So that you can fly

Vol 5 - Issue 2 So that you can flyBy Umm Isam and Alia Adil

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day, a small opening appeared – he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours, as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly.

He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. However, something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly, expecting the wings to enlarge and expand at any moment to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and deformed wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the small opening of the cocoon are Allah’s (swt) way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight, once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life.
If Allah (swt) allowed us to go through all our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could. Not only that – we would never be able fly.

Another important factor to realize is that Allah (swt) never places on us a burden heavier than our might. If life throws a challenge our way, we should be convinced in our heart that we can handle it; otherwise, we would not have encountered it. After all, Allah (swt) has created us and knows our level of strength.

Struggles are also a trial from Allah (swt) to test, which one of us loses hope and wanes away, and which one stands firm, praying to Allah (swt) earnestly and moving on with determination. They know that Allah (swt) is always on the side of those, who face struggles head on and fight with all the resources and courage they can muster, praying to Allah (swt) for help and triumph. “O mankind! It is you who stand in need of Allah. But Allah is Rich (Free of all needs), Worthy of all praise.” (Fatir 35:15)

Finally, Allah (swt) promises: “Verily, along with every hardship is relief…” (Ash-Sharh)

Another significant issue to understand is the concept of relief. To us, mortals, relief may mean regaining lost wealth, recovering from a terrible disease or winning back friends lost in a quarrel. In other words, returning to a previous state of life, which was disrupted due to a sudden change.

With His infinite wisdom, Allah (swt) views circumstances differently. He knows the unforeseen and thus decides, what is best for us, so long as we place our trust in Him, submitting to His will. This means that people may stay poor following a financial loss or die from a disease, or never patch up with lost friends. This may be relief from Allah (swt) – if our being rich or living, or socializing with certain friends would have led us to a disaster in this world and in the Akhirah (Hereafter).

Sometimes, relief comes in ways that benefits us instantly, the results of which can be witnessed, whereas at other times, relief cannot be comprehended immediately. We just have to pray to Allah (swt) to help us understand and be patient with His decision. Relief is always on its way – it is Allah’s (swt) promise!

Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf (rta)

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Abdur Rahman bin AufAbdur-Rahman Ibn Awf (rta) was among those ten fortunate Companions of the Prophet (sa), who were given the good news of being accepted in Paradise after their death. He was known for his truthfulness, sincerity and good knowledge of religious matters. Abdur-Rahman (rta) embraced Islam at the age of thirty, after being invited to do so by Abu Bakr (rta). Before becoming Muslim, his name was Abd Amr, and it was the Prophet (sa) himself who changed his name to Abdur-Rahman (rta).

Abdur-Rahman (rta) had the wonderful opportunity of migrating twice in the cause of Islam – to Abyssinia and to Madinah. When Abdur-Rahman (rta) arrived in Madinah, he had no money and no property. To make his adjustment in Madinah easier, the Prophet (sa) asked one of the richest men of Madinah, Sad Ibn Rabee Ansari (rta) to help Abdur-Rahman (rta). Sad Ibn Rabee Ansari (rta) was ready to give to Abdur-Rahman (rta) one of his two wives and one of his two big orchards; however, Abdur-Rahman’s (rta) self-respect did not allow him to accept this generous offer. He thanked Sad Ibn Rabee Ansari for his kindness, prayed to Allah (swt) to increase Sad’s wealth and simply asked him to show the way to the market, where he would earn his own living. He did not wish to be a burden on anyone – he knew that Allah (swt) would provide for him.

Ever since Abdur-Rahman (rta) began his own business in the market of Madinah, Allah (swt) blessed him with bounty beyond his most daring expectations. Whatever he touched seemed to bring him instant success.

Soon, Abdur-Rahman (rta) extended his activities also to agriculture. Once, the Prophet’s wife Aisha (rta) heard an unusual vibrating sound traveling through the city. Upon learning that the cause of this vibration was Abdur-Rahman’s (rta) seven hundred camels loaded with grains, Aisha (rta) recalled the Prophet (sa) saying that Abdur-Rahman (rta) would enter Paradise ‘leaping and jumping’ – with much ease. When somebody conveyed these words to Abdur-Rahman (rta), he overflowed with joy and dedicated his camels, his goods and his wealth to the welfare of the Muslim Ummah! Just like Allah (swt) gave to Abdur-Rahman (rta) out of His bounty, he also spent abundantly in charity for the sake of Allah (swt). Yet, despite all the prosperity and wealth that Abdur-Rahman (rta) gained, his heart was not at ease. He often used to weep out of fear that he would be deprived of blessings in the Hereafter because of the bounties Allah (swt) bestowed on him in this world.

Business and agriculture kept Abdur-Rahman (rta) busy; yet, he eagerly participated in the great battles for the cause of Allah (swt). After taking part in the battle of Badr, Abdur-Rahman (rta) went on in a mission sent to Doamatul Jandal area to conquer the tribe of Banu Kalb. Abdur-Rahman (rta) was appointed to lead the Muslim army. The Prophet (sa) himself placed on his head the turban of the general and gave him the flag of the Mujahideen. He ordered Abdur-Rahman (rta) to invite the tribe to follow the teachings of Islam. Only if they would refuse to do so, the Muslim army was to attack and fight them. The Prophet (sa) also strictly forbade harming women, children and the elderly of the tribe.

After arriving to Domatul Jandal, Abdur-Rahman (rta) spent three days explaining to the people of Banu Kalb the teachings of Islam. The chief of the tribe was very much impressed by the message of Allah (swt) and decided to enter the fold of Islam. Upon seeing the conversion of their leader, most of the tribes-people also became Muslims. Those, who did not want to accept Islam, could continue to live peacefully on condition that they would pay Jazyah tax to the Islamic government. Thus, Islam spread in this area in a peaceful manner. The chief of the tribe even gave his daughter to Abdur-Rahman (rta) in marriage.

Abdur-Rahman (rta) not only participated in the battles for the glory of Islam, but also generously supported the Mujahideen. Once, he gave to Mujahideen five hundred horses trained for military combat. On another occasion, his gift was fifteen hundred pure-bred Arab steeds. Just before his death, Abdur-Rahman (rta) bequeathed in his will four hundred Dinars to each survivor of the battle of Badr.

Abdur-Rahman (rta) also supported the Mujahideen for the battle of Tabook. The Muslim army was so poorly equipped for this battle that it became known as the penniless army. This time, Abdur-Rahman’s (rta) help consisted of bags full of silver – the most generous contribution made for this war. When the army set out for Tabook, Abdur-Rahman (rta) also himself was among the Mujahideen. Once, the Prophet (sa) was not present at the beginning of the prayer, so Abdur-Rahman (rta) began leading the prayer. When the Prophet (sa) arrived in the middle of the prayer, he joined the rows and prayed behind Abdur-Rahman (rta). What an honor it was for Abdur-Rahman (rta) to have the Prophet (sa) pray behind him!

When Caliph Umar Farooq (rta) was stabbed while leading the prayer, it was Abdur-Rahman (rta) who finished leading that prayer. Before his death, Caliph Umar (rta) selected a board of six honourable men, who were to continue running the affairs of the Muslim state and to select the next Caliph. Abdur-Rahman (rta) had the honour to be among these six noble Companions. When discussions arose about nominating the next Caliph, Abdur-Rahman (rta) suggested that the board of six should be narrowed down to three members to make the selection easier. Further in the selection process, Abdur-Rahman (rta) withdrew his name from the list of candidates and voted in favor of Uthman Ibn Affan (rta), who then became the next Caliph. He was the first one to swear his loyalty to the new Caliph.

Many people used to pray to Allah (swt) for Abdur-Rahman (rta). The Prophet (sa) himself prayed for the prosperity of Abdur-Rahman (rta) and gave him the wonderful news of being accepted in Paradise. The Prophet’s (sa) wife Aisha (rta) often used to ask Allah (swt) to give him to drink from the sweet waters of the stream of Salsabil in Paradise. He also received supplications from the other wives of the Prophet (sa), as he was the one who used to provide for their needs during Hajj.

Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf (rta) passed away during the caliphate of Uthman Ibn Affan. He was buried in Jannatul-Baqahi.

Adapted from “Commanders of the Muslim Army (Among the Companions of the Prophet (sa)” by Mahmood Ahmad Ghandafar.

Dear Haadia

I try to learn Duas and Surahs from the Quran, but after memorizing them, I tend to forget them. Can you suggest a method for improving my retention?

Answer: I am glad you asked this question, because forgetting what we have memorized is not a light matter, especially in light of a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) reported by Al-Amash (rta): “The calamity which affects knowledge is forgetfulness, and wasting it is to convey it to those, who are unworthy of it.” (Darimi)

When it comes to memorization and retention, it’s important to find a strategy that works for you, whether it’s mine, someone else’s or your own. I have outlined below some of my simple and quick techniques which you can test on yourselves.

  • Firstly, it is obligatory to be sincere, purify your intention and correct your desire to please Allah (swt).
  • Make Dua to Allah (swt) for learning and retention, as each memorized apportion is facilitated by Allah (swt).
  • Be goAl-oriented and set targets to check what you have learnt and retained, being completely focused and realizing the importance of that which is memorized.
  • See the time chosen for memorization and retention – are you fresh at that time? Fajr is the best! Having said so also vary your study routine occasionally. If you are accustomed to study in one specific location, try moving to a different spot of study. If you study in the evening, try spending a few minutes each morning reviewing the information you have studied the previous night. By adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts and significantly improve the long-term recall.
  • From the Seerah of Rasul (saw) it is clear that we should be consistent on whatever deed we adopt. Start with small Duas or Surahs and read them regularly, especially in Salah or before sleeping. You can repeat them by keeping a small Dua booklet at your bedside or by keeping your eyes closed, which will also make you sleep better, Insha’Allah. Over time, consistent repetition will lead to improvement.
  • Read with thorough understanding and absorb the meaning. Also, read the text loudly and clearly to familiarize yourself with the sounds and to be fluent in pronunciation. It can be helpful to read the text thrice by looking at it and then recite it without looking.
  • For memorizing Duas, an important tip is to post them at different locations in your house and/or work place. For example: on the main door – the Dua before leaving the house, in your bag – Dua upon entering the market, at the bathroom entrance – Dua before entering and coming out of bathroom after using the toilet. Visuals are great reminders!
  • For best memorization and retention, study in a way which appeals to as many senses as possible. By seeing and simultaneously hearing the material, you reinforce it in your brain. Try to listen as frequently as possible to tapes and CDs, as sound is an extremely valuable tool. You can also carry a walkman, which is an excellent way to utilize time while traveling or waiting for a doctor’s appointment.
  • Elaborate on the material by adding more information to the subject that you are studying. For example, apart from concentrating on the translation, study the definitions of terms and read a more detailed description of the meanings of words.
  • Involve your emotions – we remember things that are emotionally relevant to us.
  • Revise using the same copy of the Quran. This is because we tend to memorize the script and form – their places in the copy leave an imprint in the mind.
  • It is necessary for the memorizer not to depend on himself in the process of memorization. Rather, he should test his memorization by reciting the verses or Surah to somebody else.
  • Interestingly, physical exercise and a balanced diet improve the heart’s ability to pump blood more effectively, and, in turn, memory benefits from the improved blood flow.

The above suggestions come from students and teachers that kindly shared the tips, which practically helped them to retain what they memorized. May Allah (swt) help each one of us to benefit from them. Ameen.

Lastly, Abdullah Ibn Amr (rta) has narrated a beautiful Hadeeth, according to which the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “It will be said to the reciter of the Quran: ‘Read and ascend! And chant as you used to chant in the worldly life. For verily, your station (in Paradise) will be at the last verse you recite.'”(Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood)