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10 for 20 at 40 – Ten Pieces of Advice I’d give to my Twenty-Year Old Self Now that I’m Forty

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Forty is a special age. It’s the quintessential age of mid-life. It’s older than ‘young’, but younger than ‘old’. It’s an age where one has typically finished jumping all the hoops that society and education and starting a family require, and where one now looks forward to thinking about the major accomplishments of life, and the legacy that one wishes to leave.

The Quran mentions forty as the age of reaching full maturity: “Until, when (man) reaches his maturity (ashudd), and reaches forty years of age, he says, ‘O My Lord! Allow me to thank the blessings that you have bestowed on me, and on my parents, and that I perform good deeds that are pleasing to you, and make my children righteous as well. Truly, I repent unto You, and are of those who submit totally to you” [Ahqāf; 15].

No wonder, then, that our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) actually began receiving inspiration and preaching his message at the age of forty. For forty years, he was merely being prepared for the real purpose of his mission: the call to Allah.

This is the year that I reach that important milestone of life. I do not know what the future holds for me, although of course I have my visions and plans. But it seems fitting for me to pause and reflect upon the last four decades of my life, and ponder over its ups and downs.

I remember vividly many of my thoughts and emotions when I was twenty. It was exactly twenty years ago that I graduated from the University of Houston, and left for the Islamic University of Madinah, beginning a new phase of my life. I began thinking, “If I could, somehow, give my younger self some advice; if I could address the young man of twenty, now that I am forty, and hope that he would listen to my advice, what would I tell him?”

These are the top ten things that came to mind. I hope those of you who are still in their twenties (and perhaps some of you who are older!) will benefit from it.

1) Don’t be so certain about your opinions and views.

Arrogance and cockiness define teenage years, and a young man (or woman) at twenty really is just a teenager, plus one. Views about how to live, about interpretations of religion, about how you would do things differently than everyone else in the world – those views typically stem from a naïve and inexperienced view of the world. You will realize that over-enthusiasm and strongly held opinions are the quintessential signs of being young. Don’t judge others who disagree with your views too harshly: you just might find yourself holding those same views a few years or decades down the line!

2) The most important source of practical knowledge is life itself.

Continuing from the last point, realize that the single greatest source of wisdom is learnt by living life itself. No matter how many lectures you attend, or books you read, or how deeply you contemplate or think, nothing substitutes the wisdom gained from simply experiencing the world around you. In order to be a good spouse, you need to learn to navigate the ups and down of a marriage. In order to be a good parent, you need to have your own children and learn to take care of them throughout their stages of childhood. In order to be a good human, you need to experience the good and bad of humanity.

‘Facts’ from books are great, but they must be shaped and seasoned and tested on the playground of life. Appreciate that you might not be in the best shape to judge everything, especially since you might not have experienced those things before. Through experience, and trial and error, one’s methods for dealing with all types of problems are refined.

A corollary of this piece of advice (and if I had more than ten in this list, this would be number eleven) is: Respect and benefit from those older than you. Perhaps you know more than an elder about a certain matter (or, to phrase it more precisely: perhaps you think you know more than them about a certain matter), but no matter how knowledgeable you are about quantum mechanics, or investigating sahih hadiths, or understanding the latest psychological theories from your textbooks, you simply cannot match the wisdom of your grandmother when it comes to navigating the intricacies of human interactions and raw emotions.

3) Friends come and go; family stays.

Many young men and women act as if their friends are more important than their family. They will show more concern about hurting their friend’s feeling than their family’s. Much of the conflict at that age, in fact, comes from the frictions of interacting with and arbitrating between family and friends. Yet, as anyone older than you can tell you, your friends are not a permanent fixture of your life. They will come and go into and out of your room of life, and every few days or months or years, you will look around that room and realize that an entirely different set of friends are standing where once another batch stood. But, lurking in the background, never actually disappearing (until death!) are your family members. These are the permanent fixtures in your room of life, not your set of friends.

True, problems with parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins and so forth are extremely painful, and all families have their internal disputes and major problems. It is absolutely normal to have intra-family fights (particularly, for some bizarre reason, during and concerning marriages!). And it is normal, although not Islamic, to go for long periods with minimal or no contact with close family members. Yet, in the end, blood is thicker than anything else, and you will always be connected with family. Time heals all wounds, and even the worse of family arguments are healed (thankfully, family tragedies or celebrations act as catalysts in that regard). So never overlook your family for the sake of friends.

Having said that, and on a more cheerful note, in all likelihood the best set of friends you’ll ever have are your college friends. College friends will always have a special status in your life, maybe because you were all young and lonely and single and naïve and at the prime of your youths, thrown together due to circumstances beyond your control, facing the ups and downs of a new environment away from home. Or maybe that special bond is the result of some type of unstudied scientific byproduct of the hundreds of times you all had to eat takeout pizza late at night and share cheap Chinese food together. Whatever the reasons – banal or mystical – no set of friends will have the status of college friends. But once again: even they will go out of your lives, some never to be seen again, others once every few decades, and a small handful with whom you’ll remain in touch with forever.

One final comment about families: make sure you soak in as many memories as you can from your family elders, because you never know how long they will be with you. One of my greatest regrets in this department is that I didn’t get to know my grandmother as well as I could have. I never met two of my grandparents; a third died when I was only ten. It was only my paternal grandmother (who lived with us until she passed away, when I was twenty-two) that I got to know somewhat. But as a teenager, I would always be irritated when she began reminiscing of the ‘old days’. I would internally cringe every time she began a story that I had already heard a hundred times, yet I would still have to pretend as if each time were new to me. I never cared to ask her for more stories, or more details. ‘When will she stop!?’ I would internally ask myself as I fretted to get back to my TV show or college homework. It was only after I matured, and she and everyone of her generation passed on, that I truly realized my loss. How I wish now that I could have learnt more about her, and her childhood. She talked to us of British soldiers in her village, of her parents and in-laws (my great-grandparents), of the ways of purdah in rural India, of distant relatives long gone from this world, of incidents that took place almost a century ago, and of the interesting customs of the time. Now that she has been gone for two decades, I vividly remember much of what she said, but I wish for so much more. How I wish I had quizzed her for more details, more incidents, more stories. Now that I reflect upon her stories, there are so many unanswered questions: questions that I never bothered to ask because at the time, I really didn’t care to know, but now, have no answers to because I didn’t care to ask them.

4) Habits developed now typically stay with you.

I have had the great fortune (or misfortune!) of studying twenty-two years continuously as a student at various universities (two undergraduate degrees and four graduate). What I found remarkable was that the habits I developed while studying for my very first degree pretty much stayed with me throughout my two decades of study (with, of course, modifications and developments). And the same went for my routines and other life-habits: how I dealt with early marital spats dictated my future navigation; how I reared my first child influenced my later habits with my other children, and so forth. True, I picked up some habits along the way (I never drank caffeine early on in my life; now, I am addicted to one freshly-brewed quality tea every morning, and one freshly-ground espresso drink every afternoon), and dropped others (I used to love sleeping on the floor, and felt it gave me a better sleep – obviously that is a habit that only single people can practice!), but by and large, my ‘routine’ and lifestyle has remained the same.

Hence, be extra vigilant of your habits at this age, and realize that the hard work and good habits that you incorporate earlier in your life will help you throughout the rest of your life. It is easier to develop good habits at a younger age than to drop bad ones later on in life.

5) Take advantage of your health and energy while you can!

Wisdom and maturity might increase as you age from twenty to forty, but alas, strength and power does not! Looking back at those years, I can’t believe how much energy I had. I could get by on small quantities of food (or even skip meals without any adverse effect); didn’t require much sleep; had no trouble falling asleep; and could rough out the worst of conditions. I took my health completely for granted.

How much energy I had! Looking at people older than me, and seeing their aches and pains and arthritis and diseases, it never occurred to me that each and every one of those elders was at one point in their lives as young and vibrant as I was. I could never imagine myself with those problems.

Yet, as the years turn into decades, slowly but inevitably time begins to catch up, and you no longer can be as vigorous, as vivacious, as energetic, as you once were. Knee joints begin to hurt, back pains become more common, sleep becomes an issue, you can no longer skip meals so easily ….and the list goes on, and continues to grow, year by year.

Indeed, it was none other than our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who reminded us to take advantage of our youth before we become old.

6) You’ve all heard of the adage ‘time flies’. Life will teach you how true that really is.

I have such vivid memories of those years, and yet they seem so far away. At times, when I recall memories from those years, I am startled to realize that fifteen or twenty or twenty five years have passed since then. How could two decades have gone by so quickly? Where did that time all go?!

And I know that as I grow older, I will also look back at these very years that I am currently living in in the same way.

Do not procrastinate what needs to be done today until tomorrow. You want to fill up your time with matters that will benefit you religiously, and worldly. Accomplish much, aim high, get things done, and you will live a full and wonderful life. Waste time, and you will end up watching the years fly you by as you stand bankrupt of any lasting good. The choice is yours.

7) Life will get tougher, not easier.

We tend to exaggerate our problems at a younger age, thinking that no one has it worse than us. Looking back, I am now amused at what I considered to be ‘huge’ problems (the first time my first car broke down, I quite literally felt as if my life had come to a halt!). For those of us who live in stable family environments, away from war zones, with adequate financial stability (meaning: we will not starve to death no matter what happens), it is a very safe bet to say that the most painful problems of our lives are yet to come.

I say this not to make our young men and women depressed, but to make them put things into perspective. One of the most painful moments of most people’s lives comes when they see their children extremely sick or in some type of threat. At that moment, nothing that has ever happened to you as a twenty-year old could ever have been a serious problem. So, when you are tense about that exam or having missed a paper assignment or going through a tough patch with someone whom you love, take a deep breath, and realize that life is not all that bad!

8) The single most important decision of your entire life will probably be made in this decade: the choice of a spouse.

I cannot imagine a decision that will have more impact on the entire rest of your life than choosing the partner whom you intend to spend the rest of your life with! Your careers may easily change, and the field that you initially studied for typically becomes a launching pad into an entirely different trajectory. However, ‘changing’ spouses is not something that anyone willingly undergoes, and choosing a life-partner will have an immediate and a long-term effect on you. It will influence your character, shape your religion, bring you untold happiness and sadness and joys and pains, affect the genes of your progeny, and dictate the nature of the rest of your life (and even afterlife).

As a person who was going into Islamic studies, I knew that I needed to find a life partner who would be willing to sacrifice much for me. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with a wife who has always supported me in my efforts, and I am extremely grateful to Allah that I have ‘my Khadija’! But I can honestly say that many, many of my friends who wanted to become students of knowledge or otherwise benefit their communities, were forced to abandon their plans because of spousal issues. And the same goes for other choices that you will have to make: spouses must sacrifice for each other, and who sacrifices what for whom will decide the both of your fates.

So, be picky, and look at the most important criterion: character. Beauty truly is skin deep, and what really counts is good manners and religion. When you are all alone with your spouse, with absolutely no one to help or support you, nothing will bring about a better relationship than the both of you fearing Allah for the consequences of your actions.

9) Your obnoxious behavior will come back to haunt you, while your love and kindness will always benefit you.

Sadly, people (especially family) don’t forget. Yes, they might forgive, but they don’t forget. If you hurt someone, or do something stupid or rude, it will always be remembered, and occasionally brought up. One harsh incident might cost you an entire relationship,

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” One incident in which you humiliated a friend, or were caustic to a family member, will always affect your future with that person. And an incident where you showed your mercy, or kindness, can win over someone as a true ally for as long as you live.

So be wise, don’t act rashly, and err on the side of mercy.

10) No one – and I mean no one – will ever love you, or care for you, or be as concerned for your welfare, as your parents. Cherish them in every way possible for as long as you have the opportunity to do so.

It is one of the saddest aspects of growing up that children, and especially teenagers, treat their parents in a rude manner. We are all familiar with the Quranic and prophetic commandments regarding good treatment of parents. Unfortunately, for many of us, those commandments do not seep into our hearts at a young age (and for a few unlucky ones, never!).

I have said many times in my talks, “You will never understand the love of your parents until you become a parent yourself, and it is only then that you will realize all that they did for you, they did out of love.” Even if you don’t have children of your own, however, try your best to give them the love and kindness that they deserve, and honor them with kindness.

It is true that all of us are at times extremely frustrated with parental expectations, or parental advice and rebukes, but our religion teaches us to control that anger and not express it verbally. ‘Zip it up!’ I advise my own teenager when I see he is about to get irritated with his mother (or me!). ‘Talk to us when you’ve calmed down. It’s okay to feel angry, it’s not okay to show it.’ (Alas, that advice doesn’t always work on him!!).

No one knows how long one’s parents will be around; take advantage of their presence, to earn your place in Paradise, and to have the best memories of serving them for as long as you live as well.

Now that I’ve passed this milestone, I ask Allah that He blesses me and my family to see many more positive milestones in my life and in theirs.

O Allah! Allow me to be thankful to you for all that you have bestowed upon me, and upon my parents! Bless me to continue to do good deeds that are pleasing to you! And make me from your righteous and beloved servants! Ameen.

 

 

[Note: for those of you forty and above, what advice would you want to give to our younger readers? And for those of you in your twenties: what advice on this list resonated most for you, and why? Leave a comment with your wisdom below!]

Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

84 Comments

84 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hassan

    June 2, 2015 at 12:49 PM

    Salaam. May Allah give you many more 40 years on earth with health and emaan. Are you turning 40 solar calendar or lunar?

    • Avatar

      Nasra

      September 6, 2015 at 12:36 AM

      Hamdillah,this is so nice.I’m not 20,im 18,but this helps alot!best advice is the one related to family and their most important..inshAllah I’ll always keep that in mind !Jazikallahu khair for this !

  2. Avatar

    Hassan

    June 2, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Salaam again. I firmly believe that Allah has plans for us and they play out for our benefit if we are sincere. Any change in your thinking/circumstance may not have ended you here where you are. Yes, in hindsight we regret over-zealousness of 20 year old man, but imagine if it was not there, we may have ended up having a PhD Yasir Qadhi in Chemical Engineering working at Saudi Aramco and listening to Nouman Ali Khan and regretting that he did not go into Islamic Studies.

  3. Avatar

    khatam khan

    June 2, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    Salaam, your article brought me to tears both happy and sad. Many times we reminisce about what better we could have done esp when hitting or nearing forty! I only hope inshallah I can give sound advice to my children and ask Allah to guide to them in all that they do and bless my parents for their hard work and sacrifices.

  4. Avatar

    Irfan

    June 2, 2015 at 2:14 PM

    May Allah give you a blessed and long fruitful life. May Allah give us taufeeq to please him. Ameen.

  5. Avatar

    Nida

    June 2, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    I am in my twenties and I am exactly as you describe above. What resonated most with me is that I am not as grateful and gracious to my parents as I should be and I am very stubborn about my views when I should infact take what my elders advise me into serious consideration. This article was an eye opener for me.

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    Maryam

    June 2, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    ALHAMDULILLAH ,your atticle is so inspiring . Please can I use this opportunity to ask a question. We as human are always asked to plan ahead and set a goal for the future but I observed that all through my life Allah has always set my life towards a different direction in all my endeavor . I don’t know whether to keep praying and leave everything to Allah because sometimes I feel my heart is always deceiving me. Please what advice can you give to me Dr. Yasin?

    • Avatar

      sofiat

      June 2, 2015 at 5:37 PM

      Salam alaykum.
      Jazakallah khairan ford write up.
      pls, I will like to receive reply to sis Maryam question in my inbox too. thanks.

      • Avatar

        Abdul-Hakeem

        June 3, 2015 at 6:26 AM

        I will also be grateful if I can receive an answer to sister Maryam’s question

      • Avatar

        Maryam

        October 4, 2015 at 7:42 AM

        Assalamu alaikum! Me too.

    • Avatar

      Ali

      June 4, 2015 at 4:19 PM

      Walaikum assalam warahmatullahi

      Bismillah.

      It seems to me that Allah (swt) wants you to submit to His Will. He will reward you for all your prayers, dua, and hope you have in Him inshaAllah. But if you resign to His Will, then things will all fall into place. The peace you will get from that — there is no replacement for it.

      For boys like me, that includes the kind of employment you will get. So even if I get a super prestigious degree, I should be happy with an analyst level job rather than team lead/manager.

      Similarly, sisters like you may have something that they have a goal for but there are some traditional realities that will always persist. Also, I think 25 years is a good age when a person does not look at life as “goals” but rather as “tasks”. There are multiple takes on that perspective. It’s about intentions too.

      My younger sister encourages me to do istikhara in all things, even like before going to meet someone, like a professor at school for an important meeting or an employer for an interview. Maybe you can try doing that as well.

      And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      sikander

      June 5, 2015 at 4:19 PM

      Ability to plan for future is also given by Allah. So plan for future and pray to Allah to keep you on right path and you get benefits through your plan.

    • Avatar

      Delphine

      June 13, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      The most important lesson to learn is that Allah (swt) knows best for everyone. If you never got what you asked means Allah withheld them for a purpose, for which could destroy us. For Allah gives at the appointed time and can’t be faulted.

  7. Avatar

    Anonymous

    June 2, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    This is a great article but I think for muslim females it is different. I would tell a muslim female or any female to not be so fearful. Try things, do things. If you have a dream that you have worked hard for and poured your soul into then stick with it. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you. Believe in yourself!! I would also tell her find a good spouse when you are young otherwise you could end up like many muslim females single, childless and alone in your 40s and beyond. Its a subject that gets sweeped under the rug. Muslim men always have an easier time finding a spouse.

    • Avatar

      Sadeqa

      June 4, 2015 at 1:39 AM

      I was surprised and pleased to see someone express the point of view of a Muslim woman. I totally agree that this issue is always swept under the rug. The above article is good but it is clearly written from a male perspective (# 8). Looks like Muslims females should limit themselves to be the ‘sacrifice’ for someone else’s life. Why she could not seek the same from her spouse? Or why they can’t support each other? I wonder why Muslim females get some form of respect only as ‘old mothers’ and not as young promising individuals. I also wonder why marriage has taken the form an unequal business deal instead of a loving human relationship. This prevalent attitude in the Muslim society makes it difficult for Muslim females to find a supportive spouse. They are between a rock and a hard place and no one dares to speak about it.

      • Avatar

        Anon

        June 4, 2015 at 10:47 AM

        “And the same goes for other choices that you will have to make: spouses must sacrifice for each other, and who sacrifices what for whom will decide the both of your fates.” He clearly stated that all spouses must do the same. Just because he mentions the sacrifices of his wife, does not mean that he did not sacrifice for her, or that their case is the same for all marriages.

      • Avatar

        Zahra

        June 4, 2015 at 2:08 PM

        You need to go out and do what you want. You can not expect others to change or sympathize with you. I picked-up the pieces. All you need to do is believe in yourself and forget what other think of you. You have Jannah ahead of you inshaaAllah and I know this might not be what you or other sisters want to hear, but remember Allah is there hearing your every call. Allah has the power to accept you dua, but if he did not it is, because of his knowledge of you. Hope for the very best and do not despair in the hope of Allah. :)

  8. Avatar

    Abubakar

    June 2, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum. I will like to start by saying ALHAMDULILLAH WAS SALATU WAS SALAMU ALA RASULILLAH. After that I will like to express my appreciation for this effort of yours JAZAKALLAHU KHAIRAN. I am currently in my 20s and since my early teenage years I have always had a goal to bring change to the system and process of life we muslims live by. I happened to be opportuned by the will of ALLAH to attend your last Lecture at Leeds grand masjid and it was very motivational. After reading this article I come to realize two points(point 1 and point 2) you stated are countering my view. I just want to ask if I am being just an overzealous kid for thinking and hoping to bring change or that my view of life will eventually change as time goes on? May Allah accept and reward your efforts. Aamiin

    • Avatar

      Ali

      June 4, 2015 at 4:25 PM

      Walaikum assalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu

      Alhamdulillah wassalaatu wassalam ‘ala Rasulillah.

      MashaAllah it’s good to always have Hope in Allah. I think there just needs to be a balance between idealism and reality. I would never recommend to not be ideal, but I would never recommend to ignore the ground facts.

      And more importantly, the condition of the heart needs to be sound. In other words, can you “feel” your heart and are you spiritual? If not, maybe you need to do istikhara for each task and try to leave things to Allah (swt) than relying on your own ability alone to do things.

      And Allah knows best.

  9. Avatar

    Syeda

    June 2, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    MashaAllah.. Alhumdulilah such a nice article I have read..May Allah guide us, our children and our relatives..Jazakallahu khairan brother Yasir Qadhi for writing this article…It is really inspire me and I will show it to my son , when he will be his twenty In Sha Allah..Now my son is 8 months..May Allah bless you and your family brother Yasir

  10. Avatar

    Numan

    June 2, 2015 at 6:02 PM

    The last 2 points resonated very deeply with me. I ask Allah to preserve sheikh.

  11. Avatar

    Miriam

    June 2, 2015 at 6:29 PM

    Asalamualaykum the entire article was relevant and extremely useful.

  12. Avatar

    Kawthar

    June 2, 2015 at 6:37 PM

    Salam! Each point is exactly what someone in their 20’s needs to hear. The advice that resonated with me the most is 2) The most important source of practical knowledge is life itself. I tend to believe that I am good at certain things I have never experienced, such as being a parent or a wife. Your advice really puts me in my place :) and makes me realize that I should never believe that I am good at something I have yet to experience. I should humble myself, educate myself in preparation, and pray that I will insha’Allah play the role one day in the manner that pleases Allah SWT. Jazzak Allah khair, Sheikh!

  13. Avatar

    Daniel

    June 2, 2015 at 6:54 PM

    asalam alaykum…maa shaa ALLAH every single point of the above ten is remarkable more especially about getting a spouse, family, parents and people’ feelings as a result of ur deed…may ALLAH reward u enormously..ameen

  14. Avatar

    Aaron

    June 2, 2015 at 7:27 PM

    Salaam,

    The parts you said concerning parents struck me. Please make du’a for me that my parents would be pleased with me before Allah calls them unto Him. And that we would all be gathered in Jannah with Rasulullah (S.A.W), the shahabah and all of the righteous. Aamiin.

    As for any addition of advice, I’d say that a combination between youth and experience is the best and unbeatable in shaa Allah.

    I’m gonna give you an example of two soccer teams (I’m not gonna name them). Both intitially had youth and experience in their ranks.

    One of the team, decides to move on and let go of the older players who have experience, and decided to stick with the youth instead.

    The other team decided to stick with ‘the youth and experience policy’. The result?

    The one who decided to stick with the youth and experience policy continues to win trophies and the one who got rid of the older players with expereience had a trophyless drought for around nine years.

    The drought finally ended ( with Allah’s permission of course) after that team decided to bring players with great mentality and experience.

    The practical knowledge for us (IMO) is as youth, we should always reach out to our wiser elders for counsels. Being close to wiser elders will in shaa Allah increase our wisdom, strengthen our mentality, and hold us back from the things we could regret doing in the future.

    I regret some parts of my life where I distanced myself from the elders. When I look back, I guess I was really stupid and gullible back then. And I have yet to achieve anything that I can be proud of by distancing myself from them.

    Only after I try to open myself to them and listen to them, some sense finally returned to me.

    For example, one of the advice they gave me is about discipline. In everything you do you have to be discipline. Skills are useless if u have no discipline to train them etc (that’s how I remember it I think).

    So yes. I would really advise this to any people who are still in teens and twenties.

    When you are young, look to older people for experience. The benefits would be like the things I have said before (and possibly even more in shaa Allah).

    Not doing this, however, you could end up ‘trophyless’ i.e achieving nothing like the team who decided to get rid of experience (unless Allah wills otherwise).

    P.S: Actuallyyy, if we as youth could start to reaaallyy listen to our wise parents when we were kids and consistently do that throughout our lives, we would be spared from a looooooot of trouble in shaa Allah.

    P.S.S: I dare not give examples from the time of the Prophet (S.A.W) or even Qur’anic on this combination of youth and experience because I’m not a scholar. But maybe Shaykh Yasir could do so? :)

    Wallahu a’lam.

  15. Avatar

    Airan Nassir

    June 2, 2015 at 8:44 PM

    First and foremost allow me to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your hard work brother Yasir ,May Allah (swt) shower you and your family with his mercy and his blessing ,I am so grateful that we have scholars like you,i can’t thank you enough.Every article or every subject that you post i read , enjoy and cherish so much.every piece of advice from you it is a whole world of knowledge to me and to my family and i thank you for that.May Allah (swt) guide us all and protect us all as one unite ummah .we are always looking forward to listen to your advice and guidance thank you thank you and thank you.
    Airan.

  16. Avatar

    Mohammed Jahed Hossain

    June 2, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    I think point 5 was sort of a reminder for me to be more productive with my time, I feel like I waste too much time in social media. I have a question sheikh, when did you how did you and how long did you stay and complete your studies in Medina University? I’m thinking of going there to study, maybe after high school.

    • Avatar

      Alif_haa

      June 4, 2015 at 6:50 AM

      Sheikh talked about it in the program Witness With Waheed. I believe it is on youtube.

  17. Avatar

    N

    June 3, 2015 at 12:32 AM

    Assalamualikum w,
    MashaaAllah Beautiful artical so much to learn from it, I would make dua as I always do for all my teachers that may Allah accept your efforts and may you see the fruit of it in this world and the hereafter abundantly, may Allah bless your kids and spouse and give them the same reward for supporting you, and may Allah make us and our children like you to strive and work hard for our religion solely for His sake. Indeed the acceptance of our actions only depends upon the level of our sincerity towards our maker, may Allah give you more tawfeeq and strength to please your creator, may Allah keep you steadfast until you meet him and us as well.
    جزاك الله خيرا في الدنيا والآخرة

    • Avatar

      Zuhra Ali

      June 3, 2015 at 2:04 AM

      you said it all brother Yasir! haven’t gotten to 40 yet but exactly what you said is what I would have said. I look up to you so much in many things in life. you are my inspiration and mentor. may Allah preserve you increase in knowledge and wisdom, bless you, your family and honor you with the highest station in jannah. Ameen. jazakallahu kheyran brother

  18. Avatar

    Abdulrahman

    June 3, 2015 at 1:42 AM

    Assalamu Alaekum
    Number 10 realy reasons with my current life, My dad passed away 2 months prior my birth and my mother had to bear all the pain & struggle to make my life straight forward Alhamdulillah she managed as i have a strong Islamic background but that came with a cost as my mom did all she could . Now that am 22yrs old am starting to reflect on my past and the love my mam had for me although sometimes i could throw back words at her and feel irritated but now i’m coming to understand why.
    May Allah give her long life and forgiveness and jannah in Akhira in sha Allah.

  19. Avatar

    FaSi SyEd

    June 3, 2015 at 4:14 AM

    Assalamualaikum.
    Brother it was something incredible from you and I believe it’s the best I have learned from you.
    JazakAllahu khairan.

    May Allah swt bless you with more and more true knowledge and wisdom eachday.

  20. Avatar

    yusof

    June 3, 2015 at 5:39 AM

    Salam Sheikh, your advises makes a lot of sense even for me being 33 this year. I will try my best to carry the points to my daughter and hopefully she will learn from them too.

  21. Avatar

    alrayyes

    June 3, 2015 at 8:09 AM

    Just thought I’d throw this quote in here:

    “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.”

  22. Avatar

    Sameer

    June 3, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    Assalamu alaikum, I sincerely find the entire article ‘a pearl of wisdom’. Now that I’m turning 25, I’ve had few experiences and a bit of learning which allowed me to realize many things (infact each one of the points 1-7). 8,9&10 – wise words indeed..those are the ones I need to concentrate on. But habit developing, parental care and respect, caring more for grandparents -those would resonate in my mind, because I’m already concerned much about that!
    May Allah bless u sheikh in all your endeavours and keep u in the straight path, Assalamu alaikum

  23. Avatar

    Hamze yassin

    June 3, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    M around twenties, I need an advice from the Dr

  24. Avatar

    Malieka

    June 3, 2015 at 6:24 PM

    Assalamu Alaykum

    I was deeply moved by the article. I am 23 and I have realised a few of the points mentioned. Alhumdullilah.

    Firstly, what touched me the most was the advice regarding our parents. I have been blessed with truly amazing parents and I try my best to honour them.:-) Alhumdullilah. I want my parents to be pleased with me so ultimately Allah is pleased with me. And if there is one thing I regret the most is hurting my parents.

    Secondly it is easy for us to judge people from afar, but if we were in that same situation would we do the same thing or something worse… Having the book knowledge and having to put what you learnt into practice is two very different things. Sometimes we need to learn the hard way in order to become learn and stronger.

    Thirdly, life does become harder the older you become. I always thought once I left school my life would become easier. I definitely thought wrong, but Allah gives us the strength to overcome obstacles we never even imagined.

    Lastly, I really do need to work on my habits and other aspects mentioned in the article as well inshaa Allah. I also feel as youth sometimes we are soo scared and obsessed what other people will think about us, we might miss a golden opportunity. Sometimes we need to be brave and take chances. If it was a mistake we need to learn from it. We are human after all and it’s in our nature to make mistakes, but the key is to learn from those mistakes.

    Jazakallah for writing this article. :-) I feel that I really benefitted from it.

    • Avatar

      Umm Arafat

      June 23, 2015 at 6:44 AM

      @Malieka,
      Learning from experience: There is a saying that we all learn from mistakes,
      The smart learn from OTHERS mistakes and the fools learn from their OWN mistakes.

  25. Avatar

    Muhammad Fahreza

    June 3, 2015 at 6:54 PM

    Salaam. Jazakallah khayr for sharing your thought. May Allah rewards you and bless you by Jannah

  26. Avatar

    Atiqul

    June 3, 2015 at 10:46 PM

    Assalamualaikum,

    I would like to express my gratitude, for your valuable advices on life. I am in my thirties and was in need for guidance in life. Without any doubt, your suggestions and advices will be helpful in this regard.

    May the Almighty Allah grants you eternal Blessing and Jannah.

  27. Avatar

    Nusrat

    June 4, 2015 at 12:05 AM

    Salaam Sheikh,
    I would also like to thank you for sharing your wisdom in a humble and loving way. What struck me was your comment about habits. Being recently married, I’m trying to nip some bad habits in the bud — it’s so hard, but I’m really trying, and your words inspire me to keep trying. Jazakallah khair fidunya wal akhirah.

  28. Avatar

    Moeez Ahmed

    June 4, 2015 at 12:49 AM

    As a 22 year old; 2, 3, 5, 7, 10 at this point in my life have really resonated with me. To an extent, where I almost cried because of how much sense they make. I’m really glad that I stumbled upon. Whether it was through divine intervention that I come about this on my own or through mere chance, this was wisdom I really needed to hear. There are tons of self help books that give advice about various predicaments and at this moment I believe the advice Dr. Qadhi has given seems quite fundamental.

  29. Avatar

    Rafi Malik

    June 4, 2015 at 2:50 AM

    Asalamualykum brother in forty ?
    . Masterpiece write up, the line ” a young man (or woman) at twenty really is just a teenager, plus one. ” I found this to be the heart of the write up.

    May Allah swt bless you and me….ameen

    Rafi malik
    Srinagar Kashmir

  30. Avatar

    azimullah ansari

    June 4, 2015 at 3:50 AM

    assalam o alikum. your writ up opens up my past pages of life again. i do not know the exact date and year of birth as i belong to a rural simple society where date hardly matters. but roughly calculated with the major incidents of my parents lives it seems that this year or last year i might have passed this age. but this year many things happened in my life which is unique in many senses. the difficulties i fount next to unbearable which steered me toward finding solution on net and luckily i found a article which suggested seven strategies viz namaz, dua, repentance, etc. this article arouse interest on net an alhamdollilah i found you, mufti ment, green, dr bilal philips and my life changed. though born in muslim family but hardly i had been muslim. i redefined my life and found that i have wasted my almost forty years of life. now i try to find a company of people like you all around which is very hard. i acknowledge that i thrive on the lectures of yours and pray to allah and his mercies. in my youth i considered that i know islam better since i have attended jammia millia islamia, aligarh muslim university and jawaharlal nehru university and faced a lot of religious intricasies. but with the interaction of a new world i found i know nothing about islam. i desire that islam should be made available all the adolescents so that they could realise their potentials. please remember me too in your dua. allah hafiz

  31. Avatar

    Maryam

    June 4, 2015 at 4:31 AM

    Assalamu alaikum. Very insightful article. I would to also have an answer to Maryam’s question (above). May Almighty ALLAH continue to guide you and increase you in knowledge.

  32. Avatar

    Faiza

    June 4, 2015 at 5:44 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum. This is a great advice. I really understood your meaning of ” Your life is not all that bad”. I believe it is always important to truly appreciate all that we have. A warm bed, clothes on our back and a hot meal is something most people do not appreciate. A broken an iphone can cause us to be hysterical by thinking our lives cannot operate well without such things. But coming from a nation where families can barely afford to feed or clothe their children, I always say Alhamdulillah, my life is better than billions of others. The true struggle is to work and improve my relation with Allah swt. I pray that when I turn 40, I wouldn’t look back to 24 and not regret how I spent my years. My struggle at this age is to pray and choose my spouse wisely. As you said, that person will influence and shape my future. May Allah guide us, protect and forgive us. Amin. Thank you Dr Qadhi.

  33. Avatar

    Hawah Ali

    June 4, 2015 at 5:47 AM

    thank you Dr.Yasin I was impressed when you said that you can never know the love of your parents until you become one because I have seen it since am also a parent now . may Allah bless you

  34. Avatar

    Tijjani Rabe

    June 4, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum.
    Your article is interesting. It reminds me of my younger years, albeit without my parents. You reminded me of my late grand ma who nurtured me from childhood and brought me up after the demise of my parents. may Allah have mercy on them all. I remembered how I considered what I felt was her overbearing attitude. It was when I got married and have my children grew up that I came to terms with her expectations and desire to model my life. By Allah I have noticed all my reactions to her from my child when I am making similar attempts to mould him. May Allah grant her, my parents, and all other Muslim faithfuls Jannatul firdaus. Jazakallah.

  35. Avatar

    Moona

    June 4, 2015 at 7:48 AM

    This was one of the best from you, for the younger ones. You have engraved the words of most parents hearts for their children. This is the norm these days that the children think they know it all. And their attitude towards the adults, they think the older people are from another planet. They hardly want to sit with you & share experiences. What points hit me are 1,3, 4,& 8. The 11 point is also that would benefit the younger generation the most, so to save themselves before loss. Learning from other people’s mistake & experience gives one an edge for the future out come. Blessings.

  36. Avatar

    Dil

    June 4, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    Assalam alaikum, very inspiring article. It got my eyes watery.
    P.s- Since you already got ur ‘Khadija’ seek Aisha and Zainab ☺?(jokes)

  37. Avatar

    Zainab

    June 4, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    Almost each point is so true and practical , but 1st and 8th point are the one I have learned from my life so far. Jazak Allah khair fid duniya wal Akhirah, ustadh for this amazing article.

  38. Avatar

    Anees Hafeez

    June 4, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    Assalamualikum, I really agree with Br. Yasir’s advice, only
    Problem is , it takes us forty years to see the truth. As a grandmother, I still can hear my mother say, you will understand it when you are a mother. The adventurous nature of youth is what gives vibrancy to the world, but this has to be tamed and moulded by advice like Br. Yasir’s. Our youth, our future, listen and follow.

  39. Avatar

    Benjamin Tan

    June 4, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    Salam to you, the blessed author : used your article to reply to my daughter, Salam to you. see http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.tan.33671 – tks a lot.

  40. Avatar

    brother

    June 4, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    Salam,

    I apologise. I’m not always “into” your work (may Allah forgive me). But, with that said, when you grab me, you really grab me & take my heart on a ride – Ma sha Allah.

    May Allah reward you.

  41. Avatar

    hilal

    June 4, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    Nyc article but I really loved the 8th point

  42. Avatar

    Mahamoud

    June 4, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    Thank you very very much brother Yasir for this useful article. May Allah reward you better than it.

  43. Avatar

    Ramona

    June 4, 2015 at 9:25 PM

    Salaams.

    This is one of the most beneficial articles I have ever read. I literally fit under every single point that you have made and it has brought me to tears. I’m going to make a promise to myself about changing my behavior towards my family. Enough is enough, I’ve come way too far with my disobedient ways and now it’s time to turn back. Inshallah with the help of Allah, anything is possible. Jazak’Allah khairun for this amazing article.

  44. Avatar

    Muhammad

    June 5, 2015 at 5:20 AM

    This article resonates so much with me (I’m in my twenties now), i prefer the floor to my mattress and so on… but if i might ask sheihk how can having “two undergraduate degrees and four graduate degree” be a fortune/misfortune ? Because I presently have a B Sc. Computer Sci with two certifications and looking forward to my graduate degree (computing) and another undergraduate (in Islamic Studies) if Allah permits. May Allah increase you in knowledge, wisdom and age Ameen

  45. Avatar

    Abubeker

    June 5, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    I’m 23 now (I feel so old saying it out loud!) and studying in college. For me number 4 ( Habits developed
    now typically stay
    with you.) is the one that really hit home with me. Because, sometimes I feel like I’m being too lazy and when I read your article the idea that I might grow to old age( i.e. forty!)with this habit scared me to death; so jezakellah sheikh for the wakeup call.

  46. Avatar

    Mariam

    June 6, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    Salaams, im 20 and I have to say the bit about the parents and grandparents really hit me hard.
    Im going to visit my grandma right now inshallah!!!

  47. Avatar

    Stephanie Ali

    June 8, 2015 at 6:28 PM

    For the older readers:
    The article is a wonderful tool for those who take advantage of its wisdom. I admire the author of the article and may Allah (SWT) continue to allow us to gain knowledge through him. However, I must comment on my reflections after reading the article. Some of us, as myself are over 40. In my case, I am a few weeks away from forty- four. I found myself feeling like the “different” one because the events and accomplishments on my timeline are not what is considered normal. I started a family and have had 7 children along with 2 failed marriages. If I knew now what I knew then! I have struggled daily with my life choices and continue struggling. But, I am raising Muslim children with beautiful characters, and practicing Islam. I went back to college at the age of 38 and just graduated with a Bachelor’s this May. I have now been accepted to GRAD school. If your time line is not like the article. Don’t give up. Pursue your plans in life. There are road stops and obstacles along the way, (I had a major car accident) but there is room for the “older” student in the classroom or whatever your challenge might be. I have to remind myself that even though over 40, life does not stop; goals are possible, and perseverance must persevere! The Qu’ran states:
    O ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that ye may prosper. 3:200
    So, for those who feel they have detoured from their aspirations or goals, my advise is to continue and put effort into what is meaningful to you. The timeline of life is diverse, so continue your legacy! Don’t feel you have nothing to offer because you are nearing 40 or past 40. There is much you can offer our community. May Allah’s (SWT) blessing be upon you all!

  48. Avatar

    YVARSEE

    June 8, 2015 at 6:34 PM

    Assalam alaykum! Right on the mark, haha XD Very practical indeed MaShaAllah.

  49. Avatar

    Liza

    June 9, 2015 at 10:14 PM

    Salaam,

    This was a very good read. Being in my twenties, two things called out to me. 1. picking one’s spouse and 2. cherishing our parents. As a person looking to get married I am grateful for this advice. Furthermore, thank you for pointing out the significance of our parents and that we may not always understand them but we are required to be by their sides.

    Jazak Allah Khair

  50. Avatar

    Mohammed Rafiq

    June 10, 2015 at 7:14 AM

    As salaam o alaikum, Jazak Allah for the wonderful article. While reading I was feeling the run of the 40 year right in front of me. The irony is the truth is revealed it is just only convincing self to accept it, but alas each one of us fail if not to the same extent. It is only the hidayah of Allah karim can saw one and all from the falsehood. May Allah grant best of both the world to all his creation.

  51. Avatar

    Zubeida Malik

    June 13, 2015 at 6:01 AM

    You TOTALLY hit all the nails on the heads!!!!! Brilliant! I feel exactly the same way. Jazakumullahu khayra. Hope my kids read it with open minds.

  52. Avatar

    Hassan Mahfooz

    June 14, 2015 at 4:25 AM

    Your article brought me to tears

  53. Avatar

    AbuIbraheem

    June 15, 2015 at 12:12 AM

    my 2 cents:
    To younger readers:
    Learn to listen to the wisdom of your parents and elders. If you think you are smart, then smart means you would want to know whats coming in life. The only way to know that (be smart) is to listen to your parents very carefully and rationally. Make your own decisions but take as many advises from your elders as possible. Trust me, you will not regret.

    If you are a parent:
    Make sure you have a relationship with your children as a friend, not as a parent or the boss. It will not work. Only when you have a friendly relation with your own children will they listen to you and trust you. If you act like a boss all the time, they will keep their distance. To earn the respect of your children you must be their friend, not their boss.

    Spouse Selection:
    Couldnt agree more with the Sheikh here. Spouse is the partner that makes or breaks the life.

    My advise to myself when i was 20:
    Fear only Allah, and be fearless.

    Most important thing you can achieve in your life:
    Trust in Allah swt. If you have not achieved this you have failed your life. How to achieve it: DUA, frequent, for everything you want in your life. DUA is your navigation in this life to reach your destination. If you are Dua less you have no navigation.

    jazakAllahukhair

  54. Avatar

    Rabeeya

    June 20, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    May ALLAH reward you with good :)
    it brought me tears
    and gave me a chance to introspect and
    in shaa Allah reform :)

  55. Avatar

    Zainulabideen

    July 2, 2015 at 12:03 PM

    MashaaAllah what a great post !
    May Allah SWT bless Dr Yasir Qadhi and give us the taufeeq to benefit from this advice.
    Ameen suma Ameen

  56. Avatar

    Asma

    July 11, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    Asalam u alaikum….I am about to reach my mid-twenties and I can exactly relate where this is going. I absolutely loved this article. A sincere advise from a grown up which I will cherish forever.

  57. Avatar

    Erim

    July 13, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    Assalam Walekum.I
    This is the first time I have come across a truly inspiring article.I will skype my mother right now.Inshallah.Also quote about family and friends to my older brother and sister.I have not spoken to them for 7 months.Your article has inspired me to take them to Old India and meet all of Our Dear Deceased Father’s living relatives.This will ignite in our hearts trust once again.I see the habit I need to break.I will leave it to Allah willing.Jazakallah.

  58. Avatar

    Hawa

    July 13, 2015 at 5:17 PM

    I once told a sister that she needed to spend more time with her daughter and I will never forget the look on her face -the saddest look. I immediately apologized when I saw how hurt she looked and even went home and baked her a cake but she’s never been as open or close to me as before. If instead, I would of said how smart her daughter was and how much I loved spending time with her, then that would of made our relationship much better and she would of saw the good in spending more time with her daughter. So don’t tell someone something bad about themselves -even though it’s true- unless they ask you or are talking to you about it. Rather, be an example for the good of that bad behavior. You never know what someone is going through.

  59. Avatar

    hmm

    August 30, 2015 at 2:36 AM

    Salam
    how is everybody doing
    just wondering what time is jalsa
    jazakallah
    -brother habibullah

  60. Avatar

    Asif

    October 3, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    JazakAllah khair for this article.

    I’m a 35 you physician and find lots of wisdom in your list. One thing that I would add is below,

    Whenever given the choice between two things, both being apparently permissable, and you are unsure which to choose, choose that which would be most pleasing to Allah (swt).

  61. Avatar

    Ahmad

    October 4, 2015 at 2:29 AM

    Jazakal Allahu khair. What an inspiring article. I am forty but I found it benefitial as I read this loudly to my children who are below thirteen to inspire them. We all enjoy it and thank you so much.

  62. Avatar

    Hannah

    October 12, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    This is a very eloquently and wisely worded post. As I move deeper into my twenties, I find myself collecting different pieces of wisdom from people older than me who have lived and experienced more. Your advice that rings most relevant with me is that of creating good habits now rather than trying to get rid of bad ones later. While it certainly takes practice, I find that being conscious and acknowledging that I need to create stronger habits is a step in the right direction. Thanks for posting such insightful thoughts!

  63. Avatar

    Kamaldeen

    November 18, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    SALLAM alaykum. alhamdullilah for not missing the reflection on this article

  64. Avatar

    Keumala Fadhiela

    November 29, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    Alhamdulillah I am 23 years old. I am very pleased that Allah gives me opportunity to enjoy this life. Spending quality time with family, gathering with friends and beloved person, discussing with lecturer, making interactions with society, and breathing freely are great blessing. Alhamdulillah. I read this article as like as “fire” for my in this early morning. May Allah blesses us everywhere, everytime. Have a fascinating Monday :)

  65. Avatar

    Rose Taylor

    January 3, 2016 at 4:33 AM

    What a beautiful piece. I’m 60 plus now and remember, from the time I became a parent, thinking that had I listened to everything my mum had said, I’d be a better and more successful person now. God bless

  66. Avatar

    Saeed Purcell

    January 5, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    Salaamun ‘Alaykum wa-Rahmatullaah,

    May Allaah preserve you my dear Shaykh, and little brother. At almost 47 years of age I have mulled over many of these same thoughts. If there was one additional point I would add to this list of beneficial advices, it would be SLOW DOWN — patience is truly a magnificent gift, and in this ever quickening world it becomes more and more valuable due to its endangered nature. In all my years, the one thing I feel would have benefitted me most in my ‘youth’ would have been a greater and more essential quality of patience. The Chinese have a saying that runs something like this; the hasty word said in a moment, can having effects which last a thousand years. As always, Allaah knows best.

  67. Pingback: » Makings of an American Muslim Expedition of Love and Mercy

  68. Avatar

    Harun

    May 13, 2016 at 2:46 AM

    I am pleased and have truly learnt something. Thanks Sheik. May Allah continues to bestow His Abundance in all ramifications to you and your entire family. Amin

  69. Avatar

    Abdul-Gafar

    January 9, 2017 at 3:51 AM

    Ma shaa Allah!
    These are priceless words of wisdom!!!

  70. Avatar

    Hindia

    November 30, 2017 at 4:24 PM

    Aselam aleykum werahmetulah weberekatuhu. This is GOLD. 2,3,4&7 spoke to my soul directly. May Allah bless you and muslimmatters.org team many more successful years so we can learn from you. ??

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

Published

on

My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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