Resolve in Ramadan to Set Smart Goals

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“Ramadan is the month for which all other months pass. It is the season of budding. In Ramadan, Taqwa can no longer remain hidden in the seed – the fleshy sheaths of your heart. The sun is on you and what is to become of you finds its moment, its moment in the sun. Do you have what it takes to reap lasting gains from it?” (Hassan Haidi)

Opportunities are seldom labelled. Ramadan is one. It is an opportunity to:

  • Profoundly think about the purpose of your existence.
  • Understand the part you need to play in the bigger picture.
  • Work upon the areas that you have been neglecting.
  • Nourish the soul and in the process, strengthen it.
  • Resolve personal improvement and communal change for the next eleven months.
  • Charge yourself with passion and enthusiasm for gearing towards a crisp and clear goal.
  • Chalk a strategy to carry out the above.
  • Befriend Allah (swt) and prepare to meet Him ultimately.

“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 (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

Attaining Taqwa itself has a higher purpose.

“Say: ‘Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things?’” (Al-Anam 6:164)

“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favours), La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)…” (Ghafir 40:3)

“…Allah will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return.” (Shura 42:15)

Ramadan is not about losing weight. It is not about mindless starving and uncontrollable feasting, or about shopping and endless planning for the Eid-ul-Fitr. It is indeed the best time to renew intentions and to set resolutions for the remaining year. Yes, for Muslims it is not January or Muharram but the blessed month of Ramadan that is divinely designed to help them achieve specific goals. Today’s scientific research proves that it takes thirty days of constant practice to break a bad habit and instill a new desired one. How Merciful and loving is our Lord towards the sinners to bestow them with Ramadan as a golden opportunity to turn a new leaf and be rewarded for it, Alhumdulillah.

Abdullah Khan shares: “It is customary among people to set new year resolutions. However, the majority of people lose their newfound resolve within just a few months. This is mainly because few of us know how to set goals for our self-promises. Even less have an action plan to achieve it.”

In order to grow closer to the Lord of the worlds, you have to push yourself to rise to a level of performance beyond the comfort spheres of faith you have already achieved. This requires a SMART goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

  1. Specific

When you have a vague or unclear goal, it has little chances of being accomplished. Narrowing it down to an exact target that needs to be achieved doubles your chances of attaining it. You must work out the 6 ‘Ws’ when setting your goal. For instance, if the task at hand is to establish the Sunnah prayer along with the Fard prayer (which you are already offering), the following should be answered:

  • Who is involved? (You: a Muslim, who is firstly a servant of Allah (swt).)
  • What do you want to accomplish? (You want to establish your Sunnah prayer on a regular basis.)
  • When do you want to achieve it? (During Ramadan and carry it forward after the month ends.)
  • Where do you want to attain it? (At home, at college, at your work place, etc.)
  • Why do you want to achieve it? (It has uncountable rewards and benefits in this life and the hereafter.)
  1. Measurable

Abdullah Khan offers: “Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals.” You may chalk out the following questions for yourself

  • How much? (The number of Rakahs of Sunnah I will begin with, for example, 2 or 4 in Zuhr prayer.)
  • How many? (How many Sunnah Salahs will I begin with? Fajr and Maghrib as Sunnah Mukadah and then build on that, or all five Sunnah Salahs together?)
  • How will I know when it is accomplished? (Maybe you can prepare a chart that helps you mark the daily Sunnah Salahs performed, until you fall into the habit of praying without having to chart it.)
  1. Attainable

A far-away goal comes closer, if you plan your steps, prioritize and demonstrate determination to achieve it. The goal doesn’t shrink; you grow and expand to match what it takes to meet the expectations.

Shaitan, as usual, will intercept and try to weigh you down, reminding you of past sins and causing you to despond of Allah’s (swt) mercy. But Allah (swt) expedites the attainment of that servant’s spiritual goal, who exerts himself or herself spiritually. The Lord (swt) states in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “I am as my servant thinks I am. I am with him, when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than it. If he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Realistic

A realistic goal means an objective that you are both willing and capable of achieving. It does not mean something easy. Rather, it means something doable. Similarly, it also does not mean something that is next to impossible under present circumstances. For instance, one cannot set a goal to scale the mountain with no prior training or expertise; it spells failure to begin with. You are bound not to achieve your goal, as you do not possess the skills required to do it. Hence, the goal should be to train first. Similarly, goals set with half-heartedness and under coercion are highly unlikely to be attained, as your heart and soul are not into it.

Abdullah Khan advises: “One way of knowing if your goal is real is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Also, ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to achieve this goal.”

  1. Timely

When you bind your goals to a timeframe, it will give it a sense of urgency. “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah some day” will not work as well as “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah from the 1st of Shaban.”

This due date will serve as a motivation for you to get started and stay on track. It will also help you determine whether or not you have fulfilled your goal.

All super goals can be broken down into smaller and smarter goals, in order to aid with assessment. For example: From the 1st Shaban until the 7th, I will pray Sunnah Salah of Fajr. Once that is in place, I will begin from the 8th of Shaban to the 14th to pray Zuhr Sunnah Salah as well and so on. In time, I will be ready to offer all the Sunnah Salawat in the blessed month of Ramadan and carry it on, Insha’Allah.

A life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. A devout worshipper and believer is never ad hoc, mismanaged or unplanned. He realizes that the time he has been spared in this world is of very high value and about which he will be questioned. Recharge your Iman and set up SMART goals for yourself without further delay. Ramadan is the perfect time for change. And change begins with you.

Inspired from a series of articles titled “R is for Ramadhaan and resolution”, written by Abdullah Khan.

Beautiful Weaves – Relations with In-Laws

Beautiful Weaves

The Man Who Marries – The Most Critical Player

In a Muslim household, the man of the house is the Ameer (leader). He is the shepherd, who will be held accountable for his flock. He is their leader; he knows them, nurtures them and trains them to become effective members of the Ummah socially, physically, emotionally, mentally and, most significantly, spiritually.

Consider a household in which a set of parents just got their son married. The entire family lives together under one roof. Who will be the Ameer of this family: the father or the son? Until now, it was the father, of course, but now, after their son has wedded, he needs to become the Ameer for his own family as per Islam’s demand. His wife and his offspring to be born will be his responsibility all the way.

The greatest problem that joint family setups and over-protective parenting of today poses is that the man, who is married, hasn’t grown up to be a man. He is clueless about his role, obviously untrained, living in the shadows of his parents and sometimes even financially dependent. This automatically spells disaster. If he has no vision for himself, his wife or the family to come, he will not be granted any freedom to take his decisions either.

He will be an easy prey to manipulation from either side, be it his wife or his parents. Since he will have little courage to stand up for anyone’s rights, he will be controlled. This man will never be able to do justice with any of his relations, because he will eventually tilt towards the oppressor. The oppressed may be the parents or his wife and family.

If boys can go through vigorous and multiple years of academic education and career counselling, why aren’t they prepared for such a pivotal role of their life that will determine their eternity: hell or heaven? And if this sounds too dramatic for you, read on:

“And those who break the Covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives), and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse (i.e. they will be far away from Allah’s mercy), and for them is the unhappy evil home (i.e. Hell).” (Ar-Rad 13:25)

It is the effectiveness of this role as an Ameer that defines a man’s success and place in his family. If he is able to provide financially, decide wisely, love empathetically, forgive patiently and, above all, treat everyone justly, he will command everybody’s respect and earn Allah’s (swt) mercy, too.

The best means to train yourself is to seek guidance from the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (sa). Parents of boys should offer to them opportunities for taking decisions; it doesn’t matter whether they are wrong or right. They should be encouraged to learn conflict resolution skills. Parents can discuss varied scenarios from home, school, workplace, market and elsewhere and invite them to analyze situations and resolve issues. Shura (advise) should be sought from them, concerning important family matters, so these boys groom into competent Muslim men.

All these means are stepping stones to empowering them for their future role as Ameers of their own families. If they are old enough to marry and be accountable before Allah (swt), why do parents think that their sons are not mature enough to lead their own flock?

Father – The Navigator

With the passage of time, the role of a father has been diminished merely to that of a bread winner. Once he stops putting food on the table for his family, he is not remembered much. This may be due to the fact that while he was striving hard to finance the needs of his family, he was hardly around for bonding with them.

In Ibrahim (as), we see a dynamic father whose genes, sacrifice for Islam and prayers to Allah (swt) prove the obedience we all know Ismail (as) for. Sahih Bukhari narrates that after the death of Hajrah (as), Ibrahim (as) came to visit Ismail (as) and his family; however, Ismail (as) had left Makkah before his arrival. He met Ismail’s (as) wife instead and inquired about him. She replied that he had gone to search for livelihood. Then, Ibrahim (as) asked her about their condition and way of living. She said, complaining to him: “We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution.” Ibrahim (as) replied: “When your husband returns, convey my salutation and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house).” When Ismail (as) returned home, he felt something unusual. He asked his wife, if anyone had come in his absence and she narrated the whole message to him. Ismail (as) told his wife: “It was my father, who visited you, and he has told me to divorce you. Go back to your family.”

Ismail (as) married another woman from the tribe of Jurham. Ibrahim (as) stayed away for some time, as long as Allah (swt) wished; he again visited his son but did not find him. He came to Ismail’s (as) wife and asked her about him. She replied: “He has gone to search for his livelihood.” Ibrahim (as) then inquired: “How are you getting on?” asking about their sustenance and living. She replied: “We are prosperous and well-off (i.e., we have everything in abundance). Then she thanked Allah (swt). Ibrahim (as) asked: “What kind of food do you eat?” she answered: “Meat.” “What do you drink?” “Water.”

Ibrahim (as) said to his daughter-in-law: “When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.” When Ismail (as) returned, he asked his wife, if anyone had called on her. She replied: “Yes, a good-looking old man came to me.” She praised him and conveyed his message to Ismail (as). Ismail (as) replied: “He was my father, and he has ordered me to keep you with me.”

This is the true concern a father has for his son – to be married to a virtuous and God-fearing girl, who safeguards the progeny and serves as a content, loyal and loving companion. Ibrahim (as) ensured that his son builds a strong Muslim home, not the sustenance he was earning, the kind of camel he was riding or the amount of savings his bank account held.

Ismail (as), in turn, was a devout son, who understood what his father meant and immediately paid heed to his command, as he realized Allah’s (swt) pleasure lied in it.

Mother – The Door to Jannah

Often parents end up spending more than 70% of their earnings (and sometimes all their savings) on the well-being of their children. They don’t keep accounts of it, of course, but it is understood that the very best that comes to the family directly goes to kids.

It is natural for these parents to feel insecure, lonely and at times, abandoned, when their kids (especially married sons) begin their own family lives. The situation is worse, if they have not taught the Islamic values and responsibilities the son has to fulfil towards his parents in terms of kindness, care and time spent together. Adding fuel to fire, a stranger in the form of a daughter-in-law steps in. She is viewed with great suspicion and mistrust. She is perceived as a competitor to the mother-in-law, especially when the son forgets to balance his roles and set his priorities.

Often out of envy and possessiveness, mothers do not want to let their sons go, thinking that they will be loved less and altogether forgotten one day. This may assume extreme measures in cases of single mothers, who are either widowed or divorced. Seeing their children settling in their marital lives gives them fear of losing them.

Parents should ensure that their married children assume the new challenges of life independently and patiently. It is recommended to spend on their children, but it is imperative to invest in one’s retirement and for old age comforts. In case the kids are unable to support them, these parents must have financial independence for themselves. It is a great relief to be able to sustain oneself at an age, when one has no income and many medical expenses.

In terms of expectations, married sons (and not their wives) should be held accountable for the parents. If the sons themselves are not available, they have to hire help or arrange any other required means to take care of their old parents. However, if parents do not teach their children the value of this care, it is very unlikely that the sons will ever serve them. It is the custom of disbelievers to consider daughters-in-law to be slaves, servants or caregivers for their husbands’ elderly parents. In Islam, it is the duty of the son or the daughter equally, married or not.

If the daughter-in-law is a God-fearing soul, she will proactively participate in whatever she can contribute. However, it should be considered that if she has children and her own parents to look after, she might be pressed for time. Sadly, parents seldom marry their sons to such practicing Muslimahs, as recommended by our Prophet (sa). Today, many brides are selected purely on the scale of materialism. When homes break up or men surrender before their headstrong wives, parents are the first ones to be thrown out of the family photograph.

When mothers-in-law are the dominant force, another gloomy question lurks – whose house is it? If the daughters-in-law actively participate in the kitchen, they are considered to be interfering, their management skills are incompetent or they are too concerned about impressing their husbands. If they stay aloof, they are considered to be indifferent, lazy or useless.

Management skills of two ladies can be poles apart yet good in their own ways. There is no perfect recipe for running a house. Management styles are as diverse as the people involved. However, in joint family setups, this is a very common stumbling stone. A mother-in-law, who has been managing the home turf for the past twenty-five or so years, is naturally the ‘queen bee’. She can’t be stripped of her title and honour. The daughter-in-law, who has just joined the family, has her own dreams, ideas and priorities; she might find all of these are being trampled upon. The kitchen is a woman’s dominion, which may easily turn into a battleground. For maintaining peace in home, kitchens must be separately owned and managed.

Muttaqi (pious and God-fearing) mothers are a gift of Allah (swt). They are the binding force of the family. With their invaluable experience, they have a great opportunity to transfer priceless traits to the next generation and leave behind Sadaqah-e-Jariya for themselves.

Daughter-in-law – The Peacemaker

Not long ago, mothers taught their daughters the valuable skills of becoming good wives. Nowadays, this mental preparation and training is increasingly skipped. Since no university offers such courses, for many girls, life after marriage may somewhat resemble a bomb exploding in their face. What? I can’t sleep until noon? I can’t chat on my mobile for hours? I have to cook breakfast for my husband that early? I need to clean up my room? I have to mingle socially with my in-laws? That’s it! I am filing for divorce!

You might think this is an exaggeration. However, tragically, it is true. Young girls of today sometimes want to break up simply because they cannot cope with their roles as wives and mothers. For maintaining the perfect figure, they never ate well; thus, their bodies lack the nourishment required for physical challenges of house chores and child bearing. They were raised to go to school, attend college and take up a job – not for being a part of home management. In other words, they were expected to behave like men. Thus, it is only natural that they revolt, when they are expected to do anything else. They feel as if someone else’s role is being imposed on them.

In some cases, married couples, who live with the parents-in-law, enjoy privileges without participating in responsibilities. In other extreme stories, daughters-in-law are treated like servants. With no love for the parents-in-law in her heart, anger and disdain for her husband, because he wouldn’t stand up for her, and frustrated to the core, she sizzles until she can’t take it anymore. The results are easy to predict: the couple gets a divorce, the couple moves out to a new dwelling after an ugly brawl with the parents, or lives on ‘unhappily ever after’.

What does Allah (swt) say about this? After commanding us not to sever ties of kinship, He also advises us to fear Him and be patient. It is impossible to love, honour and care for people, if we think selfishly – Allah (swt) always has to be in the centre. A girl has no blood ties with either her husband or his family. These relationships require nurturing and tending to on a daily basis. It is like a group of strangers coming together and making an effort to like and live with each other. Some will take more initiative, while others might just sit back and do nothing about it.

As a true agent of change and devout Muslimah, every young married girl must grab the opportunity to make that effort. If there is a misunderstanding, do not prove it right by behaving just like that; prove it wrong by behaving otherwise. It takes a while for strangers to become friends – it requires time and hard work. Also, positive thinking and sincere prayers are like a rescue boat sailing high on the stormy seas, whereas self pity, jealousy and lack of empathy for others is like the “Titanic”, running into the iceberg that sunk it.

For solving problems, we should first understand the parties involved and address their obvious and hidden intents by asking: Why do they behave in a certain way? Once the root cause is unearthed, it is easier for us to devise our own strategies in handling the situation. Also, always separate the problem from the person. Just because someone behaves a certain way doesn’t mean that this person is malicious or downright wicked to the core.

Husband and wife are like garments for each other; they are meant to protect, beautify and confide in each other. A wife is the source of solace, comfort and enjoyment for her husband. Honouring the parents of husband is like honouring him. If a husband treats his wife well, it is because of the upbringing he has received at the hands of his parents. Later, when the young wife becomes a mother, she realizes the pains his parents must have gone through in raising him. It is the right of every parent to be respected. Our in-laws are not our blood relations. Yet, they are no less in significance, as our ties with them will influence the happiness of our own marriage.

May Allah (swt) grant us the forbearance and wisdom to build strong Muslim homes. Ameen.

Career or Kids? Every Mom’s Dilemma

career or kids

Is there a way out? There always is. Mary Pipher in her bestseller, “The Shelter of Each Other”, shared the story of a couple caught up in a hectic lifestyle. Both husband and wife worked long hours to meet their financial needs. They realized that they hardly had time for personal interests, each other, or their three-year-old twins. They were guilty as sin to know that the daycare providers had seen their children walk the first steps and heard their first sounds. They were now reporting behavioural problems in the twins. The couple had essentially fallen out of love, as they were operating as machines run on a schedule.

The wife felt even more anguished for her unfulfilled desire to help her mother, who had cancer. But what was she to do? She couldn’t make time for herself due to her demanding career. They seemed trapped in what appeared to be an impossible situation.

They headed for counselling and set their mind to fix the problem. They made some vital changes to their family life, which created dramatic differences. The husband talked to his employers that he would no longer be able to work on Saturdays. The wife eventually quit her job to stay home with the boys. They invited the wife’s mother to move in with them, pooling their resources. Now, the children had the loving company of their grandmother, and the grandmother was cared for by her own daughter.

But this togetherness didn’t come by a wave of a magic wand. They all agreed to make personal sacrifices, realizing what they were giving up was lesser in value than what they would eventually gain. They cut back in many areas – stopped eating out and quit buying things except for essentials. The husband carpooled to work. The wife didn’t behave like a victim of circumstances, who was forced to surrender her career.

This family understood clearly that either they could have more time with each other or more money – not both. They chose time over money. This choice made a profound difference in the quality of their personal and family life. They were happier, more fulfilled, less stressful, less guilty and more in love.

The point is that there is always an option. You may simplify your lifestyle, consider cutting back, changing jobs, shifting from full-time to part-time work, work closer to home to cut commuting time, create a virtual office in your home, etc. But you need to be honest with yourself, first and foremost. Why exactly do I work? Is it really a financial need or is it that I enjoy the independence? Does it help me earn a more sound reputation in society and family or does it fulfill my craving to pursue my career? Only if you look yourself honestly in the eye and understand the deep reason for your work motives will you be able to prioritize. What weighs more for me: my family or my career?

Steven Covey said: “The bottom line is that there is no need to be held hostage by these lies, if family is really your top priority. And making the family priority will push you into creative exploration of possible alternatives.”

In order to prioritize our values in life we need to understand that parenthood is a unique role. It is about nurturing the potential of a special human being entrusted to our care. There is no substitute for the relationship between a child and a parent. When mothers wish to head for the career world, anyone with a positive attitude and caring disposition appears to them as their substitute for their kid. However, competence and character are a difficult combination to find in caretakers. Urie Bronfenbrenner, a child development expert, puts it aptly: “You can’t pay someone to do for a child what a parent will do for free.”

A working mother should also know that if she doesn’t have time to teach her children, society will. And all will have to live with the results. It is said that when the infrastructure shifts, everything else rumbles. If only we study the changes that have occurred in the four dimensions of society – popular culture, laws, economy and technology – over the past fifty years or so, our findings will put everything into perspective. Following is a brief analysis:

Popular culture

Un-monitored children spend most of their time today either eating or watching TV. They have increasing access to videos, music, movies; hence, they view pornography, illicit sex and violence. Working moms have to beat the clock, so the tone at home is not relaxed, and family members seldom get any meaningful time to bond or share.

 

Hochschild writes: “In this new model of family-and-work life, a tired parent flees a world of unresolved quarrels and unwashed laundry for the reliable orderliness, harmony and managed cheer of work.” At work, a mother receives affirmation, prestige, instant results and compensation. If she decides to stay home, she will be making a pro-active choice that can only come from the heart and results will appear in many years, Insha’Allah.

Laws

Popular culture has impacted the political will and resulting laws, too. Once, the institution of marriage was held as a vow of two individuals not only to each other but to the society as well. Today, marriage is no longer a covenant or a commitment. It simply is a contract between two consenting adults. If this contract is found to be inconvenient, unnecessary or an obstacle in one’s road to desires, it can be annulled without considering the family at all.

This depreciation of the sanctity and solemnity of marriage has unleashed an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin and loneliness. And the present day laws do very little to prevent this disaster. In fact, feminist movements and others fan the disintegration more. Deviations from Deen and sheer ignorance think it right for couples to divorce each other.

Economy

Cost of the average home has increased, inflation has spiraled, and dream life-styles have emerged. Consequently, homes have nuclear families of parents and children. Intergenerational and extended families are viewed as a source of interference.

Since economic responsibility has been reducing from intergenerational to just nuclear families, it has given rise to a culture of freedom and independence. Escape from responsibility and accountability is available everywhere. Families and individuals are increasingly becoming isolated.

Technology

Steven Covey observes: “Changes in technology have accelerated the impact of changes in every other dimension. It provides unfiltered access to highly impactful visual images, supports saturated advertisement, puts us into materialistic overload, causes a revolution in expectations.” Mass media literally drives the culture in your home.

Having said that, a child, whose mother stays at home and resents it, is worse off than if she goes to work. The benefit comes only if the mother understands completely that she is fulfilling a sacred stewardship in life by rearing her children. Nothing on the list of values outweighs her role as a nation builder, and Paradise can be hers just by being a loving and responsible parent. Otherwise, she might just hear herself scream and whine before her children, making them guilty of being a hurdle in the happiness of their mother’s life. Her children would soon start wishing that she goes to work, so that there is peace at home.

It is a great tragedy for a woman to not realize that if today she neglects her professional, developmental and social interests, they can still be pursued tomorrow. However, if she does not invest herself in her kids at their young age, she herself will eventually be the one to reap the whirlwind. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: “For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” Will this regretful mother be able to turn back the clock?

So what’s your priority?

priority

Once, Stephen Covey travelled to Chicago for a business presentation. The same night, his fourteen-year-old daughter was to act in a side role in a school play. He knew that Colleen was not in the lead and realized that probably she will never be. But that night was her night. He was guilty of not being there, when the audience would cheer for her. He could have arranged his schedule to be there, but somehow Colleen’s play had gotten lost in the pressures of his work demands.

Stephen called up his daughter to wish her well. He realized that as a parent it was important for him to be there for praising and affirming his child, even though he could not attend the event.

It’s not enough just to claim that “family” is important. You need to show your commitment by actions. In his words: “One of the worst feelings in the world is when you realise that the “first things” in your life – including your family – are getting pushed into second or third place, even further down the list. And it becomes even worse, when you realise what’s happening as a result.” Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

The question then arises: if family is what we can die for, why does it get subordinated to other values, work, friends or private hobbies? Why don’t we give our primary attention and focus to what matters most to us?

Imagine, in an average American home, a child spends seven hours daily watching TV and five minutes with dad. Unbelievable! But Pakistan is not too far behind. I still remember that a friend of mine always used to joke about her husband’s late arrival from work. “One day, when he will ask me after arriving late at night as usual: ‘Where are the girls (referring to his daughters)?’ I will tell him: ‘Oh! Don’t you know? They were married off, while you were busy in a board meeting.’”

She always laughed out loud, but I could feel her underlying pain – the pain of being left alone to head the family and fulfil the role of a father and a mother, while her husband thought that his family needed more of his money than his time and presence. The standard of living was being raised, while the quality of relations was being dropped.

Also, people seldom forget their miserably lonely childhood. If their parents have abandoned them for some other mission in life, these kids carry the bitterness all the way, until they express it in some form or the other.

In May 1997, U.S. News and World Report published a hard-hitting article entitled “Lies Parents Tell Themselves About Why They Work”. Today, we have a similar case in Pakistan and many other countries. Here are some of the lies mentioned in the report:

  1. We need the extra money. (But research shows that better off individuals are nearly as likely to say that they are working for ‘basic necessities’, as those who live close to the poverty line.)
  2. Daycare is perfectly good. (Cases of physical and emotional abuse of minor children have never been this high in the country.)
  3. Inflexible companies are the key problem. (Many people willingly spend more time at the office. Homes have become an efficiently run joyless workplace, while the actual workplace with empowerment and team work is more like family.)
  4. Careers cannot be sacrificed. (This is a new breed of women, who have been raised like men. Their family is negotiable but their careers are not; hence, their kids are raised by others for them.)
  5. Role reversal. (Men don’t mind their wives stepping out and supporting them earn the desired lifestyle.)

Many fathers slave it all day with very noble intentions for their families. But as it is said – bad judgements cannot replace noble intentions. If you are not present at the helm of affairs, someone else will look after your familial needs. Something always fills a vacuum. Children do not just need to be fed, clothed and schooled – they are humans with sentiments, dreams and fears. If they do not have reliable and understanding parents to turn to, they will turn to something else. It will be friends, gadgets, gizmos or pastimes. These children will not judge or question the sincerity of others – they will simply go with the flow to be accepted, because of an emotional starvation at home.

How can we, as heads of our respective family, address these critical issues? Surely we can’t quit our jobs and nest with the rest at home. What we need today is a more dynamic set of solutions for facing the new challenges of leading a family. We need to support, advise, use our judgement, and offer our experience, our strength and our decisiveness to them. This requires us to offer our quality time to the family constantly and consistently.

Stephen Covey suggests: “In a family, order means that the family is prioritised and that some kind of structure is in place to make that priority happen. The creation of a family mission statement provides the foundational structure for the inside-out approach to family living. Additionally, there are two major organising structures or processes that will help you put the family first in a meaningful way in your daily life: a weekly ‘family time’ and one-on-one bonding times.”

The main purpose of ‘family time’ or ‘family night’ (whatever you prefer to call it) is to have one time during the week that is focused on being a family. This facilitates you to meet four of your needs: spiritual (to plan), mental (to teach), physical (to solve problems) and social (to have fun).

In one-on-ones, you allow the other person to have his or her interests and goals expressed or worked on. The one-on-ones are where most of the real work of the family is done. This is where the most significant teaching, the most profound sharing and the deepest bonding take place.

May Allah (swt) guide us to become responsible and dexterous craftsmen, who mould the souls and lives of their families, and most importantly, help us to remember that if we don’t, someone else will – and everybody will have to live with the results.

Organizing and De-cluttering Homes

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When you have to move to new accommodation or get a paint job done in the house, do you feel that there are houses within your house? Whichever closet you open or whichever drawer you slide out, they are stuffed to the brim. You could actually furnish two more dwellings with the amount of things you possess. Well, don’t fret! Most of us get swept away by the tide of materialism. Just read on – help is at bay

Label storage

If you want to find your stow-away, label it – be it cartons, bags, boxes, suitcases, etc. It could have a main heading, such as “winter-wear for kids” followed by maybe three or five names of clothing groups inside, for example: “sweaters, stockings, jackets.” Select the room you want to place the storage in and keep a diary or record of it room-wise. For example: “kid’s bedroom, box 1 – kid’s winter-wear.”

This might seem like a laborious job initially, but you will know exactly where to find stuff even months later. Believe me – it’s worth it, if you want to use your possessions timely!

Keep an inventory check

It is best to consciously observe the things we use the most and in what numbers. For example, if you have loads of outfits gracing your wardrobe, break them into such categories as casual wear, party wear, formal wear, etc., depending upon your real needs (not wants).

Anything beyond your actual need should be considered surplus. You may gift it or donate it to family, friends, servants or the less privileged around you every quarter or even on a monthly basis, if you can.

This assessment will help you keep an inventory check on your belongings. Try this formula for everything you own.

Try the one year retention plan

Sorting and deciding what to keep, what to chuck out and what to give away is a common challenge.

An effective method to resolve this issue is to follow the one year retention plan. Keep your stuff for one year. After that, carefully assess how many times you have used your belongings during that year. If it is frequent, clearly, you are in need of that particular stuff. But if it is seldom, you may reduce its numbers (e.g., crockery). In case you have one annual party every year, you can keep your favourite dinner set and donate the rest. When your party time arrives, order the extra dinnerware from outside. The cost of storage and maintenance of this stuff is greater than the cost of annual rental.

Similarly, this technique will help you identify the stuff you haven’t used at all and can easily part with.

Do not arrange for additional storage space

Believe it or not – not having a big storage space is actually a blessing! You will have all your possessions within sight and efficient usage. Most of the stuff lying in storerooms and warehouses just eats dust and cobwebs, until more room is needed for newer storage and, eventually, the older one is thrown out in a miserable condition.

Make a strict rule for yourself to keep in your closets and cupboards only what you can safely manage. No cellars, basements or store rooms needed.

Broken things are not a bad omen

It takes a great deal of sacrifice to part with our beloved possessions. But caution! This is a real Iman tester. As soon as we are afflicted with some material damage, Satan starts drilling into our head what a calamity has just occurred and spells dooms day!

If things break, just learn to say: “Inna lillah e wa inna ilaihi rajioon.” Allah (swt) had planned for this to happen. Look at it positively – one thing less to be accounted for before Allah (swt). Otherwise, after we die, lying in our graves, we will be held accountable for the tiniest spoon we own, while others would be merrily using all of that stuff we have left behind.

Small Talk, Big Ideas!

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By Umm Isam – Writer and Human Resource Trainer

Do you sometimes feel trapped in a gathering where you want nothing else than to escape the talk (read, vicious gossip, frivolous conversations, etc.) going on around you? Or, you pray earnestly for the topic of conversation to change or improve, as you have nothing constructive to contribute personally? Try this:

  1. Pull it out at the right time

We are all bombarded with text messages daily, which are read and deleted. These one-liners are sometimes funny, sometimes wise, and sometimes, worthy of being deleted immediately. Store the ones close to your heart either on your cell or in a small notebook to carry around. Avid readers of quotations or books can also add their favourites to this list. The next time you land in a party and the talk drifts and becomes boring, frivolous, shallow, hateful or simply unpleasant, you will have something worthwhile to share.

  1. Take along your favourite book/magazine

Sometimes, we are so pressed for time that it is simply impossible to note down anything. In such cases, it is best to simply grab and shove in your purse whatever you have been reading lately and loved it so much that you would want the world to know. Your effort to act proactively will grant you immense Sadaqah-e-Jariya, even if you never get a chance to read anything out of it. If you do, it would be extremely meaningful amidst gossips, complains or criticism. You might just be able to change the direction of the talk and generate some great dormant ideas from others, too.

  1. Listen to understand

Gatherings are not just about talking. They are about listening to others, too – a skill that is mainly lost today. Weddings are the perfect place for such counselling therapy. A typical Pakistani marriage reception generally eats up a good three to four hours of your time, if you are just a non VIP guest. These are apt opportunities to understand the root causes of what people say and why they feel the way they do in our society. As a writer, I have found this to be a pivotal chance to observe, listen without judgement and sometimes, simply be a therapist to someone who needed an ear to unload his or her miseries.

  1. Announce the agenda boldly or slip it in subtly

As soon as you arrive, tell your close ones that this will be a vegetarian’s chitchat (meaning no juicy back biting, slandering or suspicion). All others who are interested in consuming some meat should wait for the table to be laid out for dinner or lunch. If your companions cooperate, Alhumdulillah! But if they persistently keep on slaughtering everyone left, right and centre, try to cut your visit short, move out of that group, take another table, and make Dua to Allah (swt) for guidance.

  1. Revive the roots

Get-togethers serve great opportunities for soft Dawah. They need not be stern, unending sermons. They can comprise a fact-based incident from the Prophet’s (sa) life, a verse from the Quran, something you read to your child about a companion, or something you learnt at a workshop or while surfing the Internet. It need not be something that pertains to current celebrities, lifestyle or prevalent fashions. It can be anything that disconnects you from the crazy and mechanical life of today, and helps you travel back in time.

Learning to let go

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Controlling comes to many parents naturally and quite spontaneously, regardless of the age of the child. It is literally on ‘auto’ mode. And it is obviously meant to be in the best interest of the children.

When your children fall, you run to help them get up. When they don’t do well in exams, you step in to take over the reins. You dictate or influence their career choices. You pick the perfect spouse for them. And even after they are married and have had children of their own, you tell them they are inexperienced and immature, and you continue to make decisions for them.

However, the real problem occurs when your child’s spouse, who probably isn’t used to being dictated, experiences suffocation of independence. He/she becomes frustrated and in most cases vents out this anger on your child. This complicates relationships not only between your son/daughter and their better halves but also between you and them. Eventually, in most cases, a mandatory distance is assumed, either by moving out of joint family set-ups or, in some extreme cases, even travelling to a far away country.

Sadly, well-meaning parents often do not realize the actual reason behind the bitter turn of relationship between them and their married offspring, which could be avoided by a sensible role adjustment on their part. As parents, you can assume the role of a guide and mentor when your children have become adults, as compared to your initial role of a decision-maker when your kids are young and dependent. Here, I would like to share my positive experience with my mother-in-law.

Why do I love my mum-in-law?

Yes, I am sane to state that. No, we are not related. Yes, I have also lived with and without her in the same family unit. But still, after my own mum (which is only natural), I love and admire my mum-in-law the most. And I would like to share with you some remarkable traits she has demonstrated with her four married sons and two married daughters that I have witnessed in fourteen years.

  1. I’ll call you if you are busy/lazy

Being the youngest in my family, I was often careless about establishing family protocol. Hence, when my husband and I got married and started living in our dream home by ourselves, it was quite often very easy to completely forget the world outside this dream. My husband would obviously call up his mum daily and even go to meet her often. But with a full time job, I would wiggle out of the situation and stay at home after work. In all such incidents, my mum-in-law initiated to call me up, just to find out how I was doing, without ever complaining. That embarrassed me so much that gradually I tried to build time to call and meet her up, realizing that it was the only decent thing to do on my part.

  1. I’ll wait and watch if you need my advice

Whenever there was a rift among her offspring and their spouses, I noticed that my mum-in-law didn’t just land from the sky like a paratrooper with custom-made advice for them to follow. She silently waited and watched, allowing petty issues to be resolved by themselves. Only when things started to get out of control or the children sought her advice, did she step in to counsel each party gently without ever taking sides. This, in my sight, is one of the noblest qualities my mum-in-law possesses, for which she is appreciated by all.

  1. I’ll pro-actively care for you

She cared for each soul like no one else ever did. Who would let her daughter-in-law sleep in because she is pregnant and unwell? Who would cook her daughter-in-law’s favourite meals to cheer her up in her baby blues after the delivery? Well, she is an exception by all means.

  1. I’ll let the romance bloom

When I hear horror tales of malice and envy between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, I am stumped. The only experience I had was to see my mum-in-law instructing her sons to take their tired wives for an outing after a hard day’s work. Or, cracking funny jokes with them as a couple, which lifted the mood in the house immediately. I could tell that she was a romantic at heart and loved to see it thrive between her married kids and their spouses.

  1. I’ll be heard because I have heard you

Only because she treated everyone so kindly, everyone wanted to hear her out when she spoke. The family members, old or young, had absolute trust in her. They realized that she would never exploit or betray. So when my mum-in-law lost her temper, no one dared to speak up. In fact, almost everyone agreed with her willingly each time. They didn’t find their independence being challenged. They knew that they had been given a fair chance to think and work as an adult. But the matter required a deeper insight, so mum-in-law was there to help resolve it.

  1. I’ll not tolerate any misgivings in the family

If there was one thing my mum-in-law had no patience for, it was backbiting. She simply hated it, when one of her daughters-in-law wanted to tell on another. She highly discouraged this habit.

  1. Decide for yourself

Whether it was deciding the menu for dinner, décor preferences, name of the very first child, which school to send the children, or planning a family vacation, my mum-in-law granted full freedom to her married children and their spouses to decide on their own. She never felt the least bit insecure, if she wasn’t consulted or simply informed of any decision made by one of her married child’s nuclear family.

Lastly, it’s not that her humble and loving nature always brought her happiness. In spite of being such an accommodating individual, sometimes she has had to face hardships at the hands of her kids. She is an exemplary human being and gives so much love and independence to her kids; hence, she receives a great share of it back. Every son and daughter-in-law welcomes her to come and stay with them. She is not a burden but a wonderful and pleasant company to be with. She is showered with respect and love by all. As a token of our love, we always happily buy generous presents for her.

May Allah (swt) help us appreciate her more, for she is truly the binding force of the family maintaining much peace and tranquility. May Allah (swt) also help us reap rewards by serving her well and earning Jannah eventually, Ameen. I know one day I would aspire to be a mum-in-law just like her – loving unconditionally.

Tracing the Forgotten Women Scholars of Islam

Tracing the Forgotten Women Scholars of Islam

By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

Muslim societies debate on a plethora of issues, but when the conversations drift to the role of women in Islam, there are fireworks you would never see before. Opinions are sharply divided. As Eileen Collins became the first woman to command the space shuttle, some Muslims were still debating the right of women to drive a car on the road.

Sheikh Nadwi, a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, after a decade-long research wrote a book titled: “Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam.” The motivation behind this project was to seek out the real historical record on women’s place in the Islamic tradition. Comprehending the just nature of Islam, what he discovered hardly comes as a surprise.

The Era of Female Scholarship

Sheikh Nadwi unearths: “Since women today participate so little in the teaching of Ahadeeth and the issuing of Fatwas, there is a wide misconception that historically they have never played this role.”

Some 8,000 biographical accounts of female scholars have been unravelled in his study. Furthermore, Imam Dhahabi’s findings confirm that there have been no fabricators among the female narrators of Ahadeeth. Muslim women carried out the responsibility of preservation and development of Islamic learning since the time of Muhammad (sa).

These women were of high calibre in their intellectual achievements. Some even excelled far beyond their male contemporaries. They were exceptional women, who not only actively participated in the society but essentially reformed it. They were narrators of Hadeeth, teachers of theology, logic, philosophy, calligraphy and many other Islamic crafts.

One might assume that this allowed free-mixing and opened doors to Fitnah. These scholars not only had towering intellectual reputations but also immaculate social statuses. By observing the veil and Islamic mannerisms, they were able to seek and impart knowledge to men with dignity.

Just a Few Noteworthy Names

A prominent name is Aisha Siddiqa (rta), who was directly groomed and guided by our beloved Prophet (sa). Her role and contributions as a scholar of Islam continued long after her husband’s death.

It was Hafsah (rta) to whom the original record of the Quran, as it was revealed, was entrusted on parchments and animal bones. It was due to this preserved record that Caliph Usman (rta) was able to disseminate six standardised versions of the Quran to the major political and cultural centres of his times.

In the eigth century, Fatima Al-Batayahi taught Sahih Al-Bukhari to students in Damascus. During the Hajj, male scholars from far flocked to hear her speak in person.

In the twelfth century, Zainab Binte Kamal is known to have taught more than four hundred books of Hadeeth. She was a natural teacher, exhibiting exceptional patience with her students.

Fatimah Bint Muhammad As-Samarqandi was a jurist, who advised her husband (who happened to be more popular than her) on how to issue Fatwas.

Umm Ad-Darda was a scholar who used to attend discourses in the same Masjid as her male counterparts. She assumed the role of a teacher of Fiqh and Hadeeth and taught men. One of her students was a caliph of Damascus.

How Did They Disappear?

The contributing factors towards gross violations of women today and the disappearance of their intellectual contributions are many. Today, some of us are in complete awe of the Western world and eager to follow their footsteps. But how many of us comprehend that women have always had a problematic position in the Judeo-Christian tradition? The most obvious example is the fall of Adam (as) and Hawa (as) from the Garden of Paradise, for which they bitterly accuse Hawa (as). They squarely place the blame on her and consider the pains of childbirth that every woman bears as atonement for the original sin committed by her.

Until the sixteenth century, Western Europe was debating whether or not women have souls. Should they be given rights equal to men? Finally, women’s equality was established (at least on documents) by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When Western authorities began to colonize Muslim societies, the first step taken was to exclude women from teaching in Masajid and assuming political roles. Thus, the trend began to be implanted by the Western colonizers among Muslim men, who by now were a frail picture of cultural baggage, unaware of their own rich Islamic history.

The gradual retraction of women from the public and scholarship circles eventually happened.

The Reactive Measures

When we began to lose balance between genders in the Muslim world, two extreme corrective measures emerged on the horizon. Muslim feminists threw women forward as a model of gender-less Islam, free from the shackles of male scholarship. They propelled women to become Imams and state leaders, in desperation to find a voice for them.

On the other extreme, countless religious clerics began to perceive women’s rights as an import from the Western culture. Hence, they put up their best defence and locked their women inside, keeping them away from education, work and self-awareness. Thus, there is little that separates some misogynistic Mullahs from progressive feminists. Both are reactions to a crisis of confidence in their own faith.

Throughout Muslim history, women who assumed the roles of leadership in scholarship are the same women who followed male Imams in a Masjid and observed the veil. They were nurturing mothers, comforting companions, inspiring teachers and contributing citizens.

Need of the Hour

We need to understand that the Quran lays down the fundamental equality of men and women. Our Prophet (sa) propagated that there is no difference of worth between the believers on account of their gender.

Relegating women only to the role of a mother and a housewife is a phenomenon that has emerged in the recent years. Consequently, women who have little education and plentiful time indulge in fanning home rifts and viewing substandard TV shows. Others, who have a decent education and privileges, prefer to engage in frivolous pastimes. Learning and dispensing Islamic education is not a prerogative.

Aisha (rta) was the beloved companion of our Prophet (sa) yet, didn’t she lead an army? Umm Salamah (rta) was known for her piety and as an exemplary wife. Didn’t she counsel our Prophet (sa) at the crisis of Hudaibiyah?

I can’t but sadly agree with Sheikh Nadwi’s conclusion that “the irony of our forgotten women scholars is that they spent their lives in the pursuit of historical facts, whereas Muslims have long forgotten the fact of their contribution”.

Pro-activity = A Peaceful Marriage

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By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

A world famous business and family consultant was in the middle of an important meeting and things were running behind schedule. He received a note from his wife that she needed to speak to him urgently. The counsellor stepped out to take the call. His wife impatiently reminded him that they had invited guests that evening and that she needed him to be home on time.

The counsellor, already facing a tough day at work, gave into the pressure of the moment and rudely told her off. While he was walking back to the boardroom, he realized his mistake. But the curt words had already been spoken and the relationship was stressed.

He tried to wrap up what he could and hit the road to reach home. In the privacy of his car, he stepped back to observe his behaviour without being defensive. As he stood apart from his own life, and replayed the conversation in his mind, he realized he had been wrong. He understood his mistake and prepared himself to make necessary changes and improvements.

He realized his wife had only made a reasonable demand, as she was in a tough social situation. Expectations had been created, and he wasn’t there to help fulfill them. Instead of understanding, he had reacted abruptly.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized that his actions had been off track. This was not the kind of relationship he wanted with his wife. Then, he began to think of what he wanted out of their relationship. It was care, empathy, love and patience. If he wouldn’t have been sucked into his worry for work and would have responded to his wife with more consideration, the results of the incident would have been completely different. As he reached home, his irritation had disappeared. The counsellor didn’t think of his work worries, but about his wife only. His heart was filled with feelings of love and understanding. He immediately apologized to his wife. She reciprocated. The closeness and warmth of their relationship was restored. And they enjoyed a lovely evening together.

Isn’t this a very common pitfall for all of us in our family life experiences? Whenever we are caught in the heat of the moment, we almost instantly explode, instead of responding on the basis of our deepest values. The counsellor suggested that “what we all need is the pause button – something that enables us to stop between what happens to us and our response to it, and to choose our own response”.

As individuals, we have the capacity to develop this ‘pause’ button. It can be done by acting pro-actively, using the ability to act on principles and values, rather than reacting upon emotions or circumstances. The four unique gifts that Allah (swt) bestowed upon all the human beings are: self-awareness, conscience, imagination and will power. These are the gifts that we saw the counsellor apply in his example, too.

Initially, it may take time to develop them and undo the habit of reacting. With time, with conscious effort and constant reminder to oneself, spouse and family, it can be possible to control one’s angry thoughts and choose a more decent response.

These gifts can be developed and used over time to improve the quality of family relationships. The counsellor suggests that some families should even determine a signal to help them cut through or prevent angry responses.

Just as the heat is turned on and an argument is imminent, we can say a chosen phrase or word out loud, switch the lights on and off, gesture a thumbs down with our hand. This could compel all to stop and disengage immediately.

As Muslims, for us, the best guidance comes from the Prophet (sa), who advises us to either recite ‘Aoodhu Billahi min As-Shaitan nir Rajeem’ or hasten to change our position, or get a glass of water or proceed to perform Wudhu. This space gives us time to get a grip on ourselves and understand the circumstances better in the privacy of our thoughts before we respond negatively.

It is said: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”

The marriage counsellor went on to describe how this one paragraph has been so compelling, so memorable and so staggering that it has influenced the rest of his life. In his own words: “I cannot begin to describe the effect that idea had on me. I was overwhelmed by it. I reflected on it again. I revelled in the freedom of it. I personalized it. The more I pondered over it, the more I realized that I could choose responses that would affect the stimulus itself.”

Animals have no space between stimulus and response. They are totally a product of their natural instincts. We need to understand this difference very carefully and behave in a manner that befits Allah’s (swt) best creations in the world – us. May Allah (swt) grant us the strength to be pro-active and help our spouse and families imbibe it, too. Ameen.

Balancing a Budget – A Wife’s Predicament

Balancing a Budget – A Wife’s Predicament

By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

Maurice Baring once said: “If you want to know what the Lord thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom He gives it.” I couldn’t help but laugh heartily. Images of many people went through my mind; I feel that most of them are undeserving of the privileges they enjoy, yet there they are rich and rolling in bucks. Who are we to say?

Now, let’s think in terms of our personal relationships and explore whether money really makes a marriage happier.

In At-Tabaqat, it is narrated that Fatimah (rta), the Prophet’s (sa) daughter, used to go hungry for days. On a particular day, Ali (rta) noticed that she looked very pale and weak. He enquired: “What is the matter with you, Fatima?” Fatimah (rta) answered: “It has been three days, and we haven’t found anything to eat in the house.” Ali (rta) asked: “Why didn’t you inform me?” She replied: “On the night of our wedding, my father, the Messenger of Allah (sa), advised me: ‘O Fatima, if Ali brings you something, eat it, and if he does not, do not ask him.’”

How many of us have had to starve for weeks? The gravest challenge that we face is living within our means. And, believe me, if we brace ourselves and our children for some sacrifice, patience, conditioning and a shift in our perception of ourselves and others, we can live within any amount of income. Try living by the following rules and experience the liberation yourself:

  1. Give yourself no option but to live within your income. Looking in all directions for aid and waiting for someone to bail you out (parents, siblings and friends) should be completely unacceptable.
  2. Take pride in your husband’s abilities and what he is able to bring to the family. If you wear a cotton outfit and your sister wears silk, it does not indicate your husband’s incapability to provide for more. Rather, cotton is what Allah (swt) has ordained for you to wear.
  3. Spend time in the company of those who are content with their provisions, rather than those who complain to death. Contentment doesn’t mean being unambitious; it means submitting to Allah’s (swt) will and being happy with it.
  4. Always remember our Prophet (sa) chose poverty over the riches of the world. There is great wisdom behind it. If you own little, you will be accountable for less.
  5. Do not choose a lifestyle that is not supported by your income. It will only cause misery and family rifts; it may also open doors to Haram (impermissible) earnings.
  6. Never befriend people who size you up by the weight of your wallet. Those who love your family will accept you the way you are.
  7. Similarly, although Islam doesn’t allow severing familial ties, you can restrict your family’s involvement with relatives, if you fear falling into Hasad (envy) or a rat race.
  8. Try to stay off TV, magazines and any public places that tempt you and your family with their hypnotizing lures.
  9. Pray to Allah (swt) for a content and peaceful heart that longs to stay happy in whatever circumstances Allah (swt) keeps it in.
  10. Lastly, a widow once shared: “Each morning, it should be enough for every wife to find her husband beside her, breathing. Many women have been deprived of this blessing as their better halves have left them alone in this journey of life.”

A Respectable Household Budget

Regardless of your monthly income, following are some fixed or varied costs that households may incur, along with suggestions to streamline expenditure and release financial hardships, Insha’Allah:

 

Fixed costs
Zakah This is a must. If are eligible, pay Zakah even if you have to sell some of your gold to do so.
Loan repayment To ensure future credibility, pay back your loan in installments as early as possible.
Suggestions to reduce expenses under extreme financial difficulties
House rent Consider sharing space with another married sibling or your parents (if they are independent) to divide the cost.
Home maintenance If the above is considered, maintenance cost can also be divided among family members. Otherwise, keep minimum household stuff to reduce wear and tear.
Salaries of servants Delegate home chores to each family member (including boys), without employing servants and thus saving the cost.
Grocery and eatables Shop as per need. Look out for discounts and bargains. Use local products that are cheaper. Cut down on wasteful expenditure of snacking. Cook less variety of dishes for each meal. Try making more curries.
Utility bills Make all family members understand the importance of conserving resources — electricity, water and gas. Sleep in one room to run one AC for a few hours only. Use energy saving bulbs. Use buckets instead of showers for bathing. Fix all leaking faucets and toilets. Use the geyser only in winters.
Toiletries Dilute concentrated detergents for dish washing by adding water. The same can be done for shampoos. Do not keep out entire bottles of creams, powder and lotions. Ration them according to weeks, especially if you have small children, to prevent wastage.
Schooling Choose your kids’ school for its affordability (not popularity), as schooling consumes nearly 45% of your salary. It should be close to home. Home education is a very sane and popular choice for many moms these days. You can join their network at pakistan-home-education-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. If you are unsure, try with younger kids first to gain confidence.
Fuel Try walking to get groceries or other chores close by. Cycling is also a possible alternative for kids.
Entertainment Go to places that are free of cost, such as the beach, parks and nature walks. Pack a picnic meal to save cost of food, especially beverages.
Sadaqah No matter how much costs pinch, maintain a steady payment of Sadaqah to the deserving, even if it is just Rs.10 per month. Doing so will maximize your Rizq, Insha’Allah.

 

Ideas for generating a support income for your family:

  1. Work from home for a few hours in a skill you have mastered. It could be catering, offering tuitions, writing for publications, computer-based skills, etc.
  2. Pool in a kitty/committee with trustworthy friends, family members, or colleagues, especially for the months in which you need to pay taxes, give children’s school fees, prepare for Eids, etc.
  3. Invest in Islamic institutions that are interest-free.

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

What comes to our mind, when we think of an effective leader: a dynamic and diligent individual who has solutions to every problem; a person, who is courageous and capable enough to take his team to new heights of self-discovery; maybe someone, who is an epitome of self-motivation and high principles?

Anyone, who is entrusted with the responsibility to lead, should possess the eight discernible characteristics of principle-centered leaders. If we wish to excel in our role as a leader, we need to develop the following fundamental principles:

1. They learn continually

Our beloved Prophet (sa) continued to receive revelations till the very last days of his life. His entire life was founded on personal learning and divine guidance. Similarly, it is Sunnah to expand one’s competence and ability to do things. Effective leaders read, seek training, and listen to others. They are curious and eager to develop new skills. They are humble enough to learn something valuable from every person they meet. Most of their learning is self-initiated.

2. They are service-oriented

Remember the time of Masjid-e-Nabawi’s construction, and how the noble companions worked industriously? But rather than just delegating tasks and dispensing orders, who carried heavy rocks right by their side? Who led by example and experienced the same hardship, assuring his team that he was there with them every step of the way? Our beloved Messenger (sa), of course.

The next characteristic tells us the same. If we strive to become principle-centred leaders, we must see life as a mission, not as a career that will begin at the age of twenty-five and end at sixty. An effective leader has nurturing sources within him that prepares him for service. Every morning, he puts on the harness of service, thinking of others.

As leaders, we must have a load to carry. If we only attempt to have an intellectual or moral exercise, we will never develop a sense of responsibility, service, or contribution towards our people.

3. They radiate positive energy

Smile, it’s a Sunnah! It is also a Sadaqah! Principle-centered people have cheerful and pleasant countenances and an optimistic attitude. Their spirit is hopeful and believing.

It is important for one to be aware of his energy; he must understand how to radiate and direct it. When the situation becomes confusing or contentious, a principle-centred leader strives to be a peacemaker and a harmonizer, to undo or reverse destructive energy.

4. They believe in other people

Principle-centred leaders are aware of human weaknesses. Hence, they don’t over-react to negative behaviours. They neither feel vulnerable upon discovering another person’s human weakness nor build up stress within them. They understand that behavior and potential are two different things and believe in the unforeseen potential of all people. Remember Prophet’s (sa) belief in people like Umar (rta), who were initially bitter enemies of Islam? But it was the Messenger’s (sa) belief in Umar (rta) that carved him into the leader, who later conquered that time’s super powers of Rome and Persia.

These leaders also feel grateful for their blessings and compassionately forgive and forget offences. They do not label, pre-judge, stereotype or categorize anyone.

5. They lead balanced lives

Principle-centred leaders are not extremists. They don’t immediately divide everything into either good or bad. They think in terms of priorities and hierarchies, have the power to sense similarities and differences in each situation and the courage to condemn the bad and champion the good. Their actions and attitudes are proportionate to the situation – they are moderate and wise.

They don’t condemn themselves for every mistake. They learn from errors and march on. They live sensibly in the present, carefully plan the future and flexibly adapt to change. For them, success is on the far side of failure. The only real failure is the experience not learned from.

Such leaders read the best literature. They are active socially with many friends and a few confidantes. They share intellectual interests. Physically they are active people as per their age limits. They have a healthy sense of humour; they laugh at themselves and not at others.

They do not intimidate others and are genuinely happy for others’ successes. They are well aware of their own worth; hence, they do not need any manipulative measures for success.

All of the above were modeled by our beloved prophet Muhammad (sa), which makes them absolutely doable and possible!

6. They see life as an adventure

Principle-centred leaders savour life. They do not depend upon the safety of their homes or comfort zones. Their real asset lies in their ability to initiate things, be resourceful, exercise will-power, exhibit courage, march on with stamina and their native intelligence.

They are prepared to rediscover people each time they meet them – they are able to do that by listening, asking questions and involving themselves. They do not label others according to their past successes or failures. A very important quality that they possess is that of flexibility, which enables them to adapt to virtually any situation.

They do not see anyone larger than life. They do not feel an urge to be in awe of the rich, the influential or the famous. They are secure about themselves. They don’t stereotype and categorize people to give them a sense of predictability and certainty.

7. They are synergistic

Synergy is defined as a state, in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. For instance, two and two make four, but when principle-centred people are synergistic, they create more than four – maybe five or six.

Such people are agents of change. They are able to improve almost any situation they land in. They are productive and creative in ways no one ever thinks of, because they work as smart as they work hard.

When it comes to team initiatives, they delegate work, as they believe in other’s strengths and capacities. They build on their strengths and strive to complement their weaknesses with the strengths of others. They do not feel threatened by their team members, if they happen to excel in some particular area; hence, they do not need to supervise them all the time.

When they negotiate or communicate with their team in any adversarial situation, they always remember to separate the people from the problem. They can focus on the other person’s areas of concern, rather than fight for positions. Gradually, others discover their sincerity, stop holding back and give all they have got. Together, they arrive at a synergistic solution.

They have the courage to work with different kind of team members. Take the example of Prophet’s (sa) companions: Suhaib (rta) from Rome, Bilal (rta) from Habsha, Salman (rta) from Persia and Umar (rta) from Arabia. They had very little in common in terms of ethnic backgrounds and social status. Yet, by celebrating those differences and applying them as strengths, our beloved Messenger (sa) was able to create incredible results. He was able to create synergy!

8. They work on self-renewal

Principle-centred leaders practice regularly and consistently the four dimensions of the human personality: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

They exercise to improve their physical capacity. They exercise their minds by reading purposeful material, solving creative problems, writing and reflecting upon their surroundings. Emotionally, they make an effort to be patient with others, listen to them, offer genuine empathy, love unconditionally, and accept responsibility for their own lives, decisions and reactions.

Spiritually, they focus on prayer, study the scripture, fast and offer charity. They are connected to the Lord on a twenty-four hours basis.

Initially, including these four activities into our schedule take time, but, eventually, their wholesome impact will begin to save our time.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Final Part

7 habits

In the previous issue we discussed your personal bank account (PBA) of deeds and how three different types of small deposits can eventually enrich you in the long run. Now we will discuss the remaining three ways of meaningful deposits to build your (PBA). Similarly an opposite action would end up in withdrawal from your (PBA).

PBA Deposits

  • Keep promises made to yourself
  • Initiate little acts of kindness for others
  • Handle yourself gently
  • Be honest with yourself and others
  • Renew yourself
  • Let your talents bloom

PBA Withdrawals

  • Break personal promises
  • Be a loner and keep to yourself
  • Beat yourself up
  • Be dishonest with yourself and others
  • Wear yourself out
  • Neglect your talents

Be honest with yourself and others

Honesty begins with self. When ever we lie or cheat it makes us unsure of ourselves. It casts a heavy shadow on our heart and is an immediate withdrawal from our (PBA). As they say you can’t do wrong and feel right.

Have you been fake or dishonest with your parents, friends or at work? We know that we all have a tendency to impress others even if we have to act phony. Next time be yourself and you will feel a lot more wholesome. It takes strength and courage to be honest with yourself as well as others.

Sean Covey shares a story of a teenager called Jeff. Jeff was smarter in mathematics than his other friends. He came up with an idea to start charging them for every test he helped them cheat on. Initially, he felt great making money and helping his friends get good grades. Later, he realized he hadn’t really been helping them at all. If they didn’t learn now, it would just get tougher down the road for them. So he quit his game and took a brave stand by being honest with himself and his friends. It was hard but it was the right choice, which served everyone’s best interests.

Honesty may not be a trend anymore. You will find people get ahead in life by cheating and lying. But remember – every act of honesty is a deposit into your (PBA) and will build strength eventually, because your heart will be pure.

You may begin by not exaggerating or embellishing your point of views. Or next time when your parents ask you to tell them about something, just factually narrate the complete story without misleading them or deliberately leaving out some information.

Renew yourself

We all think that only medicines and magazine subscriptions expire. Wrong! As human beings, we also sometimes feel low and need a place of refuge to re-energize our mind, body and soul. If we do not learn to relax and renew ourselves occasionally, we tend to lose the zest for life.

How you can do it depends on your daily routine. Some people like to relax by writing in a journal, painting, playing a sport, going to the gym, etc. Some like to retreat to a quiet place for some quiet thinking in their homes, such as in their bedrooms, terrace or the basement. Some like to head outdoors to a favourite spot, such as a park, garden, river-side, etc.

I know a teenager, who used to keep hitting his tennis ball on a particular wall to relieve tension and after half an hour of playing ball, he felt de-stressed and renewed.

Of course, if you can build a habit of listening to a soothing Qirat by one of your favourite Qaris, it works like watering a wilted flower. When done, you’re in full bloom!

So next time you end up in an argument with your parents or friends or are simply worried about something try to slip in to your favourite place of refuge and re-collect your thoughts and emotions. Once you have renewed yourself, you will feel much better, Insha’Allah. And that will work as a deposit in your (PBA)!

Decide on a fun activity and do it today. If you feel lethargic go out for a walk or run.

Let your talents bloom

Allah (swt) has gifted talents to every single human being on this Earth. Even people with certain disorders such as Dyslexia or Autism are greatly gifted and intelligent. The key is to tap into your talents and draw on the best. Try figuring out what pleases you most and what skill you are inspired to polish?

And if you haven’t figured out fantastic ways to make deposits into your (PBA) yet, try to find special interest and then develop it. Nothing is more rewarding. And we don’t need to be stereo-typical and traditional about it. Why just think of being a writer or an athlete? You can be good at anything and carve a niche for yourself.

Talents come in different packages. They are all about self-expression. One can be a great collector of leaves, exhibit leadership skills, be a patient listener to others, write backwards, etc. Don’t ever think that it sounds silly or small. People, who have believed in their ideas and pursued their dreams, are the ones who have ever achieved anything. Most importantly they found joy and an identity for themselves. Stuff they did or made equally benefited others, too.

Make a list of talents you want to develop this year and how to achieve them. Secondly, list the name of people you admire the most for their talents and maybe try finding out how they got there!

Mission Statement for Two

Mission Statement for Two

All couples begin their journey with the sacred ceremony of Nikah. Regretfully, since most of us are non-Arabic speaking individuals, it is considered more of a religious ritual meant for the Imam to conduct. It is critically imperative to understand Allah’s (swt) expectations of the couple about to tie the knot. As they move beyond, they also must invest time in preparing a mission statement for themselves to be content and contributing partners.

Why do we need a mission statement?

The point is to bear the end in mind. With this intention multitude organizations form and frame their mission statements. It not only assures productivity and success for high performance organizations but also the satisfaction and happiness of the people, who work in it.

Stephen Covey states: “Even though families don’t have the kind of mission statement so critical to organizational success, yet family is the most important, fundamental organization in the world. It is the literal building block of the society. No civilization has ever survived its break up. No other institution can fulfill its essential purpose.”

What happens, if we don’t have a mission statement?

To many spouses, creation of a mission statement seems like a dreaded or redundant job. The reason, why it is critically needed in any given marriage, is because no two people are completely alike. There are always differences. And if the couples do not take the time to explore these differences and create a sense of shared vision, then these differences can eventually drive them apart.

We will try to understand the gravity of the situation by considering two people called Asif and Shehla. Asif comes from a very supportive family. When Asif was in college, if he had said to his mother: “Today I lost my badminton semi-final,” his mother might have responded: “Oh Asif! Inna lillahi wa inna illehi rajioon. You must be really disappointed. I am really proud of your effort and love you!” If Asif had said: “Oh, another thing, I scored the highest in my statistics exam.” His mother might have replied: “Subhan’Allah! I am so happy for you. I am proud of you and love you.” Asif’s success or failure made no difference. His parents were unconditionally affectionate, proud and caring.

Shehla, conversely, belongs to a family that is not supportive. Her parents are generally disinterested, unaffectionate and conditional in their love. If Shehla had said to her mother: “Today I lost my badminton semi-final” Her mother would have replied: “Well so what happened? Didn’t I tell you to exercise and practice more? Your brother was a badminton college champion. He also exercised and practised a lot more than you. What am I going to tell your father?” But if Shehla had said: “Mom, I scored the highest marks in my statistics exam!” Her mother would have replied: “Oh great! I’m really proud of you. I can’t wait to tell your father.”

Observe how these two individuals have had totally different nurturing experiences. One has learned to love unconditionally, while the other seems to love conditionally. Their families meet and propose an arranged marriage. Asif and Shehla both approve of the proposal and Nikah is performed. They both fall in love with each other. But within a few months of living with each other, the tenderness, sensitivity and intimacy of the relationship is challenged.

Asif expects Shehla to be expressive about her love. He also complains that Shehla expects him to be perfect all the time, otherwise she is very upset with him. Since he comes from a very positive family, he also doesn’t feel the need to discuss reasons for issues at length and is in the habit of brushing stuff under the carpet, as if all is hunky dory.

Shehla, on the other hand, assumes that since she cooks, cleans and looks after Asif’s family, she doesn’t need to validate her love for Asif continuously. She also feels that Asif is too casual about his shortfalls and should work harder to perfect himself. She claims that occasional yelling, accusing and fighting is all part of conflict resolution so what is the big deal about it?

See how these two individuals, due to their own childhood experiences and learning, have completely opposite ways of recognizing and addressing problems. If they both do not come to resolve these differences their relationship will deteriorate further. The attraction will turn into accommodation, then to toleration and finally to hostility.

The crux of it all is that mostly the problems that people face in their marriages is due to conflicting role expectations and by conflicting problem-solving strategies.

How will you make one?

Giving into our customs, the newly wed couple is seldom given a chance to be alone for quiet thinking and planning for their life ahead. Not at least until the umpteenth family dinner is over. And generally by then the first baby is already on the way. So many couples feel way too overwhelmed by the pace of the rapid changes taking place one after the other.

Nikah is a beautiful relationship any man and woman can enjoy. It is indeed a responsibility, too. The couples should plan and try to get a grip of things, before they impulsively start happening, as they can frustrate the partners.

Ideally speaking, the couple should take some time off together to be alone after the wedding ceremony is over. It could just be for a few days or a few hours a day. They may choose a relaxing place. (It doesn’t have to be the Swiss Alps but any place of retreat their pocket permits.)

They can envision together, what they realistically want their relationship to be like after five, ten or twenty years down the road.

What should it contain essentially?

Basic guidelines can be sought from the Quran and Sunnah. Following critical questions need to be answered and documented as early as possible in any marriage:

  1. What kind of marriage partners shall we be?
  2. How are we going to treat each other?
  3. How shall we resolve our differences?
  4. How shall we manage our finances?
  5. What kind of parents shall we be?
  6. What principles we shall teach our children to help them become responsible and caring individuals?
  7. How shall we help develop the potential talent of each child?
  8. What kind of discipline shall we use for our children?
  9. What roles (earning, financial management, housekeeping, etc.) will each one of us have?
  10. How shall we best relate to each other’s families?
  11. What traditions shall we continue that we shall bring from our respective families?
  12. What new traditions shall we want to create in our new family?
  13. How shall we give back to our family?

What are the cautions to look out for while writing a mission statement?

  1. Don’t announce it. It should be remembered, that the final product must represent all that is in both spouses mind and heart. Only then they will own it up.
  2. Don’t rush it. They are pivotal issues and need a deep interaction hence they should not be rushed simply to quickly whip up a mission statement.
  3. Don’t ignore it. Writing a mission statement is only the beginning. The richest fruits will be born, when it is lived on a day to day basis. The statement must be put up some place prominent, reflected upon and used as a compass for direction in marital life.

What if you never made one and have been married for some time now?

It’s never too late. If you and your spouse realize, what has been missing in making your marriage more successful and comfortable, prepare a mission statement now. May Allah (swt) be your guide. Ameen.

Adapted from “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families” by Stephen Covey.

Teen Tales

July 11- Teen tales

I am worth it!

When I was sixteen years old, life was like a hell hole at home. My dad and I were constantly fighting. It came to this point that if I was watching television and he walked into the room, I would just shut it off and walk out of the door.

He was upset with me for many reasons. He would also embarrass me in front of my friends. Later, he would try to tell me, how much he cared and that he was eager to listen to my problems. Whenever I would test his sincerity, he would crack up and re-start his tirade. I could sense the disapproval in him that lashed out in the form of anger. He only wanted to shape me up and didn’t really want to hear me out.

Then, one day, something happened. Amongst many of his futile efforts, he once again approached me: “I know you feel as though I haven’t tried to understand you, but I want you to know that I am trying and will continue to try.”

I snapped back: “You have never understood me.” I stood up and reached for the door.

My dad called out: “Before you leave, I want to say that I’m really sorry for the way I embarrassed you in front of your friends the other night. I shouldn’t have done that.”

I whipped around and shouted with tears in my eyes: “You have no idea how much that embarrassed me!”

My dad walked up to me calmly and said softly: “Please come and sit down.”

For the first time, I actually felt that he genuinely wanted to listen to me. It was not some crap surface technique he was fooling me with. I began talking and he just listened. There was no moral evaluation and no judgement. It was as if he didn’t know my past at all. We just started on a clean slate, so much so, that it became and my mom came in to ask if we would sleep at all. I turned around to tell her that we had some more stuff to discuss. And my dad just nodded with a smile.

Later, when I asked my dad how he had managed to do it, he just said: “Because it was the right thing to do and you, my son, are worth it!”

Learning: We need to do a lot more private work inside our own mind and heart, before we begin to understand others. We have to let go off the negative spirit and past baggage inside of us first; otherwise, it will keep hindering us from understanding our loved ones.

Listening empathically means listening to others in their frame of reference. It also means that we might not be trusted initially, until others are certain of our sincerity. They will reject our overtures. But we need to keep coming back because they are worth it. And, eventually, we will win their trust and love with patience.

Life is overwhelming!

As a teenager, one thing that stands out in my mind was the feeling of being overwhelmed. I had to cope with the pressure of doing well at school, being on the debate team and being involved in three or four other extra-curricular activities simultaneously.

Though my mom was very strict about me keeping the room neat and tidy, there were times when she took over, especially when I had exams or my schedule was too time pressured. I would come home and find my whole room clean and organized. There would be a note that said: ‘Love, the Good Fairy.’ And I knew mom had just worked her head off to help me get ahead because I was so overwhelmed with what I had to do.

It really took a load off me. I would enter the spic and span room and whisper gratefully: “O thank you! Thank you!”

Learning: Little acts of kindness go a long way toward building relationships of trust and unconditional love. It could mean performing unexpected acts of service when you can sense that the other family member is struggling with his/her load of responsibilities. For example, you can wash the dishes, take the kids to the store for something they need for school, or call home to find out if the family needs something you might pick up on your way home.

Planned to the minute!

When I was fourteen years old, my dad promised to take me with him to Dubai on one of his business trips. We discussed it for three months, and finally the day came. He and I boarded the plane having planned our weekend to the minute. Dad was supposed to attend a conference all day, while I would stay at the hotel by myself. Later, we had planned to go dune bashing, and for a dow ride and dinner, etc. I couldn’t wait.

After what seemed ages, dad came to pick me up at 5:00 pm as promised for my treat time. But suddenly I saw him bump into his old friend. After warm pleasantries, he started to insist that dad and I accompany him to a thrilling cricket match at the grand Dubai stadium followed by dinner. I could almost feel my heart tear apart, as I knew how much dad loved cricket. I knew that was the end of my plans for the evening.

My dad profusely thanked his friend for the generous offer but explained to him: “Jazak Allah Khair for your kindness, but I have already promised my little angel this evening. And we are very excited to spend it together. Insha’Allah, next time, when I come to Dubai, I will see you.”

My heart just jumped with joy! My dad kept his word and, as expected, I had the time of my life that evening. It will always remain with me as one of the fondest memories of my father.”

Learning: Nothing makes a greater impact in the family than making and keeping promises. Just think about it! How much excitement, anticipation and hope is created by a single promise? Similarly, when we break them, how much heartache, anger and mistrust we create! These promises define our values and are the most vital and tender of all commitments we make.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 8

July 11- 7 habits

The Personal Bank Account

You might be thinking that we are talking of your bank balance or your jewels in the locker. Actually, we are discussing something even more priceless and invaluable. We will be looking at some ways to build self-confidence and a strong character that will help you embrace the first three habits of highly effective teens, as suggested by Sean Covey.

Just as you can deposit and withdraw from your personal bank account (PBA), you can similarly do so with the stuff you think about, act upon or do to others – they, too, impact your PBA. For instance, when you honour a commitment or keep a promise, it becomes an instant deposit into your PBA. Why? Because it makes you feel good inside and happy outside. It boosts your self-esteem and you feel in control of your life. On the contrary, if you break a promise or stand someone up, it’s a withdrawal because you feel disappointed. Later, you try to defend your wrong behaviour through excuses and justifications that nag you from the inside and make you miserable on the outside.

So, are you ready to evaluate your PBA, just to check, if you are loaded or bankrupt? Following are some signs, according to Sean Covey, of both conditions (sounds like a disease). Take the evaluation:

Signs of a poor PBA

  • You cave in easily to peer pressure.
  • You wrestle with feelings of depression and inferiority.
  • You’re overly concerned about what others think of you.
  • You act arrogantly to hide your insecurities.
  • You self-destruct by getting heavily into drugs, pornography, vandalism, etc.
  • You get jealous easily, especially when someone close to you succeeds.

Signs of a healthy PBA

  • You stand up for yourself and resist peer pressure.
  • You’re not overly concerned about being popular.
  • You see life as a generally positive experience.
  • You trust yourself.
  • You are goal-driven.
  • You are happy for the successes of others.

If your current personal bank account is low, don’t worry about it. Just start making small deposits right away. This will eventually win back your confidence. Small deposits over a period of time will make you rich.

Following is a list of some initial yet meaningful deposits you can make to build your PBA. Similarly, an opposite action would end up in a withdrawal from your PBA:

PBA Deposits

  • Keep promises made to yourself
  • Initiate little acts of kindness for others
  • Handle yourself gently
  • Be honest with yourself and others
  • Renew yourself
  • Let your talents bloom

PBA Withdrawals

  • Break personal promises
  • Be a loner and keep to yourself
  • Beat yourself up
  • Be dishonest with yourself and others
  • Wear yourself out
  • Neglect your talents

Keep promises made to yourself

Have you been friends with people who say one thing and do just the opposite? They promise to pick you up for a party at such-and-such a time but never show up. How humiliating it is to deal with people who take their promises so lightly and habitually break them! You end up mistrusting them.

The same goes for commitments you make to yourself. I will finish my homework as soon as I get home. I will stick to my diet. And when you break a promise to yourself, you stop trusting yourself.

Start making small deposits into your PBA by keeping small promises to yourself, such as: I will eat healthy food for lunch; I will not answer my cell phone until I have offered my prayers, etc. You can make bigger deposits into your PBA once your self-trust is built and you feel more in control of your life. Then, ignoring a nagging brother or sister or sharing with them will be possible, too. These and similar bigger deposits will make you emotionally richer.

Initiate little acts of kindness for others

Psychiatrists state that if you ever feel depressed, try to do something for others. It will lift you up, maybe because you will focus outwards rather than inwards. When you serve someone else, it generates a natural feeling of goodness inside, as is the law of Allah (swt).

Sean Covey shares a personal example. Once, while travelling, he was upgraded to first class. He was very excited at the prospects of wide seats, edible food, courteous stewardesses, etc. Among the passengers, he noticed a lady travelling alone with a wailing baby. She was clearly in distress.

After battling inside his head for some time, Sean decided to swap his ticket with hers. She was quite surprised at his kind gesture and thanked him profusely. Throughout the flight, Sean kept on thinking how the baby and mother were doing. Unable to curb his curiosity, he went up to the first class just to check on them. The sight brought a smile to his face, and he immediately knew that he had made the right decision. The baby was warmly snuggled up to his mother, and they were both in peaceful slumber. Their peace meant a great deposit for Sean. Kindness always brings comfort that selfishness cannot.

Handle yourself gently

Rita Mae Brown once said: “One of the keys to happiness is having a bad memory.” Some of us are very self-critical. We expect perfection from ourselves; thus, when we make mistakes, we are least forgiving and most uptight.

Especially if we are late bloomers, we should not expect perfection the very next morning after making new attempts to improve. We should be patient with ourselves and give ourselves time to grow. We should also learn to laugh at our mistakes and not repeat them.

Sean Covey shares another example. A ship at sea for many years picks up thousands of barnacles that attach themselves to the bottom of the ship and eventually weigh it down, becoming a threat to its safety. Such a ship ultimately needs its barnacles removed, and the least expensive and easiest way is for the ship to harbour in a freshwater port, free of salt water. Soon the barnacles become loose and fall off. The ship is able to return to sea, free of its burden.

Are you carrying barnacles in the form of mistakes, regrets and pain from the past? Perhaps you need to let yourself soak around in fresh water to rid yourself of the barnacles, too. Letting go of your burden may just be the deposit you need.

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues we will discuss the remaining three ways to deposit into your emotional bank account and build self-esteem. Be on the lookout…

You will Reclaim Them!

July 11- You will reclaim them

We all realize that this world can be a better place, so we begin to fix what is wrong. Essentially, we start with others. Why do we do that? Why can’t we fix our own self first? It makes more sense to work within our ‘circle of influence’ rather than fret about our ‘circle of concern’.

Family life is no different. Something or the other constantly hinders it from attaining a beautiful ‘we culture’, where family members deeply, sincerely and genuinely enjoy being together and have a shared sense of beliefs and values.

Do you know how a Chinese bamboo tree grows? After you sow the seed of this tree, you see absolutely nothing for nearly four years, except a tiny shoot emerging from a bulb. But during those initial years, all the growth occurs underground. A massive and fibrous root structure spreads deep and wide in the earth. And take a guess at what happens during the fifth year? The Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet tall!

This is also how our family life works. We invest valuable time and tireless effort to nurture growth. But we don’t witness any results for weeks, months and sometimes even years. However, if we have patience, we will see phenomenal growth, change and results in the fifth year. The problem is that we don’t persevere long enough and abort our hopes long before our efforts can bear fruit.

Doesn’t the Holy Quran say that the road to Jannah is through Sabr and Salah? Then, how can we imagine achieving anything worthwhile in this world, without exhibiting patience? Especially as parents, doesn’t it mean to suffer inside, so that others can grow? It also facilitates the understanding of our inner weaknesses and true motives behind each action. Patience truly means faith in action and emotional diligence.

“Inside each of us is this deep longing for ‘home’, for the rich, satisfying relationships and interactions of quality family life. And we must never give up. No matter how far we feel we’ve gotten off track, we can always take steps to correct the course. I strongly encourage you: no matter how far away a son or daughter seems to be, hang in there. Never give up. Your children are bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, whether physically by birth or emotionally by the bonding of the family commitment you have made. Eventually, like the prodigal son, they will return. You will reclaim them.” (Stephen R. Covey)

Means to Reclaim Your Kin

Principle of self-improvement

Sometimes, as parents, you have had no role-models, or worse, bad memories of your own parents’ fights. In such situations, you are either clueless or repeat the same mistakes they made with you. It is highly recommended that whenever you get into a frustrating situation, pause. Examine your tendencies. Compare yourself with your vision. Avoid speaking impulsively. Retire frequently to the solitude of your inner self to recommit to winning your battles. This will keep your motives straight. It will also give you a clearer perspective and greater control of your own thoughts and behaviour.

Principle of honesty

When implementing change, involve your family and honestly admit the mistakes you have made in the past. This does not mean that you compromise on your values or principles to please them. If you slip into your previous nasty behaviour – apologize. Also, never lie. Their young minds evaluate you on these supposedly insignificant gestures which, in reality, have a long-range impact on your relationship with them.

Principle of respect

Just because you are in charge, you do not have the right to be disrespectful to your children, even when they are off-track. Remember: your children will internalize the very modes you use to resolve conflicts. If that includes name-calling, yelling, threatening, using physical abuse or foul language, it is a clear violation of the principle of respect, whether you are in public or private, regardless of your child’s age. The Prophet’s (sa) winning card was treating others (foes or friends) with courtesy, respect and honour, all the time.

Principle of trust

Do not label your child. If he has been labelled in the past, now is the time to unfreeze it. Your child draws his security from you as a parent, and if you don’t trust his inner strength and capability, he has nowhere to turn for support. Never break promises you make to him. It is one of the greatest withdrawals from any emotional bank account. Weigh your words very carefully. If you are unsure, do not commit.

Principle of empathy

Listen to your child attentively and sincerely, without interrupting, passing judgements and accusing with curt remarks. One of the deepest hungers of the human heart is to be heard and understood. Sometimes, all that your kids want is your time and understanding to de-stress themselves. Give it to them. Your schedule, house keeping, guests, in-laws, etc., should be secondary in priority when your child needs you emotionally. A successful way to do this is to keep a one-on-one meeting/outing/leisure time (of your kid’s choice) at least once a week, so you can find out what’s happening in his life. Please remember this is not sermon time! This is just to figure out where your child needs help. Otherwise, just chill and have fun with him.

Principle of love

Lastly and most significantly, the primary laws of love mean love in its purest form, which is unconditional. It means acceptance rather than rejection, understanding rather than judgement and participation rather than manipulation. This is any parent’s pro-active choice. It is very much within your circle of influence. It is not dependent on anyone else’s behaviour, social status, education, wealth, reputation, etc. When you live according to the primary laws of love, you encourage obedience to the primary laws of life, such as honesty, responsibility, integrity, service, etc.

Most of us wrongly live by the counterfeit laws of love, which is being conditional. We will love him only if he “behaves”. We cannot separate behaviour from the individual and, hence, do not believe in the unseen potential. Goethe said: “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can or should be, and he will become as he can and should be.”

Your greatest joys and your deepest heartaches surround what is happening in your family life. As someone said: “No mother is happier than her most unhappy child.” When you sense a gap between your vision of a rich and joyful family life you want to have and the reality of your everyday family life, you feel disappointed. But do not despair. There is hope, tremendous hope, especially if you have faith in Allah (swt). Just keep working at it and do not give up. The Chinese bamboo tree will eventually grow!