I Lost My Friend

Jul 10 - I lost my friendBy Darakhshan Siddiqui

The dilemma started when I was unable to get myself registered in any medical college. Disheartened and disappointed, I decided to do something ‘more challenging,’ and, to my utter surprise, I cleared the ‘aptitude test’ and embarked on a long journey to become a chartered accountant. Clearing six papers in one ago is not easy at all – it requires hard work, patience and a great deal of good luck.

My friend Suqaina had come from Hyderabad. She was much more determined and energetic, as she was paying a high price for leaving her parents and siblings and being alone here, in Karachi. She was the eldest one, always looking forward to weekends as she then got a chance to visit her very amiable family, especially her siblings, who used to wait anxiously for the small token gifts she got for them.

She was usually the first one to enter the library and the last one to leave. Her hard work bore fruit, and she cleared her first level at the first attempt.

Our final examination of the second level was about to commence, when she asked me to recommend a renowned urologist in Karachi. The examination schedule was announced and she somehow managed to appear for all the papers. She cleared that level too, remarking that it was all due to her mother’s prayers. I forgot about her ailment, as I was struggling harder to clear the second level.

Suddenly, I received the shocking news of her death. I was told that she was misdiagnosed in a local Hyderabad hospital, and passed away after being given the wrong treatment for almost two weeks.

I tried hard to combat the depression, but the worn out pages of my accounting books had become meaningless. Her sudden death had made me realize the ultimate truth of the mortality of my life and this world. From that day I accepted this reality that any day could be my last day, in this materialistic world. I started asking myself: “Am I ready to face Him (swt) at this very moment? What is the purpose of my existence?” Have I ever made any effort to find out what my Creator, the most Beneficent wants to tell me through His Book, the Holy Quran? Have I ever made any deliberate effort to learn, implement or spread the light of righteousness through it?

I realized that one day I will be questioned, for that ever increasing long term loan in the form of countless and countless blessings from Him, the Almighty Allah (swt) to whom we all have to return.

May Allah (swt) grant Suqaina a place in Jannah. (Ameen)

It Echoes in the Hearts…

Painting of big red heart over white backgroundBy Naureen Aqueel

I remember a time when I was caught up in the fast-paced life of a university student; things that were habits to me eventually started slipping away. I could no longer find time in my day to read the Quran. Although I did not let go of my daily recitation, it did get shortened a bit. The Quran recitation cassettes of Qari Saleh Bukhtiar that I used to listen to regularly were to be found in the upper shelf of the closet now.

I just didn’t have the time anymore. Or maybe I had just lost the will. Whatever it was, I felt there was a void inside me, although my attention never went to the factor causing it. Then, one day, I just happened to open the closet, take out the cassette and put it into my cassette player. And when the beautiful sound of the Quran recitation reached my ears, my heart and my soul, I realized what I had been missing. I couldn’t help but remember this verse of the Quran:

“O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i.e. the Quran, enjoining all that is good and forbidding all that is evil), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences) which is in your breasts, ­­- a guidance and a mercy (explaining lawful and unlawful things) for the believers. Say: ‘In the Bounty of Allah, and in His Mercy (i.e. Islam and the Quran); – therein let them rejoice.’ That is better than what (the wealth) they amass.” (Yunus 10:57-58)

It is worth noting that the Prophet (sa) received the revelation of the Quran by listening to how it was recited by Jibrael (as). Moreover, the Prophet (sa) was commanded to ‘recite’ the Quran to the people. Many people converted to Islam after simply listening to the powerful recitation of the Quran by the Prophet (sa) himself or one of his respected companions. Such great companions as Umar (rta), Tufail Ibn Amar Adousi (rta), Usaid Ibn Huzair (rta) and Jabeer Ibn Muthim (rta) were moved by hearing the recitation of the Quran and reverted to Islam straight away. Contemporary Muslims also mention the powerful effect of listening to the Quran as the reason for their reversion to Islam.

The Prophet (sa) laid great emphasis on listening to the Quran. He used to ask his companions to recite an Ayah to him. Once, the Prophet (sa) said to Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta): “Recite for me the Quran.” He said: “O Messenger of Allah! Should I recite to you as it was revealed to you?” He said: “Yes, for I like to hear it from others.” “I recited Surah An-Nisa, until I reached the Ayah: ‘How (will it be) then, when we bring from each nation a witness and we bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?’ (An-Nisa 4:41) He then said: “Stop now.” I found that his eyes were tearful. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Allah (swt) mentions in the Quran that “the skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it (when they recite it or hear it [Quran]).” (Az-Zumar 39:23)

The Quran has proven to have amazing inward and outward effects on its listeners and reciters, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Dr. Ahmed Elkadi of Panama City, Florida, conducted a study to monitor the effects of the Quranic recitation on its listeners. In order to do this, he arranged specialized computers to measure heartbeat, blood pressure, blood viscosity, skin temperature and muscle conductivity. The soothing effect of the Quran was confirmed in 97% of the experiments. The recitation led to such physiological changes as spontaneous lowering of muscle tension and lowered blood pressure in both Muslims and non-Muslims. However, above all scientific evidences, any believer would vouch for the serenity and boost in Iman experienced when listening to the Quran, whether they know Arabic or not.

The power of the words of Allah (swt) is beyond doubt. And for those who understand it, the benefit increases manifold.

Interview with Sarah Basar – An Aspiring Lawyer

Jul 10 - Interview with Sarah BasarTell us in detail how you managed to complete your studies, and especially how you took your exams.

I studied in a special school for the blind, so I was provided all the facilities a blind student requires. Fortunately, my family has always been extremely supportive, and with their help, I managed to pursue my studies further. In school (till grade 8), I took my exams in Braille. As far as board exams are concerned (from grade 9 to graduation), I took exams with a writer, who used to write while I dictated. I had a little trouble in mathematics, but, Alhumdulillah, it all went fine. I always carry a tape recorder to record notes and lectures, which later helps me in compiling my notes.

How do you manage to access the Internet?

I work on computer with the help of voice software called Jaws. I can browse and find my notes, cases (I am currently a law student), check my e-mail, use Skype, download anything, Alhumdulillah. I have absolutely no problem in writing what I am writing!

What are your interests and how do you pursue them?

I am very much interested in current affairs and sports. I am one of those fortunate people who have access to Braille books, and I love reading. I keep track of the news regularly and keep myself updated with the latest happenings in politics.

Tell us about Braille, and how it has helped you?

Braille is a special system devised especially for the blind. It consists of six dots and is read by finger touch. Braille has helped me a lot in studies. I used to use a slate and stylus. You put the paper between the slate and with the help of a stylus punch holes in the paper. Then I got my very own Braille, which is more like a type writer. It speeds up my work.

What is the reaction of your classmates to you being a special student?

Alhumdulillah, I have always had very good classmates, who have been very understanding and supportive. They have never showed any hesitation in interacting with me or helping me, or asking for help.

What can the youth do for the needs of special students?

I think youth should be given more information about the people with special needs. There are schools which need volunteers to help such students gain confidence and feel connected to the outside world. There are many children who are not as fortunate to get in touch with a lot of things I have. I would definitely encourage younger generation to volunteer at schools for visual, physical and mentally impaired people.

How does your family support you?

My parents both have worked twice as hard on me, as they had to go an extra mile for me. My mother learnt Braille especially for me. My siblings and relatives also support me in anything I do.

What are your plans for the future?

After I graduate, I plan to do my Masters degree. Then, I would love to practice as a lawyer independently, Insha’Allah.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 4

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Paradigms of Life

Sean Covey explains that just as we have paradigms (perceptions) about ourselves and others, we also have paradigms about the world in general. They are the spectacles, through which we see the world around us. We can find out what the focal point of our life is by asking ourselves the following questions (as we did in our previous article):

  1. What do I think about the most?
  2. What do I spend most of my time doing?
  3. Who or what is the driving force of my life?

As discussed earlier, some of the more popular life-center’s for teenagers were friends and materialistic stuff. Now, we will talk about some other centers of life.

They all have certain good points, but they are also incomplete in one way or the other. We will prove this one by one.

Fiancé/spouse-centred

Getting married and falling in love is the most beautiful thing that can happen to anyone. Islam encourages Nikah and considers it to be half of an individual’s Deen. But it also talks about strengthening relationships by merging the positives qualities of two partners into a companionship, which will further provide a strong foundation for their future family.

But love struck as we are sometimes, the love of our life weakens rather than strengthens us. For example, if your fiancé or spouse is in a bad mood or is having a rough day and happens to snap at you, you’ll always react! How? Either by snapping back, crying bitterly or putting on a fiercer mood.

Believe it or not, if you become emotionally dependant on your partner, you will actually become unattractive to him/her. Whatever role you assume, whether, it is that of a pitiful victim or a charged bull, you will put off your partner.

A sign, which tells you that your relationship lacks inner strength, is when you are constantly falling into mood swings and ruining your and other people’s day after a fight with your fiancé or spouse.

In situations such as these, Islam teaches us not to over-react; rather, the best course of action is to stay silent. Counseling and communication can happen later, when both parties are in a calm and sane mind frame. It’s about finding inner strength, so that when your partner sinks, you try to save him/her, by staying afloat and helping him/her swim back to the shore, too!

School/college-centred

We all have known someone in our classroom, who was always comparing his/her marks with the smart kids of the class. And if he/she happened to fail to live up to his/her own expectations, or that of the teacher’s, he/she would sulk, lament or break into fury.

Among teenagers, centering one’s life on school or college is most common. As Sean Covey puts it; “Our education is vital to our future and should be a top priority. But we must be careful not to let it take over our lives. School-centred teenagers often become so obsessed with getting good marks that they forget that the real purpose of school is to learn.”

They work harder than required and shut the world out of their lives. This turns them into nerds or bookworms. By the time they have graduated from school/college and stepped into a more serious phase of their life, they realize that they had missed the chance to have fun.

Ambitious and responsible students balance their academic achievements with a more relaxed outlook on life. They stay at the top of their class without losing their sense of enjoyment. A person’s true worth can hardly be measured by his/her exam results. Trust me; you will still retain your abilities and character in spite of an occasional average grade in class.

Parent-centred

Allah (swt) has ordained children to love and respect their parents numerous times in the Quran. It goes without saying that we owe our life and all the wonderful things that have come with it to them, their sacrifices and care.

But, as good Muslims, we are also advised to be moderates. We should seek ultimate pleasure of the Lord (swt). In fact, parents are not to be obeyed, if they encourage their kids to turn to disbelief.

Similarly, some parents become paranoid for their children and impassioned with their own dreams and ambitions for them. Their kids willingly or unwillingly live a life of their parent’s choice, never being able to blossom into the people they would like to be and with the potential Allah (swt) gifted them.

I have heard tearful stories of kids who spent their lives trying to seek their parent’s approval. But no matter how hard they worked, they just could not live up to their expectations, maybe because the parents themselves didn’t realize that their expectations of the kids were wrong.

Eventually, when the kids detached themselves of their parents’ misguided expectations, they discovered their own potential and direction. Indeed, they proved far more successful and made their parents proud.

It is important to be honest with oneself and parents. Initially, it is very tough, but when you believe in your own goodness and capabilities granted to you by Allah (swt), you discover your own value. You work with all your zeal and succeed. This eventually earns you your parents’ love and approval, too.

In the next part, we will discuss in detail the remaining paradigms of life and the ways they impact us.

Dear Haadia

Haadia

I recently got married into a well-off family. Alhumdulilah, we have plenty of domestic help around the house. This often leaves me with absolutely nothing constructive to do. My mother-in-law is involved in mainstream Dawah work, and I would like to help her out. But somehow I get the feeling that she neither likes me to be too involved with the work that she is doing, nor does she appreciate that I do nothing to help her. I am quite confused. Please direct me towards some productive work, which I can do to utilize my free time.

Answer: The time you have right now will never come back, particularly once you have children, Insha’Allah. So, it is very commendable that you wish to use it productively. There are many things one can do in this regard. For instance, you can join an Islamic course. This will provide structure to your day and give you something to look forward to on daily basis. In addition, you could also pursue a hobby and take it up in a more serious manner. For instance, if you enjoy drawing, painting or crafts, you could take an art class and hone your skills. If you enjoy stitching or knitting, you could enroll yourself into proper sewing classes. If you are a reader, join a book club. If you can’t find one, start one!

There may be times when you find that you are not fitting into activities that are already around. That’s okay – you can always be proactive and initiate constructive endeavors. For example, perhaps you don’t want to commit yourself to an Islamic course right now. So get a few friends together and organize a weekly study circle. As a group, you can decide what focus you want your Halaqah to have: Quran, Ahadeeth, a book-study, or a mixture of all three. For such self-initiated ventures to be successful, though, do make sure that meetings are consistent and everyone stays on-task. Another word of caution: we often think of food when it comes to any gathering, but sometimes food takes over the entire event. Keep food to a minimum, if at all necessary.

Reading good books is always a constructive activity. If you wish to focus on yourself more, take up a certain aspect and study it. For instance, you could decide to delve into the Seerah of the Prophet (sa), read and reread any relevant books and dig into online resources. Make notes, and consider it as self-education. Similarly, you could also take up something like the history of Pakistan and read up on it. Unlike school days, you may actually enjoy it. In fact, you can couple it with outings to important landmarks in Karachi, such as the Quaid’s house-museum, Frere Hall, Mohatta Palace, etc. Next time a relative is visiting, you can add a different flavor to their trip by taking them to these places as well. When visiting another city in Pakistan, make it a priority to go historical sightseeing.

Writing is another productive activity. You can share your thoughts on life, religion, books or other topics by submitting articles to newspapers and magazines. Once you start doing this, you might actually realize, how much there is to be written about and find a comfortable place for yourself in it.

Have you considered working? If you’re not career-oriented or cannot afford to be away from home for long periods, think about a part-time job. It could be based on your degree or something completely different. Many women like to teach; others prefer office work.

Decide if this interests you and start searching. Alternatively, you could consider volunteering your time at an Islamic organization, school, hospital or an NGO. The rewards and the gratification one derives from volunteer work are immense. All you have to figure out is what will be most feasible for you and then go after it.

Don’t worry too much about your mother-in-law – it might be possible that she is quite confused herself, as to how your role will play out in the home. You’ll have to play it by the ear and learn over time how to strike a balance. In the meantime, keep yourself busy with things of your own to do. You won’t have to look to your mother-in-law for constructive activities, and she also will not have to wonder why you are not involved with her.

Lastly, I want to stress again that the time you have right now is irreplaceable. Later on, you will think back to this time and wonder why you didn’t do such-and-such a thing, when you had the time. If the above ideas don’t seem to speak to you, you can always type “free time” in any search engine, and I am sure you’ll get plenty of suggestions that way. The possibilities are endless! So, harness your time right now and don’t let go!