Bridging the Gap between Hearts

respect2Every individual expects recognition of his/her rights by the people he/she lives with. The fulfillment of this expectation builds a relationship of give and take between two people. This, if defined in one word, is what is known as “respect”. It is through respect that one learns to notice other people’s rights; and in return, gets his/her rights fulfilled as well. Human relationships are strengthened when the seed of respect is sown; whereas its absence may yield devastating results which are quite noticeable at present with the increasing percentage of people falling prey to life shattering evils.

A glimpse at the past and present 

Allah Almighty (swt) sent Prophets (as) upon nations that deviated from the straight path till a seal to the Prophets (as) was put with the revelation of the final message. Man found it comprehensible as Prophet Muhammad (sa) practiced what he preached. That was how people adopted his way of life and considered it a responsibility to pass it on. To be more precise, it was the acquisition of this “knowledge” that justified man’s role as a man- because it was what our Creator chose for our betterment.

The lives of the Arabs revolutionized with the advent of Islam. But prior to that, they lead completely different lives. Evil lurked in their society to the extent that there remained no evil that they weren’t involved in. What we see these days is similar to the pre Islamic times, but a total opposite to the golden times. One can easily see how our priorities have changed. The rule is quite simple. In order to do good, one must know what good really is. And, that happens through the acquisition of knowledge that revolutionizes beliefs.

Concept of respect in Islam

Islam is the way of life that sets certain rights and responsibilities for each and every individual despite of the restrictions of age, nationality, race, or class. This rule in return brings contentment for everybody. Following are some points regarding the concept of respect in Islam:

1.      Respecting parents

Parents are such people in our lives who, in order to fulfill our needs, often give up theirs. Most of us must have witnessed our mother’s sacrifice when she gave up her wish to buy new clothes on Eid to grab ours. Our father must have taken us for recreation, even though at times he may be feeling tired. Both of them must have had sleepless nights just because of us. It is due to such reasons that in Islam parents are said to be treated likewise when they grow old.  Allah (swt) says,

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.” (Al-Isra 17:23-24)

2.       Restoring an orphan’s property

Living with a family, especially with parents, provides a supportive environment which no other thing can substitute. This is what an orphan child yearns for. Islam condemns the act of depriving an orphan of his/her rights. Allah (swt) says,

“And give unto orphans their property and do not exchange (your) bad things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by adding it) to your substance. Surely, this is a great sin.” (An-Nisa 4:2)

3.      Greeting with respect

It is in Islam that even a greeter is said to be greeted better than him/her. Allah (swt) says,

“When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, Allah is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things.” (An-Nisa 4:86)

4.      A bully is up to no good

Scornful attitude is what we hear people calling “cool” these days. We often find it in educational institutions under the name of ragging, which at times crosses all limits- despite of the teachers’ intervention. And many children and even adolescents fall prey to depression- just because of this. It would not be wrong to say that children often learn such responses from their parents when they are busy in ridiculing others. No matter how normal we term it as, Allah (swt) has a commandment for that which we need to know. Allah (swt) says,

“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith (i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: “O sinner”, or “O wicked”, etc.) And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.).” (Al-Hujurat 49:11)

5.      Respect for a wife

If any man intends to treat his wife with respect, he must learn to do that from the life of Prophet Muhammad (sa).

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) that the Prophet (sa) said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

The Window to our Hearts

My Quran Reflections Journal – 2

Gems from Taleem ul-Quran 2015

Day 3 Reflection

The Larger Picture

Image courtesy http://www.windowintotheheart.com/

Image courtesy http://www.windowintotheheart.com/

Surah Al Baqarah (1 – 5)

Today in class, I met a girl, who gave up her entire crucial year of college for coming all the way from Michigan to study Quran with us. Away from her family, and obviously from the comforts that she was enjoying at her parents’ home, she’s here just to quench the thirst of knowledge. What took me 38 years to reach, she has aimed for and achieved at the young age of 18, SubhanAllah!

Today’s lesson got me thinking about this exact point! Muflihoon (Al-Baqarah 2:5) – those, who are successful in the real sense. Allah (swt) sees them as ‘successful’; the ones, on whom His favours are bestowed upon (Al-Fatihah 1:7). Look at the connection between the two, SubhanAllah!

A serious shift of perception is required here. As opposed to people striving to attain more of Dunya, truly successful are those, who focus on the Akhirah (the unseen). Those, who establish prayers, as opposed to those, who rush through it thinking it’s an obligation. Those, who let go of their wealth, as opposed to being stingy about it. Those, who spend in the path of Allah (swt), as opposed to accumulating mountains of wealth. Truly successful are those ,who believe in the Book that Allah (swt) has revealed to our Prophet (sa) and the Haq (truth) from all the previous revelations, rather than being arrogantly biased about their religion (Islam), SubhanAllah!

May Allah (swt) make us of those, who are truly successful in front of Him, in this world and the hereafter. From those, who can give up a university degree or a few years of college or high school, keeping the larger picture in view; for attaining Khair and not sacrifice the Khair, the true knowledge for the success in this Dunya. Aameen!

Day 4 Reflection

Windows to our Heart

Surah Al Baqarah (Ayahs 6 & 7)

Today’s lesson covered the characteristics of the Al Maghdoob – those, who earned Allah’s (swt) wrath (refer to Surah Fatihah). Allah (swt) has sealed their hearts and hearing and has covered their sight. Such are the people, for whom is Azaab Un Azeem.

Another teacher of ours shared the reflection that if the two faculties of hearing and sight can be controlled, which are like the two windows of your heart, the chances of your heart staying on the right path increase. I thought to myself: “How true is that!” Most of the sins that we commit, or become part of – such as gossip, back biting etc. – all enter our heart, because we listen to such talk or we watch things that have been forbidden in Islam.

What truly struck me was that prophet Musa also needed a Dua for expanding his chest and removing the knot from his tongue, SubhanAllah! Who then are we? Shouldn’t we ask Allah (swt) not to seal our heart and make it receptive for understanding the knowledge that is poured upon us through the Quran, Sunnah, lectures and Dawah posts? Don’t we need wisdom of speech and selection of words, which can enable others to understand the message that we are trying to convey?

I pledge that from today onwards, Insha’Allah, before I utter a word concerning Deen, I would ask Allah (swt) to “expand my chest and ease for me my task, and untie the knot on my tongue, so that they may understand my speech”. I don’t want my near and dear ones not to understand the knowledge, the Kalaam Allah (swt) that may reach them through me. Above all, I do not want myself to become complacent after being guided, lest Allah (swt) puts a seal on my heart, after being guided, so I must continuously ask for Allah’s (swt) help to keep me on the straight path – Ihdinas Sirat Al Mustaqeem.

Oh, Allah (swt), make us from amongst the Mutaqeen (conscious of Allah (swt)) and the Muflihoon (Aakhira oriented). Make us from those, who continuously seek Allah’s (swt) help – You Alone we worship and You alone we ask for help! Aameen!

Valentine’s Day Special: Far From the Madding Crowd

rp_Vol-2-Issue-4-Its-Valentines-Day-300x225.jpgBirthdays, Halloween, bridal showers, baby showers, this day, that day, and the endless Dholkis! Come February and the entire town is painted red. Love is in the air, or so we are made to believe. Girls are coordinating red clothes and accessories, while guys are crowding the flower shops. Vendors are pleased. Their business is doing well. Families at home are not sure whether they should switch off their television sets or shamelessly sit through the entire transmission, and witness what is being broadcast in the name of love. Parents and teenagers are equally dazed: should they jump in and join the maddening crowd or should they sit on the fence holding on to the tattering family values?

If we could, we would perhaps name every day of the year and celebrate it. It is as if we need reasons to splurge and show we are not slacking in this race. Allah mentions:

The trendsetters, the celebrities, the people that we drool over and follow in every word and action will dissociate themselves from their followers. What does that mean? It means that they will take no responsibility for the actions of their followers. And why would they do that? It is because on that Day when they won’t be able to save themselves how can they possibly save anyone else?

“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. And if only they who have wronged would consider [that] when they see the punishment, [they will be certain] that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is severe in punishment. [And they should consider that] when those who have been followed disassociate themselves from those who followed [them], and they [all] see the punishment, and cut off from them are the ties [of relationship]. Those who followed will say: ‘If only we had another turn [at worldly life] so we could disassociate ourselves from them as they have disassociated themselves from us.’ Thus will Allah show them their deeds as regrets upon them. And they are never to emerge from the Fire.” (Al-Baqarah 2:165-167)

Who are the people who will disassociate themselves? Who are the ones who will wish to return? And why would they wish to return?

This verse presents a sketch of the Judgement Day. The leaders will dissociate themselves from their followers. Let’s replace the word ‘leaders’ with ‘trendsetters’ and rephrase the sentence. The trendsetters, the celebrities, the people that we drool over and follow in every word and action will dissociate themselves from their followers. What does that mean? It means that they will take no responsibility for the actions of their followers. And why would they do that? It is because on that Day when they won’t be able to save themselves how can they possibly save anyone else?

One simple criterion to evaluate our actions is that before venturing into anything ask: “Why am I doing this?” If it pleases Allah (swt) pursue it; if not, divert your attention to something of Khair.

What does this tell us? Does it give us a wake-up call? Does it give a momentary room to the voice of the conscience that asks us, “Hey, where are you heading?”

Imagine a scenario, where you are standing on the road and there are people walking in front of you. Mindlessly, you start walking behind them because…err let’s say you are impressed by their dressing, their appearance, the way they carry themselves, or perhaps you are walking behind them because you are not even sure why you are doing that. Now where would you end up by following these people? Look around yourself. Have you reached your home yet? Or is it that you have come to a place that is far away from your destination? How do you feel now? Are you pleased that you mindlessly followed someone because you were impressed by them?

Sit back and reflect; what does this example teach you?

We learn that in this world when we intend to follow someone, when we decide to tread in their footsteps, or act upon what they say, we should make use of our senses. We should ascertain where they are taking us, what interests they are instilling, what they are stopping us from, what they are saving us from, what they are promising, what they are putting us into and where do they wish to take us. Make use of your intellect.

How can the mirror of the heart shine if material images are covering it? How can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires?

What does the Qur’an say about the people who don’t use their intellect? Allah (swt) equates them to a herd of sheep, who can hear the calls and cries of their shepherd but don’t understand a thing. They mindlessly start treading in the direction where they see others walking.

Ever seen hens at a farm? The animals and crops at the farm are the farmer’s livelihood as well as food. Sometimes he slaughters an animal from his herd to feed his family. But how does he attract the animal towards himself? Running after them with a butcher’s knife will scare the animals away. The farmer therefore uses a clever strategy. He throws some grains and the innocent little chicken comes walking to its master. The farmer grabs it and within seconds it’s gone. The grains are temporary pleasure for the chicken but a strong tool for the farmer to tempt the chicken to come out of its coop.

The pomp and glitter of this world, and the urge to be around certain type of people are temporary pleasures of this world. By mindlessly chasing every slogan, charm or a person we act like a herd of sheep. The predator’s trap, however, will not just take our lives but also have an impact on our hereafter.

When the love of Allah (swt) enters the heart of a Muslim then nothing in the world can stop him from the way of Allah (swt). Our Prophet Ibraheem (as) was a living proof of that. 

Allah (swt) says in Surah al-Anam, verse 32: “And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion…so will you not reason?”

Let’s also read what does the Ayah before this says: “Those will have lost who deny the meeting with Allah, until when the Hour [of resurrection] comes upon them unexpectedly, they will: ‘Oh, [how great is] our regret over what we neglected concerning it.’”

People continue to live in denial until their meeting with the Creator. It is not until they are laid down in their graves that they realize their negligence. They regret the time wasted on unnecessary things and being forgetful of the Questioning. A week goes by and we don’t know where our time went: more concern for the worldly matters and ignorance to the hereafter.

Someone shouts: “It’s Valentine’s Day!” And the entire nation begins its celebrations. Amidst criticisms and objections, someone comments: “What’s wrong about it? The poor little boy who sells flowers at the signal at least earns a meal for his family on that day.” Someone else asserts: “Why do we have to make life so boring?”

But who says a Muslim’s life has to be boring?

The Creator directs the sail of our boats, “For each is a direction toward which it faces. So race to [all that is] good.” (Al-Baqarah 2:148) That is our path. The path of Khair. But what is this Khair? Khair is anything that benefits the society. Does our celebration of birthdays, Halloween, Basant, Dholkis, bridal showers and baby showers benefit the society? Or is it simply an excuse to show we are wealthy and live on the other side of the bridge? What will we say when are questioned about: In what matters did you spend your wealth? In throwing parties and exchanging unwanted gifts among people who can purchase anything that they wish to buy?

In Surah al-Fatihah we make Dua to Allah (swt) to “Show us the right way. The way of those who were favoured.” We find the detail of such people in Surah an-Nisa, verse 69, “the Siddiqeen [the truthful], the Shuhadah [the martyrs] and the Saliheen [the righteous].”

By blindly following rituals, traditions and celebrations, whose path are we really following? The ones who evoke His anger or of those who have strayed? Giving zakah or purchasing a sacrificial animal for Eid is burdensome for us, but splurging money on whims and desires is not.

For a Muslim, true love happens only once and that is with his Creator. This is what we learn from our Prophet Ibraheem (as) as we read in the Qur’an:

“‘My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.’ So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy. And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said: ‘O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.’ He said: ‘O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.’ And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called to him, ‘O Ibraheem, You have fulfilled the vision.’ Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, this was the clear trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, And We left for him [favourable mention] among later generations: ‘Peace upon Ibraheem.’ Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.” (As-Saffat 37:100-110)

What will we say when are questioned about: In what matters did you spend your wealth? In throwing parties and exchanging unwanted gifts among people who can purchase anything that they wish to buy?

When the love of Allah (swt) enters the heart of a Muslim then nothing in the world can stop him from the way of Allah (swt). Our Prophet Ibraheem (as) was a living proof of that.

In his book, Al-Hikam, Sheikh Ahmad Ibn Ata’illah As-Sakandari says: “How can the mirror of the heart shine if material images are covering it? How can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires?”

One simple criterion to evaluate our actions is that before venturing into anything ask: “Why am I doing this?” If it pleases Allah (swt) pursue it; if not, divert your attention to something of Khair.

May Allah (swt) allow us to cleanse our souls and protect us from wandering blindly on the path of Shaytan, Ameen.

Adapted from Dr. Farhat Hashmi’s Lecture: “How to Express Love: Sacrifice or Valentine?”

Al-Wali – The Protecting Friend

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Human-beings yearn to be loved and be cared for. Friendship to some might be a materialistic aspect, revolving around short term goals and benefits. Love might be an act of caressing or a hug, but when you contemplate the Name “Al Wali”- The Protecting Friend, real love and true friendship has a totally exclusive picture.

I picture a bond of friendship where relationship exists in this world and the next. The idea of being friends forever is chained to the beautiful bond that Allah (swt) shares with His loyal servants whereas the friendships of the Dunya for the sake of pleasure and worldly gains are limited to sorrows, disappointments, heartbreaks, anxiety and depression. Man still wants to try and test a human being but doesn’t extend his hand for an eternal bond with Allah (swt).

Indeed it is the deepest suffering of the mortal where he is racing and chasing Dunya and hitting a series of heartbreaks while failing to recognize the loving support of an immortal friendship. This is the sole secret towards a wonderful life where you make Allah (swt) your Wali- the first part of your day, the first priority to every decision and the first place in the heart.

How often we give our heart to those who care the least and how often the one who cares the most never gets our heart. In times of difficulty He encapsulates us in His mercy and against the enemy He guards us.

“Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them from darkness into light. But as for those who disbelieve, their Auliya (Supporters and Helpers) are Taghut [false deities and false leaders], they bring them out from light into darkness. Those are the dwellers of the fire, and they will abide therein forever.” (Al Baqarah 2:257)

We can never avoid heartbreak, but by transforming our expectation, our response, and our focus, we can avoid much devastation. Putting our entire trust, reliance and hope in another “Person” is unrealistic and plain foolish. We have to remember that human beings are fallible and therefore our ultimate trust reliance and hope should only be put in Allah (swt) because indeed, “Allah is sufficient as a helper” (An-Nisa 4:45)

You don’t need technology, you don’t need to complain there’s no one to share with, and you don’t need to keep an eye on the time to call out to your friend. You just need to make a connection of a device – “Heart” that is detached from its charger- “Allah”.

May Allah (swt) make us such, that even if we’re alone amidst billions, we have with us a greater power, Al Wali. No darkness can reign the heart if the power of Allah (swt) illuminates the soul.