Tackling Emotions in Settling Differences

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Maliha had just returned from her 6-years-old daughter Anum’s school. She unfolded the now crumpled report of Anum that confirmed Dyslexia. Anum’s teacher was very caring and reassuring that Anum was an extremely bright kid, who just needed special attention and a different means to learn. Maliha’s child was different. How would she break the news to Ali, her husband? Anum was her father’s apple of the eye, the only child born ten years after their marriage.

Maliha knew this wasn’t the end of the world. But the string of tears just poured, staining her face. She decided to relieve her own pain, so she could be strong later when informing Ali. They could go out tonight to a quiet place, where she could gently explain to Ali all that Ms. Sarah (Anum’s teacher) had talked about. She carefully re-read the information Ms. Sarah had given her. Maliha mapped out in her mind the conversation that she would hold with Ali. She arranged Anum’s babysitting with her grandmother. She planned everything meticulously.

Meanwhile at the office, Ali had a monstrous day. He broke into an argument with his demanding boss. His top of the line worker had an accident and fractured his leg. One of Ali’s important customers filed a complaint about the company’s poor service. It was a trying day, and by the evening, Ali was glad it was finally over. All he wanted to do was go home, play with Anum, have his favourite meal and hit the bed. He had to be in the office very early next morning to prepare a compensation plan for his disgruntled client and present it to the senior management. That required much thinking.

When Ali arrived from work, he looked drained much to Maliha’s immediate disappointment. She suggested that they dine out to relax and change the mood, which was the last thing Ali wanted to hear.  He suggested otherwise. Ali wanted to eat at home and retire early to bed. Maliha insisted that she wanted to eat out without explaining anything. Ali was now very irritated, as he couldn’t understand why. He had had such a rotten day, and it was still not over with Maliha mindlessly nagging him about a stupid evening out.

They both projected what were their positional bargains, their own stances without finding out the reasons, why the other person was disagreeing. Both had valid reasons to differ but never communicated to each other. The hidden intent behind these differences remained concealed, until it was too late. Maliha and Ali, who were already vulnerable and wounded from previous experiences, locked horns and ended up in a battle.

This is what we experience almost daily with strangers, acquaintances and our dear ones – situations in which the hidden intentions are not communicated, assumptions are made at face value, and wrong results are derived from faulty calculations. The art of creating agreements is lost.

Could Ali and Maliha have handled the above situation differently? Maybe. Here is a guideline that “Timelenders” (a management consulting and training firm) offers for tackling emotions in settling differences:

  1. Be calm.

When you sense a disagreement with someone, do not opt for emotional outbursts. This may seem difficult initially but with conscious thought and practice, volatile emotions can be tamed.

  1. Recognize the other’s emotions.

Make a shift of priorities to understand the other person’s sentiments. Sometimes we are so consumed by our own feelings that we ignore the other person’s heartache altogether.

  1. Make your own emotions explicit.

Clarify how you feel, without expecting others to guess or take initiative figuring out your worries. No one is a master psychologist or owns a crystal ball to know what is going on in your life.

  1. Allow the other side let off steam.

If tempers are high, let the other person say what he/she has to. They won’t be listening to you in any case, if you try to out speak them, since they will be wrapped in their own miseries.

  1. Keep an eye on the emotional bank account.

It is easier to settle differences with people you have been nice to. If you have shared positive experiences and had a good relationship with them, there would be no grudges hindering or haunting from the past. Always try to treat everyone courteously, so they remember your past goodness.

A word of caution: possible communication challenges might occur, so:

  1. Keep an eye on the non-verbal communication.

Many people are not effective with words and are unable to explain their actual stance. In such cases, try to follow their body gestures, silence, etc.

  1. Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said.

When they speak, listen intently. Comprehend later. Judge lastly. Do not reverse the sequence. Also, do not multitask during a disagreement in order to avoid further irritation.

  1. Speak to be understood.

Don’t mumble, throw jargon, talk sarcastically or in under currents, so as to leave the other person wondering, what you actually meant.

  1. Don’t speak from the gallery.

Do not involve others in the conversation or talk in front of people who have nothing to do with your disagreement. Address only the parties involved.

Following are some non-verbal communication one needs to be mindful of:

  1. Speech pace and pauses
  2. Pitch and tone
  3. Use of space and distance
  4. Body motion and gestures
  5. Body posture
  6. Facial expressions
  7. Gaze
  8. Touch and body contact

In 1967, psychologist Albert Mehrabian analyzed the impact that a speaker’s attitudes and feelings leave on an audience. Following is what he discovered:

Imagine: in a conversation or presentation, visual content (your body language) has 55% of impact on others. Similarly, the way you present your words has 93% of an impact on the other person. If your verbal language and body language is out of sync, you can never be taken as a genuine person. If you want to apologize, your voice and expressions must convey it. If you want to appreciate someone, you cannot furrow your brows and twitch your nose when complimenting. Similarly, if you are concerned about someone, you can’t laugh and look merry about it. Your intentions have to be communicated with actions (co-related body gestures).

Differences and disagreements are part of life. They are natural and set us apart from machines. They facilitate us to mature as humans. They truly bare our soul. In such times, we are tested for our wisdom, grace and character.

Face the Facts

Did you know that our face can support:

  1. 8 positions for brows and forehead,
  2. 17 positions for our eyes and eyelids,
  3. 45 positions for our lower jaw,
  4. 43 distinct and separate muscle movements in the face giving us a combination of 10,000 identifiable facial configurations,
  5. Fleeting facial expressions that last for four hundredth of a second.

Subhan’Allah! If Allah (swt) is the Creator, we are a marvel of His creation.

Bridging Differences: The Art of Creating Agreements

bridges-cover

Conflict is a common aspect of our lives. It does not always involve someone being right or wrong, as even a clash of perceptions can lead to a conflict. The world around us is full of open ferocity. Even if we are living in a peaceful family and city, external factors instill our minds with rampant aggression. Mass media, games, movies and even news portray unrest. This has made us prone to hostile behaviour to the point that we feel it’s a common human trait, while it is not. We should face conflicts with a peaceful mind and a positive attitude to eliminate the problems from their roots. If we are hostile and impatient, we will only slide deeper into trouble.

Today’s fast-paced life requires us to maintain amiable relations with people around us, because we might not get the chance to solve conflicts at a later time. Delay in settling differences can jeopardize valuable relationships, too. Our aim should be to bridge any arising differences and cultivate positive ground, even if there is a disagreement.

Pondering over the ways our Prophet (sa) used to resolve conflicts, we can avail a complete strategy for ourselves to practice. Let’s look at some common mistakes people make in conflict-ridden situations and at the ways we can bridge differences by using a structured sequence of “Conflict Resolution Skills” (as taught by “Timelenders”, a renowned consulting firm).

Value Time

A common statement that we usually say or think is: “I don’t have time to explain”. We are in a constant race against time. We fight ourselves to wake up in the morning, stumble our way to get to work, are restless at our workplace, and cannot wait to go home. At home, we rush through dinner and then sleep, and the next day, we are back to the grind again. This unnecessary sense of urgency builds up stress. Eventually, it affects our relationships and leads to various conflicts. We assume that there is less time; hence, our focus is on getting what we want, regardless of the impact it can have on others.

Firstly, we need to realize that Allah (swt) has made a day with sufficient time. Thus, we should stop assuming that there is a lack of time and start utilizing it efficiently. To do so, we don’t need to attend any workshop. We merely need to consult the life of the Prophet (sa) and adapt to his lifestyle as closely as possible.

Assuming that the other person would not understand you or that there is not enough time for explaining is unfair; often, this becomes the main cause of a conflict. If we do not have a structured schedule, we tend to get stuck in prolonged unscheduled appointments. We should develop filters, which help us avoid such unplanned appointments by posing a politely phrased excuse and offering another available timing later on, and ensuring that we do fulfil our promise and not just get rid of them. Gifts are important tools for making people realize that we value them. Eventually, they would learn to understand our priorities.

It is not advisable to plan your day with back to back activities or tasks with hardly any breathers in between. Fill your day with realistic number of commitments.

Suspend Judgement

Commonly, we tend to evaluate others, while communicating. When someone talks, the listener does three main tasks:

  • He hears which is a mechanical action;
  • He comprehends what’s being said by comparing it with his own data;
  • He starts judging by deciding the authenticity of the information and evaluating its usefulness.

The listener needs to do all three these tasks in this exact sequence, in order to properly understand the information. However, people tend to make the mistake of comprehending and judging at the same time. Often, the listener has formed his final judgement even before the other person has completed talking. As soon as the judgement has been made, we disregard the later pieces of information, which could possibly lead to a totally different judgement overall. This process is called ‘premature judgement’.

Premature judgement is one of the main causes of conflicts, leading to unnecessary misunderstandings. In order to avoid such situations, we should completely suspend the task of judgement till the end of the conversation. If a lot of information is being communicated, try to take notes, so that evaluation can be done later. If you have missed out on any information, respectfully ask the person to repeat.

We should keep in mind the fact that “we listen what we want to hear”. By practicing proper listening skills and suspending premature judgement, we can eliminate various petty disputes from our daily lives.

Practice Strong Principles

For establishing successful communication, we should implement in our daily dealings the following principles.

  • We will not lie.

Allah (swt) has said: “In their hearts is disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allah has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.” (Al-Baqarah 2:10) As Muslims, we cannot disregard what the Quran says. If the Quran contains such disdain for liars then there is nothing left to explain.

  • We will not deceive.

Allah (swt) has said: “They (think to) deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves and perceive (it) not.” (Al-Baqarah 2:9) Deceiving others is equivalent to deceiving yourself and obviously neglecting the presence of Allah (swt), as He watches us and knows what is in our hearts.

  • We will not take advantage of anyone’s weakness.

Exploiting others is actually a weakness within the person himself, which shows lack of confidence. When someone is selling a car for covering urgent hospitalization expenses, we should not take advantage of this person’s weakness by offering a reduced price. Instead, we should buy the car as per its market value.

Allah (swt) has commanded us not to lie or deceive, so we should not breach this commandment. Put into practice the three above principles on a daily basis, internalizing them as your own. No matter what situations or conflicts arise, we should examine ourselves to make sure we follow the above principles. A famous quote says: “Truth always wins.” Hence, we should always be among the truthful to be true winners.

Focus on Interests, not Positions

For understanding this fundamental principle of conflict resolution, consider the following story about two young boys fighting over an orange.

Ahmad and Saad were fighting over an orange. None of the boys was willing to share and kept on asserting their position: “I want the orange!” This argument kept on going for a while. Finally, a man came forward and divided the orange into half, distributing between the boys equally. Both were now content and went on to enjoy their piece of the orange. Ahmad threw away the inside of the orange and used the peel for an art project. On the other hand, Saad ate the fruit and threw away the peel.

Thus, in this situation, Ahmad’s interest was the peel, while Saad’s interest was the inside of the fruit. Was it a wise decision to divide the orange into halves? It was not. A wise decision could be reached, if Ahmad and Saad had first communicated their interests, rather than their positions. The position was that they wanted the orange, while their interests were very different. If the interests were communicated among the two, then Ahmad could have had the whole of peel, and Saad would have enjoyed the whole of the fruit. They would have had a win-win situation.

We tend to focus on what we want and assert all our energy towards availing that, rather than communicating the reason behind our needs. Humans have a logical mind structure, and our brain is designed to reason; thus, we should not fight for what we want, without reasoning about it with the other person. If we successfully communicate our direct interests, we will be able to avoid unnecessary arguments and develop better relationships. This process will eventually take less time and will give a win-win situation for both sides involved.

Be Mindful of the Human Angle

The human angle of any argument consists of perception, emotions and communication. Perception is of foremost importance in conflict resolution, because it helps us realize the diversity that prevails in human minds. Perception is the way we see something or imagine its intensity and existence in our own mind. Each person has a different perception, which is shaped by their life experiences. Thus, two people in the same situation may have an entirely different view of it, as each of them has their own perception.

When resolving conflicts, we need to consider this possibility of different perceptions of the same topic. Each perception is someone’s reality, according to which they will act. The better we understand each other’s perception, the better we will be able to negotiate.

In order to understand someone’s perception, we should put ourselves into their shoes and try to understand their views. Once we develop an idea about the perception of the other person, we can look for common or similar grounds of looking at the reality between us.

Furthermore, we should listen carefully, and avoid making premature judgement. Once we have heard the entire story, we can rephrase it to explain our own understanding of the problem. In this way, everyone will come on the same page, avoiding misunderstandings.

Generate a Variety of Possibilities

When trying to resolve a conflict, we should not look for a single solution. If we look for a single solution, we will leap upon the first one we come across, which might not be the wisest decision. Therefore, we should ponder over a variety of different possibilities and try to choose the most suitable one.

Insist on Objective Criteria

People involved in a conflict cannot always come to a wise solution by themselves. For availing the best solution and effectively bridging differences, we can apply set standards, which function as a criterion. Such standards may include:

  • Consulting a third party for a better solution;
  • Deciding from previous experiences or examples;
  • Letting a court make the decision;
  • Deciding according to moral standards of the society;
  • Deciding according to the Shariah;
  • Following tradition;
  • Following international standards.

For selecting a certain standard, list down the most applicable standards for your situation and then settle on the one providing the best possible solution. For instance, in a conflict of divorce, the most applicable standards can be Shariah, moral standards, and tradition and, in extreme cases, court and international standards.

Conclusion

Islam provides Muslims with a complete code of conduct and a structured lifestyle. In the life of our Prophet (sa), we have the best of examples to follow. We should also realize the fact that not every war is worth fighting for. If we find ourselves in a conflict, which seems to have no apparent solution, we should end the conversation on a positive note and let go of it. We should be ready to end such conflicts respectfully, accepting that sometimes it is better to part without coming to an agreement.

A very famous Chinese proverb says that “a family in harmony will prosper in everything”. We should consider all Muslims as our family and try to bridge our differences to have a harmonious Ummah. Once we are at peace among ourselves, we shall be able to focus on the larger goal of bringing back the glorious times of Islam.

Did you know?

  • 30-40 percent of supervisors’ and managers’ daily activities are devoted to dealing with conflicts in the workplace.
  • Over 65% of performance problems result from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in individual employee’s skill or motivation.
  • The surging price of education has become the major cause of conflict between Chinese husbands and their wives.
  • Just about every family has one thing in common: money problems. Even millionaires bicker over how much to spend and how much to save, and money is the number one reason couples fight and the number one cause of divorce, according to psychologist Dr. Cristy Lopez.

Quotable quotes

  • “Peace is not absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Ronald Reagan
  • “Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” Wayne Dyer
  • “Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is *not* the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and of poor communication.” Harriet B. Braiker in Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life
  • “I’ve known plenty of couples who choose to ignore budding problems or dissatisfactions because it’s easier in the moment. But too much of that for long enough, and you all of a sudden have a huge problem on your hands, or a midlife crisis, or a broken marriage.” Fawn Weaver in Happy Wives Club: One Woman’s Worldwide Search for the Secrets of a Great Marriage

Reaching a Win-Win Solution

win win solution

Consider the following incident and the two scenes that follow. The situation is similar but the interaction between key players is significantly different.

Asma’s final examinations are about to commence. She is in the eighth grade and her studies are tough. To allow her time to study and avoid late nights, her mother has already politely declined invitations to two family weddings. A couple of days before Asma’s exams begin, her dear friend (who studies in another school) comes to visit. She has brought the invitation card to her elder sister’s wedding, scheduled to be held on a Thursday. Since the next day is her exam, Asma knows she would not be allowed to go. Still, upon her friend’s insistence, she decides to talk to her mother.

Scene A

Asma’s mother refuses to budge. She categorically tells Asma that no parties or weddings will be attended in the middle of the exam week. Asma gets very upset. She has been studying hard and feels she deserves a break of an hour or so. Her mother tells her that she would be spending time getting dressed and then commuting: total of two to three hours. Then, she would want to stay till dinner and, hence, would return late night. She’d be too sleepy the next day. Asma says she will go, no matter what. Her mother says, no, no matter what. Both Asma and her mother get into a terrible argument that results in tears and silent treatment.

Scene B

Asma thinks a little bit before approaching her mother. She notes the time and the venue of the wedding. She mentally calculates the time she would be spending getting dressed and commuting to the wedding. With all this preparation, she talks to her mother and requests her to allow her an hour to attend the wedding. She assures her mother that she will do the preparation for next day’s exam well before time, will spend maximum fifteen minutes on getting ready and will not stay for the dinner at the wedding. She will simply go, meet everyone and then return. The break will be good for her and she would probably feel more refreshed for the paper next day. Asma’s mother thinks it over and then allows her to attend the wedding, if all conditions are met as put forward by Asma.

Note the difference in the two scenes. In the first, Asma and her mother engaged in positional bargaining: each has a ‘position’. They both argued tooth and nail to win that position. Eventually, they made up but it was not a happy arrangement for both. In the second, Asma and her mother engaged in interest bargaining. Asma knew her mother was not against attending the wedding per se. Her ‘interest’ was to ensure Asma’s exam did not get affected. Once Asma had identified all possible scenarios that her mother could oppose, she managed to convince her and attend the wedding without disobeying her.

In our daily interactions with our parents, spouses, children, neighbours or in-laws, we do encounter situations, in which we do not agree with another person. This is natural; what matters is how we deal with these differences to reach a win-win solution. There are basically two approaches towards resolving conflicts. Positional bargaining may result in a compromise, but one or both parties are usually not happy with the outcome. On the other hand, interest bargaining leads directly to a win-win solution, as it takes into account diverse interests and aims, rather than one’s position over a specific matter.

Despite interest bargaining being more beneficial, position bargaining is more popular. This is mainly because:

  1. It requires no or very little planning and preparation. Mostly, it depends upon a person’s position at the time of discussion or argument.
  2. It is very convenient, because it does not require planning or thinking through.
  3. It works most of the time and gives us results, even if not always wise.
  4. It can be applied to any situation.

On the other hand, interest bargaining requires some serious work. It needs proper planning and thinking through to reach creative solutions.

For example, 18-year-old Saad finds it difficult to wake up for Fajr and almost always gets into an argument with his mother about it. Position bargaining would mean that both Saad and his mother would come to a compromise: if Saad gets up for Salah for three days, he can miss it for three days, and his mother would not argue. However, this cannot be done, because the Salah is Fard (obligatory). No matter how tired Saad is, there is no excuse for missing the prayer. Once this premise is established in their minds, they can come up with solutions on how Saad can wake up for Fajr. This may include Saad educating himself on the importance of praying Salah on time, avoiding late nights, keeping multiple alarms and so on. It is important to note that the mother is not arguing to defend her position; she is defending a vital principle.

Similar is the case, when problems take root between in-laws. A frail, elderly mother-in-law, who is widowed and mostly bed-ridden, lives with her only son and his wife. The wife wants a separate portion in the house, because it is very taxing for her to look after a sick individual the whole day. She argues with her husband to hire a maid for the mother-in-law and move upstairs. Her husband can reach this compromise through position bargaining, and do as his wife suggests. However, he outlines the interests of them both:

  1. He wants his wife to be happy and content, and his mother to be taken care of.
  2. The wife wants some relief from the daily responsibilities of caring for the mother-in-law.
  3. The mother-in-law needs the company of her son’s family.

The son decides to hire a reliable maid, who can take care of his mother’s medical needs, so his wife can get some relief. The wife then agrees that she will not move to a separate portion, and, instead, will supervise the maid and give her mother-in-law company. This way, all parties are happy.

What are the attitudes of those, who engage in interest bargaining?

  • The interests of all parties in an argument are addressed for an agreement to be reached.
  • The focus remains on interests, not positions.
  • Parties search for objective or fair standards that all can agree on.
  • All parties believe that there are multiple satisfactory solutions.
  • Parties are cooperative problem-solvers, rather than opponents.
  • People and issues remain separate. People are respected, while interests are bargained on.
  • All parties are willing to search for win-win solutions.

How can you initiate and work on interest bargaining? Here is a quick guide:

  1. Identify your interests/needs in a particular situation. Be specific about what your needs are and how important they are to you.
  2. When negotiating or having a discussion, inform all parties about your respective interests. Make sure your needs are understood.
  3. Now, specify the problem. Word it in a way that it appears solvable by a win-win solution.
  4. Identify general criteria that must be present in an acceptable solution.
  5. Work toward an agreement.
  6. Identify areas of agreement, restate them and, if needed, write them down.

It is important to implement the following, during this process:

  • Educate and be educated about interests of all parties.
  • Assure that all interests will be respected and viewed as legitimate.
  • Show an interest in others’ needs.
  • Do not exploit another negotiator’s weakness. Demonstrate trust.
  • Put yourself in a ‘one down position’ to other on issues where you risk a small, but symbolic loss.
  • Start with a problem solving, rather than competitive approach.
  • Provide benefits above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Listen and convey to other negotiators that they have been heard and understood.
  • Listen and restate content to demonstrate understanding.
  • Listen and restate feelings to demonstrate acceptance (not necessarily agreement) and understanding of intensity.

All too often, we are so caught up in one-upping others and winning the argument that we forget the following authentic Hadeeth: “The most despicable amongst people in the sight of Allah is the ruthless argumentative (person).” (Muslim)

“I guarantee a house in Jannah for one, who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right.” (Abu Dawood)

At the end of the day, the purpose of any argument or conflict should be to reach a win-win solution. A well-known saying is: “Lose the argument, not the person.”

When They Disagreed Before the Prophet (sa)

disagreement before Prophet (sa)

He (sa) Let Him Go

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (rtam) narrated: “Ali bin Abu Talib (rtam) sent a piece of gold, not yet taken out of its ore, in a tanned leather container to Allah’s Messenger (sa). Allah’s Messenger (sa) distributed that amongst four persons: Uyainah bin Badr (rtam), Aqra bin Habis (rtam), Zaid Al-Khalil (rtam) and the fourth was either Alqamah (rtam) or Amr bin Tufail (rtam). On that, one of his companions said: ‘We are more deserving of this (gold) than these (persons).’ When the news reached the Prophet (sa), he said: ‘Don’t you trust me, though I am the trustworthy man of the One in the heavens, and I receive the news of the heavens (i.e., Divine Revelation) both in the morning and in the evening?’ There got up a man with sunken eyes, raised cheek bones, raised forehead, a thick beard, a shaven head and a waist sheet that was tucked up and he said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Be afraid of Allah.’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Woe to you! Am I not of all the people of the earth the most entitled to fear Allah?’ Then, that man went away. Khalid bin Al-Waleed (rtam) said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Shall I chop his neck off?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘No, maybe he offers prayers.’ Khalid (rtam) said: ‘Numerous are those, who offer prayers and say by their tongues (i.e., mouths) what is not in their hearts.’ Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘I have not been ordered (by Allah) to search the hearts of the people or cut open their bellies.’” (Bukhari)

The above incident highlights that suspicion without evidence is not permitted, especially, when a believer is under consideration. Also, if there occurs a disagreement with a stranger whom we have no previous relationship with, it is best to disregard it. We often witness or experience such disputes and squabble on the road, in the market, in the Masjid or other public places and take them to our heart. For peace to prevail, we should initiate forgiveness.

He (sa) Reconciled Amongst Them

Al-Bara (rtam) has narrated: “When the Prophet (sa) intended to perform Umrah in the month of Dhul-Qadah, the people of Makkah did not let him enter Makkah, till he settled the matter with them by promising to stay in it for three days only. When the document of the treaty was written, the following was mentioned: ‘These are the terms, on which Muhammad (sa), Allah’s Apostle agreed (to make peace).’ They said: ‘We will not agree to this, for if we believed that you are Allah’s Apostle, we would not prevent you, but you are Muhammad bin Abdullah (sa).’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘I am Allah’s Apostle and also Muhammad bin Abdullah (sa).’ Then, he said to Ali (rtam): ‘Rub off (the words) ‘Allah’s Apostle’,’ but Ali (rtam) said: ‘No, by Allah, I will never rub off your name.’ Allah’s Apostle (sa) took the document and wrote: ‘This is what Muhammad bin Abdullah (sa) has agreed upon: No arms will be brought into Makkah, except in their cases, and nobody from the people of Makkah will be allowed to go with him (i.e., the Prophet (sa)), even if he wished to follow him, and he (the Prophet (sa)) will not prevent any of his companions from staying in Makkah, if the latter wants to stay.’ When the Prophet (sa) entered Makkah and the time limit passed, the people of Makkah went to Ali (rtam) and said: ‘Tell your friend (i.e., the Prophet (sa)) to go out, as the period (agreed to) has passed.’ The Prophet (sa) went out of Makkah. The daughter of Hamza (rtam) ran after them (i.e., the Prophet (sa) and his companions), calling: ‘O uncle! O uncle!’ Ali (rtam) received her and led her by the hand, and said to Fatimah (rtaf): ‘Take your uncle’s daughter.’ Zaid (rtam) and Jafar (rtam) quarreled about her. Ali (rtam) said: ‘I have more right to her, as she is my uncle’s daughter.’ Jafar (rtam) said: ‘She is my uncle’s daughter, and her aunt is my wife.’ Zaid (rtam) said: ‘She is my brother’s daughter.’ The Prophet (sa) judged that she should be given to her aunt, and said that the aunt was like the mother. He then said to all: ‘You are from me, and I am from you’, and said to Jafar (rtam): ‘You resemble me both in character and appearance’, and said to Zaid (rtam): ‘You are our brother (in faith) and our freed slave.’” (Bukhari)

These were men of high faith. They dedicated their lives, honour, assets, and every single blessing from Allah (swt) in his way and yet they disagreed. The point to comprehend is that Allah (swt) has not created carbon copies. We are all unique in our thoughts and actions. This is what makes the world diverse, and helps man deliver his best. The Prophet (sa) understood the Sahabah’s good intentions for the girl, and hence judged amongst them which they agreed to.

He (sa) Punished Him

Urwa bin Az-Zubair (rtam) has narrated: “Az-Zubair (rtam) told me that he quarrelled with an Ansari man, who had participated in (the battle of) Badr, in front of Allah’s Apostle (sa) about a water stream, which both of them used for irrigation. Allah’s Apostle (sa) said to Az-Zubair (rtam): ‘O Zubair! Irrigate (your garden) first and then let the water flow to your neighbour.’ The Ansari became angry and said: ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Is it because he is your cousin?’ On that, the complexion of Allah’s Apostle (sa) changed (because of anger), and he said (to Az-Zubair [rtam]): ‘Irrigate (your garden) and then withhold the water, till it reaches the walls (surrounding the palms).’ Allah’s Apostle (sa) gave Az-Zubair (rtam) his full right. Before that, Allah’s Apostle (sa) had given a generous judgement beneficial for Az-Zubair (rtam) and the Ansari, but the Ansari rejected it. Hence, Allah’s Apostle (sa) gave Az-Zubair (rtam) his full right according to the evident law. Az-Zubair (rtam) said: ‘By Allah! I think the following verse was revealed concerning that case: “But no by your Lord they can have no faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them.” (An-Nisa 4:65)’” (Bukhari)

 

Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives (Part 6)

Verse 11

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: “O sinner”, or “O wicked”, etc.]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.).” (Al-Hujurat 49:11)

In the previous verses, we are told to fix societal problems, in order to attain unity in Islam. In verses 11 and 12, Allah (swt) has forbidden and warned us about six common behaviours of people, which we often take lightly.

  1. Don’t mock one another. People may differ in their appearance, language and status. Allah (swt) has given to people different levels of knowledge, beauty and rank. He has raised some people above others and subjected them to their service. In Surah Al-Zukhruf, it means ‘subjected to’. It does not mean ‘mocking’.

Surah Al-Hujurat is telling us not to mock anyone or make fun of them. We must not be proud, arrogant, jealous, hateful and malicious, all of which comprise sicknesses of the heart. In Surah Al-Isra (17:21), Allah (swt) says that the differences in this life do not mean anything; rather, they are tests. We need to accept the differences and change our perspective of perceiving people.

If you are mocking someone because he or she is poor or ugly, who put you in your elevated situation? A believer understands Allah’s (swt) decree and accepts it. By mocking Allah’s (swt) creation, it is as though you are mocking Allah (swt). Islam focuses on people’s feelings, and no one likes to be mocked.

It may be that the person being made fun of is better than the one who is mocking. It can be in the Dunya or Akhirah.

  1. When Allah (swt) says ‘Qawm’, it encompasses men and women; however, He still mentions women separately, because women are more subject to such behaviour than men. Here we see that Allah (swt) deals with men and women according to their nature.

This verse is for every Muslim; however, the students of knowledge and Daees have to be extra careful, as because of their behaviour, people may start doubting the teachings of Islam. A student of knowledge should not make fun of other’s mistakes; instead, he needs to learn how to guide people in a kind and loving manner.

If certain individuals are not praying or dressing according to the Islamic guidelines, you can gently advise them, but never think that you are better than them by lowering their image in your heart. You can never know what level of faith they may attain. They may end up being better Muslims than you.

  1. Do not insult one another. ‘Lamz’ means ‘to insult, defame, find fault in somebody’ by your words. A person’s physical features can be described, if they are lost and need to be found. ‘Hamz’ means ‘to insult’ by your actions. This includes hand gestures, imitation.

Why does Allah (swt) say ‘Anfusakum’?

  1. If you insult a Muslim, you have insulted your own self, because Muslims are like a wall, like one body. They give strength to each other and do not hurt or weaken one another.
  2. If you insult someone, they will insult you in return. The other person will not keep quiet.

Do not insult each other by using nicknames (‘Laqab’). Nicknames can be good or bad, and we should call people by names that they like to hear. Using abusive language and hurtful names is not part of Islam.

These three aforementioned behaviours are forbidden. All of these are actions of the tongue; however, there is something in the heart that triggers such words and actions. It is important for mothers to teach humility to their children and remind them that all the bounties they have are from Allah (swt).

If you keep up such behaviour after having believed in Allah (swt), you will become a Fasiq. Being a Fasiq has many implications. Such a person cannot lead prayers and a testimony is not accepted from him. The person is required to repent from these major sins or else, he or she will face the following:

  • Darkness in the grave.
  • Darkness on the Day of Judgement,
  • Darkness on the bridge of Sirat.

One needs to repent to Allah (swt) and rectify his affairs with the people he has wronged.

Summary of the six characteristics we have been warned against in Verses 11 and 12:

Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives

Transcribed and adapted for “Hiba” magazine by Shaheera Vakani (Jeddah).

 

Seeking Lawful Livelihood – A Religious Obligation

Halal Earnings

Abdullah bin Masud (rtam) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “To seek lawful livelihood is next to the first rank obligations of religion.”

 

Scholars of Hadeeth unanimously regard this Hadeeth as authentic. The Prophet (sa) has said that to work and toil, and earn lawful livelihood is second only to the basic obligations: the pillars of Islam.

Seeking a lawful livelihood is not alien to religion. We may try to earn a livelihood through business, agriculture, employment or labour. Thus, if anyone avoids this duty and remains idle, not trying to earn a livelihood, one commits a sin. The Shariah calls upon us to shun laziness and not depend upon others for our livelihood. Man is asked not to beg from anyone besides Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) has shown us a way to save ourselves from that by endeavouring, according to our capacities, to earn a lawful livelihood. Allah (swt) has not only placed on us certain duties concerning Himself and religion, but He has also placed on us rights of our bodies and souls and of our families. These rights cannot be given to them without trying to gain a lawful livelihood.

Prophets Earned Lawful Livelihood

Allah (swt) required all prophets to earn a lawful livelihood. Every one of them worked to meet ends. There were among them labourers, carpenters and shepherds. The Prophet (sa) also tended sheep against remuneration, worked as a labourer and engaged in business. He travelled to Syria twice in connection with business on behalf of Khadeeja (rtaf). We find him occupied in every way of earning a lawful livelihood, so that they are all Sunnah. Thus, if in pursuing them, we form an intention of following the Sunnah, then our endeavour will become part of religion, whether it is labour, business or farming.

We Must Seek the Lawful

To seek livelihood is an obligation, if it is the lawful that we seek. If we do not pay attention to this condition, then our effort loses its merit and does not form part of religion. There is then no difference in the effort for livelihood by a Muslim and a disbeliever. Believers examine every part of their earnings and ensure that they receive according to the pleasure of Allah (swt). They leave anything that is against it.

All Labour is not Lawful

Some people have adopted unlawful means of earning. Shariah disallows such efforts. For instance, some people live on interest earnings. If they are reminded of the evil, they are quick to indicate that they labour over it and put time into it. They must know that only that earning is lawful and that labour or effort is proper, which are sanctioned by Allah (swt). If we put in strenuous efforts and labour in ways not shown by the Prophet (sa), then our earnings are unlawful.

Is the Occupation Lawful?

Hence, when we have a means of earning before us, we must first examine, whether it is lawful or unlawful. If the Shariah does not allow it, then we must forsake it, no matter how much wealth we see in it. We must take up only that occupation, which has the approval of Allah (swt), no matter how little it holds for us.

Blessings of Lawful Earnings

Allah (swt) has blessed lawful livelihood but not the unlawful; thus, a little of the lawful provides more benefit than much of the unlawful. The Prophet (sa) made this supplication after performing ablution: “O Allah! Forgive me my sins, and make my house spacious for me and bless me in my livelihood.”

Today, people do not appreciate the worth of blessings. They merely count money and think in monetary terms, without evaluating the normal return of their wealth in terms of comfort and peace. Blessings cannot be bought, and many rich people lack them. Blessings are found in lawful livelihood only. Therefore, we must pay attention to our earnings and ensure that we feed our family members only what is lawful and Shariah sanctioned.

Part of the Salary that is Unlawful

There are some sources of income, which are known to be unlawful: interest, bribery, etc. But there are some other sources, which we do not know as unlawful. For instance, hours of work are fixed and the employment is also proper and lawful. However, the employees are slack in observing these hours. The salary for the number of hours they are purposefully absent is their unlawful earning; similarly, the hours they waste at work are also unlawful.

Lack of Blessings

All of us experience a lot of anxiety today. The rich and the super-rich are uncomfortable and worried. Their expenses are mounting high, and their problems are multiplying. The reason is that we do not distinguish between lawful and unlawful. We keep ourselves away from the few prominently unlawful sources of income, but we disregard the various smaller ways, in which we earn unlawful money.

Cheating on Telephone and Electricity Bills

Some of us misuse official assets and privileges such as the office telephone to make unpaid calls. This is a way to deceive the employer, and our savings in this manner are unlawful. Similarly, the electric meter is tampered with and savings are made on consumption of electricity. Here again, the unlawful adulterates our lawful earnings. Usage of official stationery without permission, official contacts for personal gains and side businesses hurting our place of employment, leaking business secrets to competitors, and other similar ways of cheating deprive us of blessings.

We Must Think About it

In view of the above situation, before doing anything, we must ask ourselves, if what we hope to do is correct or not. If we spend our life, sifting the wrong from the right and refraining from unlawful earning, then we must be rest assured that though we may lag behind in supererogatory worship and remembrance of Allah (swt), we may go straight to Paradise, if Allah (swt) wills that. On the contrary, if we do not refrain from the unlawful and fail to distinguish between the lawful and the unlawful, then though we may get up in the middle of the night to pray and offer all kinds of optional prayers, these exercises will not protect us from chastisement against unlawful earnings. The damage this deliberate corruption does to the society is worse and until individuals forfeit it and repent sincerely to Allah (swt), their worship will be futile.

The Unlawful Devours the Lawful

Each one of us must take an account of our earnings and the work we do. We must make sure that there are no gaps, through which we get unlawful earnings. I have presented some examples of unlawful income but there are many ways in which one receives unlawful money, knowingly or unknowingly. Our elders have told us that when the unlawful becomes part of the lawful, then it destroys it. The blessings are lost and the man, whose wealth it is, loses peace and comfort; thus, it becomes necessary that we examine our deeds and incomes, and preserve ourselves from unlawful earnings.

May Allah (swt), through His mercy and favour, help us to understand this fact. And may He cause us to live accordingly. Ameen.

Adapted from “Discourses on Islamic Ways of Life” Volume 10. Transcribed for “Hiba” by Umm Ahmad.

The Right Beginning

Young men and women seeking marriage must ensure their future spouse’s stance on Halal earnings. Understand their propensity to spend and save. A slave of desires and materialistic world can drive you to comprise your Deen, especially when children and larger families come into picture. Observe how your future spouse reacts when the gifts or Hadya exchanged are less in frequency or monetary value. It can give one an insight into their fiance’s preferences for things and control over his or her Nafs. A content and caring partner is essential to help you build a home where, if the earning is lawful yet less, pressures are not exerted for impermissible sources of income.

Similarly, opt for places of employment or professions that facilitate Halal earnings. Self-employment and entrepreneurship is also an option with modern-day cyberspace and social media networks. This can reduce fixed costs, give you control over the nature of your business, provide opportunities to others for permissible employment, and grant you a corrupt-free environment to practice creative possibilities. It is not required to follow suit and become dissatisfied due to lack of control or decision-making power and fall prey to Haram business practices.

Staying away from Tit-for-Tat

tit for tat

Every one of us, at some point in life, may encounter enemies in the form of envious colleagues, disagreeable supervisors or unreasonable in-law relations. Our heart directs us to treat them the same way they treat us. However, what is the most appropriate way of dealing with such people according to our Deen?

  1. Be the Mohsin

Like always, the Quran holds our hand and guides us to the precise solution. Allah (swt) has said: “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better…” (Fussilat 41:34) The Arabic word used here is ‘Ahsan’ which is the superlative form of goodness. In the face of negative attitudes, Ihsan melts away hatred and cultivates love. For example, in an exchange of uncomfortable words, Ihsan would be to remain calm and instead, make sincere Dua. Your composure should not be out of powerlessness, so that you sit crying afterwards. It should be voluntary, for the sake of Allah (swt). Nonetheless, this is easier said than done and requires a great deal of forbearance, as stated in the aforementioned verse.

  1. Speak Good or Remain Silent

From the golden, (albeit difficult!) rules of life is to speak good or remain silent. The moment you start answering back, angels forsake you and Shaitan takes their place. Be smart and let the angels do your part in a quipping duel.

  1. Dua can work wonders!

Make earnest Dua for cordial relations and love to develop between you and your rival. Also, recite the Duas taught by Rasulullah (sa) regarding protection from the evil of adversaries. One is stated below. For more, refer to Hisnul Muslim or other Dua books.

“O Allah, we place You before them and we take refuge in You from their evil.”

اللّهُـمَّ إِنا نَجْـعَلُكَ في نُحـورِهِـم، وَنَعـوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شُرورِهـمْ

  1. Spread Smiles and Salam

Smile and Salam are the ice breakers that pave way for reconciliation. That is why it is prohibited for two believers to forsake Salam for more than three days. Muhammad (sa) has said: “It is not lawful for a Muslim to desert his brother beyond three nights, the one turning one way and the other turning to the other way when they meet; the better of the two is the one who is the first to greet the other.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Be cautious of the real enemy!

Remember! The feelings of animosity and hatred placed by Allah (swt) have a positive direction, too. They belong for you to exercise towards your actual enemies: Shaitan and the enemies of Allah (swt). Don’t exhaust them among your wrongful relatives and colleagues. Save up some for the real enemies. After all, Allah (swt) wants to see us Muslims as ‘severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.’ (Fath 48:29)

A wining situation is not when you defeat your opponent, shun them and quieten them. It is when you are able to overcome the traps of Shaitan and stay firm on the principles of truth, morality, sincerity and Ihsan.

Don’t Give up Too Soon – Advice for Newly Weds

advice for newly weds

She has been sitting for hours, browsing bridal wear and makeup. It has to be the most perfect wedding from catering to dresses, from bridal shower to the actual wedding day, all according to the liking of her mother-in-law, whose appreciation and compliments she seeks. After all, she doesn’t believe in the typical in-law relationships.

The Nikah is only a few weeks away. She is excited about starting a family of her own. She glances at the photo frame on her night stand: her baby picture together with parents. They have always been at her side, excusing her reckless behaviour, encouraging her on her achievements and standing by her each time she stumbled. A tear trickles down her cheeks. Nothing can exceed her parents’ love for her.

*********

It has been a month since her marriage. Henna traces and the facial glow are gone. Honeymoon seems like ages ago. The excitement and fervour of starting a new life have vanished. What went wrong?

She feels unwanted. Her husband, the man with whom she dreamed endless conversations, countless romantic dinners, mutual values and eternal bliss, is the total opposite of what she expected.  Where did love, respect and kindness go?

She needs a break and requests to be dropped her at her parents’ place. Her husband gives a cold nod and grabs the car keys. What? He is not even going to stop her? Is it over already?

*********

She is back at her parents’. She needs peace for thinking it through. The thought of divorce has crossed her mind several times. In the lounge, her parents are praising their son-in-law, for he has allowed their daughter to spend a few nights with them.

She has not thought of what she will tell after the few nights pass. Maybe they will ask her themselves. Maybe he is missing her already and will come back to pick her. She picks up her phone for any missed call or text from him – there’s none.

Her phone does ring, but it’s her old school friend Sara, who is on a visit to Pakistan. They arrange to meet up for lunch.

*********

Sara recognizes her the moment she steps into the restaurant. After formal hugs, Sara shakes her: “Hey! What’s the matter? Why don’t I see the usual newly-wedded glow on your face? It has been only a month since your wedding.

She gazes at her friend blankly. Look at her! She’s beaming with joy even after five years of marriage, while I’ve already realized my wedding was a big mistake.

Sara now softens her tone: “Is something bothering you? Is the new routine overwhelming? I know. I have been married for five years, and every day brings a new surprise for me.”

“Ummm… it’s that… it’s… I don’t know,” she struggles to express herself.

Sara gently rests her palm over Anum’s hand: “When I was getting married, I was so excited about moving abroad and starting a new life. But you know what? Once we had done sight-seeing, dined at the finest restaurants, and shopped till we dropped, it seemed there’s nothing exhilarating in our lives anymore. Yes, I was expecting, and Yasir would routinely take me for appointments, but his frequent phone calls from work decreased. I felt he is not the person that I married. I felt unwanted, dejected and unloved. Thoughts of divorce constantly occupied my mind. I was unable to find my way; then, I did the only thing that I knew.”

Anum corrects her posture and sits upright. What? Did she go for a divorce?

“I woke up for Tahajjhud, laid my prayer mat and stood up in prayer. I cried my heart out to Allah (swt) – my only Wali. Out of self-respect, I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I didn’t want a divorce, but I also didn’t want to live in the same house like a stranger. I wanted a small happy family that went to bed with forgiveness, gentle kisses and sweet lullabies. Even though I didn’t see any visible signs of improvement, I kept praying. And you know what happened?”

“What?” Anum asks.

“After praying,” Sara continues, “I felt very relaxed, as if my worries had been taken care of. Then, one morning, Yasir came down to the breakfast table with his old chirpy, energetic self. He warmly came to me and whispered that my tea was the best in the world. I couldn’t believe my ears! Not only that – after breakfast, Yasir requested me to pack some extra muffins for his lunch, for he liked to show off to his colleagues his wife’s baking skills. From that day onwards, our relationship started to improve. He helped me with the house chores, went on walks with me and had all the time in the world for talking to me.”

“Really? Was prayer that effective?” Anum asked, unbelievingly.

“Yes, Anum. Patience and prayer are the essential ingredients of maintaining your sanity when the entire world is collapsing. You’re a dear friend, Anum. Right now, I want you to go home and get on your prayer mat. Trust me, I’ve been there. Don’t give up so soon.”

Anum gives a faint, sceptical smile: How can it be? Just a prayer and everything is fixed? I don’t think Sara understands me well.

***********

Anum wakes up in the middle of the night well before the Fajr. She is about to go back to sleep, when she realizes that this is the best time for Tahajjhud – that’s what she does. Sitting on the mat, Anum cries, beseeching Allah (swt) to save her home. She begs for forgiveness and seeks guidance.

An hour later, Amma comes to check on her. She kisses Anum, when she finds her reciting the Quran: “Is there anything you would like to talk to me about, Anum? I hope Yasir is kind to you, and your in-laws treat you nicely.”

“Of course, Amma, what made you ask that?” Anum asks politely.

“I don’t see you hopping around the house and fighting with your sisters. I want to be sure that my daughter is fine,” Ama explains herself.

“Could be that your daughter has grown up and become wise?” Anum replies with a smile.

Amma looks at Anum silently, trying to believe her. She asks Anum, what she would like to have for breakfast. Anum hugs her mom and says: “Let me make breakfast for you, guys, today.” As she walks towards kitchen, Anum wonders, where did this sudden burst of positivity come from?

***********

It’s been three days of regular Tahajjhud and the five daily prayers. Still no word from Yasir. The prayer isn’t helping… Anum is exasperated. She asks herself: “Why can’t I call Yasir? Most men, I have heard, lack communication skills.” She dials the number. Yasir picks up immediately, and asks how she has been. Anum is surprised by this unanticipated warmth and love. They speak for a while, and then Yasir says he is coming in the evening to pick Anum up. He misses her.

************

Anum greets her in-laws with respect and love, reminding herself she should neither be judgemental nor impatient. She inquires about their health and well-being.

Once in the bedroom, Yasir and Anum go through the events of the past few weeks. They admit their mistakes and pledge to communicate with each other openly. They have promised they will live as each other’s clothing that adorns as well as hides each other’s flaws. They will not discuss their private matters with anyone, for help truly comes from Allah (swt) only.

As they turn off the lights, Yasir asks: “But Anum… How did you decide to come back? What made you call me?”

“Prayer and patience,” Anum replies confidently, “…and I would love, if we could both start offering Tahajjhud together as a couple.”

Language That Can Either Build or Break Your Child

language for kids

Imagine that your teenaged son made it to the national cricket team. He was on cloud nine, of course. You felt proud of him and couldn’t stop singing praises. As he headed for his first practice session beaming with eagerness, everything changed unexpectedly. After the match, the coach called him aside to inform him that he was rejected due to inadequate performance.

Your son comes home and tells you the ill-fated incident. As a parent, you try to cope with the bad news. The following are seven typical responses that parents, teachers or adults usually adopt when addressing issues of children:

  1. Denial of feelings

“Oh, come on. You are fretting about nothing. It’s not the end of the world, just because you didn’t make it to the team. Forget about it. It’s not worth your time.”

  1. The philosophical response

“You see dear, that’s what life is all about. It’s never fair. But you have to face it bravely.”

  1. Advice

“You can’t let this failure hold you back! You must try for another team.”

  1. Questions

“Oh, honey, why do you think they dropped you? How did the other players perform? What will you do now?”

  1. Defense of the other person

“Well, the coach does have a tough job. He can only hire the best to create a winning team after all. Try to understand his point of view.”

  1. Pity

“Oh, my baby, after all the hard work you put yourself through, you just weren’t good enough. Imagine! When this news spreads, you will feel so embarrassed in front of your friends.”

  1. Amateur psychoanalysis

“Did you analyze the real reason for this failure? Maybe your heart was just not in it. I believe that on a subconscious level, you never wanted to play cricket, so you messed up deliberately.”

For a minute, try imagining that you were in your son’s shoes and it was your parent telling you any of the above. How would you have felt at that moment? Would any of the above responses console you? Most probably not.

As parents, we might wonder what is wrong with some of the above reactions. Undoubtedly, we mean well for our kids. However, often unknowingly and sometimes purposely, we start building walls around us, rather than bridging the gaps. And it is simply due to the language we speak.

In response to your above reactions, this is how your son might feel about you:

  1. When you deny his feelings, he would think: “Don’t tell me how to feel.”
  2. When you respond philosophically, he would think: “Don’t tell me what to do.”
  3. When you offer advice, he would think: “You will never understand.”
  4. When you begin to interrogate him, he would think: “You know what you can do with your questions!”
  5. When you pick sides, he would think: “You’re taking everybody’s side but mine.”
  6. When you sympathize with him, he would think: “I’m a loser.”
  7. When you take up the role of an amateur psychoanalyst, he would think: “That’s the last time I‘ll ever tell you anything.”

If not all this, then what? What else could you tell your son as a parent? Talk to him in French? No, it’s much simpler: just acknowledge your son’s distress. You could say: “This must have come as a shock and a big disappointment for you.” And let him respond further. If he does, fine. If he doesn’t, don’t pester. If some of us wish to talk about the pain, expecting the other person to listen and understand, then others might prefer to grieve in silence and solitude. A warm hug or holding the hand gently might work better than a speech or worse, a tirade.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish introduce the above strategy in their book “How to Talk so Kids Can Listen”. They explain what makes perfect sense: “There is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave. When kids feel right, they’ll behave right. How do we help them to feel right? By accepting their feelings!”

However, since we are products of the past, as parents, we keep repeating the same script that was read to us. The adults in our life were not sensitive enough about the words they chose for us, thus, naturally we are clueless about their impact on our children.

Consider the following situations, and common responses of parents versus creative ones. Notice, how each one of them produces unique feelings in kids.

No Common response Kid’s feelings Creative response
1. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “No it isn’t. It’s a classic and very interesting.”

Child: “I hate reading.”

Parent: “No you don’t. You’re a good reader.”

Child: “It has too many words!”

Parent: “Now you’re being silly. The words are all easy.”

Child: “It’s too hard.”

Parent: “You’re not even trying. You’re just being lazy.”

When a child’s feelings are denied, he can easily become discouraged. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “There’s something about it you don’t like.”

Child: “It’s boring. Who cares about Tom Sawyer?”

Parent: “Oh, the character doesn’t interest you.”

Child: “No, I liked the last story we read: the one about the horse and dog.”

Parent: “Sounds as if you prefer books about animals.”

Child: “Yeah… I guess. After I finish this, I’m going to get    another book about dogs.”

Parent: “Okay, I’ll help you look for one on our next trip to the library.”

2. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Again! Where was it?”

Child: “Right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “No wonder. I told you last time that your watch needs to be on your wrist not in your pocket.”

The child stares silently.

Parent: “You need to be more responsible about your belongings.”

Child: “I try to.”

Parent: “Well, try harder. Money doesn’t grow on trees that we can buy you a new watch every other day. You better be careful in future, young man.”

Child thinking to himself: “I am dumb and cannot be trusted.”

When a child is bombarded with criticism and advice, he finds it difficult to think about his problem or take responsibility for it. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Oh, no!”

Child: “I had it right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “Mmm…”

Child: “It must have fallen out in the bus maybe.”

Parent: “You think so?”

The child stares silently.

The parent consoles him by patting at the back. “So, what are you going to do?”

Child: “I’ll call the bus driver to check.”

Parent: “Seems like a good idea. What about next time?”

Child: “I’m not taking it off.”

Parent: “That will be very responsible of you.”

3. Parent: “Hurry up! Get changed!”

Child: “I am.”

Parent: “No, you’re not. You’re just sitting there. Let’s go! We are visiting Aunt Sakina today.”

Child: “I don’t feel good.”

Parent: “That’s what you always say, when we visit her. She is our relative.”

Child: “It’s too boring at her house.”

Parent: “It’s not boring for others. Now, get going or we’ll be late.”

Child: “I’m feeling sick.”

Parent: “Oh! Quit making excuses. How do you expect to learn social skills, if you remain cooped up in your room all day?”

It’s frustrating when a child refuses to respond to reasoning. Is there a better way to help children overcome their resistance to a task?

 

Parent: “We’re leaving in 15 minutes.”

Child: “I know but I just don’t feel good.”

Parent: “I’ll bet that you wish we were going anywhere but to Aunt Sakina’s.”

Child: “It was so boring last time at her house.”

Parent: “I remember there wasn’t anyone your age.”

Child: “I’ll be dozing off right in the middle of the party.”

Parent: “Wouldn’t it be great that Aunt Sakina actually threw a slumber party and you could just crawl into one of the beds there and drift off to sleep!”

Child: “Right mom! Well, I’d better change.”

4. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child. Parent: “Wait a minute, you two, that’s not nice! Samiya, give the pencil back to Ali this moment. And wait for your turn.”

 

It’s hard for children to change their behaviour, when their feelings are completely ignored. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child.

Parent: “Samiya, I can see how much you want to use the pencil. Right now it’s Ali’s turn to write. I’ll give it to you after five minutes. And your time starts now.”

If we want to free our children’s minds for thinking and learning, then we have to deal respectfully with their emotions. Most importantly, if we want our kids to be caring individuals, we have to deal with them in more caring ways. The point is you don’t teach swimming to a drowning person. With the right intentions, we generally opt for the wrong language and bad timing. As parents, we have to learn to handle them with dignity and acknowledge their feelings. Sermons and lectures make children more irresponsible.

Look how the Prophet (sa) dealt with people. He did so in few, crisp and clear words. Whether it was a teenager seeking permission to commit Zina or an infant urinating on the Prophet’s (sa) lap, or the rowdy youngsters of Taif pelting stones at him, the Prophet (sa) never verbally abused children. As parents, teachers and adults, we are answerable for using foul or inappropriate language, or belittling and demeaning the emotions of children.

Do you Observe Workplace Ethics?

ethics

  1. There is an improper system of salary payment in your workplace. What do you plan to do?
  • Make an issue and start complaining.
  • Start gossiping about your boss and backbite.
  • Ignore the situation, thinking it would get better with time.
  • Talk it out with your boss or HR manager and try to resolve the problem.
  1. You need a week off from work for a holiday, and your boss refuses to let you go. How would you handle the situation?
  • Ignore what he says and go for the holiday without informing.
  • Start shouting at him, as you explain to him that this holiday is really important for you.
  • Stalk him every day and keep urging him to give you the week off.
  • Complete your work in advance and wait for an appropriate time to ask again.
  1. In the absence of your boss, what do you do?
  • Come late and leave early.
  • Leave all your work pending.
  • Do the required amount of work and party with colleagues/friends.
  • Complete all your work and act responsible.

4. In case you are handed over the responsibility of some office inventory and cash, how would you manage it?

  • Use everything for yourself.
  • Gift some of the inventory to your friends and manage the cash irresponsibly.
  • Take care of it but use it for personal work too, with intention to return it.
  • Value it as an Amanah (trust) and make sure there is no possibility of any damage or fraud.

Score yourself

For every ‘a’ you score 5 points
For every ‘b’ you score 10 points
For every ‘c’ you score 15 points
For every ‘d’ you score 20 points

For around 20-30 points: You have some trouble getting along with your superiors. We need to remember our responsibility towards the workplace and the commitment we made to the organization we work for. As a responsible employee of the organization, you can maintain the decorum of the office by improving yourself and involving your friends in improvement as well. The pursuit of Halal Rizq demands that we never compromise the interests of our employee/place of employment, and drive the extra mile, when needed.

For around 40-50 points: Since you disagree with lot of office procedures, you tend to indulge in backbiting. Either we communicate with the person involved to resolve or improve the situation, or we ignore it, which usually does not work. The best way is to put a value on the issue – is it just a pet peeve for you, because you do not agree with it, or can it hurt anyone in the long run? It is important to stay content and loyal with your decision to work at a particular place. Instead of cribbing and showing ingratitude, be courageous enough to move to a more suitable place. This is especially so, if you cannot bring positive change in your current workplace environment and end up utterly frustrated most of the times.

For around 60 points: You appear to have confidence in yourself and your boss. Hence, you can approach and discuss with him the problems that can turn into sensitive issues later, if not addressed on time. You realize that everyone has shortcomings, and differences can be worked out. No place of employment is an absolute heaven.

For 70-80 points: Mabrook! You are a proactive individual. Truly a dream employee every organization should have. You are an agent of change for your company, who does not wait for others to think of solutions. You value your job and have faith in your decisions. Allah (swt) has made team members unique and that is the strength of your organization. Your efforts will be rewarded by Allah (swt) for helping your team get along amiably, Insha’Allah.

Seeing the Glass Half Full

Winning story of “A Life-Changing Experience” Story-writing Competition Organized by hiba

glass half full

“Oh no! Another pimple on my face!” I exclaimed.

During my teenage years, I had something to whine about every day: my short height, my plump physique, why I was not as fair as snow or why Allah (swt) had given pretty eyes to my best friend instead of me. And oh yes, if I spotted a fresh pimple on my face in the morning, my mother wouldn’t hear the end of it. She would often tell me that I was very beautiful the way Allah (swt) had created me. However, for me, being as beautiful as all the ‘picture-perfect models’ was terribly important.

“Beauty lies in the inner self. Make your soul beautiful and people will love you for it,” my mom would often say. “See how intelligent Allah (swt) has made you. Just look at your academic results! You should be one grateful girl, sweetheart,” my dad would say in order to lift my spirits.

But nothing worked for me. The inferiority complex had totally overtaken me, and I had become a miserable teen, who envied every beautiful girl around. Materialism and glamour had made me a thankless creature.

Sometimes, we experience events that have a huge influence on our lives. No matter how long we live, some particular incident becomes deeply engraved into our memory, leaving a lasting impact. The same happened to me, when Allah (swt) decided to help me out one day.

In 2004, I decided to attend a training workshop by an NGO named LIOCS (Leading Institute of Competitive Skills), which was arranged by a young team led by two visually impaired youngsters. They believed in the philosophy: “If we can’t see the world, then let us do something, so that the world can see us.”

During one of the lunch breaks at the workshop, the most unforgettable activity took place. In the conference room, all the participants were blindfolded and asked to find their way to the kitchen, where lunch was served for them.

“It will be a lot of fun,” I thought, as I happily put on my blindfold. After all, the kitchen was just two minutes away. But, to my profound surprise, that two-minute walk from the conference room to the kitchen turned out to be the longest walk of my life.

It was strange, how a mere blindfold had deprived me of my entire confidence. With a feeling of helplessness sweeping all over me, I slowly set off for this ordeal that seemed to go on forever. Mumbling ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ every four to five steps, as I stumbled and banged into other participants or the door or a pillar, was very embarrassing for me and many others.

The sound of the kitchen door being banged with a saucepan by one of the trainers was the only ray of light in the pitch black darkness that surrounded me.

The entrance to the kitchen came as a big relief, but the nightmare wasn’t over yet. The worst was yet to come. We had been briefed about the location of lunch boxes, salad, paper cups and drinks. However, I lost my orientation upon entering the kitchen and couldn’t make out, where the things were. When after multiple attempts, I finally got hold of the lunch box, I squatted onto the floor and started to eat the rice.

Suddenly, I heard the trainer say, “Hey, you, why are you sitting in the doorway? Do you want someone to trip over you?”

Red-faced, I stood up apologetically. On the other side of the kitchen, the second trainer was ridiculing another participant: “Tsk, tsk, it seems you cannot see, you poor boy!”

Without being able to see the food, my appetite was already half gone. Above all, the trainers were amplifying our frustration with such shameful remarks as: “Can’t you manage such a little thing?” and “Maybe Allah (swt) has taken away your sight for the sins that you have done!” and other mean remarks. (This was all part of the programme.)

That was the turning point in my life; it was the moment that changed my perception about life. I realized for the first time, what a marvellous gift is sight, which I had always taken for granted. When we were finally allowed to take off the blindfolds, the relief I felt was beyond words.

In an instant, the darkness vanished and the world became so colourful, so bright, so… worth living!

That day, as I drove back home, I was a transformed person. I was a totally new Iram, who could empathize and be thankful for Allah’s (swt) blessings. On my way, as the traffic signal turned red, I saw a crippled beggar, who made me wonder: “Iram, what is there to feel sad about, if you can’t afford the latest fashion heels? At least you have a perfect pair of feet for walking and running and a dozen pairs of other sandals.”

I had learnt my lesson. So what if I am not a beauty queen? At least Allah (swt) is generous enough to bless me with all five senses. Every organ of my body is functioning perfectly. So what if I don’t have beautifully coloured eyes? I still can see what an amazing and colourful place this world is.

So what if a pimple appears on my face once in a while? Thanks to Allah (swt), I look prettier than countless others with skin diseases. Visit a hospital some day, and you will come across hundreds envying you, ready to exchange places with you. Walk a mile in the shoes of those who sleep on roads, and you will know how lucky you are.

I have finally begun to appreciate Allah’s (swt) countless blessings.

It’s all about seeing the glass half full.

Did you know?

  • 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.
  • 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss.
  • Over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability.

(Source: World Health Organization)

Our Deen is Green: Green Eating

deen is green

Being green is not a trendy choice, a temporary fashion or an eccentric hobby. Being green is our duty as Muslims, because we are Allah’s (swt) representatives on the Earth – His Khalifa – and we have a responsibility over the planet He has entrusted us with. Our Deen Islam is green, as several verses from the Quran and numerous Ahadeeth of our Prophet (sa) remind us. But what does it mean to be green? How can we make our lives more eco-friendly? And does it mean that we have to give up all comforts and become ascetics? Actually, making wise, environment-friendly choices can enrich our lives and positively affect our health. So where shall we start?

“And eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good, and fear Allah in Whom you believe.” (Al-Maidah 5:88)

Modern food is visually appealing, relatively cheap and does not spoil easily, but is it good? Not really. A majority of convenience foods are packed with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Their production pollutes the environment and packaging litters our streets, lawns and forests. What is more, with so much food readily available, a lot gets wasted, while there are people, who go hungry on a daily basis. Even more, processed food is not good for our health either! It might be easy to reach for packed snacks to satisfy our hunger, but just think of the hidden consequences of your choice. Let’s eat green, first of all, for the pleasure of Allah (swt), and also for the cleaner greener planet, for less wastage, more equal food distribution and for our own health and satisfaction. Here are a few tips how:

Cook from scratch

This way you will always be sure to know what is on your plate. Cooking at home is healthier, more environment-friendly and cheaper, too! Why? First of all, cooking all your food yourself from simple ingredients means that you are avoiding most of the artificial additives found in ready-to-eat foods. You can make sure all the ingredients are good and fresh by choosing them yourself. When baking biscuits at home, you are more likely to use better quality butter, than the one used in the cookies produced commercially. Cooking at home, instead of buying food from outside, also means less packaging and less rubbish, and as we all know, in most Pakistani cities there is no proper arrangement for rubbish collection or recycling; thus, the less waste, the better. And all the wrappers and packaging come with a price, too. So if you cook at home, you will get better quality food at lower overall cost.

Do not waste

Cooking just the right amount of food each time may be a bit tricky, but there are ways to make sure nothing gets wasted. You can store your food in fridge or freezer for later or transform it into an altogether another dish, like making egg-fried rice from leftover cooked white rice. Also, you will find plenty of people in need, so if you are sure no one will fancy today’s dinner tomorrow, give it away, while it is still fresh! When eating out, it is always a better idea to place an order for your meal, instead of going for a buffet. We are more likely to waste the content of our plates, if there is too much food available. And the restaurants, which offer buffet lunches and dinners, waste huge amounts of food! For an eco-Muslim, it is a no-no! Better order what you really feel like having. Two people can usually share one large helping. If you are unable to finish, ask to have it packed for home. Leftovers can be given to the hungry on the road, too.

Do not buy ready-made snacks

When I first came to Pakistan, I was astonished by the natural beauty of its Northern territories. However, at the same time, I was very disappointed that much of this beauty was spoiled by the litter. Walking around the parks or hiking in the mountains and seeing countless wrappers scattered on the ground made me think how beautiful these places must have been, before people started producing packed snacks. Out of these musings came a resolution not to buy wrapped snacks at all or at least seriously reduce their consumption. Chips, jellies and candies are full of artificial flavours and colours, have no real nutritional value and produce huge amounts of waste. I was convinced, but what about my children? What is a trip to a park without a snack? Alhumdulillah, in Pakistan, we can actually find healthy snacks like roasted or spiced corn on the cob, popcorn, roasted chickpeas and dry fruit. Dates are great replacement for candies, and my children are already used to having them instead. They also love nibbling on raisins and figs. I am happy that I can give them something healthy, which at the same time reduces my negative impact on the environment.

Avoid anything artificial

If you look at the warnings about artificial additives in foods, you get seriously concerned. For example, artificial yellow food colour carries the message: “Excessive use of this additive may have adverse effect on children’s behaviour.” And this warning is actually printed on the packets of yellow jellies and some candies! For me, it is enough of a reason not to buy them. I looked up the most dangerous artificial additives and the ones to avoid are aspartame (artificial sweetener), which can actually cause damage to brain; monosodium glutamate also known as Chinese salt, can possibly cause depression, eye damage, and headaches. Common food colours have been found to reduce intelligence and have been banned in certain countries! Let us go back to basics and eat good natural food that Allah (swt) has blessed us with, instead of going for harmful, man-made inventions.

Pack your lunch and do not forget the water-bottle

Do you know that producing bottled water takes twice the amount of water in production? This means that for every litre of bottled water, two litres are wasted. Huge producers take over public water supplies, and plastic bottles end up on the ground, leaving a negative impact on the environment. Besides, tap water in most of our homes is actually perfectly safe to drink. If you are not convinced, take a sample of your tap water to laboratory for check-up. In Islamabad, the most comprehensive analysis is offered by Prime Minister’s National Health Complex. So instead of buying a bottle of water every time we are out, it is better to invest in a reusable water bottle and a nice lunchbox for our home-cooked food to take along on the trips! For other cities, filtered tap water can be used, which is more environment friendly and an economical choice, too.

Eat less meat

Sacrificing an animal is a serious business! Excessive consumption of meat drives industrial breeding, which for the sake of quantity often compromises the quality of meat. Chickens bred on industrial farms do not know any life outside the cage, and their meat is notorious for containing drugs. We do not really need meat every day. It is better to eat it occasionally, but to have good quality meat. It will be better for our health and better for the environment. We are told that the Prophet (sa) had meat for flavouring as today we eat pickles (Achar) – in less quantity and less frequently. But some of us cannot begin and end our day if we do not serve and consume meat at every mealtime on a daily basis.

Connecting with Children – Handy Tips for Dads

In today’s globalized society, we often see that upon entering teenaged years, kids become strangers to their parents, especially the father. This was not the case in the past, as demonstrated by the relationship between Prophet Yusuf (as) and his father. We see that even as a youth he confided his secrets to him and came to him for advice. Why are our teenagers ignoring their fathers today? Perhaps it is due to some deficiencies in the ways fathers connected with their kids in their early years.

Listen to Them

Perhaps the most important factor is for a father to listen to his children. He must try to understand their psychology and unique personality. He should endeavor to understand what motivates and discourages his child. By doing so, the child will develop a trust for his father. He will see him as someone he can turn to for comfort, advice, guidance, support and empathy.

Play with Them

As many of us grow old, we lose the zest for life that is a vital characteristic in children. Fathers should attempt to regenerate that enthusiasm, while interacting with their children. While visiting a public park in New Jersey, I read a sign, which said: “Families that play together stay together!” Play can be traditional games like Oonch Neech, Baraf Pani, Aanch Macholi, four corners, tag or regular sports, or such board games as chess, scrabble, snakes and ladders, etc. By playing with children, fathers are strengthening their relationships with them.

Teach Them

Part of considering a father as a source of knowledge and wisdom comes when the father regularly engages in teaching children. He should not only help them with homework, but read to them beneficial books, and take them to museums, science centres, libraries, book fairs, planetariums, zoos and botanical gardens. When the child asks him for something he does not know, he should admit his ignorance and research the topic with his child using references and the internet. Among the subjects he teaches, he should not neglect religious subjects, as most answers to difficult questions that a teenager goes through are found in our beautiful Deen.

Take Them Out

Fathers should take children outdoors to beaches or parks on a weekly basis. This not only refreshes the children, who are cooped up at home throughout the week, but also makes them realize the handiwork of our Creator all around us. By sharing their amazement of marvelling at flowers, birds, trees, sea, sand, shells, stones, fish, animals and changing seasons, a father implicitly emphasizes his natural relationship with his children.

Worship with Them

Lastly, a father should establish worship with his family.  He should regularly take his children to Masjid for prayers, and make them participate in the Friday prayers, Takbeerat of the Eids, the Taraweeh prayers, Qiyam al-Lail, Salat ut-Tasbeeh, lectures and Halaqas. He should sometimes pray at home as the Imam of his family. By doing so, a father sends the message to his family that although he is in charge, he is also ultimately answerable to Allah (swt).

We do not know what destiny Allah (swt) has written for each child, but by taking the above steps, fathers will be assuring themselves that they have attempted to fulfill their responsibilities in the child’s early years. The only recourse left after that to fathers is to make supplications for their children, as the supplication of a father for his child is accepted.

The Four Orange Rinds

Orange Rinds

Suleman loved fruit, and there was plenty of it to enjoy in Pakistan. Living in Karachi, he enjoyed mangoes, oranges, pomegranates, pears, peaches, grapes, melons… such a wide variety of fruit, which came one after the other throughout the year from all parts of Pakistan. Today, after a heavy dinner at home, he had an orange. It was so sweet and juicy that Suleman, not a very religious person, spontaneously uttered ‘Alhumdulillah’ with pleasure. Suleman then forgot all about it. His career, work and entertainments kept him very busy and happy with his life.

Zaheeruddin Niazi was very grateful to Allah (swt). His orange orchard had 742 trees on his 20-acres farm. He loved each tree like his own child. His oranges with sticker “Shireen Sweet – Niazi Farm” were the best oranges in the entire Attock Mianwali area. They fetched the best price and were sold out in advance well before season.

FSC113 was the angel responsible for fruit supply to Suleman. There were hundreds of angels with all types of duties for fulfilling the needs of each individual on earth. Some angels were providing the exact Rizq appointed each year for a person; some were protecting the body, ears or eyes, while others were responsible for all types of food supply. FSC was an easy designation for the angel in charge of ‘fruit supply chain’. Since there were hundreds of fruit varieties, there were over 150 angels for bringing different fruits to Suleman. Allah’s (swt) vast network worked day and night for bringing Rizq and sustenance to His creation. All was planned to perfection and ran like clockwork.

Currently, FSC113 had the single duty by his supervisor to supply the best oranges available in Pakistan to Suleman. He had to supply 240 oranges in that particular season, which was not a bad bargain for offering Shukr for one orange! Suleman had shown gratitude, and Allah (swt) never forgets such things. FSC113’s job was not easy. He targeted Zaheer’s farm, since it was the best. Next, he targeted trees number 303, 304 and 305, which were in the best location and produced the most succulent sweet oranges in the entire orchard.

FSC113 settled next to these trees, in order to oversee their production for the next four months. He was dozing, when the hot sunrays jolted him awake; too much sun, he noted. The oranges will dehydrate and lose some glucose content and sweetness! FSC113 rushed skywards and instantly arranged for a cloud cover from his fellow cloud angel, which cut down the sunrays to just the right amount for providing sunlight, but not too harshly. FSC113 sighed with relief. He was well in control. He handled numerous daily challenges, such as ensuring the right amount of water supply, fertile soil conditions, absence of disease, and pest control when needed. He either brought the matter to the attention of Zaheer through intuition or whisperings or took help from his fellow angels, like he had done just now.

Finally, the oranges ripened and were packed and ready to be sent to Peshawar. But, at the last moment, the wholesaler called Zaheer that he had lots of stock, so if he wished, he could send it elsewhere. Zaheer had bookings from everywhere, so he directed the fruit to Quetta. Suddenly, it started to rain heavily in Quetta valley and the truck driver was instructed to change the route to Karachi. The Shireen Sweet were meant for a Gulshan fruit vendor. The truck driver, however, was obliged to grant a favour to his friend in the DHA fruit market. He promised the Gulshan vendor to bring his oranges on the next trip.

One day, Suleman got out of his office, intending to head straight home. But, as he approached the high street, he remembered that they were out of fruit. At the last moment, he turned his car, parked in front of his fruit vendor, and called him through the car’s window:

“Oranges hain (Do you have oranges)?”

“Jee Sahib; abhi taza aye hain. ‘Sweet Shireen’ bohot aala aur meetha hai. (Yes sir. Fresh oranges are here. ‘Sweet Shireen’ are very high quality and sweet.)”

“Theek hai, theek hai bhai, do dozen do – aur jaldi. (Alright, alright, brother. Give me two dozen and hurry!)”

He pays and drives home.

After dinner, Suleman asks his wife for an orange, but she is busy enjoying her banana. He tells his daughter, Sharmeen, to bring one for him. She picks one up, her phone rings, and she puts it down again. Suleman grunts and picks one up for himself. He cuts it in his usual four slices and eats it. No doubt, it was absolutely delicious. Suleman gets up to wash his hands, when he hears the Adhan and suddenly remembers Mufti Sahib’s talk of last Friday on Shukr. He sits down again, brings his hand together and says: “Alhumdulillah”.

More than 150 angels, who had worked hard to bring these oranges to Suleman’s plate, were all standing by the table, waiting to see the effect of their handwork. Suddenly, all of them broke out in a thunderous applause and bowed down to Allah (swt) saying what they said, when they bowed in front of Adam: “Allah Almighty, yes, You know what we know not!”

Allah (swt) then signals to His Archangel, who then just for a moment lifts the veils of ignorance from Suleman’s mind, giving him the gift of understanding and perception. In a flash, Suleman sees where his oranges were grown, how they were protected from sun, rain, disease, and pests and how they were switched from going to Peshawar to Quetta to Karachi and then from Gulshan to DHA. He saw how, by the greatest of miracles all the way from Mianwali traveling over a thousand miles in a period of four months, the oranges landed on his plate!

The veil lifted, and he was back in the world, sobbing like a child. He could barely make it to his bedroom, where he fell on his prayer mat, his body racking with sobs of Shukr, Shukr, Shukr – Alhumdulliah. “Oh Allah (swt), in my slumber, I did not know, but now I know how Rahim how Karim and how Rahman You are. Oh, the Mighty One! Oh, the Great One! Accept my thanks and also accept my repentance for not being grateful for my daily blessing. I know now, and I will be your true and grateful servant for the rest of my life.”

Suleman then collected the four rinds of the orange. After drying them in the sun for a few days, he had them carefully placed in two jars. One jar sits on his plush office desk and the other in his study at home. They serve as constant reminders to be grateful and not to forget his great enlightening experience, which changed his life forever!

Reinforcing Spirituality in the Workplace

Workplace spirituality

I did not realize that relationships at the workplace could be so gratifying in terms of Ibadah, until I sat down with my father to delve into his experiences about human resource management. His answers left me inquisitive, and I set out to search for the ideal virtues of a Muslim employer and employee.

Motivation, communication, cooperation, conflict management, wage compensations, promotion, job description, rotation and enrichment are the key components outlined in an employment agreement. To fortify the faithfulness in daily roles played by a manager, a supervisor and a subordinate, I rummaged through the admirable work of Imam Ghazali to the rejuvenating lectures of Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

To begin with, Ayah 57 from Surah Yusuf is of utmost significance for both the manager and the worker.

Allah (swt) says: “And verily, the reward of the Hereafter is better for those who believe and used to fear Allah and keep their duty to Him (by abstaining from all kinds of sins and evil deeds and by performing all kinds of righteous good deeds).” (Yusuf 12:57)

Thus, a mandatory virtue for both parties is to never lose sight of the perpetual mission of life. The subordinate should trust Allah (swt) as the Ultimate Provider for hard work and service, and the supervisor should learn from leadership qualities exhibited by Prophet Muhammad (sa), the four caliphs, Prophet Yusuf (as) and all the beloved messengers of Allah (swt).

Consequently, the Muslim manager ought to devise the employment agreement around the five prayers (Salah), negotiating time management, submission deadlines, rest pauses and work shifts.

Another principle characteristic is built upon Ukhuwat or Islamic brotherhood. Both should know the fruits that lie beyond this temporary life of a heart-warming brotherhood.

An important lesson taught by this Ayah is that when Satan intrudes the mind of the employee in the absence of the supervisor, he should remember that Allah (swt) is All-Seeing; He knows the conflicts created by the Nafs. Such a self-reminding habit ensures that one understands the importance of honesty and sincerity to his leader.

This verse steers to an aspect, which is also mentioned in Ihya Uloom Ad-Deen (“The Revival of Religious Learnings”) under “Seven Things That Make the Religion of a Businessman Perfect”, meaning the worker and the manager should both remember that they are setting up accounts with everyone they deal with. Allah (swt) will have the debit/credit records on the Final Day.

According to Abu Hurairah (rtam), Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘I will be an opponent to three types of people on the day of Resurrection: one – who makes a covenant in My name, but proves to be treacherous; second – who sells a free person and eats his price, and third – who employs a labourer and takes full work from him but does not pay for his labour.” (Bukhari)

This Hadeeth shows the intensity of love that Allah (swt) has for the hardworking person. The employees offer their services in return of remuneration and benefits. Also, the religious-mandated practice of abiding by the agreement has been emphasized. A Muslim naturally tends to get psychologically attached to his Muslim brother. Reviewing the Prophet’s (sa) management skills, we see how Allah (swt) wanted him to boost the morale of the companions (Sahabah) at all times and listen to their concerns. Our Messenger’s (sa) life reveals his highest regard for employees’ services; their covenant was uncomplicated but magnificent in the context that the volunteers were the most important asset in the mission.

Isn’t it miraculous how our Creator, the most Magnificent and the most Merciful, has paved way for our self-evaluation in every field of life? Alhumdulillah! Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (An-Nisa 4:135)

The know-how of justice, self-acceptance, embracing of criticism, being truthful and avoiding discrimination lies in this verse. The righteous employee should keep an eye on any acts of discrimination around him; this divine code of life also defines discrimination in terms of favouring the rich staff over the poor. The intention (Niyah) of the employer of any organization should be to facilitate his employees and make them intellectual and highly productive Muslims, securing an abode in the loftiest compartments of Jannah.

At our workplace, we should remember the value of a smile, which is also a form of Sadaqah or an act of charity. Such cheerful habits make us beloved in the eyes of Allah (swt).

Purification of the soul can also be conquered at work, which brings us to yet another attribute of an employer – the ability to pre-plan training programmes. Integrating Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture ‘People of Substance’ into the employment bond, positive and negative reinforcement done in accordance with Shariah will yield awe-inspiring results.

For example, in a Lahore based firm, the supervisor sends his employees to a holistic nutritionist on performance-based work; she devises plans based on Prophetic medicine and quantum health sciences, which bring them closer to Allah’s (swt) creation, their body systems and the lifestyle of the Prophet (sa). Another effective bequest to be given for employee’s recognition could be a book on Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Seerah. Regarding training programmes, employees deserve a chance for rejuvenation of faith; thus, they can be registered for workshops, Quran and Hadeeth boot camp courses and conferences.

I believe that becoming a beloved of Allah (swt) requires mastering the art of forgiving. It is perhaps the most fulfilling attribute to apply at the workplace; the employer should forgive the errors of employees as frequently as he can, looking ahead to the riches of the hereafter. On the other hand, the employee should forgive the judgements made about them and accept demotions as a form of test from Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) says: “For such, the reward is Forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing underneath (Paradise), wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers (who do righteous deeds according to Allah’s Orders).” (Ale-Imran 3:136)