Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Return Journey

Yesterday I was invited at a friend’s place to a dars (a talk that involves remembering Allah and giving good advice to the audience). Her mother had passed away a few days back and this gathering would serve as a condolence meet as well. There were many ladies present. Some of the ladies who are teachers at different Islamic institutes in Jeddah gave very inspiring talks. One lady shared her personal story of her mother’s last days with her.
The host  Shahjahan’s daughter Ayesha recited Chapter 84 Al Inshiqaq from The Noble Quran. The ladies had gathered with the intention of remembering Allah, taking time to remember the destroyer of all pleasures; death, and to pay condolences to the host on her mother’s demise. One of the teachers started her talk by reminding us that we all should have Taqwa (consciousness) of Allah and should focus more on preparing for the Hereafter. Then she related a very interesting story from Israelite traditions in which the moral was to be content in what you have and not be greedy over the worldly things because world is not going to stay forever.
Another speaker teacher Shakeela explained to us the meaning of Surah Al Inshiqaq and told us that slowly and gradually we all are moving toward the meeting with our Lord, Almighty Allah. The life in this world is not more than a temporary stay or transit during the journey. The return ticket is confirmed and the seats are booked. Only the date and time of the return journey is kept hidden from us. The period of stay in this world is a test for mankind. It is being monitored how we spend our days on this earth; in Allah’s obedience or disobedience. Each one of us must check our life as to what we are doing with it. Are we heedless of the harsh reality of death that each one of us would be facing for sure one day? It could come suddenly any time. When someone dies we do not imagine that this same day is about to come in our life as well. We will also die one day.
In the Noble Quran Allah says, ‘Wherever you may be, death will overtake you…’ Death is inevitable.
Every soul shall taste death. Death has a taste, so to say. Like we taste various things and get to know how it feels only after tasting, the same goes for death. We shall know the taste of death only when it is in front of us.
The last moment of a person’s life will be the flashback of the whole of his life. He will die on what he lived. If he spent his life on the Kalima, denying that there is no god except Allah and only Allah is worthy of worship, he will have a good end. The moment one sees the angels of death the curtain separating this life from the next life will be lifted up. Now he will clearly see everything that was hidden from him, he will see the truth behind things.
The good soul will be taken by the good angels, smelling nice and taking out his soul delicately. He will be given a warm welcome in the seven heavens. He will then be taken from one level to another as he crossed the stages in the world. These levels or stages of every soul will be according to his or her deeds. The one who is saved from the fire of Hell and admitted to Jannah is the most successful one.
Every one of us keeps busy in 3 things during our time in this world:
1. Earning money and making property
2. Making and maintaining relationships
3. Doing deeds (good or bad)
The first two things remain behind when we die. The deeds come along with us in our graves. If they are good they will become a source of peace for us and our stay in the next world will be a good one.
To motivate ourselves to do good deeds always we must keep in mind that Allah is always aware of what we are doing.
Since this life is a test we have been given The Book to prepare for this test or exam. This book is the Noble Quran.
A good soul leaves this world happily as he is looking forward to meet his Lord, Allah.
The angels who take out the soul of a good person give him 5 glad tidings:
1. You won’t have any fear
2. Your Jannah is ready as per the promise of your Lord.
3. We will be your companions always
4. You will get in Jannah whatever you wish
5. Allah will honour you as His guests in Jannah
These amazing rewards and temptations will be there for those who lived their lives in obedience of Allah’s commands.
These rewards will be never ending and will keep increasing for the inhabitants of Paradise.
We must collect the baggage for our return journey. It should be loads of good deeds and not the burdens of sins and evil deeds.
What we must be doing:
We should do all actions keeping in mind the Hereafter and the outcome. The real profit is the profit of the Hereafter. We must see that we give value to the things that actually hold real value and not ignore the commands of Allah for petty things in life.
We have to do good deeds for our own benefit in the grave. The good deeds will light up our graves.
We should make good and righteous friends who help us remember Allah. Attending the gatherings of Allah’s remembrance strengthens our Faith and softens our hearts.
We should have good thoughts about our companions. We are Allah’s witnesses on the earth for our fellow beings.
Always say a good word about each other.
The good deeds have great strength. Even if the deed is small it can be of value in the sight of Allah. It is difficult to do good deeds in this life but eventually they will turn out to be very heavy on the scales.
The sins of show-off, taking interest, not performing salah, being arrogant will be punished severely on the day of Judgment so we should be very careful of all the sins.
The test of the bearers of Al Quran is even harder. We as the people of the Quran must see that our deeds match our words. We must not be arrogant of our skills and knowledge.
We are never completely satisfied in this worldly life. We aim for building a house and when we achieve that we start wishing to have a big car and this greed goes on and on. Most of the time in this life is spent in making this life better and better but what happens is that we leave all that and set out to another world for which we had hardly prepared anything.
The best among all the people are those who are best in their manners and character.
The most intelligent of the people are those who remember death often and prepare for it.
These were the inspirational words by the teacher and then some of the ladies in the audience shared their experiences. In the end we made dua and thus the event came to a close.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Journeys of Faith Part 2

Fatma Joe, another former Christian from Kanyakumari, India, was the chief guest at this event. She was just 4 years old when she came to Saudi Arabia. She did not have a good experience with her Muslim classmates at school as they had a superiority complex over the non Muslims. She did not have much knowledge about Christianity therefore, around the age of 14 years, she became an atheist.
Whenever there were debates over religion her atheism grew even stronger as she could not get convincing answers.
Some years back she met a Muslim boy whose mother was a teacher at a Madrasa. They showed her a completely different picture of Islam from what she used to see through media. This made her rethink about her opinion of Islam. When she researched about Islam she was amazed by the comprehensive nature of its teachings.

Islam covers all the aspects of life- how you should be behaving as a person, how you should be dealing with others, and how you should be performing as a state or governing body. These aspects are not taught in any other religion. She said that media portrays a very bad image of Islam and the general public believes what the media shows them.

She came to Islam just 2 years back and was still living in the Christian home. She was apprehensive about the reaction of her family to her changed faith. She hid her new faith from them and used to perform wudu and pray secretly.  Once her sister suspected that she was doing wudu but she had to deny what she was doing as she was afraid that her family will stop her from staying upon Islam. During Ramadan she pretended that she was on a diet while she used to fast, but one month of dieting was something that made her family suspicious. When she used to watch TV with her family and there was negative depiction of Muslims in the news etc., she tried to give excuses that it was possible they do not know the whole truth.  But her faith could not remain hidden for long.

She believes that Islam is beautiful and perfect as a religion. She finds herself much happier, satisfied and blessed to have embraced Islam. In Islam, she said, there is a constant struggle to be a better person each day. The real Jihad is jihad of nafs, that is the struggle to become a better self and to strive against the temptations of the desires. One needs to control the desires and work toward the obedience of Allah. She requested the audience to pray for her family so that they are also guided toward the Truth.
She thanked her in-laws, her mother in law and her husband and a few other people in her life who helped her in her journey toward Islam. Her mother in law and her husband have whole heartedly accepted her as a family member and they have been supporting her throughout.

The takeaway point from her life story is that she observed that Islam is a holistic religion that covers all the aspects of Human existence.

The last of the speakers was the president of the new Muslim sisters; Umme Hudhaifah also called Scarlet, who related her amazing story to the audience.
She was of British decent but born and brought up in Belgium. She grew up as an atheist. Her mother, a staunch atheist, believed that religions only divide people and are bad. But Scarlet had her own doubts. She used to wonder why science cannot explain everything.  Why are so many mysteries of the universe unexplainable by the scientists? She did not know any way of praying but she used to say that if there is god then he should answer her.
She was from a well off family and was very fond of travelling and exploring different cultures around the world.
When she observed a variety of cultures and religions she used to like Islam more. She saw Hinduism and Buddhism but found that they do not make sense. Hinduism was very exotic but the concept of its gods was not appealing. In Buddhism she found that everything was based on philosophy. It was only in Islam that she noticed logic and reasoning. She understood that there must be only one Creator who created everything and He alone deserves to be worshipped.

Christians are very vocal about their love of Jesus Christ and Christianity but their love does not show in their way of life. They do not follow what Christianity teaches them.
In the life of a Muslim his 5 daily prayers are ongoing proof of his love and obedience to Allah and His Messenger. Sister Umme Hudhaifah spent most of her life in the West. She lived in Luxembourg which has a very high standard of living. But throughout her travel and explorations she observed that even though people have a life of comfort and have everything they need they are still not happy. They are always complaining, sad and depressed. She told the audience that life in the West is not as it outwardly seems. The more they have the riches the more problems they face and their problems have no solutions therefore they fall into despair. Contrary to the West she found that people in less developed countries like Africa, Syria, Yemen etc., and the people who are predominantly Muslims are very happy, generous, kind and content in their life. She saw poor Muslims in Africa always smiling, very kind and generous. In Europe she found the people are rich but never satisfied with their life. This, she said, is because of the lack of Eman in their hearts. 

Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.

During her visit to Africa she stayed with a Muslim family in Senegal and it is where she became a Muslim. Her boyfriend also accepted Islam. She had studied in a University in England. She had many of her male non Muslim friends from there but once she became a Muslim it was hard to explain to them the changes she made in her lifestyle. Her husband was staying in Belgium. Soon they moved to a Muslim populated town in England but still they wanted to travel to a Muslim country. Scarlet found a job for her husband in Yemen. In 2003 they became Muslims and in the year 2005 they moved to Yemen. They stayed in Yemen for 10 years. It was a very fruitful stay in Yemen as she could benefit from many halaqas (gatherings for learning about Islam, remembering Allah etc) and classes where she learnt Arabic language. She found the Yemenis to be very generous and welcoming. Their neighbours would share food every day during Ramadan.

 The Yemenis, she found to be practising Muslims. They were sincere and made them feel like family. Her stay in Yemen is very memorable to her as she could learn many lessons, she got many books to learn about Islam and she could learn the Quran. She studied the Arabic language and started to teach Islam and Quran to the others. She can fluently speak French language as well. After 10 years in Yemen the situation changed because of the ongoing war and they decided to move to Jeddah. They are staying in Jeddah for the past 2 and half years. Here, she is teaching Arabic Language to the non Arabs.

After she accepted Islam she too had to face unexpected reaction from her family. She thought that they were broadminded but it was not so. They did not like her idea of becoming a Muslim.
In her early days as a Muslim woman she found Hijab difficult to adopt. But according to Scarlet or Umme Hudhaifah, when one takes one step toward Allah, He makes everything easy for His servant.

Just as the Quran was sent upon our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, gradually over the span of 23 years, Islam and Eman too take their time to build their foundation in the lives of the new Muslims. It was her advice that new Muslims should not hurry over learning everything at once. The most important is the meaning of Shahadatain, one should have a clear understanding of one’s pillar of Faith, that is the Kalima. After that come the 5 daily prayers. The new Muslims should first focus on these two aspects. The other features of Islam like the hijab and other rulings will fall into place gradually with time. She suggested that the new Muslims must not be burdened with all the rulings at once rather they should be taught aout Islam gradually with patience and wisdom.

According to her we should do things gradually and try to improve ourselves daily. We should approach people with wisdom to convey the message of Islam. It is important that we learn our deen and the Quran. She shared that learning Surah Al Fatiha seemed very hard to her in her early days as a Muslim. But today by the grace of Allah she is a Hafizah (she has memorised the whole Quran)!
In the beginning she found Arabic to be a strange language but today she is teaching it to others! Nothing is impossible if the servant is sincere in the pursuit and intention, puts some effort, and makes dua to Allah. Allah makes things easy. She is now actively doing Dawah work, teaching Arabic and Islam to the community members.

After listening to the stories from our guided and blessed sisters, sister Sara would give the audience food for thought and takeaway lessons.
Throughout the event all the stories were related to the audience in Urdu by teacher Farzana from Madrasa Hafsa. Very beautifully and emphatically she would put the questions to the audience which were thought provoking.

The takeaway lesson from this amazing story is that we born Muslims must not take Islam as a plaything. We should be constantly striving in pleasing our Rabb, doing whatever we are capable of doing.
As a closing speech, sister Farzana talked about the value of Islam as Faith and how some of the born Muslims take it for granted.
Basically we need to focus on Tawheed, the oneness of Allah and clear our minds of all kinds of big or small Shirk. Our prayers, our sacrifice, our life and our death should all be in the way of Allah, for Allah. Allah subhaanahu wa taáala calls us toward the Truth, His Mercy, His Grace, His Bounties, His Jannah and His Forgiveness. We should be racing toward Him all the time. We should question ourselves what we are striving for in our life?

Look at these sisters from around the globe! Some are highly educated doctors, some are nurses, some are from humble backgrounds, yet their search for Truth led them toward it and finally they could recognize it and embrace it. Their amazing journey toward Islam leaves us spellbound and speechless. The hearts move and the eyes well up with tears. We could clearly see what they went through to reach this status. The hardships were endured and loved ones were left behind. Their hearts weep for their families yet they hold on to the Most Loving, the only Creator, Allah.
It is Allah who opens the heart and we must pray to Him to keep our hearts steadfast on His Deen.

Another lesson that we learn is that we should not be blinded by the glitter and glamour of the West in particular and of the world at large. We must understand that it is just a façade. They are all shallow from within. They have no substance. They have a deep void, a lack of the sweetness of Faith. The source of that sweetness or inner peace is none but the Truth. The peace lies in accepting the Truth.  And the Truth is that there is no god but Allah and He is only worthy of worship. Islam is the only true religion that is based on Truth, logic and Divine evidence in the form of Al Quran.

The event was successfully completed with the help of volunteers like  Lubna Zubair, Rubina and others. 

The event came to an end with distribution of the gifts sent by companies like Darussalam, perfume companies and some individuals namely Mr Zia Abbas Nadvi and Mr Nihal Shazi, who gave an air ticket for one revert sister. The gift items ranged from electronic items like the digital Quran, perfumes, utility items, books etc. 

Doctor Helen Gouse, who is a professor of anatomy at Ibn Sina National College of Medical Sciences in Jeddah, handed over the first gift to the small girl Fatima who recited the Quran in the beginning of the event.

Finally, sister Rabia, made beautiful and heart warming dua with the audience.
The academy had arranged some refreshments for the revert sisters and the attendees of the event. The guests of honour, the new Muslim sisters were served the refreshments on their tables by the organizers.

It was indeed a very thought provoking event for everyone. The life and journey of these sisters is a shining example for those who are seeking the Truth and a lesson for those who take their Faith for granted.
Pray that Allah keep these sisters steadfast in deen and help them always.

Journeys of Faith Part 1

On 4th January 2019, Maulana Hifzur Rahman Seoharvi Academy-Jeddah organized the Annual Reception-2018 in the honour of the new Muslim sisters in the famous Lasani Restaurant, Jeddah. A few days ago they organized such an event for the new brothers in Islam.

The Seoharvi academy has been very active for the past 7 years in welcoming the newly reverted Muslims into the community. They are playing a very important role in making the new Muslims feel welcome and accepted as well as appreciated by the Muslim community. They encourage them to speak out and share their journeys of Faith and enlighten the listeners. This lets them feel that they are not alone in their hard journeys and the audience also gets to understand the value of Islam as a Faith. Inviting them over to share their stories and giving gifts is a beautiful way of making them feel at home.

The function started with the beautiful recitation of the Noble Quran, (Chapter 59: Al Hashr, verses 21-24) by a young girl named Fatima. She had memorised the Noble Quran at the tender age of 8 and half years. Now she is studying in the second grade. Her mother read out the English translation of the verses recited by her which was as follows:

If We had sent down this Qur'an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah . And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.
He is Allah , other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
He is Allah , other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him.
He is Allah , the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner; to Him belong the best names. Whatever is in the heavens and earth is exalting Him. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

After the recitation of the Noble Quran the host of the event, sister Farhana, introduced the new Muslim sisters and called all the speakers upon the stage. The president and the chief guest from the new Muslim sisters were seated on the stage and some of the speakers joined them. 
The host, Sara Altaf, a Hafiz e Quran and a medical student, then called upon the first speaker to come up to the podium and share her story with the audience.

This new Muslim sister, Emaan, is a dentist by profession and belongs to the Philippines. She was earlier a Christian. When she came to work in Saudi Arabia she observed and understood Islam. Her perspective toward life changed. She started fasting with the Muslims and later accepted Islam. She told the audience that while giving anaesthesia to her patients during treatment she recites Surah Al Ikhlas which is one-third of the Noble Quran. She wants to earn the reward and it also helps her keep connected with Allah.
She suggested that if the Muslims want to invite others to Islam they should show them the essence of Islam that is good manners and best attitude in dealing with others. Her story clearly shows that all human beings are created upon fitrah or nature and they have the search for Truth inside them. When they seek the Truth and search it they get it and understand who the True God is.

The second guided sister was Batool. Her earlier name was Betty. She is also from the Philippines. She was such a devoted Christian that she had built a church behind her house in the Philippines. She even served as an assistant to the Ministries to Born Again Christians. Nevertheless, she always wondered about the purpose of life. Questions like “Who is Jesus?” bothered her. She went to Australia and worked in a Muslim family from the embassy of Kuwait. However, the family did not treat her well. She wondered why Muslims treated Christians badly. But eventually, she met a good Muslim man, which made her think that she must not look at Muslims, rather see what Islam is all about. The man proposed to her and they got married. After marriage, she took her Shahadah, and memorised Surah Al-Fatihah shortly after.

Another sister named Ayesha, formerly named Angeles, came to Saudi Arabia as a domestic help to a Saudi employer. Her employer used to share books about Islam with her. Her madam’s sister asked questions about why there was the concept of trinity in Christianity. This made her question her belief in the concept of trinity. Before coming to Saudi Arabia in May 2015, she went through a lot of trial and tribulation in life. One of her colleagues made Shahadah in the meantime. When she recited Surah Al-Fatihah for the first time, her heartbeat increased due to the effect of the words of Allah and she couldn’t put into words that feeling. This consequently led to her accepting Islam. With the help of IEF (Islamic Education Foundation), she took Shahadah on the phone. Now, she has a faith different from her family, but she hopes that when she stays with her family again, she can show them her faith by her good manners and one day, they will understand why she accepted Islam. She is concerned about her family’s faith but now in her eyes the life of the hereafter is much more important.

Yet another sister Aleena, is also a Filipino. Her earlier name was Eleanor. She came to Islam in 2010 through a friend. Earlier she stayed in Jizan till the year 2008 and worked as a nurse in the King Fahd Hospital. Her colleagues used to give her books on Islam but she used to keep them on one side and go off to sleep. She did not have any interest whatsoever in knowing about Islam. In fact she did not even like the way Muslims prayed, especially the position of Sujood made her laugh. She used to joke and say that if Allah tells her to come to Islam she will accept Islam. Her past life was completely different from what she is now as a good Muslim. She was a disco goer and used to wear miniskirts and shorts as dresses.  But gradually she realized that Islam is the true religion. Soon she was ready to take shahadah. This was the most unexpected thing in her life. Those who knew her from her past were surprised and shocked to see the change in her. She now wears hijab contrary to her improper way of dressing before Islam. She was invited by the Islamic Centre at Balad where she accepted Islam. The best thing she finds about Islam is the way of prayer! This is a drastic change of heart as she disliked this very aspect of Islam! This can be possible only by the will of Allah.

She regrets why she did not come to Islam earlier so she could call her parents to Islam. Her family is still not Muslim but they show her respect when she visits them and avoid cooking the haram food that she does not eat. Her sister is still a nun. She is very happy with her religion Islam and is greatly thankful to Allah that He opened her eyes to the Truth.

The takeaway lesson from her story is that we all regret something from our pasts but this is in fact a blessing in disguise. This regret actually leads to repentance and amendment of our situation at present.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Musk Seller: A good friend, a great teacher.

Narrated Abu Musa:
Allah's Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, 
"The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof." 
Sahih Bukhari 2101 
Beautiful relationships and friendships always fascinate me. I cherish and value good friends. The best of friendships are formed based on mutual trust and understanding. The best of friendships emerge from the best form of love, the Love of Allah. Friends who are together for the sake of Allah and His Book are the best of friends. This kind of friendship does not involve any other motive apart from loving each other just for the sake of Allah. Such friendships are not only long lasting rather they are everlasting. This is so because good friends remind you of Allah and keep you in constant remembrance of Him. They become the reason for you being on the Path of Truth. The fragrance of a good friend lasts forever. She might part with you due to some reason in this world but she leaves a pleasant aroma in your thoughts and in your heart whenever you think of her and remember her ways, her words and her actions. 

This world is a place of separation. No one lives with his or her loved ones forever. Due to some reason or the other we part with each other. One might part with a good friend physically but the spiritual bond with her lasts forever, Allah willing. 

Friendships and relationships especially between students and teachers are very powerful. You might remember your first grade teacher till date just because of her polite way of dealing with you. You might remember a class mate just because of one sentence that she said to you that had an everlasting impact on your life, in a positive way. 

Today, in my institution a very dear teacher, Teacher Asima,  gave us a farewell talk. She has been in Saudi Arabia for almost 30 years and now she is parting with us. She teaches the correct way of learning the Quran called Tajweed. She shares a beautiful friendship with another teacher from our institution. They have been together for many years running this institute, teaching the Quran and other subjects to thousands of ladies here in Saudi Arabia. Her talk was very very positive, motivating and inspiring. I thought of composing this post so that all the readers should take the gems and benefit from her talk. 

First of all what affected me the most was her positive approach on this change of phase in her life. She praised Allah the almighty saying that she is thankful to Him for everything in her life. She took this change in her life in a very cheerful manner and said that we should accept changes in our life saying that they are the Will of Allah. We should not complain over things that happen in life. She also emphasized on the fact that nothing is going to stay forever. This shifting from one place to another is just one reminder that one day we are going to part with this world as well. The preparation that she was doing for this journey from one country to another also involved the management of the material things that she has in her house. She told us that while disposing and managing her material possessions she thinks about the real things that we need while departing to the Next world. We should not collect too many useless material things that would later become a burden to those we leave behind. To the students of the institute she said very encouraging words. 

🌹She told us to give ourselves the value as we are the students of the Quran, the Book of Allah. It is no ordinary thing so we should learn to value ourselves. 

🌹The path of knowledge is the path to Jannah (Paradise).

🌹She advised us to give the Quran its rights:

🌹Read it daily

🌹Ponder on its signs

🌹Try to find something for yourself from the ayahs (the verses)

🌹Try to figure out what you learn from that particular verse, and now that you have learnt it how you need to react in different situations in life.

🌹Try to give the rights of the Quran

🌹Always be thankful that Allah has given you the chance to stay in this country where you had the chance to learn the Quran, the correct aqeedah. 

🌹Keep praying that Allah does not waste your capabilities wherever you go. Whether you stay here or go to your home country you should be thankful to Allah in all circumstances. 

🌹When you go back to your home country the people there will notice your manners in the light of the fact that you have come after learning the Quran. Therefore, it should be seen in your character and in your manners.

🌹We intended to pursue the knowledge for changing our life for good. Real knowledge is that which shows in your actions. 

Very beautifully she mentioned that 
🌹the Knowledge of the Quran is a light that will not let you stumble in life. Keep this light with you always. Never let this light go away from you. 

🌹This Book, Al Quran is a very noble and blessed book. When you will spread it, it will show you its fruits and its blessings in your life. When you will pay attention you will find that Allah will make way for you and make things easy for you just because of the blessing of this Book. 

🌹She also advised us not to become those who cry and complain. We should be strong and determined. We have a lot of potential to achieve many things. We can do a lot of things in life. 

🌹As the students of Quran we must learn to become the people of understanding (ulul albaab) 

🌹This world is indeed a place of parting. We should focus on what we are collecting as our luggage for the Hereafter and what we are leaving behind.

🌹There is no need to feel sad and remain sad, rather we should see how fruitful our stay in this world can be for us and others around us. 

🌹The reason we come to learn the Quran is to bring the teachings of the Quran into our lives.

It was a very emotional as well as spiritually refreshing talk.
I pray that Allah Almighty make her journey a blessed one and she brings goodness wherever she stays. 

💓Teachers are always very inspiring and encouraging to their students. We are blessed to have such amazing teachers in our life.

May Allah bless all the teachers! 💓

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Chained in freedom

People have always talked about freedom. There is an overall and broad perspective about freedom and then there are individuals who give their personal definitions about it. Let us see the dictionary definition of freedom:

 Definition of freedom (Merriam Webster)
1: the quality or state of being free: such as a: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another: independence c: the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous freedom from care d: unrestricted use gave him the freedom of their home e: ease, facility spoke the language with freedom f: the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken answered with freedom g: improper familiarity h: boldness of conception or execution.

This basically defines freedom as independence and liberation from any kind of outside constraints and the total absence of any restraint at the personal level.

Therefore, according to this definition a person is considered free when he or she is able to do or say (express) just about anything without any external or internal force prohibiting it.

When we speak of freedom to do or say anything we do not disregard the same right that others have. Therefore this freedom is not actually freedom when we still have to think of its repercussions on the individuals and the society that we coexist with. It is actually something that the people and groups have used as a handle to misuse their right to expression and action. If we think over it a little we can easily understand that no individual can claim to have the complete freedom from his surroundings which include humans, nature, animals and objects. He can never be free from dependency on all of them at various levels. So talking of freedom to express oneself is undesirable when one disregards the rights of others while practising it.
Freedom is just one façade. People hide behind it just to practice their whims and fancies and those who become slaves of their desires and uncontrolled thoughts. Actually those who say that they are liberated, free and independent are actually chained to their desires that have no direction and they function at the animal level.

What do they want freedom from? Where can they go when they are so-called free? They are actually chained in freedom. They wander with this chain and do not find any direction.

The real freedom is the freedom to choose. The freedom is to choose right from wrong, good from evil and lawful from unlawful. This is freedom. The real freedom is to have the choice to seek the Truth. When we believe in something we are free to live with it. There are numerous religions and ideologies in the world and each has its own values and beliefs. No one can be forced to believe in any religion or ideology but when one is convinced of his belief and the Truth he is free to practise it and to enlighten others about it.
According to the verse 256 in Chapter 2 of the Noble Quran:
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
Let us see what some famous personalities have said about real freedom:  
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
― Nelson Mandela
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
“True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline.”
― Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
Freedom of Thought and Religion are Paramount
The Quran provides an environment where people can fully enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of religion and allows people to live by the faith and values they believe in. According to Islam, everyone has the right to live freely by his beliefs, whatever they may be. Anyone who wants to support a church, a synagogue or a mosque must be free to do so. In this sense, freedom of religion, or freedom of belief, is one of the basic tenets of Islam. There is always freedom of religion wherever the moral values of the Qur’an prevail.
That is why Muslims also treat Jews and Christians, described in the Qur’an as “the People of the Book,” with great justice, love and compassion. God says in the Qur’an:
“God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just.” (Surat al-Mumtahana, 8)

So, basically freedom is not the license to do whatever you wish rather it is the choice of matters that you make about yourself keeping in mind the rights of others.

People think that they should be set free to do whatever they desire. This is not how it works. You are not living alone on this planet. You have to have the sensitivity for others. Moreover, what makes one think that he should be free to do anything when he did not have the freedom to choose when and where he will be born. He does not have the freedom to choose the date and day of leaving this earth. How can he suppose that he can live the period between his birth and death howsoever he fancies? The One who sent him to this earth and will take him back has all the right to dictate his life but despite that He says that there is no compulsion! You have been shown both the ways; the right course and the wrong one. Now the freedom of choice is yours. Choose your course. You are free but still chained in that freedom.

According to one hadith, this world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the non believer. This is so because a believer knows that like in a prison one has to behave in a particular way, there is discipline, there are time limits, rules and laws to be followed, particular dress code and many such regulations; he has to do that in this world. You are free but inside certain laws of Allah. You do not have to cross those boundary walls. But the non believer does not believe in such set limits. He wanders wherever he wishes and feels like. No codes and no regulations. Life for him is to enjoy to the maximum because he is unaware of the promises of the Paradise that the believer gets due to his obedience to Allah. A believer puts aside all his whims and fancies for his later life when he will get whatever he wishes for.

The freedom that one enjoys here is limited but the freedom that one will enjoy in Paradise is never-ending and unlimited and even unimaginable!

Protect your Hijab

Yes you wear the hijab to protect yourself but how can you protect the hijab! The Hijab is worn as a sign of obedience to Allah. It protects you by giving you dignity and grace, it protects you by helping you maintain your modesty, it covers you and shields you, it hides your beauty from unwanted and undesirable glances. It also protects your hair, skin, body shape and clothes from unwanted exposure and harm.

Hijab does its job well if it is practised in the correct manner. It does protect us but do we protect our hijab as it should be protected? How can we protect our hijab?
The hijab is not a piece of cloth. It is your demeanour. It is your garment. It is your attitude. Even if you are taking hijab for ages you still need to review and revise the basic commandments on hijab that are mentioned in the Quran. If you are in doubt over the translations then try your best to find the literal meaning that those Arabic lines carry. Once you understand and feel the essence of the commandments on hijab you will get more serious on practising hijab the right way. Some of us think that hijab is just a small piece of cloth that is wrapped around our head and that’s it! No. Hijab is your overall garment and it is basically meant to cover you up. You have to cover yourself up from head to toe (some scholars exclude the hands up to the wrists and face) and the women who are convinced that a woman’s face is the most beautiful part of her personality they cover their faces very nicely and that is commendable.
There may be levels of taqwa and understanding of those commandments that lead to a woman’s doing the hijab the way she does. But there are some very basic things that cannot be excluded from hijab if you are really practising it. They are as follows:
·       to reduce [some] of their vision
·       guard their private parts
·       not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof
·       to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment
·       not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment
·       bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments.
Basically hijab entails that a Muslim woman should not display her beauty in public. She should cover and conceal it and display it only in the privacy of her home in front of the Mahram members of her family.
People have very courageously taken this topic of hijab to debates and arguments but a believing woman, who knows that Allah commands His servants what is best for them in this world and the Hereafter, has no qualms in accepting it as her way of life.
Nobody can deny the fact that today’s so called advanced world has become more and more unsafe for not just women but children and babies as well as young boys. This is due to the shamelessness that is prevalent in the society today.
Before commanding the Muslim women to observe hijab Allah commands the Muslim men to lower their gaze and to protect themselves from falling into immoral acts. This present day insecurity is due to the fact that neither the men nor the women are practising hijab the way it should be practised. Everybody is out there displaying their beauty, advertising their desires and inviting trouble.
Abu Mas’ud Uqbah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, among the words people obtained from the prophets are this: If you feel no shame, then do as you wish.”
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3296
Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Bukhari
Ibn Rajab said, “The scholars interpret this saying in two ways. First, that it is a command of caution and warning, meaning if there is no shame then do as you wish, for Allah will repay you accordingly. Second, that it is a command of description, meaning that whoever does not have shame will do as he wishes, for it is shame that prevents evil deeds.”
Source: Jāmi’ al-Ulūm wal-Ḥikam 20
Lastly, do not consider someone who presents the Truth as your enemy as he or she is your most considerate friend. Warning and giving glad tidings was the duty of our Messengers in Islam and we as Muslims must carry out this duty for our brothers and sisters in Islam as well as for all the Children of Adam alayhissalaam.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Spiritually yours...(An interactive session with my Quran Teacher 2018-Jeddah)

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.
Allah has promised the believing men and believing women gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence; but approval from Allah is greater. It is that which is the great attainment.
Surah At Tawbah 71-72

By the grace of Almighty Allah, once again the students, staff and their guests had a chance of having an interactive session with Ustazah Dr Farhat Hashmi. The programme started with a beautiful recitation of Aayaat from Surah At Tawbah by Abla Tahreem, in which Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala mentions the qualities of the believers and He promises to reward such believers with the great rewards of His Pleasure and eternal happiness in Paradise.

Ustazah started her talk by mentioning the importance of Iman and how it affects and changes the hearts of the believers. She said that when Iman reaches the heart it makes it sensitive to things other than the immediate and worldly things. The condition of the heart changes considerably. She gave the example of the rising of the sun after a long dark night. How the light of the sun brightens up everything and one can see things clearly in broad daylight. The same things that seem doubtful in the dark of the night (like a rope can be mistaken for a snake) now are cystal clear and one can easily differentiate between the harmful and beneficial things. Similarly when Iman lights up the heart the person is able to differentiate clearly between what is right and what is wrong, what is bad and what is good.  In the light of Iman we can see the reality of things, the real colour of every matter. Therefore, basically Iman is likened to a light that shines the heart and it puts light on the truth of matters.

The sign of Iman is that one is able to make a difference between good and evil. This is a very strong feeling. One is now well aware and hence sensitive to carry out his or her duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil around him/her.
When someone takes the step to stop evil with his hand it is the highest form of Iman. The stage lower to this is when someone is verbally telling others to stop the evil. And the lowest form of Iman is when one is only thinking of something as bad and not capable of doing or saying anything to stop it.

When the light of Iman enters the heart it turns ones vision to a vision of wisdom (al baseerah) and it no longer remains just the physiological vision. It is an awakened heart now. The heart has started seeing things in depth, in their real form. 

Now this enlightened heart is no longer impressed by the glitter and glamour of this fleeting world. It is now more and more concerned about the place of return, the Hereafter.

Usually what happens is that people are afraid to do this duty of commanding good and forbidding evil due to the fact that their loved ones will get angry or will dislike them.
This is absolutely normal that one is careful about not making those whom he loves angry. What about Allah? Should one not be more careful in keeping Allah happy and gaining His Pleasure? This is exactly what Allah is telling in these aayaat from Surah At Tawbah that the Pleasure and Approval of Allah is the greatest achievement for the believers. We are afraid of people. We should be more careful about Pleasing Allah.

A conflict arises here that when one goes to Please Allah the people get angry. A believer decides whose happiness and pleasure is to be given the priority.

All of us must have experienced this situation that when any of our friend or relative gets angry our heart can feel a burden. Nothing seems delightful. Like when a husband is angry with his wife she is not able to feel happiness in anything. This is the test of Iman in life.

 A weak Iman takes you to please and seek the attention of the people around you but a stronger Iman lets you do things that Please Allah. When one is busy in gaining praise, attention and pleasure of the people the sweetness of Iman becomes less.

Each passing day is making our life shorter. The day of meeting Allah is coming nearer.
Those who are helping others for the sake of Allah are the really fortunate ones. We have to take care of the rights of Allah as well as the rights of the people around us. This is the best way to have a balanced life in Islam. This beautiful balance will come only with an increased Iman.

What kind of Iman do we have? Are we really the believers? The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to fear hypocrisy and always strove toward pleasing Allah and making their Iman stronger.

And of the people are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," but they are not believers. Surah Al Baqarah ayat 8

Is our belief and good deeds worth the appreciation in the sight of Allah? True believers keep striving to do good and to be amongst the Muhsineen, those who do good at the level of excellence.

The aayaat  from Surah At Tawbah that were recited in the beginning highlight the characteristics of the believers:

1    1. The believing men and believing women are allies of one another.

We must analyse ourselves if we really are the allies of each other as believers. There should be no group formations and segregation when this alliance is meant. Every believer should have love and care for the other believer regardless of his or her background etc.

2.       They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong

This mutual and heartfelt love for the believers leads to the characteristic of commanding good and forbidding of evil. This comes as sheer concern for the believing brothers and sisters. How concerned are we for our children, for our friends and relatives and what kind of connection do we have with them as believers marks our initiative to command them toward goodness and warn them against the evil. This is purely to help them build their Aakhirah. What is a friend who does not feel concerned about your falling into sin and destruction?
3.       They establish prayer
4.       give zakah and
5.       obey Allah and His Messenger.

At this point Ustazah mentioned about her son in law’s meeting with Sheikh Saad bin Nasser Al Shathri, who delivers the sermon at the time of Hajj. The points worth learning from this meeting are as follows:

  1.       It is desirable to drink Zam Zam while being in Haram as this sacred water and sacred place have special significance and also because dua is answered when we drink zamzam and make dua.
  2.      The best dua one should always make is to be able to have the honour of seeing Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala.
  3.       The greatest thing is to gain the pleasure of Allah.
  4.       Markets are the worst of places on the face of earth so one should avoid them as much as possible.
  5.       The sheikh told that he gives charity after every salah.
  6.       He does not keep social media apps on his phone because these waste a lot of time.
  This sheds some light and insight into the life of those who have knowledge. They have a lifestyle which is based on knowledge and wisdom and the understanding of deen that is bestowed upon them by Allah due to their increased Iman and taqwa. True aalim is the one who applies the ilm that he gains. He teaches by the way he walks and by the way he spends his life.

With the Iman in one’s heart the believer becomes a well wisher for all the believers.
At this point we are reminded that we must apply that which we learn.

Such believers who are allies of each other, commanding good, forbidding evil, establishing prayers, giving zakat and obeying Allah and His Messenger peace be upon him, those - Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. Allah will surely show mercy to them.  They will attain that both in the world and in the Hereafter.

Allah has promised the believing men and believing women:
  •     gardens beneath which rivers flow,
  •     wherein they abide eternally, and
  •     pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence; but
  •     approval from Allah is greater. It is that which the great attainment.

When it is promised by Allah it will surely happen. The need is to know what makes it possible to attain the approval of Allah and His Pleasure.

The consciousness about Allah is what is called Taqwa. A muttaqi is the one who safeguards himself from all those things that might earn him the anger of Allah.

During this talk ustazah gave a tip to engage children with us in reading the Quran. We should ask them to read out themselves and then ask them what they understood from that aayah. Also it is better to fix a little time to read and understand together in the family.

My friend named Lubna asked a question regarding the issue of teaching the elders about Islam and its commandments. Ustazah told that it depends on your relationship with them. It is better to first do the surahs like Al Hujurat and Al Mulk, which have direct commands on social etiquette and things to avoid like backbiting, slandering etc. This will be a good way to get the message across without personally saying anything.  

The words of the Quran surely touch the hearts. Also, those who know are not the same as those who do not know. It is therefore always better to keep seeking knowledge and sharing it with others.  We must keep the journey of seeking knowledge ongoing till our last breathe.

Who are the Muttaqeen and the Muhsineen? Those who apply taqwa in their practical life and keep doing good are the ones who are muttaqeen and muhsineen.

How does one come to know if he or she has taqwa?
Taqwa is an inner state. It lies in the heart. We can find out if we have taqwa or not by observing our dealings outside the house with others and our behaviour inside our houses. When we go outside and deal with people we would fear harming them or violating their rights. When in our house we will be careful about our tongues and our thoughts. Tears flow from the eyes when the hearts become soft due to taqwa and ihsan. One tends to take each step carefully. The dealing actual is with Allah. We are taking care not to do or say anything that might earn the displeasure of Allah.

If we want to find out what the condition of our heart is we should pay attention to the self talk that we might do if something bad happens to us or when someone offends us. It will showcase the amount of Iman and Taqwa that resides in our hearts. We will not let evil thoughts dwell in our hearts for even a few minutes. We would not like to entertain negative feelings about anyone in our hearts. This is what is called taqwa, because evil thoughts and negativity burdens the hearts and self analysis paves way for the true success that is self actualization.

During this talk some sisters from the audience shared their experiences and concerns about their children in teenage. Their experiences were very inspiring for the others. One of the ladies told how she changed her attitude with her son and stopped scolding or nagging him and eventually he himself started sharing his feelings with her and changed himself for the better. Another one told about how the gentle reminder from a mother and the beautiful words of Allah brought significant changes in her son.

Ustazah pointed out that the teenage children should not be scolded rather they should be dealt with firmness and wisdom. If we will scold them at this point of their life they might become repulsive and go far from us. The reason is that this stage of life is very trying for them due to the various changes that they encounter. They are overly sensitive in this age.  From us what they need the most is love. We should never become hopeless  if we are not seeing the change that we want in them. In sha Allah we will see them change for good soon as whatever we teach them and show them from our own examples will affect their hearts and mind. The key is to work with them with the help of the words of Allah; the Quran.  

We should be really patient and show perseverance and tolerance when it comes to dealing with our children, especially the teenagers. The key point is to change our own attitude if we want to see a positive change in them.

A teenager herself shared how giving sadaqah every time she goes through a tough time dealing with her worries helps her calm down.
Some sisters shared their experiences with their younger children as to how they have developed a strong connection with the Quran, the prayers and other pillars of Islam.
A sister named Noorjahan shared how she strove to get her in-laws into listening to the tafseer of Al Quran and how she noticed changes in some of her relatives when they showed interest in learning the Quran like her.

Alhamdulillah the session was very informative and it included many questions and answers from the Guest section as well.

Hope you all enjoyed reading about this amazing session with our Quran teacher (Ustazah; may Allah accept all her efforts in His way, I pray for her aafiyah. aameen).

The Return Journey

Yesterday I was invited at a friend’s place to a dars (a talk that involves remembering Allah and giving good advice to the audience). H...