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...