Being Proactive

Jan 11 - Being Proactive

How can family members be proactive?

There are two types of people in the world: proactive and reactive. Proactive individuals make choices based on values, whereas reactive people make their choices on impulse, as animals do.

To understand the difference between the two, you can imagine a bottle of water and a can of soda. What happens when you shake a bottle of water? Nothing. It simply remains cool, composed and in control. But what happens when you shake a can of soda? It pops! It lets out fizz, bubbles, sound, etc. It goes out of control.

If you want to be proactive, embrace the following immediately:

1. Be kind

In relationships, the little things are the big things. Such sincerely spoken words as ‘thank you’, ‘please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘you go first’ and ‘may I help you’ contribute towards a pleasant atmosphere. Helping family members with small chores when they are least expecting them goes a long way towards building relationships of trust and unconditional love.

2. Apologize

For most of us, our sense of security is based on our image, our position or on being right. Apologizing means draining all the juice from our ego. But remember – even if our temper surfaces only one hundredth of 1% of the time, it will affect the quality of our entire life, if we do not take responsibility for it and apologize.

3. Be loyal to the absent

Always talk about others, as if they were present. Imagine if our loved ones overhear us making disloyal comments about them, how hurt they would be, and how ashamed we would be. Never lend your ear to gossips; soon, the conversation will loose its spice and shift to other interesting subjects.

4. Forgive

You will always remain a victim, until you forgive. Once you have done that, you will open the channels through which trust and unconditional love can flow. You cleanse your own heart and give others a chance to change.

5. Never presume

Most of us impose our plans on others without taking their convenience into consideration. For instance, if you know that your elder sister has to submit a really important assignment on a Monday, you should be considerate and NOT invite your friends over on the weekend and expect her to entertain them. Ask such questions as: “Is this alright with you?” before planning anything that affects the rest of your family members.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 6

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Principle-Centred – The Real Thing

In the past issues, we have discussed numerous centres that have time and again failed. One wonders whether there is a centre that actually works. Yes there is! It is being principle-centered. I know it sounds boring, but here is another way of looking at it.

We are all aware of the effects of gravity. Throw a ball up and it comes down. It’s a natural law or principle. This is one of the many principles that rule the physical world. Also, there are other principles that govern the human world.

What are principles?

  • Principles aren’t religious.
  • They aren’t Pakistani or Somali.
  • They aren’t mine or yours.
  • They aren’t up for discussion.
  • They apply equally to everyone – rich or poor, king or peasant, male or female.
  • They can’t be bought or sold.
  • If you live by them, you will excel.
  • If you break them, you will fail.

A few examples of principles are: love, honesty, service, respect, gratitude, hard work, loyalty, responsibility, integrity, justice and moderation. If anyone knows our Prophet (sa) well, he would think that Sean Covey was actually describing the Prophet’s (sa) way of life.

Consider just one of the examples of the aforementioned principles, like hard work. The principle of hard work never fails. As long as you have paid the price by investing time and effort into something, you will eventually succeed. Someone might whiz past you without putting any or much effort but, in the long run, as they say: “you can fool someone all the time but you can’t fool everyone all the time”. At some stage in life, incompetent people, who might have acquired status or recognition wrongfully, are exposed. This is mainly because they are neither trained nor experienced to deal with the challenges required for a particular job.

A very apt example could be of politicians. Someone, who has studied commerce, is handed over a ministry of science and technology. How will he fare? It could be anyone’s guess. However, if someone has studied and excelled in his/her field of education by hard work, he/she is likely to meet the challenges posed by his/her career, because he/she has paid the price to excel in that particular field.

Principles Never Fail

It takes faith to live by principles. In today’s age of rampant evil and quick fix solutions, one might feel like a sucker watching others get ahead in life by manipulation and corruption. What we don’t see is the doomed end of such people who break away from principles.

Cecil B. DeMille, the director of movie “The Ten Commandments”, stated: “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.”

You will see that it eventually catches up to every wrong-doer, and the faker ultimately pays a penalty for breaking principles. How many liars and frauds do you know, who have earned anyone’s love, respect and friendship? And what kind of a life are they leading, in spite of having wealth and success? A guilty conscience seldom lets anyone live in peace.

What can principles do for you? According to Sean Covey, the benefits of principles are:

  • They will never talk behind your back.
  • They will never desert you.
  • They don’t suffer career-ending injuries.
  • They don’t have favourites based on gender, wealth or looks.

“A principle-centered life is simply the most stable, immovable, unshakable foundation you can build upon, and we all need one of those.”

Decide today to make principles your life-centre or paradigm. Whenever you land in a fix, ask yourself which principle will fit the key-hole? If you are feeling worn out and beaten up, maybe you need to apply the principle of balance. If you find people suspecting you, maybe it is the principle of honesty that will resolve the issue. In the following story by Walter MacPeek, we find the principle of loyalty being the driving force:

‘Two brothers, who were French soldiers in the same company, fought against the Germans. One of them was shot, while the other escaped. The one who was sound requested his commanding officer to go back and get his wounded brother. The officer politely explained that his brother was probably dead and that there was no point risking his own life.

After much pleading, the soldier was granted permission to bring back his wounded brother. When he did bring him back safely, he died just then. The commander said: ‘I told you that you were going to get nothing out of this. Your brother just died anyway.’ The soldier replied: ‘No sir, you are wrong. I got what I wanted. When I went back for him and picked him up in my arms, he said: ‘I knew you would come back for me.’ I did what was expected of me.’

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues, we will find out what each of the seven habits are connected and what powers these habits have. Be on the look-out.

What are habits?

Take them, train them, and be firm with them;

Your habits will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with them and they will destroy you.

So form them wisely!

A Potential Spouse’s Tough Exam

01-01In January, 2001, while I was going towards Paris from the airport, I was thinking about the Muslim community in this city. I was particularly wondering, how parents raise their children. I asked my friend Aamir Aqaad: “How do parents ensure that their children stay connected to Deen in this environment?”

Aamir has been a resident of Paris for two decades. He came here from Syria to study and then opened a publishing house of Islamic books. He mulled over my question and then replied:

“A very interesting incident happened a few days ago, which might answer your question. One of my relatives has been a resident of Paris for many years. He was working but was still unmarried. One day, he asked me if I could recommend anyone for marriage.

I knew a Moroccan family and spoke to them on my friend’s behalf. It seemed like a very compatible match. The girl was in her early twenties, educated and intelligent. Her parents liked the guy, but said that they would reach a decision after consulting their daughter. Finally, it was decided that both of them should see each other in person and have a brief meeting.

A railway station was selected as the venue. My wife and I, along with the girl’s parents, sat at some distance from the potential couple to give them some privacy while keeping them under observation. I saw that the girl took out some papers from her purse and handed them over to the potential suitor.

I was astounded. I had no idea that in this day and age, there were girls who were so in love with their Deen.

I was quite astonished and asked the girl’s mother what her daughter was doing. The mother replied that her daughter had prepared a questionnaire to quiz her potential spouse about his personal life. In the light of his answers, she would decide whether or not to say yes to his proposal.

Most of the questions had been prepared in French, a language in which my friend was not so fluent. He called me over to help him translate the questionnaire. The questionnaire spanned over three pages. The first page consisted of questions regarding personal life – name, father’s name, address, height, weight, educational qualifications, occupation, status of house (rent or own), salary, work hours, etc.

When we moved on to the second page, the questions were: What is the nature of your relationship with Islam and your Deen? Are you regular with your Salah? How much time do you dedicate to your Deen? How much of the Quran have you memorized? How often do you recite the Quran? Which books of Ahadeeth have you read? How many Ahadeeth have you memorized? Write one page on “Rights of Spouses.” Which book of Seerah are you currently reading? Which Halaqah (study circle) do you attend? Who’s the scholar leading this Halaqah? Which books have you studied in this circle?

I was astounded. I had no idea that in this day and age, there were girls who were so in love with their Deen.

The questions went on: Do you want children? Would you like sons or daughters? What will you name your first child? What kind of qualities would you like your wife to possess?

The entire questionnaire was designed, so as to get a complete picture of the kind of person my friend was. My friend filled out this questionnaire to the best of his efforts. Unfortunately, the girl was not too impressed with the answers and declined the proposal. She told her parents that an individual, who was not sincere with his Rabb (swt), can never be sincere with his wife.”

After hearing this, I was thinking of all the problems that girls face in their marital life. If only they quiz their potential spouse about his level of Deen beforehand, they could easily avoid the problems which come afterwards.

Adapted from “Sunehri Kirnain”, published by Darussalam. Translated for “Hiba” by Hafsa Ahsan.

The Perfect Recipe – From a Husband’s Perspective

Jan 11 - The perfect recipe

By Hafsa Ahsan

When I wrote “The Perfect Recipe” (published in the January 2010 issue of “Hiba”), I realized belatedly that all of the successful ingredients of marriage were mentioned only by the wives. There was no discussion of any husbands or their perspectives. Consequently, I received an email saying: “Your article on married life provided many useful tips, which can easily be followed by wives to maintain bliss in their lives and in the lives of their spouses. However, I was wondering, if a survey could be done to find out what our male counterparts think could be the perfect ingredients of a blissful married life.”

This email spurred me to life, and I sent out the same questionnaire to discover what the husbands rate to be the most successful ingredients of a happy and successful marriage.

Arsalan Siddiqui, a training consultant, said: “Based on my own experience, I would say that the paramount issue (if the marriage is an arranged one) is trying to understand each other. But this can be tricky, as we are so used to being pampered by our respective families prior to our weddings. And when two people come together, they sometimes do not know how to behave and what to expect from each other. Individual space can be an issue, but that depends on your understanding of your partner. In-laws can be an issue, too. Also money matters play a crucial role in how partners enjoy their lives.”

An IT professional Adeel Masood named three ‘inabilities’ which, in his opinion, characterize the top three issues faced by couples after marriage: inability to cope with the fact that the other person also has his own weaknesses, inability to live within means and inability to respect the spouse’s relatives. His ingredients for a successful marriage were “trust, respect and love, with trust and respect being more important than love.”

“Things like likes and dislikes or getting adjusted with my commitment to work are main issues,” said Adnan Ali, an engineer. “Being a husband, I am on the stage where I have to listen to both parties (wife and mother). I try my best to be neutral and usually don’t act like a messenger between them. I have already clarified that both parties should try and deal with their issues themselves.”

So how does then conflict arise? And what is the best way of dealing with that conflict?

“I would say (the main source of conflict is) family politics, especially if you are not fully aware of the background of your spouse’s family,” said Arsalan Siddiqui. “But any conflict can be solved by giving space to each other and understanding the values and feelings of your spouse.”

“To deal with conflicts, first, you have to have the ability to deal with your anger for the time being, till your spouse has done his/her catharsis. Thereafter, talk out the issue rationally. If nothing works, send for the mediators,” said Adeel Masood.

“Being friends with your spouse usually is the best way out of everything,” said Adnan Ali. “But a husband has the additional responsibility of being neutral in every way. For those who are sandwiched between their wives and mothers, my advice is: let each party understand each other’s point of view, because a husband has already spent more time with his parents, but now spends more time with his wife; hence, he is sometimes the only one who understands what she or they actually mean about something.”

At the end of the day, it seems that husbands think more about practical issues, such as money management, when it comes to marriage. At the same time, they are also concerned about how to balance out their roles between their parents and their wives. That said, even they place emphasis on trust and respect, and in that aspect, their concerns match those of the ladies.

Mothers of Believers

Jan 11 - Mothers of Believers

For most it is a much-awaited, exciting development; for others, an unexpected, pleasant surprise; for some, a disconcerting event that takes time to accept. Whatever the case, being in the family way is a significant turn of events. It is the onset of one of the greatest responsibilities Allah (swt) can entrust us with – that of bearing and raising a person according to His (swt) pleasure.

Most Muslim mothers are not fortunate enough to realize what a pivotal task they have on their hands. Modern research has revealed that everything a mother-to-be feels, thinks about and believes in affects her baby, who starts hearing and recognizing her voice from the fourth month of pregnancy. Pregnant women are thus advised to stay positive, calm and happy during the gestation period for the healthy development of the baby.

So what can you, as an expectant mother, do in order to bear a pious Muslim baby with a sound heart: a baby connected to Allah (swt) from pre-birth?

Quran recitation

If your own Tajweed is commendable, recite the entire Quran aloud throughout your pregnancy (especially after the fourth month). If that’s not possible, play the recitation of a Qari on a cassette-player near your belly, listening to it attentively yourself. This will bless both you and your baby, acquainting the latter with Allah’s (swt) words as soon as it begins to hear it and tranquilizing you in your expectant state.

Positive thinking

Satan’s ultimate aim is to make us ungrateful for Allah’s (swt) blessings. During pregnancy, a woman has many fears and apprehensions. Coupled with physical sickness, she is prone to depression and negative thinking. That’s why our Prophet (saw) said: “A woman who dies during pregnancy is a martyr.” (Abu Dawood) Count your blessings, reminding yourself that you have been blessed by Allah (swt).

Dhikrof Allah (swt)

Engage in Dhikr as much as possible. Capitalize on your nine-month state of uninterrupted purity by offering supererogatory prayers besides obligatory prayers. If Ramadan falls during pregnancy, try fasting before giving up without an effort. Fasting is worship; it can be good for both you and your baby. Furthermore, join a Quran class to be engaged in Allah’s (swt) remembrance regularly.

The best nutrition

Breastfeeding is difficult to master, but when learned it is the best Sadaqah you can give your baby. While nursing, try to be with ablution, read the Quran or a beneficial book, do Dhikr, or listen to Quranic recitation. Just relax and don’t fret about the pending household chores or the weight that you have not shed off.

Shun useless activities

Whether during pregnancy or the initial nursing months, avoid pastimes such as gossiping, frequenting markets, watching dramas and films, reading fiction or listening to music. This time, when your baby is physically bound to you, will never return. Use it to build his/her foundation of piety.

Practice Sunnahs

When your toddler starts to speak her first words and eat a varied diet, inculcate Sunnahs into daily actions: always feed her with the right hand and only when she’s sitting; say ‘Bismillah’, ‘Alhumdulillah’, and all Duas aloud (such as on leaving the house or using the washroom). Put her clothes or shoes on right side first.

Tranquil environment

While your infant lies playing, put up Allah’s (swt) names in the room or on a mobile overhead. Play Quranic recitation nearby; do this right up to the toddler stage. A home sans television is the ideal home for a Muslim baby; realistically speaking, however, when the television is on, keep your baby in some other room of the house, where she can play undisturbed. Avoid taking your baby to noisy gatherings.

Intellectual training

Babies deserve better stimuli for intellectual development than cartoons and musical nursery rhymes. Talk to them about Allah (swt), visit the park or seaside and give them mind-stimulating games that use numbers, alphabets and illustrations. Provide age-appropriate building blocks, Lego, markers, crayons, paper and computers. Seek the company of righteous people, frequenting circles of religious study and intellectual discussion, taking your baby with you.

If we work hard on our babies today, we can expect our Ummah to be righteous tomorrow.

The Honour of Raising Daughters

Jan 11 - The honour of Raising daughters

By Ruhie Jamshaid

The birth of a child heralds hope and cheer in the life of a family. Needless to say, a child is a special gift from Allah (swt), and not everyone has the blessing of being a parent.

Ironically, while we understand the blessings of having a child, many amongst us tend to down-play the birth of a daughter. If distribution of Mithais (sweetmeats) and the resonance of ‘Mubaraks’ (congratulations) is seen and heard at the birth of a boy-child, the same excitement is often doused at the birth of a girl-child in most South Asian societies. Many still believe that only a male child can carry on the family name and be the flag-bearer of a legacy. Interestingly, our own Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) legacy was carried on by his daughter, Fatimah (rta) at a time when male offspring were considered to be a source of strength for the clan.

It is exclusively Allah (swt), Who decides whether one has sons or daughters, or both or none. Yet, as believers in the decree of Allah (swt), we must question our rather placid attitudes towards the birth of a girl. Why is it that we possess such differing reactions to the birth of a boy as opposed to a girl?

“Indeed, Allah has set a measure for all things.” (At-Talaq 65:3)

In His infinite wisdom, Allah (swt) has a plan for all of us, as we reside in His vast universe. He, the All-Knowing, knows what good therein lies for each one of us.

Therefore, when we are blessed with a girl-child, there is great benefit in it. In fact, the status of girls is often emphasized in Islam.

“Whoever has three daughters or sisters, or two daughters or two sisters, and lives along with them in a good manner, and has patience with them, and fears Allah with regard to them will enter Paradise.” (Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi and others)

Bringing up a girl-child to become a righteous Muslimah is a great honour and a doorway to Jannah. When we endow our daughters with a sound education, solid morals and thorough knowledge of their Deen, they become a force to reckon with. Strong, educated Muslim women will strengthen the future generations, because a mother is the main character-builder and groomer of her children.

The character of a Muslim girl must be honed holistically. Often, two extremes dominate – either we focus on grooming our daughters to become homebound individuals or motivate them to take on a career-orientated path in life. Taking either of these extreme paths can be hazardous. We must not forget that Islam has clearly segregated gender roles: women are to be the main home managers, while men are ordained to work externally to provide for their families. There is always wisdom in Allah’s (swt) decrees, and we must adhere to the rules.

Even though a woman’s main job is to manage the home, she is also often reminded to benefit society at large.

Abu Hurairah (rta) relates that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Whoever removes one of the hardships of a believing soul, Allah will remove from him one of the distresses on the Hereafter. Whoever solves someone else’s problem, Allah will make things easy for him in this world and the Hereafter… Allah is ever assisting His servant, as long as that servant is helping his brother.” (Muslim)

Hence, we must also mould our daughters to learn a skill or to gain knowledge, with which she would be able to add value to the Muslim Ummah. An intelligent and academically inclined Muslimah may choose to become a gynecologist, so as to provide the option of a female woman’s health physician. Some others may choose to teach, so as to dissipate knowledge to our fellow Muslims. We must remember that Aisha (rta), one of the mothers of the believers, was a scholar and had the privilege of reporting an enormous number of Ahadeeth based on the knowledge imparted to her by the Prophet (sa) himself. The Muslim Ummah is humbly indebted to her for her sincere service.

A woman is a brick that builds and strengthens the Muslim Ummah. To be blessed with a daughter is an honour we are bestowed upon by Allah (swt). We must strive to bring her up to be an exemplary Muslimah, for there is Allah’s (swt) great pleasure in doing so.