Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Say a Prayer....

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently. This person asked me why Muslims pray in a certain way, i.e. our movements in prayer.

I remember asking this very same question to the Wise Old Man many years ago and his answer blew me away but I wasn't sure if this person is willing to accept the same explanation.

Since this person works in journalism, I decided to try to explain in a way that perhaps she can relate to:-

Whenever we want to see a King, there are certain protocols that we need to adhere to which includes the way we walk, the way we speak and even the way we sit. Each bow and salute has its own purpose and meaning. Each king has his own ways and protocol. Whether we like it or not, it's something that we just need to follow if we want to speak or see the king. The King sets his rule and we follow it with respect.

To me, similarly with prayer.

"Narrated Abu Dhar:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "While I was at Mecca the roof of my house was opened and Gabriel descended, opened my chest, and washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden tray full of wisdom and faith and having poured its contents into my chest, he closed it. Then he took my hand and ascended with me to the nearest heaven, when I reached the nearest heaven, Gabriel said to the gatekeeper of the heaven, 'Open (the gate).' The gatekeeper asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel answered: 'Gabriel.' He asked, 'Is there anyone with you?' Gabriel replied, 'Yes, Muhammad I is with me.' He asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel said, 'Yes.' So the gate was opened and we went over the nearest heaven and there we saw a man sitting with some people on his right and some on his left. When he looked towards his right, he laughed and when he looked toward his left he wept. Then he said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.' I asked Gabriel, 'Who is he?' He replied, 'He is Adam and the people on his right and left are the souls of his offspring. Those on his right are the people of Paradise and those on his left are the people of Hell and when he looks towards his right he laughs and when he looks towards his left he weeps.' Then he ascended with me till he reached the second heaven and he (Gabriel) said to its gatekeeper, 'Open (the gate).' The gatekeeper said to him the same as the gatekeeper of the first heaven had said and he opened the gate. Anas said: "Abu Dhar added that the Prophet (ﷺ) met Adam, Idris, Moses, Jesus and Abraham, he (Abu Dhar) did not mention on which heaven they were but he mentioned that he (the Prophet (ﷺ) ) met Adam on the nearest heaven and Abraham on the sixth heaven. Anas said, "When Gabriel along with the Prophet (ﷺ) passed by Idris, the latter said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious brother.' The Prophet (ﷺ) asked, 'Who is he?' Gabriel replied, 'He is Idris." The Prophet (ﷺ) added, "I passed by Moses and he said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious brother.' I asked Gabriel, 'Who is he?' Gabriel replied, 'He is Moses.' Then I passed by Jesus and he said, 'Welcome! O pious brother and pious Prophet.' I asked, 'Who is he?' Gabriel replied, 'He is Jesus. Then I passed by Abraham and he said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.' I asked Gabriel, 'Who is he?' Gabriel replied, 'He is Abraham. The Prophet (ﷺ) added, 'Then Gabriel ascended with me to a place where I heard the creaking of the pens." Ibn Hazm and Anas bin Malik said: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Then Allah enjoined fifty prayers on my followers when I returned with this order of Allah, I passed by Moses who asked me, 'What has Allah enjoined on your followers?' I replied, 'He has enjoined fifty prayers on them.' Moses said, 'Go back to your Lord (and appeal for reduction) for your followers will not be able to bear it.' (So I went back to Allah and requested for reduction) and He reduced it to half. When I passed by Moses again and informed him about it, he said, 'Go back to your Lord as your followers will not be able to bear it.' So I returned to Allah and requested for further reduction and half of it was reduced. I again passed by Moses and he said to me: 'Return to your Lord, for your followers will not be able to bear it. So I returned to Allah and He said, 'These are five prayers and they are all (equal to) fifty (in reward) for My Word does not change.' I returned to Moses and he told me to go back once again. I replied, 'Now I feel shy of asking my Lord again.' Then Gabriel took me till we '' reached Sidrat-il-Muntaha (Lote tree of; the utmost boundary) which was shrouded in colors, indescribable. Then I was admitted into Paradise where I found small (tents or) walls (made) of pearls and its earth was of musk."
Sahih Bukhari

Prayer was made compulsory on us on the day of isra' mikraj. The movements in prayer was taught by our beloved teacher, Prophet Muhammad pbuh.

Narrated Malik:

We came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and stayed with him for twenty days and nights. We were all young and of about the same age. The Prophet (ﷺ) was very kind and merciful. When he realized our longing for our families, he asked about our homes and the people there and we told him. Then he asked us to go back to our families and stay with them and teach them (the religion) and to order them to do good things. He also mentioned some other things which I have (remembered) The Prophet (ﷺ) then added, "Pray as you have seen me praying and when it is the time for the prayer one of you should pronounce the Adhan and the oldest of you should lead the prayer.
Sahih Bukhari

The way I understand it, God has decreed that if I want to talk to Him specifically in prayers, then I have to perform certain movements as taught by our beloved Prophet pbuh. That's the protocol. At any other times, I can still talk to Him through my dua.

But prayer is not just a means of communication between us and Allah SWT but it's also a way to show our love and gratitude for the blessings that He has given us. Each of the movements in our prayer has its own meaning and purpose.

When we love someone, we would bend over backwards trying to please them so if we have fallen in love with Allah SWT, prayer will not be something we do because we are forced to by commandment but rather something we love to do in order to please Him. It doesn't become a task but a pleasure.

The Wise Owl once told me that if a person has fallen in love with his/ her Creator, all acts of worship will be easy to perform as it's done out of love. It will come naturally.

Also, when we do sujod, that is when we are closest to God. 

" Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “A slave becomes nearest to his Rubb when he is in prostration. So increase supplications while prostrating.” [Muslim]

So, my advice is, check how you approach your prayer. Is it with love and devotion or as a reluctant servant?

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Tonne of Sins

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

A funny thing happened to me one day.

I have this love-hate relationship with the digital weighing scale in my office. On days I see a nice number displayed, I would love the scale to bits but on days I see a not so nice number displayed, I vow never to set foot on it ever again. It's a vicious cycle that continues till today.

Anyway, that day, I stepped on the scale right before I took wudhu for my zuhr prayers. Needless to say, I was quite upset with the number displayed. Feeling disgruntled, I went to take my wudhu and promptly performed my prayers.

After I finished my prayers, I stepped on the scale again. This time, I was 2 kg lighter. Eh! How is that possible?  I stepped on the scale for the 2nd time and again, it showed that I was 2 kg lighter than before.

Being someone with a vivid imagination, the first thing that came to mind was, "boy! I sure did had a lot of sins! All 2 kg of them".

Alas, as much as I want to believe my prayer removed 2 kg of my sins,  I know it's impossible. We can't physically weigh our sins. Explanation ; the scale must be spoilt.

But, what if we could physically weigh our sins and rewards? Wouldn't that be awesome?  We can have a proper check and balance of our lives.

"And if Allah were to impose blame on the people for their wrongdoing, He would not have left upon the earth any creature, but He defers them for a specified term. And when their term has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it]."

Quran 16:61

If we had that then chances are that we will be too complacent. We will take things for granted and would not be scrambling for rewards. If we can weigh our sins, there might be a possibility that we'll perform good deeds just enough to balance or slighty outweigh our sins. Once we reached our 'quota', we'll stop. Then, the act of performing good deeds will become just a means to an end and no longer because of the sincerity of our hearts.

Anyhow, despite us not being able to keep track of our sins and rewards, God Almighty still tells how we can erase our sins.

"Uthman reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, say, “No Muslim attends a prescribed prayer and performs its ablution, reverence, and bowing in the best manner, except that it will be an expiation for his previous sins as long as he did not commit a major sin, and this applies for all time.”
Hadith Muslim

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever declares there is no god but Allah, one without partner, unto him is the sovereignty and praise and he is powerful over everything one hundred times a day, then he will have the reward of emancipating ten slaves, a hundred good deeds will be recorded for him, a hundred sins will be erased from his record, and he will be guarded from the devil during the day until evening. No one will exceed him except one who recited these words more often.”
Hadith Bukhari & Muslim

Moral of the story is, do not believe everything that the weighing scale tells you and even though we can't see our sins,  we must strive hard to collect rewards as if our sins are as high as Mount Everest.

“Conduct yourself in this world, as if you are here to stay forever; prepare for eternity as if you have to die tomorrow.” (Bukhari)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Never too old to learn

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

When I was small, my parents had arranged Quranic classes for my sisters and I. Me, being the most mischievous one of all, would always find ways to skip the classes or you'll find me snoring away.

Back then, I didn't understand the need to learn reciting the Quran in a correct manner. Now, after many years, I realized my folly.

As a result of not paying attention in class and not reciting the Quran at all during my younger days, I can't recite the Quran properly as I don't know the rules of tajweed. I can read the Quran in arabic but not recite it in the correct intonation and manner.

"Or add to it, and recite the Qur'an with measured recitation."
Quran 73:4

Someone once said to me that it's a sin to not recite Quran with the correct tajweed. Hmmmm..... then logically it's better for me not to recite the Quran at all, in order to avoid incurring any sins, right? It would have been the perfect excuse but, if I were to wait until I master the tajweed before reciting the Quran, then that might take forever.  Surely that can't be right. So I turned to the Wise Owl. He in turn, shared with me this hadith.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "The one who is proficient in the recitation of the Qur'an will be with the honourable and obedient scribes (angels) and he who recites the Qur'an and finds it difficult to recite, doing his best to recite it in the best way possible, will have a double reward."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

The Wise Owl advised me to keep on reciting the Quran on my own but at the same time, to try to learn the tajweed. Mmmmm.... a bit tricky. Learning is one thing but finding the right class is a different challenge altogether.

I didn't want to join a public class as I was ashamed of my inabilities. I didn't want others to hear how horrible I sounded. I didn't want sniggering from fellow students or the look of pity or worse, being judged for my lack of knowledge. Yes...I had my pride, wrong as it may be.

So for years I searched and prayed for a class that would be suitable for me.

"And your Lord says, "Call upon Me; I will respond to you." Quran 40:60

Then, Allah SWT literally sent a teacher to my doorsteps.  My sister and friend also joined the class. Since we were all on the same level, I could put aside my shame and pride and start learning.

The class is truly a blessing. Now in my 40s, I finally learnt tajweed and how to recite the Quran properly. I now appreciate the beauty of it.

I'm still far from perfect and I still have to work on my pronunciations but at least I'm making progress.

What I would like to say is don't be shy to learn things even if we are old. If there's a will there's a way. Don't despair or worry, just ask Allah SWT and He will answer. Kun faya kun.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The thing about mistakes

“We learn from failure, not from success!” ― Bram Stoker

Mistake has many meanings. It can mean blunder, error, oversight and slip-up. It can also be misconduct, error of judgment and screw-up.

Whatever the meaning is, one thing for certain is that, it was done unintentionally and maybe also, innocently.

Everyone makes mistakes. Some minor and some, grave ones. No one is perfect. I know I made tons of mistakes when I was younger and I still do make mistakes even now. Every time I think about the mistakes that I made, I would cringe but now I know that I was meant to make those mistakes. I learnt a whole  lot of things from my mistakes. In fact, my mistakes made me the person that I am now.

"and mankind was created weak."
Quran 4:28

Mistakes are part of learning process provided we pay attention to the lessons behind it. Mistakes are also success in the making.

"The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The one who repents from sin is like one who did not sin.”
Hadith Ibn Majah

The only problem is that sometimes people remember you by your mistakes and hold you to it. They could friends or even families. No matter how much you have repented or changed,  it would seem that you can never redeem yourself in their eyes. Even if you've become a role-model in the society and are in a better position to advice them, chances are, they would not listen because they hold your past wrongdoings against you.

I know it can be quite frustrating, not to mention disheartening when that happens. Don't despair. Make peace with yourself and move on. Perhaps, they are not ready to accept you and perhaps they may never be.  Their acceptance is not relevant but Allah's acceptance is. Just make dua for them and leave everything in His Hands.

" Say, "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful."
Quran 39:53

Also, sometimes, even though we have committed a particular mistake in the past, we may not able to stop or prevent others, especially our loved ones from committing the same mistake, as much as we want to. Perhaps like us, they are meant to make those mistakes so that they can learnt from it. It may be a bitter pill to swallow for them at first but they will remember well then after.

One more thing. Treat others as how we would like to be treated. As much as we dislike our past wrongdoings be thrown back in our faces, don't remind others of their past mistakes when they are trying very hard to change.

"O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent -  then it is those who are the wrongdoers."
Quran 49:11

Monday, 13 March 2017

Living up to Expectations

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” 
― Bruce Lee

A couple weeks ago, I felt somewhat stressed and to some extent, suffocated. I felt that I had a huge boulder on my shoulder, pushing me down. I felt like a failure because I felt that I wasn't doing as much as I ought to. I was really feeling out of sort. 

Then, I spoke to a dear friend. 

 I really do find it amazing how whenever I feel lost or out of sort, God always sends me someone to help me work out my kinks, to enable me see things clearly then after. We must always have faith that God will answer our dua every time we recite 'Guide me to the straight path' - Al-Fatihah 1:6. 

 Anyway, I was telling my friend about being frustrated in not be being able to do certain things and she said to me, "sister, we must live according to our expectations and not other people's". Her statement was like a bolt of lightning that went straight into my fuzzy brain and zapped my senses back to earth.

OMG!. It was then that I realised that I was working myself to the bone in order to live up to what people expects me to be. In other words, I lost myself and became miserable in the process. I also became very tired both physically and emotionally.

Each and every one of us have our own purpose in life. We each have our own strength and weaknesses. We have our own goals and aims. We even succeed and fail differently. That is how unique God had created each of us. When I got swept away by world, I forgot that I'm suppose to celebrate being different, being ME. I can never be like anyone else and chances are, I can never live up to other people's expectations of how or what I should be. I should only be myself.

After talking to my friend, I feel somewhat liberated from the invisible shackles that were dragging me down. I crawled back into my coconut shell (haven't done that in a while) to think and started remembering my own purpose and goals. I recounted the original reasons as to why I do the things that I do. I started doing what I do for God and me and I want it to continue that way till my last breathe.

I also looked at my own family. As a wife and mother, I have responsibilities towards my husband and children. They are my amanah and they are my Jannah. 

So, here's my advice. Work and strive on your own expectations. Forget about what others expects of you as you may never be able to fulfill them. Doing your best should be enough for you. Know your own limitations and work around your own schedule and not others. It's okay to fail sometimes as failure is success in the making. Make yourself and the people who matters to you, happy. If others are unhappy with you, then it's their problem and not yours. Take your time and savor your moment. Don't let anyone rush you. Dictate your time. Accept the obstacles encountered along the way as stepping stones to excellence. Making a positive progress is better than completing the task miserably.

Life is short. Hold on to your dreams and don't let anyone tell you that achieving it is not possible. Always be thankful to Allah SWT for all the blessings that He has bestowed upon you. What others think of you is irrelevant but what Allah SWT thinks of you, is utmost important.

"But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not."
Quran 2:216 

Last but not least, NEVER stop making dua to Allah SWT

"Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him"
 Quran 27:62 

"Al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer (RA) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say on the minbar: “Dua is worship.” Then he recited the verse (interpretation of the meaning): “And your Lord said: Invoke Me [i.e. believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism) and ask Me for anything] I will respond to your (invocation)…”
Hadith Tirmidhi

Monday, 6 March 2017

A Balanced life

“When the actions of others no longer matter, then you will have succeeded within your own mind.”
Jo De Raman

The other day, I listened to  a dear friend of mine talked about having a balanced life. For me, the topic is so close to my heart as I used to constantly struggle to strike a balance between being a servant of God, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a working person and a friend.

There were times when I felt that I was stretched so thin that I was near breaking point. I felt I was pulled into so many directions that I was losing focus and getting overwhelmed. People's expectations of what and how I should be, proved too much for me to shoulder. It's not easy to strike a balance in ones life, unless you know how and what to prioritize.

One thing that I learnt over the years, is that 'balance' does not mean equal. 

The very first things that you need to ask yourself is 'who do you want to be?'. For me, at that time, more than anything, I wanted to be a good Muslim (still do). I felt that needed to make up for loss times during my ignorant days and that was one of the root of my problem. The thing is (now I know), it matters not how many acts of worships that one performs but it's the quality and sincerity of it that counts.

"Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”
Hadith Ibn Majah 

In trying to do too much, I felt disgruntled and resentment whenever my family or anyone else for that matter,  demanded my time. I felt spending time with them was time away from God. I also felt that they were in the way of me achieving Jannah. I was so wrong! It's actually quite the opposite.

At times, I forgot that Islam is not about rituals but it's a way of life. That means, everything that we do or say is related to God. 'Obedience' is not confined to performing ritual acts of worship or scrambling to do good deeds. 'Obedience' also extent to keeping relations, safeguarding 'amanah' or trust and fulfilling one's responsibilities.

"And they say, "We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination."
Quran 2:285

Each one of us have different ways of life. Each one of us have different needs. I learnt that a balanced life is where you have achieved peace and tranquillity in your life. You learn to accept your limitations and flaws and focus on your capabilities and strength. You may not be able to divide your time equally between all but you have managed to earn His Blessings in everything that you. 

A balanced life is what works for you to achieve that equilibrium between body, mind and soul and not what others think how your life should be. A balanced life is about managing your own expectations and not the expectations of others. What works for you and what makes you happy may not work on others. 

I remember the Wise Owl once said that our entire life can be an 'ibadah' and a huge blessing where we get rewards and baraqa for every single thing that we do. The secret is to do everything sincerely and only for sake of Allah SWT. Once we have managed to condition ourselves to that then somehow, we would achieve the balanced life that we seek. To quote what my dear friend said,  it's progress that we should seek for and not perfection.

It is narrated on the authority of Amir al-Mu'minin (Leader of the Believers), Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), say:

"Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for."

Hadith Bukhari & Muslim