2016 Ramadan Reflection 14 June 19, 2016
Let’s pick up from where we left off yesterday. If you haven’t read yesterday’s entry click here:
Yesterday we reflected on change and we agreed that it is inevitable. The question was not whether we change, but how it affects us. But fact is change is not easy, so it isn’t surprising that some of us have developed a sense of fear of it. We resist it. In my opinion, there are three reasons for fearing and resisting change:
The first reason is achieving what is called a comfort zone. So we fear and resist leaving what we see as stability, which in actuality is stagnation and decay of a living human being, for what is perceived as a zone of discomfort and uncertainty. Allah described this fear and resistance in the Qur’an:
“And when it is said to them, ‘Follow what Allah has revealed,’ they say, ‘Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.’ Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?” (2:170)
This is not just applicable to Deen, but even in our personal lives, careers etc. We are not willing to take risks that will change our lives by leaps and bounds. We will never witness our full potential. Our best versions of ourselves.
The second is denial. This is when we see no need for change. In our minds we are perfect the way we are. We blame everything that happens around us on others . If we’re continuously being fired from jobs, it’s always the employers’ fault. If failure is a recurring theme in our studies, it’s always because teachers aren’t competent or unfair. This borders on arrogance. We all are a work in progress. There is bound to be something in us that we need to change. No one is perfect.
The third is despair. This is when we have attempted to make changes for the better but failed miserably. As a result, we lose confidence in ourselves and lose faith that Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) can exact change in us. Maybe we are in dire straits and we’ve filled out ten job applications, only to be rejected by them all. Maybe we’ve memorized some Qur’an but can’t seem to retain any of it . To these I say,
“And rely upon the Ever-Living who does not die, and exalt [ Allah ] with His praise. And sufficient is He to be, with the sins of His servants, Acquainted.” (Qur’an 25:58)
Allah is able to open closed doors for us. Maybe we are on a temporary time-out to cleanse us of our sins. Maybe the delay is so that we can work on some necessary skills, so time to re-evaluate. Maybe Allah has missed hearing our Duas and hence the delay. So, let’s have patience and keep on knocking on Allah’s door. He (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) will open. We have to be persistent, because if we aren’t then we’re the losers and no one else.
In closing, what should be feared and resisted is regression and not progression, degeneration of our principles and morals and not their regeneration. We should fear and resist our decay not whilst in the grave, but whist we are living and breathing. Remember that Allah’s ultimate goal is to guide us, “Indeed incumbent upon Us is to guide.” (Qur’an 92:12) and this guidance at times comes in the form of changes in our lives. Part of our unwavering faith in Him (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) and His guidance, whether it come in the form of us having to move to a new home/city/county, or leaving a career and picking up new one, is accepting them and adapting to them. They are part of His guidance :
“If We had ordered them to sacrifice their lives or to leave their homes, very few of them would have done it: But if they had done what they were (actually) told, it would have been best for them, and would have gone farthest to strengthen their (faith).” (Qur’an 4:66)
Changes are chances for advancement, promotion, rise in ranks, and an upgrade in our journey to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). Do not fear them. Do not resist them. Ponder on they ayah today:
“To those who receive (accept/adapt to) Guidance, He increases the (light of) Guidance, and bestows on them their Piety and Restraint (from evil).” (Qur’an 47:17)
The reward for accepting Allah’s guidance, which by nature is us accepting to change our direction and redirect ourselves, is more guidance. Embrace them as they come.
2016 Ramadan Reflection 13 June 18, 2016
Nothing stays the same, whether it is our appearance, age, personality, relationships, or skills. Even our moods flip in a split second. Change is inevitable , but the question is what effect does change have on us? Is change a catalyst or hindrance/obstacle . When we are under immense pressure do we fall into depression or strive to make an impression? When are afraid, are we paralyzed or mobilized? When sad do we conclude our lives are over or that we need to start over? At times of change we can either be the captains that steer our ships safely through the raging waters, or we can be the captains who surrenders their vessels to the merciless waves to toss them around and wreck them against the rocks.
Yet it remains that change is never easy. There are forces working against us. One of these forces is Shaytan. Shaytan is very much invested in changing us into the worst version of ourselves. He made a promise to this effect:
“I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires; I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by Allah.” (Qur’an 4:119)
What is the “fair nature created by Allah” that Shaytan aims to deface? It is the Fitra. On a daily basis, Shaytan makes us question the applicability of truth, honesty, perfection, patience, kindness, compassion etc. in our everyday lives. He makes us see them as outdated. But Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) tells us to hold onto them, for they are constants, and are a shield against Shaytan’s conspiracy:
“So set your face upright to the religion, unswervingly upright; (this religion is) the original disposition from Allah upon which He originated (Literally: constituted) mankind. There is no exchange for the creation of Allah. That is the most upright religion, but most of mankind do not know.” (Qur’an 30:30)
Apart from Shaytan, there are additional forces against us that are obstacles to change: our nature, nurture and habits. But to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) these do not make change impossible. The condition, according to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) is whether we really desire to change inspite of them:
“Surely Allah does not change what is in a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an 13:11)
The Mufasereen say that the interpretation of “…what is in themselves” in this verse refers to those things that adhere to us: nature (those traits we were born with); nurture (traits we acquired from our upbringing and from our environment); or habits (regular and repeated behavior accrued over the years) . All of these three are parts of us like a second skin, and they are very hard to overcome and suppress during the process of change. Yet know that taking them on, although challenging, indicates a sincere desire on our part for positive change. It’s at this point that Allah comes to the rescue, as per the ayah, to effect that change we want to see in ourselves.
Tomorrow we’ll reflect on our fear of change In Sha’ Allah. . .
Ramadan 2016 Reflection #12 June 17, 2016
The second instance when Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) spoke directly to Musa (Alayhe Assalaam) is described in the Qur’an in Surat Al A’raaf:
“And when Musa came at the time and place appointed by Us, and his Lord spoke to him, he said: ‘O my Lord! Show me (Yourself), that I may look upon You.’ Allah said: ‘You cannot see Me, but look upon the mountain if it stands still in its place then you shall see Me.’ So when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He made it collapse to dust, and Musa (Moses) fell down unconscious. Then when he recovered his senses he said: ‘Glory be to You, I turn to You in repentance and I am the first of the believers .’ / (Allah) said: “O Moses! I have chosen you above (other) men, by the mission I (have given you) and the words I (have spoken to you): take then the (revelation) which I give you, and be among those who are thankful.” (7:143-144)
Prophet Musa (Alayhe Asslaam) lovingly asked Allah to show him Himself so that he could lay eyes upon Him. Can’t blame him. You know that feeling when your heart soars with love for someone and you can’t wait to lay eyes on him or her? Such was the state of Musa (Alayhe Assalaam). It was the moment when Prophet Musa’s heart overflowed with adoration for Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’la). Likewise, the more we learn about Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) through revelation, and are conscious of His impressions in our lives the closer our hearts grow to Him and the more we yearn to be with Him and to see Him. He (Subhanahu Wa Ta’la) becomes everything as He Himself says:
“. . . My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties that I have imposed upon him; and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I would love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me, I would surely give him; and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant it to him.” (Bukhari)
In Sha’ Allah we will see Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) , but not in this world as pointed out to Prophet Musa (Alayhe Assalaam). Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’la) then proceeds to console Prophet Musa (Alayhe Assalaam) by reminding him of His favors on him ,
“‘O Moses! I have chosen you above (other) men, by the mission I (have given you) and the words I (have spoken to you): take then the (revelation) which I give you, and be among those who are thankful.” (Qur’an 7:144)
What does being among the thankful mean? Who are they? Those who are thankful that they have heard about Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) and have been guided by Him . How many people will live and die and never hear about Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’la)? How many will hear about Him (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) but never stop to listen to what He revealed about Himself, and hence never have the opportunity to know Him, believe in Him , worship Him, and fall in love with Him (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). So, be thankful that you are one of those who have heard, listened , worshipped, and spent your life knowing Him (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). Be thankful that you have heard and obeyed, for Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) says:
“But if they had done what they were instructed, it would have been better for them and a firmer position [for them in faith]/ And indeed, We would have brought them from very close to Us a magnificent reward/And We would have guided them to a straight path..” (Qur’an 4:66-68)
May we be among those who have done what they were instructed to do. Ameen.
In closing, these are two instances we wanted to reflect on in the Qur’an in which Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) spoke directly to Musa (Alayhe Assalaam) . In one of those instances, Allah says that He was speaking to Musa because He had chosen him to hear what was revealed. The second instance, he told him to take that which was revealed to him (Alayhe Asslaam) and be thankful. So should we . We should thankful when Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala)speaks to us via the Qur’an. Thankful that He (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) opened our hearts to what He has revealed. Thankful for Him (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) allowing us to know Him in this world.
O Allah make our hearts run to you when you call on us. Take us by the hand and lead us to You.
Ramadan 2016 Reflection 11 June 16, 2016
There are two instances in the Qur’an I want to focus on in my refletions for the 11th and 12th of Ramadan. The two instances are those in which Allah ( Subhanahu Wa Ta’la) spoke to Prophet Musa ( Alayhe Assalaam ). Let’s consider one of these instances for today’s reflection .
Whilst on the journey to Egypt, Musa ( Alayhe Assalam) and his family get lost in the desert. With each hour the darkness thickens. In the distance Musa ( Alayhe Assalaam ) sees a light and says to his family, “… ‘Stay here. I see a fire afar off. Perhaps I can bring you a brand therefrom or may find guidance at the fire.'” ( Qur’an 201:10) His family complied, and so Musa ( Alayhe Assalaam) set out towards the light and “. . . when he came to it ” Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) called to: “… by name : ‘O’ Musa!'” ( Qur’an 20:11) . Then Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) introduces himself to Musa (Alayhe Assalaam) saying, “Indeed, I am your Lord,” then proceeds to give him instructions, ” …So take off your shoes, you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa.” ( Qur’an 20:12) Then Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) reveals Allah’s purpose in calling Musa (Alayhe Assalaam): “I have chosen you , so listen to what is revealed.” ( Qur’an 20:13) Then Allah reveals the following verses that make the hair on my hands stand on end:
“Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance / Surely the hour is coming– I am about to make it manifest–so that every soul may be rewarded for that which it strives / So do not let him who does not believe in it and follows his desires bar you from it, lest you perish.” ( Qur’an 20:14-16)
This was Musa’s formal introduction to Islam (Alayhe Assalaam).
Isn’t this particular story symbolic of our own story of coming to Islam? Were we not groping in the dark. Were we not lost without Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). Remember the time when we didn’t know our life’s purpose. When we didn’t know where we were heading to after death. Then in the midst of this dark state, Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful reached out to us. He (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) the ultimate source of guidance showed us a light at the end of that dark tunnel. He too chose us, not to be Prophets and Messengers, but to be Muslims,
“So whoever Allah wants to guide – He expands his breast to [contain] Islam …” (Qur’an 6:125)
He (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) chose us to carry this message of compassion and mercy—in both words and actions— to the world. He chose us to be from among the Ummah of Muhammad (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam). What a privilege! He chose us to establish prayer in His remembrance. To witness another Ramadan, and to fast it Alhamdullilah. He chose us to carry in our hearts and in our actions His final revelation The Noble Qur’an, just like he asked Musa (Alayhe Assalam), “Listen to what is revealed to you” in Surat Taha. (13) The Qur’an continues to be revealed to everyone who opens it and opens his heart to it, and will continue to be so until the end of time. He chose us. Us. Us.
As Allah continues to In Sha’ Allah open our hearts to this life-long experience called Islam , and keeps us guided on its path remember that we are being being chosen again and again on a daily basis. It’s a great blessing to continue to fall in love with Islam. How many fall out of love with Islam? Many. Today, as you listen to the Qur’an during Taraweeh, or you pick up and read your Juz’u, or happen to just pass and hear Qur’an being recited remember, “I have chosen you , so listen to what is revealed.” (Qur’an 20:13)
Ramadan 2016 Reflection 10 June 15, 2016
Why is it that a single problem in a particular aspect of our lives cripples us? Causes us to crumble, and becomes an obstacle that prevents us from succeeding . Does success call for perfect conditions? Fact is no. I think often of Prophet Nuh (Alayhe Assalam) and his mission to give Da’wah. What was life for him at home with a wife and son working against him? It’s hard enough when the outside world is against you, but even harder when those close to you and in your very own home—your oasis—are no different. Did this prevent Nuh (Alayhe Assalaam) from accomplishing his mission, and succeeding in it? No. Against all odds he continued for 950 years. How was he able to do this? It appears to me that he isolated his social/familial problems and prevented them from affecting other aspects of his life. Today we’re going to reflect on this, and perhaps learn how to deal with our own problems or obstacles. We all have them. Conditions aren’t always ideal, actually they’re never ideal. There are always kinks to straighten out and bumps to smooth over. But first, what are these four aspects. They are: spiritual (our relationship with Allah), material (our finances, careers etc), social (our relationships with others ), and health. We can be inflicted with problems and face obstacles in any one of these four. The problem is not in them , but in allowing a problem in one of them to affect all the others. In other words, allow them to be in your life, but do not by any means allow them to stop you moving forward.
Take comfort in in a number of things. One is that knowing that defeating the odds and overcoming obstacles is one of the reasons for rising in status with Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) .That’s why Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) has spoken about the rewards of Al Muhajiruun and Al Ansar as being more than those who victories Islam after the Conquest of Makkah:
“Not equal among you are those who spent before the conquest (of Makkah) and fought and those who did so after it. Those are greater in degree than they who spent afterwards and fought . But to all Allah has promised the best ( reward) . And Allah, with what you do, is Acquainted.” (Qur’an 57:10)
Al Muhajiruun and Al Ansar supported the Prophet (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) at a time when the world they knew stood against them . Secondly, the Prophet (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) showed us how to isolate one problem and deal with it, without having it affect other aspects of our lives. For instance, to those suffering health issues he would say,
“Whenever a Muslim experiences any hardship like sickness (etc.), Allah Ta’ala wipes away his sins just as a tree sheds its leaves during autumn.” (Bukhaari and Muslim)
So, sickness is an opportunity to expiate one’s sins strengthen the spiritual side—the opportunity to grow closer to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). Sins stand between us and Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). In that way the Prophet (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) was able to make the sick strive to strengthen their spirituality, so that they can live with their illness but in closeness to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). What if we are struggling financially to put food on the table? The Prophet (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) says,
“Food for one is enough for two and food for two is enough for three and food for three is enough for four.” (Al Tarmidhi)
The Prophet (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam), at times of financial difficulties, has made us rethink our food portions; asked us to look closely at our plates and realize it is enough for two people.And in another hadith it is said the
“Companions of the Messenger (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) complained: “O Messenger of Allah, we eat but are not satiated.’ The Messenger of Allah (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) said: ‘Perhaps you eat separately?” They replied that they did. He said: ‘Eat your food together and say Bismillah before you start, that will bring blessings into your food.’” (Abu Dawud)
Furthermore, when financial issues strike any household it breaks marital and social ties, so the Prophet (Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam) asks us to eat together to strengthen our social our bonds during hard financial times.
Let’s give each problem it’s weight in attention, and not let it take over us and affect our entire our life. And if you happen to have a chronic problem or obstacle that cannot be resolved, live with it in beautiful patience by reminding yourself of Allah’s graces : “ So remember the favors of Allah that you might succeed.” ( Qur’an 7:69). There are always many graces that are supporting so many other aspects of your life, so look at the bigger picture.
O Allah grant us safety from all that we fear . Ameen.
Ramadan 2016 Reflection 9 June 14, 2016