Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wisdom from Reflections......

“Wisdom comes from reflection.” ― Deborah Day,

The other day, the Wise Owl was telling me about the different spiritual tier of a person in Islam. The first tier is Muslim. Technically, a person who has recited shahadah is a Muslim but the true definition of a Muslim goes deeper than that. It also means total submission to the Will of God.

If a person is a Muslim, and he or she works hard to increase his or her spiritual standing with God, then the person becomes a ‘Mukmin’. Mukmin basically means God fearing or devout. The thing is, all Mukmin are Muslims but not all Muslims are Mukmin.

The third tier is “Muttaqin”, which is the highest degree or status in the eye of God Al Mighty. A Muttaqin person completely abstains from committing any sin or committing shirk. This person dedicates his or her entire life for God Almighty. Their level of piousness is extremely high.

The question is how do we know which tier do we fall under? The answer is…we don’t!. Well… we can declare ourselves as Muslims, but are we truly Muslims? 

How can we be sure that we are not habitual or part-timers? Habitual Muslims are those who perform certain acts of worship out of habit because he or she was trained since small. They may not understand as to why they are performing these acts but neither are they bothered to find out or know.

Part-timers are probably the worst. They understand the religion but they pick and choose the period that they wish to be Muslims. When they don’t feel like it, they will find justification for not following the Commandments of God. The thing is, being a Muslim is not just an oral declaration of faith, but it also a reflection in our conduct.

A person can’t declare himself or herself a Mukmin or a Muttaqin because only God is qualified to judge the level of piousness and faith in a person. There is not special exam that one can take and be given a grade and a certificate with the word “Mukmin” or “Muttaqin” endorsed on it, if we pass with flying colors. We need to self reflect to ensure that we DO NOT fall outside the definition of a Muslim.

This Ramadhan, so far, has been very different for me. Somehow, God Almighty has arranged for ‘lessons’ for me to reflect and learn from it. Some are sweet but some are quite painful.

The Wise Owl said to me, “sister, we always need to stop and do a post-mortem on everything. Always remember that everything happens for a reason. Nothing is co-incidence.” I must admit that sometimes I can be quite thick in the head or daft because it will take me forever to figure things out. Sometimes, the understanding of the lesson comes swiftly that it is like a slap on the face…ouchhh!!!

Anyway, when hubby suggested we break our fast at the mosque on weekdays, I agreed. The diva in me still whines silently because I have no clue what the menu at the mosque will be.  I’m a fussy eater but I found out the true meaning of rizki and barakah. You are truly, a thankful and a grateful servant of God when you accept wholeheartedly and willingly, whatever rizki and food that God is giving for you, at that moment, without any expectation or preference.

            Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah () never found fault with food. If he had inclination to eating it, he would eat; and if he disliked it, he would leave it.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

I ate whatever that was served without any complaint and enjoyed every morsel of it. I was just thankful that I had proper food for iftar instead of having to search for some. The food that was served was in fact, a Mercy from Allah SWT as it was very tasty, delicious and abundance.

I learned to eat just enough to appease my hunger without overdosing. In the past, I would eat to my heart’s content and lie down like a beached whale, too full and sleepy to even move and pray! Looking back, I cringed at myself over my own gluttony….Astagfirullah…..

Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying: “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” [Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa'I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]

When I mentioned earlier about ‘lessons’ learnt, I now truly understand that Ramadhan is not just about physical fasting. It is also the fasting of the soul, the lips, the eyes, the ears, mind and the heart. Fasting is akin to starving our desire so that it remain slim and undemanding. Fasting can cleanse or purify our heart but on the condition that we plug our ears and eyes and mouth to prevent any impurities or "dirty’ elements to enter our heart. Otherwise, the cleaning process would be futile. It would be like continuously pouring contaminated water into a pail of clean water, hence the water will never be clear or clean. When we stop pouring dirty water into the pail, only then can we clean and replace it with new and clean water. Then after, we need to protect the pail filled with clean water, from being contaminated again by covering it.

Similarly with our hearts. To truly clean it, we need to stop the impurities from entering it. Once that is done, cleanse it with fasting.

The Prophet SAW said, “Everything has a cleansing agent. And fasting is the cleansing agent for the body. Fasting is more a matter of patience than of anything else.
            Hadith Ibn Majah

Futhermore, we must advantage of this blessed month because satan is chained up during Ramadhan hence, technically, less temptation and satanic whispering. the operative word here is 'technically'!

Abu Hurairah, (may Allah be pleased with him) quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: “When the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of the Hellfire are closed, and the devils are chained.” (Reported by al-Bukhari)

I asked the Wise Owl, “If satan is chained during Ramadhan, then why do people still sin?” To which the Wise Owl replied, “sister, that is because that person is satan himself! Those people refused to cease committing sins and prefer to give in to their desires, for so long that satan is no longer needed to tempt them. In fact, as far as satan is concerned, their job is done!. They are on satanic auto-pilot. Their souls have turned evil.”  oooooooooo……I could feel my ears turning red! Thank God for my hijab, otherwise, the Wise Owl could see the tell-tale signs…eerrrrmmmm…..I wouldn’t say that I have been a complete saint this Ramadhan for I have committed a sin or two BUT, I’m not satan. I’m not! I’m not! I’m not!

So, the moral of my story is, take this time to reflect on ourselves. Take this opportunity also to cleanse your heart and soul when satan is away on detention program. Seize the opportunity to do good as the doors of Jannah is wide open and the doors of Hell is closed shut. Every good deed will triple, if not quadruple in rewards, during Ramadhan, In Sha Allah……..Oh!  One more thing….seek for the night of Laylat Al Qadr……

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Conquering the Diva.....

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have been called  a ‘diva’ numerous times by friends and families. Reluctantly, I have to admit that I am guilty as charged. I am a self confessed ‘diva’. I am so used to the luxury of life that I am quite reluctant to step out of my comfort zone.

I don’t do outdoors because I do not like to get dirty or dusty. When my kids suggested we go camping, I almost went into cardiac arrest. I do not enter a toilet or restroom until I am satisfied that it is squeaky clean. I wilt under the sun and would normally run to an area that is air-conditioned. I simply cannot survive without air-con. To me, everything must be hygienic. Even when our cats steps outside, when they enter the house, I would immediately wash their paws and if need be, give them a bath!

For that reason, I have never had ‘iftar’, in unfamiliar places or even the masjid. I prefer to be in the comfort of my own home or my mum’s, plus, I am a picky eater. I am quite fussy when it comes to food.

This year, however, I decided that I needed to conquer my ‘diva-ness’. It took a trip to a refugee centre in the city, that made me realised that I needed to step out of my comfort zone to appreciate the blessings and barakah that I have been given by God Almighty. I heard real life accounts from the refugees about their plight. They left their homeland with just the clothes on their backs and have been surviving on scraps and handouts since they arrived. Most of them have families to feed. SubhanAllah! …

So, yesterday, after performing terawih prayers at the masjid, I told my husband that I wanted to have iftar at the masjid. My husband looked at me incredulously and asked, “For real? Seriously?”. I said yes, he looked sceptical but said okay….

Of course, the girls were non too thrilled to hear about my plan and started whining. Gosh..! They are beginning to sound like me! So, I told them to give it a try plus the ‘cook’ is taking a day off. If they wanted to have iftar at home, they will just have to eat biscuits!Hhhmmm... That effectively put an end to the protest….

So today, we went to the masjid about half an hour before maghrib. I honestly did not know what to expect. Some of my friends, who had experienced breaking fast at the mosques had told me to expect some pushing and jostling especially when the food is being served. Hhhmmmm…..that doesn’t sound very encouraging….anyway, I have set my mind so off we went. 

Much to my surprise, everything was done in an orderly manner. (remind me to strangle my friends!). There was only dates and a sweet savoury, which I have no clue what it was, that was served to break our fast. I have to say, it was one of the simplest fare that I have ever eaten but it was the best. The simplicity of it made it absolutely delicious..

O ye who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him ye worship.”
Surah Al-Baqara 2:172

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food), and a kafir (unbeliever) or a hypocrite eats in seven intestines (eats too much)."
Sahih Bukhari book 65#306 

After breaking our fast, we prayed maghrib and then went again down to have our dinner. When we came down, there was already a queue but nobody was pushing. Everyone waited for their turn. We joined in the queue and took our food. The food was fantastic. It was not gourmet but it tasted sooo good. Even the girls were enjoying their food.

I suppose that when one does not have expectations, then, whatever good thing that comes your way would be a bonus. I went to the mosque with an open mind and devoid of any expectations and what I received, was indeed a feast.

It goes to show that it is not the food or people or place that makes you feel utterly satisfied and your meal enjoyable but, it is your intention. If your intention is to be grateful for whatever rizqi that God Al Mighty has given you, then the simplest fare will be a mighty feast. The baraqah of sharing food in the mosque with fellow Muslims brothers and sisters also adds to the equation of a satisfying meal. 

Amongst those who broke fast with us were the foreign workers and some not so well-to-do families. Looking at them, I realised that I have been selfish all these while. I have taken for granted the finer things in life whereas these people may not have proper meals three times a day. I am indeed blessed….Alhamdulillah..

Ramadhan is such a blessed month and we should take the opportunity to share food with others.

The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person."
(Hadith - al-Tirmidhi)

I came home from the mosque feeling elated and happy. I have conquered the ‘diva’ in me and came out unscathed. Even hubby was amazed. Tomorrow, we shall have our iftar at the mosque again InsyaAllah. …So, am I willing to give up air-conditioning now? …Hold on……let’s take one thing at a time, ok? No need to rush into things. …

Ramadhan Mubarak my brothers and sisters and may you have a blessed one……..

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lessons on Humility and Humbleness.....

“A great man is always willing to be little.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The saying “Never judge a person until you have walked in mile in her shoes”, is so very true. Often, we tend to take things that we don’t do or deal with, for granted. For example, if we wanted chicken, we would just go to the market or supermarket to buy one. We never give any thought to the process or the labor involved in getting the chicken wrapped in plastic, to the market. We never wondered what it is like to be in the chicken farmer’s shoes…

I grew up in a working class family. My mom was a teacher and my dad worked in a office. Other than the usual house-hold chores that my sisters and I were ‘forced’ to do, I have never done any outdoor physical work when I was younger, oh wait! I watered the plants but I charged my dad for it! Hahaha…so I guess that don’t count. When I grew up, I worked in a comfortable air-conditioned office. So, I have to say that I have never really had to physically ‘work to my bones' for a living.

Last weekend, my friend and I decided to volunteer, to become traders for the day. We were supposed to be selling goods for a charitable organisation. There was a conference being held at one of the Convention centre and the organisers were letting out booths for rental. We thought that it was a good opportunity to sell our goods as well as to promote the organisation that we are representing. Mind you, neither of us have any experience doing this!. I did a brief stint last year but it was very brief and I did not do any lifting or carrying of merchandise.

So, after securing the booth, we went about setting up our allocated booth the day before the event. We literally packed everything, drove to the unloading bay (gosh!!! I have been to the unloading bay before and it is HUGE!!!!), and attempted to unload our goods on the trolley. Being clueless, I couldn’t figure out how to straighten the handle on the trolley. I yanked and pulled but to no avail until a kind-hearted soul, who saw me struggling and took pity upon me, came over and unlatched the handle for me.  OOOOO….so that’s how it’s done. I needed to step on the latch to released the lock…..*mode* Sheepish …

After we unloaded the stuff, we pushed the trolley into the building to our booth. We had to make several trips as there was quite a lot of stuff. We arranged the items, covered the entrance to the booth with a cloth and went home. There were also other vendors who were setting also but they seemed like they have been doing it for ages because unlike us, they were very systematic.

The next day, we arrived at the booth very early because we wanted to catch the crowd before they went in for the conference. Let me tell you something. I am not a sale person. I can’t even pitch a sale even if my life depends on it. Some people are born with sale charms that they can lure and convince people to buy whatever they are selling. Well…..that’s not me! I am actually quite shy….but then again, I thought, since this is for a good cause, I must put aside my shyness and sell..sell..sell..

Then, a thought occurred to me. It is shyness that prevented me from trying to promote and sell all the merchandise ? or it is my ego, because deep down inside I feel that this job is beneath me. I was professionally trained and I was used to people coming to me for my expertise. Being a vendor means that I have to convince people that my product is good and persuade them to buy. I need to go to people instead of people coming to me. A completely new experience for me... Hhmmm….come to think of it, it could be my ego or riya’ that is holding me back. O.M.G!!!!! Now I get it why the Old wise Man made me stand and distribute free booklets for this charity organisation last time. He mentioned that it was good training for my soul but at that time, I thought he just wanted to torture and bully me for asking too much questions and driving him mental! The Wise Old man was right. The act of asking something from another person, even if it's just attention, does make you humble, especially if you want the person to react kindly  and listen to you.

Ok back to my story. There I stood, stiff like a totem pole, inside the booth, hoping and praying that people would just saunter in my booth and purchase everything. My friend looked at me and said to me; “ you can stand there until the cows come home, those abayas will not promote itself. Get out there and start promoting!”. My dearest friend, sister S, was literally standing outside our booth calling out to people to come and visit our booth ! Now, this friend of mine is no sale person either. In fact, her day job is quite the opposite of sales. Sister S is a highly qualified member of the medical field. She is a professor, surgeon and a specialist but the way she was promoting our items, would bring shame to any fish mongers.

Looking at her, I said to myself, if she can do it, for the sake of God, then why can’t I? so, I gathered my wits, quashed my ego and walked out to join sister S.

The day went smoothly and Alhamdulillah our sales were very good. We actually had fun doing it. I now appreciate what hard work is. When you want to convince people, the first thing you need to do is to push aside your ego and replace it with humility. People, even myself, respond better to humbleness than arrogance. I also learnt that honesty is the key to success. If you are honest about your products then you will have returning customers and a honest vendor will reap tremendous rewards.

            Abū Sa'īd reported,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allāh be on him, said”
"The truthful, honest merchant is with the prophets and the truthful ones and the martyrs." Hadith Tirmidhi

Our beloved Prophet SAW was a trader himself and people bought from him because he was known for his honesty.

I now have renewed respect for these vendors who do this day in day out for a living. It is not easy to be on your feet the whole day and it is very tiring but the returns can be very fulfilling.

Miqdām reported, The Messenger of Allāh, peace and blessings of Allāh be on him, said:
"No one eats better food than that which he eats out of the work of his hand."
Hadith Bukhari

We stayed till night time and then our hubbies came to our rescue. They helped us packed and loaded the stuff into the car. Sister S and I looked like we were ready to drop. We bade our farewells to the other vendors and wished them well. That night, I slept like a log and now....... I can finally say that I have ‘worked to my bones’……….Will I do it again? You betcha!!!!