Keeping the End in Mind

vision for marriageBearing the end in mind is about the principle of vision, and vision is powerful. According to a well-acclaimed research, it is this principle that helps prisoners of war survive the atrocities and brutalities of concentration camps. Vision is the same principle that gives children the drive to succeed. It is a moving power behind effective individuals and organizations in every walk of life. Vision is also greater than the negative baggage of the past and even the accumulated heartache of the present.

Mariam, a woman married for almost fifteen years shared that, “There are times when my husband and I disagree about things and put a wall between us due to a difference of opinion. I have resolved not to let the wall expand and drive us apart. Almost instantly or later, I realize what Satan is trying to scheme against us. Without caring who is right or wrong, I willingly apologize to my husband or try talking things out.

Many of my friends think this is a loser’s policy. They prefer to be caught dead than to admit their mistake, or kiss and make up for a quarrel they never started.”

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On the Faith of my Friend (Part 2)

faith of friend

The Third Story: Back to the Noor of Iman

How many of you know that Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan is an ex-atheist? Here is his story:

I went through an internal struggle, when I was in junior high school. Basically, it was a loss of religion. When I came to the USA in the ninth grade, it was a cultural shock. A lot of the values that I was raised with were all being questioned at the same time. There was nobody that I could talk to or verify my own beliefs with. Eventually, what happens is that you make friends based on proximity and common interest, so most of my friends were polytheists and a good number of smart people were actually atheists. Falling into that crowd and not being around any Muslims, I ended up with a good bunch of very messed up friends.

I hid my confusions from my family, because I knew how taboo they could be – you can’t really share these kinds of confusions at home, so I learnt to live with them. I began to have almost a hatred for the concept of God. Religion became something that I associated more with my friends, rather than my family. No matter how in touch you are with your religion, it’s just a matter of having messed up friends.

However, Subhanallah, with the Mercy of Allah, Allah (swt) opened many doors for me, one after another, that I couldn’t have opened myself – those doors led me back to Iman. Allah (swt) opened a door for me that led me to make friends with a person, who I would probably not have imagined associating with. I ran into him by chance. As I was sitting in the hallway, I saw this guy come up and post a flyer on the college billboard, which read “Muslim Student Association”. I thought: “Wow, these people will probably invite all the Muslims to jam together.” So I went over to him and started talking to him about it, and he said: “Yeah, it’s a lot of fun! You have to come!”

I skipped out on all the other clubs that I was part of and I went to this supposedly great party club. When I reached there, there was no one in the room, except the guy who had put up the flyers with a box of pizza, waiting for the others to show up. When I walked in, I felt sort of awkward, so I tried to leave. He, however, reeled me in – we started talking and became friends.  He’d give me a ride home every day. And we’d hang out every other day. No Islam, no religion – he was just a friend.

One time, when we got stuck in traffic, he said: “It’s getting late. Would you mind, if I stopped here and offered my Maghrib prayer?” I readily agreed. At that time, it must have been six years since I had last prayed. Inexplicably, I felt the urge to pray with him. So I went, performed my Wudhu and prayed with him. And I felt something that I had not felt in a very long time. A sort of peace. I tried to bury it inside me. Thanks to the Mercy of Allah (swt), he gave me that consistent company and through him I got to meet a lot of wonderful people – young Muslims, who were really active in their community, doing things that mattered, trying to make the world a better place.

It made me think, wow, these people have such a sense of purpose – where are they getting it from? Because till then I had no sense of purpose. One of the other things he did for me was that he connected me to this programme, which was going on in the Muslim centre in Flushing. It was in Ramadan, and the programme included a Taraweeh prayer coupled with the explanation of the Quran. Then, for the first time in my life I realized that the Quran was actually a dialogue – Allah (swt) was talking to me. The Lord of the Worlds was directly engaged in conversation with me. I was mystified. I listened for the entire month. In the end, I went up to the presenter and told him: “I want to do what you do.”

Masha’Allah, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan went on to establish the “Bayyinah Institute”, an institute of Islamic learning that has transformed many lives since. All due to the Mercy of Allah (swt), Who connected him to that one friend, who led Nouman Ali Khan to the Nur of Iman once again.

The Fourth Story: The Miracle of Kabah

The following story is one of the most riveting tales I have ever heard in my life:

During his school days, a boy by the name of Aslam had a close friend, who eventually grew up to be one of the greatest scholars of this generation. They graduated from school and went ahead in their lives. Aslam was blessed with a wonderful education and career, a highly paid job and very meritorious position, lavish lifestyle and belongings. Life for him was, in a nutshell, perfect. And this perfection is what planted the seed of arrogance in his heart. “I have everything I want in this world,” he thought. “I’m dependent on nobody. There is no Allah (swt). I am the master of my own life.”

One day, he mentioned this to his friends at a gathering, in which his old school friend, now a Sheikh, was also present. When his friends heard directly from Aslam’s mouth that he had adopted atheism, there was no end to the mockery and remonstrance he was subjected to. Only the Sheikh maintained absolute silence. None of what his friends said, however, had any effect on him. He was resolute – there is no God. Allah (swt) continued to shower His infinite blessings upon Aslam, who, as time went on, became more and more complacent. On reaching the pinnacle of his power and wealth, he boldly stood up in a gathering and proclaimed: “There is no Allah! I am an atheist!”

It was at this assertion that Allah’s (swt) anger descended upon the smug man. Aslam contracted a strange disease that confounded doctors. He intermittently suffered from severe fits and profuse sweating. No doctor had ever come across this disease, nor had they ever heard of it – naturally, they had no idea of how to treat it. As a result, Aslam’s health steadily deteriorated. He lost weight and became weaker by the day. The fits rendered him unable to work and he was fired from his job. His wife and friends, assuming the disease was contagious, deserted him. He was left all alone. And that’s when he remembered his childhood friend, who had not mocked him, when he had announced his atheism. “He must be my true friend,” Aslam thought and rang up the Sheikh.

The Sheikh was a wise man. On hearing the plight of his friend, he replied: “I may be able to help you. I know of two other people, who were afflicted with the same disease. A doctor in the USA was able to cure them.”

Oh, were any other words sweeter than these? “Please help me contact that doctor!” Aslam pleaded.

“Of course, I will, my friend,” replied the Sheikh, “but only on one condition.”

“Anything,” Aslam breathed.

“You must promise me that on your way back from USA to Pakistan, you must stop at Makkah to perform Umrah.”

Aslam was caught unawares. “But I’m an atheist! Why would I go to Makkah?”

“This is my condition. If you want to get yourself treated by the right person, you have to promise.”

Defeated, Aslam agreed. The Sheikh gave him the doctor’s contact number and wished him a safe journey. Aslam arrived in the USA and visited the recommended physician. The physician examined his situation and remarked: “The disease you are suffering from is one of the rarest diseases in the world. Only three people have contracted it so far, but I have been able to cure them.” Aslam’s treatment began. But Allah’s (swt) will was such that instead of alleviating Aslam’s situation, the treatment made it worse. No medicine worked.

Realising that there was nothing to be gained in the USA, a distraught Aslam boarded the aircraft bound for home, barely well enough to travel. He was mere skin and bones, and the seizures overtook him more frequently than ever. As promised, he had arranged for a transit in Makkah. The thin, emaciated form disembarked in Makkah and the sunken eyes beheld the Kabah for the first time. The black box is indeed a miracle in itself. Allah’s (swt) glory manifested itself in the self-proclaimed atheist’s eyes, who cried out in pain and agony, clutching at the last straw, “Ya Allah, agar tu hai, tou mujhe theek karday!” (O Allah, if you are present, cure me!) The moment he uttered these words, his body relaxed. He felt calmer. And when the seizures came, they weren’t as intense as before. As days passed, they became less frequent, came with greater gaps and the intensity steadily decreased till the fits vanished altogether. Overwhelmed, Aslam saw the divine light. He returned home and took Shahada at the hands of his true friend, the Sheikh. The darkness of atheism would never hit him again.

The Pakistani Wow-man

wow-man

By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist

“Educate a woman, educate a nation” is a line often repeated, but educated women are a sight seldom seen. Stories of oppression and abuse, on the other hand, are in abundance. But there’s still light somewhere at the end of the tunnel, a hint of a silver lining in our otherwise dark cloud. The Pakistani woman is rising to face the challenges.

Academics, medicine, technology, politics, sports or arts – we have names to be proud of in all. The following are accounts of two such women, who faced the odds bravely and are now a source of pride.

Sughra Solangi – A Journey of Courage

After being divorced at a young age, Sughra Solangi, mother of two, geared up to face the challenges and started with pursuing her dream of being educated. After passing her matriculation exams, she applied for a teaching job which she got. From then on, her journey started. Yet, she realized that the villagers were not willing to send their daughters to school. Sughra started a door-to-door campaign in order to persuade them otherwise. She started collecting funds and giving interest-free loans to help those in need of financial assistance.

Within a year, she had around her a small but a very strong group of women and thus started realizing her dream of getting the girl-child educated. She named her group Marvi Rural Development Organization. Through this organization, she wanted to help the harassed women facing hardships in the patriarchal set-up of our society. Women were denied their right to education and girls were married off at very tender ages, with their lives unjustly dictated by their husbands. Women were also being wrongly murdered under the label of Karo Kari (a cultural practice). Such were the miserable conditions of women in Sughra’s village, from which she wanted to liberate them.

Sughra succeeded in getting the attention of donors towards the ailing conditions of these poor women. Soon, help began pouring in, and Sughra’s little group of women expanded into a bigger, stronger organization working for the betterment of the rural women of Sindh.

In 2011, Sughra Solangi got the prestigious U.S. Secretary of State’s “International Women of Courage” award, which was presented to her by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, this is not the end of her story. Sughra wishes for all women of Pakistan to start facing the challenges and to start speaking up for themselves.

Jamila Khatoon – The Courageous Ms. Oil

A Rickshaw driver, a motor mechanic and a hawker combined in one superwoman – this is Jamila Khatoon for you. Her journey, however, has been anything but easy.

Jamila was married off to a man double her age. Six months into their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She contacted the local labour house to help her with their household expenses. She started receiving Rs. 2000 a month to fulfill all her household needs and get treatment for her husband. This was when she put her foot down and ventured out into the man’s world. She decided to take matters in her own hands and began frequenting her husband’s oil supply shop. After her husband’s death, she completely took over his business.

Being a woman, she met a lot of resistance in the form of people refusing to work with her. Instead of giving up, this brave woman took all the matters in her hands, including the motor mechanic’s job. Fighting with people, circumstances and the society, Jamila Khatoon continued with a persistence rarely seen in a woman.

Soon she started venturing to the newspaper market along with her job as a motor mechanic. People started mocking her and calling her a ‘Ladka (lad) without a moustache’. Life went on for Jamila, and she became a newspaper hawker. But this was not enough for her. Later, defying the general norm, she started taking Rickshaw driving lessons. Jamila Khatoon is now a proud Rickshaw driver, a newspaper hawker and a motor mechanic.

Braving her way through the pitch black night, Jamila is confident of the beautiful bright morning waiting for her.

Sughra Solangi and Jamila Khatoon are just two examples of countless such women trying to face the odds in a man’s world.

A final word

In the absence of a truly Islamic and Shariah-compliant state, the lesser-privileged Pakistani women are left to their own devices, especially when male relatives, who could have assumed responsibility for them, do not step forward. Even if some men do take the initiative, they do not aid these women with dignity and honour. In such a case, women have only two options: they can either accept the injustices of the society silently until death comes to relieve them, or they can fight back to attain an honourable status (which is their right to begin with).

It hurts us deeply to see how Dr. Afia Siddiqui is being tortured at the hands of the foreigners, and today, we raise our voices in her support, for her freedom. What about the dark injustices happening on our own soil? Do we have the license to pass verdicts against anyone and assign them to inhuman treatment? Do we not fear Allah (swt)? Or, is it simply that whatever happens in our own backyard is just not worth giving any attention to?

The cries of the oppressed do reach Allah (swt) sooner than anything else. Ignorance is not bliss. Our Zakat and Sadaqat should be used to rehabilitate destitute Muslim families especially headed by women or comprising females only. They need to be empowered and educated with honour by providing long-range solutions instead of quick fixes. Tarbiyah and character-building should also be a part of this programme so they can raise contributing citizens in the society rather than those who resort to a depressed mindset.

On the Faith of My Friend (Part 1)

faith of friend

By Maria Haqqani – Freelance writer and engineering student

Imagine yourself to be standing in the middle of a garbage dump. The stench is overpowering. Now, imagine somebody pouring a bottle of perfume all over you. Will you smell great? No, you will still stink; well, maybe in a weird sort of way. Such is the example of a person surrounded by foul friends, as expressed by our Prophet (sa):

“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, you will buy some from him or at least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) has said: “A bad friend is worse than a snake. A bad friend is worse than Satan.” Why is that so? Let’s think rationally. Satan can only entice a human to do wrong. He will come and whisper in your ear to commit a particular sin and make it all the more appealing to you. But a bad friend will call you up, show you the wrong path, and take you along with himself to tread upon that path. Satan may make you think that drinking is the ‘in’ thing, but a bad friend will not only offer to pick and take you to the bar but also pester you to have a glass of wine.

“And (remember) the Day when the Zalim (wrong-doer, oppressor, polytheist, etc.) will bite at his hands, he will say: ‘Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)). Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so as a friend! He indeed led me astray from the Reminder (this Quran) after it had come to me. And Shaitan (Satan) is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need.’” (Al-Furqan 25:27-29)

“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).”  (At-Taubah 9:119)

The Deen of Islam is Yusr (easy). In the aforementioned verse, Allah (swt) does not say “be like the truest ones” or “follow the truest ones”. He merely says to associate with them – as a result, their qualities will definitely rub off on us. The same way the bad company will lead us to sin, good company will have the opposite effect and bring us closer to Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) said: “Solitude is better than being in bad company, and good company is better than solitude.” (Baihaqi) This Hadeeth stresses the importance of good company. Perhaps the biggest advantage of having the company of people close to Deen is illustrated by the following Hadeeth-e-Qudsi;

“Where are those who loved one another for My Glory? Today I will shade them under My shade, on the Day when there is no shade but Mine.” (Muslim)

The First Story: Only Between Allah (swt) and You

Maham, a third year Madrassah student and a pupil at a private university, related the following story:

The journey through classical Islamic learning is highly stimulating – not only does it bring you closer to Allah (swt) and transform your lifestyle, but it also makes your ideas and plans venture into a realm you’d never have possibly imagined. During my second year of studies, I began contemplating the Purdah, meaning the Niqab. Surah Al-Ahzab and Surah An-Nur are two Surahs that, if they hit home, make a woman strive for Allah’s (swt) love and do whatever He has commanded a woman to do. The fire to take this step was kindled, but, as usual, Satan got up to his tricks again and attacked me with inhibitions. “How will I explain to my parents that I want to don the Niqab? They’ll think I’ve gone crazy! How will my friends react? They’ll call me an extremist! I shall never fit into their group again! I’ll be an outcast! This is going to be so hard!

I decided to discuss this issue with one of my classmates, who had been blessed enough to have taken this step already. After lending a very patient ear to my effusions, she replied: “Honestly, Maham, you’ll hate it.”

I stared at her in disbelief.

“Yes, you will,” she ‘reassured’ me, eyeing my startled expression. “After donning the Niqab, you’re just not the same person anymore. You cannot fit into your crowd, your college mates will mock you and you cannot dress up. At times, I just feel like ripping it off and being the ‘old me’ again.”

I was speechless. Here I was, asking my friend for some encouragement, when I was in a state of mental turmoil, whilst all she could offer was excuses for me to drop the idea altogether? But, she leaned closer and continued, her eyes shining: “You know what keeps me going? The sole fact that when I step outdoors, I know that whether I’m happy or sad, whether I have a smile playing upon my lips or whether my face depicts anxiety, it is only my Allah (swt) Who can see. It’s mine and Allah’s (swt) little secret. That is what makes the Niqab so special. Oh, and you know another thing that’s so cool? I can see everyone, but nobody can see me. A Niqabi gets the spiritual edge, the edge in Dunya and in the Akhirah.” She smiled a smile that reflected pure satisfaction and contentment.

I suddenly realised I had tears in my eyes. The beauty of the idea and the sincerity with which Lubaina had uttered this statement touched my heart. Next time I stepped out of the house, a three inch cloth covered my face and barred most of my face from view, shielding me from recognition. My friends stared at me in wonder, as though a stranger had stepped into their midst. I smiled. I knew my secret was safe.”

The Second Story: The Power of Ya-Sin  

Zareen, a third year Madrassah student studying at a private college, had a very interesting story to share:

When my best friend visited Pakistan from London during her university holidays, we would sleep over at each other’s place quite frequently. It was a Ramadan night, when she was over at my house. I had been reciting Surah Ya-Sin. I put aside my Quran, with the page open at Surah Ya-Sin, and started talking to her. Her inquisitive nature possessed her, and she asked me what I had been doing. I told her I’d been memorising Surah Ya-Sin.

“Why?” she asked.

“The Prophet (sa) said that Surah Ya-Sin is the heart of the Quran. Hence, I believe that if the ‘Heart of the Quran’ is inside a person’s heart, how can Allah (swt) burn that person and his heart in hell?”

The thought attracted Hooria. “So even if a person is a sinner, but he’s learnt the Surah, he won’t be put into the fire?” was her innocent question.

“Yes, that is what I personally believe,” I replied. “There is a Hadeeth, which implies that one only gets from Allah (swt) whatever he expects to get from Him. I expect this from my Allah (swt) and hence hope for the best.”

Hooria thought this over. “Okay,” she said finally. “I want to learn it, too. Let’s keep each other in check and set a target for every day.”

Excited, I agreed. This was indeed great news. Hooria was not very regular in her prayer; in fact, it was only in Ramadan that she would pray once or twice a day and very rarely the rest of the year, if at all. We kept a check on each other and progressed well into the Surah by the time she returned to the UK.

One day, we were talking to each other and she asked me: “If you give up something in your life, I’ll do something for you, whatever you ask.” I agreed.

After she’d told me what she wanted me to give up, I seized the opportunity and said to her, “Now, it’s my turn – you have to give up eating Haram food and switch entirely to Halal.” She agreed. Now, she began to be more conscious of what she was eating and consequently more conscious of Allah (swt). Soon she grew accustomed to eating Halal.

We kept up this process of doing things for each other. Next, I asked her to begin praying the Jumuah prayer. She agreed. This tiny step awakened her spiritual self. She began offering one prayer a day and that increased to praying five times a day!

When she visited Pakistan next, Hooria said to me: “You know, Zareen, when I came to Karachi this time, it was a different me. My heart was at peace. I was happy internally. Even in one Namaz, whatever I ask Allah (swt), He gives it to me. You always told me to ask Him for Him. I never knew Him. But now I’m getting to know Him a bit more. You know what? I didn’t miss a single prayer yesterday!”

I still marvel at how Allah (swt) helps people, who take a step towards Him. Hooria was most enthusiastic about her Ibadah. Her day was no longer complete without reciting Surah Ya-Sin. She’d feel something was terribly amiss, if she didn’t. She asked me questions and found out about the Chasht and Ishraq prayers and would offer them regularly. I told her that the Asr prayer is actually four Sunnahs and four Fard, although the Sunnahs are not compulsory. But her enthusiasm knew no bounds. Since then, it’s been eight Rakats for her in each Asr prayer. If I would leave my two Nafil in Maghrib, saying that I’m too exhausted, she’d blackmail me and say: “How would you feel, if Allah (swt) said to you that He’s too exhausted to put you in Jannah?”

“Instead of going from zero to ten, Hooria stepped from zero to a ninety-nine, Masha’Allah. She may not have started covering, but when I donned the Niqab, she was my best support,” finished Zareen.

Handling Financial Difficulties the Sunnah Way

Handling Financial Difficulties the Sunnah Way

Real-life accounts of people who faced hardship but refused to compromise on their values.

Khilafat-e-Rashidah is no more, where the needy were the top concern for the rulers. Today’s Muslim governments are neglecting and exploiting the needy. Under one such system, sister S.A.’s family was facing massive financial problems: over 100,000 dirhams in her brother’s visa-related fines and renewals for documents. The family had no regular income, but their late father had left them with Islamic upbringing.

I would see S.A. and her mother composed. They would constantly make Dua and Dhikr, mentioning that Allah (swt) is Gahfoor and Raheem, Rahman and Raheem. S.A would say: “This amount is no problem for Allah (swt); He has promised that ‘those who trust in Me, I will be with them,’ and that we should not despair of His mercy.” They would pray to Allah (swt) to give them from His treasures.

Once, S.A. was offered a tempting 5,000 Dirhams for just five days of work at some exhibition. She asked them if she could wear her Hijab there. When they refused, she turned down the offer. Subhan’Allah, in a turn of events, S.A’s own local sponsor agreed to pay a big chunk of their fines, in return for her brother working for him. Their worries are not over, but their submission to Allah (swt) continues.

Umm Musa

UAE

“Rasheed, come home immediately. Your father has gone blind,’’ my mother phoned me from Multan in 1980. I was then in the army at Lahore. I rushed to Multan, and the doctor informed me that my father had suffered from haemorrhage. His vision would revive gradually, but it would be very weak. I returned to Lahore after one week.

We are five brothers and three sisters, all married. All brothers, except myself, had jobs abroad. To live with my parents, I applied for a posting on compassionate grounds to my home station, Multan. It was rejected by the GHQ. I then applied for voluntary retirement and left the army within three months. In Multan, I hunted for a job but in vain. I requested my younger brother to return and live with my parents. When he returned, I left for Karachi and later – Saudi Arabia. However, despite my best effort, I found no suitable job.

In 1982, my friend offered me a job, which paid little but had a lot of potential in terms of bribery. I refused. For some time, I ran a garments’ business but was later hoodwinked by my partner. There came a time when I contemplated pulling my two children out of school. However, our patience bore fruit when first, my brothers helped us out financially and later, I got a job that took care of our immediate expenses. Seven years later, out of the blue, I got a job offer from the Middle East, which I accepted. It has been nineteen years now. Allah (swt) has continued to shower His blessings upon me. He has blessed me with good health, wealth and respect.

Muhammad Rasheed

Middle East