Resolving family conflicts

familyIslam is based on a relationship with Allah (swt), with its creations and the world we live in. As soon as we come together, a potential conflict exists. But conflict is not unnatural. Of course with Allah (swt), there is no conflict- as He is Al-Aziz (The Mighty) and Al-Jabbar (The Compeller). Whatever He decides will be. However, between humans there exist differences. Allah (swt) wants us to take the best out of these differences. It is Allah (swt) Who has planted the seed of difference in our existence in regard to other human beings. Be it our colour, our nations, our tribes, etc.

We live in a community, and were not sent to live in a monastery or on top of a mountain. The Prophet (sa) said: “The believer who mixes with humans and bear’s their harm is better than the one who does not mix with people and bear their harm.” (Tirmidhi) Hence, the preferable way for the believer is to deal with conflicts positively as it contains good. But, as soon as we utter the word ‘conflict’, we think negative. We are trained to think that ‘we should avoid it, block it as it is bad.’ Circumstances without it are better.

The issue is, are we able to identify the good in the conflict? The following might just alter your perspective:

  1. Means for a change. Conflicts provide just that. When we change from what we were doing to something different, it highlights that our previous way of handling something was wrong. It shows a conflict between what we were doing versus the best way to do something. This spells the need for us to change to what is beneficial for all.
  2. Motivates us. Conflicts motivate us to do better. Otherwise, we are complacent and lazy about the way things are. Things either improve or degrade. The idea of going at one pace with no ups and downs is impossible. That is not life. That is the life of a stone. Living creatures experience change- whether it is a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, or a child growing up to be an adult. Allah (swt) states, “We created human beings in struggle.” (Surah Balad, 90: 4)) Struggle is a result of conflict. Gravity tells us to lie down, but struggle tells us to roll over. Gravity tells us to stay where we are. Struggle tells us to move, and eventually, we start walking. Struggle and conflict are part of our own development.
  3. Increases awareness of issues. Pain in life is important for us to know that things are not going in the right direction in life. Those patients, who due to a damaged nervous system are unable to feel pain, self-destruct themselves. Pain lets us know where our problem exists; otherwise, we would bleed and bruise to death. Similarly, conflicts identify where issues need to be corrected so we can repair and improve.
  4. Improves decision-making. Conflicts also cause decisions to be sought out more carefully. Through conflicts, some careful decision-making is reached; more precautions are taken and secure analysis is done.

    The attitude of gratitude is the most powerful attribute after believing in Allah (swt). Whenever you feel frustrated, distressed, in the middle of a conflict make Sujood-as-Shukr.

  5. Opportunity for self-assessment. It helps us to understand what we are really like. We might think of ourselves as someone very calm and understanding, but as the heat turns on our voices raise. It exposes our weakness. It is under conflict that we can take benefit for personal change to correct short comings that we are not normally aware of.
  6. Smaller conflicts defuse greater conflicts. If we can deal with certain issues by catching them at an earlier stage, we are then able to prevent greater harm at a later stage. It is nipped in the bud.
  7. Amusement, if not taken seriously. Differences can be put in place. If we have the ability to handle them in a non-serious manner, we can laugh about them. We all argue and later look back and laugh at it realizing that it was nothing to be uptight about.
  8. With every evil exists good. Can we capitalize on the positive and do not become overwhelmed and overcame by conflicts? Allah (swt) does not cause any harm, evil or bad to occur, unless there is a good side to it. Allah (swt) didn’t create Satan to commit evil. Likewise, Allah (swt) didn’t create Hazrat Adam (as) to disobey. But, He did provide them with the opportunity to ask for forgiveness later. The template for life is, ‘Repentance must follow error and sin.’ And the power of repentance is so great that the Prophet (sa) said: “One who repents from sins is like one who never sinned.” (Ibn Majah; Hasan)). Repentance is a higher level of worship. It is the reason for creation of sin.
  9. A means to get to know others. When we face a problem, we should work vigorously to deal with the problem and not the person. Also, we must understand that asking others and their listening to us doesn’t equate to agreeing to and obeying. We confuse ourselves when we say something and assume that others are in agreement. We need to ensure first if he/she accepts it or not.
  10. Develops Husn-e-Zan. In the course of a dialogue, words have impact. If in the discussion we accuse: “You said or you thought or you did…” it works like fuel on the fire. You are taking it right to the person. Instead, you may say: “I thought or it was my interpretation or I understood…” This does not sound confrontational. You are defusing the problem. Hence, beware of ‘you’ and ‘your’. Always give the benefit of the doubt to others by assuming the best interpretation they meant. To have assumed the worst, well in fact, it wasn’t intended at all, is bad.

Importance of gratitude

It is for us to take the good out of conflicts when they occur in families, whether it is between spouses, parents and their children or siblings. We need to look at the glass that is half full. Islam always talks about positivity. Muslims recite the chapter of Fatihah seventeen times daily. What is it? It teaches gratefulness. The attitude of gratitude is the most powerful attribute after believing in Allah (swt). Whenever you feel frustrated, distressed, in the middle of a conflict make Sujood-as-Shukr. This is the best cure. It was the Prophet’s (sa) regular practice. Sujood-as-Shukr keeps us in touch with the positive side of reality.

Ingratitude is so dangerous that the Prophet (sa) said the majority of women will be in hellfire as they are quick to deny good. It’s an alarming practice with horrible consequences. It is important for us to be grateful to Allah (swt) and then to our fellow beings. The Prophet (sa) said that whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to Allah (swt). If the wives do not appreciate their husbands for what they have done, they are not thanking Allah (swt) either. Similarly for men, big displays of gratitude to Allah (swt) mean little if they mistreat their wives.

Some conflicts end in depression. Depression is the inability to recognize good. Hundreds of people are killing themselves due to it. Psychologists consider offering gratitude to be the best remedy for dealing with depression. As a general principle when resolving family conflicts this needs to be considered carefully. This is a huge topic. We can apply this principle to virtually all circumstances.

In any conflict, ask Allah (swt) what good does He want to bring forth? Then develop strategies. Difference between needs, values and beliefs are reasons for problems resulting between people in conflict. Though Pakistan has mostly a homogenous community, still there are some unique familial, tribal customs and values people carry with them as they come together in marriage.These are some foundations of conflict, but Allah (swt) commands us to resolve them.

We need to ask ourselves a very vital question: “Would I rather be happy or would I rather be right?”

Say ‘Go’ to your Ego!

In families, the biggest problem is communication breakdown. Marriage psychologists especially highlight this challenge. Men usually do not like to talk. Women always like to talk. There are different ways that people use to deal with their troubles. We must keep the dialogue going. We need to ask ourselves a very vital question: “Would I rather be happy or would I rather be right?” What if you actually give up when you have an opportunity to further go into conflict?

The Prophet (sa) states: “If a person gives up his argument in spite of being right, Allah (swt) promises him a place in Jannah.” (Abu Dawud). Some people insist that they will fight for their right, but actually, it is not always wise to be right and have the last say. One must analyze the situation. What is the greater good of the situation?  Greater good is in happiness. Allah (swt) has put a husband and a wife together for them to be in a state of love, comfort and happiness.  Do not let smaller issues be blown out of proportion.

Transcribed by Rana Rais Khan, editor Hiba.

Sadaqah Matters – A Marginalized Profit?

charityMost of us rush to do good deeds in Ramadan in order to make Allah (swt) happy and earn His promised reward of Jannah. We increase our acts of generosity by spending for those in need. But have we ever reflected on our intentions? Have we ever checked the quality of our aid? Are we giving good things or the old discarded ones? Are we down to earth? Or walk boastfully in pride? Do the ones we helped feel inferior because of our behaviour towards them, during and after helping them?

These are some areas of concern that we must look into before we do something good. Allah (swt) has mentioned some important aspects of Sadaqah in Surah Al-Baqarah.

As an individual, an entrepreneur, or any random person from any walk of life, we act in ways which are favourable to us or which will earn us some rewards in return. We maintain ties of kinship with relatives who enjoy luxuries, have high financial status, and enjoy a good social repute. In short, man is greedy by nature. Our desire to attain pleasure and fame drives us to do anything.

In Surah Baqarah, verses 261 to 267, Allah (swt) talks about ways to maximize one’s wealth along with some other sub topics that come in relation with doing charity (Sadaqah).

But have we ever reflected on our intentions? Have we ever checked the quality of our aid?

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.” (Al-Baqarah 2:261)

A promised and guaranteed profit

Subhan’Allah! How generous Allah (swt) is. For every single penny, you will earn seven hundred times more reward. This verse explains the virtue of spending in the way of Allah (swt) to attain His pleasure.

It was narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta) that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “If one gives in charity what equals to one date-fruit for the honestly-earned money, and Allah (swt) accepts only the honestly earned money, Allah (swt) takes it in His right (hand) and then enlarges its reward for that person (who has given it), as anyone of you brings up his baby horse, so much so that it becomes as big as a mountain.” (Bukhari)

“Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Al-Baqarah 2:262)

The humble intention

This stresses on the intention behind the act of Sadaqah. Firstly, the intention should be to spend for Allah’s (swt) pleasure. After emphasizing on Niyyah, the stress is shifted to the behaviour of the giver. When we spend in the way of Allah (swt) by giving money or things to our maids, we think we can now ask them to work more and assist us with chores that they are not entitled to do. We are of the opinion that we can suppress them as they are under our feet because of the generosity we have shown to them. When the intention and behaviour is polluted then the act will go in vain.

The person is considered as a transgressor because of hurting one’s pride and self-respect; and it is more heinous as compared to any financial or physical harm. The psychological attack especially on one’s pride is unbendable.

On the contrary, if one’s intention and action are in concordance to the principles of Islam while giving charity, then surely, his reward is with Allah (swt); and he shall not fear or grieve.

Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) followed by injury. And Allah is Rich (Free of all wants) and He is Most-Forbearing.” (Al-Baqarah 2:263) One kind word can warm the iced hearts

This verse talks about the notion of being polite and considerate. A sweet tongue can conquer many hearts, whilst a sharp tongue breeds the seeds of hatred. When a needy asks the one who is superior to him in terms of finance, then the upper hand must respond with kindness; and if he has to refuse, then he must do so with politeness.Islam is truly a religion that one can fall in love with every time he comprehends its teachings via Quran and Sunnah. It takes care of the rights of each and every individual, and guards their rights.

O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” (Al-Baqarah 2:264)

When we spend in the way of Allah (swt) by giving money or things to our maids, we think we can now ask them to work more and assist us with chores that they are not entitled to do

Showing off will not bring glory

This verse talks about showing off (Riya).  When we do something good we expect to be praised, and raised in status in the eyes of society and home. Often, the picture is blurring with the intention of to be seen only; however, in reality, one feels no sympathy. A similitude has been used here to make a relation with the act and its outcome. It says when a farmer plants a seed on a rock the surface of which is hard and soil is infertile, a gush of water in the form of rain, will take away the dirt on it. No fertilizer, temperature control, pesticide control- nothing will bear any fruit of success as the land on which it is sown is barren. Similar is the case of a man whose heart is solid, empty of the love of Allah (swt), and is filled with the attitude to show off, then the act of charity, will not earn him any reward nor it will touch his heart.

And the likeness of those who spend their wealth seeking Allah’s Pleasure while they in their own selves are sure and certain that Allah will reward them (for their spending in His Cause), is the likeness of a garden on a height; heavy rain falls on it and it doubles its yield of harvest. And if it does not receive heavy rain, light rain suffices it. And Allah is All-Seer of (knows well) what you do.” (Al-Baqarah 2:265)

The second verse is opposite to the above one- it says about the one who spends to gain the pleasure of Allah (swt) and to acquire Taqwa by strengthening his faith. When a seed is sown in a fertile soil, all measures that one takes to improve the yields will support the outcome- i.e. a healthy, abundant yield. Spending in the name of Allah (swt) is a guaranteed reward. The reward is twofold. One is that the spender’s faith will enrich and the other is awaiting him in Jannah.

Would any of you wish to have a garden with date-palms and vines, with rivers flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruits for him therein, while he is stricken with old age, and his children are weak (not able to look after themselves), then it is struck with a fiery whirlwind, so that it is burnt? Thus does Allah make clear His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) to you that you may give thought.” (Al-Baqarah 2:266)

A worth incentive

In this verse, Allah (swt) is giving an incentive to do well. Just like a mother, who provokes her kid, makes him greedy to do work in order to enjoy any favourable outcome. Allah (swt) loves us more than seventy mothers, Subhan’Allah. He is describing the appearance of heaven to make man greedy to attain it.

O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have (legally) earned, and of that which We have produced from the earth for you, and do not aim at that which is bad to spend from it, (though) you would not accept it save if you close your eyes and tolerate therein. And know that Allah is Rich (Free of all wants), and Worthy of all praise.” (Al-Baqarah 2:267)

Quality of Aid is more important than quantity

When it comes to spend for charity, we tend to choose the things which are not worthy to be used again, or have lost their liking in our eyes, or are not pleasurable for us, and/or have depreciated. Allah (swt) knows the hidden intentions and thoughts, as well as, a man’s psychological level. Therefore, He also warned us to not to spend the things which we ourselves will not accept if given to us.

Gratitude is an Attitude

My Quran Reflections Journal – 1

Gems from Taleem ul-Quran 2015

koran-rose-flower-5867760Day 1 Reflection

Gratitude is an Attitude

Surat Al-Fatihah

‘Alhamdulillah’ is the one word, which should be said with utmost gratitude not just by our tongue – it should be felt in the heart and expressed by our limbs. This gratefulness needs to show in our Neeyah (intention), words and actions together, Insha’Allah. We say this word many times per day, including the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah in our Salah. Yet we are missing that connection and relationship, which can give us the conviction that we actually consider Allah (swt) our Rabb, and ourselves as His Abd (save). Could there be a greater status of an employer than the Rabb? The Sustainer, the Nourisher, the All-Giver, the Creator? Could there be a lower status of servitude than ‘slavery’? No! Yet, when we hear the speech of Allah (swt), unfortunately, it doesn’t move us to tears or stirs those emotions in us, which probably the normal speech of an ordinary human being can. Why is it so? Is there anything lacking in the speech of Allah (swt)? Definitely not! It is the lack of understanding on our part, something missing in the sincerity of our Neeyahs and the Waswasas (whispers) of Shaitaan, to which we are extremely vulnerable, that prevent us from drawing closer to our Rabb!

As I embark upon this journey of learning and understanding the Quran, I sincerely renew my intentions and beg Allah (swt) to give me the strength to proceed on this path in the manner that is most pleasing to Him. I voluntarily give myself in Your servitude, Ya Rabb!

Allah (swt) is the One, the Lord of the worlds, Who is the Rahman, the Raheem, the One, Who is the Owner of the Day of Recompense, no doubt the One without any deficiency, nothing is impossible for Him! May Allah (swt) guide us and give us the Taufeeq, the ability to seek all help from Him alone. May He send His help in the best form that He loves for us; through books people, tests, trials, calamities or blessings. May He send His Hidayah (guidance) to each one of us, who is seeking it, and also to those, who are oblivious to this beautiful and great blessing, so far! May He keep us all steadfast in our pursuit of knowledge and derive for us ways that are easier than our imagination and fulfilling than any other thing in this world. Aameen!

Day 2 Reflection

The Pendulum

Surat Al-Fatihah

A beautiful realization that struck me today is encompassed in my teacher’s wise words “Emaan is between ‘hope of reaching Jannah and fear of being saved from the Hellfire’.” SubhanAllah! How true is that!

Honestly, if we come to think about it, our faith is truly comparable to a pendulum, on one end of which is ‘hope’ and on the other – ‘fear’. These emotions compel us to turn to Allah (swt) with full conviction. The hope that He (swt) is the All Merciful, The Oft-Forgiving, that He is able to provide us solutions for all our problems, helps us revive our faith. We supplicate to Him and ask Him for whatever it is that we need. On the other end of faith lies fear. The fear of not getting what you ask for, but the hope that what Allah (swt) is giving us is indeed better than anything we could have asked for ourselves, is what strengthens and fortifies our faith in Him!

May Allah (swt) fill our hearts with the hope and fear that increases us in our servitude to Him, humbles us and helps us love Him and fear Him truly, so much so that we become from the Mutaqeen (God-conscious). Aameen!

Navigating Our Mind

thinkingAbu Hurairah has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “To harbour good thoughts is a part of well-conducted worship.” (Abu Dawood)

Often we, as human beings, have thoughts, of which we are ashamed of and feel glad that no one can read our minds. The Most Merciful forgives us for our evil thoughts, as long as we do not utter them or put them into practice. The following is a practical example explaining the Hadeeth, which encourages positive thinking.

Surrendering to our Thoughts

Many thoughts are uncontrollable; sometimes they are from our own Fitrah or nature, while at other times, they occur from the whisperings of Shayateen. However, the Hadeeth above is a proof that we can and should monitor our thinking and foster good thoughts. Various prominent Shuyukh teach that when we commit a sin, Shaitan tells us we are worthless, not worthy of gaining or even asking for forgiveness from Allah (swt); therefore, we should not even try to acquire it. Despite all this, it is of utmost importance for us to remember that Allah (swt) is Ghafoor ur Raheem (the Most Forgiving). He is even more forgiving than us to our own selves, and He is the Most Merciful. Remembering this attribute of Allah (swt) pushes us towards the act of seeking forgiveness from Him, and we repent immediately. Similarly, it is the backbone of our religion to have complete trust in Allah (swt) and have a good opinion about Allah (swt), for Allah (swt) says, “I am as my servant thinks of Me.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Success is in our Hands – Take the Control!

Let us analyze this Hadeeth from the following perspective. Say you got hired somewhere and it was your first real job. It did not even last for two days. You had a bad experience at your internship, and you did not do well in college as well. Needless to say, these are depressing thoughts. It is important to first realize that you are entering into a thick fog of negativity, which will blind you from seeing clearly. Success is when you learn from your mistakes and improve. You cannot progress in life, if you think that you can never succeed. Negative thoughts are a great hindrance to your progress. If you keep trying, keep learning from your mistakes and keep strategizing, then, by the Will of Allah (swt), you will move forward – this is success.

We face such a challenge, when it comes to our five times prayer. It is important to keep our daily prayers at the top of our list, because if we miss even one, we are likely to miss two. And then they pile up, and it may become harder for some of us to make up for them. We might start thinking that there’s no use of praying even once or twice a day, because we can never manage all five of them. But we should never let these thoughts occupy our minds. We should always acknowledge that we succeeded in performing one or two of the daily prayers and realize that there is always a need and room for improvement. Hence, we should keep on trying to perform the other three prayers as well. Not only our thoughts of incapability are bad for our Deen, they are also bad for our overall mental and physical health. We should always think in affirmative: “Yes, I can do it! And I will do it as soon as possible and then follow through.” It is guaranteed that a positive and can-do attitude in our religious rituals will overflow into our worldly affairs without us even realizing it; thus improving our well-being Bi-idhnillah.

Similarly, when practicing a Sunnah of our Prophet (sa) or doing a good deed, we should never think that we are not good enough to perform this action. Rather, we should think of the deed as an opportunity to improve ourselves. If we ever think we are not noble enough, this is an indicator of a buffer inside us, and we should take immediate steps to fill it with goodness.