, but the TREE. The tree is able to grow upwards tall and reach the sky, it doesn’t fall down, because it’s roots are deep.
Strong iman requires constant upkeep. You can plant a beautiful garden, but the garden will quickly wither and the plants die if you don’t constantly water and care for them, and pull out the weeds. 

When I fall, this reminds me of my own lowness, my own humility and it reminds me that I am nothing if it were not for the guidance and mercy of Allah. It reminds me that my journey will never reach completion and one can easily fall backwards if we’re not careful to always keep our feet on the gas pedal.

The Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said: By Allah other than whom there is no God, one of you acts like the people of Paradise until he is but an arm’s length from it, and what is written overtakes him so he acts like the people of Hellfire and he enters it. Verily, one of you acts like the people of Hellfire until he is but an arm’s length from it, and what is written overtakes him so he acts like the people of Paradise and he enters it.

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ
 فَوَالَّذِي لَا إِلَهَ غَيْرُهُ إِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ حَتَّى مَا يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَهَا إِلَّا ذِرَاعٌ فَيَسْبِقُ عَلَيْهِ الْكِتَابُ فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فَيَدْخُلُهَا وَإِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ حَتَّى مَا يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَهَا إِلَّا ذِرَاعٌ فَيَسْبِقُ عَلَيْهِ الْكِتَابُ فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَيَدْخُلُهَا

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The faith of a servant is not upright until his heart is upright, and his heart is not upright until his tongue is upright. A man will not enter Paradise if his neighbor is not secure from his evil.
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَا يَسْتَقِيمُ إِيمَانُ عَبْدٍ حَتَّى يَسْتَقِيمَ قَلْبُهُ وَلَا يَسْتَقِيمُ قَلْبُهُ حَتَّى يَسْتَقِيمَ لِسَانُهُ وَلَا يَدْخُلُ رَجُلٌ الْجَنَّةَ لَا يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ
The heart  “qalb” takes its name from it’s constant changes “taqallub” the likeness of the heart is that of a feather, being turned over and over by the wind. 
Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah the Exalted said to the soul: Go forth! It replied: I will not go except reluctantly.
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ‏ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى لِلنَّفَسِ‏ اخْرُجِي قَالَتْ‏ لاَ أَخْرُجُ إِلاَّ كَارِهَةً
So the heart, though it may be strong in Iman one moment and hating sin one moment, may change quickly if we are not vigilant in protecting it from Shaytan, the dunya, and the Nafs. The minute we lose focus and stop questioning our own actions and intentions, (whether they are for the sake of Allah or not?) is the minute these forces may overcome us.  
Remember that we have all been guided by none other than the mercy of Allah, and the thought of losing that guidance is truely terrifying.

وَكُنْتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِنَ النَّارِ فَأَنْقَذَكُمْ مِنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
" were at the brink of the fiery pit and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may be rightly guided." (3:103)
وَوَجَدَكَ ضَالًّا فَهَدَىٰ
"Did He not find you lost and gave you guidance?" (93:7)

We know that however firm we feel in our iman now, there is no consistency except for those who constantly fear Allah in all of their actions and constantly try to purify their hearts and become better believers every day
Righteousness is not a destination. When you have a destination, you have a set start and finish line. We have no finish line, because we are always seeking and striving to be better. Righteousness is a continuous journey, every day you wake up for Fajr and the process starts again.
In the spiritual world, the heart is either growing in Iman or decaying.
Purification of the soul is not a state, it is an ongoing process. Everyday. Cannot become passive habits and actions.
Once you start a fire, you can’t leave it to burn on its own, you need to keep tending to it or the flame will go out.
Spiritual progress must be continuous! For an airplane to fly it has to keep moving forward, the minute it stops, it drops!
We need to realize that the “spiritual high” doesn’t last. You need constant effort and work on the days when motivation doesn’t come. If you think you’ve reached your spiritual peak, think again. 
We don’t reach the top until we reach Jannah, it is a constant uphill journey. If you stop moving, you’ll roll backwards. 
Iman, left alone, will not be constant. Nothing in this life is constant. It requires effort. So the key to making sure our iman isn't falling is to ensure that it is growing by the day. 
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ الْإِيمَانَ لَيَخْلَقُ فِي جَوْفِ أَحَدِكُمْ كَمَا يَخْلَقُ الثَّوْبُ الْخَلِقُ فَاسْأَلُوا اللَّهَ أَنْ يُجَدِّدَ الْإِيمَانَ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ
 The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, the faith of one of you will diminish just as a shirt becomes worn out, so ask Allah to renew faith in your hearts.

As the soul becomes purified and develops an aversion for sin, the space which was once filled with evil desires empties and has an earnest desire to be filled with love and worship of Allah. The more we clean our heart and avert from sin, the stronger that desire becomes.
The more we purify our heart of sins, the more we make evil hated to us and free the space it took in our hearts, the more space needs to be filled with love for Allah
Therefore with every passing day as we free ourselves from sin, we should be increasing in our worship and improving our deen. 
You will never reach your full spiritual potential if we are not constantly striving to grow in iman.
Can the adult be fed the same amount as the baby and live?
No, because as we are growing, the needs of our bodies are growing also; they need more to sustain them or they will die. Thus the more we grow in our iman, the more food we should provide to nourish our hearts.
An athlete who wants to gain muscle can’t keep lifting the same weight and expect to see improvement, the body will adjust and will stop gaining muscle. Unless he constantly increases the resistance, increases the weight he is lifting he won’t see any change. 
If you have not improved on your worship in one year, our even one month, know that you are not taking the necessary steps to keep your iman constant, the mu'min should always be seeking improvement in all aspects our his worship. 
Worship (Ibaadah) is a collective term for everything which Allah loves and is pleased with from among the sayings and inward and outward actions.

Iman is affected not only by our level of worship but also by our knowledge of Allah (knowledge of deen), our characters, our hidden thoughts and actions, our treatment of others. So increasing iman is not simply synonymous with increasing our worship, we must search and rectify anything which may be displeasing to Allah. 
A man will continue to increase in faith until he becomes assured of himself that he has attained faith. As soon as he becomes assured of himself, that is when his faith has begun to wither. He becomes self-satisfied with his own actions and doesn't feel the need to improve. In order to protect ourselves from this we must constantly remind ourselves:
1) That we have many weaknesses we must improve on.
2) No matter how much we worship, it will never reach the amount of worship Allah deserves from us as His servants (therefore, we should try to do more every day)
3) Our heart is constantly changing, so we must never stop praying to Allah to make our faith firm
4) Without growth, our iman will decay.

Those that work and struggle and try to be firm; Allah will increase them in faith.
Remember that Islam is a state of becoming not a state of being. It's not about being perfect, but it's about striving to become obedient in all that Allah decrees: We will never be obedient in all things, this is impossible because we all sin daily, but it is in striving, and trying that we find our salvation and mercy from Allah.

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ
O thou man! Verily thou art ever toiling on towards thy Lord- painfully toiling,- but thou shalt meet Him.(84:6)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Back to School Blues: Do your kids hate school?

Kids hate school?-A sign of something more serious
Along with the shouts of protesting children everywhere, comes the dreaded first day of school.
Some kids are excited to get back to school, progress on their learning, see their friends and exchange stories about the break. While others dread the approach of school, the return of constant rules, routine, and boring structure. The days spent uncomprehending in the classroom, being lectured by teachers and parents to "Pay attention and work harder," and the self-consciousness accompanied by feeling behind and not as good as their peers, who seem to understand everything much better than them.
We train kids to dread the school year, then during break, they also take a learning break! This teaches them that learning is not an integral part of life, it's something that stops when school stops, it's something we need to take a break from, therefore, something negative. So why is the place where kids spend so much of their time associated with such negative feelings for some children?

I urge parents this semester, to watch their children's behavior as closely as they watch their test grades. It seems to me that our school systems today completely strip students of the ability to individualize their learning and expect student to all fit into the same box.
Why is it that we expect diverse minds to learn in the same exact way?
Allah سبحانه وتعالى has brought diversity in every creation : 
"Certainly, your efforts and deeds are diverse." (92:4)
وَمَا خَلَقَ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَىٰ
إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّىٰ

Yet, we don't respect these diverse skills and abilities and expect everyone to learn in the same way. 
Okay, let's just say this, it's true, not all kids are geniuses in our traditional understanding of the word. There is not one way to be smart, in our day, smart means you must be able to memorize flawlessly and anticipate the desired answer to every fill-in-the-blank. Some people's minds can't be boxed and restricted in that way. Some are good at memorizing, some may be creative, logical, comprehensive. The fact that modern school systems expect all brains to learn in the same way is why we praise those children who fit into this flawed system, and those who don't are made to feel less and inferior.
“Certainly, trying to teach the head while ignoring the body and emotions may account for a great deal of school failure.” 
― Jane M. HealyEndangered Minds: Why Children Dont Think And What We Can Do About It

Many parents may think their kids don't like learning-but in most cases this is not true. A more likely scenario is that kids don't like school, and since they only associate learning with school, by association, they are reluctant to "learn" as well. Learning becomes a burden, not something they appreciate and feel blessed to do. Learning is measured only by test scores, students become consumed with the goal to become the first in their class, not with the desire to learn to enrich their lives, and increase their knowledge of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. 
ثَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ قَالَ قَالَ مَالِكٌ الْعِلْمُ نُورٌ يَجْعَلُهُ اللَّهُ حَيْثُ يَشَاءُ لَيْسَ بِكَثْرَةِ الرِّوَايَةِ
Al-Qadi Iyad reported: Malik, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Knowledge is not memorizing many narrations. Verily, knowledge is only a light that Allah places in the hearts.”

عن ابن عبد البر قَالَ سُفْيَانُ الثَّوْرِيُّ رحمه الله إِنَّمَا يُتَعَلَّمُ الْعِلْمُ لِيُتَّقَى اللَّهُ بِهِ وَإِنَّمَا فُضِّلَ الْعِلْمُ عَلَى غَيْرِهِ لأَنَّهُ يُتَّقَى اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِهِ
Ibn Abdul Barr reported: Sufyan Ath-Thawri, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Verily, knowledge is only studied to become mindful of Allah. Verily, knowledge is only favored over other virtues because one is made conscious of Allah by it.”

اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
(صدق الله العظيم)
Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
He created the human being from a clot.
Recite: Thy Lord is the Most Generous
He Who taught by the pen
He taught the human being what he knows not (Surah Al-Alaq 96)

We know as believers how important it is to appreciate all of the blessings of Allah سبحانه وتعالى upon us, especially His blessing of bestowing upon us knowledge from His wisdom and mercy. It's never too early to teach children to appreciate this blessing and strive to excel in whatever area they are talented in for the sake of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
If you set the fire of knowledge in youngsters' minds, it will keep burning on its own. That burning desire to learn and discover doesn't just fade away. But in order to create that love for learning we have to ensure the environment is open, encouraging, inspiring and nurturing. 
Honestly, I don't think our schools do a very good job about encouraging kids to love to learn. The teaching methods are aggressive, not nurturing, for example, if a student answers a question wrong in class, he is scolded or humiliated by the teacher in front of his peers. Students spend most of the day with their teachers: they either grow to have strong attachments and respect for them, or they begin to fear them and dread going to school. Your children spend more time with their teachers than they spend with you on a daily basis, so the effect teachers have no them needs to be considered and evaluated. You need to pay very much attention to what kind of teacher is teaching your children and what affect they're having on them. Spending all day with a mean, uncaring, and un-nurturing teacher can do psychological harm to a child, and affect his ability to learn and study well.  So, if you notice that your children don't seem eager to learn and excel, you should assume that this is not from the fault of the child, or laziness on his part, rather a failure of either the teacher or the parents for not creating a good environment for the child to feel comfortable enough to try and excel-even if he fails!
I recently met a woman who told me about her son. He used to love school, he would get high grades and loved studying. Then suddenly he changed and she couldn't understand why. He would beg her to stay home from school, refuse to get out of bed in the morning, and stopped studying. Then she found out that he was being bullied at school. He was bullied by his classmates and ignored by his teachers, and all of these factors made him averse to and dread school! And these types of cases happen so frequently yet most of the time no solution is sought, so the child ends up become averse towards school for the rest of his life. 

Albert Einstein said
Everybody is a geniusBut if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
And it's also interesting to see that many of the people who have made large contributions in the fields of science and art also showed signs of late-development during childhood and even signs of autism. Albert Einstein was considered to not have fluent speech skills until the age of 9, was told by his teacher to leave school at the age of 15, which he did, and throughout his life he showed many signs of autism. 

Another problem is the restriction of learning to only the school subjects and only during the school year. When summer break starts, learning stops!
Poet and author Oscar Wilde said, "I never let schooling get in the way of my education." 
This means that school is not the fundamental place of learning, learning is a life-long process, and when you condition kids to learn during school and stop during break, you are teaching them one thing-that learning is a burden, that it's something we need a vacation from and something we only should do for tests and homework. Learning enriches life and expands the mind. Encourage kids not just to learn for the purpose of getting high grades in school, but let them learn outside the boundaries of school as well, find out what they're interested in and encourage them to learn as much as they can about it.
Consider this a metaphor of a child's mind and intelligence: At birth, each child comes equipped with a golden tent of creative potential all folded up inside. It is the task of the individual throughout life, to unfold that tent, and to the adults in each child's life to assist that process. well are we doing?

When I was a child, I took countless classes, in French, Spanish, to play piano, the flute, science classes, pottery classes, I learned ballet and was even on a soccer team (that phase didn't last ;)) even though I was not a great soccer player, my parents still encouraged me, my dad still came to my games every week and convinced the coach to let me play. Was I excellent at all of these things? No! But it's only through trial and error that we can excel at the things we do enjoy and what we are good at. I was always slower than my classmates in math class, yet I always read at a more advanced level than the others, won speech contests and entered my stories and poems in contests and the school newspaper. If my intelligence had been defined by the one subject I was bad at, I wouldn't have had the confidence and desire to excel at other things: my abilities would have been restrained, and that is true with all children. Children who are told they will excel and praised will develop stronger confidence in their abilities. And we need to leave behind this idea that only those who can conform with obedience to the education system based on memorization, and repetition, not on individualized thought, are those who are intelligent. And when we limit the evaluation for smart to one rigid idea, we limit so many children from thriving in their own special way. Variation in skills and talents is what makes us a successful community within every field! We need to understand that such variation enriches the community of the believers and the scope within which righteousness and piety are realized in people’s lives.

Let us nurture learning in the correct way so that children can appreciate education as a gift and blessing from Allah. So they are able to thank Allah for the opportunity to learn and grow and gain education which is deprived to many, and in learning they can appreciate more of the wonders and miracles of Allah's creation and deepen their faith. And the main purpose of knowledge is not to attain high grades, but to use our knowledge to become closer to Allah and use that knowledge to help others in a way that pleases Allah سبحانه وتعالى   and makes us closer to Him.
If a love of education is not instilled at a young age, it can be hard and in some cases impossible to change a bad attitude towards learning and create good studying habits as children get older. And let's remember that a home that doesn't put knowledge of Islam (and practice of Islam) as the main priority will not be a home of guidance and happiness no matter how many degrees the household holds. 
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ: مَنْ سَلَكَ طَرِيقاً يَطْلُبُ فِيهِ عِلْماً سَلَكَ بِهِ طَرِيقاً إلَى الجَنَّةِ. وَإنَّ المَلائِكَةَ لَتَضَعُ أَجْنِحَتَهَا لِطَالِبِ العِلْمِ رَضاً بِهِ. وَإنَّهُ يَسْتَغْفِرُ لِطَالِبِ العِلْمِ مَنْ فِي السَّماءِ وَمَنْ فِي الأَرْضِ حَتّى الحُوتِ فِي البَحْرِ. وَفَضْلُ العَالِمِ عَلَى العَابِدِ كَفَضْلِ القَمَرِ عَلَى سَائِرِ النُّجُومِ لَيْلَةَ البَدْرِ. وَإنَّ العُلَمَاءَ وَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ. إنَّ الأَنْبِيَاءَ لِمْ يُوَرِّثُوا دِينَاراً وَلا دِرْهَماً، وَلَكِنْ وَرِثُوا العِلْمَ. فَمَنْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ أَخَذَ بِحَظٍّ وَافِرٍ.

اللَّهُمَّ انْفَعَنِىْ بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِىْ وَ عَلِّمْنِىْ مَا يَنْفَعَنِىْ

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When help is near...

I remember a time when I was a little girl, I was stuck in a small dark room. I had locked the door, not knowing that the lock was broken. Once I had locked it, I couldn't unlock it and so I ended up locked inside.
I was alone. Stuck. And scared.

I started crying when I realized I was stuck, but soon enough, my shouts were heard and help came quickly. On the other side of the door, they tried to console me, they told me not to cry because I would be out soon, as soon as they got the tools to fix the lock.
I was stuck only for a few quick moments, I knew I would be getting out and yet I still cried anyways.

Why did I cry?

I knew I would get out. I knew my fear was temporary. I knew the solution was coming about.
But even though I knew help was coming, I couldn't see past that moment of fear, so I was stuck in the fearful present.

Why do we cry, even when we know that help is near? Why do we cry when we know that the solutions to our problems are underway, soon to be fixed? Why can't we bear moments of difficulty with peace and patience?

وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ

"Seek Allah's help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble." (2:45)

I think this is the mentality we hold towards hardships too, we know the help of Allah is near, if we have patience and maintain taqwa, we know that what we are facing will end, even if we don't know exactly when it will end. And yet, we still fear, we still go through the hardships and cry.

Sometimes Allah locks us alone in a room so that we may only turn to Him (forget about all alterior motives and incentives, leave our intention solely for Him and yearning to be closer to Him) In relinquishing all other helpers we turn completely to the only One who has the power to help us all along. In seeking Him we find our keys.

Allah is الفتاح, The Opener of the Way. He will open doors for you, even when you think there is no key, even when you feel like you're stuck inside.
If you are locked inside: Who else can let you out?
If you are stuck in a storm: Who else can save you?
Who else can mend your heart?
Who else can cure you other the Allah الشافي?
Who else will answer your prayers other than المجيب?
Who will protect you other than المهيمن?
Who can light the path for you other than النور?
Who can fulfill your needs other than الصمد القادر?
Who else knows what's best for you other than العليم?
And who can help you other than الناصر?

يَا غُلَامُ إِنِّي أُعَلِّمُكَ كَلِمَاتٍ احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْكَ احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَكَ إِذَا سَأَلْتَ فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْتَ فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوكَ إِلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَكَ وَلَوْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوكَ إِلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ
O young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the nations gathered together to benefit you, they cannot benefit you unless Allah has written it for you, and if the nations gathered together to harm you, they cannot harm you unless Allah has written it for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages dried. (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
وَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ فَإِنَّكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا ۖ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ حِينَ تَقُومُ
Therefore, wait for the judgement of your Rabb with patience, We are surely watching over you. Glorify your Rabb with His praises when you wake up (52:48)

Allah tell us in the Quran that for all things He has created an “appointed term’. This includes our hardships and struggles.
لِكُلِّ نَبَإٍ مُسْتَقَرٌّ ۚ وَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ
Every tiding [from God] has a term set for its fulfilment: and in time you will come to know [the truth]." (6:67)

I wrote this in July 2015. I find that often times I write something, intending it to be advice for others in general, and then later I find myself in the exact situation where I need to take the same advice. And it's a test to me if I will take my own advice. Allah guides me towards writing the exact counsel I need for myself, before I even know it. And as I retrace my footsteps I see that this has been a pattern repeated many times. 
Everything that happens in our lives, whether we consider it to be good or bad is a blessing from Allah. Hardships and ease are both blessings because maybe Allah has planned for you to go through hardship which will make your life easier and better in the end.
The only true tragedy-the only "bad" that can affect us is anything which distances us from Allah. and keeps us from following His commandments. And everything that brings us closer to Him is a blessing (even if it comes to you disguised as a hardship.) The fact is that we can handle and understand any hardship and difficulty if we remember that Allah alone holds the knowledge of what is best for us regarding our present and future affairs. We should not just try to seek a way out from any hardship we are inflicted with, when something happens which we dislike, that hurts us or causes us pain, we have to be careful not to get lost in the illusion created by that pain. Look through it, strive through it with the help of Allah and find the purpose. We always ask Allah for signs, we are looking for Allah's signs and asking Him to speak to us, to guide us, to point out the direction for us. But there are signs all around us, Allah is always "speaking" to us but we may not always be listening:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ لَوْلَا يُكَلِّمُنَا اللَّهُ أَوْ تَأْتِينَا آيَةٌ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ ۘ
تَشَابَهَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ ۗ قَدْ بَيَّنَّا الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يُوقِنُونَ
"Those who have no knowledge ask: "Why does Allah not speak to us face to face or send us a sign ?" The same demand was made by those before them: they all have the same mentality. We have already shown clear signs to those whose faith is firm." (2:118)
What is Allah trying to teach me?
He withholds, only to give.
He tests in order to aid.
He breaks, in order to mend.
"From the perfection of Allah’s ihsan is that He allows His slave to taste the bitterness of the break before the sweetness of the mend. So He does not break his believing slave, except to mend him. And He does not withhold from him, except to give him. And He does not test him (with hardship), except to cure him." -Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah
إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
قُلْ هُوَ رَبِّي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ مَتَابِ

اللَّهُمَّ أَسْلَمْتُ نَفْسِي إِلَيْكَ، وَفَوَّضْتُ أَمْرِي إِلَيْكَ، وَوَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِي إِلَيْكَ، وَأَلْجَأْتُ ظَهْرِي إِلَيْكَ، رَغْبَةً وَرَهْبَةً إِلَيْكَ، لَا مَلْجَأَ وَلّا مَنْجَا مِنْكَ إِلَّا إِلَيْكَ، آمَنْتُ بِكِتَابِكَ الّـذي أَنْزَلْـتَ وَبِنَبِيِّكَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلْتَ
O Allah, I submit myself to You, entrust my affairs to You, turn my face to You, and lay myself down depending upon You, hoping in You and fearing You. There is no refuge, and no escape, except to You. I believe in Your Book (the Qur'an) that You revealed, and the Prophet whom You sent.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Happiness and hardships (Happiness: Part 3)

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

Are you venturing on the path of righteousness but keep falling in ditches along the way? Are you trying to always be grateful for whatever situation Allah decides to place you in but can't understand why you are placed in hardships time and again? Are you trying to improve but feel your efforts to grow are stunted by your circumstances? Are you trying to live the best life you can but can't seem to keep a positive outlook among all the pain that you face?
Does happiness come after hardships are over, or does happiness come because we went through hardships?

…Does a happy life always have to be an easy life? Do hardships cancel out any chance of happiness or are they actually a necessary element in the equation?

When facing sadness and hardships we have all been consoled by the ayah:
إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
"Truly, with every hardship comes relief (ease)!"(94:6)

This ayah gives solace to the suffering and patience to the persecuted.
“What I'm going through now will end soon, and then I will have relief and ease.”
This is true, because every situation in our life is temporary and passing, the hard times will pass as well as the easy ones. But we think the hardship passing and disappearing is what will make us happy, when we can delete the unhappy event from our mind and move on with our lives! But that is not where the "ease" and arrival of happiness occurs. Sometimes our happiness appears because of the trial the hardship posed. 
The rainbow doesn't come only because the rain and clouds disappeared, the rainbow wouldn't be there in the first place if it had never rained! It appears because of the rain. Similarly sometimes our hardships fall upon us in order to bring us happiness.

But how? How can my hardships make me happy? The idea itself is contradictory!
The Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy opens his most famous book, Anna Karenina, with the infamous first line, “Happy families are all alike, and unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way.” Tolstoy’s novels are known for stating many truths about human nature, some of which we don’t always want to admit to ourselves. But in this case, Tolstoy is mistaken. Because it insinuates that there is only one equation for happiness and that happiness can only be achieved in perfect circumstances set in stone. Happiness is not always alike because we can find happiness no matter what situations we are facing. 

It is a fact of the Dunya that we will all be tested.
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ 
وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

“And we shall surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return'” (2:155-156)

So we know it’s inevitable to pass through life without hardship, we have also been told in many ahadith that hardships are purifying for believers, that going through hardship removes a portion of our sins, and that when Allah سبحانه وتعالى intends good for someone, He inflicts them with trials. But the way it is described in the Qur’an is revealing indeed. The word مُصِيبَةٌ comes from the verb إصابة which means to “hit a target.” Why is this word used to describe trials and hardships? Because according to Allah's Qadr, (Divine Will) this calamity has struck the exact target it was meant to.
It's commonplace to console those suffering with the phrase "Everything happens for a reason," and of course, everything really does happen for a reason, just like they say.
When you realize that nothing is random and Allah سبحانه وتعالى sends everything to you for a reason, you will be able to handle any hardship, and you will be able to indeed, feel ease after the hardship and during the hardship because you know that Allah has a divine wisdom behind everything. Allah سبحانه وتعالى  sends us reminders, and signs in many forms. It may be a sign to us to rectify our actions, to purify our intentions, to refocus our efforts on worshiping Him alone and seeking help only from Him. 

 لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا
"Allah does not burden any human being with more than he can bear." (2:286)
No parent would throw his child into the ocean if he doesn't know how to swim. If Allah سبحانه وتعالى has placed us in difficulty, it is with the ultimate wisdom that we can handle and overcome such difficulties. And Allah سبحانه وتعالى is above all analogies.

We moan and complain about every hardship that strikes us and the only questions we seem to wonder are "Why is this happening to me?", "Why am I being punished?", "When will this end!?" 
And yet we never seem to ask ourselves, "How can I learn from this trial?", "How can I grow from this suffering?", "How can I improve on myself in my character, skills, and faith to allow myself to handle this situation?"
"Between stimulus and response there is a space…in that space is our power to choose our response. In  our response lies our growth and our freedom." -Viktor Frankl
When we are no longer able to change our situation, we are forced to change ourselves, and this may have been the purpose of our trial all along!

How will we ever know where our weaknesses lie, and be able to rectify our characters if we never face challenges? Can the student advance in his studies and earn his degree without going through difficult tests? Can the athlete earn his gold medal without undergoing exhausting training and pushing himself to his absolute limits? 
Ibn Al-Qayyim said regarding trials: "He makes him drink the medicine of tests and trials from providence according to his situation in order to cure him from deadly diseases, until He purifies him and cleans him and he achieves the most honorable status in the world, that of being a true servant of Allah, and he is given the greatest reward in the Hereafter, that of seeing Allah and being close to Him.” 
وْا وَعَتَوْا وَاللَّهُ سُبْحَانَهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ بِعَبْدٍ خَيْرًا سَقَاهُ دَوَاءً مِنَ الِابْتِلَاءِ وَالِامْتِحَانِ عَلَى قَدْرِ حَالِهِ يَسْتَفْرِغُ بِهِ مِنَ الْأَدْوَاءِ الْمُهْلِكَةِ حَتَّى إِذَا هَذَّبَهُ وَنَقَّاهُ وَصَفَّاهُ أَهَّلَهُ لِأَشْرَفِ مَرَاتِبِ الدُّنْيَا وَهِيَ عُبُودِيَّتُهُ وَأَرْفَعِ ثَوَابِ الْآخِرَةِ وَهُوَ رُؤْيَتُهُ وَقُرْبُهُ
"And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be."

When we are placed in difficult situations, we usually turn to Allah سبحانه وتعالى in dua and ask him to change our situation. But what we don't realize He may have put us in that situation to change us. Perhaps certain trials won’t end until we learn what lessons they were meant to teach, reach the target they were meant to hit.
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." C.S Lewis
And what destiny could be better than one in which Allah gives us the opportunity to gain good deeds by achieving sabr (patience)? 
We may think things are falling apart, when in reality things are really falling into place: they are falling into the place Allah سبحانه وتعالى has chosen.

No one of us is tested more than the other.  You may look at those around you and wonder why the trials you face are so hard while everyone seems to be living lives of ease in comparison.
وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ
"Do not covet the favors by which God has exalted some of you above others." (Quran, 4:32)
Know that this is not true, and that you only see a small window of the life someone presents to you, be it a family member, neighbor, or friend, we have no way of knowing the internal or external trials a person faces.
Know that your trials may not look like everyone else’s, and that’s because it was designed specifically for you. We all possess different strengths, and different weaknesses so doesn't it make sense that we will all be tested in different ways.  Allah سبحانه وتعالى created you and indeed, He knows His creation.
وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ 
فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ
"Do not strain your eyes with envy regarding the worldly benefits We have bestowed on some among them, for with these We seek to test them, the lawful provision of your Rabb is better and more lasting." (20:131)
Haven't you seen how some plants require abundant sunshine to thrive while others can only grow in the shade? So trust that Allah سبحانه وتعالى 
will place you in the situation where you will grow the best!
Boiling water will soften potatoes but it will also harden eggs, the same circumstances can bring about different effects in different people. 

We always have the freedom to be defined by our reactions, not by our circumstances...And since this is the "Happiness Series," we have to mention that we always have the choice to be happy, even during hardships.  Happiness is knowing how to use what you already have!
You can have all the ingredients in front of you to bake a delicious cake but different methods can lead to different results-realize you have everything you need, but you may not be utilizing them in the right way.

وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
And seek Allah's assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones,

قُلْ لَنْ يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَنَا هُوَ مَوْلَانَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

Say: "Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector": and on Allah let the believers put their trust.

All correct and beneficial knowledge is from the mercy and guidance of Allah, and I apologize for all incorrect information which is an unintentional error only from myself. And Allah knows best.

 والله أعلمُ بالـصـواب