OPEN BOOK Q2:271, 274

The modest ones amongst us have fallen into the habit of concealing our good deeds. We conceal them so much that the left hand is unaware of the right hand’s activities. Without a doubt, this is good but we forget that we are the first books our children read. In fact, we could be the only Muslim book a non-Muslim may feel inclined to open. But like those diaries with a lock, they cannot access the beauty of our lives because we have locked them out.

While we perform our deeds, we forget to carry our kids along. They do not see us perform ablution and pray. We do not take them to the masjid for fear of them distracting others. They do not see us give alms, fast voluntarily, pay visits to sick relatives and are unaware we pay zakat. Our co-workers do not see us pray, are unaware we fast, have never heard the recitation of the Quran or a nasheed ringtone. So secretive are we of our actions that you would think we were living in the time of the Prophet(SAW) when he had just a handful of persecuted followers. Are we ashamed?

image credit: mereponderizations.wordpress.com

image credit: mereponderizations.wordpress.com


Who knows? Just a glimpse of us in rukoo may be all that’s needed to encourage a co-worker to take that first step toward Islam. That hijab may spark curiosity in your room-mate to try it on. That ablution we performed with our child may be his first memory of you when he is older.

Let us resolve today to leave our books open for others to read so that through us, in sha Allah, they may be guided to what is right.

SENSATIONALISM Q16.96

Have you ever tried to see a highly-placed government official? Have you had the misfortune of being told to wait (which you do for hours) only to be told later that the official is ‘no longer on seat?’ Have you had the bad the bad luck of being scheduled for the next day for the rest of the week and still not seeing the individual? You leave such situations convinced that the only way you can see the person is if they want to see you.
convoy
Have you seen a Presidential convoy: big pilot motorcycles, large intimidating jeeps hurtling by with the final vehicle loaded with soldiers cock-ready pointing their weapons every which way? So much hype! It happens in hospitals too. You go to attend a specialist’s clinic only for him not to show up or he shows up and sees some key patients who just came in, then tells the rest of you to reschedule for the next week or two. Everyone seems to give into the hype too: politicians, clerics, celebrities etc. We are all guilty of making a mountain of a molehill.

At every public function, every dignitary wants to be recognised verbally with an extensive protocol that is typical around these parts. Before a speaker is introduced, he wants his detailed citation read.

Islam is not that way, at least, it shouldn’t be.

Thauban, the freed slave of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, ‘While I was standing beside the Messenger of Allah, one of the rabbis of the Jews came and said, Peace be on you, O Muhammad. I pushed him backward with a push that he was going to fall. Upon this, he said, ‘Why do you push me?’ I said, ‘Why don’t you say O Messenger of Allah?’ The Jew said, ‘We call him by the name by which he was named by his family.
The Messenger of Allah said: My name is Muhammad with which I was named by my family. And the Jew proceeded to ask his questions which the Prophet answered.

Just Muhammad (SAW) without the frills and bells and whistles. No prefixes or suffixes. No protocol, no bouncers or bodyguards.

Allah has removed all the drama and intermediaries between Him and us. He has cut down on the extensive frills and protocol, pomp and pageantry required to speak to Him. He has made the entire earth a mosque for us to pray. He has made dust or snow permissible for ablution in the absence of water; He has made the Quran easy to remember and included the Hadith to guide us; He made prayers simple and relaxing, reduced them from 50 to 5; given us Lailat Qadr, and the month of Ramadhan and Hajj to cleanse us of sins; explained in clear terms what our purpose on Earth is. How simple Allah has made things! If we need to talk to Him, we only need to call on Him and Him alone. He has even given us special times to have uninterrupted access to Him and He’ll accept our du’a.

The wealthy dodge the less-privileged because they are tired of being curried for favour, they are fed up of being asked for money over and over again, perhaps fearing the exhaustion of their wealth; but Allah delights in our asking and never gets tired of it! Allah Akbar!

We do not need any intermediary between us and Him to help us verify whether or not we will make it to Jannah; we do not need to pay anyone to guarantee our salvation; we do not need anyone to help us talk to Him. The lines are open 24/7, just dial his number at no extra cost. A simple heartfelt du’a is all u need.

GUARD YOUR FLAME Q15.56

Sometimes, we overestimate our strengths and underestimate Iblis’s. We seem to forget he has a single purpose on earth and he has been at this for centuries, nay, millennia. If you had a single job you were doing for years, you would have such a well-oiled system that would be near-perfect so I wonder why we do not consider what a pro Iblis is at his job. He has perfected to an art, the singular purpose to derail us all and ONLY by Allah’s Mercy will we maintain the Right Path.

A dear friend of mine was lamenting at how an environment she found herself eroded her beliefs and due to the number of hypocrites she saw around, she began to slip in Iman. The truth of the matter is there will always be reasons for us to decline in faith, we just have to recognise them for the excuses (whisperings from Shaitan) that they are.

When we decide to wear the niqab or the hijab (or lengthen it) or keep a beard or shorten our trousers, fast Mondays and Thursdays, Shaitan is there trying to belittle our efforts. He’s uncomfortable with our desire to improve and whispers our inadequacies to us. We still tell lies, gossip, get angry. We are still irregular and tardy in our 5 daily prayers. We have failed to keep up with our resolutions to read the Qur’an daily, give charity, pray in the mosque and give da’awah hence we are unqualified to seek to be better Muslims. Besides, what are we worried about? Others are doing the same as we are, even worse. The sad part is we believe and despair, immobilised into inactivity by the weight of our sins. And Shaitan is never in a hurry because he knows he has more time than we do.
Flickering flame
I remember in the University, I moaned to a sister about my dwindling salaah and she told me something I haven’t been able to forget. The fact that I worried about the paucity of my salaah showed that I had iman. How true. Iman is never consistent; it ebbs and flows like the tide and the very fact that we are Muslims means we will always have to persist in nurturing it. It’s like the flickering of a candle flame. On windy days, it will flicker so weakly we may need to cup our palms around it, other days it will burn steadily and illuminate the entire room. We should never despair, give up and leave the wind to snuff out our flame. Allah is always Merciful, alhamdulillah!

We can never and will never be perfect. If we wait for that level of perfection in ourselves, we won’t accomplish a single thing. The key is to recognise the excuses as whisperings of Shaitan, keep our heads down and keep forging ahead. Insha Allah, one day we will lift our eyes to look around us and marvel at how far we’ve come, with Allah’s Help.

A WORK IN PROGRESS Q96.1-5

My friend and I set up a Blackberry Group in Ramadhan of 1434AH and we had a couple of challenges initially (different people, different thoughts). As I handled some difficult situations as one of the administrators, I marvelled at who I had become. I had not even seen myself becoming this individual that I had been praying and wishing I could be. I am not there yet but masha Allah, I recognised some changes in myself and others did too. The old me would not have handled the problems as I had, so I was pleased that there was progress, Alhamdulillah!
work-in-progress
I attribute this to the answering of my prayers to Allah to enable me improve daily and to the writing for this blog. Subconsciously, you start becoming like what you preach. You learn more as you write because for you to write, you have to read. When you read, you know; when you know, you want to share.

I urge you to keep reading the Qur’an in a language you understand, continue reading the Arabic Quran too if you know how to, read other Islamic literature including the Ahadith and attempt writing, if you can.

It is amusing how sometimes, we behave like Allah doesn’t know what He’s saying and we know better. We ignore the fact that the first word of the Qur’an was ‘Read!’ Why, of all the words in the languages of the world, would He select that word as the first? It is because He knows its significance. He knows how colourful knowledge makes our world. We should obey that command and read!

Most importantly, reflect on all you read and try to implement those you can. That’s the hard part. Insha Allah, with the right motives, your life will become richer, more tranquil and you will be happier.

IMAN EBB Q5.93

iman decline
I do not know about men but an ebb in iman is pretty common amongst us women. We complete our period and have difficulty returning to worship. We’ve just finished our post-natal bleeding and have to struggle to fast n pray. During PMS, we simply feel off. Pregnancy and its discomforts discourage us from waking up for Fajr. Pregnancy or breastfeeding may prevent us from enjoying the iman rush of Ramadan. During salaah, we struggle to concentrate and would rather just curl up on the prayer rug and cry or sleep.

We feel hurt by our spouses, in-laws, children, co-workers and simply lose interest. We lose interest in reading the Qur’an and in performing good deeds. We couldn’t care less about properly covering up when a male guest comes in. The kids haven’t prayed yet but are playing football in the yard yet we can’t be bothered to remind them. Heck, we are tired of the scheduled lives we live and couldn’t care less! Sitting on a couch in our pajamas and bingeing on chocolate-chip cookies and burgers while watching season re-runs back-to-back or a marathon session of telenovelas would be the most enjoyable things to do at that moment.

During these periods when our iman declines, how do we get back on track?

• Revisit your intentions. Why do you do good deeds? For Allah’s Pleasure or to be seen among men?
• What do you do wrong that has been niggling at you that you need to desist from?
• In what ways do you feel unfulfilled? Is there something making you feel a failure? Islam, family, work, finances? Look for solutions to move you closer to your goals but don’t fail to prioritise according to Allah, family, finances/work.
• Is it a temporary change in routine that’s responsible (monthly period, a new baby, a guest, festivities, new job, job loss, death, divorce)?

  • Or, conversely, are you tired of the boring routine your life is?

    Here are a few ways to get out of the doldrums (doldrums, don’t you just enjoy that word!):

    • If you are like me, go to a bookstore and get a really nice book you’ve always wanted to read. Curl up with it in your favourite spot at home with your favourite (non-alcoholic) beverage.
    • Treat yourself to some me-time. Go for a drive alone and pray under the sky. Lie down on your prayer rug afterwards and enjoy the world around you. Indulge in a meal and eat it all up in the privacy of your car or alone in the restaurant. Do your hair, manicure, pedicure, go shopping with your best friend or sister but don’t spend the whole day. Remember your salaah and other responsibilities.
    • Instead of cooking tonight, take the family out for dinner and a movie.
    • Start a hobby or learn something new.
    • If you are tired of the routine, shake things up a little. Tweak your dull schedule.
    • Read, listen to and deliberate upon the Qur’an. Try to understand and act upon it. Memorise your favourite verses.
    • Stick to the compulsory acts of worship. Pray extra naflah or Tahajjud (voluntary night prayer) in a private corner. Talk to Allah about whatever it is that bothers you and that He draws you closer to Him. If a domestic or official problem troubles us, let us take it to Allah. After Ishai or before Fajr, when everyone is asleep is usually a good time (if we can summon up the energy to pull ourselves up by our shoelaces).
    • Do good deeds in private, strictly for Allah’s Pleasure.
    • Go for lectures, and classes to make you feel closer to people with better iman.

    The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A faithful believer to a faithful believer is like the bricks of a wall, enforcing each other.” While (saying that) the Prophet (ﷺ) clasped his hands, by interlacing his fingers. – Sahih Bukhari 481

    • Make du’a every time you remember especially if your routine has been shaken up by travel, sickness, festivities etc. Make a routine within the chaos and pray on time even if you don’t feel like it and your attention keeps shifting.
    • Go out for a picnic or to the mosque with your family. No one makes you laugh out loud like family. Focus on making them happy today instead of yourself. They’ve probably begun to feel the strain of your receding iman.
    • Exercise. Just that vibrant beating of your heart can make you exhilarated.
    • Travel. If you can.
    • Be patient. This is a test and it will pass, in sha Allah.

    DO NOT:
    • Listen to sad mushy music or waste ALL your time with multiple movies or empty surfing of the internet or retail shopping. You will feel worse eventually.
    • Don’t tackle it alone but don’t broadcast it either. Share your problem with a friend or relation who cares for you.
    • Don’t feel like a sinner. Your iman is in the right place for you to worry about its decline. Do not neglect the compulsory acts of worship.
    • Don’t fling it all away or make rash decisions during this time like stopping the hijab, cutting your hair, shaving off the beard, losing your virginity or leave the deen.
    • Don’t give up by listening to Shaytan’s whispers as he wants you to slip beyond redemption during this vulnerable period of your life. Avoid committing sins that will widen the gap you feel between you and Allah.

    However:

    If it persists, and you become increasingly tearful, persistently lacking in motivation, or find previously enjoyable activities no longer pleasurable, low sex drive, feel worthless and suicidal or these moods interfere with your daily life and relationships; it could be clinical depression. It is pretty common and very treatable, so see a doctor.

  • DAY JOB Q4.29, Q17.35-6, Q83.1-6

    Unemployment rates are skyrocketing worldwide. Companies are downsizing due to budget cuts and others are becoming more computerised. Strangely enough, the employed few don’t seem to care about their jobs. Unfortunately, for every sacked individual, there are 100 other qualified people seeking his position. Even the so-called professional fields are not spared.

    We should be thankful to Allah for our jobs and try to complain less about it. I know. It’s pretty hard not to gripe about our jobs. We would complain even if we worked at Google. However, we should acknowledge that we are fortunate to possess a job and we should show our gratitude by treating our jobs like an act of worship.
    job queue
    Perpetual lateness (story of my life!), leaving work before closing hours, playing Solitaire while official work piles up, confiscating office property, using office hours to run personal business, collecting bribes for the work you are paid to do, etc.
    Same goes for the marketplace. Traders concealing defects in items they sell, altering the scale to show false higher readings, hoarding merchandise and selling at a much higher rate are a few dishonest tricks dealers practise. These acts are not limited to the market place but in every business. Customers are cheated of their hard-earned money daily by unscrupulous people in all the fields of business.

    By doing what is required of us at work and making an intention of working fisabilillah (for the sake of Allah), we convert a boring job to ibadah (worship). Maybe through our work, people’s negative perception of Islam and Muslims may change.

    Our present jobs may not reflect all our years of study, research or experience. Indeed, our take- home-pay may be less than the worth of the paper our certificate was printed upon but make the most of it and thank Allah for it. In sha Allah, He will bless our efforts, and take us higher than we imagined.

    I know the reward of hard work is more work but that should not deter us from putting in our best. Allah is aware of all we do, both hidden and manifest; and others will notice our work too. Soon, we would be recommended for a better job based on how well we’ve performed at our present line of work. Acting too big to do little jobs could mean we are actually too little to do big jobs.
    Keep at your work and be grateful for it and remember: it could be much worse.

    ARGUMENTS Q17.36, Q27.80-1, Q88.21-2

    I have had my fair share of arguments especially as a student. Those days, one will argue and shout herself hoarse! Now, I’ve realised that we cannot all share the same views and that changing a person’s mind is only possible if his/her mind is open to change.
    ShoutingMatch
    Oftentimes, arguments stem from arrogance; the belief that ‘my view is the only right one’. It’s normal to disagree with each other but it is more peaceful to agree to disagree than to enter into a disputation that leads nowhere.
    When we argue, we should realise that:

    • Your view is not the ONLY right one besides, your opponent also feels his/hers is correct.
    • Most times, arguments are counter-productive and time-consuming eventually making both parties cling stubbornly to their opinions
    • Very rarely is an argument borne out of a sincere and humble need to correct
    • There must be etiquette involved in debate for it to be beneficial

    So, before you embark on that trip to nowhere, here are some tips:
    • There is no point arguing with someone who cannot reason
    • Have a respectful conversation with no insults, sarcasm, arrogance or lousy attitude
    • Do not raise your voice
    • Air your views and listen to your opponent’s
    • Do not lie or speak on what you have no knowledge. Use data and facts to drive your point across
    • Gracefully but purposefully refute lies
    • Avoid extremism or exaggeration
    • Leave your mind open. It is an act of an educated mind
    • Pray to Allah to guide both of you to the Right Path

    We should recall that just because someone is taking another route to our destination does not mean they won’t get there. As the African saying goes, ‘The market has many entrances.’ Let us look outside the box and be tolerant enough to listen to others’ opinions even if we do not agree with them. You don’t have to act on views you do not believe in.

    May Allah open our hearts to discern and accept the truth.