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.
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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.

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SQUALOR OF SIN Q4.17-8, Q10.23

I employed a maid once; a young girl who was supposed to help with the house chores in exchange for a stipend and an education. Her folks seemed enthused by the idea that her education and upkeep would be taken out of their hands. I was happy because I needed assistance in the house as I was gradually pushing at my expected date of delivery (EDD) and had a toddler running loops around my feet.

She had stayed for less than one week and began to request to return. People tried to convince her to stay and remind her to look at the benefits she would acquire from her stint in the city but she refused to budge. She cried the whole day, night and the next day she was scheduled to return. Everyone asked her if she was being maltreated in any way, she replied in the negative. So, why not stay? She was missing her family, she said, amongst other petty issues.

Those who heard felt she was silly to forfeit a lifetime privilege of education in the city and an upgrade just because she wanted to be with her widowed mother in the village. Wouldn’t she be of better benefit to her family if she was educated?
As mind-boggling as that is, it’s the same way we treat Allah’s Favours. However, we need Allah. He doesn’t need us.
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There is so much He has blessed us with, much more He has promised us but that doesn’t change our mind from insisting on embarking on that one-way trip back to poverty. He has promised us gardens underneath which rivers flow in a city of Allah’s Mercy and Blessings but we would rather return to the village of despair to dwell in the squalor of sin.

It is mind-boggling. Unfathomable. Strange. Stupid, even! However, it is how we would rather respond to Allah’s Kindness. The good thing is that He is always there waiting for us to return to the city to enjoy the dividends of believing in Him. He waits patiently for us to recognise the error of our ways and return to Him in repentance.

How awesome is that!

PS. I use analogies and parables to help us better understand the topic at hand. Allah (SWT) is way beyond ALL comparison!

REPEL EVIL WITH GOOD Q41.34-6

Has anyone ever told you ‘stop talking to me like am a child!’ only for you to make a mental note to reserve that tone for children? No, don’t do that. Even kids don’t like being spoken to like that. No one does.

When learning different Nigerian dialects, most people will ‘advise’ you to learn insults first so you are aware when a speaker insults you and respond likewise (at least, that is my experience). Some of us actually go ahead to learn these rude words and whip them out at the nearest opportunity like at the market, during road rage, to the waiter or servant, etc. While we do this, we relish the surprised expressions on our opponent’s face because of our gutter mouths.
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Is this necessary? Is it necessary to perfect your backhand slap for your servant? Or your supercilious glance for your subordinates? Why do we keep the word ‘infidel’ on the tip of our tongues ready to brand fellow Muslims with it? Why do we address security men, front desk officers, nurses, cleaners, etc like they are beneath us? To earn their respect? To get our demands answered on time? To compensate for the lack of love at home? Just because we can? Do we really believe such abominable manners will yield positive results? Such people who are treated with disdain tend to feel oppressed. They may be compelled to obey but they will not respond out of respect either. Respect is reciprocal.

That waiter you so saucily ordered to get you a drink may spike it with some urine or saliva; the servant you yelled at to bring your meal may add some drops of sputum. A housemaid may take out her frustration on your children; your son may take it out on his younger sister.

Without a doubt, people push our buttons especially our children, but we should repel evil with good. Responding to people with kindness and love yields better results. Don’t reserve that tone for the children; drop it completely. Don’t save those insults for a rainy day; drop them from your vocabulary entirely.

I DON’T KNOW Q6.116, 119

One of the reasons arguments are discouraged is that they often degenerate into saying things we are unsure of, things that are untrue and indeed, things we have no knowledge about. Worst is it devolves into a shouting match where the participating parties insult each other!
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How many times do you begin an argument and find yourself giving false or assumed definitions just to prove that you are right, to impress, to save face, to show your opponent that your view is the only correct one? We end up misleading others like the Qur’an mentioned in 6.116 and 119. We should avoid misleading and being mislead.

It doesn’t have to be an argument that will bring this deceit to the fore. A child could ask a question, our boss could ask our opinion, we could be giving an interview, a stranger could be asking directions, a rival could be trying to upstage us…the Nigerian viral video ‘My Oga at the Top’ is a perfect illustration.

It doesn’t kill to say ‘I don’t know.’ If anything, it is more mature, shows credibility and speaks volumes about your integrity. Alternatively, you could say, ‘I am sorry, I can’t remember at the moment,’ or ‘Tell you what; I’ll find out and let you know.’ We cannot know everything, all knowledge is with Allah.