Open Your Hearts to Charity

give1It was September 29th, 2012 Stamford Hilton, Connecticut was packed with people. United for Change had arranged a conference. Notable speakers had been invited. Powerful speeches were given, stirring the souls and leaving the audience disturbed. Each speaker was revealing the true state of our community.

Another speaker appeared on the podium- wearing a winter cap, a scarf and a torn jacket. The torn jacket caught attention. One wondered if the speaker overlooked the tear while dressing up. She held a master’s degree. Her speech was slow and well-articulated, further confusing the audience as the torn clothing did not match her eloquence.

Irony with charity

The sister began her talk by unveiling life’s challenges and the tragedies that people encounter by a struck of fate. She then introduced us to a bag that she had brought – a bag filled with donated items. She took out a handheld vacuum, without a cord or battery- what purpose could it serve, the sister asked. Next, she took out canned food that someone had gifted, perhaps, while clearing out their pantry. A food item without any nutritional value is not food. She had many other tales to tell- each causing a stir and a deeper hurt. The audience was tongue-tied with eyes welling up.

She, then, took off her torn jacket. It was an item given by someone as an act of generosity, and not her choice of wardrobe for a conference. This sister was Asma Hanif, founder of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, a self-sufficiency shelter home for Muslim women and children in Baltimore, Maryland. Heading a charity, she had many accounts of people’s attitude – our attitude – towards charity.

Anybody can become vulnerable by a struck of fate. Natural disasters, family feuds, illnesses, separation or divorce, and death cause people to lose their properties and wealth. An independent, respectable life that they had been living is lost. They are now dependent on their families and communities for help.

Anybody can become vulnerable by a struck of fate. They are now dependent on their families and communities for help.

When disaster hits, temporary campaigns are launched and then it is a forgotten cause. We shell out some money and go about our businesses assuming things have been taken care of. We donated generously in 2005 when a 7.6 earthquake shook the Kashmir region. But what became of the affected families or how they are now, we have no clue.

During our annual cleaning, we take out our rags and drop them at the Edhi Center. When the food gets expired or burnt, we give it to our domestic help. Donating broken toys and non-functional appliances with missing parts, has become a norm. The requests from donation banks to be respectful of the recipients are completely ignored.

Charity and its etiquettes- in the light of Quran

1. Spend of the good things

Allah (swt) teaches the Adab (etiquette) of spending. Allah (swt) says, “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).

How many of us will accept torn clothing, broken pieces and expired food? Allah (swt) says we will never accept it unless our eyes are closed and we cannot see what we are being given.

2. Share the spare

He also tells us, “And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: That which is beyond your needs.”(Al-Baqarah 2:219)

After having filled your basic needs, look after those who are being tried and tested. By replacing wants with needs, we spend a fortune in the name of leisure and clothing, and fail to fulfil the needs of those around us.

3. All belongs to Him, and to Him all shall return!

He reminds us that whatever we are enjoying today is actually from Him. “O you who believe! Spend of that with which We have provided for you, before a Day comes when there will be no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession. And it is the disbelievers who are the Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)” (Al-Baqarah 2:254) If it is from Him there is a great danger of losing it one day as others have lost their properties.

4. Allah (swt) is the best accountant

While Shaytan threatens us with poverty, Allah (swt) promises us His bounty.  “…And whatever you spend in good, it is for yourselves, when you spend not except seeking Allah’s Countenance. And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272)

5. Charity- A shield from Hell fire

Spending in for the sake of Allah (swt) is not a favour that we do, rather it is an obligation- as well as- a mean to draw closer to Him, and to save ourselves from the Fire. When people will be thrown in the Hell, they will be asked the reason for their entry. They will say that they were not of those who looked after the orphans and fed the poor.

Zakat is an obligation, but whoever does voluntary deeds, he must know that Allah (swt) is Appreciative and All-Knower. He describes multiple ways for drawing closer to Him. He commands us to believe in His Signs and give our wealth, in spite of our love for it.

“…but Al-Birr is (the quality of) the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to Al-Masakin (the poor), and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, performs As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and gives the Zakat, and who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.) in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun.” (Al-Baqarah 2:177)

People ask: “Shall we feed those whom, if Allah willed, He (Himself) would have fed?” We forget, while others are being tried by not having enough, we are being tested by having more than our needs.

Allah (swt) tells us, “And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful.” (Al-Hashr 59:9)

Let us open up our hearts, and give out generously in the Way of Allah (swt) and for His sake- seeking only His pleasure.

(Part 2) Public restroom etiquettes: Meet the elephant in the room!

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6) Extra-hygiene means extra-danger

In your effort to be super hygienic, don’t wash your hands so many times or do ablution so obsessively that you flood the whole place. Use the water reasonably.

Another extreme is flushing the toilet with foot instead of a hand. People, with hands PLEASE! Acrobatics required to use your foot to flush raise your risk of injury from slipping and falling – if you’re standing on one leg to flush the toilet. A flamingo can do it well, you can’t. It may end you up in way more mess than you thought you can get into, from touching the handle.

Some people go to extra length by not sitting on the seat and hovering closely above it. Now, if you were in the one ply cubicle, the floor art is understandable, because they move with a tiny gush of wind even. So, please, don’t hover above the seat, making it difficult for you to find balance.

You are in a world of communicable diseases, I accept! But a research says that 18% of your phones are more germ-ish than the toilet seat (unless you put the phone ON the toilet seat). So might as well save yourself the extra agony and perch your rear end on the seat. Don’t be a human spaceship.

If you are going all Indian toilet style up on the European toilet, then at least clean after yourself. Your shoe/slipper prints will be all over the seat. Roll the tissue around your hand and just clean it. I’m sure your mother taught you that as well, before you had an accident, in which you lost your memory on cleaning manners. By ‘you’ I mean people, not YOU, of course. You wouldn’t do that, would you!?!

7) Patience is virtue, lying is not

You may usually find a long line in front of washrooms, in places where there are little to no WCs available. Usually, the queue would literally be hanging by the bathroom doors (if handles are available that is, otherwise – hanging by the holes). You may just want to stand in line calmly, because the person in front of you deems every move from you as a line-breaking threat, and they have thought of every clever way to stop you. It may include physical violence as well. What impatience does to human beings sometimes!

There are times, when calm is a word in dreams only. You will enter a stampede and the next thing you know, you’re in a washroom.

And even though it sounds like a better option than waiting in line, and you may want to be the one to start that stampede through witty pretense – but it’s not! It usually involves pushing, shouting, hitting, lying, knocking each other down, etc. (perhaps hair pulling as well). Bad deeds don’t add up to success. Even if you manage to push all other contestants in line, it won’t feel like a victory. So avoid being in that group.

Don’t claim ownership of the bathroom. Or tell people that you’re waiting for your family member in there (thinking we all are after all brothers and sisters since Adam and Eve were our greatest fore-parents). Your turn will come, Insha’Allah, don’t worry.

Save yourself from unnecessary lies. (And who doesn’t know, lying is bad anyway.) Don’t render your Hajj/Umrah or any religious act that you are going to perform afterwards or performed before, useless.

8) Your kids are YOUR responsibility

Help the little ones before you help yourself. Their level of control is zero, as compared to yours. But first commode in the first row is always the bad choice, because that’s where the most uncontrolled splatters are. Which of course makes sense – they couldn’t make it any further. So walk a little (or perhaps run like a wind), holding your gag reflexes on standby, as you poke through all the stalls anticipating post-culinary exploration disaster. But there will be a cleaner one; I can guarantee (almost 90%). Don’t lose hope. Just un-witness the ones witnessed in line.

When you’re making sure that your kids are not eating their own boogers, also make sure that you are not the one sticking it on the walls. If you find such things, don’t feel ashamed to clean it off with the help of tissues, etc. I have personally witnessed women picking up someone else’s baby’s diapers and throwing them into the trash bags and cleaning up the area, just to provide better environment for the newcomers. It’s not an easy task. May Allah (swt) reward them immensely. Ameen

So, please! Those with diaper-clad babies – when you change the diaper of your baby, please, throw it into the dumpster. Babies’ faces are cute but their feces are not. Don’t just roll it in the air and let fate decide its destiny. Thus, when you clean after yourself, please, do that for the baby as well. Man or woman – whoever is taking it for the team.

9) Don’t abuse the toiletries

Sometimes the flush is not working, because of too much toilet paper clogged inside (or too much dinner). You may see the dustbin beside the pot, empty! And you wonder why do people throw everything around, while there is space for everything given? People who lead adult-lives, by the adulthood they should know how to use a chair with a hole in it. It is something that they have been taught to use and have been using since fifteen years or so. Definitely we are the disease!

If the faucet sensor doesn’t work once, no need to constantly hit the poor thing, because it may fire back, by automatically turning itself on, when you will least expect it. Be gentle with the public property. You don’t want to go outside explaining people that it’s not what they think it is.

Forego the hand dryer altogether, because it probably won’t work anyway. Because you may stand there with your hands outstretched (crowding the place) waiting for some magic to happen – but it won’t. If the restroom looks well-maintained, then probably it will work, but usually it doesn’t; and all you do is make the crowd turn into a mob.

Save people some space and wipe your wet hands with tissue instead, if you wish.

Under dire circumstances, don’t jiggle someone else’s door handle angrily. Either you will lock them inside permanently or break the handle. Both ways, your future isn’t bright.

Don’t take your overloaded purse/bag inside the toilet. Sometimes the hooks aren’t very strong. Sometimes there are no hooks at all. Either way, draping it around your neck may be the last resort. Hand it over to someone close outside the restroom. Don’t bring them in, just so they could wait outside your stall, holding your bag. It will crowd the area unnecessarily.

(If you think this all as a mere exaggerated joke, I would just say you’ve been extremely lucky. But these guidelines will help you in the future, whenever you get out of the warm folds of your home sweet home.)

10) Stay God-conscious

Jokes apart, this is something serious, because one of the grave punishments includes someone not being conscious about cleanliness.

We can’t single-handedly eradicate the lack of hygiene issues in public restrooms, but we can dilute its strength. We will not be fighting. We will go on patiently and will always work upon this issue, until it doesn’t need to be worked on anymore. This is just a small step towards some basic awareness – but a small step is better than nothing, better than an intangible ideal.

 

Please, make purification your half faith! Our religion is so beautiful and complete. It teaches us how to live a life – from the smallest details to the biggest of issues, and bathroom etiquettes are the very basic of life.

 

Basically, a good policy is:

 

Try to leave the vicinity in the condition you would wish to find it. Treat it like you usually treat your own toilet at home, especially when the guests are coming. Be the best version of yourself that ever existed. Be the super-you. You got it in you somewhere, so just be that.

 

Be the change you want to see in the world. And if we, Muslims, are not going to practice the best of the manners taught by their religion, how are we ever going to preach? Actions speak louder than words. Even if nobody is watching you, Allah (swt) is. Angels are taking notes. You will be rewarded. Insha’Allah.

 

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the best behaviour that wouldn’t hurt us or people around us. Ameen.

(Part 1) Public restroom etiquettes: Meet the elephant in the room!

restroomI’m sure that it’s an international issue, but I’m going to specifically discuss public washrooms around the religious sanctities since Tahara (cleanliness) is our half faith. In my travels, it has become clear that people don’t understand how to behave in the washrooms, let alone take care of Tahara.

Yes it’s a fairly gross subject; but this dormant ‘loo-phobia’ you may have, could soon be defeated by nature, hitting its panic button on you. You will start to see black spots floating in the air, and one of them of them will even speak to you. Nature does not always wait for the most opportune time to make its appearance; your days there (especially at Hajj) may be longer than your endurance. So, sometimes you are forced to visit the nearest facility. Unfortunately, the nearest restrooms are not always the most fun to call upon. And in case you can’t find one near, just follow your senses. Your nose will guide your way. Wherever it smells funny, there it is. But you won’t be laughing!

So consider this a refresher course – a guide to be crammed, forwarded or shared as needed. (Not for the weak hearted.) Just breathe into a paper bag, until you throw up. But till then, bear with me.

1) Clean after yourself

Now, this is a no-brainer. Bathrooms should be clean. There should be no sign of fecal matter (yours or anyone else’s). But since it’s not always the case, you will walk into a cubicle and walk right out again, mentally and emotionally scarred. To even get to the seat, you have to wade through a lake of mystery liquid that, by the laws of logistical probability, very likely isn’t water. And when you arrive, you may find that the last person to use it couldn’t decide, because it’s everywhere but in the bowl given, which isn’t rocket science. Feces are supposed to go in the water inside the toilet into the dark abyss.

“Duh,” you say, “everyone knows that.”

Oh really? Then why is it on the toilet seat and on the restroom floor approximately all the time?

There is a button located directly above the toilet paper that is marked with the word… wait for it… “FLUSH”. Press that! And if the water isn’t available, then you should’ve kept a water bottle with you. If it’s too late, then cry us some river, please, and get it flushed.

You shouldn’t expect free toilet paper, tissue or soap either. So carry them with you in small amounts.

P.S. If it’s like a cubicle, from which Ikea should learn space management, then don’t go in with big gallons of water (above 1 litre – definitely a ‘no-no’), because that will leave no space for you. And if you start to wrestle in there, deciding whether the bottle should occupy the space or you, making people outside lose it and giving up right beside the door of your cubicle, then you may not have many gymnastic abilities to try when stepping out.

2) Cover and let others stay covered

People naturally expect privacy in the restroom, but it’s far from priority for most.

You may get in to only find your second biggest fear happening (I say second biggest fear, because your first biggest fear is obviously being that person) – someone didn’t lock the door and is now smiling at you. Smiling is Sunnah – I accept. But in such circumstances, it’s frightening. But obviously screaming too is the worst option at that time. It will draw a large crowd. Just close the door immediately – don’t even wait to apologize. If the guilt is overwhelming, then offer them something from your bag/purse/wallet as a peace offering – definitely after they have stepped out of the cubicle. Or you can stand outside their door and beg for their forgiveness. If they were out of water (as you may have noticed in a split second), you could go to a bathroom close by and steal some water – but be sure to knock to make sure no one is in there. You don’t want to get stuck doing double bathroom apologies. It will get expensive and tiring. And you may lose your own control during the process.

There is a clear line that is not supposed to be crossed. Your Satr (part of body to cover) is from navel till knees. Keep it covered. Nobody wants to see it. (This is meant for men in Ihram also – people are there to attain closeness of Allah (swt) and your unawareness about your whereabouts could make a difference).

If you can’t find any stall empty, please, prefer the bushes over exhibition, because others may join you in your brave-step-taken; and now, you have a sin of the entire bathroom audience on you and this would yank the Haram meter up to a highest level.

3) Don’t steal toiletries

The person you saw smiling at you may have a reason behind it – no bathroom lock.

Now, I don’t know, if people think whether they are going to build their own toilet someday or open a bathroom business, that’s why they came in with screw-drivers and took all the locks away; or it’s their way of serial revenge – but that stuff is not for free and it’s not yours to take away. Let it be where it belongs. Or next time, you will be in that state, where one of your hand will be covering the space, from where the lock is kidnapped and another will be holding the door (while someone will be trying to open it) and you won’t be the one smiling this time.What goes around comes around. Beware!

Please don’t steal – be it locks, tissue paper, pipes, etc. Anything. You don’t want to owe toiletries to so many people on the Day of Judgment.

4) Don’t answer nature calls with a conversation

Now, here’s a fairly interesting pet peeve: talking. Holding court in the area, where people are relieving themselves, is not good for unbiased judgments. They might not want to be your audience or testify for anything in your favour. And worse than observing a forum, is having someone engage them in that conversation.

ou do know it’s not ok to talk while attending to your ‘business’, right?

And even, the most commonest-of-all-common senses say, “It’s just gross!”

This brings me to attending phone calls in the toilet. If there’s any sort of line, don’t use your phone in the bathroom. This is purely a matter of courtesy. Please, focus on the task at hand. If it’s called a restroom, it doesn’t mean you rest in there. No text or a selfie can be more urgent than what others, with bladders the size of a grape, in line need to do – every second for whom means the difference between dignified relief and a desperate sprint from the door to a dark corner of the nearest hill/jungle, which you shouldn’t be grumpy about, when you step on it.

5) Keep your creativity confined to your own walls

I’m all for creativity and art, but, please, limit your mediums to less-pukable ones. Nobody wants to see your art on the toilet floor or anywhere around it. I’m glad human being doesn’t possess superpowers, with which they could climb the walls, because you may have to deal with wall art as well – and, no, I’m not talking about graffiti. But I’m coming to that.

Keep your graffiti confined to your own walls. This is a public area. Not yours to claim or paint. Do not spray paint the bathroom doors with things that may force parents to blindfold their kids, when sending them in these toilets. (Now you know the reason behind that wreck). Then writing your number beside, seriously? I can’t even comment on this one. I’m out. Sorry – retiring from earth. I live in space now.

Heart not warmed yet? It will be microwaved because…

[To be continued Insha Allah…]

Etiquettes of Celebrations – The Sunnah Way

ConfettiThe faces of the old and young – and indeed even the trees and birds around us – rejoice when they come to know about the happiness of the beloved Prophet (sa). His happiness is the happiness for those, who love him, and it is guidance for his followers. The Prophetic guidance teaches us the manners of how to be happy in the times of success and joy.

Allah (swt) did not create us to be robots. He created us with feelings, will, intellect and has granted us the liberty to choose and to act according to the situations. Now it is obligatory on a believer to adopt the Sunnah of Prophet (sa) in every sphere of his life, as acting upon Sunnah is also a worship of our Lord.

Let’s learn the etiquettes of celebrating joy and success as per Sunnah of the Prophet(sa) in different occasions of our lives.

Marriage – A Sacred Occasion

Out of all the occasions of celebration of joy and success, the marriage comes first on the list, as this is the occasion of our life in which we break the rules and commandments of Allah (swt) the most. Marriage (Nikah) is a solemn and sacred social contract between bride and groom. It is a major step in one’s life. Marriage is a matter of great responsibility which should not be taken lightly by any means. In Islam, a marriage ceremony is comprised of a Nikah (marriage contract) followed by a Walima (marriage feast) once the marriage is done.

The Prophet (sa) said: “The marriage, which is most greatly blessed, is the one which is the lightest in burden (expense). However, if people are well catered for, without extravagance and show, there is no problem with that either.” (Baihaqi)

Nowadays, our marriages follow such rituals and customs on which we tend to waste enormous amount of money and time that simply isn’t required. Nikah and Walima are both the Sunnahs of the Prophet Muhammad (sa), so we should try to commemorate these joyous occasions in the same way as he did to make them more valuable and blessful.

According to Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa), the Nikah can be held at the local asjid or at home whereas the Walima can be held anywhere.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The worst of the feasts are those marriage feasts to which the rich are invited and the poor are left out.” (Mishkat)

Anas  describes one of the Walimas hosted by the Prophet (sa): “The Prophet(sa) stayed for three days at a place between Khaibar and Madinah and there he consummated his marriage with Safiyya bint Huyay (rta). He invited the Muslims to a banquet which included neither meat nor bread. The Prophet (sa) ordered leather dining sheets to be spread. Dates, dried yogurt and butter were provided over it and that was the Walima (banquet) of the Prophet (sa).” (Bukhari)

There is nothing wrong with  an elaborate ceremony being  held in an elegant banquet hall and a full-course meal if you can afford. But its neither a criteria nor a requirement of a successful marriage. Moreover by doing so many people become the victim of debt due to spending extravagantly on this occasion which is of no use.

Although it’s not that easy to row your boat in the opposite direction to which the society is moving, but it’s worth going against the tides that are against the command of  Allah (swt) and the teachings of the Prophet (sa). We should try our utmost to follow the footsteps of Prophet (sa) rather than blindly following the pathetic, shameless acts of Jahiliyyah in our wedding ceremonies which lead to nothing but Fitnah and do not even guarantee  a successful marriage.

Eid – The Blessful Occasion

Islam is a very practical yet reasonable religion. After spending the whole month of Ramadan in worshipping Allah (swt), Muslims are blessed with the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr to celebrate this success with happiness and excitement. Similarly, Allah (swt) has blessed us with Eid- ul-Adha in the memory of the great sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (as).Therefore on these two occasions, the observance of the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (sa) doubles our celebration and joy.

The Sunnahs of Eids include:waking up early in the morning than usual, brushing of teeth with Miswak, taking a bath, dressing up in neat and clean clothes, using perfume and the performance of Eid Salah at the Eidgah. However it is a Sunnah to avoid eating dates or something sweet before Eid Salah of Eid-ul-Fitr , reciting aloud Takbeerat on the way to the place of prayer for Eid-ul-Adha and silently for Eid-ul-Fitr:

 “Allaahu Akbar Allaahu Akbar Laa ilaaha illallaahu Wallaahu Akbar walillaahil Hamd.”

Using of different routes to and from the place of Eid Salah and the offering of two Rakahs of Salat-ul-Eidain (which is Wajib) are the Sunnah of celebrating these joyous occasions.

Sport Success Celebration

Then there comes a celebration of success and joy during sports activities where we are especially required to follow the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa). Playing sports is permissible in Islam. There are some sports which are considered to be Sunnah sports such as archery, wrestling, swimming, running, horse riding, camel racing and competition. Prophet Muhammad (sa) used to watch these sports and also award those who won.

Regardless of age, everybody is engaged or interested in some kind of sport. Sport is defined as ‘physical activities in the form of games, races and competitions that aim to improve fitness.’

While playing sports and celebrating the success, one must keep the following things in mind; the foremost is not to indulge in sports to such an extent that you miss your Fard prayers or to take part in sports where you have to play sports with the opposite gender.

According to Sunnah, the sportsman is not even allowed to wear such clothes which do not cover the body parts that are obligatory to cover. During the celebration of victory and joy, it is not permissible to use foul language, slandering and bad behaviour against the opponents. Furthermore, it is against the Sunnah of Prophet (sa) to play sports in areas where you become the cause of suffering for others such as roads and crowded streets.

Gratitude is Sunnah

In short, it is the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) to be humble and thankful to Allah (swt) when one gets His Blessings in the form of success or joy rather being rude, boastful and arrogant. Whenever the Prophet Muhammad (sa) was happy, for example, after coming back from a battle or on the occasions of Eids, marriage or any other occasion of happiness; he always used to offer Nafil to thank Almighty Allah (swt) and also included the poor and needy in his happiness by giving charity or Sadaqah.