Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Vacant Post...Friend In Need...

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” ― William Shakespeare

A sister came to see me the other day, she was visibly upset. She told me that she had decided to change for the better and be a better Muslim. She changed her appearance and has been trying to live her live in accordance to Quran and Sunnah. She told me that she is happier and calmer but, she lost her friends, even those who were closest to her. She told me that she feels kinda lonely.

My heart immediately went out to her. The thing is, I know exactly how she feels and I understand her predicament because I had been there. It is never easy to lose friends; not when you were small nor when you are almost 40!  My mind started scrambling. I raked my brains and thought, what would the Wise Owl say, in times like this..hhhmm…So I asked her, “sister, did you say anything to them that might hurt their feelings?”, to which she answered, ‘no’. “Did you do anything that might have offended them?’ Again, she answered ‘no, they stayed away from me the moment I started my transformation’.

 I took a deep breathe and said to her, “ sister, if you did not hurt your friends or did something to offend them, then it could be that your friends did not leave you. It could be that God have decided to take them away from you and will replace them with someone better. In Shaa Allah. So, do not be disheartened because God will never forsake you or leave you in a lurch. He will give you better friends, who will join you on your journey to get closer to Him. It is always easier to come closer to God when you have friends, who supports you and encourage you. Just be happy and have faith because things will get better, In Shaa Allah ”

“Friends on that day will be foes, one to another,- except the Righteous.”
Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:67

Rasoolillah(SAW) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows.. So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reportedly asked: “Which of our companions are best?” He replied: “One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.”

The Wise Owl always tells me, “sister, we must always think well of God Almighty and His Divine Decree. We must also believe with all our heart that God always gives what is best for us, though we may not see it or understand it at that time.”

I never really understood the full meaning of what the Wise Owl had told me then until a couple years ago. As I neared the big ‘40’, I have made tremendous changes in my life plus lost quite a few friends because of my transformation. Being human, at first I did feel hurt and slighted but then, God had shown me where their lives were heading, I then realised that it was not a path that I would take. I would be miserable if I had gone the same way that they did as it was not good for me. It was then when I fully understood.

Since then, I have made news friends and met new people with view, similar to mine. I don’t feel hurt anymore but just sad that we parted ways because of religion but choosing God over friends is such an obvious choice! Even our beloved Prophet SAW reminds us of the importance of good company. True friends are those who reminds us of God Almighty when we are in their company. If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I truly believe that God has given me the best.

 "Our Lord! grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire.".

I’m not saying that you should ditch your friends just because they don’t share the same view or wavelength with you when it comes to Islam, because sometime, your friends might change because of you.  You might be the contributing factor to affect the transformation in your friends. What I’m saying is, if your friends leave you, then don’t be sad because there is always a silver lining behind every dark cloud. Nothing happens coincidently but everything happens for a reason. We just need to be patient and the reason will be shown to us. Friends to laugh with are so easy to find,  but, friends who loves you for the sake of Allah, is a gem. Friends who love each other for the sake of Allah SWT, will given shade on the day of Judgment.

Abû Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah will ask on the Day of Judgment: ‘Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My glory? Today, - on a day when there is no shade but mine – I shall shade them with My shade.” [Sahîh Muslim (2566)]

So what happened to the sister? Well, after our pep talk, she left my office with renewed passion and hope. She was not upset anymore and I sincerely pray that God bestows upon her wonderful friends whom she will love and they, in turn, love her for the sake of Allah SWT and that, they will given His Shade, Ameen……

Friday, 19 April 2013

Lessons about Pain..

“Behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.”― Bob Dylan

A week ago, a dear friend of mine called me, after a long period of silence. We were catching up current news when she asked me if I was expecting. I told her that I was but I lost the baby a couple weeks ago. After filling her in with the details, she then said to me, “I envy you sister”. I was taken aback with her statement so I asked her why. She answered, “No doubt you had suffered such physical pain but God had chosen you, to have the opportunity to wash away your sins. Your pain was blessing in disguise. You are so very lucky!”.

SubhanAllah! A couple weeks ago, when I was in agony, I did not perceive my situation as lucky, . It was not that I thought I was without sin but honestly, I just felt that I was given a test by God and I had to patiently go through it without complaining.

The Wise Old Man had told me, once a long time ago, that people who are inflicted with disease and pain are actually the lucky chosen few. At first I thought the Old Wise man had bumped his head and was suffering from temporary insanity but he went on to explain his statement and it was then, that I understood. He said that their pain and suffering will erase their sins. Some of them are even luckier because they were given advance notice as to when they were to meet their Maker. They are the chosen ones because God had given them the chance to set their matters in order and to rectify their wrongdoings before dying and, in all probability, they had died free of any sins.

Abu Hurairah also reports that Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, said: "For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a Muslim -even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn - Allah removes some of his sins." Ibn Mas'ud said: "I visited the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, while he had a fever. I exclaimed: 'O Messenger of Allah! You have a high fever! ' He said: 'My fever is as much as two among you [might have]. ' I asked: 'Is it because you have a double reward?' He replied: 'Yes, that is right. No Muslim is afflicted with any hurt, even if it is no more than the pricking of a thorn, but Allah wipes off his sins because of it and his sins fall away from him as leaves fall from a tree'." Hadith Bukhari, Muslim

I must say that I am always amazed, as to how, God Al Mighty works in mysterious ways. He had sent my dear friend to me, to remind me of the lesson that I had learned a long time ago but had forgotten. He had also reminded me that He has not forgotten me. 

Sometimes, when we are so caught up with life, we tend turn a blind eye to the beauty of things. Not everything that is dark is bad and not everything that is shiny is good. Blessing comes in disguises.

Another thing is, the beauty about having righteous friends is that, when all you see is dark clouds, they will point out the silver linings to you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reportedly asked: “Which of our companions are best?” He replied: “One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.” Hadith

When I remembered what the Wise Old Man had told me eons ago, I then asked myself if I would like to be amongst those who were given advance notice. Hhhmmm... food for thought!.  One thing I know for sure, I still have a lot to atone for before I am being recalled and I am praying hard that I have enough time to do so…..Ameen.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A Crow, A Wild Beast or A Camel?

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

Believe it or not, one of the most difficult things to do is to pray. It does not matter what religion a person profess to be but praying is something not everyone has the will-power or discipline to do, especially everyday.

When I was younger, praying was such a chore that I would skip it most of the time. At that time, I didn’t know the true meaning of prayer or its value. I thought it was just a ritual I had to do because I am a born Muslim.

Even when I do perform my prayers, it will as fast as the speed of lighting! Even superheroes would be thoroughly impressed by my speed.  Truth is, I just wanted to get it over and done with.

A couple years ago, I came across these following hadith.

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.” The people asked, O Messenger of Allaah, how can a person steal from his prayer?” He said: By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.”
(Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 5/310)

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man’s prayer is not good enough until his back is straight in rukoo’ and sujood.” (Reported by Abu Dawud, 1/533; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7224).

“Narated By AbdurRahman ibn Shibl : The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) prohibited to peck like a crow, and to spread (the forearms) like a wild beast, and to fix a place in the mosque like a camel which fixes its place.”
Hadith Abu Dawood Book 002, hadith No.0861

O.M.G.!!! I was guilty of stealing from prayers. I wonder if I plead ignorance, God would let me off the hook? Eerrr…I think..NOT!!!!.

The Wise Owl once told me that, prayer or salat, is like a private conversation between the Creator and His creation. A private meeting, between the Master and His servants. For some people, the meeting is all seriousness or sombre and for some, it is like a lover tryst, full of meaningful whispering and exchange. There are also some, where the meeting is most dreaded and often skipped.

“Abu Musa reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who loves to meet Allah, Allah too loves to meet him, and he who dislikes to meet Allah, Allah abhors to meet him.”
Sahih Muslim

When we perform sujud, that is when we are closest to Allah SWT.

"The closest any worshipper can be to his Lord is while he is in prostration, so increase your duas in it." [Muslim]

For some people, (whom I very much envy !), prayer is extremely special in that it is an intimate conversation between them and God Almighty. When they are praying, everything else becomes unimportant. They are lost in their own world where nothing exists except God and them. When they are not praying, they feel an acute longing towards God and they look forward to be able to perform their salat again. Their feelings are reciprocated in that, each time after they complete their prayers, they feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Their inner happiness is reflected in the radiance of their faces. 

Why do I envy them? Well because they have managed to attain ‘khusyu’ or ultimate concentration in their prayer. Whenever I pray, my mind will be wondering off somewhere and at times it had made me lose track of my prayers.

I realize that I am being rude to my Creator. It is like someone talking to you but you are not paying attention to this person. I get offended when it happens to me so I shouldn’t be doing it to my Creator. It takes discipline to attain ‘khusyu’ and I know why I am lacking. You see, when someone is talking to me, the person is right in front of me so I can see and hear him or her clearly and it makes it easy for me to have a focus point.

When I am praying, I can’t physically see or hear God, hence I don’t have a focus point.  I know that we see and hear God with our heart. We feel Him, that is why my task now is to avert my focus point from my eyes to my heart. I need to sharpen my ‘God consciousness’. Just because I can’t see Him, it does not mean that He doesn’t see me. God Al Mighty is ever so merciful and will always forgive His errant servants but it does not me that I should take advantage of it.

The beauty of salat is that it is not difficult to perform. We just need to observe the basic acts or ‘rukun’ that validates the prayer. We don’t even need to recite all the verses in the Quran. If surah Al-Fatiha is the only verse we know, then so be it!  Our prayer is still valid and In Shaa Allah, accepted.

Hhhhmmm…. if we only need to perform the basic acts, to validate our prayer, then why do we need to perform other acts which are sunnah, in our prayers?  I gleefully posed this very question to the Wise Owl. 

This is what he explained to me, “ Sister, a salat that just fulfills the basic tenets is like a skeletal house with a roof. Whilst you can live in it, it may not be very comfortable or luxurious.”

So basically, what the Wise Owl is saying is that the ‘rukun’ are the main ingredients and the sunnah are the accessories. Ok, consider this, if we are meeting with someone extremely important and influential, would we go garb in our normal plain clothes or do we adorn ourselves with our best clothes and accessories, so that we appear pleasing and more attractive to the person whom we are meeting? Do we also go bearing gifts to capture the heart of that important person?

Similarly with salat. If we merely perform our prayers with just observing the basic steps, it is still acceptable but if we add in the accessories i.e. sunnah acts, then, we will be pleasing God Al Mighty. A prayers packed with sunnah acts will appear majestic in the eyes of our Creator, In Shaa Allah.

I need to pull my own ears and really listen to the Wise Owl. Sometimes, whatever knowledge that he shares with me seems to enter through my right ear and exit to my left! Lucky for me, the Wise Owl never gets tired of sharing. Still, I shouldn’t make excuses for my own weaknesses. I must work hard to turn my own ‘meeting’ into a lover tryst. It won’t be easy but try I must!.........

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Frog and its Coconut Shell....

One of my greatest flaw, I have to admit is, the lack of people skills. You see, I have this tendency to speak my mind and sometimes, it may not be well received though well intended. I always feel the need to correct a wrong for fear of abetting a sin by keeping silence. There is a saying; enjoining good and forbidding evil. But I have learned that not everyone wants to hear the absolute truth. Some people prefer the sugar-coated version of facts and some prefer to be in denial.

So, what do I do? I stopped talking..ha ha ha..yeah right! As if that would happen! No, seriously....I just talk less. The Wise Owl keep telling me that, talking less is good. If one needs to speak, then, only say nice things. If one does not have anything nice to say, then one should keep one’s mouth tightly shut! Ouch!

 On the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his neighbour. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his [travelling] visitor.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So, I decided to rise to the challenge...ayayayayaya...the agony of not commenting on everything was, at first, excruciatingly painful; considering that, I always have a comment on EVERYTHING!  It was not easy. It took almost all of my will power and strength to keep my chatty mouth SHUT. BUT, determined I was. Hence, most of the time, to avoid, accidental blurting, I would crawl into my coconut shell whenever I was sad, angry, stress or just wanted take a breather. It is easy to lash out to somebody when one is provoked and often, one will feel remorse over things, that has been said unintentionally or on the spur of the moment .Once the words are spoken, you cannot retrieve it back and no matter how much you apologise, the damage would have been done and probably cannot be undone.

The term 'a frog under a coconut shell' is used to describe a person who is completely cut off from the world and who is oblivious to his or her surroundings. So, in the beginning, I had to crawl under my coconut shell quite often. When I am in my shell, I am the happiest froggy on earth and no amount of pleading or coaxing or sweet-talking or even threats could lure me out until I am well and ready to leave. I find that being in my shell allows me to see things from a different perspective. A friend of mine had once suggested that maybe I should ditch my shell and perhaps, that, would improvise my people's skills. Errr….I don’t think so!!!! Maybe I am permanently impaired.

Everybody has their own little shell or world that they run to so that they can completely immerse in and lose themselves. Some shell works to the betterment of a person and some shell would only make the person a recluse and anti- social. Mine? Well...for now my shell is my comfort zone, my little haven where I can let my guard down and be me. A place where, I can find peace and tranquillity. My shell is actually a protection for the general public. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to see me angry. The good news is that I don’t turn green but the bad news  is that, I don’t shout but I roar and I don’t fume but I breathe fire! So, trust me when I say it is safer for the general public, for me to be in my coconut shell when I’m angry, to avoid any bloodshed.

Sometimes, when things get a little bit too much, you just have to take several steps back and see things through a different eye. When you are calm, you can even see the things that you had missed out earlier. When you take a step back, not only you can hold your anger in check and not be a tool of satan, but you might also find that the person is not worth your time or your tears. So, forget about him or her and move on.

We only have one chance in this life, so don't waste it on trivial people and matters. Some things are just out of our control so we must learn to accept and live by it. We must try to get things right at first instance as we will not have a second chance to re- do things. If we unintentionally made a mistake, apologise and try to rectify any errors. If others made a mistake, forgive and move on. It does not matter if the person does not apologise, just forgive and forget. Do not carry any unpleasant memories with you as it will make you depress and unhappy. Keep the good memories and throw the bad ones, as the bad ones will anchor you down and make you slow and sluggish.  Pondering on the past will not change it but it can harbour hate in your heart. Free your heart and your soul will be purified, and then, you will be a much better person.

 So, the million dollar question is, do I want to give up my coconut shell??? Naaayyyyy....I think I'll hang on to it ....if any of you want any advice on how to build one or get one...give me a holler….