Perceptions Matter

half-full-half-empty-480_tcm93-135472I often wonder, isn’t it optimistic to claim that “glass is half full,” when actually it is half empty? My inquiring mind argues whether it is possible that two people could be saying two different things altogether; in meanings and words, yet they could both be correct? If I am right, does that necessarily prove the other person wrong? Is it not possible that two people may have two different perceptions of the same thing, as in the example quoted above, yet isn’t the latter statement that “half the glass is empty” also correct?

Perceptions are prevalent in different paradigms, which influence peoples’ lives, one way or the other. We can consider any situation starting from home to our religious and social lives; perceptions keep building up and breaking down, moulding and transforming, guiding and sometimes misleading us to believe that which is not true; while at other instances hiding the truth and negating reality completely.

My life changed completely with the new homecoming in my religious life that I underwent some two-and-a-half years ago. In fact, my closeness to Allah (swt) and awareness of Deen changed my perceptions drastically, to the extent that I now have a completely new vision and sight of anything I see and undergo; be it people, situations, circumstances, incidents in my life or other’s. This feeling is beautiful. I cannot explain the peacefulness that now surrounds me, because of the change that has occurred in the way I see things.

I don’t know, if many people undergo the same transition. I strongly feel, however, that this new lens to see the world is truly a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, every test in my life now seems Allah’s (swt) mercy over me that it shall give me a chance to apologize to Him for all my wrongdoings in life. Every trial that I now face seems like He is choosing me over others; because He truly loves me and wants me to draw nearer to Him. Everything that happens against my wish or will strengthens my faith in the fact that all that happens in our lives is indeed Allah’s (swt) decree and no matter what our plans are, He alone is the Master Planner.

I now completely lay my trust in Him and see, what I was never able to before; the fact that not everything we like for ourselves is for our betterment. A lot of the things are beyond our comprehension, especially when they happen; however, time proves that in fact what happened was good for us. Even if we fail to understand in this world the logic behind an occurrence, I am sure that we shall receive answers to all our questions, in fact also the unasked ones, on the Day of Judgment, when all curtains will be raised between us and our Creator, Insha’Allah.

Allah’s (swt) reminders in the Quran now seem to be a source of solace. They ease my pain in tough situations, Subhan’Allah!

“….and it may be that you dislike a thing, which is good for you and that you like a thing, which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (Al Baqarah 2:216)

This shift in paradigm from negative perceptions to positive has indeed brought a favourable outlook to my life. I don’t blame Allah (swt) for everything that goes wrong in my life any more. I rather choose to be sensible and deal with it patiently. As a result, I am less miserable and more optimistic. A mishap in life doesn’t seem to be Allah’s (swt) punishment for a sin that I did in the past, any longer. It rather feels like a chance to repent on past mistakes and resolve not to commit the same again.

No longer do I feel that Allah (swt) doesn’t love me and He has left me to struggle in this world all on my own. I look at the brighter side now and feel happy about the fact that the more He tries me with tribulations and problems in this life, the easier my eternal life would be Insha’Allah. I shed tears and my heart aches, and all of that is a means of expiating sins from one’s life – Allah’s (swt) promise to us all.

Abu Hurairah reports that the Messenger (sa) said: “For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a Muslim – even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn – Allah (swt) removes some of his sins.” (Bukhari)

I understand the logic behind testing those whom He (swt) see fit to be capable of bearing the burden, as oppose to those who will probably go astray and rebel and react in an ungrateful and rather impatient manner.

“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.” (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

I now have the courage to smile in tough times and persevere in tougher ones, Alhamdulillah. I now don’t give up praying or making Duas only because “He doesn’t listen.” In fact, I increase my supplications when I desperately want something, because I am now more hopeful in life and can see the brightness a single ray of light can bring in a dark pit. By the grace of Allah (swt) I am able to see the bliss in the Quranic verse: “And He found you lost and guided you.” (Al-Araf 7:93)

Perceptions may make or break lives and even change lives forever. May Allah (swt) grant us all the wisdom and guidance to keep a positive perception about all matters in life rather than jumping onto hasty, insensible, unrealistic and biased conclusions about anything or anyone (Ameen).

Who knows what Allah (swt) “perceives” us as?


Loss – Punishment or Reward?


Our life is shaped by two types of important events. The first one belongs to Q1 and is termed ‘urgent’, such as a heart attack that needs to be tended to immediately. The second is Q2, which is important but not urgent, such as a patient who shows high potential signs of coronary issues leading to a heart attack. If Q2 actions are delayed, ignored or not attended to, they turn into Q1 situations, distressing us and resulting in losses.

Q1s are further divided into two types: internal Q1s and external Q1s. Internal Q1 could be when my car has been troubling me for days and needs to go to the mechanic for repairs. I have an extremely busy schedule; hence, I defer this visit to the motor mechanic, believing it to be a secondary priority. Hence, one morning, as I am driving, the brakes of my car fail and I ram into another vehicle. This is followed by an ugly brawl with the other motorist. I end up paying him for the damages, cursing my fate, being late for an important official meeting and succumbing to my frustration.

In this scenario, do I deserve sympathy from people or help from Allah (swt)? It was my choice to pend the car’s maintenance job and jeopardize my own and others’ life. Hence, this loss will be a source of Zulumat (darkness) and not a reward from Allah (swt). I earned this destruction with my own hands knowingly. Good fortune doesn’t hold forever. We need to learn to prioritize our life and be prepared, as we can’t read the future. Other examples of internal Q1 behaviour could be:

  • Studying at the last moment for exams and failing later;
  • Ignoring signs of a weak body, resulting in serious ailments;
  • Deliberately misbehaving with or annoying family members, causing disputes;
  • Forgetting about an official project or customer’s task, leading to reprimand from the boss or, worse, demotion or termination.

Now, we flip the scenario and imagine that my car was standing at a traffic light and another vehicle crashed into me from behind. What could I have done to alter this fate? Nothing. It was destined to happen. If I bear that moment with patience and recite: “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon (I am from Allah (swt) and to Him is my return),” this loss is accompanied with Noor (light). It becomes an act of pleasure for Allah (swt), as I surrendered to His decree and remembered that my possessions are a trust with me that can be taken away at any time. I didn’t resist, realizing that what had happened was beyond my control. I saved myself and others around me from unwarranted stress, misgivings, self-beating and bitterness. This graceful response of a believer earns the highest ranks of honour not only in Paradise but also in the sight of those in this world, who perceive Allah’s (swt) magnificence. This is purely an external Q1. Other similar examples could be:

  • Saving yourself from disappointment, after learning that your best examination paper was not marked honestly;
  • Suddenly discovering that in spite of living a healthy lifestyle, you have been diagnosed with a terminal disease;
  • Despite behaving generously and in the family’s best interest, you are unappreciated;
  • You perform your best in the office, yet the promotion or salary increment goes to another peer.

In all such cases, when our plan is scattered like the leaves in the teeth of a cruel gale, know Allah (swt) has planned otherwise. Pray for patience and deliverance. And know that Allah’s (swt) plots are unmistakably based on His infinite wisdom and love for the believer. This should draw us closer to Him. We should refrain from hunting for logical answers we cannot comprehend, due to our limited mental capacity.

Internal Q1s, however, should be and can be consciously worked upon, as they are within our circle of influence and can reduce the stressors and Zulm we commit upon ourselves. List your most frequently occurring internal Q1s. Analyze where you are going wrong. Double your resolve to plan and prioritize your life. If a loss still intercepts you after that as an external Q1 situation, you can pray for Allah’s (swt) Noor to come and relieve you. It’s not a loss but a better deal!

How to Think BIG!

thinking bigEveryday everywhere young people take on new jobs. Each wishing to enjoy the success associated with reaching the top. Yet, they believe that climbing such heights is impossible, not realizing that there are steps that can lead them to the goal. But a small number of these youth have substantial belief in reaching the top and the steps that they need to take.

How to develop the power of belief?

  1. Islam teaches a believer to be optimistic. To think success rather than failure even at times when we are faced with difficult situations. In other words, a believer should think, “I will win, Insha’Allah” and not, “I will probably lose.” Pessimism leads the mind to think in the way of failure. Remember that pessimism is a gift from Satan or Iblees, whose name denotes hopelessness.
  2. Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are. Successful believers are just ordinary people who have developed belief in Allah and the abilities He has given to them. Allah states: “Verily, We have created man in the best form.” (At-Tin 95:4)
  3. Allah wants to elevate the status of humankind and ensure its accomplishment and therefore He sent His Prophets and books. So, by thinking big according to the teachings of Allah (swt) and his Prophet (sa) the size of your success will be determined by the size of your belief. Think of little goals and expect little achievements. But think of big goals and you will win big. Big ideas and big plans are often easier. It is well to respect your leader and learn from him/her. But don’t just resolve to be like him or her, rather believe you can surpass and go beyond. .

Building confidence through your memory bank

  1. Deposit only positive thoughts in your memory bank. Everyone encounters plenty of unpleasant situations but successful people do not give it a second thought, whereas unsuccessful people brood over them so be among the successful and specialize in putting positive thoughts into your memory bank.
  2. A real smile melts away the opposition of others, and instantly too. So, smile Big. Harness the power of smiling. Remember Allah’s Messenger (sa) had a smiling face.
  3. With a positive, optimistic and cooperative attitude, a person with an IQ of 100 will succeed and earn more money and respect, than a negative, pessimistic, uncooperative individual with an IQ of 120. 60% dreaming and the rest do the trick. The biggest resolution would be the ‘Attitude’ – Think and dream creatively. Creative thinking is simply finding new, improved ways to do anything. Success at home, work, in community or just anything. For this, the basic truth is ‘Believe in yourself and the things that you can do – Believe in yourself and the world is Yours’.

Practice positive imagery

Each day spend some time in positive visualization of your goals and new life changes. Use your imagination for only through use does it sharpen. You can travel on the back of any thought you have in mind. Simply catch your thoughts, relax, tilt your eyes up just about twenty degrees and there you are.

Begin incorporating the following points in your attitude

  1. Overcome the fear of failure: When fear controls your actions, it takes charge. The only way you can overcome fear is to face it and attack it with full vengeance with one blow.
  2. Let your confidence soar: You must have the “I can do this” attitude if anything BIG happens to come your way. Confidence is more evident in a person’s actions, thoughts and emotional calm during stormy times.
  3. Don’t let small and negative people get in the way of your BIG ideas.

Tips for Better Thinking

  1. Suspend judgment when hearing something new.
  2. Explain things to others using their thinking patterns rather than yours.
  3. Remember that arguing is one of the least effective ways of changing someone’s mind. You don’t always have to fight to win.
  4. Use the language of leaders and people will be more inclined to treat you as one.
  5. Remember that your sense of humour is your stress barometer; when it seems like there’s nothing to laugh about that means you are overstressed.
  6. Constantly remind yourself that self-worth is not something you have to prove, or a conclusion you arrive at, it’s an assumption you start from.
  7. Spend more time reading than you spend watching television.
  8. Constantly monitor your self-talk; prefer positive language.
  9. Shun toxic people and those who push negative thinking; remember that you can fire anybody from your life.
  10. Practice positive “censorship;” you can choose to concentrate your attention on positive messages.
  11. Stay out of other people’s dramas; don’t become part of the victimology triangle.
  12. Always be learning; try to discover something new every day.
  13. Don’t kill ideas when you first hear them.Use the “P.I.N.” formula (Positive first, then Interesting, then Negative aspects).
  14. Don’t mistake a haphazard “brain-dump” for a conversation; explain your ideas clearly; use a discursive strategy to escort others to your truth.
  15. Always be ready to smile in the next second, and let it show on your face.
  16. In Thinking Big: The Keys to Personal Power and Maximum Performance, world-famous success expert Brian Tracy will take you beyond the limits of everyday thought, where you will tap into the vast resources of your mind and unlock unlimited potential.

By thinking big, you’ll become so confident, determined, and persistent that you can achieve any goal – nothing or no one will be able to slow you down or alter your course, Insha’Allah!

Success is an inside job. It’s a state of mind. It begins with you and is soon reflected in the world around you. By thinking big, you become a bigger person. By dreaming big dreams, you become a leader. By making plans to accomplish your goals, you take control of your life. And by practicing the ideas taught in Thinking Big, you can and will become unstoppable, by Allah’s Grace.

Here is an exercise to measure your true size.

  1. Determine your five chief assets.
  2. Invite some friends who will give you an honest opinion.
  3. Next under each asset, write the names of three persons you know who have achieved large success, but who do not have the asset to as great a degree as you.

Big thinkers are specialists in creating positive, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others.