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The Art of Overcoming Negativity

“Don’t go out in the scorching heat!”

This sounds like the advice of a well-wisher to someone they sincerely care about. However, these were the words spoken to the true believers, by the Munafiqeen of Madinah, when the former was preparing to go out for jihad in the way of Allah [Qur’an– 9:81].

It is a common phenomenon for those who strive in the way of Allah in any manner to face criticism, disdainful remarks, outright antagonism, or severe persecution from skeptics who may be from near and dear kin, or strangers on the street.  From the looks on their faces, silent sullenness, verbal discouragement, to in-your-face, targeted personal attacks, a believer must be prepared to face negative circumstances and situations as a “normal” part of his day-to-day jihad of treading the path that leads towards Allah’s Pleasure.

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However, let’s be realistic. We are all sons and daughters of Adam [peace be upon him]. We are human beings with emotions and feelings who can be hurt by what others say.  We need support and reassurance for what we do, even if we know we’re right.  Unfortunately, negative thoughts and attitudes are far more contagious than positive enthusiasm. Therefore, the believer must strive consciously to keep his or her thoughts and actions positive in order to stay motivated to do good deeds that benefit mankind.

There are several ways to achieve the goal of staying positive, but the first and most crucial – identify negative people. This awareness is necessary so that one may be alert to their negative vibes in order to blunt their effect on one’s mind and soul. The following are some of the traits negative people possess:

1. They’re quick to criticize

If someone makes a mistake, these people can be depended upon to mercilessly chastise them before anyone else does, and in great length and depth.

2. They criticize everyone

No one is safe from their critique, not their near and dear ones, nor the people they see on television; the politicians, teachers, preachers, family-friends, siblings, or children – no one! Their pointing finger spares no one.

3. They don’t admit their shortcomings

These people never admit that they could be wrong, or that they made a mistake; even if everyone else points out their mistake, they either defend themselves to the end, or storm out.

4. They complain, complain, and complain

Meetings or conversations with such people are full of complaints against everyone.

5. They blame others for everything that goes wrong

If something goes wrong in their life, it’s always someone else’s fault.

6. They’re stingy and small-hearted

This is a trait that is uncannily found in all complainers, scrooges, and grouches. They usually have a very “tight hand”- i.e. they find it difficult to give old things away, even if the latter are of no use to them, or have been stashed away since ages. They will find excuses like, “I spent a hundred dollars on that! How could I just give it to some poor person?” or “Oh, you expect me to just throw out these things that I hold so dear to my heart?”

7. They’re stuck in a rut

Since negative people have a pessimistic, non-progressive view of life in general, their state does not improve over the years. If they have some bad habits, they will do little to get rid of them.  If they engage in useless activities to pass away boring hours in their day, they will still be involved in them years later. You will never find them improving their look, working out to lose weight, learning a new skill, or re-doing their house with new colors.  Holding on to each and every old piece of furniture or gadgetry; every blouse, shirt or pair of pants; every old utensil in the kitchen – their house and persona will look the same, even if you see them a decade later!

8. They harbor lifelong grudges

Negative people bear long-term grudges against others based on trivial, bygone incidents. They neither forgive, nor do they forget.  Backbiting being a constant part of their lives, they unceasingly repeat the wrongs others did to them in the past, ensuring they never wash away the bad memories. In this way, they keep themselves shackled to destructive emotions and thoughts.

9. They’re prone to prejudice

Negative people are swayed easily by rumors or hearsay. They might harbor ethnic or racial prejudices for no apparent reason. You might see them refuse to talk or warm to a person they hardly know; they refuse to befriend them, due to some trivial thing they heard about them, or because the latter belong to some other ethnic/social class or group.

10. They’re usually in a bad mood

Negative people are grouchy – you hardly see them smiling or being cheerful. They brood over bad incidents for long periods of time.

11. They have a self-depreciating attitude

Negative people, sadly, undermine their own talents and abilities as well. If they can do something well, such as cooking, sewing, knitting, painting, teaching or writing, they won’t bother to pursue their interest with zeal. Rather, they’ll just shrug it off with a “What good will that (hobby) do?” devil-may-care attitude and go on with the same old monotonous routine of their life, day after day.

If you are honest with yourself, you might have recognized some of yourself above as well. It’s a fact — we are all prone to think negative thoughts; we go through cyclical bouts of positive-negative attitudes; the trouble with negative people, though, is that they are negative most of the time, and this affects those they converse with, or hang around, on a regular basis. The purpose of listing the above identifiers is not to judge others, but for us, as Muslims, to be able to empower ourselves to identify and counter this negativity in others, with positive reactions and responses.

The fact is that even if we do not meet a negative person for some time, the chaotic and depressing events of the world, plus the negative thoughts our avowed enemy, Iblis, places in our minds, will bog us down and lower our spirits time and again. When that happens, we should immediately become alert and fight off any kind of negative thinking with the following steps:

1. Remember and take solace from the traumatic incidents that took place in the lives of Allah’s Prophets

Pick any Prophet of Allah. Go ahead, pick one. Then analyze the incidents in his life and come up with one that would have severely traumatized you, had it happened to you. Imagine being swallowed by a gargantuan animal in the sea; being persecuted for an accidental death caused unintentionally by you, necessitating you to flee your town in hiding; being afflicted with a disease that infested your body with vermin and killed off all your family members; being stoned out of a village by young children; being sent to prison to serve a sentence of several years for a crime you did not commit; having your most beautiful son taken away from your life for years; rocking the lifeless body of your infant son in your arms as tears flow down your cheeks.

Whenever you lose your job, or a dear one to the Angel of Death, fall ill with a painful disease, or can’t find fairness in the Qadr of Allah when He refuses to give you that which you beseech Him for, close your eyes and imagine – literally, imagine – yourself going through what any one of the Prophets went through, and then stop yourself from thinking negative thoughts such as, “O Allah! Why ME? WHY?” and instead think, “Allah has some good written in it for me – He knows, and I do not know; and I accept His Decision.” Insha’Allah, the calm you will feel in your heart will be tremendous. Your avowed enemy will be shaken off, throwing dust on his head.

2. Identify a negative thought by comparing it to reality

“I’ve been afflicted with financial trouble for the last 3 years. I don’t think I’ll ever see prosperity again.  My spouse will leave me and I’ll be left all alone.”This is a classic negative thought!  Whenever you think a thought such as this in the midst of a calamity, take the objective, impartial approach towards it as outlined below, preferably with the help of a pen and paper:

  • List down a painful event or affliction that you can remember, which happened to either you or someone you know in the past.
  • Then try to recall how long it took for that calamity to be over. You’ll realize that it eventually passed, and things became alright again.
  • Try to recall also, the attitude of everyone involved during that calamity. Identify the things said by the ‘negative people’ (traits of whom are listed above) and whether their pessimistic warnings turned out to be true or not. You’ll realize that Allah eventually brought everyone out of the mess, and the ‘storms in teacups’ brewed by the scrooges never materialized!
  • Apply this scenario to your current calamity, and force yourself to have blind trust in Allah. Think that, if He removed the calamity for everyone then, He will help you thus in this one as well.Whenever I perform this mental exercise, I am left feeling hopeful in Allah’s imminent Help and positive about future ease, alhamdulillah!

3. Counter each negative thought with a positive one

CBT or “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” is a formal psychiatric treatment used for remedying mental diseases today. It is a very simple tool, one that even our Deen has endorsed in order to allow a person to control their thoughts and not vice versa. For example, in CBT, if a person thinks, “That person is surely trying to make me look bad at work,” they are supposed to counteract this thought with something like, “But why would he do that? He’s a good guy and we’ve always gotten along.”

Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] exhorted believers to seek excuses for their brothers 70 times. That means, when a negative thought comes in our mind regarding someone else, we should counter it with a positive one up to 70 times.

For myself, with just 10 counteractive volleys, the negative thought has gone away!For example, a thought like, “Mom always showers more love on my brother’s son than she does on my daughter.  Look at how many things she gets him.  She’s always preferred my brother over me in everything!” may be countered with a positive thought such as, “If I wasn’t such a hyper-mom-control-freak around her regarding my baby, she’d feel comfortable enough to shower her with love.  I really need to let go and allow her to spoil my daughter sometimes.”

4. Always look for the silver lining:

Allah says in the Qur’an, “Surely, with difficulty, there is ease.” [Qur’an- 94:5]

Whenever you are worried about something, or passing through a trial, always believe that Allah intends some good to come out of it. Give yourself flashbacks from your past, and try to think of the good outcomes of negative happenings in your past life.

For example, if you did miserably in an exam you studied hard for, maybe it helped you realize that some other subject was more suitable for you. I had a friend who performed horribly on her A-Level exams, which she took in all business subjects and math.  As a result, she could not apply for admission in undergraduate studies at any “technical” or business degree program, except for one majoring in Fine Art, her natural interest and hobby of many years.

Eventually, she graduated with honors on the Dean’s list and went on to pursue a fulfilling career as a permanent faculty member at her Alma Mater. The failure in her A-Levels paved the way for her parents finally letting her do what she really loved doing – art! Had she done well in her Business and Math A-Levels, she could have gone on to pursue a degree and career in a field she did not even enjoy!

5. Learn to ignore negative people

Allah has taught the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] the best strategy in dealing with negative-minded people — his opponents and antagonists. Remember that he had to constantly face the jabbering, rumor-mongering and hostile criticism of the Munafiqeen of Madinah – who pretended to be Muslim but caused great dissensions and “fasaad” due to their habit of lying, deceiving, breaking promises and covenants, and pretending to be what they were not.

Allah says about them in the Qur’an, “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” [Qur’an- 7:199]

“And incline not to the disbelievers and the hypocrites. Disregard their annoying talk, and put your trust in Allah. Allah is sufficient as Trustee.” [Qur’an- 33:48]

Also, in another place in the Qur’an, the same strategy is suggested, “O Yusuf, turn away from this (false accusation of rape).” [Qur’an- 12:29]

This is the simplest and best approach. Cutting off contact with negative people is not the solution, because they might be a close colleague in your department at work, or worse, a directly-related family member (such as – gulp – a parent or spouse!). How can you possibly minimize, or cut off contact with such people?  It is not even allowed in our beautiful Deen to cut off relations like this.

Our Deen teaches us to become strong individuals, who rise above such petty negativity in people, who ignore, forgive and overlook this fault in them, and love them anyway (if they are believers).  Just teach yourself to laugh off and ignore their comments, to appease them with a joke or some positive statements when they start off with their criticism, to change the subject or leave the room if all else fails, and, most importantly, to arrange for their Quranic education and tarbiyah, so that the negativity in them is slowly eliminated.

We all face this negativity in our lives. We have to learn to consciously counter our own negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if I think, “Will Muslimmatters.org consider this first post of mine good enough to publish? What if they don’t?” I should counter this thought with something like this, “Allah has noted my sincere effort and will bless and reward it anyway, insha’Allah!”

Hope floats! :)

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Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan.11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette.Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'.For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Arif

    December 30, 2008 at 1:35 AM

    Masha’Allah, this was well written! Hope to see more in the future Insha’Allah…

  2. Avatar

    Sajayli

    December 30, 2008 at 9:03 AM

    Yeah, I recognize traits 1 – 11. I grew up in the shadow of a mother who had all those traits and it was very damaging. Mothers should be especially careful about recognizing and trying to counter these traits within themselves.

    Well-written article. Good work.

  3. Avatar

    Sadaf

    December 30, 2008 at 12:14 PM

    Thank you so much for your feedback.

  4. Avatar

    Muhammad

    December 30, 2008 at 1:27 PM

    A superb article and very well articulated. I can relate to many of the points above and the diagnosis and advice is simple and makes sense. A much needed dose in today’s society where the issues raised in this article are all too apparent, and sadly prevalent within the Muslims as well.

    Great work, keep it up.

    (Why aren’t our masaajids and Aalims dealing with such issues??)

  5. Avatar

    Farzana

    December 30, 2008 at 1:53 PM

    I really liked this article!! Please can we have more of it.

  6. Avatar

    Sharif

    December 30, 2008 at 6:50 PM

    This was very perceptive. I know a lot of people like this, lol.

  7. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    December 30, 2008 at 7:09 PM

    Excellent article, masha’Allah! Simple common sense, alHamdulillaah.

  8. Avatar

    h. ahmed

    December 30, 2008 at 8:01 PM

    Jazakallah Khair.

    I for one really needed to read this article, and I thank the author immensely for writing and sharing it here!!!

  9. Avatar

    sis

    December 30, 2008 at 9:11 PM

    jazakallaahu khayran. a very well written and timely piece.

  10. Avatar

    sincethestorm

    December 30, 2008 at 9:41 PM

    great gob sadaf. a very good article.

  11. Avatar

    sincethestorm

    December 30, 2008 at 9:42 PM

    great job sadaf. a very good article.

  12. Avatar

    aamer khan

    December 30, 2008 at 10:04 PM

    ma Sha Allah. awesome article.

  13. Avatar

    vindicated

    December 31, 2008 at 12:05 AM

    Jazakallah Khair. Simply put, yet very effective.

  14. Ali Shehata

    Ali Shehata

    December 31, 2008 at 12:09 AM

    Salaam alaikum Sister Sadaf

    May Allah reward you for your well written article and the great advice it contains. I myself benefited greatly from it and think i will keep a copy for the next time I get “feedback” from a negative person. Alhamdulillah!

  15. Avatar

    anonymous

    December 31, 2008 at 1:44 AM

    mashaAllaah. Tabarakallaah. Ahsanallaah.

  16. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    December 31, 2008 at 2:13 AM

    Jazakumullahu Khairan all, for your dua’s and encouragement. The greatest reward in this world for conveying an Islamic message is to have it understood and effectively put into practice. May Allah enable all of us to remain positive ourselves and also to make negative people become positive in return.

    Actually that is what my experience has shown: that remaining positive in the face of negativity has, in the long-term, the gradual but siginificant effect of eliminating negative thinking in others as well. Particularly, in my extended family, I have seen the problem of job turnover recur often due to the current global economic recession. Sons are returning to Pakistan after completing their studies, or worse, after being laid off from extremely lucrative jobs which they had for years. Sometimes, a son returns with his family, to live with his parents in a single room. This leads a man to become very negative-minded while he is unemployed; during this trial, for his wife, mother and sister to make sure he remains positive while he looks for a new job, is the best sadaqah. But that is only possible if these women themselves learn to channelize their thoughts towards incessant hope and faith in Allah, and remain positive about their son’s/brother’s/husband’s future, no matter what.

    Sisters face a similar storm of negativity if they do not get married before thirty, or if they do not conceive within the first two years after marriage. They not only face their inner agony and turmoil, but the negative reactions of others as well, as nowadays the doctors are quick to label such a married couple as “infertile”, or a single sister over thirty (in Pakistan, they are labelled SWOT’s! “Single Woman Over Thirty”) as “unattractive/undesirable”.

    These incidents became the muse behind my writing this article. :-) May Allah accept it, and reward you all for your encouraging responses.

  17. Avatar

    mohamed ali

    December 31, 2008 at 7:10 AM

    “From the looks on their faces, silent sullenness, verbal discouragement, to in-your-face, targeted personal attacks”

    I have experienced all that and more as a writer.

  18. Avatar

    Nusaybah

    December 31, 2008 at 9:46 AM

    Jazakallahu khayran.. I can’t wait to implement all these tips, in sha Allah..

  19. Avatar

    mohamed ali

    January 1, 2009 at 6:19 AM

  20. Avatar

    UmA

    January 1, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    the comment by someone about their mother having these traits is interesting. Now that I am a mom myself, I think back to the times I thought my mom was always negative. Could it be that I only chose to *remember* the negative times. We’re just not used to recalling the positive events in our childhood until it’s too late to be grateful to our parents! Anyway we are obliged by Allah to cherish our parents no matter how much we do or don’t remember.

    Can we change someone who exudes negativity?

  21. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    January 1, 2009 at 2:51 PM

    UmA – I believe we can. However, it takes time and sustained effort. Also, we need to be mentally alert and conscious about not letting their negative thoughts and actions affect our own deliberate positive stance in life. Positivity works more gradually and permanently (the way Islam took 23 years to get established, and it slowly wiped out all the ills of jahilyyah) whereas negative actions and emotions have a more immediate and profound effect.

    I also agree that there are times when Shaytaan highlights in our minds, the mistakes our parents made in their upbringing of us, especially after we have become adults in a stronger position, and they are old and weak. Shaytaan uses negative thoughts about our parents to make us lose patience with them very quickly, to rebuke them etc….may Allah save us all from this. That’s why Allah has enjoined on us to always ignore our parents’ mistakes and do ihsaan with them. It is indeed a difficult thing to do because its a fact that things like preferrential treatment towards one child by a parent breeds permanent contempt in the hearts of the other children (ref: the brothers of Prophet Yusuf [a.s] and the reasons behind their sequestering of Yusuf). The children should become conscious of this negative train of thought and focus on forgiving and forgetting, and doing goodto their parents in return.

  22. Avatar

    Sara

    January 1, 2009 at 7:27 PM

    Salaam alaikum – MashaAllah I found your article really useful, but quite shocking as I recognised a lot of these traits in myself. I have always battled with negativity for a long time. I would like to marry in a few years InshaAllah but as I’m a difficult person I have always believed I will not find a brother who would be willing to marry me. I realise now this too was negativity, and instead of being upset about our faults we should strive to change them for the sake of Allah and be positive. Some Muslims tend to forget the importance of this, so May Allah reward you for your article and save us all from these negative traits.

  23. Avatar

    JannatFirdaws

    January 5, 2009 at 5:02 AM

    Asalamu alaykum wa Ramatullahi wa barakatuh,

    Jazakhillah khayran for your article. It was well written. Self-Evaluation for me is indeed needed. May Allah make us of the righteous, ameen.

  24. Avatar

    shaheen

    January 5, 2009 at 12:44 PM

    I think there are no negative (or positive) people. Rather there are negetive as well as positive characteristics which are present in all of us. So instead of identifying “people”, we should be identifying the negetive characteristics so that we can avoid hurting ourselves and others with our negetivity. By identifying people as negetive we are assuming ourselves to be positive…and in doing so we would be going against the teachings of the Quran by which we are taught that we cannot assume ourselves to be pure

    He was most knowing of you when He produced you from the earth and when you were fetuses in the wombs of your mothers. So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him (Surah An-Najm..32)

    Apart from this it is a good article specially the practical tips are helpful. The following paragraph towards the end is really good:

    Our Deen teaches us to become strong individuals, who rise above such petty negativity in people, who ignore, forgive and overlook this fault in them, and love them anyway (if they are believers). Just teach yourself to laugh off and ignore their comments, to appease them with a joke or some positive statements when they start off with their criticism, to change the subject or leave the room if all else fails, and, most importantly, to arrange for their Quranic education and tarbiyah, so that the negativity in them is slowly eliminated.

  25. Avatar

    tabassum

    January 6, 2009 at 6:59 AM

    lovely article, really enjoyed reading it

  26. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    January 7, 2009 at 8:56 AM

    Bismillah

    By identifying people as negetive we are assuming ourselves to be positive…and in doing so we would be going against the teachings of the Quran by which we are taught that we cannot assume ourselves to be pure

    I think the Qur’an itself has helped us identify certain kinds of people — not just their characteristics — by the abundance of parables. Allah invites us to ponder on these parables so that we can prevent ourselves from becoming like the people described.
    – The description of the Believer’s heart as compared to the heart of the one who has no Noor, in Surah Al-Noor, verses 35, 40.
    – The parable of the one who spends in the way of Allah against the one who spends for riya – one described as a fertile earth, the other as a hard rock (Surah Al-Baqarah, 264-265)
    – General mention of “Kaafireen”, “Faasiqeen”, “Dhaalimeen” as compared to “Muttaqeen”, “Muflihoon”, “Mu’minoon” (particularly Surah Al-Mu’minoon, First 10 verses). Again, Allah mentions people (grammatically: Faa’il), not just the qualities. He mentions the qualities too, but in reference to their human possessors.
    – The mention of Firaun, Qaroon, Hamaan, Aazar and others, whose negative behavior made them end up in Hell. So, if a da’ee is mentioning these people in his Da’wah, it won’t be wrong for him to use their example in order to warn others not to become like them.

    I disagree that if someone is identifying people – in general, without taking names – as “negative” based on some traits, it means they assume themselves to be positive. Perhaps they analyzed their own negative behavior in bygone days to come up with the list! Or perhaps they observed some behaviors in others which affected them negatively — or a combination of both — self analysis and obervation of others. There is an entire spectrum of behavior between the two extremities of positivity and negativity, and people are usually somewhere in between…with the lucky ones near the positive end. However, it’s a constant battle. The Mu’min keeps a constant check on his behavior, and mentally gives himself a whack on the head if he analyzes himself to have strayed too far from good behavior on one of his “bad days”, rushing to do istighfaar before Allah becomes angry with Him.

    Although I do agree that every person has both negative and positive characteristics, I will also reiterate that, though we should not judge others to be so, there ARE people who are undeniably positive, and those who are incessantly negative (may Allah guide us all towards positive behavior). This is because the positive people have learned how to overcome the negativity in their own selves, by proactively becoming positive, in order to nip it in the bud. The “negative people” on the other hand, are those who allow negative thoughts and behavior to overshadow them most of the time – leading them towards a chronic, unabated state of depression, fears, anxiety and ungratefulness of Allah’s blessings.

    The traits of “negative people’ mentioned above were intended to (i) enable readers to look into a mirror which would help them identify whether they were, or were not, heading towards negative behavior. Also, (ii) to arm them to identify such behavior in others so that they might react positively. Alhamdulillah, it seems most readers took it really as it was intended i.e. a lesson for themselves.

  27. Avatar

    shaheen

    January 8, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    JazakAllah khairan for writing so well and giving me further incentive to think deeply about this topic. I think Allah has the right to distinguish between His people. After all He is the creator and He knows everyone inside out. Since our objective is to please Allah so we should know what sort of people He likes and what are the people whom He does not like at all. We have to have a clear idea of the characteristics we should develop in our personalilities. The Da’ee also has this noble intention to caution others. But look at the average person. Most of us tend to blame others for our faults. We are not trained yet to analyse even ourselves in a true way so how can we analyse others? The same person who is very positive to some people can be the most negetive for someone whom he doesn’t like. And vise versa. Our levels of goodness are always changing. Sometimes we are so good and full of so many virtues but one small error like reacting angrily in from of people can bring all our goodness to ashes. So what will you call such a person? positive? because he has such glorious records of goodness or negetive? because you happened to see him for the first time at exactly the same point when he was making life hell for others in his burst of temper? Human nature is most complicated. You must have experienced that on the road to guidance every single day you discover things about yourself which you hadn’t recognized before. So the best way to stay on the right track is to first focus on our own plus and minus points and do Tazkiyyah and Tarbiyyat of our own selves. And for others we should be very very careful before forming any opinion. Because we are works in progress and until the day of judgement arrives we cannot say what will become of us. May Allah have mercy on us all and guide us to the way of thinking and living which He likes best, Ameen

  28. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    January 8, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    Yes, sister, you are absolutely right! I agree.

  29. Avatar

    Abu Sabaya

    January 10, 2009 at 2:52 AM

    This is a PDF of an essay titled ‘Reflections on Expecting the Best from Allah’: http://iskandrani.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/expecting-the-best-from-allah/

    The download link is underneath the quote.

    Enjoy.

  30. Avatar

    Algebra

    January 10, 2009 at 3:19 AM

    Aslamu-alaikum:
    @ Abu Sabaya
    “Reflections on Expecting the Best from Allah’:”

    I read it it was nice MashAllah.
    thank you for sharing it with us.
    salam

  31. Avatar

    Saj

    January 15, 2009 at 7:52 AM

    Hi,

    really nice article – thanks for taking the time to shar this. I am also really interested in reading the article entitled “Expecting the best from Allah.” But unable to download for some reason. IF anyone is able to mail to me direct please let me know.

    Thanks.

    x

  32. Avatar

    Em Ahmad

    January 18, 2009 at 5:42 PM

    Mashallah! Nice read. I am glad to see your mention of CBT in the article. My son is studying to be a psychologist and has been getting a lot of negative feedback from some of the doctors at our masjid. He feels that we need more Muslim psychologists to help Muslims and others cope within the bounds of Islam. Indeed the deen is advice (eldeen naseeha). Thanks for the article!

  33. Avatar

    ummabdullah

    January 27, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    What an excellent article. There is actually a book called ‘learned optimism’ that is very beneficial. it’s written by someone who is a pessimist and learned to overcome it. Teaches you how to counteract negative thoughts.

  34. Avatar

    Umm Ismael

    February 5, 2009 at 4:04 PM

    Asslam u alaikum wr wb
    Alhamdolillah, very useful article. A friend wasjust talking to me about how ‘raza bil qadr’ is an essential for every muslim. That would do away with a lot of our ‘Whys’. May ALLAH Grant you more wisdom- ameen.

  35. Avatar

    Um e Abdullah

    November 4, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    well written and helpful, i’m proud of u Sadaf……may Allah save us all from the negativity within us and help us become positive and productive individuals, ameen

  36. Avatar

    Sana

    November 28, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    Super well-written! Thank you! =)

  37. Avatar

    Megan Wyatt

    December 11, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    I just found this article and came at a much needed time with beautiful reminders on how to deal with harsh, rude, and insensitive critics and their criticism. Thank you Sadaf for this article. Jazaki Allahu Khairan.

    The reminder about the Prophets is always a good one. Allahu Akbar.

  38. Avatar

    Um Aneesa

    October 10, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Now we need an article on how to help those of us who are those negative people!

  39. Avatar

    Azir

    December 22, 2016 at 6:17 PM

    MashAllah, A truly moving article. Just what i needed. JazakAllah khairun.

  40. Avatar

    Amjad

    January 29, 2018 at 1:13 PM

    Masha Allah beautifully written ?

    Helpful to all!

  41. Avatar

    sana mehreen

    June 1, 2019 at 2:04 AM

    Its really mind blowing and the text is really enough to change negative thinking.I hope it will help me…..

  42. Avatar

    Perez

    October 18, 2019 at 11:05 AM

    The more you mark the more libraries that can be used, you can then be added manually if you have forgotten some. I will personally leave FreeType active and Box2D because we will use it later. hill climb racing

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Torment And Tears: The Emotional Experience of Tawbah

Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?

That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah… it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.

It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them… but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a ‘big deal’ – perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn’t think was all that serious.

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And yet… and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.

It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.

It is also a very necessary one.

The Act of Tawbah

Tawbah – seeking forgiveness from Allah – is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it is also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple – “Just say astaghfirAllah and don’t do it again.”

In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.

The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin – whether seemingly small or severe – and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn’t even register to us how we could be affecting the person we’ve spoken to.

As RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once told A’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The second step is to feel true remorse. It’s not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must feel guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.

Tawbah is to feel that sucker-punch of humiliation and guilt as we recall our sins: not just the mildly awkward ones, like a petty fib or mild infraction, but the genuinely terrible parts of ourselves… ugly lies, vicious jealousy, violations against others’ rights, abuse.

Some of us may be actual criminals – others of us may seem presentable on the outside, even religious, maybe even spiritual… and yet have violated others in terrible ways. Abuse comes in so many forms, and some of us are perpetrators, not just victims.

Facing that reality can be a gruesome process. 

It is a necessary process. Token words, glib recitation of spiritual formulae, those do not constitute tawbah in its entirety. Rather, it is a matter of owning up to our violations, experiencing genuine emotion over them – true humiliation, true regret – and striving not to be that person ever again. 

Much as we hate to admit it, we have our own fair share of red flags that we create and wave, even before we get into the nasty business of committing the worst of our sins. Tawbah isn’t just feeling bad for those Big Sins – it’s to recognize what led us to them to begin with.

It requires us to acknowledge our own flaws of character, of the ease with which we fall into certain behaviours, the way we justify the pursuit of our desires, the blindness we have to the worst parts of ourselves. Tawbah is to sit down and face all of it – and then to beg Allah, over and over, not just to forgive us and erase those specific actions, but to change us for the better. 

This experience is so much more powerful than a mere “I’m sorry,” or “omg, that was awful”; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, please forgive you – because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.

Surah Araf Verse 23

{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar’hamnaa, lanakunanna mina’l Khaasireen!}

{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur’an 7:23)

This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.

Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.

The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah’s help to uphold it – because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to correct our transgression against others’ rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual’s forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased ‘ebaadah.

But it doesn’t end there. And it never will.

Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.

Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn’t commit mistakes and errors every day?

All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also: {Allahumma ij’alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} – O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

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#Islam

Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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#Current Affairs

COVID19: Calling The Conscientious

Violating borders, scaling every wall and traveling faster than a rumor, COVID19 is now around nearly everywhere. It has reduced nations and societies, low and mighty, to their knees, demoted all preoccupations to insignificance and is threatening to torch everyone in its path.

The imperial hubris of nations, with and without nuclear weapons has crumbled. Mighty militaries have been reduced to mere spectators. Borders are closed. Markets have tumbled. Even the gods amongst humans – rulers, monarchs, dictators, religious heads, generals, billionaires, movie stars, icons of sports and music –have been forced to recede from the limelight. Neither they are in control nor can they perform. All of them are forced to surrender by an unseen microscopic speck with an insatiable appetite to devour humankind, bit-by-bit, part by part.

A pre-COVID19 world is now a blurred memory. It was not long ago that we were a different planet and a different people. Neither hand-sanitizers nor masks were precious enough to purchase let alone hoard, or even think about. YouTube was popular but not so much for videos on how to wash hands or what to do when self-quarantined. And, shaking hands were a norm and we used to respond with a “bless you” to our neighbor’s cough or sneeze.

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That was pre-COVID19.

Places of worship are already shut down and airports, train stations and shipping ports are shutting down. Boulevards and avenues are eerily silent. Shopping malls and theaters stand abandoned.

This is post-COVID19.

Yet, there are flashes of hope and inspiration. Medical professionals and health care workers are fighting to save mankind, a patient a time. Our ill equipped and fatigued hospitals are abodes of our new heroes and true patriots. And no less are trash collectors, grocery workers, truck drivers, postal workers, fruit pickers among others whom we took for granted all along.

Covid-19 is not just the biggest story of our time, it is the only story.

Amidst a piercing cacophony of politicians’ press conferences and public interest advisories, we cannot afford to miss out the soft whispers of COVID19.

It is telling us to pay more attention to the under-estimated meaningful over the hyper-marketed mundane. Its whispers remind us to remember that we are but a mere mortal. We are reminded in the Quran that God made us from a mere speck (40:67).

Not, too long ago, we seldom had to remind ourselves that we are human. Not too long ago we could afford to be enemies of ourselves. Humans were enemies of humans, fighting and taking life of those considered ‘others’. We fostered division … “them” and “us,” “citizens” and “illegals.” COVID19 has spoken: no more. We stoked exclusion … “black, brown and white,” “conservative and liberal,” and “urban and rural.” COVID19 has spoken: no more.

In its sweeping trail of destruction, COVID19, is imploring us — harness my power to cause dread in each one of you, across borders, across genders, across races — and unite. COVID19 is challenging us: find a common cause against me. When any of you find an antidote against me, may that be a reason for your coming together, even if right now I have forced you to stay away from each other – six feet part.

COVID19 is an equal opportunity and a non-discriminating enemy, which will kill no matter how we worship, what we eat, where we live. One touch strikes all with equal precision.

Today, as we face an existential threat from a mortal molecular foe, we must remind ourselves about what matters most, our humanity and not our race and nationality.

The truth is that long before COVID19 struck us, we were sick. We spread viruses; hate and bigotry, we held thoughts of xenophobia for those who did not deserve it. We wallowed in bias and built echo chambers. COVID19 exposed all of our pre-COVID19 shortcomings.

Coronavirus will kill us for a while, but then in the end, we will overpower it. But before that happens, all the human deaths would be in vain if we don’t realize that in a world of such threats, we never needed to have been at each other’s throats.

In fear and panic, people resort to extreme behavior, it amazes us with their capacity for wisdom and kindness, or stupidity and cruelty. COVID19 is beseeching us to reclaim and regain our humanity of compassion and kindness. It is telling us to come together to fight our common battles. It is forcing us to wash our hands of all sins of our past and then lock our hearts and hands and build a world where meaning must matter more than the mundane.

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