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The Forgotten Sunnahs: Ihsan, Itqaan And Self Reliance

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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Do you drag yourself in to work or appointments and end up often being late?

Do you do things like cleaning at home or tasks at work just to get past the post, or do you try to do the best job possible, close to perfect?

Do you study just to pass exams or do you really try to understand the topic and work hard to be the best?

Do you procrastinate?

عَنْ أَبِي يَعْلَى شَدَّادِ بْنِ أَوْسٍ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “إنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الْإِحْسَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ…

The Prophet ﷺ said

“Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (doing the best job / excellence ) *in all things*” (Muslim)

(إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ *وَالْإِحْسَانِ* وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ)

“Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and *ihsan* and giving help to relatives, and He forbids immoral sins, evil and tyranny. He admonishes you, so that perhaps you may take heed. ”
(Surah An-Nahl:90)

Ihsan is a comprehensive concept. It includes doing things to your best ability, excellently, completely, nicely, high quality, and doing them correctly in the right way according to the best standards and regulations (if relevant).

A Muslim who practices ihsan throughout his life is a responsible person and a person who always does a high quality job in a timely manner. He is never satisfied with anything other than a very good quality job in all that he does, being timely not tardy, being reliable, right down to washing dishes, ironing, or a workout for her/himself. As commanded excellence is required for all actions.

The Prophet ﷺ said

Allah loves to see one’s task done at the level of itqan (excellence) ”
(Sahih Muslim 1976)

And he ﷺ said

Do the best as if you see Allah, and if not remember Allah sees you
(Al-Bukhari 1897).

Claiming state benefits?

Do you take state benefits because it’s easier than doing a job that you can’t be bothered with because you’re not much better off?

Self reliance is the hallmark of an Islamic personality. The Prophet ﷺ not only discouraged begging but many times forbade even asking people for anything rather than being self reliant.

The Prophet ﷺ

“Begging is right only for three people: for one who is in *grinding* poverty, or for one who is in severe debt, or for a painful compensation for killing.”
(Sunan Abu Dawud 1641)

The Prophet ﷺ when asked what was being committed in a pledge from Muslims said:

أَنْ تَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا وَتُصَلُّوا الصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسَ وَتَسْمَعُوا وَتُطِيعُوا وَلَا تَسْأَلُوا النَّاسَ شَيْئًا

“That you worship Allah and do not associate any partners with Him, pray five prayers, listen and obey (the prophet and his laws), and that you do not ask people for anything. “

Source: Sahih Muslim 1043, Grade: Sahih

‘Not asking people for anything’ here does not mean begging, it’s literally not asking for anything. This doesn’t mean never, it just means that if you can do things for yourself, do them yourself, not to generally rely on others or be lazy. The companions were so careful to obey this command that they would not ask for help even in small matters.

Awf ibn Malik said:

فَلَقَدْ كَانَ بَعْضُ أُولَئِكَ النَّفَرِ يَسْقُطُ سَوْطُهُ فَمَا يَسْأَلُ أَحَدًا أَنْ يُنَاوِلَهُ إِيَّاهُ

“Indeed, some of those people obeyed this to the extent that *if his whip were to fall from his mount (horse or camel), he would not ask anyone to hand it to him*.”

Thus the sahaba were a generation of productivity, perfectionists, self reliant, that did jobs to a high quality standard, worked hard, to the best of their ability, studied hard, didn’t waste time, kept their promises and appointments, were organised and systematic in their approach to life, because they had a vision and ambition for Allah’s deen, so Allah opened the world to them.

How many of us complain about the state of the Muslims but didn’t study hard at school, didn’t work hard in our careers, don’t do good jobs at work, or claim benefits, and go through life just getting along without ambition or a vision for their life and work? Have we even planned projects for our excess wealth (if any) for good causes beyond tactical charity towards strategic plans and projects that really help those in need and the revival of Islam?

If you look at the world today, is it the Muslims that are producing the best cars and products in the world or is it the Germans and Japanese? What do the Muslim countries produce? If you look at the working culture of the Muslims it is totally the opposite of ihsan, itqaan, and ikhlas. It is the Sunnah of Allah to reward sincere hard work, ihsan and itqaan.

Let us look in the mirror before assuming that the problems Muslims are facing are solely due to others.

Let’s look inward and strive to be better individually and as a collective.

Abu Burhan

Sh. Abdullah Hasan graduated with an Imam Diploma, BA and Ijaza Aliyah in Islamic Studies [Theology & Islamic Law, taught completely in Arabic] from a European Islamic seminary. He holds a diploma in Arabic from Zarqa Private University (Jordan), studied at the faculty of fiqh wa usuluhu (Jurisprudence and its principles) at the same university while receiving training in various disciplines privately with some of the leading Scholars of Jordan and the Middle East. He studied Chaplaincy at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE). He is a Licensed Islamic Professional Counsellor (LIPC), specialising in youth and marriage therapy. In addition, he is a specialist in Zakat and Islamic philanthropic studies. He served, as an Imam, several Muslim communities in the UK. Sh. Abdullah Hasan has enormous interest and passion in the field of community and people development. He has over 10 years of management, leadership and training experience within the third sector. He is the founder of British Imams and Scholars Contributions & Achievement Awards (BISCA), which is a national platform to celebrate, support & nurture positive leadership within the community. The Founder of British Institutes, Mosques & Association Awards (BIMA), which is national platform celebrating the achievements of mosques and Islamic institutions. He also founded Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA), an international coalition of leaders to end domestic abuse, and is a member of the National Council of Imams & Rabbis, UK.,

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mohammed Abubakr

    September 7, 2016 at 7:04 AM

    As Salam Alaikum,

    I searched for this hadith in Sahih Muslim but couldn’t find it. Sahih Muslim 1043 is a different hadith. Can you please provide the full reference? What is the Book No? Whose translation is this? Thanks.

    “That you worship Allah and do not associate any partners with Him, pray five prayers, listen and obey (the prophet and his laws), and that you do not ask people for anything. “ Source: Sahih Muslim 1043, Grade: Sahih.

    regards,
    Mohammed Abubakr.

    • Avatar

      Michael

      September 8, 2016 at 9:05 AM

      ‎السلام عليكم‬

      He is the full Hadith that you may been needing to reference –

      We, nine, eight or seven men, were in the company of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and he said: Why don’t you pledge allegiance to the Messenger of Allah? -while we had recently pledged allegiance. So we said: Messenger of Allah, we have already pledged allegiance to you. He again said: Why don’t you pledge allegiance to the Messenger of Allah? And we said: Messenger of Allah, we have already pledged allegiance to you. He again said: Why don’t you pledge allegiance to the Messenger of Allah? We stretched our hands and said: Messenger of Allah. we have already pledged allegiance to you. Now tell (on what things) should we pledge allegiance to you. He said I (You must pledge allegiance) that you would worship Allah only and would not associate with Him anything, (and observe) five prayers, and obey- (and he said onething in an undertone) -that you would not beg people of anything. (And as a consequence of that) I saw that some of these people did not ask anyone to pick up the whip for them if it fell down.
      حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ الدَّارِمِيُّ، وَسَلَمَةُ بْنُ شَبِيبٍ، – قَالَ سَلَمَةُ حَدَّثَنَا وَقَالَ الدَّارِمِيُّ، أَخْبَرَنَا مَرْوَانُ، وَهُوَ ابْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الدِّمَشْقِيُّ – حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدٌ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ – عَنْ رَبِيعَةَ بْنِ يَزِيدَ، عَنْ أَبِي إِدْرِيسَ الْخَوْلاَنِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِي مُسْلِمٍ الْخَوْلاَنِيِّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي الْحَبِيبُ الأَمِينُ، أَمَّا هُوَ فَحَبِيبٌ إِلَىَّ وَأَمَّا هُوَ عِنْدِي فَأَمِينٌ عَوْفُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ الأَشْجَعِيُّ قَالَ كُنَّا عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم تِسْعَةً أَوْ ثَمَانِيَةً أَوْ سَبْعَةً فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَلاَ تُبَايِعُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏”‏ وَكُنَّا حَدِيثَ عَهْدٍ بِبَيْعَةٍ فَقُلْنَا قَدْ بَايَعْنَاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَلاَ تُبَايِعُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقُلْنَا قَدْ بَايَعْنَاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَلاَ تُبَايِعُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبَسَطْنَا أَيْدِيَنَا وَقُلْنَا قَدْ بَايَعْنَاكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَعَلاَمَ نُبَايِعُكَ قَالَ ‏”‏ عَلَى أَنْ تَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلاَ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا وَالصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسِ وَتُطِيعُوا – وَأَسَرَّ كَلِمَةً خَفِيَّةً – وَلاَ تَسْأَلُوا النَّاسَ شَيْئًا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَلَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ بَعْضَ أُولَئِكَ النَّفَرِ يَسْقُطُ سَوْطُ أَحَدِهِمْ فَمَا يَسْأَلُ أَحَدًا يُنَاوِلُهُ إِيَّاهُ ‏.‏
      Reference : Sahih Muslim 1043
      In-book reference : Book 12, Hadith 140
      USC-MSA web (English) reference : Book 5, Hadith 2270
      (deprecated numbering scheme)
      Report Error | Share

    • Avatar

      Ahmed

      September 14, 2016 at 12:19 AM

      Read the blogs en look at the pic, why do Emirates not believe that she is bad news, do you want more proof?

      EK management gets blamed for many things, mostly cause they do make the worst decisions, never considering employees, but……for some reason when Jade Callaghan, employee 441912, is involved they support her to the end.

      Jade however lied on her application form, she failed to declare all her tattoos, had it removed but it’s left a scar on her forearm.(for all to see)

      She failed to declare that a direct family member is banned from flying Emirates or entering Dubai as result of in flight aviation transgression.
      Is it allowed?
      All information can be verified

      Since being employeed, she has sworn at her trainer, SFS’s and threw product at a passenger on a Abudja flight.

      She has called sick on numerous occasions, alcohol related! Once cause she passed out and got sunburnt so bad that she could not fly, on record!

      Jade refuses to comply with UAE law, she posts racist remarks on twitter(#fukthatniga)(Twitter handle pudcallaghan) mocks Ramadan and Islam, see attached, posts pics of her kissing a girl on social media, has been drunk in public on numerous occasions, and she has been involved with drugs in Dubai.

      On her layovers she gets so drunk she vomits, in Frankfurt it was in the hotel bar, she proceeded to vomit in her bed and passed out in her own vomit. She has breaks the 12 hours rule because she knows they never get tested on flights back to Dubai

      She has been reported to Emirates management and Dubai Police, but they have failed to act on these reports.

      Why are they so inconsistent in their actions?

      Should I have to escalate my efforts to ensure that UAE President Sheikh Khalifabin Zayed Al Nahyan, The Chairman of Emirates UAE Police, Print Media, Online Media, Bloggers, Social Media, Emirates Customers and employees are informed of the lack of interest and consistency shown by Emirates?

      Should I accept that a expat girl can continue to break laws, behave badly and disrespect Islam without consequences?

      Maybe passengers that has traveled with Emirates should learn about her drug, sex and alcohol lifestyle! (with photo evidence) Customers must know what type of employee Emirates is prepared to employ.

      With the spotlight on Emirates, and the caliber of employees they employ being questioned by media after EK 521, not ideal?

      Post script: Jade is posting and telling her story on various blogs, it portrays Emirates and Dubai as being the worst company and country ever!

      http://lifeasabutterfly.com/corruption-at-emirates-how-one-girls-dream-job-has-turned-into-her-worst-nightmare/
      http://www.aviationrumors.com/cabin-crew-corruption-girls-dream-job-turned-into-her-worst-nightmare/

      Ahmed

  2. Avatar

    Mohammad Khan

    September 8, 2016 at 12:56 PM

    Subhanallah! A much needed discussion in these times! And how simply it was written.

  3. Avatar

    abdulhaq

    September 10, 2016 at 6:25 AM

    great article jzk

  4. Avatar

    suleiman

    September 10, 2016 at 7:25 AM

    I have heard this hadith from my teachers in nigeria, and up to now they still preach and teach this hadith but i think i just understand what it is meant by the meaning of ” not beg people of anything” subhanallah. may ALLAH contiune to bless you. this simply means keep it perfect and and make a productive life style.
    thank you. jazakallahu kairyan

  5. Avatar

    POINT less view of things

    September 10, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    ya abaad Allah igithonee……..

    it seems God will never answer none of us…as long as we live in these environments……

    Quran in dar al Kufr…….ooh truly the shayateen are great sorcerers.

    life is pointless ..here..in the west…..can anybody point to a mountain or two and how to get there…..

    p.s if I get there..nice knowing you all oh I do not nor you me…thank God and….good luck

  6. Avatar

    thank you for life

    September 10, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    we seek refuge from kufr and faqr…..

    yours truly soon to declare loudly….a disbeliever…so you know what you have to do to me……

    like you all a helpless person in history…….

  7. Avatar

    Devushka

    September 19, 2016 at 1:31 PM

    Salaam ‘alaiykom,
    What’s the linguistic and technical difference between itqaan and ihsaan?

  8. Avatar

    Yousra

    September 20, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    Gratitude is truly an important part of our lives if we want to welcome abundance in life. Love the #AlhamdulillahForSeries by Ayeina on this topic.
    http://ayeina.com/gratitude-for-muslims-around-the-world/

    If you have suggestions, you can submit them too

  9. Avatar

    Dr MF Williams

    October 9, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    Lovely mashaa Allah.

    Much love from South Africa.

  10. Avatar

    Mehmed Eymen

    October 30, 2016 at 11:45 AM

    JazakAllahu Khayr Akhee

    Insha’Allah more people benefit from this article
    Love from Turkey

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#Life

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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#Life

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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#Life

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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