A Meaningful Life – Is it Really an Option?

1 meaningful life“A time will come when your life will flash in front of you. Make sure it is worth watching.” For a man, this might happen thrice. Once, when he is ripening in age and occasionally going down the memory lane. Secondly, when he is on the death bed, and his entire past reels before his eyes. Lastly, it will be on the day of standing, when he will account for his worldly life before his Lord (swt). Fifty thousand years of standing and waiting will turn a child into an old man.

How many of us even think about this amidst the frenzy of undertaken tasks or, conversely, when having nothing to do? Quite amusingly, we find people ranging from those for whom twenty-four hours are not enough, as they are madly dashing from one finished business to the next unfinished one, to those who have ample time at hand to waste and still the day is not done. Both categories have one trait in common. They will stand before Allah (swt) and account for every second they spent.

It all begins with the need to lead a meaningful life. What is it? A meaningful life is a life with purpose. Suleman Ahmer of “Timelenders” explains that it has the following four elements:

  1. Vision
  2. Time management
  3. Leadership
  4. Additional required competencies

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Important or Urgent – The Forked Road

2 important or urgentShould I finish my report first or take care of my emails at the office? Should I attend to my sick mother-in-law or go to my child’s parent-teacher meeting? Is it more urgent to do the laundry or to cook the lunch? Life tosses at us choices to be made round the clock, and we find ourselves continuously deciding what to do. Some of us prioritize in terms of value, while others arrange items to do in terms of time. Nevertheless, all of us would benefit from learning what we need to do first, what we need to do next, and what we do not need to do at all.

It is helpful to understand that most of our daily prioritization springs to action from our discretionary mental routines (DMRs). We develop our DMRs over a lifetime, depending upon our education and experiences. Hence, our choices are automatic, unless we consciously reflect before coming to a decision. For instance, you may know three people who either live with you or work with you. One day you notice that all three make the same mistake, and you decide to help them out by offering sincere advice.

You approach ‘A’ and correct him gently. He not only listens to you carefully but also seriously assesses his mistake, and eventually thanks you for helping him grow. Next, you offer the same piece of advice to ‘B’. He immediately becomes defensive, and starts explaining himself, without listening to you. At the end, he thanks you ceremoniously, and you feel highly uncomfortable following this incident. Lastly, you talk to ‘C’, who blows up in your face. He reacts bitterly to your counsel, and you regret bringing it to his attention to begin with.

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But Why Arrive on Time?

3 why arrive on timeSome people do not give any importance to arriving on time. And we are not referring only to Pakistani weddings (we will address that later)! It applies to any event, be it a business meeting, an appointment, a casual get-together, or a formal dinner. It is a principle for such individuals to walk in late, regardless of the inconvenience caused to their host, friend, or business associate. They disregard it with the flick of a fly.

Such individuals offer three common arguments to defend their practice:

  1. What will happen if I arrive early or on time, and everyone else is late? What will I do with my spare time? I will be wasting it anyway! So I cautiously delay my arrival to save my own time.
  2. What is the big deal if I was detained and have arrived late? It’s not the end of the world. Everyone is alive and kicking. Why does everybody have to make such a hue and cry about being punctual all the time?
  3. I am worthy of being waited for. Of course, all dignitaries and luminaries never make timely arrivals to grace any occasion. If the best showman will arrive on time, perform and then leave, how will concerts last until the wee hours of the morning?

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Planning Ahead to Save Time

4 planning ahead to save timeAyesha was running late. She had set her alarm for 7:00 am, and actually gotten up without pressing the snooze button even once. She had estimated that she needed around half an hour for breakfast and for getting ready, and would be at the convention centre (half an hour’s drive away) by 8:00 am sharp, where she was volunteering at a seminar that day.

However, things did not go as she had planned. She hadn’t ironed her Abaya the night before. She still had a few things to put in her bag. And making and eating breakfast took longer than she had imagined. When she finally set out of the house, it was 7:45 am. Traffic signals, a bottleneck at one intersection, and a flat tyre on the way delayed her further. When she finally reached her destination, it was almost 8:45 am.

One can say that Ayesha planned ahead of time but still managed to get her timings wrong. How?

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Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives (Final Part)

5 Surah Hujurat in our lives“Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful. Say: Will you inform Allah about your religion? While Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is All-Aware of everything. They regard as favour upon you (O Muhammad) that they have embraced Islam. Say: Count not your Islam as a favour upon me. Nay, but Allah has conferred a favour upon you, that He has guided you to the faith, if you indeed are true. Verily, Allah knows the unseen of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is the All-Seer of what you do.” (Al-Hujurat 49:15-18)

After warning the Bedouins about their unacceptable and disliked actions, Allah (swt), being the Most Merciful, shows us through this story, a way to repent and atone for our arrogance in thinking that we have done Allah (swt) a favour by being Muslims.


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Acquire Taqwa, Build a Home in Jannah

6 build a home in jannah“This is the Book (The Quran), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious believers of Islamic Monotheism who fear Allah much and love Allah much).” (Al-Baqarah 2:2)

The above-stated verse clarifies that guidance is given to those who fear Allah (swt) and have Taqwa. What is Taqwa? It stems from the root word ‘Waqa’ meaning ‘to protect’.

Fear of Allah (swt) is only one element of Taqwa, which also means ‘to build a barrier between oneself and whatever angers or displeases Him’.

We have a remarkable example of Taqwa in the annals of history, and the way it brought a very noble person to Islam. Our beloved Prophet (sa), while braving the hardships of opposition and persecution by the Makkans, earnestly invoked Allah (swt) to strengthen Islam by guiding either Amr ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl) or Umar ibn Al-Khattab (rtam).

Allah (swt) answered his Dua, and granted Islam to Umar (rtam). Why? In spite of being an apparent archenemy of Muslims, he was not completely evil, and Allah knew the beauty of his heart. Subsequently, when he heard his sister recite the Ayah of Surah Taha, Umar’s (rtam) heart melted, and he entered the fold of Islam.

The word ‘Taqwa’ has been mentioned 250 times in the Quran. It is the essence of Islam. How can it be attained? Allah (swt) created Ramadan to train and discipline us for the rest of the eleven months. It is an opportunity for the believer to exit this month with rewards, to gain Taqwa, and, finally, to enter Jannah.

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Top Five Ways to Boost Your Iman

7 boost Iman(1) Recite and reflect upon the Quran. Scientific studies have proven that simply listening to Quranic recitations has a miraculous effect upon the hearts and bodies; it has the quality of healing the souls. It is suggested by religious scholars that whenever you are depressed or feel low, listen to the Quran as it has a significant impact upon your mood. You must be aware that Allah (swt) is speaking to you, and you must strive hard to understand His dialogue. This will help you soften your heart, raise your Iman, and bring tranquility within your soul.

(2) Perform Salah regularly. Another factor to increase one’s Iman is the offering of Salah regularly, and at its appointed timings. It is narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah (rtam) that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The similitude of five prayers is like an overflowing river passing by the gate of one of you in which he washes five times daily.” (Muslim) Apart from increasing our level of Iman, Salah gives us an opportunity to have an audience with the Rabb-ul-Alameen in which we can ask for His help and mercy. It is necessary that we engage in this ritual without accelerating our pace, and being aware of His presence.

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Lessons in Love from Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf)

8 lessons in loveProphet Muhammad (sa) is the ultimate role model for all Muslims, men and women, as we are all commanded by Allah (swt) in the Quran to follow the Messenger’s (sa) Sunnah. We look upon him as our guide. He possessed the best of manners, the noblest of character, and was the best husband to his wives. I am sure every Muslim woman wants her husband to emulate the example of the Prophet (sa), and to experience the deep love and tranquillity of married life just as the wives of the Prophet (sa) did. Yet we have to remember that marriage and love is a shared responsibility. If we want our husbands to resemble Prophet Muhammad (sa) in their conduct, we ourselves should also strive to be more like the Mothers of the Believers. Every one of these great women has a lesson we can learn from. If we want to become the best and most loving wives to our husbands, we should learn more about Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf), the first and the most beloved wife of the Prophet (sa).

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf) was born into a rich Makkan family. She inherited great wealth from her father, which she further multiplied by her successful business ventures. She used to send caravans with goods to neighbouring countries, and she would put trusted employees in charge of her merchandise. Having heard of the young man who was known in Makkah as al-Amin (the trustworthy), she decided to employ him. Khadijah (rtaf) sent with him her old and trusted slave, Maysarah, so that he could report to her about his dealings. The man she employed was no other than Muhammad (sa). Khadijah (rtaf) was so impressed by the success of his business trip, as well as by what Maysarah told her about him, that she became inclined to marry him.

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Handling my Teen’s Relationship with Allah (swt)

9 teens relationship with AllahI was sipping my cup of morning coffee when a glance at my watch told me it was already half past nine. I looked around but there was no sign of my ex-student Seema. She had called me last night, and had made a hurried request to meet her in a day or two. She had sounded very tense, and out of great concern for her, I had agreed to meet her the very next day. Our meeting was fixed for nine, and here it was a half hour past it and she was still not here. That was highly unusual since I had always known her to be a very punctual person.

A few more minutes passed. I looked around, and saw a young boy of about sixteen or seventeen years of age, sitting with a girl a few years younger than him. Not wanting to jump to any conclusions, I simply observed them talk and eat their breakfast, until the boy took out a rose from his pocket and presented it to the girl. I shook my head in disappointment and prayed for them to be shown the right path towards Jannah.

It was likely to occur to a person observing them that their parents had not taught them their religion or the teenagers belonged to a family with liberal beliefs, who did not consider pre-marital relationships to be unacceptable. But for me this perception was no more valid because I myself had faced this situation a few years ago when my own daughter had entered her teen years. It was one of the most devastating periods of my life because my husband and I were firm believers, and had always been conscious about not committing any sin. Yet our daughter was caught having a relationship with her class fellow; this was totally unacceptable and shameful for us.

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Lead by Faith

11 lead by faithThe youth of the twenty-first century has been deeply affected by the social and political turmoil it has witnessed. Every day is a struggle, and in troubled times, passionate hearts and energized minds look for ideals onto which they can cast their mortal selves. So prevalent and severe are the conflicts that the moral compasses of the youth are shaken – in their fear and confusion, they have drifted away from the righteous path set out by all major religions of this day and age. Lessons of tolerance, compassion, sacrifice, brotherhood, and peace have all been shelved away, only to be replaced by the existing prejudices, violence, discrimination, and bigotry. Unless heroes of the past and stories from childhood are revived, our world would face an unprecedented existential threat.

Daring and hopeful about their future, the youth are in need of guidance, which only various institutions working together can provide. These institutions, provided they function relentlessly, can give rise to agents of change.

Home – Every child’s first school

The family provides the very first training. Only the child’s family is aware of his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This knowledge allows the family to protect the child from the “big, bad world outside” and becomes a vital source of encouragement when the child opts to be good, displays acts of kindness, and fulfils religious duties. It is this household environment that moulds the reaction and interpretation of the youth, clarifying for him what is wrong and what is right, while stressing on the importance to choose what is right over what is easy. Parents provide their offspring with solid ground to stand on, and in giving them love, they indirectly guide their children towards what they consider to be right, that is, the values they themselves hold as important.

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[Winning Story] An Escapist’s Version of Reality

Winning story of the 3rd Annual Short Story Writing Competition organized by Hiba

10 escapist version of realityI vividly remember the disastrous day my mom forced an Abaya on me. I was an extremely outgoing girl, the very opposite of what my mom wanted me to be. My life revolved around partying, hanging out with school friends, and especially socializing around the many social networking sites on the World Wide Web. One of my closest friends was an emerging musician, and although I did not have a knack for music, she was my source for the latest gossip relating to our school’s social scene.

It was after a parent-teacher meeting at school that my mom became adamant upon having me wear an Abaya: by hook or by crook. In normal circumstances, I would surely not have given in to her way, but back then, I knew that I had lost my ground as my teacher had informed her about all my ‘extra-curricular activities’. My mother was furious. However, it was not her anger that struck me the most; it was the fact that I had betrayed her trust that caused her to hurt most, and that made me reflect upon my character and the path of disloyalty I was treading.

The initial few days of being shrouded in an Abaya were quite miserable. The many times that I would run a critical gaze down my Abaya-donned body made me deeply regret my agreement to have it as an identity for the rest of my life.

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A Heart-to-Heart with Shaykh Furqan Jabbar

11a furqan jabbar interviewShaykh Furqan Jabbar is studying for his Masters degree in Islamic Banking & Finance in Melbourne, and is working as a contributor to Mercy Mission Australia in the Guardians’ Quran project.

Question 1: What is your favourite book that you would like to recommend?

My favourite book is, of course, the Book of Allah (swt) – the Quran. How fortunate are those who have managed to memorize, understand, and implement it. After the Quran, I would recommend others to read The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Dr. Bilal Philips and He Came to Teach You Your Religion by Jamal Zarabozo. Both helped shape my understanding of religion. Regarding Dr. Bilal Philips’ book in particular, I found it easy to read and understand as a teenager. I also found The Road to Mecca by Muhammad Asad to be an interesting read. Although I do not endorse many of the authors’ opinions and beliefs, Muhammad Asad no doubt led an interesting life. Moazzam Begg’s Enemy Combatant was also a fascinating book which I had trouble putting down.

Although I do not like to admit it, I am also a science-fiction reader. Even though it is not a perfect book, my favourite thus far has been George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four due to its powerful ideas and lessons. I have read it twice, and would not mind reading it again. I also don’t mind reading somewhat ‘sillier’ books as long as they are well-written such as Frederic Brown’s Martians Go Home.

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Boys Adrift

13 boys adriftNotice how most boys today prefer exercising their thumbs playing virtual sports rather than exercising their bodies through real life contact sports? How girls regularly bag top positions in school examinations though our boys are marked as “having potential”? Moreover boys in particular are labelling school as boring as they grow beyond their nursery class ages. Many parents assure themselves that this simply is the way boys are, and “it’s just a phase”, but step back and observe the young men of today.

An increasing number of young men cannot dedicate themselves to a single job. They are easily demotivated by workplace stress, and are unwilling to be productive members within their family circles. Is there a connection between the two? According to Dr Leonard Sax, in his book Boys Adrift, there is not only a connection but the situation is a growing epidemic.

Dr Leonard Sax, a family physician and psychologist, addresses educators and parents alike, as his book highlights five key factors negatively effecting boys today. One of them is video games; it’s not only the violent ones which are leaving a negative impact on impressionable boys’ minds. His book explains how sports games are also contributing to demotivating boys. Another factor is environmental toxins; Dr. Sax outlines the connection between the reason your bottled water tastes funny when left out in the sun, and the endocrine disrupters which are causing male fish to produce eggs like their female counterparts.

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What Constitutes Manhood?

12 manhoodBy Majid ibn Abdur-Rahman – Writer 

What type of men would you like to see in our Ummah, the community of Prophet Muhammad (sa)? What constitutes a man? Is it the moustache or the beard? There are so many who have both.

Manhood does not depend upon years. We can often see a seventy-year-old man with the heart of a child: he rejoices over trivial entertainment, sheds tears over petty issues, covets what he does not possess, and greedily clenches whatever falls into his small hands, so that others would not play with it. He simply is a small child with a moustache and beard.

However, by the grace of Allah (swt), there are children who, despite their young age, can be extremely manly in their words, deeds, thoughts, and noble behaviour.

Save Your Sanity This Summer

14 sanityDespite their best efforts to keep their children busy during the friendless summer months, mothers hear the dreaded yet invariable “I’m bored” whine from their children once the planned activity is finished.

To keep your sanity this summer, here are some “filler” ideas to help bide the time in a constructive and fun manner. Write these ideas down on small flash cards for the kids to pull out whenever “there is nothing to do”.

Brain Strain

  1. Think of a number. Write it. Now draw a face/object from it.
  2. Write the names of as many teachers in your school as you can remember.
  3. Name as many flavours of ice-creams as you can remember.
  4. List all the places where you can find sand.
  5. Imagine you have five children. What would you name them and why?
  6. How many animals can you list whose names begin with vowels?
  7. Name twenty colours. Look them up if you don’t know as many.
  8. Write numbers by sixes as far as you can go.
  9. List five parts of the body above the neck that have three letters.
  10. Write a new ending to your favourite book.

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