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Advice for New University Students: Work Hard, Play Hard, PRAY harder

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Are you a young Muslim starting university this month? Or a mature student, looking to improve your career prospects? Either way, life is about to change big time – new surroundings, new friends, and new opportunities – along with new trials, new temptations, and new traps. Change can be good, and change can be bad: so listen to the sage advice of some seasoned MM-ers to ensure that your life changes for the better, insha’Allah!

ISoc2Sick

A classic tip from King’s College London graduate, Bushra:

“Seek out your university’s Islamic society and SIGN UP! They will be your lifeline out in the scary world of student-hood.”

Logo for one of the best ISocs in the world. I may be biased.

A lot of ISocs (a.k.a. MSAs for you Americans) have Freshers’ (first-year) events in the first few weeks of term for new students. You can contact them before you start via their websites and Facebook pages (Google is your friend). If your university doesn’t have an ISoc, try searching for Muslim cultural societies, like Pakistani, Indonesian, Malay, Arab, Somali, etc. Even if you’re not from those cultures, they should still welcome you, and at the very least, show you where the best places to pray and eat halal are , inshā’Allāh.

It’s also important to remember prayer room etiquette: give salām, smile, be friendly and welcoming to all. Just because someone doesn’t seem as pious as you are (note: thinking you’re better than others is a sure sign to check yourself!), or they pray a little differently than you, doesn’t provide any excuse for you to give them the cold shoulder. You don’t want your prickly nature to be the reason why someone doesn’t offer their ṣalāh in congregation, or avoids attending circles of knowledge, or even regular ISoc socials, a‘ūdhu billāh.

“Don’t be judgmental- whether you are super-practicing or not. University will introduce you to many more different characters than those at school and will test your own patience by making you accommodate for these people. It will refine you.” – Bushra

Freeeeedom!

Beware the price of freedom.

A warning from graduate of Imperial College London, iMuslim:

“Don’t let your first taste of ‘freedom’ go to your head – especially true for those sisters like me, who were rolled up in cotton wool most of their young lives! Suddenly teachers and parents aren’t there anymore to keep their beady eyes on you, and Shayṭān’s whispers becomes more like Shayṭān on loudspeaker!”

Without raining on your parade, the amazing high of your first few weeks away from home can also be dangerous for your īmān. You don’t realize how much of your Islam is dependent on the opinions of family and other authority figures until they disappear from view. Strangers, especially non-Muslims, aren’t going to care whether you pray your ṣalāh, or ‘eat of the good things’. Now it really is between you and Allah; time to familiarize yourselves with His Attributes: As-Samee’, the One who hears all; Al-Baseer, the One who sees all; and Al-‘Alīm, the One who knows all. In conclusion: feel free to disobey Allah in the place that He can’t hear you, see you or know about it. {smile}

However, greater freedom and a strange place also has its advantages:

“Starting uni is a great opportunity to renew yourself. Often school can be a very suffocating place because there is so much peer pressure from your friends – and even the people you dislike! If you’ve always wanted to start praying, wear hijab, clean up your language, volunteer more, and so on, but your peers were holding you back, uni is the best time to break the chains, wipe the slate clean, and start again with a ‘bismillah‘.” – iMuslim

Friends Forever

The heart is precious. Be careful who you let in.

Leaving behind childhood friends can be hard, especially if it takes time for you to make new ones. As lonely as you may feel at times, try not to fill that void in your heart, and the gap in your social calendar with just any company:

“Surround yourself with good people. Not just ISoc members, but also good friends on your course who may not be Muslim, but they live clean, and they respect you and your faith. If you left one bad group of ‘friends’ behind, don’t fall into the same trap again now you’ve been given a second chance. The Prophet, ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: ‘A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.’ [Sunan Abu Dāwūd]” – iMuslim

Campus Superstar

You are going to spend a lot of time in here. Study tip # 1 – try not to fall asleep.

With all the fun of new friends, clubs, and societies, you may forget that university is actually for something called, STUDYING.

To help you along, here are some awesome study tips from University of California student, Meena, and University of Washington graduate, Safia:

“Don’t give up the work habits that you established in high school. Most people have chiller schedules once they go to college and all forms of self-discipline and timeliness disappear. The hardest workers will do the best. Being “smart” isn’t enough. Make iḥsān in everything you do – even school.” – Meena

“Be a known presence, not just in the university community at large, but also in the classroom. It’s critical to visit during office hours and get to know your professors more. This is more general academic advice (of course, it’s a da’wah opportunity also), but when you familiarize yourself with the teacher, it has many advantages:

  • One, they’ll know you’re a serious student because you went beyond the classroom.
  • Two, the more memorable you are to professors, the easier time you’ll have getting the critical letters of recommendation that you will need for jobs and grad school.” – Safia

And a bucket load of academic advice from Wharton School of Business MBA grad, Amad:

  • Remember why you are at college: to earn a degree. Keep the focus. It’s only 3-4 years and if you put your mind into it, you’ll reap the benefits
    for the rest of your life. You almost have to treat it as an extremely important investment that may dictate your career, your future family, and where you might live.
  • Talk to senior students in your major. You can usually get great advice on professors, classes, and when you need something to lighten the load, professors who repeat the exam questions every year!
  • It’s not important just to “like” something to make a career out of it. If you want to be bread-earner, then you have choose something that will get you a job after you graduate. It affects what area you might be able to make a living in. For example, if you desire moving to the Middle East at one point in your life, scan the jobs that may be available in the region.

More practical advice can be found in this must-read MM post.

Don’t Forget Your Roots

This is how happy your pops will be when you call him (before you ask him for more money).

Our EIC, Hena – alumni of Wellesley College and the University of New Orleans – keeps it real:

Call your mom!! Dad, siblings, grandparents, and old friends too – if you call them and keep in touch, it is less anxiety for them and they won’t think that you have changed.”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – but also more forgetful! Don’t let the excitement (and stress) of college life make you forget those who helped you to get there in the first place. That goes double for the One who provides for you in every way: Al-Razzāq. Keep in touch with your Creator via your daily worship, dhikr, and regularity of good deeds.

We hope that our sincere advice is of benefit to you. May you be successful in your studies, and enjoy every moment of this new and unique life experience, Ameen!
Feel free to share your own pearls of wisdom in the comments below.

Related Article: A Message to Anyone Interested in a College Degree

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 22, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    Yesterday, I began plans to enrol in and resume some free online programs. This post is a pleasant coincidence.

    College wasn’t my first taste of freedom; I was free long before that.

    Most students take college as a social theater. They and some lecturers made all sorts of horrible remarks concerning my principle, ‘I know why I’m here,’ until the end of the first year when it became obvious I had the highest GP in the entire year (approximately 2500 students in my year).

    The courses I had very little interest in were those with repeated exam questions; BORING!

    I surrounded myself with trustworthy colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) who kept me informed of the latest academic information. I, in turn, assisted them with their courses, including courses far removed from mine.

    Interacting with lecturers and Professors in and out of the classroom was a hallmark of my college life; some of them are still my friends. The downside included a lecturer ignoring me during lectures saying anyone who has additional comments to make should come to her office. I never did; interaction starts first IN THE CLASSROOM. Some other lecturers misconstrued my visits as an indication of nuptial interest and repeatedly planned my marriage informing the town without my knowledge and approval. I played along behaving as if I was unaware of the plans until I had had enough. I crushed the party.

    I don’t do clubs. They are a very easy way to make collective enemies and for someone like me who naturally makes more enemies than friends, I keep clear of any membership/ regular attendance of societies until I know who’s running the show. I am more of a freelancer; I belong to everyone.

    Always learning,
    Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      Umm ibraheem

      September 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM

      I am confused by what your comment is supposed to mean….it’s all very abstract? Which country did you attend university?

      • Avatar

        Umm Sulaim

        September 22, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Which part of my comment is confusing so I can explain?

        My words are in response to the article.

  2. Avatar

    Yasmin

    September 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Thanks for these great reminders! My only advice is to try your hardest and when it comes time to take the exams have Tawakul in Allah (swt). I always like to repeat surah Fatihah once and Surah Ikhlas three times before taking any exam!

    • Avatar

      umm abdullah

      September 24, 2011 at 8:31 PM

      Assalamualaikum

      I agree about placing our trust in Allah. But reciting surah fatihah and surah ikhlaas,… you might have to ask a trustworthy scholar about that. It’s better to make a general dua before your exam. Allahu ‘Alam.

  3. Avatar

    Khattaab

    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Anyone have any study tips, how to ace the course?

    Not pass or decent grades- actual top marks?

    • Avatar

      mimi

      September 28, 2011 at 11:18 AM

      Assalamu’alaikum,

      Some tips based on my undergrad years:

      Find people who have already taken your courses and ask if you can borrow their course notes, assignments (e.g., labs for science students), and written tests/midterm exams. It doesn’t mean you study any less (or copy their work: so wrong!) but having this resource really helps to understand expectations and the amount of effort you’ll need to put in.

      If a prayer time starts and finishes within a lecture, you can do this: place a small MP3 recorder on your desk to record the part of the lecture you’ll miss, and then leave to pray.

      I did well in almost every course I went to see the professor outside of class time. You get an idea of what they expect, what material is most important to study, etc. Visiting the professor with one or more fellow students is best. Think of your Profs as your teachers and remember the amount of respect our religion requires us to give to our teachers (when you do that it’s not so hard to talk to them, whether M or F)

      I formed many ‘acquaintances’ in uni and just a few lasting friends (1 or 2 in 4 years). You don’t have to become close friends with every person you meet- just be helpful, friendly, and respectful to the students you work and collaborate with.

  4. Avatar

    Khattaab

    September 22, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Also, what kind of sleeping patterns should Muslim students have? Do/should/could they pray in jama-a. What about for fajr? Is qiyaam in the picture?
    In the article da’wah was mentioned.. Is dawah an obligation?
    To what extent should a Muslim student take a non-Muslims as awliyaa? I mean how close can one get when the other desires you to party, yet you desire for them jannah?
    How can one pray dhuhr/asr? Do they conflict with lecture times?
    If a male student has a female teacher, what kind of advice regarding lowering the gaze.. I mean I have no problem staring at the blackboard/PowerPoint.. But any advice about this issue?

    Quite many questions I know, but if anone has any advise about any of them it’d be greatly appreciated.

    Assalamu alaykum.

    There is another thing.. What is the greatest benefit in university? Something you weren’t expecting, some kind of freedom, the change in atmosphere which allowed you to grow in..

  5. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 23, 2011 at 5:07 AM

    Wa alaykumus-Salam waRahmatuLlah waBarakatuH

    From personal experience, to ace your courses
    – Make the library your friend; look up relevant books to help improve understanding of your courses.

    – As soon as you have a free time, read through the day’s lectures and if it includes maths, attempt to solve the day’s examples without looking at your notes. If you get stuck, check your notes and NOTE WHY AND WHERE YOU MADE A MISTAKE. Doing that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the exam hall!

    – Aim for the top mark. Do not listen to anyone telling you a B grade is ok. If you do get a B, it is ok, but aim higher.

    – Sleep and wake up at a time convenient for you; this depends on how tired you feel. Sleep less during the week and make it up on weekends.

    – Keep in touch with your colleagues and practise past questions to have an idea of how questions are set and also, should the lecturer be one of those who repeat questions.

    Muslim women do not have the issue of Jama’ah, so you attend Jama’ah whenever possible. The first thing to note is your lecture hours and say your prayers at its earliest time if necessary. For instance, if you have a lecture from 1pm to 3pm, check the time the sun crosses its meridian in your area and pray before attending lectures. You might want to get in touch with other Muslim men to fulfill Jama’ah.

    Say Qiyam before sitting down to read. You might shorten Qiyam depending on your usual length.

    I always say the best form of Da’wah is ones conduct. Verbal Da’wah comes in when the occasion allows.

    If you make your objective to study well known to your colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) and stick to it, I doubt anyone will insist on pulling you into unhealthy social activities. They will criticise you, but won’t compel you to join them.

    If you participate/ respond to the lecturer’s questions politely and promptly, I do not expect they will be so concerned about eye contact. Some will of course make an issue out of it. Whether they get you to gaze at them or for the woman, remove your niqab so they can gaze at you depends on you and your participation/ grades.

    The greatest benefit in university is rediscovering oneself and moving ones cognitive ability to an upper level.

    Umm Sulaim

  6. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 23, 2011 at 5:08 AM

    Wa alaykumus-Salam waRahmatuLlah waBarakatuH

    Khattab, from personal experience, to ace your courses
    – Make the library your friend; look up relevant books to help improve understanding of your courses.

    – As soon as you have a free time, read through the day’s lectures and if it includes maths, attempt to solve the day’s examples without looking at your notes. If you get stuck, check your notes and NOTE WHY AND WHERE YOU MADE A MISTAKE. Doing that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the exam hall!

    – Aim for the top mark. Do not listen to anyone telling you a B grade is ok. If you do get a B, it is ok, but aim higher.

    – Sleep and wake up at a time convenient for you; this depends on how tired you feel. Sleep less during the week and make it up on weekends.

    – Keep in touch with your colleagues and practise past questions to have an idea of how questions are set and also, should the lecturer be one of those who repeat questions.

    Muslim women do not have the issue of Jama’ah, so you attend Jama’ah whenever possible. The first thing to note is your lecture hours and say your prayers at its earliest time if necessary. For instance, if you have a lecture from 1pm to 3pm, check the time the sun crosses its meridian in your area and pray before attending lectures. You might want to get in touch with other Muslim men to fulfill Jama’ah.

    Say Qiyam before sitting down to read. You might shorten Qiyam depending on your usual length.

    I always say the best form of Da’wah is ones conduct. Verbal Da’wah comes in when the occasion allows.

    If you make your objective to study well known to your colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) and stick to it, I doubt anyone will insist on pulling you into unhealthy social activities. They will criticise you, but won’t compel you to join them.

    If you participate/ respond to the lecturer’s questions politely and promptly, I do not expect they will be so concerned about eye contact. Some will of course make an issue out of it. Whether they get you to gaze at them or for the woman, remove your niqab so they can gaze at you depends on you and your participation/ grades.

    The greatest benefit in university is rediscovering oneself and moving ones cognitive ability to an upper level.

    Umm Sulaim

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#Life

Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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Reflection On The Legacy of Mufti Umer Esmail | Imam Azhar Subedar

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“An ocean of knowledge which once resided on the seabed of humbleness has now submerged below it, forever.”

“Why didn’t you tell me!! You call me your younger brother, but you couldn’t even tell me you were ailing?!”

I could’ve called you or visited you so I could apologize for all the pain I caused you; thank you for all the good you did for me throughout my life despite all that pain. if nothing else, just so I could say goodbye to you.”

(My selfish mind continued to cry out as I stood in front of his grave— praying.)

As I sat down to compile my thoughts, upon returning home, I put my feelings of loss aside and tried to analyze your decision of not informing me about your illness from a different perspective.

Possibly, your own.

Why would you tell me?

This was just like you. You never wanted to hurt a soul; forget about making them worry about you, augmenting their own worries. For you were the sponge for our worries, the shock absorber of our concerns, and the solid wall that shouldered the pain of those around him.

You weren’t just a big brother, my big brother, you were a true human. A lesson on humanity.

You were always there for me.

“I GOT A QUESTION” sent at 2 AM.

“Sure” was your response.

We spoke for over 40 min.

That night.

Your strength reflected my weakness- always urging me to do better, be more like you.

I was told you were in hospital by a close family member early Friday morning before Jummah prayers. I was supposed to call you. That was my responsibility. However, the preparation of the Friday Sermon was my excuse not to do so.

As I exited from delivering the Friday services, I received a message from you, the one who was spending the last days of his life in a hospital, never to be seen outside of the confines of those walls ever again.

That message you wrote- you knew me so well.

“As-salaam alaikum, I thought you were already American?”

(You were catching up with me as I had become an American citizen the day before. You wanted to congratulate me, without complaining to me.)

“I heard you are in the hospital?! How are you? What’s going on?” I asked immediately.

“Getting some treatment done. Mubarak on your American citizenship” was your response.

Diversion. A stubborn man with a heart of gold. You wanted to celebrate people even at the cost of your own life.

Your last words to me were digital, even though your connection with me spans a lifetime. As much as I wish I had heard your voice one last time, I try to find the beauty in that communication too as I can save and cherish those last words.

We grew up together in Canada in the ’80s- Mufti Umer and I. Our fathers were tight- childhood buddies. He ended up becoming the inspiration for my family to trek towards a path devoted to Islam, beginning with my brother and then myself.

He was my support from the time when I came to England to study at the Dar Al Uloom and wanted to call it quits and go home, to when he hosted me when I visited him in Austin in 2002, all the way till 2019, after I was married and settled with kids he loved like his own.

He visited us here in Dallas and had met them in his unique way of showering them with love. And why wouldn’t he? My wife and I are here under one roof all because of his earnest desire to help people.

He introduced us to each other.

“I want you to marry my younger brother.” A message he sent to my wife over 17 years ago.

She was his student. He was her mentor, support beam, confidante, and best friend. (Well, we all feel like he was our best friend, only because he truly was.)

I am sharing my life story not only because he was an integral part of it, but throughout (he was also a major part of my wife’s life when she really needed him) but because that final text message wrapped it all up- the gift that he was to me and my family. It showed how much he was invested in us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

That message wrote:

“I thought you’ve been a citizen since marriage.”

(FRIDAY, AUGUST 30TH @ 3: 07 PM)

This is just my story featuring Mufti Umer Ismail.

I am confident that there are thousands more out there without exaggeration.

I’ll conclude with a word he corrected for me as I misspelled it on my Facebook page a few months ago when Molana Haaris Mirza, a dear colleague, passed away in New York. He didn’t do it publicly, he did it through that same Facebook text messenger that kept us in touch- with love and sincere care for me in his heart.

“As-salaam alaikum the word is Godspeed. Sorry for being [a] grammar freak.”

(MARCH 28TH, 2019 @6: 04 PM)

Godspeed, my dear brother. Godspeed.

Azhar Subedar

imamAzhar.com

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Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Ammar Al Shukry

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students

I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7)  

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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