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Life Lessons – The Answer is Tomorrow | Shaykh Waleed Basyouni

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For many years of my youth, I used to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in Makkah. My favorite sitting spot was on the first floor in the Ottoman construction area between Al-Rukn Al-Yamani and the Hijr, and it was there that I would largely remain during the days and nights I was in the Haram.

One year my regular choice of dwelling was changed when I heard that my teacher, Sh. Ibn Jibreen, was also visiting and was sitting on the third floor. I wanted to pray by him, watch him pray, and hoped that I might find some private moments to ask him questions or listen to answers he gave. Just watching the sheikh was in itself a great opportunity for the student of knowledge. We learned from his manners, the way he carried himself, and how he dealt with others.

One night a group of young men came up to the Shaikh after Isha and before Taraweeh. They asked the Shaikh if praying Taraweeh in congregation would be better for them, or whether they should go out to the markets to give advice and do some street Da’wah. Unfortunately, during the Taraweeh prayer time, it was very common for unsupervised young girls and boys to go out to the markets to hit on each other, and there were many other improper practices that would prevail during this time. They explained the situation to the Shaikh and the told him that they were not from Makkah and that they had traveled only so they could pray and fast at the Haram. The Shaikh said that he would answer them the next day and to meet him in the same place and at the same time. That was one of longest 24 hours in my life; I could not wait to see what the Shaikh’s answer would be. I started thinking about all the answers he might give and the different ways the Shaikh might say them, but what happened that night was very different than anything I had thought of.

I came early to ensure a spot close to the Shaikh. After Isha, the brothers came and the Shaikh said, “Bismillah, let’s go!”

“Whereto, Shaikhana?” they said.
With his well-known big smile, the Shaikh replied, “To the market together.” That was his answer! Giving Da’wah and advising people could be more beloved to Allah than congregational Qiyam and Taraweeh in Makkah if it was done for the sake of Allah.

Of course I followed them to the market. It was Sooq Al-Layl (the night Sooq), and the brothers were very happy to have the Shaikh with them. At the entrance of the marketplace, the Shaikh noticed a store selling music (cassette tapes), and the Shaikh asked the man in the store to come out. The Shaikh reminded him in a private manner about the prohibition of music and what these songs were calling for. I snuck as close to the Shaikh as I could to watch him and see what he was saying to the man. Among what he said was that Ibn Abbas did not live in Makkah because he was afraid that his sins would be multiplied as the rewards multiply in Makkah due to its holiness and sanctity. “Your store is only 50 meters away from the Haram. Are you ready to meet Allah with such record?” he asked in a kind and concerned tone. After 10 minutes I heard the man shout out to all the people around the area in a voice mixed with tears, “As Allah is my witness, and His Angels, and all of you, I promise that before Fajr I’ll get rid of all these tapes. From now on, I will change my business to a Halal one that sells Qur’an and Islamic lectures and nasheeds.”

The story was in the news the next day. It was a great night and one in which I learned great life lessons that I try to practice until today.

1- Actions speak louder than words. If we want our words to have a real impact, we have to be the first to practice with the people.
2- The real scholars and leaders are the ones who mix with the youth, live amongst them, and are seen with the public, not those who give orders and advice from distance.
3- Naseehah to those you know and you don’t know can have a powerful impact when given with mercy and wisdom.
4- Sometimes we talk about the big things that we cannot change and we do not work on the things that we can change.

If this incident inspired you as did me, share your thoughts and give your comments.

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is Vice President of AlMaghrib Institute and Director of Clear Lake Islamic Center (CLIC). He is a frequent guest speaker at Universities, Conventions, Radio Talk Shows, Television, Interfaith meetings, and community centers nationally and internationally. He is also a member of the North American Imam Federation (NAIF), Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA)-Fatwa and Research Committee, Director of Texas Dawah Convention, and Advisor to numerous Islamic Societies/Organizations around the US.Shaykh Waleed Basyouni graduated with a Bachelors in Islamic Sciences from Al-Imam Muhammad University, KSA; did his Masters in Islamic Theology, World Religions and Modern Religious Sects from Al-Imam Muhammad University; and acquired a Doctorate in Theology. He is also an instructor at the American Open University in Alexandria, VA, USA, and serves as, the Imam of Clear Lake Islamic Center, Houston, TX, USA. Shaykh Waleed has Ijaazahs in reciting the Holy Quran and in several books of Hadeeth, awarded by various scholars. He studied with great scholars time such as Shaykh Ibn Baz, Abdul-Razzaq Afify and others.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Waleed Rahman

    April 3, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    JazakAllahuKhair, this was really awesome, Alhumdulilah.

  2. Avatar

    Siraaj

    April 3, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    That is one amazing story. Do you know what the reason is Sh Jibreen waited the extra day before taking everyone to the market? Some sort of preparation?

    Siraaj

  3. Avatar

    Hassen

    April 3, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    subhanAllah, this is such a beautiful story masha’Allah. I really appreciate you sharing this with us, Shaykh Waleed.

  4. Avatar

    Umm hadi

    April 3, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Asalaam a laikum Sheikh, Takabbal minna wa minkum.

    It is an irony that most of the time in life you have all the things right in front of you, but one can see it only if a sense of interest is aroused within the person.

  5. Avatar

    Majid Mirza

    April 4, 2013 at 2:40 AM

    Jazakumullah Khairan Shaykh for sharing such a beautiful and inspiring story. We keep wondering what the barrier to beautiful dawaah is and the biggest barrier is ourself. When we learn to get rid of our ego, humble ourselves and develop a true concern for others like the Rasool (saw) and our Scholars, the impact of our dawaah will change. May Allah reward you and your family – Ameen.

  6. Avatar

    omar malik

    April 5, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Assalam o Alaikum wrwk

    that was an amazing story but more then that it was an assurance for me that I need to continue to give da’wa. because lot of times I try to work with youth and give da’wa and find it difficult to keep up with other brothers who are simply in their privacy most of the times doing more good deeds then me. however I have to try to do as much good as I can and not drop the da’wa just because I am not able to read as much Quran as them, or memorize etc. because at the end of the day someone has to be out there with the youth mingling and trying to bring them back to Allah SWT

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      April 6, 2013 at 3:12 AM

      WaAlaikum Assalam wa rehmatullahi wa barakatuhu:

      Someone put the importance of dawah to me very nicely. Had the sahaba not considered going out and giving dawah a bigger priority than their individual worship they would have stayed in Makkah and Madinah (where salah is several times better than other places) and none of us (in Pakistan) would be Muslim today.

      The Prophet (SAW) said (meaning of his sayings) that whoever guides to good will get the reward of that good without the person doing that good losing any reward. Therefore, imagine if you went out and got 1 person to pray his 5 daily prayers. You effectively doubled your sawab of daily prayers from 5 to 10. Now multiply this to 100 people. Imagine the rewards.

      However, one thing I have learnt from many of the teachers and shayookh is that alongwith your dawah, you MUST also give some time to establishing that bond with Allah (SWT) through prayer, thru recitation, thru azkar. In fact Shaykh Tawfique Chowdhury, who is CEO of Mercy Mission, told a bunch of us recently prior to launch of Al-Kauthar Karachi that do Dawah and other Islamic work for 10 months then take 2 months off if you have to. Build YOUR connection and renew your sincerity to the religion and the work you are doing.

      WasSalamuAlaikum
      -Aly
      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  7. Avatar

    Abu Hafsa

    April 15, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    SubhanAllah, Inspirational Story. Its discouraging to hear the condition of the muslims where ever you go. May Allah preserve the shiekh and reward you for sharing this story. Please Continue your series I’m enjoying it.

    Sometimes people and their thought process are so ingrained in doing an act, that its hard for them to see past delusion, the act in actually is haram. When you speak to them, in a kind way, they look at you as if you’re the mad one. In essence turning your into some fanatic when in fact it is them that are committing the crime against Allah, and in turn only oppressing themselves. For every ONE good story, there are too many that dont end in such a beautiful way.

  8. Avatar

    O H

    April 28, 2013 at 2:12 AM

    Allaahu Akbar! May Allaah have mercy on his soul. May this awesome series continue In sha Allaah

  9. Pingback: Links | madiha33's Blog

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Is Your Shroud in the Marketplace | Hena Zuberi

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“O Friend, the cloth from which your burial shroud will be cut may have already reached the market and you remain unaware.”

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s words ran through my mind, as I left the funeral home and drove to the halal meat shop today…

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7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health.  Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.

New Year's Resolutions
Who uses sticky notes on a cork board #stockimagefail
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It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

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Ten Reasons You Should Support MuslimMatters

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