All messed up: There’s more to the picture

lightIt was early in the morning when X looked out of the large wooden window she was sitting in front of. The night that had just passed was something she feared would come again. Her room had already started to illuminate with the light of the rising sun, but she thought it was something she wouldn’t be able to experience in life. Things quite dark had happened to her, and she thought there was no one to help her stand up again. All this made her wonder if she could choose not to live.

What if in the midst of what X was going through, something could convince her not to do so? What if there was something more to the picture? What if there was something that could overpower her worries to finally leave her? If you think you had been having the same thoughts as X lately, for sure you need to know how the religion of Allah (swt) answers all such questions.

1. Why did it happen to me?

This life is a test, so we must always be ready to receive tribulations. True happiness will be granted to us, Insha’Allah, if we get past these tests with good grades; and we’ll be motivated to do that only if we desire for Jannah. In short, these trials are our chances to reach Jannah. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa) has already told why Allah (swt) afflicts His servants with trials.

It was narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta) that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “If Allah (swt) wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” (Bukhari)

2. Khayr is there, look for it.

Each event that happens in our lives leaves us with some understanding which we couldn’t have acquired if it didn’t happen the way it did. Especially, the bad ones when pass, strengthen us to face bigger challenges. The finest steel does become what it is, after going through the hottest fire! A bird does learn to fly when its mother pushes it out of the nest. Until this doesn’t happen, it never knows it can fly. At the time of hardship, we can’t exactly see where the Khayr is. But, we all know our knowledge is limited, while indeed nothing is hidden from Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) says in the Quran,

“…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)

3. You have the cure, use it!

What you have been given as a test by Allah (swt) is something that you can bear. This is Allah’s (swt) blessing on each one of us, which we should always be thankful for. You just have to gather yourself again by keeping in mind what Allah (swt) says in the Quran,

“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. “Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error, our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us (Jews and Christians); our Lord! Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Maula (Patron, Supporter and Protector, etc.) and give us victory over the disbelieving people.” (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

 

4. Realized? Time to repent!

Many a times, people feel stuck because they know they’ve done wrong, and that it is the reason why they feel devastated. But, what they forget is that their Lord is Ar-Rahman. His forgiveness is beyond our imagination. Keeping this in mind, there remains no need to try to shut doors which have already been kept open!

Abu Sa’id ibn Sa’d ibn Malik ibn Sinan al-Khudri (rta) reported that the Prophet of Allah (sa) said: “Among those before you there was a man who killed ninety-nine people. He asked who was the most knowledgeable man in the world and was directed to a monk. He went to him and said that he had killed ninety-nine people and was repentance possible for him? The monk said, ‘No,’ so he killed him and made it a hundred. Then, he again asked who was the most knowledgeable man on earth and was directed to a man of knowledge. He said that he had killed a hundred people, so was repentance possible for him? The man said, ‘Yes, who can come between you and repentance? Go to such-and-such a land where there are some people worshipping Allah (swt, the Almighty. Worship Allah (swt) with them and do not return to your own country. It is an evil place.’ So he went and then, when he was half way there, he died. The angels of mercy and angels of punishment started to argue about him. The angels of mercy said, ‘He came in repentance, turning with his heart to Allah (swt) Almighty.’ The angels of punishment said, ‘He has not done a single good action.’ An angel came in a human form and they appointed him arbitrator between them. He said, ‘Measure the distance between the two countries and whichever one he is nearer to, that is the one he belongs to.’ They measured and found he was nearer to the land to which he was going, so the angels of mercy took him.” (Riyad As-Salihin)

5. Call Him, He is never engaged!

It takes us little time to realize how merciful our Lord is. Even though, He tests us with trials throughout our lives, He has blessed us with various ways to call Him for help. One may call on Him at any part of the day, but to call is what must be done!

6. Please Him, not them!

Many problems arise when an individual is unable to live up to other people’s expectations. Each one of us comes across numerous people in life each of whom has different likes and dislikes. No matter how hard a person tries, at the end of the day criticism still remains. This happens when one forgets what he was born for. To be precise, pleasing people was never our duty, but to only obey Allah (swt). This doesn’t mean we have to do nothing with people. But, whatever dealing that has to be with them is only what Allah (swt) has ordered us to do.

7. No pill, no kill- just chill!

Many may think committing suicide means putting an end to problems, but in reality it doesn’t.  Rather it creates problems even in the afterlife-the life which one will live forever.

It was narrated by Abu Hurairah (ra) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it, and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever.” (Bukhari)

(Part 1) Parents as Counsellors

counselling-in-the-workplace-1When was the last time your child came to you to share something? A survey conducted in the city of Karachi with a sample of significant number of kids/teenagers indicated the following results:

They were asked: “Who are those five people in your life you can trust blindly to share your inner most troubles/stressors in life?” The percentage that included one parent or both parents at the fourth position or maybe last position among the five preferred individuals was as follows:

77% – 11 – 14 years

60% – 14 – 17 years

30% – 17 – 20 years

Appalling responses surfaced. The younger age group could somewhat trust either of the parents but not both. The older group was most comfortable with a virtual friend. The oldest sought counseling from complete strangers. In their sight, the parents were too naïve or outdated to understand their issues. They felt worse, when confided in their parents.

We might fathom this better, if we take the example of a mirror. What is the function of a mirror? It reflects our image with all its beauties and flaws. And we all love to admire or gaze at ourselves in it. However, the day this mirror finds a voice and dares to offer judgmental phrases, its opinions and perceptions about us, how many of them will survive? Maybe none. Their fate will inevitably be shattered.

A counselor is similarly a person, who places a balm on an emotionally injured person’s wounds. He does not cut open gashes with his scalpel to infect the wound further. The role of a mentor steps further to help analyze the injured, as to why and how he is injured in the first place. But that comes at a later stage. Clearly, there is a difference between the roles of a counselor and mentor.

Role of parents as a counselor

Our children today are passing through an era, where they face a lot of turbulence and challenges socially and emotionally. Firstly, Allah (swt) has placed within every person a mechanism to subside his hurt feelings. This threshold again varies from person to person. If a person is unable to settle these inner disturbed emotions, his family serves the purpose of ideal counseling. Why?

If an external counselor is hired, he is an unknown authority who is unaware of the affected persons’ context, background, strengths and weaknesses, etc. A close relative or friend again will have to brief the expert thoroughly. This expert in light of his learning will review the case and offer an expert advice which may or may not work eventually. But family and specially parents who are a natural institution of counseling must be able to dissolve up to 90% approximately of problems in their kid’s life. They brought them into this world, raised them up, can read their face and feelings like no one can, provided they share a special bond.

Realistically in order to become ideal counselors, parents need to learn some qualities. It is pivotal for them to understand that if they do not serve the role of effective counselors, their child will go somewhere else to address his needs, as humans do not live in isolation. But this counseling will be at the cost of values. It could be to a friend, who offers them relief in the form of an innocent ice cream or a puff of a cigarette or indulgence into drugs or alcohol or other profanities, etc. It could be simply an icon on their internet screen that is constantly available and luring “Do you want to chat?”

And this does not mean that the kid is bad/evil. It must be understood that when an individual is emotionally disturbed, three areas are negatively influenced: his thinking ability, his behaviour and his creative potential. He is so desperate to find relief that he can’t rationalize his own choices. As parents, the first thing that needs to be done is to pull the child out of disturbance and bring him towards normalization.

What could be the probable pressures in your kid’s life?

  1. Academic
  2. Parental
  3. Peer

On top of the above puberty/adolescence brings its own physical changes that create havoc in a child’s body now transforming into an adult. This is a time when most kids are emotionally weak and vulnerable.

What kind of perceptions a child is locked into and might travel through in a month about himself and others?

  1. I cannot be good at studies.
  2. Teacher will be angry at my work.
  3. Subject is difficult and boring.
  4. Everybody will laugh at my question.
  5. I never have a good idea to share in class.
  6. I am not intelligent and creative. I am stupid.
  7. I cannot speak well.
  8. Teacher does not like me.
  9. I always have disturbing thoughts.
  10. I don’t know whether I am right or wrong.
  11. I wish I was born free.
  12. Nobody is pleased by my work.
  13. Nobody likes to be my friend.
  14. Nobody likes me.
  15. I soon forget what I learn.
  16. I can’t solve any problem on my own.
  17. Nobody understands me or trusts me.
  18. I am a bad boy/girl.
  19. I quickly get bored, don’t know what to do.
  20. I feel restricted; I don’t have freedom in my life. Everyone scolds me.

Some children think any of the above for a while, unstuck themselves and move on. Those are the ones, who are intellectually developed and emotionally secure. Other kids think and get stuck in their negative perceptions and begin to lose themselves. That’s when they underperform.

[To be continued Insha Allah…]

Adapted by Rana Rais Khan from an interactive workshop at L2L Academy Karachi.

Stories from the Life of Ali (ra)

prob1Hazrat Ali (ra) was well-known for his brilliance in mathematics. In the following stories, he provided immediate yet accurate answers to complex mathematical problems that were brought to him:

Problem # 1:

Two men travelling together sat down to have lunch. One had five loaves of bread, the other three. Another traveler joined them, and they all decided to share the eight loaves by dividing each loaf into three parts. Each man then ate eight pieces.

When the third man got up to leave, he left the two men a total of eight Dirhams to pay for their loaves of bread.

The man who had five loaves gave the one with three loaves three Dirhams and kept five for himself. The man with the three loaves didn’t agree – he wanted a 50% share, i.e., four Dirhams. The man with the five loaves refused and the dispute was brought before Ameer-ul-Mumineen, Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib. Upon hearing their story, Ali (ra) told the man with three loaves that the man with five loaves had already given him more than his fair share and requested him to accept the three Dirhams. The man with the three loaves refused.

Ali (ra) said that in fact the man with the three loaves was entitled to only one dirham out of the eight! He then offered the following explanation: the men had eight loaves of bread divided into three equal parts each, which was equal to twenty-four pieces. Each traveler ate 8 pieces. The man, who had three loaves, had a total of nine pieces from his loaves, out of which he ate eight, leaving only one piece for the third traveler. The man with the five loaves had contributed fifteen pieces, out of which he ate eight, leaving seven pieces for the third man. Hence, the man with the five loaves was entitled to seven Dirhams, whereas the man with the three loaves was entitled to only one Dirham! Subhan’Allah!

Problem # 2:

prob2

In another case, a dying man made a will stating that out of his seventeen camels, half were to be given to his eldest son, one-third to his second son and one-ninth to his youngest son. After his death, his relatives could not figure out how to divide the seventeen camels according to the man’s will. So they took their problem to the Caliph Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib, knowing that he would have the answer. Ali (ra) listened to the problem then said, “I will lend one of my camels so that there are eighteen camels and then divide them according to the man’s will. So the eldest son gets half of the eighteen camels, which is nine. The second son gets one-third of the eighteen camels, which is six. The youngest son gets one-ninth of the eighteen camels, which is two.” “That’s seventeen camels,” he said. “And now I will take my camel back!”

[http://storiesoftherighteous.wordpress.com/tag/loaves-of-bread/]

Dear Haadia

Haadia

We find two Ahadeeth with criteria for selecting one’s spouse-to-be. In one, Allah’s Messenger (sa) has advised to pick a wife who follows her Deen, and keep other priorities, such as her wealth, status and lineage, on a lower scale. On the other hand, there was an occasion, when he advised a Sahabi to look at the girl he was getting married to. Can we have an explanation for the above two, in order to guide youngsters who are planning to get married?

Answer: We can easily reconcile these two apparently contradictory scenarios that are found in the Sunnah.

For marriage, a Muslim man should give the highest priority to a girl’s piety and practice of religion, as you have stated. However, our Prophet (sa) advised looking at her towards the end of the proposal process, when the two families have negotiated other matters, and a positive outcome seems imminent. At this point, the young man may look at the girl, in order to prevent possible disappointment or physical revulsion, when he sees her in person after marriage.

It was narrated that a man wanted to marry a daughter of one of the Companions who was a resident of Madinah. The Prophet (sa) said to him: “Go and look, and then marry. There is something in the eyes of the Companions.” (Muslim)

As this narration indicates, it serves as a safety net to look at the prospective girl in order to identify any deformity or physical defect that can turn off her future husband, or vice versa. Marriage means conjugal relations, for which physical attraction plays an important part. Though it is mostly enough for his female relatives to describe the girl to him, a man is still permitted to look. As to the extent of looking and what the girl is permitted to show, Shaykh Uthaymeen at IslamQA.com gives us the details in Question 102369, where he says:

“It is permissible for the suitor to see the woman to whom he is proposing marriage, but that is subject to certain conditions:

  1. That he needs to see her. If there is no need, then the basic principle is that a man should not look at a woman, who is a non-Mahram to him.
  2. He should have made up his mind that he wants to propose. If he is still hesitant, then he should not look, but if he has made up his mind, then he may look.
  3. This looking should be without being alone with her, i.e., it is essential that she has one of her Mahrams with her.
  4. He should think it most likely that she and her family will accept. If he does not think it is most likely, then there is no point in looking, because his proposal will not be accepted, whether he looks at her or not.

In this situation, the woman must come out to the suitor looking ordinary; she should not come out wearing beautiful clothes or makeup, because she is not yet his wife.”

The practices of dolling up a girl, asking her to entertain her potential suitor’s family or dressing up to catch public attention for a future marriage proposal are high despicable.

Allah (swt) knows best.

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!

Dear Haadia

Haadia

I’m a 21-year-old and have an extremely important question. When I was 15, I was very outgoing and had loads of guy friends, including a boyfriend. As circumstances should have it, things did not work out, and he got married to someone else. Since then, I have tried to be a good Muslimah. I want to have a family of my own now, but I don’t want to betray my future husband by having another guy in my mind the whole time. My parents also want me to get married, but I feel I cannot get married. Everything seems distorted. Please help.

Answer: Firstly, I would like to commend you on being such a brave individual and for having grasped the handhold of Islam. This, indeed, is what will lead you to inner peace and harmony, Insha’Allah! Moreover, to realize one’s mistakes and then to beg Allah (swt) for forgiveness is truly a blessing of our Creator. I can understand the grief and despair you are engulfed in; remember that these are very natural emotions and we see the grief of Hazrat Yaqoob (as) in the following Quranic Ayah: “… And he lost his sight because of the sorrow that he was suppressing.” (Yusuf 12:84)

Now, a question may come to one’s mind – why was a Prophet of Allah (swt) tested? Let’s again refer to the Quran: “And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).” (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

What are these glad tidings? They are our purification – they will elevate our levels in the Hereafter. So what should one do? The Quran gives us the answer in the next Ayah:

“Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” (Al-Baqarah 2:156)

“And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer).” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)

So pray to Allah (swt) to give you the strength and the Sabr to forget about this boy, who is now married, and to move on with your life!

When we look around ourselves and contemplate the power of Allah (swt), may it be in a flowering plant, it will give conviction that He is the Almighty, Who can erase any painful memory. Often, our vision is myopic – what we may think to have been good for us might have been on the contrary. So have full belief in Allah (swt) that He will guide you towards a better future!

Now that you have identified what is happening to you, use the above solutions to overcome this situation. You can also join a group of young girls for understanding the Quran. As you are still studying, I would recommend a weekend class by the name of “Towards the Light” at 14 Sehr, Defence Housing Authority, Karachi on Saturday afternoons.

There are times, when we wonder, why Allah (swt) would let us go through such trials and difficulties. But Allah (swt) knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him, and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful! Loads of Duas for you.

Dear Haadia

Haadia

I have studied in co-education schools since the very beginning and have had friends among boys. I have started adoring one of my friends (among boys). He has expressed his wish to marry me. We are both eighteen. Is it Haram to wish to marry someone? Should I express my wish to my parents? I feel that it will be unacceptable to them and also to the society in general, as teen marriages are very rare. Please, help me.

Answer: My dear sister in Islam, from your questions I can sense, how distressed and pressurized you are feeling. Let’s try to rationalize the situation and see what marriage, which is a Sunnah of our Prophet (sa), encompasses.

As a young couple, you both should understand that marrying young comes with responsibilities and commitments. Are you both ready for that?

It is true that society does not readily accept early teen marriages. However, the question is: are there any valid reasons, which we tend to overlook, as marriage is a decision of great magnitude? The importance of learning Islam is paramount. Sometimes, without the balance of reason, our hearts can blind us, because when we see only through the heart, our emotions colour our vision of what is real and what is unreal, as well as what is suitable for our needs.

Remember that fornication is a serious issue. In Islam, it does not begin at the point of sexual intercourse. It starts much earlier – with the look, the spoken words, the touch and then the rest of the body. The Quran says: “And come not near to the unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is a Fahishah [i.e. anything that transgresses its limits (a great sin)], and an evil way (that leads one to Hell unless Allah forgives him).” (Al-Isra 17:32)

So there really is no excuse for relationships outside the domain of marriage. Now, let’s come to your questions.

Firstly, wishing to marry someone or marrying someone you wish to marry is not Haram, but how we do it is of great importance. In the name of adoring someone, Haram activities have to be avoided.

The consent of parents is also extremely important, and it is an Islamic requirement as well. This is because parents invariably know what is best for their children. In the context of male-female relationships, do remember that love should not be a means of satisfying carnal desires or material whims. Love should have a healthy atmosphere, where it can properly grow and be normally expressed – and for that, it should be covered by the protection of marriage, Islamic law and the consent of the family. The involvement of the family will help a lot in strengthening the marriage, because the choice of a partner is not based just on romantic notions; rather, the compatibility of the couple has been objectively analyzed. You will be spending the rest of your life with this man, raising a family, securing its future, facing joys and sorrows and aging together.

After marriage, you will have every right to enjoy each other’s affections, sheltered by the merciful umbrella of Nikah – a divine gift that Allah (swt) has established for loving souls. I recommend that your relationship should be in this light and with the blessings of both your families.

Sometimes, a trusted third party can help you to communicate with your parents; however, you yourself are the best judge of how to approach them. Remain calm through the difficult moments and do not forget to pray to Allah (swt) to make matters easy for you. Then, this man can propose to marry you, so that you can get betrothed to him.

And always, always remember to read the Quran every day and never neglect your obligatory prayers. Ask Allah (swt) for His help and ask Him to forgive you when you fail. With the help of Allah (swt) and your strong Iman (faith), you will overcome this difficulty, Insha’Allah.

Should you have any other questions, please, do not hesitate to write to me. May Allah (swt) always protect you and your family, Ameen.

Dear Haadia

I would like to commit my free time to some social work activities. Can you highlight some organizations for teenage boys and girls, where I could volunteer?

Answer:  Dear sister in Islam, your request for information about organizations where you could volunteer is very encouraging, and specially your interest in working with teenagers, who are an integral part of any society. Youth can be innovative, full of energy and can steer nations. Let’s look at some guidelines for social work that is greatly emphasized in Islam.

Firstly, the only motive of this service should be as described in the following Ayah, in which Allah (swt) says: “And I (Allah) created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Therefore, the essence of service to Allah (swt) is, firstly, to worship Him and Him alone and, secondly, to render service to His creatures for His pleasure. These are the two duties prescribed for the mankind. As regards the latter, let’s look at the following Ayah: “Those who spend (in Allah’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily; Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (Al-Imran 3:134) Spending mentioned here would include all the tangible and intangible blessings a person may be bestowed with in different phases of life.

A great encouragement and motivation is expressed in a beautiful Hadeeth, which reflects the reward of visiting the sick: “The one, who visits the sick, is, in fact, like one, who is in the fruit garden of Paradise, as long as he does not return.” (Muslim)

Moreover: “Allah shows not mercy to them, who are not merciful to people.” (Muslim)

Now, let’s have a look at a few options, where you can volunteer. Do try to give your best for the volunteering work! Even time-wise – make conscious effort to contribute quality time, instead of just your free time, which is left over after your other engagements. Give to Allah (swt) your best!

At “Al-Huda”, volunteers can support the weekly children and youth programmess. Summer courses start in July in all branches. Help is needed with Dawah work, through promoting Dawah audio and written materials. Volunteers can also teach at the street children school run in PECHS, help emergency relief work in case of natural calamities and assist in packing during Ramadan food drives. For more information about welfare projects, visit http://www.farhathashmi.com/dn/WelfareDawah/tabid/641/Default.aspx

To register for volunteer work, write to: sadia@alhudapk.com

“Active Saturdays” is a series of programs for 11-19 years old boys, which involves them in fun and knowledge-enriching activities in an Islamic environment. Within the series, boys are involved in field trips with social implications, i.e., Darul Sukoon, Edhi Children’s Home, Civil Hospital, Husseini Blood Bank, Edhi Mortuary, etc. They also have such short social work projects as fundraising for digging a well, earthquake relief, etc. These are being held in various centres in Karachi. For further information, contact Saeed Motiwala at 0333-213-1788 or at saeedm@rocketmail.com.

Amidst other options is “Behbud Association” working towards poverty alleviation, especially among women. Contact: Behbud Center, 25 Mehmoodabad Road or St. 9, Block 1, Kehkashan, Scheme 5, Karachi. Ph: 021-5862093. Website: http://www.behbud.org

“Society for Educational Welfare” (SEW), which has a network of “Baithak Schools” for the under-privileged children all over Pakistan, is always in need of volunteers. SEW has started a Collaborative Community Development Programme (CCDP), whereby students can come to the “Baithak Schools” on Saturdays and share their knowledge and time with the underprivileged children. For more details, contact their office at 021-4800325-6, 9 am to 4 pm.

“Al-Khidmat Foundation” is also one of the places where you can volunteer. For more information, visit http://Al-khidmatfoundation.org

May your desire to volunteer encourage others to follow in your footsteps, Ameen.

Dear Haadia

I am a young man in my late twenties, studying in a professional medical college. My educational environment entails mixed gender situations, and sometimes I feel highly uncomfortable with my fellow female students, especially when we have to work closely. I understand that Islam expects me to maintain my distance, but how can I do this, if there are no segregated medical colleges for males?

Answer: Maintaining distance between genders does not necessarily mean shunning one another or existing in a segregated society. If we are raised in a modest environment, it is indeed natural to feel uncomfortable with members of the opposite gender – so be glad that you do.

Allah (swt) has made both genders in this world, so that they may coexist peacefully. For this purpose, he has set down certain injunctions, which must be followed during necessary interactions. Khalwa, being alone with a non-Mahram individual, is strictly prohibited. A Hadeeth, which clearly states that in such a situation, the third is Satan: “Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan is the third among them.” (Tirmidhi)

In public settings, if interacting with the opposite sex is an absolute necessity, certain rules must be followed: lowering the gaze, maintaining a business-like tone and ensuring that no physical contact (be it shaking hands, a friendly pat on the back, etc.) takes place. At the same time, these commands are not intended for robotic behavior.

For instance, lowering your gaze does not mean that you are never allowed to look at a girl during a discussion. It simply means that you should not make a sustained eye contact or stare at her. You can glance at her, then avert your eyes and repeat this with discretion. Similarly, talking in a business-like voice does not entail that you are not allowed to smile or laugh. Rather, you must not at any point become flirtatious. If you sense such an intention from a girl, change the topic or make an excuse and remove yourself from the situation. Worse comes to worst, request your professors to put you in a different group.

Do make sure that your behavior never arouses suspicion, even when surrounded by other people. For example, having a meal alone with a female classmate at a fast food joint is not allowed. It can lead to much speculation among people around you as well as in the mind of the girl herself. The concepts that ‘we’re just friends’ or ‘it’s only for fun’ are alien to the Islamic code of modesty between the two genders. (Likewise, if the intention for such outings is dating, then it is clearly forbidden in Islam, although unfortunately it is quite prevalent these days.)

Given your circumstances, do not forget the real reason you are at college: to gain knowledge. The girls are also there for the same reason. When you become a doctor, Insha’Allah, you will have to deal with female patients as well. Consider this a preparation for the future. Understand that one can interact with members of the opposite gender and yet maintain a distance figuratively. Internalize the commands set by Allah (swt) for such interactions and, Insha’Allah, He will make your task easier for you. And, of course, always make Dua that He keeps you on Sirat-e-Mustaqeem.

Dear Haadia

HaadiaQuestion: I am a single girl in late twenties. Circumstances indicate that I may never get married. I want to know what should be my purpose in life? Can you quote any example from the Islamic history of any such females and their mission in life?

Answer: Dear sister, never be disheartened with the will of Allah (swt) and never give up on His mercy, for we have absolutely no clue what He has destined for us. The mother of the believers, Aisha bint Abu Bakr (rta), got married to the Prophet (sa) when she was 6 years old, whereas Fatimah bint Muhammad (rta) got married when she was 18 years old, which might have been considered late during that time (1400 years back). So there is no right time, except the time that Allah (swt) has willed for us.

Regarding your purpose in life, unfortunately, we, females, have been conditioned to believe that marriage is the be-all and end-all of our existence. Although the Sunnah stresses that marriage completes half of ones Eman, Allah (swt) says in Quran: “And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship me.” (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56) So irrespective of who we are, the sole purpose of our life is worshipping Allah (swt).

How do we worship Allah (swt)? The answer is simple – by living our life according to His Deen (Islam). Whatever you are doing right now, see to it that it is done with the intention of seeking Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Whether you are pursuing education, looking after your parents or working for your living, do it with all sincerity and right intention.

To discover your purpose in life, ask yourself what it is that you wish to do. Do you want to pursue further education? Are you interested in a particular hobby? Probe yourself and you will discover that there is a lot you might want to achieve – and this will boost your self-esteem a great deal.

If you are disheartened because you have a lot of time and you don’t know what to do with it, then do think about serving the community. Join a philanthropic organization, volunteer for different causes, take up some specialized courses which match your interests, start giving tuitions to your neighbourhood children or set up a home business. The possibilities are endless.

One great example from Islamic history is that of Maryam (as). She was not married, yet we know from the Quran that such was her stature that Allah (swt) sent her food through angels. She had to face great trials and tribulations as a single mother – but she did so with great fortitude.

So, dear sister, don’t believe for one second that just because you are not married yet, you have no purpose in life at all. There is a purpose out there, waiting for you to discover it.

May Allah (swt) help us all in our pursuit of happiness in this world and the hereafter, Ameen.

Dear Haadia

Muslims are killing each other in our country. I don’t know, who is right and who is wrong. Honestly, I have even stopped caring about it! I just want peace in our society. What can we do to help this situation? Or is it not in our hands anymore?

Answer: First and foremost, we must realize that a Muslim cannot be a Muslim till other Muslims are safe from his/her hands and tongue. Verbally, emotionally, mentally or physically hurting another Muslim is a despicable crime in the view of Islamic teachings. So there is no doubt that what you are observing is indeed evil. Your cause for concern is justified.

Becoming numb is a somewhat natural psychological reaction to the repeated crimes we witness around us. The danger of such reaction, however, is that it eventually leads to apathy instead of action, and before you know it, you lose your faith.

Allah (swt) says to all Muslims: “You [true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his Sunnah] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Maruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah.” (Al-Imran 3:110)

So faith involves doing right by being an example to others to do right. As a Muslim, you do not live for yourself only – the problems of all Muslims are also your problems. So, if you are not actively enjoining good and forbidding evil, you are not functioning as a Muslim. Keep this in mind.

Furthermore, we cannot afford to stop caring about what is going on around us, because we will be answerable in front of Allah (swt), and we must strive towards spreading the message of peace. Allah (swt) will not ask you, why Muslims continued fighting among themselves during your lifetime, but He (swt) will ask, what you personally did for stopping it – what was your participation and contribution to end it? The following are some of the ways you can contribute:

Sensitize people towards the true nature and teachings of Islam as a method to spread peace at the grass root level.

Dua is a very practical way of handling problems around us, though we often tend to underestimate its power.

Umar Ibn Abdul-Aziz said: “It used to be that Allah, the Most High, does not punish the common people for the sins of the elite; but when the evil is done openly, and they do not repudiate it, they all become deserving of His punishment.” We should be careful about being passive onlookers of evil just shrugging our shoulders: “Who cares? It is not our business.” Should Allah (swt) decide to punish the evildoers, we would be included in the punishment for not forbidding the evil they were committing.

The story of prophet Lut (as) in the Quran and the Sunnah tells us of a pious man among the people of Lut (as), who did not commit the crimes his people did, but was a passive onlooker. When he walked among the people of Lut (as) and saw their atrocities, the colour of his face did not change in disapproval. So when Allah (swt) ordered Jibreel (as) to destroy the city, he was destroyed together with the rest of the people of Lut (as).

Remember that the result will never be in your hands, but your response certainly is. Do what you can, and leave the rest to Allah (swt).

Dear Haadia

My wife does not cover her head in front of non-Mahrams. I would really appreciate it, if she does, because I don’t want her to face Allah (swt) in such a state, and I am also possessive about her. She doesn’t realize the intensity of the sin she is committing. Kindly explain in detail the best way for me to guide her.

Answer: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment… And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur 24:31)

“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.” (Al-Ahzab 33:59)

As the above verses specify, Hijab is a command from Allah (swt). Yet, another verse states: “There is no compulsion in Deen.” (Al-Baqarah 2:256). Hence, the decision to wear Hijab should be self-initiated, not imposed. It should be made with clarity in one’s mind that one wishes to please Allah (swt) by following His injunction. To understand and practice Hijab with such humility is indeed one of the greatest blessings of Allah (swt).

It is commendable that you are concerned for your wife. You as a husband are responsible for what is happening in your family and will be questioned about it. It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (sa) said: “Beware, every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. (…) A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). (…) Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust.” (Muslim)

However you should begin an earnest and open dialogue with her. Inform her of your apprehensions. Listen to her fears. Encourage her to explore the issue herself without prejudice. Offer her your full support in the process. Give her time.

Meanwhile, avoid constant reminding and nagging – these may unnecessarily irritate her and repel her from Hijab. If you succeed in cultivating a positive outlook, half your battle will be won, Insha’Allah.

Developing a more Islamic home culture is also important here. Instilling Islamic values in general in yourself and your family is vital in achieving Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Hijab should not be seen as an isolated command – rather, it is an integral part of the very fabric of a Momin’s life. Therefore, while you and your wife tread the path toward her acceptance of Hijab, both of you should simultaneously pledge to bring your everyday lives, the upbringing of your children and the general environment of your home closer to your Deen. Finding a social circle of like-minded individuals and families will not only positively influence your wife’s opinion of Hijab and Muhajjabas, but will also facilitate your submission to Allah (swt) as a family.

As for your possessiveness, you need to remember that the foremost purpose of Hijab is to submit oneself to Allah’s (swt) will, not to hide a woman’s beauty from other men. In this light, both of you must remember that Hijab has a meaning far deeper than its external covering. Hijab is more than the physical – it has so much to do with the internal humility, beauty and spirituality of a woman. In this sense, Hijab is not just a destination, but a journey in itself.

For more information, you may wish to read up more on Hijab. Two articles on the Internet, which may interest you, are:

“Hijab: Unveiling the Mystery” (http://www.allaahuakbar.net/womens/hijaab.htm)

“Understanding Hijab” (http://www.messageonline.org/2004febmarch/cover3_opt.pdf.)

Dear Haadia

I try to learn Duas and Surahs from the Quran, but after memorizing them, I tend to forget them. Can you suggest a method for improving my retention?

Answer: I am glad you asked this question, because forgetting what we have memorized is not a light matter, especially in light of a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) reported by Al-Amash (rta): “The calamity which affects knowledge is forgetfulness, and wasting it is to convey it to those, who are unworthy of it.” (Darimi)

When it comes to memorization and retention, it’s important to find a strategy that works for you, whether it’s mine, someone else’s or your own. I have outlined below some of my simple and quick techniques which you can test on yourselves.

  • Firstly, it is obligatory to be sincere, purify your intention and correct your desire to please Allah (swt).
  • Make Dua to Allah (swt) for learning and retention, as each memorized apportion is facilitated by Allah (swt).
  • Be goAl-oriented and set targets to check what you have learnt and retained, being completely focused and realizing the importance of that which is memorized.
  • See the time chosen for memorization and retention – are you fresh at that time? Fajr is the best! Having said so also vary your study routine occasionally. If you are accustomed to study in one specific location, try moving to a different spot of study. If you study in the evening, try spending a few minutes each morning reviewing the information you have studied the previous night. By adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts and significantly improve the long-term recall.
  • From the Seerah of Rasul (saw) it is clear that we should be consistent on whatever deed we adopt. Start with small Duas or Surahs and read them regularly, especially in Salah or before sleeping. You can repeat them by keeping a small Dua booklet at your bedside or by keeping your eyes closed, which will also make you sleep better, Insha’Allah. Over time, consistent repetition will lead to improvement.
  • Read with thorough understanding and absorb the meaning. Also, read the text loudly and clearly to familiarize yourself with the sounds and to be fluent in pronunciation. It can be helpful to read the text thrice by looking at it and then recite it without looking.
  • For memorizing Duas, an important tip is to post them at different locations in your house and/or work place. For example: on the main door – the Dua before leaving the house, in your bag – Dua upon entering the market, at the bathroom entrance – Dua before entering and coming out of bathroom after using the toilet. Visuals are great reminders!
  • For best memorization and retention, study in a way which appeals to as many senses as possible. By seeing and simultaneously hearing the material, you reinforce it in your brain. Try to listen as frequently as possible to tapes and CDs, as sound is an extremely valuable tool. You can also carry a walkman, which is an excellent way to utilize time while traveling or waiting for a doctor’s appointment.
  • Elaborate on the material by adding more information to the subject that you are studying. For example, apart from concentrating on the translation, study the definitions of terms and read a more detailed description of the meanings of words.
  • Involve your emotions – we remember things that are emotionally relevant to us.
  • Revise using the same copy of the Quran. This is because we tend to memorize the script and form – their places in the copy leave an imprint in the mind.
  • It is necessary for the memorizer not to depend on himself in the process of memorization. Rather, he should test his memorization by reciting the verses or Surah to somebody else.
  • Interestingly, physical exercise and a balanced diet improve the heart’s ability to pump blood more effectively, and, in turn, memory benefits from the improved blood flow.

The above suggestions come from students and teachers that kindly shared the tips, which practically helped them to retain what they memorized. May Allah (swt) help each one of us to benefit from them. Ameen.

Lastly, Abdullah Ibn Amr (rta) has narrated a beautiful Hadeeth, according to which the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “It will be said to the reciter of the Quran: ‘Read and ascend! And chant as you used to chant in the worldly life. For verily, your station (in Paradise) will be at the last verse you recite.'”(Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood)

Dear Haadia

I am an above average O levels student (male) and work very hard to maintain my grades. However, sometimes I am not able to be the best. This puts a lot of pressure on me, especially from my parents. I am sick of being pushed around and now feel very depressed. What should I do?

Answer: You should keep up your hard work. In fact, you should feel proud of your efforts and understand that your parents only mean well, even if they don’t show it in the best of ways.

If things are getting too out of hand, perhaps you should try to convey to them that their forceful and persistent approach is actually hampering you from achieving success. Take both of them or one of them into your confidence. If this is difficult, then seek help from a relative who is mutually close to you and your parents. Your parents need to recognize that you are a self-motivated individual who needs to have some space in order to accomplish his studies. They also need to realize that any pitfalls here and there do not mean that you are no longer committed to your goal.

At the same time, you need to see that your parents’ concern is also quite understandable: this is a very crucial stage of your student life and will weigh in heavily into your future studies and career choices. So, don’t get unnerved so easily. Keep your calm and keep studying. They only want the best for you.

Feeling helpless and depressed is not the solution. Rather, it could have a serious impact on your studying, on your zeal, on your willingness to take on challenges. It is very important that you keep a clear head right now and deal with this situation in the best possible manner: through discussion, mutual understanding and, of course, continued hard work!

Dear Haadia

Recently, I got married into a joint family system and am living happily with my husband. However, my family is not getting along with my in-laws. They claim that my in-laws don’t give them the respect they deserve. What should I do? I am torn between my parents and the duty towards my new household.

Answer: Indeed, your situation is quite precarious, but do remember that Allah (swt) has power over everything, as it is repeatedly stated in the Quran. Do not despair, as long as you reach out to Him. Read Dua-e-Istikharah, after offering two Nawafil and recite Surah Al-Baqarah for three nights – a Hadeeth tells us that in such a case Shaitan would not enter the house.

Apart from this, the marriage sermon delivered by our Prophet (sa) gives the advice that if we say the correct things, Allah (swt) shall set our affairs right. Do not align yourself with someone whom you know to be wrong as Islam lays great emphasis on truth and justice. On the other hand, handle the situation with the greatest of wisdom. There is no need to make hasty choices – simply believe that nobody can snatch from you your fate.

Remember that sometimes there are no black and white solutions – no definite choices for such sort of crises. Keep communication open with both parties and try to limit interaction between your in-laws and parents. Often we see that time is a great healer. Also, remember not to discuss this issue with other people, as it might aggravate the situation, if wrong advice is given or wrong information is shared.

May Allah (swt) be with you and protect you and your family from discord. Ameen.

Dear Haadia

Some of my friends have succumbed to smoking. When I try to stop them, they make fun of me. What should I do?

Answer: The topic of your question is a delicate one, as peer pressure can be extremely tough and exhausting to cope with. We often see that people are reluctant to give up smoking, either at gunpoint or through warning as to what is forbidden in Islam. They are unwilling to listen about the moral decadence of this addiction and the harmful effects associated with it. Although this is easier said than done, do not feel offended about being ridiculed, when inviting people towards the truth. Remember that even the messengers were mocked and ridiculed, when they invited people towards the good: “And never came a Messenger to them but they did mock at him.” (Al-Hijr 15:11)

First, sincerity on your part is absolutely essential. In warning your friends, keep your intention solely for the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Do not forget to make Dua for them and yourself that Allah (swt) may help you and grant you wisdom and strength in warning them.

Remember to invite with politeness and in non-argumentative ways; never strike on any individual’s integrity. You will have to build up your level of patience in this painstaking process; you might even be referred to as ‘Naik Bibi’ (pious girl). Do not get embarrassed or ashamed. In fact, when there is no negative reaction, eventually such jabs do fizzle out.

Also, remember that your role is to pass on the repercussions of this evil without nagging. An effective tool, which may be used for this purpose, is e-mail. May be you could start out by sending some interesting current discoveries and then discreetly move on to mailing information on smoking. There are many sites available, for example: http://www.missionislam.com/.

Hiba also had a special article on ‘Smoking in Shariah’ in one of its past issues. You may consult that to find out Islam’s stance and supporting evidence on the subject.

While giving the message, look for like-minded friends, so that you don’t get weakened and influenced in the process. In fact, they will be a source of strength for you, Insha’Allah.

If any of your friends wants to give up smoking, support them in any and every way possible, e.g., by offering counseling, medical help, financial or other resources. It is equally important to realize that beyond this, there is nothing else we can do, except continue praying for all such people with the utmost sincerity. Why? As we know, the ultimate guide is Allah’s (swt) will. Prophet Nuh (as) said to his people: “And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you good counsel, if Allah’s will is to keep you astray.” (Hud 11:34)