Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Baqarah 2

pearls6We hope that the first fast of this blessed month of Ramadan has gone smoothly. When you feel the hours are too long think, of the places where people fast for eighteen or even more hours. May Allah (swt) allow us to make the best of this month, ameen. Let’s dive into some more pearls of peace from the Book of peace.

Tests for the best!

Allah (swt) informs us that He is definitely going to test us with different types of tests. He says, “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)

Sometimes fear might over take us. Sometimes we might suffer loss in our business. We may not have enough wealth. We may lose our dear ones; our parents, our spouse and our children. Sometimes the production will be less. But who will have peace when being tested? Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” (Al-Baqarah 2:155-156)

Surrender to the will of Allah (swt)

They are those who are contented with the decree of Allah (swt). They know that ‘we belong to Allah (swt)’ and everything that we have belongs to Allah (swt). When a calamity strikes them, they are quick to say, “Inna lillahi wa-innailahi rajioon” and move on with their life. If we adopt this approach, we will achieve peace. But if, we are someone not prepared to be tested, then what will we do in the hereafter? How will the believers be distinguished from the disbelievers if we are not prepared to be tested?

It is similar to going to school every day, attending classes and taking lectures. But when exams come we walk out of the examination hall saying, “I don’t want to be tested.” That indicates we wasted our time at school.

Quran’s main addressee is human being; therefore it holistically attends to every topic that is related to human life. If we follow the instructions laid out in the Quran, we will acquire the peace that we are searching for.

Thank Allah (swt) and eat from what is lawful

In this Surah, Allah (swt) talks about what we should eat. He says, “O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you with, and be grateful to Allah, if it is indeed He Whom you worship.” (Al-Baqarah 2:172) Stay away from unlawful and impure things. Eat Halal (lawful) and Tayyab (pure) and be thankful to Allah (swt). This will be the quality of someone who truly considers Allah (swt) as his Lord, Nourisher, Provider and Sustainer. People are dying out of hunger and drought while our houses are stocked with food and water, Alhamdulillah. May He make us His thankful servants. Ameen. The more we appreciate Allah’s (swt) gifts upon us, the more thankful we would be.

Strict avoidance of the Haram

Right after this verse  He warns us to stay away from the Haram, “He has forbidden you only the Maytatah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, etc., on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering).” (Al-Baqarah 2:173)

This is just a small list of items that we are prohibited to eat. Haram affects our entire system, more details in the later section, Insha’Allah.

Fasting brings piety

Allah (swt) then mentions the month of Ramadan in the Quran, “O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun” (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

Ramadan – the month of the divine revelation

This is the only month of the Islamic calendar which is mentioned this way. This is the month in which the Book of guidance was sent down by Allah (swt). Thus during this month we dedicate specific time for Quran. The Quran recitors should try their best to recite the Quran in such a manner that every letter is clear while those who are still learning the Quran should search for places where they can go and learn the Quran.

Go fasting, go healthy!

In the month of Ramadan, we not only fast for the sake of Allah (swt) but also improve our health. Fasting helps us to detoxify our bodies, physically as well as spiritually; according to a finding supported by Science. In the 1960s, the Stanford University campus conducted an interested experiment at a pre-school. The ability of four-year olds to resist temptation was tested. A marshmallow was placed in a room and the children were told that they could have the marshmallow immediately, or if they waited until the tester had run an errand and returned, then they could have two marshmallows. Some children waited for two marshmallows, while others ate one immediately. These same children were followed over 14 years to see how they managed in life.

Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent, personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. The third or so who grabbed the marshmallow, however, tended to have fewer of these qualities and shared instead a relatively more troubled psychological portrait. Surprisingly, those who had waited patiently at four were far superior as students to those who acted on whim. Moreover, they had dramatically higher scores in their SAT tests. There is perhaps no physiological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. It is the root of all emotional self-control, since all emotions, by their very nature, lead to one or another impulse to act. (Coleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence, London: Bloomsbury, 1996, pp. 81-82.)

People stop eating certain foods to detoxify their bodies and go on a diet. Allah (swt) gives us an entire month to detoxify and get back in shape. But sadly, we treat the month of fasting as a month of feasting. Women are busy in the kitchen the entire day making delicacies for Iftar, leaving no time or energy to stand up in Taraweeh and worship the One Who provided them Rizq. It seems as if this is the only month when we get to eat something.

Yes, Allah (swt) has called cooking an act of worship when done with the intention of feeding one’s family. However, we also need to keep ourselves in check. When we begin wasting our time in decorating food then it is no more an act of worship. Most often, the decoration done so precisely and artistically goes to waste. No one eats the carved salad or the chocolate sauce sprinkled on the platter. We are wasting what we have been given in abundance while there are people dying out of hunger.

Make invocations before Fajr (at Sahoor)

Allah (swt) then mentions how close He is to us, “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad (sa)) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge).” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

When one senses the closeness of Allah (swt), he is at peace. Allah’s (swt) closeness protects one from evil and sins. Allah (swt) continues, “I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.”

Everyone is calling Allah (swt) at the same time for different things, and Allah (swt) is listening to each one us, giving us what we have invoked Him for, at the right time. Never underestimate calling out to Allah (swt). When you get up for Sahoor, remember Allah (swt). Keep your Dua list handy.

The hidden truth about our needs

An overlooked gift of Allah (swt) to us is that He keeps us in need. Had He not kept us yearning, would we have remembered Him? May Allah (swt) fulfill our needs. Ameen.

Bribery – a major sin

Allah (swt) then warns us of bribery, And eat up not one another’s property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers …” (Al-Baqarah 2:188)

Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajid explains, “Bribery means giving money to someone through whom a person takes something that has no right to, such as bribing a judge to judge in his favour wrongfully, or bribing an official to give him preference over others, or to give him something to which he is not entitled. Bribery is a major sin, because the Prophet (sa) said: ‘May the curse of Allah (swt) be upon the one who pays a bribe and the one who takes it.’ (Ibn Majah) It must be known bribery is only permissible when a person cannot attain his rights in any other way. But in that case it is Haram for the one who takes it but not the one who gives it.”

Dishonest transactions/ dealings

Similarly, if you are selling something, do not deceive someone by misquoting the price or selling them a damaged good. If there is some defect be honest and let them know. Charge an honest profit because if the buyer finds out your products are over-priced, he is not going to return for another purchase and also give negative feedback to others.

Worse, the person can curse you because of your lying. Are you willing to risk your peace and contentment for a little amount of money? Honesty builds trust and strengthens relationships. It will also give you a competitive edge over others.

An Incident to Reflect

Opened_Qur'anIt is impossible to praise the Quran the way it deserves. The excellence, that the Quran portrays, makes all the words written about it seem very minute. When you keep reading and understanding the Quran, a strong relation is developed between you and the Quran. It becomes the mind with which you analyze things. It becomes the eyes with which you see the world. It becomes the heart with which you understand the world around you. You face a situation and all of a sudden you remember a verse. Sometimes a situation makes you understand the true meaning of a verse, which is not fully understood by reading the tafseer alone.

For example, Allah (swt) says that on the Day of Judgement, if a person would wish to give the whole world in ransom to free himself from the hellfire, it will not be accepted from him.

“Verily, those who disbelieve, if they had all that is in the earth, and as much again therewith to ransom themselves thereby from the torment on the Day of Resurrection, it would never be accepted of them, and theirs would be a painful torment.” (Al-Maida -36)

Moreover, that day will be so fearful that a person would want to give away his son, his wife and his close friend in ransom for himself but all of this would be in vain.

“That Day shall a man flee from his brother,And from his mother and his father And from his wife and his children. Everyman, that Day, will have enough to make him careless of others.” (Abasa 34-37)

 We however tend to forget that  we are performing at the center of the stage; every word that we speak with our tongues and every gesture that our body makes is being recorded.

Recently, we came back from a very long journey by road. We were exhausted and needed immediate rest. However, our lives are a test and most tests from Allah (swt) come at a time when we are emotionally venerable.

Arriving home we found out that there was some major fault with the electricity. This meant no fans! No fans meant no sleep. Alhumdulillah, we cannot thank Allah (swt) for all the blessings that He has bestowed over us. My brother went to start up the generator. Forlornly, he came and informed us that it was out of fuel.  Every one of us faces such drastic situations. We however tend to forget that  we are performing at the center of the stage; every word that we speak with our tongues and every gesture that our body makes is being recorded.

My mother at that time did not have enough cash for the fuel. At that moment I made an offer I would have never made in normal circumstances. I said, irritated, that I will give the money. I offered money from the precious treasure that I had earned on Eid: of course, the grand Eidi. I had made so many plans of spending my Eidi, but at that moment, all I wanted was the fan to start. I would have given every single penny I owned just for me to get relaxed.

I had made so many plans of spending my Eidi, but at that moment, all I wanted was the fan to start. I would have given every single penny I owned just for me to get relaxed.

There and then this verse came to my mind, that on the Day of Resurrection, a person would be ready to give every single possession he owned to save himself from the terrible heat of hellfire. As the thought revolved in my mind, I shivered and was shocked. I looked around. I was in my home. If there was no electricity, at least there was a cool breeze. I had cold water to drink and my stomach was well-fed. I was not standing bare-foot on a scorching ground. I understood the depth of the verse and got a small picture of the circumstances we have to face on the Day of Qiyamah.

May Allah (swt) enable us to inculate the Quran in our daily lives and understand the depth of its meaning as they apply to us.

Bashka Voda – Part 2

Bashka Voda 2

(In part 1: By supplying a Bosnian refugee camp in Bashka Voda with food and detergents, relief workers Suleman and Abbas (with the help of Aida, their translator) have obtained  permission to teach the refugees English and Islamic history, thus introducing to them the basics of Islam, their faith, which had been suppressed by the Communist regime. The turnout to the first class has exceeded their expectations.) 

“Where should we start from?” I asked. This raised a few eyebrows, as according to the picture Aida had painted, they were not expecting much interaction. I was supposed to have lectured like the Khutbah of the Friday prayer and leave; they were to listen respectfully and quietly.

I encouraged them by asking questions like how they were instructed in schools about Islam and so on. Finally, a 14-year-old sister said shyly: “Can you, please, start from zero? We were told in schools that there is no God.”

I was dumbfounded. This was the least of what I expected. I glanced at the rest of the class and found people nodding their heads. She was not alone.

I took a deep breath and started slowly and deliberately, as it would have been a disaster, if Aida misunderstood this delicate topic. I pointed out to the wonders that surrounded us and the signs that the creations held. After introducing them to the microchip, I said: “The microchip is made of silicon, iron and other metals. The probability of these metals getting arranged in this order by random existed but would be one in a zillion.

“So, on seeing this chip, you would argue that there is no one behind its creation just because such a random possibility existed or would you accept that someone designed and manufactured it? So how about this Universe, which is so much more complex?”

I gently reasoned that not believing in Allah (swt) didn’t add up logically. “If we were told that a road has snipers, and there is a chance that we will be hit, as opposed to another road, which is completely safe, which road would you take? Why would you not like to be safer? Why not apply the same logic in believing in Allah (swt)? You only gain by believing in Allah (swt), while in not believing in Him (swt), you take a risk.

I asked them, if anyone had proof that Allah (swt) didn’t exist. No one had. “The absence of the proof of a thing’s existence cannot become a proof in itself of its non-existence. On the contrary, all creations are a clear proof of the existence of a Creator.”

I was crude. It was raw Dawah, for which I had no earlier experience. For most of the students, it was the first time this was being presented in this manner. Some nodded, some sat wondering and others were awestricken.

Towards the end, I was sweating.

I found relief in the cool sea breeze, as I drove that evening. Those drives became a source of strength, as I collected my thoughts before the class and reflected on my return. This was my first intellectual interaction with the Bosnians, of whom I had a good general sample. I had all age groups, except for men of fighting age; I had both country folk and city dwellers from practically all income levels and locations.

I was impressed. I found the Bosnians to be simple-minded. They were also highly impressionable and I couldn’t fathom whether it was intrinsic or due to the tragedy that had met them.

Next day, we discussed Tauhid. “If there is a Creator,” I said, “He must be one; otherwise, the Universe would be in chaos. Just as we can’t have two captains in a plane or two drivers in a car, we can’t have two gods in this Universe.”

That day they were relaxed, easily smiling at my jokes. I wanted them engaged, as the class was voluntary, and the last thing I wanted was to have them lose interest.

I noticed that the girls with the short skirts were not there, confirming my suspicion that they had meant to tease me. The problem had obviously taken care of itself, but I was proven wrong. The girls were there but were dressed differently.

After the class, the same girls approached me. “We are the ones who wore improper dresses yesterday,” one started, visibly embarrassed, “we were later told that it was not proper. We are extremely sorry. Why didn’t you ask us to leave?” With this, tears welled up in her eyes. At a loss of words, I tried to comfort them by saying that we all make mistakes and they didn’t have to worry about it.

As I drove back that evening, I was deep in thought. It was a blessing of Allah (swt) that I had not asked them to leave. They might never have returned. This became a lesson I will never forget.

The classes continued, and we started with the Seerah of the Prophet (sa) and along the way, the Kalima and the articles of faith.

Gradually, they accepted me as a part of their small tortured world; someone who would listen and empathize with them and, more than that, had come to help them. I wasn’t able to leave immediately after class, as people wanted to talk to me. They eventually ended up talking about loved ones dying violently at the hands of the Serbs, of destroyed towns and broken lives.

The children, who became very attracted to me, had interesting questions, and their laughter lit up this bleak world. There was hardly a Muslim child in the camp, who wasn’t attending. I realized that this course was the only good time they were having in their monotonous life as refugees.

As I was going through the hardships that Prophet Muhammad (sa) faced in Makkah, I said: “We should thank Allah (swt) for giving us the gift of Islam; look how difficult it was to be a Muslim at that time.”

On hearing this, a young boy spontaneously spoke and the class fell silent. Since he had spoken in Bosnian, all had understood, except me. Aida tried to ignore it. Others in the class waved, asking me to carry on. I refused. “Hold on!” I caught the sternness in my voice, as I asked Aida, “What did he say?”

“He has asked,” Aida was fighting tears, “if it was as difficult to be a Muslim at the time of the Prophet (sa), as it is for us today.”

Looking up, I saw tears streaming down faces.

The time for the first test arrived. I wanted to encourage them to work hard. “Look,” I requested them a day before, “I have to drive 50 miles each day to be with you so, please, reciprocate by doing well on the test.”

On hearing this, an elder lady pointed out to Ahmed, who was 12 years old with a quiet and serious face. “He lives 5 miles away,” she said. “While you drive, Ahmed walks to class each day.” Finding out through friends that this course was being offered, he had signed up. He was there every day and stayed till the end of the course.

A day before the test, some children came to me with a naughty look in their eyes. They wanted to know, if I would be kind enough to tip them off to the questions in the test. I told them that I might ask them to explain the Kalima and then, looking around carefully, I whispered: “Make sure that no one finds out.”

The next day the one answer everybody knew was about the Kalima. I put that question in the test, happy to have the participants testify in writing to the Tauhid of Allah (swt) and to the prophethood of Muhammad (sa).

That day, I sat back and relaxed, watching the seriousness with which they were taking the test. For an outsider, it could as well have been a chemistry test.

One young girl wrote a comment: “Before coming to this course, I used to believe that there is no God, but now I think there is one. For me that was progress. How stupid it would have been to enforce the dress code on her at that stage.

Another girl wrote: “I now find strength to face the hardships I am going through, knowing that my Prophet (sa) went through similar hardships in his life.”

I gave out writing assignments on different topics. I had them pool their Islamic books and also contributed some to set up a virtual library for doing their rudimentary research. These assignments would then be presented in class.

Adapted (with permission) from “The Embattled Innocence.” Compiled for Hiba by Laila Brence.