Tips for Productive Mornings

19 did you know

Snoozy makes you woozy

Get up with your alarm clock. Don’t press snooze! Show discipline at the start of your day by waking up right away, and the rest of your day is most likely to be full of discipline and quality, Insha’Allah.

Wake up before Fajr

This may feel like a huge task, but you can even start by waking up fifteen minutes before Fajr. The last third of the night is an extremely special time, where you can connect with Allah (swt) on a deeper level through Tahajjud, Dua, and Astaghfar.

Make Fajr ‘the event’ of your day

Rather than performing a hit and run type of prayer, aim to perfect Fajr as much as possible. Wear nice clothes and focus on what you recite during prayer. For extra reward, follow the Sunnah by making your recitation short in the Sunnah prayer and long in the Fard prayer of Fajr.

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Time has wings- The wise, don’t let it fly!

Time Flies

We all know that we live a limited time, and we all have 24-twenty four hours in a day to do our chores. But, we need to ask ourselves, whether we are doing justice with our time. Are we doing something productive on daily basis?

We need to reflect on how we are utilizing time. Unfortunately, nowadays, our minds are focused on material things, and we have worries about this world. The things we plan for these 24-twenty four hours that have nothing to do with our souls and internal self. For instance- most of us are preoccupied with shopping and upgrading our possessions. If we have a car, we need to get a better car. If we have a shelter, we think about getting a better home. These material riches have occupied our mind so intensely that we do not have time to think about own selves, and participate in real good (which will benefit us in this life and hereafter).

Spending hours on entertainment and playing video games on weekends, is actually a waste of our time. In week days, students are obsessed with grades and their homework. Working men have worries for promotions and salary raise. House wives are excessively indulged in their household works. Obviously, we all have duties and responsibilities in different roles, and we can’t ignore them. But, the point here is that we need to adopt a moderate way of doing things, rather than obsessing ourselves with worldly tasks. Even while doing physical work- we need to redirect our hearts towards Allah (swt) believing that He is the best disposer of affairs (Al-Wakeel).

Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us).” (Al-Imran 3:173)

We must spare 10-20 minutes daily and think about our possessions and blessings. Instead of thinking that we have less, or we need to upgrade our possessions, we need to thank Allah (swt) for what we have. We should also realize that material things do not give eternal happiness to anyone. So, we should stop running after them. We should also spend time with our families and good friends; and indulge ourselves in positive discussions with them. We should remind ourselves and internalize that we have limited time. So, we must add to our cart of deeds rather than the shopping cart. Helping a poor or an elder person is a productive thing. We need to take out time for prayers and charity- even at work. Speaking up to Allah (swt), and doing good deeds, will not only facilitate us in managing our time effectively, but it will also lead to peace of mind that we all are searching and struggling for.

“Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Surah Asr gives solution to our time management in following words,

“By Al-‘Asr (the time). Verily! Man is in loss.” (Asr 103:1-2)

This article serves as a reminder for us to rethink about what we are doing, and what will be the consequences in this life and hereafter. It’s really time to make positive changes in our lives.

Exclusive Interview with Abu Productive

productive_muslimMohammed Faris (Abu Productive) is the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com, an online social enterprise dedicated to boosting productivity in the Muslim World.

How did Productive Muslim come into being, and what was the inspiration behind it?

When I was at University doing my Masters, I used to have two jobs; I was the President of the Student Islamic society and was quite involved with the community. My friends started asking me: “How do you do it? How do you balance it all?”

Even though my friends said this to me, I felt unsatisfied with how I was managing my time, focus, and energy. I knew I could achieve more and do more; hence, I stumbled upon the science of productivity.

After reading some books on productivity, and seeing the practical positive effects these books had on me, I started thinking how best to share this with my friends.

Then on an early November morning in 2007, I was walking to Fajr and the two words “Productive Muslim” came to my mind. They seemed extremely suited for each other and I was excited to launch a blog under that name.

Initially, what were your aims and objectives? And have they changed over time?

Initially, my goal was to take all the latest productivity techniques and ideas that I was learning from the books and articles I was reading, and share them to the Muslim world.

However, a moment of inspiration came to me when I read the Hadeeth: “The early hours are blessed for my Nation” (Tirmidhi) It made me realize that Islam has a lot to teach us about productivity, but there hasn’t been a platform before that linked between Islam and Productivity.

It was truly an honour from Allah (swt) that we were the pioneers of this linkage and it has truly changed my life forever.

What is your vision for Productive Muslim?

By Allah’s (swt) Permission ­ my vision is to inspire every single Muslim and Muslimah out there to be their best versions. They should aspire to be productive citizens of the world; to be balanced individuals from a spiritual, physical, and social perspective.

I pray that this platform becomes the beginning of the Ummah’s long journey back towards success and prosperity by inspiring every individual to do their very best, every single day.

Most of your work is online – how do you organize everything as you have so many things going on at the same time?

This is from Allah (swt) ­ first and foremost. He has blessed me with a wonderful empowered team to do a lot for His sake, and given us technologies that make working collaboratively very easy.

We use a number of communication and virtual collaboration tools such as Slack, Podio, Gmail, Google Docs, Dropbox, GoToMeeting, Skype, and Lastpass, to keep everything manageable.

But most importantly, are the team members who have clear objectives and goals and who are self motivated to do their best for Allah’s (swt) sake and the vision of Productive Muslim.

Your team comprises mainly of volunteers. In this day and age, when people want to be paid for every work they do, how do you motivate your team?

Once again ­ this is from Allah (swt). Truly without His help, I would not be able to find the right team member to do the right task in the team.

Some of the key principles we have in the team include:

  1. We treat volunteers as professionals. This means we hold them accountable for results and treat them as if they are being paid. There’s no excuse for being an “unproductive” volunteer on our team.
  2. We have a very strict process to hire volunteers: we carefully select volunteers out of hundreds of applications, and then based on assessment, and after interviewing them, we give them a one month probation to try them out. If they are good, they stay, otherwise we ask them to leave.
  3. We invest in our volunteers: We ensure that volunteers are learning and developing so that their time with us is fruitful and beneficial. Some of our volunteers left Productive Muslim and started their own companies and websites which is wonderful!
  4. We meet regularly with the volunteers: When new volunteers join the team, I have a twenty minute conversation with them. Then they have regular meetings with their team heads and we have quarterly meetings abroad.
  5. Constant feedback: We give constant feedback to our volunteers ­ from the way they work, to the way they behave online and this helps them improve and learn and grow.

The articles on Productive Muslim are Masha’Allah well researched. ­ Can you let us know about your authentication process? As in, who proofreads them for Shariah compliance and to ensure the information is correct?

All the articles written for Productive Muslim go through two rounds of revision- first by the assigned editors and second by our Chief Editor.

Most articles are straightforward and there’s nothing controversial about them. However, if something is controversial or needs Shariah approval, we have access to scholars whom we can contact for advice Alhumdulillah.

What are some of the challenges that you face?

Currently, we’re trying to develop a sustainable business model for ProductiveMuslim that both offers free content as well as paid premium content.

We do not like to be dependent on donations or advertisement; hence, we avoided those two sources.

Insha’Allah, we’re converging on a business model that would satisfy most of our readers soon.

We have often read on your page disparaging comments about your workshops’ charges. In general, people’s attitude is that anything Islamic should also be free. What would be your response to that?

Firstly, there’s a lot of free content on ProductiveMuslim.com and the paid content is for those who are keen to go a bit deeper with our content.

Secondly, we’re not an “Islamic” knowledge website; we’re a productivity training and consulting company that is based on Islamic principles and values.

Thirdly, in order for ProductiveMuslim to grow and flourish, we need to run a sustainable business. My dream is to hire every ProductiveMuslim volunteer as a full time staff member; and this can only be done if our readers support us by purchasing some of our courses and other products and services.

What are your plans/projects for the future?

We’ve lots of exciting projects coming up including the launch of our new book with Awakening, a new ProductiveMuslim podcast, a new subscription service called Academy+, and many others Insha’Allah.

How can other brothers and sisters help you out in your work?

We ask people to help us in 7 ways:

  1. Consume our content: articles, videos, worksheets, etc.
  2. Engage with our content: by liking and commenting
  3. Make Dua for us every time you read/view our work
  4. Purchase our products and services.
  5. Let everyone know in your circle about ProductiveMuslim.com.

Any message for the Ummah

My dear Ummah, ­ Islam is waiting for you to be a productive citizen of this world. Rise up from the swamps of laziness and let’s work together to be a Productive Ummah again.

Anything else you would like to share.

Just wanted to share an advice that was given to me before I started ProductiveMuslim.com ­ Have sincere intentions and work hard. This is the formula for success in Dunya and Akhirah.

Are the new couple in double the trouble?

thumb2Walking into the holy matrimony at the age of nineteen, I had my fair share of doubts and misunderstandings. I had this fantasy of no less than a hybrid Mr. Darcy and Hugh Grant. For me, this marriage scenario basically meant a “Halal boyfriend” type of situation – and to be quite honest, it’s not my fault that I had such expectations. The world of social media made me presume that my marriage would be full of selfies and hashtags. But it’s not like that.

It’s so much better.

The big day came and went in the blink of an eye; and six months later there is so much that I have learnt.

1.      It is difficult. It’s not easy to live with someone you hardly know. But, with extra time and extra patience, it gets better. You become each other’s best friends and everything becomes easier when you have that one person to talk to about anything and everything. The Holy Prophet’s (sa) and Aisha’s (ra) relationship is the paramount example for such a relationship. They played with one another, and one of my most favourite actions of the Holy Prophet (sa) is how he would kiss Aisha (ra) on the forehead or cheeks in affection. I admire their relationship and feel as though in this day and age, such a relationship would prove to excel rather than the orthodox “husband rules wife”- the Desi marriage.
2.      Never assume! Assumptions are the death of happiness. Don’t assume that he isn’t trying or that he doesn’t care. Every man is different and his perception of love is different as well. I assure you, give them time; they will prove to be a soppier romantic than you, and they may even surprise you with loving gestures.
3.      Don’t rush things. You have your whole life together so take it easy. Enjoy the little moments together.
4.      Be generous with words and gestures. Say “Thank you”, “I’m sorry” or even “I love you” without hesitation. Spontaneous bursts of love are always confidence boosters. The Holy Prophet (sa) treated all his wives with such love and respect and his wives treated him the same. Respect, trust and love are the foundations for good marriage.
5.      Have little things that are just yours. A certain word that only you two know, or a game that only you two know how to play. Create something unique just for yourselves.
6.      Be each other’s support. This is the most important thing. Text messages and emails can always bring out other meanings rather than what we wish to portray – so don’t be irrational and judge, instead take a deep breath and support each other’s flaws and perfections. One of the most beautiful examples in Islamic history is Hazrat Ibrahim’s (as) and Hajra’s (ra) journey into Safah and Marwa. She supported her husband without any doubts, and waited for him in mountains with a wailing child. Her trust in Allah (swt) and her husband made her a woman of Jannah.

In the end, when the whole world seems like a lonely place, your spouse will always be there. He or she is “your person”; so, fight for them and always appreciate them. They are one of a kind and they are all yours. Allah (swt) made marriage half of the faith and the Holy Prophet (sa) made marriage a Sunnah. “Marriage is my Sunnah whosoever keeps away from it is not from me”.

As a girl, my Dua for myself and every other girl who is married or getting married is to “find a spouse that has the traits of Hazrat Adam (as) in the matter of knowledge, the traits of Hazrat Yaqub (as) in the matter of fatherhood, and the traits of the Holy Prophet (sa) in the matters of love”. Ameen.

People who know a lot, but don’t understand each other

social-networkingWe are living in an age of instantaneous communication, where the whole world is connected to each other. It is very easy to find out what’s going on in a country thousands of miles away. From a natural disaster to a festival, from politicians’ speeches to countries about to bankrupt; the information is within our reach in a matter of seconds. And, this constant flow of information takes most of our time with us being none the wiser. Everyone complains that the time is passing by so fast, and that, 24-twenty four hours are not enough for them; but the interesting thing is that most people spend this amount of time with unnecessary occupations and procrastination.

Television and internet may prove to be traps that push people to waste their time on useless things. Today, the situation has gotten so much out of control that many people choose to focus more on their telephones, computers or tablets rather than paying attention to their families, friends or loved ones. Actually, this thought-provoking situation is the source of an important problem- it prevents people from communicating with each other, although they are constantly connected to the whole world. Some call this ‘unhealthy relationship with time’, while others call it ‘twitter-ized or facebook-aholic private lives’.

These people might learn about millions of unimportant things, but they don’t take out time to take care of themselves or the people around them. The passage of time keeps some people away from thinking, improving themselves, and working to build better personalities for themselves. The situation has became so serious that many of these people now consider taking out time for their families, complimenting each other, having a pleasant conversation and sharing blessings  with others as ‘unnecessary occupations’. Their followers on social media, who might be on the other side of the world, know about all their troubles, tastes and favourite foods, while their families are ignored.

What is even more thought provoking is the fact that these people don’t take out time for themselves; they quit thinking, and as a result, they begin to experience the effects of this in their morality, and then in their social lives as a whole.

For people, who don’t know about themselves, and the weakness of their lower selves- selfishness, hurting others, sudden bursts of anger, fits of jealousy and other evil acts- become ordinary parts of life. They begin to see these acts not as vices that should be refrained from with great care, but things that should be gotten off one’s chest. However, this is against the very reason behind the presence of people in this world.

Humans are sent into this world to attain moral maturity, in other words, to train the ‘me’ inside them. Just like we weren’t consulted about our birth, we aren’t consulted about our death either. We stay in this world for the duration that God has set for us, and with death, we will part with this world and begin our eternal life. We came to this world to learn about love, sharing, brotherhood and sublime morality. Every moment in this world is created independently for each person, and we make our choices between what is wrong and what is right. The things we choose, either make our personality better, and strengthen us spiritually, or leave us in darkness if we make bad choices.

To better understand the importance of this point, let’s ponder over some questions to see what lack of love, altruism and spirituality causes:

–                    Will your children be able to look around and learn what having ‘lofty morals and virtue’ means?

–                    Will they believe that they can be successful if they are honest and hardworking and avoid lies?

–                    Will they know that abundance can increase with goodness?

–                    Will they be aware that they can gain more by protecting the rights of innocent, poor, needy, refugees, orphans and not by cheating, lying or sacrificing the needs of others?

–                    While there are people who lose their lives as a result of obesity, there is widespread hunger in some other countries. Will they be able to see that?

–                    Will they pass by a poor person on the street without looking, or will they want to share with them what they have?

We have to tell our kids about these facts and that they are in this world ‘to be trained and to achieve good morality’.

Love, forgiveness, generosity and altruism are the essential characteristics of religion and help people gain peace and happiness. For this reason, it is imperative that we teach our children that they will find happiness only when religion is a part of every aspect of their lives. We have to show them the ease and plain nature of religion by living it ourselves.

We have to explain to our kids that everything they have is created by God for them, and how to love God every minute with passion; and that, only when people love God with sincerity can they find happiness in their hearts and blessings in their lives.

Living without love, compassion, friendship and kindness is not living. Accepting such a life is horrible. That’s why we need to help our children know themselves, and make them understand that they can defeat the evil in their lower selves with faith and closeness to God; and that everything they have should be used for goodness.

We have, but a single life in this world, and we don’t know how long it will last. That’s why we need to benefit from every single moment we have.

Knowing God, loving God and being aware of the purpose of our lives is crucial. Otherwise, depression, nervous breakdowns and troubles will end up as your grim companions. If you want a good life for yourself, your family and your children, and if, you want wars to come to an end and the world to find peace- the only thing you have to do is to have superior morals and encourage the same for everyone.

Time: An Amanah at the Workplace

time

“To live means to work. Work is the life of a person.” (Voltaire)

We spend the largest portion of our life at the workplace. In fact, our entire life is aimed at earning what we would spend on our livelihood. Eight to twelve hours at work, eight hours for sleep, two hours in commuting, an hour for getting ready… and what is left? We eat so that we can live, and we spend our life on earning our sustenance. I urge you not to waste your time at the workplace.

Are you surprised? Just think about it – does it make sense to live only for eating? Most probably, your earning is sufficient for providing you not only with food but also with clothing, a place to live, treating yourself from time to time with something nice and, once in a while, for taking a vacation. I dare to assume that among my readers are also those who earn sufficiently and are able to afford nearly everything they wish for. Yet, we work too much and have too little time for anything else but work. Is it worth it to spend the precious time allotted to us by the Most High on such trivial pursuits?

However, I do not urge you to adopt a lazy and parasitic lifestyle. Not at all. You should work and work a lot. When I say “do not waste time at work”, I mean “do not waste it on useless pursuits”. Any time that you spend on something other than for Allah (swt), the Most High, is wasted. Whatever we do with the Niyyah (intention) other than that is useless for eternity.

Where?

If we pose the question “where to work?”, then the obvious answer is “wherever it is beneficial”. Any efforts we put forth towards caring for those close to us and their well-being can be filled with deep meaning if we continuously keep our Niyyah focused by reminding ourselves Who we are doing it all for? Whose pleasure are we seeking? Who is our real boss? This is the factor which transforms the otherwise senseless and tiresome situation of “living so we can eat and eating so we can live” into a spiritual act of service to Allah, the Most High. Reaching such a level of commitment is not as difficult as maintaining it; however, in this lies true happiness and success.

Furthermore, simply having the intention of “I will do it for the sake of Allah (swt)” is not enough; the quality of the work has to match the intention. This is because “for the sake of Allah (swt)” means “for seeking His pleasure” which is possible only if He accepts what you are doing. What job can be done for the sake of Allah (swt)? It can be any job, including housework, as long as it does not involve anything forbidden. Some people think that working for the sake of Allah (swt) is possible only in the field of religion, which is not so. What matters is not where but how we work.

How?  

The most important question, the answer to which will help you stop wasting time at work, is: how to work? For the sake of Allah (swt) you have to perform your duties in the best manner, as He does not accept anything other than that. A person who leaves for his work in the morning and returns home in the evening does not do anything which would draw him nearer to Jannah if he does not put his best efforts into doing it. It is necessary to keep in mind that your boss is not this “mean and evil guy” in charge of you, but the One for Whose sake you have made the intention to work. Likewise, it is as necessary to remember that your salary is not that “meagre amount of cash which is not enough for anything anyway” but your real salary is your professional activities that are written down in the Book of Life as your good deeds, accepted by your Supervisor. Religion is like a magic wand that changes reality; everything is transformed when viewed through a spiritual lens. The most annoying and senseless job turns into an act of worship, a way of expressing love, a deed with a capital letter.

If you could see how Allah (swt) the Most High watches over you during every minute of your work, would you allow yourself to be careless, to take endless tea breaks or to spend your work time on empty conversations? If the management installs security cameras for observing their employees, it significantly increases their productivity. A believer knows that even without such cameras in place, he is continuously being observed by the One Who hears and sees everything – the One Whom he is serving. The money you earn by carrying out your duties late and negligently is stolen money. For example, if your work time is eight hours with one hour for lunch break, but you spend three hours of it on idle pursuits, do you have any right to take money for this time? If your management would know of the tasks you have not completed, they would not pay you for them in full. Thus, it is unfair to carry out your duties partially while receiving full payment for them. Your earning stops being Halal if it is earned unjustly. It is even more unjust in front of your own self and your soul to think that you are working for the sake of Allah (swt) while carrying out your duties non-seriously – if you do that, you are merely cheating your own self! Besides, the Most High cannot be deceived into accepting badly performed duties. The only way out for a careless employee is to repent.

If only I could work in the field of religion… 

Some Muslims think that if they would be working in the field of religion, it would be easier for them to work for the sake of Allah (swt) only. The truth is that the responsibility level of such employees is so high that it makes their work not easier but more difficult. However, a hardworking person, not a lazy one, a true professional, not the one who purchases his diploma, and any person who continuously remembers where and for whose sake he is working, is a representative of Islam. Imams and Alims are not the only representatives of the field of religion. People working in Islamic educational institutions, Islamic shops, facilitating enforcement of Deen anywhere, etc., also belong to the same field and are also responsible for shaping the image of Muslims. If any one of them carries out his duties heedlessly, he directly harms the religion of Allah (swt). Instead of taking upon yourself such responsibility and failing to fulfill it, it truly is better to be a simple sweeper, who keeps in good order the territory entrusted to him.

We work according to what we get paid

Sometimes we hear the following complaint: “If only I would be paid more, I would work better”. If you have taken up this job and are not satisfied with your salary – leave and find another job! However, the unique position of a believer is such that he knows that no matter where he is or what he is doing, he would not receive more or less than his Rizq. What is decreed for you today will definitely reach you, no matter where and for what salary you are working. If you are working for the sake of Allah (swt) on a small salary but sincerely, you are richer than the one who works for the sake of his Nafs (desires), no matter if he carries his duties out well or not. And if you are working for the sake of Allah (swt) but underperform deliberately, then you are poorer than the most poor and are living in self-deceit.

I pray to Allah (swt) the Most High to accept what we are doing for His sake and teach us to do it in such a way that we would not be ashamed of it on the Day of Judgement. Ameen.

Translated for Hiba by Laila Brence. Source: http://islam.ru/content/obshestvo/9947

Understanding Surah Asr – 3

time management sunnahTranscribed from the Bayyinah podcast Tafseer series by Iqra Asad.

“By Al-Asr (the time). Verily, man is in loss, Except those who believe (in Islâmic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds (Al-Ma’ruf) which Allâh has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds (Al-Munkar) which Allâh has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience (for the sufferings, harms, and injuries which one may encounter in Allâh’s Cause during preaching His religion of Islâmic Monotheism or Jihâd).”

Don’t wait to do good- It is now or never!

Many times, when you have to give advice, you hesitate. You wait for a better time. You keep waiting and that better time will never come. The sense of urgency is in the word “Tawasi”. “Wasiya” is also when you bequeath someone with property. What you are to offer someone is literally of value. When you give someone good advice, they reply with, “But I’ve seen you do this, what about you?” Most of us are reactive when we receive advice. When you are on the side of giving advice, you take the good of it and leave the bad.

“Tawasi bil Haq”

First, it is mentioned generally to do good deeds. Then one specific good deed is mentioned i.e. patience. Allah (swt) puts patience at the end and “Haq” first, to emphasize the nobility of good.

This Surah challenges us to change our definitions of success and failure.

The true essence of faith

A lot of people consider faith to be just a declaration. You could claim it as a lack of knowledge but in reality it’s an attitude; the assumption that we have faith, and the assumption that faith alone is enough. What does it mean to have faith? From a legal point of view, anyone who declares the Shahadah has faith. Legally speaking, anyone who claims to be a Muslim, is a Muslim. Then there is the matter of the distinction that Allah (swt) Himself makes in Surah Hujurat.

He says, “The bedouins say: ‘We believe.’ Say: You believe not but you only say, We have surrendered (in Islâm), for Faith has not yet entered your hearts.” (Al-Hujurat 49:14)

What people assume to be “Iman” (faith) is actually just the declaration of Islam. Faith is in the heart. The first thing inside the heart is faith, the second is revelation. If you memorize the Quran, it resides in your heart. The third thing, among others, associated most with the heart is Dhikr (remembrance). These three things are inter-connected.

In Surah Al-Anfal, “The believers are only those who, when Allâh is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses (this Qurân) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith” (Al-Anfal 8:2)

The easiest gauge of faith is your Salah (prayer); “Allah would not be one to waste your faith.”(Al-Baqarah 2:143) This verse refers to prayers as “faith”. So where goes the statement, “I don’t pray, but I still have faith”? The second misconception that once you have faith, you don’t need deeds is crushed in this Surah. What kind of faith is this that you don’t have action? If we internalize this, we know that our faith will not survive, unless we have action.

A Believer vs. Those who believe!

The difference between two commonly used terms in the Quran, “believers” (Muminoon) and “those who believe” (Allazeena Aamanu): one of them is verbal (those who believe), the other (believers) is a noun. In Arabic, a verb is temporary, it is not stable, but a noun is fixed. “Believers” is used for people of mature faith. It is always used in a positive aspect. However, with “those who believe”, you may not find nice things. You find Allah (swt) saying to them, “those of you who believe, believe!” Become true believers. “Those who believe!”—category of those who are not necessarily doing well. “Believers”—mature faith who have already attained success.

The three core pillars of faith: “faith in Allah (swt)”, “faith in the Message” (the Book and the Messenger), and “faith in the Afterlife”. Sometimes people take one or two of these and say their faith is complete. If you do that, you will fall into a serious psychological imbalance.

Faith in the Messenger of Allah (swt)

Sometimes you can say something about the Messenger (sa) that can waste your Iman. On one hand, you have people who love him so much that they end up giving him a status beyond a human being. On the other hand, you have pseudo-intellectuals who treat him as just another historical figure. “It’s just a Hadeeth.” “It’s not even in the Quran.” The Surah Muhammad, Fath, and Hujurat discuss faith in the Messenger. When Allah (swt) mentions the Prophet (sa) in the Quran, He doesn’t use his name, and if He does, He says “RasulAllah” next to it. In the Quran, “O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet (sa), nor speak aloud to him in talk as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds may be rendered fruitless while you perceive not.” (Al-Hujurat 49:2) In order for good deeds to count, you must have faith.

Fruits of faith

Tranquility: you come to terms with the fact that all deeds are rewarded.

Iman: a treasure that you get to keep when you do good deeds. But what kind of person would you be if by feeding a hungry person, you would get more food back, but you still wouldn’t do it?

This statement is very empathetic because both the preposition and the verb have been repeated.

Haq: “truthfulness” means that you convey the advice in a truthful and sincere manner, holding nothing back. “With truth”, refers to Quran, that you counsel each other with Quran. Someone’s losing hope, how do you do “Tawasi bil Haq”? Through Quran, quote Quran to them: “My slaves who have violated against their own selves, don’t lose hope in Allah’s Mercy!”(Az-Zumar 39:53)

It’s easy to sit behind a microphone and talk about these things to strangers. It requires courage to do this with family. It requires patience.

What does “Sabr” mean? Patience, perseverance, commitment, constancy.

“It is to have the same level of obedience to Allah (swt) whether in ease or in difficulty.”(Ibn Taimiyyah)

Fidelity and forbearance is the key

Good people, who are working for Islam, may lose heart at all the criticism they receive. You must do “Tawasi bil Sabr” with them; tell them to be patient, no matter how difficult things get. They will appreciate it. Those who do work for this Deen; whether you are doing work for Islam inside your house or outside it, are under direct attack of the Shaytan. You must have patience and obedience to Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) speaks to us and He knows what kinds of lives we lead. There are brothers and sisters who are active in spreading Islam, but they have some very bad habits. They need someone to do Tawasi bil Sabr with them, to tell them to hang on.

These statements are in the past tense. Why not mention it in the present tense? It implies that these people spent their entire lives doing Tawasi bil Haq and Tawasi bil Sabr. You can never stop until death.

They are encouraging each other with patience. The way you deliver it requires patience, and what you are recommending them to do is patience.

These four things are connected to each other. If someone loses Sabr, they will not be able to do Tawasi bil Haq.

This is the shortest Surah, but also the heaviest Surah. It will change your attitude towards success and failure. Your time to get serious about faith, action, Tawasi bil Haq and Tawasi bil Sabr is short. May Allah (swt) make us of those who successfully fulfill the conditions of Surah Asr. Ameen.

Understanding Surah Asr – 2

hour-glassTranscribed from the Bayyinah podcast Tafseer series by Iqra Asad.

How scholars define Asr?

Ibn Abbas (ra) says that “Asr” refers to the different ages of different nations. Allah (swt) is talking about human history as a proof that human beings are in loss. Ibn Kisan says that “Asr” refers to the night and the day. Hasan Al Basri says this is the time from late day to sunset, signifying the end of an era; we should know that we are on the verge of death. Qatada says it’s the last part of the day. Another Mufassir says that it means the time of Asr prayer; the busiest time of the day. Asr refers to time; all of it.

Be the change to bring a change!

The time you’re supposed to change for the better, this is implied in Asr. A lot of your days are exactly the same. If you can change one part of your day, you’ve transformed your life. We change at the death of a person, or in Ramadan; but then we go back to our old ways. For example, you know you have to reach your workplace at 9 a.m, no matter what, no negotiation; you’ll do it, or you’ll lose your job. Similarly, if you are convinced that certain behaviours will lead to loss, changing your life becomes easy. This is why the first thing that is mentioned is “belief”. If your boss comes into the office and says, “Every single employee over here is in trouble, I swear to you!” Will you take it casually? In this world, there must be a sense of urgency.

Choice is NOT yours – It’s all or none!

Sometimes, the boss gives you tasks you’re really good at. Sometimes you get tasks you don’t like doing. If you decide to do only two out of four, decide not to even touch the other two tasks, thinking that the first two being done excellently will compensate for the other two not being done, what do you think the boss’s reaction will be? So when Allah (swt) sets out four conditions, and we say, “we should work on our faith, do some good deeds, this other stuff is not for me, it’s for the speakers and Dawah workers.” If you’re picking and choosing, you are also in loss. It’s all or nothing.

You don’t need to memorize the whole Quran to change your life. Just start with Surah Asr!

Humankind is in loss

“Inna” is used to talk to people who are in doubt about what you are saying. Rhetorically, it is used to remove doubt; the doubt already exists. You’d think this was addressed to disbelievers; but Allah (swt) has addressed all humanity, “Illa” at the end conveys that it includes all humanity.

“Insan” comes from “Nisyan” i.e. “forgetfulness”. The word “Insan” is used here to refer to our forgetfulness, and also to refer to each of us as individuals. If someone specifies a person individually, that person pays more attention.

This is a noun-based sentence “Jumla Ismiya”, which is stronger than a verb-based sentence. The word “Insan” is presented as “Al-Insan” i.e. with emphasis. It is not “the human being is a loser” or “has lost”, it is “in loss”. He is immersed in loss. Someone being a loser is one thing, but by using the preposition “Fi” the meaning of constantly being in that state is given. The translation doesn’t even begin to cover the rage and the terror embedded in this verse.

Truth and patience cure doubts and temptations

There is the meaning of “delusion” in “Khusr” i.e. humans are deceiving themselves. “La fi Khusr” means that mankind sets itself up for a vicious end, the kind of end people don’t want. Ibn Taimiyyah comments, “Humanity is kept from accepting the truth of this Deen by two obstacles, doubts and temptations.” When you ask someone to accept Islam, you’re asking them to give up a lot of things. Someone says, “I can’t give up the life of partying.” He can’t give up his temptation, even though he has no doubts. Most people are caught in temptations, even if they give the excuse that they are in doubt. They cover up their desires by making intellectual arguments. Truth and patience mentioned in this Surah are the cures for doubts and temptations.

Humans are so preoccupied with their personal problems that they fail to see the larger picture. They fail to see the problems lying ahead. They think they are in loss in this world, but that is nothing compared to the loss that is coming. They fail to see the signs in the creation of Allah (swt). Financial and health problems are nothing compared to the problem of faith. That’s a much bigger problem.

Breakthrough anxiety, fear and despair

Human beings have more suffering than animals. In addition to physical suffering, we also have psychological suffering. In this Surah, Allah (swt) doesn’t just give us relief from the loss of the hereafter, but from the loss of this world; freedom from anxiety, depression, fear and despair.

You should remember that the entire Surah is linguistically one statement.

The entire society has headed to the way of loss. The ones, who are not the losers, are considered strange because they practice Islam.

United we stand, divided we fall!

When Allah (swt) mentions the loss of the human being, the human being is being addressed singularly. This is because when the time comes to face the consequences of your actions, you will be all alone. However, when Allah (swt) mentions the four exceptions, He uses the plural. This means that the ones who are successful, find success in teamwork, good company, counsel, reminder, Salah (prayer) and Jamaa (congregation).

Do you know the taste of faith?

In this verse, Allah (swt) doesn’t mention any qualifications of faith. How are you supposed to know what faith tastes like? The fruit of faith is tranquility. If you have faith, you know that this world is temporary, and compared to what Allah (swt) has in the hereafter, is nothing. You are at peace with your life whether you are old or young, healthy or ill.

The word “Assaalihaat” (good) is an adjective, which requires a noun. The Arabic says just “good”, not “good deeds”, but it is implied. The form of the adjective is such that it conveys the doing of a few, countable good deeds. The main obligations are few. Then there are things that embellish your life as a Muslim; the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). There are a few things that you should definitely do, and there are a few things that you should not do. Everyone knows those things.

 

Understanding Surah Asr – 1

hour-glassTranscribed from the Bayyinah podcast Tafseer series by Iqra Asad.

“By Al-Asr (the time). Verily, man is in loss, Except those who believe (in Islâmic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds (Al-Maruf) which Allâh has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds (Al-Munkar) which Allâh has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience (for the sufferings, harms, and injuries which one may encounter in Allâh’s Cause during preaching His religion of Islâmic Monotheism or Jihâd).”

Why is humankind in loss?

The central aspect of this Surah is “Khusr” i.e. loss. The previous Surah (Surah Takasur) discussed the people wanting to accumulate more and more, and this Surah discusses the reality, that people are actually in loss. The overwhelming theme of this Surah is warning; that is negative reinforcement. Humans are created in the best of forms; they are qualified to be successful, so then why are they in loss? Allah (swt) mentions four things in the end. The last two things are both actions, to enjoin the truth and to enjoin perseverance. Then Allah (swt) mentions faith and good deeds. He could have mentioned anything, like Zakat, but He mentions truth and patience. Why is it critical to mention these actions? Let’s analyze.

Surah Asr is Islam (in a nutshell)!

The only people who are the exception are the ones who do all the above four mentioned things. A famous quote by Fakhruddin Ghazi regarding this Surah, “In this verse, there is an intense, severe warning that is filled with a promise, because in this verse Allah (swt) declared utter loss against all humanity, except for the one who comes to Allah (swt) with these four things. The language illustrates that salvation hangs in the balance of these four conditions.” In many ways, this Surah is a summary of the Quran and Islam.

Success or Survival?

In this Surah, there is no mention of reward. No mention that “these people will get everlasting Jannah.” It demarcates between the people who fail and those who pass. This Surah does not talk about higher levels of success. It describes the bare minimum, the bottom line. So this Surah is not about success, it’s about survival; about escaping Hell, not earning Paradise. When your survival is being questioned, you forget everything else. If you’re drowning, for example, there is no time for you to talk about success. If you’re talking to your boss about promotion in the office, and there’s a fire alarm, you won’t stop in the office to finish discussing your promotion; that won’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense for someone to talk about anything other than survival, if they’re not meeting the bare requirements for survival.

This Surah does not talk about higher levels of success. It describes the bare minimum, the bottom line.

This Surah proves that being good on your own, is not enough. Islam is about living with and for other people. Imam Shafi (ra) said, “If people only reflected on this Surah, it would encompass them.” It would be enough for them. “If this was the only thing that was revealed, it would have been enough.” What is in this Surah that made him say that?

Whenever the companions would meet, they would not leave each other without reciting Surah Asr to each other. Why? They felt this is something extremely important to remind each other of constantly.

We should never lose sight of the fact that Allah (swt) is talking to us like someone who is concerned about us would talk to us. Talking about this Surah is easy, internalizing it is very difficult.

Survival is interdependent

If you’re drowning and you’re unconscious, what do you need to survive? You need to wake up. Once you wake up, you realize that you’re drowning. Even if you don’t know how to swim, you will move every muscle in your body to move towards the surface. Once you reach the surface, you are pulled back down, because your leg is tied to a chain which is tied to your drowning cousin. You need to wake up your cousin to save yourself. Maybe you don’t even like your cousin. But you wake him up. Then you are pulled down by your unconscious grandmother. You need to wake her up. Your survival depends on each other.

To survive, you have faith, due to which you do good. You tell people about the truth, and you remain patient, because it’s a time consuming and draining process.

When we want to hurry through the prayer, which Surah do we recite? Surah Asr. What do we have hanging on the wall next to our TVs and our game consoles? Surah Asr. See the irony.

Allah (swt) oath must grab attention!

This is one of the Surahs that begins with Allah (swt) taking an oath. Whatever Allah (swt) swears by is grand and magnificent, demanding reflection. Allah (swt) is bringing time as a witness to the tragedy of the human being.

“Asr” literally means “time that is running out”. It comes from “Aseer”, juice that is squeezed out. The time for Asr prayer is when the daytime is ending.

If one really has faith, the next three things are bound to happen. If those things don’t happen, what is missing? Faith.

Faith- Most wanted!

If you are truly doing good, it is impossible for you to keep it to yourself. When you enjoin good, you will encounter people who respond to you and people who hate you for what you have to say, and for the haters you need patience.

When a decent human being comes across a dispute, the first thing he will do is to seek out the truth. When he has discovered the truth, he must take action according to the truth. It may be that when he finds the truth, he does not like what he finds. However, he must stand by the truth.

Now, when he sees other people doing wrong—in our society we have the “mind your own business” policy. However, that is not the way of the Prophets. Otherwise, Islam would just be confined to saying prayers and doing Dhikr (remembrance of Allah (swt)). Islam began as, “Arise and warn!” (Al-Muddatthir 74:2).When you want to stand up for justice, you think, “I know I shouldn’t do it, but I don’t have the guts to tell people not to do it.” People who act on their beliefs, stick to their beliefs, are known as “heroes”. Like Martin Luther King. His days are celebrated; this is a process of decency that people respect. The struggle of such human beings is commendable, but it is just a part of the truth, not the entire truth. We, Muslims, have the entire truth. How much more convinced and willing should the believer be to stand up for Islam? We should compete with the disbelievers with patience and perseverance.

Further reading and viewing:

8-minute illustrated explanation of Surah Asr [Nouman Ali Khan Collection]: http://bit.ly/surahasrillustrated

The concept of time in Hadeeth [Productive Muslim article]: http://bit.ly/timeinhadith

A message from myself to the Quran [I Got it Covered article]: http://bit.ly/tothequran

[To be continued Insha Allah..]

Manage With Patience

Patience plan aheadIt was 6:15 a.m. Sobia woke up with the buzz of her alarm. She woke up in an instant as it was already late for Fajr prayer. She hurriedly rushed into the bathroom and performed ablution. She prayed and after that she quickly woke up her kids for school and made their breakfast. Then she got busy with her daily household activities. This sounds simple but not for Sobia. She could not manage all her tasks at the same time. She got angry and frustrated at times. She was not able to manage her level of patience. For those who are short tempered or get aggravated over the workload, be it at home or anywhere, you can maintain your patience level by following the few practical ways mentioned below Insha’Allah:

1. List your routine (make a things-to-do list)

Grab a paper and pen and jot down all the tasks you have for the day. In this way you can cross out the ones that are done. This will give you a clear cut idea what sorts of tasks you have. You can also prioritize your list depending on what you need to do first. Remember not to procrastinate. Once the list is done start moving on with the tasks required earlier. This will save you from the havoc of workload, and you will feel relaxed once all your jobs are divided for the day.

2. Learn to manage time

Manage your time according to your duties assigned. Think about what would require less time and which one of your jobs is time consuming. Dividing your time wisely will save you from haphazard situations and you won’t feel guilty later. Time management is the basic element. It saves you from chaotic situations.

3. Stick to your time-table

Try to stick to your time-table. Do not hesitate to relax. Take some time out for yourself also. If you are fresh and relaxed then you can manage chores efficiently. Keep this running in your head that you will enjoy after all the stuff is done. So, get started and take a deep breath.

4. Family time

No matter how busy you may be, you ought to take out time for your family. You can always share your difficulties with your elders and they are likely to give you a wise advice as they know the phase you are going through. So never forget to take a few moments out of your busy schedule and take Dua of your elders.

5. Sit back and relax

Take a preview of your day or week. Think of all the chores that have been accomplished. Feel proud of that. Appreciate yourself. Share your victory with your family or a close friend. Think of your mistakes and weaknesses. Assess it and relax for you accomplished your desired tasks.

Protract patience and live your life peacefully. May Allah (swt) give Barakah in our time and guide us to use it wisely. Ameen!

Today is All You Have!

hour-glassI was walking back home with my husband quite late in the night, but the streets were still crowded. There was a buzz of cricket going all around, “What’s the score? Who is batting?”  Someone asked my husband too, but he said he didn’t even know that there was a match that day.

Because of the crowd, we decided to sit at a friend’s store that was still open; he too had the commentary of the match running on the radio. Soon a Burqa-clad woman came and sat next to me. She looked quite odd. I had to blink my eyes in order to confirm what I was seeing, and the next moment, I shrieked, as it turned out to be a skeleton. The first thought to come to my mind was that it could only be the angel of death or the devil; no doubt no one else could see her.

I started reciting: Aoodhu billahi min-ash-Shaitan ir-Rajeem, with my heart beating very fast. I tried to scream but no voice came out of my mouth. I turned to see where my husband was, and lo – I was comfortably sleeping on my bed. It was a bad dream. I was so relieved. I read the Duas to be read according to the Sunnah, when we see a bad dream. I spit on the left three times, sought refuge in Allah (swt) from Shaitan and the evil of what I had seen; I did not relate it to anyone; I turned and slept back on the side opposite to which I was sleeping previously.

When sleeping, think that this might be me my last sleep, and I might get up in the grave; when waking up in the morning, think that this might be the last dawn to save myself from the hellfire.

After that dream, some thoughts kept disturbing me; the angel of death could be hovering by. Let us think: have we collected enough good deeds, and more importantly, have we repented for our sins? The foremost act is to seek forgiveness from those, whom we have hurt or from those for whom we carry a grudge or who were a victim of our backbiting, because if we do not, then on the Day of Judgement we will have to compensate their bad deeds with our good deeds. Moreover, Allah (swt) wants us to return to Him with a Qalbe Saleem – a heart which is pure: clean from impurities of Dunya, its lust, hatred, jealousy and all other negative traits, which make our heart dirty. He has stated in the Quran,

“The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail. Except him who brings to Allah a clean heart (clean from Shirk (polytheism) and Nifaq (hypocrisy)).” (Ash-Shuara 26:88-89)

Prepare for death! Every time you stand to pray five times a day, think that this might be your last standing before Allah (swt) in Dunya. Also, when sleeping, realize that this might be your last sleep, and you might wake up in the grave; when waking up in the morning, understand that this might be the last dawn to save yourself from hellfire. All these thoughts will save us from gossip and vain talks; they will keep us on our toes and help us prepare for the afterlife Insha’Allah.