Saturday, 26 October 2013

Are We OK?

“A good accountant will always anticipate and provide for potential loss and never anticipate gain” – Basic Accounting Principles

Once upon a time ago, an acquaintance of mine said this to me. “I pray 5 times a day, most of the time, I fast every Ramadhan and I give money for charity. I am a good Muslim because I never disturb others. I believe what I’m doing is enough and I will be ok. There is no need to do anything extra”
What was my reaction to her statement? Well….believe it or not, I kept quiet. I didn’t offer any comment but instead I merely smiled at her. I knew at that time that any comment that I make will lead to an argument. I decided a long time ago, not to argue about religion with anyone. I was paid, as a lawyer, to argue my cases in court on behalf of my clients but when it comes to religion that is where I draw my line.
It was not because that I agreed with her statement, in fact, it is quite the opposite but I knew at that time, she wasn’t expecting a comment from me neither would she welcome it. She wasn’t asking a question either but she was merely stating her point.
Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever does not argue when he is in the wrong will have a home built for him on the edge of Paradise. Whoever avoids it when he in the right will have a home built for him in the middle of Paradise. And whoever improves his own character, a home will be built for him in the highest part of Paradise.” [Tirmidhi]
I am not the ‘religious police’. I can’t go round telling people what they are thinking or doing is wrong because I, myself, am not sure if whatever I am doing is right. If this acquaintance was to ask me a question, then it would be different story because I will be giving her my own personal opinion based on my limited understanding but I would still attach an exemption clause to my answer and would still tell her to refer the matter to an Islamic scholar.
Her statement got me wondering though. Have I ever thought consciously or sub-consciously, that whatever act of worship that I am performing is enough to earn me a ticket to Jannah? Have I ever been cocky enough to think my deeds are sufficient to shield me from the Fires of Hell? Have I ever been arrogantly enough to think that I am ‘safe’?
You see, each of us have our own book of ‘accounts’. Our books are called books of deeds and it is maintained by the two Angels that are appointed specifically to jot down ALL our deeds. Nothing is left out.
Unlike the normal books of accounts, where we can check the transactions every end of the month and make sure that it balances, our book of deeds are quite different. If there are any shortages in the normal book of accounts, then we easily can top-up the differences or add in to ensure that we have a positive balance. Unfortunately, our books of deeds are not visible to us. We can’t check to see if our deeds are balanced. We can’t ensure that there are no shortages whereby the bad deeds outweigh the good. The only time that we will be shown our books, is on Judgment Day. By that time, it will be too late to do any rectification work.
Just the other day, the Wise Owl brought up this topic. He said “Sister, we must never think that whatever we have done for Allah Al Mighty is enough. We must never be arrogant to think that we are okay and that we have secured a place in Jannah. By performing the basic acts of worship, we will be rewarded for it but that reward may not stay with us permanently. It might be given away later. If we have very little reward in our books, then, if it is given away, we will be left with nothing.”
What the Wise Owl was referring to about ‘rewards being away’ is related to this hadith.
“Whoever has wronged his brother, in the way of property or honor, let him go to him and repair it, before it is taken [from him on a day] when he has no dirhams or dinars, such that if he has any good deeds, some of the good deeds will be taken and given to [the wronged one], otherwise [if he has no good deeds], some of the other's evil deeds will be taken and cast upon him." [Bukhari, Al-Mazalim, 5/121, #2449. Ahmad, Al-Musnad, 2/435]

The thing is we sometimes don’t realize that we have committed wrong. As human we will definitely make a mistake or commit a sin. The only person who was free of sins was our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW.
 You see, a piece of juicy gossip can easily be disguised as a piece of important news so when we utter it or hear it, it does not cross our mind as it being sinful. We may have, unintentionally taken something belonging to others. For example, some brothers have told me that if they lose their shoes or slippers during Jumaah prayers, either they will walk home bare footed or take the other slippers that they can find. Now, the latter is actually stealing because they have taken something that did not belong to them.
We sometimes take lightly the smaller sins that we commit on a daily basis, thinking that it is ‘small’. We take for granted that we only need to ask for forgiveness and all our small sins will be forgiven. After all, Allah SWT is very Merciful but, we fail to realize that small sins can accumulate to become a mountainous of sins. Sins against another person will not be forgiven by God but it must be forgiven by the person whom we have wronged. If we did not manage to seek for forgiveness, thenthat is when our rewards will be given to them on Judgment Day. The Wise Owl said that if we are not careful, we might end up ‘bankrupt’ on Judgment Day and to make matter worse, if we do not have any more rewards to give away, the bad deeds of the person whom we have wronged, will be added to our own list of bad deeds. Imagine going to Hell for other someone else’s sins!

The moral of the story is, we must never take for granted that we have done enough acts of worship or good deeds. We must never be arrogant to believe that we will be given a place in Jannah. Strive hard to increase our ibadah and good deeds because we must take into account the good deeds that we may have to give away later. Never be too sure that our bad deeds are less than our good deeds. Never think that we are safe from the Fires of Hell. It is not for us to declare ourselves as good Muslims because only God Al Mighty is qualified to do that. …….

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Mind Your Language......

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

When my sisters and I were small, our parents enrolled us into normal government school. The main language that was spoken in school was Bahasa Melayu hence my sisters and I conversed most in Malay. Our English was so atrocious, that my dad would cringe every time he heard us speak. So, my dad decided that things must change for the better.
            My dad made us, my sisters and I, speak English whenever he was home. It doesn’t matter if we spoke broken English, as long as we tried and practised. So, in the beginning, he would hear things like , “Abah, Abu (my dad’s pet mynah bird) jump jump his food upside down” or “eh you don’t play play with me!” or “Abah, mak are call you eat dinner now”. I’m not joking, that was how bad we were but never once did he mocked or laughed at us, instead he kept encouraging us on. Of course, every time he corrected us, we would be giggling like silly girls. Then my dad decided to take one step further in insisting that even our friends, who by came to the house, must speak English also. Now, that ignited another giggling spasm!.If we wanted something, we needed to ask for it in English. Failure to do, our request will be ignored or even denied. So, our friends were also forced to practise talking in English. We actually had fun laughing at each other.
            My dad also made us read English books. He had already instilled the reading habit in us by exposing us to Malay books at a very early age. He made sure that we finished one English book a week so that we are familiar the language.
            When our English got better, my sisters and I started to even speak English in school. Of course, we got taunted by a few ‘sour grapes’ students, saying that we were trying to show off or that we were forgetting our ‘Malay’ roots, but that did not deter us or the friends, whom we had roped into our little ‘project’, from continuing.
            Now, I can speak and write English very well and I have my dad to thank for it. I completely understand now, why my dad emphasised on mastering English because he knows the knowledge path would be unlimited. There are of course good books in Malay but you are limited to only the local writers, unless that is, you can find a translation of the English book. The books in English are in abundance hence imagine the things that you can learn…..
            When I started to re-learn about Islam, there were books that I read, written by foreign writers that gave me so much insight into the religion. Islam is not the religion of Malay or Arab but Islam is the religion of mankind. By being able to read books written by our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, from all over the world, you would be able to see Islam from through their eyes and appreciate the beauty of the religion through their perspective. Unfortunately, most of these books are written in English. That is why mastering English is very important, in my opinion.
            There is one other language which I would give anything to master and that it Arabic. I realise that I am at the losing end for not being able to understand the language of the Holy Quran. Sure, there are English translations such as Yusuf Ali or Pickthall or Muhammad Asad but translations would not be able to let you experience the real spirit of Quran.
            I remember in one of my Umra trips with one of my girlfriends, the realisation of my ignorance of the Arabic language really hit me hard. It was during one the maghrib prayers where the Imam started sobbing even when he started reciting Al Fatihah. His recitation was so beautiful and moving that we were sobbing with him. Of course, the fact that we understand the meaning of the Al Fatihah, made our sorrow genuine. But then, when the Imam continued with another verse, his crying got louder and harder so much so, he had to stop for a while because he was crying so hard. By this time, my friend and I were bawling like babies.
            After the prayer ended, my friend asked me why I was crying after Al Fatihah and I told her that I was crying because the Imam was crying but I didn’t understand a single word he was reciting! Then I asked my friend why was she crying, and she replied that she was crying because both the Imam and I were crying, but she too didn’t understand a word the Imam was reciting! Hahahaha! We were actually two fools crying for no reason! I am very sure that the Imam’s sorrow or grief was real but ours were not.
            That was when I realised that if I had learn Arabic, then I would have understood what the Imam was reciting and I would probably have cried even harder than him! Tsk!Tsk!Tsk!.
            The Wise Owl once told me, that for a person who understands the language of the Quran, to him or her, reciting the Quran, is like God is talking directly to them. They feel the spirit of the verses pierce directly into their hearts and it remains.
            Isn’t that wonderful? I want to be able to appreciate Quran in Arabic as how I have learnt to appreciate the classical language of Shakespear or even Jane Austin but at this moment, I just have to be contented with reading the translation.
            So, moral of the story is, try to learn Arabic. Don’t make excuses about not having time as there are many ways to learn Arabic without having to step out of the comfort of your home, such as on-line courses. Trust me, I have come up with just about every excuse there is about 'why I’m not able to learn Arabic' (it’s a foreign language, no time, too old blah blah blah!) and each time, God smacked me with a solution until I simply gave up making excuses. I have started my course but I am still far from understanding Quran.  My mum speaks Arabic fluently because she took the trouble to learn but pathetic me only knows (other that the common greetings and salutations), ‘lah’  which means ‘no’ and ‘naam’ which means ‘yes’. But still, I am making progress…….
            If I can learn English, I should be able to learn Arabic…..right? Even Ustad Nouman Ali Khan said that God said, “We make Quran easy for those who wants to memorise”............So…..wish me luck peeps…..

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God…” - Riyadh us-Saleheen, 245