Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why patience?

The Arabic word Sabr صبر implies many shades of meaning, which it is impossible to comprehend in one English word. It implies 
1) patience in the sense of being thorough, not hasty;
2) patient perseverance, constancy, steadfastness, firmness of purpose; 
3) sytematic as opposed to spasmodic or chance action; 
4) a cheerful attitude of resignation and understanding in sorrow, defeat, or suffering, as opposed to murmuring or rebellion, but saved from mere passivity or listlessness, by the element of constancy or steadfastness.  (2:45 Commentary)

An additional meaning implied in sabr is self-restraint. Haqqani defines in his tafseer as following Reason and restraining Fear, Anger and Desire. What can be a higher reward for patience, perseverance, self-restraint and constancy than that Allah should be with us? For this promise opens the door to every kind of spiritual well-being. 

...Patient perseverance is ...active striving in the way of Truth, which is the way of Allah. 

The Holy Qurán; meanings and commentary (IFTA)

Allah tells us in the 186th sign of the Chapter 'Family of Imran' that we shall certainly be tried and tested in our possessions and in ourselves. We shall certainly hear much that will grieve us from the People of the Book and the disbelievers. He further tells us that if we patiently persevere and guard ourselves against evil then it is from a matter of great resolution. 

If we take a look at life in general we see so many things taking place all the time. Some phases of life pass by smoothly and we literally do not face any problem whatsover, like the phase of childhood for many. But even this phase is not all the same for everyone. For some even the innocent phase of childhood is not comfortable in every respect. 
Later, other phases come in our life and we move on with growth, changes, challenges, ups and downs and loss and sorrow as well. If we analyse we can clearly see life as something that is not static for long...it keeps changing its shades and keeps giving us the taste of happiness and sorrow in big or small ways.

Nothing much is in the hands of man except the attitude he keeps during these phases of trials and tests in life. If he chooses to complain all the time he will only harm himself and in turn those surrounding him. If he chooses to take what is happening as a test and trial then he will choose to react wisely and avoid things that would harm his peace of mind. 

One must understand that we can take action and change only that which we are in control of. No one is aware of the wisdom behind all the happenings in life except the One Who has given us this life, God Almighty. 

Patience does not mean becoming passive and not showing any response, rather it means reacting and responding in the best manner which will not turn that calamity or trouble into a more serious one and we end up doing more damage than it initially brought. 

Why patience and what actually will be called patience?

The answer to the first question can be as simple as 'why not' and 'what else if not patience.' If we give it a thought we will realize that being patient most of the times is the only wise solution to all the problems we face. 
Suppose we take the simple example of children pestering you while you do some important task. What will you do if you choose not to be patient? You will end up shouting at the kids or beating them up or you will get overwhelmed and spoil the task you were doing. There can be many other ways to react without being patient and most of these will involve some unhealthy reaction at your part or will be harmful for the children. In this same situation if you react with patience you can firmly and politely tell them about the nature of your work and you would also provide them with something that will occupy them for a while as you work. There are many such situations occuring daily in our lives that demand our patience and self restraint.

This was a minor example. Suppose something really serious happens and it topples the whole scenario for someone. What is going to be his or her reaction? Obviously, most of us would get extremely shocked, hurt, sorrowful and also depressed. 
The answer to the second part: 'Patience is often defined as your first reaction to the calamity'. 

We as Muslims have been taught the ideal behaviour in all kinds of situations. There is a supplication for each situation and for such disastrous situations too we have been told to recite prayers.
Allah Almighty also teaches us in various parts of the Quran to be patient and that He is with those who show patience. 

O ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that ye may prosper. 
3:200 Quran 

There are numerous signs in the Quran that advise us to show patience, self restraint and restraint. The rewards of being patient are mentioned where Allah tells us that He is with those who are patient and He extends help to those who act patiently.

Patience is shown not just in calamities, disastrous situations or troubles but it is also a very important requirement for good realationships and harmony in the family and the society as a whole.
The topic of patience is very extensive and it will stretch too long if every aspect is taken into consideration.  With a beautiful prayer from the Quran where the believers ask Allah to pour patience on them I will end this here: 

"Our Lord, pour upon us patience and plant firmly our feet...
2:250 Quran 

Monday, August 1, 2016

"...to Him belong the best names."

Say, "Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful. Whichever [name] you call - to Him belong the best names." And do not recite [too] loudly in your prayer or [too] quietly but seek between that an [intermediate] way. 
17-110 Quran

Childhood, teenage years or youth are the most active days of learning for most of us. What we learn during these years is often remembered the whole life through. I remember that during these very years I happened to come across an attractive poster of the Beautiful Names and Attributes of Allah hung on the wall of our hallway. Walking past it, I used to stop and try to recite those names in Arabic. I knew very little Arabic back then so I struggled a bit and tried to pronounce each name and challenged myself to read the whole list till the end. 

There are many names and attributes of Allah, the one and only God which we worship as Muslims in Islam. Some of His Names and Attributes are mentioned in the Quran at various places and other names can be found in the sayings of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him. 

It will not be correct to say that Allah has only a limited and countable names or attributes as He is All-Encompassing and All-Powerful. 
As the servants of Allah have only limited knowledge of His Names and Attributes and in the light of the sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him, these names have been collected and listed for the convenience. 

It is highly recommended to invoke Allah through these names and to learn them by heart to have the knowledge of the Creator, Allah and all His Attributes. This is done in order to know our Creator well so that we develop His consciousness, fear, hope and have firm faith in Him. 

And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them. And leave [the company of] those who practice deviation concerning His names. They will be recompensed for what they have been doing.

Suppose we are greatly overwhelmed by the burden of our difficulties and want to invoke Allah for help. We can call upon Him by His Beautiful Names like 
An Naseer (The Helper), Al Wakil (The Trustee), Al Mujeeb (The answerer of prayers) etc. 
I knew about one saying of the Prophet peace be upon him, which stated that if one learns the names of Allah, he or she would enter Paradise! 

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Allah has ninety-nine names, i.e. one-hundred minus one, and whoever knows them will go to Paradise
Sahih al-Bukhari 2736

I was very fascinated by this Hadith but I wondered how come just memorising them would lead one to Jannah or Paradise?!

One day, as usual when I was standing and reciting those names in Arabic, my father saw me. He encouraged me to learn the names by heart by taking 10 each day. At first I was apprehensive as to whether I would be able to memorise all the names but slowly I started taking down 10 names each week on a small notepad and trying to learn them by heart. 

By the Grace of Ar Rehman, I was able to learn the whole list (99 names) in just a few months (approx. 3-4 months). 
But the thing is, I came to realize why learning and keeping the names to your memory was given so much importance! Why Allah mentioned invoking Him through these names and attributes? 
I came to understand that merely memorizing was not what was expected rather the effect of those names was left on my heart forever. 
I could feel the Mercy in the Name Ar Rahman,
I could feel the love in the Name Al Wudud, 
I could realize what intensity Al Qahhaar had 
and all the Names and Attributes were really a beautiful collection of Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Power etc. 
To this day, even after so many years, I feel as if I have a treasure in my heart, safe by His Will and Mercy, to which I can turn to whenever I feel burdened by sorrow or difficulties. 
He always listens as He is As Samee, 
He always answers as He is Al Mujeeb.
We just need to call Him and invoke Him by His beautiful Names and attributes and feel His Mercy. 
Dear readers, Muslim or not, try to read the meanings of these names and see what qualities the Creator has. Let us try to know our Creator better and learn to love Him more by knowing about Him. 

Below is the link where you can find the English Meanings of the Names of Allah:


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...