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Dealing with Indian Law Enforcement: The Motherland – Part IV

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Prelude | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

“The Motherland” series will go over the benefits and challenges of studying Islam overseas in India, institutions of learning there in, and Nihal Khan’s journey of studying at Nadwatul ‘Ulama in the 2014-2015 academic calendar year. The subsequent articles in this series will detail his experiences and reflections from his travels and studies in India.

. . .

After the Accident

When the car that hit me started to run away, I quickly wrote down the license plate number. I kind of understand why the driver ran though. In India, when it is pretty obvious who is at fault in a car accident, the public beats that driver up, to teach him how to drive. Now I do not know how beating someone senseless will make them better drivers, but who am I to judge? Anyway, I went up to the driver as he sat at a standstill after hitting my scooter. I pleaded and begged with him to pull over and not run. I guaranteed his safety, and it worked. He pulled over and no one  tried to beat him up, but I guess instincts are instincts, so he decided to run. There was a patrol officer present who called his colleagues ahead to see if they could catch him, but sadly they were not able to do anything.

Officers examining my FIR.

cop

Afterwards, the patrol officer told me “my job is to save your life, that is it,” and then he walked away. I took out my phone and dialed 100 – the 911 equivalent in India. I called the number five times in half an hour, but no police officer showed up to receive me or even bother taking my information over the phone at the least. Instead, I got a text message from them saying ‘Thank you for calling Lucknow police’. I ended up calling the Qidwais who picked me up and took me to a doctor, in the back of their car. After partially recovering, I filed a First Information Report (FIR-the equivalent of a police report) at a local police station in a district known as Gomti Nagar and reported the accident.

After almost seven months, the police finally contacted me to let me know that they had found the car that hit me. Yes, seven months! The law enforcement system is beyond slow in getting work done, so now I am figuring out how I will approach the whole situation from a legal standpoint. I ended up meeting the owner of the car who disassociated himself from the whole situation. We will see what happens as I only met him two days before leaving to the states. The owner happens to be a retired police officer, so I guess my mafia friends from New Jersey could not help me (that was a joke in case you were planning on incriminating me. For the record, i do not actually have any mafia friends.)

I was taken to the side in four ‘regular’ traffic stops in Lucknow. All of the four situations were similar. A cop stepped in front of my scooter to slow me down and had me park on the side. He approached me and asked for my license. I have an international license, so I was not concerned, but seeing how police brutality had skyrocketed in America,  just in case ,I exercised my American privileges and spoke only in English–even though the cop only spoke Hindi. I also refused to speak in Hindi nor acknowledge that I spoke Hindi. The junior officer then said I have to pay a ‘fine’ (which was actually a bribe) of Rs. 1000 and then directed me to the senior officer. I refused to acknowledge that I understood him nor was I planning on coughing up any of my hard earned money. The junior officer told his senior in Hindi that I do not have any paperwork (which I did) and that I only spoke English. The senior officer, who also did not speak English,told his other colleague to look at my license and see what the status of the situation is. The colleague looked at my license and asked only one question in his broken English: “Which country you from?”

The Bara Gumbad Masjid and madrasa in New Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens.

1024px-Bara_Gumbad

I responded by saying ‘the United States’, the officer’s face changed, he quickly gave me my license, and said I could go. He then told the junior officer something to the extent of not putting them in that situation again and to kindly escort me to my scooter.

In regards to the bribes that most police officers usually officiate, corruption is a huge problem in India. According to this India Times article, political parties and police are the most corrupt institutions in India. So much so that a little more than 1 out of 2 Indians have admitted to paying bribes to police officers–which is usually in exchange of not getting a court summons.  Current affairs show us that these are two areas which Indian citizens are actively working on fixing.

. . .

Stay tuned for Part V of this series!

Nihal Ahmad Khan is currently a student of Islamic Law and Theology at Nadwatul 'Ulama in Lucknow, India. He was born and raised in New Jersey and holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business from Montclair State University and a diploma in Arabic from Bayyinah Institute's Dream Program. He began memorizing the Qur’an at Darul Uloom New York and finished at the age of seventeen at the Saut al-Furqan Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went on to lead taraweeh every year since then. Along with his education, Nihal has worked in various capacities in the Muslim community as an assistant Imam, youth director, and a Muslim Chaplain at correctional facilities and social service organizations. Nihal is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    M

    October 27, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    Salam brother. It’s really brave of you to go to a foreign land in search of knowledge, even if that foreign land is one’s motherland. Specially in a city where you didn’t know anyone. What was your family’s response to all this? They must have been really worried.

    • Avatar

      Nihal

      October 29, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      My family was fine as long as I was fine :).

  2. Avatar

    Khan

    October 28, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    I am really curious about the islamic knowledge you gained from this experience. And any other lessons you may have learned from your stay there, empathy/sympathy for muslims living there, maybe sabr?

    Also if you know Urdu, why would you lie and say you don’t?

    • Avatar

      Nihal Khan

      October 28, 2015 at 3:15 PM

      What I learned will be shared in the subsequent articles in this series. Be sure to follow along!

      The officers spoke to me in Hindi and I responded in English. I didn’t say that I couldn’t speak English, I simply refused to acknowledge that I spoke Hindi. And in that situation one’s options are limited as to what one can do to save themselves from having to pay a bribe, be sent to jail, beaten, or some other horrendous form of police treatment. If you have not done so, then read the India Times article I posted closer to the end of the article and also my comments as to why I chose to only speak in English.

      • Avatar

        Khan

        November 12, 2015 at 3:18 PM

        The picture “officers examining my FIR” indicates that, at least this encounter was not a “horrendous” situation.

        • Avatar

          Nihal Khan

          November 13, 2015 at 11:17 AM

          That’s not from when I got stopped and has nothing to do with any traffic stops. It’s when I walking in on crutches with a broken foot to report the person who hit me.

    • Avatar

      Abu Kanafa

      November 1, 2015 at 10:40 AM

      The brother did not lie and say he didn’t know Urdu. But even if he did lie, then that lie would have been a good deed. Please study Usul ul-Fiqh and the various ahadith pertaining to lying under different circumstances to understand why.

  3. Avatar

    safiya

    October 28, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    Nihal, definitely we have sympathy for your first time away from mother’s lap experience ! I read that the state of Uttar Pradesh for which Lucknow is the capital, has a population of 300 million and counting, which is probably higher than any muslim country in itself ! India and China are mammoths, and are a world of their own with their ways of life, yet being the beacons of progress for this century.
    I will say my disappointment here is,this seems to be a series that any tourist in any third world country goes thru.That people go to meditate in the Himalayas or the shaolin temple for martial arts in the mongolian mountains, is because, acquiring mastery requires patience and humility. Perhaps you should have waited a few years for maturity, to be able to imbibe the spirituality that comes with acquiring knowledge, from the East.My best wishes for your physical safety and soundness of mind before your return to the comforts of the west.

    • Avatar

      Abu Kanafa

      November 1, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Al Salamu Alaykum,

      A few things :

      1. I am pretty sure brother Nihal has been ‘away from his mother’s lap’ before this. He’s graduated from Uni, done Bayyinah and other Madaris, held multiple jobs, etc. I am sure he’s not void of the experience any grown man would have.

      It seems quite rude to start off your comment subtly addressing him as a child.

      2. One can only consider these places you mentioned to be beacons of progress for this century on a theoretical level. If you, for example, lived in Lucknow you would vomit on that sentence (probably from the industrial age amount of dust that covers these streets).

      3. Please don’t be condescending in expressing your ‘disappointment’. Brother Nihal is not a tourist – despite having been through what most people would consider a nightmarish hell, he is still persevering through it for the sake of gaining Ilm. Why in heck would you be disappointed in that?

      4. Please don’t romanticized the pursuit of knowledge to that of practicing ‘martial arts in the shaolin temples of the Mongolian mountains’. This is not a Jackie Chan movie, nor is brother Nihal trying to become some sort of a drunken master. Stop living in a fantasy world where the pursuit of Ilm is a 2 hour long movie with a black and white plot. Where the Talib ul-Ilm is the unsung and disrespected hero that has to take on the world to prove himself and get the girl too.

      Reality is, this is far more difficult than a movie. When you realize exactly what is entailed in this journey can you truly respect the reward mentioned for it in our sacred tradition. It’s not for nothing that trekking this path is a road to paradise itself. And this road is littered with trash of all sorts which will prevent you from that ultimate goal.

      Which is why, unless you’ve been in the thick of it yourself, it would be best to refrain from criticizing someone who is on that path – lest you be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgement. Who are you to analogise the need for patience and humility with br. Nihal’s journey? I don’t know if I would be able to be patient through what he has gone through and still continue. I don’t know if most people would. I also don’t know if I would remain as objective as he has in expressing his journey. I don’t know if most people could have that humility.

      5. You state that people go through these trials in order to gain mastery, and then advise the brother to have waited to attain this maturity before taking such a journey. Then you question his spirituality – something entirely between him and His Lord. Are you serious? Can you even perceive the seething hypocrisy in those words?

      You have a warped definition of what spirituality is, and you have a warped definition of what maturity entails. To be frustrated at the injustices you see around you is not an expression of immaturity or a lack of spirituality. It is, in fact, the opposite. It is a testament to one’s spirituality and his or her maturity to be able to recognize and be disgusted with that. And it is an even greater testament of their maturity and spirituality that they have patience through it and continue on this path for the sake of Allah as brother Nihal is doing.

      My best wishes to you and your mental soundness of mind before you return to the comforts of criticizing others on the path of Allah from behind your computer screen.

      • Avatar

        Khan

        November 12, 2015 at 3:14 PM

        I can see where safiya’s comment are coming from. Br Nihal sure is a grown man and been through a lot.

        But, this series came off to me (too) as a complaint journal and this-is-what-I-endured mindset. Vast numbers of muslims have journeyed to far away difficult places probably in worse conditions. They produced research on Islam and ahadith, some even passing away before reaching home.

        I am sure Br Nihal gains were much more than his troubles.

        With due respect to Abu Kunafa’s reponse/defence, Br Nihal’s descriptions of his troubles are frankly (still) immature.

        And Abu Kunafa, the references to “mental soundness” and “comforts of criticizing others on the path of Allah from behind your computer screen” were harsh and unjustified.

        • Avatar

          Nihal Khan

          November 13, 2015 at 11:32 AM

          I’m sorry this series came off to you as a complaint journal, but I am happy to report that the feedback received actually shows the opposite. Part of it is definitely going over what-I-endured, as that is mentioned at the beginning of every series.

          What one reads here are narrated facts that people can interpret however they find based on their own biases. Yes, there most definitely are people that have traveled farther and went through worse than anything I experienced. One can probably find much more benefit in reading about their struggles compared to mine.

          The purpose of these memoirs was a personal insight into what life is like for someone that travels into a third word country to study their religion. It is supposed to be a noted explanation of experiences I personally encountered.

          I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “immature complaining” when Shaykh Anwar Shah kashmiri wrote about how his caravan was looted and he felt sad that he lost many books in the process or when Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal spoke about how he used to sell written manuscripts to fund his studies.

          There are other some other assumptions here that could be addressed, but it’s all good :).

          Salam.


          Nihal

  4. Avatar

    M

    October 28, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    I am wondering, you must have made friends with the local people at the Islamic Institution you were attending, didn’t they offer you help through out all these situations? Specially considering the fact that you were not local.

    • Avatar

      Nihal

      October 29, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      Yes, locals helped me. It’s in the article.

  5. Pingback: » Self-Revelations: Discovering Your Limits in India | The Motherland: Part II

  6. Avatar

    Nabil

    November 1, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    This is getting funnier, sorry.

    It is easier if you go with the flow. The quicker you adapt to local ways, the better it gets.

    And this may sound ironic, but enjoy the agony. I miss it now.

  7. Avatar

    Khalida

    November 15, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum Nihal,

    JazaakAllahu khairan for sharing snippets of your experiences in India. I’m sure it’ll be of great benefit to anyone visiting foreign or only somewhat familiar countries. I applaud you for how you acted with the police officers. This scenario is probably more common than we’ve seen in Central and South Asian countries.

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How To Be Positive In Hard Times

Amina Malik, Guest Contributor

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How to be Positive

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

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

Manage Stress:

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

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

Have a Realistic Perspective of Qadr:

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

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

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

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

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

Nourish Positive Thinking:

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

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

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

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

10 Steps to Happiness!

Practice self-care as a daily routine:

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

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

A Powerful Dua for Happiness

Do not over-rely on your emotions:

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

 

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

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

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

The Art of Overcoming Negativity

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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

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Mindful

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

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

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

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

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

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

Autopilot to Aware

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Imam Al Ghazali]

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

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

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

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

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Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah

Hiba Masood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

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

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