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Vision is a Tool for Fighting Adversity

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By: Suleman Ahmer

Suleman Ahmer is MM newest specialist. He will be sharing articles on productivity and time management  for our readers. As founder of Timelenders, a productivity and time management consulting firm, Ahmer has taught these skills to thousands of people around the globe from CEOs to students.  He trains people on the Islamic framework of developing long term visions. He is the author of Embattled Innocence, a collection of short stories based on his work as a Muslim relief worker who has traveled to 25 countries to aid Muslims, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Chechnya.  His articles on geopolitics and history have appeared in prestigious publications in the US such as The Washington Post for Middle East Affairs. He has spoken on these topics at over 40 US universities including the Harvard University, MIT, Emory, the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers.

A vision gives us the ability to fight adversity. How? This happens basically in two ways. First, a vision gives us motivation. The more powerful the vision is, the more motivated we shall be. The motivational impact of a vision can be summarized as:

Motivational Impact α (Scale × Nobility × Loftiness)

I define ‘Scale’ as the size of the vision. Is it making your company a leader locally or internationally? Is it educating the children of your city versus educating the children of the whole country? In the above examples, the latter vision is bigger in terms of scale.

I define ‘Nobility’ as the degree, to which your vision touches lives other than yourself for a greater good. In the example of expanding the company, the scale is growing but not the nobility, whereas in the second example of educating children, both the scale and nobility are growing.

‘Loftiness’ is the minimum cost required for the success of the vision. Difficult and demanding visions have higher loftiness levels. Ending oppression in a region or a country has a higher loftiness level than fighting malaria.

Even if scale, nobility and loftiness levels are not high, just having a vision gives us motivation, as opposed to having no clear vision at all. Thus, a motivated person is better able to handle adversity than someone, who is de-motivated or dejected.

For describing the second way, in which a vision helps us fight adversity, let me share with you a simple story. When I was in the eighth grade, a friend drew a line on a piece of paper and asked me to shorten it without erasing it. I was perplexed. After giving thought to it for a few hours, I gave up and told my friend that it cannot be done. To this he responded with a ‘aha’, drew a much longer line next to the previous one and said, “See, it is smaller now!”

Except for a few matters, most of the things in this world are relative. Some people are rich, while others are poor; some are beautiful – others not that much; some are more intelligent, while others less.

Suppose two people set out for a journey in a car. The first one’s destination is five hours away, while for the other it is a ten days journey. After five hours of driving, who do you think will feel more tired? Of course, the one, who has come to the end of the journey. The one, who has ten days of driving ahead of him, will not feel tired; rather, if asked, he would respond by saying, “I have just started.”

Adversities are a fact of life. Let us accept it. All of us will be tested one way or the other. I have noticed an interesting aspect of being a human: whenever we face an adversity, we subconsciously compare it to our visions in life. This process just happens automatically. The greater and more powerful the visions are, the less the adversity appears to us, and the more petty visions we have, the bigger the adversity appears. You will find people, who are pushed to depression or despair, just because they are not able to afford an expensive car or are not able to pay for a vacation trip in the summer.

Close to three decades of imprisonment of Nelson Mandela failed to break his will and spirit. He had a vision—to take his people out of slavery—that far superseded the adversities he had to bear.

I would like to share with you an essay published in Express News, by Mr. Jawed Chaudhary, a columnist in Pakistan, about a young man by the name of Jawad Bhatti. The essay was in Urdu and I am indebted to Ms. Saba Nadeem, one of my students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), for translating it and Ms. Laila Brence for editing it. So here is the true story of Jawad:

“Mohammad Jawad Bhatti is an extraordinary gift, and his story, in my opinion, is more inspiring than the works of such top notch writers as Stephen Hawking and Jeans Dominique Bouby. Jawad is 24 years old. He is an extremely courageous and fearless person. Every Pakistani, who gives in to the petty problems of life, should look at Jawad as an example: in spite of his immense disability, he has never been disappointed in life; instead, he has defeated his physical and mental impairments.

Jawad used to live in Shujabaad, a town 40 km from Multan. He was impaired during his childhood. An illness he underwent around the age of three left him permanently physically impaired – he could not stand upright because of deformed leg bones. For about seven years, he was completely bedridden, after which he decided he wanted to go to school. Inside the house, he could only crawl using his hands to move around, as his father could not afford any treatment. The height of Jawad’s determination can be seen by the fact that although the school was two kilometers from his house, he still decided to pursue his education.

His father dropped Jawad to school on his bicycle, and his friends helped him get to the class. He used to study till evening, when one of his friends would carry him back home on his shoulders. He went to the same school till the eighth grade. In 2002, Jawad transferred to GovernmentHigh School in Shujabaad. The school was three kilometers from his house, but the distance did not discourage Jawad. He kept on going to school, with his father, friends and relatives aiding in his commuting. In 2004, he finished his matriculation examination with 658 marks, which was an immense success, considering his disability.

Jawad wanted to become a doctor. The roots of this desire sprung from his childhood, when he had visited different clinics and observed doctors treating patients. Jawad deduced that being a doctor was a great job. After matriculation, it was nearly impossible to continue his education, because the college was very far, and most of his friends had moved to Multan for continuing their education. Also, Jawad’s parents could not afford to fund his education. However, his friends returned and took him along to Multan for attending the college.

In Multan, Jawad stayed at a hostel and would crawl to his classes. In 2006, he cleared his intermediate exams with 830 marks, which was the first step towards acquiring his dream. He took the entry test at a medical college and conveniently passed. However, the medical board committee refused to take Jawad in, because he could not stand up straight. Although disappointed, Jawad did not lose hope. Soon, a great opportunity came around: a doctor called Jawad to his office and told him that if he would agree to be operated five to six times, he could stand up on his feet. Jawad agreed, went for surgeries and subsequently was bedridden for six months.

After six months, he once again took the medical college entry test, with his legs still plastered. He managed to pass it once again. This time, when he was called upon by the medical committee, they were astonished to see him standing with the help of crutches under both his arms.  Just when it seemed that Jawad Bhatti had finally won the battle against adversity, he was presented with another challenge. Now, the committee seemed to object on the fact that if Jawad was using both of his hands to hold the crutches, he would not be able to examine the patients. In response to this concern, Jawad asked, “What am I supposed to do now?” The committee replied: “If you show that you can walk with only one crutch, we will admit you.”

Jawad, as determined as he was, requested the committee to give him a period of six months. Returning home, he started to practice walking with a stick. Learning to walk with a stick might seem easy to those, who have walked on their feet throughout their lives. However, the intense difficulty of Jawad’s situation can only be understood by a person, who after twenty years of crawling, would have only recently learned to stand with the help of crutches under both arms. What set Jawad apart was the fact that he always took such hurdles as opportunities – he knew that his dreams were just difficult, not impossible.

When after six more months Jawad was once again standing in front of the committee, the members had no option but to accept this promising individual. Finally, Jawad saw his efforts pay off, as he was admitted in AllamaIqbalMedicalCollege.

Currently, Jawad is in the process of becoming Pakistan’s finest doctor. He is in the third year of MBBS, and his education is being funded by “Karavan-e-Ilm Foundation”, a charitable organization, which provides educational resources to the underprivileged individuals in Pakistan.

Jawad Bhatti is the real heir of this crippled Pakistan that I live in today. Through his determination, Jawad is trying to communicate to the disabled leaders of today’s Pakistan that if a person’s resolve is strong enough, he can crawl his way even to the top of Mount Everest. From an economic and political perspective, a crawling country like mine needs such individuals as Jawad Bhatti, who can once again make it stand on its own feet.”

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Aseey/Nigeria

    February 26, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    Jazakallahu kheiran. I like “fighting oppression in a region or a country has a higher degree of loftiness than fighting malaria.” it makes me wonder why does the west prefered fight against the polio that never exist in my locality, yet the allows selfish oppressors to loot our rsources and banked it in their country.

  2. Avatar

    Aseey/Nigeria

    February 26, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    I like “fighting oppression in a region or a country has a higher degree of loftiness than fighting malaria.” it makes me wonder why does the west preferred fight against the polio that never exist in my locality, yet the allows selfish oppressors to loot our rsources and banked it in their country.

  3. Avatar

    Aseey/Nigeria

    February 26, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    I like “fighting oppression in a region or a country has a higher degree of loftiness than fighting malaria.” it makes me wonder why does the west preferred fight against the polio that never exist in my locality, yet they allows selfish oppressors to loot our rsources and banked it in their country.

  4. Avatar

    Aseey/Nigeria

    February 26, 2013 at 1:23 AM

    May Almighty Allah rewards you abundantly for this great motivational post.

  5. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    March 2, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    Salaam Br.Suleman,
    Alham du lilah adversities of life make a person strong, and to realise these strengths and tap the potential, a person requires a vision, a goal … a goal with a higher motive, a sublime objective…but the challenge of our UMMAH is that the goals have become monetary and objective is to reach this goal…irrespective of nobility.
    The crave to excel has become so much soo that it crushes the inborn FITRAH of a person.

    It becomes our responsibility as established or establishing leaders to bring awareness among the people more so by the Quran and Sunnah.

    Masha Allah your work is inspiring. May Allah accept it.

    Wasallam,
    An aspiring leader,(In sha Allah)

  6. Avatar

    momenaminhas

    March 4, 2013 at 1:09 AM

    All Muslims believe that all their suffering, failures and adversities are nothing but a test from God, and during the times of their adversity and sadness, Muslims seek comfort and guidance in the words of Allah in the Qur’an.

  7. Avatar

    Shahin

    May 6, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Wow, SubhanAllah, this was very inspirational. This new way of looking at adversity never occurred to me; I hope it’s as easy to practice as it is to understand.

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How To Be Positive In Hard Times

Amina Malik, Guest Contributor

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How to be Positive

We all know that we should be grateful. And we definitely know that we should be certain that whatever happens is good for us as believers. However, when we are tested -as we inevitably are-, many of us crumble. Why is that? Why are we not able to ‘pass’ these tests, so to speak? Many of us after a tragedy become hapless, sad, depressed, angry, or bitter.

The essence lies in knowledge that is beneficial, and the best form of knowledge is that which an individual can apply to their day-to-day life on their own. Here are a few tips to increase your patience in hard times. Like building muscle at the gym, it takes time to exercise this habit, but becomes easier over time:

Manage Stress:

Unfortunately, stressful events are abundant in our lives. People under stress can find themselves falling into thinking errors. These thinking errors include -but are not limited to-: black and white thinking, mind-reading, self-criticism, negative filtering and catastrophizing. Together this can affect how we perceive reality. Next time you are tempted to make a catastrophe out of a situation, stop and ask your self two questions:

  • Is this really a big deal in the larger scheme of things?
  • Are there any positives in this situation?

Have a Realistic Perspective of Qadr:

Although it is part of our creed to believe in divine destiny, personal responsibility is still of importance and we cannot simply resign ourselves to fate; especially if we have some sort of influence over a situation.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Quran:

لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِّن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ 

For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. [Surah Ar-Ra’d;11]

This puts the responsibility on us to change ourselves. Notice the word, themselves. We are not responsible for events beyond our control. These events include the behavior of our spouses, the affinity of our children to the religion, the love in the hearts of people, the weather, the gender of our child (or how many we have), or even the amount of money we will earn in a lifetime -to name a few. Often we become stuck and focus on our conditions, rather than focusing on our own behavior.

Nourish Positive Thinking:

How to Be PositiveIn order to be able to have a wise and calculated response to life’s events, we must learn to interpret these events in a way that assign positive meaning to all. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is after all, how we perceive Him to be. Shaytan interferes with this process through waswaas (interjecting thoughts that are based on negativity and falsehood). His goal is for the Muslim to despair in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy. The goal is not to be happy all the time; this is unrealistic. The goal is to think well of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as consistently as possible.

  • Create a list of what you are grateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for daily.
  • Remind yourself everyday of the positive aspects of situations when your mind falls to default negative thinking. Self-criticism will will only encourage you to take full responsibility for negative life events and become depressed, or at the opposite end take no responsibility whatsoever; either mind-set does not help us improve our self.

Remind yourself as well as others of the benefits of Positivity:

  •  On an individual level, once we begin to think positive about ourselves and our life, we become optimistic. This positivity will then also effect our perception of others. We become more forgiving, over-looking, and patient with others when we can see the positives in any situation.
  • Increased rizk and feelings of well-being
  • Reduced likelihood of reacting in a negative way to life’s events; increased patience.
  • Increased likelihood of finding good opportunities in work, relationships and lifestyle.
  • Higher energy levels and motivation to take on acts of khayr and benefit.

10 Steps to Happiness!

Practice self-care as a daily routine:

Our bodies have rights on us. Our souls have rights on us. Our family has rights on us. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has rights on us. Often, when there is an imbalance in one area, our whole being can sense it. This creates anger and resentment towards those around us and life in general.

  • Take care of your body, feed it well and in moderation and exercise in a way that makes you feel relaxed.
  • Pray your prayers, read the Quran, maintain the rights Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and your own soul have on you.
  • Take care of your tongue by avoiding back-biting and complaining.
  • Take regular showers, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothes; even if you are at home.
  • Take care of your mind by doing dhikr as much as possible and letting go consciously of ruminating on situations.

A Powerful Dua for Happiness

Do not over-rely on your emotions:

Our emotions are a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts can be affected by slight changes in the environment such as the weather, or even whether or not we have eaten or slept well.

 

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ 

“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [Surah Al-Baqarah;216]

How To be PositiveUltimately, our perception can be manipulated by our thoughts, shaytan, and other factors. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not limited in His perceptions due to stress, emotions, or circumstances and moods. Therefore, we should be humble to defer our judgements to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) ever-lasting judgement. Far from naval gazing, the more we are aware of our internal perceptions, emotions, and motives, the more able we are to practice Islam in its full essence. Our forefathers understood this deeply, and would regularly engage in self-assessment which gives you a sense of understanding and control of your own thoughts, emotions and actions.

The Art of Overcoming Negativity

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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

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Mindful

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah

Hiba Masood

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Growing up in Jeddah, every evening in Ramadan, we would pile into our car and whiz off to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers to Shoaibi Mosque and spend a few spell-bound hours under the reassuring baritones of Sheikh Abdullah Basfar. His beautiful voice became the anthem of my childhood in many ways but more than his voice, it was the building of tradition and memory that became ingrained in my system. By doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out, my parents gave us a sense of stability and predictability that set the tone for our entire adolescence.

How that rhythm seeped into the very bones of who I am is something I am still discovering well into adulthood.

Last night, standing in my grandmother’s garden in Karachi, I experienced my first Taraweeh Khatam-e-Quran since leaving my parents home in Jeddah so many years ago. It is also, incidentally, my first Ramadan without both my parents, who last year seemingly decided they would much rather be together in Jannah than spend more time in this rubbish world and in quick succession, returned to their Maker, leaving me understandably grieving, awash in memories, struggling to steer my ship.

And so it was, that by the time the imam reached Surah Qadr, I was chokey. By Surah Kawthar, I had tears streaming down my face. And by the time the last three surahs, the comforting Quls, began, I was openly sobbing. Probably more openly than what is considered socially appropriate…but honestly, I was restraining myself. Because what I actually felt like doing was throwing my head back and howling up at the sky. Thankfully, I was flanked by women who knew, who understood, who with tears in their own eyes, let me be with my heaving shoulders and a chest that felt it would crack open under the weight of my emotions.

As the imam had recited surah after surah and the end of the Quran had approached, the ghosts of Ramadan Past had flooded into me and my body had remembered. It had remembered years and years of experiencing that same excitement, that same sense of weight as Sheikh Abdullah Basfar gently and methodically guided us over the course of the month through the Book of all books, that same uplifting, heartbreaking, momentous trepidation of offering something up to Him with the hope that He would bestow something shining in return.

Had this Book been revealed to a mountain, the mountain would have crumbled. You get a tiny glimpse of that weight when you complete a khatam. Here I am, Allah, here I am, in my little hole-y dinghy, with my itty bitty crumbs of ibaadah. Pliss to accept?

Back in Jeddah, after the khatam, we would pile back in the car and go for ice cream. Last night in Karachi, after the khatam, the Imam gave a short talk and in it he mentioned how we are encouraged to cry when conversing with Allah. We should beg and plead and insist and argue and tantrum with Him because He loves to be asked again and again. We live in a world of appropriateness, political correctness, carefully curated social media feeds and the necessity of putting our best, most polished face forwards at all times. How freeing then, that when we turn to our Lord, we are specifically instructed to abandon our sense of control. All the facades and the curtains are encouraged to be dropped away and we stand stripped to our souls in front of Him. In other words, He loves it when we fall apart. Which is exactly what I had just done. 

Last night, I found myself wondering what exactly had I cried so hard over. Which tears were for Him and the desperate desire for His mercy? Which were for the loveliness of the Quran, the steadying rhythm of it, not just verse to verse but also, cover to cover? Which tears were for the already achey yearning of yet another Ramadan gone past? Which were for my breaking heart that has to soon face my first Eid day and all the days of my life without my beloved Mumma and Baba? Which tears were of gratitude that I get to stand on an odd night of the best time of the year, alongside some of my dearest people, in the courtyard of a house full of childhood memories, under the vast, inky, starry sky and standing there, I get to fall apart, freely, wholly, soul-satisfyingly?

And which tears were of a searingly humbling recognition, that I am so wildly privileged to have this faith of mine – the faith that promises if we navigate the choppy dunya waters right, we will be reunited with our loved ones in a beautiful, eternal place, that if we purposely, and repeatedly crumble under the weight of our belief in Him and His plans, our future is bright?

Today, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter why I cried. Because here is what I do know:

1. “If Allah knows good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you…” (8:70)


2. “If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.” Prophet Muhammad

3. “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” Prophet Muhammad

In losing my parents, I have drawn closer to Allah. And though I miss them dizzyingly, I am so thankful that through the childhood they gave me, through the anchoring to the Quran they gifted me with, through their own tears that I witnessed during those long-ago khatams in the Shoaibi Mosque in Jeddah, they left me with the knowledge that if in losing them, I have gained even an atom’s worth more of His pleasure, then that’s a pretty great bargain.

 

As a parent of three young ones myself, I’ve spent my days teaching my children: be strong, be strong, be strong. Stand tall, stay firm, be sturdy in the face of the distracting, crashing waves of the world. But now I know something just as important to teach them: be weak, be weak, be weak.

Crumble in front of Him, fall apart, break open so that His Light may enter and be the only thing to fill you. It’s not easy but it will be essential for your survival in the face of any loss, grief, trial and despair this world throws your way. It will help you, finger to tongue, always know which way the wind is blowing and which way to steer your ship. Straight in to the sun, always. To Jannah. Because how wondrous are the affairs of us Muslims that when it comes to our sorrows and our hopes, out there on the horizon of Allah’s wise plans, it all shimmers as one – The grief of what is, the memory of what was and brighter than both, the glittering, iridescent promise of what will be.

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